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I.~

 

There was so much stillness in the house.

Pretty normal under the current circumstances, but despite that, it was a strange sensation knowing Rindy was there.

Looking through the window thoughtfully, Therese was trying to decide if she should make a sandwich for herself or if begin to advance in the work she had brought home. Carol wouldn’t arrive until within a few hours at least, and perhaps she should take advantage that Rindy was sleeping because at the moment she woke up, she would require her full attention.

It was the result of a sick Rindy.

Therese received the call during her lunch break. A slightly frenetic Carol, nearly begging her to go pick up Rindy at her school because she had the flu and felt under the weather. Now that she has the time to think about it, Therese snorted. As if Carol needed to beg her, she had been gathering her things as soon as she heard “Rindy’s school called,” since it was unusual.

On her way to her car, she listened to Carol explaining that she would reschedule the appointment with her clients, and then she would take the most suitable flight to be back the same day. To hell with everything, her daughter needed her. But she would have to take over for the moment. Upon reassuring Carol that she didn’t have anything to worry about, she hanged up and before driving off, Therese sighed, wanting to believe those words too.

After all, it was the first time she would have to take care of Rindy on her own.

 


 

“Mommy?”

Therese looked up from the papers on the table, looking at the unkempt child, who was rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “She’s not home yet, sweetie. How are you feeling?”

Rindy walked towards her energyless, and without any warning she climbed Therese’s lap, clutching her blouse with her fist and nestling in her arms. “Not very well, really.” It wasn’t the first time Rindy sought her out for a hug, but it was the first time she was doing it in a comforting way.

Moving back slowly, Therese leaned on the back of the couch, allowing Rindy to settle comfortably on her. The young woman ran her fingers through the blonde locks and a frown appeared on her face when she felt the sweat. “I think we can’t avoid it, you’ll have to take the medicine for the fever.”

Rindy whined and Therese unwillingly smiled. The first time she had seen her take the medicine, she had been torn between snatching away the bottle from Carol’s hand to throw it down the toilet and giggling at how cute the little girl looked with that disgusting expression after tasting it.

“It’s yucky.”

“I know it is, but it will make you feel better. You know that.” Sighing dejectedly, Rindy agreed but she didn’t move from her spot, and it didn’t take long for Therese to realize that she didn’t have any intention of doing it. “Alright, smartass, you can’t escape from this.” Resting her hands on Rindy’s back she started to maneuver to be able to stand up while carrying the girl.

When Therese was finally able to stand up, Rindy was giggling at the slight puffs she was giving due to the simple (but that turns complicated when you have a child that clings onto you like a koala) task. But the giggles were abruptly interrupted due to a sneezing fit and the woman was unfazed when Rindy used her blouse to clean her nose.

Caressing Rindy’s back comfortingly, Therese walked to the master bedroom and she kissed the child’s forehead when she felt her snuggling closer to her.

 


 

Everything was dark when Carol arrived. The only light that could be seen was at the end of the hall that was coming from the room she shared with Therese and she knew the television was the cause of it. After removing her high-heels and leaving her suitcase next to the couch so that no one would suffer an accident, she made her way there.

What she saw made her stop in her tracks at the moment she crossed the doorway.

Therese was sleeping sideways with the arm that was against the bed stretched since an equal asleep Rindy was using it as a pillow. Her other arm was draped over the child’s body as if she was trying to shield her from the cold despite being springtime, her head resting against the smaller one, cheek against hair.

Carol took a long time to drink the enrapturing image in and she was incredibly tempted to take a photo but decided against it since there was a high probability of waking them up due to the flash.

Walking to Rindy’s side, she saw the medicine on the nightstand, making her reach and feel her daughter’s temperature. It had been a little tricky to not disturb Therese while doing it but she had managed, nonetheless, the young woman’s eyes opened when Carol was withdrawing her hand.

“Shhh, keep sleeping,” she whispered, this time caressing Therese’s forehead.

“No, I’m- I’m fine, I wasn’t even tired. Did you just get here?” She was blinking lazily, trying to become aware and move, but when she felt a weight on her arm, she looked down at the girl that was still peacefully sleeping.

“Indeed. Haven’t even passed five minutes. How are my girls?” Now that Therese had moved, she was able to leave a kiss on Rindy’s head, then leaned over her body to reach her girlfriend’s lips, smiling against them when the woman sighed happily.

“We are fine. She slept for a while as soon as we got home and she had a little bit of fever when she woke up, so I gave her the medicine, which didn’t make her very happy.” Carol chuckled looking down at her daughter tenderly as she sat at the edge of the bed. “I made her eat a bowl of hot soup, promising her that we would go for ice cream once she had recovered because she wasn’t really hungry, then we came here to watch some movies but she fell asleep almost immediately. Things considered, she’s fine, nothing to worry.”

“I wasn’t worried, I knew you’d be great at taking care of her.” She smiled sweetly watching the soft blush appearing on Therese’s cheeks. “I’m going to change. It was a good thing I decided to eat during the flight.” She stood up heading to the bathroom, feeling Therese’s eyes following her, “I’m exhausted and I can only think of getting into bed.”

When Carol emerged from the bathroom wearing her nightdress, Therese detoured her attention to Rindy. “Let me take her to her room.” She was considering how it was the best way to do it without waking the girl, when she felt the bed shifting behind her, making her turn her head.

“Leave her. Unless it bothers you?” Not everyone would have noticed since she was good at hiding it but Therese was very aware of Carol’s uncertainty.

“No, not at all.” She smiled reassuringly.

Therese moved towards Rindy with gentleness to give Carol a better space to lay behind her and the woman didn’t hesitate to disappear the distance between them by hugging her by the waist. “Are you sure you are comfortable?” Carol asked after kissing Therese’s shoulder, resting her head against the side of the other woman’s afterwards.

“I’m perfectly fine,” Therese answered looking sideways at Carol, smiling when she saw her smile.

 

II.~

 

Carol was going to kill her.

And by killing her Therese meant: make her sleep on the sofa for at least a week and no sex for a month. She had had the thought right when Carol accepted for her to be the one in charge of choosing Rindy’s birthday present. Therese knew exactly what she would get her since that very moment and Carol was going to kill her for it.

It was the reason why she hadn’t said anything to her girlfriend whenever she was questioned about it; her only answer was a “trust me,” followed by a kiss that was able to distract Carol from the situation.

Stopping thanks to a red light while she was heading back home with a medium-sized box in the passenger seat, Therese sighed looking at the item. She knew it was going to be worth it, Rindy had been talking about it for months now, always eliciting a ‘no’ from her mother, but deep down she was dreading Carol’s reaction, after all, she was Rindy’s mother and this was the first time Therese acted against one of her decisions.

A honk brought her out of her contemplation and while she stepped on the gas she concluded that perhaps she would have to do a little bit of begging this day.

 


 

The kids’ screams were heard at the other side of the door and due to all the commotion, one would have thought that the apartment was full of them when in reality there were only four. Rindy plus three of her closest school friends.

That was what the little girl requested her mother after her father threw a huge (and in advance, knowing that the actual day she would be with them) birthday party for her the previous weekend. A party that had required her to act like a proper little lady instead of a kid who was having fun.

Abby was also there. Rindy had insisted that she only wanted to be with the people who matter. Therese smiled at the memory, the way Carol had beamed that day still made her heart race.

