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In the end, she decided to leave

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The door closed and Grace immediately collapsed into the chair, her hand flying up to cover her mouth, simultaneously stopping the gasp and the sob that was threatening to spill out of her.
It was overwhelming.
Suddenly, everything was intensely overwhelming; Frankie, the possibility of being alone, the work she still had to do, Frankie, their ex-husbands still being in the house while her sense of stability was just ripped out from underneath her feet, Frankie.
She was crying.
She didn’t even know she was crying until Robert coughed, graciously and mercifully signalling his re-entry so that she could gather herself, making her swipe at her cheeks and feeling the wetness there. She straightened her back, picked up her glasses and busied herself with the labels.
His footsteps were careful as he approached her.
He placed a martini on the table and gently pushed it her way.
“Everything all right, kid?”
She suddenly thought back to their lives together, wondered if he had ever asked her that question before.
She sniffed, face stern. “You knew, huh?”
“For about an hour.” He stated. “She told me out on the terrace while we were -” He picked up a lonesome vibrator that hadn’t been boxed yet. “packing products.” He waved it around and then felt awkward and placed it back on the table.
Grace eyed the vibrator and then looked up at him.
For the first time since he entered the room, he noticed the smudged mascara underneath her eyes. He had only seen Grace cry a handful of times during their marriage, the most recent being the morning their daughters found out he was a gay philanderer. “Grace -”
“Why does this keep happening to me?” She suddenly asked, a laugh accidentally falling out as she avoided his eyes. “Is it that easy to leave me?”
“No.” He answered without hesitating. “It’s not.” He shook his head. “Trust me, it’s not.”
She looked up at him, surprised that she had actually gotten an answer. And a sincere one, at that. “Yeah, well.” She cleared her throat and stood.
Robert watched as the familiar played out in front of him: Grace building up her walls. It happened all the time when they were married. She’d let him in, show him a moment of vulnerability, beg him to speak to her, stay with her, be who she needed and then, when it was clear that he couldn’t do that for her, she’d build up her walls again, stronger and ever higher than before.
He watched as she straightened her shirt and grabbed her martini.
“She won’t go.” He tried. Something he had never done before.
She eyed him before running a hand through her hair, feigning indifference. “You can leave, if you want.” She said as she made her way over to the stairs. “I’ll finish up on my own.”

 

\

In the end, she decided to leave.
No matter what Grace’s feelings or worries or fears about the whole thing were, she left.
Simple.
She wanted a bigger life and that bigger life did not involve Grace Hanson. That was simple, too. So how could she keep Frankie where she needed her most?
It wasn’t fair.

The morning of the move, Frankie came into her room.
She hadn’t gotten out of bed yet, wasn’t ready to see the pieces of Frankie that were already missing from their home.
She looked up from her phone, glasses perched on the edge of her nose.
“The kids are here.” Frankie stated.
“All right.” She nodded.
“They’re helping me pack. I procrastinated.” She smiled. “Like you said I would.”
Grace smiled back.
“Jacob will be here soon.”
“Okay.”
“You’ll come down? Say goodbye?”
“Of course I’ll come down.”
“Okay, good. I just thought -”
“I’ll come down, Frankie.”
She stood in the doorway for a moment and Grace could see the wheels turning in her head.
So, she made the decision for her and threw the covers open, inviting her in.
“Oh, I shouldn’t.” She said as she made her way over. “The kids are working so hard in the studio, I really should go and help them.” She kicked off her clogs. “Mallory actually sent me up here to ask you if you had extra bubble wrap.”
“Are you done?”
Frankie cackled and hopped onto the bed, burying herself underneath the covers and stretching out beside Grace, her body as close to hers as she could possibly manage. “What are we reading? Watching? Oh, Grace,” Her eyes suddenly scanned the length of her body, realisation dawning on her. “You weren’t… I wasn’t interrupting your ‘alone time’, was I?”
Grace rolled her eyes. “I was doing the morning crossword on my phone.” She lowered the device. “See?”
“Well, isn’t that boring? Would’ve been better if you were watching porn.” She grabbed the phone and immediately typed ‘Funny llama videos’ into the YouTube search bar.
“Great, I wasn’t using that or anything.”
“Great!” Frankie repeated.
Grace shook her head, scooted down and turned on her side so that she was closer to the small screen.
Frankie was already laughing at a llama who kept spitting on a kid.
The video was disgusting so she turned her eyes onto the woman who was so close to her that if she happened to turn her head, their noses would touch.
She suddenly really wanted Frankie to turn her head.
She could smell Frankie’s hair, her natural deodorant, the joint she probably smoked with Brianna.
She could feel her entire body shake as she laughed, could see the glint in her eye, the laugh lines around her mouth. All of Grace’s favourite things, by the way.
The only other person Grace had made laugh before Frankie was Phil.
His laugh was genuine.
Robert had only given her pity laughs, and so did Mallory. Brianna didn’t even attempt to pretend that she found her mother amusing.
So, when she met Phil and he laughed his genuine laugh, the feeling made her warm from the inside out. She imagined it was the reason why stand-up comedians did what they did, why they risked embarrassment. They were chasing that feeling.
When she made Frankie laugh for the first time, post-enemy Frankie, she had almost forgotten what that feeling felt like. And Frankie made a show of it, her eyes would light up and her face would fill with joy, her whole body cackling along with her. It was better than it was with Phil. Being a source of Frankie’s happiness, whether she was the butt of the joke or not, was one of the most fulfilling emotions she had ever felt.
“I know I’m entertaining but you’re missing out on some good stuff, Grace.”
She threw her arm around Frankie’s middle, pulling her in even more, and rested her chin on her shoulder. “I’m going to miss you.” She said softly.
Frankie’s laugh died down and she touched Grace’s arm, turning her head, making their noses touch. She then leaned in, touching her forehead against Grace’s. “I know. I’m going to miss you, too, lady.” She pulled back a little so that she could look into her eyes. She smiled gently. “More than you’ll ever know.”
She opened her mouth to say something, to ask her to stay, to ask Frankie to choose her, to choose them and their home and their business and -
“Well, isn’t this cozy?”
They looked up to find Brianna standing at the door.
Grace pulled back a little, lifted her head from Frankie’s shoulder, retrieved her arm from around Frankie’s waist. Not all the way though, deciding to leave her palm on her stomach, considering that the duvet was covering them anyway. “Brianna, you volunteered to help?”
“Well, it was either this or babysit Mallory’s football team of kids, so.” She shrugged and then turned to Frankie. “Speaking of, Mallory sent me to get you and I find you participating in a spontaneous slumber party with my mother who still happens to be in pyjamas even though I’ve never seen her not dressed after sunrise before?”
“Your mother invited me into her bed and I couldn’t resist.” She said simply.
“While we’re stuck packing your life into boxes?”
“You could…” Frankie threw back the covers. “join us?”
Brianna eyed the spot. “No, thank you, I’m not five. I’m not going to crawl into my mommy’s bed.”
“Why not?” Grace questioned.
Brianna kicked off her heels. “Good point.”
Frankie squealed in excitement as Brianna climbed in, sandwiching her in between two people who were pretty high up on her list of favourite human beings.
“What are we watching? Please tell me it’s not porn.” She settled in. “Okay, fine, what kind of porn?”
“It’s not porn!” Grace said firmly.
“Your mom’s too vanilla.”
Grace pinched her where her hand still rested and Frankie cackled again.
“Anyways, moving past my mothers possibly vanilla sex life.” She took the phone out of Frankie’s hand.
“Your mother’s sex life is perfectly fine, thank you very much.”
“No, thank you, mommy.” Brianna didn’t look at her. “I do not need that information.” She handed the phone back to Frankie. “Watch this.” The excitement evident in her voice.
Grace watched as a grown man kicked another grown man in the balls for no apparent reason, making her daughter and the woman beside her laugh until they couldn’t breathe.
Grace shook her head in amusement at the two of them.
Suddenly, her other daughter was in the room, too. “Really?” She looked at the three of them.
“Oops.” Frankie brought the blankets up to her eyes. “We’ve been caught.”
“Should we make a break for it?” Brianna questioned.
“Nah, we can take her.”
“I can hear you.”
Bud walked into the room.
“Yes, by all means, come on in. My room has always been open to the public.” Grace said dryly.
Bud looked at all the women in the room. “Is there a party I wasn’t invited to?”
“Yes,” Brianna answered. “During all four years of high school.”
“Anyways,” Bud said loudly, refusing to engage her. “Mom, I came up here to let you know that Jacob is downstairs.
Frankie dropped the blanket, her smile fading a little. “Oh, okay. Thank you, Bud.”
Grace slowly removed her hand from her stomach, bringing it back into her own territory.
He nodded and left the room, Mallory following after him.
“Do you think Jacob has that special stash on him? The one he grows himself?” Brianna asked softly.
“Aren’t you high enough?”
“Oh, yes of course, mother.” She looked at Frankie who smiled and nodded. She immediately threw back the covers and ran out of the room, leaving her shoes behind.
“You made a great kid, you know that?”
“You mean the one who’s running down the stairs to acquire pot from your boyfriend?”
Frankie laughed. “Yeah, that one.” She looked up at her. “I guess I gotta go down.”
“Yeah.” She smiled softly. “I guess.”
“You’ll be all right?”
“Always.”
Frankie nodded and then followed Brianna’s path, opting to go shoeless, as well.
The room was suddenly quiet and her bed was suddenly empty, a stark contrast to just a few moments before.
She searched the sheets for her phone.
She closed all the tabs Brianna had somehow opened in such a short time, most of them dirty so that she could annoy Grace.
She opened up the crossword again.
She could do it.
She could go back to regular life after living through a welcomed chaos.

\

By the time she was showered and dressed, Bud, Coyote and Jacob were loading the last of Frankie’s many boxes onto the truck.
She slowly made her way downstairs and found the rest of the family watching her as she descended.
She hated it.
It was like they were all waiting for her to crack and break. Which she was planning on doing. Just in the comfort of darkness, with a closed door, an extra empty house and a bottle of vodka.

She approached the counter where Frankie was standing and handed over the clogs to her. “You might need these.” She said dryly. “I’ve heard Santa Fe is hot. Might burn your toes.”
“Right.” Frankie threw them to the floor and slipped them on. “What am I going to do without you? Who’s going to take care of me and my little toes?”
“Your boyfriend.” She answered as she walked away, shoving Brianna’s heels at her.
“Yeah but no one cares about my toes as much as you do.” She tried again.
Grace scoffed. “I think you’re mistaken.”
Frankie’s smile faded. “Grace.” Her voice was gentle. “Don’t do this.”
“What am I doing?” She swung open the freezer. Eyed the bottle of vodka but thought better of it, making a silent promise to pay it a visit later, and then opened the fridge, removing a low-fat yoghurt so that she didn’t seem suspicious.
“Don’t shut down when I’m about to leave.”
“No one’s shutting down. I’m here. I came down, as promised.”
“Hey, Brianna,” Mallory’s voice suddenly interrupted the tension. “Maybe we should go check up on the guys.”
“Why would we do that when things are just starting to get interesting in here?”
“Brianna!” Mallory snapped her fingers, motioning towards the backdoor.
“All right, all right, geez.” She slipped on her heels. “But I better be able to hear yelling from outside.” She gestured between Grace and Frankie. “I wanna at least have an idea about what went down when I’m getting the details from the two of you later.”
“There won’t be any yelling because there’s nothing to yell about.” Grace said as she grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl and a knife from the drawer.
“Your eerily calm tone says otherwise.”
Mallory grabbed her sisters arm and pulled her out of the kitchen, the door closing behind them.
Silence overtook the room again.
Frankie stood on the other side of the counter, watching as Grace sliced her banana.
“Will you talk to me?”
“What do you want to talk about?”
She deposited her slices into a bowl, finally looking up at the other woman as she tore open the cup of yoghurt.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe the complete one-eighty your mood just made? An hour ago, we were up in your room snuggling and now you’re giving me the cold shoulder while you murder that poor, defenceless banana! And don’t pretend that banana isn’t me, Grace, I can see it in your eyes.”
“I don’t know what you want from me, Frankie.” She placed the yoghurt on the counter. “How do you want me to act? Do you want me to go upstairs with you again and hold you and pretend like everything’s fine? Because I will do that. Do you want me to talk to you?”
“Yes -“
“I’m doing that! Right now!” She yelled. “I give you what you want. All the time. I put jelly beans in your pancakes and I buy the groceries you like and I let you sleep in my bed and I talk about my feelings and I do all of these things, these things that push past my boundaries, because it’s you. It’s you and I want you to be happy. And still. Still it wasn’t -” She stopped. She couldn’t say it.
“Wasn’t what?”
“Nothing.” She picked up the bowl of bananas, slammed the step that opened the bin and deposited the contents onto the already overflowing pile of trash. She threw the bowl onto the counter, looking up at Frankie as she watched the porcelain spin loudly on the surface.
“Grace -”
The front door opened and Sol’s overly long, overly loose body came flying through, his signature smile plastered on his face. “Frankie! Are we late for the bon voyage?”
Robert closed the door behind them, briefly making eye contact with Grace as he joined the others in the kitchen. She looked away, leaning a hand against the counter. Robert looked between the two women, his smile fading as he read the room in a way his husband clearly wasn’t.
“I’m still super duper here, Sol.”
“Right.” He nodded, undeterred. “I just meant -”
“For fucks sake,” Frankie pushed away from the counter. “I know what you meant.” She mumbled as she walked over to Grace, grabbing her by the hand and shoving her into the pantry.
Grace went along with it, as she always did when it came to the woman who was closing the pantry doors and telling their ex-husbands to give them a minute.
Once again Robert held her eyes over Frankie’s shoulder.
And then it was dark.
Frankie pulled the lever that hung in between them, immediately illuminating her face again.
Grace had meant to update that light switch.

They were standing really close.
Grace was trying push her panic to the back of her mind, claustrophobia could sit this one out.
Frankie stepped forward and cupped her cheek.
Grace’s eyes immediately fluttered closed, leaning into the touch, her body betraying her.
Frankie took another step, leaned her forehead against hers.
They stayed like that for a while, breathing, existing in the closeness that they were about to lose.
“I have to do this.” She whispered.
Grace nodded. “I know.”
“I don’t want to wonder -”
“I know.”
“I’ll come back.”
Silence.
“You have to call.” Grace demanded. “At least once a week.”
“I’ll call every second of every day.”
She laughed. “Twice a week with texts throughout the day.”Frankie pulled back, smiled as Grace opened her eyes. “Deal.”
Grace took her head between her hands and gently placed a kiss on her forehead. “Deal.”
She looked at Frankie for a moment, admiring the way her eyes sparkled beneath the light, swiped her cheek as a tear fell. Her own were mere seconds away from escaping. “This has to be my goodbye.” She said softly. “I can’t do it again. I can’t go -” She pointed her chin towards the doors.
“Okay.” Frankie chuckled for no particular reason as she wiped her eyes. “Yeah, okay.”
“I’ll see you?”
“Yeah,” Frankie nudged her, a tiny bit of her playfulness returning. “You will.”
They smiled at one another for a moment more.
Suddenly, the doors swung open, light invading their little hideout.
Grace took a step back, feeling caught.
A visibly apologetic Jacob stood on the other side, their families spread out in the kitchen behind him.
Grace wondered how much they had heard.
“Frankie,” He said gently. “If we don’t leave now, we’re going to hit traffic and I -”
“I know.” Frankie nodded. “I know how you feel about traffic.”
Frankie turned to her and Grace reached up to cup her cheek, smiling at her.
And then Grace dropped her hand and Frankie clasped her own hands together and said something along the lines of driving until the cows came home or at least until her ass fell asleep.
Grace watched as Jacob took her hand and led her Frankie away.
She stayed where she was as the family followed the happy couple out of the house, Mallory and Brianna glancing at her as their father ushered them out.
She listened as their voices grew more distant and then she couldn’t hear the happy chatter anymore.
She was alone.
Standing amongst the bread and the flour and the other groceries.
Frankie was surrounded by the people she loved and was on her way to move in with someone who loved her so much that he took her away just so that he could love her on his own.

Chapter Text

During the second week of post-Frankie, Robert showed up at the beach house.
He had called her from the driveway, letting her know that he was there. And because she refused to get out of bed, she had told him to come on up to her bedroom. Words she never thought she’d ever say to him again.
She didn’t question why he was there. Didn’t tell him to turn his ass around and go back home. She was used to being checked up on. Even Brianna had showed up once or twice and hung out with her in bed.
A few minutes later, Robert was standing in her doorway. “I brought a box of donuts and a bottle of vodka.” He said instead of a greeting.
She sat up. “I suddenly can’t remember why I ever divorced you.” She patted the mattress beside her.
He smiled as he walked over. “I think it had something to do with me wanting to marry my male business partner.”
“Oh, right.” She said dryly as she took the bottle from him. “That.”
He sat down, swinging his legs onto the covers. “The donuts are more for me. Don’t tell Sol.”
“You overestimate how much I would like to tell your husband anything.”
Robert laughed.
Grace leaned down and got her emergency martini kit that she kept in the drawer beside her bed, handing Robert a glass.
“You have a TV in your bedroom.” He observed.
“Yeah.” She twisted the cap off. “I got it when I realised that Frankie’s sleepovers weren’t going away anytime soon and got tired of watching Ray Donavan on a laptop screen.”
He eyed her as she filled his glass, noting that she was still in her pyjamas after noon. “How is she?”
Grace made brief eye contact with him. She nodded. “Good.”
“Has she called?”
“Once or twice.” She shrugged and filled her own glass. “She has a new life. It’s exciting. She doesn’t have time.”
“And you?” He asked carefully.
She took a long sip, stalling. She shook out her hair. “What about me?”
“How are you?”
She raised her glass towards him. “Never better.”
He obviously didn’t believe her but knew better than to push. He flipped open the donut box and turned towards the TV. “What are we watching?”
She rested her back against the headboard, grabbing the remote and turning up the volume. “Tiny house hunters.”
He grimaced. “Oh, I hate this show.”
“Me, too. It’s terrible. I can’t stop watching it.”

