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Carol

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

It was a typical cold January night and Carol was sitting in her chair going over exams she needed to grade by Wednesday.
Even though she was a teacher for almost twelve years now it still equally confuses and amuses her the mistakes her students made.
While in the middle of what was now more daydreaming about her 40th birthday coming up then grading the tests
a small silhouette appeared in the doorway.

"Rindy, baby is everything alright?"

The small child held her bunny and sleepily answered: "I had a bad dream".
"Oh, sweet pea what was the dream about".
The little girl didn't answer but instead gazed sadly towards the floor.
When Carol realized getting rindy to tell her about her dream won't be so easy
she rose from the chair and sat before her so that she was now in eye-level with her and hugged her closely.
The girl let her emotions go when she felt safe in her mother arms.

"I had a dream that I came home from kindergarten and all my toys were gone and we... and we.."
she tried to finish the sentence but the tears got the better of her.
"Oh baby it was just a dream all your toys are here safe with us" and with that, she carried rindy back to her room to show her the toys and reassure her.
When little girl finally calmed down and fell asleep after a couple of stories from Grimm brothers factory her mother always read to her before sleep a phone rang.

Careful not to wake rindy carol got to the phone and smiled.
"Abby your timing has never let you down".
The woman on the phone assumed Carol is referring to something her goddaughter did and laughed.

"What's the little monster up to now" "oh you know the usual toys went missing and all"
Abby chuckled and went on about how Carol absolutely has to join her and her redhead,
as they referred to her long-term girlfriend Julie in some kind of artshow next Saturday.

Even before Carol could come up with a "Rindy excuse" as Abby liked to call it she said
"Don't even try you nitwit you know my parents adore spending time with rindy"
"I know Abby but yo-"
"Carol I love but shut up we are going. You need a fun night out with no responsibilities"
"Abby I'm a mother I always have responsibilities"

Abby sighed on the line and there was a short silence and Carol thought her friend has ended the call.

"Abby?"
"I'm here"
"Well don't go all radio silence on me"
"I just.. after all the shit you went through with Harge.. I just think you deserve something-"
"You mean someone"
"Well what's the harm in that Carol"
"Abby, the last date I've been to the woman practically choked on her shrimp when I said I have a five-year-old daughter"
"Well who orders shrimps in the middle of December, trust me, Carol, dodged a bullet there"
Carol chuckled.
"Well I see I won't win this one so okay Saturday it is"
"Fucking finally"

After the call ended Carol went to check up on rindy once again.
The girl was now peacefully sleeping hugging her toys and slightly snoring in her sleep.
Carol sat at the edge of the bed watching her daughter sleep and prayed that the love she has for her daughter
will be enough and that Rindy will grow up to be a happy person.
She then went to the bathroom for her usual routine.
After she took a shower she examined every possible physical flaw she was convinced she possessed.

She always started from her biggest insecurity, her C-section scar which Harge never spoke of but she knew secretly wished it wasn't there.
That's why in a pointless attempt at saving their marriage, during sex Carol always wore a t-shirt and he never bothered to ask.
Carol flinched at the thought of Harge inside her and stared at the mirror applying creme into her wrinkles trying to forget.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

"Are you sure you aren't staying the night"

"Thanks, Gen but I'm kind of tired and just wanna get some sleep"

With that Therese kissed Gen goodnight and walked home.

Her thoughts and attention were on the Artshow that her gallery is hosting on Saturday.
Even though she was still an assistant she felt strongly about the photographs that will be shown to the world because she was part of them all.
Either she found the location, the model that was willing to pose or the light that was perfect.

Her Job in Gagosian Gallery was her dream and she appreciated every minute of it.
She made many great friends there but the bond she had with Dannie and Phil was sacred to her.
Dannie even introduced her to Gen with whom she's been dating for two years now.

Gen was always trying her best to be supportive girlfriend even though her disapproval
was hard to mask when Therese had to work long hours or go on location.
Even though her life seemed to be fulfilled there were days when Therese couldn't shake the feeling of being all alone in the world.

On those days she thought of her late father and her mother that couldn't find the strength
to raise her on her own with almost no money so she basically spent most of her childhood in a home.
When those darker thoughts came in her head she made herself think about Sister Alicia,
who if she is honest, was always her favorite and Therese was hers too.

That always made her feel grateful and loved and she found the strength to move forward.
However, tonight was particularly painful.
She thought about Saturday and she couldn't help but wish her family would be there to see her succeeding and becoming somebody in the world.
She talked to Gen about it but she simply couldn't express herself good enough for her to understand or so was Therese telling herself.

Either way, she did what she always does when sadness and nostalgia come her way.
She walked a few blocks from Gen's house and went to her favorite place for some hot chocolate.
Once again she went through all the photos for the show and when she made sure everything was in order she went home.

When she walked in her rented apartment she was greeted by a very happy dog who was now ready to play.
"Hi Augie I missed you too," she said through laughter while he was licking the brunette's face.
Therese had found Augie 5 years ago in front of her gallery and ever since then, they were inseparable.

Afterward, she called Dannie and ask him if he wants to join her for a walk with Augie.

''Hi Terry"

Dannie mockingly said when he saw Therese knowing it will make her cringe because that's how Richard
used to call her when she convinced her she was straight.
She always preferred the company of women and stared at them maybe a little too long in a line somewhere,
but growing up in a Catholic orphanage, it was a long process of admitting to herself that she indeed was a lesbian.
When she first told Dannie he simply said "well you are a photographer, all the best ones are" and that was it.
That's why he was her best friend.

Therese smiled and hugged him.

"It will always sound like a dog name to me" she patted her dog, "no offense Augie".

They continued they walk and Augie was persistent at making them throw every single stick or pinecone that would cross his path.

"So I called Julie, she said she would come to the gallery on Saturday and she is bringing her girl Abby, the one tha--"

"The one that bought almost every nude portrait we had exhibited", Therese chuckled.

"That's the one. And they said she might bring her friend Carol which in worst case scenario are at least three people seeing the photographs
and hopefully, Abby will be in good spirits and even buy some"

Therese knew Dannie was joking but could sense the nervousness behind it so she just gave him a reassuring smile.

"Is Gen gonna make it?"

