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Shatter Your Illusions of Love

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Therese POV
“Shit,” Therese swore under her breath when she noticed she left her keys in the apartment she shares with Dannie.

Already running late she heads toward the stairs and takes out her phone to call Dannie.

“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” she whispered under her breath.

“Hey T! What’s up?” Dannie answered.

“I’m running late to the interview with Abby and I forgot my keys inside the apartment.” therese explained.

“Woah is everything ok? You’re usually never late.”

“Yeah everything is fine, I just overslept because of the concert last night,” Therese groaned while running down the street.

“Oh yeah, I forgot you went to that. How was it?” Dannie asked eagerly.

“It was great. I sat next to the most gorgeous woman ever. She had blonde hair down to her shoulders, she was tall, probably about 5’9, and she had eyes that were the perfect mix between a light blue and a light grey. I almost forgot we were at a concert because of how much we were talking. I never did get her name though,” therese gushed while walking into the subway station.

“Well sounds like you had an amazing night even though you never got her name,” Dannie responded.

“I did,” therese said, “so what did your night look like?”

“The usual worked late at the restaurant with Tommy, Abby, and Harge. As we were closing, Rindy stopped by to give Abby and the rest of us an update on her latest design for FIT. After we closed Tommy and I went back to his place and we were asleep until you called.” Dannie answered.

“Sounds like you and Tommy had a great night. How is it going with you guys?” Therese asked.

“It’s going better than I expected. He told me he loves me last night,” Dannie explained, “which caught me off guard because it has only been two months, but him saying that made me realize that I love him too.”

Therese smiled at her phone.

“Why are you smiling…” Dannie asked.

“What makes you think I’m smiling?” Therese asked.

“Come on T I know you well enough to know that you are smiling. So out with it, why are you smiling?” Dannie responded lightheartedly.

“I’m just really happy for you especially considering all of your past relationships,” Therese said as she was still waiting for the train.

Therese was lost in thought as the train arrived blowing wind through her hair.

“Therese? Therese? THERESE!” Dannie yelled through the phone to get her attention.

“Yes sorry, I was thinking about the interview,” therese mumbled, sounding worried as she stepped onto the train to find a seat.

Dannie picked up on the worry in her voice.

“Hey therese relax, Don't stress about it. Abby will love you and so will everyone else.” Dannie told her to help calm her worries.

“But what if I don't get the job? Dannie, I really need this,” Therese sounded like she was on the verge of tears.

“Trust me you will get the job and even if you don't you will always have my shoulder to cry on,” Dannie reassured her.

“Thank you, Dannie. I owe you for getting me this interview,” Therese stepped off the train and onto the platform.

“Don't worry about it, you have helped me more times than I can count,” Dannie replied.

“Alright, I’m here so I have to go but thank you again and I love you so much,” Therese said as she walked up to the restaurant.

“Good luck Therese and try not to panic, Abby will love you. I love you too.” Dannie said.

As Therese put her phone in her pocket she looked at the building and noticed how fancy it seemed. She was suddenly glad she wore a blazer with her pants and white shirt.

When she stepped inside she spotted Abby sitting in a booth on FaceTime with someone but she hung up when she spotted Therese walking over.

CAROL POV
Carol awoke with the sunlight streaming in through her balcony and onto her face and the cover thrown off to one side of the bed.

“Ugh,” Carol groaned from her headache, the light not helping.

Carol waited a minute or two before getting up to get Advil from her bathroom. When she came back she checked her clock for the time.

“SHIT! It’s already 11 am! I have to call Abby!” Carol yelled aloud.

She ran out of her bedroom and started looking for her phone. Thirty minutes later she found her phone on top of the counter in her kitchen. She immediately picked it up and FaceTimed Abby.

“My god you look terrible,” Abby teased when she picked up.

“I know, I know. I overslept and then had a terrible headache when I did finally wake up and then I couldn’t find my phone and- UGH it’s about to die! Hold on let me go grab a charger,” Carol rambled.

“Ok, I got one. Where was I? Right, I’m so sorry but the earliest I can be in is at 12:30” Carol plugged in her phone.

“Carol, relax, it’s ok. We have covered for now. Just come in around-” Abby was cut off by Harge yelling “HEY SIS!”

“Huh? Wait why is Harge there isn’t his day off?” asked Carol

“Oh no, it is his day off. When I called to tell him you weren’t in yet he said he could come in. so, basically, you owe your brother a favor, and knowing him he is going to make sure it is a good favor.” Abby explained.

“Can you tell him thank you for me?”

“Yes, I can. On another note, how was the concert? I have been dying to know! Did you meet women?” Abby asked eagerly while sliding into a booth.

“God, what am I going to do with you?” Carol asked sarcastically.

“You’ll keep me around because you love me,” Abby laughed.

“That I will and that I do. But no, I did not meet women. However, I did sit next to the most beautiful brunette.” Carol responded to Abby’s previous question.

“Oooooo do tell,” Abby begged just as Rindy slid into the booth next to her aunt.

“Hey, Aunt Carol! What are we talking about?” Rindy asked as Abby made room for her in the booth.

“Just the woman Carol met last night,” Abby told her niece while she propped her phone up so Carol could see them both.

“Wait, Rindy, I thought you had classes today, what are you doing here?” Carol asked, she always loved hearing Rindy’s stories about her classes at FIT.

“I did but Professor Ruby canceled so I told Abby I would help out around here today. But enough about me, tell us more about the mystery woman you sat next to last night,” Rindy echoed abbys request for more information.

“Alright, fine. She was gorgeous, a little shorter than me, probably about 5’6, long brown hair, emerald green eyes, and soft features that draw you in but also leave an air of mystery about her, and she was hilarious as well” Carol revealed, describing the woman.

“She sounds wonderful, Aunt Carol!” Rindy exclaimed.

“She sounds gorgeous, not quite your type, but gorgeous nonetheless. Rindy take out your phone and look up her Instagram,” Abby exclaimed while hitting Rindy’s arm to make sure she was listening.

“You know, come to think of it, we never exchanged names. We talked so much but I guess we never got around to exchanging names, numbers, or any of that,” Carol looked confused.

Rindy went to put away her phone just as a text came through.

“Oh, sorry guys, I have to go. I forgot Genevieve and I had plans to work on a design for class,” Rindy stood up while blushing profusely.

“Why did she blush so much? It's just gen, she's never done that before.'' Carol mentioned.

“Yeah I don't know, anyways my interviewee is here so I have to go. Love you,” Abby said

“Alright, love you too Abigail,” Carol responded.

Therese POV
As she walked over to Abby she noticed that Abby was dressed in jeans, a baggy t-shirt, and sneakers. Therese suddenly felt very overdressed. Abby was exactly like Dannie had described her, shoulder-length brown hair, brown eyes, and soft features.

“Hi, I'm Therese. It's so nice to finally put a face to the name! Dannie has told me so much about you!” Therese shook Abby's hand.

“All good things I hope,” Abby motioned for Therese to take a seat across from her, “then again I can't imagine Dannie bad mouthing anyone,”

Therese laughed, “Neither can I!”

