The sun rises on the Whetstone, London home. At nearly the same time, the whirling of drills and the banging of hammers begin. Charlotte “Charlie” Wolfe opens a single eyelid as a beam of sunlight manages to project directly into her eye line, causing her to groan, “Johnny, who is banging on the house?”
Not receiving an answer, Charlie rolls onto her back, flinging her arm over to the space next to her, finding it empty. A whine of discontent escapes her lips as she pushes herself to sit up in bed, finding the rest of the large bedroom empty as well. Having just returned home from Hargeisa the day prior, she’s exhausted.
Charlotte climbs out of bed, clad in one of her fiance’s large t-shirts. Though she had been shown around the new home yesterday, Charlie still isn’t terribly familiar with the layout. She swallows, starting to become nervous that she might be alone in this house and all the things that transpired over the past month was just a lengthy dream. Charlotte slowly makes her way down the hallway, hearing the loud commotion that had awakened her coming from the floor below. Her hand slides against the textured wall as she passes each doorway.
“Charlie!” A familiar voice.
Quickly turning toward the exclamation with wide eyes, Charlotte finds her mother propped up in bed. She grins toward the woman as she walks into the room more, “someone is banging on the house.”
“Started about a half hour ago.” Bernie Wolfe smiles toward her daughter, reaching a hand out to motion her daughter closer.
Charlotte crawls up into bed next to her mother, fully aware of the woman’s canister of oxygen in the room, not too far from the bed. “Your bed is more comfortable than I thought it would be.” She comfortably cuddles up next to the woman, “where’s Serena gotten off to?”
“She and your John decided to head out to pick up a few things she nor I remembered to pack as well as some breakfast or brunch for you and I.” Bernie explains, waving her eyebrows a little, “he offered and she, very eagerly, accepted.” Bernie nods, “quite thoughtful of him.”
“He’s like that.” Charlie tilts her head to the side, resting it on her mother’s shoulder, “and your girlfriend is a flirt.”
“Oh, I’m aware.” Bernie finds herself smiling, “she’s very good at pushing buttons and manipulating. I imagine those abilities are reasons the pair of you got along swimmingly.” She feels as her daughter takes hold of her hand without prompting, “seeing as you both do them very well.”
“Manipulation always has a negative connotation.” Charlotte takes the time of closeness to examine the room that John had given to her mother and Serena to stay in, “I’m jealous, this room is beautiful.”
“I doubt it’s more beautiful than yours.” Bernie shakes her head, “you and Serena were given the tour last night, maybe you and I could do a bit of exploration on our own this week?”
Charlotte smiles to herself, true comfort flowing over her, “Absolutely. I know Serena mentioned something about visiting Jason and his family before heading back to Nairobi to pack. John does most of his work from home, but I know his usual hospital day is coming up.”
“Hospital day?” Bernie asks, her brow furrowed with curiosity.
“To check up on some of his patients that are in hospital. He’s given some thought as to increasing his time, but has let off of it since news of the baby came in.” Charlie exhales slowly, “I mean, I don’t mind if he goes for his patients, but I’d rather he didn’t get wrapped up with a hospital schedule if he doesn’t need to.”
“Maybe he does, though.” Bernie motions with the hand that isn’t being held by her daughter to the area surrounding her, “this house couldn’t have been inexpensive, especially for your location. I believe I remember Serena saying we were in Whetstone, correct?”
Charlotte nods, “we’re fine in that aspect though.” She exhales, “oh, I have your clothing. I’ll need to ask John where he might have put the box when he returns home.” Charlotte brings her free hand to her middle, “though you’re welcome to mine as well. Not even halfway through this and I already can’t fit in my jeans.”
“When is your next doctor’s visit?” Bernie leans her head back against her pillow, having been awake for quite some time at this point.
“Don’t know. I’ll need to phone. I did speak with the gynae specialist while we were in Hargeisa.” Charlotte exhales slowly, “I had some spotting...and I didn’t want you or Serena to worry.” She licks her lips, “I was scared, but...everything was fine.”
“You could have told us, darling.” Bernie absently rubs the back of Charlotte’s hand with her thumb as it rests in the palm of her own. “We’ve both been where you are before.”
“I know, Mum, but Serena and I were pretty preoccupied with you and the last thing I wanted was to take her attention from you for even a second if I couldn’t be there.” Charlotte lifts her head to look over to her mother fully, “and I’m not going to listen to your arguments about it, wouldn’t have changed anything.”
“Tell me if there’s a next time?” Bernie asks gently, “if you’re worried and...” She swallows, her voice trailing a little, “I want to be present for you.” Bernie licks her lips, falling silent a moment before continuing, “like mothers are supposed to be when their daughters are pregnant.”
Charlotte is familiar with the distance between her mother and grandmother, knowing it had been there most of her mother’s life and only got worse when Bernie and Marcus divorced. “Of course, Mum. I’d love that.” She flashes her a smile, “we have quite a ways to go just yet though.”
“I’m aware.” Bernie falls quiet again.
“How about we plan to visit Cameron tomorrow?” Charlotte can feel that her mother was probably about to ask the question. Bernie had asked a few times yesterday when they arrived home. “If you want and if you feel up to it, of course. We aren’t pushing ourselves. Isn’t as if he’s going anywhere anytime soon.”
Bernie gives her daughter a light glare, “be kind to your brother, please.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Charlotte carefully sits up more to face her mother, “do you need to use the toilet or anything?” She pauses, “want to take a nice, long bath with bath fizzies?” When Bernie seems unimpressed, Charlotte sighs, “I doubt you’d prefer to sit around and look at the walls.”
