“What the fuck?” Franky sat up in bed.
Bridget was already up and halfway to the bedroom door. “You check on Em. I’ll see what’s going on.”
Franky walked to the girl’s bedroom, and quietly opened the door just enough that she could see her lying in the bed still asleep. She heard Bridget open the front door. It sounded like there were two cops. The brunette quietly closed Emily’s door again, and made her way to the front entrance.
When Bridget opened the door, she was met with two uniformed police officers. “Good evening, are you Bridget Westfall?” one of them asked.
“Yes.” She found herself wishing she had put on her robe. It wasn’t cold out, but she suddenly felt chilly.
“Do you mind if we come in for a minute?”
“Yeah, sure.” The blonde stepped aside, and allowed the two officers to enter the house.
“She’s still asleep,” Franky said, coming up behind Bridget.
“Ma’am,” the officer acknowledged the brunette then shifted his attention back to Bridget. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Ms. Westfall, but your brother, Tim, was in a car accident earlier tonight. When the ambos arrived they freed him from the car, but were unable to revive him. I’m so sorry.”
Bridget just stood there. Franky couldn’t see her face. She put her arm around the blonde. “I’m here, babe,” she said quietly.
“Are, uh, are you sure it’s him?” Bridget’s voice was a bit shaky. The brunette rubbed her hand up and down the other woman’s arm.
“Yes ma’am. We found his wallet with ID in it.” The officer reached into his pocket and pulled out Tim’s wallet in a plastic evidence bag. It was open to show his driver’s license.
Bridget nodded her head as she looked at the ID, and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Um, do you know what happened?”
“It was a single vehicle accident. It’s possible he just lost control of the car. We’ll know more once the forensics people are done at the scene.” The officer shifted uncomfortably. “There is one other thing.” He took a notebook from his pocket and flipped through the pages until he found what he was looking for. “Our database shows that he has a daughter, Emily, age five. We have no other adult listed at the residence and she wasn’t in the car. Do you know where she is?”
“She’s here. She’s…” The blonde said quietly, trailing off. The realization hit her that she was going to have to tell her niece that her father was gone. That she’d lost both of her parents in less than a year. She started to cry.
The brunette pulled Bridget closer. After a moment, she realized that the officer was still waiting for the rest of the blonde’s sentence. “She’s been staying here with us for the past few weeks. Her dad was having some problems so he asked us to look after her for a while.”
“What kind of problems?”
Bridget took a deep breath. “Alcohol. He was in a rehab program.”
The officer wrote something in his notebook. “You’re okay with her staying here for the time being?” Franky and Bridget both nodded their heads. “Okay. Here’s my card if you have any questions. We’ll be in touch for follow-up in a couple of days. Again, I’m really sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” Bridget took the card from him, and closed the door after he left. She turned back towards Franky, staring at the card in her hand.
“Babe?” The brunette reached out and touched her hand that was holding the card. She got no response. “Gidge?” Bridget reached up and covered her eyes as the tears started again. “Hey, come here.” Franky wrapped her arms around her and held her tight. “Come on, let's go sit on the couch.”
The blonde allowed Franky to lead her into the living room. The brunette took the officer’s card from her hand and placed it on the kitchen island on the way by. She grabbed a blanket off the end of the couch and put it around Bridget’s shoulders as she sat down beside her.
“Do you need anything, babe?” Franky asked, sitting down beside her.
“No.” Bridget shook her head. “Just come here.” The blonde lifted one side of the blanket, and Franky moved in closer taking Bridget in her arms again. “Do you think he was drinking?”
“Uh.” The brunette knew there was a possibility that he was, but she didn’t want to assume the worst. “He was doing good in rehab, yeah? He seemed okay when he was here the other day. As shitty as it is, sometimes accidents just happen. We can’t know anything for sure until the cops finish with their investigation.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I just keep thinking over everything and wondering if I missed something.” When she turned to Franky again there were more tears running down her face. “I don’t know how to tell her. How do you tell a five year old that now she’s lost both parents?”
Franky reached out and wiped away the tears on both of Bridget’s cheeks with her thumb. “I don’t know, Gidge, but we’ll figure it out, okay? I’ll be right there with you if that’s what you want.”
“Yeah. I do. I don’t want to do it alone.”
“She’s staying with us, right?” Franky asked suddenly.
“Of course, baby.” Bridget took the brunette’s hand between both of hers.
“I don’t want her to go anywhere or in foster care or something, even for a short while.” Franky knew she was being irrational. Bridget was here, so of course Emily wouldn’t have to go anywhere, but she needed reassurance.
“She’s not going anywhere. I promise. It’s in his will. Even before Sarah passed away, they had it put in there that if something happened to both of them while she was still a minor then I would get full custody of her.”
“Okay, I just, I don’t know, my mind went there.” The brunette wiped her face.
