‘Laundry is like cooking, eh?’ Scott asks as he hoists the basket of dirty clothes onto the laundry countertop.
‘It’s boring as batshit?’ she smiles at him.
Scott leans over and bumps his hip against her own before kissing her cheek. ‘That. And it’s never-ending’.
‘I’m so glad we’ve always been on the same page with our ambivalent attitude to cooking and washing,’ she accepts a couple of sweatshirts from Scott and places them into the machine.
‘For over twenty five glorious years,’ he winks.
She pauses to look at her husband, her co-parent to their four kids. The eldest two having left home, the younger two spending more time out of house than in it. Scott is still the best father she knows, incredibly invested in the lives of their kids, knowing the best way to parent each of them. Their house is filled with an abundance of great memories, some not so great memories and an overwhelming sense of ‘home’. She stills loves Scott with the same ferocity that she did when she first fell in love with him.
‘We can probably squeeze one more sweatshirt into this load, can you pass me my teal Adidas shirt?’ she asks.
Scott grabs the shirt from where is tucked into the side of the laundry basket.
‘Can you check the pockets? I lent that one to Ash on the weekend when she stayed over at Brianna’s place. If I find another tissue in the wash I’m going to disown her’.
Scott chuckles, all too familiar with having to rewash a load of clothes due to their seventeen year-old daughter’s failure to empty her pockets.
She’s got her head down under the laundry sink fishing around for a new bottle of laundry detergent when she hears Scott mutter, ‘Aw, fuck’.
‘You OK?’ she springs up for from the floor.
‘Fuuuuuuuuuuuck,’ he breathes, ‘I’m not ready for this’.
At first she can’t see what Scott has in his hand. But as he moves his fingers to reveal the content of his palm her heart is hit by a thousand tiny knives. Each of them severing Ashlynn from the last remaining tenements of childhood.
Scott dumps three small foil packets on the countertop.
‘Oh,’ she gasps.
‘Did you know?’ Scott asks, shaking his head in resignation.
‘No,’ tears well in her eyes. ‘Did you?’ she whispers.
Scott shakes his head, tugging her into his arms. He wraps her up tight and kisses the crown of her head. She feels sad. Just unexpectedly and heartbreakingly sad. It’s not about the sex. She’s not naive. They have always empowered their kids to make their own informed decisions about sex. It’s the fact that this is a surprise. Who is this boy? She knows nothing of his existence.
‘I thought she told me everything,’ her throat burns. She looks to Scott and can tell he’s feeling just as bewildered as she is.
‘It’s OK, it’s OK if she didn’t,’ Scott soothes.
But his voice betrays him, because he sounds entirely unconvinced.
His wife is made of steel. Physically strong and emotionally resilient. But not today. Today she’s had the wind knocked out of her sails in a way he’s only seen a handful of times before.
Tess had left the laundry, teary eyed and with a promise she’d have a long, hot shower. When he could still hear the shower running twenty five minutes later he’d decided it was time to intervene.
He finds Tess sitting on the bench in their en-suite shower.
‘Sweetheart,’ he sighs at the sight of her.
She looks up at the sound of his voice, ‘I’m just feeling sorry for myself’.
‘Yeah? Was wasting all the hot water part of the plan too?’ he jokes.
‘I’m sad, Moir,’ she pouts. ‘My baby girl is all grown up and living her life without me’.
Tess has made no effort to move off the bench, the water is pounding out of both shower-heads and steam is swirling around her. It’s killing him to watch all the hot water disappear down the drain. But what’s killing him even more is a heartbroken Tess.
‘Are you getting out? Or am I coming in?’ he asks.
‘You come in here, please,’ Tess answers without looking up.
He strips off and gets into the shower. The water is not as hot as he expected and he hopes that’s more to do with the temperature Tess selected rather an empty water heater.
‘C’mere,’ he takes her hands.
He gently pulls her to standing and spins them until they’re both standing under the water, he increases the temperature and is relieved when it heats up.
‘She’s a great kid,’ he starts.
‘The best,’ Tess concurs.
‘You guys have an awesome relationship. You’ve had some really good conversations about sex. Maybe she feels confident to go forward on her own. If that’s the case, that’s the best outcome we could’ve hoped for’.
Tess takes a shuddering breath.
‘I don’t know, I’m not convinced, she’s never even mentioned liking someone these past six months, let alone liking someone enough to sleep with them. I just... I just thought I knew her better’.
The way Tess looks up at him with unsure eyes is like a punch in the guts. Not only that Tess is hurting, but that she could be right. Ash hasn’t mentioned anything to him either and he likes to think they talk about everything. They certainly have in the past.
‘You’re right, this is crappy. It feels crappy,’ he moans.
‘I just need to revel in the crappiness and feel sorry for us for a while, then I’ll snap out if it,’ Tess thumps her head in his shoulder.