“Charlie, I’m content just to sit here and spend time with you.” Bernie keeps herself calm, drawing her lower lip into her mouth to bite softly, “but I understand if-”
“Well, now you’re pouring on the guilt.” Charlie mumbles softly, looking away. “I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to apologize for, darling.” Bernie reaches her hand over to gently touch Charlotte’s arm cautiously, as if asking for permission.
Charlotte leans forward, placing her head on her mother’s shoulder, next to her neck. She feels Bernie’s arm wrap around her back to hold her closely. “I’m happy that you’re here, Mum. I’m happy you decided to stay with me.” She pauses, “not that I gave you much choice in the matter, but...you still could have declined my invitation.”
“I wouldn’t have.” Bernie swallows, pressing a gentle kiss against Charlotte’s head, “unless you were still living in that one bedroom flat...but only because I didn’t want to put you out.”
“Even if I was living in the one bedroom flat, I’d just tell John to sleep on the sofa.” Charlie smiles to herself, “we’d have made it work.”
Bernie never would have thought her daughter would go the distance when it came to her. If this was a few years ago, Bernie knows she would have properly received a different response from Charlie. Really, a different response from either of her children. “Thank you,” Bernie whispers, only lifting her head when she hears a knock against the door frame.
“Am I bothering you?” Serena Campbell smiles a little as she enters into the room, a reusable shopping bag in her hand. “I picked up toiletries for us. If you want to bathe later on, I’ll be more than happy to help.” She winks to her girlfriend, noticing that the young woman laying against her hasn’t moved. “She okay?”
“Think she may have fallen asleep.” Bernie nods, rubbing Charlotte’s back again and listening to the steady breathing in her ear. She begins to remember all the bizarre circumstances she had fallen asleep in when she was pregnant with her own children. “I’ll wake her. Is there something to eat downstairs?”
“Yes, but John is putting everything on dishes to bring up here so as to not disturb the workers.” Serena nods, making her way to their connected bathroom to unload the things she had chosen for them at the store. “I had forgotten how crowded things can be so early in the morning.” She pauses, checking her wristwatch, “well, not terribly early, but it felt earlier.”
“Time is it?” Bernie savors this closeness with her daughter, that much is obvious as she continues to gently stroke Charlotte’s back absently.
“Half past ten.” Serena stands in the doorway of the bathroom facing the bedroom, smiling sweetly to her girlfriend. “No matter how old they grow, they’re always up for a good cuddle.” She moves a bit closer, “even if they’re nearly a parent themself, apparently.”
Bernie smirks to herself, mumbling, “anytime she wants.”
Serena nods, casually folding her arms across her chest, “Apparently there’s a small lounge area in the master bedroom. I believe that’s where John is taking the dishes. Would you like to-”
“I don’t want to move, honestly.” Bernie keeps her voice hushed.
“Bernie, she was obviously awake long enough to make her way in here.” Serena offers, “she’s always tired as it is. After lunch, I’m sure the both of you can catch another kip. I’ll close the door.”
“And where will you go?” Bernie gazes up at her girlfriend, a clever smirk forming in the corner of her mouth, “I remember how jet lag always affected you...and I doubt much has changed in that department.”
“It’s bizarre, the things you remember.” Serena gives a dazzling grin before leaning down and pressing a soft kiss against Bernie’s temple. “Wake her up, you know she’ll be disappointed if she misses a meal.” Having lived with the young woman for a month in close quarters, helped Serena not only form a closer bond with her, but it helped her understand the young woman’s behavior much more than what she thought she knew previously.
“I’ll take care of it. We’ll be there in a moment or two.” Bernie watches as Serena takes her leave after a moment of hesitation. Bernie reaches up, removing the oxygen cannula from her nose. She closes her eyes as she inhales her daughter’s smell slowly, smiling to herself after. “Darling, wake up.”
“Wasn’t actually sleeping.” Charlotte mumbles, lying. “I mean...I know I’m not exactly sitting in a position that looks comfortable, but it is.” She yawns, not wanting to move. Really, Charlotte has missed this closeness with her mother as well. “They brought food, right?”
“I thought you weren’t asleep.” Bernie knows the truth, she could hear the steady breathing from her daughter, the very same sound she’s made since she was just a girl.
Slowly sitting up, Charlie smiles to her mother, “do you want me to turn your tank off?” She motions with a nod toward her mother’s oxygen tank. They had traveled with a couple and there would be someone coming to install a machine either today or the next day in order to make things easier on them all. “You can put it back on after lunch.”
Bernie glances over to the tank, then back to her daughter, “I’ll hear it from the warden if I do that.” She teases, then sighs softly, “we can give it a try-”
“And I’ll run back in here to get your tank if you need it, but you need to be honest about it.” Charlotte yawns again, “if you’re going to try pushing through it, we’ll scrap the idea.”
“Don’t know unless you try.” Bernie tilts her head to the side, slowly edging her legs over the side of the bed. She reaches for her cane as it rests against the bedside table next to her, using it as leverage to help her stand. Bernie removes the tubing from around her head, offering it to Charlotte after.
Charlie smirks, getting up and shutting the tank off. She wraps the tubing of the nasal cannula, setting it on the machine itself. Charlotte walks ahead of Bernie, motioning for her mother to follow with a tilt of her head, “take your time. There better be some toast and jam...or I’ll give him back the bloody ring.”
“That’s quite excessive, isn’t it?” Bernie concentrates on her steps, while also paying attention to her daughter.
“No, he knows how much I like toast.” Charlotte smirks, staying with her mother. At first, she wasn’t so sure about having her mother home. Charlie knew she was going to tend to Bernie, but didn’t quite know how much it would impact her. Not only has she started to grow as a person, but Charlie actually wants to be a better daughter now. First time in her entire life and she’d work hard to do so.