And you are totally going to ruin this day for her, she grimaced at the thought. Perhaps there was still time to change her mind … no; she was doing this for Rindy and she was confident in her abilities to deal with Carol’s wrath afterwards.

The kids were distracted when she opened the door, which gave her the opportunity to hide the box on the side of the sofa but Rindy looked at her when she was straightening up. “You are back!”

“I told you it wouldn’t take that long.” She noticed how the little girl’s eyes were moving up and down, searching for something. “But you are going to have to wait a little longer, at least until your mother and Abby are in the same room.” It was as if she was digging her own grave.

“Mommy! Aunt Abby! Therese is back!”

Therese giggled, sitting on the armrest to be able to reach for the box when the time came.

When Carol crossed the door frame, followed by Abby, Therese held her breath for a few seconds, but she was able to smile back when Carol smiled at her. The woman took a seat next to Therese while Abby sat in the single armchair that was next to the couch they were sitting on.

Therese looked down to her side when she felt a soft brush against her arm and she kissed Carol’s forehead before she moved away completely. “Everything went okay, angel?” She laid her hand against Therese’s back, stroking slowly.

“Yes, smoothly.”

“Are you finally going to tell me what you got for her?” She looked at her with curiosity.

Therese opened her mouth but before she had the chance to say anything, another voice was heard. “Hey, nitwits! Could you stop having secret conversations?”

The kids giggled while Carol rolled her eyes. “It’s not a secret conversation, Abby, I was asking about Rindy’s present.”

“Well, we are all wondering about Rindy’s present, especially her, that’s why we are here. So, chop-chop,” she looked at Therese while saying the last words.

“Fine, fine. Let’s put an end to all this expectation.” She breathed deeply before bending over to reach for the present, feeling Carol’s hand gripping the end of her shirt to avoid it sliding up her back.

When the box was placed among the presents, there was a silence before the children gasped with excitement. After all, it was a give-away when the box had holes in it.

“Therese, you didn’t!” The high-pitched tone of excitement in Rindy’s voice made her smile, but her smile wavered a little when she heard Carol mumbling the same words in an icy tone.

Rindy shoved her hands into the box and in seconds she pulled a black kitten out. Against its previous behavior, it started to meow, demanding complete attention of the person that was holding it, causing the little girl to bring it against her chest, as in a way to hug it.

“It’s so cute!”

The delirious happiness of the birthday girl was totally worth it, making it easier to ignore the fact that Carol had withdrawn her hand from her back. “It’s a him, so you have to think about how you want to name him.”

“Will you help me with that? He has to have the best name ever!”

“Let’s see what we can do about that,” she answered smiling at Rindy.

There was a tense moment, at least in Therese’s opinion, where everyone was silent, the adults watching the children playing with the kitten, until Rindy stood up, standing in front of the person who had made her dreams come true. “Thank you so much, Therese. You are the best!” She launched at her, hugging her tightly. Then she did the same with Carol, imagining that this wouldn’t have been possible without her mother’s approval.

Yeah. It was worth it.

 


 

When Therese walked into the living room she saw only Abby, putting her coat on. “Where’s Carol?”

“In the kitchen washing the dishes.”

“All right.” She ran a hand through her hair. “Are you leaving?”

“Yes, I have exceeded my stay.”

Therese looked at Abby quizzically. That was new. Almost every time Abby came to visit, she stayed until the next day because the three of them spent until late into the night talking, laughing, and drinking until they reached the point of tipsy. Carol and Therese had talked that morning about the possibility of that happening. But then it dawned on the younger woman, making her snicker.

“You don’t want to be here when I go to talk with Carol.”

Abby looked at her with indignation but after a few seconds in which Therese didn’t withdraw her opinion, she rolled her eyes. “Soon you will realize why. This is your first time screwing up that badly.”

Therese’s smile disappeared and she sighed, rubbing her forehead. “Is she that angry?”

“Go and find out,” she replied shrugging. “Just allow me to fly off the soon to be a crime scene.”

That made Therese laugh, relaxing her even if for a brief moment. After saying goodbye to Abby, the young woman headed to the kitchen, feeling like she was walking her death path.

Therese stopped at the door frame, resting against it, watching Carol drying a plate with harsh motions. She was tempted to move forward, wrap her arms around her lover and not let go until Carol caved and forgave her. But Therese wouldn’t be able to deal with the stiffness the contact would cause, prompted to be pushed away.

Sighing softly, she looked down at the floor before revealing her presence. “What has that poor plate done to you?”

There it was. The stiffness. Therese was so attuned to Carol now that she could notice the slightest change in her persona. It was something she had learned over time before Carol started to open up and talk to her.

Carol turned around after placing the plate in its rightful place inside one of the countertops, narrowing her eyes when she caught sight of the other woman, but for a moment she could feel her upsetness wavering. How could someone be irritated by the purest woman Carol had ever known, whose things she did were nothing but with the best intentions?

However, Carol couldn’t pretend it didn’t bother her. “What were you thinking?” There was no point in rummaging around the bush.

Therese winced at the accusatory tone but she wouldn’t backtrack from her position. “I was thinking about making Rindy happy, it was my only intention.”

“Against my previous decision?” She frowned.

“I truly loathed doing that, Carol, you have to believe me.” She sighed deeply, slowly walking towards her girlfriend. “I knew you would be upset and several times I thought about giving her something else, but I have to admit that thinking how happy Rindy would be gave me the courage to move forward.”

Carol wanted to be angry but Therese’s words flashbacked her to that moment, making her smile against her wish recalling Rindy’s grin; plus, with Therese’s expression of a sad puppy, it was practically impossible. She had a heart and it was ruled by those two. “She was ecstatic.” She sighed resignedly.

Noticing Carol’s walls slowly crumbling, Therese knew she had to go for the kill. “Right? I bet that not even when Harge gave her the newest doll and train set in the market achieved this.” Carol’s chuckle felt like discovering a treasure. “You’ll be the favorite parent now,” she crooned.

Carol refrained a little longer from reciprocating Therese’s contact when the young woman rested her hands on her hips. “I do like being the favorite parent.” Though she had an amicable relationship with Harge, she couldn’t help feeling a little bit of competitiveness with him when it came to their daughter.

Relieved that Carol wasn’t unwelcoming her nearness, Therese dared to slide her hands to the small of her back, encircling her waist. “There’s no doubt that giving her what she had been asking for years has granted you that title.”

Carol finally rested her arms on Therese’s shoulders. “I refuse to take care of the animal,” she clarified.

“Don’t worry. I’m going to teach Rindy how to take care of him and when she’s not here, I’m going to do it.” She raised on her tiptoes a little, nuzzling Carol’s chin with her nose.

“All right.” She closed her eyes thanks to her girlfriend’s caresses. “You two will be the ones dealing with him.”

“Mmhmm.” She kissed Carol’s jaw. “You have nothing to worry about.”

Carol moved her head down, opening her eyes just the necessary to kiss Therese’s lips chastely. “It’s impossible to be upset with you, it’s unfair.”

“I’m just too adorable,” she joked before adding more seriously, “you know I do things with the best intentions, not because I’m looking for a way to annoy you.”

“That too.” She gave the woman another kiss. A gesture to seal her words and reassure her that everything was fine. “Can you help me with the dishes? I’m tired but I don’t want to leave them for tomorrow.”

