Holly woke before the alarm. She needed to pee, and wanted a drink of water, but doing either meant waking Jemma. And as soon as Jemma woke, she’d reach for her phone to catch up with notifications and likes and follows. Engagement was key to growing her following, she said.
Thanks to a streetlight outside, their bedroom was never properly dark. Holly watched her wife sleep. They had been together for six years, married for two. According to Jemma’s followers, they were #couplegoals.
Holly looked at Jemma’s full lips, her fair hair. She tried to imagine a baby with those lips and her own straight, black hair. A baby with Holly’s long fingers and Jemma’s wide feet. It was impossible, she knew it was impossible, but she liked to imagine it. And just because they couldn’t have a baby that shared their DNA didn’t mean they couldn’t have a baby.
A cough rose in Holly’s throat, and though she tried to stifle it, Jemma stirred. She muttered, ‘What time is it?’ and, as Holly had known she would, reached for her phone. Holly kissed her and headed to the shower. Later, she thought. I’ll bring it up later.
Angel and Katie crossed the Meadows, walking towards the university. Their breath was visible in the morning air.
‘Have you seen much of Ryan?’ Katie asked.
‘We’re in the same class,’ Angel said. ‘I see him every day.’
‘I mean do you talk to him?’
The truth was they hadn’t talked since the first week of the autumn semester. In the student union bar, his breath beery in her ear, Ryan had asked Angel to tell him why they had stopped seeing each other.
‘It’s not like we were seeing each other properly,’ Angel had said, ‘it’s not like we were boyfriend and girlfriend.’ Angel often spoke without thinking, often regretted what she’d said. Rarely had she regretted saying something so instantly and so completely. She had wanted to show him that she was fine without him, that what happened between them wasn’t a big deal. But she had misjudged. He had hung his head and sloped off like a boy with a broken heart. And she hadn’t gone after him.
She pushed Ryan from her mind and walked on, bracing against the wind. Katie saw her friend’s face harden, and regretted bringing Ryan up.
Erin had left the twins to play in the living room while she made a cup of tea, but, standing at the fridge, it was wine she wanted to reach for, not milk. It was ten o’clock in the morning. Andy wouldn’t be home until after six. That was eight hours. Eight hours of keeping the twins from tearing the flat to shreds, keeping them from fighting, keeping them from hurtling into the walls or off the furniture. Eight hours of constant calls of, ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!’ Of course Erin wanted a drink. But what kind of mother opened a bottle of wine at ten o’clock in the morning?
She heard a crash from the living room and ran the few steps from the kitchen, finding the twins in an angry tangle on the rug. She separated them, kissed them, calmed them down. By the time they were playing happily again, the water in the kettle had cooled. Twice Erin went to open the fridge and take out a bottle of wine. Twice she managed to stop herself.
She decided to take the twins out for a walk. It was bitterly cold, and they would complain bitterly, but she knew what staying inside would lead to, what it had led to before. Erin didn’t want to be the kind of mother who not only opened a bottle of wine at ten o’clock in the morning, but finished it.
Angel hesitated outside Dr. Tavish’s office. She had no idea what to tell him, no idea how to account for her failures. Telling the truth would be a betrayal of her mother. The idea was so shameful it made her cheeks burn.
Ryan was the only person she’d ever talked to about her mother, and then only in the vaguest terms. She’d hinted at her mother’s temper, her unpredictability, her melodramatic response to imagined slights. She’d laughed, to make light of it. Ryan hadn’t said anything. He’d taken her hand and held it, something that confused Angel. She wasn’t accustomed to kindness.
Still, she needed Dr. Tavish to show her some. He had to be considering throwing her off the course, and she had to find the words to persuade him not to. Feeling little of the bulletproof confidence Katie admired, she knocked on his door.
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