\

After three months, Grace was mostly herself again.
The business was back up and running, she was back to having lunch with her girls, back to having lunch with Arlene, a random but welcomed lunch with Bud and Allison (so that they could announce the pregnancy), and even a lunch or two at Sol and Robert’s. And when she wasn’t distributing adult toys and having lunch with everyone underneath the big, yellow sun, she was dipping her toe back into the dating pool.
So, dinners.
She was going to dinners.
Dinners with Nick, for example.
She wondered when her life had started to revolve around meal times. She had a strange feeling it had something to do with the woman who was currently making a home for herself in Santa Fe.

Grace’s heart still hurt when she thought about her, the house still felt a little empty, her bed definitely had way less crumbs in it than she would like and when she would call, her excited voice coming through the speaker, Grace still wished she could see the matching excited sparkle in her best friend’s eyes.
But she was moving on.
She didn’t have a choice.

Her phone lit up on the coffee table and she bent slightly to retrieve it.
It was a text from Frankie asking if she could call. But before she could take the second to type out ‘yes’, Frankie’s name was already flashing on her screen.
She answered. “Yes, Frankie, you can call.” She said dryly.
“I saw those little dot thingies and made the decision for the both of us. Wouldn’t want you choosing the wrong answer.”
“Yeah, I might’ve said ‘yes’ and then where would I be?”
“On a call with me.” Grace could hear the smirk in her voice. “Your favourite place to be.”
It wasn’t her favourite place. Definitely not. Her favourite place involved a lot more physical Frankie than she’d had in the last few months. She didn’t say that, of course. “Actually, my favourite place to be is any place where there’s an open bar.” She said instead.
“Oh, honey, I’m the only drink you’ll ever need.”
“I require my drinks in reaching distance from me. You are not in reaching distance.”
The line went quiet. She hadn’t followed the script. She was supposed to say something flirty back or say something along the lines of “I’ve got a bottle of vodka in the freezer that begs to differ”. But truth be told, she had already had a drink or two before Frankie called and her tongue was a little looser, her slightly inebriated mind less fearful of awkwardness or confrontation.
“Good thing you’re always stocked up then.” She teased, sounding a little deflated.
“Yeah, it’s a good thing.” She waited. “So,” She tried. “How does it feel, grandma?”
Frankie laughed, her spirits lifting again. “How does what feel?”
“Knowing that in a few months there’s going to be a mini Bud or a mini Allison in the world that you get to enjoy without having to raise?”
“Over the frickin’ moon.” She offered. “And a little sad.”
“Sad?”
“I’m not there.” She explained. “The development of the foetus is an important time in the grandmother-grandchild bonding experience, Grace.”
“I don’t think that’s true but I get it.”
Frankie went quiet again.
“But hey, at least you’re having fun in Santa Fe? Bud says your art is really popular with the local hippies and your fellow pot smokers.”
“First of all, the local hippies are my fellow pot smokers and second, yeah, I guess it is.” She paused. “When exactly did my son divulge this information to you?”
Grace could tell that Frankie was about to have a FOMO flare-up. “Over lunch.” She said casually.
“Over lunch?” Frankie’s volume went up a level or two.
“Yeah, Bud and Allison wanted to announce the pregnancy so they took me to lunch.”
“And you went?”
“I went.”
Frankie went quiet for a moment. “I wish I could’ve been there. Wish I didn’t have to hear the news over fucking FaceTime. The video wasn’t even clear. The wifi sucks here, Grace. I miss our wifi.”
Our.
Grace didn’t know what to say so she stayed quiet.
“Anyway, Jacob’s stupid truck just pulled up.”
“Frankie -“
“I know. It’s not a stupid truck. It’s a very nice truck actually. With very comfortable seats and it has cupholders in convenient places. You know how I like convenient cupholders, Grace.”
“I do know.”
“It doesn’t have seat warmers, though. You know, like your car does? I miss having a warm tush.”
Grace laughed a little. Frankie went on. “And it doesn’t have that tray that magically comes out of your backseat either. It actually doesn’t have a backseat. Doesn’t have that cute little air freshener strawberry that you have hanging from your rearview mirror. Or those pictures of baby Bri and baby Mal that you keep in the glovebox.” She paused briefly and then added: “Normal parents keep pictures of their children in their wallets, by the way.” She stopped there. Didn’t add how Jacobs truck doesn’t have Grace’s perfume that envelopes her whenever they’re in the car. Doesn’t have Grace’s fingers gripping the wheel at ten and two (Because even though Grace has adopted the ‘fuck it’ lifestyle, she still obeys the rules. Jacob drives with one hand). Doesn’t have Grace’s ‘oldies but goldies’ playlist softly playing through the speakers. Doesn’t have the blanket that Grace keeps in the backseat just for Frankie. And most importantly, it doesn’t have grace.
Grace cleared her throat, bringing Frankie out of her thoughts. “I have them in the glovebox because if I kept them in my purse, I might lose them if the purse gets stolen. I can replace the purse. Can’t replace the photos.”
Frankie didn’t remind her that her car was stolen once. “That makes sense.”
Grace heard a door open in the background. “I gotta go.” She said, suddenly feeling like they had a voyeur. “I have an early day tomorrow.”
“Business meetings and such?”
“Something like that.” Nick was a businessman. She was going to ‘meet’ him. Not exactly a lie. “You take care of yourself, all right?”
“You, too. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Actually, try to do everything I would do. Channel your inner Frankie.”
Grace laughed. “I’ll think about it.”
“Call me tomorrow?”
“Okay.”
“Okay.”
“Frankie?”
“Yeah?”
A beat skipped. “I miss you, too.”

 

\

When another three months passed, her daughters came over for lunch.
It could be awkward, your daughters helping you move boxes of vibrators off of the dining room table so that you can eat, but she didn’t allow it to be. The whole point of the business was to empower women. Well, one of the reasons. The other reason was so that women could get off pain free. Anyway, her daughters were women. She was in the business of women. It didn’t have to be awkward.
And it wasn’t.
Until Brianna dropped the last box on the floor and said “Glad the silicone phalluses are out of the way.” She paused. “It’s stressful enough worrying about choking on my food, wouldn’t wanna choke on a -”
Mallory yelled at her to stop while Grace cringed and gave a firm and pleading ‘Brianna!’.
Brianna feigned innocence. “How am I the one who’s in trouble?”

When lunch was over and no one had choked, Mallory place a martini in front of Grace as her other daughter slid an envelope over to her.
“What’s this?”
“A gift.” Brianna smiled sweetly as her sister sat down beside her again.
“For what?”
“Just because.” Mallory mimicked Brianna’s smile.
Grace eyed the two of them. They looked so pure. Like actual sweethearts. You would never have guessed that the older one had joked about choking on a penis only a half an hour before.
Grace opened the flap and pulled out a ticket.
“It’s a trip.” Brianna provided.
“To Santa Fe.” Mallory elaborated.
Grace looked at it. Looked at them. “Why?”
“Because your best friend lives in Santa Fe and you haven’t seen her in six months.”
She eyed Mallory for a moment and then placed the ticket back in the envelope. “If my best - If Frankie wanted me there, she would’ve said something. I’m not going to just show up on her doorstep -”
“We spoke to Jacob.” Brianna blurted and Mallory shot her a look.
“You spoke to Jacob.” She repeated.
“Well, he spoke to us. He called me -”
“He called you?” Grace raised her voice a little.
“Yeah, honestly, mom, it’s not that big of a deal. We keep in touch. He’s the best weed man I’ve ever had.”
Grace chose not to say anything.
“Anyway, he said that Frankie’s miserable. She misses the family and her friends and she especially misses you.”
Grace scoffed. “Yeah, that’s why she hasn’t called in three weeks.”
“She won’t admit it.” Mallory offered.
“It’s not my job to make her talk about her feelings anymore. She has a boyfriend for that.”
“Her boyfriend thinks it would do her good if you paid her a visit.”
“Well, why didn’t her boyfriend just ask me himself?”
“Oh, I don’t know, it might have something to do with that time you got loaded and ruined their lunch with her sons?”
“I don’t appreciate your tone, Brianna.”
“We know you want to see her, mom.” Mallory, always the one to intervene between her mother and sister, said gently. “We know you miss her. Go see her.”
“Yeah.” Brianna took her hand into hers, borrowing Mallory’s tone. “And leave your key with me so that I can run away from my incredibly needy, incredibly sweet boyfriend.”
Grace rolled her eyes and took her hand back. “Absolutely not.” She looked down at the ticket. “I’ll think about it.” She looked up at her daughters. “Okay?”
They nodded and she nodded back.
Things were quiet for a moment.
“So, about these penises…”
Grace stood up, grabbing her empty plate and nearly empty glass of wine. “Go home, Brianna.” She threw over her shoulder as she went to the kitchen.
“Oh, come on, you can’t put me in a room full of vibrators and expect me to pretend like they’re not there!”
“Go home!”

\

Two weeks later, Grace was standing in front of a dark green door.
The kind of green Frankie would like.
Well, that made sense.
Her heels were digging into a mat that had ‘welcome to our home’ happily and lovingly written across it.
That made sense, too.
There were two sets of shoes beside it; mens work boots and a pair of Crocs with paint splatters all over them.
Very domestic.
Very happy.
Very loving.
It made sense.
What didn’t make sense was why she was there.
She didn’t fit into the equation anymore.
Her Louis Vuitton heels weren’t going to be added to the collection outside of the door, weren’t going to be placed beside the Crocs, weren’t going to see the atrocities gladly sitting in between the luxurious shoes and work boots.
That wasn’t going to happen.
She knocked anyway.
She began to panic.
What if Frankie didn’t want her there? What if she wasn’t a part of the new plan, the new life, the new family? What if her friend left her with absolutely no intention of keeping in touch, thinking she made a clean cut? And Grace was ruining it. She was ruining Frankie’s plans. She was forcing herself into her life and -
The door opened.
Frankie.
All of her doubts dissipated.
Frankie. It was her Frankie.
She watched as about sixty-three different emotions flittered across her friend’s face, none of them indicating that Frankie was about to make some excuse about leaving town, awkwardly hoping that Grace would pick up on the hint.
She straightened her shoulders and adopted an air of nonchalance. “I was in the neighbourhood,” She started. “and I thought ‘gee, doesn’t my old friend Frances Mengela live around here?’. I obviously couldn’t have been sure, so I started knocking on every single door in the neighbourhood, asking for you. They obviously know you as Frankie Bergstein. But I hadn’t realised this. So, I kept knocking and I kept asking and practically disturbed every single person in the area. It’s a good thing they don’t know your name because if they did, you would have like fifty new enemies. Anyway, so there I am, bruised knuckles and a even more bruised ego-”
“Grace.” She finally spoke.
She stopped, glancing at her friend, giving her a soft smile. “Hm?”
“You’re here.” She said even softer. “On my doorstep. Like some kind of really expensive, really hot postal package in really tight jeans.”
“Well, they’re not that tight.”
“Yes, they are. But that’s how I like them.” She smirked.
Grace grinned. “Hey, you.”
“Hey, yourself, lady.”
Frankie stepped forward and enveloped her in a hug.
Grace went into her arms easily, squeezing her as hard as she could. She had gone six months without Frankie flirting with her face-to-face and without her hair in Grace’s mouth and her body way too close and her scent filling up her senses. And in a matter of minutes, all of that was back in her life. Order was restored. She could breathe. So she did.
Franke stepped back all too soon and took Grace’s face between her hands. She cackled, her eyes bright and full of joy, a hint of tears mixed in. “I can’t fucking believe this!” She exclaimed. She suddenly released Grace and looked around frantically. “Oh God, I gotta go thank the deities immediately!”
Grace grabbed her hand before she could run off, trying to contain her laugh. “Frankie, sweetheart, you can speak to Frigg when I leave later, okay?”
Frankie knitted her brows, a confused smile on her face. “Leave? What do you mean leave? You haven’t even come into the house yet and already you’re leaving?”
“You haven’t invited me in.” She playfully pointed out.
“You’re not a vampire, Grace, you don’t need an invitation.” She said it like it was obvious. “Also, you like garlic too much. But I’m not too sold on the whole ‘vampires are afraid of garlic thing’. I mean what’s that all about? What are they afraid of? Delicious food? Sounds like a whole lot of bullshit to me.”
They looked at one another for a moment.
“So anyway,” Grace breezed past Frankie’s rant. “I’m not leaving. I’ll be here for a few days. I just meant when I go back to my hotel room.”
Frankie looked down, finally noticing that Grace didn’t have any bags. “Hotel? Grace, you’re not staying at a hotel.”
“Tell that to my credit card bill.”
“No, I’m serious, you have to stay here. There’s a guest bedroom. You’re not staying at a hotel like some kind of extended family member that no one wants to deal with.”
“Frankie, don’t be silly. I can’t do that. You deserve your time with Jacob. I’ll just be an imposition.”
“Oh, bullshit. He’s had me for six months! He can spare me for a few days.”
The gravel began to crunch behind her and she turned around to watch Jacob’s truck pull up.
He hopped out. “Grace! You made it!” He exclaimed as he walked over and pulled her into a hug.
Grace was surprise and thrown off guard a little but went with it.
“Wait, you knew she was coming?”
“I did.” He admitted as he bent down to kiss Frankie.
Grace looked away for a second, feeling like a voyeur.
When she looked up, Frankie was grinning. “You little devils!”
“When did you get here? Why are you outside?”
“Oh, don’t start, Jake,” Frankie waved him off. “She’ll go into this whole thing about vampires and garlic.”
“That was you!”
“Anyway, can you tell her that she has to stay with us instead of some roach infested motel.”
“It’s literally a five-star hotel. They have a Michelin star.”
“They do? Then why are we staying in this dump? Let’s go there!”
“Grace,” Jacob said gently. “Stay here. We have the room. It’ll make Frankie - us - really happy if you did.”
She looked skeptical. “Are you sure?”
He nodded. “I’m sure.”
She looked at Frankie and shrugged. “All right, then.”
Frankie yelled in excitement and bounced into Grace’s arms. “Oh, this is going to be so much fun! I’ve always wanted to have a sleepover with you!”
Grace held onto her, her voice muffled by Frankie’s arm. “We literally lived together for three years.”

Chapter Text

Grace spent fifteen more minutes outside the door before Frankie grabbed her hand and dragged her inside. It took Frankie another twenty minutes to convince Grace to give Jacob her room card so that he could go and collect her stuff. She was grateful she hadn’t unpacked yet, didn’t want to give Frankie’s boyfriend the job of handling her delicates.
Finally, when Jacob was gone, she was inside and it was just the two of them again, Grace took the time to admire the sight of Frankie while she made her a drink. It was surreal being so close to her again. She’d forgotten how whole she felt around Frankie. She felt at peace, present.
Frankie handed her the drink, a grin on her face. “I was beginning to think that making your drink just the way you like it was going to become another skill I couldn’t use anymore.”
“Oh, we’ll make sure that never happens.” She took a long sip, feeling even more whole.
She had to pace herself. She was in the home of a man who hated her for her drinking. She didn’t want to give him a reason to kick her out.
Frankie took her hand again and lead her to the couch.
They sat.
“How long are you here for?”
“Three.”
“Weeks?” Frankie exclaimed.
Grace laughed. “Days. Three days.”
“Only three? Grace,” She pouted. “That’s barely enough time to have you sit for a portrait. It’s the one thing I regret not doing back at the beach house. I could’ve hung you in the bedroom, looked at you every morning, like I got to do at home.”
Home.
Grace tried to not blush. “As sweet as that sounds, I don’t think your boyfriend would have enjoyed that.”
Frankie smiled, she was still holding onto Grace’s hand. “Maybe.” She paused. “But can I?”
“Can you what?” She took another sip.
“Paint you.”
Grace swallowed. “Are you serious?”
“As a stroke.”
“That’s not funny.”
“Maybe.” She said again. “But answer the question.”
“I thought you already painted my portrait. The one that you featured at your exhibit.”
“Oh, Grace, that was a lifetime ago. We gotta get capture you in this lifetime. That person in that painting… it’s not you.” She said softly. “Not anymore.”
Grace watched her. “Can’t you just take another picture of me in my sleep?”
“That’s already on the agenda. But this is different.” She squeezed Grace’s hand. “Please?”
For some reason, maybe it was the alcohol or Frankie’s hand in hers or the way Frankie was looking at her, whatever the reason was, against her better judgement, she found herself nodding.
Frankie immediately hopped up, almost knocking Grace’s drink out of her hand.
“Oh, I gotta go get my supplies!” Her eyes were frantic. “You wait here! Or wait outside.” She thought about it. “No, in the bedroom. The bedroom’s better. The light is better.” She thought about it again. “If we’re talking light, the kitchen will be so much better but then I’d have to move everything back by dinner time and you know I don’t like disturbing my process, it throws -”
“Frankie.” Grace was smiling, as she grabbed her hand again. “We have time. Just sit with me for now, okay?”
Her friend looked hesitant, her mind still running a mile a minute.
“Sweetheart,” She tried again. “Sit.”
Frankie sat. “I just - before you leave -”
“We have time.” She repeated, her voice gentle. “We have all the time in the world.”

\

After Frankie moved her around the house for the better part of an hour, trying to decide which room would be best to paint Grace in, they decided to call it a night.
It was weird watching Frankie go into a room that felt off limits to her.
It was hers and Jacob. Grace did not belong in there.

She stood outside the bathroom, pyjamas and toiletry bag in hand, waiting for Jacob to finish up.
The door opened and they made eye contact, both smiling awkwardly.
He squeezed past her. “Goodnight, Grace.”
“‘night.” She watched him disappear in to the room and close the door.
She walked into the bathroom, locking the door behind her.
She threw her pyjamas over the side of the tub and her toiletry bag on top of the laundry hamper.
She stood at the sink, staring into her reflection.
She looked tired. Her mascara was a little smudged. Her hair was slightly deflated. But she was the happiest she had been in the last few months.
She looked around at the bathroom.
There were towels with paint splotches, and crystals along the bath and a painting of the sun on the window and she recognised Frankie’s shampoo in the shower. But there was also men’s aftershave on the counter and a men’s razor beside it and the colour scheme of the bathroom was subtle, unlike Frankie. She opened the cabinet and read each label, many had Frankie’s name but just as many had Jacob’s. She closed the cabinet again. It was their bathroom. It was a bathroom that two people who loved each other shared, two people who were willing to make space for one another.
She looked at the two toothbrushes sitting side-by-side in a cup on the sink and suddenly felt an intense sadness wash over her.
She cleared her throat and picked up her pyjamas. “Get it together, Hanson.”