‘Where is Ash now?’ he asks.
‘With Oliver, they’re doing the grocery shopping’.
Scott raises his eyebrows in surprise.
‘He wants to borrow the car tonight, so he either had to do the groceries or weed the front garden. He chose the groceries and Ash volunteered to help,’ she shrugs.
‘Are we going into full parent-detective mode? Do we need to check the grocery store receipt for condoms and lube?’ he wiggles his eyes-brows, only half joking.
‘Not funny,’ she smacks his chest.
It’s not really, but at least it got Tess to laugh.
Oli and Ash stumble into the house thirty minutes later, arms full of grocery bags and chortling about some shared joke.
She loves that their youngest two kids get on so well. It’s nice that they have become even closer since Tom and James left home.
‘What’s put you two in such a great mood?’ Scott asks as he helps Ash with the multitude of bags she’s balanced on her arms.
‘We got invited out tonight,’ Oli answers.
‘Yeah, Brianna and Simon’s folks are away at their lake house, so we’re gonna all grab some pizzas together at their place,’ Ash finishes.
‘And beers, for those of us over nineteen,’ Oli adds.
‘Oh yeah?’ Scott’s parent-detective sense flares to life, ‘Who’s gonna be there?’
‘Just the usual crew, I suppose, Brianna, Heidi, Imogen, Eliza and Daisy,’ Ash replies nonchalantly.
‘No boys?’ Scott tries to ask casually. He almost pulls it off.
‘Well, I’ll be there. Plus the usual guys,’ Oliver responds, slightly confused. ‘I thought I’d stay over. Can I take the car overnight?’
Oliver is great buddies with Brianna’s older brother Simon. It’s not uncommon for Ash and Oli to move in the same circles. They’re all lovely kids. But Ash has never once mentioned being remotely interested in any of Oli’s friends.
Her eyes meet Scott’s and she can tell he’s thinking the same thing.
‘Sure. Sounds like it’s going to be a fun night, did you pick up anything to take with you while you did the grocery shopping?’ she asks her kids.
‘We are one step ahead of you Mumma-Bear, we got hotdogs, buns and ketchup. Plus a few bottles of Coke,’ Ash does an adorable twirl as she passes over the credit card and the grocery store receipt. The receipt burns in her hands, she’s itching to read down the list.
‘You OK, Mom?’ Ash asks, throwing an arm around her shoulder.
‘Yeah, why do you ask?’ she says with what she hopes is a convincing smile.
‘You seem slightly distracted, which I think is pretty disrespectful when the world’s best kid is standing right here in your kitchen,’ Ashlynn teases.
‘What?!? You mean Tom’s home?’ she teases back, looking around with a look of faux surprise.
‘Pffftttt. Don’t steel Dad’s role as the keeper of bad jokes,’ Ash chastises.
‘Hey! Not fair, what’d I do?’ Scott squeaks indignantly.
‘Ash, you going to stay over a Brianna’s tonight?’ Oliver interrupts their conversation.
‘Nah, I have training tomorrow. Daddio, can you please come and pick me up,’ Ash bats her eyelashes.
‘Can do, just text me when you’re ready to come home,’ Scott says with enthusiasm that makes Ash a little puzzled. It was clearly much easier to convince her father to take a late night drive than she had expected.
Oliver excuses himself to have a shower as Scott kisses Ash’s temple and squeezes her around the waist, lifting her up off the floor. He pats Oli on the back as he walks past.
It’s only at this point that she realises Ashlynn is wearing a teal Adidas sweatshirt. Her teal Adidas sweatshirt.
‘Ashy, is that my sweatshirt?’
‘Yep, it’s sooooooo comfy, sorry Mom, I think it’s mine now,’ Ash snuggles into Scott’s chest, just like she has ever since she was tiny baby.
‘If your wearing Mom’s shirt, whose shirt did we put in the wash this morning?’ Scott asks.
‘Oh!’ Ash gushes with excitement, ‘that must be Brianna’s. She said she lost it but I must have taken it home by mistake’.
‘Great answer, kiddo,’ Scott kisses her temple again. ‘Great answer’.
At 5pm he’s sprawled out on the couch listening to music for work when Ash plonks herself onto the floor next to him.
‘What’s up buttercup? Looking forward to going to Brianna and Simon’s?’ he taps her on the nose then moves his legs so she can climb up next to him on the couch.
‘Yeah, I suppose so,’ Ash responds half-heartedly
‘That’s not your usual response,’ Tess cuddles Ash close as she settles in on the couch too. Tess must have been in stealth mode, he didn’t even realise she’d entered the room.
‘It’s no biggie,’ Ash sighs, ‘Brianna has become obsessed with some guy, all she can do to talk about how cute he is. It’s driving everyone crazy’.
