“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
The words are supposed to be whispered, but Aubrey hears them and chuckles, the same thought having gone through her own head mere moments before.
The woman next to her snaps her head up, looks in Aubrey’s direction with wide eyes, expecting reproach but they soften when they see Aubrey’s relaxed body language.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” Aubrey says, smiling in her direction.
“It’s as if they don’t realise that some of us have a job.”
“Well, we don’t all have the luxury of spending the whole day drinking wine and taking baths,” Aubrey whispers and the woman snorts loudly, drawing the attention of the people sitting around them.
They both look down at their information sheets, suppressing smiles until the other parents look back to the front.
Aubrey waits until a break is called to introduce herself, doesn’t want the other parents to chide her for disrupting the information session.
The brunette beats her to it, sticking out her hand as soon as the head of the PTA calls for a short recess.
“Hi, I’m Stacie.”
“Aubrey, nice to meet you,” she says sweetly, taking the woman’s hand and shaking it.
“It’s always nice to meet a fellow working girl,” Stacie says and then grimaces at her word choice, but Aubrey just shoots her a wry smile. “I didn’t even know kindergarten had a PTA.”
“Welcome to your life for the next eight to twelve years,” Aubrey says. “Yours just started?”
“Yeah, Aurora turns five next week so they let her start a year early.”
“That’s a beautiful name,” Aubrey says sincerely, and she’s afraid it comes off as sarcastic but Stacie’s smiling.
“Thanks. How about you? How long have you been part of this circus?” Stacie says, gesturing vaguely to the crowd milling about.
“Just a year. My daughter Gemma just started first grade.”
“So you know what I’m in for,” Stacie whispers, nudges Aubrey as she glances at the head of the PTA. “Help me out, how do I get on her good side?”
Aubrey follows Stacie’s gaze to the woman and shakes her head. “I have no idea.”
“She hates me so you probably shouldn’t take advice from me,” Aubrey explains and Stacie turns to her with a frown.
“Why doesn’t she like you?”
“Alice Donohue doesn’t ‘believe in divorce’,” Aubrey says, adding air quotes and Stacie stares at her in surprise for a bit before bursting out laughing.
“Oh, she’s definitely going to hate me.”
The way it’s phrased makes Aubrey tilt her head in question. “You’re also divorced?”
“Never married,” Stacie admits with a grin, and her eyes are twinkling with mirth so Aubrey can’t help but laugh. “And I’m a single mother."
“I’m so sorry in advance,” Aubrey says and then they’re both laughing.
“Will you be my friend when nobody else is?” Stacie asks, pouting pitifully at Aubrey before laughing again.
“Sure,” Aubrey says with a suffering sigh but then she’s returning the smile.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Aubrey asks when she walks into the school and finds Stacie sitting outside the principal’s office.
“Reliving my high school days waiting outside the principal’s office,” Stacie quips and Aubrey smiles. “I was called in for a parent conference.”
Aubrey grimaces in response and Stacie shrugs.
“What are you doing here?” Stacie asks.
“I was volunteered to run the back to school barbecue,” Aubrey says, a tight smile on her face and Stacie thinks she looks slightly manic.
Before they can say anything else, a blonde girl crashes into Aubrey’s legs with a cry of “mommy!”
Aubrey leans down and kisses the top of the girl’s head. “Hi, sweetheart.”
Stacie watches the interaction with a soft smile, and when Aubrey straightens up she peels the girl away from her leg and turns her towards Stacie.
“Stacie, this is my daughter Gemma. Gem, this is my friend Stacie,” Aubrey explains and Stacie lights up when Aubrey says the word ‘friend’, tries to mask it by holding out her hand for a handshake.
“Hi!” Gemma says happily, taking Stacie’s hand and giving it a shake with a serious expression on her face and a single nod.
“Hello,” Stacie replies, a little taken aback by how much the girl looks like Aubrey both in appearance and in mannerisms.
“Miss Conrad?” the principal’s assistant calls out. “They’re ready for you.”
“I’ll be right there,” Stacie says, then turns back to Aubrey. “Do you need help with the barbecue thing?”
“No, I’m not going to rope you into this PTA drama,” Aubrey says with a warning tone and Stacie chuckles.
“I want to help you, not the PTA,” she says, sees Aubrey soften at that.
“Only if you really want to,” Aubrey acquiesces and Stacie nods. Reaching into her purse, Aubrey finds her wallet and pulls out a business card and pen, quickly scribbling a number on the back and handing it to Stacie. “That’s my number.”
