They waited until the summer, when the flowerbeds outside Eliza’s house were blooming with hyacinths and poesies, daisies and daffodils, when bees lazily drifted from flower to flower and the trees rustled in a warm breeze. The air was filled with the briny smell of the sea, and the water sparkled a blue so brilliant that it rivalled their daughters’ eyes, the waves a gentle, steady rhythm as the water rushed in and was dragged back out again. A few weeks before, they’d celebrated Daisy’s eighteenth birthday, soon followed by her high school graduation, where she’d been Valedictorian - mustering up her courage to stamp down her anxiety as she stood up on stage in her cap and gown - and everyone had cried, while Kara snapped dozens of photos, which quickly found their way into their photo albums. When school was out for the summer, they’d taken a couple of weeks off from work and gone to Eliza’s house, relaxing on the back porch as they read, swimming in the water during the day - all of them, except Lena, soaking up the sunlight as their skin tanned - and crowding around a bonfire made of driftwood in the evening’s, sitting on old deck chairs or on the dry sand, roasting marshmallows and throwing sticks for an overzealous Dalmatian. It was their last summer before Daisy went away to college, and Lena was determined to make the most of it, sometimes catching herself staring at her girls and the rest of her family, a small smile on her face and a small aching feeling in her chest when she realised how much she’d miss them all being together.
Halfway through their trip though, they’d all gone down to the beach one day, Kara and Lena in white dresses of lace and satin, picked out from a vintage store in town, barefeet with their hair falling around their shoulders, and a few flowers hastily picked from the garden clutched in their hands. Standing on the fringes of the beach, the water rippling in just inches from where they stood, hand in hand as they smiled at each other. Alex performed the ceremony, standing before them while everyone else crowded around, watching with smiles on their own faces. It was a quick ceremony, with them reciting the vows as Alex spoke them, sealing it with a gentle kiss and the exchanging of eternity rings, sitting just below their wedding bands, the diamonds sparkling in the sunlight. Their family all clapped, and Kara stole another quick kiss from Lena, both of them laughing and giddy, as if they were marrying for the first time, and they both beamed for the camera as Lily snapped photos of them. Walking back up the beach, the sand shifting beneath their bare feet, they walked back up to the white house, the back steps creaking as they walked up. There was pink Moscato wine inside, and a table filled with all sorts of food, and they all sat down, toasting the couple as they ate lunch together.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on the beach, the warm breeze and laughter in their ears as they kicked a ball around with Lily, who was better at soccer than all of them, waded through the shallow waters when the heat became almost unbearable, and then Lena retired to the back steps, watching as Carter squealed as Artemis jumped through the waves, a stick clamped between her teeth as she splashed her, and a small smile played on her lips as she watched Kara wrestle it off her, her lace dress just skimming the top of the water, the white fabric in stark contrast to her tanned skin, while her hair shone golden in the sunlight. Eliza and Lillian were sitting in the corner of the porch, quietly talking over glasses of wine, while Maggie was trying to show Lily how to properly tackle someone, much to Lena’s exasperation. Alex was evenly cutting up their dessert inside the kitchen, which left Daisy, who was brushing sand off herself as she walked up the beach, dark sunglasses covering her eyes and her dark curls tousled by the wind. She took a seat on the step next to Lena, running a hand through her hair, before resting her elbows on her knees, leaning forward slightly.
Lena reached out and pressed her hand against Daisy’s shoulder, and her daughter turned to look at her, her eyes unreadable behind her glasses, but her eyebrows rising slightly in question. A sudden twinge in her heart made Lena give her a sad smile, as she realised that Daisy would be leaving soon. Her daughter seemed more excited with every passing day, the idea of college growing on her with every moment, but Lena was filled with a sense of nervous sadness, knowing that it was stupid to feel so upset at her daughter going off to get a degree, but knowing that the house would feel so empty without her. For eighteen years the house had been filled with her laughter, her shouting, the sound of her playing the piano - first clumsily, but then at a skill level that made them all proud - and Lena would miss her every moment that she was gone. Looking at her daughter, she gave her a small smile.
“When did you grow up?” Lena sighed, wrapping her arms around her daughter and giving her a gentle squeeze.
