COVID never existed in this world.
Chloe stood outside Lakewood Elementary in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA with her daughter. They stood in the line marked “Mrs. Simon” with about ten other kids and adults.
A woman who appeared to be in her mid-thirties cheerfully greeted everyone. “Okay, friends, let’s all follow me into my classroom. I’m going to have you go do a fun activity with Mrs. Reed and Mrs. Black while I talk to your grown-ups.”
Chloe took one more look at her daughter to make sure her name tag was securely pinned to her shirt before letting go of her hand and watching her join the line of students. She swallowed a lump in her throat as she watched her daughter follow the school administrators toward the school cafeteria.
She sat in a tiny chair and listened to the teacher give a rundown of a typical day in kindergarten, what they’d be learning, and some basic classroom rules.
When the teacher asked if there were any questions, Chloe felt like she had a million. Mrs. Simon answered each one patiently. Before she knew it, the kids were back in the classroom, proudly showing their parents a craft they’d made.
“Mama, look! It’s my name and I spelled it all by myself! R-A-C-H-E-L!” She pointed to each letter sticker she’d placed on a foam pad that Chloe quickly realized was a doorknob hanger. In true “Rachel fashion,” she’d also added rainbows and unicorns.
“You sure did, baby,” said Chloe.
“Do I get to come back tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yes, but only for a half of a school day.”
“So, I don’t get to buy lunch tomorrow?”
“You want to buy your lunch at school?” asked Chloe.
“Bella said that’s what she does.”
“Maybe once a week, okay? We’ll look at the lunch menu they gave us and pick your favorite each week.”
“Okay,” said Rachel, giving her mother a grin, showing off the gap where her two front teeth had recently fallen out.
As they made their way to the front door of the school, another mother caught up with Chloe. “First kid off to kindergarten?” she asked.
“It’s that obvious, isn’t it?” asked Chloe.
“I did the same thing with my oldest,” said the mom. “This one here is my third. I’m Ashley and this is Violet.”
“I’m Rachel,” said her daughter before Chloe could introduce her.
Violet and Rachel immediately recognized that they were each wearing a dress with a unicorn on it. They began to compare their unicorns, giggling the whole time.
“It looks like they’re hitting it off.”
“My middle kid was the same way. I could barely pull my oldest off of my leg when we came here,” said Ashley.
“I think I’m having a harder time with this than Rachel is.”
“That means she’ll be okay. Even Aiden, that’s my oldest, was all smiles when I picked him up that first day without me. I knew my Carter would be just fine.”
“That makes me feel better.”
Ashley gave Chloe a friendly pat on the shoulder. “We all go through it. You’re doing fine.”
Ashley lowered her voice. “Would you and Rachel be interested in going to get some ice cream? It’s a ‘first day of kindergarten’ tradition in our family, and I’d love it if you joined us.”
Chloe looked over at her daughter, who was still giggling with her new friend, and readily agreed.
They went to an ice cream shop right near the school, and the girls both ordered a cup of vanilla ice cream with extra sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.
Ashley looked back and forth between Chloe and Rachel and smiled. “You can definitely tell she’s yours.”
“What do you mean?”
“She looks just like you!”
“Do you think so?”
“There’s no mistaking that red hair!”
Chloe laughed. “We get that a lot.”
That night, Chloe and Rachel talked about the day.
“What was your favorite part of the day?” Chloe asked.
“The ice cream. Violet is my new best friend!” exclaimed Rachel.
“What about Bella?”
“She’s my best friend too.”
“I guess you can never have too many,” said Chloe. “Now, you know what to do tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, Mama. You’re taking me to school after lunch, and then you will pick me up.”
“And, the next day?”
“I am going to ride the bus to school, and then I go to Lakewood Kid Lounge at the end of the day.”
“That’s right. That’s my big girl,” Chloe said, tears in her eyes.
“Why are you crying, Mama? Are you sad?” asked Rachel.
“I’m not sad, sweetheart. I just remember how tiny you were when I first saw you, and you’re so big now. I’m so proud of you.”
Rachel threw her arms around her mother, giving her a tight squeeze. “I love you, Mama.”
“I love you too, baby girl.”
Chloe tucked her daughter in and shut off the light. She still couldn’t believe she was the mother to a kindergartener.
The next day, Rachel headed off to the classroom, hardly giving her mother a second look. Ashley walked up to Chloe and gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder as she’d done the day before.
“I don’t know whether to smile or cry,” Chloe said.
“If you’re free, why don’t we get a cup of coffee? You can do one or the other, or both. I won’t judge,” said Ashley.
“I’d love that,” said Chloe.
The two women spoke over coffee. Chloe learned that Ashley stayed home while her wife Jessica worked as a project manager.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do while I have three kids in school during the day,” said Ashley.
“My house would finally be clean,” said Chloe.
“Until Rachel gets home, maybe, if she’s anything like my three,” said Ashley. “What do you do?”
“I’m a veterinary technologist at VetFriends Animal Hospital.”
“I know the place. So, you’re a vet tech?”
“It’s a similar job, but I have a four-year degree. I am thinking of going to vet school soon.”
“That’s cool. Will they pay for you to go?”
“Our parent company will reimburse me for my classes as long as I get at least a C+. I have to front the money for two semesters, though, at first.”
“Are you married?”
“No. I never have been.”
“Is there another parent in the picture? I apologize if that’s too personal.”
“I don’t even know where her father is,” said Chloe. “It’s always just been the two of us. I have been telling her about a lot of different types of families since before she was old enough to understand. It also helps that her best friend has two moms.”
“Good for you. My kids have gotten a few weird comments about our family, but it hasn’t been anything too bad.”
“It’s definitely more common than when we were kids.”
They chatted a little longer over coffee, and, before they knew it, it was time to head back to school to get their kids. They exchanged numbers before parting ways.
“Mama!” Rachel called as she ran toward her mother.
“Hi, baby girl. How was school?”
“It was good. I sat with Violet. Did you know she doesn’t have a dad either? She has two mommies like Bella. And her name means purple.”
“That’s super cool,” said Chloe.
“Yeah. I can’t wait to ride the bus tomorrow.”
Chloe fought back the tears that were forming in her eyes. “That’s such a big step. Are you sure you don’t want to ride in my car?”
“I know. You’re a big girl and you can ride the bus.”
“That’s right. I’m going to sit in the front and follow directions.”
“Of course,” said Chloe. “Let’s go home. It’s your turn to pick dinner.”
Rachel watched some television for a while when they got home. She didn’t surprise her mother in the least when she asked for spaghetti for dinner.
She got Rachel to help load the dishwasher, and she ran the water for Rachel’s bath. She was going to help her until Rachel reminded her, rather forcefully, that she could bathe herself.
She texted her coworker and best friend once Rachel was in bed.
C: I’m not ready for tomorrow
S: I totally get it
S: Is Rachel?
C: Oh yeah
S: It’s better than having to peel her off of your leg
C: I guess so
S: You can cry and vent all you want at work tomorrow
Chloe tried to watch some television to relax her mind before bed. When that didn’t work, she settled for one of her cheesy romance novels.
The next morning, Chloe barely held back the tears as she watched her baby board the bus. She managed to hold it together while her daughter waved to her, grinning the whole way. She finally let the tears flow as soon as the bus pulled away from the curb.
She wiped her eyes as she walked back to her house to grab her work things.
“Hey, Chloe,” said Stacie as Chloe entered the animal hospital building. “How did it go this morning?”
“I didn’t cry until the bus pulled away.”
“That’s better than I did on Bella’s first day.”
“What? You always told me about Aubrey crying,” said Chloe.
“I didn’t want to admit that I was way worse.”
“I’m amazed that Bella didn’t die of embarrassment.”
“I was just thinking back to how little she was. It doesn’t seem that long ago.”
“No, it doesn’t,” said Stacie. “Does Rachel know about….?”
“Oh, totes. I mean, not everything. She knows enough.”
Fat Amy, the animal hospital’s receptionist, came in. “Dr. Conrad, your 9:00 is here. I copied his records for you.”
“Thanks.” She took the chart from her.
Chloe went out to the lobby. “Crackers?” she called.
A petite woman with brown hair stood up. She tugged on the leash. “Crackers, come on, dude.” Her black and tan dachshund was under the bench.
“May I try?” asked Chloe.
“Be my guest,” she said. “He’s always been terrified of the vet’s office.”
Chloe sat down on the floor to get on the dog’s level. “Well, we do our best to make this a positive experience.” She laid a treat on the floor just a few feet away from the dog. He scooted out from under the bench, snapped up the treat, and retreated back under the bench.
“Crackers…” said his owner.
“It’s okay. That was a good start.” Chloe continued to place treats down further and further from the dog until he’d finally gotten all the way out from under the bench. She gave him a bunch of praise, and even his owner seemed surprised he hadn’t hid.
“There’s a good boy,” Chloe said. “Let’s go see Dr. Conrad.”
The owner followed her.
“Let’s walk him over to the scale. Okay, twenty-five pounds. That’s a good, healthy weight. He’s five years old, right?”
“Yes. He’s here for his shots. We just moved here from LA.”
“Okay, great.” She took his vitals and then got Stacie to do the exam.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Conrad.”
“Pleased to meet you. How has he been? Any sneezing or coughing?”
“How is he eating?”
“He had a few days when we first got here that he didn’t eat much, but he’s fine now.”
“Great,” said Stacie. “And what is he eating?”
“Pedigree. I give him a mix of wet and dry.”
“Also good. Any vomiting or diarrhea?” Stacie asked.
“He had a little diarrhea when we moved, too. But he’s been okay since about three or four days after we settled in.”
“Just let us know if he has a problem again, but it probably was just stress-related,” said Stacie. She put the stethoscope on his chest. “Okay, his heart sounds good. Let’s look at those teeth. Chloe, can you give me a hand?”
“Sure thing,” said Chloe.
“I can’t believe he’s letting you do that. His vet in LA had to have three people restrain him,” said Beca.
“Well, Chloe is amazing with animals. She has such a big heart.”
“I can see that,” said Beca. “She got him out from under the bench.”
“She’s something else,” said Stacie. “I can’t believe she’s single.”
“What?” Stacie asked, feigning innocence.
Beca just laughed.
Stacie continued the exam. “Okay, it looks like this handsome boy of yours is the picture of health.”
“Great,” said Beca.
“It looks like he’s due for a rabies vaccination. I also recommend vaccination for Bordetella and canine influenza,” said Stacie. “If you board him here, we require those vaccines, as do most kennels.”
“Okay. Let’s have him get all three,” said Beca.
“Great. I’ll have Chloe come back in a minute to give them to him. Welcome to VetFriends, and, by the way, I love your music,” said Stacie.
“Thanks,” said Beca, her face flushing.
“I’ll be back shortly,” said Chloe.
As she followed Stacie to the back room, she said, “Stacie, what the hell?”
Stacie rolled her eyes. “I’m just trying to help. How long has it been since you got some?”
Chloe sighed. “Since when has it been your business?”
“Well, David gave me a few orgasms last week. He really knows how to push my buttons,” Chloe said, winking.
“Wait, do you have a boyfriend?”
“Oh my god, Beale! Do you have a friend with benefits?”
“You could say that.”
“Get it, girl,” said Stacie. “Beca was totally checking you out.”
“She was not.”
“She was making eyes at you, and I saw her glance at your ass at least twice when you bent down.”
“If you say so. By the way, what were you talking about before? What music?”
Stacie looked at Chloe incredulously. “You didn’t look at the chart? That’s Beca Mitchell!”
“I can’t believe I didn’t realize that! I’m so used to seeing her all dressed up. I thought I read that she was moving to Atlanta!”
“Well, you’ll be seeing her from time to time. Now, go give her adorable doggie his shots.”
Chloe grabbed the vaccines, double-checking that she’d brought the correct ones with her, and headed back to the exam room.
“Hey, Crackers. I’m going to make this as quick as possible. Beca, you should probably give him some attention to help distract him.”
“Sure. Come here, Crackers.” Beca murmured soothing words to the dog and rubbed his ears while Chloe gave him two shots.
“Okay, now, this one is a nasal spray. Here we go, Crackers.” Chloe administered the spray with record speed. Crackers flinched and shook his head. “I know, that’s pretty gross and stinky stuff. You were so good! Have a treat!”
Crackers quickly recovered, happily taking the treat from Chloe’s outstretched hand. He began to wag his tail so fast it was a blur.
“I can’t believe how well that went,” said Beca. “You really do have a gift.”
“Thanks,” said Chloe. “You guys are done. Dr. Conrad wants to see him in six months. Amy will have some paperwork for you to sign as well as a new rabies tag.”
“Awesome, thanks so much.”
“My pleasure. Have a good day!”
After Beca and Crackers left, Fat Amy called Chloe over to her desk, grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
“It’s your lucky day,” she said.
“Why is that?” Chloe asked.
Amy showed Chloe the credit card slip Beca had just signed. Below her signature, she’d written “Give Chloe my number.”
“I told you she was checking you out,” said Stacie.
At lunchtime, Chloe sat down, staring at the phone number Fat Amy had written on a sticky note. She hadn’t been on a date in well over a year.
Stacie sat with her. “Call her.”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s the holdup?”
“This is a lot at once,” Chloe said. “My baby just went to kindergarten. I don’t know if I’m ready.”
“Call her,” Stacie repeated. “It’s a date, not a marriage proposal. And don’t say you don’t have a babysitter. Rachel can stay with us. She and Bella haven’t had a sleepover in a while.”
Chloe opened her mouth to protest and then shut it.
“I swear, Chloe, if you don’t shoot your shot…”
Chloe sighed. “Fine. But I’m not calling her while you’re in the room.”
“Say no more,” said Stacie, taking her drink and leaving the break room. Chloe knew Stacie would be standing outside the door, though.
Chloe took a deep breath. She let Stacie’s words run through her mind again. It was a date, not a marriage proposal. She knew Rachel would have a blast with Stacie and Aubrey, two of the only people she trusted implicitly with her daughter. She and Bella were two peas in a pod.
She checked the number on the note three times before hitting the call button.
“Hi, this is Beca Mitchell.”
“Hi, this is Chloe. I work at VetFriends.”
“So, that receptionist passed you my number. I wasn’t sure she would,” said Beca.
“She was far too entertained by the note on the credit slip not to,” said Chloe.
“I figured that out. You and Dr. Conrad are hilarious to watch.”
“She’s not usually that obnoxious.”
“Good to know. So, are you free Saturday night?” asked Beca.
“I have to make sure I can leave my daughter with Stacie, that’s Dr. Conrad, but I should be able to.”
Stacie opened the door. “What night?”
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Excuse me, Beca. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that Stacie was eavesdropping.”
Beca laughed. “Go ahead.”
“Saturday night,” said Chloe.
“Works for us,” said Stacie.
“Great, now get out!” She could hear Beca laughing. “Okay, I think she’s back to listening at the door. I’m free on Saturday.”
“So, you have a kid?” asked Beca.
“Yeah, just one. Is that a problem?”
“I don’t think so. I was just a little surprised. You look so young.”
“I am. I became a mother at a younger age than I would have imagined,” said Chloe.
“That’s life, I guess,” said Beca. “What time can I call you tonight to work out details?”
“9 is fine. My daughter will be in bed by then.”
“That sounds like the perfect time to talk.”
As soon as they hung up, the door to the break room flew open.
“Get it, Beale!” Stacie exclaimed.
Chloe rolled her eyes. “You’re obnoxious.”
“Beca is going to think we’re all crazy, you know. She’ll have to take Crackers somewhere else for his vet care.”
“No way,” said Stacie. “She’ll come back because she knows we care.”
“You guys,” said Chloe, sighing.
Chloe was relieved when Fat Amy came into the break room to eat lunch and tell everyone far too many details about her latest “boy toy.”
The afternoon passed as usual - a cat who had been sneezing, a dog who had broken a tooth on a deer antler, and a few other animals who were there for their exams.
Chloe couldn’t wait to get Rachel from after-school care after work.
Chloe headed up to the Kid Lounge, signed in, and saw her favorite little girl grinning as she walked up to her.
“How did it go?” Chloe asked.
“It was so fun. Mrs. Simon had us write our names and draw a picture of ourselves. She’s going to put it on our lockers. She said we’ll do it again at the end of the year, so we can see how much better we can write and draw.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“And I ate all of my lunch.”
“That’s great, baby girl. Let’s get home so I can make dinner.”
“Can we have spaghetti again?”
“It’s my turn to pick, sweetheart. I’m making chicken.”
“Why do I only get to pick dinner on Wednesdays, Mama?”
“You aren’t the one who has to cook.”
Chloe headed home with Rachel and immediately put dinner in the oven. She knew chicken wasn’t her daughter’s favorite, except maybe in the form of a nugget. She did, however, put some tater tots in the toaster oven to go with the chicken. Rachel was borderline underweight. She knew it wasn’t the healthiest way to put a little weight on her daughter, but she knew it was something she’d eat.
Rachel picked at her chicken, but she polished off the tater tots.
“Come on, sweetheart. You need to eat your chicken.”
“I don’t want to. Why can’t I have dinosaur nuggets?”
“They’re not healthy.”
“But they’re yummy!”
Chloe looked at the mostly untouched chicken on her daughter’s plate. She hated to negotiate, but she constantly worried about her underweight child.
“Can you try to eat half?”
“How many pieces?”
Rachel sighed in a way that Chloe recognized all too well before eating exactly five pieces. Chloe let her have some whole milk yogurt afterwards and hoped she’d eaten enough calories. The pediatrician had suggested supplementing Rachel’s diet with nutritional drinks. They were expensive and Rachel didn’t like the drinks, no matter what brand, flavor, or variety Chloe purchased. She didn’t want Rachel to think the drinks were a punishment, so she tried to only push her to drink them when she knew she hadn’t eaten enough.
Dinner was usually a battle with her. She was generally good about breakfast and lunch, but she whined through most of the dinners Chloe cooked. She refused to survive on pizza, spaghetti and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, and she wasn’t cooking two meals every night.
After dinner was cleaned up, Chloe told Rachel the news about Saturday.
“Guess what? You’re having a sleepover with Bella on Saturday!”
“Really? That’s great, Mama.”
“You’re going to have so much fun.”
“Yeah. We’re going to play ponies!”
“That’s a good plan, but make sure you let Bella have a turn to decide what to play,” Chloe said.
“What are you going to do, Mama?”
“I’m…” Chloe thought for a beat. “I have plans with a new friend.”
“Who is your friend?”
“Her name is Beca.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Why not?” Rachel asked.
“I’m going to talk to her on the phone about it tonight after you’re in bed.”
Rachel went to her room, telling her mother she wanted to color. Chloe took the opportunity to read for a while before she had to run a bath for her daughter.
Chloe’s phone rang at 9:00.
“Hi!” Chloe answered.
“You sound surprised. Did I remember the wrong time?” asked Beca.
“No, we said 9:00. I guess I’m used to people not calling me when they find out I have a child.”
“I would have told you if that was a problem. I’ve dealt with enough liars in my time to know that’s not what I want to be.”
“That’s refreshing,” said Chloe.
“Thanks, I guess? Anyway, what time on Saturday? I guess it depends on your kid?”
“Stacie - Dr. Conrad - would probably take Rachel at any time. She’s weirdly interested in my dating life.”
“That’s funny. Would dinner be okay? I’m not sure what to do afterward, but I should tell you I’m not big on movies.”
“Dinner is great. We can play things by ear. Stacie is keeping Rachel overnight.”
“Nice friend,” said Beca. “How old is Rachel?”
“She’s five. Stacie has a daughter who just turned six. The two of them are quite a pair. She’s probably happy to have her daughter entertained overnight.”
“That’s cute. So, I don’t know what’s good here. I’ve only been here for a few weeks. Do you have any suggestions?”
“I’m trying to remember the last time I went somewhere without Rachel in tow. Let me ask around. Maybe we can both try a new restaurant,” said Chloe.
“I like that idea a whole lot. I’ll pick you up at 6 unless you’d rather drive.”
“I don’t care much, but it might be easier if I drove since I know the area. You can meet me at my house if you’d like.”
“Great idea. You pick the place and make reservations, but it’s my treat,” said Beca.
“Sounds good. I’ll be in touch,” said Chloe.
“Great,” said Beca, and Chloe was certain she could hear a smile in her voice.
Chloe was relieved that Beca was going to treat because she’d just spent a lot of money on Rachel’s school supplies. She couldn’t believe a five-year-old really needed twenty pencils and ten large glue sticks, but she wasn’t going to have her daughter be the kid who didn’t have what she needed.
Chloe dropped Rachel off at Stacie and Aubrey’s at 5:00, and she was thrilled when her doorbell rang at 6. A part of her was a little concerned that Beca wouldn’t show, even though they’d spoken several times since scheduling the date. She’d had that happen more often than not since Rachel had come along, although generally people just stopped returning phone calls and/or texts.
“Hi,” she greeted Beca warmly.
“Hey, you look nice,” said Beca. She had a hand behind her back, and she took it out to reveal a small bouquet of differently colored flowers.
“You didn’t have to bring me flowers. Thanks so much!” Chloe gestured for Beca to come in while she looked through her kitchen cabinets for a vase. She found one and put the flowers in water. She returned to the living room to find Beca looking at the framed pictures.
“Is this your daughter?” Beca asked, holding up a picture of a little girl with her face covered in freckles and her hair in two curly red pigtails..
“That’s her from last year. She’s a little bigger now, but that’s her.”
“She has the same red hair. She looks just like you.”
“We get that a lot.”
“Who’s that?” Beca held up a picture of Chloe with an elderly woman.
“That’s me with my Meemaw. She died about ten months before Rachel came along.”
“I’m sure you miss her.”
“I do. Rachel was born on her birthday. I named her after my Meemaw - Rachel Addison.”
“That’s sweet,” said Beca.
“I think of Rachel as a gift from my Meemaw.”
“Maybe she was. What time is our reservation?”
“7, so we should head over,” said Chloe.
Chloe led Beca to her car, a small hatchback she’d inherited from her Meemaw. She’d taken a few minutes after dropping off Rachel to make sure she’d cleaned it up. She didn’t like having a messy car, but she could only do so much with a young kid underfoot.
She turned on the stereo and was relieved that Beca had laughed when Rachel’s Disney Princess CD began to play.
“Oh my goodness,” said Chloe. “That means I must have been listening to her music after I dropped her off. I guess I’m good at tuning it out.”
“That’s funny,” said Beca. “Do you mind if I put the radio on?”
“Well, I was going to sing princess songs,” Chloe said.
Beca laughed and switched to a radio station.
They got to the restaurant, an Asian fusion place (according to Yelp). They sat down and Chloe couldn’t help but sigh. “This is already amazing,” she said.
“Am I that good already?” Beca asked, smirking.
“It’s the first restaurant I’ve been to in ages that didn’t serve pizza or chicken nuggets.”
“It’s my first ‘Asian fusion’ place, whatever that means.”
“It’s some combination of Asian foods and American foods, I think. I wanted to try something new. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
“I don’t get too many opportunities to do this kind of thing. Rachel is a picky eater, and...I’m sorry. I’m doing that annoying thing where all I am doing is talking about my kid.”
“You’re fine,” said Beca. “I haven’t dated a single parent before, but it’s okay.”
“Thanks. Anyway, tell me about yourself,” said Chloe.
“I grew up in Seattle. My parents divorced when I was eleven, and my dad moved here to Atlanta with the stepmonster.”
Chloe chuckled. “I take it you don’t like her.”
“Sheila really isn’t so bad, but I don’t like that my dad left us for her.”
“Anyway, my dad wanted me to go to college because he teaches at Barden, but I moved to LA instead. I got a job in my junior year of high school that I worked until graduation. I saved my money and I moved to LA the fall after graduation. I knew I didn’t want to go to college, so I didn’t. My dad was pissed, but he got over it.”
“I went to Barden, actually. What does he teach?”
“I didn’t take that class. Do you see him now that you live here?”
“Yeah,” said Beca. “We made our peace a while ago. He got sick about six months ago, and that was the final straw. I never really liked LA. I didn’t fit in, and I’d already looked into moving here since my record label has a satellite office. I kept my place there so I have somewhere to stay when I have to be out that way. The label is helping run it as an AirBnB for me.”
“What’s wrong with your dad?”
“Lung cancer. He was a longtime smoker. It sucks, though, to see him go through it.”
“I’m sorry. That’s what took my Meemaw. She smoked for at least fifty years. She quit when I was a little girl, but the damage was done.”
“Yeah. The doctors aren’t too optimistic. He only quit when he was diagnosed.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of their server.
After they ordered, Beca said, “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean to be a downer.”
“It’s okay. I appreciate the honesty. So, how is Crackers?”
“He’s doing well. He loves having a real yard. I took him to dog parks back in LA, but it’s really nice not having to walk him every time he has to do his business.”
“I’m sure. Rachel wants a dog or a cat, but I haven’t gotten her one yet. I might consider a cat in a year or two since they’re a lot more self-sufficient.”
“She’s welcome to come over and play with Crackers. He loves kids.”
“I’m sure she’d love that. So...what do you do in your free time?” asked Chloe.