“I’ll text you.”
“You really don’t have to do this,” Aubrey says again but Stacie’s rolling her eyes good-naturedly.
“Just accept the help, Aubrey.”
The assistant calls out her name again, and Stacie leaves with a quick bye.
“Gemma, you better be wearing pants!” Aubrey calls into the house when the doorbell rings and she hears a crash upstairs but chooses to ignore it for now.
Aubrey pulls open the front door, smiling when her eyes meet Stacie’s.
“Hey,” Stacie says, can’t stop looking at Aubrey.
“Hi, come in,” she says, steps away from the door and ushers them in. Her eyes trail down Stacie’s body and when she realises she’s one step away from leering, she turns to Stacie’s daughter, eyes widening when she takes in the girl’s all-green, completely mismatched outfit.
She looks up at Stacie in amused surprise, and Stacie simply shakes her head as if to say “don’t ask”.
“You must be Rory,” Aubrey says, crouching down to be level with the girl. “My name’s Aubrey.”
“Hi,” the girl says softly with a small smile, keeps an arm wrapped around Stacie’s leg.
“She’s really shy,” Stacie says softly to Aubrey when the blonde stands up straight again.
“No worries, come in,” Aubrey says, leading them further into the house towards the living room.
Aubrey watches as Rory plops down in front of the coffee table, taking off her backpack and opening it, pulling out a colouring book and pencils and settling in.
“Thanks for helping me out,” Aubrey says.
“I’m already going to cash in that favour you owe me for helping out,” Stacie teases and Aubrey laughs.
“What do you need?”
“You seem like the wholesome type of mother who knows how to make cookies,” Stacie flirts and Aubrey purses her lips. “What?”
“I wanted to say I’m not wholesome but I actually do know how to make cookies,” she admits and Stacie’s grinning at her.
Stacie’s about to say something when there’s a crash upstairs and both adults look up at the noise.
“I’m sorry, I have to go see what that’s about. It’s the third time in an hour,” Aubrey apologises, already getting up.
It gives Stacie an opportunity to look around at the living room and the open plan house, and she gets up to look over a collection of pictures on the wall.
“Go say hi,” Aubrey says, voice filtering from upstairs and soon enough there’s the sound of two people descending the stairs.
“Hi, Stacie!” Gemma says, waving at the brunette.
“Heya, Gemma,” Stacie gives with a smile. She can see that Rory has looked up from her colouring book with interest, following the other girl around the room silently.
“Hi! My name’s Gemma!” the young girl says as she stands on the other side of the coffee table.
“Can I colour with you?” Gemma asks and Stacie watches the interaction with interest. Her girl is always so quiet and shy around new people and Stacie’s still never sure how to deal with situations like these, and it can really only go one of two ways; either Rory goes completely quiet and closes herself off, or Rory hesitantly and shyly interacts. The odds aren’t exactly in Gemma’s favour, but the girl patiently waits for Rory to respond, and when the smaller girl nods silently, Gemma beams at her and Stacie feels like she can breathe a sigh of relief.
As it turns out, she hadn’t needed to worry about Rory and Gemma because they get on like a house on fire. Stacie and Aubrey start seeing each other a lot more frequently when the two girls start begging for playdates.
It’s what brings them to the zoo three weeks before Christmas. Aubrey is freezing, and Stacie looks like she is as well but the two kids seem too preoccupied with the animals to even notice the winter weather.
They’re pressed up against the glass looking at panda bears, happily talking to each other and gushing over the pandas.
“You look like you’re dying,” Stacie says to a pitiful-looking Aubrey, who’s packed into her winter clothes and still looks cold.
“My favourite part of winter is being inside. I’m not made for this weather,” Aubrey grumbles but Stacie can barely hear her because Aubrey’s scarf covers half her face.
Stacie puts her hands on Aubrey’s arms and tries to rub some warmth, not sure how much it helps but smiling when Aubrey sighs softly.
“There’s a bit of irony that a Southern girl like you is raising a New Englander,” Stacie says and Aubrey glares at her but it’s not very effective due to her being all bundled up.
She opens her mouth to give a witty retort when her eyes flit to something over Stacie’s shoulder. “Oh f—,” she says, catching the curse word just in time.
Stacie’s about to turn to see what Aubrey’s looking at when the blonde stops her by grabbing her coat.
“Don’t turn around,” she says quickly.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“My ex is over there,” Aubrey whispers and then Stacie really wants to turn and look.
