For reasons wholly unknown to both Tib and Anne – Anne and Ann had trusted them to look after Alfred for a day whilst they went away to stay in a hotel and have some time to themselves. It might have been due to the fact that Aunt Anne had gone away, as well as Marian and that didn’t leave a lot of options for them.
They had, however, accepted eagerly both of them convinced that they could look after nine-month-old Alfred without a problem – hell they were grown women! And how hard could it be? – Turns out it was bloody hard work. They had started out fine with him – he was as happy as anyone, playing with them on the floor with his toys - blabbering on about ‘mumma’ though they hardly thought he knew what it was he was saying exactly.
“I don’t know why Lister and Ann were looking so rough – he’s an absolute dear!” Tib cooed at the baby, looking up at Anne who shrugged her shoulders,
“Beats me. I could easily do this every day – It’s not that hard.”
As mentioned, - it did take a turn for the worse. By the evening Alfred was fussing a lot - he was crying loudly but refused to take the bottle with the breastmilk and Tib and Anne were slowly going insane,
“Shit – we’re going to kill their baby! He needs to eat!” Anne cried exasperated, trying to coax Alfred to take the bottle but he shut his mouth tightly, wriggling in her lap whilst crying loudly. Tib was panicking – there was porridge all over the floor from when they had tried to give him some solid food – yet most of it had ended up in her hair, where it had dried into grey lumps.
“Let me try!” Tib took Alfred from Anne, hushing him stressed – bouncing him in her arms, trying to make him take the bottle but he still refused.
“Call Mariana or Marian – just get someone to help us! – Do not call Anne – I refuse to admit defeat.” Tib spoke through the thick lump in her throat – she was near tears from frustration. Anne fished her phone up, trying to get hold of Marian without any success, and then Mariana – but nothing,
“Call Vere!” Tib instructed her, almost aggressively rocking baby Alfred to stop him fussing and crying, rather frightened by his red face, afraid she might damage their baby. Anne dialled the number forcefully, waiting for Vere to pick up - biting her nails whilst her leg jumped up and down – eying the crying baby with some distress.
“Fuck – she’s not picking up, Tib - what the fuck are we supposed to do?”
“Call Mia – she’s got a child!” Tib suggested desperately and Anne found her number and called,
“Mia – you’ve got to help us!” Anne cried into the phone – tears burning in her eyes,
“What’s happening? – Is that a baby in the background?”
“Tib and I are babysitting Alfred for the night, and he won’t eat and he won’t stop crying and I’m afraid we might damage him!”
“Listen to me, Anne – you take a shirt and you cut a hole where your breast would go – then put the bottle through it and make him think he’s getting the boob.” Maria instructed her seriously.
“Yeah? Tib – cut a hole through a shirt and put the bottle where your tit would go – so he thinks he’s getting the real deal!”
“You want me to scam the baby into thinking he’s getting my tit?” Tib shouted back at her and Anne nodded,
“Just do it for the sake of peace!”
“Anne – pull yourself together – it’s a baby, not rocket science!” Maria chided her and Anne took a deep calm breath – with Maria on the other end,
“Thank you – Oh Lord - I’m never having children.”
“No, and let’s thank God for that.” Maria sighed, “Are you at Shibden?”
“Why did they leave the baby alone with you two?”
“I don’t know!” Anne sobbed, holding her hand against her forehead,
“You are useless the pair of you. Don’t forget to try the milk – so it isn’t too hot. Ta ta.”
Maria hung up on her, and Anne put the phone into her back pocket, wiping the tears off her cheeks, exhaling loudly before bracing herself to go help Tib with crying Alfred.
Tib was currently trying to balance Alfred on her hip whilst cutting a shirt and Anne hurriedly took him from her – afraid she might drop him, and she didn’t put it past Anne that she would actually horsewhip them both if her baby boy had even the tiniest of bruises.
