Moving in is a process.
A process in italics. A process, underlined. A process emphasized heavily, with quotation marks around it, because Dani isn’t sure of how to describe the two months that have somehow resulted in her apparently having opened her home to a middle-aged couple, a sulky teenager, a child who bursts into the phrase “Perfectly splendid” in intervals, and a lawyer trying her very best to also have a dating life.
“Did you forget your whole entire girlfriend?” Jamie asks her, arms weighed down by a box full of crockery and Flora who’s hanging on her back.
Dani raises a finger like she’s making a point. “I did not,” she says, very slowly, hoping to somehow generate words as she speaks. “I did not mention you, because I didn’t need to. Because you, baby, have always been home for me.”
Hah. Take that, Hannah . To think she was of the opinion Dani couldn’t romance very well.
Jamie stares at her. “You’re so full of shit, Poppins.”
Miles opens his eyes from where he’s been listening to music on the couch for the past half-hour and leans forward, only to say — “Busted”, and Dani is officially done with everything.
Strangely enough, it starts with cream.
Dani remembers it well, because it’s one of the very few argument-esque discussions they’ve had in their year and a half relationship. It’s one of the nights Dani is over at Jamie’s as opposed to it being one of the nights Jamie is over at Dani. They don’t keep track anymore. Most of the evenings, it just comes down to how much in a hurry they are to get to some place and eat and stretch out on the couch in peace.
(Amongst other activities of course, so most of the time it’s Dani’s place)
So they’re at Jamie’s apartment, on a chilly evening about five months into dating when she jumps into bed after her shower and asks Jamie for her hand cream.
“Oh, that,” Jamie says. She opens her nightstand drawer, takes out a bottle and chucks it in her direction so it lands roughly an inch away from her hand. It also lands with its label upwards, so Dani is reading the words correctly when she says —
“This is a body lotion.”
“Yeah, that’s what you needed, right?”
“No, babe,” she answers Jamie patiently. “I asked for hand cream.”
Jamie frowns. Stares at the bottle. Then back at her. Does that for about two more times before she opens her mouth.
“Um,” she says, picking it up and pointing it to her other hand in an exaggerated motion. “Yes. You do put this on your hands.”
Why would you do that, Dani thinks, with exclamation marks punctuating every word of that. “I use hand cream. You know, it’s like foot cream but for your hands.”
(She’s not going to bore everyone with what the whole discussion that occurs then. The words keep coming, the exclamation marks keep increasing, and somehow, they conclude in this absolute gem of an ending that nobody knows how to process.)
“How could you not—”
“—wait, I’m sorry, we didn’t exactly have fancy shit up in prison, you know.”
There is silence. Dani sees her girlfriend’s lips twitching, her eyes betraying the mirth hanging behind her words. She picks up her pillow and throws it in Jamie’s face.
“You cannot keep pulling the prison card every argument we have, you ass.”
“But it works so well!”
“That wasn’t even the point. The point was that hand creams are best for hands and foot creams are best for, you know, feet and—”
“—and somehow,” Jamie tells her, “my hands and my feet are made of skin like the rest of my body. Look at that! What a surprise!”
“That’s a valid point,” Dani says, fingers pinching the bridge of her nose, trying her very best to be a nice and supportive girlfriend. “But that’s like saying that you can wear your underwear on your face since every part of your body has skin on it.”
“Who says I’m even wearing underwear?” Jamie’s right eyebrow is raised, lips pressed flat with the effort to keep from laughing and well—
(In her defense, she does have the sexiest girlfriend in the world and it’s totally understandable that she got distracted)
The next evening, she orders an entire set of creams, with Jamie grumbling in the background somewhere. I’m here most of the time anyways , she says. It’s for the both of us, if that makes you feel any better .
From Jamie’s smile, she thinks it does, and that’s how the idea starts taking root in her mind.
This is how love works. Or so she’s heard. The honeymoon period is but a couple of months, and then real-life hits. After three months is when that bright illusion shatters, of your partner possibly being the most beautiful angel to ever grace this planet, and you start seeing them as who they really are — clueless and flawed individuals who do not know the difference between moisturizer and hand cream.
