Charlotte Wolfe stands in front of the full length mirror behind the door of her room. She studies her thin, naked frame as she holds onto a walker in front of her. She had promised her mother that she’d use it if she doesn’t want to use the chair. It pains her to do so for too long, but she pushes through as much as she possibly can. Usually to the point of hurting herself. Hearing a knock in the door in front of her, she backs away slowly, “Hold on a moment.” Picking up her robe from the foot of the bed, she wraps it around herself quickly, “Okay.”
It’s been a month. A month since this young woman started living here with them, blending their family even more. Serena Campbell carefully opens the door, poking her head through, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, fine. Everything is fine.” It wasn’t. Not to her. The scars over her body causing her to be a bit self conscious. Very self conscious. The ones over her torso weren’t stitched as finely as the one on her head, and even that was something that she hated, but understood that it was more important to stop bleeding than anything else. “I got a bit of sun today and...I’m just kicking myself for not remembering sunscreen.” The faint scar on her chest matches that of her mother now, as the woman near her had to massage her heart to resuscitate her while she was on the operating table only a couple months prior. She was even self conscious about that, which was rather out of character from the person she was before all of this.
Slowly nodding, Serena steps into the room more, “Would you like me to get you some aloe? It would calm some of the burn.”
Charlie shrugs, nonchalantly, “I’ll live.”
“Let me at least switch the sheets for you.” She furrows her brow slightly, “I know these won’t be terribly comfortable on skin that is-”
“I said I’m fine, Serena.”
Serena moves to sit next to the young woman on the edge of the bed, able to tell there was more that was going on than the young woman cared to admit, “Want to talk about it?” She wants to rub her hand over the young woman’s back, having grown close to her over the past couple months of her being a daily occurance in her life. “I’m not your Mum, but I do have these two ears and I’ve lived a rather fulfilled life so I could probably be a decent sounding board for you...if you need one.”
The young woman gives herself a quick huff of a laugh, shaking her head slowly, “At this point, I feel like I’m just whining about things that I can’t control. Just...in a well of self pity that I’m unable to crawl out of. I don’t want to drag you down that well also.” Charlie slowly lifts her head to glance over toward the other woman, “You have your own fair share of demons...you don’t need to hear mine on top of it.”
“Oh, come on.” She nudges against Charlie by gently bumping her shoulder to the other woman’s, “Your mum says she has a surprise for you when she gets home...which shouldn’t be for another couple of hours yet.”
Charlie sighs slowly, “I feel...really ugly. My hair is gross, I haven’t been able to shave my legs properly, which is why I haven’t worn any short trousers to any place where people can actually see me. Which, isn’t many places to begin with. I’m so uncomfortable in my own skin, it’s pathetic.”
“You aren’t pathetic, Charlotte.” Serena shakes her head slowly, “In fact, you’re the least pathetic person I know. You’re remarkable really.”
“Doesn’t feel that way.”
“Look, how about I plan a day for us? Massages, manicures, pedicures, even getting our hair done. How does that sound?” She raises her eyebrows, “Might help take your mind off of things. Your hair can be whatever color you want...maybe I’ll even get something done myself.”
Charlie raises her eyebrows, “Bit of a bonding session? You really don’t need to do all of that.”
“What if I help you shave your legs?”
The younger woman starts to laugh, “Yes, I’m sure my mother would love to come home to that. Seeing her girlfriend helping her daughter doing...something rather intimate. I’m sure there’s absolutely nothing that would go through her mind at that point.” She snorts, teasing the other woman, “ It isn’t what it looks like, Berenice. ” Charlie mocks the woman’s more formal style of speech, grinning.
Serena starts to chuckle with her, “I suppose that could be taken in a manner one wouldn’t...want it to be.” She smiles a little, “I’m sorry. I just want to help you feel better and I’m not really sure how I could possibly do that.”
“Because you don’t have to, but I appreciate that you want to.” The young woman responds quietly, leaning her head against the other woman’s shoulder. “I do.”
“So, you don’t want to get massages, manicures, pedicures, and a new hair color of your choice?”
“Now, I did not say that. I just said that you don’t have to do that. Besides, I look gross. I don’t...I don’t feel comfortable at the moment doing all of that. Hair, sure, but...I can do that here at home. I don’t want you to waste actual money on me coloring my hair something...bizarre.” Charlie blinks slowly, “I can order those things on Amazon...”
Serena takes a deep breath, waiting a moment before speaking, “I want to get to know you better...the you now, not the you that you used to be.”
The young woman licks her lips slowly, thinking out loud, “I don’t know who that person is. Not really. Not outside of these...” She lifts her hand, motioning to the obvious scar on her head, “I mean, you did a fantastic job attempting to hide them...and really they’re quite good, but I’m...still a bit...” She shrugs, at a loss for words. “They’re who I am now, I guess.”
“I don’t think so.” The silver haired woman shakes her head slowly, “I hear you sing the things you’ve written in your notebook.” Serena motions to the leatherbound book on the bedside table, “Your hands shake, but...the words, Char...I listen and, at times, they bring tears to my eyes.”
“They’re not nothing.” Serena shakes her head slowly, “Don’t give up on that.”
“I can’t...write the words. Frieda helps me when she’s able to...or I type them. Sometimes that isn’t possible either, but...I’m protective of the words. Protective of the emotions.” Charlie shakes her head, quickly wiping a tear away as it escapes her eye to trickle down her cheek, “Listen to me ramble on. No, let’s...get our hair done. I can agree to that.”
“Good.” Serena leans over, gently kissing the girl’s temple, “Try to settle on a color if you’re able to.” This young woman would never be her Elinor, but there was no reason she couldn’t treat her as her own daughter. No reason she couldn’t make the relationship with her that she should have had with her own daughter. This is a second chance for her, for both of them. “Your Mum should be home soon. Try not to fall asleep before then.”
“Easier said than done.”
Bernie Wolfe closes the front door behind her, leaning against the frame after. She notices the kitchen light on, walking over toward the room, seeing her girlfriend sitting at the table with papers strewn about her. “I’m surprised you’re awake.” She absently glances to the clock on the wall, showing that it was around one in the morning. “You’re usually early to bed, early to rise.”
“Couldn’t sleep.” Serena shakes her head, “Came down and made myself a pot of tea. Care for a cup?”
“I would love that, actually.” She moves closer, casually kissing her girlfriend before taking a seat at the kitchen table, “Everything okay?”
“Charlotte seems rather blue as of late, so I told her we could go and get our hair done together.” She smiles to herself a little, getting up to do what she said she would, “We talked for a bit and then I heard her crying in her bedroom when she’s usually playing her guitar at that hour. I suppose it just...has the gears turning in my head.”
“You know that it’s common with patients in her predicament. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner, quite honestly.” Bernie shrugs, smirking when the other woman places a mug in front of her, “Thanks.”
“Her skin is burnt and...she seems so self conscious about her body, her scars.” Serena sighs softly, returning to the seat she was previously occupying, clothed in her pajamas and a comfortable silk robe, “I told her we could essentially go to the spa and make a day of it-”
“You never offer me any of that-”
“-except she declined my offer as if she didn’t deserve it. Not that it was something she wouldn’t accept, but that she couldn’t accept.” The silver haired woman shakes her head a little, “I can’t explain it, but moving on.” She runs a hand through her hair, “Are you okay with watching Gwennie tomorrow still? I can call out of work if you aren’t comfortable-”
“We’ll be fine.” Bernie shakes her head, amused with her partner, “I’m glad that Greta is going back to work, but I’m surprised it’s so soon. Gwen is barely a month old.”
“I’m none too happy with it, but I believe it will probably come as a break for her. I think they’re a bit overwhelmed, but they do make fantastic parents...and they’d never admit it if they were.” Serena nods, proud of her nephew and his partner, “I’m rather jealous that you get to spend the entire day with her...to yourself.”
“Oh, I’m sure Charlie will be happy to have me focusing on someone else for the day.” She wraps her hands around the violet colored mug, “She tells me I worry too much.”
“You do worry too much, but it’s founded.” She takes a sip of her own tea that was resting on the table in front of her place, “I know I’d do the same with my own.” Her tone softer toward the end of her statement. It hasn’t gotten easier speaking about her Elinor, but she’s grown more numb to it. Serena feels as her girlfriend takes her hand, reassuringly. “What is your gift that you are planning to give her?”
“Oh, Cameron and I had lunch together, surprisingly. A paper wrapped package was delivered to Charlie’s apartment...no address, just her name sprawled across. I’m not sure what it could be.” Bernie shakes her head, “It’s in my bag. It does imply that it’s someone who knows where she lives and that has been holding onto her mobile for the past two months.”
Serena shrugs, “And you didn’t open it anyway?”
“I tried to see if I could steam it open, but I was not very successful. It has a bit of weight behind it. I’m incredibly curious.”
“Why not wake her? In fact, I’m not exactly certain she’s actually asleep. May not be.” She smirks ever so slightly, “Not as if she hasn’t feigned being asleep before with us...just to leave her alone.” In fact, the girl was notorious for it. Bernie often ordering absurd music to play loudly from the AI speaker in the young woman’s room just to mess with her when she knew that’s what she was doing.
“Great idea.” Bernie nods, finishing her mug of tea before glancing up to no one in particular, speaking to the AI. After a couple of moments, she hears her daughter’s bedroom door open, smirking a bit, amused with herself.
Charlie rolls her eyes, knowing it meant her mother was home. “You know, you could be like a normal human being and knock, but no.” She slowly descends the stairs, taking one at a time from a sitting position. She knows her mother is able to hear her words, “At least you picked a good song. Sang it in my shows a few times but I don’t sound much like the Lauryn Hill, just doesn’t sound right when it isn’t from her lips, so I ended up removing it from my setlist unless people asked for it.” She carefully stands once she reaches the bottom of the stairs, noticing the kitchen light on, she makes her way toward that direction.