“There.” Tib held the shirt up in-front of them, and Anne nodded,
“You do it.”
Tib sighed as she pulled the shirt over her head, getting the bottle through the hole, whilst Anne stared at her, bouncing Alfred on her hip,
“We need to try the milk according to Mia.”
“What?” Tib grimaced, reaching for the bottle and Anne nodded,
“Tib – we’ve already fucked up so much! What if we give him bad milk too!”
“Oh fuck. Fine.” Tib squeezed a little out on her wrist, and then hoovered over Anne’s,
“If I have to, you have to – I don’t know what bad breastmilk tastes like!”
“Alright.” Anne closed her eyes as Tib squeezed some out on her arm and then they licked it up as if they were licking salt before a tequila shot.
“Oh, that’s sweet.” Tib commented, possibly pleasantly surprised.
“It’s a bit like that super-expensive almond milk Mary drinks all the time.” Anne nodded, and they looked at each other, for a second forgetting the bellowing baby in the room,
“I cannot believe we just gave a review on Ann’s breastmilk.”
“I never thought I’d stage breastfeeding in my life – but hey-ho. And I’m not even drunk.”
Anne handed her Alfred and, Tib rested his head against her arm, coaxing him to take the “nipple” in his mouth and he did, and they sighed in relief,
“That’s right! Good lad, Alfred.” Tib praised him, and Anne sank down on the seat next to Tib – already exhausted. She now wondered at Anne and Ann being alive at all at this point.
“How many hours have we done this?” Anne asked, staring into the ceiling, Tib glanced at the watch,
“My sentiment exactly.” Tib agreed, focusing her eyes on Alfred as he ate hungrily. But when the bottle was finished, and Anne had taken Alfred from Tib to allow her to get out of the shirt and put the bottle away – he began crying again, and it didn’t matter that Anne tried singing him songs or bouncing him about – he wouldn’t stop, and it was driving her mad… slowly. Eventually, after an hour or so he burped loudly and farted simultaneously and he stopped crying for a blessed second,
“He was just gassy.” Anne whimpered – her head throbbing from all the crying he had done, and Tib looked at her from under the arm that draped over her eyes,
“Ah, I should’ve remembered that you need to spank the gas out of them.”
“I don’t think you spank them, Tib – you pat them.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
“Oh God…” Anne groaned loudly, and Alfred began crying again and Tib screamed into a pillow,
“Why did you disturb his peace!? I need a drink.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with him!?” Anne sobbed, just staring at Alfred’s contorted upset face as they cried at each other.
Tib came over, and her nose scrunched,
“He’s definitely pooped. That’s what’s upset him – not you, or I don’t know maybe both.”
“You do it!”
“What no! You do it – I fed him.”
“I helped him release gas.” Anne argued, and Tib crossed her arms,
“Well, I refuse to. So, good luck.”
“You owe me one, Tib!” Anne told her angrily as she stood up, making her way upstairs to the bathroom were all the things were. But Anne hadn’t got far when she was befuddled – how did one change a nappy? – She sure didn’t have a clue about things like that.
“Tib!” Anne shouted,
“Seriously – what do I do!?” Anne cried desperately, “I can’t…”
Anne’s voice died as something wet struck her face,
“He’s weeing on me!” Anne screamed, panicking covering him with a towel as Tib came running in – laughing at her wet face,
“It’s not funny!” Anne huffed, trying to wash her face off, using up a whole pump of soap. Tib tried to keep her laughter in but wasn’t that successful.
“It’s not that difficult.”
“Shut up – and do it yourself then!” Anne barked and Tib raised the towel and was too struck in the face by urine, and Anne smiled wide,
“Not so funny now is it!”
“Shut your mouth.” Tib spoke slowly wiping it off and Anne switched places with her again and they did the very best they could – somehow getting a clean nappy on him again after a lot of fuss and faff – and it still looked a bit wonky.