\

When she woke, she could tell that it was still early.
Very early.
There were two voices coming from the kitchen.
It took her another minute to remember that Jacob was a farmer and waking just after sunrise was probably a regular occurrence.
Frankie, on the other hand, had to be dragged out of bed well after noon.
But Grace could clearly hear her ramble on about a dream she had the night before.
Early mornings were a part of her new life.

Footsteps were approaching her room and she shut her eyes again, not wanting to be caught eavesdropping, or worse, thinking about how much her best friend has changed over the past few months.
She listened as the door opened and then closed.
Listened as footsteps approached the bed and as something was placed on the nightstand.
She heard the familiar sound of an iPhone camera going off.
The footsteps then continued around the bed and she felt the mattress dip as Frankie got underneath covers, immediately spooning Grace.
“Your toes are like ice blocks against my calves.” She grumbled.
“Good morning to you, too, lover.” Frankie said into her hair.
Grace opened one eye and spotted the mug of coffee on the bedside table.
She moved back, cuddling into Frankie even more and bringing her arm tighter around her middle. She shut her eyes again. “Why are you up so early? It’s not even noon.”
“The early hamster catches the cheese, and all that.”
“That’s not the saying.”
“Oh, Grace, why do you insist on being ruled by the English language?”
If her eyes were open, she’d roll them. “My bad.”
“Do you wanna go for dinner with me tonight? I’ll let you get drunk.” She offered. “The place I have in mind has a great bar and they have both vegan and regular meals and great deserts and - oh, Grace, they have that chocolate cake thing that melts and inside there’s another cake - like fucking magic - but the outside cake becomes a part of the inside cake and I know the mental image is probably fuzzy right now but I promise you -"
“Frankie,” She squeezed her hand. “You had me at ‘let you get drunk’”
Frankie could hear the smile in her voice. “Okay, good. Just, you, me, a magical cake and booze. A good fucking night, if you ask me. And I hope that you are.”
“Just you and me? No Jacob?”
“No, I told him to sit this one out. I need my Grace time.” She was quiet for a moment. “Is that all right?”
She turned in Frankie’s embrace. “That’s all right.” She placed her head on her chest, Frankie’s toes making their way between her legs. “That’s more than all right.”

\

“It’ll be fine.”
“It’s weird.”
“It’s fine. I’m fine. You’re fine. Jacob’s fine. We’re all fine.”
“I swear to God, if you start singing…”
Frankie grinned and then held out her hand.
Grace rolled her eyes and took it. She didn’t know why she was making such a big deal about going into Frankie and Jacob’s bedroom. It was just a room. In a house. Where her best friend and her boyfriend slept and - anyways, it was just a room.
Which is why her feet moved forward when Frankie pulled, her hand warm and soft, almost distracting her from her irrational reluctance.
Frankie dragged her to the middle of the room. “Have a seat on the bed while I set up.”
She remained standing.
She clasped her hands together in front of her, already feeling out of place, as she scanned the room.
It was all earth tones, very Jacob. But then there was also a bright yellow throw blanket on top of the more subtle duvet. One of Frankie’s paintings hung above the bed. The windowsill was lined with half dead plants, the ones she insisted on packing up even though Grace was the one who kept them alive in the first place. Seems like even Jacob couldn’t save them. There were books about art and feminism and the magic of crystals stacked up on one of the nightstands beside the bed and on the other, she could see magazines with farmers on the cover and make out headlines like “new effective ways to survive the drought”. It was the bathroom all over again. Two people making space for one another.

When she looked over at Frankie, she was almost done. She had her easel set up and her side table, that was obviously too small, filled with her different paints and brushes. She had opened the curtains wider, allowing even more sunlight to fill the room. Grace watched as she looked back and forth between her and the windows, deciding where the best place was to put Grace. She was enjoying it. This determination and utter concentration that only surfaced when Frankie was creating, ordering Del Taco or being full of shit.

After another moment or two, she grabbed Grace’s hand again and pulled her over to the reading nook by the window, telling her to rest her back against the wall so that the sun could light up her face. Frankie disappeared from the room for a minute and returned with multiple books in both hands, stacking them up so Grace had a comfortable place to rest her arms. She grabbed Grace by her shoulders and turned her body various ways, trying to find the best angle.
Frankie looked into her eyes, her mouth slightly ajar. “What?”
Grace had been staring at her the entire time, a smile on her face. “Nothing.”
Frankie grinned and then stepped back. “Stay just like that.”
She didn’t move.
“Are you comfortable?”
As much as she could be. “I am.”
“Do you need anything? Water?”
“I’m good.”
Frankie nodded as she stepped behind the easel. She picked up a paintbrush. Grace watched as the wheels turned in her head, her eyes never leaving her.
And then she smiled again. “Okay, Hanson. Let’s get you immortified, shall we?”
“That’s not a word.”
“Shhh.” She was looking at the canvas. “Paintings aren’t supposed to talk.”

\

When she was ready, she emerged from her room and ran into Frankie in the hallway.
She looked up from trying to clasp the bands of her watch together and found the other woman staring at her.
“Grace…”
“What?”
“All this for me?”
Grace grinned. “All for you.” She was suddenly really happy that she threw the navy blue polka dot dress into her bag at the last minute.
“Lucky me.”
“Lucky you.” She took in Frankie’s loose, dark blue dress, her mesh top sticking out underneath and her pants that matched the dress in both colour and material. It would be a crazy outfit on anyone else. But somehow Frankie made it look good, almost formal. “And lucky me. You look great.” She stepped forward and moved Frankie’s hair off of her shoulder, touching her gigantic necklace. Another thing only Frankie could make work.
Frankie did a cutesy pose, her hands flared out at her sides. “Don’t I always?”
“I wouldn’t say always.” She teased, feigning nonchalance.
“Remember, lady, I’ve seen you first thing in the morning.”
“Against my will.” She mumbled.
“When are you going to admit that you liked having me in your bed?”
Grace looked up at her, dropped the necklace, lowered her head and looked at her from beneath her eyelashes, a smile on her face. “I will do no such thing.” She said lowly as she walked off.
Frankie laughed. “Coward!”

\

The drive to the restaurant wasn’t the most comfortable experience.
Jacob had insisted on taking them and Grace couldn’t exactly say no without sounding mean or too desperate to not be in his company. So she agreed. Which meant she spent fifteen minutes listening to Frankie and Jacob discuss when they could watch the next episode of Longmire and what to get the next time they go to the market and which day Jacob’s kids were visiting. She listened to them discuss a whole entire life that did not involve her, a life that would carry on after she left.

When they finally arrived at the restaurant, Jacob got out, walked over the passenger side and, after some convincing, physically lifted Grace out of the truck, doing the same for Frankie.
Grace straightened her dress, trying to retain some dignity, but also so that she had an excuse not to look as Jacob bent down and kissed his girlfriend goodbye, telling her to call him if they wanted a ride home.
They watched him walk back around to the driver’s side of the truck, climb in and drive away.
Frankie turned to her. “Our table awaits, mademoiselle.” She gestured towards the restaurant.
“Puis ouvre la voie, ma chérie.”
“Oh, Grace, I don’t speak French but follow me.”
Grace rolled her eyes in amusement. “As you wish.”

\

While Frankie gave her name to the hostess, Grace took the time to look around.
She had to admit that it was a lot nicer than she had expected.
She was used to Frankie dragging her to the Del Taco’s and the other fast food restaurants with the fluorescent lighting that made it feel like she was dining in a hospital cafeteria.
But this one was dark enough, the ambience soft and romantic, with intimate tables and French music playing lightly in the background.
It was clear Frankie chose the restaurant with her in mind and the thought made her heart swell.

A hand grabbed ahold of hers and she was pulled to the back of the restaurant where a booth awaited them.
The hostess presented them with their menus as they sat down, saying something that Grace didn’t quite catch before she disappearing.
“Frankie, this place…”
She grinned. “You like?”
“I like. I really like.”
“Okay, good, because it was between this and a Jamba Juice but I figured you’d want a real meal.” She teased.
Grace rolled her eyes. “Good call.”

They ordered and by the time their meals came (steak for Grace and a vegan pasta for Frankie), the restaurant was beginning to fill up, making it hard for Frankie to hear Grace from across the table. So, as a solution, Grace slid her meal to the middle of the booth and Frankie did the same.
When they were shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, Grace still leaned in and went “Can you hear me now?” Her mouth right beside Frankie’s ear, her voice low.
“Oh,” Frankie blinked. “Loud and clear, soldier.”

They spent the rest of the meal catching up. Grace informed Frankie about how the business was doing back home, told her about how each family member was doing in great detail (at Frankie’s request), updated her on which shows she had gotten into, what additions were made at their local market and of course, whether or not Grace was getting any. She tried to be vague, didn’t mention any names, said that she was doing okay in that department and when Frankie was finally satisfied, she repaid Grace with updates of her own. Only, she opted to squeeze Grace’s thigh each time she got excited, which made it really hard to concentrate on what she was saying, especially since Grace was trying her best to ignore the electricity that went through her body each time she did it. Grace told herself that it was just the proximity. It was just the fact that they hadn’t seen one another in so long. It was the fact that the restaurant was romantic. It was the lighting. The air. The fucking wind. Anything that could help Grace explain the cloud that was forming over her mind, help her explain why she kept looking at Frankie’s lips, kept wondering what would happen if she placed her lips on that spot beneath her ear.
“Grace, are you listening to me?”
“Of course.” She took a sip of her martini. “Of course I’m listening.”

At one point, Frankie placed her hand on her leg, a lot higher than before, and Grace was forced to squeeze her thighs shut. She watched as Frankie’s eyes dropped down to her lap, whether it happened subconsciously or because she noticed what had happened, was unclear. Her hand remained though. Grace used the opportunity to toy with Frankie’s sleeve, to rake her nails over her hand, her wrist, her arm. And it may not have been clear whether Frankie noticed when she clenched her thighs but she definitely noticed the way Frankie’s speech got slower, her tongue thicker, her eyes heavier. But, again, it obviously had something to do with the food or the lighting or that goddamn wind.

When the bill came, Frankie finally removed her hand from her thigh, but only so that she could present the waitress with her card before Grace had the chance to reach for hers.
“You’re paying?” The shock evident in her voice.
“Close your mouth, Grace, a fly might get caught in it.” She was smiling smugly.
“Oh, well, isn’t this a treat.”
“I know how to treat a lady.”
“You sure do.”
They smiled at one another, the candle that was flickering in the middle of the table casted a lovely glow across Frankie’s skin.
“But you’re paying for the Uber.”
Grace sat back and rolled her eyes. “Of course.”
“And the Dunkin’ Donuts I’m planning on making the driver stop for.”
“Would expect nothing less.”
Frankie grinned and clasped her hands together, bringing them to her chest and making Grace’s gaze drop down to that area for what she hoped was a brief second. “Oh, the joys of being known!”

\

By ten pm, the two of them stumbled out of the Uber, only slightly tipsy.
Grace made sure not to go overboard.
She carefully navigated her way across the gravel, trying not fall while her heels wobbled. She was holding Frankie’s box of donuts after all, wouldn’t wanna betray her by dropping them.
She was standing behind Frankie as the woman patted herself, trying to locate her keys.
She lifted her dress and shoved her hands in the pants pockets and Grace heard a jingle as she pulled the keys out.
Suddenly, the door swung open.
Frankie stepped back and bumped into Grace. “Jake! You’re awake.”
Jacob smiled, the warm light coming from inside illuminating him. “I wanted to make sure you got home safe.”
“Oh, isn’t that sweet.” Frankie, whose back was still flush against Grace’s front, turned her head towards her. “Isn’t that sweet, Grace?” She pushed herself up and stepped into the house.
Grace followed her. “The sweetest.” She patted Jacob’s stomach as she passed him, her inebriated mind not allowing her to think about how weird that was.
Jacob closed the door. “Let me make you ladies some tea.”
“Oh, no,” Frankie waved him off. “I got it. You go back to sleep. We can take care of ourselves.”
“You sure? I don’t mind.”
“I’m sure.” She looked at Grace. “We’re sure.” She nodded. “Go back to dreaming about carrots and turnips and harvests and whatever else you farmers dream about.”
“Okay.” Jacob said hesitantly and kissed Frankie. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.”
“ ‘night.” Grace tapped his stomach again as he went by her.
Jacob knitted his brows and touched his stomach as he walked into the bedroom.
They heard the door close and turned to each other.
“Tea?” Frankie asked.
She nodded. “Tea.”

\

The house was mostly dark except for the kitchen light.
Frankie had turned on the radio so soft music was playing in the background.
Grace was leaning against the counter, her back towards the living room, as she watched Frankie fill the kettle at the sink.
Her eyes followed her friend as she walked over to the stove, lit a burner and placed the kettle on top of the flame.
Frankie then took two mugs out from the cabinet above her head and placed them on the counter, dropping a tea bag in each, along with two spoons of sugar.
And then she turned around, her hands leaning on the surface behind her.
They were looking at one another.
“Tonight was good.” Frankie’s voice was low.
“It was.” She agreed. “I’ve missed spending time with you.”
“Me too.” Frankie paused. “More than you’ll ever know.”
Those words took her back to six months prior, the morning of Frankie’s move, when living alone at the beach house was a concept that was yet to come true.
So much had happened since then.
They were quiet.
The words to some love song filling the silence.
Grace suddenly straightened her legs and stood, a determined look in her eye.
Frankie smiled. “What?”
Grace stepped forward and offered her hand. “Dance with me.” She said softly.
“What?” Frankie repeated.
“Dance with me.” She said again.
Frankie looked at her hand and then back up at her, her eyes shimmering with amusement. “All right, Ms. Chivalrous.” She took Grace’s hand and allowed her to pull her in.
Frankie giggled as she was swung around the kitchen for a moment.
And then Grace slowed things down, bringing Frankie closer to her, her hand on her waist, Frankie’s on her back.
“Not bad.”
“My knees haven’t let me down completely just yet.”
Frankie laughed. “What about those hips?”
“Fuck those traitors.” She spun the other woman and then brought her in again, closer this time. “Besides, speaking about my failing parts isn’t exactly sexy, is it?”
“You’re trying to be sexy?”
Grace smiled. “No,” She knitted her brows, feigning innocence. “Who said that?”
“You, Ms. Thing. Just now.”
“You have no proof.”
They smiled at one another as they continued to sway.
“You don’t have to try though.” Frankie said after a moment. “I’ve always admired how naturally it comes to you. Being sexy is kinda synonymous with Grace Hanson.”
Grace was staring down at her. “Always?”
“Always.” She confirmed. “And let me tell you, it’s pretty annoying when the woman you hate is just constantly taking your breath away.”
“Oh, well,” She couldn’t think of anything else to say.
And she didn’t have to because Frankie rested her head on her shoulder, bringing their bodies flush against one another. She closed her eyes and leaned her cheek into Frankie’s hair.
They swayed, barely moving, their intertwined hands resting against her chest.

Suddenly, the kettle started to whistle and they jumped.
Frankie lifted her head, looked at the stove and leaned over to turn it off.
The intruding noise immediately quieted down.
She looked back at Grace, they were still holding hands, their bodies still touching.
“Water’s ready.” She said uselessly.
“Oh.”
“Grace -”
She didn’t get the chance finish her sentence because Grace was leaning in and kissing her.
It was the softest of kisses, like she was just testing the waters. Her lips ghosting over Frankie’s.
After a moment, she leaned away and opened her eyes.
She gasped and took a step back, what she had done dawning on her.
Frankie watched her for a second longer before stepping forward and connecting their lips again, harder this time, more purposefully.
Grace gasped into the kiss.
Frankie walked them back until Grace’s ass hit the counter and she pushed her further into it, chasing her lips.
Grace grabbed her hips, pulling her closer, as Frankie took her bottom lip into her mouth.
She brought one hand up to the back of the other woman’s neck and held her there, guided her, made sure she didn’t pull away prematurely.
Grace’s brain was slowly turning to mush. All she could think about was that she was kissing Frankie, kissing her best friend, her best friend who was a woman, her best friend who had the softest lips of anyone she had ever kissed, her best friend whose breasts were pushing up against her own, her best friend whose hips were perfectly aligned with hers, and it wasn’t weird. It felt right. Felt better than it ever had with any other man. It was like a whole world was opening up for her and Frankie was pulling back the veil while her tongue slipped into Grace’s mouth.
Their kisses became more urgent, their caresses more insistent.
Frankie broke away from her lips, making Grace whine at the loss of contact.
She couldn’t complain for long though because not even a moment later, Frankie’s tongue was on her neck, on her collar bone, in between her breasts as she took advantage of the low neckline of her dress.
She grabbed Frankie’s chin and pulled her back up, making eye contact with her before kissing her again.
Frankie’s hands found their way to the hem of Grace’s dress and she began easing it up her thighs.
And when it was high enough, she slipped her leg in between the space she had uncovered, close enough to where she needed her but not touching her just yet.
Grace immediately sank down onto her thigh, feeling the roughness of Frankie’s pants through her underwear.
Frankie could feel the heat radiating from her, despite the two layers separating them, and the thought made her flex her thigh.
Grace gripped her shoulders and moaned, her hips instinctively thrusting forward as she searched for more friction,
All too suddenly, Frankie pulled out of the kiss, dropped her leg and backed off of her.
Grace hated the fact that she instantly missed the contact but the panic that was starting to take over her was stronger.
She felt the hem of her dress drop back down as she watched Frankie walk over to the sink and lean her back against it.
They were both panting.
Grace watched as Frankie ran both hands through her hair, a hundred emotions running across her face, ninety of them having something to do with hunger and desire.
They were looking at one another again.
Frankie’s lips were swollen, Grace’s lipstick smeared all over them, her eyes as wild as her hair. She looked good. More than good.
But Grace had to force herself to push her arousal aside because her best friend looked like she was about to run for the hills.
It couldn’t have been bad for Frankie, could it?
Something that felt… like that. That right. That natural. Could never be bad.
Could it?
“Frankie?” Her voice was rough.
She was met with silence.
“Sweetheart…” She said more gently, bringing out her mommy voice.
“I…” She looked away. “I, uh, have to go to bed.” She suddenly pushed away from the sink and made her way out of the kitchen.
“Frankie - ”
“Do you need the bathroom before I go in there?” She refused to look at her.
“No.” Grace’s voice was small, defeated.
“Okay, well, then, goodnight.”
She didn’t bother chasing after her.
She listened as the bathroom door opened and closed.
And then she was alone.
She could hear the music again, could feel the breeze coming in from an open window, could hear the crickets chirping in the night air.
She looked down at the box of donuts that were uncharacteristically untouched by Frankie.
She guessed it was out of character for them to make out in the kitchen while Frankie’s boyfriend slept down the hall, too, but nevertheless.
She stood, walked over to the freezer and pulled out the bottle of vodka that Frankie had specifically bought for her.

