The Maythorpe was rather quiet for a Thursday, minus the group of five women sitting around a table, laughing at a story Pauline was telling. Hellie came with a few more drinks for the girls while they caught their breath.
“It was absolutely mortifying,” Pauline stated, the women still smiling. “I don’t know why you all think this is such a riot. I was completely embarrassed.”
“It’s not that bad,” Dawn answered.
“A woman actually put on the skimpiest lingerie, got too intoxicated and fell down letting all her bits fly to the wind and then continued to walk around.” They all started laughing again, but tried to keep it more to themselves. “I saw everything.”
“Anything good?” Nita asked.
“No, it was mortifying.”
“Got a profit though, didn’t ya,” Hellie offered.
“I rather not have it, if that’s how I had to make it.”
“Well at least you got a good story out of it.” Steph smiled around her glass.
“And where is the Hot Fox tonight?” Nita asked.
“Making her babysit?”
“I told her she should come, but she insisted that I deserved a night out with my friends and since we didn’t know how late I’d be out, this keeps my mum from having to stay late and watch Dean.”
“Why not, Terry?”
“He has early mornings at the plant so he says he’s in bed by no later than eight or nine most nights and even though that’s Dean’s bedtime, he doesn’t usually get home until five or six.”
“Sounds like a rough new job,” Hellie said.
“He’s enjoying it though and it has put him in better spirits.”
“Well that’s good, but we wouldn’t mind seeing Gemma.”
“Are you saying you wish Gemma was here instead of me, Dawn?”
“No, not at all. You guys have just been together for so long that we feel like we still don’t know her very well.”
“I promise, next time we go out on a Friday or Saturday, I’ll make her come with me, but you have to make me a promise.” They all looked at her. “You won’t call her the ‘Hot Fox’.”
“But that’s her name,” Dawn answered.
“And she wears it well,” Nita agreed.
“Why do you call her that?”
“Guys, I don’t think Steph has ever looked at the infamous Doctor Foster.”
Steph rolled her eyes at Dawn. “I’ve seen even more than you have.”
“Must still be going well then, Dear.”
“We’re doing very well.”
“Healthy and happy?”
“As always, Neets.” She paused. “It’s interesting. You guys have actually seen my marriage end, Johnny from start to finish and now this relationship. Geez, I’m glad I’ve had you guys through all that. Don’t think I would have gotten through it.”
“We’re here for you, Mate.” Nita took her hand and squeezed it.
“How’s Alex?” Steph asked, taking the focus away from herself.
“She’s good.” It was a simple, quick answer. Steph was hoping for more so the conversation would continue.
“And why isn’t she here?” Nita pressed on.
“Early meeting in the morning with an office in the States.”
“And are you two doing well?”
“Yeah. In two weeks, I will officially no longer live with Bunny.”
“You’re leaving your mum’s place?” Pauline inquired.
“Yes, but we’re not moving in together. I’m just finally getting my own place.
“Oh that’s wonderful, Hellie.”
“I helped her find it,” Dawn added.
“Yeah, it’s a small flat, but Alex and I assumed that over time, if we’re still together, it would be right for us.”
“Well that’s great,” Steph said. “I’m very happy for you.”
“How’s Dean dealing with all the changes?” Hellie asked. “You know, Terry moving back and Gemma moving in.”
Nita smiled, already knowing the answer. Steph had made the decision to only discuss things with Nita because she didn’t want her life to be the business of the office. Nita was the only one who knew about the accident and Dean’s sudden revelation of calling Gemma ‘mum’ which had stuck completely now. He hasn’t uttered her name once since he started. But tonight was different because this wasn’t office chatter, this was her and her friends out for a night off. As much as she loved Gemma and Dean, she could only admit that she truly needed this night away from home.
“He has adjusted quite well. She was gone for a conference and you would have thought she was gone for a month with how much excitement he had for her return.”
“And,” Nita pushed, knowing Steph wanted to tell her colleagues without making it a big deal.
“And,” Steph smiled, “He’s been calling her ‘mum’.”
“What?” The three other women asked.
“Yeah. Just randomly, when she got back, he called her ‘mum’ and hasn’t stopped nor changed his mind since.”
“That’s amazing, Steph. Congrats,”
“How’s Gemma coping?” Hellie questioned.
“She was definitely surprised at first and took her longer to get used to it, but now it’s so second nature that we don’t really even think about it.”
“So she’s okay?”
“She’s perfectly fine.”
“Well what does he call you?” Pauline asked.
“He’s resorted back to only calling me ‘mummy’, but I think the time will come where he’ll grow out of that.”
“Then what do you do?”
“I don’t know, Paul. Cross that bridge when we get to it, I guess.”
“Well, that is wonderful news.”
“Yeah, everything is really good.”
“Bummed about this trip though,” Dawn stated. “I was looking forward to the travel.”
“It was just Manchester,” Hellie responded. “And it’s only been postponed a month.”
“Yeah, but it was a week with you lot outside of Sheffield. I need to get Russi some space away from me?”
“So he’ll long for me. Make him desperate for my return.”
“Wish that worked on Kieron. I’m gone for a day and he still wants me.”
“Brian and I might be older, but if I’m gone for a night, he acts like his whole world has crumbled.”
“Alex can be like that too, when she doesn’t have early morning meetings.”
They all looked to Steph. “We couldn’t even go the week Gemma was gone for the conference.” She blushed.
“My G-d, Steph, you always surprise me.”
“Like you and Russell haven’t shagged over the phone.”
“Of course we have.”
“Why does everyone think I’m a prude?”
“No, I don’t think that. At this point, we know all about the entire apartment, the car and the New Year’s Eve party, but we’re adding something else to this list.”
“I think I talk to you all too much about my sex life.”
“Was it good?” Nita asked.
“Not as good as when she returned, but it was what we needed at the time.”
“Wait, you didn’t do it in the foyer?” Hellie questioned.
“No. Gemma made me install a phone upstairs.”
“Ahh,” Dawn answered, elbowing her while they all started to laugh again, Steph joining them, her cheeks crimson. “Cheeky.”
Gemma was laying on the couch, watching the television. She was in and out of sleep, but was enjoying her glass of wine. Her book was closed on the coffee table, now finished in the quiet evening at home. She and Dean had cooked themselves a nice meal of mashed potatoes and Salisbury steak with broccoli. He had helped her clean it up and they worked on his homework. He didn’t put up any arguments with his bath or going to bed, enjoying a book before falling asleep.