“Your ex-husband?” she says, enthralled by the possibility of meeting Aubrey’s ex but Aubrey has a vice grip on her and Stacie ends up pouting and not getting a look.
“No. Don’t look or you’ll draw attention to us!” Aubrey whispers sharply.
“Okay, calm down, I won’t try to be nosy,” Stacie says jokingly. “Do you want me to hug you so you can hide your face in my coat?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Aubrey says and Stacie rolls her eyes. Aubrey steps closer though, wraps her arms around Stacie and the brunette laughs, hugging the woman back.
While Aubrey’s hugging her, Stacie pretends to look at their daughters and instead takes a look around the area, frowns when she doesn’t see Aubrey’s ex anywhere. There are only two other groups of people: three teenage girls and a woman with a toddler.
“I think the coast is clear,” Stacie whispers to Aubrey, who lifts her head but then quickly buries it in Stacie’s coat again, shaking her head.
Stacie glances back behind her, gaze falling on the woman with the toddler and her eyes go wide.
“That hot, leggy brunette is your ex?” Stacie whispers into Aubrey's ear, surprise heavily colouring her tone.
Aubrey lifts her head slightly so she can look at Stacie. She arches an eyebrow in response to the complimentary words.
“What?” Stacie asks, blushes. “If you were into women, which it seems you are, I totally see why you would go for her,” Stacie says, rambling on when she remembers that Aubrey is still pressed up against her.
Aubrey seems amused more than anything, eyes twinkling with mirth but Stacie can’t be sure because her eyes are the only thing Stacie can see, the rest of Aubrey’s face being covered by her scarf and hat.
“Sounds like you want to date her,” Aubrey teases, still looking up at Stacie.
“Once upon a time, I might have gone for it.”
“Don’t let me stand in your way,” Aubrey says, starting to pull away from Stacie.
Stacie keeps her arms wrapped tightly around Aubrey as the woman tries to end their embrace, looks over at the two kids still enthralled by the panda bears before turning back to look at Aubrey.
“She’s not exactly my type anymore,” Stacie says, knows it’s a bit risky, especially with her arms wrapped around Aubrey but then she sees Aubrey’s eyes crinkle, indicating that she’s smiling and the butterflies waging war in Stacie’s stomach go crazy.
“Hey, I’m not going to make it tonight,” Aubrey says as soon as Stacie picks up the phone.
“What? No! How am I supposed to survive by myself?” Stacie whines and Aubrey smiles even though the other woman can’t see her.
“Emily just called to say she has mono,” Aubrey explains with a chuckle and hears Stacie breathe in sharply.
“Oh no, mono sucks,” Stacie says lowly.
“I wouldn’t know,” Aubrey says, even though she knows it opens her up to teasing.
“Pure and wholesome Aubrey,” Stacie says, taking the opening and running with it. Before Aubrey can counter, she continues, “Why don’t you drop Gemma off here? We can go together.”
“I can’t put you out like that,” Aubrey says in light protest.
“Nonsense,” Stacie insists. “Hang on.”
Aubrey can hear the woman put her hand over her phone and she doesn’t do a very good job because in the background, she hears the interaction between Stacie and another person.
“Hey, do you mind watching two kids instead of one tonight?”
“Do they have the same bedtime?”
“Then it’s no problem.”
Aubrey’s smiling when she hears rustling and then Stacie’s back on the phone.
“Come on over, it’s no problem,” Stacie reassures and that settles it.
Fifteen minutes later Aubrey’s ushering Gemma up the front porch, and the girl rushes ahead and knocks on the door a little too eagerly.
Before Aubrey can even open her mouth to lightly chide the girl, the door is swinging open and Stacie is smiling down at the girl.
“Hi Gem, come in!” she says, holds her hand low for a high five that the blonde girl happily gives before skipping inside.
“GEMMA!” they hear from inside the house, and Stacie turns just in time to see the two girls sprawled on the floor, hugging.
“HI RORY!” Gemma says happily wrapping her arms around the girl.
Aubrey laughs at the adorable picture the two make, and the sound makes Stacie turn to her with a soft smile.
“Hey, come meet Beca.”
Aubrey easily steps into the by now familiar house, and she’s not very good at hiding her surprise when the babysitter turns out to be an adult—albeit short—woman. She doesn’t hide her surprise well enough because Stacie’s laughing, introducing them.
“This is what a babysitter who doesn’t have mono looks like,” she teases and Aubrey rolls her eyes, Beca eyeing them in confusion.