They took him downstairs again and tried to play with him to keep him happy, but he was seriously displeased however they tried.
“Bloody hell – this baby is harder to please than Anne fucking Lister!” Tib groaned, after another failed attempt to play something like peekaboo.
“No kidding – this baby is her 2.0.” Anne huffed, laying down on the floor next to Argus defeated.
Another four hours passed, and the clock struck nine and Alfred was still awake, though they tried to lull him to sleep – they took turns trying to walk him to sleep, read him to sleep and sing him to sleep – nothing would work and they were slowly caving into calling Anne and Ann and ask them to hurry home when there was a knock on the door.
“That must be the pizza I ordered.” Tib told Anne who went to open the door and bustling in came Maria Barlow with a bag on her shoulder,
“Look at the pair of you! Useless! Give me the baby!” Maria marched into the drawing room, and Tib handed her the crying baby.
“Oh, poor Alfred – don’t fret – your good godmother is here now!”
“Oi!” Tib exclaimed and Maria took one look at them both,
“Go wash or something useful.”
“Did you fly all the way from Paris during these four hours since I called you?” Anne wondered and Maria nodded,
“Of course – I did! He’s my godson and you were killing him!”
“We’ve tried everything, but he won’t stop.”
“Hm… he has a rash – didn’t you powder his bum?” Maria asked them and they grimaced,
“Powdered his what?” Tib asked confused, and Maria sighed,
“Honestly - I don’t know why they left him in your care. Come on, Alfred – let’s get you a nice warm little bath to help soothe the rash.”
Maria left the both of them – letting them eat whatever meal they had ordered whilst tending to Alfred. She sat him in the bath only to get him perfectly clean from the other women’s pathetic try and he giggled at her,
“Does that feel good?” Maria grinned wide at him, rinsing him with warm water and he stared wonderous at the tiny soap bubbles flying around the bath. She lifted him out of the bath with a towel, drying him gently before rubbing in some baby oil to help treat his tiny rash, dressing him in his pyjamas – kissing his head gently, and he was struggling to keep his eyes open.
“Aw, are you feeling tired, Alfred? Well, no wonder – your bedtime was hours ago!”
Maria took him to the nursery, turned off the main lights, and lit a nightlamp before tucking him in in the cradle, kissing his head again,
“There-there, you’re alright now.” Maria caressed his cheek, softly humming him to sleep, and to sleep he went – in seconds’ flat.
Maria emerged downstairs and they turned their eyes to her as she entered the sitting room where they had sat eating their pizza.
“Where’s the baby!?” Anne asked bewildered and Maria huffed,
“Asleep – as he is supposed to be – and has supposed to for the past three hours.”
“You got him to sleep? No faff? – Are you a witch?! Did you make a deal with the devil!?” Tib exclaimed, and Maria rolled her eyes at them, sitting down,
“Next time they ask you two to babysit – unless it’s for under an hour, you say no.”
“Trust me – I will never… well, I won’t do it again until he’s at least six!” Tib promised and Anne agreed wholeheartedly, looking knocked for six. Maria sighed, leaning forwards to take a piece of pizza, grimacing as she bit into it,
“Why would you do this to your bodies? – It’s so not good.”
“Snob.” Tib smirked, and Maria shook her head at her,
“The French cuisine is…” Maria made a chef’s kiss,
“You should’ve brought some with you then!” Anne teased and Maria burst out laughing,
“Oh Lord – I really did just fly all the way from Paris…”
“Yes, thank you – you saved our arses.” Tib said gratefully,
“Anne would’ve literally killed us if she came home to find out we’d ruined the baby.” Anne agreed, and Maria ran a hand over her face tiredly,
“I think I’ll try and get some sleep before he wakes up for a night feed.”
“He eats at night to!? But we’ve fed him like, I don’t know – thrice!?” Tib’s eyes widened, and she looked beaten, but Maria could do naught but laugh at them,
“Seriously – was Lister under the influence of opium when she allowed for you to take Alfred for the night?!”
