We Are Young
Ann is in line getting herself a tea. The place is nearly empty. Just how she likes it. The woman behind the counter hands her the cup of tea and the door opens with a jingle. Ann is intent to duck out of the place without whoever it is that came in noticing her.
She hugs her light fall jacket tighter around her midsection and tries to slip past the newcomer.
“Ann?” The woman behind the counter calls out.
“Yes.” The newcomer answers and Ann looks up.
“Oh, not you.” The woman behind the counter points to Ann.
Ann stops as the newcomer turns to look at her.
“Well, I’ll be. Ann Walker, is that you?”
“It is.” Ann gives her a tight-lipped smile. “I haven’t seen you in years.”
The newcomer nods. “You must have been-“ She raises her hand to chest level. “about this tall the last time I saw you. You’ve grown up since then.”
Ann ducks, embarrassed. “You flatter me, Anne Lister.”
“You two know each other.” The woman behind the counter ascertains.
“Yes.” They say in unison. They share a look.
“I should go.”
“We should catch up. Have coffee. I’m going to be in town on and off coming up. Give me your number.” Anne insists before Ann scampers away. She types Ann’s number into her phone. “I’ll give you a ring.” She waves her phone at Ann.
Ann follows up with another tight lipped smile. She grabs her bag, which is what the woman behind the counter wanted to get her attention about before she left.
Weeks pass and Ann doesn’t hear from Anne. She is sure that Anne was just being polite and isn’t really interested in meeting with her. Ann is sure Anne won’t call. She’s sure that Anne is a busy woman and doesn’t need to be caught spending time with a girl that had a massive crush on her as a child.
Anne is catching up on paperwork on the train as she travels. A thought occurs to her as she heads back towards Halifax. Ann Walker. She promised she would call. She picks up the phone and hits call on Ann’s name.
It rings. But no one picks up. Anne doesn’t leave a message.
Catherine is talking about something mundane and uninteresting to Ann. The weather is getting chillier as fall carries on. Requiring multiple layers of clothes, which is to Ann’s advantage. The afternoons are usually still warm though. They sit outside for lunch for maybe the last time this fall at an outdoor café. Ann is mostly watching people as the pass by on the sidewalk next to their table. Catherine is saying something about one of her college friends and a party that they went to. Ann definitely isn’t interested in any talk of any parties. She doesn’t mention this to Catherine though.
Ann spots someone walking down the sidewalk and tunes out whatever party Catherine is talking about. A striking someone. Someone that sticks out like a sore thumb in Halifax. Someone wearing a women’s tailored suit. Someone she recognizes from her youth. Someone she could never forget. Ann watches as the woman gets closer and closer and then pass the table all together.
Ann can’t help herself. She spins around in her chair. “Anne!?” She half-yells after the woman.
Anne Lister stops in her tracks. Someone called her name. A voice she doesn’t recognize. She looks up from her phone and then turns. She walks back to the table she had just past, the voice that just called her name.
She stops at the table. She might not recognize the voice, but she recognizes a young Ann Walker and Catherine Rawson having lunch.
“Ah, Ms. Walker, Ms. Rawson. Enjoying your lunch?” Anne ventures. She looks at the table set up.
Catherine answers. “Yes, I had a lovely meal. I recommend this place. Have you ever eaten here?”
Anne hums. “Can’t say that I have.” Her eyes linger on Ann. Ann silently questions her about not calling to set up a meet up. And Anne shrugs and hangs her head. She eyes at the spread in front of Ann. Her eyes refocus on Ann, looking her up and down. She hasn’t been around this girl in years but when she was a child she was a thin, frail looking thing, who Anne had assumed didn’t eat much. The many plates in front of Ann would indicate that has changed. In looking at Ann, it does seem like she has filled out over the years. “What about you?” She asks Ann of her meal.
“It was good.” Ann looks down at her lap, self-consciously.
“I’ll let you carry on with your meal.” Anne says and takes off.
Ann is disappointed that the meet up was never discussed.
Catherine notices. “What’s wrong, Ann?” She knows her cousin has been extra emotional lately.
“It’s nothing. It’s stupid.” Ann waves her off with her hand.
Catherine turns and looks over her shoulder in the direction that Anne left in and wonders what just happened and if she missed something. She turns back. “Are you sure? She asks Ann.
Ann nods once, resolutely.
Ann is laying on the couch that evening watching some reality show about a vet’s office when her phone rings. It’s not a number she recognizes.
“Hello?” Ann says cautiously, unsure of who is calling.
“Hello. Ann, is that you?”
She recognizes Anne’s voice right away. It’s a voice she doesn’t ever think she could forget. “It is.” She confirms, sitting up. She hears Anne sigh in relief on the other end.
“Good. I just called to apologize. I’m just so busy, you know.”
Ann doesn’t really know.
“I hope I didn’t interrupt and ruin your lunch today. And I’m sorry if I did.”
Ann frowns. That’s the reason Anne is calling. Again, she is disappointed. “You didn’t ruin my lunch. I was the one who spotted you and called out your name.”
Anne sighs again. “Right. Anyway, I didn’t want to seem rude. I had to get going and couldn’t chat anyway. I just remembered I had your number, so I wanted to let you just know that and I’ll leave you to enjoy the rest of your evening.” Anne is ready to hang up.
“Why didn’t you call?” Ann asks nervously. She doesn’t want to seem too noisy. She knows she shouldn’t care so much but it bothers her that Anne has rejected the meet up that she suggested.
“Oh.” Anne pauses. “I did.” That was weeks ago. “One day, a few weeks ago. And you didn’t answer. And then I got busy and had to fly to Italy for two weeks. I just got back yesterday and well then you spotted me today.”
Ann feels silly now. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know.”
Anne chuckles. “Don’t apologize, dear. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Ann pinches her lips together. “What about now?” She asks bravely. That is not one of her strengths. Bravery. But something about talking over the phone instead of face to face pumps up Ann’s confidence and bravery.
“Oh, well-“ Anne mentally runs through her schedule. She’s not really interested in meeting up with Ann. She just said they should to not be rude. “I’m just in town for today and tomorrow. And I have meetings all day tomorrow. Then I’m back to Paris for two weeks.” Anne explains.
“Oh.” Ann is disappointed yet again. “What do you do? Running all over Europe all the time.”
Anne chuckles over the phone. “Real estate development. It’s a crazy business but I love the thrill that it provides. Deadline, and development and money transfers and getting things in order. I love it.”
Ann sighs, realizing that they aren’t likely to have a little meet up. And that Anne, like she always has been, is a Rockstar, a god like figure who will always be leagues ahead and away from Ann and her simple life. “That’s good. You should love what you do.”
There is an awkward silence before Ann fills it in. She hates silence in conversation and usually fills them before the other person. “Well, good luck and good night.” She says and hangs up. She stares at the phone and realizes what she just said. Why did you have to say ‘good night’. That was stupid. It was the nervousness and that just came out. She didn’t actually mean it. And now Anne probably thinks she’s stupid too. She stares at Anne’s number on her phone. She saves it to her contacts even though she knows that she’s never going to use it.
It’s mid-morning when Ann’s phone rings. She’s surprised to see that it’s Anne that’s calling.
“Ann, I have had a cancelation today. We could meet up for lunch if you still wanted to. I must warn you that I don’t eat lunch though. How about that place you were at with Ms. Rawson yesterday?”
Before Ann can think it through her mouth blurts out dumbly again. “Okay.”
“Good. I’ll meet you at noontime.” Anne ends the call.
Ann is at the café at 11:30. Early because she has nothing better to do and because she is anxious about meeting with Anne. She orders knowing that Anne said she doesn’t eat lunch. She might as well eat while she’s here.
She’s busy eating, the time has passed noon and she even finishes her meal and Anne still hasn’t arrived. At fifteen minutes past, Ann thinks she is being stood up. She’s prepares to pay the bill and leave. It was silly of her anyway to think that Anne Lister would be interested in having anything to do with her. She’s signing the bill.
Anne approaches. “I’m sorry I’m late.” She slides up to the table as Ann is getting up. “You must think I’m a total flake. What with not calling and being-“ She looks Ann up and down. Anne notices something now that she hadn’t noticed in their previous two run ins.
She opens and closes her mouth a few times as she stares at Ann’s stomach. She hadn’t realized. She thought Ann was just a little plump. She’s not sure if she is. “Ann, are you-“ You never asks a woman if she is pregnant. It’s a societal no-no.
Ann rubs her hand over her small bump. “Shocking, I know.” She takes in Anne’s expression. “Yes, I’m pregnant.” She confirms to help get the shocked look off of Anne’s face.
Anne closes her mouth, but her eyes grow wide as it all clicks into place. “Oh, well, congratulations.” That’s what you tell expectant mothers, right.
Ann hums and sits back down. “I was just going to leave. I didn’t think you would show. I already ate.” She looks down at her ever growing stomach. “I was hungry.” What she means is that the baby was hungry and needed food.
“Right.” Ann nods. “And sorry I was late.” She starts to get her wits about herself again. “If I’m early for something, it’s a miracle. If I’m on time I’m having a good day. But, mostly, the hectic life I live makes things pile up and I’m late more often than not.”
Ann nods in understanding. “It’s okay. I don’t have much going on today.”
Anne waves a waiter over and orders a water. “So, what do you want to talk about? I could tell you about my morning meeting, but I doubt that would interest you.” Anne grins over at the girl.
Ann asks the one thing that she’s been thinking about since she saw Anne the first time a few weeks ago. “Do you live in France or Italy? I’ve seen you here more in the last few weeks than I have since I was like twelve years old.”
Anne tries to remember what Ann was like at twelve years. She would have been twenty-four and just finished with college. That would have been when she left Halifax and moved to Paris. A good eight years ago now. She’s built her career in those eight years. “I have a place in Paris. That’s my permanent address, if you will. But my father is ill. And I’ve been coming back to visit him and some of the other family the last two months or so. That is, when I have an opportunity. That’s why you’ve seen me around.”
Ann nods. So, Anne isn’t sticking around.
“You’ve grown up some in the last eight years.”
Ann isn’t the little girl that had a crush on her anymore. It was cute back then. Anne remembers it fondly. Little Ann Walker coming over on her bike with handfuls of flowers that she picked from her parent’s garden. Anne never encouraged her, but always accepted the flowers and whatever other little trinkets Ann would bring to her.
Ann rolls her eyes, embarrassed. “You could say that.”
Anne wiggles her eyebrows. “An adult now.”
Ann looks down at her hands in her lap, shy. “Correct.”
“Oh, come on.” Anne teases. “You’re not a little girl anymore. The last time I saw you, you were a rail thin girl on the verge of womanhood. I’d say that went well.”
Ann scoffs. “Is that how you compliment girls?” She says it without even meaning to. “I’m sorry. I’ve overstepped.” She doesn’t know anything about Anne’s life now. She just remembers vying for her attention and having to compete with Anne’s girlfriend at the time, Mariana. She doesn’t see a ring on Anne’s finger and wonders what her current relationship status might be.
“It’s alright. I’ve been accused of much worse.” Anne says around a wicked smile.
Ann sighs. “Are you still together?” She doesn’t know why she keeps asking these personal questions. The words just keep coming out of her. It’s years old jealousy.
“With whom?” Anne asks.
“Mariana.” Ann whispers.
Anne laughs. “You remember her? Wow. And no. I’m not. I do have a girlfriend though, Maria, in Paris.”
Ann nods. “Oh, okay.”
Anne nods at her. “What about you? What have you been up to? Other than-“ She points to Ann’s belly.
Ann licks her lips, nervous to talk about herself. “Oh, not much. I dropped out of college recently. I’m not doing much of anything at the moment. My life isn’t busy and exciting like yours seems to be.”
Anne nods and takes a drink of water.
“Is your father going to be alright?”
Anne nods again. “He’s on the mend. Had a massive heart attack. And then had to have open heart surgery. It’s a fairly long recovery. He’s just starting to get around the house again, slowly though. I think the toughest part is that he had to change his diet and he is a stubborn old man and that’s the most difficult part.”
Ann nods. “I had to change my diet too. When I found out-“ She looks down at her stomach. “No more crappy food. Healthy stuff for the baby. Though, I do have a little cheat once a week.”
She stares at Ann’s stomach. “Any cravings?” She just can’t believe that Ann is an adult now and that she’s going to have a baby. And at twenty years old. Such a young age.
“Just one. Peanut butter. And I’ve never been a big fan of peanut butter in my entire life. Like, it’s okay once every six months but it was never something I ate regularly or bought to have around the house. But now there is a jar in my cupboard. Somedays, I’ll have to have like just a spoonful and other time I have to have a whole sandwich.” Ann smiles as she speaks.
It’s the first time Anne has seen her genuinely smile. It’s the same smile that she remembers from eight years ago. It seems to stretch out across her entire face and pulls at her eyes. Just now, it’s on an older face. “Bizarre. So, when are you due?”
Ann hums. “Not soon enough. End of march.”
Anne would laugh but Ann doesn’t seem to say it with any humor, so she just nods along. She wants to know more. Most people want to know more about pregnancy and pregnant ladies, but she doesn’t want to seem too noisy. They are, after all, just meeting up for the first time in eight year. For the first time, they are both adults.
It’s not like they were close friends either, eight years ago. They were neighbors and Ann had a childhood crush. That was the bread and butter of it. Now, there’s not much to facilitate a friendship. Anne lives in Paris and is busy as all get out. And Ann is about to be busy becoming a mother.
It’s not like they have anything in common other than the past. And babies haven’t really interested Anne all that much. And she values her precious time too much. She can use her time to make money and make a name for herself and her business. She knows Ann is young and has the energy of a young person to care for a baby. So good for her.
“It really was nice meeting up with you, Ann. I’m sorry I haven’t more time.” Anne stands to leave, and Ann follows suit. “It’s lovely to see you all grown up.” She holds her arms open, offering a hug. They embrace. Ann’s small bump pressing into her lower abdomen. She’d be lying if she said she couldn’t feel it.
Anne takes a step backwards after a moment. “Good luck, with that.” She nods at Ann’s stomach. “Keep me updated on the progress.” She says earnestly. The whole strange interest in pregnancy is peeking through Anne’s carefully constructed facade.
Ann wrinkles up her face. Why would Anne want to know how her pregnancy is going? “Really?”
Anne nods and smiles. “Yeah, sure. Why not?”
Ann shrugs. She didn’t think Anne would care about what happened with the baby. “It’s just- I don’t know-“ She shrugs, again feeling stupid. “Nevermind. Good luck with your real estate.” Anne chuckles at the awkwardness of it all. “And tell your father I wish him well and hope his recovery goes smoothly.”
“Thank you, I will.” Anne tells her. “I must be going now. I have a teleconference in fifteen minutes.” She points over her shoulder in the direction that she arrived from.
“Yes. Go. Do.” Ann nods.
Anne turns with a small smile and walks away.
Ann sighs, grabs her bag, and walks in the opposite direction.
Carry Me Home
Ann heads out of the doctor’s office. She’s just had her 18 week checkup. Everything looks good. And it’s the first time she’s thought about Anne in nearly a week. After their lunch meetup, Ann couldn’t stop thinking about Anne the rest of the day or the entire next day. Anne had always had that effect on her. She wonders where in Europe the woman is. When she’ll next be in Halifax again. If she should ask for another meetup. What Anne does in her free time? Not that it sounds like she has much of it. What her Paris girlfriend is like? All sorts of things ran through her mind but after a day or two Ann put an end to it. It was a stupid childhood crush. She is an adult now. Anne has a life of her own in Paris and hasn’t time for Ann’s silly trivial life.
She does however type out a text message to Anne. An update on the baby growing inside her. ‘Hi, Anne. I hope I’m not bothering you. You wanted me to keep you updated on the pregnancy. I just finished with my 18 week checkup. Everything looks good and the baby is the size of a sweet potato.’ She hits send and pockets her phone.
A minute later it dings with a new message. Ann shakes her head and looks at the message. ‘It’s good to hear that baby sweet potato is doing well. How is potato’s mama doing?’
Ann rolls her eyes and sticks her phone back in her pocket. She’ll discuss the baby with Anne but not herself.
She waits until she returns home to reply to the message. Ann needed to figure out what to say without sounding snippy or mad. ‘I’m doing well. Eating well. All that jazz.’
Anne sends back a smiley face and thumbs up emoji followed by a jazz hands emoji.
Ann smiles at Anne’s emojis. She didn’t think Anne would be the type to use them. Ann thinks they will just leave it at that but a few minutes later she receives another text from Anne.
‘Have you had any other interesting cravings?’
Ann chuckles, despite herself and starts typing a reply. ‘Nope, sorry to disappoint you.’
Anne sends back a disappointed face emoji.
“I’m sorry if I seem too invasive. And if I am, please tell me to stop.” Anne says as she stirs her coffee.
They meet up the next time Anne is in town a few weeks later. “I’ve just never known anyone that’s been pregnant. Well, not anyone I was close friends with.” Anne says absentmindedly. “Did you have morning sickness?” She goes right into her round of questions. It’s like she was preparing for a business meeting and had a list of questions prepared in her mind.
Ann is still wondering if they are even friends, let alone close friends. She wonders that if their previous childhood connection supersedes ‘close’ friendship. “Yes and no. Mostly I just felt icky some days but passed soon enough.”
“Hmm.” Anne makes a mental note of that. “Do your feet hurt? Or your-“ Anne points to Ann’s chest. “-boobs?” She looks at them. Not knowing adult Ann before her pregnancy, she doesn’t know if there’s been a change there or not. Her eyes linger there for a moment before returning to meet Ann’s. Ann stares at her. “Too much? I’m just interested in how the body changes during pregnancy.” Anne takes a drink of her coffee.
“I- uh- no my feet don’t hurt but I’m sure they will at some point, later on. And- uh- no on both accounts.” She doesn’t want to talk about her boobs with Anne. That seems inappropriate on a different level. But maybe Anne doesn’t see it that way. Maybe she’s only looking at it from a clinical standpoint.
“How about headaches? I heard some people have terrible headaches.”
Ann nods. “That was part of the icky stage.”
Anne is eager to learn about the process. “What does it feel like as your stomach expands? Are there stretch marks yet?”
Ann narrows her eyes at her from across the table. “You really are interested, aren’t you?”
Anne grins, guilty.
“It’s weird. I don’t, like, feel my stomach expanding. It’s not something you actively feel. It just happens. Maybe it happens at night while I’m sleeping. Or maybe it’s just happening in teeny tiny increments that you never know it’s happening, and you just wake up one day and can see that you’re bigger. And no there aren’t any stretch marks yet. Though I’m not really looking forward to seeing those.” Ann stares off into the distance past Anne.
“Maybe you won’t have any cuz you’re so young.”
“I don’t know if that’s how that works.” Ann runs her finger around the rim of her teacup. “I really miss being able to have a cup of coffee.”
“You could have decaf.”
“Ick.” Ann makes a disgusted face. “It’s not the same.”
Anne raises her coffee to her lips. “No, it’s not.” She says just before taking a drink.
Anne and Maria are walking through a park in Paris. Maria on her elbow as a little girl runs up to them.
“Are you famous?” The little blonde girl asks.
Anne laughs. Her first thought is of Ann’s baby and what strange questions it might have as it grows up.
“No, we aren’t little one.” Maria responds.
That turns into Anne thinking about interacting with Ann’s child as it grows up. She wonders what kind of relationship she might have with the child. Or if she will remain friends with Ann at all. Or if once the baby is born and her fascination with the pregnancy is over so will their interaction.
Anne physically shakes her head to get out of her thoughts. “What? Sorry.”
“Where’d you go?” Maria asks.
“Nowhere.” Anne takes a confident step forward. “Kids just asks the strangest questions, don’t they?”
“That they do.” Maria agrees.
Anne comes back to Halifax every two or three weeks and they always meet up for tea. The second time they meet up, Anne is only ten minutes later than she said she’d arrive. She apologizes profusely. “What’s new? Tell me while I settle.”
“Oh, not much. The baby started kicking this week. It was weird. At first, I didn’t know what was happening. But after a few kicks I figured it out.”
“Does it happen often?” Anne asks as she sits down.
Ann rubs her hand over her growing stomach. “Once or twice a day. Not much really.”
“Oh.” Anne frowns.
“You sound disappointed.” Ann grins.
“Is it weird if I say that I am?” Ann gives her a small smile.
Ann shakes her head. “You’re curious.”
“Then I’m disappointed. I’d like to see what if feels like.” She ventures. Anne knows she’s probably overstepping here but something in her has to ask. She tells herself it’s just the fascination with pregnancy.
“It feels different on the inside than it does on the outside.”
Anne laughs. “I’m sure it does.” Anne gets to her drink finally. “I don’t think I’ve ever had any friends that have been pregnant.”
Anne shrugs. “Well, not anyone that I was close enough with that I felt I could ask questions or ask to feel the baby kick or stuff like that.”
“Oh.” Ann smirks. “Well, in that case, I’m honored then.”
Ann’s phone chimes one afternoon and she looks to see a message from Anne.
‘What baby names do you have so far? I want to hear them.’
Ann frowns at the question. Then debates how to reply. ‘I don’t have any yet.’
Anne sends back a frowny face emoji followed by ‘Well, the kid needs a name. You better get on that.’
Ann smiles and rubs her tummy. “Maybe Anne should be the one to name you.” She tells the baby.
‘Do you have any ideas?’ Ann texts back.
A few seconds later she gets a reply of the lol emoji. And then a second message with a few names. ‘I like Anne. It’s a capital name. But that might get confusing. Or Charlotte. Emily. For girls. I like Cedric, Bartholomew and Thomas for boys.’
Ann giggles. ‘Cedric, eww.’ She hits sends and shakes her head at the name.
The phone starts ringing in her hand. “Hello.”
“Cedric is better than no name at all. You need a name for the baby. I can’t believe you don’t have any ideas yet. Or are you just keeping them a secret from me?” Anne teases.
“I don’t think the baby should have a name until after it’s born.” Ann is firm with her words.
“Ann, people name their kids all the time before they are born. I’ve heard of people having names for years and years, even before any kids are a glimmer in their father’s sperm.”
“Gross.” Ann gags.
Ann shrugs even though she knows Anne can’t see her. “Well, I’m not those people.”
“Just don’t give the baby a weird name.” Anne warns her.
“Oh what? Like Cedric.” Ann teases.
“That’s a fine name for a person. What’s wrong with that? It’s strong.”
“Okay, fine.” Ann rolls her eyes. “Don’t you have work you should be doing?”
“Pfft. This is more fun.” Anne is sitting at her desk, leaning back in her chair, her feet up on the corner of the desk, ankles crossed. “So, how are you? What size fruit or vegetable is the baby this week?”
Ann chuckles. “I just looked it up actually. It’s the size of a papaya this week. Though I’m not sure what a papaya is.”
“There was a picture of one though, so I get the idea.” Ann shrugs.
They ask how each other are doing and chat for a little while before someone needs Anne and she has to go. “I’ll see you next week, mama.” She says as she hangs up the call.
Ann blushes despite herself.
In a rare occurrence, Anne has arrived at the café that they always meet at before Ann. She orders tea for herself and Ann, hoping that Ann won’t mind. She watches people come in until she spots Ann. She waves her over to the table that’s she sitting at.
“Someone’s early.” Ann comments.
“Maybe I’m turning over a new leaf. Sit. I got you tea. I hope you don’t mind.”
Ann smile. “Thank you but you didn’t have to.”
“It’s my pleasure. So, how are you? How’s the baby?” Anne questions straight away.
“Let me sit down first, geez.” Ann teases.
“Sorry. I’m just eager to hear. You look good. Are you sleeping alright?”
Ann can hear the genuine concern in Anne’s voice. “I’m good. It’s early yet. I haven’t had any problems sleeping but I’m sure that’s to come. I hear most women can’t sleep through the night the last two months.”
“Practice for when the baby is here, and you have to get up and feed in the middle of the night. Or change the baby. Or both. I suppose.” Anne smiles kindly. That’s not something she ever wants to do. She likes to sleep the entire night through too much to have a baby disrupt that pattern.
“Something like that.” Ann mumbles.
“So, are you going to find out if it’s a boy or a girl? Or do I have to keep saying the baby every time we talk.” Anne teases with a light smile.
Ann sips her tea. Anne got her order correct. She smiles into the cup. “No. I don’t want to find out.”
“Ah, a surprise at the birth. I don’t think I could wait. I’d want to know as soon as possible. Not that I want to have a kid. No offense. It’s just not something I ever imagined doing. And you’re doing it so young. Props.” Anne tips her cup in Ann’s direction.
“Thanks.” They look at each other for a moment before Anne looks away. “So, how’s work?”
“Ah, work is work. I’m not as busy as I was a month ago though so that’s nice. I can spend more than a day or two here before going back to Paris.”
“What about you? Other than preparing to be a mother what keeps you busy?”
Ann fumbles for the right thing to say. She doesn’t have very many hobbies. She has lots of free time but spends most of it at home. “I like to doodle. That’s not much of a hobby though. I watch lots of movies.” Ann shrugs. She knows she sounds uninteresting and pathetic compared to Anne.
“Here, I got you something.” Anne pulls a small bottle out of her coat pocket.
“What’s this?” Ann asks.
“I was reading about it. It’s a cream to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, should you get them, of course.” Anne smiles lopsided.
“Uh- thanks.” Ann takes the bottle from Anne. It’s an odd gift to give someone. “What else have you been reading?”
Anne looks around the area. “Oh, not much. After the last time we met, I thought about the expansion of the stomach and stretch marks some more. So, I mostly just looked that sort of stuff up.” Anne downplays it but she’s been researching little tidbits of information almost daily on pregnancy. She’s been following along online with each week of Ann’s pregnancy. What fruit size the baby is. What kind of changes happen to the baby and the mother’s body each week. That sort of thing. It’s all very fascinating.
“Anne, we need to talk.” Maria enters Anne’s home office.
Anne looks up over her computer at her girlfriend standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. “About?”
“I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” Maria falters as she enters the room. She slumps down in the chair across the desk from Anne. “You’re gone all of the time.”
“I’m here right now.” Anne counters.
“Yes, but you’re working.”
Anne pulls her lips to one side. “Well, there’s work to be done.”
“Anne.” Maria sighs. “You are either working or traveling for work or in Halifax. Isn’t your father getting better. Do you need to go there so much anymore?”
“He is but-“ Anne can’t come up with a valid argument. “He still needs my help.”
“Anne, you don’t help him when you’re there. You and I both know that. Your sister does nearly everything. You throw some money at her and visit every couple weeks to make yourself feel better about what happened to him.” Maria runs her finger along the edge of Anne’s desk.
“After the New Year, I’ll be around more. I’ll have less work to do. You know it’s always super busy at the end of the year trying to hit all sorts of deadline before the new year comes.”
“But you’ll still go to Halifax every couple weeks?”
Anne opens her mouth to say something and then closes it again. She likes going back to Halifax now. She likes seeing her father, even though he is stubborn. And she likes getting out of the hustle of Paris for a bit. And then there’s Ann’s pregnancy.
“You spend too much time in little old Halifax. And if you can’t say that you’ll spend less time there and more time with me then I’m done.” Maria stands and leaves the room.
Anne watches her leave before returning to her work. She briefly wonders if Maria just broke up with her. It’s a fleeting thought but she returns to the paperwork that is pulled up on her computer that she must read through before the end of the day.
Anne takes a sip of her coffee. She needs coffee today. Just tea for Ann and baby though. “Are you going to have a baby shower?”
“No. I don’t have that many friends. I’ll just get what I need.”
Anne wonders about that. “We’re friends, aren’t we.” Anne reaches across the table and puts a hand on top of Ann’s.
“If you think we are, then we are.” Ann says, looking down at Anne’s hand on top of her own.
Anne notices that Ann seems uncomfortable and removes her hand from Ann’s.
“What if I throw you a baby shower? Now that my girlfriend dumped me, I think I’ll be spending more time here.” Anne doesn’t mean to sound like she wants sympathy, but it would be nice for someone to take interest in her life. Just a little.
“What?” Ann doesn’t think she believes what she hears.
“I said, I’ll throw you a baby shower.” Anne shrugs. “If you want, of course.”
Ann leans forward in her chair. “No. That other part.”
“Oh.” Anne rolls her eyes. “Maria broke up with me because I, and I quote, spend too much time in little old Halifax.”
“Her loss.” Ann mumbles.
That gets a laugh out of Anne. She grins over at Ann. “You sure you’re over that crush, Walker?”
“I never said I was. You just assumed so.” Ann rotates her teacup in circles.
Anne raises an eyebrow at that. “Interesting. So, about this baby shower. When should we do it? Like a month before you pop? Is that customary?” Anne takes her phone out to look at the calendar. “How about the last weekend in February. I’m making a note here and blocking off my schedule for that weekend. I’ll come back on that Thursday before, make sure everything is set. We can book a place for that Saturday.”
“Anne, you don’t have to. I said it was fine. I’ll get what I need.”
“No, I insist. We need to swindle your friends and family into buying stuff for you. It’s your first child, after all. It’s the least I can do. Consider it done. You don’t have to worry about anything. You just have to show up. Anne Lister is on top of it.” Anne grins, satisfied.
“Referring to yourself in the third person now, are you?”
Anne rolls her eyes. “You caught me. I’m just trying to impress.”
“Oh, you don’t have to impress me. You’ve impressed me since a was little. And you weren’t even a big bad boss lady back then.” Ann smirks.
Anne laughs. “Good to know.” She winks at Ann.
Anne is out shopping for Christmas presents for her family when she walks past a baby shop. Of course, she has to stop and go in. She looks over all the cute baby items. Anne really likes the wall of onesies that they have. She wishes she knew the sex of Ann’s baby. That would make buying something a little easier.
“Oh, this is cute.” The lady behind the counter comments. “For you?” She looks Anne up and down.
Anne frowns. “No. For a friend. I hope she likes it.”
She picked a cute little pale green onesie with a giraffe on it. She pays and the woman puts it in the little gift bag for Anne.
“Hello, Ann.” Anne approaches the table Ann is sat at. “And Merry Christmas.” She looks Ann up and down. “You do celebrate?”
“Yeah. Merry Christmas, Anne.” Ann shows her a faint smile.
“Good. I wasn’t sure what my plans were going to be but when Maria dumped me, I knew I would spend Christmas in Halifax. I’ll be here through the New Year.” Anne takes her jacket off and sets it on the back of her chair.
She sits, leaning across the table, her hands folding together in the center. “You’re starting to get big.” She whispers. “Like proper pregnant.” Anne wiggles her eyebrows and grins.
Ann laughs. She spotted a bag in Anne’s hand when she walked in. “So, are you going somewhere after this? Who’s the gift for?”
Anne beams. “It’s for you. It’s for the baby.” She picks the gift bag off the floor and hands it to Ann. The reaction she gets from Ann isn’t one that she expects.
Ann just sets the gift bag on the chair next to her. “Thank you.”
Anne wrinkles her brow. “Aren’t you going to open it? Come on. Don’t be bashful.”
Ann swallows hard and reaches for the bag. She pulls it into her lap and looks inside.
“Take it out.” Anne encourages.
Ann pulls the onesie from the bag and looks it over. “Thank you, Anne.” She says in the monotone.
“Do you like it? It’s cute, right?”
Ann pinches her lips together. “I can’t accept this.” She puts the onesie back in the bag and pushes it across the table towards Anne.
“What? Why not?” Anne doesn’t understand. “Don’t you like it? I thought you’d like it.”
Ann starts crying. She tries hard not to, but it’s all become too much. “Because I’m not keeping it.”
“Keeping what? The onesie?”
“No.” Ann shakes her head. “The baby.” She gets up and runs out of the café.
Anne is sat there with her mouth hanging open. She doesn’t know what to think. What to do. She fingers the bag, pulling it her stomach, wrapped it under her arm. “Ann.” She whispers long after the woman has run off.
Anne pays the bill and like a zombie walks back to her rental car. She wants to find Ann. She has so many questions, but she doesn’t know where Ann lives or where to look for her.
And Ann isn’t responding to her calls or her texts. She goes back to her hotel and does a little sleuthing. She asks a few people and does a little internet research and finds an address.
She drives over in her rental car. She’s smart enough to leave the onesie in the car as she goes into the building. She knocks on Ann’s door.
Ann is surprised to see Anne standing there when she opens the door. “What are you doing here? How’d you find me?”
Anne pulls her phone from her pocket. “I did some asking around. And good old Google.” She waves her phone around. “Most people you can find with a Google search. It’s creeping and wrong, I know. But I have so many questions.”
Ann frowns and turns away from the door. She’s not going to be able to avoid Anne forever. She knows this.
“Can I come in?” Anne asks from the doorway.
“Do whatever you want. But don’t tell me what to do.” Ann turns back to her, now a safe distance from Anne and folds her arms over her chest in a defensive position.
“Okay. About what you said earlier at the café-“ Anne rubs at the back of her neck. There are not many situations in life that makes her awkward, but this situation is definitely one of them.
“I’m not keeping the baby.” Ann says it again.
“Why?” Anne pleads with her eyes for Ann to tell her.
“It’s none of your business. It’s my body and my life.” Ann folds her arms over her chest.
“Right but-“ Anne wants to argue with that but she knows she can’t. As a woman herself, she knows she can’t.
“But nothing. I don’t know what you want. I don’t know if it’s that you want me to say something to make you feel better. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what you want to hear to make you feel better. If that’s what this is about. Are you mad that I didn’t tell you? You don’t have any rights to that information or are you like everybody else?”
“Everybody else?” Anne wonders. She’s having a hard time following along.
Ann throws her hands in the air. “Everybody else in this damn town. You don’t know, you’re not here long enough to catch wind of anything. The gossip, the talk. I know what people say about me. She’s a whore, baby’s a bastard. I hear it. Maybe not directly but I know what people say. That I’m not fit to be a mother. That I’m deranged. That I sleep with guys on the first date and that this would have happened eventually. That I can’t keep someone around more than a few months and getting knocked up was the way to do that but even I failed at that. That the father ran off once he found out. I hear it all. So what version of it do you want to hear? What will make you feel best?”
Anne tilts her head to the side. “The truth.”
Ann laughs in her face. “I don’t owe you anything. You might feel otherwise because of this friendship or relationship that we’ve developed or whatever it is. And I’m not your damn charity case. I’ve got money. That’s not an obstacle. My family is loaded. You know that from my childhood. So no. I can’t accept your little gift. Because I don’t need it. I’m not keeping it. And you better cancel that baby shower too.”
“But what?” Ann snaps at her. “I pulled the wool over your eyes? Or did you just ignore a number of things that didn’t add up?” Ann puts her hands on her hips.
“Any other pertinent questions? Or are you just going to stand in my doorway all evening?” Ann is done with this for today. She doesn’t want to be mean. She’s stressed and everything has come crashing down. It’s not a great day. She knows it’s probably the end of their little reconnection of the last few months. Maybe the naïve, child in Ann thought they could be friends. But that doesn’t seem like a good idea right now.
“You don’t want to have anything to do with this anymore, with me anymore. I know I shouldn’t have let you believe what you believed for so long. And maybe one day I’ll regret that. But that’s on me. You can be angry at me. I don’t really care. I’m stupid and the little girl in me thought, at the beginning, when I saw you again that something was there. That that stupid childhood crush that I had would be reciprocated. But then you told me you had a girlfriend, in Paris. I should have ended contact with you then instead of stringing you along. Just go. Please.” Ann is tired, exhausted, suddenly.
Anne stands in the doorway for a moment longer. She has more questions now than when she showed up at Ann’s door. She doesn’t understand any of this. “I’ll go.”
Anne walks down the hallway away from Ann’s door. Her phone chimes in her pocket before she even gets to the end of the hall. It’s a text from Ann that reads ‘thank you’. Anne doesn’t understand what that means. She pockets her phone without a reply.
She gets out to her car and looks up at the building while holding the onesie. She wonders what just happened. She wonders why she feels so empty all of a sudden. She didn’t even feel like this after Maria broke up with her. So why now? Anne doesn’t know how long she sits there but there’s a knock on her window and she rolls it down a crack to allow the man to talk freely.
“Do you live here?” Anne shakes her head. “Then you can’t park here.” The man looks at her and then at the onesie in her hands. “You can leave, or I can call the police.”
“I’ll go.” Anne starts to back out of the parking space and a pain seizes her chest. As she pulls out of the parking lot her breathing becomes shallow. When she gets a block away from Ann’s building her vision blurs and she has to pull off to the side of the road. She feels sick. Anne gets out of the car and goes to the back. She thinks she about to vomit but nothing comes up. Just dry heaves.
“You alright?” A passerby asks.
“Fine.” She waves them off. Anne leans against the back of the car for a moment to get her bearings. She fists her hands and stomps back to the driver’s seat. She gets in, grinding her teeth together and gripping the wheel hard, and drives off.
It’s Christmas Eve and Anne is with her family. Her phone chimes in her pocket. She goes in the other room to look at the message. It’s from Ann. She’s a bit surprised. She didn’t think she would hear from the girl ever again. It’s a photo of Ann. A selfie, if you will. She’s wearing a tight red shirt, that hugs her belly, and a Santa hat. The text reads ‘Am I fat enough to be Santa?’
Anne grinds her teeth together. “Fuck you.” She screams at the photo.
She looks over the photo again. Anne types out a nasty reply and then deletes it. She types out another reply and then deletes that too. She shoves her phone back in her pocket and returns to the festivities.
But her phone burns a hole in the pocket and after 15 minutes Anne can’t take it anymore. “I’ll be right back.” She tells her sister.
“Everything alright?” Marian asks.
No. Anne wants to say. “It’s fine. I’m fine.” She goes into the other room and types out another reply to Ann’s message. Softening, she rubs her thumb over the photo, over Ann’s belly. ‘You’re pregnant, not fat. Merry Christmas, Ann.’ She hits sends and as soon as it goes through Anne shuts her phone off and finds the nearest bottle of whiskey to drown herself with.
The day after New Year’s, Anne finds herself once again outside Ann’s door. The onesie is in a plastic bag now, in her hand. Anne knocks on the door. She waits and hears Ann on the inside. She knocks again when Ann doesn’t answer.
“I know you’re in there.” She talks through the closed door. “Listen, I’m putting a bag on your door handle. It’s not for you. It’s for the baby. I know you don’t want it, but I want the baby to have it. It’s from me. I need you to give it to the baby before it’s-“ It sounds cruel to say ‘taken away’.
Anne sniffles. This is harder than she thought. “I need you to make sure the baby gets it. Okay? I’m going back to Paris today. I wish you well with the remainder of your pregnancy.” Anne hangs the bag on the door handle and leaves.
Ann pulls the door open as soon as she knows Anne is gone. She takes the bag off of the door handle and shoves it in the drawer nearest to the door to be forgotten about.
It's been rainy the last two days so ya'll get two updates in a row. Thanks for all the comments. I always like to think of situations that i haven't read about in a story before or haven't been done before. This story is another one of those. A little more angst here before things take a turn.
Trigger warning: Rape, mention of rape.
It’s the end of January when Anne has a few days off. She winds up in Halifax. Out of habit, she goes to the café that her and Ann met at. All the memories come flooding back. She does all she can to keep from crying in public. She sends Ann a text. ‘I just wanted to let you know that I canceled the shower.’
She gets a reply right away. ‘Thanks.’
The one word reply is more cruel than anything Anne could have hoped for in reply. She just can’t help but wonder how Ann is doing. How the baby is doing? It’s all she thinks about when she’s not working.
At first, she felt foolish. That she got duped. But the longer she thought about it the more it made sense. Ann never had any emotion when she talked about the baby. She never was excited about becoming a mother. She never mentioned a father. She didn’t want a baby shower. She was despondent to the whole thing. Anne should have known.
‘How’s the baby doing?’ Anne sends the message. She doesn’t ask how Ann is doing because she knows that won’t be received well.
She doesn’t get a reply. But she can see Ann read the message.
‘I’m in Halifax if the baby wants or needs anything. I know you don’t need my money or my help but I’m offering.’
That message is left on read as well. Anne sighs and decides to spend the hour just watching the people around her. Happy couples and families mostly mill around. All oblivious to Anne watching them. She finishes her coffee and is about to leave when her phone chimes.
‘Just finished at a doctor’s appointment actually. The baby is good, healthy. Growing like it should. The size of a coconut. Everything looks on schedule. If you’re free sometime, I’d like to meet up to apologize.’
Anne must try to not cry again in public. ‘I’m free whenever.’
‘How about now while I’m out and about. The usual spot?’
Anne doesn’t tell her that she is already there. ‘Okay. See you in a bit.’
Anne has never been more nervous in her life. She orders a tea for Ann while she waits.
When Ann walks in, she stands up from her chair. “Wow.” She breathes under her breath. “Look at you.” She says as Ann approaches. “They say women have a glow about them when they are pregnant. I never understood what that meant until right now. You’re radiant.”
Ann rolls her eyes and sits down. “I don’t know if your compliments are getting better or worse as time goes by.”
“Sorry, I’m nervous.” Anne sits too.
“About what?” Ann asks. She rests her hands on the top of her stomach.
Ann narrows her eyes at the woman across from her. She lets out a huff of air. “Listen, I’m sorry-“ She waves her right hand around in the air. “-about what happened. I’m surprised you’d even want to meet with me today. I would have booked it back to Paris and never came back, if I were you.”
“Hmm.” Anne folds her nervous hands together in her lap to keep from doing anything stupid, to keep them to herself. “I was angry at first. I was all sorts of emotions. I think I went through all five stages of grief.”
“Grief? No one died.”
Anne looks away from the girl across from her. She’s just that, isn’t she. A girl. So young yet. So much life ahead of her yet. And somehow, Ann seems older, gruffer, more cynical than even the oldest people Anne knows. Anne had assumed that because Ann was young, she hadn’t had bad life experiences yet. But she knows better now. She doesn’t know what life experiences Ann has had but something has changed her from that bright twelve year old girl that Anne once knew.
“No. And it took me a few weeks to figure out, but I lost something that day. When you said you weren’t keeping it.” Anne looks back at Ann, her eyes focus on her belly. “I was under this illusion that you were going to have a baby and raise that baby with its father and that you would send me cute photos and we could remain friends. Obviously, that’s not the case.”
Ann raps her knuckles against the tabletop. “No, it’s not.”
“I lost something that day that I hadn’t realized I had become attached to. I think that’s where the grief came in. I was so wrapped up in the baby and I didn’t even know it.” Anne hangs her head.
“Oh, Anne. I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s mine own fault.” She picks up her head again and chews on her bottom lip for a moment. “You were right. I overlooked things that were staring me in the face. I choose to ignore the facts. That’s on me. So, I think we are both to blame here.”
“I will admit that it was nice that you were so interested. Even if it was only about the baby. That you cared. Nobody has ever taken any interest in me or cared about my wellbeing. So, that was nice.” Ann shrugs.
Anne scoffs. “That can’t be true.”
“It is.” Ann shrugs again. “My family don’t care about me. They never have. I’m the last child. The forgotten child. My cousin Catherine is the only one who even knows.”
Anne tilts her head to the side. “Knows?”
“That I’m pregnant.”
“ANN.” Anne nearly shouts her name. She looks around and notices a few people in the café giving her a strange look for causing a disturbance.
“I don’t want them to know. Okay?” She’s asking Anne to keep her secret.
“What’s the point?” Ann shrugs. “I’m just giving him up once he’s out.”
“He?” Anne raises an eyebrow.
Ann smiles faintly. “There was a new tech at my appointment, and he messed up and let the sex of the baby slip. So yeah, I guess it’s a boy.”
Anne wants to say congrats or something along those lines but knows it inappropriate. Instead, she puts her index finger in her mouth and bites down on it. This is harder than she thought it would be.
“I know you wanted to know so now you do.” Ann pulls her phone from her bag. She starts typing something out as Anne watches her. She hits send and a moment later Anne’s phone chimes.
Anne opens the message. She sees a sonogram photo. “I can’t look at this.” Anne closes the message.
“I’ll get attached. Again.” She rubs her hand over her face. “I don’t know how you’re so even about all this.”
“Even?” Ann asks for an explanation.
“You don’t have an emotions about any of this and he’s growing inside of you. I’ve been a fucking wreck for weeks and it’s not my kid and I’m not baking it.”
“You’re funny.” She admires Anne for a moment. “You wanna go somewhere else?”
The shock on Anne’s face is evident. “Like?”
“Somewhere quieter. Where there aren’t people around. Like my place, maybe.”
“Okay.” Anne jumps up, all too eager.
Ann giggles at her.
They leave the café and find their own separate ways to Ann’s place. Anne beats her there, of course.
They settle on the couch with a cup of tea. Each on their separate end with plenty of space in between. Anne sits in silence as she waits for Ann to say something.
Ann starts. “You don’t think I have any emotions?”
“Well, not any but you’re so levelheaded about the baby and what you want to do.”
“Well, I’m not, but I keep it all to myself. No one needs to know but my emotions have never been crazier since I’ve been pregnant.” She glances over at Anne. “I cry more now than I have in my entire life before this.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Anne says awkwardly.
Ann laughs. “Don’t be sorry. It’s not on you.”
“So, your parents don’t know?” Anne asks. Ann shakes her head. “Or your sister?” Again, a shake of the head. “So, who does know?”
“Just you and Catherine. I mostly hide out here except for my doctor’s appointments and those times I met with you.”
“So, no one is helping you?”
Ann scoffs. “I’m pregnant, I’m not incapable of doing things.”
“What about towards the end?” Anne wonders aloud.
Ann shrugs. “I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll figure it out. People had babies hundreds of years ago and they didn’t even have doctors or hospital. It’ll be fine.”
Anne’s not so sure of that. “Well, if you need any help, you let me know.”
Ann laughs. “You don’t have to do that. You have a life in Paris. What am I supposed to do, call you up and have you come back here on a whim?”
“Yeah.” Anne shrugs like it’s obvious.
“You can’t do that.”
Anne thinks for a moment. “What if I stay here?” Ann’s eyes widen. “Well, not here here. But like in Halifax. At a hotel. Near the end. That way if you need anything. I’ll be around.”
“What about work?” Ann asks.
“I’ll figure it out.” Anne already has some ideas in her head about how she can make this all work. “Unless you tell someone else. And they can help out, I’m your best bet.” She gives Ann her award winning smile.
Ann presses her lips tightly together. The worst part is that Anne is right. “Why are you doing all this?”
Anne shrugs. “I don’t know. As much as I don’t want to get attached again, I feel like that’s going to happen regardless if I’m here or in Paris, if I know when the baby is born or not. I’ll always be thinking about it. About him.”
Ann hums. “Thanks, then.”
Anne chuckles. She reaches over and squeezes Ann’s shoulder. “Sure thing, kid.”
Ann hangs her head. That’s the thing. Anne will always think of her as a kid. As much as she’d like to be respected as the adult that she is, Anne doesn’t see her that way.
“Nothing.” Ann gets up abruptly. “I think I’m just tired. I’m going to lay down. Can you let yourself out?”
Anne nods. She wants to ask if Ann needs anything but refrains.
“I’ll call you?” Ann looks over at Anne who’s still seated on the couch.
They share a smile before Ann retires to her bedroom. Anne looks around the room for a minute. It’s cold and sterile. There are no pictures on the walls or on the table or anywhere. There’s no indication of Ann’s family or friends anywhere. There’s very little in the means of furniture. Just a couch, a table in front of it. The kitchen table and two chairs. There’s a little rack by the door for shoes and bags and stuff like that but there’s nothing else. Anne wonders what the bedroom looks like.
She gets up and puts her teacup on the kitchen counter. Anne finds the dish soap and a rag and fills the sink with soapy water. She washes her cup and gets the one Ann was using and washes that too.
Anne thinks she better leave before she seems like a creep. She just needs to make a pit stop at the bathroom first. She goes in and it’s as plain as the rest of the place. A solid blue towel hangs on the towel bar. There is nothing out on the sink or counter or anywhere else. “Where is all your stuff, Ann?” She whispers. She doesn’t want to snoop but opens the cabinet. There’s a toothbrush and a comb, a few hair ties, and a small bottle of aspirin but that’s it.