“So basically the job is yours if you want it,” Abby started to explain as Therese smiled, “Dannie and Tommy have spoken so highly of you that I only need to ask one question, are you looking for this to be short term or long term? It’s ok if you don’t know yet,”

“Wow, ok thank you so much, I see Dannie and Tommy really talked me up, haha,” Therese laughed nervously, “I think this is going to be semi-long term.”

Abby smiled, a real genuine smile, not the fake forced smile Therese had become accustomed to while living and growing up in the city.

“Well since we have another hour let's get to know each other because Celia and I are the owners that are on the floor most often. Carol and Harge are both here the same amount of time but they are usually in their offices doing more of the money aspects of the restaurant.”

The next hour went by very quickly with Harge stopping by to welcome her to the Songbird family.

As Therese walked out she picked up her phone to call Dannie to tell him the good news. Right before she hit the call button she glanced across the street and saw someone who looked very similar to the woman from the night before. She shook her head and hit the call button.

“So... how was it?” Dannie asked and therese could practically feel the eagerness radiating off of him.

“Well you and Tommy talked me up so much that Abby hired me on the spot,” Therese gushed.

“What, that’s great!” Dannie exclaimed, “Abby totally didn't tell Tommy and me that you got the job last night…”

“Dannie!” Therese yelled, “You knew and didn't tell me?”

“To be fair you were at a concert and Abby did tell us not to tell you,” Dannie responded, “So if Abby didn't need to interview you, what did you do with the rest of your time, did you meet anyone else who worked there?”

“Yeah, harge stopped by to say hello and rindy was there but only for a very short amount of time because she forgot something for school,” therese explained, “so what is rindy and Abby’s relationship because Abby looks too young to have a daughter who is 20?”

“Rindy is Abby's niece but she has lived with Abby ever since she was 14 because Abby's sister died. However, she was always closer with Abby, Celia, Harge, and Carol because she would stay with Abby when her mom was on business trips. So she basically grew up with Abby anyway and Harge and Carol as her uncle and aunt.” Dannie explained as her train arrived.

“That’s nice of Abby,” therese responded, “Can I come by Tommy’s place and hang out with you guys because I forgot my keys?”

“Of course! You’re always welcome here,” Dannie replied.

“Thank you, I’ll be over in roughly 30 minutes,” therese said.

“See you soon!” Dannie responded.

Carol POV
After Carol got off the phone with Abby she made her way back to her bathroom. Once she was in the bathroom she turned the water on, put on music, and waited until it was steaming. 30 minutes later Carol stepped out of the shower in her robe and brushed her teeth.
As she re-entered her bedroom she checked her phone. She saw she had 2 text messages, one from Rindy and one from Harge. She opened the one from Rindy first.

R- hey! Black, white, or grey? Genevieve and I need to pick a color for the fabric.
C- hmm… maybe a light grey, but I’m sure whatever you and gen chose will be perfect :)
R-thank you! That’s also what aunt Abby said. Huh, you two really are basically siblings.
C-that we are! Send me a picture of the fabric you and gen chose?
R-of course!

Carol was wondering what they were making this time as she opened the text from Harge.

H- I’m going to go easy on you with the favor you owe me.
C-gee thanks harge, what is it though?
H-Abby and I ordered food for the team, it will be ready for pickup around 1:00, can you get it on your way over?
C-yeah I can get it, whose name is it under though?
H-it’s under Abby’s name
C-alright I’ll grab it.
H-thanks.
C-yep

Carol put her phone down to go get dressed.

“What to wear, what to wear, what to wear?” Carol muttered to herself as she stood in her closet.

After twenty minutes of debating, she finally settled on a pair of light wash straight leg jeans, a white tank top, a pair of black heeled boots, and a long black jacket because it was an uncharacteristically cool day in September.

On her way out she double-checked, she had everything in her purse. She realized she forgot her wallet on her nightstand so she quickly ran back to grab it. On her way out of the building, she thanked the doorman and made her way down the street.

As she was waiting in line for the food she felt her phone ring in her pocket. She took her phone out of her pocket to see who it was, it was Celia so she answered.

“Hey, Celia, what’s up?” Carol said as she picked up.

“Not much. What about you?” Celia asked

“Just waiting in line to pick up the food Abby and Harge ordered,'' Carol responded as she moved forward in line.

“Do you know why Abby isn’t picking up her phone? I’ve tried calling her three times,”

“Yeah, she should be interviewing therese belivet, better known as the one Dannie and Tommy always talk about, hold on a sec,” Carol paused.

“Thank you,” she said to the person handing her the food.

“Anyways as I was saying she should be in an interview,” Carol said.

“Thanks, carol I was getting worried,”

“Is something wrong?” Carol asked.

“No, nothing wrong I was just going to ask if there was anything she and rindy wanted before I come home tomorrow,” Celia mentioned.

“Ok, I’ll tell her to check her phone when I get to the restaurant, anyways how was the trip?” Carol inquired.

“It’s going great! It’s been nice to see my family again. They do miss Abby, sometimes I wonder if they love her more than me,” Celia laughed, “they also miss Rindy, and you and Harge. Phil has grown so much since we all saw him last!”

“No way!” Carol giggled, “little Phil, he has to be, like, four now!”

“He’s 6,” Carol gasped.

“I know right! He keeps asking about harge, I think phi misses his piggyback rides,” Celia laughed.

“He probably does, I know those were my favorite things when I was little. I have to go I just arrived,”

“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Celia hung up. As Carol stood on the corner of the street she saw a woman who looked exactly like the woman from the night before walking out of the restaurant looking very happy. When Carol entered the restaurant she saw Abby getting up from the booth that everyone had nicknamed “the Abby booth” because it was the only one she would sit in. She jogged over to Abby.

“Well, well, well, look who decided to show up,” Abby teased.

“You need to start paying attention to when your phone is ringing Abigail! Your wife tried calling you three times,” Carol poked Abby in the ribs.

“Oh shit, thanks for telling me,” she responded as they walked into the kitchen, “FOOD’S HERE!”

“Do you know who walked out a minute or so before I walked in?” Carol grabbed her food.

“Yeah, it was probably therese, why?” Abby held the door open for carol.

“She looks a lot like the woman from last night,”

“You know I was thinking she looked like your description,” Abby closed the door to Carol’s office for her.

“Oh my god, it is her!” Carol gasped.

“Wait, how do you know already?” Abby asked.

“I looked her up on Instagram,” Carol shrugged her shoulders and sat down.

“Send it to rindy she will want to see it,” Abby sat down across from her.

“Ok,”

C- Abby and I found out who the mystery woman is!
Attachment- Instagram profile
R- omg she’s gorgeous! I see what you mean about her features drawing you in but leaving mystery. Wait why does her name sound familiar
C- because Dannie and Tommy always talk about her, and Abby just interviewed her
R- Woah, small world huh?
C- yeah it is
R- wait so did aunt Abby hire her because if not I’ll be mad
C- don't worry she did
R- good
C-alright I have to work now
R- alright I’ll be by later tonight

“So what did she say?” Abby asked.