"Her brother is coming to town so she may not be there for a whole show be she said she will make an appearance"

"Why can't she just come with her brother"

"Let's not go over this again Dannie, they are not art fans and they never will be just as much I won't ever like to go to some football games"

"But you still go"

"Dannie", Therese sighed, "I know you worry about me but I'm okay with it, really"

"Okay, okay", Dannie said as he threw another stick for Augie to catch.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

"Rindy, baby hurry we are going to be late!"

A little girl mumbled something under her breath
and although Carol knew it wasn't something like
"I'm coming mommy" but something rude she probably picked up in kindergarten
Carol decided this time to let it slide.

If she were honest, her Saturday started on the wrong foot from the early morning.
She took Rindy over to Janet's house for a birthday party "her best friend in the world",
as Rindy referred to her friend Michelle, was throwing.

Carol has never felt as she belonged in this particular group of "mom" friends,
the feeling which gradually became even stronger since her divorce.
Divorce they could take, they would gossip behind her back but nothing she couldn't handle,
but once they found out Carol was a lesbian, that was another thing completely.
One mom even forbid her son Charlie to play with Rindy.
That Carol would never tolerate.
So, in real mama bear mode, she confronted her and ever since then
there was an awkward silence whenever Carol would accompany Rindy to a certain birthday or playdate.

The only person that was always kind and understanding was Jeanette,
or as Harge used to call her, Sy Harrison's wife,
which is one of the things that drove Carol crazy and one of the reasons she simply couldn't stay in that marriage even for Rindy's sake.
So while her daughter enjoyed playing with her friends, Carol would often find a peaceful corner and lit a cigarette.
This time was no different.

"Having fun", Jeanette asked smirking.

"Oh I was having a blast listening to Marie go on and on about her new house and her charity work, a real treat"
Carol returned the smile and offered the slightly older woman a cigarette.

Jeanette smoked for a while and continued.

"How was the New Year's Eve?"

"Oh it was fine, Rindy spent time with her father and his parents, and I joined Abby and Julie at the party",
Carol said, visibly still wishing she could've spent the day with her daughter,
so Jeanette knew better than to press the subject further.

With that Anne walked into the room and joined the conversation.
Carol and Jeanette just exchanged a look.

"So Carol I'm hearing you are going to the gallery opening tonight,
is your school making you take your students again or are you just bored and looking for a new hobby"

Carol liked how open and talkative Rindy was but at this particular moment, she wished she were just a bit shy in interaction with other people.

Carol took another puff of a cigarette and shrugged,

"Unfortunately neither. I heard galleries are a big gay thing so I thought I should give it a try"

Even though her back was now turned from the two women she could feel Jeanette smirking proudly.

Rindy was so exhausted after the party, that she fell asleep as soon as they reached the car,
which gave Carol enough time to panic over what she should wear this evening.
For such a stunning woman she was really insecure.
Finally, she decided on striped high waisted pants and an elegant blouse that fit perfectly.
She was now blow-drying her blonde locks.
Her nails were almost always painted with a certain nude color,
but whenever there was some more formal occasion, she felt painting them red gave her confidence.
And tonight she really felt like she needed it.
When she was satisfied with the way she looked, she applied her new perfume and remembered her mother's words,
"Pulse points only Carol, we don't want anyone passing out because of you" and her lips automatically formed a sad smile.
She missed her mother.
Or maybe she was just nervous about tonight so everything made her feel nostalgic.

She decided to call Julie and ask her when they were picking her up.
She was fond of Julie even though it wasn't easy at first.
Julie felt threaten by her knowing that Abby still had strong feelings for Carol after being childhood friends and at certain point lovers,
while Carol had to admit to being afraid of losing her confidant, her best friend in life.
But Abby was determined to prove to them that there will always be a place for both of them in her life,
and with that, an unspoken agreement was made and a new dynamic was successfully established.

While they were waiting for a blue car to arrive,
Rindy was again full of energy and so excited about spending time with Abby's parents and making a snowman in their backyard,
that she even brought her own carrot to make a nose, despite Carol reassuring her Betty and Alan have plenty at home.

When they left Rindy at Abby's parents and after a few long emotional hugs and kisses the three women headed towards the gallery.
Carol attended more than a few business functions as Harge's wife so this felt different,
refreshing as if her existence was finally important.
She was on a path of becoming her own person once again, a person whose laugh would light up the whole room,
and this weekend was leading her one step closer to it, she could feel it.

From the outside, the gallery had a modern architecture, with a small dome on top of it.
One could even argue it seemed a little cold.
In front of it that was a small red carpet predetermined for such events where a couple of journalist and critics chatted away on this chilly afternoon.
After passing the crowd Julie caught sight of Dannie and went over to greet him.

The young man looked very sharp, dressed in a tuxedo and shiny shoes.
He went over to hug Abby and Julie and then proceed to introduce himself to Carol.

"Very nice to finally meet you, Mrs. Aird, I heard great things about you"

"Likewise, but please, call me Carol I'm not that old and Mrs. Aird is my ex-mother in law and she isn't here tonight, well at least I hope",
she winked and the young man knew instantly he will like Carol just as much he likes Julie and Abby.

The group went over to the bar in front of the gallery to enjoy a drink or two and some cigarettes.
After a while, Dannie's phone rang and he excused himself.

"Girls I would love to stay with you but Therese called me saying we have a crisis so.."

"You artists and your eternal creative dissonance or whatever you call the excuse to go and admire your work",
Abby teased sipping her drink.

"Don't worry, go", Julie offered a sympathetic smile to her friend.

"Carol, it was really nice meeting you, I hope I'll be seeing you more often with the girls,
and I will have a small party at my place soon and you must meet Phil and Therese and Mark an--",
Dannie started rambling so Carol just gave him a smile and promised to see him soon.

When the group finally entered the exhibition they were mesmerized by what they saw.
The inside of the gallery gave an opposite impression than its exterior.
All the photographs were exhibited in order that somehow made sense and were lit perfectly.
Carol felt like she was in another dimension altogether, so many portraits, each carrying its own unique emotion.
But the one that made the strongest impression on her was the portrait of a nun in her sixties,
looking at what seems to be a photo album and laughing.
It seemed to Carol that every wrinkle on her had its own story to tell and her blue eyes made her feel like she could see right into her soul.
That's when Carol decided to buy it.