It’s all very strange to Anne.
She washes her hands and goes to use the towel, except that when she tugs on the towel the bar falls to the floor with a clatter. “Fuck.” She whispers.
A moment later, Ann is entering the bathroom. “What’s going on? You’re still here?”
“Sorry. Did I wake you?” Anne turns to Ann, holding the towel in her hand.
“No. I wasn’t sleeping. I have trouble getting to sleep now.” Ann admits.
“Oh. I- uh- just had to use the bathroom. I was going to leave after this. I swear. I washed the teacups too, but I swear I was going to leave. Wait, you don’t sleep?” Anne catches up to her thoughts.
“Well, yes and no. I sleep but I have trouble getting to sleep. He wiggles around in there. It’s distracting.”
Anne looks down. Somehow Ann is standing right in front of her. “Is he wiggling around now?”
Ann reaches out and takes Anne’s hand. She puts Anne’s hand on her stomach where the baby is pushing and kicking aside her side.
Anne’s mouth falls open and her eyes widen. “Wow.” She looks from Ann’s face to her belly. “That would be distracting.”
Ann laughs. “To say the least.” She lets go of Anne’s hand and watches as Anne is amazed at what she is feeling. “I should have told you that the towel bar was loose. I tried tightening it but apparently I’m no good at handyman work.”
“I could do it for you.” Anne smiles warmly. “And you didn’t know I would be using the bathroom.” She looks down at her hand on Ann’s stomach. “Is it always like this?”
“Pretty much. I think he thinks he’s going to be the next Harry Kane.” Ann sighs as Anne rubs her palm over her stomach.
“Who?” Anne locks eyes with Ann.
“Harry Kane. Football star for England.”
“Oh.” Anne chuckles. She bends down a little. “Do you hear that baby? Ann thinks you’re going to be a famous footballer.”
“Yeah?” Anne straightens and looks to Ann again.
“Talk to the baby. He’s not mine.” Ann tells her sternly.
“I- You never talk to him?” Anne asks.
“Oh. Right.” Anne takes a step back and removes her hand from Ann’s stomach. “Sorry. I forget so easily.” She wants to tell Ann that he is, in fact, hers. But she knows Ann doesn’t want to hear that. She still doesn’t understand so much of this. “Can I ask you something?”
“Depends.” Ann turns and walks out of the bathroom and into her bedroom.
“On what?” Anne follows her.
“Depends on what the question is.” Ann smirks and sits on the bed.
“How am I suppose to-“ Anne gets frustrated.
Ann pats the spot on the bed next to her. “Sit. And just ask.”
“You’re a little shit. You know that?”
“I’ve been told before.” Ann grins.
Anne shakes her head. “Can I have more than one question?”
“Only if it’s a follow up question.”
In Anne’s mind all her questions are follow up questions. She goes for it. “Where’s the baby’s father?”
“I don’t know.”
“How can you not know?”
“I don’t know who he is.” Ann fidgets with her hands in her lap.
“What?” Anne’s brain malfunctions.
Ann is blunt when she speaks. “I don’t know who he is. I don’t care to know who he is. He’s an awful man. An awful human being.”
“So-?” Anne doesn’t think she can say what she’s thinking.
Ann leans over and rest her head on Anne’s shoulder. “I’ve never told anyone this.”
“I was raped.” Ann whispers.
Anne sucks in a quick breath of air but doesn’t say anything.
“At a party.”
Anne nods to let Ann know that she hears her, that she’s following along.
“I think my drink was drugged.” Ann sighs. “I don’t really remember anything. All I know is that I woke up alone on a bed wearing only my shirt.”
Anne reaches behind Ann and puts her arm around her and tugs her tight to her side in a sort of side hug.
“So, no. I don’t know who he is. Or where he is. Nor do I want to.” Ann sniffles. “That’s why I can’t keep the baby.”
“O-kay.” Anne gulps down the lump in her throat. She feels like she’s going to throw up but holds it together for Ann’s sake.
“He’s a constant reminder of that horrible night. Even though I don’t really remember anything. So yeah.” Ann shrugs. That’s her best explanation right now.
A lot of things all click into place now in Anne’s mind. It all makes sense now.
“I’m tired, Anne.” Ann whispers. She turns her head and rubs her face against Anne’s shirtsleeve.
“Okay. I’ll go.” She stands and takes a step away from the bed but doesn’t get any further as Ann grabs hold of her hand and tugs her back.
“Stay.” Ann pleads. “Just until I fall asleep.”
Anne knows that could take a while. “Alright.” She nods.
She watches as Ann climbs under the covers and lays on her side, unsure what to do. Anne goes to sit on the end of the bed. She rubs her palm over one of Ann’s calves, hoping it will put her to sleep.
“I can’t believe you’re here.” Ann whispers.
“In my bedroom.” There’s a bit of mirth amongst the sadness in Ann’s voice. “When I was a kid. If you would’ve told me Anne Lister would be in my bedroom I would’ve died.”
“You don’t really understand, do you?” Ann asks.
“You were like an idol to me back then. You left quite the impression on me, I guess is what I’m trying to say.”
“Hopefully not a bad impression.” She squeezes Ann’s leg.
Ann yawns. “No. Never.”
“Get some sleep.” Anne tells her.
“Lay with me.” Ann reaches out and pats the mattress with her hand.
“Ann, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Please? Just this once. Make the twelve year old in me happy.”
Ann sounds so sad that she can’t deny the request. Anne had wondered what happened to that happy twelve year old girl. But now she knows what happened to make Ann this cold, sad, stoic version of herself.
She rounds the end of the bed and lays down opposite Ann. She leans in and presses a kiss to her forehead before resting her head on the pillow mirroring Ann’s posture.
“Now I can die happy.” Ann mumbles with tears in her eyes. She closes them and a few pinch out of each eye.
“Don’t talk like that.” Anne whispers.
“Why not? I finally got my twelve year old dream.”
Anne doesn’t know what to do to help. To make it better. She’s not sure she can make anything better. But she’s already moving her trips and travel around in her mind. So that she can be here for Ann towards the end of her pregnancy. Especially since Ann won’t tell anyone else. At the very least, Ann needs someone in her corner. Someone to support her.
So, this is longer than i intended. Well, maybe in intended it to be this long. In truth, i didn't want to break this up into to separate chapters. That would mess with my flow of the story.
Anne gets more involved.
What Do I Stand For?
Anne wakes up the next morning with a kink in her neck. She rubs at it and groans. “I thought this hotel had better pillows than-“ She opens her eyes and realizes she’s not in her hotel room. “Oh.” Ann is staring at her with a coy grin on her lips.
“Morning.” Ann whispers. “You must have fallen asleep.”
The last things she remembers is tracing Ann’s features with her fingertip after she had fallen asleep. Thinking about the frown lines in her face, even in her sleep. The sad look that is permanently etched onto the girl’s face.
“What time is it?” Anne asks.
Ann’s stomach grumbles in reply.
Anne grins. “Someone’s hungry.”
Ann rolls her eyes and rests a hand on her belly.
“May I?” Anne asks, her hand hovering about the belly.
“It’s weird, ya know. I never thought about having kids. Or babies. But there’s one right here.” She rubs her hand over Ann’s belly. “I just feel this pull. Like I’m drawn to him somehow. Someway.” Anne looks up from watching her hand and finds Ann’s eyes. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep him?”
That breaks the little spell they were under. For a moment everything felt right. Like nothing was out of place. Like Anne was where she was supposed to be.
Ann rolls over, away from her. “I told you I can’t keep him. He’s just a reminder.”
Anne sighs and sits up. She puts a hand on Ann’s arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just- I know it’s not my place. But what if you don’t think about him that way.”
She rolls back over. “How else am I suppose to think about him?” She’s angry.
Anne bites her lip and debates whether or not to say what she’s thinking. She knows it will upset Ann further. “He didn’t ask for this either. He’s just an innocent baby. A gift, if you ask me.”
Ann huffs. “Well, I’m not asking you. He’s not your baby. It’s not your decision.”
Ann pushes herself out of bed. “And I don’t want any of your pity.”
“Good.” Ann voices as she leaves the room.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m fucking starving.” Ann calls back.
At that, Anne jumps out of bed and runs after Ann. “What are we having for breakfast?” She asks eagerly.
“We? Who said we were having breakfast together? I need to eat.”
Anne frowns. “Do you want me to leave?”
Ann is quiet as she rummages through the cupboard for something to eat.
“I’ll go.” Anne gets the idea.
“No.” Ann shuts the cupboard door and turns to Anne. “Well, yes. But go get me something to eat and bring it back.”
“There’s nothing suitable here. I need to go shopping.” Ann explains.
“We could go out. Or don’t you want to be seen in public with me anymore?”
Ann furrows her brow. “Despite us always meeting in public, I hate eating in public. I feel like people are always watching the pregnant lady. And I don’t like to be stared at while I eat.”
“Noted. No more restaurants or cafes for us.” Anne stands up on her tip toes, rocking back and forth. “Any requests?” She folds her hands behind her back and leans forward towards Ann.
“Something with cream or butter on it.” Ann grins. She might like this. Having someone around to wait on her.
“I’m on it.” Anne approaches and places a gentle kiss to Ann’s cheek. It makes Ann blush and Anne winks at that blush. “I’ll be back.”
Thirty minutes later, Anne returns with a white paper bag and a tiny screwdriver in one hand. In the other, is a carrier with two cups in it.
“What’s that screwdriver for?” Ann asks as soon as she sees it.
Anne wiggles her eyebrows. “To fix the towel bar. Duh.”
Ann grins. She had forgotten about that from last night. So much happened last night that it’s hard to remember it all. She does remember though telling Anne her secret. She’s glad that Anne hasn’t eluded to it this morning but she’s a bit ashamed for dumping all her problems on Anne.
Anne sets the screwdriver on the counter. She opens the bag and pulls out 3 croissants. “I got your favorite tea as well.” Anne grins, proud that she managed to get breakfast for Ann.
Ann takes a deep breath. It’s a lot to take in. Anne in all her generosity. And Anne in all her wisdom, knowing exactly what to get her for breakfast. And the screwdriver to fix the towel bar. She pinches herself.
Anne sees. “What are you doing?”
“I just had to pinch myself to make sure I’m awake and not dreaming. I dump all my crap on you and you come out looking like a gift from god with breakfast and a fix for the towel.” Ann slumps down in a chair at the table.
Anne brings the food over to her, wordlessly. She understands now what Ann is dealing with. The burden, the pressure, the stress and anxiety that must come with it all is more than one person should have to bear all on their own. She sets the tea and two croissants in front of Ann.
“Two?” Ann asks, looking up at her.
Anne steps to her side. She bends, wrapping a hand around the side of Ann’s head and pressing a kiss to the top of it. “One for you and one for baby. Eat. I’m going to take care of that towel bar.”
Anne is in bed in Paris. She just wanted to call Ann and make sure everything is okay. She calls every night now and they chat a little. It’s mostly baby stuff but sometimes they get off that topic.
“So, now that we know he’s a boy what kind of names would you choose for a boy?” Anne asks. She knows now not to press Ann but is just curious that if she were going to name a boy what names Ann might like.
Ann sighs, ready to tell Anne off for bringing this up again.
“Just play along. I know you’re not naming him.”
More wistfully than before, Ann sighs. “I’ve always liked the name Timothy.”
Anne hums through the phone. “I like that. That’s a good name.”
“What about you?” Ann asks back.
“I already told you. Cedric.” Anne is just stuck on that name for some reason.
“You can’t name a baby Cedric, Anne. He’ll get teased at school.” Ann doesn’t like the name at all.
Anne disagrees. “Sure you can. People name their babies all sorts of things. Like Apple and Zen. You don’t think those kids don’t get teased because of their names. Cedric is a strong name, Ann. Believe me.”
Ann just rolls her eyes. “I wonder what his parents will name him.” She whispers to Anne and rubs her hand over her large stomach.
Anne hums in agreement.
Anne arrives in Halifax late on Friday night. She goes straight to her hotel.
In the morning, she showers and heads out for Ann’s place.
Ann opens the door and lets her in. Anne greets her with a kiss on the cheek. “How have you been? How’s the baby?”
“I’m fine. It’s fine.” Ann shuts the door.
“Good. Good.” Anne looks around the room. It’s the same as the last time she was here. Nothing’s changed. She wishes Ann would add something to give the place some life. Even a bloody painting of a landscape. But no, there’s nothing.
Anne sets her laptop up on the table. “You have Wi-Fi, right?”
“Are you setting up shop in my kitchen?” Ann puts her hands on her hips and tries to look menacing.
Anne stares at her for a moment. “Is it not- do you think you look threatening? You just look like you have to poop.”
Ann crumples. Her hands slip off of hips. She doubles over. Well, as much as she can at 34 weeks pregnant. “Oh.” She moans out a laugh. “Don’t make me laugh, I’ll have to pee.”
“Oh, so I was close.” Anne jokes. “Number one, not number two.” She grins.
Ann laughs before scampering off towards the bathroom.
She is seated at the table with her work laptop set up as she listens to one of her colleagues talk. Ann comes out of the bathroom and back into the kitchen. Anne ducks out of the camera view and raises a finger to her lips.
Ann moves to sit on the other chair, at the other side of the table. She sits there for a few minutes just watching Anne work.
Anne is in a zone, it seems. Completely tuned into what she’s doing that she doesn’t see the first few goofy faces that Ann pull. But then Ann makes a face and sticks her tongue out. Anne sees that. She furrows her brow as Ann makes more silly faces. She tries to get Ann to stop with a wave of the hand but that’s no use.
The goofy faces end but Ann continues to mess with the woman who has set up her office in Ann’s kitchen. She purposefully steps on Anne’s foot under the table. She raises a hand on the mouth to play it off as an accident. She mouths ‘sorry’.
Then, with a smirk, Ann runs her toes up the inside of Anne’s calf.
Anne yelps out in surprise.
“Anne?” Her colleague asks through the computer. “You alright?”
“Yes, yes.” She glares at Ann. “There was just a spider. It’s gone now.” She shoos Ann away.
Ann covers her mouth with her hand to muffle her laugh. She pushes herself out of her chair and goes to her bedroom.
Anne finishes the video call and then runs her hands through her hair with a sigh. She gets up to see where Ann went. She knocks lightly on the doorframe. The door is open. Anne looks in and sees Ann laying on her side in bed. “You awake?”
“Yeah.” Ann looks over her shoulder to Anne. “Come on.” She nods Anne into the room.
Anne rounds the end of the bed and goes to lay on the other side of the bed, opposite Ann. She’s not mad at Ann for messing around during her video call. In fact, Anne thought it was cute and endearing of her. It’s maybe the only time she’s seen Ann’s playful side in all these months. She’d enjoy seeing more of it. For Ann’s sake. The girl always seems so down or unhappy.
“Now that I’m done with work, what do you want to do today?” Anne asks.
Ann shrugs, picking at the pillowcase.
“Do you feel okay?” Anne asks.
“Yeah, I’m good. Other than almost peeing my pants earlier; I don’t have any complaints.”
“Is it that bad?” Anne hadn’t thought of that yet.
Ann licks her lips. “Every time I sneeze, or cough, or laugh, I pee a little. It sits right on my bladder, it seems like.”
Anne doesn’t like that Ann refers to the baby as it. She puts her hand on top of Ann’s to still it. “How about I go out and do a shopping and we can make a yummy lunch together?”
“That sounds good.”
“Do you have any games?” Anne knows the answer is likely no.
“No, I don’t.”
“I’ll pick something up.” Anne squeezes Ann’s hand and pushes herself up and out of bed. “You rest, I’ll be back.”
“I thought you didn’t eat lunch.” Ann stares down at the plate in front of her.
Anne is caught. “Ahhh, you’ve got me.” She points her fork at Ann. “I enjoy a good lunch from time to time. When I’m not rushing around. And I’ve actually got time to sit down and have a proper meal.”
Ann hums at that.
“I picked up a backgammon board. Do you know how to play?”
Ann grins. “I do.”
Anne takes a bite of her food. “You’ll have to teach me. I’ve never played.”
After the meal, Ann kicks her ass at backgammon. Like, really kicks it. Over and over again all afternoon.
Anne throws in the towel at dinner time without a single win to her name.
“What do you want for dinner?”
Ann looks up at Anne and bats her eyelashes at her. “Can you make me a peanut butter sandwich?”
Anne has a good laugh at that. She agrees. She doesn’t eat anything. She makes Ann’s sandwich and they sit and watch television.
“I have to head back to Paris in the morning.” Anne mentions.
Ann’s reply is dull. “Okay.”
Anne has been thinking for a few minutes about asking Ann about the night she became pregnant. It’s something she can’t stop thinking about. She can’t get it out of her head. But she also has been hesitant to ask because, well, it’s really none of her business. Ann has told her this.
“Is there any way to find out who did it?” Anne finally works up the courage to ask. She’s prepared for the lashing that she might get from Ann as a result.
Ann looks over and raise an eyebrow. Anne replies with a tight-lipped smile and looks down at Ann’s pregnant stomach. “Or who was at the party?”
“Did you go to the police?”
Ann tries not to get upset but it’s no use. “And tell them what?” She says louder than necessary.
Anne gets mad that Ann didn’t go to the authorities. “What happened?” She raises her voice to match Ann’s.
Ann huffs and shrugs. She doesn’t want to talk about this. “I don’t know what happened. That’s the problem. I don’t remember hardly anything.”
Anne sighs sadly. She didn’t know it was that bad. Calmly now. “Well, they could at least file a report or complaint or something.”
Ann folds her arms over her stomach. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Anne drops the subject. She tries to think of other things that they can talk about that won’t make Ann depressed.
It’s late. Like, getting to bed late. “Are you using the cream?” Anne wonders suddenly.
“What cream?” Ann asks.
“The cream I got for the stretch marks. Are you using it?”
“Oh.” Ann looks down at her stomach. “When I can remember.”
“Where is it?” Anne asks.
Ann rolls her eyes. She knows where this is going. Anne is going to get the cream and make her, watch her, put it on her stomach. Ann doesn’t feel like it right now. “In the cabinet in the bathroom.”
Anne hops up from the couch to retrieve it. She comes back and wiggles the bottle at Ann.
Ann shakes her head. “No, Anne. I’ll do it later.”
“Let me.” Anne offers.
“Uh-“ Ann hesitates. She wasn’t expecting Anne to offer. “-no.”
“Oh, come on.” Anne pleads. “What’s it going to hurt?” Anne gets down on her knees in front of Ann. She looks to her eyes, her hand on the side of Ann’s big round belly. “May I?”
Ann bites her lip but nods. “Just don’t laugh or anything.”
Anne wrinkles up her brow. “Why would I laugh?”
“Cuz I’m fat. I look terrible.” Ann mumbles.
Anne hums. She sets the bottle of cream on the couch near Ann’s hip. She then, with both hands takes the bottom of Ann’s shirt and rolls it up over her stomach. Her eyes linger on the protruding belly. She’s never seen a pregnant stomach in real life before. Without a covering over it. The skin is taught. Ann’s little bellybutton sticks out. She sees the small lines on Ann’s stomach. Anne brings her hands to her mouth, cupping them together and blowing into them to warm them. She rubs her hands together to create a little friction before gently setting them on Ann’s skin.
Ann takes in a quick breath and Anne looks up at her. “You’re beautiful. A beautiful pregnant woman.” Anne whispers. She grabs the cream and squirts a little in her hand and then rubs her hands together before applying her hands to the little lines on Ann’s skin.
Ann sighs, despite herself, as Anne rubs and massages the cream into her skin. “That feels nice.” She nearly moans.
Anne hums. “I’m sure it does.” She makes sure to get all the stretch mark lines and, at the end, places her hands on the sides of the belly. Anne leans down and presses a kiss to Ann’s stomach. “There.” She says with finality. She rolls Ann’s shirt back down before standing up.
“Thank you.” Ann whispers.
“Don’t worry about it.” Anne returns the bottle to the bathroom.
After that, Anne leaves. Returning to her hotel for the night. With the promise of returning in the morning with breakfast before she has to head back to Paris.
Anne makes her appearance early. Noontime on Friday the following week.
Ann opens the door, surprised to see Anne. “What are you doing here?” Anne didn’t mention anything about showing up today when the talked on the phone last night.
“I moved a meeting from this afternoon to Monday afternoon.” Anne shrugs. “I thought it might be nice to get here early instead of way late tonight.”
Ann lets her in.
Anne insists that they ‘do something’ this afternoon. “I came here early. I don’t just want to sit on my bum.” She coaxes Ann into a walk around the block.
“My feet hurt. My ankles are swollen.” Ann complains during their little walk.
Anne thinks of a solution. She doesn’t know if there is one. Soaking them? Wrapping them tight or compression socks? A foot rub? “Let’s make it the rest of the way around the block. When we get back, I’ll give you a foot rub, if you like.”
Ann’s face tints red. She doesn’t say anything.
“Sound good?” Anne leans into her side, bumping into her shoulder with her own.
Ann nods. “I hope I can make it back.” She mumbles. She didn’t think the walk would be so strenuous.
“You better. Cuz I don’t think I can carry you.” Anne jokes with a little chuckle.
Ann grins and glances over at the dark haired woman.
Anne loves to put her hand on Ann’s stomach and feel the baby moving. Ann always fusses when she does it.
She’s attached and she knows it. And she knows it’s going to hurt like hell when the baby is put up for adoption. But she’ll deal with that when it happens. Right now, she’s just content to be in the moment and be a part of the amazing journey that is pregnancy.
Ann falls asleep that night on the couch and Anne talks to the baby. She knows Ann doesn’t like it and doesn’t want her doing it. Anne gets down on the floor on her knees. She leans on the couch cushion next to where Ann is sitting.
“Hey little man. My name is Anne. I’m a friend of- of your mama.” Anne chokes back her tears. “She’s doing an amazing thing for you. I need you to know that. No matter what happens, know that what she’s doing right now is so selfless. She’s giving you life when she didn’t need to and maybe didn’t want to. And that’s amazing. I know you won’t understand that, but I do.”
Anne wants to touch but she knows if she does it will wake Ann and she can’t do that. “I hope you’ll grow up to do amazing things too. Maybe you will be a famous footballer. Or maybe you’ll do something else but whatever it is I know you’ll be amazing at it. Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and to let you know that I’m looking out for you right now. Oh, I got you something to wear for when you’re born. I’m sure you’ll look super cute wearing it. I gotta go clean up from dinner now but you be a good boy, okay?”
Anne stands up and looks down at sleeping Ann. She sighs and moves to the kitchen to do the dishes.
“Ann?” She tries to wake the girl. She shakes Ann’s arm lightly. “Ann, wake up. Let’s get you into bed.”
Ann comes to groggily. “What time is it?”
Anne looks at her wristwatch. “Half past nine.”
“How long was I asleep?” Ann follows up.
“Nearly an hour, I would say.” Anne grins for her. “Let’s get you to bed.”
Ann nods. Anne helps her stand and escorts Ann to the bathroom. She waits by the couch for Ann to reemerge. She wrings her hands together nervously. When Ann comes out she approaches her. “Ann?”
“Would it be alright if I stayed here instead of going back to the hotel tonight?”
Ann tilts her head to the side and appraises Anne.
“Don’t look at me like that.” Anne feels self-conscious.
“Why?” Ann is suspicious.
Anne looks down at the floor. “I just thought then I don’t have to go back and forth. And I’d like to make breakfast in the morning.”
“Oh.” Ann stares at her. “Okay.” She shrugs. Her head spins. All these thoughts when she’s sleepy. “I don’t know if any of my clothes- nevermind. What am I saying? You want to wear some pregnancy pants with an elastic waistband?”
Anne opens her mouth. She hadn’t planned on changing from what she’s wearing. “I think I’m good.”
Ann rolls her eyes. “Don’t be silly. Come on.” She goes into her room. Anne follows. Ann starts looking through the small dresser. “Here’s some stretchy sweatpants.” She closes that drawer and opens the one above it. “And I t-shirt.”
“Thanks.” Anne takes the clothes as Ann hands them to her. “Do you have an extra blanket?”
Again, Ann tilts her head to the side and looks at Anne curiously.
“For the couch.”
“You don’t have to sleep on the couch.” Ann follows.
“I do. You need to have as much room and rest as you can, and the bed should be all yours.” Anne explains.
Ann shrugs. “Suit yourself.”
Anne goes to the bedroom door, Ann’s clothes in her hand. “Goodnight.” She whispers and turns to glance back at Ann.
Ann smiles lightly. “Goodnight, Anne.”
Sunday morning Anne gets up and starts on breakfast right away. Her goal is to have breakfast finished before Ann wakes up and gets out of bed.
Ann is still asleep. Slowly, she awakes to the sounds of Anne cooking in the kitchen. Groggy still from sleep, Ann goes out and sneaks up behind Anne.
Anne is humming as she cooks, totally in the zone.
Ann slides her hand over Anne hip.
Anne jumps. “Geez, you scared me.”
She gives Anne a guilty look and then turns her attention to what Anne is cooking. It’s at that moment when everything registers in her head and the smell hits her. “Oh, no.” She mumbles and rushes off to the bathroom.
Anne stands near the stove, looking in the direction Ann went, confused.
When Ann doesn’t come out of the bathroom after five minutes Anne goes to check on her. “Ann, are you alright?”
“I can’t come out.” Ann squeaks through the door.
Ann sighs. “Because the smell and sight, I suppose, of scrambled eggs makes me nauseous.”
Anne’s mouth hangs open. She realizes her error. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think.” She closes her eyes and bumps her forehead against the bathroom door. “I’ll get rid of them. You stay there.” She rushes back to the kitchen and throws the eggs in the garbage bin. Anne then takes the garbage and sets it outside the door so Ann can’t smell it. She’ll have to ask Ann where it goes and take it out later.
She tries to think of something to cover the egg smell. In a bit of a panic, the first thing she thinks of is her perfume from her bag. She grabs it and sprays it all over the place. It’s expensive stuff but she’s not thinking of that right now.
Anne waits a minute or two before going to the bathroom. She knocks lightly on the door and enters. “I’m sorry.”
Ann sits on the floor with a sad pout.
“Here.” Anne holds out her hands for Ann to take and helps her to her feet. She leads Anne out of the bathroom and sits her down on the couch.
“The whole place smells like you now.”
Anne grins that Ann recognizes the smell of her perfume. “Better than eggs, I hope.”
Ann nods. “Much.” She looks down at her hands in her lap. “Sorry.”
“No. No, I should have asked. I should have thought. But since we’re on the topic. Any other foods that don’t agree with you right now?”
Ann nods. “Pickles. Bananas.” She brings her hand to her chin. “I think that’s it.”
Anne takes that info to heart. “Would you like a peanut butter sandwich?”
Ann grins shyly. “Would you-?”
Anne nods and with a kiss to the top of Ann’s head she’s off to make the sandwich.
Anne leaves that Sunday knowing that there are only three more weeks of this. Three weeks to go until the baby is born. She doesn’t want to think about that though. She just plans to live in the present. But it does hit her as she travels back to Paris that this is almost over.
She is surprised to say that she has enjoyed the experience so much more than she ever thought she would. She’s enjoyed learning about pregnancy and babies, and she’s enjoyed looking after Ann. She tires to think happy thoughts as she travels. But a sad one creeps in every now and then.
Just Give Me A Reason
Anne had requested to be present at the final official doctor’s appointment before the birth. She takes the day off and makes sure she has plenty of time for travel before and after the appointment.
They are in the little room and the tech is starting the ultrasound. Anne looks around the room at first, feeling a little awkward being there.
“Now let’s see.” The tech mumbles, mostly to himself. He moves the little wand around until he finds what he’s looking for. “There we go.”
The heartbeat thumps loudly throughout the room.
Anne gasps, amazed. “Is that-?”
“The baby’s heartbeat. Yes.” The tech supplies with a friendly smile.
Anne doesn’t know what to say. She actually can’t say anything. She’s speechless. And it’s not often that she’s speechless.
Ann can see it happening as it does. The tears form in the corners of Anne’s eyes as she stares at the picture on the ultrasound machine. “Can I?” She reaches out towards the image.
“Here. I’ll print out a picture for you.” The tech smiles gently.
Anne looks between the screen and Ann. The tears shine in her eyes. A big smile on her lips.
Ann smiles kindly and takes Anne’s hand to comfort her. A single tear falls from Anne’s left eye.
Anne doesn’t let go of Ann’s hand the entire time they are in that little room.
The doctor comes in and goes over everything with Ann. He glances at Anne every now and then. He’s unsure of Anne’s sudden presence at the very end of this pregnancy. But it’s not up to him who the mother wants in the room.
“Now that we’ve established that baby is happy and healthy. What about you, dear? Are you still set on putting the baby up for adoption once he’s born?”
Anne squeezes the hand that is in hers to show Ann that she has her support.
Ann bites her lip, hesitating. She shifts her attention from the doctor to Anne. “Well, I’m not sure anymore.”
Anne thinks she might fall over at this revelation. She hopes her face doesn’t give away the fact that her brain is malfunctioning. She remains silent.
“I always thought that since I didn’t have anyone that I wanted around. Or anyone to help, that I couldn’t do it on my own. And I don’t want my family involved. They’ll just take him and control him, and I won’t have a say. But I can’t say for certain anymore that I want to put him up for adoption.”
Anne stands there, holding her breath, as Ann’s words reach her ears.
Once they get out of the appointment and outside, Anne feels like screaming but she holds it in. She hurries Ann to the car. “Tell me what you’re thinking.” She turns to Ann as soon as her car door is shut. “What’s changed?”
Ann shrugs. “I was just thinking- I mean you sound like you want him.” She looks down at her stomach. “And it’s like you said. He’s an innocent baby. He doesn’t have a choice in being conceived or born. When I found out I was pregnant I knew I couldn’t terminate. And I always knew I wouldn’t keep it. Him. I’m scared but-”
Ann takes a deep breath and looks over at Anne. “Anne, you seem so happy and so proud when you talk about him. It’s gotten to me, I think.” She smiles. “You’re so involved now. And he’s not even yours. If I kept him, would you want to raise him with me?” Ann is really going out on a limb here but she has a funny feeling that Anne will say yes.
Anne thinks her heart stops. She stares at Ann for a moment. “Oh, Ann, would I ever.” She closes her eyes as the emotions wash over her. “I didn’t know I wanted to have a family. Heck, I had a family. Maria, she had a daughter, a teenage daughter. But I had a built in family right there and then it was gone.” Anne smirks. “And why, you ask. Because I was obsessed with this family.”
Anne reaches over and caresses Ann’s belly. “You say he’s not mine. And genetically, no. But I feel like he’s mine. And I knew it was going to be devastating when he was born, and I didn’t get to see him or hold him, and he was put up for adoption. But that hasn’t deterred me. I’m still here.”
Ann takes a deep breath. “So, we are going to do this?”
Anne grins and nods. “We are going to do this.” She confirms.
“I think I’m going to be sick.” Ann breathes in and out in deep breaths. She leans forward in her seat in an attempt to put her head between her knees but her big belly is in the way.
“It’s okay.” Anne rubs her back. “We’ll figure it all out.” It’s daunting but people raise kids all the time. It’s nothing they can’t figure out. But mostly that’s at the back of Anne’s mind right now. All she can think about is the baby and getting to meet him in a couple weeks’ time.
After a whirlwind doctor’s appointment and lots of emotions, some exciting and some scary, Anne heads back to Paris the next day. She’s feels like she could fly there herself. She feels that high on life.
She takes care of everything regarding her business that is important and timely. Everything else can wait. She packs two suitcases and schleps it back to Halifax a day later.
For the first time in all this, she doesn’t bother with a hotel. If they are bringing a baby home, they will need to prepare Ann’s place for it.
That gets the wheels turning in Anne’s head. Is Ann’s place too small for the baby and everything that it needs? Should she buy a house in Halifax? Should they buy a house together? What things does a baby need? She really wishes she didn’t cancel that baby shower now.
She knocks on the door and it takes a few minutes for Ann to answer. Anne wraps her in a hug in greeting. “How are you? How’s the boy?”
Ann giggles and rubs her stomach. “We’re good. Better knowing that you’re here.”
Anne pulls her bags inside.
“Moving in?” Ann jokes.
Anne frowns. Maybe Ann doesn’t want her to stay here. She hadn’t thought of that. “Well, I can get a hotel if you’d like but I thought it would just be easier if I were here.”
“Of course, it will be.”
Anne nods, eased. “I’ll just put these over here.” She sets her bags behind the couch. It’s going to be rough sleeping on the thing, but she’ll have to do it if she really wants this. And she does. Anne thinks maybe she can buy a small air mattress. Something she can inflate at night and deflate in the morning so it’s out of Ann’s way. “I thought we could go baby shopping today. What do you think? Are you up for it? Or does the whole public thing include shopping as well as eating.”
“I think I can manage. Everybody talks about me, but I’ll try to ignore them. Are you sure you want to put yourself through that?”
“Pfft.” Anne waves a dismissive hand at those people. “They can say all they want. I don’t care. And if I hear anyone say anything about you or us then they are going to get a piece of my mind. And it won’t be pretty.”
“You are the perfect parent I could ask for- for my son. Ready to defend him before he’s even out of the womb.” Ann says shyly.
“Come here.” Anne pulls her into a hug and kisses the top of her head. She’s ecstatic that Ann is coming around to this and that she’s using words like my son. Ann only ever said the baby or him or he or it when referring to the child in her belly. “It sounds like people have talked far too long about this. It’s high time that it ends.”
They are out shopping for the baby and Ann requests a tea on the way back to her place.
Ann stays in the car, her feet hurt. Anne runs inside the café to the get the drink.
Anne is headed back to the car when her sister spots her. “I didn’t know you were in town.” Marian looks Anne up and down.
“Oh, yes, sorry. I just got back this morning. I’ve been busy.” Anne jiggles the cups she holds in each hand. “Would you like to have dinner or something? Want me to come over one day? I’m sure I can fit it in sometime here.”
“How long are you in town for?”
Anne looks up at the sky. “Well, the next two weeks for sure. Then after that I might be gone for a day or two here and there. It’s not all hammered out yet. I can get you my schedule, if you like.”
“What’s not all hammered out?” Marian is missing something, something big it seems.
“Oh, I didn’t tell you. I’m moving back.” She grins at the reason why.
“Why?” Marian stares at her. “I mean, why now?”
“Well, there’s going to be a baby soon. I can’t raise a child if I’m never around.”
“What? A child?”
Anne laughs. “Ann said everybody talks around here. You don’t know?” Marian shakes her head. “Ann’s going to have her baby soon. Maybe as soon as a week from now. You never really know, do you.” Anne turns to where the car is parked. “I need to get back to her actually. Before these get cold.”
“So, you’re playing house with Ann Walker now?”
“Playing house?” Anne frowns. She doesn’t like that terminology. “No, Marian. She’s having a baby and I’m going to be there for it. To help raise it.”
“So, like it’s mother?”
“But what about its father?”
That makes Anne’s blood boil. This must be the kind of thing that Ann is talking about.
“There is no father, Marian.” She sets the record straight. “This is the 21st century Marian, get with the times. Families come in many different shapes and sizes nowadays.”
“Family?” Marian blinks slowly. “Is she your girlfriend?”
“Well, no.” Anne shrugs.
“But you’re just changing your whole life to raise some baby?”
“He’s not just some baby, Marian.” Anne is getting testy now.
“So, let me get this straight. You are moving back here to raise a child that isn’t your own with someone you aren’t romantically linked to.”
“Yes. Though I do think Ann and I get on very well. Maybe one day there will be time to explore a relationship but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that baby boy.” She tells Marian firmly.
“Wow, Anne.” Marian is baffled.
Anne grins. She’s had enough. “I have to go. Call me if you need anything.” She walks briskly away from her sister.
All the feels in the last chapter, am i right?
Here we have Ann, heavily pregnant, uncomfortable and wanting it to be over with. Lack of sleep and emotions make for a few bumps along the way.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Just a Little Bit's Enough
Anne has been in town continuously for a week now. Ann is past her due date. Which she’s told is totally normal. Still, Anne worries. She’s working on her laptop on one end of the couch while Ann sits on the other end, her eyes glued to some reality show on the television.
Anne is in the process of setting everything up to move her business to Halifax so she can be closer to the baby. She tries to focus on the spreadsheet in front of her but every time Ann laughs, she loses that focus. Anne slams the laptop shut.
“What’s wrong?” Ann asks.
“Your laugh.” She pouts.
Ann covers her mouth with her hand. “What’s wrong with my laugh? Is it that hideous? No one’s ever complained before.”
Anne rolls her head along the back of the sofa, turning to look over. “Quite the opposite. I rather enjoy it.”
“Oh.” Ann smiles.
“Yeah, it’s distracting me from my spreadsheet.” Anne rolls her eyes playfully.
“I can go in the other room.” Ann puts her arms out to push herself up from the sofa. Every move she makes now includes each effort. Getting up from a seated position is hardest.
Anne swings her arm out and wraps her hand around Ann’s wrist. “No. Stay. Please.”
“Are you sure? Don’t you have work to do?”
Anne shrugs. “It’s not as important as this.”
Ann takes a deep breath and asks the question that they’ve been dancing around for weeks. “What is this?”
“I’m not completely sure but what I do know is-“ Anne scoots over so she’s sitting right next to Ann. She puts her hand on Ann’s belly. “-this little guy has completely changed my life. He’s changed my thought process. He’s changed my attitude towards family. He’s changed so much in such a short amount of time that is scary.”
“Are you sure about this?” Ann asks.
“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. Ann, I’m committed to raising him with you. If that’s still okay with you.”
Ann rolls her eyes. “Only if you aren’t going to run for the hills the first night when he screams through the night.”
“He wouldn’t do that.”
“Or when he pees on you when you’re changing him.”
Anne grimaces. She hadn’t thought of that.
Ann laughs at her.
Anne sighs happily at that laugh. “It’s so good to see you laugh.” She hopes that Ann’s darkest days are now over.
Ann dips her chin to her chest, embarrassed.
Anne lifts her chin with her index finger. She finds Ann’s eyes. “I’m all in. And nothing you say or do can change my mind. I feel like this boy is my shot at a family.” Anne chuckles at the sad smile on Ann’s face. “And you too. You’re not a bad bonus.”
Ann rolls her eyes at her. “Maybe I should just let you adopt him.”
“We talked about this. That won’t work. For either of us. It’s all or nothing.” Anne leans in and presses a soft kiss to Ann’s cheek. She finds Ann’s hand and holds it in her own. “Now tell me what’s so funny about this weird show that you’re watching.” She brings Ann’s hand to her lips and kisses the back of it before resting their hands in her lap.
Ann beams, despite herself. She knows she should be cautious. That nothing is for certain. But she can’t help but feel optimistic about the future.
The days drag on and each day that passes is another day that Ann is still pregnant. They are sitting on the couch. Well, Anne is sitting, and Ann is laying on the couch on her side with her feet in Anne’s lap. Anne rubs her feet.
Ann moans. “That feels so good.”
“Have you ever had a massage? Like a professional one.”
Ann hums. “I’ve had a few. It’s been a number of years since I’ve had one though. The last I think was when I went with my mum and sister.”
A little later, a man on the television drones on about how bad his life is because his dog is lost.
“Oh, please.” Ann scoffs. “Try being pregnant for nine months and being completely miserable.”
Anne narrows her eyes at Ann. It seems a little harsh. A missing or lost dog is like a death of a family member to some people. “Are you really that miserable?” Anne asks instead.
“Yes.” Ann looks over at the other end of the couch where Anne is sitting. “My feet hurt. My ankles and legs are swollen. My belly is huge and in the way all the time. I can’t sleep or get comfortable. I’m irritated by just about everything. If you can’t tell.”
Anne hums. She can tell.
“This baby needs to hurry the heck up and get out of here.” Ann pats at her stomach. “I wish there was some way to know when he was coming. Like a definite time or date. Or some way to speed it up.”
Anne smirks at her.
Anne shrugs. “I’ve heard sex is good to induce labor.”
Ann stares blankly at her, mouth hanging ajar.
Anne rolls her eyes. “Just a suggestion.” She returns her attention to the tv.
“Isn’t that like for straight people though?”
Anne laughs. “Sex?” She raises an eyebrow back at Ann. “Or for inducing labor? Or-?” Anne pauses, her thoughts catching up to her. “Are you saying you aren’t straight?”
Ann cocks her head to the side. “What? I never said- what are you saying?”
Anne rubs her thumb over Ann’s anklebone. “You do know how you got pregnant, right?” Anne tries.
“Don’t go there.” Ann scoffs.
Anne raises her hands in innocence. “I’m not. I’m just saying-“
Ann decides to put an end to the conversation. “I never said I was straight. I’ve had a crush on you since I was 10 or 11. That seems like a pretty big clue.”
Anne thinks about that. “Yeah, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into anything.”
Ann shrugs. “I don’t know what to say.”
Anne doesn’t know how to respond. “So, no sex then?”
“What do you want me to do? Go out and hook up with some random stranger. How is that going to go? I’m nine months pregnant. I don’t think I’m going to find any takers.” Ann is put off completely by the idea. “Or were you offering?”
“I have wondered what it would be like.” Anne smirks. She’s thought about it. More than once.
Ann digs her heels into Anne thigh. “Ow. Stop.”
She stops and narrows her eyes at Anne.
“So, you haven’t-“ Anne waves her hand around. “-ya know. Since you’ve been pregnant.”
Ann digs her heals in some more.
“Stop, you’re going to leave bruises.”
Ann stops again. “You do know how I got pregnant, right.” She throws Anne’s words back at her.
Anne bows her head, ashamed. “I’m sorry, Ann. We could, uh, try something else. Spicy food.”
Ann makes a gross face. “I don’t like spicy food.”
Bringing her hand to her chin, rubbing it, Anne thinks. “What else? Ah, exercise.”
Ann groans. “Noooo.”
Anne laughs. “Then you’re just going to have to stay pregnant forever.”
The next day, Ann is still pregnant and still miserable. It’s evening and she moves from the couch to the bed and then back to the couch.
Ann sighs, annoyed. “I can’t get comfortable. No matter where I sit or lay or stand or anything.” She’s miserable.
“Can I do anything to help?”
Ann glances over at Anne on the other end of the couch. “Other than get him out of me. No.”
Anne is busy on her laptop. She barely nods in acknowledgement of Ann. As Ann watches her scroll though something, click, scroll, click, scroll she gets more annoyed. Anne has been on that thing all evening. She thought that the purpose of Anne being here was to help her and if she needed anything that Anne would get it for her. But here she is, sitting on the computer completely ignoring Ann. She thought they could do something this evening. Like talk about what’s going to happen after the baby is born or watch a movie or both. Anything really. But, no, Anne is glued to her laptop.
So, Ann sits there, miserably. “What are you doing anyway? What has all your attention?” She quips.
“Sorry.” Anne looks away from the screen with a guilty grin. She closes the laptop. “I- uh- well-“ She stumbles for something to say.
“What?” Ann asks sharply.
“Now, I don’t want you to get mad-“
Ann narrows her eyes. “Why would I get mad?”
Anne sighs. “I wouldn’t have done anything without talking to you first, of course. But I’ve been looking at houses in the area.” She shrugs. “To buy.” She pauses and waits for Ann to respond but Ann doesn’t say anything and that makes Anne second guess herself. “Ya know, for the baby. I mean we can’t all live in this small apartment forever. And I know we haven’t talked about living arrangements yet, but I’ve been thinking about it. And I don’t know if you want to, like, live together or have two separate places and the baby can stay at one of them and- Ann what do you think?” She finishes before she digs herself into a deeper hole.
Ann pushes herself up off of the couch.
Anne watches, afraid she’s offended her or said something wrong and that Ann is leaving.
Ann moves over and sits at her side, right next to Anne, hip to hip. “Show me.” It’s simple. Her whole mood has flipped. This is exactly what Ann wanted.
“What?” Anne is stunned.
“Show me the places you’ve been looking into. I need a say too. In where our baby is going to live.” Ann rests her palm on Anne’s forearm.
Anne grins. She’s never felt happier than in this moment. Our baby. The words linger in Anne’s mind. She leans in and presses a kiss to Ann’s cheek. With a deep breath, she opens her laptop again and she starts showing Ann all the houses she has bookmarked.
After a few minutes, and many photos, Anne slings her arm across the back of the couch, behind Ann, turning her torso towards her. “So, what do you think? About living arrangements?” She needs to know now.
This is what Ann wanted earlier. For them to discuss this sort of thing. She had no idea Anne was already on the same page and making moves to secure a future for their baby. “Well, I think if we can find a place that’s big enough then we should both live there. Then we can have our own separate space in the house and not be in each other’s way. And we’ll both be there for the baby. I’m up for splitting the cost halfway.” Ann thinks that’s probably the best arrangement. She doesn’t really want to be alone with a baby for any long periods of time. “I liked that second house you showed me.” That would be the one she would want if it were up to her.
Anne goes back to it and pulls up the photos and details again. “Should I call about it tomorrow then?”
Ann looks over to Anne, searching her face, finding her eyes. She nods. She can’t believe she’s going to buy a house with Anne Lister. She can’t believe she’s going to raise a baby with Anne Lister. She can’t believe much about her life at the moment. Ann’s just trying to take it all in stride. A yawn overtakes her, and she goes to rest her head on the back of the couch but bumps into Anne’s arm. “Sorry.” She mumbles and pulls her head forward again.
“It’s alright.” Anne moves her arm. But instead of bringing it back to her lap she puts her hand on Ann’s shoulder giving it a squeeze before sliding it over to the back of Ann’s neck. She starts rubbing her area between her thumb and fingers.
Ann moans at how good it feels. Again, Anne’s hands and fingers on her skin feel wonderful. “You have magic hands.”
Anne chuckles. “Not the first time I’ve been told that.”
Ann blushes and gets embarrassed. She pulls away from Anne’s hand.
“Hey, where you going?” Anne protests.
Ann scoots out to the edge of the cushion, away from Anne and turns to look at her. Her lip trembles and tears threaten.
Anne sees this. “Hey, what’s wrong?” She leans forward, putting a hand on Ann’s forearm. “What’s wrong? You’re okay.” The rape flashes in Anne’s mind. “I’m sorry if I overstepped. I didn’t mean to touch you without your permission. I just thought a little neck rub might be nice. I mean, since you were complaining that you can’t get comfortable.”
“Can I?” Anne asks before wrapping Ann in a hug and rubbing her back.
“You’re so nice to me and you don’t have to be.” Ann sobs on her shoulder. “I don’t feel worthy of your kindness. I just don’t know. I’m overtired and emotional. It’s the baby hormones. I’m sorry.” Ann sniffles.
Anne pulls her away from her shoulder and holds onto Ann’s shoulders at arm’s length. She finds her eyes and waits for Ann to focus on her. “You don’t have to be sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong. And Ann, we’re in this together. Me and you. Both of us. Together. I’m not just doing this for you or for the baby. I’m doing it for me too. And my so called kindness- what do you think I am? Some cruel dictator.”
Ann laughs at that.
“There’s that smile. You’re a sweet girl, Ann.”
The smile turns into a frown. “But I’m just that- a girl.” Ann pouts. “That’s all you’ll ever see me as, won’t you?”
Anne is confused now. “I- no- what?”
Ann’s shoulders sag. “I’m just some girl to you. Some girl who you’ve known. Some girl who happens to be pregnant. Some girl that you can get what you want from.”
Anne tries to butt in. “Ann, I-“
She stands firm though. “No, I’m not just some girl. I’m an adult who can make my own decisions and choices. I’m an adult who should be respected as one. I’m an adult, Anne.” Ann stands up quickly. Too quickly. “Woah.” She reaches out. “Anne.” She panics.
Anne stands and grabs her under the arms and sits Ann back down on the couch. “You alright?” She looks Ann over.
Ann blinks slowly. “I stood up too fast.”
There’s a sigh of relief from Anne.
“Got light-headed. Thanks.” She blushes, embarrassed. Here she is trying to stand up for herself and assert herself and she goes and makes a fool of herself again.
“Hey.” Anne tries to get her attention. “Can you look at me?”