She wondered why she wasn’t panicking in the bathroom like her friend was, wondered why she was more concerned about Frankie’s feelings than she was about the fact that she had just kissed a woman and felt more than she had in over seventy years.
The last time she had felt that good, the last time she had gotten that carried away that fast was with her high school best friend when they were “practicing for boys”.

She heard Frankie drop something in the bathroom and curse.
She cringed.

She took the teabag out of one of the mugs and dropped it in the other, dumping the sugar along with it. She then filled the empty mug with vodka. Not too much. Just enough to help her sleep.
She took a sip, trying to wash away Frankie.
It semi worked. Only a hint of her taste remained.
She had no idea what she was going to do about the memory of Frankie’s fingers on her, her mouth on her skin, her tongue against her own, her leg in between her thighs.
Just thinking about it made her clench.
Who knew when she’d get to experience that again.
She walked around the counter, grabbed the box of donuts and made her down the hall, turning the radio off as she passed it.
She stopped in front of the bathroom, placed the box on the floor and then quickly made her way into her room and closed the door. As much as she wanted to talk things out with her friend, an awkward run in wouldn’t do the trick.
She placed her mug of vodka on the nightstand and fell onto the mattress.
She stared up at the ceiling and exhaled. “Fuck!”

Chapter Text

Grace was sitting as still as she could.

The room was suffocatingly quiet, the sound of Frankie’s brushstrokes the only noise penetrating the silence. 

They kept making eye contact and each time they did, it was almost as suffocating as the lack of sound in the room.

Frankie’s eyes were intense, filled with so much emotion that Grace could feel her gaze heating up every nerve in her body.

She was ninety-nine percent sure that it wasn’t healthy for the nervous system to be on fire for an extended period of time. 

 

“Could you…” Frankie lifted her chin.

Grace did as she was told, exposing more of her neck.

Frankie’s eyes fell to that expanse of skin and it was clear that they were both thinking about the night before, when Frankie dragged her tongue -

Grace adjusted her position.

Frankie noticed.

 

It was weird. 

They were used to being in the same room together. They were used to being around one another with silence as another companion. But things were different. They crossed an unspoken boundary and now the cat was out of the bag and Schrödinger’s cat turned out to be alive and whatever other shitty cat metaphor that could be applied to their situation.

 

Her phone suddenly rang and she pointed to it on the bed, silently asking Frankie to pass it to her.

Frankie picked it up and was about to toss it when she caught a glimpse of the caller I.D. 

“Nick Skolka?” She looked up at Grace. “As in the asshole who tried to ruin our business just so that he could go on a date with you?”

“He didn’t try to ruin our business.” She stood up. “He just wanted my attention.”

“Looks like it worked.”

The phone was still ringing in between them.

“Do you have a problem with me seeing Nick?”

“Oh, no, you’re a big girl. You can see whoever you want.” She paused. “I just find it funny how you failed to mention it during the forty-eight hours that you’ve been here.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, do you want a list of everyone I’ve been fucking since you’ve been gone?”

“If there are multiple people, sure, why the fuck not?”

They stared at one another.

The phone went quiet in Frankie’s hand and they looked down it. 

Nick’s name was still visible in the notification bar until the screen went dark.

Grace took the phone from Frankie and went back to her seat. 

Frankie turned back to her canvas, holding a paintbrush in the air. “Do you wanna continue?”

Grace tossed the phone to the other side of the bench. “Sure.” She looked up at her. “Why the fuck not?”

 

\

 

Jacob looked between the two women at his sides. 

Grace was staring at her plate, absentmindedly moving noodles around with her chopsticks.

Frankie stuck a fork in a slice of carrot and angrily munched on it, managing to give Jacob a small smile when he looked at her.

“Uh…” He started. “Did something happen between the two of you?”

“Nothing happened.” Grace said a little too quickly while Frankie asked “Why would you think anything happened?” at the exact same time.

“Well, for one, you guys haven’t said a word to each other all day. Second, I could cut the tension in here with a knife.”

“What tension?” Grace tried to sound as nonchalant as possible.

“There’s no tension.” Frankie forced a smile. “We’re good.” She looked at Grace across the table. “Right, bff?”

Grace looked at her for a moment and then cast her eyes back down to her plate. She gave a short nod. “Right.” When she looked back up at Jacob, he was already looking at her and she tried to give him a convincing smile. She obviously failed. 

Jacob looked between the two of them again before picking up his plate, giving a short nod of his own. “Right.” He stood up, walked over to the kitchen and placed his plate in the sink. He then walked back over and kissed Frankie’s forehead. “I’ll give you guys some time alone to sort out whatever’s going on here.”

“We don’t need time. We’re good.” Grace tried to convince him.

“Sure.” He began walking towards the front door.

Frankie stood. “Where are you going?”

“I told Leila I’d take a look at her car for her when I had the time. Might as well do it now.” He opened the door, shrugging on a jacket he got from the back of a chair. 

“If you’re going to visit your daughter, I should go with you.”

Jacob smiled at her. “It’s okay. They can miss you for one night.” He looked at Grace and then back Frankie. “Try to fix things while I’m gone.” 

“There’s nothing going on -” The door closed. “here.” Frankie finished quietly.

They looked at one another.

They were alone again. 

Grace cleared her throat and took a sip of her wine. 

Frankie sat back down. 

“Sorry I kept you from seeing your daughter in-law.” Grace said after a moment, her tone anything but sorry.

Frankie ignored it. “Yeah, well, she hates me anyway.”

Grace looked at her. “What makes you think she hates you?”

“Okay, maybe it’s not hate but there’s definitely a strong dislike. And it’s honestly baffling because I’m an absolute delight.”

Grace smiled. “Well, it’s a good thing she’s not actually your daughter in-law yet.”

“Yet.” Frankie repeated.

Grace stilled. She looked down at her wine and then back up at Frankie. “You, uh, thinking about marrying Jacob?” Her question was careful.

“We’ve talked about it.” She said casually. “Besides, marriage is just a piece of paper. We’re already living together, already doing what married people do. It wouldn’t really make a difference, would it?” 

“Guess not.”

“You and I were basically married, we just didn’t have the certificate to prove it.” Frankie joked.

“Yeah, and then you left me for another man. Just like my ex-husband.” Grace tried to joke back but it held too much truth for it to go anywhere.

“I didn’t leave you for another man.”

“Then what would you call it?” She downed her wine.

“I might’ve moved out but I didn’t leave you.”

“Frankie,” She started. “It’s okay.” She shrugged. “You wanted a bigger life that didn’t involve me and you took it.”

“What?”

“It’s okay to admit. I wouldn’t want to live the rest of my life with me either.” She laughed a little.

“Grace, what are you talking about? How could you ever -”

“Listen,” She stood. “I’ve had a little too much to drink and I’m clearly just saying things. Maybe I should just go to bed.” She gathered her plate and glass, making her way around the table.

Frankie stood. “No,” She placed her hand in front of Grace, stopping her from walking off. “No running. I wanna talk about what you just said.”

“Oh, sure, now you wanna talk but last night you hurried off so fast you practically left tire tracks in the kitchen.”

“Can you blame me? What happened was really fucking big, Grace. I freaked out. I was scared!”

“And I wasn’t?’ Grace raised her voice. “I was in that kitchen, too, Frankie. In case you’ve forgotten, it was your tongue that was in my mouth!”

They looked at one another. 

Grace was the first to break, placing her plate and glass back on the table. She shook her hair and crossed her arms over her chest, adopting an air of nonchalance, like her brain wasn’t running the highlight reel of Frankie’s lips on hers, her grip on her thighs, her breasts up against her own. Those very lips that were less than a step away from her, very breasts that were right in front of her. 

“I’m seeing someone.” Frankie’s voice was small. 

“I know that.” Grace snapped. “I’m in his fucking house.”

“I can’t -”

“Can’t what? Feel me up in the kitchen? I’m aware of that, too.” 

“You’re being mean because you’re confused and scared and I don’t know how to make it better because I’m scared and confused, too, Grace.”

“So talk about it! Talk about it with me! That’s your thing isn’t it? Feelings circles and talking sticks and therapy. That’s your thing!” She pointed at Frankie. “Why are you icing me out now? The one time we actually really need to fucking talk?”

“Because if we start talking, who knows where the fuck it will lead!” She yelled. “I’m afraid of where we’ll end up. Either way I lose someone, either way I break a heart, either way I break my own. And I’ll probably end up feeling you up in the fucking kitchen because we both know who’s going to lose here! And I can’t hurt him. Not again.” 

They were looking at one another again. Quiet. 

“Frankie,” She said softly. “What the fuck are we?” She extended her hands to her sides and then dropped them again. “Are you even…”

“Gay? I don’t know. Maybe.” She shrugged. “Are you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.” Grace repeated. “All I know is, I’ve never felt like that before.”

“Me neither.”

Grace smiled softly. “You’re the one I’d come to with these sorts of things.”

“You’d come to me with your possible sexual identity crisis?”

“I mean, yeah.” 

“I do have a pretty good gaydar.”

“You were married to a gay man for over forty years.”

“Glass houses, Grace.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t remind me.”

Frankie smiled.

They were quiet.

“Hey?”

“What?”

“Let’s just move on? Forget it happened? It might be for the best.” 

Grace wasn’t sure she could do that. Something had changed or awoken inside of her. She could never go back. But she could try. For Frankie she could try. “Already forgotten.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.” 

Frankie looked around, trying to find a way to change the subject and then looked back at her. “Want another drink?”

She gave her a small smile. “Sure.”

Frankie smiled back. “Why the fuck not?” She echoed their words from before, making both of them laugh. 

They picked up their glasses and made their way to the kitchen.

Frankie grabbed the open bottle of wine that sat on the counter and topped off Grace’s glass and then her own.

Grace remained on the other side of the island, away from that corner. 

And while Frankie asked about her flight schedule and if she was already packed and what time she wanted to leave the house, all Grace could think about was the fact that something had shifted in their friendship. No matter how much they ignored it, no matter how much they tried to bury it, it would always be there. It was there in the first place. The dormant tension was what made their friendship extra interesting. But it was no longer lying dormant, it was awake and making its presence known between them. Grace couldn’t stop thinking about how it had the potential to either take their relationship to the next level or completely tear it apart. And it scared her. She wondered if Frankie shared her fears. But by her friend’s empty questions and even emptier laugh, she could tell that she did. 



\

 

Grace tucked her toiletry bag into one of the pouches of her suitcase and pulled the zip closed.

She then packed her sweaters, her pyjamas, a book she ended up not reading and her polka dot dress. She tried not to think about that one, tried not to think about how much change one dress had seen in so little time. 

 

“Need any help?”

She turned and Frankie was standing in the doorway of her room.

“Need me to sit on your suitcase so that you can zip it up or something?”

“No,” She turned back to the bag and carefully placed a pair of jeans inside of it. “I know how to pack a suitcase correctly, thank you very much.” She flipped one side of the bag over the other and zipped it up with ease, proving her point.

“Show off.”

Grace smiled.

Frankie motioned her head to one side. “Come with me?”

“Where are we going?”

“Ever heard of going with the flow?”

“No.” She said pointedly. “Have you met me?”

“I have actually. Great person but asks too many questions when her best friend is trying to do something cute.”

“You constantly ask questions.” She completely missed the part about Frankie trying to do something cute. 

“Well, I’m a naturally inquisitive person, Grace.”

“Inquisitive is just another word for annoying.”

“Says you.”

“Yes.” She nodded. “I’m literally saying it.”

“Would you shut that pretty mouth of yours and come with me?” Frankie turned around and began walking away.

“All right.” She walked after her. “Shutting my pretty mouth.” Frankie thought her mouth was pretty. That was fine. Perfectly fine. 

She followed her into the room that doubled as Jacob’s office and Frankie’s studio. She’d never been in there, didn’t want to hang out in another room that reminded her of the couple’s shared life. 

Frankie closed the door behind her and went to stand at her easel.

Grace joined her. 

The stand was pointing towards the windows, away from them, so she couldn’t see what was on the canvas but she had a feeling she was about to find out.

She waited.

“So,” Frankie started. “Last night when you went to bed, I couldn’t fall asleep. I kept thinking about… everything and we all know that guilt, anxiety and confusion are the sworn enemies of sleep -”

Grace’s heart clenched. Frankie was feeling guilty. Of course she was. It would be very out of character for her not to be. Frankie wouldn’t hurt a fly. Actually cried a few times when Grace swatted them. So of course she would be feeling guilty about kissing someone else. Of course. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She blurted out.

Frankie blinked. “Why are you sorry? Joanne is the one to be blamed. She wouldn’t shut up.”

“If I hadn’t come, if I had just stayed away like I intended to in the first place -”

“You were going to stay away?”

“Well, yeah.” She paused. “I couldn’t… be here. With you. And him. And then go back home and just be by myself again.”

Frankie looked at her. “What made you change your mind?”

“Jacob. The kids. Seeing you.”

They were quiet.

“I don’t like the idea of you going back home and being by yourself.”

“Yeah, well.” She shrugged, attempted a smile.

“I’m sorry.”

Grace knitted her brows, nudged her gently. “Why are you sorry?”

“Just…” Frankie shrugged. “For everything.”

They were quiet, their eyes on one another. 

That electricity was in the air again. 

Grace could feel her nerves coming alive. 

“So,” She cleared her throat. “Why did you drag me in here? Want me to organise your closet or something?” She joked.

“You in a closet. Now there’s a thought.”

“Ha ha.” She said dryly.

“Like I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by your emotions,” Grace rolled her eyes and Frankie carried on. “I couldn’t sleep. So, I decided to do what I always do when that annoying fucker insomnia comes to town: I painted. And I ended up finishing your portrait.”

Grace smiled. “You did?”

“I did.” 

“Can I see it?”

“Well, that’s why I brought you in here, dummy!” She grabbed the easel by its wooden legs and swung it around, catching the canvas before it slipped off the side.

When the painting was upright and Grace’s eyes had adjusted, she gasped. 

Frankie was looking between her work and Grace, obviously anxious to know what she thought. 

Grace couldn’t speak. It was so different from her first portrait. No fangs or harsh colours. No martinis, no implications. She had included the books underneath her arm but instead of sitting up straight, she was leaning her head on her hand, her eyes on her painter. It was so different from Frankie’s usual work, too; realism instead of caricatures. Grace looked soft. Softer than she felt she was. Her eyes in the painting held something that made her feel an emotion she didn’t quite understand. The colours were gentle, her smile even gentler. The brushstrokes looked as delicate, as tender, as the way in which Frankie treated her. It was beautiful. It was simply beautiful. This was the way Frankie saw her?

“Frankie…” She said softly.

“You like?” She started off confident. “You don’t like.” Her smile fell. “You’re right, it’s awful. I should never paint without my subject in front of me, it throws everything off.” She was moving her hands wildly. “Oh, Grace, consider staying for a few more days? Because if I wanna start over, I’m gonna need you here. I wanna get this right. I need to get this right.” She moved to remove the canvas from the easel.

Maybe it was the painting. Maybe it was Frankie’s apology. Maybe it was the tension that had been building over the last few days. Or maybe it was simply because she was leaving. But Grace stopped her, turned her around and brought her in, Frankie gasped as her body collided with hers.

Frankie was looking up at her, her eyes expectant, shocked.

“I need to - can I kiss you?” She was looking at her lips, her voice barely above a whisper. 

“Grace…”

She brought her hand up, used her thumb to drag Frankie’s bottom lip down, watched as it bounced back. “Just one? Just for a second?” She held Frankie’s chin between her thumb and index finger and looked into her eyes. “Please?”

Frankie looked at her for a moment. 

And then she nodded, her hands sliding up Grace’s arms, up her neck and cupping her face as the other woman leaned down and connected their lips. 

The feeling was already familiar but at the same time, Grace knew she would never get used to it. It felt like taking a sip of water after being without it for years and years. 

Her thirst was new.

It had been less than seventy-two hours since she became aware that she needed Frankie’s lips the same way she needed water. 

But she still kissed her like she always knew, like she always knew there was more, always knew that there was a fountain, a river, a fucking ocean waiting for her if she could only find her way out of the desert. 

Frankie’s hands went up her back, both palms on her shoulder blades, as she pulled her in further.

Grace sighed, her hands going into Frankie’s hair, their breasts pushing up against each other - another feeling she never knew she was missing but couldn’t believe she had gone so long without. 

Frankie released her lips so that she could draw in some air and Grace took the opportunity to slip her tongue into her mouth, making Frankie moan. 

The sound reverberated throughout her whole body, head-to-toe, and she wanted to draw that noise out of her again and again.

She felt the other woman’s hand sneak around her waist, down her back and cup her ass, grabbing a hand full and pulling her against her hips.

Grace gasped and bit down on Frankie’s lip.