When she arranged everything and paid for the photograph she stepped outside and called Rindy to wish her goodnight.
The little girl wasn't particularly interested in talking with her mother which at the same time made her feel happy and sad;
instinctively she reached for the cigarette.
While she was lost in thought she looked away and suddenly thought she saw the woman from the photograph.
"Wishful thinking," she said to herself but when she took a closer look it really seemed as if she is not imagining it.
In fact, the older woman was now greeting a certain brunette.
They seemed really close judging from their body language so Carol thought they might be related.

Her thought was suddenly interrupted when she saw Julie and Abby exiting the gallery and walking towards her.

"Well we thought we lost you, should have known you couldn't go the whole show without a smoke"

"That may be so but I wanted to wish my daughter a good night, and actually I bought one",

Carol gestured to the piece of paper she was holding in her hand.

"Please tell me it's not the one with the guy with his whole face pierced sitting on the subway bench",

Abby rolled her eyes playfully at Julie's remark.

"No actually it's--", just about when Carol wanted to explain everything about the photograph she heard Dannie's voice.

"Julie, Carol please come and meet Therese and Alicia, our stars of the night"
and suddenly Carol found herself in the company of the two women she was observing just recently.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

"Very nice to meet you", said Carol while stretching her hand planning to shake Alicia's hand but instead,
the older woman pulled her in a hug.

"Nice to meet you, child, Dannie was just talking about you it's nice to put a face to the name."

Carol was now visibly blushing and just shook her head politely.

But the most awkward introduction, as Abby would describe it, happened when Carol and Therese met each other.
They both sloppily went for a kiss on the cheek which almost resulted in a kiss on the lips.
Therese felt chills all over her body immediately and barely had a strength to say her name.

"Therese, that's lovely, it's not such a common name",

Carol said mentally kicking herself for saying something so generic, something Therese heard probably every day.
But luckily for Carol, Therese didn't seem to mind as she began explaining how her name actually comes from Czech
and it's originally written Tereza and how many people advise her to change it to Theresa.

After a while, Therese stopped rambling and a group fell into a comfortable chatter with some great music,
such as One Mint Julep, playing in the background.

Phil suggested they went to a bar nearby to get a drink and celebrate.
Before they left for the bar they said their goodbyes to Alicia who said was too tired to join them.
Therese hugged her tight and Carol notices a tear forming in her eye before she could wipe it.

While they were walking towards the bar and Therese was sure no one would hear her she said under her breath to Dannie,

"Why didn't you stopped me?"

"You know I'm terrible at meeting new people!"

"I talked for five minutes about my fucking name, what kind of person does that?!"

Dannie couldn't suppress his laughter,

"Relax Tereza", he teased her further,

"I'm sure she liked you just fine", he tried to reassure her as they entered the "Buzz".

After a few more drinks and exchanges stories, Carol was gradually finding more about Therese.
As it turns out that the woman from the photo was the nun that raised Therese back in the Catholic orphanage
and that's why the love they had for each other was so palpable and real.

She was also the right hand of the gallerist for this exhibition and took most of the photos.
Needless to say, Carol was impressed by the dedication and passion this younger woman had for her job.

Being an English teacher used to really fulfill Carol as she felt like she was contributing to the world in some micro way,
raising a new generation and all but lately, she felt like just another brick in the wall as the song would say.
She made a mental note the work on that.

At one point most of the group was now on the dance floor.
Abby dragged Julie because this was apparently her "favorite song" and she "must dance it out" every time she hears it,
and Dannie and Phil both had a bit too much to drink so they thought it was a brilliant idea.
So Therese and Carol were alone for the first time this evening.
Carol complimented Therese's work and the exhibition once again as she lit another cigarette.
Brunette fidgeted with her hands nervously and asked,
"I'm sorry I haven't got the chance to ask what you do, talking about myself and all"
and as she laughed Carol noticed her dimples.

"Nothing as exciting as you I'm afraid. I'm an English teacher"

"Well for what is worth I think that's a noble profession, also English was my favorite subject, especially the literature"

"Who was your favorite author?",

Carol asked eager to have found someone to talk to about her work who actually has some interest and knowledge about it.
Harge always thought very little of her profession and her father even less,
Abby would sometimes pretend to have some interest in it, which Carol appreciated but this was different.
It felt refreshing.
"Wow. Pressure. Hope I won't embarrass myself here but I will have to say, Tennyson"

"Is there hope for me or should I just stop reading books all together"
Therese smiled as she played with the coaster of her drink.

"Oh no no, darling, there is definitely hope",
Carol winked at her and gave her a big smile and Therese felt like she has just won the lottery.

They would have probably talked for hours if they weren't interrupted by woman sliding into their booth and kissing Therese affectionately.

"I heard it was awesome, baby. That's why you are my girl. Tell me everything"

Therese smiled awkwardly and looked back at Carol.

"Gen, this is Carol"

"Oh Hi Carol, sorry that was rude of me I just got carried away"

"Nice to meet you and please don't worry about it was probably just as well since I have to go pick up my daughter,
she has probably exhausted Abby's parents by now"

A daughter. Carol has a child.
Well, she is older than Therese but she never thought about it.
Does that mean she has a husband?
And if she does why isn't he here with her.
Maybe he finds it boring.
But who would miss out on the opportunity to be with Carol even if it meant doing the most boring thing in the world?
Those were the thoughts that went through Therese's mind.
She wanted to scream "No, stay I want to know more about you. Tell me everything"

In the meantime, Julie and Abby were back from the dance floor visibly drunk.
So Carol said she would drive them home and then pick Rindy up afterward.

Rindy.

Carol had a daughter.
Therese managed to get out of trans and said,

"Thank you, uh, for coming tonight it really meant a lot to me", she said shyly.

Carol put her hand on her shoulder as she got up.

"Very nice meeting you, Therese"

The three women walked out of the bar.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Carol couldn't sleep. She kept thinking about the photograph of Sister Alicia and Therese's face once she learned someone has already bought it.
The more she thought about the more it didn't feel right.
So she got up to put on a robe and made herself a cup of tea. She took a piece of paper and began writing.

Dear Therese,

If I have known how much this photograph means to you I would have never bid for it.
Now that I had a pleasure of meeting Alicia and seeing how much she means to you I understand.
It would not feel right keeping it with me because it clearly belongs to you.