“She said ‘wow it’s a small world’ and that she will be by later tonight,”

“Come on, we both know she said more than that,” Abby pressed.

“Fine she also said that therese is gorgeous, but then again you’d have to be blind to think otherwise and that she would be mad if you didn’t hire her, so I guess it’s good you did because everyone knows that girl can hold a grudge.”

“Yeah, I guess it is good I hired her then,” Abby laughed.

“Now I need to work and correct me if I’m wrong but you have a wife that needs to be called back,” Carol reminded Abby.

“Alright see you later,” Abby got up and closed the door behind her.

Rindy POV
“Who are you texting?” gen asked while wrapping her arms around rindys waist from behind.

“My aunt Carol, she and aunt Abby figured out who the mystery I told you about was,” Rindy held up her phone so Gen could see.

“Wow, she gorgeous,” gen remarked

“Yeah but not more than you,” Rindy put her phone on the counter.

“Why does her name sound similar?”

“Dannie and Tommy talk about her a lot and aunt Abby hired her today,” Rindy explained.

“Huh, small world,”

“That’s what I said!” rindy exclaimed.

Gen laughed and said, “We should probably get going if we want to get to the fabric store before it closes,” She barely got the words out before Rindy turned around in her arms and planted a kiss on her lips.

“What was that for?” Gen said while smiling.

“You know that I love you right,” rindy mumbled, sounding uncertain.

“Don't you know that I love you too?” Gen pulled rindy in for a hug.

“We should probably get going,” Rindy said, still in gens arms.

“Yeah, but you might want to fix your makeup first,” Gen went to put her shoes on.

“Yeah I probably should,” rindy headed back to gens bathroom where she kept some makeup. A few minutes later Rindy returned and found Gen sitting on the counter.

“Hey! Ready to go?” Gen leaned in to kiss rindy.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Rindy said when she pulled back from the kiss.

Therese POV
Dannie opened the door to Tommy’s apartment with a bottle of champagne in his hand.

“Dannie, you do know that it’s only 1:45 in the afternoon right?” therese laughed.

“So? We are celebrating, remember or did you forget that you just got a job,” Dannie jokes, “ Tommy is the living room with Black Widow set up,”

“Omg really?” therese asked excitedly. She had been wanting to see it since it came out but never had the chance.

“Yes! Now get in here so we can start it,”

“Tommy, I love you!” therese called while walking into the kitchen.

“I know! Now hurry I’m excited,”

“Hold on a second I’m grabbing your leftovers from last night,” therese called back.

2 hours later after the movie was done, and everyone was shocked by the end credits scene, therese got up and Tommy followed while Dannie stayed sleeping on the couch.

“So how was last night?” Tommy asked. Therese recounted everything that happened.

“You know the woman you described sounds like carol,” Tommy told her.

“Carol? As in your boss carol?”

“Yeah,” Tommy handed therese his phone with a picture of Carol pulled up. Therese almost spits out her drink when she sees the picture.

“Holy shit that’s her,” therese confirmed just as Dannie walked into the kitchen.

“Who’s her?” Dannie asked through a yawn.

“Guess who the woman from last night was?” Tommy said before Therese could say anything.

“I don't know, who?” Dannie responded.

“Carol. The woman from last night is carol.” Therese said.

“Holy shit, like carol-carol, our boss carol?” Dannie questioned while blowing out a breath.

“Yeah…,” Therese trailed off remembering everything that Dannie and Tommy had told her about Carol.

Chapter Text

One week later
Carol rolled over and hit the off button on the alarm on her phone. She picked up her phone and scrolled through Twitter for 15 minutes before she got up. Once she got out of bed and headed into the bathroom to shower and brush her teeth. While she waited for the shower to warm up she took out her phone and texted the group chat with Abby, Harge, and Celia.

Carol- hey, I’ll be at the restaurant today around 10:30.
Abby- wait why? We are closed today.
Harge- she has to train Therese today.
Abby- oh right.
Celia- I put single servings of everything on the menu in the fridge for her to try and you obviously know where the wine and beer are.
Carol- thank you, Celia :)

Carol put her phone down and took a quick shower. When she got out of the shower she grabbed her robe and dried her hair. She headed into the kitchen and grabbed the eggs out of her fridge.

“Alexa, play classical music,” Carol called over her shoulder while getting out a pan.

“Ok, playing ultimate classical on Amazon music,”

Carol moves effortlessly through her kitchen while cooking breakfast. When she is finally done she puts her eggs and french toast on a plate and FaceTimes Abby.

“Hey Abby,” carol greeted

“Why are you calling me so early?” Abby asked while rolling over in bed.

“I don't know, I wanted to talk to someone,” Carol shrugged.

“Ok well anyways, are you excited to officially meet Therese today?”

“I mean yeah but Dannie and Tommy have probably told her about what I’m like at work,”

“Oh please you're not that bad at work carol,” Abby challenged.

“Um yeah, yeah I am. I’m always mad about something, or have a ‘don't bother me’ look on my face,” Carol finished her food.

“Ok, well I guess you're right. But the two of you guys had a great time at the concert so what if she decided to not listen to them because of that night,” Abby commented.

“Maybe but I don't want to risk it so I’m going to keep it professional unless she says something about that night,”

“Ok well don’t stress and try to let your guard down, she’s nice and funny. You will be fine. You should probably get dressed right, what time are you meeting her?”

“I’ll try but no promises and I’m meeting her at 10:30. What should I wear though?”

“The light green pants you have, your white button-down, you know the one that you always complain about because it gets wrinkled and your white air force ones,”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, ok I have to go. Still on for tonight though right?”

“Yep! Oh, also Genevieve is coming too,”

“Ok sounds good,” Carol hung up.

Carol washed her dishes and put the extra food she made in a container to take with her. She made her way back to her closet and started flipping through her clothes until she found what Abby had described. Once she found them she pulled them on and looked in the mirror.

“Goddammit, why does Abby have to be so good at picking out outfits,” Carol said under her breath. Carol walked out of her closet and into her bathroom to put on makeup. After a few minutes of debating, she decided to only put on mascara and a little bit of concealer. She walked into her living room and checked the clock on her phone, it read 9:45. She still had a few minutes but she decided to leave early so she grabbed the keys to the restaurant and the extra food and closed the door behind her.

It was 10:10 when she arrived at the restaurant. She got all the food Celia had made out of the fridge and turned the oven on to heat the food up. She called Celia to ask what to serve first.

“Hey Celia, what order should I do the tasting in?”

“Um, do drinks first unless she hasn't eaten, so if she hasn’t then do appetizers then main courses then desert,”

“Ok thanks, but the food shouldn't really be an issue seeing as I made extra breakfast for her,”

“Oooooooo romantic,” Celia teased.

“Eh, not really I do that for everyone I train,” Carol said, missing the joke.

“I was teasing you know that right?”

