Look what we've got
A fairy-tale plot
Our very own happy ending
Bernie was enjoying a dream about a capybara and a golden retriever having an adventure when Elphaba decided to leap on her from a great height. She landed - four paws, claws extended - directly on Bernie’s bladder. Her eyes flew open as her body folded itself in half, her hands instinctively pushing at the furry mass that had roused her so rudely from her slumber. Elphaba took the opportunity to scrabble over her naked arms, leaving a trio of bright scratches behind her as she went. Bernie let out a little shriek, dismayed to see blood beading in what could only be described as wounds.
“Mmmph.” Serena stirred, her eyes blinking owlishly. Instantly Elphaba was on her chest, green eyes wide and melting, throat purring like a finely tuned Astin Martin. “Good morning, darling,” Serena purred back, reaching up to fondle the kitten’s ears. Elphaba responded by somehow getting even louder and pushing her dark head into Serena’s hands.
“Don’t darling that little monster,” Bernie protested bitterly, dabbing at her bleeding arm with a paper hanky she’d retrieved from the nightstand.
“Beast,” Serena muttered, fussing over the kitten even more. “She’s just misunderstood, aren’t you sweetheart?” At Bernie’s aggrieved look, she softened. “Show me the damage.”
Bernie held out her arm with its new markings and Serena obligingly kissed it better. “I don’t know why I ever agreed to let you keep that thing here,” she grumbled.
“Because you lo-ove me-ee,” Serena sing-songed in response.
Bernie opened her mouth, then closed it again. Well. It was a fair cop. Serena’s landlord was a stickler for the no pets policy, so when her girlfriend had found the bedraggled black kitten in the park opposite her flat, Bernie had taken one look at the delight and instant love on Serena’s beautiful face and casually suggested that the stray could live at her place while they tried to find the owner. Serena had been gratitude itself, and Bernie had certainly been happy to receive that gratitude. Repeatedly, and enthusiastically.
Of course, that was six weeks ago, and it was now clear that little Elphaba was here to stay. Which would have been fine, except that her new feline flatmate was an utter menace.
“Feed her,” Serena said, stretching languorously as she threw off the thin summer duvet. “And I’ll deal with our breakfast.”
“So what’s on the agenda for today?” Serena asked around a mouthful of toast and eggs.
Bernie sipped her coffee, her feet meeting Serena’s under the table. “I have a second viewing on a house, actually,” she said.
Serena’s eyes widened. “Finally found somewhere you like, have you? About time.”
At first, Bernie had been reluctant to spend any of her inheritance from her father. It had taken the combined efforts of Cameron, Jocasta and Serena together to convince her that it was foolish to turn her nose up at financial security. Hers was a notoriously unpredictable profession after all.
“Anyway, darling,” Serena had said to her one night in bed. “I do understand your feelings, believe me, but just think - your father’s money can pay for the house where you’ll live a long, deliciously lesbian life, with women lining up at the door to do things that would give him yet another heart attack.”
“Ha!” Bernie had replied. “I only want one woman, thanks.” But the point had been made.
“Are you free this afternoon?” Bernie ventured casually. “Maybe you could come and look at it with me?”
Serena’s eyes sparkled. “Really?”
Bernie shrugged, her lips quirking up in a small smile. “I’d value your input.”
Serena leaned over the breakfast table and planted a kiss on her girlfriend’s blushing cheek. “I need to go home and check on mum, but I can meet you there?”
“I’ll meet you at the closest station,” Bernie suggested. “Mortlake - three o’clock.”
It was another scorcher of a day in a series of scorching days, but this far from central London the air was a little clearer. Serena knew the area well, and found herself feeling nostalgic as she stepped onto the platform at Mortlake station. Bernie hadn’t arrived just yet, so she sat on a bench and waited, thinking back to the last time she’d found herself in this neck of the woods.
Her face was troubled when Bernie jogged up to her ten minutes later. “Penny for them,” she said, and Serena started.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Sorry, I was miles away.”
Bernie pushed a stray strand of dark hair behind her ear, then let her hand trail down her cheek. “Are you all right?”
Serena stood up, smiling tightly. “I’m fine,” she said, then shrugged. “Just thinking about the last time I was here.”
Bernie took her hand and led her off the platform, listening quietly as Serena talked about how she’d grown up in this area, about her childhood home, how she’d helped her mother hold things together after her father died, but had then been helpless to do anything as her mother got ill and she’d lost everything.
“My parents paid £100,000 for that house when Marjorie and I were little,” she sighed. “I don’t think that would even be enough for a deposit these days.”
Bernie winced. “That’s London for you,” she said weakly, keenly feeling the utter unfairness of her own financial situation compared to Serena’s. “Maybe this wasn’t a great idea…”
Serena shook her head. “Don’t be silly, darling. I’m just being a little maudlin.” She looked up, noticing for the first time what street Bernie had led them to. “Oh! This was our street.”
“Ah.” Bernie stopped them, reaching out to take both of Serena’s hands in hers. “Yes, I...I have a bit of a confession to make actually.”
“Oh?” Serena raised one delicately sculpted eyebrow.
“Yes. Just a little farther, you’ll see.”
The street was quiet, lined with trees, sun dappling the pavement as they walked. Within a hundred yards Bernie stopped them again, turning to look at a handsome but modest terraced house with large windows dominating the frontage. Bernie watched as Serena’s eyes widened and she gasped, her hand flying up to cover her mouth. “This is our house…”
“I asked Marjorie,” Bernie explained gently. “She told me about this place and I thought…” She trailed off as Serena began to blink away tears. “Oh, I’m sorry! Darling, don’t cry.”