“ Killing Me Softly was all over the radio when you were born.” The blonde watches her from her seat at the table, “Each time I hear it, my cesarean scar throbs.” She hears her daughter laugh to herself.
“Care for a cuppa?” Serena stands, pulling out the chair closest to where the girl was slowly walking to them. Noticing her nod through her concentration, she obtains what was promised able to do so before the girl actually takes her seat, “There were other methods your mother could have taken to awaken you, but she’s got something for you.”
“Oh, yes.” Bernie nods quickly rising from her seat and stepping around her daughter. She fetches the small package from her bag, putting it in front of the pulled out chair as her daughter carefully lowers herself. “Cam said the postman didn’t deliver it. Just your name scribbled on it.”
“So, someone dropped it off directly.” Charlie raises an eyebrow, “Someone who knows me well enough to one, know that this item is mine and two, where I live.” She pushes the small package back toward her mother, “Cut it open for me, please.” She’d try, but she’s bitten most of her nails off through her anxious moments.
“Sure.” She uses her finger, effortlessly sliding it under the securing flap, pushing it back toward her daughter. “Do you have any idea who it could possibly be from?”
“Absolutely none.” The young woman empties the contents onto the table, recognizing the item immediately. “My mobile.” Charlie’s face starts to show a genuine smile, “No note or anything.” She pushes the power button, not expecting much, but surprised when it turns on with full power. “Bloody hell, would you look at that.”
“That would have been quite useful a couple of months ago.” Serena leans in a little, “Do you remember the passcode?”
“Don’t need to, fingerprint sensor.” Charlie nods, surprised she wouldn’t know that off hand for being such a lover of technology. Seeing the background, it immediately brings a tear to her eye, “I look...” She swallows, “I look happy.”
Bernie furrows her brow slightly, “Maybe we should let this charge up more and you can-”
“It’s fully charged. Someone charged this and I’m betting someone hacked into it for some reason or another.”
“Charlotte, these are all things that can be saved for tomorrow.” Serena offers to her, “You’ll be here with your Mum and you can go through the pictures, videos, and messages tomorrow. You’ll be more awake and...you may even have an easier time remembering.”
There’s something about this woman that makes Charlie know she’s telling the truth. She swallows, nodding ever so slightly, “I can do that.” Setting the mobile onto the table once turning it off, she glances to her mother, “You’ll be here with me tomorrow?”
“Of course. I’ll need your help watching baby Gwen.” Bernie smiles toward her a little, “So let’s get back upstairs-”
“We were going to watch a film. Would you like to watch as well?” Serena offers, knowing Bernie was worried once more, “Any film you wish...as long as it’s on one of the streaming services. I’ll clean up down here and meet you both upstairs.”
“An Agatha Christie mystery, please.” Charlie pushes herself up to standing with shaking arms, letting her mother hold onto her to help her move. She leans against Bernie slightly as they make their way down the hall, “You’ll really let me help you watch Gwen? You won’t...be afraid any time I hold her?”
“Well, your hands would probably feel like one of those vibrating bassinets to her. Should help her sleep at nap time.” Bernie smirks, hearing an amused huff from the young woman on her arm.
“You’re the actual worst.”
Bernie holds Gwenevere comfortably against her chest, one of the only motherly things she actually misses. When her children were small, and her husband was not nearby, she loved every second of this. She grins as the babe opens her mouth when she eats from a bowl of oatmeal, “Afraid you can’t have this just yet. Few more months before cereal.”
Charlie listens to her mother from a position just outside the kitchen doorway, smirking slightly.
“And I’m certain your Mum will be right on top of that. Doing research and calculations as to when the perfect moment will be to give you just a bit of rice cereal in your bottle.” She nods a little, noticing the babe continue to watch up at her with bright eyes. “Trust me, it’s only oatmeal. You aren’t missing anything with this, Gwen. Oatmeal with bananas and just a little bit of brown sugar.”
“Has she spoken back to you yet?” She finally moves to where her mother would be able to see her, amused with the sight before her.
“Doesn’t need to. Facial expressions are enough. She’s like Serena in that way, I can see right through her poker face.” Bernie motions to the chair across from her, “Care to sit? You can hold her while I finish, or I can make you something, if you’d like.”
“Or, you keep eating, and I can make myself something.” Charlie offers, raising an eyebrow as she carefully lowers herself into the seat at the kitchen table.
“I like my idea better. She keeps giving me the evil eye.”
The young woman snorts lightly with amusement as she does as her mother requests, eagerly taking the infant once she’s offered to her. “Same thing you have, actually. If you wouldn’t mind.” She lets the babe inspect her face, having read somewhere that babies are unable to make out many features unless one is close to them in the few weeks of life. “Hey there, beautiful. It’s me, your Auntie Charlie.”
“You need to allow her parents to decide what she should call you.” Bernie stands by the sink, having retrieved a packet of instant oatmeal from the cupboard, making the mixture as she speaks, “I’m still Auntie Bernie and Serena is still Auntie Serena. So there’s a good chance-”
“I don’t expect Cam to stay in one place long enough to ever be an Auntie Charlie any time soon. If I can get her to call me that, then that’s what I’ll be to her, whether Jason likes it or not.” Charlotte answers honestly, “Gwen will know no different though. I’ll treat her like my niece...try to be the cool aunt as much as I possibly can.”
“With a walker? So cool of you-”
She can hear the good-natured teasing in her mother’s voice, “You say that now, Gwen and I can learn to walk better together. I go to therapy, sure, but I think I just need to push myself here at home more than what they’re pushing me at said physiotherapy.”
“Push too much and your body will push back though, Charlotte.” Bernie shakes her head a little, “Just take it one session at a time and do the little things you’re supposed to do here...as instructed by the therapists, please. I promise it will help once your body gets used to how it moves again.” She remembers her daughter’s former near strut. Just her style of walking, proud, unafraid. She knows, though, that she’ll probably never see her walk that way again.
“Other Mum lets me do what I want.” Charlie smirks, watching her mother as she receives a playful scowl from the woman. She giggles a little, holding the baby out to look to her face again, “Gwennie, you look like a little old man. I don’t know if that’s what you’re going for in life, but-”
“She does not look like an old man.”
“Fine, an old woman.”
“Babies are still fresh during the first few weeks. You weren’t terribly cute until you were, maybe, twelve weeks.” Bernie shakes her head, pausing for a moment, “I’m lying, you were adorable from the get-go, all round head and everything. However, Cameron wasn’t. He was small and full of wrinkles.”
“Like an old man.” Charlie nods, “Exactly what I was saying before. She’ll grow into it, I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t look like an old man now.” She glances to the babe’s face again, “She is very bright eyed though. Friend of mine had a baby not long ago and-” She stops herself, realizing that it wasn’t recently, but more like a few years ago. Charlie knows she’s in this house for a month already and hasn’t spoken to anyone in her previous life for a month before that. None of them even bothering to attempt to visit her. Except for the man she didn’t want to. “It’s fine...doesn’t matter anymore.”
Bernie listens to the young woman, knowing she still has issues in regards to time and long term memory. “Don’t worry about it.” She slides the bowl of hot oatmeal across the table. “I’ll get her bouncer. Hold on just a moment.”
The younger woman watches her mother walk off before looking to the babe again, “Auntie Charlie will get better, Gwennie. I promise.” She licks her lips, watching as her mother re-enters the room. “I left my mobile down here last night. Do you know-”
“One moment.” She helps place the infant in the seat, before sliding the mobile across the table toward the young woman. “I advise you to eat first and let it settle before you start on that.”
Charlie pauses, lifting her head to meet her mother’s eyes as the woman returns to her seat. “Think I’ll immediately fall into an uncontrolled epileptic fit? Paired with vomiting and loss of-”
“Charlotte.” Bernie warns, “I don’t know, but...I’d rather you be in your bed if anything were to happen. Makes it easier on these old bones of mine.”
The young woman looks away, “Am I um...Am I a burden for you? It’s the last thing I’d want.”
“No, sweetheart, nothing like that.” The blonde shakes her head slowly, noticing what Serena was speaking about the day prior. “We love having you...and I’ve waited for years to have you near to me again...instead of cut off...shunned.” Bernie offers a sad, closed mouth smile. “It’s not a burden, Char, it’s being a parent.” She pauses, “Which proudly I am, and will always be, until the day I die...whether you like it or not.”
Charlie huffs a soft chuckle to herself, blushing ever so slightly, “I promise I’ll choose the best care home for you and Serena in a few years.”
“Thank you, that’s all I ask, dear.”
This one has multiple events happening, but they're over the course of about 30 minutes in whole.
“Sweetheart, you’ve called four times in the past three hours. We’re fine.” Bernie hums her amusement, “This isn’t my first go at watching a child, you know. I’ve done this a couple of times before.” She relaxes on the sofa, Gwenevere asleep on her chest as she watches some midday television. “I’m not sure what you suppose could happen.”
“House could burn down.” Serena smirks a little, knowing she’s being ridiculous. “Honestly, I just really love to watch how big you smile when she’s in your arms.” She blushes, knowing Ric is giving her a look from across their joint desks. “I reckon I’ll miss her entirely.”
“Well, she’s mostly just sleeping. Awakens for a few moments to eat or for a nappy change then falls back asleep. You remember how they are when they’re newborns.” She shakes her head, amused with her girlfriend, “Even Charlie is smitten. Should have seen her at breakfast. Demands she be called Auntie.”
“I’m sure Jason wouldn’t mind.” She shakes her head, “Have you put Gwen to sleep in her room?”
“Haven’t had the heart. She’s sleeping on top of me at the moment. Has a habit of snoring. Nothing terribly loud, but just a soft snore. Absolutely precious.” Bernie knows it would bother the other woman, bother her with missing it. She hates missing anything, especially when it comes to her grand-niece. Even something so miniscule as snoring.
“You love to torture me.” Serena sighs, grumbling, “You terribly evil woman.” She sighs, glancing to Ric again, her eyes saying what he knows to be what she’s wanted to do since arriving this morning.