“So, we’re doing first date questions,” said Beca.
“Fair enough. I haven’t had a lot of free time lately. I don’t like movies, but I do like to watch television. It’s about all I’ve had the energy to do since moving a month ago. I have a lot of shit for someone who has lived alone for the past ten years. Before that, though, I guess I liked to spend it with Crackers.”
“I don’t have a lot of it either. I like television, but my guilty pleasure is cheesy romance novels. I have way too many of them.”
“Hey, you like what you like. I’m pretty sure you’d get a good laugh out of my Netflix history.”
“Mine isn’t too bad. Stacie - Dr. Conrad - gave Rachel and me our own names on her Netflix. I don’t know if she’s ever looked at my history, but I’ll admit to choosing my shows carefully.”
“Do you think she’d really make fun of you for something in your history?”
“She might if she saw an opening,” said Chloe. “We’ve been friends since my internship at the animal hospital. She loves to pick on me.”
“I saw that.”
“Yeah, she and Fat Amy are a handful when they gang up on me.”
“Fat Amy?” asked Beca.
“The receptionist. The parent company made her get a new name tag when they came to check on us. She calls herself that so thin people don’t do it behind her back. I’m paraphrasing because the way she put it isn’t quite as...delicate.”
“The animal hospital sounds like a fun place to work.”
“It is. But I really hope I can become a vet. I want to go to vet school, but it hasn’t quite worked out for me yet.”
“It’s tough, I’m sure. I worked a ton of odd jobs in LA to just pay the rent before I finally got my big break. I had both of my parents tell me I was making a mistake, but that only made me determined to prove them wrong.”
“And, you certainly did just that,” said Chloe.
“I did. And I think you’re going to kick ass in vet school whenever that happens.”
Their food arrived, and they ate for a few minutes before agreeing to let the other try their dish.
“So, is Crackers your first pet?” asked Chloe.
“I had a fish when I was little. I won a goldfish at a carnival. It died a week later.”
“I’m pretty sure we forgot to feed it on a regular basis,” said Beca. “Crackers doesn’t let me forget to feed him.”
Chloe laughed. “That’s a good thing. It means he’s healthy.”
They finished their meals and were both too full for dessert.
“So, what do you want to do now? I still don’t really know what there is to do around here,” said Beca.
“It’s nice out. We could take a walk,” said Chloe.
“Do you mind if we stop at my place first? Crackers hasn’t gotten much exercise today. I spent a lot of today unpacking boxes. My neighborhood is a good place for walking.”
“I’d love to have him join us. How do we want to do this? Should I drive back to mine and then I can follow you to yours?”
“Good plan,” said Beca.
They got to Beca’s house and Chloe laughed at how excited Crackers was. He was practically vibrating.
“Hi, buddy! Mommy’s home and she brought your friend Chloe!” Beca said to her dog.
“I love how he can’t contain himself,” said Chloe.
Beca grabbed the leash, a few treats, and some waste bags before they headed out.
“Tell me more about your daughter.”
Chloe lit up. “Rachel is the light of my life. She loves the color purple, rainbows, and unicorns. She draws these beautiful pictures, too. And, it’s probably a mom thing, but I feel like she’s so smart. She can read a few words already, even though she just started kindergarten this week.”
“I just love being her mother, even when it’s tough.”
“I’m sure. I know my mom had a tough time when my dad left.”
“It’s always just been the two of us. I don’t know any different.”
“Do you have any siblings?”
“I’m an only child.”
“So am I. It made things so difficult when my parents divorced. I blamed myself until I learned that my dad had been cheating on my mom,” said Beca.
They stopped for a few minutes while Crackers gave a patch of grass a thorough sniffing before deciding to mark his territory on it.
“I’m sure that was tough.”
“What about your parents? Are they still together?”
“Well…” Chloe trailed off.
“I’m sorry. Was that too personal?”
“It’s...a little heavy for a first date.” Chloe sighed. “They died when I was six. They left me with my Meemaw so they could take a vacation for their tenth anniversary. Their plane crashed on the way home. My Meemaw raised me from then on. My dad’s parents died before I was born, and I don’t have any aunts or uncles on either side. I had my Meemaw and my Papaw, but Papaw died of a heart attack when I was eight. Meemaw was my only family until Rachel came along.”
“I guess I’m the downer, now,” said Chloe.
“I appreciate you being open with me,” said Beca. “I’m sure things have been hard for you.”
“They have. But my Meemaw always told me what a wonderful girl I was. I’m sure it was a struggle to raise me, especially when I was a teenager, but she never made me feel like I was a burden. In fact, if anyone said anything about how hard it was to have to raise a grandchild, she’d set them straight. She’d put her hands on her hips and say, ‘What are you talking about? I get to see my granddaughter every day. How many grandparents can say that?’ I think I get my positive outlook from her.”
“That’s really awesome. It really sounds like she made the best out of things.”
“She did. I always make sure my little girl knows how special she is to me. I learned from the best.”
“That’s great,” said Beca.
“I can’t believe I told you all of this on our first date,” said Chloe.
“It’s cool. I’m glad you told me.”
They walked a little longer before heading back to Beca’s.
“Would you like to come inside and have a drink?” Beca asked.
Chloe chewed on her bottom lip.
“It’s just a drink. It’s totally fine if you wanted to end the night here, but I’m really enjoying your company.”
“Okay. I’ll come in.”
Beca led Chloe inside and gave her a quick tour of the place. It was a three-bedroom colonial. “So, this is my third bedroom, but I turned it into a home office since I live alone. I have a spare mixing board and everything in here.”
“Wow,” said Chloe. “I didn’t know there were so many buttons and levers.”
“The one in the studio is at least three times that size.”
“How do you know what to do with it?”
“I’ve been doing this since high school. I got better with practice, and I was lucky to get my start with some producers who were happy to show me some tips and tricks.”
“So, I have a full bar over by the kitchen,” said Beca. “What would you like?”
“It’s been so long since I’ve been to a bar. Surprise me, I guess. Nothing too strong since I’m driving home.”
Beca appeared to study Chloe’s face for a moment before seeming to decide on a drink. “Vodka and cranberry okay?”
Chloe began to laugh.
“Was it something I said?”
“No, it’s...Aubrey, she’s Dr. Conrad’s wife, has a thing for those. She even made a rap about it. She got drunk enough at their wedding reception to swipe the microphone from the DJ and perform it.”
“I think I need to meet this woman.”
“I could probably arrange that.”
“Do you want the drink?”
“Oh, right. Yes, thanks,” said Chloe.
Beca fixed herself something Chloe didn’t recognize with tequila before sitting down with her in the living room.
“What’s that?” Chloe asked, pointing to her drink.
“Juan Collins,” Beca said. “It’s basically a John Collins with tequila instead of whiskey. Would you like to try a sip?”
“What do you think?”
“It’s good, but I like my vodka cranberry better. Where did you learn to make that?”
“I used to be a bartender. I tried to get a waitressing job when I first moved to LA, but I was terrible at it. I spilled enough drinks to know it wasn’t for me. I was under twenty-one, but the restaurant owner let me tend the bar. I learned from my coworkers, and I got pretty good at it.”
“What else did you do before you got your big break?” Chloe asked.
“I had a friend who would let me serve for his catering company. I was a shitty waitress, but I could handle a buffet table. He’d let me have tips and take home leftovers. It was a pretty sweet gig.”
“It sounds sweet.”
“It was. So, what about you? What was your first job?”
“I worked at a pet shop in high school. I mostly cleaned the reptile and small animal cages. They had a veterinary office right in the store, and I made friends with the vets and the techs there. I was just in love with the work they did, and I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
“That sounds pretty cool. I worked at a music store in high school. It’s where I learned how to use a mixing board. There was this guy who worked there who taught me how to make mash-ups, and I was hooked,” said Beca.
“And now you make music of your own,” said Chloe.
“Yeah. I’m so glad I get to do what I love. It’s really hard to get into the music business.”
While they’d been talking, Chloe noticed they’d somehow moved closer together on the couch.
“Do you want to watch something?” Beca asked.
“Sure. You pick the show.”
Beca fired up HBO Max and selected Friends. “Is this okay?”
“Yeah. I haven’t seen it since it went off of Netflix.”
They relaxed, sipping their drinks, and laughing at Ross, Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, and Chandler. Chloe found herself snuggled up to Beca, head on her shoulder with Beca’s arm around her. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this comfortable on a date, especially a first date.
“Comfy?” Beca asked, smirking.
“Yeah. You don’t mind, do you?” Chloe asked.
“A beautiful woman is in my arms. No, I can’t say I mind.”
Chloe couldn’t help but giggle, just a little. “I think the vodka cran is getting to my head.” Either that, or it’s my date calling me beautiful, thought Chloe.
Beca pulled her a little closer and kissed her on top of the head. “All part of my evil plan,” she said.
They watched a few more episodes before Chloe called it a night.
“I had a wonderful time, and I’d really like to take you out again,” said Beca.
“I’d like that. I’d like that a lot,” said Chloe. “I have to make sure that I have a sitter. I’m probably being overprotective, but I don’t trust very many people with my daughter.”
“You will? That statement has sent at least three people heading for the hills.”
“Chloe, I like you, okay? You’re worth the wait. I’ve never dated a single parent, but my mom was one. I was older, of course, so it’s not like I needed a sitter, but I know my mom always put me first. I’d expect you to do the same thing with your daughter.”
“Yeah,” said Beca. “And...I’d love to meet Rachel whenever you’re ready. I’ll warn you, though, that kids don’t usually like me.”
“I’m sure Rachel will like you. She’s a real sweetheart.”
“I hope so. Maybe you two can show me some of the more family-oriented stuff. My dad dragged me a bunch of places when I came out to visit, but I was too angry with him at the time to enjoy any of them. Besides, then I can take you out without you having to find a sitter all the time.”
“We can do that. We haven’t been to the zoo or the aquarium lately.”
“Both sound great,” said Beca. She hesitated for a moment. “Would it be okay if I kissed you?”
Chloe froze. She couldn’t think of the last time someone had been kind enough to ask.
Chloe shook her head to clear her mind. “You took me by surprise. Yes, that would be more than okay.”
Beca looked straight at her, gently held her chin, and kissed her.
Chloe immediately sighed and relaxed into the kiss. Beca’s lips were soft and warm, and kissing her felt like they’d been doing it forever.
When they broke apart, Beca grinned. “Keep in touch and let me know when we can go on that second date, okay?”
“I will,” said Chloe. She had a stupid grin on her face the entire walk back to her car.
The next morning, Chloe headed to Stacie and Aubrey’s to get her daughter.
“Mama!” Rachel yelled as she got up from the board game she’d been playing with Bella. She wrapped her mom in a hug.
“Hey, baby girl. Did you have fun with Auntie Stacie, Auntie Aubrey, and Bella?”
“I did. We watched My Little Pony and we played Trouble. And Auntie Aubrey made me a smoothie with my breakfast pancakes. It was yummy!”
“Sounds like fun,” said Chloe. “Help Bella clean up the game and make sure you have your things. I want to find out how Auntie Aubrey made that smoothie.”
“Okay,” said Rachel.
Chloe headed to the kitchen where Aubrey was loading the dishwasher. “What was in this smoothie?”
“I blended one of Rachel’s supplemental drinks with a frozen banana.”
“Very clever,” said Chloe. “That might put some weight on her. I’m dreading her next pediatrician visit.”
“I’m happy to help,” said Aubrey. “So, how was your date?”
“It was pretty great.”
“Did she ask you out again?”
Chloe nodded and then chewed on her bottom lip.
“Don’t tell me you turned her down,” said Aubrey.
Stacie walked in. “Chloe Beale, I swear, if you-”
Chloe put a hand up. “Stop. I didn’t turn her down.”
“Then, what’s the problem?” Aubrey asked.
“You know how I feel about leaving Rachel. It’s hard enough having her in after-school care.”
“That’s the problem?” asked Stacie. “You can leave Rachel with us whenever.”
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You’re not. We’re offering,” Stacie said, and Aubrey nodded.
Rachel walked in with her bag. “I’m ready, Mama.”
“Okay, let’s look real quick and make sure you have everything,” said Chloe.
They walked through Bella’s room and found a pair of socks that Rachel hadn’t packed, and her toothbrush was still in their bathroom.
“You were okay last night, right?” Chloe asked.
“Yes, Mama. I didn’t even need to use my inhaler!”
“That’s great, baby girl. Let’s go thank your aunties and say goodbye to Bella before we leave.”
Rachel wrapped each of her aunties in a hug and gave one to Bella as well before taking her mama’s hand.
“Mama, did you have fun with your new friend?” Rachel asked.
“I sure did.”
“What did you do?”
“We went out to eat, and then we took her dog for a walk.”
“She has a dog?”
“Yes, his name is Crackers. I met Miss Beca and Crackers when they came to the clinic for his checkup,” said Chloe.
“Yeah. Anyway, after we walked the dog, we watched TV.”
“Did you have a sleepover with her, Mama?” Rachel asked.
Chloe laughed. “No, baby girl. We just met. It’s a little too soon for sleepovers.”
“Oh,” Rachel said, nodding.
After they got home, Chloe unpacked Rachel’s things. She peeled a couple of bananas, put them into a freezer bag, and placed them in her freezer, hoping that Aubrey’s trick would get Rachel to drink her supplements.
She sent a quick text to Beca while Rachel sat at the kitchen table with crayons, paper, and pencils. Her tongue stuck out in concentration while she drew. Chloe herself could barely draw a stick figure, and she was always amazed at what her daughter could draw from her imagination.
C: My babysitters are happy to take the kiddo again
B: Nice friends
C: They are
B: I’m working this weekend, but next weekend is open
C: Saturday night at 6 again?
B: It’s a date
Chloe’s stomach flipped seeing the word “date.” She knew, of course, that it was a date. Last night’s dinner had definitely been a date, even ending in a kiss. She’d just had such rotten luck in the past with dates. Beca was a breath of fresh air, to say the least.
Monday morning, Chloe breathed a sigh of relief when Rachel downed her smoothie without an argument. Maybe she’ll finally outgrow those 4T clothes, thought Chloe.
Once Chloe got to work, she was immediately cornered by Stacie and Fat Amy.
“Spill it. We want details,” said Fat Amy.
“It was nice,” said Chloe.
“What part of ‘details’ did you not understand?”
“We went to that Asian fusion place you told me about.”
“And…?” Stacie asked.
“You two…” Chloe rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine. We really liked the restaurant. Thanks, Amy. We went back to her place to get her dog. We took a long walk with the dog around her neighborhood and talked. A lot. Then we went back to her place. She fixed me a vodka cran and we watched Friends.”
“Did you get some?” Fat Amy asked.
“A lady doesn’t kiss and tell,” said Chloe.
“That means she didn’t,” said Stacie.
Chloe blew out a sigh. “It was the first date!”
“It never stopped me,” said Fat Amy.
“Or me,” said Stacie.
“Neither of you is a single mom. It’s complicated.”
“When are you going out again?”
“A week from Saturday, assuming Rachel’s aunties are available,” said Chloe.
“Thanks. If you want, I’ll have Bella over for a sleepover this weekend. I owe you guys.”
“I’ll talk to Aubrey and pick a day. I’ll tell you tomorrow,” said Stacie.
“Awes. Oh, and please thank your wife for the ‘smoothie recipe.’ Rachel downed her drink this morning.”
They heard a bell jingle, signaling that someone had entered the clinic.
“I guess I’d better see who that is,” said Fat Amy.
That was the first patient of the day, and they were busy the rest of the day with back-to-back patients. They barely even had time to eat lunch. Chloe was wiped out by the time the day ended.
Chloe was thrilled to see her little freckle-faced redhead at the end of the day.
“Hey, baby girl.”
“I had music class today. It was so fun. My teacher can play the piano and the guitar!”
“That’s great. Are you ready to go home?”
“Yeah. I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?” Rachel asked.
Cooking was the last thing Chloe felt like doing, and arguing with her daughter about dinner was a close second. “How about I make some dinosaur nuggets and tater tots?”
“Yay!” Rachel cheered.
They got home, and Chloe put dinner in the oven. She went through Rachel’s school papers while waiting for everything to warm. They’d given the parents a calendar for the month. School picture day was at the end of the month, and “Back to School Night” was on Wednesday night. The only other upcoming date of interest was hearing and vision screening, which would be done during the school day the following week.
Chloe mentally kicked herself for forgetting to make arrangements for “Back to School Night.” The calendar clearly stated that the event was for adults only. Stacie and Aubrey were out. She remembered Stacie mentioning they’d be leaving Bella with their neighbor that evening. She considered asking Betty, the neighbor who used to care for Rachel while she was at work, but she remembered she’d been out of town visiting her daughter. She wouldn’t be back until November.
Dinner was ready before Chloe had figured out what she was going to do.
Rachel chatted away in between bites about her day. “I sat with Violet at lunch today.”
“You did? Is she still your best friend?”
“Yes. I want to have a playdate with her. Can I?”
“I’ll ask her moms, okay?”
After they’d finished and cleaned up dinner, Rachel continued drawing the picture she’d started on Sunday while Chloe texted Ashley.
C: Hi, I’m Chloe. Rachel’s mama
A: Hi. Is she asking about a playdate?
C: I guess they worked this out at lunch
A: 😂 That’s my daughter
C: Mine too
A: What day works?
C: Weekends are best
A: Sunday afternoon?
A: Are you going to Back to School Night?
C: I don’t know
C: I forgot to get a sitter
A: I can watch her
A: I send my wife to those since I’m always at school
Chloe thought for a few moments before answering. She was really uneasy about leaving her daughter with anyone. She was still having a hard time with the aftercare program at school, but she didn’t have much of a choice. Betty had told her about six months ago that she didn’t think she could handle Rachel for much longer. Rachel was a good girl, but she had a lot of energy. Betty was approaching seventy-five years old, and she’d gently asked Chloe to find another childcare arrangement once Rachel went to school full-time.
A: It’s totally fine if you don’t want to
Chloe thought again. Ashley had three kids, and Rachel loved Violet.
C: I’m a worrywart
A: It’s okay
C: Rachel has asthma
A: So does Carter
C: Okay, text me your address
C: I’ll be sure to give her dinner first
A: Not a problem if you don’t
“Would you like to hang out with Violet on Wednesday night?”
“Yes! I’m so excited!”
“That’s great,” said Chloe. “I’m going to Back to School Night, so you’ll hang out at her house with her brothers and one of her moms.”
“Okay,” said Rachel. She went back to drawing her picture.
Chloe sat down and read one of her cheesy romance novels for a while until Rachel asked for her attention.
“Look!” She showed Chloe a picture of two girls wearing unicorn dresses and holding hands.
“Is that you and Violet?” asked Chloe.
“Yup,” she said.
“Excellent work. I love how well you draw.”
“Drawing is my favorite,” said Rachel. “Mama, how many freckles do I have?”
“Can you count them?”
“Let me get my makeup mirror and we’ll try to count them together.”
Chloe sat her makeup mirror on the coffee table to magnify Rachel’s face. Rachel climbed into her lap. Chloe tapped each freckle on her little girl’s face, making the girl squeal and giggle.
“Twenty-two, twenty-three,” said Chloe. “Oops, I think I counted that one already. Should we start over?”
Rachel nodded. Chloe counted again, but she lost count at twenty-five that time.
“Mama, you’re funny.” Rachel began to collapse into a fit of giggles.
“Oh, I’m funny, am I?” asked Chloe, poking her daughter in the belly.
“Mama, Mama!” Rachel laughed so hard tears came out of her eyes, and Chloe couldn’t help but join her.
“I love you so much, baby girl,” she said, kissing her daughter on top of her head.
“I love you, too, Mama,” Rachel said, wrapping her arms around Chloe’s neck.
“You give the best hugs.”
“No, you do.”
“No, you,” said Chloe, starting another tickle fight. They went back and forth “pretend arguing” about who gave the best hugs.
“Okay, Mama, enough,” said Rachel after a few minutes.
“Guess what? It’s bath time!”
“Yup. Strip down and I’ll start the water.”
Rachel took her bath, and Chloe sent Beca a text while she waited for Rachel to tell her she was done.
C: How was your day?
B: Busy. You?
“Mama!” Rachel called.
C: Rachel needs me, text later
“Sweetie, let’s rinse your hair again. I can see all of the shampoo bubbles.”
“I like the bubbles.”
“You have to rinse it all out of your hair or I won’t be able to brush it.”
“I was going to wear the bubbles to school tomorrow.”
“They would all pop when you sleep,” said Chloe.
“Oh, all right,” said Rachel with an exaggerated sigh.
Chloe shook her head as she helped her daughter rinse her hair. Sometimes, that little girl sounded just like her namesake.
She read her daughter a story and tucked her in. “Goodnight, baby girl. I love you so much.”
“I love you, too.” She gave Rachel a kiss, made sure her nightlight was on, and turned off her light. She shut the door, having learned early on that her daughter was a light sleeper.
She headed to her room and resumed her text conversation.
C: The little lady is down
B: Are we still on for next Saturday?
B: What do you want to do?
C: No idea
C: You choose
Chloe had been on a pathetically low number of dates in her life, especially in the past five and a half years. She hoped Beca had a few more ideas.
B: Can I think about it and get back to you?
B: That’s cute
C: What’s cute?
C: I started saying it in college
B: Love it
B: I hate to cut this short, but I have to be in the studio early tomorrow morning
C: No problem, have a good night
B: You too
Chloe sat back in her bed, thinking. Beca felt too good to be true.
Chloe tried to calm her nerves Wednesday night before dropping Rachel off at Ashley’s.
Ashley and her wife Jessica warmly greeted Chloe and Rachel.
“Hi,” said Chloe. “Here’s Rachel’s inhaler. She hasn’t had to use it much lately, but I wanted you to have it.”
“Got it,” said Ashley. “Any triggers I should know?”
“The only one we could pinpoint was mold, and she sometimes has problems if she is having strong emotions. She does occasionally have an attack for reasons we have yet to discover.”
“Okay. I’ll keep an eye on her.”
“I’m about to leave,” said Jessica. “Would you like to drive together since we’re going to the same place? Parking is at a premium on Back to School Night.”
“Good idea,” said Chloe. “Okay, Rachel, I’m heading out. Be good for Miss Ashley and play nicely with Violet.”
“Yes, Mama.” Rachel gave her mother a squeeze.
Chloe looked back as she followed Jessica to her car.
“She will be fine,” said Jessica. “And I know Ashley will contact you right away if there’s a problem.”
“So, Ashley says you’re a veterinary technologist?”
“Yes. I want to use my degree to go to vet school, but life keeps getting in the way.”
“Life does have a funny way of messing with your plans,” said Jessica.
Chloe welcomed the distraction, and she was much more relaxed by the time they got to the school.
She sat through a presentation on why she should join the PTA, which she would have done anyway. She ate a few refreshments before heading over to Rachel’s classroom. The teacher went over a few more specifics on the year’s curriculum, and she showed them the family pictures their children had drawn that day. In Chloe’s “totally unbiased” opinion, Rachel’s was the best.
Chloe looked around at some of the special area subjects while she waited for Jessica to listen to presentations for her other two kids. She was pleased to learn that the art and music teachers were already enjoying having Rachel in their class, and she tried not to hound the gym teacher too much about her daughter’s asthma. She felt much better when the woman told her that she and one of her children also had asthma.
She headed to the PTA table and took the signup sheet with her, deciding she’d register online. She couldn’t believe the “suggested donation” they wanted, but she figured she’d just throw it on a credit card. Afterall, it must be helping her daughter somehow. She also really didn’t want to draw attention to herself by choosing an alternate amount.
Jessica met her at the PTA table. “Are you ready to head back?”
“Yes,” said Chloe.
“I assume you didn’t hear from Ashley.”
“No. Why? Did you?”
“Relax. I was just trying to tell you that no news is good news.”
“Right. I don’t mean to be such a worrywart.”
“Ashley and I were pretty overprotective of our first. By the third kid, we were wondering if dirt could be counted as a meal,” Jessica said, laughing.
Chloe looked at her, eyes wide.
“It’s a joke. I promise. I’m just saying that we relaxed a little more with each kid.”
“I learned by the third kid that they’re a lot more resilient than you’d think. That’s all.”
“And we’re here. No ambulance, so…”
“I get it. I need to chill out,” said Chloe.
“I’m just messing with you,” said Jessica.
“Mama!” Rachel exclaimed when she saw her mother.
“Hi, baby girl. Did you have a good time?”
“Yeah. Aiden and Carter were teaching me how to make fart noises with my armpits,” she said proudly before showing off her new skill.
Chloe laughed. “Please don’t demonstrate that at school.”
“Sorry about that,” said Ashley.
“It’s okay. So, everything was fine?”
“Oh, yeah. Rachel is a doll. She got along beautifully with all of my kids. It’s better than they normally get along, actually. She’s welcome here anytime.”
“Thanks again for watching her,” said Chloe. “Okay, sweetheart. We need to get home. It’s almost bedtime.”
“Bye, Violet! Bye, Aiden! Bye, Carter! Thank you, Miss Ashley!” Rachel called as she took her mama’s hand and headed to the car.