“Whatever, Stace. It’s really nice to meet you, Beca,” Aubrey says and the woman responds in kind.
They’re in the car when Aubrey brings it up again. “I thought your babysitter was a teenager.”
“No, she’s just tiny,” Stacie says with a laugh.
“Just because you have giraffe legs doesn’t mean everybody does,” Aubrey says and Stacie laughs when she turns to find Aubrey actually pouting.
“You a little insecure about your legs?” she teases.
“You would make a great hooker,” Aubrey states matter-of-factly.
“You say the sweetest things,” Stacie drolls back and Aubrey laughs.
“What? You look great in wigs and you have long legs so those thigh high boots probably always fit you perfectly.”
“Again with the legs. Do you want me to help you find thigh high boots, Aubrey? Cause if you do, you can just say so.”
“No, I’ve already given up hope.”
“That’s not the Aubrey I know. The Aubrey I know wouldn’t go down without a fight.”
“The Aubrey you know died from a lack of blood circulation due to thigh high boots.”
Stacie laughs loudly, shaking her head. “Such a drama queen,” she whispers under her breath.
“What was that?” Aubrey asks and it’s threatening enough for Stacie to studiously avoid Aubrey’s eyes and look out her window.
“I said, Beca was 17 when she started babysitting Rory and it’s always just been easier for Rory to have the same babysitter. Plus, Beca’s a senior in college so she doesn’t mind the income and quiet house to study.”
Aubrey laughs at the change of topic but goes along with it.
Later that night, Aubrey’s driving up to the house and Stacie lets out a long, wistful sigh.
“I feel like a teenager.”
Aubrey kills the engine and turns to the woman who must surely be delusional. “We just came from a PTA meeting and you feel like a teenager?”
Stacie grins goofily, unbuckling her seatbelt and turning to Aubrey.
“It feels like a cute girl is dropping me off at home after a date.”
“Trust me, if this was a date I wouldn’t be dropping you off so early,” Aubrey says, unbuckling her seatbelt, and it takes a good second for her brain to catch up with what her mouth is saying. As soon as the words are out of her mouth she blushes, avoids Stacie’s gaze.
“And you can be guaranteed that I won’t give you mono,” Stacie flirts and Aubrey rolls her eyes, but her blush is still very present on her face so the eye roll doesn't hold much power.
Aubrey finally looks up, finds Stacie watching her intently and she feels warm under the brunette’s piercing gaze.
“Hey ladies,” Stacie calls out when Gemma and Aubrey walk up to them outside the observatory.
Gemma flies towards Rory and the two girls are hugging by the time Aubrey makes it over to Stacie.
“Hi,” Aubrey says, smiling coyly.
“Hi,” Stacie says, can’t stop looking at that smile.
Aubrey leans in and presses her lips against Stacie’s cheek, lingering a little longer than necessary. “Please just indulge Gemma,” Aubrey whispers into her ear before pulling away.
“Don’t I always?” Stacie asks when they separate, but Aubrey’s already crouching down to give Rory a hug.
Gemma pats Stacie’s leg, and says, “Do you like my outfit?”
Stacie crouches down, nudging the girl a little backwards and then urging her to do a twirl.
“And now with your coat open,” Stacie instructs and the girl follows suit.
“I love your outfit,” Stacie says and it’s sincere because Gemma looks adorable in her yellow raincoat, black overall shorts, grey tights, and flamingo-patterned white button up shirt. “You look so cute! Did you pick it out yourself?”
Gemma nods with a serious expression, and Stacie almost wants to laugh at how Aubrey that mannerism is. The girl pulls something out of her shirt pocket and when she starts unfolding it, Stacie realises it’s a piece of paper.
“Do you have a pen?” she asks, holding the sheet of paper against her body and Stacie doesn’t have the chance to look for one before Aubrey is handing her a pen.
Gemma hands over the sheet of paper and Stacie has to work really hard not to burst out laughing. At the top of the paper, clearly written in Gemma’s handwriting is ‘Gemma’s outfit looks good’. Underneath it there’s Aubrey's signature and her name written out.
“Can you sign my paper?” Gemma asks and looks at Stacie expectantly.
Stacie looks up at Aubrey, smile wide with incredulity. Aubrey shrugs helplessly, so Stacie signs the paper and writes down her name, folding it neatly and handing it back to Gemma.
“Thank you!” she supplies happily.
