“How long have we've been together? A year now?” Jamie asked as she leaned back in bed, watching Dani pull clothing items out of the wardrobe, giving each and every one of them a silent critical once-over.
“Eighteen months,” Dani huffed with a displeased look on her face, one quick glare back at Jamie before she turned back to the clothes.
“Like I said, a long fucking time. It's beginning to be a bit weird that I haven't met your mother yet.”
“I love you, that's why you haven't been forced to endure my mother.” Dani sighed, deeply, placing a blue shirt back on its hanger.
“I admit she sounds a bit like a-” Jamie said, but wasn't allowed to finish.
“You know I don't like that word,” Dani interrupted and gave her a warning look.
“You don't even know which word I was going to use.” Jamie smiled and inched closer to the edge of the bed and closer to Dani.
“Oh, I know,” she said with one carefully raised eyebrow.
“Anyhow. She can't be that bad, she gave birth to you, that's got to count for something,” Jamie insisted. “Besides it's for one evening.”
“Lets circle back to this conversation tonight,” Dani said with a look of 'I already know I'm getting to say I told you so' on her face.
“I've handled a lot of difficult people, I'm used to it.” Jamie shrugged casually, a gesture that turned awkward as she was leaning back with her hands behind her on the bed.
“Yes, you are the woman who yelled at a kid in the supermarket for chewing his gum too loudly.” Dani gave her the look of the woman who had to sort through the aftermath of that particular incident and many much like it.
“That was one time and I was actually really hungry.”
“Should I bring up your relationship with my postman?” Dani smiled as she held out a pencil skirt and eyed it suspiciously.
“He's a legitimate idiot though.”
“That may be true, but I'm not sure your way of 'handling difficult people' is going to make this situation run smoother.” Dani's eyes jumped between two outfits that had made the final cut and were now splayed out on the bed next to Jamie.
“So what can I expect? Truthfully?” Jamie asked and tore Dani's attention back towards her instead of the clothing options.
Dani sighed, suddenly looking a little defeated. “Well for one she's still convinced lesbian is something I'll grow out of.”
“When? You're thirty-two.”
“That's just the start of it. Did I tell you she texted me last week telling me my old boyfriend was single again?” She reached over and switched one blouse for another.
“No, and why would she do that?” Jamie scrunched up her face.
“Because she is still holding on to hope that I'll be Mrs O'Mara one day.”
“Christ,” Jamie exclaimed and shook her head. “So can I expect aggressive aggressive or passive aggressive?”
“Passive aggressive. I don't think she will actually say any of the things I think she feels outright. She's not the disowning type, she's the endless guilt trip into madness kind. She's not going to throw a slur at you, but she is going to give you such disproving looks you end up wanting to call yourself one.”
Smiling wickedly, she said, “So how do you think she would feel like if I took to calling her mum?”
“Please don't play with fire.” Dani furrowed her brow. “Which one do prefer? The dress or slacks and this blouse?”
“Bare legs with the dress?” Jamie asked, her forehead creasing as she seemed to imagine the ensemble.
“Is that a no?”
“That's a no.”
“Then they are both good options.” Jamie paused and tilted her head. “Your ass looks really good in those slacks though.” Her eyes had suddenly turned very dark and there was no question about whether her imagination was active or not.
“The dress then. Can't have you horny when you meet my mom for the first time.”
“I can control myself.”
“Sure, but you can't control your eyes.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“It means I know when I need to find a secluded place or become an exhibitionist.”
“I do have self-control,” Jamie scoffed with a displeased look.
“You assume I'm talking about you,” Dani said and took a step towards the bed.
Jamie smirked and scooted over to grab hold of Dani's sleep shirt. “I see, like this.” Dani leaned down and took her lips. Pulling apart briefly she added, “Like this exactly.” Before she pushed Jamie back into the bed and made quick work of joining her.