“I’ll get the shirt.” Tib sighed,
“If you give me it, I’ll feed him when he wakes up and you two can get some sleep. Where’s the breastmilk?”
“In the fridge – there’s even more in the freezer though – you’d think she was feeding a whole company – Ann.” Anne told her, and Maria gave a nod,
“Excellent, now off to bed with you.”
Tib threw the t-shirt from the stairs and Maria caught it one-handed,
“Nice catch! Enjoy tasting breastmilk.”
“What?” Maria did a double-take and Tib as well as Anne stopped in the middle of the staircase,
“You know – so it isn’t bad…” Tib explained with a look at Anne, who nodded,
“Did you drink breastmilk?” Maria wondered, forehead scrunched together as she eyed both women and Tib turned to Anne angrily,
“You said I had to drink it!”
“She said we had to try it!” Anne defended herself and Maria burst out laughing,
“Yes – on your arm so it isn’t too hot for him after you’ve heated it!”
“Oh, for the love of God – Anne!” Tib complained and Anne hit her head against the wall,
“I hate myself.”
“Great ladies - good night.” Maria was still laughing at them.
“Yeah, night!” They called over their shoulders and Maria got the downstairs cleaned up after the mess they’d made trying to care for Alfred. She then sat dozing in the chair inside the nursery – thinking it wouldn’t be long until he woke up for a feed. He woke up at precisely three o’clock,
“You’re punctual – just like your mother.” Maria commented, as she got him out of the cradle, and offered him the bottle through the shirt she wore, and he ate eagerly and was soon out as a candle once more, possibly exhausted from his day.
By noon the next morning the door burst open, and Anne and Ann stumbled in – the blonde was looking rather anxious as she tumbled into the drawing room, but Anne was looking worse as she literally fell into the room, looking up at them from the floor,
“Is he alive?!”
Tib rolled her eyes at her old friend, offering her a hand off the floor, which she for once took,
“Seriously, you have so little faith in us, Lister!”
“It all went perfectly well.” Anne B agreed, cooing a little to Alfred on her knee at the same time but he was fussing, reaching his hands out for his mummy – and Ann took him – showering his face with kisses,
“I’m never leaving you again – I missed you so much!”
“If everything went smoothly – then why is Maria here? – Hello.” Anne turned to Maria who sat reading in the chair, and she looked up at her from over her glasses,
“I was just passing.”
“Passing through Shibden on your usual evening walk?” Anne wondered amused, and Maria chuckled,
“Um, no, of course not! I was on my way to visit some family- thought I’d pop in – surprised to find none of you home but these two here.”
“Hmm…” Anne didn’t seem thoroughly convinced but Maria rolled her eyes at her,
“Do you for a second believe that these two would fuck things up so badly that they would call me in desperation and that I would drop everything to fly here privately to help?”
Anne’s expression softened as she laughed, walking over to her wife and son,
“No, that’s ridiculous!” She acknowledged, before kissing Alfred, and giving him a good cuddle, happy to be home again.
“Right, so I’m off.” Tib stood, taking her bag, giving Alfred a squeeze before patting Ann on the shoulder,
“You tried my wife’s breastmilk?” Anne gaped and almost looked angry, and Anne shrugged a shoulder,
“We both did – it was excellent.”
Ann flushed, glancing at Maria who shrugged her shoulders, but Anne butted in first,
“Has everyone tried my wife’s breastmilk?! That’s like…”
“You think my breastmilk is gross?” Ann’s expression turned from embarrassment to that of annoyance and Anne’s eyebrows raised slightly,
“Well, no? But when they drink it? – yes. Or I mean that they drank it, is gross – but the milk isn’t disgusting.”
“Nice save, Lister – good luck.” Tib grinned before taking her leave and Anne hurried with her – happy for the escape and the promised drink.