“Around about the time you were in a coma,” her daughter dryly replied, a wry smile on her lips.
“Just promise that you won’t grow up so much that you won’t need your mom anymore,” Lena quietly told her, giving her a slight smile as she thought about her daughter going off to college by herself. She was leaving in just a few weeks, with her dorm room already sorted out - she had Lena’s old one, at Lillian’s insistence - and Lena couldn’t help but feel sad already at the thought of her leaving, even when her daughter was still right beside her.
Daisy let out a laugh, reaching up to touch Lena’s hand, which was still tightly holding her in her arms, and rested her head on her mom’s shoulders. “I’ll always need my mom’s. No matter how old I get.”
Letting out a quiet laugh, Lena kissed the top of her head, “good.”
Alex came out not too long after, bowls of a vanilla and fresh cream cake, a side of tart raspberries and strawberries heaped in alongside it, handing one to Lena first. “For the bride.”
“Thanks Pastor,” Lena snorted, her eyes crinkling at the corners as she accepted the bowl.
Shaking her head, Alex handed Daisy one too, before disappearing back inside. She returned with more bowls for their mother’s, until everyone was crowded onto the back porch, sitting on the white washed railing or squeezed onto the love seat or the steps, all of them enjoying cake and the fresh, salt air blown in by the sea. Kara’s feet were covered in sand, the hem of her dress soaked, and her eyes sparkled with a happiness that made Lena’s heart leap. She was exactly the same as the Kara she’d married all those years ago - albeit, with a few more wrinkles and the beginnings of grey hairs threaded through the blonde at her temples - and Lena gave her a loving smile as she speared a berry on her fork and popped it into her mouth. With her girls and her whole family gathered together, on such a beautiful summer’s day, Lena couldn’t help but feel anything but content, wishing that time would stand still and she could live in the peacefulness of this moment forever. She had no doubt that with her family, the peace wouldn’t last long, but as she watched her wife laughing with her sister, and her mom sipping wine, her head covered in short hair as it had finally grown back enough and she’d forgone the wig, looking better than she had in months, with some colour in her cheeks, she didn’t care what happened next. Moments like that were worth more to her than anything else.
They both stepped in through the front door, their shoulders slumped slightly and their eyes bloodshot, and Kara wearily walked ahead of Lena, shrugging out of her coat and kicking her shoes off, her head ducked down as her blonde hair fell into her face. With a soft sigh, Lena walked over to her, wrapping her in a tight hug for a few moments.
“It’s okay,” Lena told her, trying to sound optimistic, despite the hole inside, “she’ll be back for the holidays. It won’t be too long.”
“Yeah,” Kara murmured, sounding dejected as she returned Lena’s hug.
Pulling back, they both stared at each other for a moment, and Lena leant up to steal a quick kiss, before taking off her own coat and heels, the silence in the sprawling mansion almost deafening. Usually the silence meant that they would have a few moments alone together, but at the moment, it was a reminder that their daughter had finally left. With a grim smile, Lena reflected on the fact that at least it was only to Massachusetts instead of Iraq, and she’d be spending hours in the library and going to college parties - which wasn’t exactly comforting, given her daughter’s wild streak, even if it had been tempered slightly over the past few months. It’s just college , Lena told herself, taking Kara by the hand and pulling her towards the kitchen.
With cups of tea in their hands, and the urge to keep busy, they both went their separate ways - Lena to her office, and Kara to her photography room - and as Lena set her cup down on her desk, her eyes landed on a white envelope, perfectly placed in the middle of it. Her heart leapt to her throat, and she had to swallow the lump as she took in the neat handwriting of her daughter, reaching out with a trembling hand to pick it up. Almost falling onto the soft leather desk chair, Lena tore the envelope open, pulling out a few pages of white paper, completely filled with her daughter’s cramped writing, and she couldn’t help but smile as she smoothed the paper out.