Gemma’s eyes wandered around the living room, her attention no longer focused on the program. The differences in a few months were tremendous. There were now several photos of her, Steph and Dean. A picture of her and Steph from the New Years Eve party stared down at her from the bookshelf. Several pictures of Tom also littered the room, some she wasn’t even sure how Steph found. She was staring at one in particular, when a little boy stood in her way.
“Why are you out of bed, Sir?”
“I had a bad dream.”
Dean nodded. “When’s Mummy going to be home?”
“I’m not sure, Love. You wanna lay with me until she gets here?”
“Yeah.” Dean crawled up on top of her and got comfortable. She scratched his head.
“Was it about the accident?” It had only been a couple weeks since the accident and the dreams were fading, but he was still having them here and there. They were hoping his birthday coming up would take his mind off of it completely.
“We’ve got to get you thinking about other things before you go to bed.”
“It wasn’t that bad, but it woke me up.”
“Well, do you feel better now?”
Dean nodded. “What are you watching?”
“I don’t know. Some old game show.”
“Is it good?”
“Not really, but why don’t we see if we can get you back to sleep. I’m sure Mummy will be home soon.”
“Okay.” Gemma rubbed his back, her attention returning to the television. “Mum?”
Gemma smiled. “Yeah?”
“Can you tell me a story?”
“What kind of story?”
“A happy one.”
“I’d be better off with a book.”
“Just make one up,” Dean whispered.
Gemma thought for a small moment, her grin getting bigger. “Once upon a time there was a beautiful queen with a very handsome, young prince. Her hair was strawberry blonde and her eyes bluer than the ocean, that sparkled in the sunlight, and even sometimes looked almost clear and glass like. She ruled her kingdom with fairness and love, but there was one thing missing. Further away was another queen, brown haired, dark eyes. She had lost her king and prince and the trust she had for her people. She was sad and lonely. She had lost all hope.”
“What did she do?”
“Well she got in her car-, her carriage and went on an adventure to find what she had lost. There was a big, beautiful banquet held at the blonde queen’s castle. All the women from town came to rejoice and celebrate with the fair queen. Because of her kindness, the women felt safe with her. They danced, drank and were very merry, but it didn’t subside the feeling in the young queen’s heart until she took a step out on her balcony.
She didn’t see the far off queen at first as she was dressed in black from head to toe, but the brunette watched her. How the moon danced off of her pale skin. The young queen jumped at her mysterious visitor, but smiled all the same. The brunette explained she didn’t mean to frighten her and the blonde assured her that it was alright. She explained that she was rather nervous for the party. The mysterious visitor couldn’t understand why she would be nervous when everyone seemed to love her. When asked by the young queen why she was there, the dark queen replied with the need of change. Something different and something new. ‘Why black for a party?’ the blonde asked. ‘For it is a festive occasion of celebration of life and love.’
‘It suits me.’
‘But I can see that any number of colors would suit you.’
‘I was once married to a man. And this man I was once married to fell in love with someone else. And ever since then, Majesty, I have been in mourning, for my losses, and that’s why I rarely, very rarely, wear anything other than black.’
The blonde queen took pity, finding nothing but mystery behind the eyes that stared at her. They talked for a short time, but their conversation stayed with both of them after their departure. They saw each other a few weeks later and something blossomed between them. What started simply as hope for a new friendship, a change, slowly became love between the two women.” Gemma looked down to see that Dean was fully asleep.
“I better be the blonde queen you’re talking about,” Steph whispered, turning the corner.
Gemma nearly jumped out her skin. “How long have you been there?”
“Long enough to fall in love with you all over again. I didn’t know you had such a way with words.”
“I didn’t hear you open the door.”
“I was quiet because it’s late and I came in through the back. Why is he out of bed?”
“Well, he hasn’t had one in a few days so I guess there is some progress.”
“Nightmares are bound to happen regardless of the circumstances.”
Steph noticed the folded up piece of paper on the coffee table. “Please tell me you got his birthday invitations done for school.”
“I have. They’re ready to go.”
“I completely forgot about them.”
“No harm done.”
“Shall I get him back to bed.”
Gemma slowly sat up, Dean groaning a little, but soon found relief in Steph’s arms. “Mummy?” Dean whispered.
“It’s alright, Love. I’m home and taking you to bed.” She turned to Gemma. “I’ll be right back.”
Gemma nodded. She turned off the television and sighed, scratching her head. She grabbed her empty glass and put it in the sink, cleaning up the living room. Steph came back down and smiled at her. She sighed as she sat on the couch, Gemma joining her. Steph turned towards her and laid her head on Gemma’s shoulder.
“Did you have a good time?” Gemma asked, kissing the top of her head.
“Yeah. I had a really good time.”
“Good. I knew you needed it.”
Steph patted her leg. “I did, yeah.”
“Every mum needs a night off.”
“And when will you have yours?”
“I’ve had mine… I’m just glad you had a good time.”
“Did I miss anything here?”
“No, it was quiet. Dean helped me make dinner, we worked on his homework, did the school invitations, bath and then bed. Just had a small nightmare so he came down.”
“Everyone wondered where you were.”
“They think you’re my babysitter.”
“Well, tonight I was.”
“No, you were his mum tonight.”
Gemma smirked. “Yeah, I guess I was.”
“I wish you were with me though,” Steph whispered, looking up at her.
Gemma kissed her forehead. “Yeah?”
Steph smiled. “I always want you with me.”
“So not fed up with me yet?”
Steph squinted her eyes. “What’s wrong, Love?”
Steph straddled her thighs. Gemma’s eyes lit up as she kissed her lips. She ran her hands up Steph's thighs. Steph unbuttoned her shirt, moaning into Gemma’s mouth. Gemma started to slow down, her kisses becoming lazy. Steph leaned back, putting a finger under Gemma’s chin to look at her. Gemma’s eyes blinked slowly as she looked at her. “You are, aren’t you?”
Gemma nodded. “Yeah.” Gemma scooted Steph off her lap. She placed a quick peck to her chest before standing up. “Bed?”
Steph started to close her shirt. “Sure. I’ll be up in a minute.”
“You know I could do that now while you head up.”
“Are you going to shower?”
Gemma shook her head. “No. I was just going to change and get into bed.”
“I think I’m going to stay up a little bit. Read or something. I’m not very tired.”
“Yeah.” Steph looked towards the television.
“You okay?” Steph nodded. Gemma sighed and sat down next to her. “What’s going on?”
“Something and I think I know what it is.” Steph bit her lip, but wouldn’t look at her. “Steph.”
“You’re going to think I’m naive.”
“I would never think that, Love. I honestly wouldn’t and I know,” Gemma paused, “How long has it been?” Steph didn’t answer. “I know you’ve been counting.”