Ric waves his hand a little, motioning for her to go home. I’ve got this , he mouths to her. Struggling to keep from grinning when she excitedly jumps up from her seat.
The silver haired woman retains her vocal composure, “Bernie, there’s just been an RTC brought in. I need to go.”
“Of course, love.” Bernie touches the screen to disconnect the call, noticing the newborn beginning to bring her fist to her mouth. “I had a feeling that it was almost that time. Your Mum said every three hours. She has you on a schedule...and you’ve picked it up proper quick. Good for you.” She places the babe in her bouncer once she enters the kitchen, having left it there at breakfast. She fills a small pot of water to warm the small amount of breastmilk quickly, “We’ll see if Auntie Charlie wants to feed you, how does that sound? She was a bit cross when I told her I already did so this morning.”
“I’d love to.” Charlie leans against the wall, having made her way down the stairs. She smiles a little, attempting to ignore her weak, trembling limbs.
The blonde sighs, “Where is the walker, Char?”
“I want...I wanted to do this.” She blinks slowly, her tongue feeling foreign in her mouth. “I’ll...go...go get it.” Charlie turns, nearly to the bottom of the stairs before falling out. Collapsing to the floor.
“I knew it. I knew this would happen today.” Bernie mumbles to herself, having followed after her daughter. She kneels next to her form, ensuring there was nothing around her body that could cause harm before she begins convulsing. This wasn’t new. Not by a longshot. This was what they were used to now, she and her partner were both. She hears the babe start to whimper, calling out to her, “I’m coming, Gwen. Hold on.” She rises again, lifting the infant from her bouncer and quickly warming her milk. She closes her eyes only for a moment, taking a deep breath before returning to her still trembling daughter on the floor. She lowers herself again, comfortably balancing the babe on her thighs with bent knees before feeding Gwenevere her bottle. All within the span of a few moments.
Serena enters the house, seeing the scene just in front of her, having only unfolded maybe fifteen to twenty minutes prior. She had driven home quickly, luckily not living far. “What the hell happened?”
“What do you think happened?” Bernie sighs, having burped the baby and letting her just relax on her thighs again. She looks back to the infant, “We’ve just been having a nice little chin wag, haven’t we?” She smiles when Gwen gurgles softly, “Yes, exactly. I say the same thing. Your Gran is simply unable to stay away from you.” Her feet rest against her daughter, holding her on her side
The silver haired woman rolls her eyes, “You should have called me.”
“It happened...not even ten minutes after our last call ended. I would have once Char came to. She’s breathing, but hasn’t woken up just yet. I’m not worried, but I’d like to get her to a softer surface. She continually disregards her walker...or her chair. She pushes when she shouldn’t.” Bernie swallows, “She’ll listen to you. She doesn’t listen to me.”
“No girl listens to her mother, Berenice.” Serena hums a soft chuckle, “I know that I rarely ever did and I'm betting you didn't either. Only until I was much older...I was wrong, should have listened when I was younger, but she’ll figure that out as well.” She takes a step over the young woman, lowering herself on the stairs by her partner. “You still handle it all very nicely though.”
“I’m exhausted and it’s only just after midday.” The blonde shakes her head, smiling softly after her girlfriend leans down to offer her a kiss. “Not from Gwen though, she’s a dream.” Glancing back to the babe on her lap, she notices the infant giving a gummy grin, “It’s all true. You’re brilliant, stop being so modest.”
She smiles, amused with her partner, “I’ll tend to Charlie. You go and-”
“Take the baby. Spend time with her like you wanted to in the first place.” Bernie attempts to protest, knowing what her girlfriend would rather be doing.
“We literally just spoke about Charlotte not listening to you. I’ll get her up.” Serena nods, “Besides, I get to watch you with Gwennie...and that is so worth it.”
“I don’t know if I even want to move right now. She looks rather comfortable.” She motions to the baby on her lap, sighing after, “I suppose I can move to the lounge.” When the infant begins to babble softly again, she smirks, “It is much more comfortable there than on this hardwood floor, I assure you.” Bernie carefully rises off the floor, keeping the babe safe in her arm as she retreats to the sofa.
The silver haired woman smirks ever so slightly, watching her girlfriend with her grand-niece as she moves away from them. Serena slowly lowers herself down to the floor, lying next to the young woman on her side. She gently pushes the hair from the younger woman’s sweating face, her voice soft and calming, “Charlotte, it’s time to wake up.” The young woman’s face twitches, “Come on, darling, open your eyes.”
Charlotte does as requested, her eyes groggily opening ever so slightly. She begins to smirk, “Mum’s girl.” Her voice heavy, slurring, but just above a whisper. Her mind swimming, confused. “Why...why are you here?”
“We’re at home.” Serena maintains a calm, comforting demeanor, having done this many times with her if it weren’t Bernie doing so. “I came home from work early to spend some time with my girls.” When the younger woman appears confused, “You’re on the floor of our house, Charlotte. Your Mum is in the lounge, but everything is fine.”
“Mum is home?” Her eyes begin to fill with years.
“I’ll go and get her-”
“Stay here.” Charlie reaches across, pulling herself closer to the other woman who has rolled onto her back, closing her eyes after doing so. Her head resting against Serena’s chest, listening to her heartbeat. Something about the steady white noise causes her to fall asleep again, rather quickly.
Serena swallows, reaching her hand to stroke her near-stepdaughter’s hair. Thoughts of a small Elinor cross her mind. Especially the time when she had her tonsils removed and stayed in hospital for a few nights. How she just wanted to cuddle with her mother, and nothing much other than that. She cannot possibly continue to think of her biological daughter with every single interaction with her girlfriend’s daughter. It wasn’t fair to anyone, especially herself.
“Your back is going to kill you, I bet.” Bernie shakes her head a little, offering the baby over to her girlfriend once she enters the lounge as well. “You didn’t need to let her rest against you as long as you did.” She notices the woman take a scatter cushion and throw blanket back over to the young woman, sliding one under her head and laying the other across her thin frame.
“It’s fine.” Serena shakes her head, finally taking the still alert infant. “She’s only staying there for a few minutes.” She grins broadly when the babe smiles toward her as well, “Hello, sweet Gwen. I have missed you far too much.” Serena inhales deeply, “Nothing like the smell of a clean newborn.” The babe begins to babble softly toward her.
“Charlie can stay there longer than that. I’ll take her upstairs in a bit.” The blonde pulls her legs under herself, watching her partner, “It’s no surprise to me that you were able to work your magic on Ric to let you leave. You’ll always have him wrapped around your finger.”
“We weren’t always like that.” She does her best not to proudly smirk.
“Same. We butted heads more than anyone...by the end, right before I moved to be with you in France, they would call us Mum and Dad in AAU. Can you believe that? They called me Mum, when in fact, I was the fun Aunt at best.” Bernie hears her partner chuckle to herself, loving when she smiles and how her face lights up when she sees the baby who has a middle name to honor her lost daughter. “Have you been okay, Serena?” There was an air around her. Something gray. Something she hasn’t seen in a while.
“I’m perfectly fine.” Serena nods, feeling the need to change the subject quickly, “Have you had time to go through the mobile with her?” She waves a hand, motioning to the young woman who was still resting on the floor in the breezeway of their home.
“No, but I suspect it had something to do with this one-”
“Because it isn’t my business unless she wishes to show it to me.” It was almost as if Bernie could hear the thoughts in Serena’s head, “I’m not jailbreaking my way into her mobile. That is her privacy.” Her head lifts slowly, meeting her girlfriend’s face, “Don’t give me that look.”
Serena offsets her jaw with notorious motives running through her head, “I said nothing.” She gently offers the babe to her girlfriend, “I need to use the loo.”
The blonde gives the other woman a look, “You’re a terrible liar.” She does as requested though.
“I’m just going to use the upstairs one because it’s more comfortable...as you know...”
“Serena-” Bernie sighs, watching her partner excitedly walk away from them. She glances down to the babe in her arms, noticing her rubbing a fist to her eye. “How about I get your bouncer and you nap while your Gran breaks the law?” She rolls her eyes to herself a bit as she rises from the sofa, “I should consult your schedule...I’m betting you already know it inside and out, however.” She obtains the cloth and wire, vibrating, contraption from the kitchen table, setting it on the coffee table in the lounge. Noticing her girlfriend has already returned, “That was quick.”
“Turns out I didn’t require it’s services after all.” Serena scrolls through the phone, taking note of the applications at first, “Seems like she was a bit into meditation, surprisingly.”
“How did you know the code?”
“I used her finger.” Her tone nonchalant, “Here we go, photos...and videos.” Serena pauses, realizing there were photographs from the day she was injured originally. Even one of her body after being thrown from the building. She can see why people thought she was dead. She licks her lips in thought, her appearance turning downcast with tears in her eyes fairly quickly.
Bernie knows she’s seen something disturbing, but is unsure if she should ask what it was on principal.
Serena sets the phone onto the coffee table, near the bouncing chair that was quickly lulling the infant to sleep. She quickly runs her finger tips against the lower lids of her eyes, “Don’t look at that mobile, Bern.” She doesn’t know what to even make of it. A part of her wants to look at them more, while the other part wants to vomit over seeing them the first time. She chooses her first option, moving over to the sleeping young woman, using her finger again.
“Like a train wreck?” Her tone soft, worried.
“Puts it mildly.” She slides through more, seeing some during one of her gigs at the pub she had mentioned previously. It causes her to smirk a little, “Okay, look at these.” Serena moves to sit next to her girlfriend, “It shouldn’t get you in trouble with her if I hold the mobile.”
Bernie leans her head against her girlfriend’s shoulder. She pauses, lifting her head for a moment when she sees the young woman entangled in a rather extraordinary kiss, then one with them downing shots, “Wait, is that-”
“Doctor Duval? I believe it certainly is.”
“Jason.” Serena grins toward her nephew as he lets himself through the front door, using his key. “How was work?”
