“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” – Andre Maurois
Sarah walked into Jacob’s Fold and groaned at the sight of her Granny, dressed to kill in a red dress with a plunging neckline, hair curled, and makeup kicked up several notches. Charity was adding the final touch of dark lipstick before she took a step back to check herself out in the small vanity mirror sat on the top of the kitchen counter she’d been using.
“Granny,” Sarah sighed as she shut the door, “could you at least try to look a bit more like a…”
“Not even when I’m a hundred and ten,” Charity vowed, making a show of adjusting her cleavage.
Sarah sighed dramatically and flopped onto the couch. “Why couldn’t I have normal grandparents?”
“Where’d the fun be in that?” Charity asked. “Besides, it’s not everyday we do it up like this. Ness is takin’ me out for our anniversary.”
“You’re anniversary isn’t until June.”
“That’d be our wedding anniversary. But three years ago on this day, I proposed. So now, she’s taking me out to celebrate.”
“That worked out well for you,” Sarah replied drying.
“In more ways than one,” Charity replied, distracted by her wife coming down the stairs dressed in a short, skintight blue dress that she’d never seen before.
“Babe, you look…wow,” Charity said in admiration.
“That was the idea,” Vanessa replied, carefully navigating the final step in her high heels and walking towards her wife. “Gotta keep up with you, don’t I? And you’re looking very “wow” yourself,” Vanessa added, giving Charity an admiring once over even as she stepped into her arms for an extremely chaste kiss so as not to mess with their lipstick.
“Grandchild. In the room.” Sarah complained.
“Your point?” Charity asked, her eyes never leaving Vanessa’s and they both gleamed with a shared amusement.
“Did you mention that while this one may be my treat, next week is all on you?”
“Next week?” Sarah asked, “Seriously?”
“Our…” Charity and Vanessa thought for a second of what exactly to call it, “Un-iversary?” they both suggested at the same time, and laughed.
“You’ve been together for ages,” Sarah sighed. “How are you even still like this? Aren’t you supposed to hate each other by now?”
“That is depressingly cynical for one so young.” Vanessa commented.
“Yeah, well, that’s all I’ve ever known, isn’t it?” Sarah added with a shrug.
Charity and Vanessa both sighed at that one. Not much for them to add when Debbie’s fairly disastrous relationship had led to Sarah moving back in with them just recently.
They were thankfully interrupted from more of this ongoing saga by the cab honking in front of the house, and Charity and Vanessa both reached for their respective handbags.
“Don’t wait up,” Charity said to Sarah. “And there’s an extra twenty if you get up with the boys’ in the morning and keep them quiet and entertained until after nine.”
Sarah didn’t look up from her phone, but smiled to herself, “Sold.”
“Twenty?” Vanessa asked Charity as they settled into the back of the cab.
“Babe, I know how you get, now, don’t I? And there is no way either of us is going to be fit for anything at bloody six when our two young hellions seem determined to shout the house down. Besides, tonight’s on you, so I’m getting off easy,” she added with her classic wink.
“You’re not even gonna buy your wife one drink?” Vanessa asked with a small pout.
“I bought the ring,” Charity replied firmly.
“So you did,” Vanessa readily acknowledged at the same time she lifted Charity’s left hand up and dropped a kiss on the simple, platinum wedding band.
“I’m particularly fond of this one though,” she added, and Charity melted.
“Yeah, well, maybe one drink.”
They exited the cab in front of Charity’s favorite Italian restaurant, linking their fingers as they walked up the path and inside.
The place was tiny, which is why Vanessa had made reservations over a month earlier. She gave her name to the hostess and they were led to their table, tucked into the back corner, and they slipped easily into their seats and accepted their menus.
After four years together they had a bit of a routine worked out. They knew that they were splitting their favorite salad but debated over the appetizer options, ultimately going with the Caprese. For their main, they decided to keep it simple and classic with the wonderful Cacio e Pepe. They were sharing it all, as per their usual, and Charity picked a bottle of Montalcino, a Tuscan red that she particularly liked. Once their order was placed and the wine poured, they settled in.
“So, Babe, tell me the truth, are Rhona and Paddy…” Charity teased, but Vanessa wasn’t having it.
“She’s with Marlon, now. They’re happy.”
“You say that, but you weren’t at the Pub the other day. They looked awfully chummy when they came in for lunch.”
“They are chummy. They’re good friends. That’s all they are now,” Vanessa added firmly.
Charity smiled fondly, “How did I end up with someone so naive?”
Vanessa rolled her eyes, “Just because I’m not the cynic you are doesn’t make me naive.”
“It wasn’t a complaint. I like that you see the best in people. Worked out for me didn’t it?”
“That’s because inside your crusty exterior is a slightly less crusty interior,” Vanessa teased, before dropping her voice and leaning closer, “And a heart bigger than anyone’s I’ve ever known.”
Charity flushed, “Yeah, well, you’re at the center of it.”
“Ahhh,” Vanessa closed the remaining gap between them, and they shared a quick kiss at the same time their waiter arrived with their caprese and chopped salad.
They pulled apart and tucked into their meal, enjoying it all along with the wine. The conversation flowed easily, as it always did. Through unspoken agreement they avoided discussion of Debbie and her current disastrous relationship that had set the Dingles at odds, and concentrated on the more amusing goings on around town. Which ultimately led them back around to Charity’s current focus.
“I’m telling you Babe, Paddy and Rhona…I know.”
“The whole reason they were at the Pub in the first place is because Rhona wanted to see Marlon,” Vanessa defended.