Saturday night, Stacie and Aubrey dropped Bella off for a sleepover. Chloe and Rachel had gone to the library that afternoon to pick out a few movies to borrow.
Chloe made a pizza for the girls, and they played with their My Little Pony dolls while they waited for it to bake.
She smiled as the girls chattered away over dinner. Chloe didn’t have siblings or cousins, and neither did Rachel, but Rachel and Bella seemed to have the relationship she’d imagined as a little girl. She was glad she had a “found family” with Stacie. She just wished she’d been fortunate enough to have met Stacie earlier.
For dessert, she’d bought a tub of vanilla ice cream and a bunch of different toppings. She let the girls make their own sundaes. The two of them turned it into a contest, and Chloe had laughed at them before telling them that they’d get bellyaches if they made their sundaes any bigger.
The girls giggled and continued their chatter in between bites. Chloe was amazed to see Rachel finish the whole thing. She hoped they wouldn’t pay for it later.
After dinner, the girls agreed on a movie (Moana). Chloe sat back and let herself get sucked into the story.
She blew up the air mattress Aubrey and Stacie had sent over with Bella and tucked the girls in. She could hear them whispering and giggling to each other for a good hour before they finally got quiet.
The next morning, Chloe heard more giggling at 7 am.
She opened Rachel’s door. “Good morning, you two! Who wants breakfast?”
Both girls yelled, “I do!”
“Good. Come and see me in the kitchen, and I’ll make you something.”
The girls walked in, and Rachel asked for waffles. Bella decided she’d like some as well. Chloe grabbed some Mickey Mouse shaped Eggo waffles from the freezer and popped them into her toaster. She gave each girl one and toasted another pair.
Chloe set them up with My Little Pony on Netflix after they’d finished eating and gotten dressed. Bella’s moms were set to pick her up around ten that morning.
Stacie and Aubrey arrived right on time to get their daughter.
“How was your night?” Chloe asked.
“It was great,” said Stacie.
“I can see that,” said Chloe. She smiled while pointing to a faint mark on Aubrey’s neck.
“I told you not to leave a mark,” Aubrey hissed.
“Sorry, not sorry,” said Stacie, looking smug.
“Mommy! Mama!” Bella exclaimed.
“Hey, bug,” said Aubrey. “Did you have fun?”
“Yeah,” said Bella. She started to tell her moms all about her night.
“Okay, kiddo. Tell us in the car,” said Stacie.
“Thanks so much for keeping her,” said Aubrey.
“It’s the least I can do.”
After they left, Rachel grabbed her art supplies and sat down at the kitchen table to draw another picture.
Chloe took advantage of her daughter being occupied to get some house cleaning done.
After lunch, they headed to Jessica and Ashley’s for a playdate.
Rachel played really nicely with Violet and her brothers while Chloe talked to their moms.
“So, it’s just you and Rachel?” Jessica asked.
“It always has been.”
“That must be tough. Ashley and I are outnumbered, but, at least there are two of us.”
“It’s all I know,” said Chloe. She gave them a brief rundown of her family history.
“I think your little girl was a gift from your grandmother,” said Ashley.
“I think so, too,” said Chloe.
“How are you handling Rachel being in school?”
“Okay, I guess. I had a neighbor who used to be a nanny for me, but she’s getting up there in years. I was used to just coming home after work, but now I have to pick her up on the way home. She loves school and after-school care, though, which is great. What about you?”
“I go from enjoying the quiet to being bored. I’m applying for some part-time work. It will get me out of the house and the extra income won’t hurt,” said Ashley. “But, it’s not easy to find somewhere that will schedule me for school hours and won’t mind that I need the day off if school is closed. I might just spend more time volunteering at school. I didn’t have much time to do that before.”
“By the way, I’m happy to take Rachel for you on days that school is closed.”
“Thanks. How much?”
“Oh, I won’t take your money,” said Ashley. “She fits in so well here, and she keeps Violet entertained. Trust me, I’ll be happy to have her around to help prevent some of the fighting around here.”
“That’s great. Thanks a bunch.” An idea popped into Chloe’s head. “What about...date nights?” She felt her face get hot.
“Are you seeing someone?” asked both Ashley and Jessica.
“Kind of?” Chloe buried her face in her hands.
“What does that mean?” asked Jessica.
“We went on a date last Saturday night. She had to work this weekend, but we’re going out again next Saturday night. Rachel is staying with my best friend and her wife.”
“Nice,” said Ashley. “And, sure, we’ll happily take Rachel for a date night. Any chance you would be willing to watch our brood?”
“Sure. But my house is kind of small for four kids to run around. I can bring Rachel over here, though, and watch everyone.”
“Awesome,” said Jessica. “We don’t get to go out much. It’s hard finding someone to watch three kids.”
“It sounds like we have a deal.”
She got a text from Beca that evening.
B: Hey you
B: I have a date idea
B: A coworker recommended a restaurant we should try
B: We can walk through the Olympic Park afterward
B: Another one of your words?
B: Okay, awes
The following Saturday, Chloe dropped Rachel off with Stacie and Aubrey again.
Beca texted her that morning to let her know that she’d bought tickets to a comedy club for after dinner since it was raining, making the original plan of walking around a park a bad idea. They went to a place that served Mexican and Spanish food.
They went to the comedy club, and they really enjoyed the show, even though they weren’t familiar with any of the comics.
They headed to Beca’s again for drinks. Beca insisted the bartender at the comedy club had no idea what they were doing.
“Okay, now, this is a whiskey sour,” said Beca.
Chloe took a sip. “Yours is better. No doubt about it.”
They snuggled on the couch, no television this time. They talked about their week.
Chloe pulled up a picture on her phone. “I snapped this at Back to School Night. The teacher had the kids draw family pictures. I really think Rachel did a nice job.”
“It is nice,” said Beca. “Has she had art lessons?”
Chloe shook her head.
“So, tell me more about yourself. What did you do in high school? I’m going to guess you were a cheerleader.”
Chloe laughed and shook her head. “Nope. I played soccer. I dated a cheerleader, though.”
“Oh, did you?”
“Not for long, though. She was a handful.”
“Yeah. I dated someone from the guys’ soccer team, but that didn’t go well, either. I caught him making out with my ex-girlfriend at a party. She broke up with me and then I guess that was her way of getting back at me for moving on.”
“That sucks,” said Beca. “I haven’t had a lot of luck in the dating department myself. Los Angeles was the worst. I dated so many people who just wanted to say they’d been with someone famous.” She made a face.
“Sorry to hear that.”
“It just added to the list of reasons LA wasn’t for me.”
“Right. How’s your dad?”
“Hanging in there,” said Beca. “I spent some time with him today since he’s off of chemo for the week. He’s still feeling crummy and sleeping a lot, though.”
“That’s how my Meemaw was.”
“Yeah. I don’t want to talk about sad stuff. Come here,” said Beca, pulling Chloe close. “I’ve waited two weeks to kiss you again.”
A chaste kiss rapidly turned into a makeout session. Chloe sighed into the kiss, and, in a move that surprised both of them, she swung a leg over Beca and sat in her lap, only breaking the kiss long enough to reposition herself and ask if this was okay.
Beca wrapped her arms tightly around Chloe and began to move down her jawline to her neck.
“Careful, no marks. I’ll never hear the end of it at work.”
Beca stopped just long enough to chuckle lightly. She continued on her neck for just a little while before moving back to her lips.
Chloe thought she’d be pretty content to kiss Beca forever, but then her brain caught up with her and she pulled back.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Beca asked gently.
“I…” Chloe trailed off.
“Was that too much? You seemed into it.”
“I was. I liked it. I just...I wasn’t quite as ready as I thought I was.”
“It’s okay, really. We can pull back.”
“I don’t mean to be so hot and cold.”
“It really is fine. I promise. Why don’t we watch some more Friends?”
“Great idea,” said Chloe. She moved off of Beca’s lap but stayed close. She really enjoyed being in Beca’s arms while they watched the show.
Beca gave Chloe another deep kiss as she was getting ready to leave. “Chloe, can I ask you something?”
“You just did.”
Beca rolled her eyes. “You’re such a dork.” She took a deep breath. “I know we’ve only been on two dates, but, will you be my girlfriend?”
Chloe felt her breath catch. “You’re serious?”
“I’ll be your girlfriend. That’s...yeah, I like that.”
Beca pulled her in for another kiss before she left. Chloe smiled as she walked back to her car, but then her smile dropped as she thought to herself. There was something she hadn’t told Beca, and she didn’t know how or when.
Chloe picked up her smiling freckle-faced little girl from Stacie and Aubrey’s the next morning.
“Mama! Guess what?”
“I lost another tooth, and the tooth fairy found me. I didn’t know she knew where I was!”
Rachel smiled to show her mama the new gap in her mouth, and she held up a dollar bill.
“That’s amazing, baby girl. Make sure you have all of your things.”
Chloe reached into her purse after Rachel left the room. She tried to hand Stacie a dollar, but she refused to take it.
“I didn’t realize her tooth was that loose,” said Chloe. “I would have given you money.”
“Relax. It’s a dollar. Keep it.”
“I can’t let you-“
“Fine. How was she?”
“Awesome, as usual. She and Bella are so cute together,” said Stacie. “How was your date?”
“We started getting hot and heavy, and I put the brakes on things.”
Chloe shrugged. “I...it was too much. I liked it, but I guess I got nervous.”
“How did Beca take it?”
“She was really sweet.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“And, I guess she was cool with it because she asked me to be her girlfriend at the end of the night.”
“Don’t tell me you turned her down,” said Stacie.
“Of course not. So...when do I introduce Rachel?”
“I don’t know exactly, but I have a feeling you will know when the time is right.”
“You’re probably right,” said Chloe.
“Mama!” Rachel called from Bella’s room.
“I can’t find my socks.”
Chloe helped her find her socks, which had somehow gotten tucked into her sleeping bag. She made sure Rachel had everything, and they said their goodbyes and headed home.
That afternoon, Chloe got a text from Beca.
B: Hey girlfriend
C: I like being able to call you that
B: Call me when you get a chance
Chloe put the television on for Rachel and headed to her bedroom to call her girlfriend.
“Hey, Beca, what’s up?”
“Did you know the zoo is having a Halloween party?”
“They have one every year,” said Chloe.
“Right. Of course, you know that. You’re a mom. Anyway, the label wants me there to play some of my music and sign autographs. It’s on the actual day since Halloween is on a Sunday.”
“That’s great, Bec.”
“So, I wanted to know if you wanted me to snag tickets for you and Rachel. I can get some for Dr. Conrad and her family as well if you like. It’s totally cool if you’re not ready to introduce us, but I thought it might be a good place for us to meet if you are.”
Chloe smiled. Stacie was right. The time and place seemed perfect. “Yeah, actually, that would be great. I’ve never taken Rachel before. I bet she would love it. I’ll ask Stacie and Aubrey, but I’m sure they’d love to take Bella as well.”
“So, that’s five tickets? Or do they have another kid?”
“No, they don’t. Five tickets would be great. I’ll text Stacie after we hang up.”
“Okay. Let me know as soon as you can.”
“I will. I have to go. I just heard a crash in the living room.”
“Oh, no,” said Beca.
“It wasn’t followed by a scream, so I’m pretty sure she’s okay.”
“I’ll leave you to it. Bye.”
Chloe came into the living room and saw that Rachel had knocked over a box of crayons.
“I’m sorry, Mama.”
“I got up to go to the bathroom and I knocked them down.”
“It’s okay, baby girl. It was an accident. Why don’t you go use the bathroom and then come back and help me clean up?”
“Okay,” said Rachel.
Chloe texted Stacie while she waited for Rachel to come back.
C: Beca invited us to the Halloween party at the zoo
C: Rachel, me, you, Aubrey, and Bella
C: She’s performing
S: Let me check with Aubrey
Rachel came back before she got an answer from Stacie. “Take your time. If you put them back in the box too fast, you’ll have a hard time.”
Rachel nodded and carefully placed the crayons in the box. Chloe helped. Her daughter had a bad habit of trying to rush things, and she’d been working really hard to get her to take her time.
“There we go. All done! Did you want to watch more television?”
“No. Can we go to the park?”
“Everything is still wet from the rain, but we can take a walk if you like.”
Stacie texted back to confirm that they’d love tickets to the zoo’s Halloween party. Chloe texted Beca real quick to let her know and to assure her that the crash was just a box of crayons hitting the floor.
During their walk, Chloe took the opportunity to talk to her daughter.
“So, do you remember how I told you about my friend Beca?”
“Yes. Did you see her again while I was at Bella’s?”
“I did. Beca and I had a really good time, and we decided to be girlfriends. Do you know what that means?”
Rachel furrowed her brow. She shook her head.
“It means that we care a lot about each other. We like to go on dates, and sometimes we kiss each other.”
“Like Auntie Stacie and Auntie Aubrey?”
“Kind of, but we aren’t married.”
“Are you going to get married?”
“It’s a little early to decide that.”
“When will you decide that?”
“I don’t know, sweetheart,” said Chloe. “Anyway, Miss Beca makes music as her job, and she is going to make music at the zoo on Halloween. She wanted to know if we’d like to go to the Halloween party at the zoo. You can meet her when we go there if you would like.”
“Are you going to kiss her at the zoo?”
Chloe laughed. “Probably not. I might hug her, though. Do you want to meet her? It’s okay and you can still go, no matter what.”
“I want to go and I want to meet Miss Beca.”
“Sounds good. Promise me you’ll tell me if you change your mind.”
At the end of the next week, Chloe found a notice in Rachel’s school folder. She’d passed the hearing exam, but she’d failed the vision screening. Chloe sighed. She was going to have to dip into the money she’d been saving for vet school to pay for an eye exam and glasses. She didn’t have vision coverage, and she was hesitant to take her daughter somewhere that gave a free eye exam and glasses in an hour.
She got a recommendation from the pediatrician for an ophthalmologist who might be able to charge her medical coverage for the exam. She called and was pleased to find out they’d had a cancellation and would be able to see Rachel the following day.
Chloe picked her daughter up from school after lunch and headed straight to the eye doctor.
“Okay, let’s look at the form you filled out with her medical history,” said the assistant.
“She was a preemie, about six weeks early,” said Chloe.
“Right. I see that. She was in the NICU for how long?”
“Two months,” said Chloe.
“Okay, was...never mind. I just looked again, and you already answered that question on the paperwork.” She turned to Rachel. “Rachel, do you know your letters?”
“Great,” she said. “I’m going to show you some letters on the screen, and I just want you to read them as best as you can.”
Rachel grinned and began to read. Chloe’s heart sank as she saw her daughter squint and struggle with the letters as they got smaller.
They went through the rest of the exam, and Rachel was pretty well-behaved until it was time for the dilation eye drops. Luckily, Chloe was able to help restrain her so they could put the drops in her eyes.
The eye doctor confirmed what Chloe had already feared.
“Rachel needs glasses,” she said. She must have noticed the look on Chloe’s face because she added, “It’s extremely common in preemies. It’s nothing you did wrong, okay?”
“Okay,” said Chloe with a sigh. “Is there somewhere you recommend that has good ones for kids?”
“My office sells them. We don’t charge extra for scratch-guarded lenses for kids under ten years old, and we will repair them for free. Now, Rachel, when you get them, you need to wear them all of the time, except for when you’re sleeping, swimming, or taking a bath, okay?”
“Can I get purple glasses?” Rachel asked.
“It’s fine with me,” said Chloe.
“I’ll give you her prescription,” said the doctor.
Chloe took Rachel to choose her glasses, and, sure enough, she picked out purple frames.
“We’ll have these for you in a week,” said the optician.
“Thanks,” said Chloe.
When Chloe took her daughter back the next week to pick up the glasses, she couldn’t help but smile when Rachel exclaimed, “Mama! I love these! The trees are so sharp!”
“I had no idea her vision was so bad,” said Chloe.
“Most parents of young children don’t realize it until the kids are in school,” said the optician.
“That makes me feel better.”
“I’m glad. Okay, bring her in whenever you need to if you think her glasses aren’t fitting right.”
The optician turned to Rachel. “You need to be careful with these, okay?”
“I promise,” said Rachel.
When they got home, Chloe snapped a picture of her daughter in her glasses and sent them to Stacie, Aubrey, and Beca. They all replied with how cute they thought she looked.
Chloe and Beca were only able to coordinate their schedules for one more date before Halloween. They had quite a few FaceTime chats after Rachel was in bed. It wasn’t the same, but Chloe was glad for some adult conversation outside of work, even if she had to keep her voice down to avoid waking her daughter.
Chloe had taken Rachel to a local thrift shop to look for Halloween costumes. She was thrilled that her daughter didn’t mind choosing something from the thrift shop and that most of the costumes available appeared to have been worn once. Rachel was very excited to find a purple unicorn costume. It was a little big on her, but Chloe had learned enough sewing from her Meemaw to hem and tuck it so it would fit her on Halloween.
They met Stacie, Aubrey, and Bella at the gates of the zoo. Rachel and Bella immediately started jumping up and down and running around in circles.
“Hey, you two. Slow down. Let’s get inside and head to the party before you wear yourselves out,” said Aubrey.
They walked in and followed the signs to the party area.
Chloe looked over at the DJ equipment to see her girlfriend live DJing the event. She had on a pair of headphones and a leather jacket. She seemed to be in her own world as she bopped back and forth, adjusting the different levers.
She finally caught Chloe’s eye, made a few adjustments, and then handed the headphones over to the man standing next to her.
“Hey,” said Beca, giving Chloe a quick hug.
“Hi,” said Chloe. “You remember Stacie.”
“Of course. Hello.”
“I’m Aubrey, Stacie’s wife. And this is our daughter Bella.”
“Hi, sweetie,” said Beca.
“And this is Rachel,” Chloe said, gently putting an arm around her daughter.
“Hi,” said Rachel. “I’m a unicorn!”
Beca knelt down to her level. “I see that. You’re a purple unicorn. Your costume matches your glasses.”
“Yeah,” she said, grinning.
“And, Bella,” said Beca. “What’s your costume?”
“I’m Poppy the troll! She’s the happiest of all of the trolls, and she’s the queen of the pop music trolls.”
“Love it,” said Beca. She stood up. “Shoot. I need to get back to DJing, but I’ll catch up with you guys after I’m done.”
“Sure,” said Chloe. “See you in two hours.”
“Bye,” said Beca.
Chloe could tell by Beca’s body language that the person who had been handed the headphones must have been doing things all wrong.
“Mama, can we go dance?” asked Rachel.
Chloe looked at Aubrey and Stacie before saying, “Yes, but you and Bella need to stay together, okay?”
“Okay!” both girls replied in unison as they headed to the dance area.
The girls danced for a while, all of the moms laughing. Rachel and Bella alternated between booty shaking and spinning in circles.
They finally headed back to their parents after a few songs. The girls got some drinks and snacks and insisted that they were fine to go back and dance.
“At least those two should sleep well tonight,” said Chloe.
“I’m tired just watching them,” said Aubrey.
Beca’s DJing ended, and she texted Chloe that she’d catch up with everyone once she made sure the equipment was properly loaded.
The girls wanted to look at the animals and trick-or-treat around the zoo, so they started to walk around. They waited a bit once Beca texted that she was ready. Beca casually held hands with Chloe as they walked around.
“So, Rachel, what’s your favorite animal?” Beca asked.
“I like the elephants,” said Rachel.
“I like the red pandas,” said Beca.
“Lions are my favorite,” said Bella.
Once they’d seen enough at the zoo, Rachel asked, “Mama, can Miss Beca come trick-or-treating with us?”
Chloe looked over at Beca for any sign that she wasn’t on board. Finding none, she said, “Beca, would you like to join us? We go around Stacie and Aubrey’s neighborhood so the girls can be together.”
“Yeah, sure. I’d love to,” said Beca.
“Mommy, Mama, I’m hungry,” Bella whined.
“Me too,” Rachel whined.
“Hey, no whining,” said Aubrey. Both girls straightened up and repeated their requests in a better tone.
“Hey, guys, if you want, I can pick up some pizzas for everyone. That is, if it’s okay with the parents,” said Beca.
“It’s fine with me,” said Chloe.
“Fine with us,” said Stacie.
“Great. It’s my treat. Just tell me what toppings everyone wants, and I’ll order them. Just give me the address, and I’ll meet you guys there. I’m assuming we’re going to Stacie and Aubrey’s, right?”
“Right,” said Chloe.
“What does everyone like on their pizza?” asked Beca.
“Pepperoni!” exclaimed Bella.
“Cheese!” exclaimed Rachel.
“I’m not picky,” said Chloe.
“Mushrooms,” said Stacie.
“Mushrooms for me as well,” said Aubrey.
“Great,” said Beca, pulling up an app on her phone. “I’ll order these, and I’ll see you there.”
They got to the house, had the girls visit the bathroom, and Beca arrived shortly after Chloe had poured drinks for everyone.
Beca helped pass out pizza slices, and everyone settled into easy conversation. She appeared to listen intently when Rachel and Bella told her about happenings in school.
“What was going on at the DJ table?” asked Chloe.
“Oh, that,” said Beca. “I told my junior producer to stay off of the levers, and, as usual, he had to go mess with them. It totally messed up how the tracks were supposed to sound. I used to DJ before I got fully into producing, and I’ll admit I’m extremely picky about how everything is supposed to sound. I realize most people probably didn’t even notice.”
The three women looked at Beca and shrugged.
“It’s okay. I think it’s why I’ve been pretty successful as a producer. I’ve been told I have an ear for this stuff.”
“That’s pretty cool,” said Chloe.
Once everyone was done and the pizza was cleaned up, Chloe and Stacie grabbed flashlights and grocery bags. Beca, Chloe, and Stacie took the kids around while Aubrey stayed home to give out candy.
“Remember your manners,” said Stacie.
Bella took Rachel’s hand, and the girls took off running towards the houses.
“Be careful! Don’t hurt yourselves!” called Chloe.
The girls remembered to thank people, and Rachel only complained about the candy offered at one house. Chloe gently reminded her to use her manners, even though she secretly agreed with her daughter that Mary Jane candies were disgusting. Chloe smiled at how casually affectionate Beca was. She held Chloe’s hand and occasionally gave her a little kiss on the cheek as they followed the kids around the neighborhood.
A young fan recognized Beca, and Chloe admired how patient she was when the little girl took an extra minute to remember what her favorite song was. She let the girl take a selfie with her, and she thanked her for supporting her music.
“And you told me kids don’t like you,” said Chloe.
“They usually don’t,” said Beca. “But I have learned how to talk to my younger fans.”
“Rachel obviously likes you, and so does Bella.”
“Mama! Look! That house gave me a big Hershey bar!” Rachel exclaimed.
“Oh, well, then I think you were supposed to give that to Mama.” Chloe pretended to reach for the candy bar.
“No way!” Rachel pulled it toward her chest and dropped it into her bag.
“Are you done trick-or-treating?” Chloe asked.
“Not yet,” said Rachel. “My bag isn’t full!”
“Okay, sweetheart, but we need to stop by 8:00. You still have school tomorrow.”
“Same goes for you, Bella,” said Stacie.
“I don’t even know why she wants so much candy,” said Chloe, as soon as the girls were waiting at another house and were out of earshot. “She eats maybe half of it over two months. I end up eating a lot of it, and I still throw a lot of it away.”
“I will gladly take one for the team and help you finish her candy,” said Beca.
“I like this one. I sure am glad I told her you were single,” said Stacie.
“You practically threw me at her!” exclaimed Chloe.
“Thanks, by the way,” said Beca. She looked around and gave Chloe a chaste kiss, causing Chloe’s cheeks to flame.
“I’m glad to see my best friend so happy.”
The girls only complained a little when Stacie and Chloe told them it was 8:00. They looked tired enough that both moms knew they’d go to bed without a fuss. They went to Stacie and Aubrey’s, and each of them was allowed to eat one piece of candy before Chloe, Rachel, and Beca had to go.
Rachel surprised everyone by walking over to Beca with a piece of candy. “Here, Miss Beca,” she said. “Do you like this kind of candy? You can have it.”
“I love Snickers bars. Are you sure you don’t want it for yourself?” Beca asked, and Chloe was fairly certain she saw tears in her eyes.
“I’m sure,” she said, and she skipped back to the table where she and Bella had been sitting to finish the Reese’s cups she’d chosen to eat.
“You lucky duck,” Chloe whispered. “She never shares with me unless I ask.”
“I’ll take that as high praise,” said Beca. Chloe saw the woman blink back a few tears before finally taking a bite of the candy bar.
Beca gave Chloe a chaste kiss as she walked her back to her car, making Rachel giggle.
The following week, Beca called Chloe one evening to invite them to spend Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Aquarium.
“That’s wonderful,” said Chloe. Rachel had actually been hounding her for weeks, but Chloe had been putting her off until her next paycheck.
“Okay. Sea lion or dolphin show?” Beca asked.
“We’d love either one. We haven’t been to the aquarium in over a year. I think we saw the dolphin show last time. Just pick whichever one works better for time.”
“Will do,” said Beca.
Rachel was super excited to see Beca again. “Hi, Miss Beca! I’m so excited to see the fishies!”