“I helped an old man find the toilet three times today after I found him attempting to urinate in the maintenance closet. Nurse Jackson said he had Alzheimers.” Jason explains, staring at the young woman on the floor in front of the door, pillow under her head and blanket laid carefully to warm her, “Does Charlie need help finding her bedroom?”
“No, she’s just...” The woman attempts to think of a word to explain the situation without wanting to worry the young man that his daughter was in danger in any way.
“Because I thought she may have had one of her seizures.” He cares for this young woman. Her emotions tell him that she has the ability to be like a sister to him and he’s noticed that she is nicer to him than Elinor ever was. “I can carry her upstairs to her room, if you’d like.”
Serena just stares at him a moment, not expecting his reaction. “Yes, if you’re able to.” She watches as the young man carefully takes the young woman into his arms, surprised not only by his strength, but by his care. Something he’s probably learned by being a father, even if it’s only been for a few weeks. “Gwen is napping. We’ve been diligent about the schedule. Never fear.”
“Greta will be very happy to hear that.” Jason nods, letting his aunt open the door for him. “Charlotte is lighter than I expected her to be. Is Auntie Bernie lighter than she appears as well?”
“Well, I’m certain she will hit you if you ask her.” She smirks ever so slightly, watching as he places her gently onto her mattress.
“Knight in shining armour.” Charlie opens her eyes a bit, smiling up toward the young man. “I appreciate you, Jason. I...” She pauses, searching her mind for the words she was only just about to say. Her eyes begin to well when she realizes she has absolutely no idea what she was about to say.
“Yes, thank you, Jason.” Serena places a hand on his arm, ushering him from the room.
“Is she...Will Charlie be okay?” Jason has never experienced the young woman in her postictal phase, the time almost immediately after a seizure for her. He wants to help her, but isn’t sure how he possibly can and it frustrates him.
“Her Mum is taking her for her appointment in a few days and we’re...hopefully going to try a new medication or treatment.” She attempts to reassure him.
“You look tired, Auntie Serena.” He stops her, “So does Auntie Bernie. Greta is great with research. She and I can look into alternative treatments to help. Would that assist you?” Jason bites his lip before leaning in and hugging his aunt tenderly. He doesn’t usually do this without prompting. He did this when the baby was born, and when he heard her crying in the lounge after Elinor died, maybe a few times prior.
Serena knows he must really be worried about her if he’s acting this way. She returns his hug, “Everything is fine. No need to look into it, she has specialists to tend to that for her. You have Gwennie to look after. She’s much more important to your attention than possible treatments for Epilepsy.” She puts him at arms length, meeting his eyes, “Now, would you like to stay for dinner?”
“Greta isn’t due home until seven thirty-eight, with good traffic. I can inform her of our plans and possibly take her something.” Jason nods, “What will we be eating?”
“I’ve no idea yet.” She smirks a little, beginning to descend the stairs.
“What of Charlotte?” He stands still at the top of the stairs.
“Just just needs to sleep it off.”
Jason glances back towards the young woman’s door, “Can I have my dinner in her room? I would like to watch over her.”
“Now, Jason, that simply isn’t necessary.” Serena shakes her head a little
“But I want to.”
“She will be asleep, Jason.” She climbs back up the few steps she had just walked down in order to be at eye level with him. “Look, this is something Bernie and I have been dealing with for a month now...multiple times a week. They kept her far more sedated while in hospital, so it appears a bit more...alarming than it did. She may have two or three good days a week, but the others are used recovering.”
“That’s bad.” Jason shakes his head, “She should be...having a better time in her life. What if that’s the reason she isn’t able to walk as well as she could be?”
“I understand you want to help Charlotte. We all do, but...this is just one of those things that we need to leave up to the experts.”
“What if the experts are wrong?”
Serena swallows, “Then we’ll find other experts, but I trust Ms. MacMillan. Mr. Hansen trusts her as well. In fact, he told me that she would be best suited to handle Charlotte’s issues...that she’ll pinpoint a cause and a treatment to best handle them.” She nods, “Bernie and I are doing our very best while she’s here...and her father comes by as well to help. He should be here tomorrow, I believe.”
Jason begins to shake his head, “I saw Mr. Dunn today. He told me that he was assigned to Keller for a few days as a favor. I’m not certain what that could mean.”
She sighs a little, “Well...we’ll figure something out.”
“I can stay with her.” He volunteers, triumphantly smiling. When he notices the other woman about to attempt talking him out of it, he continues, “Greta will be home to tend to Gwenevere and I have a small holiday. I can help as well, Auntie Serena.” Jason nods, “Let me help you, please.”
Serena stares at him a moment, “Let me talk it over with Bernie first before I agree.”
“Yes!” Jason pumps a fist down to his side, “You will not regret it, Auntie Serena.”
Except she already is.
“Marcus, you leave me at a bit of a crossroads.” Bernie sighs, sitting on the back lanai of the house she shares with her partner.
“It was very unexpected. Trust me.” Marcus shakes his head, leaning back at the desk within the Consultants’ office of Keller ward, berry colored scrubs hang from his frame. “I wish to make it up to you, however. How about I take her to my place for the weekend? Give you and Serena a break. I know it isn’t easy...you don’t need to put all of that pressure on yourselves.”
She shakes her head a little, “I don’t know how she would...handle that. What time are you finished your shift tomorrow?”
“Well, I can just ask her. I wouldn’t force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do.” He notices when his ex-wife falls, almost suspiciously, silent. “She had another attack today, didn’t she...” It wasn’t a question, just a keep observation. “Maybe home isn’t the best place for her at the moment, Bern.”
“I’m not sending her to a care home.” Bernie found her eyes moistening as she takes a drag of a cigarette to push her emotions back down, “I won’t do that to her. She wants to stay here and I’m going to ensure her ability to do that.”
“I agree with you, I do. However, it may just be a very short term solution. She would be able to receive her physiotherapy at higher intervals, as well as have her attacks monitored more closely...with proper instruments made for that type of thing.” Marcus runs a hand through his hair, “I know it’s the absolute last thing any of us would want, but it isn’t about what we want, it’s about what’s best for Charlie.”
“I agree.” Her voice small, though he knows she means it, “She’s an adult, Marcus. Capable of making her own decisions.”
“Is she of sound mind?”
The question never passed through Bernie’s mind, “of course.”
“At this very moment?” Marcus knows the answers, just needing her to agree with him. “Is she, at this moment, capable of making decisions about her own care?”
She lifts her head, catching sight of her partner and Jason, noticing the broad smile on his face. “Marus, I need to go. We’re about to order dinner and...we’re pretty excited to it, apparently.” Bernie doesn’t wait for his goodbyes before giving a sigh of relief, “Everything went okay upstairs?”
“Yes, I’m going to watch over Charlotte for you tomorrow, Auntie Bernie.” Jason answers proudly. “I will ask Greta if she wishes to join me, but I’m very responsible. I have a daughter now, you know.”
“I do know that.” However, he received that daughter by being irresponsible. Bernie nods, stubbing out her cigarette, “There isn’t much to take care of where Charlie is concerned. She’ll be sleeping most of the day, I’d reckon. Would that be okay with you?”
“I’d like to get to know her better since she’s almost like my sister too.” He nods, “May I get to know her better?”
“Of course, however, I think it may be better suited for smaller amounts of time.” Serena attempt to explain, sitting at the edge of the outdoor table, where her partner was located. “Her...disability is still complex-”
“So is mine.” Jason nods, “She and I can talk about that.”
“I’m sure you can, however-”
“I think Jason would do a marvelous job watching over Charlotte tomorrow. Besides, I’m sure he misses being here every now and then.” Bernie almost always gives in to him, wanting him to make his own mistakes instead of attempting to shield him from them. If this was a bad idea, he would have to find that out himself. “In fact, why not have Greta over to help you, if you wish. I’m certain another day with Gwennie would feel great to Charlie. She loves that baby.”
“Do you think she would like to be called Auntie Charlie by Gwenevere even though she isn’t my sister?” Jason tilts his head to the side a little, “Sort of how I call you Auntie Bernie, but you and Auntie Serena aren’t married yet.”
The blonde smirks, slowly glancing toward her partner, “See? Smart man, this one.” She reaches over, affectionately touching his arm, “I have no doubt in Jason’s abilities if given the chance and I know he will take excellent care of Charlie.” Bernie nods, looking back to him, “I do want you to promise us something.” When he nods, she continues, “If you suspect anything out of the ordinary, I want you to call one of us...whether that be that she’s trying to do too much on her own or she’s staring at something for too long...whatever...”
“Well, I’m sure we can make you a list tonight. That way it will help you spot behavior that may be considered out of the ordinary to Charlotte. Would that help?” Serena offers, noticing him nod. “Okay. Hopefully, if things go well, you can help again soon.”
“I would really like that. Charlotte seems very nice.” Jason watches his aunt’s face, “I think Greta too. She already likes Auntie Bernie. She says you worry too much.”
“She does.” Bernie nods, feeling a playful hit to the arm from her partner. She picks her head up at the sound of the infant crying, “Sounds like someone has woken from her nap, and we still need to order food...I’m proper famished.”
Some medical babble. *sigh* Gotta admit, I've missed it a little.
“Mrs. Turnstall, your pain is coming from a bone spur that has seemed to develop on your hip. Actually, it has probably been there for quite a number of years and your fall down the stairs has just aggravated it...and brought it to light, as they say. You’ve also mentioned a family history of osteoarthritis and X-Rays show a slight hip dysplasia.” Marcus Dunn speaks with a patient, appearing more relaxed than most of his contemporaries. “MRI confirms it and some damaged to the soft tissue within as well.”
The lavender haired woman lies back in the bed, “I’m only sixty-three...I can hardly walk. I...” She sighs, “What are my options, doctor?”
“Well, we can do one of two things.” He takes a seat at the foot of her bed. “Pain medication for pain, obviously, and inflammation. Paired with physiotherapy, where they would get that joint working a bit better and get some of that range-of-motion back.”