“I know you are an adult.” She says seriously. “And I know you can make your own decisions. I wasn’t going to buy a house without discussing it with you first, if that’s what this is about.”
Ann mumbles. “It’s not.”
Anne nods. “Okay.”
She’s flustered. “I just- I just- I want you to take me seriously.”
“I do.” Anne smirks.
“You do?” She glances at Anne.
Anne nods. “I do.”
“You do.” Ann mumbles. “Okay.” She plays with her hands, wringing them together.
“What?” Anne can see that Ann has a question.
With her eyes trained on her hands. “It was nice.”
Ann groans. “You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?” She huffs out a breath. “The neck rub. Even if it was brief.” She whispers and chances a look at Anne. They share a smile when their eyes connect.
“Come here.” Sitting, Anne spreads her legs and pats the spot in between them.
“Anne. Nooo.” Ann whines.
“Yes. Come on.” She tugs on Ann’s arm to get her to move.
After a moment, Ann moves and sits between Anne’s legs.
Anne starts low, really low. Her fingertips dip beneath the waistband of Ann’s pants, needing and massaging the skin. She rubs and massages her way upwards, slowly, making sure to get every inch of skin. Anne gets to the middle of Ann’s back and her shirt is becoming too much of an obstacle. Anne leans into Ann’s back. “Lift your arms.”
Ann has her eyes closed but does what Anne asks.
Anne, then, lifts Ann’s shirt up and over her head, off of her arms. She sets the shirt on the couch next to them. Her hands return to Ann’s back. Anne looks down and watches as her fingers work their way over soft pale skin. She touches a little freckle here and a little mole there.
Anne works her way higher and higher until she returns to Ann’s shoulder. She takes each of Ann’s shoulders in her hands and rubs them continuously for a few minutes. And then there’s that spot, the spot where Ann’s neck meets and melds into her back. The spot that Anne hasn’t taken her eyes off of the entire time she’s been rubbing her shoulders. The spot that started all this. She presses her thumbs to it from each side, rubbing them simultaneously.
She feels Ann relax, finally, enjoying the massage all too much. It’s easy enough to take a relaxed Ann by the shoulders and pull her backwards so that her back is leaning against Anne’s chest. Anne works her hands down Ann’s arms, slowly rubbing her skin. She wonders if Ann is still with her or if she’s fallen asleep. “Ann?”
“Yeah.” Ann’s voice is indeed sleepy.
“Let’s get you to bed.” Anne suggests.
“Okay.” Ann agrees but doesn’t move.
Anne’s hands slip from Ann’s arms to her protruding stomach. She rubs her palms over the taught skin. She rests her chin on Ann’s shoulder and watches her hands move. “It’s magical.”
“What is?” Ann whispers.
Anne stills her hands on Ann’s stomach. “This. You.” She’s never been more enthralled with something in her life. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Ann sighs. “If you say so.” She doesn’t need sympathy from Anne. She’s done here. Ann stands and Anne follows.
“Do you need anything?” Anne asks.
“No, I’m fine.” Ann looks over her shoulder as she makes her way to bed. “Thank you, though.”
Anne stops, dumbfounded. “Oh- kay.” She breathes. What just happened? She feels like she lost something or missed something. Either way, Anne doesn’t like the feeling. She returns to the couch to set up shop for the night.
Any guesses on baby names?
we pretty much pick up where we left off... the following morning
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ann is up early the next morning. Not surprising, seeing she can only get a few hours of sleep at a time and gets ready to head out. She passes Anne on the couch on the way to the door.
Anne hears her struggling to put her shoes on.
“Where are you going so early?” Anne rubs the sleep from her eyes and rolls her neck.
Anne frowns. That’s all she gets. She sits up. “Do you want help?”
Ann growls. “No. I can get it.”
“What’s wrong?” Anne asks.
Ann stands up and looks at her. “What’s wrong? How about stop asking me what’s wrong. Or maybe don’t suggest I go out and have sex with some rando. Or offer it up yourself after I’ve been raped. Ever think about that. Maybe don’t cozy up to me to try to get into my pants. Thinking a massage will do the trick. Stop sticking your nose in my business. I’m going out. That’s all you need to know.” With only one shoe on and the other in her hand, Ann leaves.
Anne brings her hands to her face. “Fuck.” She whispers. Part of her knows that Ann is just stressed and irritable because she’s still pregnant and isn’t sleeping and probably feels terrible. But she still doesn’t feel good about what Ann just said about her. She wants to go after Ann and makes sure she is safe and doesn’t go into labor on a street corner or something, but she knows that will only make Ann’s mood worse.
Instead, Anne gets up and showers and starts on making breakfast. She cleans up the kitchen as the food cooks. She eats and gets dressed. Anne cleans up her area around the couch. She cleans the bathroom and does a sweep of the entire place. She jumps when the door slams shut.
Ann trudges across the room and collapses on the couch, in tears. Gently, Anne walks over. She sits next to Ann and pulls her into her arms and holds her. She rubs her arm softly but doesn’t say anything and doesn’t dare ask Ann what’s wrong. She waits until Ann finishes crying.
Anne has a plan. “I’m going to get out of your hair for the day. Go book a room at a hotel but I’ll be back in the evening for dinner.”
Ann stays silent on the matter.
Anne assumes that means she agrees. “This is your place. And you deserve to have your privacy. I’ve cleaned everything and packed my stuff up. I made breakfast for you. But you were gone so long that I put it in the fridge. It’s not eggs.” Anne smiles. “I’m sorry, Ann. Truly. I didn’t mean to upset you. And what I said was out of line. I should know better. I know you’ve been through something difficult and I should be more sensitive to that.”
Anne grabs her laptop and her bag and makes her exit.
“You’ll be back for dinner?” Ann asks.
Anne looks over her shoulder and nods. “You have my number.” She doesn’t add the ‘if you need anything’. She’s not going to bother Ann anymore. She’s not going to hover over her and protect her. Ann is an adult. As she’s been told. And can take care of herself and the baby.
Anne returns for dinner to find Ann sitting on the couch in the same spot that she left her. Ann looks up at her with vacant eyes. “Where’s your things?”
Anne furrows her brow at that. “We talked about this, Ann. At my hotel. I’m going to be staying there.”
Ann looks down at the floor. “Oh. Is this because I was mad this morning?” She feels like crying again.
“No.” Anne lies. She comes over and squats in front of Ann. “Like you said. We need our own space. And there’s not enough room for that here. I called about that house that you liked. The big one with lots of space. I put an offer in and I’m just waiting to hear back. And then we won’t have to worry about being in each other’s way.”
“Okay.” Ann chews on her bottom lip. “You’re not in my way though.” She looks up to see Anne looking at her intently.
“What did you do today?” Anne puts a hand on Ann’s knee.
Ann stares down at that hand. “Just sat here.”
“Yes, but what did you do?” Anne tries to coax the details out of her.
“I went the bathroom.” Ann tries. “Three times.”
“Okay, what else?”
Ann shrugs. “That’s it.”
Anne frowns. She’s worried about Ann.
“Are you mad at me? Is that why you left? Do you not want to do this anymore? This baby needs you. It might not need me, but it needs you.” Ann is having reservations. Especially if Anne doesn’t want to be a part of her and the baby’s life.
Anne moves to sit next to Ann on the couch. “Please don’t talk like that, Ann. What’s going on? Where is all of this coming from?”
“You don’t want to have anything to do with me anymore.”
“I can feel it. You’re pulling away. Why else the hotel?” Ann looks up with shiny eyes.
“I thought you needed your space. That you didn’t want me bothering you and breathing down your neck about every little thing. That’s just how I am though. When I care about someone. I care about you and the baby. I get a little overprotective sometimes, I know, and I have to pull back.”
“I need you here. I’m terrified.” Ann mumbles. “I can’t do this by myself.”
“I know.” For the first time, Ann is saying she needs her here and in more of a sense than I need you to help me raise this baby. I need you here NOW. “I know.” She pulls Ann into her side and kisses the side of her head. “Have you had anything to eat today?”
Ann shakes her head against Anne.
“Okay. Let’s make something to eat then.” Anne knows she needs to start with that. She releases Ann and goes to the kitchen. She gets Ann a glass of water and then starts on something for dinner.
After dinner, Anne suggests a bath. Hoping it will relax Ann.
Ann is in the bath, but the water is starting to get cold. She tries to push herself up to get out but slips a little. She doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risks, so she calls out. “ANNE!”
Anne rushes in, all in a panic, at the sound of Ann’s voice. But she enters to see Ann with a smirk on her face, laying naked in the bathtub. Anne quickly covers her eyes with her hand. “Oh geez. I’m sorry. I thought something was wrong.”
Ann giggles. “Don’t be such a prude. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of naked women before. I need help getting out. I don’t want to slip and fall.”
Anne reaches out with one hand. The hand that isn’t covering her eyes.
“I’m going to need more than that.”
Anne closes her eyes and takes a deep breath before opening them to find Ann staring at her expectantly.
“Well?” Ann asks.
She tries to keep her eyes trained on Ann’s face but it’s difficult during the process of getting Ann up and then stepping out of the bath. Anne grabs a towel as soon as both of Ann’s feet are securely on the bathroom floor and covers Ann with it. “I’m sorry.” Anne apologizes.
Ann quirks an eyebrow at her. “So last night you had your hands all over me and now you don’t want to look at me.” There’s a challenge in there somewhere.
She feels like Ann is all over the place with this. “I don’t want to be disrespectful right now. Or ever.” Anne stares up at the ceiling. “And after what I’ve suggested and said, the sex thing, and this morning when you told me about it and how it really made you feel.” She shrugs, feeling ashamed. “I realize how disrespectful I might have seemed, but I swear I didn’t mean to be.” She finds Ann’s eyes. “How was your bath?” Desperate to change the subject. It seems to her that Ann is in a better mood.
Ann starts drying herself off, no care for impropriety. “It was lovely. Thanks for suggesting it.”
Anne nods. “Oh, you’re welcome. Anything else?” She’s desperate to leave the room.
“I do have one more request.”
Ann smirks. “That you sleep with me?”
Anne chokes and starts coughing. “What?” She looks over at Ann, realizing too late that Ann isn’t covering herself. Her eyes linger a little too long on Ann’s chest before looking up to her face.
“Not like that.” Ann clarifies. “Sleep. As is laying in the same bed asleep.” Ann swallows hard. Anxious about admitting this. “I always feel better when you are near. And maybe I’ll sleep better with you next to me.” She shrugs awkwardly. “It doesn’t hurt to try.”
Anne knows she’s going to have to do it. Here, she thought she would come over for dinner and the evening and then head back to the hotel. Now she’s not only being roped into staying but also sleeping in Ann’s bed with her. What pure torture. Ann has been all over the place emotionally and now this.
Anne lays stiff, on top of the covers, on the opposite side of the bed from Ann. She told Ann it had to be this way, or she wouldn’t do it. She told Ann that she didn’t want anything inappropriate to happen.
Truthfully, Anne didn’t trust herself. She didn’t trust herself with keeping her hands to herself. She’s drawn to Ann. From her form, to her laugh, to her personality. To the little quirks and eccentricities that are within it. And after last night, where she gave Ann that massage, she could easily see something like that happening again. Even though she told Ann it wouldn’t. And even though Ann yelled at her for being disrespectful and not taking her rape trauma into account. Anne is going to try her hardest to keep her hands to herself and to make sure she has Ann’s consent before she does anything.
“Have you gone to a therapist or anything?” Anne asks while thinking about it.
“Don’t be offended but maybe you should. To help you out. And with the baby coming it’s stressful and I just want you to be as healthy as possible for the baby.” Anne says delicately.
Ann doesn’t like the idea. “I’ll think about it.”
“Okay. That’s all I’m asking. Uh- goodnight.” Anne say awkwardly.
But Ann can’t get to sleep. Anne was planning to just lay there until Ann did get to sleep before moving to the couch.
Ann tosses and turns in an effort to get comfortable.
“Lay still.” Anne mumbles, annoyed. “You’re never going to fall asleep if you keep squirming. You’re like a little worm.”
Ann huffs out an annoyed breath. If she knew Anne was going to scold her every time she moved, she wouldn’t have suggested this. “I can’t get comfortable.”
Anne knows but all the squirming is still annoying. Even if she’s not trying to sleep.
It’s silent for a while. But then Ann moves again. “Anne.” She whines.
Anne doesn’t want to say the words, but they come out of her mouth anyway. “What’s wrong? What can I do to help?”
Ann sighs, relieved that Anne hasn’t abandoned her, and she isn’t completely put off by her. “Can you hold me?” She asks boldly. She knows she’s huge and the thought of cuddling up to that huge belly can’t be the most appealing.
It’s quiet again and Ann thinks it was stupid to ask when she doesn’t get a response from Anne. But then she feels Anne move. She looks over and Anne is getting out of bed. “Where are you going?” She asks but Anne stops at the end of the bed and unbuttons her tight jeans. “What are you doing?” She watches Anne take off her jeans.
Anne lifts the blankets and slips into bed underneath them. “Roll on you side.” She instructs.
Ann is awestruck for a moment before rolling onto her side. She feels more than sees Anne come up behind her.
“I don’t wear pants to bed. Pajama or otherwise.” She says as if that explains everything. “I’m most comfortable without them, well, in bed.” She scoots up behind Ann, presses a kiss to her shoulder and wraps an arm over her waist, draping her hand on Ann’s large stomach.
Ann sighs and leans back into Anne so that their bodies are pressed together. “Thank you.” She whispers.
Anne nods. “Anything for my baby mama.”
It’s in those soft quiet moments that Anne gets lost. Where she feels like everything is right and she is where she belongs. Meant to be nurturing this woman who is going to make her a mother. Taking care of her so that the baby is healthy and safe. Impatiently awaiting the arrival of the little guy. Her thumb stroking subconsciously over the belly, she doesn’t mean to fall asleep, but she does.
In the morning, Anne wakes with the sun. She had been awake a number of times in the night but had fallen back to sleep almost immediately. She woke up each time Ann got up to use the bathroom but for the most part slept well. Unlike the first time she slept in Ann’s bed, this time she doesn’t have a kink in her neck.
Anne looks around the room. The crib that they bought sits in the corner. A reminder of what’s to come. Anne grins. She has noticed that Ann isn’t in the room, so she gets up to go find her. Anne pulls her jeans on and stands in the bedroom doorway.
There Ann is, sitting sideways on the couch, her back to the armrest. She has her phone and is looking at something rather intently. Ann’s tongue pokes out between her lips as she concentrates. “How long have you been awake?”
Ann jumps and holds her hand to her chest. “Don’t scare me like that.” She looks Anne up and down. “Oh, about an hour. I didn’t want to wake you. You looked so-“ She cuts herself up before she can say anything mushy or embarrassing.
Anne raises an eyebrow at the pregnant woman. “I looked so what?”
“Nevermind.” Ann looks away from her, back to her phone.
Anne knows she’s not going to be privy to whatever Ann was thinking so she drops it. But the thought of Ann watching her sleep, thinking about her warms the tips of Anne’s ears and her cheeks. “What are you looking at?” She approaches Ann.
“That house.” She glances up before returning her eyes to the screen. “I know we haven’t seen it in person yet but what room do you think should be the his.”
Anne lifts Ann’s legs and then sits underneath them. “Show me which one you think.”
Ann goes to it and shows her phone to Anne.
Anne nods. “I agree.” She rubs her hands along Ann’s shins. Her eyes shift from Ann’s phone to her face. She looks over her chin, pauses at her lips. Ann smiles, bashfully, at the attention. She roams higher, meeting Ann’s eyes. “That room would be perfect for him.”
Ann nods. A bit stunned with the look that Anne is giving her. A mixture of delight and something else. There’s a bit of a smirk on Anne’s lip. Some excitement in her eyes. Ann looks away.
Anne reaches over and rests a hand on Ann’s stomach. Ann whips her head around to look back at Anne. “How is the boy today?” Anne asks.
“We slept really well. Surprisingly. I just woke up when I had to pee. I think it was you. That helped, I mean.” Ann hasn’t slept as well in months as she had last night. She credits Anne with that one hundred percent.
“That’s good.” She pats at Ann’s thigh. “So, feeling better today?” Anne wiggles her eyebrows.
Ann ducks her chin to her chest. “Yeah. Sorry about yesterday. I was all over the place.”
“No need to apologize, Ann. I get it. What do you want to do today?” Anne tries to get Ann to look back at her. “Cooking, laying on the couch watching cooking shows on tv?”
Ann looks up with a grin. She shakes her head. “Nah.” She bites on her bottom lip.
“What?” Anne asks. It’s one of Ann’s little quirks and Anne knows that it means Ann is thinking about asking something.
“Can we go to the café? The one we always met at.” She hopes Anne doesn’t say no.
“Really?” Anne furrows her brow. “I thought you didn’t want to be seen eating in public.”
“No don’t, really.” Ann shrugs. She worries her hands together in her lap. “I just- I- it might be nice. To reminisce. And it will probably be the last time before he is born.”
“Okay.” Anne puts her hand over Ann’s hands, stilling them. “But only if you’re sure about going.”
“I am. There’s a lot of good memories there for me.” Her cheeks heat.
Anne smirks. “Is that so? I wonder why that is.”
“Stop.” Ann says but grins.
They get ready to go and then head out. “Can we stop at my hotel on the way back? To get my stuff.”
Instead of using words, Ann reaches over and takes Anne’s hand. She gives it a squeeze before putting her other hand over it, holding on with both.
At the café, Anne orders their drinks.
“I can order for myself; you know.” Ann doesn’t mean any malice behind her words. She mostly just wants to tease Anne.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to step on your toes. You’re an adult. I’ll let you order for yourself next time.”
Ann starts giggling.
Anne narrows her eyes at her before rolling her eyes when she realizes that Ann is messing with her.
Ann’s laugh gets the attention of other patrons, but Ann ignores them as they stare at her.
They order breakfast and have a lovely uneventful meal. “I love this place.” Ann says towards the end.
Anne grins. She’s happy that she has had some little part in getting Ann to smile again. To be happy again. To be in a better place. Even if everything isn’t perfect and there are still issues to deal with. It’s good to see that one day the past will be in the past and the future holds endless possibilities.
Next chapter... a boy is born.
Good news and bad news folks. First the good news- I had this part all typed up and ready to go. Now the bad news- I won't be doing any typing for probably a week or so. I had a little whoopsie while I was building a retaining wall yesterday. I smashed the tip of my finger with the rubber hammer and it split wide open. Other than it being painful to type it's bandaged pretty heavily so this might be the last update for a week or so.
The title of the chapter is from the Dashboard Confessional song Hands Down. I thought it fit perfectly with this chapter.
My Hopes Are So High, That Your Kiss Might Kill Me
She comes out of the bedroom holding the underside of her belly. She’s been having labor pains for a few hours now but has waited to wake Anne. “Anne.” She just needs to wake Anne up. Ann thought it was stupid that Anne insisted on sleeping on the couch tonight so that she could have the entire bed and try to sleep as much as she could. They’ve been over this before. Ann sleeps better when Anne is next to her.
Ann gets to the couch and Anne isn’t there. She looks through the dark and finds her laying on the floor between the couch and the coffee table.
“What are you doing on the floor?” She mumbles. “Anne.” She nearly shouts.
“What?” She bolts up. “I’m awake. What’s wrong?” Anne runs her hands through her hair.
“We need to go to the hospital.”
“Oh.” Anne blinks a few times before it hits her. “OH.” She jumps to her feet. “Where’s that bag that we set aside for the hospital? Where’s my phone? Can you turn the light on? Actually, no.” She turns to Ann and sits her on the couch. “Sit. Stay.”
“I’m not a dog.” Ann grins.
“Right. Sorry.” Anne rubs her hands up and down Ann’s arms and kisses her forehead. She, then, runs around trying to get everything in order and ready to go in mere minutes.
Anne is by her side the entire time. Holding her hand. Giving her ice chips. Kissing her forehead. It takes hours for the labor to progress but when it does everything happens quickly.
But then it’s happened. Anne is crying uncontrollably and peppering Ann’s face with kisses as they clean him off. “You were so amazing. I love you.” Anne says.
“Stop it.” Ann is so beyond exhausted. She doesn’t want any of Anne’s pity or pandering or patronizing or whatever it is. She knows Anne is probably just saying those words because she’s happy right now.
Anne leans in again and kisses her. This time square on the lips. “You’re amazing and beautiful and I’m absolutely in love with you. You’re going to be the best mama.”
Ann has to look away. She’s uncomfortable and confused.
With a finger under her chin, Anne tips Ann’s face back and kisses her again like she means it. Because she does.
Not so shocked this time around, Ann reciprocates. She reaches up with what little strength she has and puts a hand on the back of Anne’s neck, holding her there, making sure she doesn’t disappear, that this isn’t a dream.
“He’s all good to go.” The nurse comes over with the boy, interrupting the moment.
Anne and Ann pull apart and the nurse sets the baby on Ann’s chest. “Support his head.” The nurse instructs.
Ann stares down in awe at him.
“First child?” The nurse asks and Ann nods in response.
Anne watches the pair from the side of the bed. The baby has a light layer of peach fuzz for hair. It’s hard to see but it’s blonde. He yawns. “Aww. Are you tired too? That was quite the journey you took into this world.” Anne comments. She’s amazed at the whole process of childbirth and how a baby comes into this world.
“Does he have a name yet?” The nurse asks. She’s gone over to the table to finish filling out his paperwork.
Ann looks up from the boy. She finds Anne’s eyes. Anne raises an eyebrow at her. “Timothy?” Anne says the name that Ann had suggested weeks ago and never mentioned again.
“You remembered?” Ann is amazed.
“Of course, I remembered.” Anne grins, toothy.
Ann looks back down at the baby in her arms. “Timothy.” She whispers.
“Does Timothy have a surname or is it just the mother’s?” The nurse asks.
They haven’t talked about this. Somehow it hadn’t come up or seemed important. But right now-
Ann hadn’t thought about it, but her son could, if they wanted to, have Anne’s last name. “Can we just put Walker for now?” She sees Anne deflate in her peripheral vision. “And change it later if need be.”
“Oh, this isn’t an official document. It’s just going on his crib.” The nurse explains.
Ann nods. She looks to Anne to see the disappointed look on her face. “Hey. We just need to talk about it. Okay?”
Timothy lets out a tiny cry. Ann looks down. She rests her hand on his stomach. “It’s okay.” She tells the baby and rubs his tummy. But he cries more.
“Aww, little guy.” Anne bends over and gets close to him. “It’s alright. Like your mama said.” He settles a little at the sound of Anne’s voice.
Ann’s eyes light up as she looks down at the baby. “Keep talking. It’s working.”
“You’re such a cute little guy.” Anne coos. “I’ve been waiting to meet you and I can’t believe you are finally here. You did such a good job. You’ve been such a good boy like I told you to be. Though you could’ve maybe moved around a little less so your mama could get more sleep.” She puts her hand on this head as he settles down.
“Anne, you’re a baby whisperer.” Ann is in awe.
Anne shrugs. “He just likes my voice.” She doesn’t tell Ann that she’s been talking to him every time that Ann falls asleep on the couch in the evening. And that he probably just recognizes her voice.
They spend a little time with Timothy. Ann tries nursing him with moderate success.
Eventually, the nurses take the baby to be checked on further and give mama time to sleep.
When the nurse comes back with him Ann is asleep. She looks to Anne in the chair next to the bed. “Do you want to hold him?”
Anne has thought about this moment for months. Literally months. She’s dreamt about what it might feel like. She’s thought about how tiny he will be and how wrinkly. All she can see right now is his eyes and nose and mouth and chin as she holds Timothy. He has a little hat on and is wrapped in a blanket. His eyes are closed. He’s sleeping.
It goes well for a few minutes. He sleeps and Anne watches him.
But then he starts whimpering and then full on crying. Anne tries to shush him, but it doesn’t work. She tries talking to him too.
Ann wakes up. It wasn’t a long sleep by any means, but she feels a little better, not as weak as just after giving birth. She watches for a moment. Anne holding their little boy. She smiles thinking that he is theirs. “Here.” She mumbles and holds out her hands. “I’ll take him.”
Anne looks up from Timothy and at Ann. She stands and rests the baby in Ann’s arms. “Do you think he’s hungry?” Anne wonders aloud.
“Sorry.” The nurse gets Anne’s attention. She seems to just pop in and out without warning. She hands Anne some paperwork. “No rush but I need you and mum to go over this. I’ve filled in all the info that I’m allowed to. Date, time of birth, that sort of thing. But you or the mother need to fill out the rest.” The nurse pops out again.
Anne looks down at the paperwork. She blinks a few times as she looks over it. The shock slowly settling in.
“What?” Ann can see that something is wrong. Well, maybe not wrong but Anne is going through something emotionally.
Anne looks up. At Ann, and then to Timothy. “He was born this morning.” She’s in awe.
There’s a little chuckle from Ann. “I know. I was the one doing the birthing.” She looks down at the precious baby who is feeding from her.
Anne shakes her head. “No. Look.” She holds the paperwork up and points to the time of birth and the date portion.
Ann looks and reads what it says. Her jaw drops open and she finds Anne’s eyes.
Anne stares back with tears in her eyes. “It was meant to be.” She whispers.
Ann grins. “Happy birthday, Anne.” She looks down at their son. “And Timothy.”
Anne has to have a seat in the chair next to Ann’s bed. She’s overwhelmed by it all. The emotions are strong and on little sleep she turns into a teary mess.
“What are we going to do?” Anne asks after she fills out the paperwork with Ann’s help.
Ann tilts her head to the side. “We are going to raise him together. You’re not backing out on me now, are you?”
Anne grins at the misunderstanding. “No. Never. I meant- are we going to tell people. You’re family. Mine. I ran into Marian about a week ago so she may know but nobody else. Unless she’s told the whole family of my plans. I don’t know. But only Catherine knows on your side. I just- what are we going to do? Do you want them to know? It’s going to be odd to just have a baby. What about family events and functions? I know you don’t want them controlling you or the baby. And I know that’s part of why you didn’t want to keep him. Because you didn’t think you could take them on. But Ann, you’ve got me now and I won’t let your family control your son.” Anne rants. She takes a deep breath and looks at the baby boy to calm herself.
Ann frowns while thinking. “Our son.” She corrects Anne. With certainty. “I want him to have your name at least or have both of our names. I know there are legal documents that need to be arranged and paperwork to fill out and sign. But I want him to be just as much yours as he is mine. I want you to legally adopt him or whatever has to be done to be his mother. So, it’s not just in principle or name. That it’s legal and official. That way if anything were to happen to me that he won’t have to go into the system, or my family won’t try to steal him from you, or something crazy like that.”
Anne is crying by the time Ann says her piece. “You’re just trying to get me to cry now.” She chuckles through her tears.
Ann grins at her.
“Are you sure?” Anne asks. Once they do this, that’s it. It’s done. No taking it back.
“Absolutely.” Ann adds a nod.
“I’ll call my attorney later.” Anne promises.
“I think I’m going to get going for today. But I’ll be back in the morning.” She pulls a set of keys from her pocket. Ann’s keys. They somehow ended up there in the chaos of getting to the hospital. “May I?” She jiggles the keys.
Ann nods and smiles. Simple.
She returns to Ann’s place. Anne removes her jacket and flops down on the couch. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She is overwhelmingly happy. A little tired. Very scatter brained. But content, firm, and confident. Her life has changed and Anne’s on a new path now. She rubs at her forehead before fishing her phone from her pocket and bringing it to her ear.
With a phone call to her attorney, Anne sets up all the paperwork.
After she’s finished with the call, Anne checks her voicemail. She finds one message from her realtor. Anne could have very easily set up the transaction herself but she’s a bit busy at the moment. What with a brand new baby and all. She listens to the message and her mouth hangs open. She blinks a few times processing what she’s just heard. Her offer on the house has been accepted. The tears stream down her face again.
“This might be the absolute best day of my life.” Her birthday, a son, and a new house, all on the same day. Thirty-three is starting out to be her best year yet.
After a few minutes of happy crying and grinning like a fool; Anne gets up and wipes her face off with her hand. She heads to the bathroom and strips out of her clothes and slips into the shower. She lets the warm water flow over her body for a few moments before getting to work cleaning herself. Anne finds herself a towel and gets her bag from behind the couch. She pulls out fresh undies and a fresh t-shirt to sleep in.
To hell with the couch, Anne goes into the bedroom. She stares at Ann’s bed for a moment before falling into it. With the scent of Ann all around her, she falls asleep almost immediately.
Anne bounds into the room in the morning. A bouquet of flowers in her hand. All rested and cheerful. She knows it was silly to get flowers and bring them because they’ll just have to bring them right home, but Anne couldn’t help herself. She has a little stuffed bear for Timothy too.
She greets Ann with a kiss on the top of the head. And then one on the lip. “Good morning. Where’s the boy?” The baby isn’t in the room.
“What are the flowers for?”
Anne sets them on the table next to Ann’s bed. “The woman who gave birth to our son.”
Ann rolls her eyes. She doesn’t need flowers from Anne. “He’s having some tests done.”
The panic rises in Anne. “Is- is he alright?” It’s evident in Anne’s voice.
Ann reaches over and finds Anne’s hand. She smiles lazily. “He’s perfect, Anne. I can’t believe it.” After everything, Ann has had time to rest and it finally dawns on her that she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. “He’s out.” She is relieved.
Anne grins and squeezes Ann’s hand. “No more complaining now?” She raises an eyebrow.
Ann laughs. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll find something new to complain about.”
Just then, the nurse brings Timothy back into the room. He’s asleep. “You wanna hold him, mama?” She asks Ann.
Ann shakes her head and looks up at Anne. But Anne is busy with her eyes trained on the boy. “Anne?”
“Yeah.” She says and glance over at Ann in the bed.
“Take your shirt off.”
Anne narrows her eyes at Ann. “What? No.” She dismisses Ann.
She knows what she’s going to say next will get Anne to do absolutely anything. “It’s for the baby. Skin to skin contact.” She explains.
The nurse pipes up. “There are all sorts of benefits to skin to skin contact for the baby. It’s good for the parents too.”
Anne is unbuttoning her shirt before the nurse can even finish.
“I’ve done it a few times already.” Ann says as she watches Anne. “Helps with breastfeeding.”
The nurse nods. “And baby’s skin and digestion and temperature regulation and heartbeat. All sorts.”
Anne is sitting in the chair with her button down shirt hanging open. She’s ready. The nurse unwraps Timothy from his swaddle and places him stomach down on Anne’s chest. She covers him then with the blanket. Anne puts a hand on his diapered butt and another on his back and caresses him to her skin.
As Ann watches, she is in awe at the love and tenderness that Anne has for their son. She expected nothing less with the way Anne has acted over the last few months but seeing it firsthand is amazing.
Anne sits with Timothy like that for a good fifteen minutes. He starts to fuss though, and Ann knows right away that he is hungry. “Give him to me.”
Anne glances over. “Bossy.” She grins.
Ann rolls her eyes. Anne stands with him in her arms and carefully hands him off to Ann to feed. She watches intensely as Timothy latches on almost immediately. Anne has seen plenty of boobs in her life but none being used in this capacity. It amazes her what a woman’s body is capable of.
“Stop staring.” Ann can feel Anne’s eyes on her, even without looking away from the boy at her chest.
“Sorry.” Anne mumbles but her eyes don’t leave the boy. “I can’t help it.”
Ann smiles and shakes her head at Anne.
After he’s done eating, the nurse helps Anne dress Timothy. She gives Anne a few pointers and tips on dressing a baby. It’s pretty easy right now because he is asleep. But he won’t always be, and he’ll be squirming and crying and it won’t be as easy as now. Then the nurse shows Anne how to put him in his brand new car seat. He’s in and ready to go home now. They just need to get Ann dressed and going.
The nurse mostly helps Ann while Anne stares at the baby. She rubs a knuckle over his cheek softly. “The best birthday present, ever.” She whispers to him. “You’re such a special little boy. I’m going to give you everything you could ever ask for.”
Hearing this, Ann chuckles. “Don’t get too carried away there, Anne.”
Anne rolls her eyes. “He doesn’t even understand what I’m saying. Don’t get too bent out of shape, mama.” She grins at the baby and thinks about the word mama. “What do you think he should call me?” She looks away from him over to Ann, raising an eyebrow. “You’re his mama. But- but what am I?” She knows now isn’t the time to have an existential crisis, but she can’t help but think about it.
“I don’t know, Anne.” She is putting her coat on. “Can we just go home and get settled and then we can talk about it?”
Anne nods. “Oh, that reminds me- my realtor called, and the offer has been accepted. We’re buying a house. The one you liked so much.” That little tidbit of information just happened to slip her mind with everything that’s been going on.
Ann grins happily. She approaches Anne and presses a kiss to her cheek. “Wonderful.” She turns back to the nurse. “Are we good to go?”
“Yes, do you want to walk, or I could get you a wheel chair? It is a ways to the parking.”
Ann thinks it over. She feels pretty good. “I’ll walk.”
Anne takes the car seat in one hand. She’s going to be doing a lot of that since Ann can’t lift and carry anything heavier than Timothy for the next few weeks. She grabs the bouquet of flowers in the other hand.
The nurse walks them out to the car and makes sure they get the car seat installed properly.
“Wow.” Anne wipes some sweat from her brow. “I didn’t know having a baby was going to be such a workout.”
Ann laughs as she gets in the car, in the backseat next to Timothy.
Anne drives cautiously. She makes sure she comes to a complete stop at all red lights and at every intersection with a stop sign. She looks both ways multiple times before pulling across an intersection.
Ann doesn’t say anything, but she notices from the back seat that Anne is being extra careful in typical new dad fashion.
Anne brings Timothy inside and then runs back out to help Ann. She finds Ann halfway up the stairs, stopped. “You okay?”
“I just need a little break.” While she was feeling pretty good when the nurse asked her at the hospital, she isn’t now. “I didn’t know I would be this sore.”
Anne grins, sympathetically. “You can make it, though?”
“Okay, I’m going to get the rest of the stuff from my car.” Anne realizes then that it’s not actually her car and that she’s going to need to get a car soon and not just drive a rental car around forever. She’s not in Paris anymore. She can’t get around using mass transit anymore.
Anne runs around the apartment putting things away. She tidies up the kitchen and the bathroom and then goes into the bedroom. Anne appraises the bed and the crib that is in the corner. She realizes now what they are missing. Somewhere proper to change Timothy.
“I need to run to the store. Are you going to be alright for like an hour, hour and a half?”
“What do you need? Can’t you just stay here? We just got back.” Ann isn’t complaining but she doesn’t see a reason for Anne to leave right now. Really, she just wants Anne to sit down and have a few quite moments together, all three of them.
Anne looks down at the floor. “I want to get one of those fancy diaper changing stations.” She mumbles, a little embarrassed.
“What?” Ann can’t hear her.
“I know we can make do but Timothy should have one of those nice changing stations.”
“Oh.” Ann frowns. “Okay.”
Ann shrugs. “If you think so.”
Anne is a bit surprised that Ann is so easy going about this. She doesn’t fight her on it or say it’s something they don’t need. “Right. I’ll be back in a little bit.”
An hour later, Anne is lugging the giant heavy box up the stairs. She’s tired when she gets to the top. She still has to put the damn thing together. She pulls the box in the door.
“Shhhh.” Ann whisper-yells.
“Sorry.” Anne whispers back and looks over to see Timothy asleep on Ann’s chest, skin to skin, with his little blanket covering his back. She is happy to see Ann taking to this whole being a mother thing. She was worried that she wouldn’t or that Ann would have some sort of disconnect with the baby with the rape and trauma. Which she knows happens. But this doesn’t seem like that. She grins over at Ann and Ann returns the smile before looking down at her son.
Continuing on her mission, Anne hauls the box into the bedroom and comes back out and sits on the couch next to them. “I’ll put that together tomorrow. I’m exhausted.”
Ann laughs. “You’re exhausted? I’m exhausted. Just you wait.”
Anne second guesses herself. “Should I put it together today?”
“It’s up to you but I doubt you’ll be any less tired tomorrow.”
Anne takes that into consideration. “I want to spend time with baby and baby mama right now though.” She leans into Ann’s side and puts a hand on Timothy’s back. “How’s my boy? Treating his mama right?”
Ann grins. She loves when Anne talks to the baby. “He’s been very good. He ate and is sleeping now.”
“And how’s mama doing?” Anne finds Ann’s eyes. “How’s the soreness? You need me to get you a pillow or anything. A hot pack or a cold one? Oh, something to eat. It’s past lunchtime.” Anne hops up and goes to the kitchen. “How about soup? Something warm and yummy and filling.” She’s mostly talking to herself. “I suppose I could make something. That will take time thought. I could warm up a can of soup quickly though. What do you think?” She turns to look back at Ann.
“Soup’s good.” She thinks it’s funny how Anne talks through things out loud.
Anne heats up soup.
Ann gets up and puts Timothy in his car seat so she can eat. He sleeps away without a fuss.
“How about you go lay down after you eat. I’ll watch the boy.”
Ann raises an eyebrow. “Are you sure? I thought you wanted to put together the changing station.”
Anne shrugs. “I can’t do it if you are sleeping. You need the rest. There’s two of us for a reason, remember.” She winks.
Ann nods. “Thank you.” She doesn’t want to put too much pressure on Anne but since Anne is offering to watch Timothy and let her rest, she’s not going to pass up that opportunity.
They are getting Timothy ready for bed. Well, putting him to sleep so they can go to sleep. Ann is breastfeeding him. And again, Anne finds herself watching intently. “Your boobs are amazing.” Ann narrows her eyes at Anne from across the room, telling her to knock it off. Anne smiles in response and nods at the baby. “I think he agrees with me.” That gets a little chuckle from Ann.
He is in his crib asleep. Anne is cooing over him. Her hands on the railing of the crib as she bends over the side. “You have a good sleep, Tiny Tim.”
Ann scoffs. “Oh lord, don’t call him that.” She sits on the bed and watches Anne.
“Why not?” Anne looks back over her shoulder. “He’s tiny and his name is Tim.”
Ann shrugs. “Because I said so.”
Anne turns to her and puts her hands on her hips. “Because you said so.” She raises a challenging eyebrow.
“Yep.” Ann smiles.
“That’s not a reason.” Anne argues. “I can call him that if I want.”
“You are not calling our son after the poor sick boy from A Christmas Carol.” Ann tells her.
Anne wrinkles up her nose at that. How could she forget Tiny Tim from the Dickens classic? “Maybe you’re right.”
“Of course, I’m right.” She is triumphant. “Let’s get to sleep.” Ann turns and shuts off the lamp.
The room is thrown into darkness. Ann scoots down in bed before laying down. She knows it will only be a few hours before Timothy is awake and hungry again.
Anne gets down to just her briefs and climb into bed next to Ann. It seems like the most natural thing in the world. There is no awkwardness like the last time they slept in this bed together. She rolls on her side and gives Ann a kiss on the cheek. “Roll over.” She whispers.
With a little grunt Ann does. She rolls onto her side and Anne slides up behind her, putting an arm over her waist. “Anne, don’t. I’m gross.”
Anne kisses her shoulder. “You’re not gross. Just let me, okay.”
Ann sighs, giving in to the comfort of Anne’s touch. “Goodnight, Anne.”
“Goodnight.” Anne whispers before falling asleep.
It’s quiet for a few hours, like Ann predicted. But soon enough, Timothy wakes up with a small cry. Ann sits up and flicks the lamp on. She turns to get out of bed, but Anne has beat her to it. Anne gets the boy from the crib. Resting him on her shoulder, she bounces around lightly trying to hush him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Ann asks.
Anne looks over at her. “I got up to feed him and change him.”
“I have the boobs.” Ann deadpans, winning the discussion easily.
Anne rolls her eyes but brings Timothy over to Ann. “We need a schedule. We both don’t need to be up doing this. You can pump and I can feed a bottle in the middle of the night every other day or something.”
Ann nods as she watches her son. That sounds like a good plan. “This will be easier when we have more rooms.”
Anne cocks her head to the side.
“I won’t have to wake you and you won’t have to wake me. He can have his own room and we can go to him.”
Anne nods. “Right.”
She gets Timothy to latch on. “When are we moving anyway?”
“You. You are amazing. It’s day one and we’re both up in the middle of the night and you’re feeding him and asking about when we move. Amazing.” There’s a little twinkle in Anne’s eyes as she looks at Ann.
Ann notices. “Stop looking at me like that.”
Anne comes over and puts a hand on Ann’s arm. The one that’s holding the baby and leans in, carefully not to squish him and kisses Ann. “I love you.” She knows she said it yesterday after Timothy was born and that she meant it then but there hasn’t been time to talk about what that means.
Ann isn’t so sure. Her body tenses at the words that slipped from Anne’s mouth. She knows Anne doesn’t realize that she’s saying them. That’s part of the issue. If she weren’t so tired and life wasn’t so crazy right now; Anne would be thinking straight and not saying something so silly. She believes that Anne is just in love with the idea of them being a family. She’s in love with this dream scenario in her head. A fairytale that isn’t real.
Anne steps back and looks at Ann and the baby. “Four to six weeks.”
Ann’s mouth drops open. “That long?”
Anne nods. “I’ll call tomorrow to see how soon I can get the signing pushed up.” Anne cracks her knuckles. “Don’t worry babe, I’ll work my magic.”
Ann rolls her eyes. “Go back to sleep.”
Anne wakes up the next morning. She wouldn’t say that she is well rested but that doesn’t affect her positivity any. She’s still super excited to have a newborn son. With a kiss to Ann’s cheek, Anne crawls out of bed. She goes over to the crib and looks down at the boy. She reaches down and taps her finger against his hand. “How’s my baby boy today?” She whispers. He stretches out, his palms opening up and he grabs Anne’s finger in his tiny hand. Anne gasps, awed. “Hey, little man. Me and your mama love you so much. I can’t believe you are finally here. I’m sure your mama is glad that you are though.”
Ann rolls over in bed when she hears Anne talking to the baby. She looks over and smiles watching the pair interact. Not that Timothy has much to say or do but Ann knows that he loves the sound of Anne’s voice.
She crawls across the bed, gets on her knees, puts her hand on Anne’s shoulder, and looks down at Timothy. “I didn’t know what this would feel like.”
Anne looks back to her.
“Giving birth. Being a mother. I didn’t know if I could do it. But seeing him. Meeting him. And seeing you with him. It’s better than any dream I’ve ever had.” She squeezes Anne’s shoulder. “It’s not so scary now.”
Anne turns to her. “He’s perfect, isn’t he?” She grins. Ann nods in agreement. “And you are prefect and amazing. Don’t doubt yourself.” Ann tucks her chin to her chest. “Hey.” Anne lifts her chin with a finger. “I know that’s easy to do but- just don’t.” Anne smiles, crooked. “I love you.” She whispers and kisses Ann’s forehead, pulling her into an embrace.
Ann lets her.
Anne is working on putting together the changing table. She looks up and over at Ann in the bedroom doorway.
Ann looks at the mess in the bedroom. There are pieces on the bed and every other available surface. “We’re not going to be able to move around in here, are we?”
The changing table looks enormous in the small bedroom. With the bed and crib and dresser there really isn’t an more room.
Anne grins, guilty. “It might have to go in the living room. What’s up?”
“I made lunch for you.” Ann grins shyly.
Anne hops to her feet. “Lovely.” She approaches Ann, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “How’s the boy?” Anne passes her and looks around the living room for him.
“He’s sleeping in the little bouncy seat you got him. You spoil him too much.” Ann says.
Anne spins around and grins at her. “That’s my job.”
Ann chuckles and shakes her head. Anne turns back to find her son. “Oh, he looks so tiny in his seat. He’ll have to grow into it.”
“Come eat.” Ann encourages.
Anne takes another moment to look at Timothy before going to the table. “What did you make? Peanut butter sandwiches?” Anne jokes.
“Funny.” Ann rolls her eyes. “No. I can cook too, ya know.”
Anne holds her fork and knife in her hands, fists, utensils pointed up at the ceiling. “So?”
Ann gives the dish over to the table. “Eggplant parmesan.”
Anne hums. “Yummy.”
“I was thinking-“ Ann scoops some of the meal onto Anne’s plate. “-we should take some photos of Timothy.”
“Good idea.” Anne nods. “So we can remember when he was this little. And for when he’s a teenager and dating and we can embarrass him by showing his date.”
Ann grins. “I suppose and-“ She wiggles her eyebrows at Anne. “-to send out a birth announcement. I don’t know the protocol. But I’ve seen like cards with the baby’s picture and the statistics. Send it out to all your family and friends. And my family, of course. They’ll be shocked and it’s probably more hassle than it’s worth; but they should know now before he’s like six months old and I tell them and then their angry that I kept the news from them. They’ll be angry enough right now. That they didn’t know I was pregnant. But I don’t want them using money to control me or him. I wasn’t going to keep him anyway.” Ann shrugs.
Anne can see the sadness return to her eyes from before. “Hey.” She takes Ann’s wrist in her hand. Ann startles a little but looks down at that hand. “I think it’s a good idea. I love it. Better to do it now then wait. He’s your son, not theirs. He’s our son.” She reminds Ann. She rubs her thumb over the inside of Ann’s wrist. Ann nods. She puts a piece of eggplant parm on her own plate before bringing the dish back to the stove. Ann returns and sits next to Anne and they eat lunch.
That night they start up a schedule. Anne is the one to get up and feed and change Timothy that night.
He starts crying. They both sit up in bed.
“I’ve got him. You go back to sleep.” Anne tells her.
“Are you sure?” Ann asks.
“Of course.” Anne squeezes Ann’s thigh before getting out of bed. She picks Timothy from the crib and takes him out of the room. She goes to get a bottle and warm it up. Timothy whimpers, impatient. Anne talks to him. It helps but he doesn’t settle. She bounces around the kitchen with him in her arms.
The bottle warms and she holds it for him to drink from. It’s only his second bottle ever but he’s a champ and takes it easily. Anne walks him to the couch and sits with him while he eats. Eventually his eyes start to close as he feeds. Anne puts him on her shoulder and burps him. He finishes most of the bottle and then Anne moves to the changing table to change his diaper. She’s just getting used to how tight she should wrap his diaper around his waist. There haven’t been any big blowout yet so that’s good. Once he is changed Anne doesn’t put his clothes back on. She takes her shirt off next and then goes to sit with him on her chest on the couch. She covers them both with a blanket.
Anne starts falling asleep and she knows it’s time to get back to bed. She finds something special from the changing table. She doesn’t know how Ann is going to feel about this when she sees him in the morning but Anne dresses him in the little light green onesie with the giraffe on it. “Just as I had hoped. You look adorable in this.” She rubs his little belly. Tears prick at her eyes when she thinks back to buying the onesie and giving it to Ann. “You’re so special, little guy.” She lifts him to her shoulder and brings him back to his crib. She climbs back into bed and cuddles up into Ann’s side and with a happy smile falls back to sleep.
Ann gets up with Timothy at six. She gets him from the crib and brings him out of the bedroom to feed him, so he doesn’t wake Anne. She’s set on letting Anne sleep as long as she’d like after her being up with him twice in the night. She doesn’t bother with turning the light on. It’s starting to get light outside. She sits down with him to feed him and that’s when she notices what he’s wearing. Ann takes a sharp breath. She thought she got rid of that onesie. Or maybe she had the intention of getting rid of it and never did and it just sat in that drawer by the door. She assumes that’s where Anne found it. She tries her hardest to keep it together as he eats. ‘It’s not his fault. It’s not his fault. He’s an innocent baby.’ Ann reminds herself. But it doesn’t work. Her thoughts go dark.
As soon as Timothy is finished eating Ann is on her feet. “Anne.” She nearly yells as she approaches the bedroom. “Anne.”
Anne sits up in bed. “What is it?” She rubs a hand over her face.
“You need to take it.” Ann shoves the baby at her.
The shock on Anne’s face is evident. “Why? What happened?”
Ann doesn’t answer. She leaves the room and goes to the bathroom, locking herself in there.