“I’m glad. Did you know I haven’t been to the aquarium in fifteen years?”
Rachel’s eyes got wide. “That’s a long time!”
“I know. Do you think you can help me out? I don’t want to miss anything!”
“I will help you,” said Rachel. “Guess what, Miss Beca?”
“I lost a tooth!” Rachel grinned, revealing another new gap in her mouth.
“Oh, no! Should we go look for it?” Beca asked, pretending to worry.
“No, Miss Beca. You’re silly. I’m supposed to lose teeth!”
Beca let out an exaggerated sigh. “Oh, that’s a relief.”
Chloe simply smiled at the interaction. Beca seemed to have a way with Rachel. She didn’t know where she’d gotten the idea that kids didn’t like her.
Beca and Chloe held hands as they walked around. Rachel stopped every few feet to make sure Beca was paying attention to each exhibit.
They watched the dolphin show, and Rachel and Beca decided to overrule Chloe when she’d said she didn’t want to sit in the splash zone.
“Okay, okay. It’s just water,” said Chloe. “But, no complaining about wet clothes or shoes!”
Rachel loved the dolphin show, and Chloe was relieved that they’d only gotten a little wet.
They looked at some more exhibits, and Beca insisted on buying Rachel a stuffed dolphin at the gift shop.
“You’re too much,” said Chloe.
“I just saw how much she loved the show,” said Beca.
“You softie.” Chloe saw Beca’s cheeks turn a little pink.
“Don’t let that get around,” she said.
Chloe gave her a kiss on the cheek. Rachel said, “Ewww…” but she laughed, so Chloe knew it was just for show.
“Who’s hungry?” Beca asked.
“I am!” Rachel exclaimed.
“We can have dinner at home,” said Chloe.
“I can take you guys out,” said Beca. “Unless you’re really opposed. It’s my treat.”
“You spoil us.”
“I want to spoil you.”
“Where are we going?” Rachel asked.
“I know of a pizza place nearby,” said Beca.
“Okay, let’s go. I have a feeling you two are going to keep ganging up on me,” said Chloe.
“It’s all part of my master plan,” said Beca.
Chloe’s neighbor Betty returned to town in November. She came over for a visit, insisting she needed a “Rachel fix.” She was delighted to find out from Rachel that Chloe had a girlfriend. She volunteered to come over from time to time to watch Rachel so they could go on dates. Chloe was thrilled. While she was incredibly grateful to have Stacie and Aubrey keep Rachel, a sleepover meant packing up Rachel’s things and having to get her the next morning.
Beca and Chloe’s dates happened a lot more frequently after that. Chloe appreciated that Beca made a genuine effort to pick family-friendly things to do, and Rachel loved being included. She’d taken beautifully to Beca.
Beca had even found a duckpin bowling alley. The balls were lighter and smaller, and Rachel had really enjoyed it. She’d been too small to lift regular bowling balls, and she didn’t like having to use a ramp to roll the bowling balls when Chloe had tried taking her.
One Friday evening, Beca invited Chloe and Rachel over for dinner. Rachel had been super excited to see the house and meet the dog.
They got into the house, and Crackers greeted Chloe and Rachel with a wagging tail. Rachel bent down to pet him and got her face licked, sending the little girl into giggles.
Chloe had worried that Rachel might turn her nose up at the food. She’d made sure to speak to her daughter about using her manners, but it turned out that she hadn’t needed to worry about a thing.
Beca made baked ziti, remembering how much Chloe had said Rachel loved pasta. Rachel surprised her mother by asking for seconds.
After dinner, Beca gave Rachel a tour of her house.
“Miss Beca, is that your guitar?” Rachel asked, pointing to the guitar case in the corner of Beca’s bedroom.
“Can you play something now?” asked Rachel.
“Okay,” said Beca. She took the guitar out, checked the tuning, and appeared to think for just a moment before starting to play.
Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide
So we've been told, and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me
“I like that song,” said Rachel. “Did you write it?”
“No, sweetheart. But it’s one of the first songs I learned to play.”
“Oh. Do you know ‘Landslide’?”
Beca began to strum the opening chords of the song. As she began to sing, Chloe joined her, harmonizing.
I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
'Til the landslide brought me down
“Mama! Miss Beca! You sing so pretty together!” Rachel exclaimed.
“Thank you,” said Beca. “You have excellent taste in music.”
“Mama sings it to me a lot. She said she even sang it to me when I was a baby”
“Do you want to see how I make some of my music?”
“Can I?” Rachel asked.
Beca led them to the spare bedroom she’d been using as a home office. She sat at the computer. “Come over here and look.”
Rachel climbed into Beca’s lap. Beca opened her mixing program and showed her how the different levers worked.
“So, that’s how you make a mix,” Beca explained.
“That’s super cool.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
Beca put on a Disney movie after that.
“You’re watching a movie?” Chloe asked.
“I don’t have toys here, so I went with the most kid-friendly thing I could think of. I might have ‘borrowed’ a coworker’s Disney Plus subscription.”
Chloe laughed. “Nice.”
“Look at that,” Beca said, pointing.
Rachel was relaxing on the floor in a beanbag chair, and Crackers was curled up next to her.
Chloe snapped a picture of the two of them. “That’s adorable.”
“You should put that on your Instagram,” Beca said.
“Well...maybe if I got a different angle,” said Chloe. “I never post Rachel’s face on social media.”
“Yeah. I know it’s weird. I have my reasons.”
Chloe was relieved that Beca didn’t pry.
“Okay, but can you send me the pic? I promise it won’t go on social media.”
Chloe hesitated but sent it over. Beca hadn’t shown herself to be anything other than trustworthy.
“Thanks for trusting me.”
Chloe smiled. “Thank you for understanding.”
Beca put an arm around her and planted a kiss on her cheek. Chloe turned her head and gave her a chaste one on the lips.
“She’s asleep,” Beca whispered.
Chloe snapped another photo of Rachel and Crackers, this time curled up together asleep on the beanbag chair.
“How are you so good with her?” asked Chloe, quietly.
Beca looked sheepish for just a moment. “I...I read up on it. And I talked to a few friends with kids.”
“That is the sweetest thing,” said Chloe.
Chloe teared up just a little. “You know how important my daughter is to me, so you did your research.”
“I didn’t want to screw things up by having your daughter hate me.”
“I don’t think Rachel hates anybody,” said Chloe. “But I’m glad you tried to do things right.”
“Wait a minute. Did you buy that beanbag chair just for Rachel? I just realized it’s the only purple thing in this room.”
“Yes,” said Beca.
“Thank you. It’s obvious she loves it.”
“So...maybe this is too soon in the relationship,” said Beca. “But, what are your Thanksgiving plans?”
“We usually go to Aubrey and Stacie’s.”
“Do you want to do something here as well? I don’t cook a lot, but I can manage a turkey. I would invite you to my dad’s, but he’s still got a compromised immune system thanks to the chemo.”
“We could do that, or I could ask Stacie and Aubrey if you can join us at their house. I don’t think they’ll mind an extra guest.”
“I don’t want to impose,” said Beca.
“I’ll impose for you. Besides, Stacie and Aubrey are like my family. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to have my girlfriend join us.”
“Okay, go ahead.”
Chloe texted, and Stacie immediately replied that Beca was more than welcome.
Rachel woke up as the movie was ending. “Mama?”
“What happened in the movie?” Rachel asked with a yawn.
“I’ll tell you in the morning. Let’s say goodbye to Miss Beca and go home.”
“Okay,” Rachel said, sleepily.
On Thanksgiving, Chloe and Rachel headed to Stacie and Aubrey’s. Chloe had made homemade macaroni and cheese, knowing it was the one thing that Rachel was likely to eat. Beca would arrive later because she was visiting her father first.
They started the meal, and Chloe was correct. Rachel barely touched the turkey on her plate, but she ate her macaroni and cheese as well as two rolls. She and Bella headed off to Bella’s room to play after they’d finished their food.
“All of that cooking and my kid barely eats,” said Chloe.
“She’s not the only one,” said Aubrey. “She looks like she’s gotten taller, though.”
“She has, probably thanks to your smoothies. I took her to the thrift shop just yesterday because those 4T pants were getting short on her. I got her some size 5’s. I have to pull the adjustable waists pretty tight, but they fit.”
“She won’t wear leggings?” Stacie asked.
“I couldn’t find any at the thrift shop without worn-out knees.”
“I might have some of Bella’s old ones put away,” said Aubrey.
“Aren’t you saving those for another baby?” asked Chloe.
“We’ve decided not to have another,” said Stacie.
“Are you sure?”
“One-hundred percent,” said Aubrey. “We’re both over thirty-five now, and Bella almost has a sister in Rachel. She’s all we need, and neither one of us wants to go through the fertility stuff again.”
“Even if we weren’t, it would be a good five years before another girl would fit them if we even had another girl. We’d rather give them to your daughter,” said Stacie.
“Thanks,” said Chloe.
The doorbell rang after that. It was Beca, wearing a forced smile.
Chloe greeted her girlfriend with a hug and a kiss.
“Hi. I brought an apple pie with me,” said Beca. “I hope you don’t mind that it’s store-bought.”
“Not at all,” said Stacie.
“Honey, can you help me go look for those pants we were talking about for Rachel?” Aubrey asked.
“Are you okay?” Chloe asked gently as Stacie and Aubrey left the room. She was glad that they’d picked up that something appeared to be bothering Beca.
“Was the visit with your father bad?”
“No, not really. But, I can tell he’s not doing well. He was barely awake when I was there. I sense that he and Sheila are keeping something from me.”
“They probably just didn’t want to wreck your holiday,” said Chloe.
“You’re probably right,” said Beca.
Chloe poured wine for the two of them, and they sat on the couch together. Stacie and Aubrey emerged from their spare room with a bag of clothes. “Here you go. We found a lot,” said Stacie.
“Thanks,” said Chloe.
Rachel and Bella came into the living room a few minutes later.
“Miss Beca!” Rachel called before climbing into her lap.
“Hi, kiddo. Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Did you eat?”
“What did you eat?”
“Mac and cheese. And two rolls.”
“No turkey?” Beca asked.
Rachel scrunched up her nose. “No way.”
“Do you like apple pie? I brought one for dessert.”
“Can I have it now?”
“That’s up to your mama.”
“Dessert sounds great,” said Chloe.
They sat down for dessert, and Chloe smiled when Rachel insisted on having “Miss Beca’s apple pie.”
The next day, Rachel was drawing another picture at the kitchen table, and Chloe was sitting on the couch in the living room with her laptop looking online for Black Friday deals for Christmas shopping when Beca rang the doorbell.
Chloe answered the door, and it was obvious Beca had been crying.
“Come in,” said Chloe.
“Miss Beca?” Rachel asked.
Beca knelt down and took the hug Rachel offered her.
“Hey, baby girl, why don’t you head back to the kitchen so Miss Beca and I can talk?” Chloe asked.
Rachel’s face was full of concern. She looked thoughtful for just a moment before she said, “Okay. Miss Beca, I’m going to draw you a picture to make you feel better!”
“Thanks, kiddo,” said Beca.
Chloe led Beca to her bedroom and shut the door.
“I’m sorry for just dropping by unannounced.”
“Don’t be,” said Chloe.
“Sheila called me this morning to come over. They found out on Monday that my dad’s cancer has spread to his liver. There’s nothing more the doctors can do,” said Beca, bursting into tears.
“Oh, Beca, honey,” Chloe said, wrapping her in a hug. She pressed a kiss to Beca’s temple as she cried on her shoulder.
Chloe grabbed a box of tissues from her nightstand and handed it to Beca.
“He’s going to hospice care. They gave him six months.”
“Will he be at home? My Meemaw was, at first.”
“That’s the plan. Sheila took leave from her job to care for him,” Beca said. “They’ll have nurses coming in for palliative care.”
“He’ll be comfortable, so that’s good.”
Beca shrugged. “He wants to meet you. And Rachel, if it’s okay. I don’t want her to get upset.”
“I’d love to meet your father. I think if we talk through it with Rachel, she’ll be okay. I don’t want to shield her from the world. She knows people don’t live forever, although nobody close to her has died.”
“Okay. I’ve told him a lot about the two of you. He and Sheila noticed I’ve been so much happier, and I finally told them why.”
“I’m glad we’re a reason for your happiness.”
“Me too,” said Beca, giving her a kiss.
“Do you mind heading back to the living room? Rachel is usually fine when she’s drawing, but I’m not wild about leaving her unattended for too long.”
“That’s fine. How much are you comfortable with me sharing?”
“You can share as much as you want.”
Beca told Chloe she was going to splash a little cold water on her face before meeting her in the living room. Chloe saw Rachel hard at work, her tongue stuck out in concentration while she drew her picture.
“Hey, baby girl. What are you drawing?”
“Sssh!” Rachel hissed. “It’s a surprise for Miss Beca.”
“Okay, sweetheart,” Chloe said, kissing her daughter on top of the head.
Chloe sat on the couch and went back to her shopping. Beca joined her a minute later.
“What are you looking for?” Beca asked.
“Christmas shopping. I depend on Black Friday deals for a lot of my shopping. I can still get stuff for Rachel at thrift shops, but I don’t know how much longer I can do that.”
“Let me help,” said Beca. “Besides, I need to know what to get her.”
“You want to buy something for Rachel?”
“What kind of girlfriend would I be if I didn’t?”
Chloe gave her girlfriend a long kiss. “What did I do to deserve you?”
Rachel walked into the living room at that moment. “Miss Beca! Here!” She put the piece of paper in her hands.
Chloe swallowed hard at what she saw.
“Thank you so much,” said Beca.
Rachel climbed into Beca’s lap and pointed to the picture. “That’s you, and Mama, and me at the bowling alley.”
“I love it.”
“Did it make you feel better?”
“Why were you sad, Miss Beca?”
Beca took a deep breath. “I got some bad news today. My dad is really sick, and it’s the kind where you don’t get better.”
“That’s sad,” said Rachel. She gave her another hug.
“Thanks, Rachel. Hey, are those new pants?”
“They were Bella’s pants. I like leggings a lot.”
“I should wear more leggings,” said Beca.
“You should,” said Rachel. “They’re so comfy.”
Rachel headed back to the kitchen to finish the other picture she’d been drawing.
“This is totally going on my fridge.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Please. How else can I say ‘I knew her when’?”
“And you say I’m a dork.”
“Seriously, though. The drawing is amazing. I mean, I don’t know kids, but this seems advanced for a five-year-old.”
“It is,” said Chloe.
“Maybe I’ll get her some art lessons for Christmas.”
“Please don’t break the bank on her.”
“Let me spoil the two of you, okay? You need a sugar mama.”
“I do not.”
“Tough luck,” said Beca. “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but...just how tight are things?”
“It’s complicated, I guess,” said Chloe. “I inherited this house from my Meemaw. The car was hers as well, and it’s on its last legs. Rachel actually has my old bedroom, which was my mom’s bedroom when she was a little girl as well. The bedroom furniture came from a consignment shop. I don’t have a mortgage, but I still have bills - homeowner’s and car insurance, utilities, etc. I have some money from my parents in a trust, and it would be gone if Meemaw and Papaw hadn’t sold my parents’ house after they passed. Meemaw really had to dip into the money when I went to college. She was sick and couldn’t work anymore, so she used it to pay my tuition and expenses. She really only had enough life insurance to cover the funeral expenses when she passed. I was going to use the rest of my trust money for vet school, but expenses with Rachel keep coming up. I’m not sure if and when I’m ever going. Rachel is totally worth it, but, the truth is that I may have to sell this house and downsize if things don’t change in a few years. I buy a lot of things at thrift shops, and I do my best to be frugal to help stretch things. My car is a 2008, and I only carry liability coverage on it, for example.”
“Please let me help. It sounds like you’ve spent the last ten years taking care of others. Let me take care of you. I have the means. I haven’t had anyone to spoil other than Crackers.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Just say ‘yes.’”
“Okay,” said Chloe. “Yes. And thank you.”
The next day, Beca, Chloe, and Rachel headed to Beca’s dad’s place. They had taken the time to prepare Rachel as best as they could. They walked into the house, and Beca greeted her dad with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He was sitting in a hospital bed that was against the wall.
“Hey, Dad, this is Chloe and her daughter Rachel.”
He gave them a tired smile. “Hi, you two. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Rachel said hello quietly. Chloe had packed a bag of a few things for Rachel to do that wouldn’t be too loud. “Would you like your sketchbook?” asked Chloe. Rachel nodded.
“You can set her up at the kitchen table,” said Beca.
“Mr. Beca’s dad?” Rachel asked, and the adults chuckled at Rachel’s name for him.
“What’s your favorite color?”
“Okay,” said Rachel.
“She’s five? I think that’s what Beca told me,” Beca’s dad said.
“Five and a half, if you ask her,” said Chloe.
He smiled. “I remember that age with Beca. That half is important.”
“Yeah. How are you feeling today?”
“Pretty good for a guy on his deathbed,” he said, laughing a little before going into a small coughing fit.
Chloe saw a tight smile from Beca, so she changed the subject.
“What was Beca like when she was young?” asked Chloe.
“She was very creative, like your daughter, except with music. She was always singing,” he said. “Her mother and I actually had her audition for a children’s choir when she was in kindergarten. Her music teacher suggested it.”
“I got in, but I stopped after my sophomore year of high school,” said Beca. “And, by the way, I went to choir camp for several different summers. That’s right. Choir camp. Just in case you weren’t already totally impressed with me.”
“That’s cute,” said Chloe. “Do you have any of her old performances on video?” Chloe asked Beca’s dad.
“Her mother might.”
“Tell me a funny story from her childhood.”
“Let me think.” He paused for a minute. “When she was three, we took her to the mall to see Santa. I’d been reading The Night Before Christmas to her a lot at that point. While we were in line, she recited the whole thing to the elves that were handing out candy canes.”
“That’s adorable,” said Chloe.
They chatted for a while before Rachel came over to Beca’s dad. “I drew this for you,” she said.
“Come here,” said Beca. “Do you want me to lift you up so you can show him?”
“Is that safe? Mama said I have to be really careful.”
Beca’s dad scooted over a little. “You can sit over here and show me. It’s okay.”
Beca lifted Rachel onto the bed to sit. “I didn’t know what your favorite animal was. I drew a lot of green animals. Here’s a turtle, and a frog, and a snake, and a dinosaur. I even drew Minty. She’s on My Little Pony.”
“Thank you so much,” he said. “I love it.”
Sheila said. “I’m going to hang it up by his bed.”
Beca lifted Rachel off of the bed and put her in her lap. “Great job, sweetheart,” she said.
“So, let me guess your favorite color,” Beca’s dad said. He looked over at her and pretended to think really hard. Rachel was dressed in purple from head to toe. “Is it...yellow?”
Rachel shook her head. “Nope.”
Rachel giggled. “No.”
“I thought it might be purple,” he said.
“Purple is the best,” she said. “But green is nice too.”
Sheila offered to get everyone a snack, but Rachel was the only one who wanted one. Beca helped Rachel clean up her crayons and pencils. She brought Rachel a bowl of pretzels and poured her a cup of juice.
“Is Beca always this good with her?” Beca’s dad asked Chloe.
“Yeah. Rachel adores her.”
Beca’s dad just smiled.
They didn’t visit much longer as it was clear that Beca’s dad was getting tired. He’d started slurring his words. Chloe remembered how easily her grandmother had gotten tired when she was sick, and she knew he’d probably spent a lot of energy putting on a brave face for them.
They said their goodbyes, and Chloe saw Beca’s dad whisper something in her ear that seemed to choke her up a little. He said something else, and Beca nodded before saying goodbye.
“Everything okay?” Chloe asked.
“Yeah. My dad just told me that he saw me with Rachel and that he’s glad to see I’ll be a good mom someday. It just got me a little choked up knowing he won’t get to meet his grandchildren.”
“I understand. I look at Rachel and I wish my parents and grandparents had gotten to see her.”
“I think they’d be pretty proud of both of you,” said Beca.
They headed back to Chloe’s house, and Rachel asked to watch television.
Beca looked at the framed pictures again. She grabbed one and asked, “Is this you with your parents?”
“Yeah. That was my sixth birthday, and they’d taken me to the beach for the day.”
“It’s really cute.”
“Thanks,” said Chloe.
They sat on the couch and snuggled while Rachel watched her show. Beca laid her head on Chloe’s chest, and Chloe stroked her hair. She remembered how she had felt when her grandmother had begun her rapid decline, so she did her best to comfort her.
“Thanks for coming with me today,” Beca said as she lay there.
“I was glad to meet your dad.”
“I know he really liked Rachel, too.”
“Well, I think she’s pretty great,” said Chloe, chuckling. “I’m glad, though, that everything went well.”
Beca sighed. “Me too. I don’t think he’s going to last six months, though. He really seems to be going downhill fast.”
“I’m sorry. I do understand, though. Just spend as much time with him as you can. Rachel and I will be happy to join you for those visits whenever you like. Maybe next time he can tell her his favorite animal.”
“It’s a zebra,” whispered Beca.
“I’ll save that info in case he’s not up for telling her next time,” said Chloe. “And, we’ll respect your wishes and his if either or both of you would rather we not join you for a visit.”
“I liked having you guys there, and so did my dad. Rachel definitely made him smile.”
“She has that effect on people.”
They lay like that for a while, and Chloe was happy to see Beca relaxing. She knew the upcoming months were going to be difficult, so she was going to do her best to support her girlfriend.
They visited again a week later. Beca’s dad fell asleep shortly after greeting them and telling Rachel that his favorite animal was a zebra.
Beca and Chloe spoke quietly with Sheila while Rachel drew a zebra and Beca’s dad napped.
“How has he been?” Beca asked.
“He sleeps a lot. He seems to be pretty comfortable right now, though.”
“How are you handling things?” Chloe asked.
Sheila burst into tears.
Beca walked over and wrapped her in an awkward hug.
“I’m sorry,” said Sheila after she composed herself.
“Hey, it’s okay,” said Chloe. “I had to manage my Meemaw’s care when she was dying. It’s sad and stressful.”
“I really appreciate what you’re doing for him,” said Beca. “But, please don’t hesitate to ask if you need something. I can leave work and sit with him, pick up medicine, groceries, or whatever you need.”
“Miss...Miss...What was your name again?” Rachel asked.
“Miss Sheila, I’m sorry you’re sad. Mama told me that it’s really hard to lose someone you love,” said Rachel.
“Thanks, sweetheart. It is. I hope I didn’t scare you with my crying.”
Rachel shook her head. “I finished his picture,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful drawing,” said Sheila. “I’m going to hang it up next to the other one. The one with the green animals makes him smile.”
“Yes, and do you know what?”
Rachel shook her head again.
“Mr. Francis - that’s his name - shows it to everyone who comes in to take care of him. They can’t believe you’re only five and a half.”
Rachel looked so proud of herself. She looked in the bag Chloe had packed and opened up a book she’d picked out at their last library trip.
“Did any of those volunteers come in to play chess like he wanted?” Beca asked.
“Yesterday,” said Sheila. “And thank heaven for that. I’ve never mastered that game.”
“Meemaw had someone come in and knit with her,” said Chloe. “She never managed to teach me how. I can crochet, and I can sew a little, though.”
“I can’t do any of that,” said Sheila. “I like to cook, though. Speaking of which, would you like me to make some dinner? Francis hasn’t had much of an appetite lately, and I kind of miss cooking.”
“That would be great,” said Beca.
“Rachel is a picky eater, though,” said Chloe. “I’ve tried getting her to eat better, but it’s an uphill battle.”
“Why don’t you follow me into the kitchen? I’ll see if I can find something she likes.”
Chloe did so, and she pointed out that Rachel loved pasta. Sheila said she’d be happy to make spaghetti, and she even had a few different sauces to choose from.
Beca’s dad was still sleeping when dinner was ready, but he woke up just after they’d finished. He’d refused the plate Sheila had offered him, but he made a point to thank Rachel for the zebra picture. Beca let Rachel sit next to him on his bed and they read her library book together. Chloe smiled as he patiently helped Rachel with the more difficult words.
“What are you thinking about?” Beca whispered.
“This is good for both of them,” Chloe said. “Rachel gets an idea of what it’s like to have grandparents, and he can get a taste of having a grandchild.”
Beca smiled, and Chloe saw tears in her eyes. She pulled her close and kissed her on top of the head.
“Thank you, Rachel,” said Beca’s dad. “I’ve never read a Pete the Cat book before.”
“He’s pretty cool,” said Rachel. “I don’t think anything bothers him!”
“I like that idea. Can you read me another one of those books the next time you visit?”
Rachel grinned. “Definitely. The library has tons of them!”
“Okay, kiddo, we need to head home. Please say goodbye to Mr. Francis,” said Chloe.
“Bye, Mr. Francis!” Rachel gave him a gentle hug.
“Bye, Miss Sheila!” Rachel hugged Sheila as well.
“Bye, everyone,” said Chloe. It warmed her heart to see Beca’s father and stepmother smiling at her daughter.
The following week was Beca and Chloe’s three-month dating anniversary. Beca assured Chloe she still wanted to celebrate when they spoke on the phone during the week.