“Absolutely.” She squeezed Carol’s hips before letting go.

A week later, the image that welcomed Therese when she arrived home, was of Carol seated on the couch, watching something on the television with Shadow (for a six-year-old girl’s pick it was pretty acceptable in Therese’s opinion) curled on her lap, purring so loudly that even from where she was standing, the young woman could hear it.

Therese smiled amused. She couldn’t blame Shadow at all but she felt slightly betrayed that she was the one feeding him and cleaning his litter box when Rindy was with her father, and the person who the cat showered with affection was the one that pretended wanting nothing to do with him.

At least in Rindy’s eyes, she was still the best.

 

III.~

 

Therese quivered when Carol’s lips touched the sensitive spot under her ear.

All-day, her significant other had been teasing her, knowing that there wasn’t anything she could do about it since Rindy had arrived that day and the little girl, endearingly, didn’t want them to wander away from her sight, wanting to spend it with both women after a week without seeing them.

Carol, for some reason, though was ecstatic of being with her daughter and her partner, loved to torture Therese, giving her featherlight touches with either her fingers or lips that left her wanting more, her eyes, whenever she looked at Therese, screaming what she would be doing to her the moment they were alone.

So far she was keeping her unspoken words.

Lying semi on top of Therese, one of her legs wrapped around the young woman’s, Carol slid her hand under her shirt, nails softly scratching her skin though at the same time, she managed to show her hunger for the woman without hurting her.

“Carol …” she gasped once the woman’s hand reached her breast, stroking and lightly squeezing it over the bra.

“All day, darling. I’ve spent all day controlling my desire to get my hands on you and having my way with you.” She buried her face on Therese’s neck, kissing her way up to her jaw, where she nibbled.

“And how do you think I’ve felt?” She cradled Carol’s face in her hands to find her mouth. Her lips parted almost immediately, her tongue eagerly slipping into her girlfriend’s mouth, mingling in a sensual dance with the other one.

Carol slid her leg upwards, her knee making contact with Therese’s crotch, eliciting a needy moan from her, grinding against her source of pleasure, hoping to increase it. “No idea, how?” she sassed.

In response, Therese put Carol’s hand out of her shirt, guiding it to the lower part of her body, tucking it under her jeans and panties. “Does this answer your question?” she panted against Carol’s mouth.

Carol growled when she felt the warmth. She cupped Therese’s mound, moving her fingertips, coating them with the woman’s arousal. “Jesus, Therese.” When her girlfriend parted her legs, she didn’t waste a second to glide her fingers along her slit, spreading her wetness.

The room was filled with contained noises coming out from the women and the soft scrape of their clothes’ friction whenever they moved as they worked to get rid of them until a sound resonated over them making them stop dead in their tracks, parting away from the breathtaking kiss they were exchanging.

“Mommy!” Despite sounding muffled thanks to a closed-door, her voice was wobbly.

The fasten footsteps towards their room was enough to sober them up, putting them in action ─ Carol, who at some point had straddled Therese, moved away from her, taking her spot on her side of the bed, both quickly fixing their clothes just in time the bedroom door opened. Like two teenagers that had taken advantage of a house alone only to be disappointedly surprised by the return of the parents of one of them.

Carol cleared her throat before speaking. “Rindy, sweet pea, what’s the matter?”

Therese looked at Carol impressed, running her hand through her hair in an attempt to smooth it. If it wasn’t for the fact that she had been part of it, she wouldn’t know Carol was sexually frustrated because she sounded and looked perfectly pulled together.

Luckily, Rindy was too young and worked up to pay attention to such details. “There are monsters in my room, mommy!” She hurried to climb the bed, settling between the women.

Carol sighed inwardly. Harge had warned them about it. Apparently, during one of the days under his care, Rindy had been watching a children’s channel but as the night hours arrived, the cute, innocent, and silly programmation was left behind, giving way to shows that were for kids with a little more awareness of what was real or not. Harge didn’t notice it until Rindy screamed after watching something scary. Carol didn’t blame the man for the mishap, it was practically impossible to be completely attentive to what a kid does, especially when you had things to do; but at that moment, needing to blame someone, she cursed her ex-husband.

“Sweet pea, I promise you there are no monsters,” she said patiently, though it was the last thing she was feeling at the moment after the interruption.

“But I heard noises, mommy.” She hugged Carol by the waist, burying her face on her stomach.

Therese felt her heart clenching at the image. When she raised her gaze, Carol was looking at her, this time not containing her sigh. “All those are normal noises, baby,” Carol reassured, stroking her daughter’s hair.

Rindy, unconvinced, shook her head without lifting it. “Can I stay with you?”

Therese knew which Carol’s answer would be when she noticing her body tensing, her eyebrow furrowing and although she was on the same page with her wanting to be alone and resume what had been interrupted, Therese didn’t think that rejecting the child’s petition was the best way to go for reassurance. She would never believe Carol was a bad mother, all the opposite, but she was trying to sort the situation with logic when in Therese’s opinion, something else was necessary.

“What if we chase the monsters away, Rindy?” she intervened just when Carol was opening her mouth. The two people who had become Therese’s favorites and most important in her life turned to look at her. One was curious and confused, the other incredulously puzzled but since there was anything kind of comment mocking her, she continued. “When I was in the orphanage, I also believed there were monsters around so I was recruited by a group of people who helped me to deal with them,” she lied about the people helping her because going through the same phase Rindy was now it had been a reality.

“What did you do?” Rindy wondered bashfully, straightening herself from her position into a seated one.

“Ah, ah, ah.” Therese shook her index finger in negative. “This is a secret. Only monster hunters can know about the process.” She took a deep breath, adopting a professional attitude. “So Miss Rindy Aird, I’m aware you are a strong and brave girl, I wouldn’t share this with you otherwise, are you willing to fight monsters and protect those who might be in the same position you are now?”

Rindy looked at her mother, who was as confused as her, but nevertheless, the woman nodded when her daughter sought her approval because she trusted Therese. “Yes …” she sounded hesitating but Therese believing she was right for the job injected her with courage.

Therese grinned. “Wonderful. Now, for your first time in the job, we are going to use my equipment. After this, you’ll have yours.” She stood up, heading through the bathroom.

Mother and daughter remained in the bed, listening to the woman opening and closing the cabinets doors, and the faucet several times. After a couple of minutes, she appeared with a belt that she had placed across her chest instead of her waist, some spray bottles filled at different levels hanging from it. The cherry on top of her ready-for-the-battle image was one of her headband tied up around her head at the forehead’s height.

Carol had to purse her lips to not laugh though her entire self burst with love for that woman, starting to understand what she wanted to do.

Therese walked back to the bed, sitting on the edge. “This is a serious responsibility, Miss Rindy. Once you accept to be a monster hunter, there’s no way back. Are you sure you want to do this? I’ll always be with you whenever you need me to help you though.”

Rindy was looking at Therese as if she was facing an entirely different person but who immediately won her admiration. “Yes, yes. I’m sure.”

To seal the deal, Therese nodded seriously but with her eyes, she was smiling at the time she put Rindy her own headband in the same way she was wearing hers. “Then let’s deal with those monsters and let them know they aren’t welcomed into our home.” The little girl didn’t doubt to take Therese’s hand when the woman offered it, helping her to get out of the bed, almost trembling with excitement now that she counted with someone to help her deal with her problems.