“Yes, I now know that, but anyway I have to go to start setting everything up,”

“Ok see you later tonight,”

When Celia hung up, Carol moved around the kitchen to grab everything she needed to make the drinks. As she was making the last drink she heard the door open and someone call out.

•••

Therese awoke to the sound of Dannie knocking on her bedroom door. When she didn’t say anything he yelled “I’m coming in whether you want me to or not!”

“Ugh fine you can come in,” Therese groaned and rolled over in bed.

“You do know you have your training with Carol today, right?”

“Shit I forgot how much time do I have?” therese bolted upright.

“About an hour and a half, someone has to be the one to remember your schedule,” Dannie laughed.

“Yeah,” Therese laughed, “I guess someone does,”

“So get up and get ready and be prepared to get drunk today,”

“Wait, why drunk?” Therese sounded more excited now.

“Because you guys are going through the whole menu, drinks included,” Dannie explained.

“Wait so should I eat something before?” therese asks

“ No, you should be fine because Carol usually cooks breakfast when she does this, I didn’t have her, I had Abby who did not cook, however, Tommy had her and said her food was amazing so,” Dannie shrugs.

“Oh, ok,”

“Don't stress too much it will be fine, now go get ready so you won’t be late!”

Therese shivered when she got out of bed but quickly warmed up when she put on a sweatshirt and stepped into the bathroom. She turned on the water to the shower as she brushed her teeth. By the time she is done brushing her teeth the shower is ready and she steps into the shower. 10 minutes later she steps out of the shower and walks into her room. She finds Dannie on her bed.

“Why hello, Dannie, what are you doing here?”

“I’m on facetime with Tommy so he can pick out your outfit for today,” Dannie explained.

“Hey, Therese!” Tommy called out.

“Hey Tommy, so what do you have for me?”

“Well, that depends. What do you want to dress like, casual, relaxed, a little bit dressed up?”

“Ummmm like a bit dressed up but mainly casual, so maybe a dress?”

“Ok, so nothing that has sleeves you can’t roll up, because of food, so go into your closet and grab your black slip dress and then the blue one that is kind of long with the slit, plus your pair of white converse,” Therese walked over to her closet.

“Ok, I got them,” therese returned to Dannie and Tommy.

“Ok now try them on,” Dannie said.

Therese went into the bathroom, put on the black dress, and came out to show Dannie and Tommy.

“Hmmmmm,” Tommy was thinking, “no, it’s too casual and slightly too short, plus the shoes will look better with the blues dress,”

“Ok, I’ll be right back,” a few minutes later she returned wearing the dark blue dress. She walked over to Dannie and Tommy and twirled on camera for Tommy to see. She plopped down next to Dannie on her bed and took his phone. “So what do you think because I feel a little uncomfortable, but that will go away once I get used to the dress,”

 

“See now I don't know because this feels too formal, take me over to your closet,”

Therese and Dannie got up and went over to her closet and started flipping through clothes, “see anything?” Therese continued to pull clothes and show Tommy.

“Stop, those right there, yes the dark blue pants,” therese pulled them aside, “ok now get your white tank top and the black jacket you have,”

“Keep the shoes?” Therese grabbed the rest of the clothes Tommy picked out,

“Yes, keep the shoes, ok now jewelry, I know you usually wear rings but not today because you are working with food, for earrings wear small silver hoops for your first piercings and then small silver studs for your second piercings,”

“Any necklaces?” therese was putting in her earrings.

“No, it would get in the way while you are working,”

“Ok, hold on let me go change,” a short bit later therese came out and sat down next to Dannie, “how long do I have,”

“About 45 minutes,”

“Ugh I’m so tired, and nervous,” Therese sighed.

“Well, are you going to mention the concert?” Dannie and Tommy asked at the same time.

“Not unless she brings it up, she is my boss now, it would be inappropriate to bring it up,”

“You know not a single person cares about that rule right,” Tommy spoke up.

“I mean just look at us, Abby and Celia, and Harge and his ex, and they only broke up because she was moving,” Dannie said

“I know but still, it feels kind of weird right now especially because I haven’t even started working there officially.”

“Ok just don't stress too much, I have to go or else I’m going to be late to the studio,” Tommy hung up.

Therese let out a sigh as thoughts raced through her head. What if she doesn’t remember me? What if she does. What if she brings it up and I freeze. What if I slip up and say something. What if SHE slips up and says something. Are we even going to address it? I won’t say anything unless she says something first. No. I’ll say something. Ugh, that’s even worse. I’ll see how it goes.

Dannie got up and started to pick up the clothes on her floor. He hung up all the clothes that Tommy had vetoed. He moved onto picking up the rest of her dirty laundry and made his way out into the living room. “You have to leave now if you don’t want to be late T!”

“Ok, ok, I’m getting up,” therese groaned.

“Stop groaning, you're going to be fine, it will at least be better than mine,”

“What happened when you did it,” Therese walked out of her room.

“Well first of all I had Abby, who, as you know, cannot cook, which is funny considering she owns a restaurant, anyways she burnt a lot of the stuff so Celia came and sent her home and finished up, then as we were leaving she left her keys inside but we came and went through the back, which automatically locks once it closes, so Abby had to come back and help,” Dannie explained.

“Damn, yeah hopefully it will go better,” Therese walked out the door, “Bye Dannie!”

On the 30 minute walk over to the restaurant, Therese had a million thoughts racing through her head. The main ones being repeats of what was going through her head before, but also new thoughts, like what would Carol be wearing, would she embarrass herself, was what she was wearing ok, how long she would be there, what would they talk about, and maybe most importantly is Carol actually like how Dannie and Tommy describe her?

When she arrived at the restaurant she took a moment to take a deep breath and calm herself down. Therese walked in and looked around. She saw Carol's coat and bag sitting on a chair. She set her jacket and phone down on the table and glanced around for Carol. She thought she heard noises coming from the kitchen but couldn’t tell. “Carol?”

Carol walked out of the kitchen while wiping her hands on her pants. Thereses breath caught in her throat. Oh my god, this is the prettiest woman I have ever seen, again. “Hey, you must be Therese,” she greeted her.

“Uh,” oh my god think of something to say, “yeah that’s me,” Therese stammered.

Carol laughed, “come on, everything is in the kitchen,” as Carol led Therese through the restaurant she looked around, of course, she had been there before but it felt different now that she worked there, she wondered if she would ever feel as comfortable in the space as Dannie and Tommy did.

“Hey, are you coming?” Carol said, snapping her out of her daydream, “Have you eaten yet?”

“Um no, I haven't,'' Therese jogged the last few steps to catch up to carol.

“Let me guess what Dannie and Tommy told you about my cooking?”

“Yeah, but how did you know I talked to Tommy today?”

“I'm, like, ninety percent sure that Tommy has worn that exact outfit to some of our parties before, but you wear it better,” Carol glanced at the floor, blushing.

“Thank you,” Therese was blushing. Should I mention the concert or not?

Therese opened her mouth to say something but was cut off by Carol saying that she made french toast. Carol pushed the plate with food on it to Therese and grabbed her a fork and knife. “Aren't you going to eat? We can share if you want,” Therese asked.