Hope you are well,

Carol

Now that she felt like she made a right decision about sending the photo back to Therese,
sleep found her as soon as she got back to bed.

In the morning, Carol felt someone kick her in her sleep.
She shouldn't have opened her eyes to know that Rindy came into her room at some point of the night,
as she still often did when she had a bad dream.
She kissed her forehead trying not to wake her as she slipped out of bad.

While making coffee she decided to call her ex-husband to make arrangements for Rindy.
She reluctantly took her phone and dialed.

"Yes", polite as always, Carol thought.

"I'm calling to ask when should Rindy be ready today"

"I'll pick her up around noon, so we can go to the zoo as we planned"
His voice got softer as soon as he spoke about their daughter,
Carol gave him credit for that.

"Okay, she'll be ready."

That's how their conversation usually went.
Short and up to the point, and Carol liked it much more than the long argument about divorce,
the house, the car, his parents and what not.
It felt like a progress.

Carol smiled and went to wake up Rindy.
The little girl was a real sleepyhead and that wasn't the easiest task so she always tried to bribe her with a cartoon or her favorite breakfast, waffles.

While Rindy was watching Let it go for Carol thought was a 20th time Carol's phone rang.
She expected it to be her neighbor Sue,
who said she would call her today because her daughter had some troubles in school so they asked Carol for her help and she happily obliged.

Carol asked Rindy to put her phone on her ear because her hands were dirty and said,

"Hi Sue"

Silence.

"Um, hi it's not Sue"
"It's Therese, from yesterday, the exhibition you remember-"

Carol laughed.
"Of course I remember, hi Therese"

"I hope you don't mind, Julie gave me your number"

"Oh please, of course, I don't mind"

Therese was reluctant to continue.

"I--, I wanted to, well I called to say that I got the photograph.
I really don't know what to say, Carol. I cannot except it, you paid fo-"

"Nonsense, of course, you can. Besides, it makes me happy that it is with you, so consider it a favor for me."

Therese laughed and let the breath she didn't know she was holding and sounded more relaxed now.

"Well I can't argue with that but you have to pick another photo from the exhibition, I insist"

Well if you insist, Ms. Belivet", Carol grinned.

"I'll be at the gallery today, I know it's Sunday and you probably want to spend it with your family but-"

"Actually today is perfect, Rindy is staying with her father so I'm free"

"Oh, okay so I guess I'll see you today"

"Looking forward to it"

After they have ended the call both women seemed to be nervous and excited about seeing each other again.
Therese spilled her coffee all over her desk just minutes after speaking with Carol,
and Carol's waffles were of a very strange shape so she told Rindy she was trying out a new recipe.

Once Rindy and Harge left, Carol thought of calling Abby.
But what would she say? She is going to get a photograph. That's all.
It's not a date. She met her girlfriend for god's sake. She is older then Therese. She has a child.
So she decides against it.

"Hi, excuse me I'm looking for Therese Belivet",
Carol said to a doorman when she entered a dim gallery.

"May I ask who is asking", he asked quite protectively.

"Of course, it's Carol Ai-"

And with that, she saw someone coming down the stairs.
She was dressed more casually than the evening before and it suited her well.
She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and her hair was in a loose ponytail.
She seemed significantly more comfortable like this than in fancy clothes one is supposed to wear to formal events.

"Thank you, Joe, but it's okay. Carol is my friend."
Upon hearing this his face relaxed and Carol immediately found him more likable.

"So", Carol said when Joe left for his desk,
"Will you show me around, where all the magic happens".

Therese laughed and led Carol to her office. It looked just as Carol imagined it would.
Dozens of photos scattered over her desk and even more on the walls.
It was modern, but not too extravagant. Tasteful.
Among all the portraits of different people, there was a photo of a dog rolling around in the grass and Therese smiling next to him.
Carol sensed that the dog is here for a personal reason not a part of an exhibition so she asked,

"Is he yours" and proceded to examine the photograph.

"Oh that. Yes, that's would be Augie"

"He is adorable, Rindy would love him. She adores animals, she was begging me to get one for a long time",
Carol smiled radiantly.

"You are not a fan of dogs?", Therese smiled mischievously.

Carol returned the smile,
"Actually I love dogs too, but with me working and Rindy being too small to take him for a walk by herself poor dog wouldn't be too happy would he"

Therese agreed. "How old is your daughter?"

"She is five. Five and a half actually. She is very proud of that"

"Do you have a picture?", Therese shyly asked and Carol said
"In this phone, only 10 000 of them" and proceeded to show them to Therese.

"She looks like you. Around the eyes"

"You think so?", Carol's eyes were filled with pride.

"Mhm.", Therese said eager to see more photos.

With each photo Carol has shown her, Therese felt like she was privileged to see a glimpse of their life.
Some were typical mother-daughter pictures where Carol would hug or kiss Rindy and she would frown at her mom.
Others were cute moments when the little girl would be in her mother arms sleeping of playing with her hair.
Then there were those where Rindy would "help" her mother make cookies and half of the kitchen would be covered in dough
or video where Rindy wanted to surprise her mother by painting her wall in many many colors. Those were Therese's favorite.

After some time their laughter was interrupted by Joe.

"Miss Belivet, I'm sorry to interrupt, but my shift is over so I just wanted to ask if you need anything else while I'm here"

"You promised you'd call me Therese", young Brunette pleaded.

He just smiled.

"No thanks, we are good. I will lock up later."

"Okay. Bye Therese. Nice meeting you Mrs. Aird."

"Likewise", she smiled at the older man.

After he left they went downstairs so that Carol could pick another photograph she liked.
She decided on the one where there was a crowd of people Christmas shopping for a tree and she liked it because it felt spontaneous, not forced.
Therese seemed to be satisfied with a choice Carol made and just smiled as she was wrapping it.

They took the photo to Carol's car and when there was no more valuable excuse for Carol to stick around at the gallery she said,

"Well I don't suppose you would like to join me for lunch since I took so much of your time, would you?"

"Yes, yes I would", Therese beamed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Carol suggested they went to an Italian restaurant called "Il Buco" on Bond Street known for having the best pasta in the world. Carol discovered it when she first came to New York for college. She was lucky she came from a wealthy family so she had opportunities to experience the very best of New York, such as seeing plays on Broadway and exploring museums and shops.