Carol watched them heading to leave the room, not following them though she was tempted, but she was unsure of yielding to her desires when Therese didn’t say anything about it, not knowing how the young woman preferred to deal with this until she stopped before leaving the room to wink at her and then make a gesture with her head so she followed them, immediately setting her in motion.

 


 

Carol was a mere spectator. But being part of the moment filled her with an inexplicable joy.

She stayed on the doorframe of Rindy’s bedroom, watching her girlfriend telling her daughter the process they would do to get rid of those monsters. The woman would be the one chasing the monsters away by spraying the ‘special’ water while politely asking them to leave. “But why if they don’t want to leave even if we asked them, Therese?” Rindy had inquired worriedly. “That’s why we use the water. The water would always make them leave even if they don’t want to, but we can’t lose our manners, Miss Rindy.

Therese didn’t leave a single spot unchecked, explaining to Rindy which were the monsters’ favorite places to stay: the closet, under the bed and desk, behind the curtains. Once she was done, the little girl would be the one verifying if the process worked by checking the places where she believed the monsters had been.

When Therese finished her task, she walked towards Carol while Rindy started hers, finding the woman looking at her with immeasurable adoration, causing her to blush. Carol took her beloved’s hand, squeezing it with affection. “That was incredible.”

Therese shrugged. “I’m just trying to make her feel safe and remind her that she’s brave.”

“I’m pretty sure it worked.” Her eyes left the woman’s face to look at her daughter, who was laying down on her belly to check under the bed with an expression full of determination. “I would have never thought of doing something like this,” she admitted regretfully.

“You are an amazing mother, Carol. Doing certain things or not, doesn’t change that fact.” She smiled sweetly. Carol smiled back, showing her gratitude in the gesture and this time Therese squeezed her hand in acknowledgment.

Carol tugged Therese closer to hug her, resting her head against hers while they waited for Rindy.

“What would be your review, Miss Rindy?” Therese asked without moving away from her position once the little girl walked to them.

The women held their breaths, waiting for the answer, feeling relieved when Rindy grinned. “It worked!”

“Of course it worked, sweet pea.” Carol, though didn’t want to, break the hug to take Rindy in her arms. “We have an expert on the subject. Those monsters didn’t stand a chance.” She kissed her daughter’s cheek, who giggled.

“Thank you so much, Therese.” Her look mirrored the one Carol had given Therese a moment ago. “And thanks to you too, mommy.” She wrapped her arms around her neck when she looked at her. “For bringing Therese to our lives.”

Carol and Therese’s eyes watered with emotion. “Oh, sweetheart. I’m the one who should be giving thanks for the fact that she wanted to be part of my life. We both should thank whoever or whatever it’s necessary for putting her into our lives.”

Therese walked to them, hugging each with one arm. “It seems like all of us should be thanking whoever or whatever for bringing us together.” She kissed Rindy’s cheek and then Carol’s shoulder with a smile that grew when the little girl wrapped an arm around her too.

Rindy accepted to stay in her bed when they asked her, no longer feeling afraid so Carol tucked her in, both women kissing her forehead once she was settled. Once the adrenaline wore off, the little girl was deeply asleep before they left her room.

 


 

“Was it true?” Carol asked once they were back in their bedroom.

“What?” Therese looked confused.

“That in the orphanage someone helped you as you did with Rindy,” she whispered.

“Oh no.” She chuckled. “That was a lie. People aren’t really caring there. For them, if you were fed and healthy, then it’s enough and there’s no reason for you to complain.”

Carol’s heart broke a little after hearing those words, imagining Therese feeling lost when there was no one there to comfort her against her fears. The fact that Therese grew up without having that example and still had developed it naturally dwelled in Carol, prompting her to rush to her girlfriend’s direction to take her in her arms, hugging her tightly, burying her face in the crook of her neck.

“Uff!” Therese huffed, taken aback by the action. “Carol?” she asked with concern when her girlfriend sniffed.

But there wasn’t a single tear when Carol pulled back to look at her. “You are the most amazing woman I’ve ever met.” Her voice was dripping with love and admiration.

“Oh! Well … uhm …” She was blushing. “Thank you?” She furrowed her eyebrows with confusion. It wasn’t like Carol didn’t compliment her but she was usually aware of the reason why. This time she couldn’t understand where this was coming from.

Carol chuckled, then leaned down to kiss the woman’s lips softly before making her way to her neck, not bothering to explain herself when she was more interested to resume what had been unintentionally interrupted. Though this time, her intention was no longer to demonstrate her unbridled passion for the other woman, now she wanted to show Therese how much she loved her, how her love for her grew day by day.

 

IV.~

 

Therese was apprehensive.

That was why she was bouncing one of her legs while she, along with her partner, waited outside the principal’s office, until Carol placed a hand on her thigh to stop her, giving her a warning look that made her lower her head like a scolded child.

Both had been working when Carol received the phone call from Rindy’s school, asking for her and Harge’s presence. However, the man couldn’t join Carol since he was on a business trip, which is why the woman had requested Therese to tag along, needing someone to act as a buffer and stop her in case she acted defensively or offended since Carol wasn’t always calm when she felt ambushed.

They didn’t count with details of what had happened since the principal hadn’t given Carol much information beyond telling her that Rindy had struck one of her schoolmates. For the women, who spent all the ride to the school in tense silence, was completely befuddling from the tender and calm image that characterized Rindy so their minds were getting filled with the worst scenarios to make her react aggressively.

Incoming steps drew the women’s attention in time to see a couple arriving. Most likely the parents of the other kid involved in this. The woman looked appalled while the man, who appeared more like the woman’s father instead of her husband, was frowning, growing more upset when he centered his attention on them.

There was no time for any kind of confrontation that the man seemed to have liked because soon enough, the office door was opening, revealing a middle-aged man that without doubt has been expecting them.

“Mr. and Ms. Allen. Ms. Ross. Miss Belivet. Come in.” He made a gesture towards the room with his hand. Carol and Therese stood up, entering behind the other couple, the door closing behind them.

Ms. Allen let out a shriek, hurrying to her child, wrapping him in what seemed to be a crushing hug. Carol was way more calmed, sitting next to the vacant chair next to Rindy, conducting an exam with her eyes to then brush her hair with her hand.

“Are you okay?” she whispered only for the child to hear, earning a nod though the little girl didn’t lift her head until she felt a hand squeezing her shoulder, her eyes widening when she found Therese smiling at her softly.

“Take a seat, please.” Everyone did it, except for Therese, who decided to stand behind Carol, feeling a sense of control in that way. Facing Mr. Allen, who screamed intolerance, sending her back to the times Harge didn’t accept her, made her feel defensive. “I would have liked to see you in better circumstances but─”

“What happened?” Mr. Allen interrupted with a grunt. “Losing my time here makes me lose money so let’s deal with it once and for all.”

The principal, Mr. Price, cleared his throat. “Right.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “According to their teacher and other witnesses, during break time, Liam went to Rindy. At first sight, it all looked innocent but after a moment he started harassing her ─ pulling at her hair, pushing her around, not respecting her attempts to put a distance, following her wherever she went and once she had enough, she resorted to violence.”

Both Carol and Therese closed their eyes, taking a deep breath in an attempt to control themselves.

When they were back at home, they knew the mother would definitely have a conversation with her daughter to make sure she knew that violence was never the answer but they would later admit to each other, that they were proud of Rindy for defending herself though it shouldn’t have to be necessary if parents raised their kids like decent human beings.