Steph sighed, but still wouldn’t look at Gemma. “Nine days.”
“Why does that bother you so much?”
“Because,” Steph started, but shook her head. She stood up. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, it does and I want to know.”
“You’re tired. We should just go to bed.”
“Yes, I am tired, but I’m here for you and to listen to you so please tell me why nine days has you so upset?”
“I’m not upset, I’m just worried.”
“About what, Love?”
“That you’re losing interest in me.” Gemma just stared at her. “See? It’s stupid.”
Steph started to walk out when Gemma grabbed her wrist to stop her. “Stop, Steph,” she said softly. Steph did, but wouldn’t turn around. “It’s not stupid. Your emotions, no matter what they are, are valid. Please come talk to me about this so I can help possibly ease these thoughts in your mind.”
“I just want to go to bed.”
“Steph, you always make me talk about what’s bothering me. I think it’s your turn.”
“Well, you know why.”
“Come here,” Gemma whispered, pulling her arm. Steph sat next to her with a plop. Gemma turned towards her and kissed her cheek. “How often did you and Terry have sex before you started to worry?”
“Pretty frequently. Well not frequently, but-”
“More than nine days in between?”
Steph laid her head back against the couch. “Not all the time, but yeah we did it a lot.”
“Simon and I did too unless he was, out of town.” Steph smiled and looked at her. Her blue eyes melted Gemma’s heart. She rested her forehead against Steph’s, cupping her cheeks. “I know you worry. We both haven’t had the best experiences.”
“And trust me, my Love, I would love to make love to you right now. Nothing would bring me more joy, but a long day at work, plus a kid very excited for his birthday has just left me drained.”
“I knew I should have gotten home an hour ago,” Steph mumbled.
Gemma chuckled lowly, giving a small peck to her lips. “I just don’t want me being tired to cause you worry because you, my Love, have nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.”
“You sure?” Steph pouted.
“No one can compare. I just made up a fairy tale about you.”
Steph laughed. “Yeah, you did.”
“And I promise, when we get home from that extremely loud kids party on Saturday and Dean goes to Terry’s, I’m going to rock your world.” Steph groaned. “What?”
“Dean is going to Terry’s on Friday. We’ll have him for the weekend because Lisa has something.”
“So we’ll have him for his birthday?”
“Yes and I might have offered Mark to have a sleepover.”
“So after a day of screaming children, we’ll have a happy little boy with his friend to take care of?”
“Sounds like it should be a good time.”
“Yeah?” Steph asked, looking at her.
“Is everything the same though for next weekend?”
“Yeah, I think so, why?”
“Sian’s coming with her girlfriend. She invited us to her girlfriend’s brother’s for dinner.”
“Sounds good. I’m excited to meet the one person who took care of you.”
“She didn’t take care of me as much as you have and do.”
“Is that true?”
“Yes and tomorrow night,” she paused, biting Steph’s earlobe, “I’m going to show you how truthful it is and more.”
Steph hummed. “If I let you.”
Gemma tsked, sitting on top of her. She leaned into her, placing a small kiss on her neck. Steph’s hands rubbed up her back as Gemma whispered in her ear. “I miss your tits.”
Steph grounded her hips down. “Well, if you’re lucky, you won’t have to wait very long.”
Gemma got up, taking Steph’s hand. “Well come upstairs with me now and I’ll give you a good cuddle.”
Steph stirred Saturday morning to light kisses being placed on her bare shoulders. She didn’t move, enjoying the feeling of Gemma’s warm touch. Their night of love making had been long overdue for both of them. They had both had stressful days at work: Gemma with too many clients as one of her colleagues was sick and Steph having to find a few hosts for parties within the last hour of her day, having to do a party herself. Gemma had arrived home first and was saddened by the empty house. Steph stumbled in not long after her. They had planned on cooking a nice dinner for each other, but as soon as Steph saw Gemma on the couch with her shirt unbuttoned halfway, dinner was the last thing on her mind. They had taken a break to eat a small something, but quickly found themselves back upstairs.
“I know you’re awake,” Gemma whispered, still placing butterfly kisses to the back of her neck. She leaned up on her arm and traced the smoothness of her skin.
“Come back,” Steph groaned.
“I’m right here.”
“But it felt nice.”
“Oh, it did, did it?”
“Don’t tease me.”
“I believe last night you teased me plenty of times.” She thought back to the night before. The way Steph purposely didn’t touch her to get her riled up.
“That was part of the game.”
Gemma continued to draw nothingness on her back. “And what game was that?”
“That’s my secret.” Steph turned her head towards Gemma, who pushed her hair behind her ear. Steph smiled.
Gemma laid down next to her, so they could look at each. She leaned in and brushed her nose against Steph’s. “It’s not a very good secret.” Steph laughed, kissing Gemma. Gemma smiled. “Good morning, Love.”
“Morning. What time is it?”
“Eight. We still have to wrap Dean’s gifts and eat some breakfast and-”
Steph groaned. “Shhh. It’s too early to start planning.”
“You’re usually the one who pops out of bed.”
“You wore me out, Love.”
“Did I?” Steph nodded, blinking heavily. “Well can you do me a favor?”
Gemma slipped her hand in between Steph’s legs. There was a surprised gasp. “If I ever am the reason we go nine days ever again-”
“I won’t let you get past five.”
Gemma grinned, kissing her. They kissed for a time, lazy hands still wandering each other's bodies, following muscles and smooth skin. They stared at one another for a moment before falling into one another again. Warm bodies pressed against each other as their lips broke apart only to come together again. Gemma kissed Steph’s neck before resting her head upon her breasts and sighing. Steph mindlessly played with her hair, catching her breath.
“Are you nervous about today?” she asked.
Gemma shrugged. “Not really. If I’m nervous about anything it’ll be the memories that flood my mind, but I’m going to try and not let them.”
Steph looked over to the small folded frame that lay on Gemma’s side of the bed. Her and Tom with a birthday cake. “I’ll be here if they do.”
“So, Terry is taking Dean to his football match and we’ll have to pick up Mum on the way-”
“Joan is coming?”
“Joan, around twenty screaming children?”
“You two can just stand off in the corner and talk about how in your day children never behaved like that.”
Gemma popped her head up, shocked. “Are you implying that I’m an old woman?” Steph just laughed. “Oh my gosh, you are!”
Steph pulled Gemma up to her. “I’m just picturing a woman who had to pick up her son from a birthday party where screaming children were everywhere and made a comment about it.”
“So did you and luckily we’re having it there after his game so it won’t be our house we have to clean up and there will be a lot more space for kids to run around.”
“They did say if it rains, we can take it indoors.”