“My...” The woman shakes her head, “I can’t walk on it as it is. I want to be able to spend more time out and about with my grandchildren. What is the other option?”
“The other option, best option, is arthroscopy.” Bernie walks over to the other side of the bed, rubbing foam sanitizer over her hands, “Heard you guys were a bit short staffed. Thought I could help-”
“Serena made you come up here, didn’t she...” It wasn’t a question, just an observation.
“Absolutely.” The blonde offers her hand to the other woman. “I’m Bernie Wolfe, Trauma surgeon by day, extra hand...when my girlfriend forces me to.” She notices the woman chuckle before turning her attention back toward her ex-husband, “I was just looking over the MRI, she has a hip labral tear on the left side. It’s gone hand in hand with the spurs and it seems relatively small. Shouldn’t be too much of an issue.”
“Could one of you explain what-” The patient moves her head back and forth between the pair as if watching a tennis match, “Do you two ...together?” There was an air about them. Laura Turnstall could always sense those types of things. She raises an eyebrow, intrigued.
“We used to be married for twenty-some odd years. Couple of kids.” Bernie shakes her head a little, arms resting at her sides awkwardly, “He’s alright, I suppose.” She offers her a smirk, “I’d be assisting him, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Wouldn’t mind one bit, dear. You’re a delight. I’m sure you’d be incredibly helpful to Mr. Dunn.” Turnstall shakes her head, grinning even more.
Marcus shakes his head slowly, knowing he’d never win a fight in this situation, “Have you had anything to eat or drink in the last six to twelve hours, Mrs. Turnstall?” He’s amused by it all, knowing Serena would send Bernie since she wasn’t totally comfortable with him yet even though they’ve been on much better terms in the past couple months. Seeing his patient shake her head negatively, he continues, “Fantastic. I’m going to put you in for theater. We’ll have to wait a little bit for a room to open up, but we’ll retrieve some pain management for you in the meantime.” He pats the woman’s forearm before pulling the curtain around to offer her privacy, knowing Bernie would be next to him, “Must admit, didn’t think you’d come in today. You managed to find Char care?”
Bernie nods, “Yes, Jason.”
He pauses once he reaches the nurses’ station, “Jason...Serena’s autistic nephew?”
“Who also has a daughter of his own now and is more than capable of looking after a grown adult...yes, that Jason.” She grins ever so slightly, “He promised to call if there are any issues, but I don’t believe there will be any. I think Charlie will mostly just nap or generally stay in bed today...knowing her.”
Marcus begins to nod slowly, “Okay, if you think it’s a good idea, then so do I.”
She stops, meeting his eye, “Really?”
“Of course. She’s our daughter and she’s lived with you and your partner for over a month now. She’s wanted hardly anyone else besides you since she’s woken and...I believe you know what she’d want best now. She’s a different person than she was before.” He moves to the other side of the desk to input patient information to her chart and see if he’s able to secure a theater. Noticing his former wife still with her eyes fixed on him, “What is it?”
“I...I just wasn’t expecting you to be so...accepting of it.” Bernie folds her arms, “To be honest, Jason sort of pushed himself for that position and I told him that I wouldn’t mind. Serena didn’t want him to do it, but I believe he can...also there was no one else available. Cameron is...a bit overworked as it is, but has promised he will be by soon. In fact, he and I managed to squeeze in lunch just the other day.”
She nods, leaning onto the upper desk area with her folded elbows, “They found Charlie’s mobile. The original one we wrote off. Serena and I were looking through some of the things there. We decided to make copies of the photographs and videos on an external hard drive in an effort to possibly figure out who could have delivered it.” Bernie nods, “Okay, well, I’ll take beds two and three. They seem relatively simple bowel obstruction surgeries.” She sighs a little, “Hopefully simply bowel obstruction surgeries.”
Marcus nods, “We can go through those photographs together at some point. I’d really be interested in seeing who our daughter was before she became who she is now.” With the thought that she believes he isn’t interested, he watches her a moment, “If you wouldn’t mind. Maybe we could do dinner or...something. I don’t know what’s acceptable behavior with one’s ex-wife and her girlfriend.”
“I don’t think there is any.” Bernie smirks ever so slightly, “I think that would be a good idea. Apparently there are...things on there that Serena was even disturbed by and it takes a great deal to cause her to shudder...by seeing something, I mean.” She pauses, unsure where her head is. “Yes, so, it was...I don’t know what it could have been. She refused to show me.”
“I can talk to her, if you want. See if she’ll show me.” He shrugs, “What have I to lose, right?”
“Sure.” Bernie smiles ever so slightly, “Okay.” She turns, reaching into the front pocket of her scrubs, sending a text message to her partner from her mobile. Marcus said he will come over for dinner tonight so we can go through photographs. Hope that is okay. I already told him yes. Xx
Serena makes an unsatisfied face upon reading her mobile, standing at the nurses’ station. Sending one back, I suppose it must be then. That will show her, she thinks, smirking to herself.
“Cat pictures?” Xavier Duval grins toward her when he notices her amused headshake. “Patient in bed seven has a dislocated shoulder and broken clavicle. He’s in quite a bit of pain, but I’m afraid anything worthwhile would raise his INR levels. He’s already at a five point two.” He stands upright, “No NSAIDs because of intestinal bleeding probability. Think Hydromorphone should be okay?”
“Seems you have it all figured out, Mr. Duval. There’s quite a few non-NSAID options for pain management. Simple Morphine or Oxycodone would work as well.” The silver haired woman offers him a quick wink. She nearly steps away from the desk before she pauses, “Actually, once you get that set up, would you mind terribly if I spoke with you privately in my office?”
This is my chance. Xav thinks, nodding a little. “Of course, Ms. Campbell.” A part of him feels suspicious, watching her step away toward her office. He informs one of the nurses of his choice and to please supply it to the patient before stepping to follow his superior. “Is this...am I in trouble?”
“Oh, no. Should you be?” Serena motions for him to close the door behind himself as she sits before her laptop. “Um...one moment.” She taps the trackpad a few times, “This young woman, does she look familiar to you?” A photograph of a much healthier Charlotte Wolfe shows on the screen. She’s grinning, wearing ripped short jeans with fishnets underneath, a faded and ripped Wu-Tang Clan t-shirt and leather jacket covering her upper body. Hair a neon pink with matching eyebrows, but in a coiffed natural style. She almost looked like a comic book character, “Familiar at all?”
He pauses, furrowing his brow as he folds his arms, “Um...possibly. Should she?”
“I’d say so.” She moves to the photograph of them mid-snog.
“I don’t-” Xav begins to shake his head, “this is going to sound unbelievable, but I don’t remember that whatsoever.” He moves a bit closer, peering over his boss’ shoulder, “Is she a singer?”
“She has been many things, but yes.” Serena smirks a little.
“Okay, yes.” He stands upright again, “Friend of mine was dating one of the bartenders at this weird...weird pub. Incredibly nice crowd though. This girl was there with her band. They actually weren’t too bad, if I remember...which I honestly don’t remember much from that night. I just remember having a good time, but that’s about it.”
“Okay, thank you for your honesty, Mr. Duval. That’s all.”
He stops, shaking his head, “Wait a minute. Why do you have pictures of this girl, for one, and why do you have pictures of me with her, for two? Is she a patient?” Probably not, he thinks, she’s using her private laptop and these pictures have a personal touch to them.
“Well, I have a...familiar attachment to them.” Serena attempts to explain, seeing his still confused expression when she glances back up to him, “Ms. Wolfe’s daughter.”
“The one that...” Xav moves his hands to rub against his jaw, embarrassed, “I snogged my boss’ daughter?”
“You absolutely did.”
“She didn’t look the same when she was brought in. I don’t even...I didn’t recognize her. Though, that isn’t saying much. I don’t remember ever catching her name.” He seems surprised, “The band had a weird name...Robots...Reboot...Rockefeller-”
“Robinson.” Serena corrects, “Doesn’t matter. I just wanted you to know in case Ms. Wolfe were to ask you about it. If you have any photographs on your mobile from then, they’d be incredibly helpful. We’re attempting to piece things together about what exactly went on, who she was associating with.” She begins to shake her head a little, “None of her friends ever came for the month she was in hospital. The circumstances of her injury are...bizarre at best, and the DS in charge of her case was killed in a car accident. Doesn’t seem they’re very keen on keeping up with it. Haven’t heard anything in...weeks. Since...” She doesn’t mention the self defence case how the young woman killed her assailant. “Well, anyway...I just wanted you to know incase you are asked of it by her mother.”
“I appreciate the heads up, Ms. Campbell. Thank you.” Xavier gives her a closed mouth smile before venturing out of the office. He’d make his bosses proud. He’d search through his entire cloud history to see if there was anything resembling the neon haired beauty he saw having the time of her life, who has since been reduced to a trembling mess. He could do this for all of them. Be a hero , he tells himself.
Charlotte slowly opens her eyes after having been resting on and off since the day prior. She doesn’t feel alone though. It almost freaks her out and she isn’t sure if it’s all in her head, or if she should actually be worried. Blinking the sleep from her eyes slowly, she glances toward her small reading nook and office area next to her bed, noticing a figure. “Jason?”
“Yes.” Jason has been sitting there for quite a while now, just staring at her, watching her sleep. He thought about reading a book at one point, but decided against it. What if something started happening to her? He couldn’t risk it. “Auntie Bernie asked that I care for you...and I agreed. Are you hungry?”
“Not really.” She groans from the sunlight shining through the window, quickly lifting her hand to shield her eyes. “Mum and Serena are both at work?”
“Yes.” He answers again, “Auntie Serena said their shifts end at about nine at night and they should only take fifteen to twenty minutes to return home.” The young man tilts his head to the side a little, “but if they are a few minutes more or less, that would be acceptable.”
“You know, you don’t have to watch me like that.” Charlie yawns, pushing herself up in bed to a sitting position to lean against the headboard. “Mind closing the blinds? I need to order some blackout curtains...and I just keep forgetting to.” She notices him rise from his seat quickly, doing as asked.