“Beca, we don’t have to. You can go spend time with your dad if you want.”
“He told me to take you somewhere nice,” Beca replied.
“Oh, he did?”
“He did. Do you think Rachel could stay with Stacie and Aubrey that night? I was hoping you could stay the night.”
Chloe gulped, and hoped Beca couldn’t hear it over the phone. “Yeah...I think that could be arranged.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to,” said Chloe. “It’s a big step, but, yeah, I want to stay over. I’ll ask Stacie tomorrow. She’s going to pick on me.”
“Doesn’t she always?”
“Well, yes, but I hate making it easy for her.”
“Okay, well, I’ll let you go. Let me know for sure about the sleepover, and what you would like for breakfast.”
“Will do. Good night.”
Chloe felt her heart begin to race. It had been three months, and they hadn’t gone past some heavy makeout sessions. She wanted to take things to the next level with Beca, but she wasn’t sure how Beca would react once she revealed her secret.
The next morning, as Chloe had guessed, Stacie said she was happy to take Rachel overnight that Saturday, and, as Chloe had predicted, Stacie teased her.
“Your three-month anniversary? Get it, Beale! How is she?”
“Oh, she’s okay. Her father’s relatively stable,” said Chloe.
Stacie rolled her eyes. “That’s not what I’m asking.”
Chloe chewed on her bottom lip.
“Oh my god! You haven’t hit that?”
“Well, then, I’m happy to help,” said Stacie.
“Which is why you find me so damn amusing.”
“Your 9:00 is here!” called Fat Amy.
Chloe was thankful that the animal hospital was busy that day. She was sure Stacie would have driven her completely insane otherwise.
She texted Beca to confirm that she’d be sleeping over that weekend. Beca replied that her dad and stepmom had recommended a specific restaurant. She wanted to surprise her with the details, but she did tell her it was somewhat dressy.
They went to Beca’s dad and stepmom’s favorite restaurant. It was a steakhouse.
“Beca, this has to be costing you a pretty penny,” said Chloe.
“It would be, but my dad and Sheila insisted on footing the bill. Well, they bought us a gift card that should be about enough for the whole bill.”
“Dude. You make me really happy, and I think they’re really enjoying your visits. Rachel has wormed her way into their hearts.”
“She has a way of doing that.”
“But, seriously, I would have paid for the whole thing. I like spoiling you. So, just let me do it,” said Beca. “Because…”
Chloe looked at Beca expectantly.
“Because I love you, okay?”
“Beca, I love you, too.”
Beca let out a breath. “Thank god. That would have been embarrassing.” Chloe just laughed.
After an excellent meal and some good wine, they headed back to Beca’s.
“Let’s relax a little,” said Beca. “I don’t know about you, but I’m stuffed.”
“Can I fix you a drink?”
“Sure. Bartender’s choice.”
Beca poured a few drinks together. “Singapore Sling.”
“I’ve never had one,” said Chloe. She took a sip. “It’s good.”
“Thanks.” Beca made herself a Juan Collins, as she had on their first date.
They sipped their drinks and chatted a bit. Beca pulled Chloe to her and began a makeout session that rapidly became heated.
“Bedroom?” Beca asked.
“Wait,” said Chloe. “I love you, Beca, and I really want to do this, but I have to tell you something before we get started.”
“I’m a virgin.”
“What?” Beca asked.
“I'm a virgin, Beca.”
“Oh, a girl virgin?” Beca chuckled. “Chloe, don't worry, you're not the first girl I've dated who's never been with a woman before.”
“No, Beca. A virgin virgin.”
Beca laughed. “You're funny.”
“I'm serious, Beca.”
“Chlo, what are you talking about? You have Rachel. You're totally not a virgin.”
“I am, and I guess I’d better explain things from the beginning,” said Chloe.
Valentine’s Day, 2016
Chloe didn’t mind that she was working on a Sunday as a favor to a friend of Stacie’s whose cat was a longtime patient at the animal hospital. She didn’t even mind that she didn’t have a date for Valentine’s Day. She could count the years she actually had a Valentine’s Day date on one hand, actually. She was missing a day that had been one of the most special, important days in her life since she’d been a little girl.
It was her Meemaw’s birthday, or, it would have been. The woman’s four-year battle with lung cancer had taken her the previous April, about a month before Chloe’s college graduation. Chloe knew her grandmother wouldn’t have been well enough to see her walk across the stage, but she’d made plans to visit her at the hospice in her cap and gown. A few coworkers at her internship that was now her full-time job had promised to take video. However, try as she might, Meemaw just couldn’t hold on.
Chloe had been somewhat relieved when Stacie called her to let her know that her friend Flo had an emergency with her cat. The emergency clinic was expensive, and there was always a long wait on Sundays. She offered to come in and see the cat, and Chloe had jumped at the chance to distract herself from missing her grandmother.
Flo’s cat Isadora had been limping and whining all day. Stacie quickly discovered that she’d torn a ligament and would require surgery. Chloe was glad to assist. The surgery had been a success, and Flo was grateful.
As Stacie went over follow-up care instructions, Chloe gathered the trash to put out into the dumpster. She stepped out the back door and scoffed at the rain, immediately putting her back in a sour mood as she tossed the bag into the dumpster. As she was walking in, she almost tripped over something wrapped in newspaper.
Chloe sighed as she picked up the bundle. She didn’t know why people would leave abandoned pets at the animal hospital, especially since they had posted a sign telling them that abandoned pets would be taken to animal control. While they would have loved to take any and all of them, the reality was that they didn’t have space. If they took one animal, they felt like they had to take them all. Every once in a while, someone would leave an animal in the back alley behind the hospital, possibly in hopes that they could say they hadn’t seen the sign if they’d gotten caught.
Chloe gasped when she opened the bundle. It wasn’t a puppy or a kitten. It was a newborn baby! Chloe wasn’t an expert on babies, but the child looked very small. He or she had lips that were turning blue. She wasn’t even positive the baby was breathing. She immediately headed inside.
“Stacie!” she yelled, urgently. “Come here! You’re not going to believe this!”
Chloe could hear Stacie sigh as she walked toward her. “Another kitten?”
“No,” said Chloe. “Look!”
“Oh my god!” Stacie exclaimed. “Get a towel and a blanket. And I think I have a diaper in my purse.”
Chloe did as Stacie asked and they put a diaper on the baby (a girl) after drying her off. They had to use first aid tape to fold it up and make it small enough to fit her. Stacie unhooked her nursing bra and attempted to get her to feed.
“She can’t,” said Stacie. “I think she’s too weak and cold.”
“Poor thing,” said Chloe.
“Take her for a minute while I get more blankets.”
Chloe held the baby girl closely and softly sang to her.
Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine
“Open your shirt,” said Stacie. “Hold her to your bare skin and I’ll cover her in a couple of blankets. We need to head to the hospital.”
“Will she fit Bella’s car seat?”
“No way and we don’t have time for me to adjust it. I’ll wrap you both in that big rain jacket you keep here. We’d better walk fast.”
Chloe kept looking down at the baby girl. She seemed to be breathing a little better and she was definitely warming up.
“The Safe Haven Law is supposed to keep this shit from happening, but nobody tells anyone about it.”
“What?” asked Chloe.
“Exactly. The short version is that a parent can leave a baby who is less than one week old at a hospital, fire station, or police station without consequence.”
“I had no idea.”
“I’m sure this little girl’s mother didn’t know, either.”
They got to the emergency room at the hospital, which was, fortunately, a two-block walk, and Stacie did the talking.
“Hi! We work at VetFriends. Chloe found this baby in the back alley next to our dumpster. I don’t know who left her, but she needs help. Fast.”
A nurse came to see. “She’s tiny. I don’t think she was full-term. Neither of you is the mother?”
Both women shook their heads.
“You’re free to examine either of us,” said Stacie. “I have a six-month-old daughter at home, but you’ll see neither of us has given birth recently.”
“I’ve never even been pregnant,” said Chloe.
The nurse looked at both of them. “I need to get this baby to the NICU. Thank you for bringing her in. We’ll take it from here.”
“But-” Chloe began to protest.
“Chloe, we did our part. The rest is up to the hospital.”
Chloe felt a tear fall down her cheek as they took the baby away.
That night, she saw the little girl’s face on the news. They’d begun calling her “Baby Jane Doe” and asked for anyone with information to come forward. They’d even discussed the Safe Haven Law and promised that there wouldn’t be any consequences, even though she hadn’t been left at an appropriate location.
Chloe felt a mix of relief and sadness. The girl was alive, at least. But there was probably someone missing her.
“Baby Jane Doe” appeared on the news and social media for two more days before Chloe could no longer resist the urge to check on her.
The same nurse saw her at the check-in desk. “I thought you said you didn’t give birth to her.”
“I didn’t,” said Chloe. “I promise. I just...can’t stop thinking about her. Nobody has come forward?”
“That’s in the hands of DCFS, but they haven’t brought anyone in to see her. I don’t think her real family will come forward, honestly. She looks like she was about five or six weeks early. Whoever birthed her tied the cord off with a shoelace, and I think they hacked it off with keys or something. It was probably a scared teenager. She either didn’t know or didn’t want to believe she was pregnant. To be honest, she’s incredibly lucky you found her when you did because she wouldn’t have survived for long outside the womb without medical intervention. I doubt she was more than an hour old.”
“What will happen to her when she’s well enough to leave the hospital?”
“She will be placed in foster care.”
“How is she doing?” asked Chloe.
“She hasn’t been having a good day,” the nurse said. “Look, I’m not supposed to let anyone other than parents and grandparents into the NICU after 6 pm, but I’ll make an exception.”
She took Chloe to an area where she had to turn the faucet on with her knee and scrub up to her elbows.
“Here she is,” she said, showing her a tiny baby clad in only a very tiny diaper in an incubator with tubes and wires attached to her.
Chloe put a hand to her mouth. “That poor little baby.”
“Do you want to hold her?”
“Sit in the rocking chair next to the incubator. I’ll help you get situated.”
Chloe did as she asked and the tiny girl was placed in her arms. The nurse had her unbutton the top few buttons on her shirt to tuck her against her chest. She placed a blanket over top of them.
“We call this kangaroo care. It should help warm her up, and babies like to hear a heartbeat. It works better than an incubator in my experience.”
“My coworker had me do that when we found her.”
“I’ll leave you to her. Just hit the call button if you need me.”
She began to rock her. She sang, just as she’d done the night she’d found her, but she sang something different this time.
Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right
Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right
Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right
When she finished the song, she looked up to see several doctors standing by the incubator along with the nurse.
“I’m sorry. I-” Chloe began.
“Why on earth are you sorry?” asked the nurse. “Those are the best numbers we’ve seen for Baby Jane since you brought her in.”
“I’m Dr. Montgomery,” a tall woman with auburn hair introduced herself. “I’m in charge of the NICU. I know Linda let you in against our policies, but you have my approval to come in and visit Baby Jane whenever you like.”
“And I did,” said Chloe, as she passed Beca another tissue. Beca had been bawling her eyes out since about halfway through the story. “I’d come and hold her after work every day. I’d spend hours with her on weekends, and I’d sing to her. ‘Baby Mine’ seemed to be her favorite, with ‘Landslide’ a close second, and probably ‘Here Comes the Sun’ a close third. My mom sang those to me when I was little.”
“That’s…” Beca trailed off. “I knew you had a big heart, but…”
“Stacie told me, at first, that I needed to stop visiting. She was afraid someone would come forward and claim her, leaving me heartbroken. But, I just couldn’t,” said Chloe. After a few beats, she added, “I found out later that Linda had only made an exception because they weren’t expecting her to make it through the night.”
“Oh my god, really?”
“Yeah,” Chloe added softly. “They hadn’t had a lot of volunteers that day, and she thought maybe she’d pull through if someone held her. It was a last-ditch effort. They’d been watching the monitors, just in case things turned for the worse. Her breathing and everything seemed to regulate once I held her against my chest, and even better when I sang.”
“I wasn’t even supposed to be at work that day, and it was just meant to be. I found her because I was meant to be her mom. If I’d found her even an hour later, it would have been too late to save her. It probably seems weird, but I really think my grandmother sent her to me so I wouldn’t be so sad. It may have been my Meemaw’s birthday, but I was the one who got a gift - Rachel, my sweet baby girl.”
“It does sound like it,” said Beca. “So, how did you end up adopting her?”
It had been a little over two weeks, and Chloe had been visiting the hospital almost daily.
One evening, a woman named Cynthia Rose was waiting when Chloe came over to hold the baby.
“I’m Cynthia Rose, and I work for the Department of Child and Family Services. I understand you’re the one who found Baby Jane.”
“And you’ve been here every day?”
“We haven’t found her family yet. We’ve had a couple of people come forward, but nobody is actually related to her.”
“I don’t understand,” said Chloe.
“Look, a lot of...interesting people come forward when this happens. We get all kinds. I can spot an actor a mile away. There are people with less than admirable intentions.”
“Yeah. We also get people who have experienced a loss and they’re not in a good place mentally. Those are the ones that bother me the most. They had a miscarriage or stillbirth, and they delude themselves into thinking that they must have had the baby and forgotten. It’s sad, really.”
“I had no idea.”
“People don’t talk about it. It’s the same people, usually, so I don’t let it get too far.”
“How will you know if you find her birth family?” Chloe asked.
“The hospital ran some blood tests, so we can do some preliminary testing to see if there is a possible match.”
“It’s what we have to do,” said Cynthia Rose. “However, Dr. Montgomery and all of the staff members here have told me what you’ve been doing. I can push some paperwork through to allow you to foster her if you’re interested. It will take some pulling of strings on my part and some work on yours, but I can do it if you’re interested.”
Chloe sat in shock for a moment before answering. “So, if I foster her, then what happens?”
“Well, it’s possible we may find her family, but I doubt it. We’ve tried, but we don’t even have a lead. You could foster her for a while and then you would have the option to adopt her, assuming her birth family isn’t found and the judge sees you as a fit mother. We can ask for a court date when she turns two. By the way, how old are you?”
“Shit. Okay. That’s some extra paperwork. You’re supposed to be twenty-five.” Cynthia Rose blew out a sigh. “I might have to find a couple of people who owe me a favor. I’ll do it if you’re serious about this, though.”
“I am,” Chloe said without hesitation.
Chloe and Cynthia Rose talked extensively while she held the baby. By the time she’d left, she had a stack of paperwork to go through.
Just before Cynthia Rose left, Chloe asked, “If I take her home, may I name her?”
“I suppose that would be all right, just as long as you understand there’s still a small chance her birth family will want her. What name did you have in mind?”
Chloe knew without a second thought. “Rachel Addison, after my Meemaw.”
“I think that’s sweet,” said Cynthia Rose. “Bye, Rachel.” She gently patted the baby on the head as she left the room.
“Wait a minute,” said Beca. “How did you do everything?”
“I spent hours that evening filling out the paperwork. The social worker had a few people who owed her favors, and Dr. Montgomery wrote the family court judge a letter about how I’d been faithfully visiting the baby and singing to her. There was probably something in there as well about the direct improvement it had on her health. Stacie and Amy and the rest of my coworkers threw me a baby shower to help supply me with what I’d need to have my home approved. The department provided me with a few things, but not everything. I also checked a bunch of parenting books out of the library and pored over different websites to help me raise a baby, especially a premature one.”
Chloe stood before a family court judge, and she quickly approved Chloe to foster the little girl once she read the doctor’s letter. She took her home from the hospital that very day.
The hospital sent her home with a bunch of formula samples and diapers, and Stacie even gave her several bottles of milk she’d pumped extra just to give Rachel a boost. She’d even gotten everyone in the vet’s office to sign up for free samples and coupons from a formula company.
“Formula is expensive,” said Stacie. “I wish I could pump enough to feed both her and Bella.”
“No, really, whatever you’re willing to part with is amazing,” said Chloe. “Besides, with all of the coupons you guys are giving me and the stipend I get for fostering, I should have formula expenses covered.”
Stacie helped Chloe swaddle Rachel and lay her in the pack and play, which she’d set up as a bassinet.
“Okay, she’s down,” said Stacie. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Go be with your wife and daughter,” said Chloe. “I’ve got this.”
Rachel had gained weight, finally, but she was still tiny. The NICU doctors and nurses had told Chloe to think about her “adjusted age” when looking at sizes and milestones. Her lungs definitely worked, and she demonstrated this several times that first night.
Chloe was wiped out the first morning, but she was also thrilled to have Rachel home with her. She just hoped she’d get to stay.
Chloe was able to take leave from her job for eight weeks to get settled. Stacie came over almost daily after work to help Chloe. She’d hold her so Chloe could take a quick shower, and she frequently had an extra bottle of pumped breastmilk she’d give her. Chloe had told her it would be okay if she wanted to breastfeed her directly, but Rachel was never able to latch properly to Stacie’s breast.
Chloe had also been fortunate that her neighbor Betty had recently retired as a pediatric nurse. When she found out Rachel’s history, she volunteered to take care of her during the day. She wouldn’t take any money from Chloe, insisting that Chloe’s Meemaw would haunt her if she dared.
“So, when did she officially become yours?” Beca asked.
“A month after she turned two,” said Chloe. “Aubrey works in family law, and she had a coworker take the case pro bono. Denise made it clear that I was the best fit for Rachel and that the department had exhausted all reasonable means of locating any blood relatives. The judge didn’t want to give her to me because I was single, but Denise is a damn good lawyer.”
“I still can’t believe you two aren’t blood-related.”
“Does Rachel know?”
“She knows she’s adopted, but she’s only understood the concept for about a year.”
Chloe had just helped her neighbor’s cat deliver four kittens while Rachel watched, wide-eyed.
“What did you think, baby girl?” Chloe asked.
“I think it’s great that Bootsie is a mama now, too.”
“She’s going to do great.” Chloe smiled as she watched Bootsie washing her kittens.
“Mama, what was it like when I came out of your belly?”
“Sweetheart, you didn’t. Do you remember how we talked about adoption?”
“Yes,” said Rachel.
“Do you know what that means?”
Rachel scrunched up her face. “It means you chose me.”
“I did, but it also means that you grew in another woman’s belly,” said Chloe.
“I never met her.”
“Why didn’t she keep me?” asked Rachel.
“I don’t know, sweetheart. I guess she didn’t think she could take care of you as well as she would have liked. It takes a lot of time and money to take care of a child. She must have given you up because she wanted you to live with someone who could give you a good home and a good life.”
“Exactly like me.”
“Does this mean you’re not really my mama?” asked Rachel.
“No, Rachel. You are my daughter, and I’m your mama. I really think that somehow Meemaw brought you to me, sweetheart.”
“That’s why you named me Rachel, right?”
“It sure is,” said Chloe. “You know how in Dinosaur Train how Buddy is adopted by the pteranodons?”
“Yeah. He’s my favorite.”
“Does Buddy ever say that Mr. and Mrs. Pteranodon aren’t his parents?”
Rachel furrowed her brow. “No.”
“It’s the same with us. I’m your mama. I held you the day you were born, and I visited you when you were in the hospital.”
“And you sang to me.”
“That’s right,” said Chloe. “I’ve been the one here for you. That makes me your mother. I like to think that you grew in my heart instead of my belly.”
“I love you, Mama. I’m so glad your Meemaw brought me to you.” Rachel climbed into her lap and rested her head on Chloe’s shoulder.
“Me too,” said Chloe, tears in her eyes. “Me too.”
“That is the sweetest story,” said Beca. “But, why didn’t you tell me Rachel was adopted?”
“I follow her lead with that,” said Chloe. “She doesn’t like to tell people that she’s adopted. Obviously, the school knows, as do medical professionals. But, she doesn’t really volunteer that information.”
“I wonder why.”
“For one thing, I think she gets a kick out of it when people tell us we look alike. It’s the red hair, obviously. She finally grew a head of hair at around a year old, and Stacie joked that my ‘gingerness’ was contagious. But, people have said some really idiotic things. One time, someone told her I wasn’t her real mama. She’s hardly told a soul since then.”
“How old was she?”
“Four. It was maybe a few days after the conversation we had where I explained adoption better. She told someone about it - a random stranger at the grocery store - and she asked her if she was going to look for her real parents someday.”
“Who the hell says that to anyone, especially a little kid?” asked Beca.
“I know, right? Rachel immediately burst into tears, and I had to take her home. It’s the only time I’ve left a cart full of groceries in the aisle, but she was inconsolable. It was also the one time I paid for grocery delivery. She was a wreck the rest of the day. I spent that day promising her that I was her real mama and that the person at the grocery store had made a mistake to tell her otherwise.”
“Poor baby,” said Beca.
“Yeah,” said Chloe.
Beca shook her head. “I still can’t believe, well, the whole story.”
“It’s a lot to digest, I know. I just think back about how everything happened, and I just know she was meant to be mine. I wasn’t supposed to be at work that day, and I don’t think she would have been alive if we hadn’t found her until the next day.”
“That’s amazing,” said Beca.
“So, I guess that is a really long explanation of why I haven’t been as physical with you as you had probably expected.”
“I’d always just assumed you were hesitant because of your daughter, but I understand now. We can take things at your pace, okay?”
“You don’t think it’s weird that I’m a twenty-eight-year-old virgin?”
“It’s unusual, but that’s all,” said Beca.
“Good,” said Chloe. “I had a girlfriend in high school for a few months, but it never got that serious. I had a boyfriend for a bit as well, but that didn’t get that far either. I wasn’t ready back then, and he was the one I caught making out with my ex-girlfriend at a party. I was too swamped with taking care of Meemaw when I was in college to have time to date. And I’ve been on very few dates since I took in Rachel.”
“Right. I’d still like you to stay the night if you want. I’d really like to hold you and wake up next to you tomorrow morning. We can wait until you’re ready to have sex. I know I’d like a little time to process this myself.”
“I’d like that. I’ve slept alone most nights, and, when I haven’t, it’s been with Rachel when she’s scared or not feeling well.”
“Does she get sick a lot?”
“No, but I imagine with kindergarten and aftercare that our days of that are numbered.”
“I bet. So, you said she was premature?”
“The doctors’ best guess is about six weeks early. It’s why she’s small, wears glasses, and it might be why she has asthma. The doctors think she’ll outgrow the asthma if it’s due to prematurity. I really hope that happens because colds tend to make her asthma worse, and she’s only had one since the start of kindergarten.”
“I’m learning so much,” said Beca. “Should I pretend I don’t know that Rachel is adopted?”
“I wouldn’t bring it up, but I will let her know that I told you. She obviously doesn’t know she was abandoned. I don’t know when or how I’m going to explain that when she’s older.”
“You’ll figure it out.”
“I guess so,” said Chloe. “Anyway, that’s why I don’t show her face on social media. The adoption was finalized more than three years ago, but I worry that her birth family might see her and try to take her from me. I’d hope a judge would see that I’ve cared for her since day one, but they don’t all see things that way.”
“You mean a judge could give her to the woman who abandoned her?”
“It happens. And I know it would crush both of us.”
“I can’t even imagine,” said Beca.
Chloe yawned. “It’s getting late.”
“Yeah. We can head to bed now if you like. I’ll let Crackers out, and you can change in my room.”
Chloe got into a tank and sleep shorts and waited for Beca and Crackers. She heard a soft knock at the door.
“You don’t have to knock, Beca. It’s your home and your bedroom.”
“I wasn’t sure how comfortable you were with me seeing you undressed yet.”
Beca headed into the en suite bathroom with a pair of pajamas and came out a few minutes later. She turned down the sheets, and the pair climbed into bed. Crackers climbed up a small set of steps by Beca’s bed and tried to lay between them.
“Sorry, buddy, you’re at the foot of the bed tonight,” said Beca, pointing.
Crackers gave them a pathetic look before slowly walking to the foot of the bed.
“Stop it, Crackers. Chloe knows how spoiled you are.”
“Awww…” said Chloe.
“He’s being dramatic. He’s used to sleeping next to me. He’ll be fine.”
Chloe rolled to the side, and she found herself easily sinking into Beca’s embrace as they spooned. She felt Beca move her hair to the side and press a kiss to her neck. Chloe heard Beca begin to chuckle and then stop herself.
“What’s so funny?”
“I was just thinking. I’m dating a real-life Virgin Mary.”
Chloe laughed. “That’s funny. I never thought of it that way.”
“Night, Chloe. I love you.” Beca pressed another kiss, this time to Chloe’s bare shoulder.
“Love you too.”
A/N: Let’s switch over to Beca’s POV here.
Beca woke up with Chloe in her arms. It had taken her a while to fall asleep the night before. She’d taken her girlfriend to bed, although not in the sense she’d hoped.
She’d been floored by the conversation she’d had with her the previous night. She couldn’t believe that Chloe’s daughter was adopted. She knew the woman had a big heart, but she hadn’t realized just how big. As for Chloe being a virgin, she was obviously surprised, but the idea didn’t bother her.
She felt Chloe begin to stir. “Morning, Love.”
“Morning,” said Chloe.
“Do you want some breakfast?”
Beca got up. “Coffee?”
“Please,” said Chloe as she sat up.