Anne looks down at her son. “What happened, buddy?” He looks up at her with innocent little blue eyes. “Did you get enough breakfast?” Everything is a bit hazy right now from sleep, but Anne puts the pieces together. “You’re not an it.” She gives him a tight-lipped smile. “Your mama didn’t mean that. She’s just upset. And scared probably. Not scared of you but scared.” Anne isn’t sure if Ann is scared of Timothy or not. “She did say it wasn’t scary just yesterday.” Anne puts him in the crib. He doesn’t fuss. “Okay. You just stay here so I can go check on your mama.” She looks down at him and smiles before exiting the room.
She knocks on the bathroom door. “Ann?” She tries the knob. It’s locked.
“Ann, did Timothy get enough to eat?”
“Yes.” It’s short and staccato.
“Okay. Good. Are you okay? What happened?”
“Nothing.” Ann folds her arms over her chest.
Anne sighs. “We both now that’s not true. Let’s not play games.”
There’s a shuffle and then the door flies open. “Who’s playing games? Not me. You’re the one playing games. Dressing him in that onesie to upset me on purpose.”
Oh. Anne knows how this went all wrong.
“You know I didn’t want that onesie.”
“That was before-“ Anne tries.
Ann cuts her off. “Before, after, whenever, I don’t care. I told you that I didn’t want that onesie. I told you I couldn’t accept it.”
“That was before-“
“Before what?” Ann puts her hands on her hips. Anne is silent. “Before what?” Ann raises her voice. “Before you convinced me to keep a baby that I didn’t want.”
Anne opens and closes her mouth. “You don’t-“
“You can’t go behind my back in dress him in things like that. This is already hard enough. I can’t deal with that. It’s a reminder.” Ann pushes past her.
Anne is left standing there in shock. Does that mean Ann doesn’t want Timothy anymore? Does that mean she wants to give him up for adoption still? The paperwork that they signed hasn’t been filed yet. She could still change her mind. Does this mean she doesn’t get to be his mother either?
Ann goes back to the bedroom, changes her clothes. She looks at Timothy in the crib before leaving. “I’ll be back later.” She mumbles as she passes Anne to get to the door.
Anne looks between the apartment door and the bedroom door. She slips back into the bedroom. With tears in her eyes, she picks Timothy up out of the crib and holds him tightly. By the time she gets to the changing station she is full on crying. She strips his light green giraffe onesie off of him. “This was a mistake. I’m so sorry little man.” She cries. “For the record, you did look super cute wearing it. Too bad your mama can’t see that.” She folds the onesie up and puts it in her suitcase, so Ann won’t see it ever again. She’d throw it out, but it means too much to Anne just to discard. Anne changes him and puts him in another onesies. She puts a pair of little corduroy pants on him and little clean socks. “There. Just as cute.” She picks him up and holds him. “Hopefully, mama will agree.” Anne feels terrible. She’s again put Ann through unnecessary emotional pain. She didn’t think the onesie would’ve had that bad of a reaction. Anne thought it would be a nice surprise for Ann to see in the morning or at worst Ann would say she didn’t want it but not this.
Right now, she’s worried that Ann might not come back. And that Ann has changed her mind about raising Timothy. “Your mama loves you. I know she does.” Anne hopes beyond hope that she’s right about that.
I'm not crying, you're crying.
we pick up where we left off
Anne stays in the apartment with Timothy all day. She watches him like a hawk. That lingering fear that he will soon be gone hangs with her all day.
It’s getting late in the afternoon and Ann hasn’t returned yet. There’s only one bottle left that Ann can feed him before she needs to start thinking of a plan.
Well, she’s been thinking about a plan all afternoon. How to feed Timothy if Ann doesn’t return. What to do with him if she doesn’t come back. Can she raise him all on her own? Anne is sure she can but would need a lot of help.
While Timothy slept, Anne was online looking up baby formulas and how to mix them and even reviews on the best ones. She also looked up adoption rules and how long after birth a mother can give up a child for adoption, no questions asked.
To say Anne is panicked would be an understatement.
Timothy wakes up and Anne feeds him the last bottle of breastmilk that she has. She holds him after he’s done eating and cries herself. “I love you little guy.” She cries and rubs his back. “You must think I’m some crazy lady.” She chuckles through her tears. “So be it. I just love you so much. Nothing compares.” She feels like she’s being torn into two.
Anne hears the door unlock and open. It’s quiet in the apartment. She hears it close from where she is laying on the bed with Timothy. She’s just watching him as he sleeps.
She hears the footsteps before Ann comes to stand in the bedroom doorway.
Ann sighs at the sight before her. The tiny child laying on his stomach on the bed, his eyes closed, his face turned towards Anne. Anne lays in the fetal position dwarfing him. One arm is under Anne’s head, she’s laying on the bicep, bent at the elbow wrapping the arm around the head. Anne’s other arm is tucked to her chest, her hand lying flat on the mattress in front of her face.
“Hey.” Ann has been scared to come back here. She scared of what Anne might say. She’s scared that Anne is going to tell her that she is an unfit parent and that she’s taking Timothy and moving back to Paris with him.
Anne glances over her shoulder at Ann to acknowledge her presence but looks back at the boy on the bed. “He’s sleeping. We’re out of bottles. He’s hungry but I got him to sleep after much crying.”
Ann knows. That’s why she came back. She takes her coat off and goes over to him. Anne puts a protective hand on his back, preventing Ann from picking him up. “I’m going to feed him.” Anne relents and allows Ann to pick him up.
Timothy wakes up with a wail as soon as Ann lifts him from the bed.
Anne huffs out a breath. She was on the verge of calling her sister to bring her formula. “Where were you all day?” Anne’s tone is harsh.
Ann frowns. “Can we not do this right now? Wait until he’s done eating.”
At that, Anne gets up with another huff and goes to sit on the couch.
She sits there for what feels like forever but is probably only ten minutes.
Ann comes out of the bedroom and sits on the couch next to her. “He’s sleeping again.”
“Good.” Anne huffs. “So? Where were you all day?”
Ann sighs. It’s confession time. “I went to the park. But I got cold after a while, so I went to our café.”
Anne smiles, despite herself.
“I needed time to think.” Ann whispers. She finds Anne’s hand and tries to take it, but Anne pulls away from her and then stands up.
Anne spins and faces Ann. “And what did you need to think about?”
“I thought I could do it on my own. But I can’t.”
Anne deflates. This is it. It’s over.
“I’m going to have to start going to therapy to get over this.” Ann confesses. She’s been dreading this for months. She’s been avoiding her issues in the hopes that they would go away. For a while, she thought as soon as the baby was out of her that would cure everything. That was before they decided to keep him.
Now, though, now is different. With Timothy needing her all the time she can’t avoid him, like today, when things get hard or her thoughts take a negative turn. She wants him, she wants to be his mother. Ann wants to be a good mother too.
“Oh.” Anne mumbles. “That’s it.” She feels silly for getting so worked up. “I thought you were going to say you wanted to put Timothy up for adoption.”
Ann scrunches up her face. “No.” She can see where Anne might get that idea from though. “About what I said this morning, I’m sorry.” She stands in front of Anne, so they are face to face. “I was upset. That onesie was a bit of a trigger. I wasn’t ready for it and I didn’t handle it very well. That’s why I need therapy. An outfit that our son is wearing shouldn’t throw me into a complete meltdown. You were right to suggest that I go to therapy a few weeks ago. It’s time. I need to be the best parent that I can be to that innocent little boy.”
Anne breathes a sigh of relief. She looks down at the floor. “Now what?”
“Are you alright?” Ann asks.
The corner of Anne’s lips curl slightly. “I will be now that I know my son isn’t being taking away from me.”
“Oh, Anne. I’m sorry.” She takes Anne’s left hand.
“Are you going to be okay?” Anne asks back.
Ann nods. She thinks, eventually, she will be. “Yeah. What did you and Timothy do today?” She doesn’t want to talk about therapy anymore.
Anne shrugs. “Mostly worried about you and what was going to happen.” She avoids Ann’s eyes, but she can feel Ann’s boring a hole into the side of her face.
“I see he’s changed. What did you do with-“ Ann leaves the end of the sentence open. She doesn’t know if she can say the word onesie again.
Anne looks at her now. She checks to makes sure Ann can handle this topic. Ann nods faintly. “It’s in my suitcase. You never have to see it again.”
Ann nods. “Thank you.”
“And I’m sorry too. I didn’t think- well, what happened would happen.” Anne shrugs. It all feels so stupid. All of tis should have never happened.
“Thank you.” Ann squeezes Anne’s hand. “Have you had anything to eat today?”
Anne shakes her head. “I was too anxious to eat. I’ve had an upset stomach all day.”
“Let’s get you something then.” She tugs Anne along with her to the kitchen. “Something light. How about toast with a little jam on it?”
“That should work.”
“I’ll get it. Go sit at the table.” Ann tells her.
Anne doesn’t go though. “Why are you doing this for me?” She’s direct with the question. “I can make my own food.”
“Because I put you through hell today. I’m trying to say I’m sorry with more than just my words. I’m trying to show you I appreciate you and I’m trying to show you that I’m being genuine.” Ann doesn’t know what else she can do right now. She feels like garbage for what she done today, though it wasn’t intentional.
Ann gets the bread out to toast, expecting Anne to go sit at the table but Anne stands there awkwardly. “Are you going to stand there and watch me do this? Go, sit.” Ann tries to shoo her away with the flick of her wrist. Anne stays rooted in her spot. “What?” She looks Anne up and down and can see the anxiousness in her.
“Can I-“ Anne hesitates. She doesn’t want to make another misstep with Ann today. “You can tell me to fuck off if you want but can I-“ It’s a simple question. Anne doesn’t know why she’s so scared to ask it. “Can I hug you?” She says really quickly.
“Oh.” Ann is a bit surprised but shifts so that she’s facing Anne. “Sure.” Ann stands there and waits for Anne to step forward and close the distance between them.
Anne slips her arms under Ann’s, wrapping them around her waist and leaning into Ann. She sighs and closes her eyes, resting her head on Ann’s shoulder. Ann wraps her arms around Anne’s shoulders. They stay like that for a long time. Anne starts swaying them back and forth a little. “I love you, Ann. I thought I lost you today.”
“I know.” She rubs at Anne’s upper back. “I’m a mess right now. Just don’t give up on me.” She wants it to be a silent plea, but it slips out of her mouth.
Anne nods against her.
They hold onto each other for a few more minutes, hands rubbing and caress each other’s backs.
“Are you hungry?” Ann asks finally.
Anne nods again, this time leaning back so she can look Ann in the face. She searches Ann’s face for a few moments before releasing her from the hug.
Ann sits at the table while Anne eats her jam toast. “Aren’t you going to have anything?” Anne asks.
“Nope, I ate a little bit ago. If it’s okay I’m going to take a shower. And since I was gone all day, I need to do some pumping.” Ann grabs her boobs. “Timothy did a good job, but theses puppies are full.”
Anne grins at that. “Okay.” She stares at Ann’s chest.
“Once I’m done in the shower I’ll take over for the night. You can go to bed. Or go out or do whatever you want.” Ann gives Anne options. Let’s Anne know that she isn’t trapped here in this apartment with her or the baby.
Anne finds Ann’s eyes again. “Some sleep would be nice.” It’s been a long day for Anne.
Anne is sitting up in bed when Ann comes in. She’s doing something on her laptop. Ann doesn’t bother her. She checks on Timothy and then goes around to her side of the bed and slips in. “Can I turn the light off or do you need it?”
“You can turn it off. I’m nearly done here.” Anne tells her without looking up from the laptop.
Ann turns the light off and settles on her side for the night. A few minutes later, Anne closes the laptop and sets it aside. She looks at Timothy in the crib before slipping down to a laying position.
“Goodnight.” Ann whispers.
“Goodnight, Ann.” Anne turns onto her side and cuddles up to Ann’s back, laying her arm over her waist.
“You really enjoy that, don’t you?” Ann looks backwards over her shoulder.
“Does it bother you?” Anne asks. “Or make you uncomfortable?” Anne starts to pull her arm away.
Ann grabs her hand. “No. It’s okay.”
“Cuz you said when you were pregnant that it helps you sleep if I’m close.” Anne uses Ann’s own reasoning as an excuse.
Ann chuckles. “Yeah, close. You don’t have to spoon me though.”
Anne is confused. Which is it?
“Yes, I sleep better with you near. I also enjoy your warmth. I used to get cold every night at about four am. But not with you near keeping me and the bed warm.” The only problem Ann has with what they are doing is that it’s very coupley. And they’re not a couple. “Stay right where you are.” Ann tells her though.
“Okay.” Anne can do that. She feels a little better after getting a more solid explanation from Ann. She doesn’t want to make her uncomfortable or not feel safe. “Goodnight, Ann.”
“Goodnight.” She still holds onto Anne’s hand with hers, interweaving their fingers together.
Anne gets up the following morning when Timothy starts crying around seven.
She yawns as she lifts him out of the crib. “Good morning, little man.” Anne bounces around a little bit, hoping to get him to stop fussing. “Shhh, you’re gonna wake mama.”
“I’m already awake.” Ann grumbles from the bed. “Bring him here.” She sits up.
“Are you sure?” Anne raises a questioning eyebrow.
“Yes, I’m sure. Are you still doubting me?” She waves Anne over.
Anne hesitates. “It wouldn’t be the craziest thing. I just-“ She hands Timothy over to Ann.
“I’m not going to leave again. I just- will you help me find a good therapist to go to today. Not that I need to go today. I just- to set up an initial appointment. For sometime in the next few days.”
Anne smiles softly. “Whatever you need.” She’s happy that Ann is taking this step and that she is asking for Anne’s assistance in setting it up.
Ann nods and eyes Anne suspiciously. Not a day has gone by that Anne hasn’t watched her breastfeeding their son at least once. “Stop staring at- ow.” She looks down at her son. “He bit me.”
Anne grins. “He doesn’t have any teeth it couldn’t have hurt that much.”
“How about I bring him to you and let him bite your nipple?” Ann challenges.
Anne smirks. “I don’t know.” She tilts her head to the side. “I might like that.”
“He’s your son. You’re disgusting.” Ann shakes her head.
“But if he were someone else.” Anne ventures. “Obviously. I’m not looking to get with a child. My son. A boy. A man. If he were-“
“Get out.” Ann nearly yells.
Anne chuckles but spins on her heels to exit the bedroom. “What do you want for breakfast?” Anne yells back at her.
“Eggs.” Ann shouts back.
A moment passes, Anne pops her head back into the bedroom. “For real?”
Ann nods. “I’ve always like eggs. I just- when I was pregnant the smell made me nauseous.”
“Okay. Eggs, then.” Anne pops back out.
Anne sits on the couch and watches Timothy as he sits in his bouncy seat. Far too little to bounce in it yet. Ann is eating her eggs.
“He’s so boring.” Anne whines.
Ann laughs. “He’s a newborn. What do you want? Him to be up and playing with you?”
“That would be cool.”
“Cool?” Ann raises an eyebrow.
“Yeah, cool.” Anne shrugs. “He just sleeps.”
“He’s adjusting to the new world he’s been brought into. It’s probably quite the shock to the system. You live in a warm bubble for months and then all of a sudden you are out of that bubble. Everything is bright and big and scary. It’s cold and you can’t understand anything.” Ann explains.
Anne switches from looking at Timothy to looking at Ann.
“What?” Ann doesn’t like the way Anne is looking at her.
“Just you.” She can tell Ann has really thought about Timothy and everything that he is going through right now. It soothes her nerves about Ann bailing on him.
Ann goes back to eating her breakfast.
“Do you think he’ll want to be around me and play with me when he gets older?” Anne wonders aloud.
“Why wouldn’t he?”
Anne shrugs. “Cuz I’m- I’m not his dad.”
“Aww.” Ann sighs. She gets up from the table and comes to sit next to Anne. “Are you really worried about that?”
“Do you think he’ll ever question it? Like when he goes to school and finds out that most kids have one mum and one dad.”
“I’m sure he will.” Ann rests her head on Anne’s shoulder. “And you or I or both of us will sit down with him and explain to him that families don’t have to be one way or another. That sometimes kids only have a mum. Or only a dad. Or some kids have one mama and a bunch of people and aunt and uncles and grandparents that help raise them. Or that some kids might have two dads or two mums.”
“I want him to be smart and kind and caring. Not some little jerk.”
Ann laughs. “If you raise him right, he will be.”
“What about you?” She looks down to see Ann looking up at her from under her eyelashes.
“I don’t know about you but I’m going to raise him right.” She grins.
Anne realizes then that Ann is messing with her. “Well, then.”
“I’m sure as soon as he’s able to play, he’ll play with you. And I’m sure as he gets older, he’ll still want to play with you. Are you athletic?” Ann thinks Anne probably is.
Anne hums. “A little. I never played any organized sports, but I used to run every morning.”
“So, he’ll race you up and down the street.” Ann giggles. “I hope it’s a nice quiet street that we are moving to.” She thought a lot about them moving into the house yesterday when she was MIA.
Ann sits up so she can face Anne properly. “How do you know?”
“I had one of my employees do a little recon on the area.” Anne shrugs, she not ashamed. She wants to make sure they aren’t moving a baby into a shitty neighborhood. “The schools in the area are good too. Though we have to talk about that and how we want to school him.”
“You’re going too fast.” Ann shakes her head.
“He’s just a baby. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t make him grow up too fast.” Ann reminds her. “Let’s cherish baby Timothy before he’s walking and talking and going to school.”
“You’re right.” Anne nods. “As always.” She takes Ann’s hand and kisses the back of it.
I enjoy reading all the comments for everyone that comments. They always put a smile on my face. Thanks.
They get their little nighttime routine going and it works well. They alternate getting up with Timothy every other night. Soon enough the three fall into a steady rhythm. “This seems too easy.” Anne comments as she’s changing the boy.
“You say that now. He’s six days old. Six days of an entire lifetime. I’m sure there will be hard days, hard weeks.”
Anne looks over her shoulder at Ann who is standing with her hip to the kitchen counter. “Yeah, but he seems like an easy baby.”
“What?” Anne asks as she sees the smirk.
“You might want to look at what your son is doing?”
Anne returns her attention to Timothy. “Oh no.” She yelps. “Timothy.”
There’s a tiny stream of pee hitting the wall along the back of the changing station. Anne covers him with a towel.
“Easy now?” Ann chuckles. She goes to the bathroom to get a wet washrag.
“What are you doing?” Anne asks Timothy. “Are you being a naughty boy?” She laughs. Anne knows it’s her own fault for not paying attention while changing him, but she can’t help but make a little joke out of it.
Ann comes back and wipes off the wall. “We’re going to need to change everything out on this station.”
“I know.” Anne says.
“But we don’t have time right now. Get him changed so we’re not late for his one week appointment.”
Anne grins. “Yes, ma’am.” She may or may not enjoy Ann bossing her around a little. It shows Ann’s authority and seriousness.
“Don’t do that.” Ann rolls her eyes.
“Yes, ma’am.” Anne grins at her as she says it, messing with Ann.
Ann glares at her. “I’m going to finish getting ready.” She goes into the bedroom to get Timothy’s bag together and put her coat on.
Anne gets him changed and they are out the door.
Ann sits in a chair in the exam room with Timothy in her arms. Anne paces the little room. Back and forth. “Can he hurry up already? What’s taking so long?”
“Something probably came up. It’s not a big deal.”
Anne zooms across the room again, in front of Ann. When she comes back, Ann reaches out and grabs her swinging hand, stopping her.
Anne looks down at her hand. At Ann’s hand on hers. The door opens and Anne shakes Ann’s hand off as she turns to see the doctor enter.
“Good morning, ladies.” The doctor bends at the waist to see the baby. “And you little guy.” He grins at Ann. “Okay, clothes off the baby. What’s his name again?”
“Timothy.” Anne supplies.
“Right, Timothy. First, we’ll see how much he weighs.” The doctor turns the scale on.
Anne helps Ann undress him. Ann mostly holds him while Anne removes his clothes.
Timothy is asleep so when they put him on the scale he cries out at the cold, hard plastic.
“It’s okay, Timothy.” Anne coos. “Just hold still and it’ll all be over in a minute.”
Anne stands next to the doctor as he gets the weight. He then gets out a little folded up tape measure and measures Timothy’s length. “Looks good.” The doctor writes the numbers in Timothy’s chart. “A little below his birth weight but that’s normal. And isn’t any longer than he was at birth. You can pick him up now. I can do the rest of the examine with someone holding him.”
Anne picks him up immediately. “It’s okay. You’re okay.” She soothes, cradling him in her arms.
The doctor starts checking him. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth. Fingers and toes, reflexes. He checks Timothy’s heartbeat and his lungs once his calmed down in Anne’s arms.
Ann watches from her seat. She gets this overwhelming sense of pride as she watches Anne handle everything so expertly. How she handles Timothy and how she knows how to soothe him. How Anne protects him from the doctor. Which is the silliest thing in the world because the doctor is making sure that Timothy is healthy, but Ann can see that Anne doesn’t trust him completely.
The doctor takes his stethoscope off and wraps it around his neck. He looks to Ann. “You’ve got a healthy baby boy. The umbilical stump looks great. Is everything going alright at home? Do you have any questions?”
Ann looks to Anne. Anne is looking down at Timothy and doesn’t notice. “I think so.” She doesn’t mention the incident where she was gone all day. But Timothy survived and she doesn’t think it’s affected his development any. “How often should we be bathing him? I’ve read different things and I wanted your opinion.”
“Good question. I think two to three times per week. No more than three times though or it could dry out his skin. If he’s a relatively clean baby- not a lot of spit up or super messy diapers, you might be able to get away with two times a week at the beginning. As he gets older and messier up it to three times per week. The closer to one they get they can probably tolerate four times a week if they are super messy. That all being said, every baby is different.”
“Okay.” Ann nods. She doesn’t have any other questions. She has been reading a lot about baby care since his birth. Usually, whenever Anne is watching him, or he is sleeping during the day. “Anne.”
“Yes?” Anne looks up.
“Do you have any questions for the doctor?” Ann nods at the doctor.
Anne hums. “Yes, how long is he going to be in this sleep and eat stage?”
The doctor grins. “A month. Maybe a little longer. Babies need time to adjust but they all do and once the do and start growing they’ll be awake for longer periods of time. How are you doing with a sleep schedule? Does he wake up randomly or at similar increments? At night does he wake up a lot?”
“Well, we take turns at night getting up with him. Every other night. He doesn’t seem to mind. Does he Anne?”
Anne shrugs. “I think he’s fine with it if I’m feeding him a bottle or if you are feeding him with a boob. Boy just wants to eat, doesn’t matter where it comes from it seems.”
“And he is up three or four times at night. Which is normal, right?” Ann asks.
“I’d say.” The doctor confirms. “You can put his clothes back on now. We are just about done here.”
Ann stands with Timothy’s clothes and goes to Anne to put them on him. They do in reverse what they did when they undressed him with Anne holding him and Ann putting the clothes back on.
“What about mama?” The doctor asks. “When is your appointment with your doctor?”
“A few days. Tuesday, I think.” She tries to remember the correct day. There are so many appointments in the first two weeks of Timothy’s life, for both her and Tim, that it’s hard to keep them all straight. And now she has a therapy appointment too.
“But nothing that is of great concern for you?” The doctor checks.
Ann shakes her head.
“Very well.” He extends his hand to shake Ann’s hand and then Anne’s. “You can schedule your next appointment for little Timothy on your way out. Have a good one.”
Anne huffs as soon as he closes the door. “He’s such a weird little man.”
“Anne.” She scolds.
“What? He is. I don’t trust him with Timothy.”
“I could tell. But what’s he going to do. He’s a doctor and you had Timothy safe in yours arms nearly the entire time.
“Let’s get going.” Ann squeezes Anne’s biceps and makes a move for the door.
Anne starts to ease back into work during that second week. Not full days but video calls and phone calls and looking over plans and ideas. Easy stuff that she can do but if Timothy needs something, she can stop what she’s doing and attend to him. But she’s always around.
Ann takes care of Timothy while Anne has work to do. She makes sure he is fed and quiet. But with babies sometimes that’s not always possible.
Anne is on a video call with her team in Paris. They are planning the big move. Getting all the logistics together and everything ready to go. Anne is working on finding them a space in Halifax or somewhere nearby to rent out or purchase to base her business from.
“I think I’m just about ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. I’ve just got to go ‘round and look at the place in person.” Anne tells her team.
“Great, when do you think we can start packing everything up here?” John, one of Anne’s most loyal employees, asks her.
There’s a wail from Timothy in the bedroom.
Anne looks over her shoulder before turning her attention back to the laptop screen. “I’m going to look at it the day after next.” Tomorrow is Ann’s first therapy appointment, so she’ll have to keep an eye on Timothy while Ann is handling that. “And then I will know. I’ll let you all know by Monday, on a decision. Hopefully, we can get this ball rolling and I can speak with you all in person, in one room again, instead of over this laptop.”
There are a few chuckles from her team.
But there’s a consistent cry from Timothy now.
“Is he alright?” Eugenie asks in broken English.
“Excuse me. Just a minute.” Anne pops up from her chair and goes to the bedroom. “What’s going on?” It’s not accusatory but Anne wants to know why Timothy is crying.
“He won’t stop.” Ann looks like she’s about to cry herself.
Anne comes into the room and takes Timothy from Ann’s arms. She settles him in the crook of her arm. He continues to cry. Anne bounces a little. “Shhhh.” She reaches out with her free hand and rubs over the top of Ann’s head and down the back of her hair until she reaches her back and then rubs circles into Ann’s upper back. “I’ll take him with me.” She tells her. Ann nods.
Anne returns to her video call, baby in tow. “It’s okay little guy.” She tells him as she looks down at the baby. “I’ve got you. What’s wrong? Just missed me, right?” She grins at him.
Timothy’s cry turning into a whimper as they settle in the chair at the table. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet my son. Timothy James Lister-Walker.”
Her team coos over the little baby. They all congratulate Anne for the umpteenth time.
Anne holds Timothy in her arm as she continues with the call. He whimpers a little a couple of times but for the most part has soothed himself and calmed down. Or maybe it’s Anne that’s helped soothe him.
Anne closes the laptop and looks down at the sleeping boy. “I just want to see your eyes more often.” They are the same blue that Ann’s are. And Anne is certain that they won’t change from that. She reaches out and gently rubs her knuckle over his tiny nose. Timothy’s head twitches and he rolls it towards Anne’s chest. “Let’s go check on your mama.”
Ann is still in the bedroom. She’s laying on the bed on her side.
“Are you asleep?” Anne asks softly.
“No.” It’s a whimper.
“What’s wrong?” Anne comes over to Ann’s side of the bed and sits on the mattress next to Ann’s legs.
“I’m failing at being a mum. He doesn’t like me. He only likes you.” Ann tries not to cry. The tears build in her eyes. Anne can hear them in her voice.
“You’re not failing as a mama. He was just upset. You know he likes my voice. That’s all.” Anne rubs at Ann’s knee.
“Why doesn’t he like my voice?”
Anne wants to say because you never talked to him when he was in the womb but knows that won’t go over well so she keeps her mouth shut on that. “I don’t know but he likes other things about you.”
Ann sits up a little. “Like what?”
“Your warmth. The way you smell. How cuddly you are with him. How you hold him. Your boobs.”
Ann rolls her eyes. “Those are just things that you like.”
Anne shrugs. She enjoys the way Ann is with Timothy in all the things she just described. “Does that matter? Ann, he’s a baby. They cry for unknown reasons sometimes. Maybe he was just uncomfortable. Or he had a gas bubble that was stuck or something. He seems better now. Do you want to hold him?”
“Okay.” Anne nods. “I’m going to go back to the kitchen with Timothy. Do you want to join us or maybe you want to stay in here and rest or have a nap? I’m going to go do the shopping later today. If that’s alright?”
“That sounds good. Maybe I’ll have a nap.” Ann thinks that sounds like a good idea. And then after her nap she can watch Timothy while Anne does the shopping.
Anne gets up to leave. But before she does, she bends over and presses a kiss to Ann’s forehead. “You’re doing amazing. Get some sleep.”
Ann blushes and looks down at her lap. “Thanks.” She mumbles.
Anne pokes her head into the bedroom. She holds onto the door frame. Ann is feeding Timothy. She pauses to watch that for a moment. “Hey, quick question?” Ann nods for her to continue. “Are you using that stretchmark cream? Do you need more?” She looks Ann up and down but doesn’t wait for a reply. “I’ll get more while I’m out. Do you need anything else?”
“No.” Ann whispers.
Anne nods and pulls her head from the room, about to leave. She is gone for a second before coming back. She crosses the room and kisses the top of Timothy’s head and then the top of Ann’s. “I’ll be back soon.”
Anne is out, gone, doing the shopping. That leaves Ann alone with Timothy. She’s mostly fine with that. Ann takes a deep breath and slowly lets it out. “I can do this.” She tells herself.
Ann looks down at the small newborn in her arms. He’s just starting to be awake for more than just feedings. Ann looks into his little eyes. She pets his peach fuzz hair. “What do you think, little man? Should we let Anne continue to stay with us?” She’s mostly joking. Ann does wonder though how this arrangement is going to work moving forward. The two of them living in the same space together and living separate lives except when it comes to Timothy.
“What do you think of her? She seems a lot more real to me now than she used to. Like before-“ Ann sighs. Her son doesn’t want to hear this. But before this little arrangement Anne was this almost untouchable, god like figure, in her mind. Someone that she admired for her hard work and the effort she put into schooling and starting a career and getting out of Halifax. But now, Anne is different in her mind. She’s someone Ann can trust. Someone she can turn to if she needs something. Someone who, she hopes, will always be there for her in a time of crisis.
“You think she’ll be a good mum to you? I do. She’s already so amazing with you. It’s like you guys have your own little language and everything. I don’t know how we got so lucky.” There are tears in her eyes as she thinks about all that Anne has done for and giving them in the past few weeks. “We’ll have to figure out what to call her though.” She chuckles lightly. “I can, but you can’t call her Anne. And I’m mama. Anne says it all the time.” It was a strange thing to hear at first, Anne calling her mama, but she loves every time the word slips from Anne’s lips. “She’ll have to be just mum or mummy, maybe.”
Ann is just talking out loud now. Gibberish. Timothy looks up at her as she holds him. His face gets all red and he grunts, and Ann can feel it underneath her hand as he soils himself. “My, my. Where is that mum of yours so she can change you?” Ann laughs.
She sits there with Timothy for a little while longer before she goes to change him, since Anne hasn’t returned yet.
Ann thinks on Anne and her kindness and generosity. Her willingness to take on raising a child. She knows Anne didn’t sign up for this. They were supposed to just be friends. People who reconnected after being childhood friends. This wasn’t supposed to happen. But here Anne is picking up her whole entire life and moving back to Halifax to raise a child that isn’t her own. It’s the most selfless, endearing thing Ann has ever heard of.
That little negative thought enters Ann’s brain. Why would Anne want to do all this? She could be doing so much more with her life. She could be having an amazing career and traveling the world. She could be doing all that so why is she here hunkered down in a tiny apartment in Halifax playing nanny? Why would she want to do this?
She gets up to change Timothy before she can let her thoughts run out of control and destroy her evening. Ann reminds herself that she has therapy in just two days.
Ann is washing up after dinner. She’s put away the leftovers and works on cleaning the dishes.
Anne is supposed to be on the couch with Timothy, bonding. And she is. Ann looks over her shoulder when she realized it’s gone quiet. Anne had been talking to Timothy but Ann doesn’t hear any noises from either of them now. The pair are both shirtless. Ann, sighs, relieved that Timothy has taken so well to Anne. The skin to skin contact is good for the both of them.
By the time Ann is done with the dishes, Anne and the boy are both asleep. Timothy on Anne’s chest, stomach down and Anne with two protective hands wrapped around his tiny body. She wipes her hands on the dish towel and slowly walks over to the pair. Ann stands there and watches them for a few minutes. How Anne’s chest rises and falls in an even rhythm. How Timothy has his head tucked under Anne’s chin.
She snaps a photo with her phone. It’s not a picture for other’s eyes to see. It’s just for her, just for Ann. To keep with her always as a reminder of this time.
Ann sits next to where Anne is sitting. She lifts the corner of the blanket that is covering the pair and gets underneath it. The warmth invites her further and she selfishly rests her head on Anne’s shoulder. Anne stirs but doesn’t wake up completely. She sits with the sleeping duo for a few minutes. Just sitting and enjoying a quiet moment.
But Ann wanted to take a shower today and if she’s going to be able to do that the time to do it is right now. Everything in Ann’s body is still sore. Getting better but still sore. She goes into the bathroom and is reminded of that soreness as she undresses. Ann avoids looking at herself in the mirror. Her body is so different after having Timothy than it was before she was pregnant. She doesn’t like the saggy stomach that has come along and avoids looking at it at all costs. It’s not something Ann has gotten used to yet.
There is just one more remind that stare her in the face. Anne has gotten a new bottle of stretchmark cream as promised and it sits on the counter blatantly for Ann to use. She picks up the bottle, opens the cap, and puts a tiny amount on her index finger. Ann stares at that finger. She just can’t get herself to do it. Ann wipes her finger off, throws the bottle in the cabinet, and starts the shower.
“Do you want me to come with?” Anne tilts her head to the side. “Not like in but Timothy and I can wait in the lobby or whatever. Or we can go for a walk while you’re in there and come back when you’re done.” Anne throws out a few options.
Ann sucks her bottom lip into her mouth. She just assumed she would go to her therapy appointment by herself and Anne would watch Timothy.
“You can always go by yourself. You’re an adult. No pressure. I’m just offering. I know doing new things can be scary. Well, maybe not scary but a lot of people get anxiety doing stuff that they aren’t familiar with. I just thought- I mean- maybe you would want some company.” She feels like she’s digging herself into a hole. “Or not. We can totally stay here.” Anne glances at Timothy.
Ann hums. “You’re right.”
Anne smiles brightly.
“I do have some anxiety about going.”
“Then we’ll come with.” Anne gets up and goes to get Timothy ready to go.
Anne stops and turns, facing Ann again. “No?”
Ann shakes her head. “No. But thank you for offering. It was- sweet.”
Anne cringes. “But?”
“But I need to do this on my own. At least, right now. I need to be able to prove to myself that I can do this.”
“Okay.” Anne understands that.
Ann goes to get ready to go and Anne sees that Timothy has awoken. He didn’t cry so she didn’t realize. She picks him up out of his bouncy chair and holds him. They wait to see Ann off.
“You’ll do great. I’m sure of it.” Anne follows Ann to the door. She leans in and presses a quick kiss to Ann’s cheek. “Have a good session.” She looks down at the little baby in her arm and then back up to smile at Ann. “We love you.”
Ann looks down at her feet. “Okay. Bye. I’ll be back later.” She ducks out the door quickly.
Ann is exhausted. Mentally. But also, physically. She has a hard time making it up the stairs. Her feet drag and catch on every step. She holds onto the wall, so she doesn’t fall face first. Her session was eye opening for her but exhausting. She knows it’s good; going to therapy. But it’s taken a toll on her today. She hopes that after every session she doesn’t feel like this.
She pushes the door open and Anne pops up off of the couch and comes over to her. “How did it go?” Anne hovers as Ann removes her shoes and coat.
“I just talked about myself for a whole hour. I can’t do that again right now with you.” She hates talking about herself, especially about her issues and traumas.
Anne mulls that over but needs an answer. “Okay. Just a yes or no. Do you think it went well? Is it going to help?”
Ann rolls her eyes. She knows Anne is just trying to be helpful and look out for her, but boy, the last thing Ann wants to do is rehash her therapy session with Anne. “Yes. Eventually.”
Anne nods and smiles, satisfied with that answer. “Good.” She hesitates. “Can I give you a hug then?”
Ann has to take a deep breath to hold it all together. “A quick one.” She needs to go to the bedroom and change out of these clothes and maybe, if Anne isn’t busy, take a nap.
She wraps her arms around Ann securely. “You’ve got this.” She whispers in Ann’s ear. “I believe in you.”
Ann sighs. At the comfort of a hug from a familiar person and at Anne’s confident words. She knows Anne is doing this to try to get Ann to believe it too. That’s going to take more convincing, but the thought is nice. That Anne supports and believes in her.
Timothy is asleep in Ann’s arms. He’s just been fed. Ann sits on the couch with him. The television is on but she’s not watching. She stares down at the baby boy. “I can’t believe I made this.” She whispers.
At that moment, Anne plops down on the couch next to her. “I can.” She grins and leans into Ann’s side. “Beautiful little Timothy and his beautiful little mama.” Anne squeezes Ann’s thigh.
“Stop it.” Ann swats Anne’s hand away.
“What?” Anne leans down so she can look in Ann’s eyes. “I tell no lies.”
“I’m not beautiful. I just gave birth. I have this gross stomach and these tired eyes with bags under them because I’m not getting enough sleep. I think you have yourself confused with someone else.” Ann looks away from Anne’s intense gaze.
“I don’t.” Anne whispers. She lays her hand on Ann’s arm. The one that’s holding Timothy to her chest. “You, Ann, are. Whether you see it or not. I know that’s hard right now, and I know you’re struggling. I see that. I just want you to know that I see that. But you are so strong. To have Timothy, to raise him, and to have your struggles. All at the same time. You might be the bravest person I’ve ever met. And I’m not just saying that. So, I want you to know that.”
Ann takes shallow, stuttered breath in. “Thank you.” She gives Anne a tight-lipped smile and lets the breath out through her nose. She turns her head back to look at Anne but is caught off guard by just how close Anne’s face is to hers now. “Oh.” She breathes. Ann glances down at Anne’s lips before returning to her eyes. “You’re right there.”
Anne smirks. “I’m right here.” She closes the millimeters of distance between them and presses her lips lightly to Ann’s. She closes her eyes before pulling away. “I’m right here.” She whispers wistfully.
Anne takes a look at her baby mama. Ann has her eyes closed; her face twisted up in what looks like pain. “Was that not alright? I should have asked first.” Anne backpedals. Sometimes she gets so caught up she forgets that Ann has trauma. She forgets herself and that she needs to get consent from Ann before she does anything. Even if it’s a small peck on the lips.
“Yes. No.” Ann shakes her head. It confuses her. The way Anne acts and treats her. It’s entirely too much to process. “I’m not sure.”
“I’m sorry.” Anne leans back, putting some distance between them. It hurts. She’s not going to lie. It hurts that Ann doesn’t or can’t trust her. Anne knows it’s not about her but, even if it’s not and Ann is just projecting that lack of trust, it still hurts.
But it’s about more than trust. It’s about consent. Safety. A sense of security. Not to be invaded or taken advantage of. That fear of all of that again for Ann is too much. The fear of not having control over what another person does to her is terrifying.
Anne is thinking of her misstep, and scolding herself for making another one, that she doesn’t notice Ann shifting Timothy in her arms so that he is resting with his head laying on Ann’s shoulder. She also doesn’t notice Ann reach out, that is, not until Ann’s hand finds hers and grasps it. Anne looks down at that connected hands. She flexes hers around Ann’s before relaxing into the hand hold.
“Hey.” Ann gets her attention.
“Yeah?” Anne asks, hopeful.
“Thank you.” Ann says earnestly. Nothing but earnestly from Ann.
Anne lifts their hands and kisses Ann’s knuckles. “You have to tell me if I do something wrong. Okay?”
Ann nods. “But you aren’t doing anything wrong. Not really. It’s me. It’s me that’s-“
“Shhhh.” Anne presses a kiss to Ann’s temple, holding her lips to the spot for a moment. “I know.” She wraps her arm around Ann, pulling them together, side by side. Anne is able to rest her hand on Timothy’s back from around Ann. “What are we watching?” Anne asks.
Ann chuckles. “I don’t know.”
“Okay.” Anne grins. She’s fine with whatever Ann wants to watch.
“I just turned it on for background noise while I was feeding Tim.” Ann adds.
“You can watch whatever you want. I’ll just sit here.”
Anne laughs. “You’re such a goober.”
“A goober?” Ann looks over at Anne.
“Yep. For sure.” Anne grins. “Hand me the remote.” Ann does and Anne starts flipping through the channels. “What do you like to watch?”
“Hmm.” Ann licks her lips. “I like scary movies. And nature programs and DYI shows. And the occasionally mindless reality program where you don’t have to think too much. And you?”
“History. Anything to do with history. I love learning. So any show where I’m learning something new.” Anne looks over to see Ann watching her. “What?” She asks, feeling self-conscious.
“Just-“ Ann shakes her head. She is almost always amazed by Anne. “Just you.” The corner of her mouth lifts in a half smile. “It’s nice to sit like this. No pressure to get anything done. To do anything. No pressure. And it’s nice to get to know more about you. The things you like and don’t like.”
“Yeah. It is, isn’t it. We didn’t get to do that with this little guy’s impending arrival.” She pats at Timothy’s back. “Everything has been so crazy, going a million miles an hour.”
Ann nods in agreement. She sighs and rests her head on Anne’s shoulder. “I’m really glad you’re here for Timothy.” And pauses. “And me too, I guess.”
Anne moves her hand from Timothy to Ann’s arm and rubs up and down softly.
“Mama.” Anne calls as she lays Timothy down on the bed. He happens to be awake and Anne wants to try something. She lays down on the bed on his right side. “Oh, Ann.” She calls again.
A few seconds later Ann comes into the room. “What’s up?” She eyes the pair.
“Come lay with us.” She pats the spot on the bed on Timothy’s left side.
Anne’s goal is for them to have some time all together. And for Ann to just sit and relax. “Come lay with us.”
Ann thinks about it. She has stuff she wants to get done while she has free time. Things that need to get done like the laundry. She had no idea that a baby would create so much dirty laundry. “I don’t know, Anne. I want to do the laundry, clean up the kitchen.” She’s just trying to find an excuse now. It’s not that she doesn’t want to lay with them. It’s just, she doesn’t want to get too close. There’s this unsettling feeling in her gut that Ann can’t get past. And of course, she wants to be close with her son. Of course. But it’s Anne. She’s afraid she’ll get too close, too attached and that one day, when Timothy is older, and they don’t do things together like this, as a family, she’ll miss the feeling. So better not to feel it at all.
“Come on.” Anne coaxes. “We just want to have a few quite moments with you.”
Ann gives in. She always does when Anne frames it as ‘we’ in the sense that Timothy wants it, needs it, not Anne. She crosses the room and lays next to Timothy, opposite Anne.
“See, Timmy, I told you she’d join us.” Anne grins at the baby and then at Ann.
Ann sighs and rests her head on the pillow. She runs her finger down Timothy’s arm to his hand. She’s stroking his hand and when he opens his little fist he wraps his hand around Ann’s finger.
“See.” Anne says. “He just wants both his mama’s to be with him at the same time.”
“Is that what you want to be called? Mama?” Ann’s eyes are on the boy. “Cuz we both can’t be mama. That’ll be confusing.”
Anne hums. “No, you’re right. I haven’t thought about it for a while.” Anne has been busy with work stuff for the last few days. She feels guilty because she doesn’t get to spend as much time with Timothy when she has work to do. And that also means that most of Timothy’s childcare is handled by Ann during those hours. She’s going to have to find a balance somehow.
“Mum, or mummy.” Anne suggests. “I think mum is fine. It’s simple. Let’s go with that.”
They quietly lay and watch the little guy. Anne is convinced that it’s a thing all new parents must do. Just sit and stare at their kid.
He’s legs and arms squirm every now and then. He’ll roll his head to one side and then the other. Anne watches Ann watch him. “You’re the best mama.” Anne whispers. She means it. Of course, she does. She needs Ann to know it too. For her to feel it. She reaches over and takes Ann’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “For real. You’re the best. You’re doing amazing.” She always notices Ann perk up a bit after giving her positive encouragement or words of praise. She’s realized that Ann is a person who needs that even if Ann blushes or gets embarrassed by the attention and acknowledgement.
Ann ends up falling asleep after a few minutes. “Just what I wanted.” Anne whispers to Timothy. She gets up slowly, gently, as to not shift the bed too much and wake Ann. She picks Timothy up and goes into the other room.
She straps him into his bouncy seat and gets her phone out. Anne takes a few pictures of the boy while he is awake. She’s so proud of him and proud to be his mum. She tries to get him to smile by waving a hand over her hand and then snapping her fingers. She tickles his tummy and that gets a slight grin out of him. He’s still too young to be very active. He can’t even follow Anne’s hand with his eyes very well yet. “That’s it, little man.” Anne grins and snaps as many photos as she can while he’s smiling.
When she’s done with that, she goes to tidy the kitchen, like Ann had mentioned. And then makes dinner. “You stay here little man. But if you need anything you let me know. Don’t go waking your mama.” Anne walks away from him and shakes her head. Never in a million years did she think that she would be talking to a baby. Her baby. And that it would be in a disgustingly high pitched baby voice.
oh boy here's a little update. there was more to this but i've decided the second part should be a separate chapter from this. i think it flows better this way. So if y'all are nice i might post the next part in a few days. jk y'all are always nice.
A few days later, Ann makes a disgusted face.
“What?” Anne asks. She’s just come out of the bedroom, changed, after a shower.
“That shirt is ugly.” Ann puts a hand up. “No, no. It’s fugly. Fucking ugly.”
Anne is offended and looks down at her brown v-neck sweater with dark brown around the collar and wrists. “This is one of my favorite shirts.”
“Take if off.”
Anne gasps. “No. I like this shirt.”
Ann purses her lips together. “You look like an 80’s male porn star. All you’re missing is the moustache and the big poofy hair.” She pretends to comb her hair up and back.
Anne looks down at her shirt again. She folds her arms across her chest in defense. “I like this shirt. It’s comfy.”
Ann tilts her head to the side. “Hmm. I don’t know, Anne. I don’t see you. All I see is porn star.”
“Can you stop saying that?” Anne sighs. “I’m not- I don’t want to be-“
“Come here.” Ann wiggles her index finger for Anne to come closer. When Anne is right in front of her, Ann reaches out and rubs the material of Anne’s shirt between her index finger and thumb. “Soft. It’s comfy?” Anne nods. “Okay, you can wear it then.”
Anne smirks, raising an eyebrow. “Do I need permission from you on what I can and can’t wear now?”
“No, I just-“ Ann looks over at Timothy. “No. I shouldn’t knit-pick. You can wear whatever you want.” She feels guilty about bashing Anne’s shirt. She really doesn’t like it. She thinks it’s the color. “Maybe if it were a different color, I would like it more.”
Anne smirks. “Okay. I’ve got an appointment. About the space for my business. I’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Okay. Tim and I will be here.”
Anne grins to herself as she heads to the door. She likes that Ann has started to call him Tim. A little nickname from his mama.
Anne is in the bathroom looking for something under the sink when she spots the new bottle of stretchmark cream she got for Ann, unopened.
She takes it in her right hand and looks at it.
Anne finds Ann in the bedroom. Timothy is asleep in his crib and Ann is reading a book on the bed. “Ann?” She leans against the doorframe.
“Hmm?” She doesn’t look up from her book.
“Have you been using your stretchmark cream?” She holds the bottle behind her back.
Ann looks up and closes her book. “You’re so weird.” She grins. “Who wonders about stretchmarks that aren’t their own?”
“Me.” Anne shrugs. “I guess. It’s just you’re young and if there are any, the cream will help.” Now that Anne thinks about it, she hasn’t seen Ann use the cream. She hasn’t even seen Ann’s stomach really. Ann has been wearing a lot of button down shirts to make it easy to breastfeed, but she mostly keeps her stomach covered up. “Are there any?” Anne ventures.
Ann looks over at Timothy, hoping to use him as an excuse to not have to talk about this. But he is asleep, silent, and doesn’t need his mama. Ann shrugs without looking back at Anne. She’s ashamed of how her body looks now and she doesn’t need Anne bringing attention to that.
Anne crosses the room and sits on the bed at Ann’s hip. She shows the bottle in her hand.
“Anne.” Ann whines.
“You haven’t been, have you?” It’s not accusatory but more sympathetic.
“Once or twice.” Ann admits. She doesn’t feel like she can lie to Anne.
“Ann.” There’s a sigh from Anne and then a matching one from Ann.
“I don’t like the way my stomach looks. Okay?” Ann folds her arms over her stomach, protective.