Jason smiles a little toward her, returning to the seat he was previously occupying. “Auntie Serena said you know how to play the guitar...”
“Yes...and violin.” She licks her lips, watching the nervous appearing young man. “Would you like me to teach you something?”
“No, I would just like to watch you play.” He picks up the guitar from its stand, which was next to the chair he was resting in, moving over toward her bed and offering it to her. “There are many complex emotions in music and they usually get lost on me, so I don’t listen to it often. Only as something to fill a quiet space.”
Charlie accepts the instrument from the young man, smiling a little. “This guitar...when I was younger, I saved up as much funds as I possibly could. It had taken me years...and I thought I wouldn’t ever see the day when I was able to afford it. So, I bought a cheaper one and my friend and I would sit around campus with a hat and perform. Nothing original...just covers. We had a blast.” She chuckles a little at the memory, “And after working two jobs, singing for tips around campus, all while still attending class...I was able to afford this one. She’s worth a few thousand pounds.”
“Why would it cost that much?”
“It’s handmade...to my specifications. Fitted to me and made with mahogany. It’s all I ever wanted when I was growing up.” She removes the pick from the neck of the instrument, where she usually tucked it away when she started biting her nails, “We’ve been through a great deal, she and I.”
Jason tilts his head to the side, sitting at the foot of her bed. “How do you know your guitar is female?”
“Curves like this? There’s no way she’d be anything else.” Charlie strums across the strings, adjusting it ever so slightly, and doing it again. She smirks, “Cover or original?”
“Well, which is better?”
The young woman raises an amused eyebrow, “That’s all in the ear of the beholder.” She bites her lip a little, taking a moment. She’s never played this before anyone before who wasn’t Frieda, and even then she’s been pretty shy about doing so. “ In the afternoon, she sits and waits for him to come. Two swollen ankles count the time. Nervous fingers trace across the cold linoleum. The kitchen walls receive her sigh. ”
Jason begins to smile a little, “That’s really beautiful. You’re telling a story, but with music.” He nods, “Did you sing to Gwenevere yesterday?”
“I...I don’t remember, Jason. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. Greta said that, statistically, you should be far worse off than you are. That occasional memory loss is the least of your worries.”
Charlie raises an eyebrow, “Is that so?”
“She said that because of the height of the fall, the impact speed would be that of a vehicle traveling at about sixty-seven kilometers per hour.” His voice sounds as if he is amazed, “I was hit by a car once. It didn't hit my head, but it hurt a lot.”
She smirks ever so slightly, “I'm glad you're okay, Jason.”
“I'm glad I'm okay too.” Jason nods.
Charlie listens to him, hearing her mobile begin to ring. Her actual mobile, the first one. She furrows her brow, “Jason, can go go and get that for me?” It nearly makes her nervous, the identity of the caller, as she watches the young man race from the room. She hasn’t heard that ringtone in months, but it feels longer. David Bowie’s Life on Mars. Always one of her favorites. The music continues as she hears it move closer to her position before just stopping.
The young man slowly enters her room only a moment later, “I wasn’t fast enough.”
“You did great.” She reaches out, accepting the mobile from him once it’s offered toward her.
“There was a picture on the screen when it was ringing.” Jason informs her, quite proud that he noticed to begin with.
Charlie furrows her eyebrows, “Oh really?” She begins to scroll through the previous calls after unlocking the device with her fingerprint. “So I knew them well enough to, not only have them already programmed into my mobile, but to attach a photo to it as well.” She shakes her head, looking at the name. Xavier Duval. “No idea.”
The lyrics used in this chapter are from a song called "Save Me" by Kathleen "Bird" York.
“Children, we’re home.” Bernie calls out as she enters the home she shares with her partner, holding the other woman’s hand casually. She pauses when she doesn’t hear a response, instead hearing music from the floor above them. “Can’t tell if that’s her or-”
“No, that’s one of hers. She’s been working on that one for a bit.” Serena nods, “Did Marcus say what he wanted to eat? I’m starving.”
“Wait.” The blonde silently climbs the stairs, letting go of her partner’s hand to listen to her daughter playing her guitar and singing.
“ In an empty room she sits and waits for him to come. Two swollen ankles count the time. Nervous fingers trace across the cold linoleum. Yellowed walls receive her sigh...Oh, can you hear me Joe- ”
Bernie grins, meeting her girlfriend’s eyes again, “Her talent was wasted vastly.” She says quietly, returning to the ground floor. “I don’t know what Marcus wants. Just look through the menus, he should be here soon anyway. I know he’ll want to see Char, so I should-”
“Don’t scare the girl. Just shoot her a text.” Serena smirks, amused by the other woman.
“Where’s the fun in that?” Bernie calls to the AI of the room, telling it to just repeat a message, Your mothers are home.
Charlie grins, glancing over to the sleeping young man in her bed. She uses her mobile, Big J has drifted off. What to do? She knows she’s sent the text in a group chat between the other two women. Maybe Greta wants to come over. Is it too late for her to leave the house?
Serena raises an eyebrow, “Big J?” She shakes her head a little, Let him rest. I’ll speak with Greta. Your Mum is on her way up to help you down here. Have you eaten? She nods for Bernie to head up to get her before she moves to the kitchen, noticing the medication still in the pill case for the particular day in the middle of the kitchen table. She sighs, closing her eyes a moment.
Bernie quietly opens the door to her daughter’s bedroom, noticing Jason asleep at the foot of the bed and her daughter strumming her guitar. She smirks ever so slightly, “Play him to sleep?”
“I suppose.” Charlie glances down to the young man, “I haven’t been playing all day long. At least it hasn’t felt like it.” She glances toward the window, “It is dark outside though, so...I’m not particularly good with time.”
“No, you aren’t.” She offers a gentle smile, “Care to come downstairs? We’d like to try and go through some of the photographs on your mobile with you. See if they jog any memories for you. We’ll even order take-away. Whatever you’d like.”
“I wouldn’t mind some curry. Coconut curry?” The young woman holds onto her mother a moment, as the other woman aids in helping her stand, hugging onto her. It’s been a while since she’s done so. Her emotions something she isn’t able to control due to brain damage, even though it’s been a month, she still has her moments. This being one of them. “I love you, Mum.”
Bernie has learned, over the previous couple months, how her daughter has changed. Knowing it was, probably, only going to get worse if ever better. She can hope for the best, but expect the worse. That’s what her experiences in life have taught her time and time again. “I love you too, Charlotte.” She answers gently in her ear, “Just hold onto me. No need for the walker this time.”
“You’ll be my walker.”
“I’ll always ready to be your walker.” This is supposed to be the other way around, and not now. Not for years and years from now. She shouldn’t need to take care of her young daughter this way. “Serena said the two of you plan to have a day of it.”
“I’ll get my hair done.” Charlie smiles ever so slightly, moving cautiously, “Will Serena want curry too?”
“I don’t think she cares one way or the other.” Bernie can tell the young woman is not a hundred percent just yet, though she’s curious as to how she was earlier in the day, though she knows Charlie changes from minute to minute. “Your father is stopping over as well for dinner...and to look at pictures with us.”
“He is, but I should warn you, Char, there may be some things on your mobile that you may not like. If it turns out to be too much to you, don’t hesitate to let me know. These are photographs you’ve taken or have had someone take of you.” The blonde explains, still towards the top of the stairs. “Serena removed most of them from your mobile to put onto a flash drive. The majority, actually. Couldn’t clean out all of them, but...I reckon she did what she needed to.”
Charlie listens, attempting to concentrate on descending the stairs, “Jason said Dad has been at Holby. Does he work there now?”
“He wishes he did, but...I don’t know if I’m ready to let him just yet.” Bernie smirks ever so slightly as she hears her daughter giggle softly. “You’d be proud, I even assisted in a surgery with him. We worked together.”
“I’m impressed more than anything.” She finally reaches the bottom of the stairs, hearing her father’s voice from the lounge attempting to be friendly with Serena.
“What I do is rough, for the most part. Gentle hand not needed so much. You...general surgery, but the vascular stuff...it’s impressive to watch.” Marcus leans back on the sofa, watching the woman as she attempts to secure an HDMI cord between her laptop and the television, “Do you need help, Serena?”
“I...” Serena doesn’t want to admit she isn’t able to reach. She doesn’t want help from this man even though they’ve worked together to care for Charlotte and become quite friendly with one another. “I think so. Yes, if you’re able to reach.” She moves away from the television set.
“I’m certain we can figure it out together.” He smirks, getting on his knees to reach up behind the television, “I’m surprised this doesn’t have a front facing port.”
“I’ve been trying to talk Bernie into getting a new one, but she doesn’t see reason for it. I think if I just go ahead and purchase one to replace it, she wouldn’t know the difference.”
“I’m far more observant than you give me credit for.” Bernie calls out as they finally reach the doorway, her daughter holding onto her side as they move at an incredibly slow pace. “Charlotte has gone all this way without use of her walker. Isn’t that impressive?”
Marcus smirks, “Very.” He finally pushes the cord in, “Got it. Give it a try, Serena.” He pushes up off the floor, rubbing his hands together to get rid of the ever so miniscule amount of dust from the electronic before watching his daughter move with her mother very slowly. “You’re doing a fantastic job, Char.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Charlie smiles slightly, “Do you mind a curry for dinner? Serena, how about you?”
“That sounds great.” Both Marcus and Serena answer in unison before glancing to one another, and back to the young woman who they hear giving a soft chortle. Marcus speaks up, “I think that’s a great idea. Is there a take-away menu possibly? Dinner is on me, ladies.”
“In the drawer in the kitchen, to the right of the sink.” Bernie has an amused smirk on her face. Her previous life and her current life blending quickly into one. Though, it does surprise her that she doesn’t mind and that these people are getting along without any objections.