“No, I already had breakfast, plus you need to eat it all if you don't want to get super drunk.”

Therese took the plate of food and gladly started eating. As she was eating Carol got up and got more silverware out for when they started eating what Celia prepared. Carol sat down and started twirling the ring on her finger, a nervous habit. “Where did you get your ring?” Therese asked, trying to make the awkward tension that had started appearing, disappear.

“Oh, I got it from Abby and Harge as a high school graduation gift,” Carol said quickly, almost as if she was trying to get Therese to stop talking.

“Well it’s very pretty,” Therese finished her food.

“Thanks, are you done?”

“Yeah, where do we start?”

“We start with the drinks,” Carol said tersely. Therese was taken back by the sudden iciness of Carol's tone wondering if she had done something wrong. Nonetheless, Therese followed Carol closely as they made their way over to a bin. “Grab a tray,”

Once Therese grabbed the tray Carol quickly started filling it up with glasses. While she was grabbing the glasses. She is gorgeous. I wonder why she got so guarded all of a sudden. I don’t think I did anything wrong.

•••

Once Therese was back behind Carol she let her thoughts start wondering. Why does she look sad right now? She looks really pretty in her outfit. Ugh, why did I put my guard up again? It was going fine. I was listening to Abby. Why do I always do this to myself?

“Therese,” Carol snapped.

“Wha- yes?”

“Are you coming”

“Yeah, I’m right behind you,”

“What were you daydreaming about?”

“Ummmm nothing,” Therese said apprehensively.

“Alright but I need you to focus from here on out, ok?” as if I even can do that.

“Ok,”

“Alright so if you can't tell we are going to start off with the drinks and then move into the food,”

“Got it,” Therese nodded, “before we start can I use the bathroom?”

“Um, yeah, sure you know where it is,”

While Therese was gone, Carol absentmindedly scrolled through her camera roll and found herself looking through old photos of her and Abby, she found ones of them in their tennis uniforms glowering at the camera, others of the two of them shaving Harges head when he was asleep, a few of them cuddled up on the couch when they were in college that one of their old friends took, and the last one in the album was one of Abby and Rindy on her first birthday. A single tear rolled down Carol’s cheek right as Therese came back. She wiped it quickly.

“Woah hey, are you ok?” Therese asked.

“Yeah, no, I”m fine, I was just looking at old pictures and found one from Rindy’s first birthday,”

“Can I see?”

“Uh yeah sure,” Carol was surprised at the request given how rude she had been before. Carol held out her phone for therese look at the picture.

“Rindy is so cute, is that Abby or Rindys mom? If you don't mind me asking, that is,”

“I don't mind, it’s Abby, Rindys mom, Jeanette, was the one who took the photo, if you look in the corner you can see me and Harge arguing over nothing,” Carol laughed.

“Wow Jeanette and Abby look so similar it’s insane, I get the arguing about nothing that happens all the time to me and Dannie, last night argued about whether red velvet and chocolate cake were the same for, like, 2 hours, it got very heated,” therese shook her head and sat down next to Carol.

“So what side were you on for the chocolate vs red velvet debate?”

“I say they are the same thing. I mean red velvet cake is literally just chocolate cake dyed red. The only reason that it tastes different is that we eat with our eyes first, so if something looks completely different you're going to think it tastes different, however, if you did a blind taste test they would taste the same, Dannie clearly disagrees”

“Well, now I want to test out the blind taste test sometime,”

“Well, I guess we will,” the ‘we’ did not go unnoticed by Carol.

“Should we get started?” Carol asked.

“Yeah, yeah I guess we should, given that is already 11:30,”

“Already? Wow time flies”

“Yeah, it really does,”

“Hey, before we do I just wanted to apologize for being so rude all of a sudden earlier, I let myself get inside my head for no reason,” Carol knew she must have really liked her because she apologized, she never apologizes. Carol noticed Therese staring at her with a blank expression on her face. “Hey, still with me?”

“Yeah, sorry you're just nothing like Dannie and Tommy said you were going to be. It’s nice. It’s like how you were at the concert a week ago, I like it.”

The restaurant seemed quieter as Carol made her way back to the table, not heavy silence but comfortable silence. Carol wanted to ask her why she had brought up the concert but in reality, she was just relieved Therese had brought it up instead of her.

Over the next hour, the remaining tension disappeared completely and was replaced with laughter and conversations about everything and nothing. It was effortless, easier than everyone else in Carol’s life, including Abby. Carol wondered why everything seemed so easy with therese, she wondered whether it would always be like this or if it was just the alcohol, she wanted it to always be like this. “Should we move onto food now?”

“Yeah sure,” Therese giggled. “Although I probably won’t remember how anything tastes tomorrow anyways.”

Chapter Text

“Come on, Therese, take a bite!” Carol laughed while waving a forkful of food in her face.

“Noooooo I'm too full,” Therese whined playfully.

“Oh come on, we have all of, what, three dishes left, just have one bite of each.”

“Fine.” Therese gave in.

As they finished the rest of the food Carol had decided she wanted to know more about Therese. So she started asking questions, all the basics. Where did she grow up (queens)? How long had she and Dannie been friends (as long as she can remember)? What does she do for fun (photography, reading, and running)? What does she take photos of (anything that inspires her)? What did her parents do (father was a painter and mother was a teacher)? Her favorite movies (inside out, “childish I know”, Blue Jay, Late Night, and The Proposal), favorite books (the harry potter series, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and the Invisible Life of Addie LaRue) “What do you think the meaning of life is?”

“Um, haha. To me, the meaning of life is to always let yourself feel and be free. Also to always try to be happy.” Therese answered.

“Are you?” Carol asked, “Happy, I mean, are you happy?”

“Not really, I mean sure there are moments when I’m happy but it always feels just out of reach. Like I can see it and I want it but then something always happens and I lose it. Woah, that was a lot of questions, it got really deep there at the end,” Therese laughed trying to change the subject.

“Hey, are you doing anything after this?” Carol started picking up all the plates that were on the table.

“Not to my knowledge, why? Feeling lonely,” Therese teased whilst grabbing the rest of the plates.

Carol laughed, “Actually yeah a bit, I have some time to kill before dinner with the rest of the crew and I was wondering if you wanted to do something,”

“Yeah that would be nice, what time do we have until?”

“I mean Abby said that the dinner was at 7 so until 5:30ish because I have to change and get ready, and then I have to go get the stuff Abby asked me to pick up.”

“Ok well, how about we pick up whatever she needed you to get, drop it off at her place and then do something?”

“Yeah, that sounds good! Any ideas about what to do afterward?”

“Not yet but I’m sure something will come to mind soon enough,”

Therese and Carol were standing next to each other at the sink doing the dishes. Therese splashed water on Carol and bumped her hip, smiling when Carol looked over. Carol smiled back and put bubbles from the soap on Therese's shoulders giving the appearance of shoulder pads. “Oh time traveling back to the 80s with the shoulder pads, are we now?”

“Omg, you got it! It would’ve taken Abby YEARS to figure out what they were supposed to be,” Carol laughed. “Come on, let's hurry so we have more time.”