The tension could be cut with a knife though Mr. Allen laughter ended up doing it. “Is that all? You made us come here for something so stupid?” He laughed again, expecting the women to join him but his wife lowered her head while Carol and Therese frowned angrily.

“Mr. Allen, Liam’s conduct goes against all we stand in this school,” he said calmly though he could already imagine it wouldn’t help at all.

“Your school goes against boys being boys?” He raised an eyebrow, adopting a sarcastic attitude. “Because that’s the only thing the kid was doing.” He ruffled Liam’s hair as if he was applauding his actions. “So this is the girl you mentioned you liked that you asked me how to catch her attention? See how my advice worked?” His voice was conceited.

At that moment Therese’s mind went blank before Carol could react. She wouldn’t allow anyone to treat Rindy in any way that wasn’t fitting for someone who deserved the world offered to her.

“Bullshit.” Her voice was full of venom. Ms. Allen yelped, covering Liam’s ears though it was way too late, looking at her offended. “Oh, spare me your indignation!” She gestured to the woman. “Your child lives with a male chauvinist pig, hearing a bad word should be the least of your problems.”

The silence that followed was deafening.

Carol was in shock at Therese’s reaction. She could understand where she was coming from because she also felt the indignation after hearing the poor excuses that pathetic man was giving but she would have never imagined that the young woman would do something about it, that’s why she asked her to accompany her because Carol was usually the one who react without thinking when it came to her daughter.

“How dare you?” Mr. Allen finally reacted, face red with courage.

“How dare I? How dare you!” She turned her body to face the man once he stood up from the chair. “There are so many wrong things here that you are not even aware of. She is a child, she’s eight and not at all interested in boys or girls.”

“Ah, but she will be.” He downplayed the problem with a gesture with his hand, then he frowned. “Though who can be interested in girls when a boy is the one interested in them?” He snorted.

Therese’s anger only increased. “That’s problem number two. Neither you, and for the things I’ve seen from your kid’s upbringing, nor your child care for what she wants. She has a voice and the right to decide. And nobody has the right to force her to change her mind.”

He scrunched up his nose. “She’s just a child. Children have to follow what their parents say.”

Therese had to count to ten to stop herself from following Rindy’s steps and resort to violence. “She can talk, she can walk, she can eat, she can do several things adults do, and she better than anyone else knows what she wants or not. A parent guides, they don’t map their kids lives to their liking.” She suddenly smirked. “And even if Rindy’s parents were as close-minded like you I doubt they would tell their daughter to go out with your kid because one encounter with people like you … I wouldn’t be surprised to know the lesbian community starts growing.”

Carol’s eyes widened in awe. Never, during all their time together, Therese had reacted like this. Not even when Harge, at the beginning of their relationship, verbally attacked whenever they were in the same room she defended herself, meekly taking whatever the man said against her not wanting to make things worse for Carol so Rindy could keep visiting them. Though for her it was easy to understand why Therese was doing it now. Carol usually worked in the same way: not blinking twice when someone said things about her, but if they turned their vicious attacks to the people she loved, she was ready to fight.

Ego bruised, Mr. Allen tried to turn the situation into his favor. “I want them out of this school.” He pointed towards the women’s direction.

“Us?” Carol raised an eyebrow. “According to Mr. Price, it was your child’s conduct that goes against all they stand in this school, my daughter simply defended herself from his harassment since he couldn’t take a no for an answer.” She was poised. Apparently, their relationship did work with a balance and if her girlfriend had been the one venting, then it was her turn to act poisedly. Though she supposed it no longer mattered because Therese had said her piece and she agreed with all of it. “I do agree that my daughter deserves a punishment because violence is not the answer.” She looked at Rindy, who accepted her guilt by not looking away from her mother. “But I don’t know if I’ll allow my daughter to stay in a school where they turn a blind eye when someone gets harassed.”

“Believe me, Ms. Ross, we don’t accept such actions. If Liam is willing to apologize to Rindy, promising to change his behavior along with a suspension of a week, we would be willing to give him another chance.” He was relieved to see the woman nodding in acceptance.

“He doesn’t have anything to change!” Mr. Allen snarled.

“Just shut up already!” If there was something more surprising than Therese’s outburst, it was witnessing Ms. Allen’s but nobody looked more startled than her husband. “I’m done with you. You never cared for Liam when our relationship started, always complaining that he was too weak, too sensitive, too girly.” She hugged her son, an attempt to protect him from the memories of those times. “And in an attempt to win you over he started to act like you and asked for your advice. As if your attitude was the right one when his was already perfect.”

Carol and Therese exchanged a look while Carol raised her eyebrows and Therese shifted her weight on her legs, both women grimacing. It was awkward to be part of a lover’s quarrel, even more so when the part at fault decided to abandon the office in a fit of rage, slamming the door after claiming that he didn’t have to deal with that shit when the kid wasn’t even his.

Ms. Allen cleared her throat, embarrassed. “I apologize you had to see that.”

“It’s not your fault the man is an-” Carol stopped herself, sighing deeply. “Insert a word non-children rated.” That helped to relax the moment, making the adult chuckle.

“So, Ms. Allen, do you see Liam’s punishment fitting?” Mr. Price wondered.

“Of course, yes.” She would take advantage of the time during Liam’s suspension to move out, deciding that her marriage was over.

“And Ms. Ross, since you said Rindy deserves one too, what about three days of suspension?” The addressed woman nodded. “Well, then there’s only one thing left.” He smiled softly at Liam’s direction.

Ms. Allen squeezed her son’s shoulder in a supportive gesture. The boy shyly stood up to walking to where Rindy was. “I’m so sorry, Rindy,” he said sadly, his gaze on the floor.

She stood up too, wanting to be at the same height. “I forgive you. And I have to apologize too, hitting you was wrong.” She waited for Liam to raise his head to smile. “I would like to know the real you because according to what your mother said, it sounds like a pretty cool person.”

Carol and Therese could feel their chests bursting with pride, watching how Rindy’s words were capable of changing Liam’s stance, drawing a big smile on his face. “Really?”

“Totally!”

The adults stood up after Mr. Price joined his hands and with a smile told them that they could go.

“Will you be okay?” Carol asked Ms. Allen once they were outside the office, concern in her eyes.

“Oh.” She was surprised by such kindness. “Yes. He hardly spends time home but I’ll still move out and stay with my mother until I find an apartment.” She smiled, thankful.

“Here.” Carol pulled a card out of her purse, holding it with two fingers. “He’s my lawyer and who dealt with my divorce. Just mention you are a friend and he would turn into a shark during the process.”

“I-” She pursed her lips with emotion. “That’s very kind of you.”

“Yes, well.” She shrugged. “Us women have to stick with each other.” She winked.

Carol and Therese stayed behind while the group headed towards the exit. “Do you carry Fred’s cards on your purse just because?” She raised an eyebrow.

She wrapped an arm around Therese’s waist. “You never know when a poor woman would need to be freed from a male chauvinist pig, angel,” she said seriously but when she looked at her girlfriend, the amusement was clear in her eyes, making the young woman laugh.