“What about Jason? Should we get him something to eat?” The young woman glances around the room, finally settling her eye on Serena, “Do you think he’d-”
“Oh, I’ll order him something. Never worry.” Serena winks toward her, watching as she slowly sinks to the sofa. “Now, Charlie, I’m sure your mother informed you about looking through these photographs to see if there was absolutely anything to jog your memory. If they,” She pauses, attempting to find the words, “make you feel uncomfortable at all, simply let me know. I’ll stop straight away.”
“If they make me feel uncomfortable, at least they’re making me feel something.” Charlotte glances to her, “Which is better than feeling nothing at all. It means it’s accessing some memory in the back of my mind that’s attempting to force its way out. It’s okay. Hopefully there’s no nudes...though I’m sure you’ve all seen that by now.” She nods a little, glancing about the room, “and it will be nice to see what I looked like without all these hideous scars.”
“They aren’t ugly, Charlotte. They’re a part of you. They’re a memory. Even though it may hurt, emotionally, they’re still a memory.” Marcus nods, sitting next to his daughter and gently wrapping an arm around her, “And feeling something is better than feeling nothing at all because you know that means it all mattered.”
Bernie listens to the man, knowing he was referencing their time together and subsequent divorce, but she chooses not to say anything. Instead, she folds her hands together, leaning forward slightly to rest her wrists on her knees. “Campbell, I think we’re ready when you are.”
“I thought for certain she’d-” Bernie holds onto her girlfriend as they rest in bed, face at her shoulder as the other woman reads a novel with a simple book light clipped onto it, “I mean...if she recognized anything, or anyone, her face was completely blank...the entire time.”
Serena casually reaches a hand to the woman’s arm across her abdomen, stroking her wrist lazily, “Please, love, don’t let it bother you. I consulted Roxanne earlier in the day and she said, for some patients with a brain trauma, it can take months for them to even recognize family members...and sometimes, they aren’t able to even do that.”
The blond nods a little, “I remember when she didn’t recognize Marcus.” She smirks ever so slightly to herself, “Those were the days.” She hears her partner chuckle softly, “In all seriousness though, I’m impressed with how far we’ve all come and I know it wouldn’t have been possible...or even conceivable in the least if it weren’t for her.”
“Very true.” She reaches up to flip a page, reclipping the light to her newest section before returning her hand to where it was previously. “Are you okay with that?” She waits for a response, upon hearing none, she clarifies herself, “Okay with Marcus being a part of your life again?”
“He’s the father of my children. We’ll be tied together until the day he dies...because I refuse to let him outlive me.” Bernie smirks a little, amused with herself, “he’s also just been very...understanding with how Charlotte is now. That she isn’t the person she was previously, she isn’t a Daddy’s Girl anymore.”
“No, she is not.” Serena grins a bit to herself, “Definitely her mother’s daughter.” She flips another page, again adjusting the light, “Stubborn and persistent.”
“Oh, am I?” The blonde raises an eyebrow, leaning her head up to softly kiss just under Serena’s ear, knowing it drives the woman wild. “Please, tell me just how stubborn and persistent I am.” Another kiss at the woman’s neck.
“I’m reading, Bernie.” Serena glances over toward her a moment, capturing the woman’s lips with her own. “Let me finish the chapter.”
“That’s not romantic at all. Where’s your sense of adventure, Campbell?” Bernie pecks the other woman’s lips again, finally pausing when she hears loud music suddenly play in their room, nearly causing her to jump. “I deserved that.” She mumbles to herself, telling the AI to stop playing. “I’ll go and see what she needs.”
“Serves you right.” The silver haired woman mumbles before receiving a pillow over top of her book as her partner jogs from the room.
Bernie quickly moves to the hall, and to her daughter’s bedroom, pushing the door open quickly. She finds the bed bare, causing her to furrow her brow. She then checks the toilet, again it is empty. At this point, she starts to panic. Bernie begins to check in each room on the floor before jogging down the stairs, only to see a glow coming from the lounge. She stands in the doorway, catching her breath, “Charlotte.”
Charlie glances over lazily, “You okay?”
“The sound system can relay messages as well, you know.” She folds her arms, “Like where in the house you’re located so your mother doesn’t frantically race around in an attempt to find you.” The blonde moves over to the sofa, taking a seat next to her daughter. “What did you need?”
“Company.” She notices the look her mother is giving her, “This man called me earlier today and I, literally, have no idea who he is.” Charlotte motions to a photo on the television, “I was focused on food...and Serena giving me the nightly dose of medication that...I didn’t even notice.” She shakes her head.
Bernie glances up, noticing it as Xavier Duval. “How do you know it was him who called you?”
“He rang my old mobile. New one has a different number.” Charlie licks her lips, going to another picture, “Because here we are again...not at the pub.”
“But Serena had taken all the photographs from-”
“Not contact pictures.” She shakes her head, “they’re stored deep within the memory of the mobile. A mobile today has five times the processing speed and power as computers made even a few years ago...not to mention the storage. I remember attempting to explain what a floppy disk was to my students back in the day.” She motions to another photo, “Anyway, there was one for him. Just like there were ones for you and Dad...and even Cam, but that one...is just a picture of him passed out with a willy drawn on his face.” She huffs her amusement, “I checked.”
“So, you would have known this young man well enough to render his contact information be in your mobile.” Bernie deduces, “and for yours to be in his if he was able to contact you without my giving him your contact.” She pauses, “What photo did you have for me?”
“The one where you’re holding me as you’re standing in the window. I think I was a month old at most.”
She knows what the young woman is referring to, causing her to nod, “You were only a week old. You...refused to sleep at night. Luckily, I wasn’t set to go back on duty just yet, so...we’d spend the nights together...and the days. You’d light up when your Dad came home, but at night...we’d talk the night away.” Bernie smiles a little at the memory, “And your father captured that picture as the sun was rising.” She motions to a framed version of it on the bookcase surrounding the television, “It always meant a great deal to me as well.”
Charlotte nods a little, the story nearly causing a tear to form in her eye. She finds herself leaning against the woman a bit, “What happened though?” When she realizes her mother probably doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she continues, “What happened that caused me to be so angry? What caused me to cut myself off from everyone? Did something happen?”
“Life happened, Char.” Bernie softly kisses the top of her daughter’s head as she wraps an arm around her shoulders. “However, life is like a river...paddling down a river. Smooth and beautiful, but...at some point, you’re going to encounter rocks beneath the surface that cause that ride to turn treacherous. No one’s fault, of course. It’s just what it is.” She takes a deep breath, “It’s taken me...a long time to figure that out for myself. After years of blaming myself...it’s no one’s fault. There is no cause. It’s just what it is. You included.” She glances down, noticing the girl growing more groggy. “How were you able to get into Serena’s laptop? It’s password protected.”
“My memory might be shit, but...I’m observant. She’s also a slow typist and I watched as she filled it in.” Charlie hears an impressed hum from her mother as the two of them start to fall asleep more. They are both far too comfortable to move even slightly, simply falling asleep in one another’s arms.
Having noticed that her girlfriend did not return to their bed the night previous, Serena Campbell figures she must have fallen asleep in Charlotte’s room. She continues to walk down the hall, bouncing down the stairs on the balls of her feet. She hears the slight noise the television makes when it’s still on in an empty room. Noticing the mother-daughter pair resting on the sofa, she quickly fetches her mobile, taking a couple candid shots of it. A flash of what she and Elinor could have been crosses her mind, causing her to bite her lip. She retreats to the kitchen, seeing her nephew at the table, she nearly jumps, “Jason.”
“Good morning, Auntie Serena.” Jason nods, offering her a closed mouth smile as he digs his spoon into his cereal. “I decided to try something new today since I never like to try new things. This is a different cereal than Corn Flakes.” He impresses even himself. “I sent Greta a text this morning, but she must still be asleep with Gwen.”
“Golden Nuggets...Charlie’s favorite. I can buy you a box if you’d like.” She can feel herself starting to calm down, the thoughts escaping her mind, thankfully. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, I did. Much better than at home with the baby.” He takes another spoonful to his mouth, “She’s very loud most times, but Greta is able to quiet her.”
“Do you help her?” She opens the cabinet next to the sink, pulling down a tea bag. Breakfast tea, actually one of her favorites. “When Gwen begins to fuss, do you help Greta?”
“I try the best that I can.” Jason answers honestly. “I should get back home though. I enjoyed spending time here again...and getting to know Charlotte. She seems very nice.” He pushes another spoonful into his mouth, taking a moment to chew, “We’ve only had a few encounters previously.”
Hearing the front door open and close as quietly as it possibly can, Serena hears footprints on the hardwood floor. Everyone, thus far, is accounted for. “Hello?” Her voice nervous, unsure. Her head tilts, glancing toward the doorway.
“Morning.” Cameron runs a hand through his hair, “Are you making tea?”
“Was your Mum expecting you?” She places a hand to her chest, relieved. “Scared me half to death, Cameron.” Serena watches as the young man nears her, smirk playing at the corner of his lips as he embraces her. “What are you doing?” She pauses, “Have you been drinking?”
“Cameron.” She begins to scowl.
“I didn't drive. This was the closest via black cab.” Cam lifts his hands up to show his innocence. “So, no. Mum didn't know I was coming by. Surprise.”
Serena closes her eyes a moment, taking a deep breath. “You know that she's going to be angry if she finds out you've been drinking heavily now with this new position.” She opens her eyes after a moment, meeting his, “Go upstairs to Jason’s old room-”
“But I still sleep there sometimes!” Jason interjects, watching the pair.
“Of course, but you aren’t sleeping there at the moment.” She nods to her nephew before glancing back to her partner’s son, “Go on.” Serena watches as he jogs away, once again looking to Jason, “And you, be quiet about all this, please. I don’t need Bernie’s head elsewhere while at work today.”
“Why would my head be elsewhere?” Bernie yawns as she walks slowly to the kitchen, “And why didn’t you wake me last night? She let me sleep on the sofa all the night long. Can you believe that, Jason?” She gives his shoulder a friendly squeeze. “Now my neck is just...killing me.” The woman tilts her head from side to side.