“I wanna sign it!” Rory says, just as Gemma is stuffing the paper back in her pocket.
Gemma immediately reverses action, pulls open the sheet of paper and hands it to Rory.
Rory softly pats Aubrey’s leg and when the woman looks down at her, she softly says, “Can I borrow a pen?”
Once she has the pen and the paper, Rory frowns when she encounters a problem. “I don’t have a si-nature,” she says with a pout.
“Just draw something!” Gemma says excitedly and then Rory is excited again.
“I can draw a cat!”
“Can you teach me?”
The two girls go off on a tangent and Stacie stands up again with a laugh.
“She’s very proud of her outfit choice today,” Aubrey says as an explanation when Stacie turns to her with a manic smile.
“That’s hilarious,” Stacie says, still not over the exchange. “Is she going to make other people sign it too?”
“God, I hope not,” Aubrey says with a sigh but Stacie can’t stop smiling and it’s actually pretty cute.
Aubrey quickly grows exasperated after Gemma has collected more than 10 signatures, and she’s about to put a stop to it when Stacie slips her hand into Aubrey’s, holding her back with wide eyes. Aubrey looks down to where their fingers are linked, but when she looks up, Stacie’s looking at something else, brow furrowed and her mouth slightly open, and it’s as if she’s frozen with disbelief and Aubrey turns to see what she’s looking at.
They watch as Rory tugs Gemma along, stopping in front of the teenager manning the toy telescope stands.
The teenager happily greets them and Rory says, “Hi! Do you like my friend’s outfit?” The teenager looks surprised but nods, and then they’re handing her the sheet of paper and asking for her signature.
Aubrey looks back at Stacie and immediately grows concerned when she sees tears threatening to fall. She squeezes Stacie’s hand and it breaks Stacie’s focused look, eyes darting to meet Aubrey’s.
“Are you okay?”
Stacie blinks quickly, shakes her head to clear her mind. “Yeah, sorry, I just… She never does that.”
Aubrey quickly looks back at the two girls who are now laughing with the teenager and playing with the toys.
“She’s never gone up to a stranger and initiated conversation,” Stacie explains and her voice is soft because she doesn’t completely trust it not to crack, especially when she sees Aubrey smiling at her tenderly.
“It’s okay that she’s shy,” Aubrey whispers and Stacie smiles but it doesn’t reach her eyes.
“I know that, it’s just… sometimes I’m so scared that I’m not pushing her enough or doing things right and Ms. Beale said that Rory’s opening up more in class but I still…” She shrugs, not sure how to finish the sentence without actually starting to cry.
Aubrey squeezes her hand and Stacie suddenly becomes aware that they’re still holding hands, and it’s a little distracting but it helps her get out of her emotional hole.
“You’re incredible, Stacie,” Aubrey says, watching her closely. Stacie frowns at the unexpected words, tilts her head in question. “You’ve been raising her by yourself since she was born. You have a full-time job and you’re a single mom and if the worst thing about your daughter is that she’s painfully shy then I think you’re doing a pretty great job.”
Stacie’s smiling at her shakily, surprised at the sincere words.
“You’re extraordinary,” Aubrey whispers. Stacie frowns when Aubrey loosens their fingers, but then the blonde is reaching up, wiping away one of Stacie’s rogue tears and Stacie feels like she can’t breathe. Aubrey doesn’t pull her hand away immediately, lets her fingers linger on Stacie’s cheek, both of them breathing deeply as they look at each other.
They spring apart when Rory calls out to Stacie, asking if she can have a snack and the moment is effectively broken.
‘Have I ever told you how much I love your kid? - S < 3’
Aubrey opens the text and smiles, cheeks warming at the sight of the heart. She quickly hits call, smiles when Stacie picks up almost immediately.
“I love hearing about how great Gemma is,” Aubrey says as an opener and Stacie laughs.
“My sweet young Aurora, hobo fashionista and pant enthusiast, let me buy her a dress today,” Stacie explains and it makes Aubrey laugh loudly.
“But I always love Rory’s outfits,” Aubrey says and it comes out a little more nostalgically than intended.
“Do you want to switch? Because I’d love to have a kid who wears cute dresses and doesn’t complain at bedtime.”
“You think mine doesn’t complain at bedtime?” Aubrey says and Stacie laughs. “Last week Gemma asked me to buy black Converse for her so she could match with Rory.”
“Did you get her the black Converse? Cause she’d look so damn cute in them.”
“I did. I also bought a pair for myself.”
“You did not.”