 


 

Rindy was sure the moment they were alone, her mother would scold her for her actions but it hadn’t happened. The ride home had been oddly quiet but not in an uncomfortable way. In fact, Carol even made a quick stop in a fast-food restaurant that was on the way. It felt like she was being rewarded though Rindy was well aware that wasn’t the case. The way her mother had pronounced the words in the principal’s office made it very clear that she wasn’t happy with the way she dealt with the situation.

So the little girl was wary, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When it did, it wasn’t in the way she expected.

Each woman was carrying a bag with their food, heading towards the kitchen once they were home, Rindy following their steps after dropping her backpack on one of the couches, not waiting for Carol’s request to set the table, she worked on the task.

A few minutes later after they were sitting at the table and started eating, Carol finally broke the silence. “If you are expecting to be grounded, you won’t be.”

Rindy looked at her mother with incredulity. “No?”

Carol sighed. “Of course not. What kind of mother would ground their kid when they were defending themselves?” She rubbed her forehead. “I know the message is clear to you, violence is not the answer, and whenever it’s possible it has to be avoided.” She looked at Rindy, waiting for the confirmation, receiving several nods. “I want you to try to talk with your teachers or whatever authority figure first.”

“I will, mom,” she promised.

Carol nodded. “All right. That’s that.”

Therese smiled lopsidedly, then she licked her lips. If they were dealing with the subject, there was something that had been swirling in her mind. “I would like to apologize to both of you for the way I reacted.”

They turned to look at her, Carol frowning and Rindy blinking in confusion. “Whatever for?” Carol asked.

Therese looked puzzled, believing it was obvious. “Well, for everything? I shouldn’t have reacted without thinking, saying bad words in front of the children.”

“Having me as her mother and Abby as her godmother, Rindy is more than used to bad words.” She smirked. “But after spending a whole month grounded when she cheekily decided to say one, I think she’s more than aware that she shouldn’t say them even if she hears them coming from someone close to her.”

Rindy snorted. “Yep.” She popped the ‘p’ as if a bubble gum had burst. Carol smiled pleasantly.

Therese chuckled. “Then for venting.” She sighed deeply.

“But Therese, that was so awesome!” Rindy said before Carol could do it. “I mean, I was expecting that reaction from mom and it was totally unexpected, but it was still so awesome.” She smiled fondly. “It’s pretty great to know there are people in my corner.”

“Oh sweetie, I’m always in your corner.” She covered Rindy’s hand with hers. “Even when I don’t make scenes that are totally out of character for me like the one I did today. But I still-”

“Darling,” Carol decided to stop her rambling, “the young lady has spoken. Besides, I agree with her. What you did was, quoting my daughter, so awesome.” Her smile was big, her expression demonstrating the admiration she felt.

“Well, that’s that,” Therese said with a blush, unable to stop the happy smile that curved her lips.

 

V.~

 

The silence was excruciating.

Two pairs of eyes were looking at Therese, both in shock but one was also laced with panic, while her gaze was nailed on the misfortune that occurred seconds ago.

It had been an accident, Therese was aware of it but it didn’t diminish the pain she was feeling at such loss, knowing there was no way the camera could be recovered. Not even people who worked on assembling them could manage a miracle like that.

“T-Therese, I’m so so sorry,” Rindy’s trembling voice, at the verge of tears, broke the silence.

There was a tense pause where Carol was tempted to say something because it was getting uncomfortable when Therese beat her. “It was an accident.” Her voice was devoid of emotion, her eyes still looking at the broken camera.

“True.” But she knew she shouldn’t be running inside the house, Carol has scolded her several times for it, pointing more emphasis about being careful in the living room. “I’m still so sorry about it.”

Therese closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. “I know you are.” She lifted her head to smile at the little girl in an attempt to reassure her. Carol knew her smile was forced but Rindy smiled shakily so it worked its purpose. At least until Therese’s next words. “I have to go. I’ll be back in a few hours.” Deep down she knew that reacting the way she was doing it for a broken camera was an exaggeration but her emotions were getting the best of her.

Carol could understand Therese’s behavior. She sometimes had been hurt by a loved one’s actions and she raised her walls to not lash against them. However, as Rindy’s mother, it was hard to witness her partner doing it towards her.

“Wha-where are you going?” Once again, Rindy’s voice sounded a little frenetic.

“I have to go back to work.” She looked around for her things, disoriented. “There are some things I need to do.”

Carol stood on the horns of a dilemma. Part of her wanted to let Therese go, give her the time to cool down so things didn’t escalate; on the other, she didn’t want her to leave so this could be dealt with once and for all. “What about the food?”

“You two eat. I’m not that hungry yet. I will be back before dinner though.” She smiled stiffly. Nevertheless, she kissed Carol’s cheek and Rindy’s head before heading towards the front door, closing it softly, not giving any kind of signal about the conundrum she was experiencing, but the sound against the silence felt uproarious.

Rindy turned at Carol with her gaze on the floor but when the little girl lifted her head to look at her mother, the tears she was holding back set free. “Oh, sweet pea.” Carol opened her arms to receive her daughter, who threw herself at them.

“She hates me, mommy,” she managed to say between her weeping, hiding her face on the juncture of Carol’s neck once the woman picked her up, settling her on her lap.

“She doesn’t hate you, sweetheart,” she clarified once Rindy calmed down a bit. “But you have to understand that she’s upset.” She brushed Rindy’s hair with her fingers. “That camera was really important to her.”

“She has a lot of cameras though.” She revealed her face, wiping her nose with the back of her hand.

“That’s correct, but this had an emotional meaning for her.” She helped to clean her daughter’s face.

“Why?” She tilted her head to the side.

“Maybe you should ask Therese that question.” She smiled softly.

“Will she come back?” she asked apprehensively, fumbling with her hands.

Carol sighed deeply, pursing her lips. She was tempted to call Therese, demanding her to come back to fix this mess. “She loves you, sweetheart. Of course she will.” She kissed Rindy’s forehead, keeping her lips against it for a few seconds with her eyes closed.

 


 

“I’m so very sorry.” Carol looked at the young woman through the vanity’s mirror. She had listened to her arrival but decided to wait until Therese came to her. She was looking down at the floor, guiltiness pouring out of her, but she raised her head to make eye contact once she kept talking. “I acted like an idiot.”

“Yes, you did.” She wouldn’t pretend. Therese closed her eyes, wiping a wandering tear with a hand. Carol sighed. She wouldn’t torture her either, knowing the woman was already doing it by herself once she was able to sober up. “But I understand, Therese. I didn’t like it but I can understand it.”

“But Rindy doesn’t, she whispered anxiously. “She’s a little human being with emotions and I acted like an asshole with her for a goddamn camera!”

She smiled humorlessly. “She knows it was important for you.”

Therese’s frowned. “No more than her. A material thing will never be more important for me than her,” she claimed fervently.

Carol would hate to admit Therese’s words melted her, which is why she would never do it. “Perhaps you should tell her that.” She stood up from her spot, heading towards her girlfriend. “I talked to her after you left, but I think she’ll only be completely reassured if you do it.”

She nodded, looking somewhat lost. “Do you forgive me?” Her eyebrows furrowed with worry.

Carol was confused. “I have nothing to forgive, Therese.”

“Of course you do.” She gulped nervously. “I made your daughter feel bad.” She lowered her head when her eyes filled with tears. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you spent all afternoon wondering what you are doing with a person who treats your daughter like this.”