So she waits, holding her heart carefully in her hands. Waits a month. Two. Four. Five. And it is a couple of days after Owen and Hannah baked them a cake to wish them a ‘Happy 6 months together, y’all’, that Jamie pokes her head out of the bathroom, toothbrush in her mouth.
“Oi nah flick offa,” she says, and Dani blinks.
“I didn’t get that, sweetheart.”
Jamie disappears (to get rid of the foam in her mouth, Dani guesses) then reappears a minute later, face glowing. “I said I’m not sick of you yet.”
Dani smiles at her. “I’m not sick of you either.”
And it is such a strange thought, once articulated out loud. She still wakes up every morning, and stays for a while admiring the way the sunlight hits Jamie’s face, the way it dances with her skin and makes her look like an old Goddess; still wants to cling to Jamie like a panda whenever she sees her after a long time. Her heart still hasn’t gotten used to the most wonderful woman in the world loving her, touching her, kissing her, and she still has to give it a little time to restart every time she makes Jamie smile.
Six months she’s kept thinking This will go away . Six months and it hasn’t.
Dani kind of thinks (hopes, dreams) it’s forever.
Dani kind of knows it’s forever.
Jamie plops onto the bed, arms stretching out across her back and legs finding their place over hers, interrupting her train of thought. It’s when she’s nuzzling into Dani’s shirt that the color of the shirt registers.
“Is that,” Dani says. “Is that my shirt?”
Jamie’s hands are already clutching at the fabric of the oversized lavender shirt as she finishes, as if Dani’s going to take it away from her. As if it doesn’t make Dani’s heart do funny things inside her chest to see her in it. As if she doesn’t want Jamie to only wear her clothes, because she looks so at home in them. Like she is Dani’s, forever.
Like Dani is hers, forever.
“It’s your place,” Jamie argues. “There’s only a certain number of things I can keep wearing, you know?”
Dani kisses her cheek. Hums.
“I’m keeping it,” Jamie continues.
“Okay,” Dani says, simply, her smile saying the things she’s too embarrassed to say out loud. It’s yours. Whatever I have is yours. My home, my clothes. My heart.
(The next night when she’s over at Jamie’s, she makes Jamie pack an entire drawer full of her clothes into her bag so she can carry it over to her own place for the nights to come. There’s an empty space cleared up in the closet that sings Jamie’s name every time Dani opens the door. It will never be empty again.)
“But Jamie, please,” Flora pleads.
“Yes, Jamie, please,” Dani parrots, highly amused at the vein twitching at the corner of Jamie’s forehead.
Jamie takes one look at them, at Owen and Hannah cozied up on their couch, at Miles who’s reclining against the wall trying to appear supremely disinterested and then finally to the kitten who is sleeping in Rebecca’s arms.
“Absolutely not,” she declares.
“But look at him!” Dani says, pouting. It is unfair, she supposes, for both her and Flora to pout together in the face of Jamie’s reticence but desperate times call for desperate measures.
(And she wants to pet that kitten, desperately)
“He’ll be happy with you, really,” Owen jumps in, just for the satisfaction that Jamie’s annoyance gives him, and immediately gets hit with a deadly look.
“Why don’t you guys keep him, then?”
Hannah tsks. “Oh,” she says, sounding not very sad. “I have that allergy, you know.”
“You haven’t sneezed once in all this time!”
“It’s.... a seasonal thing. A seasonal plus feline thing. I don’t know how to explain it to you, dear.”
“Baby,” Dani says, hands reaching out to hold Jamie’s. “He needs a home. We can give it to him.”
Jamie’s slowly developing a half-crazed look in her eyes, which Dani finds hilarious. “And who is this we you’re referring to? Because I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be the one taking care of the.... the thing.”
“He is a kitten,” Flora emphasizes, indignantly.
“A one-eyed kitten,” Rebecca adds, and after a round of Aw s and coos that’s how Cyclops ends up living with them.
(“We are not calling the poor thing Cyclops,” Dani protests.
Miles simply grins.)
“I’m not taking care of it,” Jamie announces, right away, and Dani reminds her of it every day for a month after the day she finds them on the couch with the kitten conked out on a sleeping Jamie’s chest.
