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Candid Photographs

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Cole carries his laptop bag over to his grandmothers’ house, letting himself in through the back door, leading directly to the kitchen. He sees his grandmother sitting there, nursing a mug of coffee in one hand and a book with the other. “Hi, Nan.”


“Cole, good morning.” Serena offers him a smile, letting go of her mug to wrap an arm around him when he moves closer to kiss her cheek. “Did you sleep well?” She studies him a bit, seeing something behind his eyes, something stressing him. After the argument he had the night before, she knows it’s probably the culprit.


“Uh...not really.” Cole clears his throat, shaking his head to the side to sweep his hair from his eyes. His voice had begun to deepen over the summer and he’s still getting used to it, “is it okay if I stay here for a bit?” Think of a reason. “I just...I haven’t really been feeling like myself and I don’t exactly want to be over Mum’s if I have one of my headaches. Especially since I haven’t had one in a while and it would probably-”


“Of course, darling. You know you never need to ask.” Serena interrupts him before she gently reaches up, pushing hair from his eyes again, “you need a haircut.” She pauses, “unless you’re growing this out like Owen does with his. Entirely up to you, of course.” Her tone teases a bit, knowing full well that the only reason Owen’s hair is long is because of his sensory issues and inability to sit still long enough.


“I know. Kait was talking about going together, but then she got busy with work or something.” Cole shakes his head, “I’ll ask her again...unless, do you think you or Gran can take me?” He bites the corner of his mouth, not really keen on asking his grandmothers for anything since they always do so much for him, “or I can get a ride share instead, I don’t mind.”


“No, I’d love to take you.” Serena offers, “your Gran is usually the one to handle that, at least she used to be until Kait had taken you and Lane while everyone was sidetracked when Marcus was...” She doesn’t want to finish, not wanting to reference the boy’s grandfather, and certainly not during the man’s hospital stay. Serena clears her throat, “maybe you and I can...have lunch or something after.”


Cole smiles a little, “I’d like that, Nan.”


Bernie stands aside as her grandson walks past her, offering only a cordial smile. She watches as he retreats up the stairs, probably to his room in their house. She walks the rest of the way into the kitchen, seeing her wife at her normal morning post, on a stool at the kitchen island with a mug of coffee and a book. “What’s gotten into him?”


“Good morning to you as well.” Serena doesn’t need to glance over, receiving the kiss from the woman on top of her head once she walks closer, “and Cole...I couldn’t tell you. Something is definitely bothering him though.” She sighs, knowing she isn’t going to be able to read anything while being interrupted so often by her loved ones, she slides her bookmark between the pages. A bookmark she received from a toddler aged Cole for Grandparents’ Day, it’s tattered and worn. She’s attempted to repair it multiple times with tape, but not much remains.


“Why do you say that?” Bernie rounds the kitchen island, noticing a pot of coffee resting on the counter top near the stove. Her movements are something she does every single day.


“Why ask questions while you’re still half asleep?” Serena closes the book before folding her arms over top of the island counter, “it has something to do with Guinevere and that...ruckus we heard in the back garden last night. Guaranteed.”


Bernie nods a little, finishing filling her mug. She turns to look at her wife, leaning her back against the counter as she holds her mug to warm her hands, “leads one to think that someone had sneaked out under the cover of night and was coming home at the time.”


“Yes, but which one?” Serena raises her brow, taking a sip of her coffee as she watches her wife through the tops of her eyes, “I can’t see either of them doing anything like that.”


“Begs the question, does Cole believe he’ll be able to escape from here easier than he would be at home, or is he frustrated by Gwen taking advantage of the situation?” Bernie tilts her head to the side, “I mean, we were only truly told bits and pieces from her as to why she was moving in. Yes, it was easier for Jason and Greta to maintain the schedules they developed over the summer and even before that, but...I always felt there must have been something else there.”


Serena nods a little, agreeing that Bernie’s theory makes sense, “what’s on your mind?”


“Jason had issues last year and we know how much they hurt Guinevere emotionally, same with Greta, but don’t feel like Gwennie has ever truly forgiven him for it.” Bernie shakes her head, “at least it doesn’t seem that way.” She lifts her mug of coffee to her lips, taking a sip of the hot liquid. Just how she likes it. It allows Bernit to formulate her next words, “because of that, it wouldn’t be far out of the realm of possibility for her to be acting out.”


“ wouldn’t Charlotte or Kait see that?” Serena shakes her head negatively, furrowing her brow as her eyes focus more on her wife, “how wouldn’t they see Guinevere sneaking out at night or...acting a certain way in the morning?” She pauses, the idea finally dawning on her, “Cole is protecting her.”