Dani had spent the entire car ride fretting. She was a natural born fretter and situations like this showcased her perfection in the art. As they now stood in front of the door to her childhood home she was reaching a crescendo of sorts. She had one hundred percent meant it when she said that the reason she hadn't introduced Jamie to her mother was because she loved her. Her mother could sap the will to live out of anyone. That's not something you willingly wanted to put the woman you loved through. But here they were. Sensing her discomfort Jamie reached over and took her hand, gently pulling it to her lips and giving it a brief kiss.
“It'll be okay, I promise,” Jamie said as her lips left Dani's skin.
Dani knew perfectly well that it probably wouldn't be, but she appreciated the attempt at making her feel better. Swallowing the lump in her throat she reached over and pressed the doorbell. Quick steps could be heard from the other side and the door swung open to reveal her mother in all her glory.
“Danielle!” she exclaimed in a tone that made it sound like she hadn't seen Dani in ten years, at least. A small sense of guilt trickled into Dani's mind as she realised that there was a small kernel of truth in that, she hadn't actually seen her mother face to face in five or six months. Phone calls were easier, less draining, texting even better in that sense. And excuses to not go see her were so easy to come up with.
Karen stepped forward and wrapped her arms around her. The familiar perfume hit Dani's nostrils, strong and overpowering in its scent, but also...maybe not comforting, her relationship with her mother was too complicated for that, but it was familiar in a sense that was calming. But the kind of calm that inevitably would be followed by a storm. “Hi, mom,” she mumbled into hair that smelled of too much hairspray and a flowery shampoo.
As they pulled apart Karen gave her the full judgemental scrutiny that Dani had learnt to absolutely hate. “You look tired, baby. Everything alright?”
Dani looked at her and felt almost defeated. “Stressful week.” She swallowed all of the things she wanted to say, she swallowed the sense of not being enough that her mother always seemed to awaken in her. Compartmentalising she turned towards Jamie and reached out for her hand, needing an anchor. “Mom, this is Jamie.”
Karen took one half step back and the scrutinising eyes fell on Jamie instead, the older woman's brows furrowing and the corners of her mouth quirked in an expression that made Dani's stomach turn. Raising one eyebrow briefly Karen then extended her hand. “Karen, but you can call me Mrs Clayton.”
Jamie disentangled her own hand from Dani's and with an unperturbed expression on her face she reached over and shook Karen's hand. “Jamie-” She gave the hand a good squeeze. “And Jamie's fine.” The corner of her mouth turned into a small smirk, the kind that usually let Dani know there was trouble brewing.
“Come in out of the cold and I'll get us something to drink,” Karen said without a backwards glance as she disappeared into the house.
“I'm not sure what to think of your mother's decorating,” Jamie said from where she sat looking out at the living room from the point of view of the big soft floral patterned sofa.
“I think she got a bit stuck in the 80s and haven't ever truly left,” Dani admitted and sat down next to her.
“That would explain the sea of pastel.” Jamie paused and craned her neck around the room, making eye contact with a beast in the corner. “I'm not sure it explains the life sized ceramic jaguar though.” She nodded her head towards it.
“Don't bad mouth Clive, I love him.” Dani pushed her arm through Jamie's, needing as much closeness to her as possible to draw enough strength to handle her mother once she returned to the room.
“Oh great, there's a name for that aberration.”
“I used to have tea parties with him when I was a kid.”
“I can't decide if that's sad or adorable,” Jamie said and looked at Dani with an expression on her face that would suggest she leaned more towards thinking it was adorable.
“Here we go ladies,” Karen entered the room with a glass in each hand and both Dani and Jamie instinctively got up as she came closer. “Sangria for you,” handing a glass to Dani. “And virgin Sangria for the designated driver.”
Jamie looked suspiciously at the glass. “Actually, it's just orange juice,” Karen clarified.. “Why don't you take a seat as we wait for the others.”
“The others?” Dani paused with the glass halfway to her lips. “What others?” A nerve beneath her left eye began twitching involuntarily.
“Oh – didn't I tell you? I ran into Judy the other day and she seemed so down about Ralph's death, well one thing lead to another. So I invited her,” Karen said in a voice that made it sound like the most casual thing ever.
“Ralph died two years ago.” Dani commented with clenched jaws.
“So you see my concern.” Karen made a brief hand gestured to put emphasis on her words.