Beca couldn’t believe how adorable Chloe was when she’d just woken up. She was sure she looked a mess. She ran a brush through her hair and put it up in a messy bun. She started up the coffee maker.
She grabbed the pancake mix and started preparing breakfast. Chloe padded into the room. She’d also put her hair in a messy bun.
“Morning,” said Beca. “Sleep okay?”
“I did. I had a beautiful woman with the biggest heart ever in my arms. I can’t complain about that.”
Chloe blushed. “Thank you for understanding why I’ve been holding back.”
“I’m surprised, and I’m still digesting everything you told me. But, yeah, I understand. It’s just such an incredible story.”
“I just think I did what any reasonable person would do.”
“I think you went above and beyond. You didn’t have to come back and hold her every day, and then foster and adopt her. It’s amazing.”
“I felt an immediate bond with her.”
“I’m sure you did. I think she’s an awesome kid. I like the idea that she’s a gift from your Meemaw.”
“Me too,” said Chloe.
“So...I want to ask you something, but it’s okay if you don’t want to answer. Just how far have you gone physically?”
“It’s a fair question. Second base...sort of?”
“What do you mean by sort of?”
“I made out with a guy at a party in college. He got his hand up my shirt, but not under my bra. I haven’t gotten further than some heavy makeout sessions with anyone else.”
“What was your first time like? If that’s not too prying.”
“It’s not,” said Beca. “It wasn’t great. I had sex with my high school boyfriend on the night of our senior prom. Cliche, I know. Anyway, it was his first time too. He was a little too rough on me. It hurt and then it was over in, like, two minutes.”
“Literally.” Beca chuckled. “But, it only hurt the first time. And he got better at it by the end of the summer.”
“What happened to him?”
“I think he’s married now. I’m not sure. We split at the end of the summer. He was headed to college in Wyoming, and I’d just found somewhere to live in LA. We wanted different things, and we weren’t in it for the long haul.”
“I get that. I think some of that may be why you are my first serious relationship since Rachel. I was just shy of twenty-five when I adopted her. People my age didn’t want to be with someone with a child. They’d say they were okay with things, but they’d be gone the second I said I had to find a sitter or had to cancel for childcare reasons. I’ve been ghosted so many times.”
“Well, that’s lucky for me. They missed out.”
“Pancakes are ready.”
“These are really good,” said Chloe.
“Thanks. They’re from a mix, but I always get the kind where you have to actually add eggs. They’re better than the ‘just add water’ kind.”
“I didn’t know I was dating a pancake connoisseur.”
“My first roommate in LA was a big pancake fan. She had strong opinions on pancakes. She even had a prioritized list of brands and varieties on the fridge.”
“I’m fortunate to say that it was one of very few of her quirks.”
“Does Rachel like pancakes?” Beca asked.
“Yes. It is on the shortlist of foods she’ll eat. She’s pretty picky. It’s frustrating because she’s underweight.”
“The pediatrician said if she drops much more in the percentiles that we may have to see a specialist. She had so many tubes when she was a baby. I’ll do what I have to do, but I’d really like to avoid a feeding tube if I can. Aubrey actually found a way to get her to drink those supplemental drinks. She blended it with a frozen banana, called it a smoothie, and Rachel thought it was the best.”
“Yeah. She’s definitely grown a bit lately. She’s finally outgrown her size 4T clothes. At two months shy of six years old,” said Chloe.
“Is that why Aubrey and Stacie were going through Bella’s clothes on Thanksgiving?”
“Yes, and they’d picked up that maybe we needed to talk privately.”
“They’re very perceptive.”
They talked for a bit, took Crackers for a walk, and then Chloe headed to Stacie and Aubrey’s to pick up Rachel.
After Chloe left, Beca called her coworker Jesse.
“Dude, I need your help,” she said.
“Hi, Beca. How are you?”
“Sorry, Jesse. How are you?”
“I’m good. Just teasing you. Is everything okay?”
“It is. I need your advice. I want to get something really special for my girlfriend and her daughter for Christmas.”
“And you’re asking me because…?”
“Jesse, you’re basically a child in a grown man’s body.”
“How old is the kid again?” Jesse asked.
“Five, almost six.”
“Well, you could get them a Nintendo Switch.”
“How do you not know what one of those is? It’s a video game system. It’s the most kid-friendly one available.”
“Okay…” Beca trailed off.
“Meet me at the GameStop close to the studio, and I’ll help you out.”
Beca met Jesse, and she left with the game system, a set of extra controllers, and three games. Jesse insisted that all three were fun games they could all play together.
“You’re sure about this?” Beca asked.
“Absolutely,” said Jesse. “I swear the games are kid-friendly, but you and Chloe will like them too.”
“I really appreciate the help.”
“Anything to get you laid.”
Beca gave him a gentle shove. “Stop.”
“Oh, shit. You two haven’t?” Jesse followed with an inappropriate gesture Beca would have been happy to have never seen.
“It’s complicated, okay?”
“She must really be amazing for you to hold out like this.”
“She is, and I’ll wait until she’s ready.”
“Maybe I should get you a vibrator for Christmas.”
“Like you’d know which one to get,” said Beca.
“I can read reviews!”
“You know what, Jesse? Go ahead. I can’t wait to see what Amazon puts in your recommendations after that.”
“Your next birthday gift, obviously.”
“I’m just trying to help you, Becaw.”
Beca rolled her eyes. “I hate that nickname, Jesse. But, seriously, thanks a bunch. Rachel is going to flip her shit on Christmas!”
“You’re one hell of a sugar mama,” said Jesse.
Beca rolled her eyes again.
Beca spent the afternoon researching art lessons for children. After doing some research, she found a school that offered classes for Rachel’s age group. She paid for a month worth of classes and purchased the supplies on the list. She even made sure they were available on Saturdays, knowing that Chloe’s work schedule made it difficult to get Rachel to any weekday activities.
She sat and thought about what to get Chloe. She was trying to think of something meaningful. The Nintendo Switch game system was a gift for both of them, but she wanted to give Chloe something that would be really special.
She finally decided to get her a pair of diamond stud earrings. They would be really pretty, and she could wear them when she took her out somewhere nice.
A/N: Back to Chloe's POV
Chloe got to Stacie and Aubrey’s to pick up her daughter. “Hi, baby girl.”
“Hi, Mama. How was your date with Miss Beca?”
“It was really good,” said Chloe. “Did you have fun with Bella?”
Rachel nodded vigorously. Aubrey took Rachel to Bella’s room to help her pack.
“So, how was it?” Stacie asked.
Chloe chewed on her bottom lip.
“Seriously? You chickened out, didn’t you?”
Chloe lowered her voice. “We got to talking, and I told her the whole story.”
“About Rachel, of course.”
Chloe sighed. “I had to tell her because...because…”
“Chloe, spit it out.”
Chloe lowered her voice to just above a whisper. “Because I’m a virgin, okay?”
“What?!” Stacie replied loudly.
“I had no idea. Wait, then who’s David?”
“That’s my vibrator. Named after David Guetta.” Chloe knew she had to be blushing hard.
Stacie chuckled. “That’s hilarious. And clever.”
“Thanks. Please don’t tell Amy. I’ll never hear the end of it.”
Stacie held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor.”
“Were you a Girl Scout?” Chloe asked.
“Only for first grade. I sold cookies all over the neighborhood, and then I had to give everyone their money back because my dad ate them before I could deliver them. I was too embarrassed to come back to Girl Scouts after that.”
“Yeah. But, anyway, I promise I won’t say anything.”
Aubrey and Rachel walked into the room. “I’m all packed up, Mama.”
“Great job, sweetheart,” Chloe said to Rachel. She turned to Aubrey and Stacie. “Thanks for taking her.”
“Anytime,” said Aubrey.
Once they got home and unpacked, Chloe sat Rachel down to talk over lunch.
“Rachel, I want to tell you something important.”
“Miss Beca and I had a long talk last night, and I told her about your adoption. We were having a grownup conversation, and the topic came up. I hope that’s okay with you.”
Rachel furrowed her brow for a minute or two. “Yeah, that’s okay. I like Miss Beca a lot, Mama.”
“You should marry her.” Chloe nearly choked on her drink.
“Mama, are you okay?”
“Yes, sweetie. You caught me off guard.”
“It means you surprised me.”
“Oh. Is it still too early to marry her, Mama?”
Rachel sighed. “I hope you can marry her soon.”
Chloe reached across the table and tousled her daughter’s hair. “You’re too cute. Do you know that?”
The next day at work, Chloe found herself alone with Stacie.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Stacie.
“Watch your volume,” said Chloe.
“Right.” Stacie lowered her voice. “I can’t believe you’ve never-”
“Enough.” Chloe didn’t want to hear Stacie’s latest euphemism.
“Sorry. But, Beca’s okay with it?”
“Yeah, she seems to be. She actually was the one who put the brakes on things Saturday night. I have to admit that, after that conversation, it wasn’t exactly the next thing I wanted to do.”
“No, I wouldn’t think so. Wait, so how far have you gotten?”
“I don’t need to have this conversation with you,” said Chloe.
“I’ve never known anyone to turn down my sex advice.”
Chloe rolled her eyes.
“Come on. It’s been a few days since Aubrey and I have done it.”
Chloe knew Stacie wasn’t going to let up. “Not very far, honestly. Beca and I have made out, but that’s it. A guy I dated back in college got his hand up my shirt, but that’s as far as it’s gotten.”
“You know I didn’t date much. I was too busy in high school between the soccer team and my part-time job. And then there was my boyfriend making out with my ex-girlfriend. Kind of turned me off to dating. I wasn’t ready then, even if that hadn’t happened. I was taking care of my sick grandmother in college, and then Rachel happened.”
“I know. I guess I just figured someone would have hit that,” said Stacie, gesturing to Chloe’s body.
Fat Amy came in, and Chloe was relieved to have a good reason to stop this conversation. Stacie was a great friend, but she had zero filter when it came to any topic remotely related to sex.
Beca, Chloe, and Rachel visited Beca’s dad again that Saturday. Rachel had another Pete the Cat book she was eager to read with him, and Chloe knew Beca was doing her best to see her father as much as she could while he was around.
“Thank you for the restaurant gift card,” Chloe said. “We had an amazing dinner.”
“We’re glad to help,” said Sheila. “You two are good for each other.”
Beca put an arm around Chloe. “Yes, we are.”
“Miss Sheila?” Rachel asked.
“What is your favorite animal? I didn’t draw you a picture yet.”
“It’s a giraffe,” she said.
“Okay!” Rachel grabbed her sketchbook, pencils, and crayons and got to work.
“She really likes to draw,” said Beca’s dad.
“She could draw all day and night,” said Chloe.
“I’m not sure what you usually do on Christmas,” Sheila began. “We’d love to have you over for a visit.”
“That would be fun. Usually, it’s just Rachel and me. Stacie and Aubrey are almost always out of town. Their families aren’t local.”
Rachel woke Chloe up at 7 am on the dot, which was the earliest Chloe told Rachel she could wake her.
“Mama, Mama! Santa was here!”
“That’s great, baby girl. I’ll be up in a minute.”
Chloe smiled as she saw her daughter’s excitement. Thanks to some help from Beca, she actually had a few brand new items to give her as gifts.
She took a selfie of herself and her daughter in their matching Christmas pajamas before letting Rachel open her gifts.
Rachel screamed when she opened a box that had a purple unicorn dress and matching leggings. She was also excited to get a new My Little Pony toy and a few Barbie dolls.
Chloe smiled when she opened two ornaments Rachel had made for her - one in school and the other at daycare. She had also bought her something small at her school’s holiday shop. It was a refrigerator magnet that said “I love my mom.”
Chloe made pancakes for breakfast, and she relaxed while Rachel played with her new things.
Chloe put on a pretty sweater and a pair of dress pants, and she dressed Rachel in a green Santa style dress with white tights and black patent leather Mary Janes. She brought homemade mac and cheese to Beca’s dad’s house, again knowing it was something Rachel would eat.
They arrived at Beca’s dad’s house, and Rachel ran up to hug Beca before Chloe got a chance.
“Merry Christmas,” Beca said before pulling Chloe in for a kiss.
Before Sheila could finish asking whether they’d prefer to eat first or open presents, Rachel was racing to the Christmas tree.
“Mama, there are presents here with my name on them!” Rachel exclaimed.
“That’s wonderful, sweetheart,” said Chloe.
Rachel reached for one but pulled her hand back. “I almost forgot. May I open this?”
Chloe was relieved that Rachel had remembered her manners.
“Go ahead,” said Sheila. “This one is from Mr. Francis and me.”
Rachel squealed when she opened the present. “Mama, look! It’s a Pete the Cat book and a stuffed Pete!”
“What do you say?” Chloe asked.
“Thank you,” said Rachel.
“You’re welcome,” said Sheila.
“I love it when you read those books to me,” said Francis.
Rachel immediately asked to read the book. Sheila lifted Rachel to sit next to Francis, and they read the book together.
“That was great reading,” he said. “You’ve been working really hard at school, haven’t you?”
“Come over here and open the rest,” said Chloe.
“Mama, this one says it’s for both of us from Miss Beca,” said Rachel.
Chloe motioned for Rachel to sit in her lap so they could open it together.
“Oh my god!” Chloe exclaimed.
“Miss Beca, thank you!” Rachel exclaimed. She put the present down and ran up to hug Beca.
“Beca, this is too much. I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s for both of you. I had some help, though.”
Chloe couldn’t believe Beca had bought them a Nintendo Switch, an extra set of controllers, the latest Just Dance, as well as Mario Party and Mario Kart.
“I’m so excited to play everything,” said Rachel.
“I’m glad,” said Beca.
Chloe loved her diamond earrings, putting them into her ears immediately, and Rachel sat still in shock when she saw Beca had paid for art lessons for her and purchased supplies.
“You are way too generous,” said Chloe.
“I meant what I said earlier. Let me spoil you guys.”
Chloe nodded, her eyes tearing up.
Chloe gave Beca a picture they’d taken on a recent date that she’d had framed. It paled in comparison to what Beca had just given them, but Beca insisted she was hanging it up as soon as she got home that night. She’d also purchased a few flannels for her, and she’d managed to get her a pair of Converse sneakers in a color she was reasonably certain Beca didn’t own. She gave Sheila a photo album and Francis a new pair of bedroom slippers.
They sat down to eat. Sheila had made a ham, green beans, and glazed carrots. Rachel ate mac and cheese and a roll, and Francis barely touched any of his food. They left shortly after eating, as Beca’s dad was obviously fading fast.
Beca joined them at Chloe’s house. Neither woman could figure out the instructions for hooking up the Switch.
“I know who can help,” said Beca. She made a quick phone call, and the doorbell rang fifteen minutes later.
“Help has arrived,” said the man, who Chloe recognized as the guy who had been working the DJ booth with Beca at the zoo.
“This is Jesse,” Beca said. “Jesse, this is Chloe and her daughter Rachel.”
“Hi,” he said. He grabbed the box with the Switch and had the whole thing hooked up and talking to the wi-fi in minutes.
“Thanks for coming over on Christmas,” Chloe said.
“It’s nothing,” said Jesse. “I’m Jewish, and I don’t celebrate Christmas. You’re not taking me away from anything. Hanukkah was over almost three weeks ago, and it’s nowhere near the big deal Christmas is. Besides, my parents live in New York. I don’t have any family down here.”
“What do you want to play first?” he asked Rachel.
“Mario Kart!” Rachel exclaimed.
Jesse walked everyone through the controls. Nobody was surprised when Rachel chose Waluigi, the most purple of the characters.
Beca chose Bowser, Chloe chose Daisy, and Jesse chose Mario. They spent a good hour racing before Rachel asked to play something else.
She chose Just Dance and Jesse showed them that they had a free trial of a service that let them play songs from previous versions of the game. He scrolled down the list, and Rachel pointed to one of the songs and started laughing.
“Mama, we need to play that one!”
“Why is that?”
“Because you and Beca are girlfriends!”
Beca shrugged. “Fine with me.”
They got set up and Jesse showed them how to choose which “dance coach” they wanted. Rachel said, “I want to be that one. She’s like Miss Beca!”
“You don’t want to be the girl with red hair and glasses?”
“Nope,” said Rachel.
“Okay, kiddo, let’s do this! I bet we can beat your Mama and Jesse!” Beca exclaimed.
“Why can’t I be the girl with the guitar?” Jesse asked.
“Do I even need to begin to explain?” Beca asked, rolling her eyes.
Jesse put up his hands in mock surrender. “I know better than to argue with a bunch of strong women.”
They danced to Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend.”
Rachel laughed harder and harder each time she got to do the “air guitar” moves.
They played games for a little while before Jesse headed back. He’d taken the time to patiently show everyone how to work the Switch, and he’d made sure to remind Rachel that she needed to be really careful with it.
Chloe managed to get Rachel to bed, something made a little easier when Beca happily agreed to read Rachel her bedtime story. She felt her heart grow three sizes when she saw her daughter curled up in her girlfriend’s lap, listening to the story.
Once Rachel was down, Beca said, “I forgot how long The Grinch was.”
“Rachel loved your ‘grinch voice’ though.”
“Don’t tell Jesse about that.”
“I promise,” Chloe said, laughing.
“Can we open that bottle of wine my dad and Sheila got us?” asked Beca.
“Sounds great.” Chloe grabbed a corkscrew and some wine glasses from her kitchen.
They sat at the kitchen table and enjoyed their wine with a few sugar cookies Chloe and Rachel had made the day before.
“I really can’t believe everything you bought us,” said Chloe. “You’re too much.”
Beca reached across the table and took her hand. “I love you, and I love your daughter. You two deserve to be treated. Let me treat you.”
“Thanks. Is Jesse the one with the Disney Plus subscription?”
“He sure is.”
Beca sighed. “I was just thinking about how this is my dad’s last Christmas.”
“I remember that with my Meemaw. She hadn’t gone to hospice yet, but I think we both knew when her days were numbered.”
“He put a huge smile on Rachel’s face, though. If she wasn’t such a light sleeper, I’d send your dad a picture of her sleeping with the stuffed Pete.”
“He really has enjoyed her visits, you know.”
“I’m glad they have each other,” said Chloe.
They chatted for a bit, and then they sat in the living room to cuddle on the couch. This quickly escalated into a makeout session.
“Bedroom?” Beca asked.
Chloe nodded, thinking that Christmas just might be a good day for her first time.
They lay on Chloe’s bed, resuming their kissing. Beca reached under the hem of Chloe’s sweater, slipping her hand underneath it after Chloe gave her a nod. Beca massaged her breast over her bra, causing a quiet moan to slip from Chloe’s lips.
However, Chloe stopped things once Beca moved to take off the sweater.
“I...I can’t. I’m sorry,” said Chloe. “I thought I was ready, but…”
“It’s okay,” said Beca. “I don’t want to push you.”
“Thanks. I just...what if Rachel hears us? That kid wakes up if a pin drops two rooms over.”
Beca gave her a chaste kiss. “It’s really okay. I really want your first time to be as special and amazing as you are. I want you to be relaxed so you can enjoy yourself. I don’t want us to do anything unless we’re both comfortable doing it.”
“I probably ruined your Christmas. You were so generous with us, and-”
“Chloe, did you think you owed me?”
“I don’t want you to ever think you owe me sex for anything. If we’re having sex, I want it to be because we love each other and want to share that.”
Chloe teared up and nodded. “Thank you for understanding.”
“I love you, and I’m not going anywhere. Except maybe back to the living room to cuddle with you.”
Ashley and Jessica graciously agreed to keep Rachel during the day for the school’s winter break. They’d refused Chloe’s multiple attempts to pay them. Jessica’s office was closed for the week, and they were thrilled to have an extra kid to keep their daughter entertained.
That Wednesday, when Chloe came to their house to pick up her daughter, they invited Rachel for a sleepover the following Saturday.
“Violet’s sixth birthday is on January 8, and we thought she might like having Rachel stay overnight. We don’t do big birthday parties every year, and she asked to have a sleepover with her best friend,” said Ashley.
“You two will have kept her every day this week. Are you sure you want her to sleep over next Saturday, too?” Chloe asked.
“Absolutely,” said Jessica. “Go have a nice date with your girlfriend.”
Chloe felt her cheeks warm. “As long as you’re sure.”
Violet’s moms insisted that they’d be thrilled to have Rachel, so Chloe agreed. They discussed details, and Chloe happily shared the information with Beca after she got Rachel to bed that night.
“So, does that mean you want to stay with me that night?” Beca asked.
“Yes,” said Chloe. “I’m ready.”
“And, I’ll happily take a night of cuddles if you change your mind.”
The following Saturday, Chloe took Rachel shopping for a birthday gift. She chose a Unicorn Pillow Pet for her friend.
Chloe brought Rachel over, and she made sure that Violet’s moms had both her and Beca’s contact information, just in case. The two women all but shoved Chloe out the door.
“I’m going, I’m going. Bye, Rachel!”
“Bye, Mama!” she called.
Chloe headed to Beca’s place. She’d decided to order in. They relaxed over Chinese takeout, talking about their week.
“Next month is National Pet Dental Month, so we’ve been so busy with pre-dental visits.”
“Right,” said Beca. “I got an e-mail about that. Should I take Crackers?”
“I think he’s okay. I remember we checked his teeth and they were fine.”
“Okay, good. The label has me checking out a lot of new artists lately. Unfortunately, most of what they’re having me listen to is just plain awful. It’s taking up a bunch of my time, and it’s so frustrating.”
“I’m sure you can make their stuff better.”
“I’m not a miracle worker. They keep sending me singers who couldn’t carry a tune with a bucket and two handles. I got a few rappers who can barely rhyme. I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but I swear I’m about to stick razor blades in my ears!”
“Ouch!” Chloe laughed.
“Seriously, though, I’m going to have to talk to my boss. Most of these people are wasting my time.”
After they finished their food, Beca brought each of them a glass of wine.
“Trying to get me drunk first?” Chloe joked.
Beca laughed. “Of course not, but I was hoping it would help you relax a little.”
“Not a bad idea, “ said Chloe, sipping her wine.
“You’re doing this because you want to, right?” Beca asked. “Please don’t feel pressured.”
“I want to. I’m ready.”
Beca gave Chloe a kiss and then put Crackers in his crate with a few treats before leading Chloe to the bedroom.
“I didn’t think you wanted to do this with him on the bed.”
Beca sat on her bed and pulled Chloe close. She kissed her deeply for a while before reaching under her shirt. She paused for a moment until Chloe whispered, “Keep going.”
Chloe’s breath hitched as soon as she felt Beca’s hands on her skin. She reached around Beca to pull her close. Beca began to press kisses down Chloe’s jawline and then her neck. Chloe put her head back and shut her eyes.
“Can I take your shirt off?” asked Beca.
Chloe nodded, and Beca quickly pulled it over her head, removing her top as well.
“Fuck, you’re hot,” said Beca.
“Not so bad yourself,” Chloe said, winking.
Beca gently palmed Chloe’s breasts, pressing kisses to the swells. She reached around Chloe’s back for the hook, pausing for just a second before Chloe told her it was okay.
Chloe tried to reach for Beca’s to unhook it. She looked bewildered for a second before Beca moved her hand. “It’s in the front.”
Their bras were off, and Beca immediately put her mouth to one of Chloe’s breasts, massaging the other one.
Chloe felt her senses becoming overwhelmed. “That’s…” she couldn’t finish the sentence.
Chloe hummed affirmatively. Her brain couldn’t form the words to describe how it felt to finally have Beca touch her this way.
“Can we lie down?” Beca asked.
They lay on their sides, facing each other. Beca pulled Chloe close, causing her to sigh at the contact.
“I like that too,” Beca whispered into Chloe’s ear before capturing her lips in a kiss again.
Chloe ran her hands up and down Beca’s back, enjoying the feel of her smooth skin.
Beca began to do the same thing before reaching down to squeeze Chloe’s ass. She let out a yelp. Beca pulled her hand away, but Chloe put it back.
“It took me by surprise. It feels good.”
Beca soon moved her hands to the button of Chloe’s jeans, looking her straight in the eye. Chloe told her to continue.
Beca slowly took off Chloe’s jeans, also removing her own. She reached between Chloe’s legs, feeling what Chloe knew was a wet patch on her underwear. “Chloe...damn…”
Chloe could only moan in response. Nobody had ever touched her like that before, and it was too amazing for words. Beca put her hands on either side of the waistband. Chloe moved her hands over Beca’s and began to help her take them off. Beca also removed her own underwear.
Chloe had always been worried about how she’d feel when completely naked in front of her first partner. The look in Beca’s eyes as she took in the sight of her was enough to erase any drop of self-consciousness left. Seeing Beca naked was pretty amazing as well.
“You’re so beautiful. I love you so much,” said Beca, and Chloe noticed a few tears forming in her eyes.
“I love you,” said Chloe, moving closer to kiss her girlfriend again.
Beca moved her hands all over Chloe’s body, although she seemed to be saving what they both wanted for last.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Beca said.
“Please touch me.”
Beca moved a hand down to touch Chloe. She began to gently stroke her clit, getting a series of moans out of her. “You sound so good, and you’re so wet. That’s so fucking sexy.”
