Ann unlocks the door and steps inside. “Anne?” She calls.
She’s just returned from her weekly therapy appointment. As per usual now, it went well. She has a good chat, and they go over stressors in her life, things she’d like to work on and improve. Overall, it’s just a good tool Ann has realized can help. To have someone who is well versed in mental health, mental health issues, trauma that knows what to do and how to help people through it.
Ann doesn’t hear Anne’s voice or Tim or anything really as she comes in.
She quietly looks around the corner into the living room and finds Anne.
Anne is on the couch, asleep. In the crook of one arm, she has Tim, also asleep. And in the crook of the other arm is Frankie, asleep as well.
Ann grins. Her little family. She gets her phone out and takes a photo of this adorable trio. Frankie is getting so big now. She almost looks like a full grown cat. Almost, but not quite.
“Hey.” Ann shakes Anne’s shoulder gently, waking her up. Frankie opens an eye to look at Ann but determines she’s not a threat and goes back to sleep.
Anne yawns and looks around. “We must have fallen asleep.” She grins down at her babies. Yes, the cat has become her baby too.
“It’s alright. You guys are wonderfully cute.” Ann grins. She bends at the waist and presses a kiss to Anne forehead. “I picked up a few things on my way home. I’m going to start on dinner.” Ann raises the bag in her hand.
Anne grins, happily. “Would you like help?”
Ann wants Anne to just stay there and be comfy and look after Tim so she can work on the food. “No. You do this.” Ann points between Tim and Frankie. “I’ll do the meal.”
They share a smile before Ann scoots off to the kitchen.
The first time Tim stood Anne had yelled throughout the whole house trying to get Ann to hurry into the room to see. He had pulled himself up by holding onto the edge of the couch cushion. Anne sat there and watched as he smiled up at her.
“We are going to have a mobile baby soon.” Anne says to Ann as they watch him stand there.
Ann hums. A smile firmly on her face. “You’re going to have to baby proof the whole house now.”
“Me?” Anne raises her eyebrows at Ann.
“Yeah, you.” Ann scoffs. “We both know you are better with tools then I am. Remember the towel bar in the apartment bathroom?”
Anne grins and nods. And they laugh. “Oh yeah.”
The days that follow Anne helps him out with practicing his standing. She’s just changed him and has Tim standing on the changing table. She holds onto him under the armpits as she sings Ring Around the Rosie.
“We all fall down.” She sings and lets go of Tim. She doesn’t let him fall over but he plops down onto his butt.
Timothy laughs so Anne starts singing again and again when she gets to the falling down line, she lets him fall onto his butt.
Ann hears his laughter from down the hall and comes to see what’s going on. She listens to Anne sing and then let’s Tim fall. “You can’t sing that to him.” She gives Anne a disapproving look.
Anne turns. She didn’t know Ann was in the room. She grins, guilty. “Why not?”
Ann steps into the room, over to the changing table. “It’s about the Black Plague, isn’t it?”
Anne shrugs. “He doesn’t know what the words mean yet.” She doesn’t see any harm in it.
Ann frowns. “It’s morbid.”
“True.” Anne grins and starts singing again.
Everything is going well, so well, for them. Maybe too well.
One day Anne comes home from work and slams the front door. Ann knows she’s in a mood when Anne just gives her a curt hello and then goes to say hi to Tim in his jumper chair. Not even the sight of their baby does anything to improve Anne’s mood. Usually, if she’s had a bad day, which is rare, she can come home and hold the baby and forget about it. But not today.
Ann doesn’t say anything about it until they are sitting down for dinner.
“So, what happened today?” Ann doesn’t need to say anything else or get into specifics.
Anne growls and clenches her silverware in her hands. “I had this big project. This be renovation planned for this really cool building that we were buying and then it fell through. The renovation, the purchasing of the building, all of it. That was going to be a big thing for us. The biggest thing I had done to date. And now- nothing.” Anne grinds her teeth together.
“I’m sure you’ll find something else.” Ann thinks she’s being helpful.
“NO.” Anne slams her hands down on the table.
Ann flinches and leans away from Anne.