“Who else is coming?” Dani asked with eyes that had begun to take on the darkness of an approaching storm.
Karen sipped her drink lazily, taking her time answering. “Just Eddie. The poor boy was in town and according to his mother he's mending a broken heart, so I thought he could use an evening of distractions.”
Dani glared at her mother, Jamie silently chugged her orange juice and avoided eye contact with everyone except for Clive.
“You thought this was a good idea?” Dani cleared her throat. “First time you get to meet Jamie and you thought inviting half the O'Mara clan was the right thing to do?!”
“Don't be petty, honey. I'm sure Jamie don't mind, do you?”
Jamie wore the expression of an early Christian who had heard the story about Daniel, but still wasn't sold on the idea of Colosseum, wild animals and a locked gate. She glanced at Dani gingerly before giving a non-committal shrug. “It's fine. I don't mind.”
“You see.” Karen smacked her lips in a self-satisfactory manner and the storm in Dani's eyes seemed to come a little closer still.
Dani's back straightened in a way that to those who knew her well, meant nothing but trouble. Jamie's hand quickly came to rest on her thigh, an action that seemed to snap Dani out of it, but was met with a tight lipped response from Karen. Dani looked at her mother silently before she tilted her glass back and emptied it.
The doorbell took that moment to interrupt and Jamie mumbled, “thank fuck” under her breath.
As soon as Karen had left the room Dani turned towards Jamie. “I am so sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?”
“I- her,” she growled and pointed after her mother. “And now Judy and Eddie.”
“Dani, it's fine.” Jamie reassured her. “You did warn me. And honestly, I don't mind.”
“I mind though,” she sighed looking a little defeated. “You are my most important person and she – “
“You know it's you I love, not your mother, right?” Dani looked up at her, head tilted to the side. “Her being a dismissive - “
“Not that word!”
“Whatever she is or whatever she does, it's not on you.”
“I know, but I wish she'd at least acknowledge how much you mean to me.” Dani looked down at their entwined fingers. “And not invite my old ex-boyfriend in some extremely awkward match-making attempt.”
“You think that's what she's doing?” Jamie wondered with surprise in her voice.
“Yeah. I told you, she still thinks there is something that could be rekindled between us.” Another deep defeated sigh from Dani.
“I don't know how well compulsory heterosexuality burns, but she should probably get central heating instead,” Jamie quipped.
Dani laughed and leaned forward to give her a kiss. As the pulled apart Jamie said, “At least her sangria tastes nice”.
“So Jamie, what brought you here in the first place? Such a long way from England.” Judy was the one to finally break the awkward ice around them.
She swallowed and wiped her mouth on the napkin before she replied, “Me and my brother needed a bit of a fresh go of things after our gran died. We flipped a coin and went with it.”
“Just the two of you? What about the rest of your family?” Judy asked with genuine curiosity sparkling in her eyes.
“Haven't seen my mum since, Christ, can't really remember, I think I was seven or eight when she left. My older brother took the same route not long after. So it's been mostly me and Mickey and gran since then.”
“Your father?” Judy continued.
“Drank himself to an early grave a long time ago.”
Karen stared daggers at her and then turned to Eddie. “So, Eddie, how are things at work?”
“It's going great actually.” He smiled widely at her. “I finally landed that promotion I've been chasing the past two years.”
“I'm so proud of you,” Judy said and reached over to give his shoulder a little proud rub.
“We all are,” Karen added with a wide smile.
Dani's hand found it's way onto Jamie's thigh beneath, rubbing her thumb across the fabric of her slacks, giving a gentle squeeze before staying in place.
“It does feel good.” He looked a little bashful as the attention was entirely placed on him.
“What about you, Danielle? You still at that school?” Judy turned towards her and tilted her head.
“I am. It's a good place,” she glanced over at Jamie and smiled.
“I thought you were unhappy there?” Judy questioned.
Dani looked at her with a shocked expression, not entirely sure where that notion came from. “Not really. It can sometimes be hard, a lot of kids, and a lot of tiny bodies with huge emotions. But I like it.”