“Well that’s good. Although I can’t believe you compared me to your mother.”
“Don’t they say that people fall in love with people that remind them of their parents?”
“I’m becoming more offended by each passing second.”
“You like my mum.”
“Doesn’t mean she and I get along all the time. Sometimes she’s a bit much. Are you saying I’m a bit much?”
Steph laughed again. “No. I was making a joke. My mum also doesn’t like screaming children, but you will enjoy watching her be around them.”
“I imagine her looking uncomfortable. Do you think that’s what I'm going to look like?”
Steph smiled. “No. I think you’ll be too busy helping kids with pizza and cake and falls.”
“So I’m going to be a family doctor today?”
“You are going to be the best mum today.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. Dean really hasn’t had a big birthday party before so I don’t really know what to expect.”
Gemma brushed some of her hair back. “You can expect a happy son who is going to be overjoyed with everyone there to celebrate with him,” She paused, “...and at least one kid will vomit.”
“Will you deal with that?”
“Yeah,” Gemma laughed, “I always do.”
“We need to get stuff together and get going.”
“Just a little longer?”
“Match is at eleven, party at noon. We don’t really have a lot of time.” Steph started to get up, but Gemma held her down. “Gem, we still have to wrap his presents. Did you get him something?”
Gemma let her go and rolled onto her back with a sigh. She stretched her arms above her head while she grunted “Yeah.”
Steph smiled at her. She enjoyed the view. The blanket was around Gemma’s thin waist. She had some goosebumps on her skin from Steph leaving her and her nipples were hard. Steph slowly climbed back on top of her. She kissed Gemma in between her breasts.
“You look cold,” she commented, kissing her neck.
“That’s because you left me.”
Gemma grabbed her bottom, pulling her closer. Steph kissed her. “You make me very happy.”
Steph nodded. “We do have to get going though and I know you want to shower.”
“Yeah I do. One more kiss and I’ll get up.” Steph smiled and lingered before Gemma met her halfway. Gemma hugged Steph for a short time before sighing and getting up. She went to the bathroom and turned on the water while Steph puttered around to figure out what to wear. “So what did you get him?”
“What?” Gemma asked, a toothbrush hanging out her mouth.
“Your son, Dean? What did you get him?” Steph dug through a drawer. Gemma finished and got in the shower. Steph came to the door. “Well?”
“That Lego galaxy commander space one he wanted.”
Steph stopped and stared at the curtain. “That’s a big gift, Love.”
“You said that’s what he wanted.”
“I know, but I thought we talked about it.”
“Well we did. You said he wanted it so I bought it for him for his birthday.”
“Just cause he wants it, doesn’t mean he should get it.”
Gemma popped her head. “Did I do something wrong?”
“I don’t want to spoil him.”
“I don’t think he’s being spoiled. It’s one Lego set.”
“It’s a big Lego set, Gem. He got a big set at Christmas.”
“Do you want me to take it back?”
“No. It just looks bad.”
“What looks bad?”
“I couldn’t afford a lot of nice things for him like that growing up so we’ve always kept birthdays small.”
“Well, Love, I didn’t know that. Look, we have to pass the store, I can exchange it.”
“That would make me feel bad?”
“Because you bought it for him.”
Gemma sighed. “What do you want me to do, Love? The gift would be from the both of us. I thought that’s what we wanted to do.”
“Could we just not give it to him at the party? I don’t want Terry to feel bad.”
“Steph, it’s seriously not a big deal. I’m happy to return it and get him something smaller.”
Steph sighed. “Are you sure?”
Gemma popped her head out of the shower. “Of course. I also don’t want to make Terry uncomfortable. They can also wrap it for us.” Gemma finished her shower and got out. Steph was sitting on the bed with a small, wrapped package. “What’s that?”
“What I wanted to give to Dean.”
“It belonged to my dad.”
“What is it?”
“Well you know he’s been learning time? I got the chain taken down for his small little wrist and got the battery replaced. I’ve always given him a small gift at the end of his birthday so he’ll have a full day of gifts because it was usually only two.”
“I think that’s sweet.”
“I can’t do it this time though because Mark will be here.”
“Well, is he coming home with us after the party? It’ll be like three.”
“No, Christan and Judith are dropping him off around six. They’ve offered to help today as well.”
“Well, that’s kind of them and I’m grateful. In regards to the gifts, what if we give him his gifts from us in between the party and sleepover?”
“That’s a good idea. Are you sure you’re not mad about returning the gift?”
Gemma knelt down in front of Steph and took her hand. “It does not bother me. I don’t want to step on toes and if you’re worried about him being spoiled, I don’t want to be the cause.”
“It’s not really about you spoiling him.”
“Well this is what I mean when I say he might call me mum, but you still make the decisions.”
“I don’t want it to be like that.”
“Well, you have raised Dean differently than I raised Tom. I basically gave him everything he wanted because of the first year of his life so for me, that’s how I was as a parent. I respect your choice and it does not bother me at all. Let me get changed and then we can head out.”
Steph cupped Gemma’s cheek. “I do love you.”
“I know. I love you too.” Gemma got up, digging through her own drawers. She pulled out a pair of underwear and dropped her towel, getting ready. “So the toy store, your mum’s and then the party?”
Gemma smiled at her. “What about the cake? Did you order one?”
“No, Mum made it. She always makes it.”
Gemma grimaced. “It’s not carrot cake, is it?”
“No offense, but Joan seems like the kind of woman who thinks children like carrot cake.”
Steph laughed. “I promise it’s not. White cake with vanilla frosting. Dean’s favorite.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
Steph hugged her. “It’s my favorite.”
“Oh, I’m well aware, Love, but when it’s my birthday, I want chocolate cake.”
“Now will you finish getting ready so we can go?”
“You’re the one with wet hair and no shirt on.”
“Yeah, yeah…” She kissed Steph’s cheek before going back to the bathroom.
After a quick trip to the store and picking up Joan, they made their way to the park. One game was already finishing up, but Dean was standing there next to Terry with what looked like a bright new pair of cleats on his feet. They helped Joan with the cake, but left the cooler of drinks and the party favors in the car. As soon as Steph and Gemma were seen, Dean beamed.
“Mums!” He shouted, running towards them.
“Mums?” Joan asked.
“Yeah. Dean started calling Gemma ‘mum’ a couple weeks ago,” Steph stated before waving. Dean jumped into a hug. “Oh, happy birthday, my Love!”
“Look at what Daddy got me!” He smiled proudly.
“Those are a very nice pair of cleats.”
“Yeah and he got me a new ball too.”