“I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.”
“Check you out, Aubrey! Branching out of the Banana Republic catalogue.”
Aubrey growls in response and it makes Stacie laugh. “I can’t believe you tell me how great my daughter is and insult my wardrobe in the same phone call.”
“I’m not insulting your wardrobe, I promise. I love those silky shirts you wear.” Aubrey hums in disbelief and Stacie continues, “I mean it. You always look really nice.”
“Thank you,” Aubrey says softly, unable to let the compliment go without acknowledging it.
“This is the part where you say how nice I always look.”
“No, why? Your daughter gets her hobo aesthetic from you,” Aubrey says and she works very hard not to burst out laughing when Stacie makes a disgruntled sound before hanging up the phone.
‘I can’t believe you hung up on me.’
‘You deserved it.’
‘see you tomorrow?’
“Mommy,” Rory says softly, tugging at Stacie’s shirt. She’s pressed up against the woman, Gemma by her side and Aubrey on Gemma’s other side and they’re all sharing a blanket and watching a movie. Stacie bends her head down, smiles when Rory cups her hands around Stacie’s ear and then negates the secrecy completely by loudly saying, “Can Gemma sleep over?”
Aubrey laughs quietly and Stacie looks up, meets her eyes. Aubrey shrugs and nods and Gemma is looking up at Aubrey with hope shining in her eyes.
“Sure, why not,” Stacie whispers back to Rory who lights up and squirms, cuddling up to Gemma.
“You can stay too if you want, I have a guest bedroom,” Stacie offers later when they’re standing in the kitchen, waiting for the popcorn in the microwave.
There’s a heavy tension about the room, and Aubrey has noticed that increasingly more often she’s felt something between them when they’re alone. Stacie’s watching her closely, a cute, goofy smile on her face as she watches Aubrey consider her offer.
“It would be easier to get Gem in the morning if I’m already here,” Aubrey rationalises, looking back at Stacie. She’s not sure why she’s trying to come up with a good excuse, smiles softly when she sees Stacie’s smile transform into a smirk, sees Stacie’s eyes twinkling.
“I’ll even let you borrow clothes,” Stacie says lowly.
“How can I refuse an offer like that?” Aubrey says and it feels like they’re talking about something completely different.
She blames her utter uselessness the next morning on the dawn haze. She’d seen Aubrey without make-up the night before, the two of them getting ready for bed side by side, Stacie helpfully telling Aubrey where she could find what and it had all felt startlingly domestic.
“I left clothes for you on the bed,” Stacie had said, and Aubrey had smiled at her through the mirror.
“Thanks,” she said. She was fidgety, and Stacie could see that she was done but hadn’t wanted to go to bed immediately. “Good night,” Aubrey had said, and then she leant up and softly brushed her lips against Stacie’s cheek to give her a quick kiss. Stacie watched them in the mirror, had seen how Aubrey lingered after kissing Stacie’s cheek, eyes closed, before turning away and letting her hair conceal her face.
“Night,” she had managed to croak out, shaking her head in embarrassment once Aubrey left the bathroom.
It’s one thing to see Aubrey fresh-faced with her hair wild, but it’s a whole different thing when she’s also wearing Stacie’s clothes and lit by the soft morning sun.
The sweatpants Stacie had given her are a little too long on Aubrey so they’re bunched at her ankles, but Stacie can’t stop looking at how low slung they are on the woman’s hips. Stacie had left her both a t-shirt and a cotton camisole and Aubrey had opted for the latter.
She’s barefoot and she has her back to Stacie who takes the opportunity to just watch Aubrey. She watches as Aubrey tries to figure out her coffee machine, a soft “a-ha!” falling from her lips once she finds the coffee beans and filters and turns on the machine.
She’s got two mugs on the counter, so when she starts opening cupboards again, Stacie can only presume she’s looking for sugar.
“Top left,” Stacie says, not realising that Aubrey hadn’t known she was there.
The woman startles, and the cupboard she’s closing slams loudly. “Jesus christ,” she says, presses a hand against her chest as she turns to Stacie. “You scared the shit out of me,” she admonishes but Stacie can only smile.
“I’m sorry,” she says sincerely, wandering over to Aubrey and quickly grabbing the sugar. “Good morning.”
Stacie flushes warmly when she sees Aubrey’s gaze trail down her body and linger on her exposed legs. Aubrey probably doesn’t even realise she’s biting her lip, staring, but Stacie’s heart flutters when she sees it.