“I thought Eddie said something about you having a difficult time there?” Judy clarified.
Dani laughed. “Right out of College, yeah. But that was a long time ago.” She smiled softly so her words wouldn't sound as dismissive as she realised they might have come out.
“So what is it that you do, Jamie?” Judy who had seemed to hold monopoly on the conversation asked.
“I do a bit of landscaping with my brother.”
“Now you're being modest,” Dani said with an affectionate smile and Karen's expression seemed to sour again. “You run a business with ten employees.” The pride was unmistakable in Dani's voice.
Jamie shrugged. “Like I said, I do a bit of landscaping with my brother.”
“Can't be easy in this economy?” Judy looked at her softly with an expression of sincere sympathy.
Jamie looked at her for a second, warmed by the concern of what was virtually a stranger. “We get on alright. We've got a lot of steady work, a couple of schools and public buildings.”
“Oh, that how you two met?” Judy asked curiously with an awkward little wink at Dani. Eddie squirmed in his seat.
“It was,” Dani confirmed with a smile. “One of the kids threw his milk cartoon at her. Long story short, he got suspension and I got a date.”
“I still say you put the little shit up to it,” Jamie smirked at her.
Dani bit down on her lower lip to restrain her smile from growing too wide as she shook her head.
“Dani, would you get the green beans from the kitchen,” Karen interrupted with a dour look on her face.
“Sure mom.” She pushed her chair back and stood up a little too quickly and swayed in place as a flash of vertigo hit her.
“You okay there?” Jamie steadied her with her hands on her waist.
“Yes, but the wine hit harder on an empty stomach than it should have,” she said with a self-deprecating laugh. “It's fine.”
“Danielle,” Eddie's voice made her look up as she hadn't realised he'd followed her into the kitchen. He looked at her for a moment, seemingly weighing his options, before finally finding his voice again. “You know you don't have to play pretend with me.”
“Play pretend?” The alcohol was a nice little fog drifiting through her higher brain functions making it really difficult to comprehend what the hell he was talking about, it also gave her no desire to figure it out either. She knew getting drunk at her mother's place, during a dinner like this wasn't the best of ideas, but moments like this sort of made her happy she was well into buzzed territory.
“With your roommate. The whole overly affectionate thing is a little over the top.”
“Pretend what?” she asked and looked up at him with genuine bafflement.
“I know your mom can be a bit much with pressuring you to date and move on, but...you and your friend, with the touching and...”
“Oh, you think – you think we're pretending what exactly?” She carefully held her expression blank.
“I don't judge,” he offered, which really wasn't the answer Dani was looking for.
“That's good.” Mouth open having absolutely no idea where to take this discussion from this point onwards. “What aren't you judging?”
“All I'm saying is, don't lie to me, despite everything I still consider myself your friend.”
“That's good,” she repeated, but this time sounded less sure about whether or not it actually was good.
“I know you struggle with commitment,” he said.
She laughed until she realised he was actually being sincere.
“The way you broke it off before we were to get – “
She stared at him thinking she wasn't nearly drunk enough for this conversation, whatever the hell this conversation was.
“But I'm still your friend, Dani. You don't have to pretend like you're dating your friend just to –“
“Yeah, mom is waiting for the green beans.” She didn't actually run back to the dining room, but she walked with great determination and even greater speed.
After a very strange and very awkward dinner all four guests now crowded into the hallway trying to get their clothes on, making things even more strange and awkward as arms hit arms and knees jerked into knees in a way too small space.
“Danielle, honey. I told Eddie you would drive him to the train-station,” Karen dropped matter of factly and caused Dani to miss the sleeve of her coat, in turn smacking Jamie in the back with her hand.
As she stood there looking dumbfounded at her mother Eddie opened his mouth. “I told you, Mrs Clayton-”
“Call me Karen,” she interjected with a sugary smile.
“Karen. That's not necessary. I -”
Dani's jaws clenched and the storm was about to hit.