Therese watched as Carol took off her coat and her scarf and put it on the chair next to her. She was in the awe of the class and elegance Carol possessed doing the simplest things. She was the same way with people, magnetic and radiant, so much that Therese even felt jealous when Carol talked to or smiled at the waiters. She selfishly wanted Carol's attention all to herself.

After the waiter took their orders he brought them cutlery, then appetizer, then bread and then drinks. Finally, it seemed they were left alone so Carol said.

"Well, I don't know about you but I thought he was gonna joins us", Carol said and Therese laughed looking at his direction.

"Maybe he has a crush on you, every time he came back he had some important question to ask you", Therese teased.

Carol blushed.

"Oh, don't flatter me, darling, I don't think woman about to be forty with a child is really his type", Carol said on a light note, not wanting to sound pathetic.

"Well, then he is a fool", was all Therese had to say about that.

While they enjoyed their meal they talked about their college days, how they met Abby and Julie and where they would like to see themselves in the future. Carol wasn't surprised when Therese said her dream is one day opening her own gallery and taking pictures only of the things she is really passionate about.

After their desserts arrived, Therese and Carol both giggled when they noticed the awkwardness in the conversation happening at the table next to theirs. It was obviously young's couple first date and they wanted to make a good impression.

Carol looked at Therese who was now laughing so hard, with a type of laugh that is so contagious you just have to laugh too. Finally, when Carol's eyes were filled with tears she asked,

"Therese, please tell me what's so funny!",

"It reminded me of me", young brunette grinned.

"What do you mean?"

"Before I met Gen I was dating a guy named Richard, a friend of Dannie's.
We would go out to dinner or to the movies and I swear to God it was the most awkward thing that ever happened to me. And to him for that matter. On paper, we were perfect for each other but when we actually went out together it was a disaster. We didn't have a thing in common. He pretended to be interested in photography, I pretended to be interested in banking",

Carol laughed as she recalled similar situations happening in her marriage to Harge and nodded for Therese to continue.

"I swear some people probably sensed the awkwardness just like we did with those guys and gave us apologetic looks. It funny how things change like that."

Carol agreed.

"And when did you meet Gen?", Carol was curious to know more.

"Actually, Dannie set us up two years ago. When I told him I'm interested in women he couldn't wait to find me a date."

"Oh, I know what that's like. Abby and Julie made me install Tinder on my phone. Tinder Therese. There are girls on that thing that are 18 or 19 for god’s sakes!"

Therese had to laugh at the face of desperation Carol made. when she suddenly came to a realization Carol said women, not men. Before she could try to find out more Carol asked,

"So, Gen is your first girlfriend?",

"Not exactly, I mean I was exploring for a while or whatever one would call it, but she is my first serious girlfriend I guess."

"Don't tell me you were on Tinder too!",

"I was actually, and stop laughing at me Carol everyone was on Tinder once in their life or if they haven't they will." She said playfully.

"I suppose you are right", Carol said and raised a glass,

"Well, to Tinder then."

Therese smiled so hard her face hurt.

Once they left the restaurant, it was already dark outside and really, really cold and windy. So cold no one in their right mind would decide to take a walk in such weather. But they did.

They walked for a long time talking about mostly about Rindy and even about Harge. Therese's heart broke for Carol when she realized she spent eight years of her life unhappy, with a man she could never love as much as she tried.

Carol assured her that everything happens for a reason and that she is happier now and most importantly she has her Rindy.

Carol even told Therese about the history she has shared with about. How they grew up together and were best friends and left for college together. How Abby confessed her feelings for Carol while they were studying one late night in her room. How they shared some wonderful memories and how Abby will always have a special part in her heart.

"Why did you fall apart?"

"I knew my father would never accept it, that much I knew. He thought of people like us only the worst. But I was a coward. I chose the path I thought was easier and married Harge. For a long time, I thought Abby would never forgive me. But then came Rindy, and Abby being Abby, she became her goddaughter and well, here we are."

"Have you ever, I mean after college, you and Abby?"

"No, never. I wouldn't have been right. And after a while, she met Julie and she really fell in love and found the right person for her."

"Are you okay with that?", Therese asked squeezing her hand.

"I'm okay with that", Carol said squeezing her hand back.

Chapter Text

Bowling

“Mhm,” Therese let out a tired moan after she felt somebody’s lips on her neck, kissing her awake.

“Well yesterday was a surprise”, she said running her fingers through Therese’s hair.
“A good surprise but still a surprise.”

“Why?” she asked feigning innocence.

“Well if I'm honest we had a dry spell for a while and I thought maybe you are losing interest in me that’s all”

“Oh come on Gen you know that’s not true, with work-“

“Oh I do now”, Gen said caressing Therese nipples and kissing her down her thighs all to her center.

“Do we have time for a quicky?”, she asked smirking.

“Please Gen.”

“Please what baby?”

“Please fuck me.”

And so she did, and Therese enjoyed it, it felt like she needed it.
Afterward, she sat at the window looking at a small bird on the tree and smoking when Gen suddenly said,

“Why don’t you move in?”

“What?”, Therese asked being caught completely off guard.

“I’m serious. Move in. I love you, you love me it sounds pretty simple to me.
Besides”,
Gen moved closer to Therese and whispers to her ear.
“That way we can start every day like this”
Therese’s expression softened and she kissed her girlfriend.

“I guess you are right. It is simple”
“So?”, Gen asked hopefully
“I guess I’m moving in”, Therese said hugging her
“Yes, yes, yes,” Gen said between kisses.

When Therese got to work, unfashionably late, Dannie was already there.
They had perfected their routine, drinking coffee and catching up, so naturally, Therese mentioned she is planning on moving in with Gen.

“You seem to think it’s a terrible idea”, she said seeing his expression when she told him.

“No, it’s not that. But, where is Augie going to go?”

“What do you mean, he will go where I go off course”

“I don’t think Gen will be thrilled with that idea, don’t get me wrong I love her but she and dogs, a terrible combination”, Dannie smiled.

Therese chuckled as she remembered how, when they first started dating, Gen tried to socialize with Augie, but was so unnatural around him that Therese found it hysterical.

