“I’m truly sorry, ma’am. Looking at your records, I believe you’re more than qualified, but policies are policies. I’m afraid I legally can’t consider you for custody.”
Sigrun blinks back hot tears that threaten to erode her resolve. “I’m her godmother. I was designated by Misaha herself,” she says, her voice shaking on the name.
“I believe you, but it’s not in writing.”
“Misaha was her legal guardian. Her mother died in childbirth, and her father has made it clear he wants no involvement in her life. I’m her family! She’s not a baby, she’s five years old – she already knows me!”
The adoption agency clerk has the grace to look almost as upset as Sigrun feels. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but there’s really nothing I can do. If you had a husband – or a wife, we don’t discriminate based on that – you’d be a top candidate, but…”
“Why is there even a policy requiring two-parent households?” she asks desperately.
He looks at his hands, clasped on the desk, and sets aside some of the papers. “I don’t know, ma’am. I’m sorry.”
Tanith considers herself good at three things: sports, yelling, and reading Sigrun’s moods. To anyone else, the other woman is composed of unbreakable opaque glass and her outer veneer is nearly as impenetrable as her best friend’s. (Sigrun says Tanith doesn’t like him only because she hasn’t learned to read him. Tanith says it’s because he’s a politician.)
This means Tanith knows something is wrong by Sigrun’s footsteps and the way she turns the door handle.
“What happened?” she asks as soon as Sigrun’s keys are placed in the bowl with a dull clack.
Sigrun’s eyes are wet with unshed tears and she swallows thickly. “I can’t adopt her,” she says quietly, her voice nearly breaking on the last word.
“Why the hell not?”
“They only let children go to two-parent households.” She sniffs; Tanith wordlessly grabs the Kleenex box from the kitchen counter. “I’m not married, so I can’t adopt her.”
Tanith wraps her arms around the older woman and rubs circles on her back.
“If she goes to another family, it could be a horrible experience, she might not have a loving family, there might be too many siblings–”
And Sigrun and Tanith may never see her again.
“Did you talk to Sephiran?” Tanith asks. He’s related to her, so there would be a possibility of gaining custody without the marriage requirement, but there’s probably a reason he hasn’t already taken her in.
Sigrun’s breath is shaky, her voice even more so. “He’s not – he was released from the hospital too recently, and he’s not cleared for – not cleared to have children…”
Tanith wants to swear, but Sigrun doesn’t like strong language. She settles for pressing deeper on Sigrun’s tight muscles instead. Maybe Sigrun and Sephiran could get married and solve both problems with one solution, she thinks sarcastically.
And then it hits her.
“Sigrun, we’re going to get married.”
“We – what?”
“We’re already a two-parent household, we just aren’t legally married.” Tanith’s mind is running ahead of her and she isn’t quite sure where she’s going, but she doesn’t want to stop.
“We’re flatmates, Tanith, and yes, if I had custody, we would of course raise Sanaki together, but–”
“I’m fairly certain my father thinks I’m gay and that you’re secretly my wife anyway, and ever since Marcia reenrolled, she’s tagged me in every LGBT meme on Facebook–”
“We moved in together because you can’t cook, Tanith–”
“Yes, and you can’t clean; I was in your apartment before, Sigrun, and you would misplace all your bills, keys, and probably clothes if it wasn’t for me–”
“Well, yes, but I don’t–”
“I’ve never been interested in men or women and I doubt that’s going to change, so it’s not like I would ever need to change our living arrangements for another spouse, and you could certainly seek romantic or sexual fulfillment elsewhere–”
“That is certainly not what I’m looking for–” Sigrun stops suddenly and looks up at Tanith. Her cheeks are red and her hair is slightly mussed. “Tanith,” she says slowly, “are you… are you asking me to marry you?”
Tanith takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders, and exhales. “Yes, I think I am asking you to marry me,” she declares. Her heart is racing, but her voice is steady.
“Oh,” Sigrun says in a small voice.
There is silence.
Tanith starts preparing a lengthy apology for not thinking through anything she ever says when Sigrun reaches out and clasps her tanned, calloused hands in her soft, pale ones.
“Then I think I am going to marry you,” she says, and her eyes light up and she finally, finally begins to cry.
“Tanith,” Sanaki asks, poking her broccoli around her rice, “in school today, I was told people get married because they want to make children. Is that true?”
Tanith half-glances at her as she reaches to refill Sanaki’s milk. “It’s a common reason, yes.”
“I might object to the word ‘make’,” Sigrun offers gently from across the table. “But to have children, certainly.”
“There aren’t any pictures of you getting married, Sigrun, Tanith,” continues Sanaki, barely glancing at each of them before returning her attention to her food. (Tanith has learned that ten-year-olds have a special relationship with food above mothers and fathers.)
Sigrun gives her a sly smile above Sanaki’s head. “Well, we didn’t have a ceremony, Sanaki.”
“We went more for the legal sense,” Tanith interjects. She’s proud of her ability to not sound like her mouth is full of rice, but Sigrun still frowns. (Sigrun’s Rules of Manners are supposed to apply to Tanith as much as to Sanaki.)
“You should have a ceremony. I want pictures of your wedding,” Sanaki declares, and like most of Sanaki’s declarations, it’s said with a finality that indicates Sigrun and Tanith have absolutely no say in the matter. “In what month would you like your wedding?”
They share a look across the table, thinking of an impromptu proposal on a spring night. “May,” they say in unison, and as their daughter discusses who will be their attendants, names herself their flower girl, and outlines their wedding color scheme, Tanith wraps her hand around her wife’s and smiles.