“It's fine, it's practically on the way. We'll take you,” Jamie quickly replied and gently pushed Dani towards the door before she had a chance to say something that might damage her relationship with her mother even further. “It was a lovely meal, Mrs Clayton. Thank you so much for the invitation.” Her entire demeanour the epitome of polite. She turned her head towards Judy and her expression softened a little into something that seemed much more sincere. “And nice meeting you too, Mrs O'Mara.”
“You too, honey.” The older woman took a step towards her and surprised Jamie by wrapping her arms around her. Looking a little shell-shocked Jamie stood there and stared as Judy then went on to pull Dani too into a full on bear hug. Dani stilled at first, but easily melted into the hug and returned it with gusto.
As the car door slammed shut Dani and Jamie gave a small wave goodbye to Eddie as he disappeared into the train-station.
“Well that was awkward,” Jamie said as she put the car in drive and took them back out into the street.
“What part? Dinner with my homophobic mother, or the part where we spent twenty minutes in a silent car with my ex-boyfriend being creepy in the backseat?” Dani asked and leaned to the side in the passenger seat so she could get a better look at Jamie's profile.
“Both,” she said with a strange popping emphasis on the B.
“So I'm entitled to my 'I told you so' now?” she said with a smile.
Jamie shook her head first, but then gave a nod. “Sure. You were right.”
Dani's phone beeped and as she looked down at it the smile fell from her face. Jamie looked over at her through the rear-view mirror. “What's wrong?”
“Eddie,” Dani said shaking her head with a disgruntled look on her face.
“What's wrong with him?”
“He missed the last train apparently,” she said and blew a raspberry.
Smiling Jamie briefly took her eyes off the road and looked directly at Dani.
“You know he did this on purpose.” Dani continued, her frustration having now turned into anger.
“Why would he do this on purpose?” Jamie asked trying to be the voice of reason.
“He 'accidentally' missed the last train and now he expects me to offer him to stay the night.”
“He thinks he's still got a shot,” Dani said with a low growl.
“He does know you're gay, right? And that I'm actually pretty invested in how you spend your nights.” Jamie looked a little confused.
“He's convinced I'm pretending to be gay and that I'm fake dating you.”
“Why would anyone fake a relationship?!” Jamie now looked even more confused.
“He thinks I'm afraid of commitment,” she sighed tiredly. “Ever since I broke off the engagement...he thinks...well when I first broke things off he thought I used being gay as an excuse. I thought he'd realised it wasn't, well not like he assumed at least. Apparently he still thinks it's a lie, that I've made up the gay part and now us being together is just a sham to stop my mom from pressuring me about dating.”
“None of that makes sense.”
“I don't get it either. I don't understand why he has such a hard time accepting it.”
Jamie sat silent for a moment. “That's a bit fucked up.” She glanced over at Dani. “But we can't just leave him there. Can we?”
“I know.” She sighed and looked down at the phone.
“You should offer him the couch,” Jamie commented after a few more seconds of silence.
Dani looked at her. “You're staying the night if I do.”
“Of course, I thought that was a given with or without ex-boyfriend on the couch.”
“Sometimes you want alone time.” Dani sounded a little insecure.
“When was the last time you slept alone?”
Dani thought about it, but couldn't come up with an answer.
“I think that's my point proven,” Jamie said smugly.
“Could we stay at your place instead?” Dani wondered.
“Sure, I don't care. Besides that would probably be kinder to Eddie, your sofa is shit, mine's actually comfortable.”
“It's not that bad.”
Jamie raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, okay it's not great.” Dani admitted.
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so much trouble. I could have sworn I checked the time table and there was a later train.”
“No, it's fine Eddie. It's no bother,” Dani assured him through clenched teeth.
“So...” Jamie said with a pointed look at Dani.
“You want us to take you to your mom's place?” Dani asked and gave a knowing look at Jamie before Eddie even had time to answer.
He squirmed and checked his watch. “I don't want to scare her by showing up in the middle of the night.”
“You want to borrow the sofa?” Dani now had a smug look on her face as she met Jamie's eyes in the mirror. Jamie shook her head briefly.
“Do you mind?”
“No, it's fine. We wouldn't have offered if it was a bother.”
“I would really appreciate it.”