“That’s great, Sweetheart. Did you have a good time with your Dad and Lisa?”
“Yeah. Emily gave me a sticker.”
“Well that was very sweet of her, wasn’t it?”
Dean nodded and looked over to Gemma. It wasn’t long before two arms were wrapped around her waist. Gemma scruffed his hair. “Happy Birthday, Kid.”
“Ready for your party?”
“Good. It’s going to be a great time!”
“Happy Birthday, Dean.”
A whistle blew, signaling the end of a game. “Go get warmed up with the team, Love,” Steph said. “We’re going to start setting up for your party.”
Dean bolted off towards the field. Steph took Gemma’s hand as they walked over to Terry.
“Hi, Terry,” Steph sighed.
“Nice cleats,” Gemma offered.
“Thanks. Saved up for them.”
“He definitely loves them.”
“What about blisters?” Steph questioned.
“Lisa put bandaids on his heels and we made sure to help him with his socks so they wouldn’t come off. I stretched them out yesterday as best I could.”
Gemma smiled. “Should work.”
“Yeah. I was going to help set up the party, but there are two women already at it.”
“What?” Both Gemma and Steph asked.
They turned to see Christan and Judith setting up the picnic tables. There were streamers around the table and multicolor balloons tied to the ends. They walked over to the picnic tables that had been pulled together.
“Hey,” Steph greeted.
“Good morning,” Judith smiled. “I hope you don’t mind, but we had all this stuff from Mark’s birthday and we didn’t use it.”
“And Mark might have let it slip that this is Dean’s first birthday?” Christan added.
Steph nodded. “He’s always been painfully shy. Mark has really helped him with that so I’m very grateful.” She looked at Gemma.
“Everyone deserves balloons on a birthday. Thank you, Guys. This is very sweet.”
“Not a problem,” Christan stated.
“And you created less work for us, which is even better,” Gemma noted.
“Do you have a cake?” Judith asked.
“It’s in Gem’s car. In a cooler.”
“Well why don’t you too go and watch the game and we’ll finish up here,” Christan suggested.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. It’s Dean’s day so go watch him,” Judith smiled.
“Thank you guys.” Steph wrapped her arm around Gemma’s waist and they turned back towards the field. “Should we invite them for dinner?”
Steph nodded. “I mean, I didn’t even think to get balloons so I think it would be nice to offer them a meal.”
“So after this party and before another child comes to us, you want to cook dinner for another two people?”
“Is it that bad?”
Gemma looked down at her and smiled. She kissed her forehead. “You’re cooking.”
Steph laughed. “Deal.”
They stood next to Terry who was cheering on Dean’s team. Steph was next to him, but her eyes were only on Gemma, who was holding onto her. Joan joined them soon enough. “The bathrooms could use a good cleaning,” she commented.
Gemma smirked. “I’m sure you could write a complaint,” she joked.
“I did write it in the suggestion box.”
Gemma rolled her eyes, looking at Steph. “Bingo,” she whispered.
Steph looked over at Terry, who also had a small smirk that was being shared with Gemma. “Both of you be nice,” she harshly whispered.
Terry chuckled. He looked down, scratching his head before looking at Steph. “It’s okay that Lisa is coming today, right?”
“Of course. She’s in his life now so we need to make sure we can all get along. Gemma’s here so-”
“Yeah, but that’s a little different.”
“No, it’s not, Terry. It’s fine. I’m glad she’s coming. Dean needs to have all his parents together and I just want it to be a good day.” Steph looked at Dean smiling while playing, cheering his teammates on. “For him. Can we agree?”
Terry looked at him. “No arguments today. I promise.”
“Ditto,” Gemma answered.
“A good day with no arguments for Dean?”
“Of course. I’m never one to cause issues.”
Steph could feel the shakes in Gemma’s body and squeezed her hip.
“I’m watching your so-”
“Our son play. He’s doing really well.”
“Taught him myself,” Terry added. “Got my genes.”
“Terry was exceptional in school.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Steph kissed her cheek and Gemma smiled. Lisa and Emily joined them soon enough. They shared polite exchanges, but only a few words were spoken. They rooted Dean on, who was as happy as could be in his new soccer gear. Their team won thanks to a penalty kick due to one aggressive player on the other team who was pulled pretty early in the game. Dean galloped to his mums, hugging Steph first. Gemma handed him water after getting a hug.
“Ugh, you’re sweaty, Kid.”
Dean laughed and hugged Terry. “You are sweaty.”
“Good job, Dean,” Lisa stated.
“Thanks,” he answered, shyly before running to Joan. “Did you see, Granny?”
“I did. You did very well.”
“When does my birthday party start?”
Gemma looked to Steph, who looked over at the table. She could see Christan waving them over. “Looks like it’s now.”
“Look over there, Sweetheart.”
Dean saw the tables with balloons, streamers and a small stack of presents. “That’s for me?”
“It is, Love.”
“Can we go over there?”
“Well it wouldn’t be your special day if you didn’t.”
“How about I go and get the pizzas while you get everyone settled,” Gemma offered.
“I can go with you.”
“No, you should stay with him. I can get pizzas.”
“I could help you,” Terry offered. “Lisa could help set things up while we’re gone?”
Steph and Lisa looked at one another. Steph shrugged. “I don’t know if that’s the best idea,” Lisa said.
“No, it’s fine. I’m not sure what there is left to do, but it’s fine.”
“Can I go with you, Mum?” Dean asked, tugging on Gemma’s sleeve.
“On any other day, I would say of course you could, but it’s your birthday today! While your dad and I get pizza, why don’t you go play with everyone?”
Dean hugged her. “Okay!”
Gemma played with his hair. “Are you happy?”
“I’ll be more happy with pizza.”
Gemma laughed. “Then I think I should go get it, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Dean answered, nodding excitingly.
“Alright. Terry and I should be back in ten.”
Steph kissed her cheek. “If you make it eight, I’ll love you more.”
“Be nice. I’ll be back soon.” Gemma kissed her forehead. “Come on, Terry.”
They walked to Gemma’s car and got in. “Do we have to wait for them to be made?”
“No. Called them before the game and told them we needed them ready by noon so hopefully they are ready to go.”
“Just four. Two cheese, one with some meat on it and one with some vegetables.”
“I don’t think the kids will eat vegetables.”
Gemma smiled. “More for Steph and I, although I can usually talk Dean into one.”
“How do you do that?”
“Tell him it makes him strong. It’s worked really well as his bruises have heeled.” She looked towards the sling. “How’s your arm?”
“Good. Sling comes off next week. Pain is gone and I’m almost back to my full strength and motion.”