“Deal. But no more shoulder pads out of bubbles!”

•••
Therese was using a towel to dry off her pants when she walked into the dining area of the restaurant. As she surveyed her surroundings she saw Carol doing the same thing except Carol was also on the phone with Abby double-checking everything she needed to bring and making sure they were fine to come over to drop it all off.

“Ok, so I need to get olive oil from that one place you like, dessert from trader joes, and flowers?” Carol and Therese exchanged looks of confusion over the flowers. Therese mouthed “why flowers?” and Carol shrugged. She walked over toward Therese and grabbed her towel from where it rested on her shoulder. As Carol walked back into the kitchen to put the towels away, Therese went over to the table where all of their stuff sat and put her coat on, and threw everything back into her bag. She sat and scrolled through her phone catching bits and pieces of Abby and Carol’s conversation. “No, I’m still at the restaurant,” “yes, she is still here,” “no I won’t be late, I promise” “don't be gross Abby.” Therese wondered what that one was about. After what seemed like ages, but was only 10 minutes, Carol emerged from the kitchen and said “Sorry about that Abby was being her curious self and asking too many questions, ready to go?”

“Yeah, where are we stopping first?”

“A wine store just down the street, their wine selection isn't that good but my god the olive oil they sell is simply to die for,” Carol walks over to the door and holds it open for Therese.

“Oh, are you sure it's ‘to die for’?” Therese dramatically imitates carol and pokes her in the ribs on her way out the door.

“Ow! And yes I'm completely sure it's to die for because I have had it and YOU have not!” Carol locked the door and started walking.

“Well then,”

“I guess we will have to change that then, won't we Therese?”

“Yeah, I guess we will,” a small smile appeared on her lips.

•••
“Oh we are so getting this,” Therese whispered shouted to Carol.

“What is it?” Carol walked over and peered over Therese’s shoulder, “Seriously Therese? Mac and cheese ice cream?”

“Hey! Don't knock it until you have tried it,”

“Oh, and you have tried it already?” Carol waved her hand at the carton.

“No, but that’s why I want to try it. I mean when else are you going to stumble upon mac and cheese ice cream?” Therese defended herself.

“Point taken, put it in the basket,” Carol grabs Therese's hand and drags her back over to the olive oil. “Ok, which one?”

“The garlic one, garlic goes well with almost anything,”

“Alright, should we get anything else?”

“Not that I can think of,” Therese took the basket out of Carol’s hands and moved through the store and up to the front register. Usually, Carol would be mad at someone for taking something out of her hands but it was different with Therese, and Carol couldn’t figure out why, all she knew is that she never wanted it to change.

“Hi! Ready to check out?” the cashier asked.

“Yes! We are,” Carol sounded somewhat nervous for reasons she didn't understand.

The cashier started to scan the items “did you find everything ok?”

“Yes, we did,” Therese cut in. Carol thought Therese might have sensed her nervousness because she grabbed Carol’s hand and shot her a wink, calming her down, “Thank you so much for all your help.”

“Here you go, your total will be $73.23,” Carol slid her credit card across the counter and moved closer to Therese. Carol wasn’t sure why her social anxiety was hitting especially hard right now, she made a mental note to ask her therapist about it, but she was grateful that Therese was there to help her through it unknowingly.

Carol started to get fidgety and Therese seemed to have noticed because she squeezed Carol’s hand and when the cashier asked if she wanted her receipt emailed or printed Therese answered that they wanted it printed. Therese held the door open for carol, never letting go of her hand until they were down the block from the store. “Hey, are you ok? You seemed nervous in there,”

“Yeah, I’m fine now, that store always makes my anxiety worse for some reason. You helped me a lot though so thank you.” Carol and therese stopped at the red light and waited to cross.

The light turned green and Therese grabbed Carol’s hand and gave it a small squeeze before answering, “Yeah, of course. I know how it is, it used to happen to me but it got better. It still happens to me sometimes, just not as often.”

“How,” Carol paused to take a breath, “How did you get control of it?”

“I’m not sure, I mean sometimes it gets really bad but for the most part, it’s fine. I think it was going to therapy that helped me. It was getting really bad in college and my roommate, Richard, convinced me to try it out. He said that even if it didn’t help with the anxiety it was still good to have someone to talk to.” Therese blew out a breath and started playing with the sleeve of her shirt. “I’m glad he pushed me to do it it helps a lot,”

“I’m in therapy, it hasn’t helped much but I think I just don't like my therapist,” Carol held the door open to Trader Joe’s for Therese.

•••
As Therese and Carol walked around the store they made light conversation. To anyone else, it would just look like two old friends getting to know each other again, but to the two of them, it was getting to know someone you had felt like you spent your whole life waiting to meet.

Chapter Text

“I have an idea!” Therese suddenly spouted out in the middle of their comfortable silence as they walked through the isles of Trader Joe’s.

Carol stopped for a moment, surprised by Therese’s sudden burst of energy. But she was intrigued with whatever Therese was thinking about. “Whatcha thinking?”

“Why don’t we get stuff for each other that we think the other person likes? But! We can’t show each other what we got until we’re out of the store.”

“Wait yes. I love that, especially because I have Abby’s credit card. Just no frozen things because we already have the mac and cheese ice cream, which mind you is probably ice cream soup by now,”

“Yeah sounds good! Wait, why do you have Abby's credit card?”

“We went out last night but she had to leave early so she left me her credit card because it was her turn to pay. But even if I didn't have her card she would pay for this because she owes for graciously doing this even though her and Celia's apartment is less than 3 blocks away,” Carol explained while bending over to look at something on the bottom shelf, perhaps already having ideas on what to get Therese.

Therese stood near Carol, “We should split up. Meet back right here in,” she looked down at her watch “ten minutes.” In all honesty, Therese didn’t want to leave Carol’s side, there was something about her that fascinated Therese.

For a moment, Therese thought about the night of the concert. They spoke for hours that night, every word that came out of Carol’s mouth was so alluring. Therese wanted to ask Carol if she remembered that night or her at all but opted not to when Carol stood up straight and flashed Therese a quick smile.

“Alright, those ten minutes start… now!” Carol started to race down the isles.

“It’s not a race, Carol!”

All Therese heard was Carol’s angelic laugh three isles down.

•••

“Next stop Abby's apartment!” Carol called out as they walked out of the store.

“Ummmm I don't think so. I may be wrong but we don't have any flowers like she asked us for,”

“Oh shit you're right, well there is a great flower shop right around the corner from her house,”

“Wait what’s it called because I think I used to come to one near here,”

“It's called ‘Enchanted Arrangements’. It’s been for just about as long as Abby has lived there,”

“Oh my god, I love that place!” Therese exclaimed, “I used to get Dannie red roses on his birthday as a joke.” From here Therese began to lead because she knew the way given that she used to come here fairly often. “I never knew that Abby lived here, I mean I never had any reason for knowing but it still feels weird knowing,”

“Yeah I get that, when I was growing up I didn’t realize that Abby lived a block away from me until 7th grade. We even took the same bus and everything,”

“Come let's get going so we can leave their place faster,”

For the first time in a while, Carol felt truly happy, and she felt that it could be sustained and not just a fleeting feeling like it usually was. She smiled to herself enjoying this feeling and trying to not let this feeling go at least for a few minutes. Training days were her least favorite and everyone knew that. She had begrudgingly agreed to do this because everyone else was busy, and she has been dreading this day for a long time. She never expected this day to go so well and now she was looking forward to the rest of her day.