“No sweat, buddy. There's a couch with your name on it,” Jamie told him in a tone that was way too cheerful to be sincere.
Jamie had parked in Dani's driveway and turned off the engine. Dani was already halfway out the door when she asked, “You want anything from the house?”
“Bring my book, will you.” Jamie answered.
“Which one? The one in the kitchen or the one on the nightstand?”
“I can't remember which is which, the Ann Cleeves one, with the blue cover.”
“I'll get it.”
Eddie unbuckled his belt and reached for the door.
“Where are you going?” Dani asked before she had a chance to slam the door shut.
“I thought you offered the couch?” He sounded a little confused and insecure.
“I did. I'm just getting some stuff then we'll be off,” she told him.
“Off to where?” he asked with a frown.
“My place,” Jamie answered for her.
“I thought you lived together?” Eddie's eyes went from one to the other, frown deepening.
“Not yet at least,” Jamie informed him.
“I must have misunderstood.” He sat back down in his seat and Dani slammed her door shut as she began walking away from the car.
“I really think you did,” Jamie mumbled to herself. “So...” she let the word ripple between them in the newfound silence.
He looked at her, eyes holding the intent of someone scrutinising a difficult mid-term essay question. “How long have you been together?” he asked as he broke the quiet of the car.
“Eighteen months apparently,” Jamie said with a private little smile.
“That's a long time to not be living together.”
“I suppose it is.”
There is a pause and he tilted his head. “I told Danielle the same thing, you don't have to pretend around me.”
“You honestly think we're actually faking a relationship?” she turned around and looked at him, no anger just surprise on her face.
“Look I know Danielle, I've known her since we were kids. Hell, I was even supposed to marry her. She's not – you know, this isn't her.”
“I'm not sure this is a conversation the two of us should be having. If you want...explanations or whatever, talk to her.”
The quiet then returned and they waited for Dani in silence.
“I honestly have no idea how much of a mess it is. It's been a while since I was home,” Jamie apologised in advance as she turned the key to her apartment.
“It's fine,” Eddie said his voice a little rough, as it was the first words out of his mouth since they'd left Dani's place.
Jamie opened up the door and held it for Dani and Eddie to enter. Dani lead the way and quickly took off her shoes and hung up her coat, determined to scout the mess before Eddie had a chance to see it. “It's not too bad,” she said sounding relieved as she made her way through to the kitchen.
“Well thank fuck for that,” Jamie mumbled under her breath as she and Eddie tried to navigate the small hallway, both wrestling out of their respective clothes. “Do you want a drink, or something?” she asked him, while she toed off a boot. “Because I think I really could use one,” she breathed out hard.
He watched her silently for a moment, before replying. “Yeah, maybe I could use one too.”
“Eddie needs a drink,” Jamie hollered into the apartment as she squeezed past him and headed after Dani.
In the kitchen Dani stood by the sink and turned to look at Jamie with a fond smile. “You mean you need a drink?”
“That too,” she briefly leaned into Dani who placed a kiss at her temple. “It's a little weirder than I thought it would be.”
“What is? Having met my mother?”
“No, that part was pretty much exactly how I expected it to be.” Jamie looked back towards the hallway and lowered her voice. “Spending time with your almost ex-husband.”
Dani frowned. “Ex-boyfriend. We were never close to getting married,” her tone was a defensive and Jamie realised she should probably tread carefully around the topic.
Eddie took that moment to appear in the doorway pulling their attention from one another. “So what can we get you, Eddie?” Jamie asked.
He tried to keep his appearance casual as he glanced around the kitchen, but the casual expression was exchanged for something more layered as his eyes landed on one of the photos on Jamie's fridge. Dani followed his eyes to the picture that always put a smile on her face, in it she had her arms wrapped around Jamie, the expression on both their faces happy and flushed, sunshine and good company being the main reasons. It was taken during a warm summer night at Mickey's place, an evening full of good memories. It did not make Eddie smile however, as she looked back at him he caught her gaze briefly and there was something akin to hurt in them. Something that in turn annoyed Dani deeply. She didn't have time to comment on it as the doorbell rang out and startled all three of them.