She’s said this to herself every morning when she wakes up in Jamie’s arms, her four pillows strewn around them and with most of the blanket hanging off Jamie’s side. Every evening as they walk back to Dani’s place arguing whether it was Chinese or Indian they were in the mood for, and when they’ve inevitably ended up at Owen’s restaurant, sharing a meal with the rest of their family. Every time they bicker over Jamie’s clothes now taking up more space in her closet than her own dresses. Let’s move in, she thinks, more and more with each passing in. Let’s live together, she almost says when Jamie decides to pop into her own apartment inevitably.
Surprisingly enough, Jamie says it first. They’re watching some reality show that involves a very accomplished woman and twelve idiots trying to win her hand, when Jamie turns to her and asks her if Dani would consider moving in with her.
“Sure,” Dani says, off-handedly, before she chokes on the large gulp of water she’d taken a moment ago. “Wait, what?”
Jamie is very determinedly not looking in her direction, her eyes hyper focused on one spot of the screen. Dani plays with her hair and waits.
“I was.... wondering, if you’d like to move in with me.”
Wondering, as though Dani wouldn’t lay down her life if Jamie asked, Dani thinks. She raises her hand, and nudges at Jamie’s chin until they’re facing each other.
“Have you thought about it?” she asks, carefully.
“I can’t stop thinking about it, which is the problem,” Jamie grumbles, and Dani is endlessly endeared by the adorable frown on her face. “Thinking about how nice it would be to go to sleep and wake up next to you every morning, and how my brother could use my apartment when he’s home from college during the holidays, and me not having to move more and more of my clothes here—”
“—and the stupid cat,” Dani adds.
“—and the stupid cat,” Jamie concludes, glancing once at Cyclops who’s finding great pleasure in chasing the Roomba around.
“Sure you’re not sick of me yet?” Dani asks her, casually, hoping she picks up on what she really means to say.
Jamie kisses her once, twice. “Never, my love.”
And that’s that.
“Catch,” Owen shouts, before a vase comes sailing through the air and lands perfectly in Miles’ hand, followed by the sound of their combined laughter.
Dani, who’s just gone through the five stages of grief, collapses onto the couch next to Rebecca.
“How did we accidentally adopt a whole bunch of children?”
“Hey!” Rebecca protests. “I am a mature adult who has her whole life in order.”
“You’re just got sent a Wazzup on Tinder by a 40-year-old man who enjoys fishing on the weekends, kid,” Jamie passes by, hand reaching out to mess up Rebecca’s perfectly done hair. “Nobody here has their life in order.”
Rebecca sticks out her tongue. “This is not nice.”
Dani disagrees. This, impromptu lasagna dinners at least thrice every week filled with laughter and ribbing, days full of sunshine and kittens and the prettiest woman at home in her arms, she thinks, is very nice, actually. Love takes effort and work, but somehow it is also easy and beautiful, and so worth it that it’s found a permanent place behind her ribcage, in her lungs, in her limbs, and in her eyes.
“Do you think this is straight?” Hannah asks her, pointing at the photos on the wall.
“Nothing about this is straight,” Miles mumbles.
“That’s very funny, Miles,” Dani snipes at him, but she gets up and stands next to Jamie. Looks up at the photos.
There’s one of her on the street corner, sitting with her typewriter, surrounded by a bunch of clamoring people. One of Jamie and her brother. One of Cyclops perched on top of Miles’ head. One, of the time when Jamie and Dani had been trying to take a romantic photo all day, only to get interrupted by Owen finger-gunning in the background. The photo had ended up including all of them, squashed together on the tiny couch, with Flora half on Jamie’s lap, and half on Hannah’s.
(There’s a last one that Rebecca had snapped in the middle of dinner one night, of Dani and Jamie staring at each other, speaking a language only they knew. Dani’s hand, carrying a spoonful of mashed potatoes, is half-raised, with the spoon almost touching Jamie’s lips. It’s Dani’s favorite. She knows Jamie loves it too.)
This is how love works, she thinks. You build a relationship. Family just sort of forms around you.
“It’s perfect,” she says, head leaning on Jamie’s shoulder.
And it really is.