Anne frowns. “Oh, sweetie. You just gave birth. It’s going to take time before things get back to normal. That’s not unusual. But I still think you should use the cream.”
“I don’t like looking at my stomach.”
“NO.” Ann shouts. “No way.” She can’t have Anne seeing or touching her weird stretched out skin.
“Okay. Sorry.” Anne looks down at the bed. “What can I do to help then?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, like I could tell you that you are have just given birth and remind you that your body is healing from that and that it’s going to take longer than you might think. I can also say that you are young. Really young and in a few weeks your body will bounce back. Not like some older pregnant ladies. So, you could have it much worse off.” Anne grins. She pats at Ann’s thigh when she gets a smile from Ann. “Youth is on your side. Just give it time and don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that you’ve grown a human being inside of you for nine months. Changes take time.” Anne says softly.
“Yeah.” Ann knows all this logically. It’s just hard some days to not feel weird and gross in her post baby body.
“You know I used to run. We could, like, work out together. Maybe not running. We could start with walks. Maybe a little weightlifting.” Anne’s just throwing out ideas hoping Ann will latch on to one.
“Are you trying to get me to be some body builder with those huge muscles. Cuz that’s gross, ya know.”
Anne frowns. “Muscle can be nice but no. Just a little strengthening of some muscles and toning is good for everyone.”
“Are you some sort of fitness expert?”
Anne chuckles. “No, but I did spend a fair amount of time in the gym during my college days. I wanted to impress all the ladies, so I bulked up the muscles a little.” Anne raises her arm and flexes her bicep. It pops a little, tightening the edge of her t-shirt sleeve.
Ann watches and licks her lips. “I didn’t know that.”
“How could you?” Anne chuckles. “I’m full of surprises.”
Ann rolls her eyes. “Let’s just start with walks. Maybe when it gets warmer, we can bring Timothy with.”
“That sounds perfect.” Anne holds out the cream. “And this. Use this. Please.”
“You care so much.” Ann says bashfully taking the bottle.
“That I do.” Anne smiles for her. “Is your book any good?” She’s glad to see that Ann is relaxing and taking some time for herself.
Ann shrugs. “It’s alright. I thought it would be more adventurous but it’s still good.”
“Wonderful.” Anne gets up and goes to check on Timothy. She puts her hands on the edge of the crib. She looks down at him. “Just give it time. You created this amazing little guy, after all.” Anne is still in awe of him and how phenomenal a woman’s body is to be able to make a tiny human. “It’s just so fascinating, how it’s even possible.” She turns to look over her shoulder at Ann. There’s a little twinkle in Anne’s eye. “To live. To have life. To create life.”
“You’re such a nerd sometimes.”
Anne would be offended if she wasn’t actually a nerd but she knows she is. “I’m going to take that as a compliment.” She goes back to looking at Timothy. He’s just so perfect.
Anne stands at the stove wearing a t-shirt with spit up on the shoulder and a pair of briefs.
It’s mid-April and it’s still fairly cool outside but they have it toasty warm in the apartment for little Timothy’s sake.
Anne always complains that it’s too hot.
So, one day Ann suggested that she didn’t wear as many clothes.
Anne took that to heart and started wearing shorts or just her underwear around the house.
“You can’t just walk around in your briefs.” Ann complains as she watches Anne in the kitchen.
Anne raises an eyebrow. She turns around to face Ann, spatula in her hand, she points it in Ann’s direction. “It was your suggestion that I didn’t wear as many clothes.”
Ann flounders. She opens and closes her mouth. “I didn’t mean walking around in your underpants. I meant like a tank top and shorts or something similar.”
Anne shrugs and turns her back to Ann again, showing off her backside. “My bad.” She teases, wiggling her butt around. Anne knows she looks good. She’s proud of her body.
Ann groans, fed up, and stomps into the bedroom.
“Can you bring me some shorts then? There’s a pair in my suitcase.” Anne is messing with her now. She doesn’t think Ann will actually do it.
Ann is in the bedroom and goes to Anne’s suitcase in the corner. She opens it and rummages through it to find the shorts that Anne is talking about. Instead of finding shorts, she comes across the little onesies with the giraffe on it. Ann lifts it and looks at it. She rubs her thumb over the embroidered giraffe. It really is cute. And Timothy did look cute wearing it. Anne has great taste. Except for maybe that brown sweater she has.
Ann spots the sweater in the suitcase. She puts the onesie down and picks up the sweater. She feels the material with her fingers. Ann brings the sweater up to her face and rubs the soft material against her cheek. She closes her eyes and takes in the scent that is distinctly Anne. There’s something relieving in that smell. The familiarity that she now feels when she smells Anne. A sense of calm comes over her as she sits on her knees with the sweater in her hands.
Anne pokes her head in the bedroom. “What are you doing?” She catches Ann with her face in her shirt.
Ann drops the shirt and looks at Anne with wide eyes. “Nothing. I was looking for the shorts. I found the-“ She picks up the onesie again. “It’s cute.”
Anne nods, cautiously.
Ann rummages through Anne’s clothes. “Here.” She finds the shorts and holds them up.
Anne comes over and takes them from her with a raised eyebrow. She doesn’t say anything, but she sure saw Ann smelling her sweater. She doesn’t say anything about the onesie either. “Thanks.” She steps into the shorts right in front of Ann. They maintain eye contact while she does so. “You gonna continue digging through my stuff or do you want some lunch?”
Ann hops to her feet, taking a step back from the suitcase. “Lunch.” She squeaks and locks her hands together behind her back.
Anne nods and turns to exit the room. She takes a step but before she can get to the door Ann rushes past her. She follows Ann to the kitchen and Ann is already plating the grilled cheese sandwiches when she reaches her. Anne starts with scooping the tomato soup into two bowls. She looks over at Ann. Ann is busy cutting the sandwiches in half. She sticks her hip out, bumping into Ann’s hip on purpose.
“Hey.” Ann mumbles. “I’m holding a knife.”
“Then put it down.” Anne teases. She wouldn’t do anything that would have injured Ann while she was holding the knife. It was a small hip bump.
Ann puts the knife down once she’s finished cutting the sandwiches. She turns to Anne.
Anne grins brightly. “You were cute.” She nods her head in the direction of the bedroom. “Back there.”
Ann blushes and looks at the floor. “I’m sorry I went through your stuff. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Something just came over me, I think. I won’t do it again.”
“Hey.” Anne reaches out and with a finger under Ann’s chin, tilts it up. “I said you were cute. Take it for what it is. Please. I wasn’t scolding you or anything.” Ann nods and bites her lip. “Here’s your soup. Cutie.” Anne holds out the bowl.
Ann takes it with shaky hands. “Thanks.” She mumbles. It’s weird for Ann. The attention that Anne gives to her. She’s never had that. No one has ever paid so much attention to Ann before, so she’s not used to it. She’ll have to be more conscious of what she’s doing and if Anne is watching her.
It’s a few days after the birth announcements have gone out that Ann’s phone rings. She looks at the screen and it’s her sister calling. “Uh-oh.”
“What?” Anne is on her laptop at the table.
“It’s my sister. This can’t be good.” The little bubble that they have been living in for the first few weeks of Timothy’s life has been great. Just the three of them getting used to each other and their new lives. Ann knew as soon as her relatives started receiving the birth announcement that the bubble would effectively burst.
Anne watches as Ann accepts the call. “Hello Elizabeth.” Anne can hear Elizabeth yelling through the phone from across the room. She gets up and goes to stand at Ann’s side.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?” Elizabeth yells.
Ann doesn’t want to hear it. She knew this would be her sister’s reaction. Her sister doesn’t know the half of it. Her sister doesn’t know what Ann has been through. Ann holds the phone out away from her ear, at arm’s length as Elizabeth yells.
“How could you not tell me? Your own sister. I’m that child’s aunt. I have a right to know. Why Ann? Why are you like this?”
Anne watches with an amused smirk. They haven’t talked much about it, but Anne gets the general idea that Ann’s family would be mad about just finding out now. And about finding out with a birth announcement and not directly hearing it from Ann. Which is understandable, but she also knows that Ann didn’t tell them for a reason and that Ann doesn’t want them to control her or Timothy. And that’s part of the reason she didn’t tell them.
Elizabeth gets done yelling. “Ann? Ann, are you still there?”
Ann brings the phone back to her ear. “I’m here if you are done yelling.”
That sets Elizabeth off again. “Don’t tell me what to do. You’re my little sister. Don’t tell me not to yell. I’m upset. I have every reason to be yelling.”
Again, Ann holds the phone out at arm’s length. She looks to Anne with an annoyed look and a raised eyebrow as to say, ‘see what I have to deal with’.
“May I?” Anne goes to take the phone from her hand.
Ann nods and releases it to her.
“Hello?” Anne says into the phone. “Elizabeth?” Anne tries to get through to her. To get her to stop yelling.
“I’m not finished. You have some nerve not telling me you were pregnant and now telling me not to get upset about that.” Elizabeth isn’t yelling anymore but she still is irate and is snooty with Anne. “Wait.” She finally realizes that it wasn’t Ann that was just talking. “Who am I talking to?”
Anne smirks and wiggles her eyebrows at Ann. “Anne Lister. You were only two, or was it three years, behind me in school. Your old neighbor.” Anne explains.
Elizabeth takes a few deep breaths and tries to calm down and catch up to her thoughts. “What are you doing to my sister?”
That irks Anne. She frowns. “I’m not doing anything to her. What do you mean?”
“You must be doing something. She can’t be just letting you hang around. Why didn’t she tell us she was pregnant?”
Anne hums. “Maybe because she knew you would react like this.”
Elizabeth is nearly yelling again. “I wouldn’t have reacted like this if she would have told me.”
Anne nods at that. “I know you are Ann’s sister and that you care about her. But I care about her too. In fact, I care about her and Timothy a lot.” Anne smiles for Ann. “And if you are going to be like this then I don’t want her talking to you. Ann has been through a lot in the last year.”
“How would you know?” Elizabeth snips.
Anne smirks. She knows what she is going to say next to going to make Elizabeth irate again. “Because she told me. And FYI, I’m not just hanging around. I work. I have job. I run my own company. And-“ She pauses for dramatic effect. “-I help with our son.”
Elizabeth scoffs. She’s baffled. “Your son? That’s Ann’s baby.”
Anne shakes her head. She can’t believe this woman. She knows she stunned and probably a little hurt that Ann didn’t tell her about Timothy but where is Elizabeth’s understanding, her compassion.
“Yes. She had the baby, but he is our son.”
Elizabeth threatens Anne. “You have no right to that baby.”
Anne wants to laugh but doesn’t. “You would be wrong about that. And, you have two options, as I see it. You can accept that or not. And if not, then you don’t get anymore information about him or our family.” Anne says and hangs up the call.
Ann grins at her. She has been grinning the whole time Anne has been talking to Elizabeth. She rushes over and wraps herself around Anne in a bear hug. “You’re amazing.”
Anne shrugs. “I didn’t do anything.”
Ann disagrees. “You did. You told her where things stand. You laid down the law.” She rubs her cheek against Ann’s shoulder. “She’s going to call back, you know.”
Anne raises her chin in the air. She rubs circles into Ann’s back with one hand. “Then she better be calmer and accepting or neither of us is going to speak with her.”
Here we have a little insight into Ann's childhood, a visit with the LIster's, and a little cuddle to end out.
A day and a half after Elizabeth called, Anne decides she’s going to see her father, her family. It’s a Saturday, so she doesn’t have work to do. That’s a new thing for Anne’s since Timothy has been born. She’s sworn off doing any work on weekends so she can spend her free time with him. Today she intends to go to Shibden to see her father, sister, and aunt. She wants to take Timothy with her and show him off. She just needs to ask Ann if it’s okay that she takes him. She’s hopeful Ann will say yes but isn’t certain because of what happened with Elizabeth.
Anne gets ready after she’s done the washing up from breakfast. Timothy is in his bouncy chair and Ann is resting on the couch when she enters the room. “Ann?”
“Yeah?” Ann asks without opening her eyes. “I didn’t know what your plans were for today but I’m going to head over to see my father and the fam.”
“Okay.” Ann mumbles not paying any more attention to the matter. But even with her eyes closed she can sense that Anne is still standing there at the end of the couch. So, she peeks one eye open and glances over at her. “Is there more? You’re going out afterwards or something. You won’t be back the rest of the day. That’s fine. You don’t need my permission to do anything.”
Anne carefully tries to broach the subject of Elizabeth. “I know- well I don’t know- but I assume you don’t want your family meeting Timothy. At least, not right now.”
Ann nods, letting Anne know that she is on the right path. “I never really thought about it before Elizabeth called but no I don’t want them meeting him. We can talk about this more another time.” Ann has her reasons.
Anne rounds the couch and pats at Ann’s outstretched legs. Ann moves her legs so Anne can sit there. She pulls Ann’s feet into her lap as she sits and starts massaging Ann’s calves and ankles. “We can talk about it now.” She didn’t intend to get into this now but while the subject has been raised, why not?
Ann sighs. “Weren’t you going to see your father?”
“He can wait.” Anne shrugs. This is more important.
Ann glances over at Timothy. He is asleep. She can’t even use him as an excuse to get out of this conversation. “I knew Elizabeth and the rest of my family would have something to say about me keeping him from them. And that’s for them to decide. But they don’t know all the facts. They don’t know what I went through. They don’t know what happened. Why, you ask? You see where we live.” Ann waves a hand around to reference the room. “It’s not as if I couldn’t afford some place else, some place nicer. But this is fine. I don’t want people to know that I come from money. I don’t want people to look at me the way they look at the rest of my family. I don’t want to flaunt my wealth. I don’t want to be prejudged by it. It’s that wealth that I’ve battled with my entire life. Did I have everything that I could ever ask for and want as a child? Yes. Did that give me a good childhood? Debatable. What do children need?” Ann eyes Anne at the other end of the couch.
Anne presses her lips together. She thinks this is a trick question and no matter what she says she’s going to say the wrong answer. “A secure home environment. Stability. Enough food, clothes. The essentials.” Anne licks her lips. “To feel loved.”
“Bingo.” Ann points at her. “I had things. All the things you could want. I had stability. A roof over my head. Three squares a day. Did all of that matter? Sure. But-“ Ann pauses and takes a deep breath. “-I also had two absent parents. My father was always busy with his next money making endeavor. My mother, she mostly hid behind a bottle. I think, secretly, when the novelty of marrying into a rich family wore off there wasn’t enough left in her marriage to make it truly happy. Do my parents get along fine? Yes. Do they have a happy, fruitful marriage? I doubt it. My father is always busy or gone on business trips. My mother is bored but too dependent on money to leave my father.”
This insight into Ann’s family is eye opening for Anne. She can see where most of Ann’s issues and insecurities come from. Even Ann’s doubts in her. With her father on business trips and being gone, it makes total sense now.
“So, yeah, I had things but what I wanted was attention and love and I didn’t get that. I was forgotten, more or less. That’s part of the reason I didn’t want to keep him. The reasons, I guess.” Ann looks over at the baby boy. “I didn’t want him to grow up the way I did.”
Anne shuffles and gets off the couch.
“I don’t want money to ruin his life. I don’t want him to not feel loved. That’s why I thought he should go to a loving family who wants or needs a baby. Who can’t have a baby of their own.” Out of the corner of her eye, she watches as Anne moves in front of her.
She’s in Ann’s directly line of sight, blocking her view of Timothy, when Anne kneels in front of the couch. Anne reaches out. “May I?” She asks for Ann’s hands. There is a nod from Ann, and she takes both of Ann’s hands in her own. She strokes her thumbs over the blonde’s soft skin. “First off, thank you for sharing all of that with me.” Ann lets out a little huff of air. “Second-“ She looks over her shoulder at Timothy before turning back to Ann. “-that little boy over there will not grow up feeling the way you did.” She squeezes Ann’s hands. “You know why?” She raises an eyebrow and Ann shakes her head. “Because you have been and are consciously thinking about how you don’t want him having that experience. We, as parents.” Anne grins. It’s still crazy to think of herself as a parent. “We, as parents, want our child to grow up better than we did. We want our children to have the best experiences. We want them to have a better life than we had. Right?” Ann nods. “You, my dear, have already taken steps to ensure that. And I’m sure you will stick to it as he grows up. You are an amazing mama, Ann. Look at you.” She says in awe of Ann.
Ann ducks her chin to her chest as her cheeks heat. “Thanks.” She whispers.
“Now.” Anne’s tone brightens. She bounces Ann’s hands in her own. “What I came to ask you was if I could bring Timothy with? To meet my family. I know you don’t want your family meeting him but-“
“Oh?” Ann hadn’t thought of that. It never occurred to her that Anne might want to do that. “I guess. I don’t have any problem with them meeting him. Unless they have some sort of ulterior motives.”
Anne laughs. “Not that I know of.”
“Good.” Ann smiles. “He can go with you. You guys can make a day of it. Have a good day.” She knows it’ll be good for both Anne and Timothy to have time with her family. She knows from when she was a kid that they are good people.
Anne lifts one side of her mouth into a half smile. “Ann?”
“What?” She eyes Anne curiously.
Anne looks down at their hands. She takes a deep breath. There are a few nervous butterflies in her stomach for some reason. “Would you come with me, us? I want you to come with to meet my family.”
Ann tilts her head to the side. “As Timothy’s birth mother?”
Anne chuckles. “Yes. And as more. Ann, we are a family now. As strange as that may be. I don’t want to have you feeling like you aren’t welcome to come with to visit my family or friends or whatever. And I hope the same would go for me if you wanted to go visit your family or friends.”
“Uh-“ Ann looks away from her. “Sure.” That’s not something that’s going to happen, in Ann’s mind, so Anne needn’t worry about it. “Are you sure, though? Wouldn’t it be awkward? I’m just the baby mama.”
Anne sighs. Ann is more than just a baby mama to her. Maybe she needs to stop making that joke because Ann believes it. “I mean, all new meetings are a little awkward. You know Marian though. And you remember my father. I suppose you don’t know Aunt Anne but she’s the sweetest little old lady on the planet. You don’t need to worry. So how ‘bout it?”
Ann looks down at the pajamas she has one. “I don’t know. You probably want to leave right away. I would have to shower and change and actually put some effort into how I look.”
“I can wait if you want to shower and change. But-“ Anne licks her lips. “You look fine. Maybe comb your hair, though.” She winks at Ann.
Ann rolls her eyes. “You’re sure?”
“Do I have to wear a bra?”
Anne laughs. “Not if you don’t want. I know you think it’s easier to feed Tim.”
“It is.” Ann says emphatically. “You have no idea how difficult it can be to breastfeed with an improper bra on.”
Anne releases Ann’s hands and throws her own up in the air. “No, no. I’m sure. I’ll leave it to the breastfeeding expert in the room.” Anne stands. She holds a hand out to Ann. Ann takes it and Anne pulls her up from the couch. “So? Shower or no? I’ll pack up Timothy’s bag.”
Ann lifts her arm and sniffs at her armpit. “Not too bad.” She wiggles her eyebrows at Anne. “I’ll just freshen up and put something on that isn’t pajamas.”
“Wonderful.” She let’s go of Ann’s hand. She grins happily. Anne is excited about this. She’d beat herself up for not thinking of the idea sooner but she’s just too excited and happy right now to think about that.
Anne doesn’t bother knocking on the door to Shibden. She marches right in. She had sent Marian a message to let them know that she was coming over. Her family are all sitting waiting for her. Anne expects nothing less. She’s sure that when she told Marian that they were coming over Marian rounded up her father and Aunt Anne and sat them down. It’s very Marian of her.
Ann walks in, small, behind Anne.
“Father, Marian.” She nods her head at the pair. “Aunt Anne.” She goes over and kisses the top of Aunt Anne’s head. “No, don’t get up.” Anne tells them. “Really. I’m just going to make you sit down again anyway.” Anne sets the car seat on the floor and turns to Ann. She holds out her hand to the blonde.
“Everyone, this is Ann. Marian and father you’ll remember her. Aunt Anne, I believe this is the first time you have met.”
Ann smiles at Anne’s family politely. “Hello, all.”
They all exchange hellos while Anne gets busy removing Timothy from his car seat ever so gently.
Ann watches Anne as she lifts their son into the crook of her arm. Anne puts a hand on his chest as she holds him. Ann comes over and covers him with the little blanket that they brought along. She tucks it in under Anne’s arm, and against her chest. Anne watches as Ann carefully tries not to touch her breasts as she’s tucking. It’s not cold in Shibden, but it’s definitely not as warm as they have it at the apartment.
Anne smiles at Ann and then down at the boy, content that he is good and warm now. She waits for Ann to get a moment to look at him. Ann takes his little feet in her right hand and gives them an affectionate squeeze before taking a step back.
“Everyone, this is my son. Timothy James Lister-Walker.” Anne introduces proudly.
“James?” Marian asks.
“What a name?” Aunt Anne comments.
Anne nods and watches Timothy. He’s eyes are open, and he tries to focus on her. She talks again and he homes in on her voice. “Yes. Ann picked Timothy and she let me choose a middle name. James after our uncle. He was a good man.”
What Anne didn’t tell Ann yet was that Shibden is her property. That her uncle James singed it over to her before his death because he knew that Anne, in property management and real estate, would do right by the old building. That she would keep it in good condition and keep it standing in testament for years to come. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Halifax, after all.
“I was surprised when Marian came home and said that you were going to be having a child. I said ‘our Anne?’” She chuckles. “But here you are.” Aunt Anne looks at Anne with the boy in her arms.
“Here I am.” Anne smiles across the room at her family. She locks eyes with Ann at the end. “Here we are. It’s been quite the remarkable journey.”
Timothy starts fussing in Anne’s arms. “What’s wrong little guy?” Anne tries to soothe him. “Huh?” He starts crying. “Okay. Okay. Mama?”
“Is he hungry? Does he need a bottle?” Marian asks.
Ann comes over and takes him.
Anne smirks. “Yes and no.”
“Oh.” Marian frowns.
Anne stands. “Let’s move to the kitchen and I’ll make some tea.” She wants Ann to have her peace and feel comfortable feeding Timothy. To not have any prying eyes on her.
They leave Ann and move to the kitchen and Anne starts on the water for tea. “So, what do you think? Isn’t he just the cutest baby to ever live?” Anne asks with her back to her family.
“What happened to you?” Marian asks.
Aunt Anne puts a hand on top of Marian’s to get her to stop talking. “Motherhood. Clearly.”
“So, you and Miss Walker are-?” Jeremy leaves the question open ended on purpose.
“We are raising Timothy together.”
“And?” Marian asks.
Anne spins around. “And what?”
“Is she your girlfriend or do you have a secret wife to go along with your secret child?”
“Marian.” Aunt Anne scolds.
Anne would be anger with Marian’s rude comment if it weren’t for the fact that she knows Marian is just frustrated and probably jealous. “No, Marian.”
“So you’re just-?”
“Raising Timothy together.”
Marian rolls her eyes. She knows her sister and she knows that Anne wouldn’t pass up a chance to get together with a woman. Unless? “Is she not interested in you? Does the Anne Lister charm not work on her?”
“Don’t be so childish, Marian.” Anne turns around to the kettle again.
“Oh my gosh, she isn’t, is she. You’ve pulled out all the stops and they haven’t worked.”
“It’s not like that.” Anne sighs.
“It is.” Marian is stunned.
Anne spins around quickly. So quick that she has to catch herself on the counter, so she doesn’t fall. She narrows her eyes at Marian. “Don’t you say another word.” Anne points a finger at her. “You don’t know- you don’t know what Ann has been through.”
Those words neutralize Marian. She wrinkles her brow.
“This has nothing to do with me. Ann is- Ann has- you know what you don’t deserve to know. And it’s not my story to tell. All you need to know right now is that Ann and eye are raising Timothy together. And if that were to change for some reason in the future, I’m make sure to let you know. But for now- that’s it.”
“Okay.” Marian bows her head.
They all sit in silence until the kettle whistles.
“Oh lovely, tea time.” Aunt Anne claps her hands together.
Anne sets everyone’s cup at the table. “I’m be right back.” It’s but a mumble. She leaves the room with a teacup in hand. Anne goes to find Ann in the other room. “I’ve brought you a cuppa.” She sets the cup on the table next to where Ann is sitting. “Everything good in here? You’re alright?” Ann looks up at Anne and nods. “Good.” She bends at the waist and presses a kiss to the top of Ann’s head. “If you need anything just holler.”
Anne goes back to the kitchen and gets her own cup and sits at the table with her relatives. “What do you think of Ann?”
Jeremy starts. “She was always, well, maybe not always but she would come around as a young girl and watch you work in the yard or mow the lawn. She always wanted to know what you were doing. Even if you were just sitting out on a chair reading a book.”
“That’s right.” Marian adds. “Didn’t she used to bring you flowers.”
Anne smiles fondly. “Yeah, and apparently, her mother would yell at her for doing so. But she continued.” Anne says wistfully. “But what do you think of her with timothy?” That’s the question she really wants answered. Anne thinks Ann will make a great mother but she wants to know if others can see that too.
“Well dear, you had the boy in your arms the entire time until he started fussing. Hard to get much of an impression from that but she seems attentive to him. She knew he was hungry. You both did. He’s such a little guy yet.” Aunt Anne coos over the baby.
Anne agrees. “He is. And she’s going to be a wonderful mother to our son.” Anne thinks back to the conversation she and Ann had this morning about Ann’s childhood and how that’s going to influence her as a mother. Both of them really, as mother’s.
“Going to be?” Marian catches the tense.
Anne shrugs. “Ann is dealing with some things right now. But she’s working through them. She wasn’t going to keep him. Originally.”
“Oh my.” Jeremy breathes.
“That’s an adjustment.” Aunt Anne adds.
“Yes, but she’s already so much better with him than she was that first week. It’s just going to take a little time. We’re a little behind schedule is all.” Anne doesn’t see it as a negative just something most parents have figured out by the time their baby is born. “How have you all been? I’ve been busy.” She throws her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of Ann and Timothy. “I know we’ve talked on the phone briefly but-“ She shrugs. “How’s your heart?” She directs the conversation towards her father.
They talk and catch up for a little while. Anne tells them about moving her business to the Halifax area. She also mentions that she and Ann and Timothy will be moving into a house in a few weeks. She promises to bring Timothy and Ann around for more visits.
“Anne?” It comes from the other room.
Anne looks around at the other occupants at the table before jumping to her feet. “Excuse me.”
Marian shakes her head as Anne leaves. “That poor shmuck.”
“Who?” Aunt Anne asks.
“Why do you say that?” Jeremy asks.
Marian shrugs. “It’s obvious. Anne is in love with that girl. And I’m not bad mouthing Ann Walker but it doesn’t seem like she feels the same.”
“You don’t know that.” Aunt Anne defends.
“No, I don’t but- if she did, I think we would know. It would be written all over Anne’s face. She’d be smug about it. But she’s not smug. She’s just- what’s the word. She loves that boy to death. That’s clear. And maybe that’s the reason. Miss Walker gave birth to him so in addition Anne is in love with his mother. It’s clear that she’d do anything for either of them. Moving her business, buying them a house. I’m just worried that Ann Walker doesn’t have it in her to feel the same for Anne.” Marian shrugs. “She’s always been a bit odd. Idolizing Anne with she was a child. And now this.” Marian shrugs again and takes a sip of her now chilled tea.
“What do you mean, this? You think she got pregnant and had a child just to get Anne on the hook for it?” Jeremy questions. “This isn’t some sort of movie. And that’s a long ways to go consider- well they’re both women.”
Marian shrugs. “I’m not saying that, but I don’t know what the truth is. Anne said it herself that the girl isn’t doing well-“ She taps the side of her head.
“But Anne said she was going to give him up for adoption. That doesn’t makes sense if you think-“ Aunt Anne pauses as she hears footsteps coming toward the kitchen again.
Anne pops her head in. “We are going to head home. Timothy is asleep. That boy always has a good sleep after a good meal.” She chuckles.
“Okay dear.” Aunt Anne says cheerfully.
“When will we see you again?” Jeremy asks.
“Not sure but I hope it to be not too long. I’m busy now that I have baby.” Anne grins, proud of her baby.
Marian looks over at Anne. “You’ve always been busy. Baby or not.”
Anne salutes at Marian. “True, true. Marian.” Anne pops back out and the three get up and mosey on over to the entry to say their goodbyes.
Once in the car, and Anne has Timothy’s car seat locked into place, Anne turn to her other passenger. “That went well.”
Ann cocks her head to the side. “Did it?”
“Well, enough.” Anne is unsure herself. It was a little awkward like Ann thought it was going to be. But she’s sure everyone just needs time to adjust and things won’t be awkward in the future.
“If you say so. I could feel their eyes on me the whole time.”
“That’s just because you are such a beautiful mama.” Anne flirts.
“Anne.” She sighs. She hates when Anne compliments her. “Just drive.”
Anne bobs her head from side to side. “You want to stop and grab some food on the way home?”
“Sure.” A nice take out sounds good now after a bit of a awkward time with the Lister’s.
Anne puts Timothy down one night and goes to find Ann in the kitchen. She’s scrubbing furiously at a pot. “I’d hate to know what that pot did to you.” She jokes and kisses Ann’s cheek. She goes to get water from the fridge.
“Forget that.” Anne puts a palm on Ann’s forearm. “Let’s tuck in for the night.”
Ann is grumpy so the suggestion rubs her the wrong way. “Are you saying I need to rest or sleep? I’m fine.”
Anne takes a step back. “I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that the dishes can wait until tomorrow. They’re not that important. Come lay with me.” She moves to rub at one of Ann’s shoulders. “You’re so tense. I’ll give you a massage.”
Ann’s mind flashes back to when she was still with child and Anne had rubbed and massaged her back and shoulders, and well, other parts of her while they sat on the couch. She enjoyed that even if she freaked out a little afterwards. Her body wants that, but she can’t give in to Anne that easily. “I have dishes to finish.” Anne can’t just coax her into these things. She can’t let Anne have this control over her.
Anne trudges off to the bedroom. Defeated. She doesn’t want to pressure Ann into anything, but she also hates to think that Ann is intentionally avoiding her. She gets that feeling sometimes; that Ann is trying to keep her distance.
Anne quietly goes into the bedroom. She removes her pajama pants and climbs into bed. She turns the light off and curls up on her side. She’s still awake sometime later when Ann comes into the room. She doesn’t turn the light on but changes into her pajamas and gets into bed.
“You still awake?” She’s facing Anne and can see she has her eyes closed.
“I’m sorry. About- at the sink. Can I lay with you now? No massage or anything like that.” Ann doesn’t want to hurt Anne’s feelings, but she just can’t consent to another massage. She sees a subtle nod from Anne and scoots closer to her. Her thigh bumps into Anne’s knee and that’s where she stops.
Anne’s lips raise into a simple smile; happy that Ann isn’t putting her out. She slips her arm across Ann’s waist, her hand laying flat on the small of Ann’s back. “This okay?”
“Ye-yeah.” Ann is breathless every time Anne is gentle and asks for permission.
Anne moves her fingers gently scratching at Ann’s back through her shirt. She lets out a slow long breath. She moves her hand to Ann’s hipbone, giving it a squeeze. “Just relax, babe.”
Ann sighs, her shoulders slump, she curls into Anne; tucking herself into Anne’s chest as Anne wraps her arm around her. There’s a kiss pressed to the top of her head.
“Just relax. I didn’t mean to upset you in the kitchen. I just don’t want you to feel like you have to do things for me or around the house or anything like that. I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. I don’t want you to be stressed. I want you to be happy and healthy. I want you to love your life. I want you to enjoy being a mother and raising our little boy. So, if you feel like something needs to get done or happen and you feel stressed or anxious just don’t worry about it. I can help. I can take care of it. I don’t want you stressing out about little things. Does that help clear up what I’m thinking when I want you to just come to bed for the night or just relax a little?”
Ann nods against Anne’s chest and Anne’s arm around her back wraps tighter around her. “Like I told your sister, I care about you. And not just because you gave birth to our son.”
Ann sighs. She feels close to tears. Anne’s words are touching and endearing and meaningful. Ann still can’t believe that Anne is here, and Anne is real, and Anne isn’t a dream anymore. That Anne cares, that Anne is kind and smart and witty. That Anne is the very best thing that’s happened in her life in the past year. Well, besides Timothy now that he’s here and wonderful.
“I love you.” Anne whispers.
Ann shakes her head against Anne’s chest and the tears start. She’d be embarrassed at getting Anne’s shirt soaked with tears but she’s more embarrassed at crying in the first place. She spends many minutes in that spot. A place of comfort for her even if she has a hard time admitting such.
“You’re so good to me. Thank you.” She tells Anne but doesn’t get a response from her. Ann looks up to see that Anne is already asleep. “You kind, strong, confident woman. Goodnight.” She presses a kiss to Anne’s cheek and drifts off to sleep wrapped in Anne’s arms.
Anne is again stuck in her own head, worrying about Timothy. And yes, parents worry about their kids all the time, but this is a specific worry. One that she’s had before.
She sits in front of him as he sits in his bouncy chair.
“What is he going to think of me as he grows up? Will he think of me as just his mum’s friend? Or as his parent? Will he listen to what I have to say or throw it in my face that I’m not his mother? Will he ask me for advice or go to someone else? Will he want anything to do with me when he’s a teenager? Or will I just be some crazy lady that wanted to raise him when he was a baby?” She knows Ann is somewhere in the room. She’s not sure her exact position. But she knows she’s there. Anne has been focused on watching Timothy. He was awake when she first sat down but now, he’s sleeping.
“Where is this coming from?” Ann asks from the couch. She wonders why Anne is thinking these things. There’s nothing to indicate that any of that would happen. As long as Anne is in his life, Ann is sure that Timothy will see her as his mother.
Anne is quiet for a long moment. She debates on whether or not she should bring up the past with her. But thinks if Ann can do it, then she should too. “You remember when I was living in Paris? When we first reconnected. And I had a girlfriend.”
Ann’s heart sinks. “Are you getting back together with her? Did she change her mind and want you back? Are you going back to Paris? Is that why you’re worried Tim won’t think of you as a parent?” Ann knew this day would come. She’s just been waiting for the other shoe to drop. For Anne to be interested in someone else again. Surely, Anne wouldn’t be interested in Ann once the novelty wore off. The attention is shifting away from her to someone else who is more suited for Anne. Ann folds her arms over her chest, ready for what’s to come.
Anne tilts her head to the side dumbfounded. After all these weeks Ann still doesn’t see that she is completely and totally in love with her and their little family. She thought that one of these days Ann would realize that. She thought that Ann just needed time and she would come around. That Ann would love her back. “My life is here now, Ann. With you and Timothy. No, I’m not going back to Paris. And I’m not getting back with Maria. I haven’t even heard from her since she dumped me. But that’s not what this is about. I was going to tell you, but now, I don’t think I want to.” Anne feels a little hurt.
“Oh.” Ann worries her lip between her teeth. “Sorry. Another time, maybe.” Ann gets up from the couch and walks away. It’s a little awkward in the room now.
“That’s it.” Anne is frustrated. “Just like that, you’re going to walk away.” She grinds her teeth together. “You don’t want to know? Or don’t you care?” Anne stands and sets her hands on her hips.
Ann turns around slowly. “If you were going to tell me a story about your last relationship then, no, I don’t care.” Ann shrugs. “I don’t have time for the past. I have a baby to take care of.”
Her voice is raised. “Do you think I’m going to leave?” Anne asks the feared question.
“Are you?” Ann raises an eyebrow. “That’s what this is about. Listen, I’ll make sure that Tim knows you are his parent as well, if it happens that you get busy with work and have to be gone. Or go to live somewhere else. I’m sure he’ll understand. Kids understand that sort of thing, right?” She challenges Anne.
“STOP.” Anne yells. “Stop it. Damn it, Ann. I’m not your father.” Her hands are in fists and she closes her eyes. “I’m not your father.” She whispers and lets out a long frustrated breath.
Ann’s shoulders slump. “Prove it.”
Anne comes over to her. She takes Ann’s hands. “I will. If you let me. But you have to give me an honest, fair shot at this. I’m not your father. I’m not going to be an absent parent.” She brings Ann’s hands up to her mouth and kisses the knuckles of her right hand and then the left. “I promise. Come sit with me. Please. I need to tell you something.”
Ann nods and let’s Anne lead her to the table. They sit and Anne keeps hold of Ann’s left hand. “I mentioned Paris and Maria for a reason. Maria had a daughter. Has a daughter. She’s a teenager. We all lived together. The girl’s father passed away when she was little so he’s not around. I wasn’t looking to be her parent, per say, but I was an authority figure for her. Maria told her that she had to listen to what I said. And to respect me.”
“And she didn’t. Not surprising if she’s a teenager.” Ann gives Anne a tight-lipped sympathetic smile.
“That’s why I worry about Timothy not seeing me as his mother. She didn’t. She didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I think she thought it was a big joke that her mother and I were together. I don’t know for sure. She ignored me on a daily basis. We’d have dinner and I would try to ask her about her day and she only ever gave me one word answers or would blow me off completely. I lived that, and while I wasn’t her parent, I was in a similar role. I lived it and I don’t want that to happen with Timothy. That might be my biggest fear with him right now. And I know you don’t understand that, but I’ve been there, and I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be enough, and it will happen with him as well.” Anne sighs. She hopes this will at least makes some sense to Ann. “I don’t think I ever had a real, honest conversation with that girl. It’s sad but it’s true.”
Ann bows her head. “I’m sorry, Anne.” She squeezes Anne’s hand. “I know you’re not my father but that’s my past. You have a past and I have a past. I think this is good though. That we talk about it and our issues with parenting now. So that we aren’t scrambling to figure this out in ten years. I know you’re not my father. I know you won’t do what he did. I know you don’t intend to put money ahead of or over our son.”
“I don’t. At some point I’m going to have to take business trips and be gone for short periods of time. I’m going to start training John in all the things I do in case something comes up with you or Tim and I need to send him on the trip instead of going myself. It’s always good to be prepared.” Anne has obviously been thinking about her work and her travel. And she’s making a plan.
“Good. That’s good. And I think you are crazy.” Ann grins.
Anne wrinkles her brow.
“Timothy absolutely loves you. That won’t change. I see now that you’ve been hurt in the past. As far as I’m concerned, that kid didn’t know what she was missing out on cuz you’re awesome. If I were a teenager, I’d want to hang out with you. Heck, I was. I did.” Ann sticks her tongue out between her teeth, smiling around it. “You’re so cool. I think so and I know Tim will too.”
Anne can’t help the huge grin on her face. Ann’s words renew her hope in them. It’s not ‘I love you’ but it feels so close. “Come here.” Anne leans forward. She presses a kiss to Ann’s cheek. “How’s that crush now?” Anne comes as close as she can to giggling.
Ann’s cheeks redden. “As bad as it was back then.”
“Really?” Anne locks eyes with Ann, searching.
Ann nods. “You’re so cool. And awesome. You’re larger than life. So confident. It’s appealing on many levels. But that’s just surface stuff. You’re heart is so big. You have so much love for your son. You care about all the people in your life. Truly care. You don’t just say you care. You’re actions back up your words.”
Anne leans further, resting her forehead against Ann’s. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She gets lost. “Ann?”
“Can I kiss you?” She whispers.
Ann lets out a gasp of air but doesn’t answer.
“Be gentle.” Ann whispers. She’s putting her trust in Anne. She’s putting herself out there for Anne. She’s taking a risk that Anne won’t take advantage of her.
“Oh babe, I will.” Anne cups Ann’s face and draws her into the kiss. At first, just peck of the lips. Anne stops and waits. She waits for Ann to pull away, she waits for Ann to tell her to stop. She waits but after a moment nothing happens, so she tilts her chins forward again and presses her lips to Ann’s. Applying a bit of pressure this time, holding her lips there for a moment before pulling them away. She strokes at Ann’s cheeks with her thumbs, their foreheads still pressed together.
Anne opens her eyes to see Ann’s are still closed. “Are you okay?” She asks gently.
“Y-yes, I’m o-kay.” Ann stutters over her words but she does feel okay.
“Good.” Anne smiles. She rubs her thumb across Ann’s chin, under her lower lip, just barely swiping the lip. She watches her thumb move back and forth. Ann opens her mouth slightly, just enough for there to be millimeters of space between her lips. Anne strokes across her open lips. “So pretty, so delicate.” Anne comments. Her eyes shift from Ann’s lips to her eyes.
Ann is watching her with the most endearing eyes. They shift to something else after a moment. “Anne?” She whispers, scared.
“It’s okay. You’re okay.” Anne pulls her into an embrace.
Ann cries her fears and emotions out onto Anne’s shoulder.
Anne finishes with her work for the day. She comes over to the couch and sits down next to Ann. Ann is on her phone and preoccupied with something. “What you up to?” Anne asks and rubs at Ann’s thigh.
The contact pulls Ann from her thoughts and her phone search. “Do you like dogs?”
“Sure.” Anne raises an eyebrow. “Why?” She has a sneaking suspicion.
“Can we get a puppy?”
“Hmm.” Anne wrinkles up her face. “Is that what you’ve been looking at for the last hour?”
“No.” Ann lies.
Anne tilts her head to the side, and narrows her eyes at Ann. “I wondered what all those sounds coming from you were about.”
“What sounds?” Ann’s cheeks heat up.
“All sorts of ooohh’s and awww’s and little sighs. I was sitting right there at the table. I heard it all. I knew it had to be something cute. And puppies fit under that category.” Anne explains.
Ann looks away from her. “Okay, maybe.”
There’s a light chuckle from Anne before she gives Ann’s thigh a squeeze. “Hey.” She gets Ann to look at her again. “I like the idea.”
“To grow up with Timothy. I was thinking.” Ann admits.
Anne nods. “I like the idea, but don’t you think we’ve got enough going on right now? A baby, a new house, moving, me moving my business. That doesn’t leave much time to take care of a puppy. Or train one.” Anne’s eyes bulge at the idea of a puppy peeing all over their new house. “Puppies are a lot of work. Maybe when Timothy is older and we’re more settled.”
Ann frowns. She wants one now. “What about a cat?”
“A cat, huh?” Anne mulls over the idea. “Cats are less work and just as lovable.”
“They are. They’re so soft and cuddly.”
Anne moves her hand from Ann’s thigh to the back of the couch. She slides it behind Ann’s head, resting on the top of the couch and turns her torso toward Ann. “If we get the right one. Some cats seem to be standoffish.”
“Have you ever had a cat?” Ann questions.
“I asked you first.” Ann smirks.
Anne licks her lips. “I haven’t but-“
“Then you can’t say that about cats.”
Anne hums. “And you’re an expert on cats?”
“We had one when I was younger.”
Anne throws her head back and laughs.
“What?” Ann grins at Anne’s laugh.
“When you were younger. You’re still young.” Anne is grinning uncontrollably.
Ann ducks her head. “Oh.” She shrugs.
“How about this? After we move and are all settled in the house, we can go to the animal shelter. Pick out a cute kitten or young cat. Or do you want an old one?” Anne’s head spins with cat possibilities. “A young one can grow up with TJ. But an old one would likely be gentle and protective of him but might die before Tim is even old enough to remember it. We’ll see how it goes. Sound like a plan?” Anne talks it through aloud.
Ann pulls her lips to one side.
“What? Why are you looking at me like I have two heads?” Anne smiles at the look on Ann’s face.
“His initials. I’m just trying it out. What do you think?” Anne brings her hand to Ann’s opposite shoulder. Ann jumps a little, startled more than anything. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I just wasn’t-“ Ann wrings her hands together in her lap. “I wasn’t expecting it.”
Anne nods and starts rubbing Ann’s shoulder lightly. “So, what do you think about TJ?”
“Do you think it suits him?” Ann looks up and looks over at the baby. “I like Tim or Timmy. Boy, he’s going to be confused if we call him everything under the sun.”
“And see, I’m not really a fan of Timmy. Like that’s fine when he’s a little kid but what if it sticks? And then, all of a sudden, you have a forty year old named Timmy. I don’t like that. Adults called Timmy, or Jimmy, or Kimmy.” Anne pulls a disgusted face. “It’s not very distinguished.”
Ann giggles. “Okay. Tim or Timothy or TJ. But I’m still probably going to use Timmy while he’s so tiny and cute.”
“Alright, babe.” Anne sighs. “So, we’re getting a cat. You could name the cat Timmy or Jimmy or Kimmy.” Anne teases.
Ann slaps at Anne’s leg. “Don’t be a smart ass.”
Anne grins and then sticks her tongue out. She suddenly pops up from the couch. “I’ll make dinner. What do you want to have?”
“Can we have chicken nuggets?”
Anne stops as she walks into the kitchen. “Chicken nuggets?” She spins around to face Ann again. “Did you have those when you were younger too?” She smirks. She might like teasing Ann about her age.
“There’s some in the freezer.” Ann pouts. “I bought them the other day.”
Anne laughs. She turns back around to go to the freezer and pulls them out. “God, I love you.” She whispers under her breath. A juvenile meal but Anne enjoys the youthfulness that is inside Ann. That same youthfulness that is just starting to show itself to her. Anne isn’t sure, but maybe, it’s the youthfulness returning to Ann after a hard, calloused year for her. It’s more than wonderful to see.
She sets the oven to preheat. “What do you eat with chicken nuggets?”
Anne jumps. “Fuck.” She turns to see Ann standing next to her. “It’s like you appeared out of nowhere.”
“Sorry.” Ann has a guilty grin. “Usually mashed potatoes with gravy and rolls.”
“Mmm. Sounds healthy.” Anne wiggles her eyebrows.
Ann shrugs. “It’s not. But it’s a special meal. Not something I eat often. I like to take the nuggies and dip them in the mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh, and with some, I split a roll open and then stick the nuggie in there.”
Anne is intrigued by this. She’s never heard of something so intense that deals with a food that’s usually so mundane. “So, do we have mashed potatoes, gravy, and rolls?” She has a feeling Ann is going to say yes.
“Yep.” Ann moves around Anne to find what she needs. She starts making the mashed potatoes. She’s cheating, really, using potato flakes inside of real potatoes. The gravy is in a jar and she just puts it into a sauce pan to heat up. When the oven is ready, Ann puts the nuggets on a tray and shoves them in.
Anne stands there for a moment, at first. She then leans against the counter with her hip, her arms crossed over her chest, watching Ann move around the little kitchen effortlessly. “And here, I thought I was making dinner.”
Ann looks over at her and grins, then bites her bottom lip. “Sorry, you can do it tomorrow.”
Anne smirks. She pushes herself off the counter and approaches Ann. She comes close, so close until her mouth is at Ann’s right ear. “Promise?” She husks in Ann’s ear.
Ann shivers. “Y-yeah.”
Anne throws her head back and laughs. “I’m going to change into pajamas.” She leaves Ann to the cooking for the night and can’t wait to try Ann’s method for eating her chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes.
She’s spent weeks organizing and ordering. Their move is only a few days away now and Anne is more stressed out then she’s been since- well, she can’t remember when she was this stressed out. There’s not a lot of stuff from the apartment to move so that’s not too stressful. Though, Anne does worry about how they are going to move Timothy’s things when they use them all the time. It’s not like you can just pack up his things days in advance.
In addition to getting everything packed, there was the matter of hiring the movers. There is also a shipment of furniture that the pair have picked out for the new house together that is to be delivered the afternoon that they move. It’s a bit hectic and stressful to say the least.
Anne ends the call and sets her phone down on the table. She rubs her hands over her face. She’s just called to make sure that their furniture is still going to be delivered on time. It’s not going to be good if they don’t have beds or dressers or any other furniture for their house after they’ve moved in.
Ann’s apartment came with the furniture that it has, except for the things they bought for Timothy, so that’s all staying there. It’s like starting fresh.
The idea was to get two bedroom sets, one for each of them. And to have separate bedrooms. Anne asked and made sure that was what Ann still wanted. The answer was yes so, they each picked out their own but came to agree on the items for Timothy’s room, the living room set, dining set, and anything else that they needed furniture-wise.