Another moan. 

Grace was about to do some grabbing of her own when they heard the front door suddenly open.

They pulled apart but remained close, Frankie’s hand still on her ass, their foreheads touching.

They were both panting.

She could feel Frankie’s chest rising and falling against her own, in the same way Frankie could probably feel hers.

“Thank you.” Her voice was soft.

Frankie nodded, licked her lips. “No problem.”

“Sorry I just made things more complicated.”

“Don’t worry about it. What’s a little kiss between friends?”

Grace leaned down and kissed her again, her heart clenching when Frankie immediately kissed her back. 

She pulled away. 

Kissed Frankie’s neck, her cheek, her nose. 

She looked down at her and swiped her thumb over Frankie’s bottom lip, taking the lipstick she had left there with it. 

And then she stepped back, Frankie’s hand falling away.

“That was just for the, uh,” She pointed at the painting. 

Frankie looked at it and then looked at her. “Yeah, of course. No doubt, no doubt.” 

Grace nodded.

There was a knock at the door and Jacob popped his head in. 

Grace tried to look as innocent as possible, like she wasn’t just making out with his girlfriend.

“You ready to go?”

She forced a smile. “Yep, just gotta grab my bag.”

Jacob smiled back. “Great.” His eyes fell onto the painting behind them. “You showed her?” He pointed at it. 

Grace watched as her friend blinked a few times, turned to her painting and then back to her boyfriend, tried her best to hide her emotions from both her and Jacob, a different set of emotions for each of them.

Frankie cleared her throat. “I did.”

“Truly your best work.” 

Grace nodded. “Truly.”

Jacob tapped on the door as he left. “I’ll be in the truck.”

They listened as his footsteps grew more distant and then heard the front door open and close.

It was just the two of them again.

“Guess we gotta go.” Frankie’s voice was soft.

“Guess so.”

“What do you want me to do with the painting? I could ship it to you?”

“Keep it.” Grace instructed. “For now.”  She added. “Maybe bring it with you when you visit sometime?”

“You got it.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

Frankie extend her hand towards the door. “Montrer la voie, ma chérie”

Grace’s mouth fell open. “I thought you didn’t speak French.” 

“I thought so too.”

Grace smiled and shook her head, looking at the painting one last time before walking off. 

“By the way, I love those tight jeans even more now.” Frankie said from behind her.

Grace’s cheeks flushed. “They’re not tight!”

 

\

 

By the time she got home, it was dark.

She declined her daughters’ offer to pick her up from the airport and after convincing Bud that she didn’t need him to pick her up either, she took a taxi.

 

As the car approached the beach house, she spotted Nick’s Porsche standing in the driveway.

He got out when the car stopped.

“Welcome home!”

She smiled. “Hey, what are you doing here?”

“I wanted to throw you a coming home party! But Elton John was busy so, unfortunately, it’s just going to be the two of us.”

“He would’ve held us back anyway.” She waved him off.

He smiled and leaned down to kiss her.

It felt different.

She was already used to softer, fuller lips.

Already used to the absence of a five-o’clock shadow scratching at her face. 

When they pulled back, Nick had a questioning look in his eye but didn’t say anything. 

The taxi driver cleared his throat behind her and she turned to see him holding her suitcase.

She laughed and apologised, reaching into her bag to pay her fee but before she could grab her purse, Nick was already handing him a few bills, tip included, and taking her suitcase from him. 

“You didn’t have to do that.” She smiled up at him once the driver was back in his car and driving away.

“Ah,” He waved it off. “I like getting rid of the paper bills, makes my wallet lighter.”

She shook her head in amusement and then she stilled, knitted her brows. “Wait a minute, I didn’t give you my flight schedule. How did you know what time I’d be home?”

He smiled. “I didn’t.” 

She squinted at him. “How long were you waiting?”

“An hour. Maybe two.” He shrugged.

“Nick,” She laughed. “I literally could have called you when I got home. You realise that, right?”

“I wanted to be here to carry you over the threshold.”

“You will do no such thing.” She warned.

“Besides, I got some work done while I waited. You’d be amazed how little I manage to do while at the office.”

She rolled her eyes. “I believe it.”

Nick smiled and then motioned towards the stairs. “Shall we?”

 

He carried her bag down the stairs for her, even after she suggested just letting it roll down on it’s own, assuring him that she always did it that way.

When she unlocked the door and stepped inside, there was still a hint of pot in the air. “My daughter’s been here.”

“How do you know?”

“Call it mother’s intuition.” She said dryly. 

Grace got her phone out of her purse as Nick passed her to place her suitcase by the stairs. She pulled up Frankie’s name in her text messages. She chose an emoji of a house and added a heart next to it. She hesitated, wondering if the second emoji was too much. She sent it anyway, deciding she was overthinking things. She placed her phone back in her purse and threw the entire thing onto the dining room table as she walked up to it.

Nick’s eyes were already on her, a smile on his face. “So, what are you in the mood for? We can order in.” 

 

She ended up getting a chicken salad while he got a steak. Real meat. Real chicken. No vegetarian or vegan options.

And when they were done, and they had already had their wine, she took him by the hand and led him upstairs.

He sat on her bed as she took a quick shower, washing off the airport and what was left over from her three days in Santa Fe. 

When she emerged from the bathroom, her make-up reapplied and her hair combed out, she leaned against the doorframe, the steam from her shower forming clouds around her. 

She slowly untied her robe, watched as Nick’s eyes hungrily ate up every inch of skin that was being revealed to him.

She was enjoying it. 

She was enjoying being openly desired.

She was enjoying the lack of questions and lack of underlying emotions, was enjoying the lack of a third party she had to worry about. 

 

And when her robe was on the floor, along with her lingerie, and Nick’s head was between her thighs, her hands in his hair, she decided that it was okay to use him to release the tension that she had been building up over the duration of her trip. 

He didn’t have to know that when she closed her eyes, she saw another face, felt softer hands, curlier hair. 

He didn’t have to know that her moans didn’t fully belong to him, didn’t have to know that when she said his name, it wasn’t really him she was calling out for.

He certainly didn’t have to know that in the after, when she had her head on his chest and her legs  were intertwined with his, they weren’t alone anymore, another person was sharing the bed with them. She had always been there; watching, waiting for her turn. 

Difference was that Grace couldn’t deny her presence any longer. 

 

He kissed the top of her head. “God, I missed you.”

She forced a smile on her face, looked up at him. He didn’t have to know the truth. “I missed you, too.”



Chapter Text

Grace was sitting at her vanity, applying her make-up, when her phone chimed several times in a row.

She reached for it and saw that they were texts from Brianna. 

 

Brianna: Are you home?

Brianna: Mom? Are you home?

Brianna: Mommy

Brianna: Would you like your favourite daughter to grace you with her presence?

Brianna: haha, get it? Grace…. as in your name…

 

Grace rolled her eyes and typed back. 

 

Grace: I don’t know, I’d have to see what Mallory’s up to today.

 

She watched as the three bubbles popped up on her screen. 

 

Brianna: Oh, wow, that’s cold, Mother. 

Brianna: But I respect it.

 

Grace smiled.

 

Come on over. I’m home. 

 

She didn’t bother waiting, she knew Brianna had turned off her read receipts years ago. 

She pulled up Nick’s texts and apologised, telling him that something had come up and she couldn’t make it for their date. 

He was kind and understanding, like he always was, which she was grateful for. 

Honestly, if it were anyone else, she would’ve kept her appointment. She always made a big deal about sticking to one’s commitments. 

But it wasn’t ‘anyone’. It was Brianna. 

And she didn’t have a choice. 

Not anymore, at least. 

 

Before Mallory was born and back when Robert was always working late, trying to get his firm off of the ground, it was just Grace and Brianna most of the time. Back then, her daughter still liked her, actually preferred her. Of course, she was the one with the milk in her chest so Brianna chose her more out of necessity than anything else. But, there was a time when she was the only one who could quiet down her baby’s screams with a simple sway and a gentle shush. She was the one who knew her allergies and likes and dislikes by heart. And when Brianna took her first steps, it was the in the direction of her mother. Grace was the one who caught her before she fell. 

 

And then Robert wanted another child. One wasn’t enough. 

“A child needs a sibling, Grace.” He had said. “She can’t grow up alone. Imagine how lonely the world would be.”

She had almost forgotten how good of a lawyer he was. Negotiating and convincing was in his DNA.

She didn’t mention that he was barely around to take care of the one they already had.

She didn’t mention that she wanted a career too and that having another baby would set her back a few more years. 

She didn’t mention that he had to talk her into having Brianna too. 

He knew. 

He was aware of these things. 

But he was her husband. 

She was his wife. 

And Grace wasn’t anything if not a perfectionist. 

A perfect wife smiled and nodded when her husband asked for his dinner. Or to have his shirt ironed. Or his shoes shined. And she certainly smiled extra hard and nodded even more enthusiastically when asked to have another baby. 

 

A year later, Mallory was born. 

Robert was ecstatic. He had been tentative throughout her pregnancy, made sure she was as comfortable as he could make her. He knew how much she was sacrificing by giving him what he wanted.

She looked up at him from her hospital bed, watched as he smiled down at their daughter in his arms, swayed her back and forth. 

He was happy. Truly happy. For a moment, she wondered what that was like. 

She watched as he gently kissed Mallory’s forehead and then bent down and placed her in Grace’s arms, leaving a kiss on her forehead too. 

“I’ll be right back.” He had said, his voice gentle. 

Grace watched him leave the room and then looked down at her daughter. 

Mallory was already looking up at her, her eyes full of wonder, full of innocence.

Grace took the back of her index finger and gently ran it down her baby’s cheek, trying to figure out how her body, the body she had been fighting with for decades, had managed to make something so perfect. 

Twice. 

She suddenly felt immense sadness for the ways in which she knew she would fail her child. 

Her children.

She wished she could do better.

She wanted to do better. 

“Mommy’s going to try a lot harder.” She whispered. “Okay?”

 

A minute later, Robert had entered the room again, this time with Brianna on his arm. 

She watched as her daughter’s eyes lit up at the sight of her. 

Brianna was three at the time and Grace was still her world. 

Robert placed her on the bed and before even acknowledging her sister, she grabbed her mother’s cheeks with both of her tiny, chubby hands, looked into her eyes and kissed her nose.

Grace had been gone for a few hours and it was clear that her daughter wasn’t completely sure why. So, once Brianna was convinced that her mother had returned and hadn’t abandoned her, Grace directed her attention down to her arms.

“Sweetheart,” She had said. “This is your baby sister.”

Brianna had looked down at the baby and then back up at Grace, completely amazed.

Grace remembered thinking that she felt the same way. 

 

For several weeks after that, Brianna would just stare at Mallory. 

Grace would find her in the baby’s room, a stool underneath her feet, as she stared down at her sister in the crib. And at night, hours after Brianna had been tucked into bed and the house was dark, Grace would listen over the baby monitor as Brianna snuck into Mallory’s room and spoke to her in toddler English. 

In the morning, Grace would find her nestled next to the baby in her crib, snoring into her sister’s ear. 

 

After a few months, however, it seemed like Brianna had begun to realise that the presence of the new baby in the house meant that her mother didn’t have as much time for her. She watched as Grace spent most of her day seeing to her sister, watched as guests who used to coo over her, cooed over Mallory instead. 

The only person who paid just as much attention to Brianna as she had before, was Frankie. 

 

And the thing about Frankie was, she used to swing by unannounced.

It used to infuriate Grace.

Frankie would walk into the house, one of her own babies strapped to her chest, another clinging to her leg, an air of calm around her, like there wasn’t a toddler having a tantrum on the kitchen table, like there wasn’t a baby screaming in a high-chair. 

She would just eye Grace’s uncombed hair, her mismatched socks, the damp spots on her chest from when Mallory began to cry and she lactated before she could feed her.

She wouldn’t say anything, she’d just take everything in.

Having Frankie see her like that, having Frankie see her as anything less than perfect, made her blood boil. 

But then, she’d hand Mallory to Grace and order her to go upstairs to feed the baby, to take a shower and maybe have a nap if she wanted to. 

She’d then unstrap the baby from her chest and place him in the high-chair, throwing a handful of cheerios onto the table. 

She’d pluck Brianna off of the counter and simply hold her.

She’d rock her back and forth and say things like “I know, sweetheart,” and “is this big world getting my girl down?” 

Eventually, Brianna would stop yelling and would cuddle into her neck, her eyes puffy and her little cheeks red.  

 

Upstairs, Grace would fall asleep with a baby on her chest and wake up to a dark room and a blanket thrown over her. 

And by the time she went back down, Robert would be home, Brianna beside him at the dinner table, Mallory in his arms. Frankie would be long gone and Grace always realised after the chaos that she never even told her why she came over in the first place. 

 

Things got worse when she started her business. She had even less time for her family. But, by then, Robert’s firm was on solid footing so he could leave the office early most days and could afford to work from home. He gave Grace the freedom to focus on her company without having to worry about her other titles of being a wife and mother. 

The downside to that arrangement meant that her daughters began seeing their father as the reliable parent. Grace was too flakey during their formative years, when they were developing and cementing their core relationships. 

Robert was the one who picked them up from school when they were sick. He was the one who sat at the dinner table with them at night and listened to their days and shared their grievances about homework and teachers and dumb kids. He was the one who dropped them off at sleepovers only to pick them up an hour later because they got homesick. He became the one they’d invite to movie nights on the couch and who they’d introduce to their friends. She had gone from being the centre of her daughters’ universes, to being the woman who they rarely saw and who sometimes showed up to parent-teacher meetings. They began to grow distant. Brianna became resentful. They didn’t see her absence as a woman taking back the time she was owed. They took her absence and gave it their own meaning. And unfortunately, Grace was never around to defend herself.

 

By the time her business was strong and running well enough for her to take a step back, to take a breather, life had already moved on without her. Brianna was in high school and Mallory wasn’t far behind. Her daughters had grown up and no one had notified her. 

 

Mallory tried her best to be understanding and gentle but Grace could always feel her anger lying just below the surface, could feel it in every conversation they had. Whenever Mallory came over for brunch, Grace was always tempted to set an extra plate for her daughters anger, always felt like it was an unwanted guest that they should probably get around to acknowledging. However, when Mallory became a mother, it seemed like she had found a way to forgive Grace. Like she had realised that not everything was as black and white as she had once thought. 

 

Brianna on the other hand, did not hide her anger. Her daughter made sure that she knew that she preferred her father and that Grace was never around and that it was too late for them. At some point, Grace had stopped trying and allowed Brianna to distance herself from her as much as she wanted to. Grace didn’t chase her, didn’t beg her to come home from college to visit, didn’t call her to ask her about her week. Decades later, she realised that Brianna probably wanted all of those things. She just had too much pride and too much anger to ask for it. And Grace had too much pride and was too stubborn to let down her walls. Like mother, like daughter. 

 

Which is why, when Frankie left and Brianna started visiting a lot more without having to be asked, Grace wouldn’t question it, didn’t turn her down. No matter how full her schedule was, no matter how important the appointment, all her plans went directly out of the window the minute Brianna said she was coming over for the day. She was giving her daughter the time she was owed. And she had an inkling that Brianna could feel it, this change in Grace. Which could explain why she was sitting less than arms length away from her mother. Usually, she’d be sitting in an entirely different room. But she was there. Her butt half on Grace’s couch cushion and half on her own, her eyes on the TV in front of them. 

 

Grace kept looking at her and then looking away. 

After the third time, Brianna turned her head, catching her before she could pretend like she wasn’t looking in the first place. “Hi, excuse me?”

“Hm?”

“Do you need something?”

“What do you mean?” She feigned innocence. 

“I can feel your eyes burning holes into the side of my head and it’s distracting me from being annoyed by this movie.” She pointed at the screen.

Grace looked up and watched as Hugh Grant and his friends piled into a car to chase after Julia Roberts. 

“Only you could be annoyed by Notting Hill.” She took a sip of her martini.

“Oh, don’t pretend like I didn’t inherit my cynicism from you, Mommy.” Her eyes were on the TV.
Grace tried not to smile. 

Brianna had her feet up on the coffee table, her back slouching into the couch cushion. She had the urge to tell her to sit up straight but she swallowed it down, not wanting to ruin the mood. 

She looked up at her daughter’s face again.

The topic was at the forefront of her mind and she needed someone to talk to.

Who better than her own flesh and blood?

But having discussions with her daughters wasn’t something she was used to, she didn’t know what the protocol was, didn’t know where to start. 

With a cup of tea maybe?

 Maybe vodka. Vodka would be a good choice. 

“Okay,” Brianna picked up the remote that rested between them and muted the TV. She lifted her legs off of the table and turned her body towards Grace. “Talk.” She looked at her expectantly.

“What?”

“Talk.” Her daughter repeated. “Clearly something’s bothering you and it’s keeping me from hating on Julia Roberts and her annoyingly perfect face, so talk.”

Grace opened her mouth and closed it again.

“Is it Nick?” 

“No -”

“Did he do something to you? Did he hurt you? Is he cheating? He’s cheating, isn’t he? That son of a bitch, I’m going to fucking -”

“Nick isn’t cheating!” She raised her voice before her daughter could get even more riled up. “As far as I know.” She mumbled.

“Okay…” Brianna said carefully. “Well, there are currently only two people in your life you’d be this weird about so if it’s not Nick, it has to be Frankie.”

Grace knew what she meant. “I’d like to think I’d be this weird about my daughters too.”

Brianna ignored her. “Did something happen in Santa Fe, mom?”

Grace sighed and then downed her drink, setting her glass on the coffee table.

She then sat back and looked at Brianna from beneath her eyelashes. She couldn’t believe what she was about to ask her daughter. “Have you ever -” She paused and looked away, the question dying in her throat. She scratched her head and moved to get up. “Do you want some tea? I’ll make some tea.”

Brianna groaned and fell back onto the couch cushions behind her. “Mom, for fucks sake -”

“Stop cursing!”

“Stop stalling!” 

“Fine!” 

Brianna sat up again. She waited. 

“Have you ever…” She cleared her throat. “Been with a woman?” She said it as fast she could, wanting to get it out in one breath before she changed her mind again.