“It’s okay, baby. You love her and you want her to be safe and protected. I get it.” She gave Franky a small kiss. “I promise she’ll stay here with us.” Franky nodded. “We should let her sleep for now. It’s going to be a long day once she wakes up, and I need some time to digest everything before we talk to her.”
“Yeah, good idea.” The blonde snuggled into her more. “Do you want to stay out here or go back and lay in bed? I know you’re not going to sleep, but you should rest while you can.” Franky knew as soon as they were dealing with Emily, they’d both feel emotionally exhausted.
“You’ll come lay with me?” Bridget asked.
“Absolutely.” Franky kissed her head.
“Okay, yeah, let’s go lay down. I’ll need to call Vera in a few hours and let her know I won’t be in. I should let the school know too. Are you going to work?” Bridget’s mind was wide awake as she walked back to the bedroom.
“Definitely not. I’ll call Liz in the morning.” Franky pulled back the covers for them for the second time that night.
Bridget laid down and the brunette went to the other side and got in behind her. She moved in close behind the blonde, and wrapped her arms around her. She gave her a small kiss on the back of the shoulder.
“Tighter.” Bridget said, so quietly that Franky wasn’t sure she heard her.
“Hold me tighter.” The blonde said a bit louder.
Franky tightened her arms around the smaller woman. “Is this okay?”
“Yeah.” They laid in silence for a moment before Bridget spoke. “I love you.”
“I love you too, babe.”
Bridget felt like she had laid there awake all night, but in reality she must have been drifting in and out of sleep because the next thing she knew she saw the sky start to come light with the morning sun.
“You awake?” she whispered softly. If Franky was asleep, she didn’t want to wake her.
“Yeah.” Came the soft reply from behind her.
“I’m going to call Vera. Have you talked to Liz?” The blonde reached for her phone.
“Yeah, I texted her earlier. I didn’t want to wake you by getting up or being noisy, so I just told her we were alright but there was a family emergency and I’d call her later.” Franky rubbed her eyes, and stretched as Bridget sat up on her side of the bed. She watched the blonde’s back as Bridget sat looking at the screen on her phone, not clicking on Vera’s number. “Do you want me to call her?”
She took a deep breath. “I can do it, but thank you.” Bridget clicked on Vera’s number, and waited while it rang.
The blonde was glad that it didn’t sound like she had woken up her friend. “Uh, Vera, I uh…” She trailed off, and immediately felt Franky’s hand on her back, thumb moving back and forth.
“Are you alright?” Vera’s voice held concern for Bridget.
“Yeah.” The blonde took a deep breath. “The cops came here last night, and said that Tim had been in an accident. They said they got him out of the car, but they weren’t able to revive him.” She had said it all at once, afraid that if she stopped, she wouldn’t be able to start again.
“Oh. Oh my god, Bridget.” She could hear Vera trying to figure out what to say next. “Do you need anything? Is there anything I can do? Is Em…is she okay?”
“She’s fine, she was here with us. She’s still sleeping actually. We haven’t told her yet.” She took another breath. “I think we’re okay here for now. I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be in for the next few days.”
“Yes, of course. If you think of anything you need, or if you just need someone to talk to, call me.”
“I will. Thanks, Vera. I need to go, Em will be waking up soon.” They said goodbye, and Bridget dropped her phone onto the bed.
Franky came over to sit beside her on the edge of the bed. “Should we go get her?”
Bridget nodded. “I’ll do it.”
As she stood up and headed to Emily’s room, Franky went out into the kitchen. She put on a pot of coffee, thinking to herself that it would probably be one of many that would get made over the next few days.
“Em, love,” Bridget said, running her hand over the girl’s shoulder. “It’s time to wake up.”
“It’s time for school?” Emily asked, sleepily.
“You’re not going to school today. I need you to come out to the living room with me and Franky, okay?” Bridget gave her a kiss on the head, and left her to get up and come join them.
“Here, babe.” Franky handed her a mug of coffee when she got to the kitchen.
“Thanks,” she said, taking a sip.
They sat on the couch waiting for Emily. The brunette reached out and put her arm around Bridget. It was only a couple of minutes before they heard the girl’s bedroom door open.
“We got this,” she whispered, giving the blonde a squeeze and a kiss on the temple.
“Come here, love.” Bridget sat her mug on the coffee table and held open her arms, signalling for Emily to come sit on her lap. The girl sat down, and the blonde put her arm around her, pulling her closer. “We need to tell you something, and it’s serious, okay? And if you have any questions, you can ask us whenever you want.” Emily nodded. “Last night a police officer came, and he told us that your dad had been in an accident in his car. He was hurt, and a lot of people tried to help him, but they couldn’t. Love, I’m so sorry, but he passed away.”