Anne has her head in her hands, her elbows on the table. She hears Ann behind her. She’s been in the kitchen gathering up most of the kitchenware. The only thing that makes Anne feel less stressed right now is her son. She looks around to see where he’s at. Anne doesn’t see him. She’s been so busy today that she’s not even sure where he is or what he’s been up to today.
“Oh.” Ann stops her movements, a ladle in her hand. “He’s in his crib. Napping.” She reaches for something on the counter. The baby monitor that they’ve purchased along with all their house purchases. She wiggles it for Anne to see. “But if he makes noise, I’ll hear him.” She grins.
“What’s wrong?” Ann asks.
Anne shakes her head. “Nothing. I’m fine.”
Ann is no dummy, though. She can see that something is wrong with Anne. That something has been wearing her down these past few days. She thinks it’s the impending move but doesn’t want to bring it up. “You know what.” Ann sets the ladle on the counter. “Let’s go out for a bit.” This way they don’t have to cook at home. “Get Tim and go out, get some dinner. Forget about all this.” She waves her hand around the messy, mid-pack kitchen.
Slowly, a smile pulls at Anne’s face. She mulls over the suggestion for a moment before she crosses the room. She pulls Ann’s right side into her body and presses a kiss to the side of her head. “That sounds wonderful. Do you want to get him ready or do you need me to do it?”
“I’ll do it. You can change, if you want, or freshen up, or just sit and wait for us.” Ann turns her head to find Anne’s eyes.
Anne gives her a closed lip smile and a nod.
The café isn’t too busy when they get there. Ann picks them a table in the far corner. “I’m going to miss this place when we move.” Ann looks around, nostalgic. This café holds a lot of memories for them.
“Me too.” Anne sits on the chair next to Timothy, Ann across from them. “But it’s not like we are moving that far away. Just a few neighborhoods away. We can still come here.”
For both of them this is the place. The place where it all started. In different ways, of course.
For Anne, it started with her interest and knowledge of all things baby and pregnancy. She was fascinated to learn about the process and how it was going, firsthand from Ann. The fascination with the growth of a human being inside another human being consumed her for weeks, if not, months. There was also the attachment she felt for that being growing inside Ann.
For Ann, the thought of someone who she could trust and tell her story to is the first thing she thinks of when she thinks back to the times her and Anne met here during her pregnancy. That support that she didn’t have from anyone else when she was hiding her life from her family and friends is what she found in this café.
And now, as they sit here, with Timothy, drinking their teas and waiting for their food. They sit in comfortable silence. Anne is watching the room, looking to see if she spots anyone she knows.
Ann watches her. She looks at the pair across from her. Not just looks but admires. Anne Lister and ‘their’ baby. Some days it’s still hard to wrap her mind around those facts, but here they are.
“Tuna melt.” The waitress says as she approaches the table. Anne raises her hand, and the waitress places the plate in front of Anne.
“And a grilled chicken sandwich. Enjoy ladies.”
Ann looks at her plate and then at Anne’s. “That actually looks really good. I know I bashed it when you ordered but it does look appealing.”
Anne smirks, looking down at her food. “You want to try a bite? I’ll share.” She looks up and over at Ann, that same smirk still on her face.
“Oh?” Ann is surprised. She was just thinking that maybe the next time she is here she can order the tuna melt and try it for herself. She usually gets the grilled chicken or a bowl of soup but now- “No, I couldn’t.”
“Oh, come on. I know you want to. I can see it in your eyes.” Anne teases.
Ann looks away, her eyes betraying her. “No, Anne. It’s fine. I’ll just order it next time.”
Anne picks up one half of the tuna melt and holds it out across the table. “Aaaaann.” She coaxes. “How are you going to know if you want to order it without a little taste first?” Anne adds to the deal. “Come on.” She whispers.
Ann finally turns back. There is a hand holding a sandwich in front of her face.
“I can’t hold my arm like this forever. Take a bite.” Anne grins.
She locks eyes with Anne as she leans forward to take a bite of the tuna melt. Ann opens her mouth, wrapping her lips around the toasted bread, her bottom lip slips over something that is decidedly not bread. Her eyes widen and Anne’s smile increases as Ann’s lip slides over her finger. Ann’s teeth sink into the sandwich, taking a bite and slowly pulling away from the outstretched hand that holds the tuna melt.
Anne puts the half back on her plate. “Well, what do you think?”
The flavors mingle in Ann’s mouth. The crunchiness of the toast, the warm meltiness of the cheese, mixed with the tuna, tomato, and creamy mayonnaise make for nice blend of texture and taste. Ann finishes chewing with a hand over her mouth. “That’s good. Better than I thought it would be.”
Anne chuckles. “So good you want more?” She’s already moving the half that Ann took a bite of from her plate over to Ann’s plate. “I do want half of your sandwich in exchange though.” Anne rolls her head to the side.
Ann is a bit speechless. She’s not sure what to say or do. “Oh- oh okay.”
Anne laughs. It’s that deep hearty laugh of hers. “Didn’t think I could get you so tongue tied over a sandwich.” She looks over at Timothy. “Your mama’s so silly. Isn’t she?”
Ann rolls her eyes but works on transferring half of her grilled chicken over to Anne’s plate. “I thought after this we could go have a little shop.”
“What do you mean?” Anne slowly pivots from the baby to her meal partner.
“I mean go shopping. Forget about the moving stuff for the rest of the day and have an easy peasy remainder of the day. You seem stressed out about moving. Let’s just forget about all of that for the rest of the day.” Ann tells her.
Anne tilts her head to the side. “I love you.” She whispers with that lovesick look on her face.
Ann rolls her eyes. “You say that now, wait until later when I make you try on different clothes. Then we’ll see what you have to say.”
“You wouldn’t.” Anne shifts. “I don’t- I thought we were shopping for you.”
Ann shakes her head. “I never said that.” She’s already got some ideas in mind.
Ann pushes Timothy in front of her as Anne walks next to her. They walk into the store together. Ann looks around. “This way.” She takes a left and leads the way.
Ann sits near the fitting area with Timothy in her arms. She told Anne to pick out some shirts and to try them on and show her. She notices as Anne goes in to try on the first shirt that Anne has picked out all neutral colors. Black, brown, tan, grey, white.
Anne tries on a handful of shirts and models them for Ann. She likes them all, otherwise she wouldn’t have picked them out, but notices that Ann doesn’t have much to say about any of her choices.
While Anne is trying on some boring shirt or another; Ann gets up and goes to pick out a few items that she thinks would look nice on Anne. She comes back and waits for Anne to come out of the fitting area. “Here try this one.” She holds it out for Anne to take. It a dark blue long sleeved shirt. Simple but with a little color.
Anne wrinkles up her face. “It’s blue.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Ann smirks.
“But I don’t wear blue. I only wear neutral colors.”
“Yes, I know.” Ann smiles. “Try it on. Please.” She pouts.
Anne rolls her eyes. “Fine. But I’m not getting it.”
A few moments later, Anne comes out with the blue shirt on and Ann is thrilled. She grins and claps her hands together. “Oh. Amazing.”
Anne looks down at the shirt. It’s not bad. She actually likes the style. It’s just the color she’s not sold on. “I don’t know.”
“Oh, hush.” Ann comes up to her, puts a hand on Anne’s chest, and presses a kiss to her cheek. “You look wonderful in it.” She then whispers. “Better than that hideous brown sweater of yours.” Ann laughs.
Anne takes the compliment along with the dig. But it’s the compliment and the kiss that remain in her mind. She watches Ann, more like, stares blankly at her, as Ann walks around the racks and tables of clothes looking for something else for Anne to try on. Anne stands there rooted in her spot until the blonde returns with a crisp button down of the same royal blue shade.
“A new shirt to go with your power suit. Go see if it fits.” She hands the shirt over to Anne and goes back to sitting with Timothy on the bench. “We gotta get your mummy to start wearing something a little more colorful and exciting.” She whispers and tickles his cheeks. He smiles and Ann smiles too.
Anne ends up buying both blue shirts.
They get Timothy all dressed and ready to go. There’s still work to be done but they are running late for their appointment.
Anne has donned her new blue long sleeve shirt. She gets a smile from Ann when she walks out of the bedroom because of it. “Ready to go?” She looks down at the shirt before putting on a light coat. She’s never had someone pick out clothes for her before. Anne Lister picks out her own clothes. But Ann sprung the shopping trip on her, and since they were out and about, and because she was stressed about moving, Anne went with it. In retrospect, she wonders if Ann had planned the shopping before they even left the house that day. She smiles thinking about that possibility.
Anne is also happy because they are about to leave to sign the papers for their new house. You couldn’t wipe the smile off of Anne’s face on this day if you tried.
Today she is happy and proud. She’s happy about signing the papers for their house. She’s happy about moving. They have most things packed and ready to go now. All the stuff that Timothy doesn’t need. The moving truck is coming to the apartment in two hours’ time. It’s such a tight schedule and Anne is super worried about it; but she puts the schedule to the back of her mind for now and just focuses in on her family.
Ann puts Timothy in his car seat. “We’re ready now.”
“Alright.” Anne takes the car seat and they head out.
The paperwork and signing takes about an hour. And then the realtor gives Anne the keys to their new house. She hands the keys to Ann. “Can you take our picture?” Anne turns Timothy in her arms so he’s facing out.
The realtor takes Anne’s phone from her and snaps a few photos of the happy family. “Thanks.” Anne takes her phone back. She looks at the photos. No glamour shots, but they will do. She thinks she’ll have to get someone to take their picture together in front of the house too.
Ann feels different as they leave the office building and get in the car. “So, what now?” Ann wonders.
“Do you want to go over to the house right away?” Anne has a knowing smile. Ann nods vigorously. “Okay then.” She starts the car, and they are off.
Anne pulls the car into the little driveway and shuts it off. “Here we are.” She looks over at Ann in the passenger’s seat.
Ann is looking up at the house in awe. “I can’t believe it.” She turns to Anne. “We really bought a house?” It’s such an adult thing to do. Ann has never done something so adult. Unless having Timothy counts.
“That we did.” Anne reaches over and squeezes Ann’s thigh. “Let’s go check it out.” She’s excited to see the place for the first time since the old owner’s moved all of their stuff out. She knows she’ll be plotting on how to arrange each room as soon as she sees the empty space.
With Timothy in arm and keys in hand, Anne walked up to the door. Ann trails behind her. Anne turns around and holds the keys out. “You can do the honors.” She nods at the front door. Ann sucks her bottom lip into her mouth and puts the key in the lock. Ann steps inside and looks around. It’s quiet. Anne steps in behind her.
They go from room to room taking it in. “This is amazing.” Ann comments more than once.
The pair meander their way upstairs. There are two bedrooms to one side and one on the other. They have already agreed on which room will be each of theirs. The first room they stop at is going to be Timothy’s. “I thought the crib could go in that corner and the changing station in the other. The little chest of drawers for all his clothes can go along this wall.” Anne points along the way. “And the chair, the rocking chair, can go over there.”
Ann nods along. She doesn’t have any problem with that layout.
The rest of the upstairs is inspected, and all looks good.
“Well, do you want to stick around here or come back to the apartment? I have to let the movers in in thirty minutes.”
Ann looks around the empty house. “There’s nothing to do here. We don’t even have any cleaning supplies with us.”
“Right.” Anne nods. “Let’s go then. We don’t want to keep them waiting. The sooner they get everything loaded up the sooner we can be back here. And the furniture is coming at three so- chop chop.” Anne has a noticeable bounce in her step.
Ann giggles a little at her as she follows along. She, too, is happy with the events of the day. It’s easier to keep up with Anne’s quick pace when she’s got that extra energy today too.
Anne is in her room. It’s dark and the middle of the night. She’s all by herself. It’s so different from the last month where she’s been sharing a bed with Ann and where Timothy was only an armlength away in his crib. Now Ann is in a separate bedroom and Timothy is in his room down the hall. They are still there but Anne feels lonely.
She misses the little apartment already. Just for the closeness of it all. Anne knows they couldn’t continue to all live in that small space. It was never going to be feasible. But this, right now, is so cold and lonely. She doesn’t know how she’s ever going to be able to sleep.
Anne lays awake, staring at the ceiling as the hours creep into the next morning. She wonders if she should just get up and do something. She still has all of her things to unpack into her room. Not that there are many ‘things’ right now. The rest of her personal items aren’t expected from Paris until next week. She’s mostly just got what she had in her suitcase when she came to Halifax. That, and the few items that she bought while she’s been living in Halifax.
She hears Timothy cry from down the hall. Ann said she would attend to him tonight and that Anne could rest. Everything in her body itches to get up and go to him. She hears Ann’s footstep in the hall and knows she’s going but she still wants to go. She knows if she does then Ann will ask why she’s awake. She could be honest with Ann and tell her the reason or she could just stay here and stare at the ceiling.
She stays and listens. She listens to the noises of their new house, trying to get used to them. She listens for Ann and Timothy. She listens and it’s like torture. Eventually, after what seems like an hour, she hears Ann’s footsteps again in the hallway on her way back to her room. They stop and she hears the doorknob to her room turn. Anne snaps her eyes closed. The door opens slowly, just a little bit, not all the way. She doesn’t open her eyes but hears Ann take a deep breath in before letting it out and closing the door. She waits until she hears Ann’s footsteps continue to her room before opening her eyes and rolling onto her side, her back facing the door.
The second day is a lot of unpacking the kitchen items and arranging the furniture downstairs. It’s cleaning all the surfaces in the kitchen and then unpacking all the kitchen items that they’ve brought. It’s putting everything in the drawers and cabinets.
“I think we should paint the kitchen a different color.” Ann stares at one of the walls. One wall is entirely cabinets above a long counter with just a little space of bare wall between. “This wall can be something darker and then other.”
Anne isn’t a fan of the beige color that it is now, either. “Maybe when we are settled in, yes? Not right now.”
Ann nods in agreement.
A pizza is ordered in the evening and Anne and Ann sit on the floor in the living room, Timothy on a blanket, eating. “Too bad we missed the cold season.” Ann nods at the fireplace. “It will be nice to sit in front of a toasty fire next winter.”
Anne smiles. She loves fires. She loves the smell of the burning wood. The warmth that it provides. And the cozy, sleepiness that she always feels when sitting by a fire. “That will be lovely.” She’ll have to make sure to get the chimney inspected and cleaned before they use it though.
Anne picks up the pizza box when they are finished eating. There are a few pieces leftover. Ann takes Timothy. “I’ll get him ready for bed.”
“And I’ll be on duty tonight.” Anne adds.
It was a little after eleven when she heard Timothy crying over the baby monitor. Anne got up and got him out of the crib and brought him with her downstairs to warm up a bottle. This is the first time she’s thought of a negative about their new house. It was far more convenient to just walk into the next room to get a bottle and feed Timothy in the night.
Once the bottle is ready, they go back upstairs. Anne sits in the rocking chair with Timothy while he eats. They just introduced a pacifier a few days ago in the hopes that he would sleep well, without much interruption, in his new room and so far it has worked.
Anne looks down at her boy. She didn’t bother to turn the light on, but they sit near the window and the moonlight baths them in the darkness. He’s grown so much and so little in the month that he’s been alive. Timothy hasn’t gotten a lot bigger as a whole but he has changed. Anne runs a finger over his brow and down his cheek. His face has changed. His eyes more prominent and his cheeks a little less chubby, but still plenty chubby. He’s not so scrunches up or curled up anymore, his limbs more limber.
Timothy is getting to the end of his bottle. He has a hard time keeping his eyes open and staying awake as he tries to get the last ounce from the bottle.
There is a light knock on the door and Anne looks up to see Ann opening the door and then standing there. Ann looks around the dark room. While it’s dark, the moonlight there is just enough to see the shy look on Ann’s face. Ann turns away at the attention she has drawn.
She can’t look at Anne, so she goes over to the changing table organize it, busying herself. She doesn’t really have much to say to Anne. What should she say? Ann doesn’t know why she came in here. Other than she couldn’t sleep so she got up to check on Timothy even though it’s not her night to get up to feed him.
But Anne knows why Ann is there. She couldn’t sleep either. Not last night and not tonight. She’s just glad that she was on Timothy duty tonight to give her something to do and not have to stare at the ceiling all night.
Tim finishes his bottle and Anne puts him on her right shoulder and starts patting his back to burp him. “Couldn’t sleep?” Anne whispers.
Ann nods without looking or turning to her.
“Me neither.” Anne admits. Ann spins around at that, with wide eyes. “Last night either.” Anne tilts her head to the side and gives Ann a tight lipped smile. “It seems we have something in common then.”
Ann nods, unable to say anything. She stands there and watches as Anne finishes burping Timothy. She watches as Anne changes him. She watches as Anne puts him back to bed.
“At least he can sleep.” Anne says and glances over at Ann as they stand at his crib.
Ann looks down at the floor before reaching out and taking Anne’s hand. She doesn’t say anything but moves for the door, bringing Anne with her. They walk down the hall to Ann’s bedroom. Ann pushes the door open and pulls Anne along with her to bed. Ann climbs onto the bed and looks back to see Anne, who is standing there awkwardly. “Are you sure?” Anne asks. Ann nods, reaching for Anne’s hand again. Anne puts one knee on the mattress and then the other. She uses a hand on the mattress for stability and crawls over to the left side of the bed.
Ann folds the covers back and slips underneath and waits for Anne to follow suit. The familiarity of them getting into bed together gives Ann a good feeling. Like she can breathe easier now, again.
Anne too. She relishes in the act, the feeling. She can already feel her eyes getting heavier as she sets the baby monitor on the table next to the bed. She turns back and slips under the covers with Ann, turning to her. “Well, then.” She comments as Ann turns to her. Face to face now. Anne waits. She waits for Ann to do whatever she’s going to do, to take the lead here.
Ann is uncertain, but she puts her hand on Anne’s arm and brings Anne’s hand to her hip. She leans into Anne’s torso. Her place. Ann’s comfortable place. Her safe place.
Anne wraps that arm around Ann and holds her close. She kisses the top of Ann’s head. “Goodnight.” She sighs in relief. This is where she feels she’s supposed to be. Not on a couch. Not in a bed a room away but here, in bed, with Ann. This is where everything is right. It’s where she meant to be. And Anne feels that in her core, with her whole being.
Ann sees how busy Anne has been with getting everything set up at the house, her new office, getting everything settled. They are going to bed and it’s Anne’s night to get up with Timothy. They both know this. Ann approaches Anne in the bathroom while Anne is brushing her teeth. “I’ll take Tim tonight.”
Anne raises an eyebrow and spits. “Really? Why?”
There is a shrug as Ann leans against the open door. “You’ve been working so hard getting the house all set up. Cleaning, organizing, all of it. I feel like you’ve worked harder than me. You deserve a night off.”
Anne nods. She rinses her mouth and puts her toothbrush away. She turns to Ann and kisses her forehead. “Thank you. I’ll make it up to you.”
Ann shakes her head. “You already have, getting us this amazing house.” She can’t help the grin that spreads across her face. She knows she would have never found this place herself. Anne and her property management skills have helped immensely.
Anne grins and pecks Ann’s lips lightly. “I love you.” Ann blushes and ducks her head. “You’re so cute. Come on.” She takes Ann’s hand and leads them to Ann’s bed.
They’ve agreed to have separate rooms, where they put each of their separate belongings. But most nights they sleep together in the same bed. Timothy has his own room and when they hear him on the baby monitor, they go to him. It’s a good system.
“Okay, little man, time to work.”
Anne sets him up next to her desk in her home office. He sits in his bouncy chair next to her office chair. “Mummy’s got an important meeting in a few minutes.” She tickles his stomach. He giggles and kicks his feet. Anne grins at him. He’s just too cute sometimes.
It’s the final meeting before her team officially moves to Yorkshire. She’s got the space for her company and it is being set up and is nearly ready for them to move in. A few of her employees have decided not to make the move but most of them have. Her most trusted employees John and Sam have and her ‘secretary’ Eugenie have. They are the important ones and she’s happy to have them make the move. She’s even provided funds for their moving expenses. The ones that aren’t coming with can be replaced easily enough.
Anne is pulling double duty right now because Ann is at her therapy session for the week. She’s happy to do so. It’s not the greatest that she’s got an important meeting at the same time but that’s what’s happened. She’ll have to deal with it. Just another challenge of parenting.
Anne hopes that Tim won’t have any fits while she has her meeting. If so, everything should be fine. He’s a good boy and isn’t an overly crabby or fussy baby so she feels like she really lucked out with that. She’s heard of some really irritable babies; she’s glad Tim isn’t only of them. She takes one more glance at him in his chair. He’s sucking on his pacifier and looking at her contently. She bounces the chair with her foot and he smiles around the pacifier.
“Ready TJ?” Anne starts her meeting.
She unlocks the door and is hit with a blast of music. Well, maybe not a blast because there’s a baby but the volume is fairly loud. Ann shuts the front door and removes her shoes. “Anne.” She calls out but doesn’t get a response.
Ann walks the hall, going to the source of the music, the kitchen. She discovers Anne holding Timothy in her arms while she dances around the room to the beat of the music. Ann leans into the wall with her shoulder and watches them, admiring the scene.
Tim is wide eyed as he looks up at Anne. A little smile on his face. The boy has more and more expressions everyday it seems. Anne sings to him as she dances. He grins and giggles back at her. Ann’s not sure she’s ever seen a more pure, heartwarming scene in her personal life. This is like some adorable shit that you’d see in a movie, not something that would happen in Ann’s own life.
The song ends and there’s a moment of silence before the next song starts. That’s when Ann makes her presence known. She clears her throat.
Anne looks up. “Oh, hello.” She looks back down to Tim. “You’re mama’s home. Let’s go ask her how her therapy session went.” Anne goes to the counter to turn the music off before making her way to Ann. She bounces over and presses a kiss to Ann’s cheek. “TJ wants to know how your session went.”
Ann leans in and tickles his cheek with a finger. He turns his head to look at her. “It went well. I’ll tell you about it later. But now, what are you two up to?” She raises an eyebrow at Anne.
Anne shrugs, grins, caught in the act. “We were just dancing it out. We had a very successful work meeting a little bit ago. We’re celebrating the company’s move to Yorkshire.”
“Do you want to dance with us?” Anne asks.
Ann tilts her head to the side. At first, it seemed out of character for Anne to be dancing around the kitchen like she was but then Anne surprises her everyday with something she didn’t think Anne would or wouldn’t do. Ann wonders if Timothy weren’t around if Anne would celebrate the same way. If maybe, she would instead go down to the pub to get a pint if she didn’t have a baby. “Sure.”
Anne spins around in a circle. “Solid.” She turns the music back on and the three dance around the kitchen for a couple songs before Ann taps out, fatigued. Anne shuts the music off again and they have a sit on the couch and relax. “Would you like to go for a walk around the neighborhood this evening?” Anne asks. She’s in a very jovial mood today. More so than usual.
“That would be lovely.” Ann sighs and lays her head on Anne’s shoulder. Her therapy sessions aren’t as exhaustive as they were at first, but they are still mentally taxing. It will be nice to get some fresh air and a little exercise. She’s got to start moving around more than just in the house now that she’s mostly recovered from giving birth.
Another first, taking a walk around their new neighborhood as a family. Anne pushes Timothy along while Ann settles at her side. Ann wraps her hand around Anne’s bicep after they’ve taking the first corner.
“We talked about the new house today.” Ann starts. “And moving.”
It takes Anne a second to realize that Ann is talking about her therapy session today. She nods and hums to let Ann know that she is listening.
They walk around rather leisurely as Ann describes her session.
“We talked about you.” Ann says and then pauses to wait for Anne’s reaction.
“Oh.” Anne is a bit surprised but maybe she shouldn’t be.
“I hope that’s not weird for you.” She doesn’t want to make Anne feel uncomfortable. She thinks it’s better to tell Anne that she talked about her during therapy then to not tell her at all. She feels like that would be awkward.
“No, not really.” Anne shrugs. “Unless you’re bad mouthing me.” She jokes.
“Anne.” Ann scolds. “I would never.”
“Good.” Anne holds her head high.
“I think the world of you. And maybe I don’t say that or show it, but I do. But you have to understand that what I’ve been through is difficult.”
“I know it is.” Anne makes sure Ann knows that she knows.
“And that our situation is unconventional. And that trying to put everything together and in it’s place with no repercussion or backlash is a hard thing to do.”
Ann squeezes Anne’s bicep. “I want to go slow and do the therapy correctly and get everything set so that in 10 years I’m still not dealing with this trauma.”
“I’m glad you’re doing everything that you need to do and that you are taking the correct steps to recover.” Anne says. She feels a little odd all of a sudden.
Anne turns to look at Ann. “There’s no but.”
“It feels like you want to say more but are holding back to not hurt my feelings.” Ann can sense something is off.
“No.” Anne shakes her head. “I’m happy for you. You can discuss me during your sessions if you want. We are apart of each other’s lives now. And we always will be cuz of our little man. So that doesn’t bother me at all.”
They continue walking and have made a big loop and are nearly back to the house when an older lady approaches them. Most people that they’ve passed smile or nod and keep moving. Not this lady.
“Oh, how precious.” The older lady looks into the stroller. Timothy is covered with a blanket. “Boy or girl?”
“Boy.” Ann says and she looks in to see that Timothy is asleep. She looks to Anne and mouths ‘he’s sleeping’. Anne nods.
Ann does the math in her head. “Six weeks now.”
“He is, isn’t he.” Anne says with a proud smile. She’s not sure how she feels about strangers commenting on her child but no harm no foul.
The older lady leans over to take a closer look at him. She grabs his little foot over the blanket, and he wiggles and kicks at her as a reaction, even in his sleep.
“Which one of you is the mother?” The older woman asks. She’s thinks she know based on Timothy’s blonde peach fuzz hair.
That hits a nerve with Anne. This isn’t something that’s come up yet.
Ann looks to Anne and can see the hurt on her face. She smiles at Anne and they have a silent conversation and nods of agreement. They turn to her in unison. “We both are.”
The older lady tilts her head to the side. “That’s not- oh.” It dawns on her then, the situation. She looks Ann and Anne up and down.
Anne is ready to bite this woman’s head off at the first negative thing she says.
But she doesn’t say anything of the sort. “That’s wonderful. My granddaughter is a gay. She’s even got a girlfriend. Oh, they’re so cute together.” The woman flicks her wrist at Anne. “I didn’t mean- he just looks like this one.” She puts a hand on Ann’s arm. “I didn’t mean to offend.”
“You didn’t.” Ann assures her.
“Good. Well, I’ll let you three on your way. You have a lovely little family.” The older lady nods at them both and is on her way.
“That was interesting.” Ann mumbles. “You wanted to rip her to shreds, didn’t you?” They start back on their walk again.
“But she didn’t say anything to let you.” Ann adds.
“She didn’t.” Anne sighs.
Ann laughs. “You’re so protective of us.”
“Well, I wasn’t sure there for a minute.” Anne mumbles.
“But then she said her granddaughter was ‘a gay’.” Ann laughs at that. “Who says that?”
“Her, apparently.” Anne grumbles.
“Oh, now you’re in a sour mood.” Ann coos. They are only a few houses away from their front door. “What can I do to cheer you up?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Anne tries to brush it off.
“Oh, come on.” Ann practically begs. “There must be something.”
Anne can think of lots of somethings but none that Ann would readily agree to. But Anne tries anyway. She stops, leans towards Ann, and points at her cheek. She sees Ann roll her eyes but Anne closes her eyes as Ann leans in a presses a kiss to Anne’s cheek. After the kiss, Ann wipes her thumb softly over the spot. Anne grins, content, and starts again so they can get back to the house.
A kitten, Marian, a birthday, and kisses.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It takes a little while, but they eventually get to where they are going. Ann is practically bouncing in her seat as Anne pulls the car into the lot. “You really are excited, aren’t you?” Anne chuckles.
“Oh, shut up.” Ann mumbles and hops out of the car. She gets Timothy out. She can finally lift the car seat without feeling any soreness. She’s been amazed at the changes in her body over the last few weeks. She was worried that she would always look like she did right after giving birth. With Anne’s encouragement they’ve started walking around the block together. Timothy comes along and she usually pushes him, and Anne walks next to her telling her about her work/workday as they walk. It’s become a nice little evening activity.
She holds Tim and waits for Anne to get out of the car. They walk inside side by side. Ann’s eyes light up as soon as they are inside when she sees puppies running around and yipping in a little play area. “Oh, they’re so cute.” She coos. Ann gets closer but Timothy starts to fuss at the unknown noise.
“I don’t think he likes them.” Anne chuckles. She looks down into the corral. “They are cute though.” A little golden retriever puts its front paws on the gate and smiles at Anne. “Oh, nope. I’m not picking you up. Nice try.” She waves a finger at the puppy. “Let’s find the cats.” She pushes Ann along with a hand on the small of her back. Anne bends down before following and give the golden puppy a pat on the head.
The cat section is much more subdued. A few kittens run around chasing each other but the older cats are all napping. The pair silently watch all the cats through the glass.
An older cat comes over and stretches right in front of Ann. “Hello, cutie.” She puts a finger on the glass and the cat puts a paw up to her finger. “Aww you’re so sweet.” She looks to Anne and Ann has been watching and following along. She nods in agreement.
“Hi.” An employee comes up to come. “Would you like to meet with the cats?”
“That would be wonderful.” Anne adds. “We are looking to adopt today. If we find a good fit for us.”
They go inside the cat room and Ann sits in the little chair with Anne stands next to her. The little kittens that were playing come and rub at their ankles. One hops up on the counter next to Ann. “Hi, cutie.” She reaches out and gives the orange kitten a scratch behind the ears. The little orange guy leans into her hand as she scratches. Ann grins at the kitten and then turns to grin at Anne. “He likes me.”
“I see that.” Anne wonders if that’s the cat for them.
An older cat wakes up and stretches and then comes over by them. It smells Anne’s feet and slacks and then does the same thing to Ann. It then, without warning, hops up onto Ann’s lap. She holds Timothy a little closer to her chest, allowing the cat some room. The cat stares that the baby for a moment before jumping down.
Anne laughs. “That’s not the one.”
Ann watches the kittens play on the floor. One runs around and chases a tiny ball with a bell in it and two others are playing and fighting and wrestling with each other. She’s busy watching the wrestling match that she doesn’t notice a little calico kitten wander away from the group.
“Ann.” It’s a whisper. “Look.”
She turns to look and sees the calico climbing up the leg of Anne’s slacks. “Don’t let it fall.”
Anne holds out two protective hands under the kitten as it reaches her hip.
“Oh, that’s our climber.” The employee says with a chuckle. “Sorry about that, I can take her.” She reaches out to take the cat from Anne.
“Wait.” Anne tells the woman. “I want to see what it was going to do once it reaches my shirt.”
“Keep climbing. She’ll climb right up onto your shoulder, if you let her.”
And so the kitten does. Anne squirms and wiggles as the little claws penetrate her shirt. They don’t dig into her skin at all but brush up against it as the kitten climbs.
Anne wraps a hand under its butt as the cat gets to chest height. The kitten stops and looks at her, wondering who it is that’s touching it. It stops it’s climb, releasing its claws from Anne’s shirt and cuddles against her hand and arm.
“Awww.” Ann coos.
She looks from the tiny kitten over to Ann. “What do you think?” Anne already knows the answer. This is the kitten they will be taking home with them.
“I think we’ll need to find a name for it.”
“Her.” The employee supplies.
“Her.” Ann corrects. “She’s so tiny and so cute.”
“Calicos are often times smaller cats. They are also almost always female.”
“Why is that?” Anne curious as ever.
“The color calico comes from the X chromosome. If you remember science class. Females are XX chromosome and males are XY. They have found an abnormality in the few calico males that exist where they have XXY.” The knowledgeable employee informs them.
“Wow.” Anne is impressed. “So now what?” She looks down at the kitten in her arm. Ann is holding the baby and she is holding the kitten. Anne and her little family growing more and more each day.
By the time the paperwork is all done and the ‘kitten supplies’ are all bought Timothy is asleep on Anne’s shoulder. Ann insisted on filling out the paperwork, for whatever reason. And Anne was more than happy to oblige. The kitten in a carrier at their feet.
The little calico kitten hid under the couch almost as soon as it got to its new home and only came out when Ann bribed it with treats or cat food.
Ann did notice that waking up the next morning all the cat food in the dish had been eaten. So that meant the kitten was out and about sometime during the night. Ann then found a little deposit in the litter box that they set up for the little lady.
“Anne! Anne!” Ann shouts and hurries to Anne in the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?” Anne has Timothy on her hip as she stirs a pot.
“Oh.” Ann screeches to a halt. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“Then what’s up?” Anne tone lighter now.
“The kitten used the litter box.”
This is wonderful news. They weren’t sure if the kitten would find it or use it. They weren’t sure if she would want to or if she would be too scared and just go on the rug.
“Perfect.” Anne grins. “Have you thought of any good names yet?”
Ann shakes her head. She’s thought about it but hasn’t come up with anything that seem suitable. “What about you?”
Anne hums. “I’ve thought of a few but I don’t know about them yet.”
Ann puts a hand on Timothy’s back. “Will you share them with me?” She grins.
Anne shakes her head. “Not yet.”
“This isn’t going to be like baby names all over again is it?” Ann jokes. “Are you going to come up with something you think is great, but I think is horrible?”
Anne sticks her tongue out at Ann.
A little while later, Anne is working quietly in her office. Ann is folding laundry while Timothy lays on her bed. She finishes the laundry and Tim has been a little fussy. Ann changes him but that doesn’t improve his fussiness. Time to try a feeding. She sits down in the rocking chair and he latches on almost immediately. “You’re such a big strong boy, aren’t you?” She rubs her thumb over his soft fuzzy hair.
Timothy seems to change by the day. He holds his head up now and can focus his attention on something or someone. Ann feels like crying with each little thing that he learns to do. She never thought she would be here, get to this point, to be completely in love with her son, but she has, and she is. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her. She believes that now.
Ann brings him downstairs after he’s done feeding. He’s sleepy but not asleep. Ann decides she’s going to put him in his bouncy chair and maybe he’ll nap, and she can make supper.
She goes to the chair. “Aww.” There, in the little bouncy chair, rests the little kitten. Brave enough to come out from under the couch and take a nap in Timothy’s chair. “Where’s my phone?”
She locates her phone and takes a photo of the kitten. She sends it to Anne.
“What are we going to do now?” She asks Timothy. Ann gets closer to the chair and it wakes the kitten, and she runs under the couch again. “Darn.” Well, at least now she can put Tim in the chair.
She puts Tim in the chair and positions him in the kitchen where she can keep an eye on him and starts on the meal.
“What’s this?” Anne comes into the room holding up her phone with the picture of the kitten in the bouncy chair.
“Isn’t it cute. I came down with Tim and there she was. Getting used to her surroundings.”
“Very cute.” Anne presses a kiss to Ann’s cheek and then yawns.
“Ugh, I’ve been staring at numbers all afternoon. My eyes are shot.” She turns around to spot Tim but he’s asleep, so she won’t bother him. “What’s for supper?” She puts a hand on the lower portion of Ann’s back.
“Vegetable stir-fry.” Ann grins.
“Would you like some help?” Anne offers.
“Only if you want.”
Anne wants to help. She doesn’t want Ann to feel like she has to do all the housework, all the cooking and cleaning, like she is just there to cater to Anne. “I’ll help. Tell me what to do.” Anne rolls up her sleeves.
With her business now moved to Halifax, Anne starts going into work and not just working from her home office. She’s decided on two days a week in the office and three at her home office. Anne is working on finding a good balance. She wants to be with her employees because she feels that’s important. To be present and to not just be a figure head or someone that they never see. Anne also doesn’t want to miss out on time with Timothy and all of his milestones.
On her lunchbreak on her third day back in the office Anne has lunch with her sister.
“Wow, you really are all settled here. I never thought I’d see the day when my sister would move back to Halifax.” Marian looks around Anne’s office.
Anne takes offense to her sister’s words. “What does that mean?”
Marian shrugs like it’s obvious. “You’re too worldly for Halifax. This place always seemed too small for such a big personality like yours.”
Anne hums. Her sister isn’t entirely wrong. But things are different now. She’s realized that the world has to offer. She’s chosen the career she wants and yes that’s easy to attain in a place like Paris or Rome or even London, but it’s also something that is easily doable from right here in her hometown.
She has all the tools and expertise she needs to be successful. It does mean though, at some point, business trips to look at properties and business opportunities. But Anne thinks she can split responsibilities with John and still be just as successful.
“Hey.” Marian snaps her fingers at Anne.
“Where’d you go?”
“Oh, I was thinking about work stuff.” Anne shuffles some papers around on her desk, making room for her lunch. She goes over to the little fridge she has in the corner and pulls her lunch bag out.
“Is that a sack lunch?” Marian asks.
“Did you make your own lunch?” Marian inquires.
Anne nods and sits back in her chair. “Did you bring anything? We can order you something. Eugenie?” She yells.
“Anne, it’s fine. I’ll just pick up something on my way back out.” Marian wasn’t really set on eating an actually lunch with her sister when she called her up. She just wanted to check in on Anne’s lunch break.
Anne bites into her sandwich. “So, how are you?”
“I’m good. Thank you. How’s the boy?” Marian asks.
Anne grins around her chewing. “Wonderful. He’s just the best little boy I’ve ever seen.”
“How many babies have you been around?”
“Fair point.” Anne points her sandwich at her sister. “But he is. He’s not a whiny kid. Which I was a little worried about, to be honest. He’s starting to smile and giggle. He can hold his head up now. He focuses on me and my voice. Or Ann and hers. He’s started on a pacifier. He sleeps most of the night and is only up once or twice. And he’s so adorable. Those little blue eyes and the fuzzy blonde hair. He’s like a mini, male version of Ann. It’s absolutely incredible. I have no idea what the other half of his genes are, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I think he has most of Ann’s features.”
Marian is impressed. She’s never seen Anne like this. Obviously. She’s so involved and attentive and thoroughly in love with the little boy. “You’ll have to bring him around again soon so we can see all his changes.”
“I will.” Anne takes another bite of her sandwich.
“And what about Ann?”
“What about her?” Anne pops a grape into her mouth.
“How is she?” Marian chews on her lower lip. “I didn’t get the best vibe from her the first time you guys came to the house.”
Anne hums. “She better. Actually, she seems better every day. I can see the life in her eyes again.”
“And what was wrong with her? Baby blues? You never told me.” Marian tries to get the information from Anne once again.
“Because it’s not for me to tell. I told you that.” She scolds her sister. “Let’s just say she wasn’t herself but she’s getting help and she’s doing better. I can see the difference in her moods already. I’m hopeful for the future.”
“What do you want to see happen? In the future?”
Anne rubs her hand along her neck, thinking. “If it were up to me-“ She looks directly at Marian. “-and you can’t tell anyone this.” Marian nods. “I’d have a successful business here. And at home, I’d have a wife and another kid or two.”
Marian’s eyes nearly pop out of her head. “Really?”
Anne nods and puts the last of her sandwich in her mouth. “I know there’s a long way to go for all that. But I can see Ann and myself getting married and raising a family. Oh, did I tell you, we adopted a kitten the other day. She’s adorable. We still need a name for her but she climbed right up my leg at the shelter and so we knew that was the one. She’s a tiny calico little thing and she’s just getting used to being around us. Ann caught her sleeping in Timothy’s bouncy chair the other day. Here.” Anne reaches for her phone to show Marian the photo.
The excitement in Anne’s voice when talking about all of this is something new to Marian. “Aww. That is cute.”
Anne takes her phone back and looks at the photo. “Here’s Tim’s latest photo. Doesn’t he look older, bigger?”
“Yes.” Marian agrees. “You seem happy.”
“Oh, I think I am. Happier then maybe I’ve ever been.” Anne drums her fingers on her desk. “It’s crazy isn’t it? I never would have thought- but here I am. Work has always been what drove me and made me happy but now it’s so much more. I feel whole, like I was missing out on something before. I just didn’t know what it was.” She looks at her wristwatch. “Wow look at the time. I’m sorry I’ve monopolized all your time talking about my baby and, well, my stuff. What about you? Everything going well. Do you have any suitors?”
“Suitors?” Marian raises an eyebrow.
“Any fine young men?” Anne rephrases.
“No. I can’t say that there are.” Marian is actually glad that Anne did most of the talking because she doesn’t have a lot of exciting things happening for herself at the moment. Then again, Anne usually does most of the talking. “I’ll let you finish your lunch and get back to work. I just wanted to check in, see the new space. Let me know when you want to bring Timothy over again.”
“Will do.” Anne pops another grape into her mouth.
Marian gets up to leave. “Have a good afternoon. Say hi to Ann for me.” She sees herself out.
“You too, Marian.”
“Ann?” Anne whispers as she comes into the room and spots Timothy asleep.
“Yeah.” Ann looks up from her phone.
“Look.” She nods at Tim in his bouncy chair.
Ann looks at the boy five feet in front of her. “Oh.”
Anne chuckles. “I think we made the right decision.” She goes over and sits on the floor next to the bouncy chair. The kitten opens it eyes at her but then closes them right away when she doesn’t sense any threat from Anne.
The kitten lays in the bouncy chair with Tim. Both of them asleep. The kitten curled up on Tim’s left side.
Anne hears the ‘shutter’ on Ann’s phone and turns to see her taking photos of them.
“Smile.” Ann says. She gets one with Anne in it before focusing in on the kitten and the baby again. “What do you think about Frankie?”
“For the kitten?” Anne rolls the name around in her head. “Yeah, maybe.”
Ann gets up. “You have any better ideas?” She stands next to Anne.
Anne looks up at her and then to the kitten. “No, but let’s wait a few more days to make a final decision.”
Without knowing she’s doing it; Ann puts her palm on the top of Anne’s head and strokes over her hair. “Okay.” She heads off to the kitchen to get a snack.
Anne smiles to herself. She looks at her son and the little kitten pleased with everyone’s developments.
“What would you like to do for your birthday?” Anne slides up to her and presses a kiss to Ann’s cheek.
Ann sighs. She wraps her arm around Anne’s shoulder, her palm resting on the back of Anne’s neck. Ann doesn’t really want to make a fuss about her birthday. It’s not like her family are going to do anything for it. “I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to make a big deal.” She leans into Anne, rests her cheek against Anne’s shoulder. “Where’s TJ?”
Anne wiggles the baby monitor in her right hand. “Upstairs. In his crib. Sleeping.”
“We didn’t do anything for your birthday.” Ann wants to make that known.
Anne grins and cranes her neck to look down at Ann. “Ah, but we did.” She wiggles the baby monitor in Ann’s face. “Best birthday ever.”
Ann pushes herself backwards, separating herself from Anne. “Anne, come on. I’m serious. If I have to do something for my birthday then we are going to do something for yours as well.”
The wheels spin in Anne’s head. “Okay. A double birthday celebration.”
Ann rolls her eyes. She thought making Anne celebrate her own birthday would put the lid on the whole thing all together.
Anne looks over, smiles. “Sounds perfect.”
Anne invites her family over for the birthday celebration. Now that they are settled and have the room for guests, it’s amazing. A smile never leaves Anne’s face all afternoon.
They agreed to invite Marian and Aunt Anne and Jeremy for lunch and cake and to see their house. Laughter fills the dining room as the eat and enjoy each other’s company.
Marian sees a difference in Ann from the last time they saw her. She seems lighter, more comfortable in her role as a mother. Marian has warmed to Ann. She thinks maybe it’ll be nice to have a ‘sister’ that isn’t Anne and is much less annoying and irritating.
She pulls Anne aside before cake and lets her know. “Listen, I didn’t think that Walker girl had it in her cuz the first time I saw her with Timothy I had my doubts.”
“Marian.” Anne glares at her.
Marian holds her hands up in innocence. “I wanted to say that she seems more comfortable now.”
“Maybe it’s because we’re at home and not somewhere she hasn’t been before. She should be comfortable in her own home. What do you have against her?” Anne knows there’s more to this that Marian isn’t telling her.
“Nothing- I just-“ Marian shrugs it off.
“Tell me.” Anne nearly growls.
“It’s clear you are head over heels for her and you worship the ground she walks on. I just don’t think she feels the same about you. I don’t want you to-“
Before Marian can finish her sentence, Anne storms off, angry that her sister has brought something like this up. The thought does and has crossed Anne’s mind. Does Ann feel the same feeling for me that I feel for her? Or can she? But every time it does, Anne pushes it away.
“Who’s ready for birthday cake?” Anne announces loudly as she passes the dining room to the kitchen to get and cut the cake for her guests.
Anne walks in with the cake. It’s lite with candles. She sets it on the table in front of Ann. “Go ahead. Blow out the candle, baby girl.”
“You have to, too. It’s a joint cake.” Ann grins up at Anne.
Anne nods for her. “One. Two. Three.” Anne bends and blows on the candle at the same time as Ann. They all go out and Aunt Anne claps and cheers. “Happy Birthday!”
“Thank you, aunt. I’d like to make a toast.” Anne raises a glass in the air. “To Ann, who we celebrate today. To the person that has changed my entire world completely. To the girl with the brightest eyes in any crowd. To the mother of my son. To twenty-one.”
Ann blushes and ducks her head in true Ann fashion. “You shouldn’t have.” She mumbles.
There’s a round of applause. Anne puts a hand on Ann’s shoulder and gives it a gentle squeeze before cutting the cake.
Anne is on cloud nine after such a wonderful day with her family. She heads to the bathroom to do her nightly routine before bed. She meets Ann there. “Going to bed?” Ann nods. She’s done washing her face and brushing her teeth. “Okay, I’ll be in in a few minutes.”
Anne does her routine and then goes to check on Timothy. He’s asleep in his crib, as he should be. Satisfied, Anne heads to bed.
She pulls her pajama pants off, leaving her in just a t-shirt and a pair of briefs. A typically night outfit for her but something seems a little different tonight. Anne looks down at herself for a moment before getting into bed.
“Are you alright?”
Anne sighs. “Yeah.” She cuddles up to Ann’s side. Ann lays on her back and Anne leans into her, one hand on her soft stomach, her left tucked up under her ear with her elbow pressed into the pillow. “I had the best day today. What about you?” They’ve started checking in with each other at the end of each day, especially if they haven’t had much time around one another during the day.
Ann smiles, happy. “I did too. I know I said I didn’t want to do anything for my birthday, but it was nice to have your family over. Marian is very peculiar. But it was nice. To have someone around. My family-“ Ann thinks better of what she was about to say.
Anne rubs her palm over Ann’s stomach. “What?” Ann shakes her head. “You can tell me.” Anne coaxes softly.
There is a sigh. “I got a text from my sister saying Happy Birthday but that was it.” Ann puts her hand on top of Anne’s. Mostly to stop her from stroking over her stomach, it’s distracting, and she can’t think of what she wants to say. But also, for the comfort, so she holds Anne’s hand still against her stomach. “That was nice, but I don’t really think there was anything behind it other than to send the words, ya know?”
Anne licks her lips and nods. “Like she was just doing it out of duty.”
“Yeah, that.” Ann turns her head to look at Anne. “But other than thinking about my lousy family today was perfect. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Anne leans forward and kisses Ann.
One little kiss turns into two, which turns into a constant revolution of kisses, soft and gentle.
Anne caresses Ann’s cheek with her right hand, leans into her, and kisses her, lots of kisses. Anne shifts when she feels Ann’s hand on her hip. She brings her right leg over Ann’s legs. Gentle little kisses have turned into lips smacking together, tongues exploring and teasing.
After a few minutes of kissing Ann’s fears and insecurities take control though. She pushes at Anne’s hip, trying to get her to stop without using force or words to openly offend her. But it doesn’t work, Anne doesn’t get the little hint. So, Ann turns her head away from Anne.
“What?” Anne licks her lips and steadies her breathing. Ann seemed into it, like she was enjoying them kissing and was even kissing her back.
“I just-“ Ann can’t allow this to continue.
“Did I do something wrong? You have to tell me if I did. Otherwise, I won’t know. Ann, please. Look at me.” She tries to tilt Ann’s face back to look at her but Ann resists. “I’m sorry.” She whispers.
Ann’s head snaps back at that. “No, don’t apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s me. I just- we can’t, okay.”