“Good morning,” Aubrey drawls when she finally tears her eyes away from Stacie’s legs and back up her body. “Coffee?”
“You’re an angel,” Stacie says, nodding. Aubrey pours her a cup, slides it over. She quirks an eyebrow when Stacie sips it without adding anything but doesn’t point it out. “Did you sleep well?”
“I did. The bed was super comfortable, I’m just physically incapable of sleeping past 7 anymore,” Aubrey says with a smile that Stacie mirrors.
“I know what you mean,” Stacie comments.
Aubrey breaks their deep gaze to pour some sugar into her coffee, stirring it and sipping from it. Stacie’s watching her intently, loving how comfortable and at home she looks.
“Any plans for today?” Aubrey asks, breaking the silence.
“Nope,” Stacie says, and she puts down her mug, reaches up to gather her hair, tries to twist it into a bun.
Aubrey can’t help the way her gaze drops, stares at the skin of Stacie’s middle where her shirt has ridden up and exposed previously unseen skin.
She knows she’s blushing even as she looks up to meet Stacie’s eyes, sees the brunette looking at her hopefully and Aubrey should be at least a little ashamed of her blatant ogling but she isn’t. They’re staring at each other intently, and the sunlight makes the amber hues of Aubrey’s eyes sparkle and Stacie feels like she can drown in those eyes.
“You’re so beautiful,” Stacie whispers reverently, not wanting to break the peace by speaking too loudly.
Aubrey breathes in deeply, can practically feel the air enter her lungs as warmth blooms in her chest. She unconsciously shifts to put down her coffee-filled mug, doesn’t even realise she’s doing it until she hears the sound of ceramic hitting marble and the sound is almost deafening in the quiet serenity of the kitchen.
Aubrey steps closer to her, moves into her space and even though Stacie knows what’s probably going to happen, she doesn’t fully believe this is real and not a dream.
Aubrey moves even closer, standing on her toes to be that slight bit taller and leans in, brushing her lips against Stacie’s in a tentative kiss.
It’s short and soft, but it sends a jolt through Stacie as her brain finally seems to kick into high gear and accept that this is real and happening. Aubrey’s already pulling away, a small furrow on her brow, eyes stormy and darting between Stacie’s eyes.
She tries to pull away and Stacie can see regret in her eyes and she can’t have that, so Stacie doesn’t let her go far, traps Aubrey by loosely gripping her hips.
She’s quick when she leans in and kisses Aubrey, intent clear as she tries to make up for her lack of response earlier. She swipes her tongue over Aubrey’s lower lip and the woman sighs, and it’s the sweetest sound Stacie thinks she’s ever heard.
Aubrey slides her hands up Stacie’s arms, looping one of her arms around her neck and it brings her so much closer, and Stacie shivers when she feels Aubrey’s body completely pressed against hers.
Aubrey tilts her head and Stacie whimpers in protest, the shift having made the angle uncomfortable for Stacie so she’s reaching up with one hand, feeling like it’s safe to let go of Aubrey’s hip now, and uses the new freedom to cup the blonde’s neck, fingers tangling in hair as she tilts Aubrey’s head carefully.
Stacie’s thumb softly caresses her cheek and Aubrey moans, lets the woman slip her tongue into her mouth and deepen the kiss.
Aubrey’s fingers are curled into the fabric of Stacie’s shirt, pulling her close and it’s Stacie’s turn to moan.
Aubrey pulls away in surprise, breathing ragged but Stacie doesn’t let her get too far, keeps their foreheads pressed together as their quick breaths mingle.
“That was okay, right?” Aubrey asks, and Stacie tilts her head inquisitively before remembering that Aubrey was actually the one to kiss her first and a smile flickers across her face.
“Yeah, that was—.” She has to stop to clear her throat, still breathing hard and to avoid her voice cracking again. “That was good.”
Aubrey picks up her coffee again, smiles at Stacie over the rim of the mug and her eyes are bright and Stacie can’t stop looking at her as her breathing starts calming down.
“Breakfast?” Stacie offers, licking her lips quickly when Aubrey steps away and it’s then that Stacie becomes aware of the fact that Aubrey had been pressing her into the kitchen counter, had had her trapped there and it makes Stacie grin.
“What are you offering?” she says, sipping her coffee again.
Stacie turns to her, equal parts surprised and impressed with the teasing nature of the words, and she can’t see Aubrey's smug smile but she doesn’t need to, the twinkle in Aubrey’s eyes saying enough.