“Well she will have to get used to him, besides he’s an awesome dog”, Therese grinned

“Mh, I almost forgot, Phil, invited the group to go bowling and maybe catch a movie later tonight, what do you think?”

“Sure sounds great, I’ll text Gen”, Therese said taking her phone out.
“Do you know who else is going?”

“I think definitely Abby and Julie, they wouldn’t miss it, they said they will also ask Mrs. Aird if she could get a sitter, Jack and his sister and us”

Therese grinned when Dannie called Carol Mrs. Aird and asked
“Why Mrs. Aird, she is not that old you know?”

“I know I know but she has a child so that makes her more serious in my eyes I guess”

“She has quite a witty side to her you know”

“Oh yeah?” Dannie asked curiously.

“Yeah we went to lunch after she returned the photograph”

“Is she married?”

“No divorced actually, her ex seems like a real jerk”

“Uh, straight people and their drama”, Dannie exhaled dramatically.

“Well actually, I don’t know about straight. She told me she and Abby were a serious thing at college, and she is dating women now so..”

“Wow, her ex-husband must be happy”, Dannie said sarcastically.

“You can imagine.”

“Why don't you give her a call too, T. Chances are bigger she will come if you invite her as well and she really seems like she could use a bit of a fun”

“I suppose you are right”, she agreed.

At her lunch break, Therese went home to take Augie for a quick walk and decided to call Carol.

“Hi Therese”, Carol greeted politely

“Hi”

“I wanted to ask if you are going bowling tonight, Dannie told me Abby and Julie will also come”

“Oh yes, Abby mentioned it but I’m afraid I can’t tonight Rindy is with me till tomorrow so I’d like to spend the evening with her you know”, Carol said almost apologetically.

“Oh. Of course Carol I get it she is your child it’s understandable”

“I’m glad you are not mad. It’s always nice to be on gallerist’s good side”, Carol teased.

“Well I’m just a gallerist’s assistant but you are definitely on my good side”

“For now darling, trust me, you will get there”, Carol said her voice full with confidence and Therese smiled to herself.

“So what are you and Rindy up to tonight?”

“Oh It will probably be a game night and then Frozen until my head explodes”, Carol sighed dramatically.

“That’s still a hit huh?”

“Oh, you wouldn’t believe it.”

“Actually I once played the famous let it go song on the piano for the kids at the orphanage and it was quite a hit, I felt like a pop star”

Carol laughed and said something barely audible

“What?” Therese couldn’t hear her

“Is there something you don’t know Therese?”

Therese chuckled shyly.

“I could teach you so you could play it for rindy”

“You are kind, but I don’t think I have any talent”
“Nonsense everyone has it”

“Well then I would be glad”

Before two women ended the call a thought popped up in Therese’s head and she had to share it with Carol.

“Carol?”

“Yes?”

“Why don’t you bring Rindy to the bowling tonight. I think maybe she would like it, there are some small balls for the kids and all kinds of games and we could meet your daughter, Abby speaks very highly of her.”

“Oh Therese that’s very kind of you but I don’t think the rest would think is such a great idea, she is only five and has so much energy and asks a hundred questions in a minute, I think we would bore you.”

“Carol, everyone Therese loves kids and they love to hang out with you so please doesn’t ever worry about that. And curious kids are the best, I will try to answer as many questions as I can, so just say you will think about it, okay?”

“Okay, I will”, Carol finally said.
“And thank you, Therese”

“Of course, I hope I’ll see you two tonight”, Therese said with more resolve hoping it will make a difference.

Therese always had a soft spot for bowling, in her mind that was something happy families usually did on weekends. So she was being just a little pushy to get there early.

“Gen come on, I’ve been waiting here for ages”

“Oh was it really ages”, she came closer to Therese and added,
“Actually maybe it was I think I see a wrinkle right here”, she pointed at her forehead and joked with brunette trying to lighten the mood.

“haha”, Therese said signaling towards a door.

When they got Therese’s mood has lightened immediately and all the nervousness was gone. She was the first one to pick her shoes, her, and her lucky ball.

Slowly, the others arrived but still no sign of Carol nor Rindy.

Therese always took bowling very seriously and cheered everyone on the team to do their best. This time that was Abby, Dannie, and Jack.
Abby was hopeless, she knew that. Every time it was her turn she would completely miss her target and her ball wouldn’t even reach the pins but she was never a sore loser, she would laugh and kiss Julie afterward. Just as Dannie was getting ready to bowl, Carol walked in and beside her was a blonde little girl jumping around, carrying her bunny.

“She brought her daughter?”, Phil’s sister Amy said in a tone Therese didn’t appreciate.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t she?”, she said sternly and Gen gave her a look.

“What?”, Therese asked quietly, ready to argue but Gen just shook her head.

When Carol and Rindy finally reached their table, the girl seemed to grow more shyly with all unfamiliar people around her and hid behind her mother.

Carol gestured towards her aunt Abby and Julie and a little girl felt more comfortable now seeing the people she loves.

“Go say hi Rindy”

A little girl reluctantly said
“Hi, my name is Rindy Aird”

While they were taking a break from bowling and eating pizza, Carol went out to make a phone call. Rindy, on Carol’s surprise, didn’t wanna go with her and stayed at the table drawing. However, she had a frown on her face when she couldn’t get the lines right.”

“Aunt Abby, can you help me?”

“Oh Rindy, you know I’m terrible at this”

“Can I help you Rindy”, Therese asked and Rindy nodded.

“What are you trying to draw?”

“A train.”

“Okay let’s see”, and Therese took another pencil and started to sketch it.

Rindy immediately recognized outlines of the train and she was now exciting.

When Therese was done drawing the train carol had already come back inside and smirked at the duo, but not wanting to interrupt the creative process she sat down quietly talking to the others.

“Which colors should we use”, Therese asked curiously.

“Blue!”, Rindy exclaimed and Therese agreed.

When it was Therese’s turn to bowl again she decides to skip and keep working on the drawing. Carol didn’t want Therese to feel like she has to do it for Rindy’s sake so she said,

“Therese please, you’ve helped her more than enough I can finish coloring with her”

“Carol please, don’t disrupt our creative process”, Therese said in a funny voice which made Rindy laugh.

“Yeah mommy it’s a process”, she tried to repeat Therese’s words.

Carol smiled contently seeing her daughter happy and left to bowl for her team.