Anne hangs her head before rolling off of Ann. She runs her hands through her hair and stares up at the ceiling.
Ann pulls the covers up to her chin, timid. “Please, don’t be mad at me.” She whispers sadly.
“I’m not.” There’s no emotion in Anne’s words. She’s trying to calm her heart rate and stop the pulse that’s beating between her legs. “Come here.” She holds her arm out leaving space for Ann to cuddle into her side.
Ann does, after a moment of hesitance.
It’s clear to Anne that Ann wasn’t quite ready for this step yet. While it’s frustrating, Anne understands.
anyone have cats or kittens out there? I have two seven year old's. and yes one is a calico lady.
Timothy is crying. Anne is trying to get dressed and Ann is in the shower.
Anne goes to his room in a bra and shorts. She picks him up out of the crib. “What is it, buddy?”
Timothy grabs at Anne’s boobs.
“Oh.” Anne laughs. “You aren’t going to get anything out of these.”
Anne paces the room with him in her arms. She rubs her hand over his back, trying to soothe him. She knows she could give him a bottle and that would settle it. But, usually, they save those for at night when Anne does the feedings or for the few trips that they’ve made out of the house with him.
“Mama’s in the shower. You can wait a few minutes. Just hang in there.” She talks to the boy.
He looks up at Anne and whimpers. She keeps talking to him but moves to stand outside the bathroom. She waits until she hears the water stop before pushing the door open.
Ann jumps and squeaks. “Anne, I’m naked.”
Anne waves a hand at her. “I’ve seen it before.” That’s not her focus right now. “Tim is hungry.” She gives Ann a sympathetic smile. She holds him in her arms. He’s still whimpering and trying to grab at her boobs. “See.”
Ann grins a little, then that turns into a full blown laugh. “Oh, silly boy.” She wraps her towel around her waist and reaches for him.
Anne hands him over. “I’m just going to finish getting dressed and let you, ya know.” Anne waves an absentminded hand while she watches Timothy latch on. She suddenly feels emotional at the sight of mother and son. It’s been a number of weeks since she’s watched Tim feed. Anne stands there.
“You’re staring.” Ann raises an eyebrow at her. She’s gotten used to Anne stopping what she’s doing and just looking or staring at her. It happens fairly often.
“I’m just in awe of you. And your body. The ability to grow a human and then feed a human. It’s amazing. The connection that it brings the both of you. I’m just-“ Anne wipes a tear from the corner of her eye. “I’m sorry.” Anne swears she’s never been this emotional in her entire life but since Timothy was born it’s like she can just cry thinking about him most days.
Ann holds out her free hand. “Come.” She offers her hand to Anne. She takes Anne’s hand, and they walk to the bedroom. Ann goes to the bed and sits on the edge.
Anne watches as Ann sits down and then carefully maneuvers herself to be sitting with her back to the headboard.
“Sit with us.” Ann whispers.
So Anne does. She sits on the bed next to Ann, mimicking the way she is sitting. She watches Tim eat. Ann takes Anne’s hand and puts it on his head, so that Anne is caressing his skull. Anne tries not to cry like a baby but feels more connected to them in this moment than she ever has. A few tears leak quietly from Anne’s eyes as she lays her head on Ann’s shoulder.
Anne is fluffing her pillow, getting ready to hop in bed. She’s just waiting for Ann to come in the room.
“Hey!” The little calico fluff ball jumps up on the bed. “I’ve told you that you can’t sleep on the bed at night.” Anne picks up the kitten and removes her from the room. She goes back to the bed to turn down the blankets but before she even reaches for the top edge of the blanket there’s the kitten again. She rubs against Anne’s wrist and then flops down on the bed asking for pets.
Anne frowns but can’t resist.
Ann comes into the room. “Oh, is Frankie sleeping with us tonight?” She doesn’t see a reason why the cat can’t sleep on the bed with them.
“No.” Anne says firmly.
“Oh, why not?” Ann comes over and wraps her arms around Anne’s waist. “Please.” Ann begs.
Anne rolls her eyes and tries not to be tempted by Ann’s tactics.
“Maybe she gets scared at night and needs someone to comfort her. I know you would do that for her.”
“Oh really? I doubt it.” Anne looks away from those big blue eyes that are imploring her to let the cat stay.
“Yes, really. I know because you do that for me.” Ann chews on her lower lip. “If I’m having a bad day or everything’s total shit, or I feel like a failure because Tim is crabby, or I’m feeling down or anxious all I have to do is remember that you are here. And that’s a comfort. Or at the end of the day, I come in here and get to cuddle up with you in bed. That’s a comfort.”
Anne hums. “Fine.”
“Yay!” Ann release Anne from her hold. “Did you hear that Frankie?” She pets the kitten on the head. “You get to sleep with us tonight.” She picks up the kitten and holds her to her chest. “But no hogging the bed. And no hogging Anne. She’s mine.” Ann hears the words as the come out of her mouth. Painfully slowly, she looks over at Anne.
She gives Ann a tight-lipped smile and a shrug. “I’m going to check on TJ?” Anne scoots out of the room. She places a hand on the wall and takes a deep breath.
They live together as a couple in most respects. Except the ones where Ann won’t accept that Anne is her partner, and that Ann won’t say that she loves her, and where Ann won’t be intimate with her. Anne understands why but she’d be lying if she said it wasn’t difficult.
She checks on Tim and returns to the bedroom. Ann is in bed under the covers. Frankie is sitting on her stomach. Anne climbs in and gets onto her side, facing Ann.
Ann moves Frankie to her hip and rolls towards Anne. “Frankie told me that she’s really happy that you’re letting her sleep in the bed. She said otherwise she was going to go ask Tim if she could sleep with him.”
Anne licks her lips and tries not to smile at Ann’s cuteness.
“I’m really happy too.” Ann wiggles her nose. “That you’re letting Frankie sleep in the bed.”
“She has a bed of her own. We bought it for her to sleep in.” Anne reminds her in a monotone.
Ann rubs her hand up and down Anne’s side. “You know how cats are.”
She says it like Anne, in fact, knows how cats are. This is her first full experience living with a cat. Sure, she’s been around them or stayed at places that have had cats but not like this. Anne’s mind slips past the cat with Ann touching her like that. She wonders if Ann realizes she even doing it. Ann is usually so conscious of what she says and how she touches Ann. Anne has recognized this. But in recent days it seems like Ann is slipping. Maybe it’s not so much that she’s slipping but that she’s not so rigid with herself and perhaps letting her guard down. Anne doesn’t say anything about it though for fear of spooking Ann back into being rigid and conscious.
Anne reaches up and brushes the hair back away from Ann’s face before resting her palm on Ann’s cheek. She is able to then lean in and kiss Ann.
Ann hums into the kiss, her hand shifting from Anne’s side to her back, pulling Anne closer.
Anne pauses and pulls her head back a little to look at Ann.
Ann has her eyes pinched together, her chin tilted upwards, searching for another kiss.
“Are you sure?” Anne whispers.
With her eyes still closed. “Don’t make me think about it.”
So, Anne leans back in to kiss Ann again. As gentle and tender as ever. She strokes her thumb over Ann’s cheekbone as she changes and shifts their kisses.
The kissing continues for a few minutes. Anne is conscious as ever that this could end at any moment. She doesn’t want Ann to feel afraid or anxious, so she keeps her hands still even though they burn to explore Ann’s body.
Ann can feel Frankie walking up the bed behind her. She feels the pillow dip when she hops on top of it at the back of her head. She knows what about to happen next. Ann presses her lips hard into their next kiss.
“Ahhhh.” Anne jumps back when Frankie comes around the top of Ann’s head and sticks her face between theirs, her whiskers tickling Anne’s forehead, startling her.
Ann laughs. She reaches up and grabs Frankie and pulls her down between their torsos. She gives Frankie gentle pats on the head. “Silly girl.” She whispers.
Anne sighs, happy, and rests her head on her own pillow and looks down at the tiny kitten. She really is a wonderful little ball of joy. Even though she irritates Anne sometimes with her cat ways. And Ann will tell her ‘it’s because she’s a cat, she can’t help it.’
“Yeah.” Ann looks up to connect her eyes with Anne’s.
“I love you.
“You know that, right?” Anne wants to make sure that Ann is actually hearing what she’s saying and not just brushing it off.
“I know.” Ann sucks her lower lip into her mouth. “I- I just- I don’t know.” She sighs, not being able to come up with something to say.
Anne takes it for what it is. She presses a kiss to Ann forehead and keeps her lips there. Her hand comes up to caress the back of Ann’s head. “Goodnight.”
“Night night, Anne.”
Anne comes home from work to find Ann sitting on the floor, her back to the wall, next to Tim in his bouncy chair. She is bouncing him lightly but is crying her eyes out.
“What’s happened?” Anne’s knees hit the floor hard.
Ann just shakes her head.
Her sister had called. Ann had been avoiding her calls for a few weeks but decided that enough time had passed, and that she should probably talk to her sister again. The call started out well. They talked about Tim mostly.
“I would like to come see Timothy.” Elizabeth had said. “I’ll bring the kids and George.”
Ann can’t stand Elizabeth’s husband. She didn’t mention this though. “I’d prefer if it were just you.”
Elizabeth had agreed that it might be too much for a baby to be introduced to three screaming maniacs and that she would come herself.
“I’ll have to ask Anne what day is good for her though.”
“Anne? Anne Lister? You’re still bothering with her.”
“What do you mean by that? She’s Timothy’s other mother, so yes I’m still bothering with her.” Ann stiffened her upper lip.
Elizabeth sighed. “I just hoped- I thought you were smarter than this. What does she want? Is it money? Just pay her off and be done with her.”
That hurt. Ann would never- Ann would never do something like that to Anne. She’s Tim’s mummy. They need each other. They have an agreement. They live together. Ann couldn’t do that. “Why would I pay her off?”
Elizabeth grunted. “To get her out of your son’s life.”
“He’s our son. Legally. The paperwork has all been taking care of. You know this.” Ann tried to put her foot down.
“Ann, come on, be realistic. Do you think she’s going to stick around for his entire childhood? You know her reputation. You know she left town as soon as she could.”
“She’s older now. She’s more mature now. Anne has assured me that she wouldn’t bail. Elizabeth, she’s in my life and in my life at least until Timothy is an adult. There’s no going around that. You have to get used to it. If you want to see him, you have to see her as well. I won’t have it any other way.” Ann’s hand shook around the phone.
There were a few seconds of silence over the line. “Fine. Get back to me.” Elizabeth hung up the call with not much more than a brief goodbye.
Ann hung her head. Talking to Elizabeth has exhausted her. Strung her out mentally. She wonders if she did the right thing. “No, I did. I stood up for Tim and Anne. For myself. I can’t let them push me around.” Ann stumbled from the couch to go sit on the floor next to Tim.
That’s where Anne’s finds her.
“Nothing.” Ann lies. She shakes her head. “I talked to my sister.”
“Oh, sweetheart, come here.” Anne pulls Ann’s head against her chest. “Did she say nasty things about our family again?” She pets at Ann’s hair.
“No, well, not about our family but mostly about you.”
Anne stiffens. “Oh.”
“But I told her she was wrong about you. I told her if she wanted to see Tim, she had to see you too; because you are his mother and a part of our lives forever.” Ann says through her tears.
Anne is proud of Ann for standing up to her sister, her family.
“I’m just emotional. It took a lot out of me.”
Anne nods. She takes Ann’s face in her hands. “What can I do?” Ann shrugs. She’s fine really, she just needs to cry it out. “Okay.” Anne’s leans in and presses her lips to Ann’s forehead and then to each of her eyelids. A kiss to each cheek and then one final kiss on Ann’s lips.
Ann wraps her hands around Anne’s wrists where she holds her face.
“As long as you’re alright.” Anne holds Ann to her chest again.
“I am. Thank you.” Ann whispers. “I’m sorry my sister has such a poor opinion of you. I think maybe she’s just jealous.”
“Of?” Anne raises an eyebrow at that thought.
“That I have you and she has a shitty self-obsessed husband.”
Anne hums. That certainly is interesting information. “Is that so?”
“Yeah. I don’t care for him.” Ann giggles, her tears gone now.
Anne peels back from Ann and looks in her eyes. “How about we order in for supper? No one has to cook tonight, and we can have a chill evening.”
“That sounds perfect.” Ann thinks maybe she did hit the jackpot with how involved Anne is with Tim, with how involved she is with the household and everything in their lives. She knows her sister’s husband isn’t. He doesn’t bother with anything that involves taking care of his kids and mostly just focuses on his work.
Anne turns to the very good boy that’s been sitting next to them. “What do you think TJ?” Anne tickles his tummy. He giggles. “He agrees.” She grins at Ann. “Have you been a good boy today for your mama? Have you been taking good care of her while I was at work?” Anne bends down and bites his foot. Tim tries to kick at her, but Anne holds his little leg still.
“He was very good. Except for one thing?”
“Uh-oh.” Anne opens her mouth wide. Timothy giggles at her silly face.
“He had a blow out today.” Ann tells her.
“Oh, Tim.” Anne makes a disgusted face. “Did you make a mess?” She talks in her high pitched baby voice and tickles his tummy. “Did you get poopy all over the place?”
Ann watches as Anne plays with Tim. She loves seeing this side of Anne. She knows it’s something that no one else gets to see and she knows that makes herself privileged and honored to see it.
“I had to change the onesie he was wearing and change the blanket he was laying on. Good thing he wasn’t sitting in his chair or on the bed or something else equally difficult to clean.”
“Good thing.” Anne says and bites his foot again and makes a growling noise to make Timothy giggle.
The day Elizabeth comes to visit Ann is a nervous wreck. She didn’t sleep the night before and was up cleaning the house before dawn, before Tim was even awake.
Anne finds her in the kitchen scrubbing the stovetop even though it is entirely clean. “Ann?”
Ann jumps at the voice. “Yeah?” She holds her hand to her heart and turns to look at Anne.
Anne is standing there in a t-shirt and her boxer briefs. Nothing out of the ordinary but Ann focuses in on the clothing. “You have to change before Elizabeth gets here. She can’t see you like that. Wear that blue shirt that I got for you.”
“That you got?” Anne tries to tease. She’s the one who bought the shirt. Ann just picked it out.
Ann frowns. “What?” She doesn’t understand. Her brain spins at a million miles an hour at all the things she needs to do before Elizabeth gets there. “You need to change.”
Anne can see now the frantic state that Ann is in. “Hey.” She comes over and puts her hands on Ann’s shoulders. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” Ann lies softly.
“Are you sure?” Anne smiles knowingly.
Ann shakes her head. “There’s so much to do yet. What if I don’t get it all done? What will Elizabeth think?”
Anne tilts her head to the side. “What do you mean?”
“I have to clean the kitchen. And get Timothy ready. I have to make something for her to eat when she gets here. And have tea ready to go. I have to shower and change. You have to change.”
“And why do you have to do all those things?” Anne asks.
“Because.” Ann shrugs. She doesn’t know how best to explain it. “BECAUSE.” She shouts.
“Okay. Okay, don’t shout at me.” Anne tries to ease her a little. “You don’t have to do all those things. Yes, shower and change. But the rest, what does it matter?”
“It has to be perfect. The house. It has to be clean. I don’t want Elizabeth to look down on me for not doing what I should. Her house is always spotless.”
Anne sees where this is going. “Ann, I have a few questions for you. Is that okay?”
Ann nods and bites her lip.
“Does Elizabeth do her own housework? Cleaning and such?”
Ann shakes her head.
“Does she do her own cooking? And the cooking for her guests?”
Ann shakes her head and bites her lip harder. Maybe Anne has a point.
“Does she do her own laundry?”
“No.” Ann says quietly.
“Ann, you don’t have to be perfect. The house doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, I like when it’s not. That means it’s warm and lived in. Elizabeth hires people to do everything for her and that’s fine, but you can’t put those same expectations on yourself. You are doing it without hired help. You don’t need to do it alone either. You wanna know what I think?”
“I think the house is fine the way it is. Sure, there are some thing laying out but it’s not like there’s garbage laying on the floor or cat poop in the corner or something.”
Ann smiles at that. “One day there was a cat poop on the floor. A single turd. I figured Frankie must have scratched it out of the box on accident. I picked it up though as soon as I saw it.”
Anne chuckles. “Exactly. I love you. You just worry about getting yourself looking all fabulous. I will change into something appropriate for the occasion. We won’t have any snacks or food for your sister. She’ll have to deal with that. This isn’t a hotel or catering service. We’ll worry about tea when she gets here. And I’ll get TJ ready.”
“You’re amazing.” Ann sighs.
“I know.” Anne grins.
Ann laughs. That’s exactly what Anne wanted, to loosen her up. “Now.” She gives Ann’s arms a jiggle. “What about a hug?” Ann nods and leans into Anne’s chest. Anne wraps her arms around the woman. “Don’t worry about the little things. There’s nothing wrong with living a different way than the rest of your family.”
Ann takes a deep breath in. She really needs to hear that. She’s been stuck under her family’s ways her whole life, until recently, and it’s hard to get away from. It’s hard to not want to still be their version of perfect and proper, to have everything looking immaculate and untouched. Ann doesn’t want to live that way anymore.
“Thank you.” Ann rubs her cheek against Anne’s shoulder. “It’s hard to remember sometimes that I’m trying to not live my life like them. That I want positive changes. Thank you for reminding me of that.”
“You are welcome. And I will remind you of that whenever you need or want.” Anne knows how difficult Ann’s family are for her and she’s just here for support and to help in any way she can.
Ann opens the door and lets her sister inside the house.
Elizabeth looks around for a minute before scanning Ann and Anne. “Such a lovely little place.” She comments on the house.
“Elizabeth, this is Anne. You remember her.” She holds her hand out to Anne. Anne is holding Tim. “And this little guy is Timothy. Our son.” Ann makes sure to remind her sister that he is both hers and Anne’s.
Elizabeth gives Anne a nod and Anne nods back. “May I?” Elizabeth reaches out for the boy.
Anne looks to Ann for her approval before handing over her son. Ann nods and Elizabeth takes the boy.
Ann steps next to Anne and wraps an arm behind Anne’s waist from the side. She leans into Anne as they watch Elizabeth with their baby.
“How old is he now?” Elizabeth bounces Tim in her arms.
“He was born on Anne’s birthday, so just over two months.” Ann says proudly.
Elizabeth hums at that info.
“Let’s sit.” Ann tries to be a good host. “Would you like some tea?”
“Oh, yes. That would be lovely.”
“I’ll start it.” Anne volunteers. Ann gives her a look and Anne winks to say she’s got it covered. “Go sit with your sister.” She kisses the side of Ann’s head for good measure.
They go sit.
Elizabeth makes a comment right away. “You two seem very cozy.”
Ann smirks. “We are. Anne and I are raising our son in this house. We are busy and it’s been going well so far.”
“So far?” Elizabeth catches her. “So, you expect it to not go well after some time?”
“I never said that.” Ann frowns. Did she mean to infer that? No. “Don’t twist my words around, Elizabeth. All I’m saying is that the transition to being a mother is going well and that Anne and I transitioning to living together and raising a child together is going well also. I never expected to be here, so that why I said what I did.”
“You didn’t expect to be a mother? Isn’t that the whole point of getting pregnant?” Elizabeth says nonchalantly.
Ann clenches her teeth together for fear of exploding on her sister. “Elizabeth, you need to understand some things.”
Elizabeth raises her voice at Ann’s tone. “I need to understand.”
Anne slides into the room at the sound of raised voices. “What are we talking about ladies?” She sits on the couch next to Ann. “Anything exciting?”
“Motherhood.” Ann mumbles.
“Ah, yes. Isn’t it wonderful. I didn’t know that it would be so grand. I had this vision in my head of zero sleep and baby vomit everywhere. It’s not like that at all. Well, there are some sleepless nights but that’s mostly on my part. Worrying about what he’s going to be like when he’s older. Where to send him to school. When we should start looking at schools. All that sort of stuff. But he’s been a wonderful baby. So happy. So easygoing. So amazing.” Anne beams about her experience.
Ann didn’t know Anne was awake at night thinking about these sort of things. She didn’t know that Anne was prepping and planning for the future. She reaches over and takes Anne’s hand and pulls it into her lap and holds it there. “Timothy is an amazing baby. Anne is right.” They share a smile.
“Lucky you. My three brats screamed half the night until they are about three months old. Luckily, I had a nanny that would get up and feed them so I could sleep.”
Anne frowns. That sounds awful. The kettle sounds and Anne hops up to go get the tea.
“Why are you holding her hand?” Elizabeth whisper-yells.
“Because I can and I want to.” Ann defends.
“I thought you were just raising him together. I didn’t think you were in love with her.” The words are said with disgust. “Ann, you can do better.”
“I never said I was.” Ann folds her arms over her chest. “And it’s none of your business who I want in my life. I said it before, you need to understand that what I’ve been through is difficult and Anne has been here to support me one hundred percent. No if’s and’s or but’s about it.”
“I just don’t understand when you say you’ve been through something difficult. Sure, being pregnant is difficult but people do it all the time. And giving birth is no fun. There’s a chemical in your body that makes us forget what it feels like so we’ll do it again but that’s what it is. You aren’t special, it’s what every pregnant woman goes through.”
Ann clenches her fists along with her jaw this time. “I’ll tell you what-“ Ann stands. “You are wrong. You have no idea. What I’ve been through.”
Anne comes to stand in the entry with a tea tray in hand. “Is everything alright?” She asks.
“Yes.” Ann barks at her.
She looks between Anne and her sister. “You know what. I didn’t tell you I was pregnant because I didn’t want you to know. And not for the reasons that you think.”
“Ann?” Anne tries to get her to stop before she does something reckless, something that she might regret.
“Not now.” She points a finger in Anne’s direction but her steely eyes never leave her sister’s face. “I didn’t tell you I was pregnant because I wasn’t going to keep him.” She looks down at her son in Elizabeth’s arms. “I didn’t tell you I was pregnant because I was raped.”
Ann looks down at the floor. “You heard me.” She whispers. She won’t repeat what she said.
“Let’s have tea.” Anne sets the tea tray down on the coffee table in front of the couch. She pours three cups of tea. “Elizabeth, how do you like your tea?” Anne offers her a cup.
Elizabeth is staring across at her sister, wide eyed. “He’s?” She looks down at Timothy.
“Yes.” Ann confirms.
“Tea?” Anne holds out a cup to Elizabeth still. She doesn’t think she’s ever been in a more awkward situation between two people. But, maybe now, this will solve some of the problems between the sisters.
Elizabeth looks up from the boy and takes the cup of tea from her. “I can take him while you enjoy your tea.” Anne offers. Elizabeth nods and Anne scoops up Timothy into her arms. “Hey, buddy. Did you have a good time with Aunty Elizabeth?” Anne rubs her nose against his and he giggles. She gives him a kiss on the cheek. “Who’s a good boy?” She coos and peppers his face with kisses. Timothy giggles and giggles and it’s music to Anne’s ears.
Anne turns around. “Mama?” She offers Tim to Ann. Ann shakes her head. She pours herself a cup of tea and then pours one for Anne and sits with both. She waits for Anne to sit before handing her a cup. They work in perfect harmony. “Thank you.” Anne takes a sip and hands the cup back to Ann.
Ann and Elizabeth take turns staring at each other. “So, how are the little ones?” Anne tries to break the awkward silence. “Ann told me you have three now. I can’t imagine chasing after three at once.” Anne looks down at Timothy. “But I’m sure you get used to it. Gotta adapt, right?”
“Oh, yes. They are a handful. Luckily, we have a great nanny who helps out. Otherwise, I think I’d go insane.” Elizabeth looks at Timothy in Anne’s arms. Things all make a little more sense now. Her sister has been through a rough ordeal. If she’d have known then- It doesn’t matter if she’d have known or not. The main point is she’s been unfairly unkind to her sister. “I didn’t know.”
“I know.” Ann says.
“I’m sorry for what I’ve said.” Elizabeth folds her hands neatly in her lap. She keeps an eye on Anne and Timothy though. She thought Anne was the evil one. The one who is responsible for preventing Ann from telling her about her pregnancy and about Timothy, but she sees she’s wrong now. In fact, she sees Anne with the boy and sees how good she is with him and is grateful that Anne is in his and Ann’s life.
“Thank you.” Ann whispers. She looks over at her son. “He’s changed my entire life. In more ways than I think I could ever put into words. I wasn’t going to keep him but there was Anne, and she changed my mind.”
Anne grins goofily at Elizabeth. “It wasn’t me. It was Ann’s decision entirely. I was just there for support no matter what she chose.”
“Don’t lie.” Ann leans forward and places the tea cups on the tray. She turns to Anne and puts a hand on her arm. “She’s the reason I kept him. She wanted him so bad. Here was this innocent little baby and Anne was completely in love with him from the start, when she didn’t have to be. She could have just walked away. Gone on to live her life and forget that I or he ever existed.”
“No, I couldn’t have.” Anne argues. “Like you said. I loved him before he was even born. If you didn’t keep him, I was going to do everything I could to get him. I know that sounds creepy and possessive, but I couldn’t help what I felt.” She lifts him up and kisses his forehead. “You stole my heart, little man.” She whispers to the boy.
“So, this is for real?” Elizabeth asks. She shifts in her chair, anxious. “I thought it was for show or some game or something.”
Ann answers. “Anne and I are his mothers, and we will be raising him together.”
“So, are you, like, a couple?”
“Oh.” Anne mumbles.
“No.” Ann shakes her head. “We aren’t together.”
Elizabeth looks between the pair. She thinks she sees something in Anne’s eyes before she looks away. Ann won’t hold her eyes either. Elizabeth suspects there’s more to it than a simple ‘no’.
The remainder of the visit is pleasant. After Elizabeth leaves Ann asks Anne if she can take care of Tim for a while; saying that she needs some alone time to clear her head.
“You’re alright though?” Anne asks concerned.
Ann smiles and nods. She gives Anne a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be alright. But thanks for asking.”
“No problem.” Anne smiles. “TJ and I will just hang out all afternoon. Maybe have a nap. Oh, maybe nap with Frankie. Where is she? I don’t think she liked your sister.”
“She was probably hiding the whole time. She’ll come out when she’s ready.” Ann kisses Timothy and rubs at Anne’s arm. “I’m going to go for a walk.”
“Okay.” Anne and TJ watch Ann leave. Anne takes his little arm and raises and waves it at Ann. “Say, bye mama. Have a good walk.”
Ann grins at Anne’s silliness before shutting the door.
Some ups and downs here.
They whisper. Anne stands at TJ’s crib. He’s asleep and has been for a few hours. She’s just come in to check on him before she goes to bed.
Ann’s come in because Anne’s hasn’t shown up in the bedroom and it’s been a half hour since she said she was going to check on Tim.
Ann puts a hand on the small of Anne’s back, rubbing back and forth. “I think he’s good.”
Anne looks over at Ann and smiles. Ann is right. Timothy is fine. He’s good. He’s more than good. “He’s perfect.”
“And he’s started sleeping through the night so that makes him even more perfect.” Ann adds.
It’s not every night, but more nights than not over the last two weeks, Timothy has been sleeping through the night. This means that he goes to sleep after feeding at eight or nine and sleeps the whole night but then gets up really early. Usually at five, and mostly before six, in the morning.
Another major milestone that Anne is thrilled to be witnessing. “He’s just growing so fast.”
“Kids do change the most in that first year.”
Anne wraps her arm around Ann and pulls her into her side. “Let’s head to bed.”
Ann is reading a book, sitting up in bed. Anne had been looking at something on her phone but is finished with that. Her mind wanders and then so does her hand.
At first, it’s something totally innocuous. Putting her hand on Ann’s knee, and giving it a squeeze. But she doesn’t get any reaction from Ann, good or bad. She moves her hand higher, squeezing Ann’s thigh before gently rubbing at it.
“What are you doing?” Ann says without looking away from her book.
“Well, stop it.”
“Why?” Anne glances over for an answer.
Ann scoffs. “You don’t want me. I’m damaged goods. I’m still fat from being pregnant.”
That doesn’t deter Anne any. She doesn’t think Ann is fat. She may not be skinny but she’s far from fat. And she definitely doesn’t believe that Ann is damaged goods.
“You are beautiful. Your body reflects the journey it’s been on and it takes time to get back to before pregnancy for most women.” She tells Ann.
She turns towards Ann a little. She tells Ann something that she thinks to be helpful and innocent. “Sometimes a woman never gets her before pregnancy body back.”
Ann hears those words a different way. She throws her book down on the bed and stands up. She exits the room and goes to Timothy’s room.
Anne thinks over her words and is quick to follow Ann. She knows she messed up. “Ann, wait. I didn’t mean it like that. I think you look amazing with all your curves. You’re beautiful. Come here.”
She manages to catch Ann before she gets to the door to Tim’s room. Anne rubs her thumb over Ann’s cheek as she stares into those beautiful blue eyes that she loves so much. Anne rushes to kiss Ann, saying through the kiss what she’s just said with words. Anne holds onto the back of Ann’s head, fearful of Ann pushing her away.
For her part, Ann sinks into the kiss. She sinks into Anne, sighing, relishing the kiss.
Anne pushes closer, pressing Ann against the wall next to Tim’s door as they continue. Ann wraps her arms around Anne and holds onto her tight. A tilt of the head here, a lick of the lips there, a teasing of tongue against tongue. Unleashing something that has been trapped inside.
Their kisses slow down, the heat washes away, and Anne can tell that Ann is hesitant. “What is it?”
“I just- it doesn’t feel- I can’t.” She can’t bring herself to be physical with someone. Even Anne. Though a part of her wants to be. “I’m sorry, Anne.” She sounds so sad and so very sorry as the words leave her mouth.
Anne takes a step back and hangs her head. She thought they were making progress. She starts to wonder though. “Do you think- do you think it’s something that you can get past?” She wants to know if there’s any hope that maybe one day Ann will be able to love her back or be intimate with her.
“I don’t know, Anne. Honestly, I don’t know.”
Anne nods, still looking down at the floor. “Okay.” It’s a definite blow to her psyche. Anne wonders what the next step from here might or should be. She looks left and then right, up and down the hall.
“Anne, I’m sorry.” Ann whispers. She truly is. She doesn’t want to disappoint Anne. She doesn’t want to upset her, but she knows she just has.
Anne looks at her and they lock eyes. Anne nods.
Timothy starts crying. Anne jumps, physically startled. “Duty calls.” She takes the opportunity that’s presented itself to her to get out of this painful situation. Anne enters his room to see what he needs.
Ann sighs. She turns to look into the room and see Anne lifting the boy from his crib and holding him to her chest.
Anne passes Ann as she heads downstairs to get a bottle for Tim.
Ann wonders if she should follow and apologize but she’s already done that. She instead, heads back to her room and gets back in bed and waits for Anne to return to bed.
But Anne never does. Ann waits an hour and then turns out the light. She lays awake another hour, but Anne never appears. She wonders if she just blew her one shot with Anne Lister.
Anne sleeps in her own bedroom that night.
Anne has put off any traveling for work for the first few months of Timothy’s life but now seems like a good time to start that up again. Plus, she feels like she needs a little break. Not that she wants to leave him or spend time away from him, but she just needs a day or two to readjust.
She shifts her attention a little the next day. A little more focused on work than she has been recently. She gives Tim the same love and attention throughout the day but let’s herself get lost in her work and tries not to worry about what Ann might be doing.
The girl creeps into her thoughts all the time thought, and she has to refocus on work. Anne finds it’s harder to try to keep someone out of your mind, then to let them just be in there while you work.
That night, Anne cooks dinner for her family and cleans up the kitchen afterwards. She goes out for a solo walk and goes to sleep in her own room for the second night in a row.
Anne doesn’t actually sleep much though. It’s hard to sleep with so much on the mind. She thinks everything over. Was it a bad idea to get so close to Ann if Ann can’t ever love her back? Is Ann not capable of loving someone romantically? All sorts of questions go through her mind at night.
This routine goes on for a few days.
That is, until Ann confronts her about it. “Anne?”
Anne looks up from her laptop in her home office. “Yes?”
Ann stands in the doorway of the office. “Can we talk?” She feels like Anne has mostly been avoiding her the last few days except for when it involves Timothy.
“About what?” Anne closes her laptop, folds her hands together, sets them on her knee, and turns towards Ann.
Ann sighs. “About what happened a few days ago. I said I was sorry. I just don’t know if I can handle anything emotional or physical. I feel like I’ve been numb for so long. And I’m working on it in therapy but there’s just so much damage. I’m so closed off to- I can’t physically or emotionally get there yet I don’t think. I know-“ She stops and has to take a deep breath. “I know you love me. I do. And I love you but just-“
Anne nods. “Just not like that.” She finishes for Ann.
“You’ve got to understand. You’ve got to- I know you do. And I know you’re hurt. And you’re avoiding me because of it. I just need more time.”
Anne leans back in her desk chair. “How much time would you like? A month? Six months? A year? More?” Anne is being mean now. She knows that but she’s hurt. Anne is not sure why this is bothering her so much right now. She’s been fine with everything involving Ann and giving her time up until now. She’s been understanding and careful.
“I don’t know, Ann. I know it’s a process and it’s difficult. I’m not saying that it isn’t.” Anne stands up. “But I can’t wait forever.” She walks over to Ann. “If this-“ She motions between them. “-isn’t going to happen. Then I might have to move on.” She holds up a hand. “And before you say anything. No, it won’t affect my relationship with my son. I’ll still be here for him.”
That crushes Ann. He’s their son. But she knows she can’t beg Anne or make Anne wait around for her if she’s never going to be able to give Anne what she needs. Ann nods in understanding at what Anne is relaying to her.
“Oh, and I’ve got a work trip planned for the end of week. I’ll get you the details. Should I look into babysitters or nannies for when I’m gone? Or do you think you can handle it?”
Ann bites her lips together. “How long?”
Anne nods. “Three days.”
“I can handle it.”
Anne nods again. “Wonderful.” She brings her hand up to cradle one side of Ann’s head. She places a kiss to the other side of her face, holding there for a moment, taking in Ann’s scent. “I’m going to bed.” She whispers and slips past Ann, going to her own room.
Anne goes on her work trip. The first night she is miserable. She misses her son. She Facetimes Ann to see him the first night that she is gone. She Facetimes him each night. It’s only two nights but it seems like longer than that.
By the time she rolls in the door on that third night Anne is beyond frazzled.
Ann comes over with Timothy in her arms to greet Anne at the door and welcome her home.
Anne kisses Ann on the cheek and drops her bag at her feet. She takes the boy from Ann’s arms almost entirely ignoring Ann and focusing on her son.
“Were you a good boy while mummy was gone?” She kisses all over his face. “Were you?”
Timothy giggles and waves his arms excitedly. “Did you take care of mama for me?” She asks her usual questions of him.
Anne takes his hand and waves it around excitedly with him. “Huh, TJ you look like you’ve grown since I left. Did you miss mummy?” She holds him tight.
“He cried all night last night. I couldn’t get him to stop.” Ann says. It was so unlike Timothy to cry like that and not be able to stop. “I think he missed you and knew you weren’t here.” Ann puts a hand on his back. “We both missed you.” It’s but a whisper but it gets Anne’s attention.
She glances over at Ann. “Did you?”
Ann nods. “Anne, we need you. I need you. And I don’t just mean that as help or a babysitter or a second pair of hands. I NEED you. I feel it in my bones. I think I just needed a reminder. And when you left. God, it was excruciating.” This is her moment to make it right with Anne.
Anne straightens up at the confession. “I missed you too. I tried not to.”
Ann feels like she might flutter away. “I want to get past this. And therapy is helping.”
Anne nods, listening carefully.
“I want you. I want to be with you. In every way. In every capacity.”
Anne looks to the baby in her arms. “Are you hearing this, buddy?” She teases.
“I’m serious but-“ Ann turns sullen.
“Uh-oh.” Anne makes a face at Timothy
“Anne, I’m trying to be serious.”
“Okay, go ahead.”
Ann looks down at her feet. “I love you, Anne, but I’m not ready for a relationship. At least, not everything a relationship holds. And I’m definitely not ready to be physical with you even though I want to be.”
“Oh.” Another blow for Anne.
“I’ll understand if that’s a deal breaker for you.” Ann tells her feet.
Anne pulls her lips to one side. She thinks about everything that Ann has just told her. The way Anne sees it, and after a little time to reflect, she has two options. The one where she sticks by Ann no matter what and loves her as she does and waits until Ann is ready to move forward. Or, two, emotionally disconnect with Ann and just support her and Tim in a parent capacity and have to deal with the heartbreak that she will cause for both of them.
“Come here.” Anne opens her left arm. Ann steps into Anne’s embrace. Anne holds the baby in one arm with the other around Ann. She places a kiss to the top of Ann’s head. “What do you propose?”
Ann knows that she has work to do on herself before she can give herself to someone else. She’d hate to sabotage that by rushing into something with Anne just to keep her around. She loves Anne, though, and wants what’s best for her too. She knows it’s hard to show her feelings or even give into them. Her trauma puts a cover on all of that.
Ann appreciates Anne and everything that she does for them. But more than that, there is a significant connection between them. It’s more than just that they are parents. It’s more than their shared bond with Tim. It goes back years. And it wasn’t much of anything when she was young, but Ann always felt it. Her attraction to Anne has always been there. That, likely, won’t ever go away. But Ann didn’t always know what it was or what it meant. Especially when she was young. But it’s inside her. It’s in her being. In her bones. Always with her.
The problem right now is that it’s buried under a bunch of other crap. But Ann is slowing removing that crap and, hopefully, then her love for Anne can surface and bloom. She just needs Anne to know that she loves her and for her to be patient.
“I love you, Anne. I love you sooo much. I just need more time. Can you give me that?” She looks up into Anne’s deep brown eyes. Anne smiles. “Please?” Ann adds.
Anne scoffs. “No need to beg.” She teases and rolls her eyes.
Ann slaps her hand to Anne’s chest. “Don’t be an asshole. I’m a scared, fragile being.”
“Yeah, babe. As long as I have hope. As long as there is a future for us.”
Ann sighs, relieved. “There will be. There is.”
Anne grins, happy. “Good. Then will you be my girlfriend?”
Ann steps away from the embrace and shakes her head.
“Just so- I know you don’t want to be in a relationship. But aren’t we already? It doesn’t have to go any further right now. We’ll put it on pause, but I want to be able to shut up the guys at work. They make fun of me every day that you aren’t, at least, my girlfriend. It’s very unconventional, what we’re doing.”
Ann smirks. “Really?” Anne nods. “Maybe I should say no and let them continue to ridicule you.”
Ann walks away from the conversation.
“Hey, where are you going?”
Ann looks over her shoulder. “You’re ridiculous.”
Anne looks at Timothy with mock shock on her face. “Did you hear that?” She asks him. “Your mama thinks I’m ridiculous. That can’t be.”
Ann chuckles, despite herself. “Knock it off.”
Anne follows after her. “Come back here. You didn’t answer my question.”
Ann goes into the kitchen. “What do you want for dinner?”
Anne follows and traps Ann at the counter. She puts an arm on one side of Ann and uses Timothy as a blocker on the other. “You didn’t answer my question.” She nearly growls.
“Anne.” She whines. “You’re being silly.”
Anne shakes her head. “No, I’m not. What’s so silly about it?”
Ann stutters. “It’s just- I’m just-“
“Just- no.” Ann finally says. “Didn’t you hear a word I said earlier.”
Anne did. She’s just excited about the possibilities. She sighs and takes a step back. “Fine.”
Anne works from home the next few days. Taking her little trip was a bit eye opening for her. Anne hadn’t realized how dependent she was on having Ann around. Or Timothy. It had been bliss, the first two months of his life. She was able to work from home, for the most part, and see him on her breaks or whenever she wanted, really. Not being able to see him for three days and two nights was excruciating. She wonders if all parents feel like that when they leave their child for the first time. In one sense, it’s freeing to not have to be responsible for a tiny human 24/7 but at the same time excruciating being away from him.
Anne spends her first full day back with Tim the entire day. They go to the park with Ann and walk around for about an hour. It’s finally warmed up in Halifax after a spring that felt like it might never. It’s nice not to have to bundle up and to not have to bring a blanket or two for Tim.
“This is lovely.” Ann looks up at the birds singing in the trees. Her arm looped with Anne’s as Anne pushing Tim in front of them.
“It is.” While Anne wants more from Ann and their relationship, she has come to terms with the wait that is ahead. She realized she would rather wait, with the promise of a future, than not have any future at all. Was it a hard decision, yes? Was it worth it, that’s yet to be determined? But Anne has a good feeling that it will all be worth it in the end.
“How would you feel about a little weekend getaway?” Anne questions.
Ann hums. “Like what?”
“Well, not too extravagant. Somewhere near by, so if TJ or you-“ Anne shrugs. “-aren’t having fun we can just come home. But I think it would be nice to get away for a couple days. Do some adventuring and sightseeing maybe. Relax and just shut everything from the world out. Enjoy the summer weather and the ability to be out of doors. Maybe York?” With a turn of the head, Anne raises an eyebrow at her walking partner.
Ann grins. “I might like that.” She bites her lip. “You’re not trying to butter me up for anything though, are you?”
“Nooo. I would never.” Anne grins around her words.
Ann chuckles. “Sure you wouldn’t.”
“Ann.” She stops them. “Not now.” Anne shakes her head. “We made a deal. I will wait for you. And in the meantime, do anything I can do within my ability to help. Whatever you need.” Anne crosses her heart with her index finger. A promise.
Ann has to take a deep breath in. She’s overwhelmed. “You’re too good to me.”
“Ahh.” Anne counters. “I think I’m as good to you as you deserve. You deserve to be treated well. To be taken care of. To be valued.” All the things Ann wasn’t when she was younger.
“You’re just trying to get me to cry in public now.” Ann chuckles, as her eyes water up.
Anne moves to wrap her arm around Ann’s shoulders and pull her in to her side. “Okay, I’ll stop now.” They continue their walk. “But that’s a yes to the trip, right?”
Ann nods against Anne.
“Wonderful.” Anne mumbles around a smile.
oh four weeks is a long time. i know. i needed to take a break. the last time i updated this was Jan 5th. While i know all of you aren't Americans i'm going to be a dumb American for a moment and say that what happened on January 6th when armed insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol threw me for a loop. Mentally i couldn't focus on anything for more than a few minutes from that day until January 20, Inauguration Day. Which made writing anything that made any sense rather difficult. Also i've been remodeling my bathroom myself the last three weeks so i've been busy. But here's that little weekend getaway that i mentioned.
A few weeks later, they pack up the car and Anne drives them over to York to the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album.
Anne has set them up at a bed and breakfast for the first night. So that’s their first stop that Friday afternoon when they arrive in York. But they’re not there yet.
Anne is lost in her own thoughts as the album starts. She sings along softly to some lyrics as to not disturb the sleeping boy in the back seat.
When Dreams starts up Anne can’t contain herself though. It’s her jam. She sings along with every word. She looks over at Ann to see that she is smiling back at her.
“What?” Anne asks between verses.
Ann shakes her head but keeps smiling. She loves seeing Anne like this. Carefree and loose. Her job keeps Anne tightly packed. Ann thinks, for the first time, that this little getaway might just be as beneficial to Anne as it will be to her. Thus, Anne is doing it for selfish reasons as well as to offer Ann a little break from life.
Ann listens to Anne sing along to the majority of Dreams. In her theatrics, Anne points a finger at Ann and sings along. She does her part in smiling and giggling at Anne.
A few songs later, Ann joins in on the chorus of Don’t Stop. Anne looks over when she hears Ann’s voice joining in and grins like a thrilled puppy. “There ya go, mama.” She encourages. Ann ducks her head at the attention but continues on signing with Anne.
Then the first lines of Go Your Own Way come on and they hit too close to home.
Loving you, isn’t the right thing to do. How can I ever change things, that I feel? If I could, maybe I’d give you my world. How can I, when you won’t take it from me.
Anne sings the words but with less gusto. She is tempted to skip the song entirely, but looks over at Ann. She shakes her head, telling Anne not to skip it, that they must listen to the song. A little form of their own therapy.
The song ends and Songbird comes on next. Anne doesn’t sing along. She’s feeling a bit down now. But she feels, before she sees, Ann takes her hand from where it was resting in her lap. She looks over to see Ann wrap both on her hands around Anne’s hand. She looks up to find a sad smile on Ann’s face. She mouths along with the words of the song.
And I love you, I love you, l love you, like never before.
Anne looks back at the road as the song plays on. A small smile slowly forms on her lips. She wonders if it was a good idea to listen to this album on their journey. An album about a band coming together as their relationships break down. Maybe it’s actually fitting to listen to. Either way they listen to the album in its entirety.
They get to the bed and breakfast after some time. Anne unloads the car as Ann checks them in. TJ securely in his mama’s arms looking around curiously. Anne comes in the door with their bags. TJ looks over at her and smiles as he recognizes her. He’s out of his sleepy daze now.
“Hey buddy.” Anne says hi to him, first time she’s seeing him since he was asleep.
They settle into their room and then go out for dinner. And then come back and sit out on the porch at the bed and breakfast. The host brings them lemonades to enjoy as they watch the sunset.
Anne puts Tim to bed and goes back to sit on the porch for a bit before going to bed.
“Thank you for doing this for me.” Ann lays her head on Anne’s shoulder.
“It’s for us.” Anne reminds her.
Ann takes Anne’s hand in hers, intertwining their fingers. Anne quietly hums the chorus to Dreams. It’s been stuck in her head since they arrived.
“So, I have a little surprise for you.” Anne says over breakfast.
“Yeah, and if you don’t want to do it, that’s totally okay with me; don’t feel pressured to think that you need to go through with it. I just thought it would be a nice thing to do and relaxing. But, again, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I wasn’t sure if you’d be uncomfortable or not. So, it’s up to you. I just thought-“
Placing a hand on top of Anne’s on the breakfast table, Ann cuts her off. “You’re rambling.”
Anne chews on her lip.
“Just tell me what this surprise is. And we’ll go from there.” Ann smiles, encouraging.
Anne nods and takes a deep breath. “I’ve set up a spa day for you. Well, a few hours. An afternoon. But you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Like I said. And I know how you feel about being touched and I didn’t think of that right away. It wasn’t until after I made the appointment that I realized. I can cancel it. Do you want me to cancel it?”
Ann smiles at her. She’s so adorable when she worries like this. “You’re rambling again.”
“Sorry.” Anne mumbles.
“No, don’t cancel it.” Ann is blunt. “I think I would like to go to the appointment. I should. It’ll be a good test. But I can always say no when I’m there. No harm no foul, Anne.”
Anne breathes a sigh of relief. “Okay, good. It’s at the spa down the road. We can drop you off and then come pick you up when you are done.”
“What are you going to do?” Ann asks. “No spa for you?”
“Someone has to watch TJ.” Anne smiles. “I brought that new baby carrier thing.” Anne recently bought a baby carrier that she can wear and strap to her chest and have TJ right on her and have her arms free and some mobility while still having him along on their adventures. “I thought we could walk around and look at all the old buildings. I mean he’ll probably fall asleep after like five minutes. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. I also hope he likes sitting in there cuz well I’d like to be able to use the thing. It would be a waste if he screamed and cried the entire time.”
Ann squeezes her hand. Anne is still rambling, but Ann doesn’t mention it again. “I’m sure he’ll be fine.” They really do have an easy going baby. It amazes Ann most of the time.
They drop Ann off at the spa and Anne ventures out to have a look at the buildings and shops nearby. She did her research online of the area. Anne walks down the street with TJ strapped to her chest. She keeps a protective hand on his butt as she walks.
She pops into the little shop that she found online.
“Good afternoon.” The shopkeeper greets.
“Afternoon.” Anne gives a little wave and nod.
“Anything you might be looking for?”
Anne hums. “Rings.”
“Oh. Engagement rings?”
Anne hums again and looks over the cases. “Not exactly. But yes. I’ll just look around for a bit. And let you know if I see anything I like.”
Ann has the mani/pedi portion of her spa day completed.
“Next is the massage.” Her masseuse leads the way.
Ann is nervous. “Can I, like, keep my shorts on?”