“Like my mom?” The tears were starting to form in the young girl’s eyes, and Bridget saw her lip quiver.
“Yeah, love.” The blonde waited for a moment while Emily let that fully sink in. After a few seconds, the tears started, and she buried her face against Bridget’s neck and chest. She wrapped her arms around her niece.
Franky reached over and wiped Bridget’s cheeks before swiping her hand across her own. She didn’t know what to say. This was all new to her, and quite frankly, it was a situation she never would have imagined she’d ever be in. She was heartbroken for both of them.
Bridget ran her hand through Emily’s hair, moving it back out of her face. “Is there anything you want to ask us, love?”
“You mean why did it happen?” The blonde felt Emily nod. She glanced over at Franky. “It was just an accident.”
“Am I going to live here now?” The girl asked quietly.
Out of the corner of her eye, Bridget could see Franky nodding her head. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re going to stay right here,” the blonde said, hugging her niece a bit tighter.
“Promise?” Emily asked, lifting her head to look at Bridget
“Yeah, I promise. We’re family.” The blonde wiped the young girl’s cheeks with the back of her fingers.
“You and me and Franky?” Emily asked, looking at the brunette.
Franky opened her mouth then realized she wasn’t really sure how Bridget wanted her to answer. In her mind, and based on the conversation they had had the night before when they went to bed, it was a resounding ‘yes’. This was new territory for her though, dealing with the emotions of a child, and she didn’t want to say something wrong, or too early. She looked to Bridget, who gave a quick nod.
“Yeah, bub. You, me and Gidge.” A whole new bunch of tears rolled down Franky’s cheeks.
They sat in silence for a while.
“Anyone want some breakfast?” Franky asked. She saw Emily shake her head, which was the answer she’d expected. “Come on, how about I make chocolate chip waffles?” The young girl buried her face against Bridget’s shoulder again.
“Why don’t you go ahead and make them? Maybe she’ll change her mind when they’re ready,” the blonde said quietly.
Franky gave Bridget a kiss on the cheek, and Emily one on the head as she got up and went into the kitchen. She began finding the ingredients she needed, and turned on the waffle maker.
“Do you want to help, bub?” Again, she expected, and got, a ‘no’, but she thought it was worth trying anything to keep the young girl’s mind off things even for a few minutes.
Franky could see Emily watching her from her spot on Bridget’s lap. After a few minutes, the young girl got up, and came to stand beside the tall brunette.
“Can I just put the batter in?” Emily asked, stepping up onto the stool beside Franky at the counter.
“Yeah, sure.” The brunette handed her the ladle, and watched as she carefully added the batter.
Bridget excused herself to the patio while Emily was distracted for a few minutes. She needed to call the school and let them know what had happened. There would be so much to do over the next few days. There would be funeral arrangements, she'd probably have to meet with a lawyer and go through Tim's will, considering other than her getting custody of Emily, she had no idea what was in there, and she was sure there'd be paperwork to be done for that as well. As soon as things settled down a bit, they'd have to go get the rest of Emily's belongings from the house, and completely clean out the spare room she was staying in so they could make it permanently hers. Right now though, she had to speak with the school.
"You want this one?" Franky asked the young girl when the first waffle was ready. Emily shook her head. "How about you, Gidge?" Bridget had just come back in from outside.
She was about to say no when she saw Franky give her a look. "Uh, yeah sure."
"This next one is yours, okay bub?" Franky said as Emily put the next scoop of batter in to cook.
"I'm not hungry."
"I want you to try, okay? Just a few bites then see how you feel." The brunette had chosen the waffles because she knew they were one of Emily's favorites. When it was ready, she put it on the plate for the girl. "One sec," she said when Emily went to take it to the table. Franky reached into the fridge and grabbed the can of whipped cream. She put some in the centre of the waffle, and Emily smiled a bit.
Around mid-afternoon, Emily had said she was tired, so Bridget put her to bed and laid with her until she fell asleep. When she went back to the living room, she joined Franky on the couch.
"How are you doing?" the brunette asked, as she put an arm around Bridget's shoulders, and pulled her close.
"Honestly, I don't know. I think right now I'm just more concerned with making sure she's okay. I haven't really thought about myself yet." The blonde took Franky's hand and traced patterns on her palm with her thumb. "I called the school earlier while you two were making breakfast. They said that I'll need to come in sometime over the next few days and fill out some paperwork. I'd like for you to come with me. I want to make it so that they can contact you if I'm not available."
"Yeah, for sure. I already talked to the principal one day when I picked her up."
"You did?" Bridget asked.
"I did. Just last Friday. She said Em talked about how I was teaching her to cook." Bridget gave Franky a small kiss. "What was that for?"
"Just because." Bridget's lips showed a hint of a smile.
"Auntie Bridge! Auntie Bridge!" They both jumped, hearing Emily yelling from her bedroom. "Franky!"