Brianna was quiet for a moment.

She suddenly swung her legs off of the couch and slipped on her heels.

Grace watched her stand up. “Where are you going?”

“Well, clearly it’s time for me to leave.” She picked up her bag.

“You’re the one who forced me to say something!”

“Yeah, because I thought you would tell me about a fight you had with Frankie or something about Mallory and Mitch, not ask me… that!” She cringed. “God, anything but that!” She turned around to leave.

Grace’s eyes were on her back. “Brianna.” 

She was almost out the door but her mother’s tone made her stop. She dropped her head and sighed. She then turned back around, dropped her bag on a chair, walked over to the couch and sat down. “Fine.” She scratched her head, trying to seem nonchalant. She was quiet again, staring out onto the patio, refusing to look at her mother. “To answer your question,” She cleared her throat. “Yes.” She finally turned her eyes to Grace. “I have been with women.”
Grace’s eyes widened.

She fixed her face as fast as she could.

She swallowed. “Okay.” She nodded. “Okay.”
“Was that not the answer you were expecting?”

“I honestly don’t know what I was expecting.” She looked away. 

“So why did you ask?”

She looked at Brianna again. She was quiet. 

“Come on,” Brianna’s voice was a lot more gentle than Grace was used to. “I shared. Against my will. And I’m going to go home and regret it for the rest of my life. But I shared. And now it’s your turn. Isn’t that how these things work?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Me neither.” Brianna paused. “Should we call Mallory? She knows about…” She made a face and gestured between them. “Feelings and whatever.”

“Oh, God, no. I need to confess my sins to one daughter at a time.” 

“So, come on.” Brianna sat up straighter. “Confess. I promise not to laugh.” She paused. “Unless it’s really funny.” 

Grace eyed her. “You know, once I say whatever I’m about to say, there’s no going back. There’s no unhearing it. The conversation will have to happen.”

“I’m painfully aware of that.”

“And you still want me to tell you?”

“For some reason, yes.” She nodded. “I do.”

They were quiet. 

“I, uh,” Grace started and then stopped. She rested her chin on her fist for a moment and then pulled it away. “I kissed Frankie.” She blurted, her voice soft. “In Santa Fe.” She elaborated. “I kissed Frankie. I kissed her.”

Her daughter stared at her. 

And then she blinked several times in a row. “You kissed Frankie?” Her tone careful.

Grace nodded.

“Frankie. Your best friend. The woman you lived with. The woman you used to hate. The woman who basically raised me. That Frankie?”

“I’d like to think that I had a hand in raising you too but yes.” She confirmed. “That Frankie.”

“Romantically? You kissed her romantically?”

“I did.” She nodded.

Brianna was quiet, obviously processing. “Okay.” She said after a moment, adding in a nod of her own. “Okay.”

Grace watched her.

“Boy, that gay gene really runs strong in the Hanson blood, huh?” She laughed a little. “I wonder if Mallory -”

“What does this mean?” Grace cut her off, her voice pleading.

Brianna looked at her, her eyes free of judgement or any negative feelings. “I honestly don’t know, Mom. That’s kinda up for you to decide.” 

“I was married to a man for more than forty years, I can’t be…”

“Maybe not.” She nodded. “But here’s the thing, dad was married to a woman for more than forty years and now he’s out there living his gay life in his new gay home with his gay husband and his gay dog. It’s possible.” She shrugged. “Also, bisexuality and all of that.”

Grace’s eyes were on her daughter. “Are you…”

“Bi? Maybe. I try not to think about it. Labels aren’t my thing.”

Grace was astonished at how casual she was. 

“Look,” Brianna moved closer. “I can’t believe I’m about to ask my mother this but being uncomfortable seems to be the theme of the day.” She said as an aside and then looked at Grace. “Did you… enjoy it?”

Grace’s face turned even redder than it already was. “God, Brianna!” She looked away.

“Trust me, discussing my mother’s sex life was not on my agenda for today, or for any day, for that matter, but this is obviously something you needed to discuss, otherwise you wouldn’t have brought it up. So let’s just… let’s power through. Okay?” 

Grace looked at her from the corner of her eye. “Why are you being so mature about this?”

“I have no idea.” She said honestly. “It could be the joint I smoked before I came over.”

Grace turned to her. “If you’re implying that you drove high…”

“The kiss. With your best friend.” She changed the subject before her mom could get mad. “Did you enjoy it?”

Grace eyed her, the anger not completely gone yet. But then she looked away and sighed, defeated. “I did.” She nodded. “A lot. More than a lot.”

“Okay, Mom, a simple yes or no is fine. Let’s leave here with as little emotional trauma as possible, shall we?”

“Yes.” She confirmed. “My answer is yes.”

“Okay.” Brianna nodded. “Okay.” She repeated. “And are you… do you have feelings for Frankie?”

“I don’t know.” She answered honestly. “Maybe? I’ve never really thought about it.”

“Okay.” Brianna said again. “So, for now, let’s not focus on the feelings you might have for Frankie. Let’s just focus on the fact that you enjoyed it. Isn’t that enough information? You enjoyed it. Full stop. You can figure the rest out later.”

“When? When I’m ninety and you kids have stuck me in a retirement home?”

“Oh, Mom, we’re going to stick you in a home way before you’re ninety.” She teased.

“I’m serious, Brianna. God, it’s not like I’m in my twenties with a whole life ahead of me to figure this out. I’m too old to be having an identity crisis!”

“Who says?”

“I say! I say I’m too old!”

“Mom,” Brianna said gently. “There’s no time limit on these sorts of things. There’s no right age for you to have your sexual awakening. It happens when it happens.” She shrugged. “Maybe there haven’t been other women in your life who’ve made you feel as strongly as Frankie does. Maybe you repressed your feelings. Maybe you simply ignored them because you were married to a man for decades.”
“Your dad didn’t ignore his feelings.” She mumbled.

“My point is, don’t be angry about the fact that who you thought you were for all these years might not actually be who you are. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You did your best with the information you had.” She paused. “Mom,” Her voice was soft. “Isn’t it by time you were a little more gentle with yourself?”

Grace suddenly looked up at her, her eyes immediately filling with tears. 

Her daughter wanted her to be gentle with herself.

Her daughter knew that she wasn’t.

She didn’t say anything.

She simply looked away and cleared her throat.

Brianna did the same.

Grace watched out of the corner of her eye as her daughter wiped at her cheeks, her face turned towards the door.

Brianna gathered herself and stood up, she turned to her. “So, anyway, I feel like we need alcohol. Would you like some alcohol?”

“I have never wanted anything more in my whole entire life.” 

She stood and walked with her to the kitchen.

“Except Frankie, of course.”

“Don’t start.” She warned. 

 

She sat at the island and watched as her Brianna mixed their drinks.

Ten years ago, hell, even five years ago, she would never have pictured herself being where she was.

Would never have thought that she’d be able to have an open and honest conversation with her daughter. 

But she did. 

2012 Grace Hanson would never believe her.

 

Brianna slid a martini glass over to her. 

Grace looked at it, watched the two olives tumble around for a moment and then casted her eyes upwards but barely moved her head. “Thank you.” Her voice was soft.

Brianna nodded as she poured her own drink. She refused to look at Grace, her eyes suspiciously wet again. “You’re welcome.”

Grace brought the glass up to her lips. “Don’t tell your sister.”

“Oh, I never wanna talk about this again.”
Grace hummed in agreement and then took a sip.

Brianna was looking at her. “In all seriousness, if you need to… talk some more, you can always -”

“I know.” Grace nodded. “You too.”

Brianna nodded back. 

They were quiet for a moment.

“Okay, so now that the emotions are out of the way,” Brianna gathered her drink. “Let’s get high and finish that movie, shall we?”

“I thought you were already high.” Grace followed her into the TV room.

“Mom, please,” She was already digging through her purse for her stash. “Don’t dwell on the past.”

Chapter Text

Grace watched as the cursor blinked. 

She squinted a little and turned down the brightness on her laptop. 

She admired the Google art of the day.

She adjusted her glasses and cleared her throat.

The cursor was still blinking.

She rolled her eyes, internally asking herself what she was so afraid of and typed the words “Am I gay?” into the search engine.

The results immediately loaded and she found herself annoyed at how fast the WiFi was.

She clicked on an article, skimming it until she read something along the lines of “If you’re here, searching, you probably are.” 

She immediately left the site, not willing to deal with the emotions that sentence brought up. 

After a few more articles and a few more hasty exits, she found herself taking a quiz. Not exactly where she thought she’d be doing on a Tuesday night, less than an hour away from midnight. 

But she couldn’t sleep, her brain was occupied by another woman and her lips that were hundreds of miles away. 

 

A second into reading the intro to the quiz, her phone suddenly rang, that very woman and those same lips smiling up at her as the caller ID lit up her screen.

Grace contemplated letting it go to voicemail, finishing her quiz with a glass of wine, and going to sleep buzzed and possibly attracted to the same sex. 

She answered anyway.

“Why are you awake?” She asked in lieu of a greeting.

“Why are you awake?”

“You’re the one who called me.”

“Maybe I was hoping for your voicemail.”

“I could always hang up.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Who says?”

“I say.”

They were quiet.

“See?” Frankie pointed out, the smile audible in her voice.

Grace ignored her. “Why are you awake?” She asked again. 

“Oh, Grace, you know the nighttime is when I do my best work. Powers of the moon and all that.”

It had been almost a year since anyone had painted in their home.

“And has the moon been good to you tonight?”

“Absolutely not. I don’t know what the fuck her problem is.” Frankie paused. “Sorry for cursing.” Her voice was muffled and Grace guessed she had her hand over the speaker. She already knew the apology was meant for the big rock in the sky and not her. “I haven’t had any luck lately. I’m all off. I keep painting -” She cut herself off. 

“What?” 

Frankie was quiet. 

“What do you keep painting?” She had an idea of what Frankie was going to say but she wanted to hear it.

“You.” She answered softly. 

“Me?”

“Parts of you. Your hands, your eyes, your hair, your lips. It’s like my brain is stuck on Grace Hanson.” She laughed a little.

“I know how you feel. My brain has been stuck on Frankie Bergstein.”

They were quiet. 

She listened as Frankie took a deep breath in. “So, uh, what are you doing?”

Grace looked down at her laptop. 

“Grace?”

“Hm?”

“What are you doing?”

“I, uh -”

“Come on, lady.” She could hear Frankie’s smirk again, could practically see the twinkle in her eye. “Spit it out.”

“I’m taking a gay quiz.” She blurted. “That’s - That’s what I’m doing.” She pursed her lips defiantly, not wanting to seem affected by this confession. 

“You’re… a gay quiz?” Frankie cackled. “God, this is better than I expected!” 

Grace was quiet.

Frankie reeled herself in. “Okay, sorry. I’m sorry. I’m not laughing.” She immediately giggled again. 

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t have anything to go on. It was either this or ask my ex-husband if he’s ever suspected me to be sapphic and I am not doing that.”

“Oh, sweetheart, I don’t have anything to go on either, beside my feelings and my gut.” She said gently. “If I knew how to work that witchcraft, I’d be on Google too.” 

“And, uh, what’s your gut telling you?”

“I’m not sure. I haven’t had any greens lately so the line hasn’t been clear in days.”

“And why haven’t you been having any greens?” Her volume went up a level.

“Did I say ‘greens’? I meant ‘beans’. I haven’t had any beans. You know how important beans are for gut-mind communication.”

“Uh huh.” Her tone was flat. 

“So, anyways, what’s the homosexual quiz saying?”

Grace looked down at her screen again. “I haven’t taken it yet. You called before I could get started.”

“Oh, lucky me. I like being involved.”

“I know you do.”

They were quiet, the implication hanging in the air.

“What’s the first question?” Frankie asked after a moment.

Grace squinted at the words and colourful blocks. “It’s asking me to choose a colour.”

“A colour?”

“A colour.”

“Colours are gay? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Colours can’t be gay, can they? I know about the pride flag, obviously, but are certain colours designated for gay people? Have I been offending a whole community of people for years? But I might be gay so maybe not. But if I’m not gay - Oh, I gotta call Sol. We should ask Sol! He’s gay, he’ll know -”

“No one’s calling Sol!” Grace finally spoke up.

“Because it’s too early to let anyone know you’re questioning? Good call, Grace. Good call. Wouldn’t wanna prematurely turn everyone’s lives upside down with the notion of a gay Grace Hanson.”

“That and the fact that the we’d have to explain to him that the only reason why I’m taking this dumb quiz is because I kissed his ex-wife and really liked it.” She hadn’t meant to say that last part, had meant to stop at kissing the ex-wife. 

Frankie swallowed audibly. “I see.” Her voice was soft. 

Grace cleared her throat. “So, anyway, no one’s calling Sol.” 

“Right.”

“Right.”

“Grace?”

“Hm?”

“I have a question to go along with your homosexual quiz.”

She knew they were walking into dangerous territory, knew she should change the subject. “What’s that?” She asked anyway. 

“What made you kiss me?” Frankie’s voice was soft.

“What?”

“We’ve known one another for decades. We lived together for three years. Why did you choose that moment?” 

Grace was quiet for a second before deciding to be completely honest. “Well, I hadn’t seen you for six months and I had kinda learned to live without you constantly being around me. But then as soon as you opened the door, I felt… I don’t know. Like everything was…”

“Whole.”

“Yeah.” She agreed. “Whole. And then suddenly you were in my bed again and we were back to our usual banter and we had that great evening together…” 

“It was great.”

“It was.” She agreed again. “And then, we were in that kitchen, with the music playing in the background, and the two of us still dressed up, and the feeling of the night still all around us as we danced, it all just felt… overwhelming. It’s like, in that moment I suddenly realised how much I loved you and missed you.”

And just like that, she answered Brianna’s question from a few days before. It wasn’t just physical. There was a lot more going on. She didn’t say anything though. 

“That’s the first time you’ve said that.” Frankie said after a moment.

“What?” 

“That you love me.”

“Oh.” She paused. “Well, I do.”

“I love you too.”

Grace didn’t say anything. 

Frankie cleared her throat. “Hey, wanna hear about all the trades I’ve made at the market recently? Spoiler alert: it involves a fuck load of weed.”

Grace laughed and closed her laptop, placing it on her nightstand. She scooted down in bed, making herself more comfortable. “Yes, always.”

 

\

 

As she approached the door, it swung open, Robert giving her a smile from the other side. “Welcome!”

“Sorry I’m late.” She tried to sound sincere as she leaned in and gave his cheek an air kiss.

“You’re not late. Drinks were just about to be served.”

“Oh, wow, I’m just in time then.” She stepped inside. “I’ll have a -”

“I may have been a terrible husband but I like to believe that I’m well versed on what Grace Hanson likes to drink.”

She smiled. “Well, my bad then.”

He returned her smile and gestured towards the back doors. “Everyone’s out on the terrace.”

She watched him walk off and then made her way through the living room.

As she stepped outside, she was greeted with a heated debate about whether sweet potato pie should be classified as a dessert or not, Brianna representing the ‘nots’. 

“So when you order sweet potato fries at a restaurant, do you order them before or after your main meal?” Brianna yelled as Mallory stood up to kiss her mother.

“That’s a dumb -”

“No,” she cut Coyote off. “I’m asking you. Before or after?”

“Considering that we’re talking about a dish that is not served with a burger on the side, your question is irrelevant to this argument. Sweet potato pie and sweet potato fries are completely different meals.” Bud was using his lawyer voice. 

“So you agree that they’re both meals?” She sounded smug. 

Grace made eye contact with Sol, silently asking if this was really the argument their children decided to have. He just smiled and shrugged.

“Now you’re just being technical.”

“Isn’t that what this whole discussion is about?” She looked around the table like she couldn't believe she had to explain the basis of the argument to him. “Whether sweet potato pie is technically a dessert or not? Wow,” She sat back and shook her head. “Your clients must hate you.”

“Not as much as your employees hate you.”

Grace sat down beside Brianna who turned to her. “Mom, would you tell these two idiots that a vegetable cannot be a dessert?” 

She looked at Brianna and then at the boys, trying to decide which side would satisfy her more. She sniffed and then looked away, placing her bag on the table. “Vegetables can’t be a dessert.”

Brianna shot in the air, her hands above her head, grinning.”Thank you!” She took Grace’s head in both of her hands and then bent down to kiss the top of it. “God, I love this woman.”

“Well, of course she’s going to agree with you. She’s your mother.” Coyote pointed out.

“Hello, are you new here? Have you met my mother?” She asked as she sat down. 

“I think what Brianna is trying to say is that our mother wouldn’t automatically take our sides, she’s unbiased.” Mallory tried to save Grace’s feelings.

“Oh, now you want to say something. Where were you when these two bozos were tag teaming me?” Before anyone could say anything, she closed her eyes and held her hand up. “I heard it, shut up.”

“Why would you put that image in my head?” Coyote questioned.

“And in front of our parents? Shame on you.” Bud added.

Thankfully, Robert walked out with a tray of drinks before the conversation could get even weirder. He handed Grace her martini and she took a big sip, wanting to drown out the image Brianna just conjured up. 

 

Allison came through the back doors, belly first, looking miserable. Bud stood, offering his chair and then disappeared into the house. “I swear to God if I pee one more time..”

Mallory laughed. “I know how you feel. Maddison practiced her tap dancing on my bladder for the entirety of my third trimester.” She paused. “Of course, now I pee when I laugh so I guess it just got worse.”

“Thanks.” Allison said flatly. “Very reassuring.” 

“Wait ’til it’s born. That’s when things really go to shit.” Grace took a sip of her martini. 

Brianna leaned her head on her shoulder. “Isn’t my mommy just the sweetest?”

 

Bud walked back out, a laptop in his hand.

Grace’s heart jumped at the sound of Frankie’s voice.

“Hold on, mom. I need to find a place to put you.”

“Oh, let me see everyone first!” She heard Frankie say.

Bud turned the laptop around and everyone waved at the screen, offering their greetings in unison.

Grace just held up her glass and smiled. 