Terry nodded. Silence filled the space. They were better than before, but still found it difficult to find things to talk about that weren’t related to Dean. The pizza was waiting for them on the counter. Gemma paid while Terry grabbed the boxes. They soon were driving back.
“I hope it doesn’t rain,” Terry commented, looking at clouds forming in the sky.
“It’s not supposed to.”
The environment felt awkward. Like things that needed to be said weren’t being said. Terry sighed. “Dean had a nightmare last night.”
“About the accident?”
“Yeah. Has he been having them with you guys?”
“It’s less frequent now, but yes. He slept with us a few nights afterwards, but not so much anymore.”
“He tried to last night, but I think he’s too big for that so he wasn’t very happy with me this morning.”
“We told him he can only sleep with us if it is a nightmare.”
“You don’t think he’s too big or too old for that?”
Gemma smirked. “I think this is a conversation to have with Steph, not me.”
“You said ‘we’.”
“Doesn’t mean I made the decision, Terry.”
Gemma pulled into the parking lot. “But he calls your ‘Mum’.”
Gemma sighed. “He made that choice, but that doesn’t give me any parental rights.”
“If you’re a parent in his life-”
“I’m not his sole parent. I’m not a biological parent. That is you and Steph.” She stopped the car. “If you think he’s too big to sleep with you, then you need to talk to Steph about that. I think it’s fine because it’s not all the time and after some nightmares he was able to go back to his bed, just needed comfort. Other nights, he’d cry himself to sleep out of fear. He’s doing much better, his bruise is almost gone and it’s sleeping through the night for the most part. But I don’t make calls about what you do in your home and what we do in ours. If you think that it’s not appropriate or you want the same things to be happening in both homes, that goes to Steph.”
Gemma got out of the car and took a deep breath. She grabbed her bag while Terry grabbed the boxes. Dean ran towards them, waiting at the parking lot entrance. “Are those for us?” He said, with a big smile.
“Sure are, Son.”
Gemma smiled as Dean hugged her. “Are you hungry?”
“Are you having fun?”
Dean looked up at her. “A lot of fun.”
“Good. Go tell your Mum we’re here.” Dean gave her an extra squeeze before running off. She looked around all the people and felt a small ping of pain in her chest remembering the last party she attended. Luckily, this one was filled with children and not adults celebrating a failed husband. Steph looked at her from afar and smiled. It was contagious as Gemma’s lips curled into a smirk. She tucked her hair behind her ear, bashfully, as she walked up to her. Terry put the boxes down and started to kick the ball around with Dean while Lisa watched them.
“You were gone for ten minutes and she managed to annoy the hell out of me in two minutes,” Steph whispered, setting up plates.
“Two whole minutes? I figured it would be thirty seconds.”
“I’d say so.”
“How’d you two do?”
“He only annoyed me on the way back. Apparently, Dean had a bad dream last night and Terry thinks he’s too old to be sharing the bed with his parents. I told him he needs to talk to you.”
“Why did he-?”
“I don’t know why he asked me about it.”
“Shall we just try to get through this without having to play a double parent team?”
“Yes, that sounds good to me.”
They finished setting up, Christan and Judith helping them. They called the kids over for pizza, each manning a box, allowing only one slice per person until they were sure everyone had a full plate. Once everyone had a piece, the kids sat around and ate, while the adults tried to do the same, but one person needed slices cut up while others needed something more to drink. Luckily, six parents were running while Joan enjoyed her own pizza looking on with disgust at the mess.
“Mum?” Dean asked, as she grabbed him another slice.
“Yes, my Love.”
“What are we doing after this?”
“Whatever you want. We can open presents or you can play for a little while. Whatever you want.” Dean smiled at her. “Oh, let me guess, presents?”
“We'll have to wait until everyone is done though.”
Gemma kissed his head. “Go eat. When you finish, sit for a little bit before running around.”
“So you don’t get a tummy ache, Love.”
She looked up at Steph and pointed towards a slice, but Steph shook her head. She grabbed a piece for herself and walked back over to her. They watched as Dean sat next to Mark, laughing. Steph’s face lit up, watching him. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this happy.”
“No. No Christmas, birthday, anything has made him socialize and look genuinely content to live his life and be with friends.”
“How does that make you feel?”
“Like I could cry.”
Gemma chuckled. She wrapped her arm around Steph’s shoulders. “Are you going to?”
Steph bumped her hip. “No. I’m just going to be happy for him.”
Gemma kissed the side of her head. Once all the kids had finished up, they let the kids run around while they set up the cake and presents. Every parent was just grateful for the small break. Kids ran around, jumping and screaming, playing soccer, doing tricks. All the adults managed to take a break themselves, sitting around the picnic table. Surprisingly, even with Lisa, the conversation was friendly and child focused. Thirty minutes later, Gemma heard it before all the kids screamed “Ewww!”.
“What happened?” Steph asked, looking over to the group.
“Vomit,” Gemma said, standing up. Christan stood as well. “No worries. I’ve got this one.” She walked over to the group of kids, who had formed a circle.
“One good thing about being with a doctor,” Judith commented.
“The first time Gemma came to my house, Dean was sick. He was laying on the couch and she helped me clean up his vomit from the floor. The next time he was sick, he made it into a bucket. She took it out of the room and the next thing I knew it was clean.”
“You knew then, didn’t you?” Christan asked.
“That she was the one for you,” she clarified.
Steph smiled. “I knew she was special. It took us some time to get on the same page.”
Gemma came back with a little girl from Dean’s soccer team. Everyone couldn’t help, but notice her jersey was stained. “Everyone, this is Alice. She just got too hot.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor Foster,” she mumbled.
“No need to be sorry. It happens. Do you have a bag with another shirt?”
“I have my under shirt on.”
“That’ll do. I’m going to help you get this one off, but can you hold down your undershirt for me?” She nodded. “Steph, can you get some water?”
Gemma managed to get her jersey up without spreading any vomit. “There we go.”
“Dean’s got a clean shirt in his bag,” Lisa suggested. “She could wear that.”
Gemma nodded. “That will probably make her feel more comfortable.”
“I’ll get it,” Terry offered.
Steph handed her the cup of water. “Here you go, Love. Do you feel better?”
“My stomach hurts,” she mumbled.
“Well, why don’t we call your Mum and Dad to come get you?”
“I want to stay, though.”
“Alright, but I want you to drink that water slowly, Love. You’re going to have to sit with us for a little while until you feel better, okay?”
“Okay, Doctor Foster.”
“Slow sips,” she reminded before sitting next to her.
“Anything I can do?” Steph asked.
“No. She just needs to cool down a little bit.”