‘Who’s the guy? Anyone we know? We’ll give you the official Virtue Moir opinion,’ Scott says in a gossipy tone.
Ash gives a laugh. ‘That’s for being so invested in my bestie’s love life. Ugh, that’s the painful part, she’s being so secretive about him. She won’t tell anyone. She had a huge Freddy-freak out when she lost her Adidas shirt, apparently there was something special in the pocket, Did you find anything?’ Ash asks.
He’s terrible at lying to the kids so he stays quiet while Tess answers, ‘I didn’t find anything’.
Technically, it isn’t a lie. Tess didn’t find anything.
‘Well baby, all you can do is keeping being a great friend. She’ll tell you when she’s ready,’ Tess pats her leg. ‘Now go have a quick shower’.
‘Thanks guys,’ Ash hums before giving them each a kiss.
Once Ash traipses up the stairs Tess climbs into his lap and claims, ‘Being a teenager is emotionally exhausting. Poor Ashy’.
‘Forget Ash, what about poor us?’ he stretches out his back and it has the unintended consequence of pushing his pelvis into Tess. She inhales slowly and smirks as she exhales.
‘It won’t be poor us in an hour and a half, we’ll have the whole house to ourselves,’ she wiggles her ass and gives a suggestive wink.
‘What did you have in mind?’ he slips his hand into the top of her leggings, softly dipping a finger into the cleft of her ass and pushing their bodies together.
‘Nothing quiet,’ Tess whispers into his mouth.
Their moment is ruined when they hear Ashlynn screech from the bathroom, ‘WHY IS THERE NO HOT WATER?!?!’
By 9pm they’ve eaten Thai take-out while watching the news, made out on the couch, stripped off their clothes and Scott is balls deep inside her.
They’re laying on their sides facing each other, his mouth around her nipple and one of her legs throw over his shoulder. There’s a lot to be said for keeping up with barre classes and yoga. Their bodies making delicious noises as they fuck, slowly but so, so satisfyingly.
‘How do you want to finish this?’ Scott lifts his head from her chest, ‘I’m so close’.
‘Like this,’ she says, easing Scott out of her and kneeling against the back of the couch. He quickly gets behind her and they both moan as he slides inside her cunt again. They still fit perfectly after all these years.
She uses an arm to braces herself on the couch while Scott takes a nipple in each hand. She leans back against his chest and he sucks at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. Her other hand rubs soft circles over her clit.
She can hear the buzzing of Scott’s phone on the coffee table.
‘Ignore it,’ he grits out, moving his hands to her hips and holding tight while he fucks her a little harder. She momentarily closes her eyes, enjoying the rare chance to fuck outside their bedroom and not have to self-censor their noise.
When she opens her eyes she can see her phone flashing silently on the kitchen table. She’s distracted, wondering if it’s one of the kids, particularly given Scott’s phone was just ringing.
She tries to bring herself back to the moment and focus on Scott’s urgent and hoarse declaration that he’s about to come. She closes her eyes again, breathes deeply and places her fingers where Scott’s cock disappears inside her body. Just as she’s able to bring herself back to enjoy the way her husband is fucking her Scott’s phone starts buzzing on the coffee table.
She hears a litany of ‘Fucks’ leave Scott’s mouth and his erratic thrusting tells her he is way beyond paying his phone any attention. He wraps his arms around her waist and softly kisses her cheek as he comes deep inside her.
‘You weren’t with me,’ he pants. ‘What happened? You OK?’
‘I was distracted. Our phones are ringing. It must be one of the kids’.
Just as the words leave her mouth she sees her phone start to flash again. With Scott still nestled inside her there’s no way she can reach it. Scott immediately reaches back and grabs his phone from the coffee table, resting it on the back of the couch and putting his voice mail on speaker.
And she’s crying. Desperately asking to be picked up. Immediately.
‘Ah, shit,’ Scott moans.
They jump up off the coach, both of them a literal hot mess, Scott’s cock is glossy and his cum is dripping down her thighs.
‘Super quick shower?’ he asks her.
‘There’s no fucking hot water!’ she barks.
‘That’s your fault!’ he snaps, ‘you wasted it all this morning. You know the tank heats up overnight’.
‘Not helpful, Moir!
‘Cold shower it is,’ he huffs, passing his t-shirt to her to mop up the mess between her legs.
‘Call Ash, let’s tell her we’ll be there as soon as we can,’ she bosses.
He rolls his eyes as he dials Ashlynn’s phone, ‘Fuck, Tess. I really dislike it when you speak to me like I’m one of the kids’.
She’s about to tell him that he’s acting like one of the kids when Ash answers with an exhausted sounding ‘Dad?’
‘Are you safe?’ are the first words out of Scott’s mouth.