Serena shook her head. “No, no, it’s all right. I’m just...oh, wow!” Her eyes danced from one spot to another, as if trying to take it all in at once. “Are we really viewing it?”
Bernie smiled. “Well...a little white lie actually. When I came to see it, it wasn’t exactly on the market. But I, uh...convinced the owners that they were ready to sell.” She blushed faintly as she pulled a key from her pocket and held it out to Serena. “We exchanged last week.”
For a long moment Serena simply stood there, her jaw slack. “You…” she managed eventually, “you bought it? It’s yours?”
Bernie’s blush intensified. “Well, I was hoping...ours?” She looked away, unable to meet Serena’s eyes. “I mean, if you want. I thought we could have the attic room, and your mum could have the second floor. There’s room for her nurses, and for Jason to stay sometimes. And we could make the garden secure for Elphaba-”
Her rambling was cut off by Serena’s lips, like velvet, pressing against hers. One kiss became two, then three, and then Serena was holding her tight and sighing against her neck. “I love you so much,” she murmured. “So, so much, Bernie.”
Bernie wrapped her arms round Serena’s waist, leaning back a little so she could find her eyes. “Is that a yes?”
“Oh darling,” Serena said, her eyes shining. “Take me inside and I’ll show you how much of a yes it is.”
They booked movers for the first week in September, then turned their attention to packing. Serena was amazed by how much stuff she’d actually managed to accumulate. If anyone had asked her, she’d have told them that she barely had any stuff, that she travelled light through this merry journey called life. The stacks and stacks of boxes filling her small flat seemed to put paid to that suggestion.
On the day of the move, Marjorie took Adrienne to Richmond Park so she wouldn’t be around for the upheaval. She sometimes remembered that they were moving, but neither Serena nor Marjorie thought it was a great idea to put her through the stress.
“You’re sure about this?” Serena asked fretfully, the night before the move. “Living with my mother, I mean. She can be...well, you know how she can be.”
Bernie pretended to think it over. “You’re right,” she deadpanned. “Let’s call the whole thing off. Shame we already broke our leases, but I’m sure you’ll find somewhere.”
“Bernie, I’m serious-”
“Serena.” Bernie cut her off with a finger on her lips. “I love you. I know exactly what I’m doing, I promise. Now stop fussing…”
The narrow street was lined with cars all the way down, but somehow the two moving vans made it through. Every other time Serena had moved she’d hired a self-drive van and handled it herself, with friends, so simply having to direct various burly men to this room or that was a novelty.
“I think you’re enjoying this a little too much,” Bernie whispered sotto voce, as she watched Serena’s eyes following a particularly chiselled example of the male species maneuvering a heavy box of books up the stairs.
“Just reaffirming my bisexuality,” she whispered back, then ran into the garden shrieking with laughter as Bernie gave chase.
They held the housewarming party a couple of weeks later, once they’d managed to unpack most of their stuff. It was a low-key affair, but it started in the early afternoon so that their castmates who were performing that night, including Dominic, could drop in. The evening was for family, with Marjorie, Jason, Cameron and Jocasta gathering in the kitchen for a quiet meal together. Adrienne was having a good day, laughing happily and holding court with stories of her life with Serena’s father. Since moving back to the East Sheen house, Adrienne had seemed to have more of these good days. Serena didn’t want to jinx it, but she was sure that the familiar environment was doing wonders for her mother.
“I like your new house, Auntie Serena,” Jason said politely. He was a little too young to remember when this had been his grandparents’ home, but he enjoyed the relative quiet of the neighbourhood and he’d been ecstatic when he was told he was allowed to decorate the smallest bedroom himself, the one he’d be sleeping in whenever he stayed over. “Can I go and play in the garden now?”
Serena looked to Marjorie who nodded. “Of course you can, love,” she said. Dinner was just about over, and the adults began to drift outside themselves, watching Jason as he dashed up and down the long garden, from the house to the small garden room that Serena’s father had built just a few years before he died. Bernie served coffee, then settled herself on Serena’s lap, wrapping her arms around her neck. Their family chatted quietly together as the sun began to dip below the horizon.
“Auntie Serena!” Jason yelled suddenly. “Auntie Bernie!”
“Did he just call me Auntie Bernie-” Bernie began, but Serena was already on her feet.
“I think so, but let’s figure out what he’s screaming about, shall we?”
Jason was at the far end of the garden, staring at something in the bushes. “What is it, love?” Serena said, jogging up behind him, Bernie bringing up the rear.
He pointed. “Look!”
For a long moment, Bernie couldn’t make out what he was looking at. It looked like a little white patch against the green of the undergrowth. “What…” she murmured, then stopped abruptly.
The little white lump miaowed.
“Oh!” Serena exclaimed, reaching out to pull the creature into her arms. It miaowed again, then again, its tiny claws flexing ineffectually as Serena held it close to her chest. It looked like it was about six weeks old and it was all alone, crying softly as Serena stroked and petted it.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” Jason asked, transfixed by the white, furry little lump.
Serena flipped the kitten around and checked under the tail. “A girl,” she said, then looked up at Bernie with shining eyes. “Oh, Bernie!” she said. “Glinda!”
Bernie blinked, opened her mouth, closed it again, then sighed. Serena’s face was shining with love, and only half of it was for her.
“We’ll check for a microchip,” she said.
“Of course!” Serena replied.
“And we’ll have to quarantine her from Elphaba for a while.”
She sighed again. “Okay then.”
Serena squealed, and the kitten joined in, its tiny voice surprisingly piercing. “Look darling! Now that’s what I call fate!”
Bernie frowned. “What?”
Serena looked up at her, her eyes sparkling. “Glinda,” she said, nodding towards the still squealing kitten. "She’s a soprano.”