Terry came back and handed out the shirt to the little girl. Gemma eyed it, taking it out of his hand. “Thanks, Terry.” Steph helped her get the shirt on as every adult watched them. Dean and Mark came over to make sure she was okay. A little while later, she was starting to feel better so they let her run off. After a time, they gathered all the kids around for birthday cake. Joan had managed to create a lovely football themed pastry. Dean had no problem blowing out his seven candles and was very excited to open presents. He received a couple team jerseys and memorabilia as well as some treats.
Around two, parents started to show up. Dean was sad to see people leave, but excited to continue his evening with Mark. He was a great host, saying his “thank you’s” and “goodbye’s” to each kid. He gave warm hugs and waved, while the adults cleaned up.
“What time should we bring Mark over?” Christan asked, throwing some plates in the trash bag.
“Around dinner time is fine,” Steph suggested, looking towards Gemma for confirmation.
“Yeah. We’re going to get fish and chips for dinner because it’s Dean’s favorite, but Steph or I will make a vegetable for them to eat.”
Judith smiled. “It’s okay if Mark doesn’t get a vegetable tonight. Kids can handle a night without greens.”
“Gem and I like to make sure Dean has one vegetable a day, which is why it’s going to be made. Is there anything he doesn’t like?”
“He’ll eat anything,” Christan answered. “He is a boy after all.”
Gemma laughed. “It is true, but even Dean can be picky.”
“He’s better now that you’re here though,” Steph mentioned. Gemma looked at her, they leaned in sharing a simple kiss. Steph’s cheeks reddened. “But yeah, dinner time is fine. I’ll probably let Dean have another piece of cake.”
“It’s fine,” Judith said. “We’re just happy Dean had a good birthday.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“Is there anything else we can do?” Judith offered as Christan tied of a garbage bag.
“Are you kidding? You guys have done so much today. I can’t thank you enough for your help and all these supplies and the balloons,” Steph confessed.
“It really wasn’t a problem.”
“We could say thank you by inviting you over for fish and chips,” Gemma suggested. The couple looked at one another and Gemma had never seen a woman’s cheeks go so red so quickly. Gemma smirked. “Oh, I understand.”
“First night alone in a year or so,” Christan confirmed.
“Then both of you take full advantage.”
“We’ll even keep him for lunch tomorrow since you guys helped us out so much,” Steph added.
Judith curled into Christan’s neck and smiled, while Christan squeezed her, both grinning. “We appreciate it.”
“Not a problem,” Gemma grinned.
“Least we can do.”
Terry came up with them and Dean’s two bags. “Lisa wants to get Emily home. She thinks she’s had enough sun for one day.”
“Is she burnt?” Gemma asked.
“No, just cranky and ready for a quiet nap.”
“I can put this in your car, if you’d like.”
“No, it’s okay here.”
“I think I’m ready for my afternoon nap as well,” Joan stated.
“Yeah, we’re wrapping up.”
“How about I help you load the car with these gifts and bags,” Terry suggested. “That way we can all get out of here sooner.”
“Sure,” Gemma said. She reached into her bag and pulled out her keys, tossing them to Terry. “I’ll be there in a second, if you want to start.”
Steph helped Terry with the bags and the gifts, while Joan and Lisa watched the other three women dismantle the rest of the party. Gemma kept side-eyeing them while neither one paid attention to each other. It was clear that they were sitting in awkwardness and discomfort, but honestly, it made Gemma smile on the inside. She was closer to Joan than she had been, but still felt a little payback watching her have to sit with Lisa.
“Mummy,” Dean stated as he, Gemma and Steph entered their home.
“Do you want to take a nap before Mark comes over?”
Dean shook his head. “I don’t want to sleep on my birthday.”
“Well, what would you like to do?”
Dean shrugged. “Can we watch a movie?”
“Of course, if you’d like. What do you want to watch?”
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Dean said, matter of factly.
Gemma looked at Steph and shrugged. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory it is then, I guess.”
Dean jumped on the couch, while Steph got the movie. Gemma put the food away, mostly in the refrigerator. She wanted to clean up a little bit so she could relax fully. Steph noticed this was something she started to do more recently, but didn’t mind it. She had asked Gemma on several occasions why she felt the need to, but Gemma would just smile and said it made her feel better to have things done instead of doing them later. She had left the bag of gifts by the door, knowing she would make Dean put them away later. She closed the fridge door and sighed, storing the bags they had used in their usual location. She sighed and washed her hands before going into the living room.
“Sit by me, Mum.” Dean padded the couch cushion.
“Why? So you can fall asleep on me after being so sweaty today?”
Dean laughed. “I’m not going to fall asleep.”
“No?” Gemma questioned, sitting down next to him. He shook his head and wrapped his arm around Gemma’s. He held her hand for a moment and she squeezed it. Steph sat down next to Gemma and turned the film on. Steph laid her head on Gemma’s shoulder. Gemma smirked and kissed the top of her head. She felt both of their weight as the movie progressed, while her own eyes blinked slowly.
What felt like seconds later, the doorbell rang, catching them all off guard. Steph sat up quickly and looked at the clock. “Shit,” she whispered.
Gemma sighed. “Please don’t me that’s the Hunters.”
“It is, Love.”
Steph composed herself and got up, while Gemma turned to Dean. She rubbed his back and his eyes blinked open. “Mark’s here, Love.”
Dean popped up. “He is!”
“Yes, the birthday celebration continues! Why don’t you pop upstairs and wash your face, change your clothes.”
Gemma rubbed her face, trying to wake up. Steph opened the door with a smile. “Hello,” she greeted.
“Are we early?” Judith asked.
“No, not at all. We just took a family nap on the couch while watching ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.”
“Good movie to sleep through,” Christan commented.
“You have no idea,” Gemma added, joining Steph at the door. “Well, come on in.”
“Hi Mrs. Kirke, Doctor Foster.”
“Hello,” both women greeted him. “That cup of tea still stands,” Steph offered.
“We really appreciate it, honestly, but as we mentioned-” Judith started.
“It’s been a long time.”
“Doctor Foster?” Mark asked.
“Come up here, Mark!” Dean shouted from the top of the stairs. Gemma nodded her head in that direction with a smile. Mark hugged both his moms goodbye before running up the stairs, with a smile. They could hear them giggling from the landing.
“Well, we’ll let you guys start your alone time. What time can we bring him back tomorrow?”
“Would lunch time be okay?”
“Sure. How about noon?”
“Well, have a good night you two,” Gemma smirked.
Steph closed the door and turned towards Gemma. She immediately fell into her arms. “I don’t know if I can handle two boys tonight,” she mumbled against Gemma’s chest.