Carol held Therese’s chin with her thumb and index finger, softly lifting her head. “You acted like a human. I was upset with you but I was also upset with Rindy because she knew what I think about running inside the house and she still did it.” She brushed Therese’s tears away when they began to spill. Inwardly, she smirked. She would have never imagined that her day would consist of comforting her two loves at different times of the day.

“But I-” she tried, only to be quickly interrupted by Carol.

“You think I don’t get upset with Rindy when she does something I don’t like?” She raised an eyebrow. “You think I would believe you don’t have the right to get upset when she does something that affects you only because she’s not your child?” She looked concerned. “I was convinced that I’ve done a good job making you feel accepted in our relationship for you to be yourself.”

“What?” Therese was shocked. “Of course you have!” She took Carol’s hands with hers, squeezing tightly. “I’ve never felt accepted or welcomed into someone’s family until you came to my life.”

“Then why would you believe I would spend the afternoon contemplating you are not the right person for us?” She narrowed her eyes. “Have you forgotten the fact that I chose to live my life being who I am with you rather than pretending to be someone who I’m not but staying with my daughter?”

Therese turned red. “No, I could never forget that.” She always felt equally honored as guilty by Carol’s decision.

She nodded with a tender smile. “However, I would prefer not to go through that kind of situation ever again. I want to have the two people I love the most in my life.”

Nodding eagerly, she quickly soothed her girlfriend’s concerns. “You won’t ever have to choose.” She hugged Carol by the neck. “I promise you.” She relaxed when Carol’s arms encircled her waist.

“Thank you,” she whispered, closing her eyes at the relief she felt.

“I will be right back.” She chastely kissed the other woman’s lips, slowly pulling away from the embrace, giving her a reassuring smile before turning away, leaving their room.

 


 

Therese knocked on the ajar door of Rindy’s bedroom, poking her head out before getting an answer. “Hey there.” She smiled shyly. “Can I come in?”

“Therese!” She stood from her desk, where she was doing her homework. “Yeah!”

The woman entered the room, looking around with hesitation, almost as if she was waiting to be thrown out. “Can I speak with you?”

“Are you still angry with me?” she asked with a weak voice.

Therese blinked at the little girl, incredulous. “No, of course not.” She took Rindy’s by the waist to sit her at the edge of the bed, then she squatted in front of her, keeping her balance by placing her hands next to Rindy’s body. “I was never angry, I was just truly overwhelmed.”

“Mom said that the camera was truly special for you.”

Therese nodded. “Yes, that’s right.”

“Can you tell me why?” She pouted adorably.

Therese chuckled at the adorable gesture. “Sure. You know that I grew up in an orphanage so we never received exclusive gifts. When someone was kind enough to make a donation, we had to share them between all of us.” She waited for Rindy’s affirmation. “So that camera was the first present I’ve ever received in my life, just for me.” She lowered her gaze for a moment, a melancholic smile curving her lips. “And it came from your mother.”

Rindy’s eyes widened before her expression turned sad. “Oh, Therese, I’m so very sorry.”

“Hey, it’s okay.” She sat next to her, hugging her before the little girl’s guiltiness grew. “It was a very important thing for me, I can’t deny that. But something material would never beat what you mean to me.”

“Does that means you still like me?” she couldn’t help but ask, wanting to be sure.

Therese pulled back to look down at Rindy, who looked up after the action, worried that the woman would leave. “Are you kidding? I adore you!”

Rindy blushed pleasantly. “And you still love me?” She smiled gingerly.

This time she did break the hug to take Rindy’s face in her hands to make eye contact. “I want you to remember this every single day of your life ─ as you grow up, you will develop more personality and there will be days where you will get angry with me or days when I will be the one upset with you. It’s like it happens with your mother where sometimes we are not on the same page. But there’s nothing you could do or say that would stop me from loving you,” she assured with deep sincerity. “Understood?”

Rindy’s eyes filled with happy tears while she nodded. Carefully, she shifted on the bed to kneel without pulling away from Therese, launching herself at the woman, her arms wrapping around her neck. The unexpectancy of the motion took Therese aback, making it easy for Rindy to tackle her down on the bed. Therese’s laughs filled the room, Rindy’s giggles quickly joining the picture.

That’s how Carol found them minutes later, wondering why Therese was taking so long and wanting to make sure everything was okay ─ her girlfriend with one arm wrapped around the small body while she played with the dark blonde locks with her other hand.

The image made her heart somersault with happiness and love.

Stepping inside the room, she noticed that Rindy had fallen asleep cuddling the young woman, who hadn’t been for the motions of her hand, Carol would have wondered if she was sleeping too since her eyes were closed, her breathing relaxed.

When the women’s eyes met, they smiled lovingly at each other, any kind of worry disappearing from their memories.

Carol helped Therese to move Rindy away from her without waking her, both working to tuck her in, placing a respective kiss on the girl’s head before leaving the room quietly, holding hands.

 

I.~

 

It was well known that Christmas was the favorite holiday in the Ross-Belivet home. Not every year was it possible for Rindy to spend it with them but that year, they were blessed with the girl’s presence and whenever that happened, the women’s Christmas’ spirit arrived the moment she stepped inside the house. Having the chance to go shopping and decorate the house with her made the holidays more magical for them.

Christmas Eve was exclusive for the three of them when Rindy was with them, following the traditions they had developed over the years ─ they didn’t have a huge dinner that day, instead, together they prepared the food for the next day when they would welcome Abby, the other member of their small family, to then play video games and watch movies until it was time to go to bed.

Normally, Carol and Therese loved to sleep in when they were on vacations but by now, they were used to the fact that on Christmas day, when Rindy was with them, it was practically impossible so by the time the girl opened their bedroom door, claiming that it was time to open the presents, they were already awake, even having the time to cuddle and exchange several kisses while they waited for the interruption.

Never bothering to change until it was time to get ready since Abby would arrive in the afternoon with her partner, the three of them went to the living room in their pajamas, though Therese, always chilly, took her bathrobe, putting it on while they make their way to their destiny.

“Oh darling, you are a true blessing,” Carol said to Rindy when she saw three cups on the coffee table. Two hot chocolates and a coffee.

“Come on, Mom, it’s a tradition by now.” She still smiled when her mother kissed her cheek.

“Traditions or not, you are a fantastic daughter and I’ll let you know whenever it’s possible.”

Therese smiled tenderly at the image, sitting down on one of the three cushions that Rindy had placed between the Christmas tree and the table. Once she was settled, she offered Carol her hand to take for balance so she could sit down, which the woman did, with her legs to the side while Rindy kneeled on the cushion.

The young woman reached for Carol’s coffee to hand the cup to her, ending up taking hers afterwards since Rindy couldn’t wait and took hers on her own. Therese closed her eyes, relishing the delicious smell of the chocolate before taking a sip, missing the way mother and daughter exchanged a look and a secretive smile, then Carol nodded.

“Okay, this time you will be the first receiving your presents, Therese,” Rindy announced.

Therese opened her eyes with surprise. “Oh?” Expectedly, it was always Rindy who wanted to go first, eager to find out what they had gotten for her. “Are you sure?”

“Yep.” She beamed a smile. This time she was eager for something else first.

“All right.” She left her cup back on the table, then rubbed her nose. “I’m ready.”

Rindy got on all fours towards the tree’s direction, pushing some of the presents away until she found the one she was looking for. Back to her previous position, she held the wrapped present against her chest, suddenly adopting a hesitating attitude. “I-I hope you like it.”