The two women hurried down the hall to see what was wrong with the young girl. When they got there, Emily was standing in the middle of the room, tears streaming down her face.
"What's wrong, love?" Bridget knelt down in front of her, and wiped the tears from her face.
Emily wrapped her arms around her aunt's neck. "I woke up and you were gone."
Bridget sighed. "I stayed until you were asleep." She rubbed Emily's back in an effort to calm her down.
"I was scared." The young girl's tears had begun to slow.
"We're right here. We wouldn't leave you alone in the house," Franky said quietly, crouching down beside Bridget.
"Come back out in the living room with us and you can lay down on the couch instead." The blonde stood up and took Emily's hand.
Within a few minutes, she was asleep again as Bridget made more phone calls from the kitchen table, and Franky cleaned up in the kitchen. The brunette heard the front door open and quickly went to the hallway to make sure whoever it was didn't wake Emily.
"Hey Vera," she said quietly. "Come on in. Em's just asleep on the couch."
"Oh, sure. I just came by to drop this off." She held up bags filled with take out food. "I thought you guys might be busy or not feel like cooking so I picked up some stuff. There should be lots of leftovers for a couple of days."
"Thanks," Franky said, taking the bags from Vera. "Gidge is just at the table."
Vera gave a little wave to Bridget when she entered the living room, and her friend got up and joined the other two women. Franky was currently unpacking all the food Vera had brought with her. It looked to be enough to feed an army.
"Vera brought us a few meals."
"Aw, thank you, that was really thoughtful." The blonde gave her friend a hug.
"I feel like I should be the one hugging you," Vera said. "How are you guys doing?"
"As good as can be expected I think. Em has been asleep for the last hour or so." Bridget's gaze drifted over to the small girl on the couch.
Vera sensed that there were probably some things that weren't being said, and that it had been a draining day for everyone at the house. "I should go and let you guys rest. If you need anything at all, just let me know."
"Actually, why don't you stay and eat with us?" Franky said, looking to Bridget for confirmation.
"Yeah, stay and have dinner with us."
Vera looked back and forth between the two of them. "Okay," she reluctantly agreed.
They had woken Emily when it came time for dinner, and actually managed to get her to eat some food without too much convincing. Vera didn't have to work until ten the next morning, so she agreed to watch the girl for an hour or so, so that Franky and Bridget could go speak with the principal at the school. The blonde knew that after the way Emily had woken up crying that afternoon that she would have to prepare her for being left with Vera the next morning.
"Em, love, we need to talk to you for a minute before you go to bed." Bridget said, sitting down beside the girl on the couch. Franky joined them, and sat on the opposite side of the girl. "Tomorrow morning, Franky and I have to go to your school and talk to Ms. Johns, so we might not be here when you wake up." The blonde could see the tears starting in Emily's eyes. "Shh, no, listen," she said, brushing her thumb over the girl's cheek. "We're only going to be out for a little bit, and Vera will be here with you, okay? You won't be alone."
Emily looked to Franky. "We won't be gone long. Promise." The brunette said.
“How long?” The young girl asked quietly.
“An hour, maybe a bit more.” Franky knew they probably wouldn’t even be an hour, but she figured it would be better to be back sooner than expected than to be running late. “And Vera will be here. You’ve stayed the whole night with her before.” Emily gave a small nod.
“Alright, time for bed then. Go get your pyjamas on then we’ll be in to say goodnight.” Bridget patted her on the back and tipped her head in the direction of Emily’s bedroom.
The girl hesitated to get up off the couch. “Can I sleep in your bed tonight?”
Bridget looked to Franky, who gave a small shrug as if to say it was up to the blonde. “We’re not going to bed yet though, love.”
“Please?” Emily looked to Franky.
“It’s been a long day, and we have to get up early tomorrow. Maybe we could all use the extra hour or so?” Franky suggested. In all honesty, the brunette wasn’t that tired, but she knew that Emily, and especially Bridget, probably were, and she was willing to lay in bed awake if it meant they’d get some sleep.
“Alright, let’s go then.” Bridget knew that Franky was right, and that even if she insisted that Emily go to sleep in her own bed, she’d probably end up in theirs before the night was over anyway.
It wasn’t long before Franky was the only one left awake. Emily had insisted on sleeping between them again, and now Franky laid on her side looking at the young girl and Bridget, studying the peaceful expressions on their faces. She couldn’t believe how much her life had changed in just a matter of months. She’d gone from someone who mostly just had one night stands, to someone who was living with her girlfriend, and now as of today, would be potentially helping to raise a child. She let her thoughts overwhelm her for a moment before she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She was sure of her feelings for Bridget, and she was sure that she cared very much for Emily. They were all in this together now. She closed her eyes. Yeah, she could do this, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.