Bernie taps the side of her nose with her index finger, signalling that Serena was completely correct. “We’re certainly aware of their ‘partners-in-crime’ mentality between the pair, exactly how things have been since they were small.”


“So...Guinevere is going out at night and Cole is covering for her, but...where is she going?” Serena sits up a bit straighter, biting her lip a moment before continuing, “is she...taking things that she shouldn’t? Is she drinking?” She shakes her head a little, “I had promised to take her to France to show her where my mother’s side of the family comes from, as well as her first drink, but I was waiting until she was on break from school for a few days.”


“I think we should prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.” Bernie nods slowly, lifting her mug to take another sip of coffee, “and not jump to any conclusions until we speak to her.”


“Last thing we would want is to push her away.” Serena replies quietly, exhaling slowly, “goodness, Bernie, what if-”


“We can’t think that way.” Bernie sets her mug onto the counter behind her before rounding the island, wrapping an arm around her wife as she leans in, pressing a kiss against Serena’s temple. She remains close as she continues speaking, “she was supposed to stay here and I think that was for a reason, but we showed her our trust. At the time, she gave us no reason to ever doubt her, but she’s also a teenager. We both know, very well, that teenagers are mad creatures.” 


Serena ruefully smiles to herself, “that we do.”


Bernie stands upright again, “I’ll go and speak with him, but you need to try to relax. We don’t know anything for certain yet and-”


“I’d love nothing more than to be wrong in this instance.” Serena mumbles softly, her eyes staring at the dark, swirling liquid in her mug. Lifting her mug to her mouth for another sip of her coffee, the only thing that fills her mind are worst case scenarios.


Sweeping her hand across her wife’s shoulders as she slowly leaves the kitchen again, Bernie sighs softly to herself as she reaches the hallway. She glances to the top of the stairs before starting to climb them. Bernie could feel herself starting to slow down. Something that terrified her and she promised herself she would never allow it to happen long ago. Probably the main reason why Bernie always traveled so often. Since that all ended, for the most part, with the birth of her grandson and realizing how much she was needed.


Why am I thinking about this now? Bernie climbs the stairs, deciding she needs to be more diligent in exorcising again. Remembering the jogs every morning she used to do with her daughter that tapered off after Charlotte’s recent hospital stays. Bernie licks her lips as she reaches her grandson’s bedroom, a room the boy has kept at their house since his birth, and knocks on the door frame. The door is open, but she still likes to ask for permission.


“Yeah, Gran, come in.” Cole responds, not needing to look over to know that it’s her. He lounges against the headboard of his bed, his laptop resting on the comforters as his fingers expertly glide across the touch pad.


Bernie smiles to herself a little as she takes a few steps inside, turning her head to look up at the teenager, “how did you know it was me?”


“You and Nan have different gaits...and different knocks. If she notices my door open, she’ll usually just walk in.” Cole offers his grandmother a smile, closing the lid of his laptop. He can tell she wants to talk to him. “I um...I think I’m...” He sighs a little, “I think I’m just going to stay here full time again. Like I used to do, remember?”


“Yes, darling, and you always know you’re welcome because this is your home just as much as your actual...home, but why?” Bernie takes a few steps closer, taking a seat at the foot of the bed, “is everything okay?”


“Do you honestly want to know the answer to that question?” Cole asks quietly, his red clay colored orbs meeting the inherited ones at the end of the bed, “Gran, I...” He swallows, “I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone. I can’t break that promise.” He draws his lower lip into his mouth, unable to convey just how difficult this was for him, especially keeping something from his grandmothers.


Bernie nods a little, understanding his desire to keep his promise, something she can respect, “if things become dangerous-”


Cole is well aware of his missteps in playing with dangerous situations over the years, “I know, Gran. I...I won’t let it get that far.” He swallows, his eyes turning glassy, “I just need to stay here.” He needs to stay away from Guinevere. That he knows. Cole crawls closer to his Gran, just needing to be closer to her in proximity. 


Reaching over and placing an affectionate hand on his knee, Bernie turns her head to look at the teen, “of course.” She continues to just look over his features, amused by how much he’s starting to look like Cameron at that age. “Do you have enough of your things here?”


“I need to fetch my kit for school, but...I think so. For right now, at least.” Cole nods, “ you mind if I stream our lives and stuff? Maybe...stories from when you and Nan were younger?” He pauses, “how you met and...and stuff like that?”


“I don’t think we’re that interesting,’s fine with me, if that’s what you really want. You’ll need to speak with Nan though, obtain her permission.” Bernie hums a soft chuckle, “your mother said something about television producers contacting her again, so you may have some stiff competition.”


“It isn’t a competition if there is no contest.” Cole begins to give a cheeky smirk, only causing his Gran to laugh.