“Who's that?” Dani threw the question at Jamie who looked as surprised as she was.
“How the hell should I know?!” she replied frowning. “It's probably that weirdo Jesus freak from the third floor, I'll send her off.” She left the kitchen with an frustrated exhale.
Jamie pressed her face to the door and looked through the peephole, spotting a familiar figure looking distraught on the other side. She pulled it open with concern on her face and met with the tear-streaked appearance of her little brother. “What's wrong?”
He wiped at his cheeks and looked down at her. “I think I've fucked up.”
“Come here,” she ordered him inside and as soon as the door was closed wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. He sobbed gently into her shoulder and she squeezed his taller frame closer. She held him until he quieted.
Dani's curiosity got the better of her and she appeared in the doorway. “Mickey? You okay?”
Jamie let go of her little brother who once again frantically tried to wipe away the tears. “I've been better,” he told her with a humourless laugh.
She moved over to him and wrapped her arms around him on top of Jamie's. “Can I stay?” he asked with their arms still around him.
Jamie gave him one more good squeeze before she let her arms fall to the side. “We've actually got company,” she told him.
“I'm sorry, I should go. I don't know why I just showed up here. I –“
“No, that's not what she meant,” Dani interrupted his ramblings. “Stay, but just so you know we're not alone.”
“I don't know how sociable I am right now,” Mickey said around another faint sob.
“You don't have to be. Come get drunk with us and if you want to tell us what's happened then that's fine, if not still fine. But stay, okay?” Dani insisted.
“Yeah.” He wiped his nose against his sleeve and sniffled one last time before he entered the kitchen alongside them.
“Mickey, this is Eddie - “ Jamie paused as she tried to think of what word to use to describe him without making it weird for all of them. She settled on, “Dani's friend. Eddie, meet my little brother Mickey.”
Mickey reached out his hand and shook Eddie's.
“I think we have decided to get pissed. Any objections?” Jamie asked into the air.
They all remained silent, but the kind of silent that was desperately waiting for the whiskey to be served.
They had all sunk down around the kitchen table, exhaustion on each and every one of their faces with very different causes, but the feeling nevertheless similar in its expression. Which was probably why the initial shared silence felt surprisingly comfortable.
Despite his initial reluctance Mickey was the one to actually break the silence and he did so in a rather spectacular manor. “Monica is pregnant,” he confessed and twirled his glass of wine around on the table.
“What? Mickey, you are seventeen!” Jamie exclaimed loudly, looking like she was about to have a heart-attack herself.
He gave her a sad little smile. “I'm twenty-five,” he sighed. “But unfortunately I reacted like I was seventeen.”
“What happened?” Dani asked him in a calmer and more sympathetic voice than his sister.
“I – she sat me down and told me and I think – “ he buried his face in his hands briefly. “I don't think, I know I hurt her by reacting like a scared idiot. I told her...I said some really hurtful shit. So now she's still pregnant, but also upset because the dumbass who's responsible is an asshole.”
Jamie stared at him looking both shell-shocked and weary at the same time. “You actually want kids?” she asked him sounding a lot like he had just broken the news that he was about to run of with a circus. In fact him running off with a circus might have been less of a surprise to her.
“I think I do, but that was something I wanted in the future, not in nine months time -” he sigh. “Or eight.” He continued to frantically twirl the glass around. Dani reached over and stilled his hand, forcing him to look up at her.
“Do you not want it? Do you want a kid?” she asked him, side-stepping all the ifs and buts and attacked the issue straight on.
Mickey looked at her, his face clearly showing every ounce of the indecision that whirled around inside of him. “I don't know. I've only been with Monica for six months. I don't even know if I love her,” he admitted with a pained expression.
“Do you have to? I mean ideally you love the person you have a child with, but isn't the main thing that you love the kid?” Dani asked him. “So my question is still the same. Do you want a child?”
“I don't not want it,” he sighed again. “But what if I can't do it? What if I can't be a dad? What if I'm like mum?”
“Shut up.” Jamie said as she found her voice again. “If you're going to fail you'll find your own way, but stop thinking you've got anything in common with her, because you don't.”
