Rainie Highway leaves EastEnders - but has she gone for good?
Another character left Albert Square - but is it permanent?
There was another shock exit in tonight's EastEnders (29th June), as Rainie Highway (Tanya Franks) left Walford.
Her departure came amid an ultimatum for Rainie, who was faced with choosing between husband Stuart (Ricky Champ) and their baby son Roland. Roland was born as a result of surrogacy, and after Stuart rejected him, birth mum Bernie Taylor (Clair Norris) told Rainie that she must leave Stuart if she wanted to keep her baby.
Devastated, Rainie was at a loss, but Stuart packed his bags and told her to choose Roland over him. Rainie has been aware that something is very wrong with Stuart and has tried to get him to open up; but little did she realise the extent of what he's going through.
Bernie's mother Karen (Lorraine Stanley), however, began to see that Stuart might have postnatal depression. But when she spoke to Stuart about it, he denied it - saying that just because he has breast cancer, that doesn't mean he's suffering with a condition that new mothers suffer.
Karen tried to convince Stuart to talk to Rainie, warning that his wife had decided to leave that day and he had one last chance to sort things out. Rainie, meanwhile, gave Jack Branning (Scott Maslen) a gift for young Abi, the great-niece she was previously raising, who currently lives with Max Branning (Jake Wood) off-screen.
As Callum (Tony Clay) and Vi Highway (Gwen Taylor) gathered to bid Rainie farewell, they hoped that Stuart would turn up in time. But he was watching nearby, and Rainie waved goodbye as pal Mitch Baker (Roger Griffiths) drove her and her son out of Albert Square.
But has Rainie really gone for good? Of course, it's only been a week since Nancy Carter's surprise departure as star Maddy Hill bowed out of EastEnders. And there have been several exit announcements for the BBC soap recently - so is Rainie the latest in a long line of characters to head off for good?
Will Rainie be back in EastEnders?
Rainie's exit has been confirmed, with the BBC saying of star Franks: "We wish Tanya all the very best for the future." Short and sweet, as statements go - which seems to indicate a mutual parting of ways rather than the character being axed.
As for whether the popular character will be back, there's no reason to rule it out at this time! Remember, before Rainie settled down and made a life for herself in Walford, she was known for coming and going - so it's possible this is another example.
The troubled sister of Tanya Branning (Jo Joyner), Rainie's drug dependency once saw her make a connection with Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden). She also became a sex worker and slept with Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt).
In 2018, Rainie returned to EastEnders once more, and eventually entered into a strong relationship with Stuart that became a hit with fans. And as we know that Stuart is due to depart the soap, is there any chance Rainie could be back ahead of his exit? Stuart's reluctance to deal with his heartbreaking problem over Roland has seemingly destroyed his marriage to his beloved Rainie; but we're holding out hope that this might not be the end for them.
After all, the most powerful ending for Stuart's storyline would be to deliver a message of hope and recovery - and he can't do so without overcoming his demons and, potentially, bonding with his son and reuniting with Rainie...
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