Anne sees this and softens immediately. “I’m sorry.” She gets out of her chair and kneels next to Ann. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell.” She puts a hand on Ann’s forearm, but Ann pulls away.
Anne hangs her head. “Ann.” She pleads.
“That was scary.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” Anne feels like a jerk now. She was just all caught up in her own problems and own little world that she took it out on Ann. She goes back to her seat and eats the rest of her dinner in silence. “Dinner was amazing.” She compliments the chef. “How about I do the cooking tomorrow night? What would you like to have?”
Ann eyes her curiously. She knows what Anne is trying to do. She’s trying to apologize with more than just words. Which is nice but it doesn’t make up for the fact that Anne went to a scary place for a moment. Ann is just glad that TJ is napping in the other room and didn’t see it.
Ann takes their plates and gets up from the table. She brings them to the sink. She packages up the leftovers. She does all the things in post-meal that need to be done. She goes back to the table and Anne is sitting there with her elbows on the table, her hands in her hair, her head down.
“I get that you are upset but I didn’t appreciate being yelled at.” Ann tells her flatly.
Anne looks up. “I know. I’m sorry.” She gives an apologetic smile.
Ann comes over and takes Anne’s hand giving it a squeeze. “We can talk about it if you want. But I won’t be yelled at.” She is very clear with Anne that she won’t tolerate that kind of behavior.
“No, of course not. I just need some time to calm down. Maybe after TJ goes to bed.”
Anne hides away in her office for the rest of the evening, in shame. She comes out only when Ann knocks on the doorframe and says that she’s put Tim to bed.
She goes upstairs and slips into Tim’s room. He’s sound asleep in his little bed. Anne frowns. “I’m sorry, little man.” She’s apologizing for missing out on putting him to bed. She’s apologizing for yelling at his mother. Anne rubs her thumb over his cheek. She sighs and leans in and gives him a kiss before going to find Ann.
The woman is in bed already.
“Can I come in?” Anne stands awkwardly at the door.
“Of course. This is our room.”
Anne smiles. It is their room now. It wasn’t always. Well, in some ways it always was but Anne has her own room with her own things in it. But this room is theirs. It’s where they both come at the end of the day. It’s where they sleep together every night. It’s the space that is just for them, to just be.
Anne comes over and sit on the edge of the bed next to Ann’s hip. “First of all, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to explode at you like that. It’s just been a rough day.”
“I understand that but-“
“I know. It can’t happen again. And I won’t let it. But you have to also understand that if I’m like that I need my space to calm down and decompress before being asked about what’s wrong.”
“Okay, fair enough.” Ann gives her a pinched smile.
“So, you aren’t mad at me?”
Ann shakes her head. “No. You frightened me. I’ve never seen you like that.”
“I’m not like that ninety-nine percent of the time.”
“I know.” Ann reaches out and wrap her hand around Anne’s wrist. “But I’m not mad.”
Anne sighs, relieved. “Okay. And I really am sorry.”
“Okay.” Anne searches Ann’s eyes. “So, we’re good?”
“Yeah. Come here.” She tugs on Anne’s arm, getting her to come closer so she can kiss her. “Do you wanna talk about what happened today at work?”
Anne closes her eyes. She takes a deep breath before shaking her head. “Can you just- can you just-“ She rests her forehead against Ann’s, frustrated.
“Can you just hold me?” Anne whispers.
Ann pulls back and tilts her head to the side so she can look into Anne’s eyes. “Of course.” She pats the spot on the bed next to her where Anne sleeps.
They are expecting a visitor, so Ann has tidied up the place. Anne is upstairs with Timothy when the doorbell rings.
Ann knows it’s Catherine even before she opens the door. She’s comes over to see Ann and the baby. She had gotten word when the birth announcements went out but has been in Italy for the past few months. So, this is the first time she’s been able to come by.
“Oh, Annie.” She sighs as she holds her cousin at arm’s length. “I wish you would have told me. I thought we were close enough that we could tell each other things.”
Ann hangs her head. “It was more complicated than just being pregnant.”
“No baby daddy, I know.”
“It’s more than that.”
“Oh.” Catherine gives her cousin an uncertain look. Ann shakes her head, telling Catherine to not dig any further.