Chloe could only let out a series of whimpers and moans. She felt Beca move her fingers through her folds, stopping just at the entrance.
“Inside, Beca. Please.”
Beca swirled a finger around the entrance before gently putting it inside of her. Chloe gasped. This felt so much better than she’d imagined. She began to cant her hips as Beca slowly moved her finger in and out.
“You feel so good, Chloe. I love being inside of you.”
“Beca, I need…” Chloe wasn’t sure what she needed, exactly.
Beca seemed to understand, though, adding a second finger. “You like that?”
Chloe could only nod and whimper. She felt things building as Beca continued to move her fingers. She began to use her thumb to play with Chloe’s clit again, and Chloe knew she was close. She began breathing harder, moaning Beca’s name. She moved her hips faster, and Beca matched the rhythm.
“That’s it, baby. I want to hear you. You sound so good, and I love you so, so much,” Beca said in Chloe’s ear.
Chloe felt her release at those words, and it was by far the most intense orgasm she’d ever had. It hit her like a freight train. Once she’d come down, Beca took her fingers out, licked them clean, and pulled her close.
“That was amazing. I’ve never felt so good,” said Chloe.
Beca pulled her even closer.
“Did you want me to…?” Chloe asked.
“Maybe tomorrow,” Beca said. “Tonight was all about you.” She grabbed a blanket from her bed and pulled it over the two of them.
Chloe was a bit relieved. She was pretty sure the orgasm had scrambled her brain, and all she wanted to do at that point was snuggle.
“Don’t tell anyone, but this is one of my favorite things about sex. The snuggling after.”
“You’re such a softie,” Chloe said.
The next morning, Chloe was so happy to wake up in Beca’s arms, both of them naked. She’d never felt so close to anyone before.
Once Beca woke up, Chloe returned the favor, glad that she could make Beca feel as good as she’d made her feel the night before. She felt even better when Beca returned her favor, this time with her mouth.
They showered together before eating breakfast. They took Crackers for a walk, and Beca asked to join Chloe when she went to pick up her daughter.
They got to Jessica and Ashley’s house, and Ashley froze for a moment with her jaw dropped when she answered the door.
“Chloe, you didn’t tell me!”
It took Chloe a beat to figure out what (or, more specifically, who) had Ashley so surprised.
“Right, this is Beca, my girlfriend. I’m guessing you’re familiar with her music?”
“It’s my favorite,” said Ashley. “I’d read that you moved to Atlanta, but I didn’t realize that you were Chloe’s girlfriend.”
“I’m always happy to meet a fan,” said Beca. “I tend to try and keep as much of my life out of the press as I can. It’s one of the reasons I moved here.”
“Mama! Miss Beca!” Rachel called, giving each of them a hug.
“Did you have fun?” Chloe asked.
“Why don’t you sit down?” Jessica asked. “I think my star-struck wife has forgotten her manners.” She gave Ashley a kiss on the cheek.
They sat down and chatted, and Ashley had a lot of questions. She was really intrigued to learn how they’d met and everything.
“I had no idea that you were the ‘Miss Beca’ Rachel was talking about.”
“Rachel only vaguely understands that Beca’s famous,” said Chloe. “She DJed the Halloween party at the zoo, and a few people came up to her when we went trick-or-treating. Rachel just knows her as Mama’s girlfriend Beca.”
“I’m being such a fangirl,” said Ashley. “You must be so annoyed with me.”
Beca chuckled. “Not at all. People generally don’t approach me when I’m out and about.”
“Can I take a picture with you?” asked Ashley, timidly.
“Yes, but I ask that you not mention Chloe or Rachel if you post it on social media. I don’t need any paparazzi getting any dumb ideas and bothering them.”
“Sure,” she said, handing Jessica her phone. “I suck at selfies.”
“I’ve never figured them out either,” said Beca.
They snapped a few photos, and Ashley checked with Beca before posting one.
The caption read: “I had the good fortune of meeting this pretty lady this morning! #BecaMitchell”
They chatted for a bit before dropping Beca off at her house and then going home.
The next day, Stacie cornered Chloe at work.
“So, how was it?” she asked.
“How did you know?” Chloe asked.
“You are ten times happier than usual,” said Stacie.
Chloe laughed. “I suppose so, and it was amazing.”
“So, what did you guys use - tongues, fingers, toys?”
“Stacie, I’m not telling you. I’ll just say we both enjoyed ourselves. A lot.” Chloe could feel her cheeks redden.
“You’re no fun.”
“That’s not what she said!”
Stacie laughed. “I guess I walked into that one. But, in seriousness, I’m glad you guys are happy. Beca’s pretty great.”
A/N: Trigger Warning: Minor Character Death
The following Friday evening, they visited Beca’s dad again. It was very brief because it was clear that he was really tired. Rachel sat next to him and read another Pete the Cat book. They didn’t visit a whole lot longer. Before they left, Sheila gently broke it to Beca that her father had asked to transfer to the hospice facility. He’d been sleeping a lot and had been in a lot of pain when he was awake. He was already on a constant flow of oxygen to give his lungs a break.
Beca surprised Chloe by asking her to visit the hospice two days later. Beca’s dad had been asking to see them.
Chloe was really surprised to see Beca’s dad sitting up, awake, and talking when they came to visit. Rachel brought him another picture of a zebra that she’d drawn, and she sat with him and read another book. Chloe talked to him about her work at the animal hospital, and he’d asked a lot of questions about how she cared for the different animals.
That night, Beca came over for dinner.
“It was interesting to see my dad so lively,” she said as she helped Chloe with the dishes.
“Yeah,” said Chloe.
“Maybe he’s not going downhill as fast as he thought,” said Beca.
“Right…” Chloe trailed off.
Chloe looked around to see if Rachel was where she could hear them. She lowered her voice. “Look, I didn’t want to say anything…”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
Chloe sighed. “You might be right, but this could be what medical people call ‘the surge’. Someone who is deathly ill has a brief period where they are really lucid and seem to be feeling much better.”
“Did your Meemaw have one?”
“The day before she passed,” said Chloe.
To Chloe’s surprise, Beca didn’t cry. She seemed to be taking this in.
“I’m sorry,” Chloe began.
“No, it’s fine,” said Beca. “I mean, I’m glad you told me. I appreciate it.”
“A lot of people tried to sugar coat things when my grandmother was dying, and I wish they’d just told me the truth.”
The next morning, Chloe discovered she had been correct. Beca had texted her overnight that she was with her dad. Her stepmother had called to tell her he was in his final hours. Chloe texted her when she woke up for an update.
B: He’s hanging on for now
C: Do you want me to keep you company
B: Are you sure?
B: But it’s okay if you need to stay with Rachel
It was a Monday, so Chloe put Rachel on the bus before meeting Beca at the hospice facility. She explained the situation to her boss and took the day off. Stacie texted afterward and offered to pick Rachel up if need be.
Chloe entered the hospice room, and Beca’s dad appeared to be sleeping somewhat peacefully. She could see he was breathing shallowly. Beca and Sheila each held one of his hands.
“Hey.” Chloe gave Sheila a brief hug and greeted Beca with a chaste kiss. She took a seat next to her girlfriend.
“I’m glad you’re here,” said Beca.
“I’ve just been talking to him a lot. I hope he can hear me.”
“I’m sure he can,” said Chloe. “Hey, Dr. Mitchell.”
They sat quietly for a while. Chloe handed tissues to Sheila and Beca and put an arm around Beca. She’d kiss her on top of the head and stroke her hair, knowing that was about all she could do to provide comfort.
After about half an hour, a nurse came in. They couldn’t tell whether or not he was still breathing. She gently asked Beca and Sheila if she could take his pulse. They nodded, and she confirmed that he was gone.
Chloe cried with her girlfriend and the newly widowed stepmother. She remembered how it had felt when the hospice people had told her that her Meemaw was gone.
The staff came in to go over arrangements. Neither Sheila nor Beca knew of anything specific, save for his wishes not to have anything expensive or extravagant.
Chloe quietly suggested that they consider using the funeral home that had handled everything for her Meemaw. They agreed, and Chloe was glad to be of some help.
They left shortly after that, none of them wanting to actually witness the funeral home staff’s removal of their loved one.
Chloe brought Beca to her place. Sheila had declined the invite. She fixed lunch, but neither woman wanted to eat much.
She put a mindless show on the television, and just held Beca for a while. She had stopped crying shortly after finding out that her father had passed. She seemed comforted by Chloe’s touch, so that’s what Chloe did. Beca fell asleep on her, and Chloe simply rested on the couch while Beca snoozed.
She finally had to wake Beca up, though, because she needed to get her daughter from after-care. She texted Stacie with an update. Beca headed back to her place. She’d asked a neighbor to check on her dog and let him out, but she needed to get back to him.
Chloe picked Rachel up from after-care, and she explained what had happened.
“Beca’s dad passed away today,” she said.
“What does that mean?” Rachel asked.
“Oh, that’s really sad. Poor Miss Beca. I should draw her a picture.”
“That’s my sweet girl.”
She took Rachel home, fixed dinner, and went over homework with her. Rachel worked on her picture, and Chloe sat on the couch with a glass of wine. It had been a really long day.
Beca texted Chloe to let her know that she and Sheila would be making funeral arrangements the following day. She declined Chloe’s offer to join her.
Chloe went to work the next day, and, for once, Stacie and Fat Amy were pretty quiet. Chloe told them about the previous day, and both of them offered to send flowers. She told them she’d wait for information from Beca about the funeral arrangements.
Beca texted her that evening to tell her the funeral would be that Saturday. In lieu of flowers, they wanted donations sent to the American Lung Association. Chloe arranged for Betty to keep Rachel for the day, knowing that a funeral and wake would be a bit much for a girl that young.
Chloe offered to help Beca with whatever she needed. She was a little surprised when she asked her to pick up her mother from the airport. She explained that her parents had patched things up years ago and her mother would be coming out to attend the funeral and support her daughter.
Chloe waited at the airport for the woman whose picture Beca had texted her. She’d thought about holding up a sign, but that seemed more than a little strange and impersonal.
The woman was one of the first people to arrive at the baggage claim, and they’d immediately recognized each other. Beca’s mother looked very much like an older version of Beca.
“Yes. I assume you are Mrs. Mitchell?”
“I used to be. I went back to my maiden name of Evans when I divorced Beca’s dad.”
“That’s right. Beca told me. Sorry.”
“Don’t be. You can call me Sue or Susan.” She spotted her bag and grabbed it off of the carousel.
“Is that everything?” Chloe asked.
“Let’s go, then.”
Chloe drove Sue to Beca’s.
“Mom!” Beca gave her mother a hug.
“Rebecca! How are you holding up?”
Beca sniffled and her lower lip began to quiver.
“Oh, honey, it’s okay.” Beca’s mother gave her a hug again and she gave in to the tears she’d been fighting.
After Beca had stopped crying, they spoke a bit more about things. Sue had a lot of questions about their relationship and Chloe’s daughter. They made a plan to have dinner together at Chloe’s house the next night.
“Speaking of Rachel, I need to get home. My neighbor Betty is watching her, and she tends to wear the poor woman out!”
“Bye, Chloe, thank you for your help,” said Beca, giving her a chaste kiss.
“It was nice meeting you,” said Sue.
The next night, Chloe decided to serve breakfast for dinner. Rachel found the idea of pancakes for dinner hilarious, even though Chloe reminded her that this was not the first time she’d done this.
Not surprisingly, Rachel hugged Beca’s mom as though she’d known her all of her life.
“Hi, Rachel,” said Sue. “It’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“What did you hear?” asked Rachel.
“Rebecca showed me the amazing picture you drew of the three of you at the bowling alley.”
“That’s my real name,” said Beca. “Beca is a nickname. My mom is the only one who ever calls me Rebecca.”
“I add in her middle name when I’m mad,” said Sue, winking.
“Mama does that. If she says ‘Rachel Addison’ then I’m in trouble. If she says ‘Rachel Addison Beale’ then I’m really in for it! I’ll get sent to my room for the night and no Netflix.”
“I’m sure that doesn’t happen too much,” said Sue.
Rachel shrugged. “Do you want to see my room?”
Rachel took Sue by the hand to show her before the woman could answer, making all three adults chuckle.
“Mama painted my room purple when I was three and got my big girl bed,” Rachel explained. “She put the unicorn stickers on the wall last summer. I had dinosaur stickers before that.”
“Do you still like dinosaurs?” asked Beca’s mom.
“Yeah, but I like unicorns better.”
“Dinner is ready,” called Chloe.
They ate breakfast for dinner and Rachel talked all about school and how she used to watch Dinosaur Train until her friend Bella introduced her to My Little Pony.
“Dinosaur Train is really cool. I learned all about dinosaurs. And there’s a T-rex named Buddy who is just like me!”
“You’re a T-rex?” asked Beca’s mom.
“No, silly. I’m a person,” said Rachel. “Buddy is adopted like me. His mom and dad and brother and sisters are pteranodons. It means his mama chose him, even though she didn’t lay his egg. My mama chose me, even though I didn’t grow in her belly.”
Chloe blinked slowly. This was the first time since that awful day in the grocery store that Rachel had openly told anyone she’d been adopted. Chloe hadn’t told Beca’s mom, and, from the look on the woman’s face, Beca hadn’t told her either.
“I never would have guessed,” said Sue.
“Mama says it’s because we both have red hair,” said Rachel.
Chloe kissed her daughter on top of the head. “It is,” she said. “Okay, sweetheart, please clean up your dishes. It’s getting late, and you need your bath.”
Rachel cleaned up without complaint. Beca and her mother offered to leave, but Chloe told them they could stay. She ran Rachel’s bathwater and then sat with them, insisting they all sit in the kitchen and keep their voices down.
“Rebecca filled me in while you were with Rachel. It’s an incredible story.”
“I’m just glad I found her when I did. I think I was meant to find her and become her mom. I’m not religious at all, but I can’t help but think my Meemaw had something to do with it.”
“You could be right,” said Sue.
Chloe talked more with them about her daughter. She was venting to Sue about how Rachel had always been such a light sleeper.
“I don’t know why, but if I speak much above a whisper when she’s sleeping, I wake her up. I would have thought with how much time I spent checking on her in her sleep when she was an infant, she’d be less sensitive.”
“Rebecca was like that,” Sue said. “I actually started running a fan in her room when she was a toddler to drown out the noise. It helped a lot. They make white noise machines now, but I think a fan works just fine.”
“It’s not a bad idea,” said Chloe. “Thanks.”
“Will you be bringing Rachel to the funeral?” asked Sue.
“No, I’m leaving her with Betty. She’s a neighbor who used to be our nanny. That woman is a saint. She didn’t just watch Rachel for me. She took her places, read to her, drew pictures with her, and she even potty-trained her. I did some of it, of course, but she took a few days to really work with her. She never took a dime for the work, either.”
“That’s so lucky,” said Beca.
“You’re not kidding,” said Sue. “I stayed home with Rebecca until she went to school full-time. She was so stubborn and hard to train, I was wondering if we’d send her to her prom in Pull-Ups.”
“Thanks, Mom,” said Beca, rolling her eyes.
“I actually didn’t use Pull-Ups with Rachel much. Betty insisted that I put her in underwear when I trained her. I used them for naps and some of our first outings when she was trained. I was lucky that Rachel night-trained right when she day-trained. I never bought more than the one pack of Pull-Ups.”
“Rachel is one lucky kid,” said Sue. “I still can’t get over the story.”
“It’s just my life,” said Chloe. “She’s almost six years old now, and I’m always so grateful that she’s mine.”
“I’m sure,” said Sue. “I don’t think it would be a bad idea to bring her to the viewing on Friday, though. Let her say her goodbyes if she would like. It sounds like she and Francis had a bond, even though it wasn’t for long.”
“I guess I could. Beca, what do you think?”
“I’m leaving that up to you. You’re her mother, so you decide what’s right for her.”
Chloe thought for a moment. “I’ll bring her if she would like to go. I’ll just be prepared to take her home if she gets upset or anything.”
The next morning, Chloe asked Rachel over breakfast why she’d told Sue about being adopted.
“Miss Beca knows, and she doesn’t say you’re not my real mama. I figured her mama wouldn’t say that either.”
“You’re pretty smart. Do you know that?”
“Mrs. Simon always tells us to kiss our smart brains,” said Rachel.
“I like that idea,” said Chloe.
She went on to explain that there would be a viewing the following day for Beca’s dad, and she gave her the option to go if she’d like.
Rachel wanted to go to the viewing, which didn’t surprise Chloe too much.
Chloe had Rachel wear her Christmas dress to the viewing, and she did a pretty good job being respectful. She didn’t want to go anywhere near the open casket (Beca and Sheila had butted heads over the open casket, Sheila ultimately winning out). She introduced herself politely, and she smiled when Sheila introduced Rachel as Francis’ favorite artist.
Beca was fairly stoic. She seemed relieved when Chloe took a seat beside her and Rachel climbed into her lap. Chloe held her hand while Beca spoke with various people, including former students and TA’s of her father’s. She didn’t seem to know very many of them. A lot of people were surprised that Rachel didn’t belong to both of them, but Rachel simply told them she was in Beca’s lap because she wanted to make her feel better, earning her quite a few endearing looks.
At the funeral, Chloe was impressed that Beca had been able to give a eulogy without breaking down in tears. Chloe hadn’t been so lucky at her Meemaw’s funeral, and Stacie had actually walked up to her and finished the speech for her.
The wake was at Sheila and Francis’ home, and Chloe stayed afterward to help clean up. Beca and Sheila looked completely exhausted.
“Thank you for everything,” said Sheila as Chloe took the last trash bag outside.
“I’ll walk you out,” said Beca.
Beca gave Chloe a chaste kiss, and Chloe squeezed Beca tightly.
“You did great today,” said Chloe.
“I’m relieved it’s over,” said Beca. “And, my dad isn’t in pain anymore.”
“I understand completely. My Meemaw was miserable for most of her four-year fight. I missed her - I still do, actually - but at least she wasn’t suffering anymore.”
“Yeah. I found out from Sheila that they’d kept his illness from me for a good six months. He fought for just over a year.”
“I’m sorry they kept that from you,” said Chloe. “Thank your mom for the fan idea. I put one in Rachel’s room yesterday, and I actually was able to play the television at a reasonable volume.”
Chloe gave Beca one more kiss before calling it a night.
She got home, and she was pleased to hear that Rachel had been an angel for Betty.
“She came bouncing out of her art class. She said she loved it.”
“That’s great,” said Chloe. “I’m bummed I missed her first class.”
“They don’t let adults into the room anyway. Bring something to read while you wait.”
“Thanks for the tip, and thanks a million for keeping her busy.”
“How did it go?”
“Fine, for a funeral, you know. Beca got through the eulogy well, as did her stepmother. Her mom even gave a eulogy, which I was a little surprised to hear.”
“To each their own, I suppose,” said Betty.
“She talked about their early years together and how grateful was that he gave her Rebecca. I’m still not used to hearing anyone call her that.”
“I had a grandmother who insisted on calling me Elizabeth,” said Betty. “My parents saved that name for when they needed my attention. And I was usually in trouble.”
“It’s funny how we never forget. I still remember hearing ‘Chloe Anne Beale’ from my parents, and then my Meemaw.”
“Well, goodnight, Chloe. Give your little girl an extra kiss from ‘Aunt Betty.’”
“Will do. Thanks again.”
“Oh, it was no trouble. We had a good time, and I got my ‘Rachel fix.’”
A week later, Beca and Sheila hosted a small, intimate ceremony to bury her father’s ashes. Chloe decided to bring Rachel.
A minister led a brief ceremony to bury the ashes, and then Chloe took Beca and Rachel to another area of the cemetery.
“I should have done this earlier,” Chloe said to her daughter. She pointed to a small group of headstones. “Here’s where my Meemaw and Papaw were buried.” The headstone was labeled “Addison” and it showed “Joseph Michael Addison b. August 11, 1930 d. October 5, 2002” and “Rachel Anne Addison b. February 14, 1932 d. April 16, 2015”. Next to it was a headstone labeled “Beale” and it showed “Henry Jonathan Beale b. March 1, 1961 d. August 1, 2000” and “Elizabeth Anne Beale b. January 29, 1964 d. August 1, 2000”. “Rachel, these are your grandparents.”
“Hi,” Rachel said quietly. “I’m sorry I never got to meet any of you.”
“Me too, baby girl. Anyway, Mom, Dad, Meemaw, and Papaw, this is my sweet girl Rachel. I hope you like her name, Meemaw. I’m sorry you don’t get a front-row seat to watch us, but I hope you can see us wherever you are. And, this is Beca, the best girlfriend ever. They make me really happy, and I think you’d love both of them.”
Chloe broke down in tears, unable to say anymore. Her daughter and her girlfriend both wrapped their arms around her.
Valentine’s Day was coming up, so Chloe brought up the topic while they were out to dinner alone and Betty was at the house watching Rachel.
“So, Valentine’s Day is coming up. But, that’s also Rachel’s birthday.”
“Which is way more special and important than some Hallmark holiday, anyway,” said Beca. “I don’t need some holiday to tell you how much I love you.”
Chloe teared up at the statement. “You don’t mind?”
“Not at all. So, what do you and Rachel have in mind?”
“I’ve always had Stacie, Aubrey, and Bella come over,” said Chloe.
“What does she want?”
“She’s been asking me for a party with her friends at Sky Zone.”
“The trampoline park?”
“You know of it?”
“Of course. I did a trampoline dodgeball video a few years ago that was filmed at one in LA,” said Beca.
“How have I not seen that?” asked Chloe.
Beca chuckled for a second. “Let me find it.” She found it on her phone and handed it to Chloe.
Chloe laughed pretty hard at it. “Why do you have a stunt double?”
“I don’t,” said Beca. “I was just hoping I could get out of it. I was more than a little nervous.”
“You have got to show this to Rachel. Well, we might have to skip parts of it. They didn’t bleep everything out, apparently.”
“When do I get to see her again?”
“Whenever you like, but I will warn you she’s had a cold.”
“I’m not worried about a cold. Do you guys want to have lunch tomorrow at my house? Besides, Crackers has been missing her.”
“Oh, he has?”
“Yup. I speak dog now, and he told me in detail that he misses napping on the beanbag chair in her lap and all of those treats you sneak him when you think I’m not looking.”
“You’re so smart and talented,” said Chloe.
“Thanks. So, what’s the problem with a party at Sky Zone?”
“Your sugar mama has you covered,” said Beca.
“And, you say ‘totes’ now?”
“Yes, and it’s totes your fault!” exclaimed Beca.
The two of them were laughing so hard that they took a full extra minute to compose themselves and ask for the check when the server came by.
The next day, Rachel laughed pretty hard at Beca’s trampoline dodgeball video.
“I didn’t know they had Sky Zone in California!”
“It’s all over the country,” said Beca.
“That’s so cool! But you looked kind of silly in that video,” said Rachel.
“It was supposed to be silly,” Chloe explained.
“Oh.” Rachel nodded. “Then I guess you did it right.”
“Thanks. Your mama was telling me that you have been asking her for a party at Sky Zone. Is that right?”
“Yeah,” said Rachel, sounding a little dejected. “But I can’t.”
“Do you really want to have your party there?” asked Beca.
“Yes, really really,” said Rachel.
“Then we’ll do our best to set it up for you,” said Chloe.
Rachel gasped. She started to say something, but she began coughing and wheezing. Chloe quickly grabbed Rachel’s inhaler from her purse. She helped her use the inhaler, and Rachel was soon calm and breathing normally.
“Better now?” asked Chloe. Rachel nodded.
“Are you okay?” Beca asked.
“Asthma stinks,” said Rachel, crossing her arms in front of herself.
“It’s been a while since she’s had an attack,” said Chloe
“I remember your mama telling me about that,” said Beca.
“I’m okay now,” said Rachel, although she crawled into her mama’s lap and rested her head on her shoulder.
“Why don’t you see if we can book the party online?”
Beca opened up her laptop and typed a few things, but she soon pulled up the birthday party schedule. “The only thing they have is the Sunday after Rachel’s birthday from 5-7.”
“The next day is President’s Day, and the kids are off of school.”
“Is 7:00 too late to end a party?” Beca asked.
Chloe thought for a moment. “I suppose not, if we get pizza for everyone.”
“Fine with me. What cake do you want, Rachel?”
Rachel perked up. She looked at the screen. “What’s an ice cream cake?” she asked.
“It’s ice cream, but it’s in the shape of a cake. There’s a crunchy filling in it too,” said Beca. “You’ve never had it?”
Rachel shook her head.
“Well, would you like to have one for your party?”
“Can I?” she looked at Chloe.
“It’s your party, baby girl.”
“Okay, then I want the ice cream cake.”
Rachel began to get restless shortly after they’d finished booking the party, so they took her for a walk and let her run around the local park for a while.
“This is the other thing I hate about her asthma. The damn medicine makes her wacky for hours after we use it. I don’t exactly have a choice, though. She has to breathe.”
“Was the attack my fault?” Beca asked.