 

•••

“What type of dinner is this?” Therese was looking at a bouquet of roses.

“Ummmmm I have no idea, Abby just told me to wear something nice, it might be an anniversary, but I'm not sure because her anniversary with Celia isn’t for another month.” Carol thought more about the events coming up, “Ok so it could be for the 5th anniversary of us opening the restaurant but I don't think so because we invite everyone who works there for that, it could be for Harges birthday, which is the most likely because it’s next week, but he doesn’t it like celebrating it because ‘it makes him feel old’ even though he would be turning 36,”

“Ok, we need something that could work for any of those events, Hey Fred! Do you have anything that could work for either a marriage anniversary, a restaurant anniversary, a birthday celebration, or just getting dressed up for nothing?” Therese asked the person working, who she seemed to know.

“I would say a mixture of the roses we have,”

“Thank you, Fred!” Carol nodded in thanks, “so give me a second to choose some flowers and we will be on our way,”

Therese milled about the store and smiled to herself while she waited for Carol to pick out the flowers.

•••

“Can you wait out here for me? If Abby finds out she will never stop teasing me about this,” Carol’s face held an apologetic look even though she knew Therese would completely understand.

“Yeah, of course, I completely understand. I’m sure Dannie would do the exact same if I p[was in your position.”

“Ok thank you, I will be back in two minutes,” Carol gave Therese an exaggerated bow and left Therese laughing in the lobby of Abby’s apartment.

Carol felt inexplicably nervous on the elevator ride up to Abby and Celia’s apartment, even though she had done this more times than she could count. She assumed it was the fact that Therese was waiting for her in the lobby nut in the end she didn't really know because the feeling of unbridled happiness was too overwhelming.

As she approached the door to their apartment she tried to look like her normal self and smile so much but she couldn’t help it. All she could do was hope that Abby wouldn’t notice but she knew that if Abby didn't notice, Rindy would. When the door opened it was Celia and she felt a sense of relief. “Hey, I have the stuff Abby wanted me to get,”

“Thank you so much, I think she is either still in bed or in the shower.” As Celia walked into the kitchen to put the stuff down she called out to Carol “So, how was the training? Was it everything you had hoped it would be?”

“I mean I guess it was fine, nothing special really. We just moved through it as fast as we could.” Carol’s cheeks began to turn red, it was her telltale sign that she was lying, she hoped her blushing would subside by the time Celia came back. (It did but not enough)

“So what are you doing now? Do you want to stay for a bit?”

“I can't, I'm sorry I have to go home and get ready,” Carol spoke fast. “I’ll see you later tonight though,” Carol practically ran back to the elevator. She used the ride down to collect herself.

•••
Therese saw Carol step out of the elevator and saw that she was flustered. “Hey ready to go?”

“Yeah I am, are you?” Carol breathed out.

“I don’t see why not,” Therese followed as Carol led the way out of the building, “so how’s Abby?”

“Still in bed actually, so I dodged that bullet, but knowing her it will come up at dinner, and if she doesn’t bring it up Rindy will, even though neither of them were out there, I’m sure Celia is telling them right now,” Carol and Therese walked side by side on the sidewalk with Carol bumping into there occasionally.

“So, who introduced Celia to you guys? Because from what I can tell she didn't grow up with you guys,” Therese asked with a genuine curiosity that Carol hadn’t heard in a long time.”

“It’s kind of funny story actually,” Carol let out a laugh, “Celia was actually one of Harges girlfriends in college, who then broke up with him because she realized she was a lesbian. And it wasn’t the first time that had happened either, but they stayed friends and he introduced us to her when Abby and I were sophomores and they were seniors. She and Abby didn't start dating until they were both out of college though. If you ever ask them about it prepare for a much longer story though.”

“That’s,” Therese paused to think of something to say, “Odd. But good for them,” They walked in comfortable silence until they reached the park and were looking for a place to sit. “There’s a spot of shade over there if you want it,” Therese pointed to a spot a little bit away from everyone else.

“Yeah, that looks good, let’s go,”

Therese started to unpack the food they got for themselves and noticed that Carol got ice packs for ice cream “You know, I kind of forgot we bought this,”

“So what’s your job? And I don't mean your day job, like what is your career?”

“Well I guess I’m a photographer, I do some stuff on the side but not enough to fully support me yet. I’ve had a few big jobs the last few years which was enough to get by with only working two days a week at this little bookstore called ‘the comfort of books’. It was nice but now I need more to be able to support myself,” Therese seemed sad that she had to leave her job at the bookstore. “It was nice while it lasted though, Dannie and I had a good time with our free time but now I guess it doesn’t matter since we work together. How did you know you wanted to start a restaurant? And with your brother nonetheless,”

“I honestly think it was a joke started by Abby and me. Well let me rephrase, Abby and I have always wanted to own a restaurant together, and then we jokingly asked Harge but he was down for it if we were serious about it, and we asked Celia because she and Abby were married already and she was a chef who happened to hate the restaurant she worked at. So it all came together pretty perfectly on accident.” Carol’s face had a clouded but happy look, almost like she was reliving a happy time in her life.

Before they knew it, it was time for them to part ways for the day. Sure to see each other again soon they said simple goodbyes which were really “until next time’s” and then they parted ways. As Therese turned and walked away she went over the day she had in her head. She wondered if she had imagined all of it because everything that had happened was the exact opposite of what Dannie had said it would be like. She had fun and it seemed like Carol also had fun. Therese hoped that this would happen again if there was even time for it, given Carol's already busy schedule and the fact that Therese’s schedule was about to get a lot busier. But one can hope.

•••

 

When Carol walked in the door of Abby and Celia's apartment Rindy carefully studied her, as she had grown so used to doing over the years because Carol never shared much without being pried, that now she could detect carols mood simply based on how she was standing, or the look in her eyes, or the way she was breathing. She noticed that Carol was holding herself with a bit more openness than usual. “Does she look happy to you?” Rindy leaned over the counter and whispered to her aunts.

“Yeah, she's smiling, she never smiles,” Abby looked over to Carol and then back to Rindy.

“Well guess who she was with today?” Celia drew two looks of curiosity.

“Who?” Abby and Rindy leaned in closer.

“Therese,”

“Wait really? Didn't they just meet for the first time today? And at the training? Why would Carol hang out with her so soon?” Abby rapidly spits out, hardly believing what she was hearing.
“I don't know, but you know when Carol dropped the stuff at our place earlier? Anyways while you were still in bed, I looked out the window and saw her walking out of the building with Therese.”