After they were finished bowling, it was time to go home.

“Rindy, baby, did you say thank you to Therese”

“I’m not a baby”, Rindy said, rather proudly and Therese smiled

“Okay, but that doesn’t answer my question”

“of course I did mommy”, Rindy said hugging her mom, exhaustion begging to kick in.

“Good girl, we are gonna put it on the fridge when we get home.”, Carol said kissing her daughter’s head.

When everyone was saying their goodbyes Carol tried to find the right moment to thank Therese once again for being so nice with Rindy but somehow that moment never came.

Just as she made peace with it and began to put Rindy in her car seat she heard Therese’s voice.

“You forgot this.”, giving Carol Rindy’s scarf.

“Oh, thank you, Therese, she loves that scarf.”, carol looked away for a second as to find a strength to continue.

“I wanted to thank you, Rindy had a great time, and so did I”

“Carol, you have absolutely nothing to thank me for, Rindy is a great kid.”

“Did you have fun?”, Therese asked shyly

“Yes I did”, Carol smile reached her eyes.

“Therese let’s go!”, someone yelled from the other side of the parking lot.

“Seems like you have to go”

“Yeah”. But I don’t want to, she thought.

“Have a good night, Therese”,
Carol said and drove away.

Chapter Text

Carol waited in the restaurant for Abby and Julie for their traditional Friday lunch when only Abby showed up.

“Am I terribly late?”

“Not more than usual”, Carol teased,

“Where’s Julie?”

“She said she wanted us to have time to ourselves when I tell you the news?”, Abby was nervous and excited at the same time.

“Well, don’t torture me, tell me!”, Carol was also curious what Abby was up to now.

“I asked her to marry me”, Abby continued,

“What, ho-, when?”

“Last night I was lying in bed thinking what would I do if you somehow changed your mind about us, about me, you know I did that sometimes, wondering what if, but I was lying next to her and for the first time in my life I was at peace, I didn’t want anything to change so I woke her up and asked.”

“Abby you never failed to surprise me.”, Carol smiled while she was processing the news.

“Well can I see a ring?”, Carol asked

“Of course”, and Abby took her phone out the bag.

“Gorgeous and a little over the top, I say it fits perfectly”, Carol teased.

“You do know we will need your help with the wedding, we are hopeless.”

“I’ll be honored”, Carol smiled.

“Can Rindy be the flower girl?”

“I’m sure she would be very proud but you will have to practice with her, she is not the calmest kid in the world, you know?”

“We’ll get there”

After they ate the dessert Carol looked at her best friend and said.

“You are really getting married, ha?”

“I know, sometimes it doesn’t feel real, but I feel surprisingly calm and happy so I guess that means it’s right”

“Of course it is. You two are meant to be together. But our wild Abby getting all domestic, that’s not something we see every day.”, Carol teased and Abby blushed.

“Oh shut up”, she said grinning like a fool.

“Could you asked Jeanette the number from her caterer, she always has the best food at the parties?”

“Yeah sure, and what about the music, are you going with the band or the DJ?”

“Don’t even let me start on the band. Julie’s cousin got a so-called band and sometimes she would drag me to see them and Carol when I say they suck, I’m being kind, so I’m trying to find a way to tell her that so that she doesn’t leave me before the actual wedding and if not I’m suggesting earplugs for the big day”, Abby said dramatically.

“Oh trust me I have probably heard worse, Rindy found some app on my phone that has all kinds of instruments and let me tell you she is not the next Beethoven.”

“I love that kid”, Abby laughed.

“And I was thinking about asking Therese to take photos, do you think she will do it, I mean we will pay her whatever she wants, her photos are a fucking masterpiece”

“I think she will love to”, Carol said shortly and Abby sensed something weird in her tone of voice.

“What?”, Carol said after Abby look at her funny.

“I thought you liked Therese.”

“I do. I like her”

“Then what?”

When Carol didn't say anything Abby put two and two together.

“Oh. You like her, like her.”

“Abby…”

“Well there’s nothing wrong with that she is amazing”

“She has a serious girlfriend and let’s not forget she is ten years younger than me”

“Bu-hu”

“Abby please”, Carol sighed and Abby knew this was a sign to stop.

“Okay, okay I won’t say another word”

“Thank you”

But before they said their goodbyes and went their separate ways Abby whispered,

“I heard artists are amazing in bed”.

Carol laughed at her friend’s ways and went back to school.

On the other side of town, Therese was packing and her apartment was filled with boxes.
While she didn’t have much stuff her apartment was filled with photographs and she didn’t exactly know where will she fit all of it. That’s why she had Gen, Dannie and Phil help her organize.

Once when they were done packing and everything was in the boxes, Therese felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. That was the first real home she has ever known and she was about to leave it. However, she tried to get it together because she didn’t want Gen to think she regrets the decision but it was still bitter-sweet.

“Well I think you owe us a drink Therese”, Dannie said exhausted from carrying all the boxes.

“We can go to our place and order takeout”, Gen winked at Therese.

“I just want food.”, Phil gasped.

After the boys left the apartment Therese started looking for a place to unpack all her stuff.
She had to admit Gen was really not the most organized person in the world so it was hard to find a place for her books.

“I think we need to buy another shelf for my books.”

“Or you can finally admit defeat and buy a kindle.”

“Never.”

“Why not?”

“It’s just not the same”, Therese dismissed the idea.

“I don’t get you sometimes”, Gen shook her head and went to take a shower.

While Therese was still trying to figure out where to go with all her stuff her phone rang.

“Abby, hi”

“Is this a bad time?”

“No no, I’m just unpacking actually”

“Another one of your trips?”

“No, actually I moved into Gen’s apartment”

“Oh well, mazeltov then”

“Thank you”, Therese smiled.

“I am calling because I need to ask you something”

“What is it?”, Therese asked while playing with Augie who felt neglected today while Therese was packing and wanted attention,

“Julie and I, we are getting married actually”

“Abby that’s amazing! Congratulations”

“Thank you”, Abby grinned.

“When?”

“Well we don’t know the details yet but we are very excited and want to have it as soon as possible and we were hoping that maybe you would want to be our photographer for the day. I know you work a lot and those types of things are not something you are interested in but we will pay as much-“

“Abby, I would be honored”

“Really?”