“No, no. I mean, that one was probably brought on by her emotions, and her having a cold doesn’t help. You took her by surprise about the party. She has begged and begged me for Sky Zone for her last two birthday parties. I didn’t expect her to be as shocked as she was. We couldn’t have known. Believe me, I spent a lot of time understanding her asthma. She doesn’t have attacks often these days, unless she gets a bad cold, but I learned that we have to live our lives. I’m holding out hope that the fewer attacks mean that she will outgrow her asthma.”
“Okay. I had a friend with asthma in high school, but he rarely had an attack around me.”
“It still scares me every time, but we’ve been managing it her entire life.”
“I’m sure,” said Beca. “So, what should we do on her actual birthday?”
“I usually fix her a special dinner and bake her a cake. You should come over and join us.”
“Sounds like fun.”
On Rachel’s birthday, Beca came over for dinner. She had an armful of presents and she’d made sure to wear a purple shirt and sneakers.
“You didn’t have to buy her anything,” Chloe said. “You are paying for her birthday party.”
Beca waved a hand in dismissal. “I wanted to.”
They sat down to a spaghetti dinner, and Beca had brought over sparkling cider for Rachel to drink. She thought she might like the idea of drinking it in a “fancy” glass like her mama, and she was right. They both laughed as Rachel insisted on raising her pinky as she drank from the glass.
Rachel was thrilled to open her presents. Her mom had given her a new set of My Little Pony toys, as well as a Pillow Pet similar to the one they’d bought Violet. Beca gave her a pair of purple Converse high tops, a new purple unicorn shirt, and a Lego Unicorn DJ set.
“I didn’t know that was a thing,” said Chloe.
“Me neither. Jesse found it.”
“Remind me to thank him.”
Chloe brought out the cake, which was in the shape of a heart with purple frosting.
“I always used to help Meemaw bake a heart-shaped cake, even when I was a little girl,” Chloe explained. “I’d been able to bake one myself since my early teens, but she insisted that we do it together. I made her last one myself and took it to the hospice. She was too sick to eat it, so she asked me to give it to the nurses. I even made one for myself the first year after she passed away.”
“I love that you get to share that tradition with Rachel,” said Chloe.
“Me too,” said Rachel. “I love to help Mama in the kitchen. This is the first time we had purple frosting, though. I helped make that, too!”
“The cake is a hot milk cake, Meemaw’s recipe, and the frosting is homemade buttercream, which was also her recipe. We used food coloring to make it purple.”
“It was her cake pan, too,” said Rachel.
They put candles on the cake, sang, and Rachel blew them out.
“Miss Beca and I have one more surprise for you,” said Chloe, as she cut the cake. “We’re getting you a guinea pig! You get to choose one next weekend, but it’s going to be your responsibility to feed it. I’ll help you clean its cage.”
“Thank you, Mama and Miss Beca!” Rachel jumped up and down. She hugged her mother and Beca before sitting down to a piece of cake.
Rachel mulled over names for her new pet in between bites of cake. Chloe and Beca told her she’d probably pick a great name once she chose the animal.
They put Rachel to bed (she suckered Beca into reading her an extra story because of her birthday). They relaxed for a little while in front of the TV for a little while before heading to Chloe’s room to make love. Chloe triple-checked to make sure they’d locked the door, and she noticed Beca would capture her lips in a kiss to help quiet any moans and whimpers she’d make. She was sad that Beca had to leave after a good amount of time spent in post-sex cuddling, but they’d agreed that it wasn’t the best example to set for Rachel. Chloe had been mildly concerned about having sex while Rachel was in the house, but running a fan in the little girl’s room had really made things easier in general for Chloe. She could finally stop tiptoeing around the house after putting her to bed.
That Saturday, the three of them headed to a pet store to choose a guinea pig. Rachel looked over at a bunch of different ones before pointing to a white and yellowish-brown one.
“Mama, Miss Beca, that’s the one!”
Chloe asked the employee if she could pick up the guinea pig Rachel had chosen. VetFriends didn’t generally see guinea pigs, but she knew enough about them from her college courses to give the animal a quick check.
“She looks healthy,” said Chloe.
“It’s a girl?” asked Rachel.
“Mama works with animals,” Rachel told the store employee. “I’m going to name her Princess Buttercup.”
They went through the store and purchased supplies. Chloe tried to pay, but Beca told her to put her wallet away. “Your sugar mama has you.”
“Besides, you’re the one who has to help Rachel clean up after her.”
“Fair point,” said Chloe.
They drove home and Rachel had a full conversation with Princess Buttercup from the back seat.
“I think we picked the perfect animal for her,” said Chloe. “Not so little we can lose her, big enough to play with, but also not as high maintenance as a dog or cat.”
Beca and Rachel played with the guinea pig while Chloe set up the cage. Not much after it was ready, Rachel squealed.
“Mama! Princess Buttercup peed and pooped on the rug!”
“And that’s my cue to go,” said Beca.
“Thanks,” said Chloe, somewhat sarcastically.
She gave her a quick kiss. “I do actually have to leave. I want to make sure we have everything we need for the bash of the century tomorrow.”
“Bye, Miss Beca!” Rachel exclaimed, giving Beca a hug before she left. She still said “Ewwww” when Chloe gave Beca a chaste kiss, as always.
Chloe couldn’t hide her smile as she saw Rachel and ten of her friends jump around at Sky Zone. A few of the parents had been more than a little shocked when they saw Beca Mitchell at the party, especially when Rachel introduced them to “Mama’s girlfriend Miss Beca.” Beca politely refused selfies with parents, explaining that she didn’t want any paparazzi pestering Chloe or Rachel. Luckily, nobody complained, and Chloe saw Beca blush each time someone recognized her and complimented her music.
Chloe was glad Rachel had gotten over her cold before the party, but she didn’t completely relax until the group was called to the party room for cake and pizza. She didn’t want her daughter having an asthma attack at her own party.
Rachel opened presents, and Chloe was relieved that she’d taken the talk they’d had the night before to heart. She reminded her that she might not like a present she received, or it might be something she already owned, etc. but that she had to politely thank the giver. She’d try to exchange anything they could, donating anything they couldn’t.
She got a My Little Pony playset from Violet and her brothers, a purple dress with matching leggings from Bella, purple hair accessories from another friend, and a few books. She already owned a few of the books, but she loudly declared that she loved Pete the Cat and Fancy Nancy books to the givers. Chloe was relieved when she found gift receipts tucked into the books.
Everyone seemed to have had a good time at the party, but Chloe and Beca were wiped out at the end of it.
“That was so much...kid,” said Beca as she helped load up Chloe’s SUV with the presents and leftover food.
“Did you expect something different?” asked Chloe with a wink.
“Well, no. That was just...a lot. I’m used to Rachel and Bella, but not ten kids at once!”
“There were eleven.”
“How do parents do this?”
Chloe shrugged. “It’s not like there are eleven kids running around all at once every day.”
“Okay, then, how do teachers handle this with, what, twenty-five kids?”
“There are thirty in her class. The downside of an overcrowded school.”
“We are going to buy that woman a trip to Paris at the end of the year,” said Beca.
“That seems excessive,” said Chloe. “And, when Rachel hits middle school…”
“Maybe a nice bottle of wine.”
“If we’re allowed to, sure.”
Rachel was excitedly chattering away in the car as they drove back to Chloe’s house.
“Thank you, Mama and Miss Beca!” she exclaimed as they walked into the house. “That was the best party ever!”
Beca put the leftover food away while Chloe helped Rachel organize her gifts.
They put on a movie for Rachel on Netflix that she insisted on watching with Princess Buttercup in her lap.
“I think that animal is going to be relieved when Rachel goes back to school on Tuesday. She’s probably wearing her out,” Chloe whispered into Beca’s ear. Beca simply chuckled back.
“I’m so glad she had such a fun party,” said Beca.
“Thank you for financing it,” said Chloe. “I just might have the money for vet school in a few months, thanks to you.”
Beca gave her a chaste kiss. “I’m doing my dream job, and I’m glad I can help you on the path to yours.”
One more chapter to go, plus an epilogue!
Things were going great for Beca, Chloe, and Rachel. Beca helped pay for Rachel to attend a day camp with an art program over the summer, and Chloe managed to work out an arrangement with Stacie and Aubrey to each take the other’s kid for a sleepover once a month. Chloe frequently worried about Rachel waking up and hearing something she shouldn’t, and she hated leaving Beca’s house to come home and relieve Betty.
Rachel was beyond excited to start first grade, especially when she discovered that Violet would be in her class again. She was still hooked on the color purple, rainbows, and unicorns. Her latest physical placed her on the low end of “normal” on the growth charts, thanks to the “smoothies” that her “Auntie Aubrey” got her to start drinking.
Chloe had applied and been accepted to vet school at Barden, and Stacie had already offered to help her in any way she could.
Beca bought a grill for her backyard and spent quite a bit of the summer hosting barbecues for Chloe, Rachel, Stacie, Aubrey, and Bella. She’d even managed to convince Rachel to try a few new foods. She’d occasionally invited Jessica, Ashley, and their children over as well. Ashley stopped being star struck after the third visit.
Stacie accepted a position as the lead veterinarian at the animal hospital, making her Chloe’s supervisor.
On the fourth day of school, Stacie told Chloe that she desperately needed her to stay later. The other vet tech had called in sick and they had a ton of patients. Chloe sighed and called Beca to get Rachel from after-school care that day, relieved that Stacie had convinced her to put Beca on the approved list of people to pick up her daughter. Beca had even taken Chloe to Target to select a car seat to keep in her car, and she ended up buying a better one for Chloe to keep in hers. She’d insisted that she didn’t need to impress anyone other than Chloe, and she didn’t care who saw a child safety seat in her back seat.
What Chloe didn’t know was that Beca had asked Stacie at one of the barbecues if she could get Chloe to work late soon. She wanted to get Rachel alone to talk to her about something very important.
“Miss Beca!” Rachel exclaimed, running up and giving her a hug. “Where’s Mama?”
“She had to work late, so I’m here to pick you up. Where would you like to get dinner?” asked Beca.
“I don’t know.”
Beca rattled off a few places, and Rachel ended up choosing Pizza Hut. Beca smiled to herself. She never thought she’d be having this conversation with a six-year-old at Pizza Hut.
After they’d sat down and given their order, Beca spoke. “Okay, Rachel, I actually got your Auntie Stacie to get your mama to work late so you and I could talk privately.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“Of course not,” said Beca. “So, you know your mama and I love each other a whole lot, right?”
“And you know I love you a whole bunch, too, right?”
“Well, it’s kind of a tradition to ask someone’s family before you ask someone to marry you. So, I want to know if I have your blessing to ask your mama to marry me.” Beca didn’t want to tell Rachel that this conversation was usually with the other person’s parents since Chloe didn’t have any other family.
“What’s a blessing?”
“It’s...I guess in this case it’s a fancy way of asking if it’s okay with you.”
“Oh! Yeah. I want you to marry Mama. You have my blessing,” Rachel said in a tone that was clearly meant to sound as mature as she could manage.
“Thanks, kiddo. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Miss Beca. Does this mean you’ll be my other mom and I’ll have two moms like Bella and Violet?”
“Well, technically, I’d be your stepmother.”
“Oh.” Rachel sounded dejected.
“I wouldn’t be an evil stepmother, like the ones in Disney movies. But, if your mama says yes and wants to marry me, I think the three of us could talk about me adopting you.”
“Do you want to adopt me?”
“I do, but only if it’s okay with both you and your mama.”
“What do I get to call you?”
“I’ll leave that up to you, but let’s make sure your mama wants to marry me first.”
“Oh, she does,” said Rachel, her head bobbing up and down.
Beca smiled. “I think so, too.”
Chloe headed to Beca’s after work. After greeting Beca with a chaste kiss, she found Rachel relaxing on the purple beanbag chair with Crackers in her lap.
“Hi, baby girl,” said Chloe.
“Mama, I made you something,” said Rachel. “Want to see?”
Chloe was tired, and she was about to ask her daughter to show her when they got home, but Rachel looked too excited to wait.
“Sure, baby girl.”
Rachel gently nudged Crackers to get off her lap and then ran to the guest room at Beca’s and grabbed a poster board. She’d written in big purple letters: “Will you marry Miss Beca?” She’d decorated it with stickers, glitter, and a bunch of different drawings of rainbows, unicorns, cats, and dogs.
Chloe looked over to find Beca next to Rachel on one knee, holding a ring box. Chloe blinked back tears and nodded. Beca stood up, placed the ring on Chloe’s finger, and gave Chloe a long kiss. They broke the kiss to see Rachel jumping up and down, still holding the poster.
“Is this why I had to work late?” Chloe asked.
“I might have asked Stacie to do me a solid at my last barbecue,” said Beca.
“What does that mean?” Rachel asked.
“It means to do someone a favor,” said Chloe.
“Oh,” said Rachel. “Mama, will you do me a solid and let Miss Beca adopt me?”
The two women laughed at Rachel’s use of the phrase.
“Sweetheart, that’s more than a favor, but that was a good job trying to use it in a sentence,” said Chloe. She turned to Beca. “Is that something you want?”
“I told Rachel we’d all discuss it, but, yes, I do.”
“And, you want this too?” Chloe asked Rachel.
“Even more than all of the purple things in the world.”
“Well, then I’ll make some calls and see what we need to do to make this happen.”
“Chloe, do you remember the day you met my dad?” Beca asked.
“Well, he whispered two things into my ear as we left. I told you about the one - about knowing I’ll be a good mom when he saw me with Rachel. There was something else, though.”
“He said ‘I really hope you marry that girl.’”
“I like that idea,” said Chloe. “And, now, he kind of did get to meet his grandchild, although Rachel technically wasn’t his grandchild yet.”
“How long until Miss Beca is my other mother?” Rachel asked.
“I don’t know. But I’ll ask Miss Denise and Auntie Aubrey to find out when I call them, okay?”
“Okay,” said Rachel. “Miss Beca, can I call you Mom now? Even though you haven’t adopted me yet?”
“I’d love that,” said Beca, tears in her eyes.
The next night, Chloe invited Beca over for dinner. After they ate, Chloe gave Beca a ring of her own.
“Chloe, you didn’t have to buy me a ring,” said Beca, as Chloe slipped it onto her finger.
“I didn’t,” said Chloe. “It was my mother’s.”
“My Meemaw put it away for me. I guess she was figuring I’d marry a man and he could give it to me. She had it in a safe deposit box, and I got it out this afternoon. I think it’s meant to be that it fits you perfectly.”
Beca admired the sparkling piece of jewelry. “I’m honored,” she said.
The following Monday, Chloe walked Rachel to the bus stop, and Rachel told everyone who would listen about how her mama was getting married. Chloe walked back home, and, shortly after she pulled onto the highway toward the animal hospital, she heard brakes squeal behind her followed by the smashing of metal. She was thrown forward, and then she felt like she’d been slapped in the face. Her head went forward again, but she was cushioned by the airbag.
She pulled out her phone and dialed 911. She took a few deep breaths before explaining that she’d been in an accident.
Emergency services arrived rather quickly. The person who had hit her was extremely apologetic, explaining that his brakes hadn’t worked right. They took a police report, exchanged insurance information, and then the officer waited with Chloe while she called a tow truck. Chloe refused medical treatment, as did the driver who hit her.
The tow truck took her to the car dealer who ordinarily serviced her car. The worker at the body shop looked over the car, and he said, “Ms. Beale, I’m afraid the insurance company is going to total your car.”
“But, the damage isn’t that bad,” said Chloe.
“It’s not a matter of that. Kelley Blue Book on this is under two grand, and repairs are easily double that. That’s how insurance companies decide.”
Chloe blew out a sigh. “Okay, I need to make a few phone calls.”
Chloe called Stacie first to tell her about the accident. She stressed to her that she was unharmed, but she needed to take the day off to get some things in order.
She then called Beca. “Beca, I need you to come and pick me up. I’m okay, but I was in an accident this morning.”
“Chloe! Are you sure you’re okay?”
Chloe explained what she’d learned from the body shop. “So, I guess that pushes vet school back again. Can you take me to the bank? And...I need to get a new car seat for Rachel, and...I’m sorry. I know you’re working. I should get an Uber or something.”
“Chloe, it’s okay. I’ll come and get you. I’ll help you today. I just finished an album, so I don’t really have much to do today. Besides, I love you and you’re far more important than some musicians.”
“Thanks, Beca,” Chloe said. She knew her Meemaw’s old car wasn’t going to last much longer. It had well over 150,000 miles on it, and it was almost fifteen years old. She’d kept it maintained in hopes that she could replace it once she finished vet school.
Beca arrived quickly and wrapped her in a hug, and Chloe immediately burst into tears. “Oh, sweetie. Do you want me to take you to the hospital to get checked out?”
“I promise I’m fine. The airbag deployed, and my seatbelt worked. I just need to go to the bank to see what’s in the trust and get a cashier’s check.”
“Chloe, pick a car.”
“I can’t. I don’t even know how much I have, and-”
“Chloe, you don’t understand. Pick a car. Anything you want.”
“Beca, what do you mean?”
“I’m telling you to choose a car. I’m buying.”
“I can’t let you do that. I know I said I’d let you help me, but this is too much. I probably can come up with enough for something used. I don’t know how I’ll swing a car payment, but-”
“I’ll deal with the car payment. We’re getting married, anyway.”
Chloe thought for a moment. She’d probably get something for the car from the other driver’s insurance. And, if her Meemaw were around, she’d have told her not to look a gift horse in the mouth. In fact, she could almost hear her Meemaw saying those exact words. She smiled.
“Thanks. I swear I’ll give you whatever the insurance gives me, and I’ll pay you back. It might take a while. And I don’t need anything new.”
“Don’t worry about it. My car is paid off, and I just got a big royalty check. We really need to discuss combining at least some of our finances once we’re married. I don’t want you using that trust money you were saving for vet school. Pick something. Even a minivan.”
Chloe scoffed. “I definitely don’t want a minivan!”
“Thank God.” Beca took Chloe’s hand, and they walked over to the used car section. As Chloe expected, a salesperson was on them within minutes.
Beca explained that she was buying her fiancee a car and that she wanted her to have something safe and reliable. Chloe looked over a few different options before selecting a black 2018 Toyota RAV4.
“This one was really well kept,” said the salesperson. “It looks like the previous owner paid to upgrade it to have Apple CarPlay.” She went on to explain how it would integrate with Chloe’s iPhone so she could use it hands-free. “I’ll also throw in three months free of Sirius XM.”
Chloe test drove it, and she told Beca that this was the car she wanted. She smiled as Beca talked the salesperson down a few thousand on the price.
They headed to the store to buy a replacement car seat for Rachel after confirming with the manufacturer that it needed to be replaced, even though Rachel hadn’t been in it at the time.
Beca headed back to work, and Chloe took some time to relax with one of her books until it was time to get Rachel from after-school care. She felt mildly guilty about having Rachel in after-school care while she was home and off of work, but she reminded herself that she was paying the same amount either way. Rachel loved her time there, and Chloe rarely got much time to herself.
“Mama!” Rachel exclaimed as Chloe arrived.
“Hi, baby girl. I have a surprise for you!”
They walked to the parking lot. Rachel’s eyes were as big as saucers when she saw the SUV’s lights blink in response to her mother hitting a button on the key fob.
“What happened to your car, Mama?”
“I got into an accident this morning. I’m okay, and nobody got hurt. Anyway, I have a new car now, and I got you a new seat.”
“This is the coolest!” Rachel exclaimed. “I love it, Mama!”
She helped Rachel buckle her seat, adjusting the straps. She selected the Kidz Bop channel on the satellite radio.
She couldn’t help but smile as Rachel smiled and laughed along with the kids singing the latest pop songs. She had to bite her lip to stop from laughing at their “creative” replacement of certain song lyrics. Either way, she figured she wouldn’t get a phone call from a teacher if Rachel repeated any of the lyrics she heard.
Beca and Chloe were married the next month in a small ceremony performed by Beca’s boss, who happened to also be an ordained minister. Jesse was Beca’s best man, and Stacie was Chloe’s matron of honor. Rachel wore a purple dress and was the flower girl. Sheila graciously allowed them to have the ceremony in her backyard, and she even ordered a catered dinner afterward. Beca’s mom flew in for the ceremony, and Rachel happily called her “Grandma.” Sheila had agreed to have Rachel call her “Gigi.”
They had a court date the following week to secure Beca’s adoption of Rachel, and Rachel had insisted on wearing her flower girl dress to court, earning her a smile from the judge.
The family agreed on Mitchell-Beale for the last name, neither Chloe nor Beca wanting to completely lose their family name. Rachel lamented how long it would take for her to write her new name, but her moms promised her she’d have it down in no time.
The two moms took a week-long honeymoon to Sanibel Island, FL during the final week of October, arriving home the Friday before Halloween in order for Beca to DJ at the zoo for their “Boo Bash.” Rachel beamed when Beca introduced herself as “Rachel’s mom.”
Beca ended up selling her house to get a bigger one with extra bedrooms in the same school district. Both women were thrilled that Rachel’s bedroom would be upstairs from theirs, making it even easier to keep any noise down to avoid waking the light sleeper. Chloe couldn’t find it in her heart to sell her Meemaw’s house, so she ended up renting it out to a young couple with a little boy. They had been thrilled to be able to afford to live in a nice school district. Rachel had pouted when Chloe told them they could paint her old bedroom, but she calmed down when her moms reminded her that she could pick the paint color for her room in the new house. She ended up picking almost the same exact shade of purple, making her moms try not to laugh out loud at the home improvement store.
They quickly settled into life as a family of three. Princess Buttercup and Crackers even managed to warm up to each other rather quickly.
And that wraps up the main part of our story. Short epilogue to follow!
Shortly after they’d gotten married, Beca and Chloe contacted DCFS to get Beca approved to foster and to have them placed on the list of possible foster families. Chloe had decided that she didn’t want to have biological children of her own after having adopted Rachel. Beca readily agreed. They’d taken in a variety of children over a span of almost four years - some for just one or two nights, and they’d even taken in a brother and sister pair for over a year. They’d been happy to see their parents get themselves to a place where they could care for them, but Beca, Chloe, and Rachel had cried for a good while after they’d been returned to their birth parents. The family always struggled to part with the kids they’d fostered, but that got better over time. Rachel seemed to quickly understand the importance of giving the kids a temporary home, although she always seemed sad to say goodbye to any of them
Beca had traded in her car for a big SUV after they’d had four children in the house at one point, and even Chloe’s RAV4 hadn’t had enough seats. One trip where they’d had to take two cars had been enough for Beca to decide that keeping a small car was a hassle. She ended up with a Toyota Highlander after seeing how much her wife loved her RAV4. They’d actually had five kids at one point, but that was only for one night. An eight-year-old girl’s parents had been suspected of abuse, but it had actually been a misunderstanding.
One little boy - Nicholas - had come into their lives on Rachel’s eighth birthday. He was four years old, and he’d been taken from his mother several different times due to neglect. He was almost completely nonverbal and still in diapers. He’d arrived at the Mitchell-Beales’ home that night just wearing a shirt that was easily two sizes too small, with a dirty face, a sagging diaper, and a raging case of diaper rash under it. He didn’t even have on socks or shoes. He had dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and the sweetest smile, although it was three days before anyone saw it.
Within two months, he was fully potty-trained and saying a lot of new words (one of which was “dude” thanks to Beca). They’d had a few supervised visits with his mother, but he’d always just climb into Beca or Chloe’s lap and bury his face in their shirt. Chloe was relieved that Cynthia Rose had been assigned to his case.
DCFS took away Nicholas’s birth mother’s parental rights after two years, and Beca and Chloe happily agreed to adopt him. Rachel had been thrilled to introduce everyone to her little brother Nicky, even before his adoption had been official (February 17, 2026, just three days after her tenth birthday).
Beca was still producing music, and Chloe was in her final year of vet school. They had a celebratory dinner on the night of his adoption, followed by a heart-shaped cake, this time with green frosting and candy dinosaurs, two of Nicky’s favorite things. The two moms went to bed that night finally feeling like their family was complete.
Chloe sighed as she climbed into bed next to her wife.
“What are you thinking?” asked Beca.
“I’ve been given so many gifts. You, Rachel, Nicholas...I’m one lucky woman. And I don’t think for one minute it was a coincidence that Nicky came to us on Rachel and Meemaw’s birthday.”
“We’re both lucky. Sometimes I think I’m the one who got the gifts. I didn’t even know I wanted a family until I met you. I’m so glad I took Crackers to your office.”
And thus ends our story! I have fallen in love with this universe, however, so chances are very good that you'll be seeing more of this family in the future! Huge thanks to Stuck_in_Pylea for the prompt!
Full prompt: Chloe is a single mom raising her child in (insert city here). She struggles from time to time but they love each other and she makes it work. One day she meets quasi-famous music producer Beca Mitchell. The two hit it off and start dating. Beca wants to take things to the next level but Chloe's super nervous. She has a secret.
Chloe's secret is that she's actually a virgin. Her child is adopted (or abandoned in an alley as a baby, and she took in and raised). She knows she's bi, but has never actually progressed to sex because as she's pushing thirty she got more nervous that it hasn't happened.