“You undress to your comfort level. That’s perfectly alright.”
Ann smiles, thankful.
She gets ready and lays down on the table. Her shorts still on along with her bra under the towel. She lays face down and waits for masseuse lady to come back in.
Ann is rigid and tense at the start.
“Relax, dear.” The woman tells her.
Ann tries but it’s so hard. Especially with a stranger’s hands on her body. It takes about halfway through the massage before Ann finally relaxes and gives in to the hands that are needing her skin.
“How’d it go?” Anne asks as she walks up on Ann outside the spa.
Ann looks up. “There you are. How’s my boy?”
Anne looks down at him. “He’s been asleep almost since we dropped you off.” She looks over at Ann and she appears to be calm and as if nothing terrible has happened. Anne hopes that’s the case. “You avoiding my question?” She smiles.
There’s a hum and a shake of the head. “No. I just wanted to know how my boy was.” She gets up on her tip toes and presses a kiss to Anne’s cheek. Sweet, caring Anne. “The mani/pedi was great. I had a lovely conversation with the ladies in the room. We mostly talked about our children.” She puts a hand on Tim’s back. “I mostly talked about my little man.”
“What about the massage?” That’s where Anne had concerns.
“It went well.”
“And that means what exactly?”
Ann shakes her head and chuckles. “You know what, maybe I shouldn’t tell you.”
“Oh, come on. Don’t be like that.”
Ann raises an eyebrow. “Be like what?” Anne shrugs and looks away from Ann. “It went well. There were no freak outs or panic attacks or anything else. I had a bit of a hard time relaxing at first, but it went well. That’s all you need to know.”
Anne nods. “Fair enough. As long as you enjoyed it.”
Ann smiles for her. “I did. Thank you very much. It’s was lovely.”
Anne wraps her arm around Ann. “You are very welcome. Anything I can do for my baby mama.” She smirks and looks to Ann. Ann smiles and shakes her head.
They have dinner and Anne puts Tim to bed.
Anne comes over to sit on the bed next to Ann, holding the ring box in one hand.
Ann sees the box. “No.” She shakes her head violently. “You can’t. No.”
Anne drops the box into her lap and holds her hands in the air in surrender. “Ann.”
Ann gets up and out of bed at the sound of her name on Anne’s lips. “NO.” She points a finger at Anne from across the room. She backs into the corner by the door.
Anne sighs. She wishes the nice things that she tries to do aren’t meet with negativity sometimes by Ann. “It’s not what you think, Ann.”
Hands go to Ann’s hips. “And what do I think?”
Anne fiddles with the ring box. “That this is an engagement ring. It’s not.” She pats the spot on the bed next to her where Ann was sitting only a minute ago. “Come. Sit. Listen.”
Ann frowns but comes back to the bed. She sits next to Anne, arms crossed over her chest in defiance.
“First, this isn’t an engagement ring. And if you don’t want it, I can return it, I suppose. I just wanted to do something nice for you. And for you to have something nice. To wear. From me. I also wanted to give this to you and say that it’s sort of commitment ring or promise ring from me. I was going to promise to be faithful to you and to show you that I was truly committed to our relationship/nonrelationship.” Anne shrugs. That’s all ruined now. “Would you like to see it or not?”
“I don’t know.” Ann mumbles, her eyes cast downward. She feels bad now that Anne has explained. She didn’t mean to jump down Anne’s throat, but she assumed that Anne was going to pressure her into something. Ann knows she should know better by now, that Anne doesn’t have any bad intentions.
“Okay.” Anne leans over and sets the ring box on the table on her side of the bed. “Ready for bed?” She changes the subject like nothing’s happened. She doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, especially if Ann doesn’t want or won’t accept the ring. It doesn’t change the way she feels about Ann or their relationship/nonrelationship.
Anne slips her joggers off, leaving her in her traditional shirt and boxers for bed. She gets into bed and lays down noticing that Ann is still sitting there, frozen. “Hey, you alright?” Anne gives her arm a little jiggle.
“Yeah.” Ann nods. She knows she’s not alright though. Something has shifted. She doesn’t know if that’s within her or with Anne. But something has shifted. It’s unfair to say it hasn’t. “I don’t want to see it.”
Ann doesn’t want to see the ring. She knows that. But she doesn’t want Anne to return it either. She’s afraid that if she sees it, she will say yes. Even though Anne said it wasn’t an engagement ring. But that she will say yes to wearing it on the spot. Ann isn’t sure if she’s ready for that though; but she knows she would agree to wearing it, so she can’t see it. “But don’t return it.”
Anne hums. “Are you sure?” She squeezes Ann’s wrist to get her to look at her.
“Yes. I don’t want to see it, but don’t return it. Clear?”
“Clear.” Anne nods.
“Let’s sleep.” Ann frets and gets under the sheet. She lays on her back and stares up at the ceiling.
“No cuddles tonight?” Anne always leaves it up to Ann if she wants to be close to her or not. No pressure, no relationship. Anne needs to remind herself of that many times during the day. But each night they find themselves in bed together, wrapped up together under the sheets.
Ann, silently, scoots over and lays next to Anne. She’s not in her usual spot in the crook of Anne’s arm but this is as close as she can get right now as her mind spins to try to make sense of Anne’s proposal. “It’s not a proposal.” Ann mumbles to herself. Or she thinks she does.
“No. I said it wasn’t.” Anne reminds her.
Ann snaps her head up to look at Anne with wide eyes. “You weren’t supposed to hear that. It was for me. I was talking to myself.” Ann wrings her hands together in her lap.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” She can see she’s, at the least, spooked Ann.
Ann turns, rolling into Anne’s side. Anne wraps her up in her arms. “I will be. I think I need to see my therapist when we get back.”
“Oh.” Anne wonders if it’s because of the ring.
“I have some things I need to talk through.” Ann mumbles.
“You know, I can listen. I feel like I’m a pretty good listener. Just don’t ask Marian. She’ll say I never listen and that I never shut up.”
Anne is happy to get that from her. “So, if you want to talk, I can listen. Or talk. Listen and then talk.”
“I think I should speak with my therapist.” Ann says resolutely.
“Okay.” Anne kisses the top of her head. “I love you, Ann. Don’t forget.”
“I won’t.” Ann looks up. “And you know how I feel about you.” She’s been saying that a lot. Ann can’t say I love you again. She doesn’t think it’s fair to say. At least, not until she’s ready to explore those feelings further with Anne. But she still needs Anne to know that she meant what she said. And for her to not lose hope.
“No, what is it? Say or ask for what you want.” Anne insists. She thinks Ann needs to do more of that.
“I want to go on a hike with you and TJ in the morning before we leave here. Leave York.”
“So, are we getting up early and not sleeping in?”
Ann laughs. “Have we ever slept in since Tim was born?”
Anne grins. “Fair point.” Anne kisses the top of Ann’s head again. “Your wish is my command.” She says it in a funny voice to get Ann to laugh again. And Ann does. “I love your laugh.”
Ann hides her face, rubbing it against Anne’s shoulder. “Goodnight.” She mumbles into the fabric of the shirt.
“Goodnight.” Anne chuckles.
“Hey, let’s stop at Shibden on the way back.” It’s Ann’s idea.
Anne slings the last of their bags into the car. Their hike was a success in Anne’s opinion. “Really?”
She wraps Ann in her arms. “I love you.” She whispers.
It’s a surprise when they pull in. But Marian hears them from the kitchen as she prepares dinner. She looks outside. “Anne’s here.” She shrieks. Marian being thrilled to see little Timothy again. She runs from the kitchen to tell her father and aunt Anne.
Anne unloads the car seat and Ann gets Timothy’s bag from the other side of the back seat.
“What are you doing here? So unexpectedly.” Marian bellows at them from the door.
Ann walks up first. “Oh, I thought we should stop by. Since we were passing through. We just had a little weekend getaway over in York.”
“Oh. And how was it?” Marian pulls Ann in for a quick hug.
“Marvelous. Relaxing. Anne even booked me a spa day yesterday. It was fantastic.”
Marian hums. “Good. Wonderful. Come in.”
They all settle in the living room. Anne gets Timothy out of his car seat. She sets him on Ann’s lap and pulls his little shirt down that was riding up and exposing his belly before she sits down next to them.
Timothy is busy looking around at the unfamiliar setting. He does pretty well with new places but this one is more daunting than most. Dark, rich woods and little else in the way of brightening up the room. But after a few looks around he seems to settle. Ann moves him to bounce him on her knee. He likes that now that he has some balance and can hold his head up on his own. But Ann still bounces him gently. He giggles happily.
“How precious.” Aunt Anne comments.
“Yes, such a cute little baby.” Jeremy agrees.
Anne and Ann beam proudly over their son.
“Oh, I made fresh baked rolls. Would you and Timothy want one?” Marian asks Ann, trying to be a good host.
Anne narrows her eyes at her sister. “Tim only eats breast milk.”
“Oh, duh, right.”
“I’ll take one though. Sounds delicious.” Ann says.
“I’ll have one too, Marian.” Anne speaks up. “Not that you asked me though.” She mumbles under her breath.
Ann hears it and gives her a nudge. “Be nice.” She whispers.
Anne smile, fake, at Ann. “Yes, dear.”
Ann rolls her eyes at Anne sassy mood. “We just had a wonderful little weekend away in York. A nice break from life at home. Not that life at home is bad or anything.” Ann looks to Anne for help.
“No. No. Not at all. It’s quite wonderful, I think. Just a break. Get out of town for a few days. Not worry about work or the house or anything. Refresh and recharge and a little getaway. It was very lovely. I had a wonderful time.” Anne rambles.
“So did I.” Ann agrees.
Marian comes back with some warm rolls and butter. “Oh good. I’m famished.” Ann says. Their hike took a lot of energy and Ann is hungry now.
“Aren’t you feeding her, Anne?” Aunt Anne looks at her niece, scandalized.
“I- she’s an adult.” Anne feels offended. It’s not her responsibility if another human eats or doesn’t eat.
“Just because you don’t always need to eat, doesn’t mean others don’t either.” Aunt Anne scolds some more.
“Ann didn’t say anything. I thought we’d just get something when we got back.” Anne tries to explain.
“It’s alright, Anne.” Ann puts a palm on her forearm. “But I am a little hungry. We haven’t had anything since breakfast.”
Anne turns to her, feeling bad for just driving and not thinking to stop for lunch. “You should have said something. I would’ve stopped somewhere so we could eat.”
“I said it’s alright.” Ann whispers. “Here.” She takes a roll on a little plate and puts a little butter on top. “I’ll have a roll. And then I’ll be good until we get home.” Ann takes a bite of her roll. “See.” She smiles as she chews.
Anne nods, unconvinced. “Next time say something, please. I don’t need the mother of my child passing out or being weak or not saying that she’s hungry. TJ depends on you. Nothing can happen to you.” Anne has worked herself up into a bit of a worry about this. Have there been other times when Anne has just pushed through something where they should have stopped at ate something. Has Ann not said anything before? Is she making a big deal out of this because her Aunt said something?
“I’m fine Anne.” She leans over and kisses her cheek to help reassure her. “These are delicious, Marian.” Ann compliments. “Have one, Anne.”
Anne huffs but gets a little plate and a roll with some butter.
Tim starts to squirm on Ann’s knee, and she has to eat to last few bites of her roll quickly so both of her hands can hold the baby upright. He’s starting to make noises now. Babbling. Cooing. It’s a new and excitement thing for them.
“Someone has a lot to say.” Jeremy says of the boy.
“Just like his mother.” Marian mumbles, referring to Anne.
Anne just rolls her eyes.
“He’s getting so big. He seems so different from a few weeks ago at your birthday, Ann.”
“Yes. I swear he changes every day. Anne can’t believe it either. We were talking just the other day, about how much he changes constantly. But that’s what healthy baby boys do. Just eat and grow.”
Ann is proud of her son and all of his little changes and accomplishments. It’s remarkable. She never thought she would keep him and here she is proud as anyone can be about the littlest things. Like a true parent.
They ooh and aah over the boy and laugh when he giggles. It’s all very common and usual but as Anne watches on she can’t help but think how special it is.
They all say their goodbyes after a solid twenty minute visit.
Aunt Anne pulls Anne into a hug and whispers in her ear. “Make sure you feed that poor girl.”
Anne sighs and rolls her eyes. She pulls away from her aunt and smile at her. “I will. Don’t worry.”
Aunt Anne then pulls Ann into a hug. “Make sure she feeds you.”
Ann giggles. “Don’t worry. I will.”
I wanted to add more to this. but i also wanted to get something up today. ugh the struggle is real.
“My girlfriend-“ Ann frowns at that. “Well, she’s not my girlfriend. But my- my-“ Ann wonders what the appropriate word is. “Anne proposed. Well, I don’t think she proposed. She said it wasn’t a proposal, but she wanted to give me a ring. But isn’t that the same as a proposal?”
The therapist hums. “No, it doesn’t have to be.”
Ann nods, looking down at the floor.
“What did you say? What happened?”
“Oh.” Ann looks up. “I said no. I said I couldn’t even look at the ring. I was afraid if I saw it then I would say yes and that it was in fact a proposal. But she said it wasn’t. I just don’t know what to think. I just- I needed to talk to you. I don’t know what to do.”
“How does the thought of a proposal from Anne make you feel?”
Ann hums. “Well, anxious. If I say yes, then I’m tied to her forever.”
“Ann, you’re already tied to Anne through Timothy. I think you are thinking too broadly here. Don’t worry about what everyone else is going to say or think. Don’t worry about what could happen in the future. Think about you. What’s good for you. What’s best for you.”
“How does the thought of a proposal really make you feel? It sounds like she’s ready to make a commitment to you. Whether that’s a proposal of marriage or in some other way. With this ring.”
“Anne said it was a promise ring or a commitment ring. That she wants me to know that she’s committed to me.” Ann shakes her head. “But I know that. I’m not dumb.”
The therapist chuckles. “No one said you were dumb. It’s not about whether you know or not. It’s a sign, a symbol, of that commitment. Something that goes beyond words and feelings. To show physically. And perhaps, for others to see. It’s a way for Anne to show that she is committed and for that ring, if you were to wear it publicly, for everyone to see that commitment too.”
Ann hadn’t thought of it that way. “Oh.”
“Still makes you anxious?”
Ann hums. “Less. But slightly still.”
“That’s normal. Maybe you just need some time to sit with the idea. That’s normal too.”
Ann nods, busy thinking. “Thank you.” She has a lot to think about and wrap her mind around.
“Anything else for today?”
Ann shakes her head. This is more than enough to think on.
Anne has spent the last two days on a work trip. A short one to Paris. Two days and one night. But she gets back late on a Wednesday night. She unlocks the door, and the house is quiet. Anne assumes that Tim and Ann have gone to bed already.
She comes in and removes her shoes. She looks around and it’s dark. Anne thinks about making something to eat but doesn’t want to make a lot of noise. She goes over to the fridge and opens it. She looks inside for something easy. Anne spots the cheese. She pulls it out and cuts a few pieces. She finds the bread and gets a slice, putting the cheese on it and folding it in half. Not the greatest but something to tide her over until morning.
Anne takes her cheese sandwich and heads upstairs to her room. She stops at Tim’s room and pokes her head in. The night light is on and she can see him sleeping contently in his crib. She smiles and moves on. She knows if she lingers and goes in his room to see him, she knows she’ll end up waking him. And she doesn’t want that. He needs his sleep. Anne can see him in the morning.
She goes to her room and pushes the door open. She sets her bag down at the foot of the bed before sitting on the bed itself and taking a bite from her sandwich. Anne pulls her phone from her pocket to see if she has any messages. She doesn’t. She sets the phone on the bedside table and finishes her sandwich.
Anne decides to sleep in her own room and not disturb Ann in hers. She starts unpacking her bag and putting her dirty clothes into a pile, removing her toiletries and other belongings until the bag is empty. Anne looks around the room. She hasn’t slept in here in a long time. It’s quiet and Anne starts to change for bed.
She removes a shirt from the dressers to wear and then pulls the shirt she’s wearing over her head.
“Oh.” It’s a tiny squeak.
Anne finishes removing her shirt to see Ann standing in the doorway with her eyes pinched closed, her hand dripping the doorknob.
“Hey.” Anne whispers around a soft smile.
“I just- I heard some noise so I thought I’d come to see what it was. I’m sorry.”
Anne moves over to the door. Over to Ann. She puts her hands on Ann’s arms, wrapping her palms around her biceps. “Open your eyes.”
Ann does, at the request, to see Anne smiling at her. “Hi.” Ann whispers.
“I thought it was you. I knew it was you. The noise I heard. I had to come see though.”
“Okay.” Anne smirks.
“How was your trip?” Ann asks.
“Productive. And I’ve got some new business ideas. So very productive.” Anne grins. It’s probably one of her more successful trips in her entire career. “I’m happy to be home though. I missed you and TJ.” Anne pulls Ann into her body.
“Oh.” Ann mumbles not knowing how to respond to that.
Anne kisses her on the forehead. “Should we get to bed?”
Ann looks away from Anne’s face at the bare skin of her torso. “You’re not wearing a shirt.”
“Is that a problem for you?” Anne teases.
Ann bites her lip. “Y-yeah. You are too- too distracting to sleep with like this.”
“Is that so? Well, maybe I won’t wear a shirt to bed then.”
Ann pushes herself back away from Anne’s body. “You’re not fair.” Ann pouts.
“Come here.” Anne tries to pull Ann back into her chest. Ann flails her arms so Anne can’t get ahold of her. She turns and runs into her room. Anne follows after, shirtless in a pair of blue jeans. She gets to Ann at the foot of the bed. She wraps and arm around her and tackles Ann onto the bed. They fall in a heap of laughter. Anne sighs happily. “You keep me young.”
“You’re not old.”
“I know but I feel younger when I am with you. It’s refreshing.” Anne stretches out and yawns. “Let’s sleep.”
“Oh.” Ann hesitates.
“What?” Anne can tell there’s something bothering her. “Did something happen while I was gone?”
“Well, no. I’ve just been thinking.” Ann pushes herself up into a seated position.
Anne waits for Ann to continue but seconds pass and then maybe a whole minute. “Is there something you’d like to talk about?” She pries.
“Maybe.” Ann worries her hands together in her lap.
She can tell Ann isn’t quite ready to talk about whatever it is that she has on her mind. “Well, I’m here when you’re ready. I’m going to go get a shirt.” Anne goes to get up from the bed.
Ann reaches out and wraps her hand around Anne’s wrist. Anne stops and looks back at Ann. “No. Now.”
Anne sits back down on the bed.
“You know how I went to therapy last week?” Ann starts.
Anne nods. “You go to therapy every week.”
“The day after we got back from York.”
Anne realizes now that this is different. She has a foreboding feeling now that Ann might say something that she’s not going to like. “Yes.”
“Well, I talked to my therapist. Got a different perspective. And I needed time to think about it but-“ Ann stops. “I think I’d like to see the ring.”
“Oh.” That wasn’t what Anne was expecting. Anne points over her shoulder. “It’s in my room. Do you want me to get it?”
“I’m going to need you to actually say the word yes.” Anne needs to make sure that Ann really wants to see it if she’s going to go get the ring.
“Anne.” Ann whines. She can’t believe Anne is going to make her say it. Isn’t it already embarrassing enough to have to go through this again? “Yes. I want to see the ring.”
“Okay.” Anne nods. “I’ll be right back.” Anne hurries out of the room. She goes back into her bedroom and pulls open the drawer on the bedside table. Anne reaches in and grabs the ring box. She also takes her phone from the top of the table before returning to Ann’s room.
Ann has moved so that her back rests against the headboard. Anne comes over and sits at her side. She holds the box out towards Ann. “Do you want to look, or do you want me to open it?” Anne heart races in her chest.
“Open it.” Ann bites her lip, nervous.
Anne clears her throat and opens the box. She’s not sure if she’s supposed to say something. Ann just asked to see the ring. She didn’t say anything else. And Anne doesn’t want to overstep the mark again. She doesn’t want to push further than is necessary.
Ann leans forward, putting her hands around the box in Anne’s hand, caressing it. “Oh, Anne, it’s lovely.”
Anne smiles. “Thanks. I’d hoped you’d like it. I’m not sure what your style is so I went for something simple, elegant.” She watches Ann as she stares down at the ring in the box. “You can take it out if you’d like. Get a better look.”
Ann looks up from the ring to catch Anne’s eyes. They twinkle a little in the dim light of the bedroom. “Are you-?”
Anne reaches up and wipes at her left eye. “Don’t tell anyone.” She jokes and sniffles. “What do you think?”
“Anne, I- I don’t know. The ring is lovely. It really is.” Ann just has a hard time coming to terms with this for some reason.
“You can try it on if you’d like.” Anne offers. She knows sometimes a thing feels weird until you just do it.
Ann pinches the ring between her index finger and thumb. She looks up at Ann to make sure this is okay. Anne nods to her, signaling that it is. Ann takes the ring and slides it on her ring finger. “Which finger does it go on?” She whispers, afraid to give life to the idea.
“Whichever finger you want to wear it on. It’s not an engagement ring. We can have it sized if you want to wear it on a specific finger if it doesn’t fit that finger quiet the way you want it.”
Ann takes a deep breath. “It’s beautiful.” She whispers. “Oh, Anne.” She sighs.
“Does that mean you’ll wear it?” Anne asks hopefully.
Ann looks from the ring to Anne and back to the ring.
“I just want to say that this ring is a symbol of the commitment I have to you and our family. I know it’s unconventional. We’re unconventional. But that doesn’t matter. We are doing things the way that we want to. If it’s a non-relationship, then that’s what it’s going to be. If it’s a some point a relationship, all the better. I just want you to know that I’m going to be here for you and for Timothy always. No matter what. And I know I can’t promise that but no matter what happens in the future I will always put him, and by extension you, first. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m committed to this family. It’s the one thing I truly want in life. The rest doesn’t really matter. I would be honored if you would wear the ring.”
Ann looks from Anne to the ring and back to Anne again. She knows Anne’s not perfect but she is a dream come true. She leans forward, reaches up and rests her hand on the side of Anne’s face. Closing the distance between them, Ann brings her lips to Anne’s for a sweet kiss. Ann hums into the kiss before pulling away.
“Oh.” Anne mumbles and licks her lips.
There’s a nervous giggle from Ann. “You’re so special.” Ann slips the ring on her left ring finger. It seems to fit well there. So that’s where it will stay. “I’ll wear this ring forever.” Ann promises.
Anne grins shyly at that. “Forever is a long time.”
“I know.” Ann sighs. “I just- I have a feeling this is just the beginning for us.”
Ann nods. “Yeah.”
“Can I kiss you again?” Anne leans in but she waits for Ann to smile and nod before pressing their lips together. They exchange kisses. Anne leans further and further into Ann, caressing her face with her hands. Anne tilts her head to the side to get a different angle, she flicks her tongue out, briefly licking at Ann’s lips.
Ann giggles, breaking them apart. Anne wraps her up in a hug and Ann slips her arms around Anne’s neck, she looks at the ring on her finger and grins. Anne presses a kiss to her cheek before pulling away again.
Ann shrugs. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I can sleep after all this though.”
Anne laughs. “Me neither. Here.” She grabs Ann’s hand and pulls it up to her chest, placing it over her rapidly beating heart.
Ann watches her hand on Anne’s, still bare, chest. The heart beats strong. Fast. “Wow.”
“You do that to me.” Anne admits. She keeps her eyes on Ann as she processes what that means. “What are you thinking?” She wonders quietly.
Ann hums. “Just that you find wonderful ways of surprising me.”
Anne smirks. “Even if we don’t sleep, would you like to lay down?”
“Yes.” Ann can’t think of a more calming activity than just laying in bed with Anne. “You still aren’t wearing a shirt though.”
“I can go get one.” She starts to leave.
“No.” Ann reaches out and keeps her near. “Get in bed.”
Anne smirks. “Someone’s bossy.” Ann rolls her eyes. Anne stands and pulls her jeans off. She then puts one knee on the bed and then the other and makes a show of crawling over Ann to get to the other side of the bed.
Ann laughs at her as Anne slips under the sheet. “Tell me about everything that happened while I was gone.” Anne lays on her side, her elbow digging into the mattress, her hand propping her head up.
“I talked to you last night.” Ann thinks there isn’t much to tell. She settles down into bed.
“I know.” Anne reaches out and runs her finger up Ann’s arm from her wrist to her elbow. “Just a recap of yesterday then and everything that happened today. How’s Tim?”
Ann hums. “He was a little irritable today. I think it has something to do with you being gone. That happened last time, didn’t it?” Ann bites her lip.
Anne nods. “But he’s good otherwise. How are you?”
She tries to hide her face in the pillow, shyly. “I’m good.” She glances down at the ring on her finger.
Anne sees this and looks down at the ring too. She takes Ann’s hand and lifts it so she can press a kiss to the ring on her finger. “How good?” Anne husks.
“Very.” Ann sucks her bottom lip into her mouth.
Anne hums, satisfied. “Do you want to tell me more or do you want to maybe hear about my trip?”
Anne rolls over onto her back. “Come here, then.” She opens up her arms for Ann to cuddle into her side, which she does. Anne presses a kiss to the top of her head and starts. “The plane ride out was a little bumpy. And I don’t like bumpy.” That gets a chuckle out of Ann. Anne continues. She talks and talks going over all the important details. “Last night-“ She looks down to get a glance of Ann’s precious face. “I missed this.”
Ann moans. “So did I. I couldn’t get to sleep. It took over an hour. How pathetic are we?”
Anne laughs. “Yes, pathetic. But I’ve gotten so used to sleeping with you that it’s clear that I need you with me. You might have to start coming with me on my work trips.” Anne jokes.
Ann smacks at Anne’s chest. “No.”
Anne laughs. “That probably wouldn’t work out, would it. With Tim being so little and all. I guess I’ll just have to suffer.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I’m suffering too. At home, all alone in this nice bed, without my partner.”
“Well, I guess.” Ann shrugs. “We are partners in raising Timothy.”
“Oh.” Anne mumbles. She thought Ann meant it in more of a life partners sort of way.
“Hey.” Ann reaches up and puts her hand on Anne’s cheek. “Just because I can’t call you my girlfriend or romantic partner, doesn’t mean you should fret. That is on me and my fear and my own inabilities to allow myself to do those things. I have such a hard time just letting go. I feel like I have to be in control of everything. My feelings. And I have to understand them fully before sharing them. Otherwise, it’s not fair to you.”
Anne nods. She understands. She knows Ann has feelings for her, but she also knows that Ann has to work through those feelings and their relationship to her trauma, her assault.
“I wear your ring. And am as committed to you as you are to me.” Ann kisses her. She peppers Anne’s face with kisses until she is laughing.
Anne pulls Ann more on top of herself than Ann just being tucked into her side. It’s easier to kiss and hold her this way. She’s able to wrap Ann up in both her arms.
“Well then.” Ann smirks down at Anne.
Anne raises an eyebrow. “It’s more comfortable this way. No?”
“Yes.” Ann giggles. “A new position for us.”
Anne throws her head back. “You make it sound so dirty.” She comes back down, and Ann is just looking at her with a certain something in her eyes.
“Maybe I want it to sound dirty.” Ann smirks.
Anne shakes her head. “You’re such a snot sometimes.”
"Just kiss me." Ann tells her.
And Anne doesn't need to be told twice.
They are sitting on the couch in evening and Anne has Tim on her lap. She has a protective arm loosely wrapped around him as she fiddles with her phone in the other hand. He reaches forward to try to grab at the phone but it is too far away. He then sits forward, holding himself in a forward leaning position.
“Ann. Look.” Anne whispers. She still has an arm around him in case he would wobble or fall but lets Tim move and balance on his own.
Ann looks over to see the boy sitting up on his own. He’s only ever rested against something before. Sometimes they will hold him on a knee or a lap to help him try to learn how to balance but he’s never done it on his own until now.
“Oh, little guy. You’re growing up so fast.” Ann says wistfully.
Ann comes over to sit next to Anne and Timothy. She grabs his little hand as he holds it out. “You can’t have mummy’s phone. You’re too little for that.” She turns to Anne. “I don’t want a child that is addicted to a phone or any screen. You see those kids who yell and scream to play games on tablets or phones or anything they can get their hands on. I want Tim to like playing with toys and going outdoors.”
“I totally agree.”
“When I was younger, I spent most of my time outside in the summer. I was only inside to eat and sleep it seemed like.”
“Oh, I remember. You were always running around in the yard or playing in the street. Bringing me flowers or weeds that you thought were flowers.”
Ann blushes. “I was so embarrassing.”
“You were adorable.” Anne lifts her hand to Ann’s cheek. “You’re still adorable.” She rubs her thumb on over Ann’s cheekbone.
Ann tries to avoid eye contact with Anne by leaning to press a kiss to the top of Tim’s head. But then she leans in a press a kiss to Anne’s cheek as well.
Anne grins, happy as a clam. She’s got her son, her little boy and she’s got her girl, her lovely Ann.
“Before you know it, he’s going to be crawling and then walking. And then we’ll be in trouble.” Anne says. “I just know you’re going to have as running around after you. I can already tell. You’ll be a very active little guy.” Anne looks down at the boy in her lap. He’s looking over at his mama now that the phone isn’t an option anymore for him to grab. “Is that you’re mama? Is she the best mama in the whole wide world?”
Ann rolls her eyes.
“Does she take the best care of you? And me.” Anne looks over at Ann and give her a wink. “Should we give her the rest of the evening off as a thank you?” She directs her questions at TJ again. “I think so. How would you feel if I gave you a bath tonight and feed you a bottle and put you to bed?”
The whole alternating nights plan has mostly been retired. Tim sleeps through the night most of the time. And if he doesn’t its usually Ann who gets up to go check on him. Anne does her part though. She’ll watch Tim if Ann is making dinner or feed him during the day when Ann’s not able to. The routine has evolved into both of them getting him ready for bed in the evening. Some nights that includes a bath, some nights it doesn’t. But there’s also a changing, and putting pajamas now, and then a feeding before bed. Anne loves being able to put him in his crib and sing to him or read to him afterwards.
“You wanna meet us upstairs in fifteen minutes, mama?” Anne asks. She can do bath time and Ann can just meet them in his room for a feeding before bed.
Ann sighs. “Sure.” She’s so grateful that Anne is so attentive and such a great parent. It makes her part as a parent so much easier. She thinks they really are a great team when it comes to taking care of Timothy.
“Who was that?” Anne asks as Ann stands in her office door, hanging up a phone call.
Ann hums. “My sister. We need to do something with her and her family.”
“Is that coming from you or her?” Anne raises an eyebrow. She doesn’t want Elizabeth to pressure Ann into something that she doesn’t want to do.
“Me. It’s time.”
Anne nods. “Okay.”
“We should do something big. Like a BBQ and maybe, if you want, and it’s alright with you-“ Ann looks down and licks her lips. “Have your family there too. All the Lister’s and my sister and her family.”
Ann finishes tidying the living room as the doorbell rings and Marian and Aunt Anne and Jeremy arrive.
“It’s fine.” Anne mumbles at her as she goes to get the door. “Well, mostly be out in the yard.”
“Isn’t that the plan.” Marian says as Anne pulls the door open, clearly hearing what Anne had just said.
Anne rolls her eyes. “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Marian grins and walks in past Anne. “Nice to see you as well.”
Anne greets her father and Aunt Anne in turn.
“Where’s Tim?” Aunt Anne asks.
“It’s clear why you are all here, then.” Anne chuckles.
“He’s having a nap in his room. So, he’s not crabby for the party goers.” Ann comes over to Anne and wraps an arm around her waist. “It’s very nice to see you all.”
Marian looks around as Ann is speaking with Aunt Anne. That is until she spots a shiny band on Ann’s hand.
“Dear sister, may I talk with you in private.” Marian squeaks in a high pitched voice. She grabs Anne by the arm and drags her away from the group, not giving Anne much of a choice. They go into the next room, Anne’s office.
“You’re pinching my arm.” Anne whines and pulls her arm out of her sister’s grasp.
“Anne.” Marian growls in a low voice.
“What?” Anne looks around the room.
“There’s a ring on Ann’s finger.”
“Oh.” Anne realizes what Marian’s weird mood is about now. She holds her chin up, shoulders back, proud. “There is.”
“Are you engaged?” Marian whispers and looks around.
“Not exactly. It’s a commitment ring. I told her she didn’t have to wear it on that finger, but it’s the finger it best fits on apparently.” Though Anne doesn’t know if that’s true or not. She has a sneaking suspicion that Ann could wear it on a different finger but chooses to wear the ring on her ring finger.
“Oh.” Marian says, seeming disappointed.
“I thought you didn’t like Ann.”
Marian scoffs. “I haven’t said that.”
“But you weren’t exactly thrilled when we started cohabitating.”
Marian wrinkles up her nose. “You make it sound so sterile.”
Anne rolls her eyes.
“No, I just- I don’t know.” She sighs. “I didn’t want you to get swindled. I know how you are with women. You are head or heels, all in, with them and Ann didn’t seem to care about you the seem way you doted, dote after her.”
“But-“ Anne waits.
“I’ve seen how that’s changed. And the more I’ve gotten to know her. And her and you together I can see she just adore you.”
“Now that Ann has opened up a bit and relaxed into this new chapter in life and motherhood, I can see her more clearly. And your relationship more clearly. You have my blessing.”
“What?” Anne takes a step back from Marian. “I don’t need your blessing. What is this?” She waves a hand at Marian. “I’m leaving your presence. You’re being weird.” She points a finger at her sister. “Don’t be weird with Ann about it. About the ring. And don’t go blabbing to everyone else here.”
“Come on, Anne.” Marian whines. This isn’t going to be any fun if she can’t talk with anyone about the ring on Ann’s finger.
“Don’t.” She threatens with that finger again. “It’s not a big deal. I don’t want- and I don’t think Ann wants to make a big deal about it.”
Marian lifts her hands in the air, in surrender. “Fine.”
The BBQ is really great. Elizabeth and George and their three gremlins show shortly after the Lister’s and everyone heads into the back yard. It takes some coaxing though. Elizabeth’s kids want to stay in the house and play with Frankie. But Frankie is hiding from everyone underneath the couch. Anne persuades them out into the yard with candy. No need to terrifies the little furball further.
It’s a bright sunny day. Ann sets Timothy up in his bouncy chair in the shade of the patio umbrella. He watches and laughs as Elizabeth’s kids run around in the yard. He kicks his feet and bounces along.
“I’ve never seen him so active.” Ann comments.
“Maybe he needs a little brother or sister to play with.” George comments offhandedly.
Ann can’t imagine having another child. Especially right now, after she’s just had one.
“Let Ann settle into the first one before she thinks about more.” Elizabeth comes to her rescue.
But would Ann want to have more kids. She hasn’t really thought about it. She’s got Tim. She doesn’t need more. Ann glances over at Anne, who is busy manning the grill, just starting to cook the hot dogs and hamburgers. She wonders what Anne would think about having more children. Would they have more children together or if Ann wanted to have more kids would she have to go it alone? Anne didn’t sign up for more than Timothy.
“Oh, I don’t know if I’ll be having anymore.” Ann finally says something about the topic. “One is plenty to take care of and worry about.”
“True. True.” Elizabeth raises a glass to that. “Try handling three.”
Anne is happy with the way the gathering is going. She’s finished with the meat and brought it inside. She just has to get the salad out of the fridge and the condiments and set everything out and then it’s time to eat. The guests seem to be having a good time and the meeting of her family and some of Ann’s has gone better than Anne could have ever imagined. She wasn’t the biggest fan of Elizabeth not that long ago; but as Ann’s relationship with her sister has gotten better, so has her relationship with Elizabeth.
Ann comes rushing into the house through the back door.
“What’s wrong?” Anne is putting together the final touches and then everyone can come and fix themselves a plate.
Ann shakes her head frantically. “I just- I need a minute.” She goes to rush past Anne to the bathroom.
Anne catches her wrist, stopping her. “Are you sure? Are you okay?”
“I just need a minute.” Ann looks at the spread that Anne has prepared for their guests. It looks marvelous. She sends Anne a pleading look.
Anne is uneasy about it but let’s Ann go. She finishes the meal prep and calls everyone to come grab a plate. She has no idea where TJ is but she’s sure that someone has an eye on him or is holding him or something. “I’ll be right back.” She whispers to no one in particular before exiting the room.
Anne moves through the house to the bathroom. She knocks on the closed door. She knows Ann is in there. “Can I come in?”
She hears sniffling before the door is pulled open. Anne steps inside quickly and shuts the door behind her. “What happened?” She whispers as she pulls Ann into an embrace.
Ann tucks herself into Anne’s body. “Someone said something that triggered me.” She doesn’t want to give specifics because she knows Anne will be mad and go after that person for what they said.
“Tell me who it was.”
Case and point. “No. I don’t want you to do anything. Plus, it wasn’t something directly about me. It was just something that was said. It’s fine, Anne. Please.”
Anne huffs out a frustrated breath. “Fine. But I don’t like that you are upset.”
Ann smiles. She loves Anne’s protective side and how much she truly cares about people. “This helps.” Ann refers to the hug they are sharing. A little quiet and space from the guests helps too.
“Good.” Anne gives her a squeeze and a kiss to the side of the head. “I should get back out there.”
“Yeah.” Ann agrees.
Anne holds Ann at arm’s length. “You’ll be alright.”
“I’ll be alright.” Ann nods.
Anne returns to her guests. She spots Timothy on Marian’s hip. Glad that someone has an eye on her son. Elizabeth is a mother, so she wasn’t too worried that he’d be forgotten or left alone. Tim has actually been the star of the little BBQ today.
“Today went well.” Anne says as she falls into bed.
“It did.” Ann agrees as she puts lotion on her arms and then legs.
Anne watches her.
“I’m glad that my sister could meet your family.” Ann is unaware that Anne is propped up on her elbow next to her, watching her.
“I didn’t know how everyone would react to everyone else. But it went well.” Ann finally looks over to see Anne staring at her. “What?”
“Come here.” Anne knows she should be more respectful. That she should ask. But she tugs on Ann’s forearm.
Ann doesn’t resist. She leans over and presses her lips to Anne’s. It’s starting to feel like one of the most natural things in the world. Ann isn’t uncomfortable around Anne anymore when showing affection. She tries to not think about it and let herself just feel and let things just be organic. She leans over as Anne wraps a hand around the back of her head, reeling her in as close as possible.
Ann puts a hand on Anne’s shoulder, steadying herself at the power of the kiss. If she can call it that. It’s more like a series of little kisses that slowly evolve into longer more fluid exchange of lips. And then there’s Anne’s tongue licking at her mouth.
Ann feels Anne’s hand slide from the back of her head, down her arm, to her hip, giving it a squeeze. She lets out an involuntary moan. She is surprised by it and pulls away from Anne a little. The moan seeming to have startled her back in reality.
Anne’s lips chase her, finding hers once more. Ann gasps and breathes out a long breath. “Anne.”
Anne sighs. She is considerate and understanding and bummed that Ann has cut their kiss short. She’s not going to push Ann into anything. It’s always good to give a woman a compliment or two, especially during or after an intimate moment.
“You look-“ Anne stops and rakes her eyes over Ann’s body. “Lovely.”
Ann still carries a little weight in her hips and chest from carrying Timothy, but Anne thinks that just makes her look even better, womanly.
Anne plays around a little. She cups one of Ann’s breasts. “Very lovely.”
Ann swats her hand away. “Those are for Timothy.”
Anne pouts. “Can’t I have a turn?”
Ann has to roll her eyes but allows Anne her liberties. She watches as Anne’s hand comes to move down her torso. She traces her fingers over Ann’s stomach slowly. She lifts up the hem of Ann’s shirt a tiny smidge and has a look underneath, playfully. “Only a few.” She comments on the stretchmarks.
“It’s not as bad as I thought. I’ve been using the cream.” Ann gets a little shy with Anne’s eyes on her so intently. She was so insecure about her stomach after Tim was born but it’s mostly back to normal now. And it helped that Anne was there to tell her that she was lovely and wonderful and beautiful even when she felt like she wasn’t. Even now, as Anne ‘explores’ her body.
Anne grins. She reaches up to press a kiss to Ann’s cheek. This is all a big experiment. To see how far Anne can go and how far Ann is willing to let her go. It’s intimate yet playful but not overtly sexual.
“I do- I hope you don’t mind me saying it-“ Anne is not sure if it’s rude or not.
“I do miss you being pregnant sometimes.”
Ann’s eyes go wide. “Anne, come on. That’s not fair.”
Anne pats at Ann’s hip. “I know it’s not. But I grew to like the idea and I grew to know you that way. I didn’t really know you before you were pregnant. Just as a kid. The only adult Ann that I knew was a pregnant one.”
Ann rolls her eyes. She almost can’t believe what Anne is saying.
“And I know you didn’t feel like it, but you were the most beautiful woman I’ve even seen. Not that you aren’t now. Good lord, I’m digging myself into a hole, aren’t I?” Anne smiles bashfully.
Ann shakes her head. “Keep talking.” She likes the way Anne talks about her, even if she can’t take a compliment very well. Ann appreciates the way Anne appreciates her, even if they are just talking about her body. Sometimes it’s good to have other people appreciates things about yourself that you don’t appreciate so much.
Anne isn’t sure what she’s supposed to say now. That was all she had. “It’s good to know you when you aren’t pregnant though. I’m not one of those weird fetish people. But I do think I did miss my opportunity to experience sex with a pregnant woman. Just once. But alas, here we are.” Anne picks at the sheets nervously.
“You are as beautiful and lovely as ever, no matter if you are pregnant or not. As time goes on, I’ll get used to non-pregnant and it will be difficult to remember pregnant Ann. That’s just how the brain works, right?” She looks to Ann for a reply.
Ann bites at her lip. “Too bad you missed your shot.” She thinks back to the conversation she had with her sister and brother in law earlier in the day.
Anne finds her bravado again. “I’ll just have to get you pregnant again.”
Ann’s eyes grow wide. “Anne.” She whispers.
Anne says “Don’t worry, dear. Timothy’s not old enough yet.”
“Anne.” She whines.
Anne smiles. “Seriously. Would you be open to the idea? Of having more kids? With me?”
Ann’s mouth opens and closes but no words come out. “Anne.” It’s all she can say.
“All in due time, of course. Not now.” Anne explains. “I could try my hardest right now to get you pregnant again and it will never happen.” She wiggles her eyebrows at Ann.
Ann blushes, hard. “Anne.” It’s barely a whisper this time when Ann says her name.
Anne kisses her. “I’ll let you think about it. I don’t mean to spring these sort of things on you. But it’s stuff I’ve thought about.”
“Okay.” Ann mumbles.
“Okay.” Anne puts the topic to bed; she rolls over and turns out the light. Anne lays on her back and Ann gets into that spot that she loves to nestle into at Anne’s side.
“Anne?” She whispers.
“I said okay.” Ann tries to keep from smiling.
“Yes, I know. You’ll think about it.” Anne rubs absentminded circles into Ann’s skin.
“No. I don’t need to think about it. I said okay. As in, yes. I’d love to have more kids with you.” She pauses. “When the time is right. Not now. Timothy needs to turn two first.”
Anne laughs. “Two. Right.” She gets serious. “You’re for real though? For real, for real?”
Ann grins and nods.
Anne wraps her in a tight hug.
“Anne.” She whines. “You’re squishing me.”
“Sorry.” Anne peppers her face with kisses instead. “I love you.”
Ann giggles. “You might get your wish after all. To bang a pregnant chick.”
Anne furrows her brow. “I don’t want to just bang some pregnant chick. That’s not-“ She sighs. They are going to have to work on this. Anne doesn’t know what she needs to do to convince Ann. Or to get Ann not to think so poorly of herself. She reaches up and strokes her thumb over Ann’s cheek.
“You are not some chick. You are not just a baby factory to me. You are so much more than that. You are kind and caring and so attentive. You are funny and quirky and interesting. You are beautiful inside and out.” She kisses Ann.
“I don’t want to just fuck you either. I hope I never gave you that impression. Ann, I love you. I want to hold you and take care of you and make you feel good. I want you to enjoy yourself and I want you to feel comfortable and safe. I want you to want to have sex and feel good about it.”
“I pity all those women out there, straight women, who don’t know how good sex can be. Who just let their man fuck them and when he’s finished, that’s it. That’s not what sex is about. It’s about a connection between two people. It’s a give and take. It’s about expressing your love for another person in a physical way. It shouldn’t just be a quick fuck. It can be, if the timing or situation is right. But it shouldn’t always be. It’s about passion and expressing your emotions in a different way.”
“I didn’t know you were so poetic.”
Anne chuckles. “I have my moments.”
“I love you, Anne.” She hums and presses herself against Anne. “You wanna know a secret?”
Anne breathes. “Yes, please.”
“What you just said.” Ann whispers.
“Yeah?” Anne coaxes her to continue.
“I’m so wet right now.” Ann husks in her ear. A combination of Anne’s words just now and the kisses they shared a little earlier.
Anne closes her eyes and moans. She squeezes her legs together. “Don’t say that.”
“Why?” Ann teases.
“If you’re not going to let me do anything about it.”
Ann laughs. “Sorry, my love. You’ll have to wait a little longer but-“ Ann plays with Anne’s ear between her index finger and thumb. “-it’ll be worth it. I know it will be. For both of us. After what you just said.”
Anne moans, a shiver runs through her whole body. “And Anne. You already make me feel wonderful and like I can do anything. I just get in my own head sometimes. I don’t want you to worry about that though. That’s what the therapy is for.”
“And it’s working?” Anne asks gently.
“It’s working. I’ve already noticed a difference in the way I think about most things. And I feel lighter too. Like life isn’t such a burden anymore.”
Anne pulls her into a hug. “I’m glad to hear it.” She presses a kiss to Ann’s neck. And then another. And another.
“Don’t get too carried away.”
Anne rolls back with a frustrated huff. “This is by far the longest I’ve been with someone without having sex with them.” She runs her fingers through her hair.
“I’m glad you find humor in that.”
Ann coos. “Oh, my poor baby.” Patronizing.
Anne blows out a breath.
Ann gets close to Anne’s ear again and whispers. “It won’t be too much longer. I can feel it.”
“It better not be, or I might explode.” Anne mumbles.
Ann laughs but then a thought comes to her. “You could always- you know-“ she’s being vague on purpose.
“I know.” Anne sighs. “But it feels weird. What, with you around. If we didn’t live together then maybe. But no. I don’t want to ruin it.”
“Okay. Then don’t.” Ann sighs. She’s a bit surprised. Not that she thinks Anne is a sex hound, but she didn’t know that Anne hasn’t had that kind of release in a long time. “When was the last time- if you don’t mind me asking.”
Anne hums, thinking. “Probably about a week before Maria and I broke up.”
“That was before Christmas.” Ann says in shock.
“It was. And I have- uh let’s say- pleasured myself since then but not since I’ve been shacking up with you.”
Ann laughs. “Shacking up with me. You’re so charming.”
“I am.” Anne says, smug. “So probably sometime in February. But let’s talk about something else now or I won’t be able to sleep at all.”
“Like what?” Ann asks.
“I don’t know. Do you want to take Timothy on any other trips this summer? To the sea, maybe.”
“That’s sounds lovely. Can we?”
“Of course. Do you want to pick the place? Plan it? Or should I?”
“Can we do it together?” Ann asks.
“Of course. What else? Do you want to show him to any more of your family?”
“Show him? He’s not a toy or a car or something.”
Anne laughs. “No but-“
“It went well with my sister and her kids today, but I don’t know. I haven’t really spoken to anyone else in my family. Elizabeth might be the most understanding of them all and you know how that went.”
“Yes, oh. So, let’s hold off on that. Where do you want to go to see the sea?” Ann turns the conversation back to the idea of going to the sea.
They lay in bed together for the next hour planning their little trip to the sea.
Look at this. me posting another chapter.... i know it's been a long time. but i had a bit of writer's block involving this story. I think part of it is always i don't know how and i don't want a story to end. but at some point it has to. and then i got swamped with work so i literally had no time to sit down and write anything if i wanted. anyway, excuses, excuses.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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.
One more chapter remaining.