“If I recall, this was your idea.”
Gemma laughed. “It’ll be okay.”
“That party took it out of me.”
“Me too, but it’s only one extra little boy. How bad can it be?”
“Famous last words,” Steph joked. Gemma rubbed her back and Steph took a deep inhale. “I didn’t give him a chance to open the watch, privately.”
“Well, Mark will have to brush his teeth before bed. Why not give it to him then?”
Steph looked up at her and smiled. “Have I told you how much I love you?”
“It’s been such a busy day that I don’t think I’ve heard it since this morning.”
“I love you,” Steph whispered.
“I love you too.” They shared a couple kisses. “What if I call and order the fish and chips for dinner?”
“I can do that. You’ll go and pick it up anyway.”
“Oh, I will, will I?”
Gemma squinted her eyes in thought. “It’s a good thing you’re cute.”
Steph laughed and kissed her cheek. She grabbed the phone and dialed the number. She pulled away from Gemma as the line connected. “Hi,” she said. She started to order as Gemma heard the kids coming down the stairs. Dean ran up to her and hugged her. She rubbed his back before the boys headed to the living room. Gemma looked back at Steph, who seemed to be having a conversation. She followed the two young men.
“Gemma, can we play a game?”
“As long as it’s not ‘Battleship’, sure.”
“Why not that one?” Dean asked.
“Because I know how you play it.”
Dean smiled. “Is Mummy calling dinner?”
“She is, Love.”
“Can we go with you to pick it up? Mark wants a ride in the car.”
Dean pulled out “Chutes and Ladders” and set it up. They played quietly while Gemma found herself back to tidying up the kitchen. “What’s going on in here?” Steph asked.
“We’re playing a game,” Dean answered.
“I can see that. Nice of you not to play ‘Battleship’.” Gemma laughed. “So food should be ready in about fifteen minutes. Mark, can I get you anything in the meantime? Water or tea?”
“I’m okay. Thank you, Mrs. Kirke.”
Dean hit his arm. “I told you, it’s Mrs. Foster now.”
Both Gemma and Steph looked at him. “What?” Steph asked.
“Molly at school says that when two adults live together it’s because their married and mum’s take dad’s last name.”
“Well Gemma isn’t a dad.”
“I know, but she’s taken the place of things that Daddy used to do,” He said, so matter of factly.
“Mark,” Steph smiled, “You can just call me Steph.”
“Okay, Mrs. Foster.”
“Good Lord,” Gemma answered, as the two boys laughed. Steph walked over to Gemma and hugged her. “That’s a new one.”
“Yeah. Why wouldn’t you take my last name?” Steph joked.
Gemma chuckled. “I don’t know. Apparently, I’m the man of the household and if anything, you wouldn’t take the name Foster anyway.”
“Why haven’t you gone back to your maiden name?”
“Why haven’t you?”
Steph smiled. “Good point, but regardless, I figured if we got married I’d take your last name.”
“Foster is not my true last name.”
“No, not Foster. Angelis.”
“Stephanie Angelis is a mouth full.”
“Yeah, but Steph Angelis isn’t and I don’t know. I need to get rid of Kirke.”
Gemma smiled at her. “Are you serious? You want to take my last night?”
Steph looked into Gemma’s eyes. They were so blue, they were almost crystal like in the setting sun from the front window, reminding Gemma of her fairytale to Dean. She smirked. “Yeah. I really do.”
They stared at one another. “I do love you, you know.”
“I love you too.”
They shared a brief kiss. Steph let Gemma finish the rest of the dishes before the game was interrupted so they could all go to the chip shop. The night was spent easy enough. Gemma and Steph didn’t seem to have a problem managing the two boys, but Mark was a good kid. He was quiet and listened, well mannered and just excited to be there. Steph hinted that they should let Judith and Christan have more nights to themselves with how well the night was going. They ate more birthday cake and got stuck watching “Willy Wonka” in full before sending the boys upstairs to get ready for bed. Steph asked Mark if he would mind waiting for Dean for a moment and he didn’t seem to have any objection. Steph pulled Dean into her room.
“The tradition continues,” Steph whispered as she handed him the small wrapped box.
“I get another present?”
“You always get a present before bed on your birthday.”
“Can I open it?”
“Well who else is going to do it?”
Dean grinned before ripping the paper. Gemma occupied herself in the bathroom so they could have the moment to themselves. Dean opened the box and looked at it. “I’m learning time in school,” he said, excitedly.
“I know. And this watch is very special.”
“This one belonged to my dad. I’ve always wanted to give it to you, but I felt now was a better time since you’ll be able to read it. The face is a little big for your wrist, but the band should fit snugly. Your Gran has wanted you to have this since you were born. Do you like it?”
“I do. Thank you, Mum.” He hugged her. “Do I have to be careful with it?”
“Absolutely. This is a very special watch. Your grandfather took very good care of the things that were important to him. This got him through the Second World War so it is very important.”
“Can I wear it to bed?”
“I wouldn’t, but you can wear it tomorrow.”
“Do you miss him?”
“I do, yeah, but he’s in a better place now.”
“Gran says he’s in Heaven.”
Steph nodded with a smile. “He’s not in pain and that’s the most important thing.”
“Thank you for my birthday.”
“Well thank you for being my sweet, little boy.”
“No, I mean the party and the balloons and football.”
“You’re very welcome, Sweetheart. Are you happy?”
“I’m very happy.”
“Good. Why don’t you go back to Mark and get into bed. You must be exhausted from your day.”
“That’s the cake talking.”
Dean laughed. He hugged Steph again and she squeezed him as close as she could. “I love you, Tigger.”
“I love you too, Mummy.”
Gemma quietly stepped out of the bathroom. Dean scurried across their bed and jumped onto her. “Oof,” she said, picking him up.
“I love you, Mum.”
“I love you too, Kid. Happy Birthday.”
“Did you see my watch?”
“I did. It’s lovely.”
“Mummy says I can wear it tomorrow, but I have to be careful.”
“Well, if it’s one thing I know about you, you will be.” Gemma put him down.
“Will you read a story to me and Mark?”
Gemma looked to Steph, who nodded. “Sure, as long as your Mum comes with me.”
“Okay!” Dean ran out of the room. They both laughed at him.
“I think he had a good birthday for once,” Steph noted, standing up. She held out her hand to Gemma.
“I think he did,” she said, taking it. “Shall we read to them and hit the hay?”
Steph sighed. “Yes. I'm exhausted and don’t won’t to be around that many kids in a day ever again.”
Gemma laughed as they walked into Dean’s room.