“My family!” Frankie exclaimed. “I miss you all.” She pouted. “Absolutely furious at the concept of distance right now. I want to be there!” She whined.

“You’re here in spirit!” Sol yelled.

“Oh, Sol, you know I love that spirit bullshit but right now I wanna be around that table in flesh and bones.”

“We miss you, Frankie.” Brianna spoke up.

“I miss you too, my baby Bri!” She pouted again.

“Alright, that’s enough sappiness for now.” Bud looked around and then decided to place the laptop at the end of the table, beside Grace. The screen facing the other end of the table. 

“Grace, sweetheart, I didn’t even see you sitting there!”

Her face warmed at the term of endearment, feeling exposed in front of their family.

“I’m here.” She smiled.

“Now I wanna be there even more.”

Her heartbeat sped up. “We really want you here too, Frankie.” She played it safe.

“Okay, so, can we speed this up? I only have the babysitter for another hour.” Mallory looked at her watch.

“Don’t your children have a father?” Brianna questioned.

“Yes, that’s who I’m talking about.”

 

Bud took Allison’s hand and led her to the other side of the table, asking everyone to take their seats. 

“So, you might be wondering why we asked everyone to come over today...”

“Hm, kept me up all night.” Grace mumbled into her martini. 

“As you know, we’re having a baby -”

“What? When did that happen?” Brianna feigned surprise.

“Okay, if we can save all the Hanson sarcastic comments for after the announcement, that would be great.”

“Speed up the damn announcement then.”

“We’re going to have a gender reveal party.” Allison spoke up. “That’s it. That’s the announcement.”

“Oh! That’s exciting!” Frankie exclaimed. 

“When?” Coyote questioned.

“A month from now, actually.”

“That sounds like fun.” Sol nodded at Robert who didn’t seem to share his husband’s opinion. 

“I just… I feel like this could have been done over email.” Brianna gestured around the table.

“Grace, we were hoping to use the beach house, if that’s okay?”

She nodded and gave Bud a smile. “Sure.”

He returned her smile and then pointed at the laptop. “Mom, don’t worry, your flight has already been booked.”

Grace and Brianna eyed one another.

Brianna leaned in, the excited chatter cloaking their conversation. “I have this feeling you instantly regret what you just agreed to.” 

“Hard to fake food poisoning when the party's at your house.”

“I know a guy who starts accidental fires.”

She snorted. “That’s what you automatically jump to? Arson?”

“I crave chaos, Mother.”

 

 

Her phone rang so she paused the TV, not bothering to check the caller ID because she already knew who it was.

“Oh, Grace,” her voice came through immediately. “were you watching? Did you watch?”

“I’m watching.” She nodded. “Just like I said I was when you called five minutes ago.”

“I had to make sure I didn’t lose you to some frivolous distraction or what have you! This is a very important episode. I don’t want you to miss it.”

“How could I ever miss an episode of ‘Longmire’? It would be unconstitutional.”

“You joke but it just might be. Who knows what that thing holds after the fifth amendment.”

“Uh huh.” 

“So, while I have you here in between commercials,” Frankie tried to sound casual about her abrupt change in topic but Grace could hear the uncertainty in her voice. “I was wondering… am I - am I staying with you? You know, when I fly down for Bud’s heteronormative gender reveal party?”

“Of course you are! Why wouldn’t you? It’s still your house, Frankie. It’s always going to be.”

“Okay.” She could practically see Frankie nodding. “I just thought - I didn’t know -”

“What? What didn’t you know?”

“You know… with everything that’s happened between us. I wasn’t sure if you’d think it’s a good idea.”

“Oh.” She said softly. “I mean, I feel like everything’s okay between us. Is everything not okay?”

“It is. But that’s not what I meant.”

“Well, what did you mean?”

Frankie was quiet for a moment. “I meant… can we be trusted around one another?”

Can they keep their hands off each other , is what Frankie was asking.

Grace swallowed. “We’re big girls. I’m sure we can spend a weekend together without anything happening.” She didn’t sound very convincing to her own ears.

“I guess.”

“And Jacob will be here, won’t he?”

“That didn’t stop us last time.”

She had a point.

“Do you wanna stay at a hotel?”

“Do you want me to?”

“No.” She didn’t hesitate. “No, I want you here.”

Frankie exhaled. “Oh, Grace, this is a terrible time to be talking about wants.”

“How come?” Her voice suddenly dropped an octave. 

“I have a lot of wants when it comes to you.”

Her brain was yelling at her to change the subject. “Like what?” She asked instead. 

Frankie was quiet for a moment until Grace heard some movement and then a door closing. 

“Where are you?” She wondered.

“In the office-slash-studio.” Frankie paused. “Where are you?”

“The living room.”

“You’re not in bed?”

“No.”

“That’s unfortunate. It’s a great bed. I miss it. I miss waking up next to you.”

Grace smiled. “I miss having your cold toes against my calves.”

“They wouldn’t be cold if you didn’t keep your room below freezing.”

“I don’t hear you complaining when you’re pressed up against me in the morning.”

“Who could ever complain about that?” Frankie was quiet for a moment. “I want to be back in your bed.”

Grace sat back against the sofa. “What else do you want?”

“A lot of things I shouldn’t want.”

Grace waited. It didn’t come. “Say it.” She whispered. 

“I want to kiss you again.” Frankie’s voice was low and smooth, heating Grace’s cheeks from hundreds of miles away. 

She closed her eyes, nodded. “God, yes.”

“I want to feel your body pressed up against mine. Not just after a sleepover, but while you’re kissing me, my neck, your hands holding me against you like you did that night in the kitchen.”

Grace’s breathing was shallow. “You still think about that?” She knew it was a silly question but she wanted to know. 

“It’s all I ever think about.”

“Me too.” She confessed. There was so much more she could have said. She could've told Frankie about the dreams she kept having. The ones where the kiss in the kitchen didn’t just stop at the kiss, the ones where they went so much further that Grace often woke up aching for relief, for a release. But she left it at that, her curiosity overshadowing everything else. 

“What else?” Her voice was rough. 

“I just want you, sweetheart.” She paused. “I want you.”

“In what way?” She asked softly. 

“Every way. I want you in every way.”

“Frankie…”

Things were quiet. 

“Fuck.” Frankie muttered. “Fuck!” She said again. 

Grace opened her eyes and sat up. “Frankie.” 

“I, uh, I have to go.”

Grace was suddenly back in that kitchen, her lips wet with a life altering kiss, her terrified best friend staring at her. “Are you running?”

“No. I just - Grace, I can’t.”

“I’m not the one who started this.”

“I know. But -”

“But what?”

“Jacob.” Frankie said softly. “I can’t -”

“Yeah, me neither. Listen, I have to go.”

“Grace.”

“Hm?”

Frankie was quiet. 

“Bye, Frankie.” She hung up, throwing her phone to the other side of the couch. 

She sat back, stared at the TV screen.

She knew her anger was irrational, knew Frankie was committed to her boyfriend, was aware that she herself was semi-committed to someone else. But she felt that after everything, after always being the perfect woman with the right amount of emotions, she deserved to be a little irrational, considering all that had happened.

 

She sighed before grabbing her phone again.

She pulled up Nick’s texts and typed out “Come over. Bring wine. I’ll make it worth the trip”. 

She was about to hit send when her phone dinged, Frankie’s texts showing up at the top of the screen. 

 

I’m sorry. 

 

It dinged again. 

 

I wish things were different, I wish I could be that person. 

 

Again. 

 

None of this takes away from what I said. Just because I can’t be that person, doesn’t mean what I said wasn’t true. 

 

She stared at the last message until the pop-up notification went away.

She looked down at her own message hovering in the box. 

She hit send. 

Chapter Text

She stood in front of the mirror and fluffed out her hair.

She looked at her outfit and tried to decide if a jean and shirt were too casual for the occasion and whether or not she cared enough to change.

She decided that she didn’t. 

It was only family anyway, they didn’t care. 

 

She watched in the mirror as Nick came out of her bathroom, stopping his stride to smile at her. 

“You look adorable.”

She let out a huff. “Adorable? I think the last time someone called me ‘adorable’ was when I was sixteen.”

His smile remained as he walked up behind her, wrapping his arms around her middle. “Well, then, you should’ve had me around when you were seventeen.”

“I’m pretty sure,” she leaned back against his chest. “you weren’t even on your parents’ agenda when I was seventeen.” 

“True.” He nodded. “but the bottom line is,” he dragged his nose down the side of her neck. “you’re adorable.” He kissed the spot where her neck met her shoulder. 

“You’re not too bad yourself.” She leaned her head to the side, giving him more access. “For a guy your age.”

He laughed against her skin. “Funny.”

“Hm, I think so.”

His hands splayed across her stomach, pulling her in. “When’s Frankie coming in?” He wondered as he began to nibble on her ear.

She opened her eyes. “What?”

“Frankie.” He said again. “When’s she coming in?”

She pulled out of his embrace and turned around to look at him. “Why?” 

He looked at her for a moment, curiosity in his eyes despite his smile. “I just wanted to know how much longer I had you for.”

“What makes you think you won’t have me once she gets here?”

“I just… I’ve been warned about your dynamic -”

“Warned? By who?”

“Your daughters. Her sons. Your ex-husbands. I mean, the list goes on.”

She didn’t say anything. 

“I just wanted to know how much time I had left before I had to share you. I thought maybe we could get in a quickie.” He wiggled his eyebrows. 

“Oh, such a romantic.” 

He laughed and pulled her in by the waist again. “Are you okay? Did something happen with Frankie?”

“No.” She said a little too quickly. “I just - we haven’t spoken in a while. So there’s that. And the fact that there are people in my home."

“Your family.”

“What’s your point? They’re still in my home, aren’t they?” 

“Yes.” He nodded. “Damn them!” He threw his fist in the air dramatically, making her laugh. And then he looked back down at her. “So no quickie?”

She leaned up for a kiss and then tapped his arm. “No quickie.” She moved out of his embrace. She walked towards the door, turning around before leaving the room. “Find me later. Maybe I’ll have changed my mind.” 





\

 

By the time she made her way downstairs, the kitchen island was already filled with different kinds of dishes, a large cake sitting in the middle. 

She looked out onto the patio and noticed that the table was already set, making her momentarily wonder how long she had been upstairs. 

 

Mallory suddenly came through the back door, almost flying past her with a bouquet in her hand. “Mal, I didn’t know you were helping.”

She stopped. “I wasn’t.” She rolled her eyes and then stepped forward, lowering her voice. “But everything was such a fucking mess, it would have been cruel of me not to help.” 

She smiled. “A mess by whose standards? Yours? Because, sweetheart, what’s a mess to us isn’t necessarily a mess to everyone else.”

“Does it matter?”

“I guess not.” 

Mallory walked off with the flowers. 

Grace watched as she placed it on the patio table. 

She remembered being as uptight as her daughter, she still was. But she liked to think that she wasn’t as bad as she used to be. Although, is there really anything wrong with wanting things to be perfect? 

 

The front door opened and Bud came through, a suitcase in his hand. “I’m sorry I was gone for so long, the airport was complete chaos.”

“As opposed to when it's not complete chaos?”

He looked at her. “Good point.”

Jacob came through the door next, a suitcase of his own in his hand. “I’ll take a chaotic airport over the twelve hour drive any day.” He stated as he dropped the bag on the floor. He then walked over to her. “Hi, Grace.” He leaned in and gave her a one-armed hug. “How are you?”

She nodded, clasped her hands together in front of her. “I’m good. You?”

Before he could answer, a more than familiar voice came through the doorway, stealing her attention. 

Frankie walked in with her arm around Allison, her face as close to her belly as she could manage. “And that’s how g-ma’s yurt exploded. Of course, the authorities would have a different tale to tell but when have they ever been known to tell the truth?” 

Grace didn’t move, didn’t say a word, wasn’t sure what words there were to say. 

She hadn’t spoken to Frankie since the phone call that ended in a semi-fight, hadn’t seen her since Frankie and her boyfriend dropped her off at the airport and they shared a quick kiss in the bathroom before she had to board for her flight. 

She still held a little resentment from their last phone call but she supposed she would have to swallow it for the day, for the weekend, as to not spoil the vibe for everyone. 

Before she could say anything, Mallory came in from the patio again and walked straight into Frankie’s arms, holding on for dear life. You’d swear they hadn’t seen one another for a decade. 

“I’m so happy you’re here. I’ve missed you!” She squeezed Frankie. 

“I’ve missed you too, sweet girl!” 

Brianna suddenly came through the door and joined in on the hug, sandwiching Frankie between her and Mallory.

Grace tried not to think about the fact that her daughters had never been so enthusiastic to see her that they were willing to rather crush her into a hug than wait their turn. 

Frankie cackled and reached one hand back to hold onto Brianna. “When did you get here?”

Brianna was still holding on. “Five minutes ago.” 

“Mom, get in here, join in on this goodness.” Mallory waved her in.

“No thank you, I’m good.” She said it as politely as she could. 

At the sound of her voice, Frankie pulled back and looked at her, her smile fading a little. “Grace. I didn’t see you there.”

“How could you? My daughters were obstructing your vision.”

Frankie laughed. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

Everyone looked between them.

“What’s going on with the two of you?” Mallory questioned.

Bud stepped forward. “I thought you guys would be running into one another’s arms and we’d all witness a tearful reunion or whatever.”

Grace shook her hair back and looked at him. “Oh, when have I ever run into anyone’s arms?”

“Yeah,” Frankie spoke up. “With those knees?” 

“My knees are perfectly fine, thank you very much.”

Mallory looked at the two of them and then at Jacob. “Okay, what’s the matter with them?”

“Uh, hello,” Frankie stepped in front of him. “‘Them’ are right here, address us directly.” 

Everyone, except Grace, turned towards the stairs as footsteps suddenly came down them. 

“Kooky!” Nick exclaimed as he came into view. 

Frankie looked at Grace. “Seriously?”

“What?” She feigned nonchalance as Nick came to stand behind her, his hands going to her hips.

Frankie shook her head and then gave him  a quick wave. “Hey.” 

Jacob looked down at Frankie and then stepped forward, offering his hand. “Jacob.”

Nick moved around Grace. “Nick. Nice to meet ya.”

“Same here.” 

Jacob stepped out of the way again. 

It was quiet. 

Brianna looked at Bud, a smile on her face. “Fun party.”

Mallory clasped her hands together. “Who wants a drink?”

 

\

 

Eventually, Robert and Sol arrived, Coyote following closely behind. 

They were all seated around the patio table. And because Mallory was in charge, they each had name cards in front of them. 

Grace wanted to remind her that she was way past seventy years old and would sit wherever the hell she wanted but she decided against it. 

A consequence of this decision was that Frankie was sitting straight across from her. 

Nick was next to her, Brianna on his other side, Mallory on hers and Jacob beside his girlfriend. Obviously. 

Frankie had Sol on her other side and Grace momentarily wondered if she felt as caged in as she did. Then again, Frankie was probably enjoying being surrounded by the people she loved.

Grace watched her as she told a story about the goat she rescued back in Santa Fe and decided to keep. 

Her eyes were sparkling and her hands were flailing about, she kept nudging Jacob to get him to validate what she was saying, but as soon as he began to speak, she would excitedly take over from him. He didn’t look annoyed or mad though, just smiled gently, the love evident in his eyes. 

Grace was pretty sure she looked at Frankie the exact same way. 

She recognised that smile, those eyes filled with wonderment. She had felt them on herself many times over their three years of living together.

She envied the way Jacob could openly show it, the way he freely got it from Frankie in return. 

 

Robert suddenly leaned over her shoulder, placed a martini down in front of her and gave her a look she couldn’t decipher.

She sometimes wondered if he wasn’t as oblivious as he seemed to be.

Or maybe he just finally had the capacity to see her without his blinders, without his tunnel vision pushing him towards his freedom. 

She watched him walk over to his seat beside Sol and she lifted her glass towards him, giving him a smile. 

 

When Frankie carried on about her life in Santa Fe, as a result of both of their children asking their millionth question, Grace took a big gulp of her martini, already dreading the fact that she will soon be without it. 

Nick took her hand that was resting on the table and leaned in, his lips next to her ear, as he asked her if she was okay. He tried to keep his voice as quiet as possible. 

She looked up and gave him her most convincing smile, hoping it would trick him into believing that she didn’t want to run out of her house, hop into her car and drive as far away from her best friend as she possibly could for many, many reasons. One of them being her horny brain.

When she looked at Frankie, her eyes were on her and Nicks’s hands, her speech slowing down ever so slightly that the untrained ear would certainly miss it. 

Frankie’s eyes floated up to hers and she held them there for a moment before moving on, her smile brightening once more like she was completely unaffected. 

For some reason, it infuriated her. 

Two could play at that game.

She leaned her head on her hand and used the other to reach up and lovingly play with the hair at the back of Nick’s head.

He turned to her, obviously surprised at the open display of affection but she just gave him her best smile again. 

As a result, he leaned in and kissed her cheek. She tried really hard not to shy away from the PDA, tried not to think about her children and ex-husband being in viewing distance.

“And how about you, Grace?” Her name was suddenly coming out of Frankie’s mouth.

She turned to her, her head still resting on her hand. “What?”

“What have you been up to since the last time I saw you?” Her gaze alternated between Grace and Nick, her eyes and her smile telling different tales. 

Grace straightened her spine, the hand that was playing with Nick’s hair fell to his thigh instead. She watched as Frankie’s eyes followed its path. “Oh, you know, this and that. The usual. Sell a vibrator here, have a brunch there.” She shrugged. “Just… taking things easy.”

“You?” Frankie laughed. “Taking things easy?”

“Yeah.” She nodded, made a point of not laughing along with her. “Me.” 

Frankie’s smile faded a little. 

Nick cleared his throat. “Grace and I have actually been thinking about taking a trip.” 

“Oh, that’s exciting.” Sol spoke up. “Where to?”

“It’s not decided yet but we’re thinking the Maldives.” 

“Are you now?” Frankie wondered, her eyes on Grace. 

“Yes, we’ve been talking about it.” Grace smiled up at Nick. 