“Maybe one day we can talk about it all but not today.” Ann suggests.
Catherine nods. “So where is the little guy? Aunty Cath is here to spoil him.”
“You know you’re not his aunt.” Ann points out.
“Oh, shush.” Catherine flips her wrist at Ann. “Where is he?”
“Right here.” Anne comes into the room with Timothy in her arms. “I was just changing him, so he was nice and fresh for your visit.” Anne nods. “Hello, Catherine.”
“Hi.” She watches Anne with the boy. “My grandmother said-“ She shuts her mouth before she says something she doesn’t mean or doesn’t want to repeat.
“What did she say?” Ann wants to know. She wants to know what her family is saying about her.
“Nothing. Forget I mentioned it. It’s not worth repeating.” Catherine knows she shouldn’t have mentioned her grandmother. “The boy.” She turns to Anne and Timothy.
Anne grins and looks down at him. He smiles back up at her. Anne kisses his forehead before handing him off to Ann. Tim giggles and kicks his feet happily as he is exchanged.
“There’s my happy boy.” Ann holds him so that he is facing outwards, towards Catherine. “Can you say hi to Catherine?” Ann takes his little arm and waves it at Catherine.
Anne puts a hand on the small of Ann’s back. “I’m going to be in my office if you need me.” She presses a kiss to Ann’s temple. Ann nods and Anne sends a smile in Catherine’s direction before leaving them to be.
“So, Anne, huh?” Catherine grins.
Ann can’t look at her cousin. Catherine knows about her childhood crush on Anne Lister. “She’s so wonderful with Timothy.” Ann focuses on him. She runs a hand over his peach fuzz blonde hair.
“He looks just like you.” Catherine says.
“That’s what Anne says too.” Ann smiles. “I’m glad he does though. I don’t know what the other half of his genetic makeup is but I’m glad that I can see a lot of myself in him. If that weren’t the case, I think I would’ve had more trouble bonding with him than I did.”
“Can I hold him?” Catherine holds her hands out.
Ann nods and hands the baby over. He’s out of the stretch where you have to be gentle with him when exchanging him or supporting his head. He’s grown so much over the first few months of his life. Ann can’t believe that he’s almost six months old already.
TJ seems a little unsure of Catherine at first. But Ann rubs his back. “It’s alright, little guy.” He pouts a little but doesn’t cry.
“Let’s sit.” Ann offers.
They sit and chat for a while. Catherine talks about her spring and summer that she spent in Italy. Ann tells her about all of Timothy’s milestones like any invested mother would.
“What about Anne?”
“What about her?” Ann doesn’t realize that she’s been playing with the ring on her finger. “She’s great.”
“Yes, but you say how great and wonderful she is with Tim. But what about you. Is she everything you ever dreamed that she’d be?”
Ann grins. It sounds so dumb how Catherine says it. “That was like a dream. When I was younger.” Ann chuckles and shakes her head. She can’t believe it sometimes. “I never thought I’d be here. I’ve got a baby; Anne and I are basically engaged.” She twists that ring on her finger around again. “We’ve got a house, and a child, and we’re building a life together. It’s not perfect and it’s not like I dreamed. But it’s real and it’s better.”
Catherine grins. “Oh.” Like really grins, wide. “I’m so happy for you.”
“Thanks. There’s lots of work to be done. I’ve been in therapy for a few months now. Everything has completely changed around with the way I think. I was in a really bad place. Anne was there for me during that time, and she’s been so understanding. I’m just so grateful that she’s so patient. I don’t think too many other people would be. They would have skipped town on me by now but not Anne. She’s moved her business from Paris to here. She’s changed her schedule to have time for Tim, and me, I guess. But I think, no I know, she wanted to do those things. I know she wants to do this whole life thing with me. It’s so crazy. A couple weeks ago we even talked about having more kids. Well, another kid.”
“Really?” Catherine can’t believe it.
Ann tries to hide her smile. “Yeah. Crazy, right?”
They talk about Anne some more and about the life that they have started. They reminisce about when they were teenagers and about all the things they wanted to do in life compared to where they are now. Catherine promises to visit often, and she even offers to babysit Timothy for them so they can have a night just to themselves.