“Our neighbour's evil!” Laura calls from the front door. She receives a muffled acknowledgment in reply. Sorry’s in the kitchen, cooking, she knows from the mouth-watering aroma of steak grilling in a wine sauce. Kate gave them a couple of cookbooks from the shop as a housewarming gift, and they’ve been slowly working their way through them, pencilling in notes in the margins.
Laura toes off her shoes onto the rubber mat, nudging them into place beside Sorry’s mud-splattered but neatly aligned boots. Her keys drop into the dish, a familiar metallic clatter, and she heads up the stairs, swiping the day’s mail off the table as she goes.
It’s bills, mostly. She shuffles through them. Between Sorry at the preserve and Laura at her office job, they’re more than capable of paying them on time, in full. The shine of that hasn't completely worn off. Neither has the shine of To: Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle. Her heart swells when she rubs her thumb over their address.
I want to take your name, she’d told him. They’d been at Sorry’s after having spent the day booking venues for the wedding and Laura’s warm from being wrapped around Sorry on his bike. I want to be your family. She’d meant. I want you to know that you can still have that. I want it to mean to you what it does for me.
L-laura Carlisle? Sorry had mused. Sounds like the president of the PTA .
A little bit maternal. A little bit bossy. Telling all the other parents what to do.
Sorry , Laura had admonished, because he’s got a weird power couple thing about her that is kind of flattering, but in the most embarrassing way possible.
No, no I like it. That's a pretty sexy fantasy even if I can't help thinking you just want me to stop calling you Chant.
That's just a bonus , Laura’d promised.
Okay, well then. A sad day for feminism, but I’m sure they’ll forgive you eventually. Sure you don't want to hyphenate?
Sorry’s slicing tomatoes on the cutting board - a nice thick slab of wood that Sorry had cut and sanded down, himself. There’s a couple of his projects scattered through the house.
He’s got his sleeves rolled up and she takes a moment to admire him in the glow of the evening sun through the kitchen window before stepping up to kiss his cheek. He leans in reflexively and spares her a glance.
“So… let me guess: you finally caught Dougie Poynter’s cat murdering the birds,” Sorry says, darkly. His next slice hits the board with a bit of a thwack.
“I’ve still never even seen Miss Marple outside,” Laura says. Dougie and Sorry have been feuding since the day they moved in and the movers they hired accidentally ran over the Poynter’s mailbox.
Sorry grumbles. “I’ve got my camera ready to go and I'll catch her yet.”
Laura rolls her eyes and runs the tap for a glass of water.
“Then you’ve finally seen Lawrence without his shades and can confirm that he really is a vampire,” Sorry jokes.
“Sadly, no,” Laura says. They only ever see their sunglasses-sporting mystery neighbour out at night, so they’ve been forced to invent backstories for him, each weirder than the last. Vampire’s the current favourite.
Sorry sighs. “A shame. So what's Cynthia done this time?” because the only people Laura ever considers evil enough to complain about these days are her boss, who lives in a different part of town, and Cynthia Millgrove, the miserable busybody who lords her perfect lawn and perfect children over the rest of the street in equal measure.
“Snide comments, underhanded passive aggression, vicious insinuation. The usual,” Laura’s mouth twists.
“Sure she’s not the kind of evil we can do away with?” Sorry asks to cheer her up.
“If only,” Laura says with great and powerful longing. Cynthia is just the regular kind of evil - the kind of woman who never grew out of being the mean girl at school. Laura sets the water down on the table and digs through her bag.
“And Winter and Miriam still think you're the good influence,” Sorry says.
“It’s okay, though,” Laura says. “We’ve got a legitimate excuse to take her down now.”
“Oh?” Sorry humours her. “We do?”
“Sorry.” Laura says, and the way she says his name seems to suck the air from the room until it narrows around them. Vacuum sealed! Laura thinks, hysterically. Sorry sets the knife down and turns around slowly.