“And you didn’t want to see me?” Charity asked with a bit of mock indignation.
“I was seeing a particularly irritable cow at the time. So it was practically the same thing.” Vanessa replied cheekily.
Oi, you. How about a bit of a wager?” Charity suggested.
“Rhona’s my best mate,” Vanessa defended weakly, curiosity getting the best of her and she leaned forward to whisper, “How much?”
“Where’s the fun in wagering money?” Charity asked with a smirk.
Vanessa quirked her eyebrows up and took a sip of her wine, “What’d ya have in mind?”
“I do really like your lasagna,” Charity said, packing the innocuous word with a giant dollop of suggestiveness that had Vanessa choking, nearly shooting wine out of her nose before she recovered.
“If we’re wagering cooking duties,” Vanessa began innocently, “does that mean I could get you to take the boys to their next doctors’ appointments,” she paused, pretending to be thinking, “or shopping for new school shoes?”
“Babe, that wasn’t…”
“Or,” Vanessa dropped her voice again, “maybe I might ask you to put on the red wig and…”
Charity smiled and leaned forward, “Now that is more like it.” She held up a finger to stop Vanessa from adding on some additional domestic task just to wind her up, and Vanessa let go of her teasing rejoinder. Course, that would be the last thing on her mind if she got the chance to see Charity in the wig again. She felt herself flush just thinking about it.
“Can you think of anything in particular you’d like?” Vanessa asked.
“I can think of a few things.” Charity hinted, their hands having found each other across the table, and she lightly teased Vanessa’s palm with her fingertips. her eyes were just a touch darker and Vanessa licked her lips before clearing her throat.
“We need a hard deadline,” she declared. “One month.”
“One month,” Charity agreed.
An hour later Charity and Vanessa left the restaurant with full stomachs and a nice bit of wine in them and headed for the gay club, arms linked and swaying just a touch. They weren’t drunk, but pleasantly tipsy.
Vanessa leaned into her wife, and her heels were just high enough that she could reach the spot beneath Charity’s ear and give her a nibble, “So, what would you say,” Vanessa asked, “If we skipped the club, and went straight to dessert?”
Charity held up her hand, “Taxi!”
Vanessa laughed even as she tugged Charity’s hand down.
“I had another idea in mind,” Vanessa pulled out the key card she’d been hiding and Charity’s eyes went wide, “I know there’s no dancing..,”
“There could be dancing,” Charity parried.
Vanessa grabbed Charity’s hand and led her round the corner to the hotel she’d booked the week before, after one too many interruptions had had her pulling out her hair in frustration. She loved their family, wouldn’t change a thing. But their home was definitely a bit of a madhouse at the best of times. And she really liked her wife.
Charity wrapped her arm tightly around her wife, and leaned down to whisper into her ear, “Did I tell you I loved you today?”
“You tell me everyday.” Vanessa replied. And it was true. Maybe not in words, but in all of the little things. A morning cup of tea. A quick kiss. A flirty text. An afternoon call to share a story. Conversations galore about their kids and the mad goings on of the DIngles and Villagers.
Vanessa pulled Charity closer and backed herself against the wall, stretching up to capture Charity’s lips in a deep kiss. Not her usual fare in public, but a bit of wine in her and she really couldn’t resist. She just loved this woman so damn much sometimes.
Charity responded in kind, and they made out like the kids they never really were, until Vanessa felt Charity stiffen and pull away. Caught up in the moment, Vanessa looked up at her in confusion, and the look in Charity’s eye had her heart pounding before the outside taunts penetrated and fear took hold.
Charity grabbed both of her upper arms, kissed her forehead before spinning around, back pressing Vanessa into the wall, shielding her even as she spread her arms wide and opened herself to the men approaching.
“Ah, look at the young boys having a night on the town. Well lads, don’t let us stop you, chop, chop. There’s gotta be at least one woman who’ll be impressed with all you’ve got to offer.”
Charity dropped her hands back down, giving Vanessa the chance to grab her cell phone. Vanessa fumbled for a second with the password, before just pressing the emergency.
Her vision still blocked by Charity, Vanessa wasn’t sure how many there were, but she knew the situation was hanging by a thread. She heard the dispatcher pick up just as the thread was cut.
Vanessa felt the impact of the punch as Charity crashed into her, her head bouncing off the wall in spite of Vanessa doing her best to catch her. They fell to the ground together, with Charity wrapping herself around Vanessa to absorb the impact and then rolling over, covering Vanessa with her body as the group of young men converged to hit and kick.
Vanessa freed her arms and legs and used them to protect as much of Charity as she could. Clutching tighter as the blows continued to land, only screaming when a kick caught Charity right in the side of the head and Vanessa felt her go limp at the same time the sound of sirens sent the men scurrying away like the cowards they clearly were.
“Charity,” Vanessa whispered, stroking her hand carefully down Charity’s head, feeling the wetness that had to be blood, grateful to feel her steady breaths, yet terrified to move her in case there was more damage to her neck or spine.
“Ness?” Charity whispered. Vanessa tried to make eye contact but Charity’s eyes were vacant, both pupils blown from the blow to the head.
“I’m here. I’ve got you okay?”
“You’re okay?” Charity asked, and Vanessa felt a sob threaten.
“I’m fine,” she said, swallowing her tears and kissing Charity’s cheek, “It’s you I’m worried about.”
“Love you,” Charity said.
“I love you too,” Vanessa replied unable to stop the tears as she held Charity tight and cried.