“It’s all about schedules at this point. I keep telling her -”

“Jacob and I are thinking about taking a trip too.” Frankie cut him off. 

“We are?” Jacob looked down at her.

“Yes,” she smiled at him. “we spoke about it.”

Jacob was quiet for a moment before he started nodding. “Right.” He looked at the rest of the table and did a half laugh. “I just… forgot.”

Grace brought her martini up to her lips. “Where are you going?”

“Oh, Grace, you know me. I go wherever the wind takes me.”

She took a sip and swallowed before speaking again. “Right.” 

“I can’t fly.” Allison suddenly said. Grace had been so focused on Nick, Frankie and Jacob that she had almost forgotten that everyone else was there too.

“Well, yeah, you’re like thirteen months pregnant.” Coyote pointed out.

“No, not that. I’m allergic to the material they use for airplane seats, makes my throat close up.” She gestured at the area.

“Isn’t that… the same material they use for car seats?” Mallory asked carefully.

“Yes.” She said simply before taking a sip of water. 

“So then - You know what?” Mallory cut herself off. “Never mind. Who wants another drink?”

Everyone’s hands, besides Allison, Bud and Coyote’s, went up.

Before Mallory could move, Grace put a hand on her shoulder and stood up. “I’ll get it, sweetheart.”

“Mom, it’s okay, I’ll -”

“You sit. You’ve been busy all morning.” She tapped Mallory’s shoulder before walking off. 

 

As soon as she got to the kitchen, she downed her drink that she had brought with her and slid the glass across the table. 

She stood at the counter, both palms on the surface, the wall with the fridge blocking her from being seen by the visitors on the patio. 

She took a deep breath in and then dropped her forehead onto the table. 

She had no idea how she was going to get through the day, let alone the weekend. 

 

Before she could drown in her sorrows some more, she heard footsteps approaching the kitchen and she straightened back up. 

She walked over to the freezer and got out a bottle of vodka. 

As she closed the door, she suddenly found Frankie looking at her. She didn’t bat an eye.

She placed the bottle on the counter and walked over to the fridge again.

“Hey.” Frankie said.

She eyed the other woman. “Hi.” She pulled the door open. 

“We haven’t… had some time to talk. You know, since I arrived?”

Grace reached inside and got out the pitcher of margarita’s Mallory had left in there. “Not a coincidence.”

“What’s with the attitude?” Frankie walked over to the counter. 

“What’s with the -” She placed the pitcher on the table. “Have you forgotten that we haven’t spoken in a month?” 

“Of course not. I just thought -”

“What? That I’d magically get over everything the minute you walked through the door with your boyfriend?”

“Oh, don’t do that.” Frankie’s tone became more serious. “Don’t use Jacob as a weapon against me.” 

“Is he not your boyfriend?”

“You’re one to talk. You’re basically fucking your boyfriend in front of us.”

Grace scoffed. “What are you talking about?”

“The touching and the hand holding and the ‘oh, we’re going on a trip to the Maldives’.” Frankie fluttered her eyelashes dramatically.

“I think I’m allowed to touch the man I’m sleeping with, thank you very much.” 

“No one said you can’t touch him.” Frankie stepped closer. “It’s the fact that you’re doing it to get under my skin.” Her voice was suddenly calm, low. 

Grace was thrown off by the change. “Well, aren’t we self involved.”

“Don’t pretend, sweetheart. We both know what you’re doing.” 

Grace leaned her hip against the counter, crossed her arms. “If it’s simply enjoying my proximity to the man I’m seeing then yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.” 

Frankie took another step closer. 

Grace eyed the disappearing space between them. 

“Is that what you’re doing?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re enjoying it?” 

“Yes.” She said again, trying to seem unaffected by the way Frankie was looking at her. 

“As much as when I touch you?” Frankie was closer.

Grace looked at her. “I don’t know. You haven’t been around that much for me to remember the difference.”

There was a moment of silence before Frankie reached out and touched her hip. When Grace didn’t swat her away, Frankie encircled her waist, bringing her flush against herself and then turned Grace around so that her ass pushed into the counter. 

Grace gasped. 

Frankie ran her hands over her hips, up her back, down her arms, all while Grace struggled to keep her eyes open, to keep her breathing even. She needed to stop her, needed to get some distance between them.

“Does he make you feel like this?” Frankie asked softly. 

“He doesn’t feel guilty when he does.” 

Frankie’s hands stilled and Grace panicked, kicked herself for letting the sentence slip out. 

But then Frankie brought her hand up and ran her index finger along her jaw. “Is he good to you?”

They were inches apart. 

“Yes.” Her eyes were on the lips in front of her. 

“As good as me?”

Grace breathed in. “No.” She shook her head. “No. Never.”

And then they were kissing.

Grace kept her eyes open, watched as Frankie’s fluttered closed, and then finally closed hers. 

Frankie stepped even closer, pushing her further into the counter. 

In the back of her mind, Grace knew that at any moment, someone could walk in on them and everything would go to shit. 

But as Frankie slipped her tongue past her lips and teased her own, she could not have given a single fuck even if she tried. 

Right there, in her kitchen, with Frankie whimpering as Grace nibbled on her lip, she felt like she was finally home after months of being on the road. 

The kisses became sloppy and urgent and so, so good. 

Grace could feel every nerve buzzing inside her body, could hear her heart beating in her ears, could feel her insides becoming slick. 

She didn’t want to stop.

Frankie wouldn’t be that cruel, would she?

Her question was answered when Frankie took her by the waist and started walking backwards, their lips never breaking apart.

The other woman blindly felt for the handle of the pantry, pulled the doors open and stepped inside, finally releasing Grace. 

She looked at her, silently asking if she wanted to join her and as an answer, Grace leaped forward to kiss her again. 

Frankie pulled the door closed just in time before Grace pushed her back against one of the shelves. 

Frankie reached down and cupped her ass with both hands, pulling her in further, making Grace whimper into her mouth. 

She then used what strength she had to push away from the shelf and walk Grace further into the pantry, only to push her into a shelf of her own. 

Her back hit it pretty hard and Frankie momentarily worried about bruising but Grace didn’t seem to care. She had both hands in Frankie’s hair, her mouth on her neck. 

The combined pressure of Grace’s tongue on her skin and her fingers on her scalp made her want to moan in ecstasy. But she couldn’t. So she busied herself instead. 

She began unbuttoning Grace’s shirt, the awareness of how little time they had frustrating her. “Why do you have so many fucking buttons?” She hissed. 

Grace didn’t answer her, just pulled a little on her hair, making her hiss again but in a different way. 

When Frankie finally got enough buttons open, she realised it was too dark to see anything so she had to rely on her other senses instead. That wasn’t a problem. She immediately cupped Grace, making her release her neck, her head falling back against the shelf behind her. 

Frankie didn’t waste any more time. 

She pulled back the left bra cup and took the breast into her mouth. 

Grace’s grip in her hair tightened again. 

Frankie took the tip between her teeth and bit gently before sucking it in.

Grace almost let out a moan above her. “Harder.” She whispered. 

So she did, the request making her groan. 

They didn’t have time, they didn’t have time. 

Frankie pulled back the other cup and gave that breast the same attention, making the other woman squirm. 

Grace’s brain felt like it was nothing but mush. The only thoughts it could produce were about how good Frankie’s tongue had felt in her mouth, how good it felt on her chest and how great it would probably feel somewhere else. 

Frankie released her breast with a pop and then came up to kiss her again. 

Grace took her in eagerly. 

Frankie’s hands then went down to her jeans, popping the button. When she slid down the zip, Grace decided that it was the most erotic sound she had ever heard. 

Frankie waited, wanting to ask for permission but not being able to tear her mouth away from her for long enough. 

Finally, Grace pulled away and gave a pleading “Frankie”.

That was enough.

Frankie went in for a kiss again before shoving her hand inside her jeans and cupping her through her underwear, making Grace moan into her mouth. 

She then ran the side of her index finger up the length of her and her hips bucked. 

They didn’t have time.

Frankie pulled back the waistband of her underwear and slid her fingers down to the place where Grace ached for her the most. 

As she ran her digits through the wonderful wetness she found there, it brought a stop to their kissing, turning it into heavy breathing instead, their mouths remaining open and attached as they just breathed into one another. 

She couldn’t believe she was touching Grace.

Grace couldn’t believe she was being touched by Frankie. 

Finally, when she had familiarised herself enough, she brought her hand out, pulled away slightly and then shoved the two fingers into her mouth before audibly releasing them. 

Grace could barely see her in the dark but she gasped anyway. “Please.” She pleaded. 

Frankie pushed against her again, their breasts touching. 

Grace could feel Frankie’s warm stomach against hers. 

“What do you want?”

“You.” She whispered. 

Frankie groaned and then kissed her, making Grace taste herself, her hand slipping down her stomach as it moved past the delicate waistband again. But this time, she entered her. 

Grace pulled away, her head falling to Frankie’s shoulder. She held onto her as tightly as she could as she tried to stifle a moan. 

They didn’t have time.

Frankie pulled out and added another finger as she entered her again. 

She immediately began to move, bending her digits so that she kept hitting the right spot over and over again. 

Grace was losing her mind.

She felt light-headed, her body was on fire, every nerve she had was alive. 

But it wasn’t enough.

She needed more. 

So that’s what she asked for. “Another.” She breathed, her head falling back against the shelf again. “Please.” Her chest was heaving. “More.” 

“Are you sure?” Frankie questioned, the concern evident in her voice. 

“Please.” She said again. 

How could she deny the ice queen who was melting just for her?

Frankie pulled out, tucked her index finger and ring finger in front of her middle finger, and then entered her again. She went as slow as she could, letting Grace take her all the way in. 

Grace hissed at the feeling of being stretched, of being full. 

And then Frankie began to move again. 

Faster and harder than before. 

She leaned down and took Grace’s nipple into her mouth again, sucking hard until she heard her groan. 

Grace lifted her leg slightly, putting her weight on her good knee, and took Frankie in further. 

She grabbed the shelf behind her, the other in Frankie’s hair as she held her to her chest. 

She could feel her release building inside of her, she was getting close. 

She didn’t want it to end but she also knew that they were gone for a suspiciously long time already. 

Her slight worry immediately went away as soon as Frankie’s thumb pressed down on her clit. 

One minute she was trying not to moan and the next her back was arching, all of the air leaving her lungs and then getting stuck as she tried to take another breath in. 

Her mouth hung open and her eyes remained closed as complete ecstasy overtook her body.

It felt like her brain was floating for a good minute. 

She climbed and she climbed and Frankie kept going, kept applying pressure, until Grace finally let out a big breath that doubled as a moan and then sagged against the shelves, her leg coming down from Frankie’s hip. 

Frankie’s fingers stopped.

They stayed like that for a moment.

Eventually, she pulled out and Grace whimpered. 

Frankie cleaned her fingers on her underwear as they slipped out, her hands coming to rest on Grace’s hips.

She kissed Grace softly, bringing her back down to the earth. 

The kisses migrated to the side of her mouth as she zipped her jeans back up and fastened the button. 

She pulled away enough to button Grace’s shirt again, her hands shaky. 

When she was done, she stepped back completely.

The two women looked at one another in the dark. 

There was silence for a beat or two until Grace took two large strides forward, cupping Frankie’s face in both hands as soon as she reached her. 

She kissed her with as much ferocity as she had moments before, her hands falling to her hips, her fingers clawing at her dress. 

Frankie managed to move her mouth to the side. Grace immediately began nipping at her skin. “Grace.” She breathed. She felt her hands moving up her sides, bunching the material. Grace began walking them backwards. “Sweetheart.” She said again. 

Her back hit another shelf. 

Grace’s tongue was dragging itself up the length of her neck and Frankie’s eyes fluttered close as that very mouth let out a moan. 

Frankie gathered what strength she had. “We should go.” She said softly, her voice rough. “We’ve been gone a really long time.”

“Just a second.” Grace said against her skin. “Give me a second.”

Frankie felt Grace’s knee slowly make its way between her legs. “We can’t.”

“I’ll be quick.” She bit at her earlobe.

Before Grace could go in for another kiss, Frankie moved her head. 

She could see the shock and confusion on her face even in the dark. 

She gathered Grace’s hands and brought them between their two chests. “We can’t.”

Grace looked taken back. She maneuvered her hands until they were free and dropped them to her sides. She nodded. 

“I’m not -”

“It’s fine.” Grace cut her off. “Let’s just go.”

Frankie looked at her one last time before pushing the doors open, momentarily blinding both of them with the sudden light. 

As soon as they stepped out, Brianna walked into the kitchen.

All three of them froze. 

“I was just…” Frankie started. “showing your mom where I kept the emergency supplies.” She tried.

“Oh, right, of course.” She nodded. “You never know when you’ll -”

“Have an emergency.” Frankie finished for her.

Brianna nodded.

Frankie looked back at Grace and then walked off quickly. 

Grace decided that she needed to do the same but before she could make her escape, Brianna reached out, her hand almost touching her arm.

“Mom,” she wasn’t looking her in the eye. “your…” she gestured at her mother’s shirt.

Grace looked down and saw that they weren’t buttoned properly. 

She looked up at Brianna and then walked away, making her way up the stairs without even glancing out onto the patio. She had no idea where Frankie had gone.

She hurried into her room and shut the door. 

She walked into her bathroom and made her way over to the sink, turning on the tap so that she could wash her hands. 

She caught her reflection in the mirror. 

She turned off the tap again and shook her hands dry as she noted the redness in her cheeks and neck, the glow on her skin, the sparkle in her eye; typical post-orgasmic bliss. 

Except, it wasn’t typical, was it?

She dried her hands on her jeans and looked around. 

She didn’t want to go back down yet. 

So, she walked over to her bathtub and got in, scooting down and letting her heels hang over the edge. 

She couldn’t believe what had just happened to her, what she had done. 

She got fucked. In a pantry. By her best friend. With their families and boyfriends basically in the next room. 

And it was probably the hottest sex she’d ever had. 

Her skin heated again as her mind decided to start playing a highlight reel. 

“Are you okay?”

She jumped at Nick’s voice. 

She looked over at him standing in the doorway.

She suddenly felt a wave of guilt. 

“You’re in a bathtub.” He observed. “Fully clothed.”

“I’m fine.” She said as gently as she could. “I just need a minute.”

“With or without me?”

“Without you, if that’s okay?”

He nodded. “I’ll see you downstairs?”

She smiled. 

Nick left her again.

She stayed like that for ten more minutes before Bud called for both her and his mother, yelling about it being time for them to cut the cake.

Grace groaned and sank further into the tub.

For the hundredth time that week, she deeply regretted having the party at her house. 





\

 

When she made her way downstairs again, everyone was gathered around the island in the kitchen.

The scene of the crime. 

She went to join them, briefly making eye contact with Frankie as she went to stand in between her daughters.

Brianna wordlessly put an arm around her shoulder. 

Bud was holding a large knife, excitement in his eyes as he looked at the cake and then at Allison. “You ready?”

She grinned, nodded. “Ready.”

Grace watched as the knife descended and then smoothly cut into the dessert.

She looked around and noted how everyone was visibly holding their breaths, especially grandma-to-be. 

She thought back to her own experience of finding out the genders of her babies. With Brianna, she had been alone. Robert had a work thing and couldn’t make it to the appointment. With Mallory, she didn’t find out until she was coming out of her. Still, no one made such a big deal about it. She couldn’t decide which case was the abnormal one. 

 

Bud picked up the cake lifter and moved it beneath the slice. 

He looked up at everyone, his smile the biggest Grace had ever seen on him. “Ready?” 

“Sweet baby Jesus, just do it already!” Frankie yelled, making Grace smile.

Bud did as he was told before his mother attacked him.

He lifted the slice and revealed a pink filling.

Everyone cheered in response. 

“It’s a girl!” Bud announced. 

“Oh, a girl! A baby girl!” Frankie cooed as she pulled her son and the mother of his child into a hug.

When she was done, everyone else followed her lead, offering their congratulations.

Once Grace had her turn, she walked up to Frankie. 

They eyed one another for a moment.

“So,” she started. “are you happy, grandma?” 

Frankie giggled. “I would’ve been happy even if my future grandchild turned out to be an extra-terrestrial being.”

“Somehow,” Grace nodded. “I believe you.”

They were quiet, a contrast to the excited buzz that surrounded them.

“I’m happy for you.”

Frankie took her hand, swaying it back and forth for a moment before bringing it up to her lips. “Thank you.”

 

\

 

Once she had seen Nick off and finished her glass of wine on the patio, she decided to call it a night. 

She made her way inside, locked the doors and turned off the lights.

As she ascended the stairs, she thought about what a day it had been.

So much had happened in such a short time. 

She prepared herself to toss and turn about it for most of the night. 

But when she entered her room, she found three people asleep in her bed. Two of them she made and the other she was hoping to avoid at least until the next morning.

She looked at them.

Frankie was on her back, Brianna’s arm over her stomach and Mallory’s arm over Brianna.

The image reminded her of when the kids were little and she’d walk into their room to check on them during a party, only to find Frankie asleep with her daughters in a pile of blankets on the floor. 

Grace reached for her phone in her back pocket and snapped a picture before grabbing her pyjamas and making her way into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

 

When she reemerged, she stood on her side of the bed and assessed the scene. 

She decided that she didn’t want to risk her life by sleeping on the edge. Mallory, however, was young enough. Her hips could survive a tumble. 

So she nudged her daughter gently until she turned around and opened one eye. “Move over, Mal.” She instructed softly.

Mallory grumbled but did as she was told. 

Once there was enough space, Grace pulled back the blankets and gently crawled in between her daughters. The movement made Frankie turn on her side and Brianna move up, freeing up some more space for Grace. 

As soon as she was settled, Mallory turned again and cuddled into her, making Grace put her arm around her. 

Brianna reached back and took her other arm, bringing it around herself and laying her head on Grace’s bicep. 

She looked down at the two of them, her arms full.

She couldn’t remember the last time she had both of them in her bed. 

But things were changing. Relationships were mending. And a lot of it had to do with the woman who was softly snoring on the other side of the bed.