“Yes, and I’m touched that you would want me, besides we are friends so please don’t even joke about paying me”

“Well I just wouldn’t want you to feel like you have to say yes”

“Abby, I can’t wait, really and I will do my best don’t worry I promise I won't drink”

“I think your photos would be fantastic even when taken drunk” Abby laughed and added,

“Carol promised to organize the whole thing as well as my bachelorette party so I guess she will let you know the details.

“Okay we will be in touch, and Abby”, Therese said before hanging up.

“Send me the photo of a ring”

After they ended the call Therese texted Carol.

“Abby’s getting married?!”

A couple minutes later Therese’s phone beeped.

“Who’s bugging you so late?”, Gen asked coming out of the bathroom.

“Oh, Abby is engaged so I’m texting Carol about the details, she will organize the whole thing.

“Abby is engaged?!”

“I know it’s crazy”, Therese laughed.

“I guess we are getting older, I mean they are getting married, we are living together”, Gen said kissing Therese who was now paying more attention to the screen and kissed her back absently.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

Ever since she married Harge, Carol felt as though she needed an outlet to get rid of anger, disappointment, and sadness that occasionally got the best of her, so she found a way to blow off some steam at a gym near her school.

She has genuinely grown to like it so kept going even after the divorce besides she wanted to stay in shape and maintain a figure and if she were honest, look presentable naked if by chance she met someone.

She was fond of that particular gym because it was big enough to have enough personal space while working out and yet small enough that all receptionist and coaches knew you.

Carol always used her time on the treadmill for planning things for Rindy or herself. Today, however, she thought mostly about Abby’s upcoming wedding, and it surprised her just how much she was looking forward to it. Maybe it was being happy for her best friend or the realization that this wedding will be quite the opposite of her own. There will only be people Abby truly loves and that love her, not some aunts and uncles to impress, or business partners to entertain.

Thinking about her own wedding Carol often had a feeling it was someone else going down that aisle and saying I do. Whilst being lost in thought Carol didn’t notice the beautiful woman next to her on a treadmill until she was done for the day and went to the changing room. While ruffling through her bag to find fresh clothes she noticed that the woman from a treadmill entered the changing room and they exchanged a polite nod. Carol couldn’t help but notice how hot the woman was.

After Carol took a shower and was about to leave the woman asked,
“Excuse me I see that you come here often, can you recommend me some of the coaches, I would like to try some personal training?”

“Well, I had a few sessions with Toni and he’s fun so I think it’s worth a try”, Carol smiled politely.

“Thanks, I’ll take your advice-“, she paused waiting for Carol to say her name.

“Carol”

“Nice to meet you, Carol, I’m Lisa”

“Likewise, how long have you been a member?”

“I joined two months ago”, Lisa said as she started to take her top off and Carol could feel her cheeks going red. She was used to seeing women naked in changing rooms even though she herself always used a private stall, but today she felt different so she looked away as to search for something in her bag.
Just as Carol was about to leave, Lisa said,

“Um, Carol?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I have your number, you know in case I need another workout advice?”
She was definitely flirting now, right?!, Carol thought as she gave her number.

Rindy was staying with Harge for a couple of days so Carol decides to treat herself with a hot bath and some light music. However, whether it was the endorphins or flirting with a beautiful woman but Carol soon became aroused. It’s been a while it’s been a while since she pleasured herself and she really missed it. So she slid one finger between her lips to open herself up and slip her finger back and forth from her opening to her clit. Then she added one more finger and slid them inside her, curling them slightly. When she felt she was close she rubbed her clit in circular motions, each time with more intensity until she climaxed for the first time in months, but the picture that was in her head as she came wasn’t the one of Lisa but rather of one Therese Belivet.

Carol, she moved in with her girlfriend and she is ten years younger than you. She scolded herself.

Afterward, she took a long bath, treating her skin with all kinds of body lotions one could imagine, drank a glass of wine and simply enjoyed the evening she had to herself.

**

“I wanna throw you a moving in party this weekend”, Gen said as the pair walked into the mall.

“I really do have a lot of work this weekend, remember we have a potential investor coming in and everything should be running smoothly”

“T, why do you always find some excuse not to hang out, you can't read your books every night.”

“Excuse me but I’m pretty happy with my books”, she said annoyed.

“And that’s great, but I’m just saying it wouldn’t kill you to spend more time with our friends.”

“I guess”, Therese shrugged and Gen gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“I promise it won’t be anything wild and we will invite only the people you like”

“What’s that suppose to mean?”

“Well I know you are not a fan of some of my friends”

“Like who?”

Last time you fought with Molly over Instagram.”, Gen sighed.

“Gen, she is a grown woman who still thinks posting fifteen pictures online makes you a professional photographer and what was the other word she used?”

“Influencer”, Gen laughed.

“See my point?”

“I do, but that’s her thing she didn’t mean to offend you”

“I know I know”, Therese said dragging her feet to yet another store.

Later that evening when Therese was walking Augie she thought about her life and she was overwhelmed as feelings of nostalgia washed over her. She knew that Gen loved her and cared about her but she never felt understood by her. And she longed. to be understood and loved for who she was, instead of being molded into some idea Richard or Gen had about who she's supposed to be. Therese reached in her pocket to get her phone and like a habit, as she did it a thousand times, she called Carol.

“Hi Therese”, Carol answered almost immediately.

“Hi”, Therese called without any plan of what to say so she was quiet for a few seconds before Carol asked,

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, I just wanted to talk I guess”, she said honestly.

“Well, that’s refreshing, people usually call when they need something”, Carol knew just what to say to ease Therese’s nervousness or embarrassment.

“I didn’t wake Rindy, did I?”

“No, no don’t worry she is with Harge so it’s just me”

“What are you up to?”, Carol asked playfully.

“Nothing much, just walking Augie.”

“That sounds nice”

“Yeah”,

Carol could sense the sadness in Therese’s voice, it was quite different from the one when she spoke about photography or books that she loves.

“Would you mind if I joined you?”, Carol asked on an impulse before she really thought this through but still hoped Therese would say yes.

“Really? Yes, I mean no I wouldn’t mind, of course”

“Tell me where you are and I’ll be there in ten minutes”

Ten minutes later, Carol, Therese, and Augie were enjoying their evening stroll.