“Laura what--” she’s holding out the stick in a slightly trembling hand, small blue plus sign clearly visible.
“I’ve got about five years before I can join the PTA,” she says, watching Sorry’s eyes go wide, “but we’ll have to plan ahead if we’re going to usurp her,” she says, for it is indeed evil Cynthia who currently rules over the local parents (and teachers) with her iron fist and her floral print gardening gloves. “Would you like to help me stage a coup?”
Sorry swallows. “Laura C-Carlisle, PTA president. Be still my heart.”
He reaches out for the pregnancy test, but remembers the tomato juice dripping from his hands at the last minute. Failing to immediately find a dish towel, he wipes them off on his pants instead.
He reaches out again and delicately plucks the small piece of plastic from her.
“You're sure?” he asks quietly.
“That isn’t the only one I peed on, so yes I’m sure.”
Sorry looks uncomprehendingly at his hands, hygiene and food preparation suddenly abstract and meaningless concepts.
Laura starts to worry.
“Are you okay?” she asks. Please be okay.
“Shouldn't I be asking you that?” Sorry asks, a ghost of a crooked smile on his lips.
“I will be if you are,” she counters.
“I-- I'm.” He tries again. “This is going to sound really stupid.”
Laura weaves her hands around his in comfort and support, for his sake or hers, she's not sure.
“I know I joked about the PTA, and don't let me forget to tell you how smooth that was. I can’t believe you even remembered - I wish you'd done the marriage proposal, too--”
“Sorry,” Laura says, a reminder to focus.
Sorry sighs. “I just... I always imagined you’d want kids - you loved taking care of Jack so much - but I seem to have completely avoided thinking about how they’d be mine, too.”
“You're going to be a dad,” Laura insists - out loud to make it real.
“I’m going to be a dad,” Sorry repeats, wonderingly. “You're going to be a mom. We’re going to be someone’s parents. This poor kid.” He pauses. “We should probably never leave it alone with Winter and Miriam, particularly if it’s a girl.”
Laura looks at him in consternation. “Wow! We can revisit that thought later, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. It’s barely the size of a peanut.”
“I hear they grow up quick.”
“We’ll be OK,” Laura says, willing it to be true. “Does it help to know I’m scared, too?”
“Not really, it doesn’t!” Sorry says, a little wild in the eyes. “You were so good with Jack!” he pleads.
“And except for the one time we saved his life, all I had to do was love him. Kate made all the hard decisions for us,” Laura says. And oh, how she appreciates that now in ways she never thought to before.
“Christ,” Sorry exclaims dejectedly. “Where does that leave us?”
“With all the other terrified first-time parents, I expect,” she answers, resting her head against his chest to hear his heartbeat, quick but steady.
“How about that,” Sorry says, wrapping his arms around her. “For once, we’re normal.”
And all of a sudden, they're grinning at each other goofily and Sorry’s hands are on her face and Laura’s are sliding low down his hips and they’re kissing, kissing, and the bubble of compressed time they’ve been experiencing for what seems like hours but has probably only been minutes bursts, and Laura gasps--
“Something’s burning!” she cries.
And Sorry swears and leaps into action.
There’s more swearing, and then the angry hiss of a pan steaming in the sink.
“Take out?” Laura suggests, peering past Sorry’s shoulder at the lump of charred meat and some smaller lumps of what might once have been vegetables.
“The salad’s still good,” Sorry hedges.
“I’ll order a pizza,” Laura says. She pats his hip consolingly and goes to find a menu. “It’s too bad - it smelled fantastic.”
“I’ll make it again, sometime,” Sorry says. “-Make sure to finish cooking before you get home and distract me.”
“You think we can salvage the pan?” she waves a hand.
Sorry pokes at the ruined meal with a fork. “Should do.”
They discuss the merits of renewal and cleansing rituals until the food arrives, but a quiet calm steals over them while they eat, Laura tucked tight to Sorry’s side, and Sorry’s arm winding around her to rest his hand at her waist.