“Thanks for the pep talk,” he gave a tired chuckle. “I'm sure I'll find a way of fucking things up my way.” He emptied his glass. “What about you, man?” he turned towards Eddie as if he just realised he'd emptied the insides of his life inside out in front of a stranger, now needing a way to shift the focus.
“Me?” Eddie sounded surprised and scared that the discussion turned around to include him. He nervously pushed the glasses higher up on his nose.
“Do you have kids?” Mickey asked reaching for the opened bottle of wine on the table.
Eddie briefly let his eyes rest on Dani. “No, no children.”
“Have you ever, you know – fucked up?” Mickey continued.
Eddie blushed and looked down at the table. “No, or not that I know of at least.”
Mickey took pity on him and changed the topic into something much lighter, needing any kind of distraction he could find.“You got anything to eat?” he asked. Jamie looked at him knowingly, but didn't try to steer the conversation back towards the topic that had her little brother torn up and confused.
“I doubt that,” she said.
Dani got up and headed towards the fridge, slowly opening the door, but with a horrified look on her face she quickly shut it again.
“What's wrong?” Jamie asked as she too got up and headed over to the cupboard.
“There were at least three things in there ready to walk out on their own,” Dani said with a grin.
Jamie closed the door and stepped closer to her with a smirk. “I keep forgetting how sassy you get when drinking red wine.”
“You like it,” Dani said leaning against the fridge with a flirtatious look on her face. Jamie smirked at her, but didn't reply.
“Stop being gross you two and find me something to eat!” Mickey told them with a smile. Jamie threw a dish-towel at him, but went back to looking.
“Why aren't we living together?” Jamie rolled over and rested on her elbow, looking down at Dani who was splayed out on her back like a starfish in the bed.
With a surprised look on her face, “Are you asking why we're not living together?”. Her blue eyes were shiny from the alcohol and late hour, but they still managed to appear very alert.
“I thought you liked your own space,” Dani said and turned slightly on her side to fully face her.
“I do like my own space, but I like space with you in it a lot more than space without you in it.” She reached down and traced along Dani's jaw before she leaned over and placed a small kiss to the side of her mouth.
“You're drunk.” Dani reached up and pushed a loose lock of hair behind Jamie's ear, letting her hand then linger in her hair.
“I am, actually quite a bit, but it's still the truth.”
“I haven't asked, because I thought –“ Dani began.
“You thought what? That I'd react like Mickey?”
“Something like that,” Dani admitted, but her face soft as to not put any judgement into her words.
“I'm sorry.” Jamie reached down and kissed her again, as a physical apology.
“What are you sorry for?” Dani asked when they pulled apart.
“I don't want to carry around my parents' fuck ups like they're my own, but maybe I have. I'm sorry that seeped into our shit.”
“Our shit? Is that your pet name for our relationship?”
“I am drunk, you know.”
Dani smiled affectionately. “I know.”
“But I want a life with you. Like full on life. Joint grocery shopping, arguing about how to assemble IKEA furniture, buying Christmas gifts together.”
“I think we already do all of those things.”
“Then I want more of it. And I don't want a your bed and my bed, I want an our bed.”
Dani laughed. “That's funny?” Jamie asked looking offended.
“No, but this evening, this night.” She turned the tabled and pushed Jamie onto her back. “I very much would like that too. But this has been one of the strangest nights of my life.”
“What's that saying, 'may you live in interesting times'.”
“I don't think that's a saying, that's supposed to be a curse,” Dani corrected her, mindlessly placing a kiss on her collarbone.
“I've had worse nights though, but maybe not stranger ones,” Jamie said once Dani pulled back. And as if to prove the point two separate snores could be heard from the living room and Dani collapsed into Jamie's shoulder as a giggling fit took hold of her.
“Yeah, it's been a strange one,” she said into the side of Jamie's neck, relaxing and deciding that no matter how strange, as long as she got to end it like this, with her nose tucked against Jamie's skin, with her arms around her; then it was a day to be grateful for. No matter how interesting the times they lived in were.