‘Yes, but can you please come and get me? I want to come home’.
In the background they can hear Brianna apologising to Ash, ‘I’m sorry Ash, I’m sorry, please don’t leave. Let’s talk about this’.
She and Scott look at each other with matching quizzical expressions. Neither of them can recall a time that Ash and Brianna have had a disagreement of any real significance.
Then a third person enters the conversation, the voice is muffled and they can’t make out who is it but there is no mistaking Ash’s response. ‘And you,’ she bellows, ‘ I can’t even look at you. You’re the worst’.
‘Kiddo, stay exactly where you are, we’ll be there in fifteen minutes,’ Scott instructs.
‘This is about Brianna’s secret boyfriend, right?’ he confirms with Tess as he backs out of their driveway.
‘One hundred percent,’ she nods, taking his hand and kissing his knuckles in apology for their earlier spat. He kisses her wrist in response.
‘We think the boyfriend might be someone Ashy had a crush on?’ he queries.
‘That would be a good outcome,’ Tess muses ‘but I think the boyfriend is...’ she trails off.
They’re stopped at traffic lights and Tess gives him a weak smile and a shrug of her shoulders.
‘Nooooooo,’ he groans. ‘Why are teenage boys such dicks?’
Tess erupts into laughter at his question.
When they pull up to Brianna’s they find Ash sitting on the front steps, Oliver keeping her company. They both get out of the car and meet the kids halfway up the front path.
‘Let’s go,’ Ash demands.
‘Two secs, I just want a quiet word with your brother first,’ he notes. ‘Tess, I’ll meet you in the car in a minute’.
‘Oh, Oli,’ Tess sighs and kisses his cheek while Ash storms towards the car.
‘Dad, Ash lost the plot,’ Oli starts, ‘she went insane. God, it was so embarrassing’.
‘Yeah, about that. How would you feel if you found out Simon was sleeping with Ash?’
Oliver’s face turns bright red and his hands fist at his side.
‘What?!?!? Simon is having sex with Ashlynn, I’m gonna kill him,’ Oliver fumes.
‘That’s not what I said. But your reaction gives you a tiny glimpse into your sister’s evening, eh?’
Oliver gives a small laugh of realisation.
‘I’m a shitty brother, aren’t I?’ he winces.
‘Buddy, you’re a great brother. But you’ve made some shitty choices that have hurt your sister. Not least lying to her about you and Brianna. Speaking of which, I don’t need to remind you that she’s seventeen. And a lot of maturing happens between the age of seventeen and nineteen. You’re being considerate and careful, right?’
‘I promise, I’m doing both those things,’ Oliver states. He looks so much like Tess in this moment, he knows he’s telling the truth.
‘Good man,’ he draws Oli in for a hug.
‘Can I talk to Ashlynn before you all leave?’
‘I think that’s be a great idea,’ he smiles.
It takes a little coaxing and a sharp instruction from Tess but Ash eventually gets out of the car to speak with Oliver. It’s a frosty reception from the look of Ash’s body language but she starts to warm up after her brother drags her towards him to for a bone crushing hug. They can’t hear what they’re saying but they see Ash relax and give an eye roll. They standing talking for a little while, then Ash heats up again, poking Oliver hard on the chest before he gently takes her hand and speaks calmly. She shakes her head emphatically and wipes a tear from her eye. Oli hugs her again and calls over Brianna. The girls stand looking a little awkward before Oli addresses them both and walks away.
‘She’s so much like you,’ Tess sighs.
‘I was about to say the exact same thing,’ he laughs.
Tess runs her hand through his hair, ‘I just adore everything about her. And you’.
He’s leaning in to kiss her when there’s a sharp tap on his window.
‘I’m going to stay and Oli will drop me home before midnight. He said to tell you he hasn’t had a beer yet,’ Ash states, ‘and Brianna is going to come at sleep at our place, if that’s OK?’
‘Yeah, of course, that’s fine,’ Tess squeezes Ash’s hand through the window.
‘Did you know Oli was seeing Bri?’ Ash bites her lip.
‘No baby, we had no idea until tonight,’ Tess shakes her head.
‘It hurt most that they lied to me, you know? Besides the fact she finds Oliver attractive, which is just blergh and so, so weird,’ Ash shudders.
‘It’s OK to feel hurt. I’m glad the three of you have started to work it out,’ he adds.
‘Good night,’ Ash blows them both a kiss.
On the way home Tess is quiet.
‘Penny for your thoughts?’ he prompts.
‘You owe me an orgasm’.
‘I thought you were going to say something much more profound than that,’ he laughs.
Tess laughs too. She covers his hand where it is resting on her thigh.
‘I take my orgasms very seriously. I hope you take my orgasms very seriously too’.
‘Dead seriously, Tessa Jane, dead seriously,’ he winks.