“Yum,” Aubrey says, watching as Stacie gathers ingredients and a large bowl. Easily hopping onto the kitchen counter, she sits comfortably and sips from her coffee as Stacie prepares the batter. “You make it from scratch?”
“Of course,” Stacie says, focused on her task.
“I didn’t think people still did that.”
“Wholesome mom Aubrey Posen doesn’t make pancakes from scratch?” Stacie teases with a laugh and Aubrey wants to swat at her or softly kick her but it would require getting off the counter and she doesn’t want to do that.
“I make them from an Aunt Jemima mix like everybody else.”
Stacie snorts as she’s measuring out the flour. Downing the last of her coffee, she turns to get some more and is surprised when she finds Aubrey casually perched on her kitchen counter.
“Comfy?” she says, trying to mask how incredibly attractive she finds the sight of Aubrey making herself at home in her house.
“Very. More coffee?” Aubrey asks, already reaching for Stacie’s mug. The brunette nods and Aubrey pours coffee for her, handing it back but Stacie lingers in front of Aubrey. She arches an eyebrow, putting on her classic ‘impatient mom’ face, as Stacie calls it, and motions to the bowl of batter.
“You just want me to turn around so you can stare at my legs,” Stacie teases.
“And your butt,” Aubrey adds and if Stacie is surprised, she hides it well.
“Are you always this flirty in the morning?” Stacie asks, turning back to the batter and adding eggs.
Aubrey shrugs even though Stacie can’t see her. “Only when I get to kiss a pretty woman.”
“Is that another hooker joke?” Stacie throws over her shoulder and Aubrey laughs loudly.
“In my defence, you literally called yourself a working girl the first time we met,” Aubrey says and Stacie can’t really argue with that.
There’s footsteps upstairs and both women look up at the sound. “Did you see how they were cuddled up this morning?” Stacie asks, turning to look at Aubrey.
“They looked adorable,” Aubrey admits, having checked on the girls before coming downstairs and found them sound asleep and hugging each other. “Gemma’s been begging me for a little sister.”
Stacie grimaces. “Rory wants a puppy.”
Aubrey sucks in air through gritted teeth. “Oh, that’s harder to refuse.”
“What, you’re saying that you’re not going to have sex with Matthew so you can produce an adorable baby sibling for Gemma?”
This time Aubrey decides it’s worth it as she slides off the kitchen counter to swat Stacie’s arm.
“Matthew is never coming anywhere near my vagina again,” Aubrey says quickly and lowly, closing her eyes when she hears Stacie choke on air and realises what she’s said about a second too late.
“So you’ll let him come near your mouth, or—?”
Aubrey’s eyes snap open at the words, jaw going slack as her mouth drops open in surprise. “Stacie!”
“It’s a valid question,” Stacie says but she’s laughing too hard to make it sound convincing.
“I’m going home,” Aubrey says with a huff, crossing her arms. “And you can explain to your daughter why she can’t see her best friend anymore.”
Aubrey doesn’t actually look upset and she’s not making any movements to leave but Stacie still moves closer, gently reaching for the blonde’s wrists and uncrossing her arms, lifting them so her arms are looped around Stacie’s neck.
Aubrey pretends to still be upset, glares at Stacie as the woman steps closer, pushes Aubrey up against the counter and places her hands on either side of Aubrey so she can’t escape.
“I’m sorry I insinuated you would let your ex-husband’s semen anywhere near your body,” Stacie says in the sincerest voice she can muster.
Aubrey’s eyes go wide in indignation at the supposed apology, but Stacie leans in and kisses her, swallowing any impending words and licking into Aubrey’s mouth hotly.
Aubrey’s protest dies on her lips, moaning softly as she kisses Stacie back, biting down on the woman’s lower lip in retaliation. Aubrey scrapes her nails over the back of Stacie’s neck, smiles when she feels the woman get goosebumps and press Aubrey further into the counter.
They pull apart to breathe, and even though her lungs are on fire, Aubrey wants to kiss Stacie again, loves being the reason the brunette is smiling lopsidedly. Stacie’s eyes are impossibly green and Aubrey’s mesmerised by them.
“Would you like to go on a date with me?” Stacie says, and her voice is thick with want but Aubrey’s still distracted by her eyes and Stacie has to nudge the blonde to snap her out of her reverie.
“Have dinner with me,” Stacie repeats and Aubrey lights up, smile wide and Stacie’s a little overwhelmed by it.
“I’d love to.”