I know that letters have always been yours and mom’s thing, and I’ll call you everyday anyway (if I remember) but I thought maybe it could be our thing now too - all four of us. I think that maybe it’ll be nice to have something to read over when I miss you all, because I know I will, even if you nag me sometimes. I know I’ll miss your nagging, and your dry humour and how you swear a lot when mom isn’t around, and how you’re always proud of me when I play the piano and make sure to cut the crusts off my sandwiches, even though I’m too old to need you to do that anymore. I think that I’ve forgotten how much you do for me, and I’m realising now how much I’m going to have to do for myself. I guess this is going to be another rude awakening for me. Can you believe I’ll have to do my own laundry?
I want you to know that I do appreciate everything you do for me though. Sometimes, I know it didn’t seem like I did, but I really do. I know I’ve said some horrible, terrible, really awful things to you, and I wish that I hadn’t, but I did, even if I didn’t mean any of them, and I just want you to know that I love you. I know I’ve told you before, but I really couldn’t have asked for better parents. You and mom have given me everything I could ever have wanted, and everything I might not have had if it wasn’t for you. I want you to know that I’ve always felt so loved, so cared for and treasured, and I’m more grateful to you than you know. You’ve always been there to cheer me on and support me, even in something as stupid as cadets, when I didn’t know how much it was eating you up inside to let me do it, and I want to thank you for that. You’ve always been on my side, and I know you still are, even if you’re miles away.
I think I’ll miss that the most. I’ll miss how you would take us out for ice cream after a bad day of school, how we’d laugh in the car and you’d order my favourite takeaway for dinner. I’ll miss how you’d still come and switch my light out at night, or when we’d make pancakes on the weekend, or how you’d look so proud when I beat everyone at Trivial Pursuit on family game night. I’m going to miss a lot, because all of my best days were with you, and all of my bad ones too. You’ve been there through everything - you were there before I was even born, and I didn’t even know it, but you were still there. You’ve always been on my side - even when I was wrong. I know that you’ll always be on my side, and I know that you’ll always be with me, in the locket you gave me. I know that no matter what I do, you’ll always be there to help me do it, and I can never tell you how grateful I am for that. Everything I know, and everything I am, is because of you. You’ve taught me so much - how to be strong, and smart, and kind - and I just wanted to take the chance to tell you that you’re the best mom I could’ve wished for. I’m not sure if I told you that enough, but it’s true.
I wish I could’ve told you this in person, but I know I’d cry if I did, and I know we’re all going to cry when we say goodbye anyway. Please look after mom, and Lily, and grandma, and everyone else. I don’t know what we’d all do without you. I know sometimes you say mom saved you, but I think we’d all be just as lost without you as you were without her. Thank you for building this home for me, and for giving me this family. I’ll miss you so much, but I’ll be back in time for the holidays.
I love you,
She was freely crying then, laughing as she traced her finger over her daughter’s name, and then she hugged the paper to her chest, grabbing the envelope and her cup of tea and swiftly exiting her office. Walking down the hallway, she paused in the doorway to Kara’s photography room, and her wife looked up at the flicker of movement in the doorway, holding her own letter in her hands, and they both locked eyes, taking in the tears on each other’s cheeks, and laughed. Quickly coming inside, Lena walked over to the middle of the room, sinking down to the floor across from Kara and setting her cup of tea down, before she wrapped her wife in a tight hug.
With puffy eyes, they spent some time flipping through a photo album - the one filled with all of the big milestones in Daisy’s life, leading right up to Kara sticking in a photo of her in front of MIT - and they both tearfully laughed as they went over all of the memories. At the beginning there was a dark haired little baby, too small, even in Lena’s arms, her blue eyes sparkling as she looked around the room with interest, all the way up until now, with their fully grown daughter, her hair just as dark and her eyes filled with the same intelligent curiosity, but towering over both of her mom’s in the photo they’d had a passerby take for them. Every inch of Lena missed her, and it had only been a few hours, and she couldn’t help but wonder what they were going to do.
But then the sound of the front door slamming reached their ears, loud footsteps and the excited barking of a dog, followed by the quiet sound of voices as Lily and Lillian got home from her soccer match. Lena looked at Kara, taking in the blue eyes behind her glasses, and the laugh lines, the blonde hair that was now dusting her collarbones, and the loving smile on her lips, her own lips quirking up into a smile as they listened to their daughter come home, easing some of the aching in their chests as it was filled with love.
“Mom, I’m home!”