“I love every present you have given me, sweetie,” she reassured her, feeling confused because Rindy had never behaved like this.

“This is very different …” She nibbled her lower lip. “You’ll understand once you see it.” She took a deep breath before handling Therese the present.

The young woman took it, admiring the wrapping paper for a few seconds in which she tried to find out what it was to then work on unwrapping it. Without pausing her task, which she always took time because she never wanted to ruin the paper, she raised her gaze, smiling at the people who were looking at her expectantly. She might have not slept too well because she was getting the impression that they looked a little apprehensive too. The package was thin and when it was revealed that it was a string envelope, Therese imagined that there were some of Rindy’s drawings since the girl preferred to give them something she made instead of asking them for money because in that case, using her own words, the gift wasn’t coming from her.

How wrong she was.

Opening it, she pulled out several sheets of paper and once she noticed there were words on them, she started to read them. “Oh my god …” she gasped after a moment even though she wasn’t done but she had read enough to know what this was, voice cracking as her eyes filled with tears. Her eyes abandoned the words to look up, finding Carol smiling at her endearingly and Rindy’s eyes were filled with emotion like hers. “You want me to adopt you?”

“Only if you want to.” Not needing to stand up, Rindy slid closer to her. “You have been my mother all this time. I wanted to make it official.”

Therese covered her mouth with her free hand, stopping herself from sobbing but she couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. “I-I don’t know what to say.” It wasn’t like she didn’t like the idea but she never imagined happening. Rindy had two parents and even when her relationship with Harge was cordial, she couldn’t see him agreeing to Therese legally becoming an extra parent for the girl.

“It would be great if you end with this expectation and say yes or no.” Rindy chuckled, her nervousness increasing by the fact that she wasn’t getting an answer.

Suddenly Therese turned her head to look at Carol. “Are you okay with this?”

“If you had continued reading, you would have found out that I’m very okay with it.” She took a sip of her coffee. “Also Harge,” she added, nonchalantly.

Therese’s eyes widened, moving her lips several times without saying anything before she finally skimmed through the documents, stopping when she saw Carol and Harge’s signatures. This time there was no way to stop her sobs. During all her childhood she so badly wanted to be adopted and now in her adulthood, it was finally happening. She might be the one adopting someone (because of course she would accept) but it felt like they were adopting into their family.

Carol moved towards Therese after smiling at her daughter, leaning her forehead against her girlfriend’s temple. “Rindy’s right, angel,” she whispered in Therese’s ear. “You’ve been her mother all this time and Harge agrees with it. You have helped us in taking care of her, looking out for her, teaching her, and correcting her. You’ve helped us raise her. You are her mother,” she affirmed, kissing the woman’s temple. “It was Rindy’s idea to go for it, though. I’ve always wanted to, god, there’s nothing I wanted more, but it was she who brought the subject with me first.”

Slowly, Therese lifted her head. She smiled shyly at Carol but right away she looked at the girl that was still kneeling in front of her, waiting on pins and needles. “Being your mother would be a huge honor, Rindy. And the fact that you consider me adequate for the role-” She sniffed, clearing her throat when it cracked with emotion. Before continuing, she looked around, exclaiming when she saw the pen she was looking for, reaching for it. Goofily smiling at Rindy, she signed the papers, her smile growing bigger when she listened to the girl’s gasp. “There are no words to express how ecstatic I am at this moment.” Her eyes softened when she looked back at Rindy, whose beaming smile would always be forever engraved in Therese’s mind and heart.

Not waiting for Carol to move away, the girl bounced towards Therese to hug her. “I love you, mama.”

Therese closed her eyes, reveling in the word, tightening her hold around her daughter’s body. She was convinced her heart would burst with love at any second. Her eyes filled with tears again. “Oh, baby, I love you too. So so much.” She turned her head to kiss her cheek.

Carol selfishly gave them a moment before interrupting, loving the happily intoxicated sensation it caused in her. “Now, my gift won’t be as amazing as our daughter’s.” Her loves pulled away but this time, Rindy didn’t go back to her seat, preferring to sit next to Therese. “And it’s not like I had the intention to beat it, but here you go, my angel.” She was holding another string envelope with two fingers but this was way smaller and it wasn’t wrapped.

Since Carol didn’t move further, Therese rolled her eyes reaching for it. Feeling a little confident that it wasn’t possible for her to be more surprised than she already was, she didn’t waste time opening it, fishing inside with her index finger to pull out an engagement ring. She looked at the jewel while her heart pumped against her chest, her breathing echoing in her ears. Open-mouthed, Therese looked at the woman incredulously.

Carol had bent one leg, using it to support her arm, smiling charmingly at her direction. “So what do you think about making our family official in every possible way?”

Therese was speechless that she could only blink a few times. “What’s this, the year of trying to give me a heart attack or something like that?” she blurted stupidly once her brain stopped feeling too overwhelmed. Though after her words, it was debatable.

The woman pretended to think for a moment, tapping her chin with a finger before her, along with Rindy, confirmed her words jokingly in a series of “definitely, absolutely, that was our plan all along.

Chuckling, Carol kneeled in front of Therese, who was following her movements by instinct, still too shocked with all that was happening. Daintily she retrieved the ring from Therese’s hold with one hand, taking her left hand with the other one. Her eyes had been following her actions but when she was done, she made eye contact with the other woman, finding her looking at her in wonder. “Therese Belivet, I can’t imagine my life without you in it. Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Everything in her screamed confidence but when she licked her lips, she revealed her nervousness.

“Yes.” At least this time her brain recovered faster. The tears and her dimple showing her happiness were equally fast. “Of course I will.” Carol relaxed and a happy chuckle left her mouth as she slid the ring on Therese’s ring finger. “I love you, Carol.”

The woman’s response came in the form of Carol cupping Therese’s face with both hands first, leaning down to kiss her leisurely but keeping in mind that Rindy was present, she kept the kiss for general audiences. “I love you, angel,” she muttered against her lips before wrapping her arms around her upper body, resting her chin on Therese’s shoulder.

Rindy didn’t take long to join them. All of them using one arm to hug each of their loved ones.

Sandwiched in the hug, Therese sighed deeply, looking down at the adoption paper that rested on her lap and the ring on her finger. “I no longer want to give you your presents. They are nothing compared to this.”

“Mmm.” Carol nuzzled her cheek against her fiance’s (oh, what a wonderful word) hair. “You are the most breathtaking gift someone could get. And we are lucky to have it every day of our lives. I personally have enough with that.”

Rindy nodded at her words but after a few minutes, she could no longer hold herself back. She moved away, the action causing the women to look in her direction. “I do want my presents though.” She looked so serious that her mothers couldn’t help but laugh.

“Of course, sweet pea,” Carol said amusedly, pulling away so Rindy could search for her gifts.

As their daughter, they would always give Rindy priority, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t give attention to each other while doing it, as it proved when, after exchanging a meaningful and playful look, Carol sat behind Therese, a leg to each side of the woman’s body, hugging her by the waist.

As Carol rested her chin on her future wife’s shoulder one more time, Therese stroked her forearms, both observing the way Rindy’s eyes filled with enthusiasm at every present she opened to then turned their head to each other, wanting to share their happiness. Their smitten smiles and tender kisses complementing the picture of the perfect family they had created.