“No fucking way, are you serious? Aunt Carol has to wait at least a month to hang out with somebody outside of work let alone be alone with them,” Rindy looked at her aunt like she thought she was joking.

“Dead serious. Trust me I was shocked too,”

“Should we subtly question her about it over dinner tonight?” Abby, Celia, and Rindy all exchanged grins and it was silently agreed upon so that Carol, who was approaching the kitchen, couldn't hear.

“So what are you guys talking about?” Carol slid onto the stool next to Rindy.

“Nothing, just what type of boxed mac and cheese is the best,” Rindy said, the lie rolling off her tongue easily.

“Oh Annies for sure, any other answer is wrong,” Carol said while reaching for the bottle of wine and glass that sit in the middle of the counter.

“Well I guess we are wrong then,” Abby said while looking at Celia, who let out a dramatic sigh.

“I forgot to ask but what is this dinner party for?” Carol asked.

“Um we don't know, Harge said he had something to tell us so we offered to host a little dinner ‘party’ so he could tell us all at once.” Carol still had a confused look on her face even after Abby had finished explaining. “Do you not remember he told us this last week,”

“Not really, but I guess we’ll find out what he wanted to tell us soon,” Carol pointed to her brother walking through the door.

Chapter Text

“I forgot to ask but what is this dinner party for?” Carol asked.

“Um we don't know, Harge said he had something to tell us so we offered to host a little dinner ‘party’ so he could tell us all at once.” Carol still had a confused look on her face even after Abby had finished explaining. “Do you not remember he told us this last week,”

“Not really, but I guess we’ll find out what he wanted to tell us soon,” Carol pointed to her brother walking through the door.

“Hey, how's my favorite 19 year old?” Harge said when he walked in, putting his coat in the closet.

“I’m fine, how is my favorite 35 year old?” Rindy got up and hugged him.

Before he could answer Abby, Celia, and Carol all cut in and said “what do you have to tell us?”

“Well hello to you too, I will tell you all that over dinner so don't worry, and it's nothing bad” he saw Carol’s concerned face which then changed into confusion. “Right now, however, I am going to pour myself a glass of wine,” he started to reach over Carol who proceeded to swat his hand away and hand him the bottle.

“Manners, Harge, please,” Carol teased him, “wait what are we even having for dinner? It smells really good,”

 

“Just some pasta, we wanted something easy but good so Celia and Rindy made it earlier today,” Abby said.

“Should we eat then? Because I, for one, am starving, and I kind of want to tell you what I was, well, planning on telling you,” Harge gave a knowing look to Rindy who smiled widely back. “I’m not telling you guys until we are like, almost done with dinner though,”

“Gotta keep everyone on their toes,” Rindy said.

“Exactly!”

“Wait Rindy do you know?” Carol asked.

“I mean of course I do, Harge is my best friend, and I’m basically his only friend” Rindy rolled her eyes playfully, “In all seriousness though I found out on accident, but, well, you’ll see when he tells you all,”

“That is not fair!” Carol exclaimed.

“Life isn't fair Carol, I thought you would have figured that out by now, being, you know, ancient” Harge joked as he sat down.

Carol’s mouth just hung open while everyone else couldn't stop laughing.

•••

About an hour and a half later everyone had naturally gravitated to the living room and Harge figured that everyone, specifically Carol, would be drunk enough to drastically overreact to what he had to tell them. “Are you guys ready to find out?” Harge looked rather nervous, at least to Carol he did.

“What is it? We all have been dying to know,” Carol set her wine glass down and continued braiding Rindy's hair.

“It’s just us, we're all family,” Abby must have noticed Harge’s nervousness as well.

“You can trust all of us, and no matter what it is we will always be here for you,” Celia repositioned herself in Abby's arms.

“Ok, well here goes nothing. I have kind of been seeing someone… ” Harge said quietly.

Everyone froze processing the information, except Rindy who flased a big grin at him and got up to hug him. Carol was the first to speak. “Im sorry did i hear that correctly? You're seeing someone?”

“Yes, I am. It’s fairly new though but I wanted to tell all of you.”

“Harge thats amazing! I’m so happy for you!” Celia exclaimed.

“We couldn’t be happier for you! We know the past few years haven't been easy for you,” Abby stood up and pulled him into a hug.

“I had a feeling. I knew you seemed happier but I didn't know exactly why. I am happy for you though. So tell us about them!” Carol was excited to hear about the person who was making her brother happy.

Harges face lit up with joy immediately, “Well his name is Derek and he is very handsome.”

“He works in fashion marketing!” Rindy jumped in.

“How do you know that?!?” Carol exclaimed, not mad, just confused.

“I needed someone to talk to about it and she was the only one who knew, and before you get mad at me for not telling you first I didn't mean for her to find out, we ran into each other while Derek and I were on a date, it was an accident.”

“Yeah, it was an accident! I swear, I ran into them while Genevieve and I were getting coffee before class and I asked him who he was with,” Rindys face flushed a deep red and gave a small, almost imperceptible, smile at the mention of Genevieve and Carol wondered if something was going on between them.

“Anyways he is really handsome. Hes taller than me and has salt and pepper hair and just everything about him is perfect.” Harge blushed, uncharacteristically.

Everyone looked happy for him and was all smiles. As Harge was telling them stories about Derek, Carol noticed something different about her brother. He seemed truly happy for the first time since his husband died a few years ago, almost like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. She loved the way his eyes lit up when he would talk about Derek and the smile that would appear when someone would ask a question about him. She also noticed Rindy glancing down at her phone and smiling a lot. She wondered if it was Genevieve but decided she wouldn't ask in front of everyone.

•••

A few hours later Carol decided she better be getting home if she wanted to get up in time to do anything. As she reluctantly got up from her spot in the corner of the couch Abby said “Leaving already? It's only 11:30, it's not like you have plans tomorrow,”

“Yes, well I am tired and I want my beauty rest, plus I think Celia would agree,” Carol pointed to the redhead asleep in Abby’s lap. When Carol got up to tell everyone goodbye she stopped and whispered in her brother's ear, “I know I haven't met him yet, but he seems good for you. You look really happy.”

Carol made a stop by Rindy's room to tell her goodbye. She knocked on the door, “Can I come in?”

“Yeah it's open,” Carol opened the door to find Rindy reading on her bed.

“I just wanted to say goodbye and I'll see you soon. Also, congratulations on you and Genevieve, how long has that been a thing?” Rindy's mouth hung open and her cheeks were bright red, “You smiled when you said her name when you were explaining how you found out about Harge and Derek, plus you kept looking down at your phone and smiling. I took a lucky guess and it seems like I was right,”

“It has only been a month, and please don't tell anyone, I don't even think anyone knows I’m gay,” Rindy said quietly.

“They have their suspicions about you sexuality, I mean your favorite movie is oceans 8, but I wont tell anyone. And I promise you, when you tell them, they will only be happy for you,” Carol gave Rindy one last hug before walking out to tell Abby goodbye and go home. On the walk home, she thought about calling Therese but decided against it in case she was already asleep.