Jason starts, “I was told not to-”
“Not to be too loud.” Serena speaks over him, “I told him not to wake you by being too loud. I’m sure you understand. You looked rather comfortable there with Charlie.”
“Well, I wasn’t.” Bernie can tell she isn’t telling the total truth, but decides to leave it alone. “Jason, you’re making me want some of those Golden Nuggets...and I don’t even fancy them in the slightest.” She takes the seat across from him, “And you’re making tea?”
“I am. I just didn’t quite feel like coffee first thing.” The silver haired woman leans down, kissing her girlfriend’s lips softly. “I don’t like sleeping alone anymore, darling.” She smiles, “Would you like for me to make you some toast? That’s one thing I don’t burn too often.”
“Auntie Serena has never been a very good cook.” Jason shakes his head a little, taking the last bite of his cereal. “She has good relationships with many take-away restaurants.” He pauses, “Does she still?” The young man offers her a closed-mouth smile, noticing the woman’s amused expression.
Charlotte throws her old mobile across the room, frustrated with the locked information in her mind. She closes her eyes, leaning back against the sofa, not feeling like retreating to her bedroom just yet. She yells out, releasing her tensions. “For god’s sake.” She rubs her hands over her face, attempting to calm herself down.
Cameron was midway down the stairs when he heard the yell. He races down the rest of the way, expecting that his sister fell or the like. He sees her resting on the sofa, lifting a hand to the back of his own head. “So...” He winces from his hangover, “I need some water.”
“What the hell are you doing here?” The young woman lifts her head at the sound of her brother’s voice, furrowing her brow, “I mean...I’m glad you’re here, I’m just...confused.”
“Doesn’t take much.” He walks toward the kitchen, “Are you hungry?”
“Yes, but I can make my own sandwich.” Charlie glances around for her walker, “I thought Mum was staying with me.”
“No. Well, maybe. Jason was here and she was called for a large Trauma incident. So...she went to take care of her unit.” Cam calls out, finding a large bottle of water in the refrigerator, he strolls back over to the sofa to sit next to his sister, “So, really it’s supposed to be Jason taking care of you, but I taught him that the AI can play trivia games with him...and he’s loving it.”
“Still doesn’t answer what you’re doing here.”
“Why do I need a reason to come and see my favorite sister?”
“Because you’re an idiot and you’ve been hiding from me for the past fortnight.” Charlie glances over toward her brother, “and, for some godforsaken reason, I’ve missed you.”
Cam begins to shake his head, “I’m not hiding from you.”
“Oh?” She raises an eyebrow, “So, after I was attacked here, you just...decided to be very busy?” An unamused expression covers her face before she continues, “If you think I’m that stupid that I wouldn’t realize you’re purposefully staying away from me, you hardly know me at all.”
“It was my fault, Char.”
“I thought we went over this. No, it wasn’t.” Charlotte shakes her head, “It is not your fault or my fault. It’s no one’s fault...it just happened.” She explains, “He was focused on me. I’ve been...remembering a little about it. With Mitchy...I was the target. His misplaced target for reasons...I know not. We’ll never know.” She swallows, “I killed someone that day. I jammed a biro in his neck-”
Cameron attempts to stop her, not wanting to relive it himself, “Char-”
“I did...and I don’t know what happened after. We had a drunken one night stand and he was obsessed with me. Silver just...played into his obsession and intensified it for him. All of which, was of no help to anyone. However, it isn’t any one person’s fault. Do you understand?”
He bites the inside of his cheek, “I didn’t want to talk about this today.”
“Then when, Cam? You hide from me and we need to talk about it because we...we need to get past it.” Charlie swallows, “I need my big brother.”
“You needed me then too and I wasn’t there. I was...down here, watching a film and you were being attacked.” Cameron’s voice breaks ever so slightly.
“Jesus, I know. I bloody killed him.” She glares, her voice rising a little as she repeats herself. “I don’t understand where my mobile came from. I’m not living in my own flat. Mum won’t even let me be alone at any point in time because she’s afraid I’ll hit my head on something, I reckon.” Charlotte feels her eyes starting to well with tears. “I already know. I stole someone’s life from him. Yes, he attempted to kill me and he was a bastard, but I’m certain if he received the help necessary, he could have...changed his ways.”
“You don’t know that.”
“You’re right, I don’t...and you don’t know if there was anything you could have done differently either. So we’re back to square one.” Charlotte attempts to explain, “If we don’t let it go, I’ll keep on having nightmares and you’ll keep staying away...which is the very last thing I want.” She sighs, hearing her brother start to chuckle next to her, “You’re fucking laughing.”
“You’re just...reminding me of how you used to be before everything.” Cameron continues to chortle, “Give no fucks kind of gal.”
“Great.” She replies sarcastically. “Now, go and make me a sandwich, please.”
“I thought you said you could do it!”
“I can, but now I don’t feel like it and you’re more than capable to do so because something tells me that Mum doesn’t even know you’re here.” Charlotte notices the mildly surprised expression on his face, “She didn’t mention you before she left...usually she feels the need to give me a rundown on who is babysitting me for the day. Even when it’s Serena or Dad. I think that’s...kinda suspicious.”
Cameron sighs as he stands, “Can’t believe my sister feels the need to resort to blackmail.” Catching a smirk forming on her face, he continues, “What do you even want?”
“Ham and cheese on wheat toast...with mayonnaise, please.” Charlie watches as her brother grumbles, retreating to the kitchen. It causes her to laugh again, knowing her brother would have done it anyway if she had asked him to. Her attention returns to the television, looking to the handsome young man that keeps popping up throughout her search through her old mobile.
“Why are you looking at a photograph of Dr. Duval?” Jason stands near the doorway, having stepped in when Cameron stepped out.
“I’m sorry, what?” She glances toward the young man.
The young motions toward the television, “Dr. Duval...he works on AAU with Auntie Serena and Auntie Bernie.” Jason sees the picture with the two of them kissing, continuing, “Were the two of you dating prior to your illness?”
“I don’t really know.” Charlotte feels herself growing a bit angry, “Cam is making sandwiches in the kitchen, you should go and tell him what you want...say I sent you.” Watching the young man retreat to the same room as her brother, she glances in front of her, feeling a sense of betrayal by the women she has trusted in so much.
Serena shifts through the photographs on her computer flash drive. Suddenly coming to the end of those from Charlie and running into some of Ellie before she died. The two of them on a holiday, smiling to the camera of Elinor’s mobile as it was held out in front of her. The picture takes the silver haired woman by surprise, causing her to jump a little, tears quickly springing to her eyes. She closes out the program, leaning back in her office chair, attempting to compose herself. Hearing a knock at the door, she lifts her head, “Come in.”
Marcus pokes his head into the office, “Sorry to bother you.” He quickly makes a mental note at her dampened eyes, “Just received a text to my mobile from Charlotte about picking her up tonight and taking her to my place. She appears a bit...angry.”
The silver haired woman takes a deep breath, “I’ve no idea...It changes by the hour with her.”
He nods a little, continuing after a moment, “Are uh...are you okay?”
“Right as rain.” Serena lifts her hand to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear, “Have you phoned Charlotte?”
“Not yet. I wanted to see if she had spoken to you and Bernie first.” Marcus places his hands on his hips, “The two of you have grown to understand the person she is now better than I have. I help when I’m able to, but...I know it’s never really enough and-”
“It’s okay, Marcus.” She nods, “I wouldn’t think much of it unless Cameron or Jason ring. They’re at home with her. Probably just a squabble with the two of them. Jason thinks the world of her, but I know he can be a bit much at times. I’m sure it’s just something of the sort.”
“I’d rather she stay with the two of you. Your place has been...adjusted to better suit her needs than my own. I know your bath has, at least.”
Serena offers a soft smile, “She told me to cancel the stair lift because she could do it herself...and we weren’t about to argue with her.” She pauses, “Even though it would be far easier on us, I’d rather not have her unhappy, quite honestly.”
“Agreed.” Marcus closes the door behind himself before taking a seat underneath the windows, “Do you think I should go and see what’s going on or shall I allow the two of you to handle it...because I feel like it has something to do with her being angry with the two of you.”
“Of course.” She tilts her head back, closing her eyes a moment.
He waits a moment, “I feel like I walked in on you having-”
“I already told you that I’m fine, Marcus.” Serena answers again before shaking her head, “I’ll run home and...see if I can settle the issue. If Bernie begins looking for me, tell her I’m up on Keller. She’s in theater at the moment, but that should hold her for a bit of time at least. I’ll treat you to lunch.”
“Beetroot and bulgur wheat salad...from that place we ordered from last week.” Marcus raises an eyebrow, offering it to her as an option since the base of the restaurant wasn’t far from the hospital.
“Deal.” She leans down to the drawer of her desk, grabbing her purse. Standing, she leaves Marcus there. Still unsure of him or if his intentions are genuine, or a way of manipulation of some sort. She’s always had an issue with trust.
Xavier Duval watches as his department boss leaves through the doors, glancing to his mobile again. He scrolls through the names, taking note of Charlie Wolfe again. Her picture connected to the name in his phone. He pauses, feeling like he’s being watched. Xav slowly lifts his head, noticing Marcus Dunn standing next to him. “Mr. Dunn...I thought you were helping on Keller. Nice to see you in our trenches.”
Marcus tilts his head to the side, “Could I see you in the office?” He motions to the secondary office used by guest specialists to the unit.
“Oh, I would, but I was about to do rounds since it seems Ms. Campbell has stepped out for a moment.” He motions toward the main doors with a tilt of his head.
“Oh, it should only be a moment.” He offers a smile, lifting a hand, “You have my word.”
Xav nods hesitantly, setting down his clipboard before stalking off toward the aforementioned office. He notices the other doctor lock the door behind him. The blinds closed. “Mr. Dunn, how can I be of assistance?” He wonders if Serena Campbell mentioned anything to him.
Marcus is silent a moment, folding his arms across his chest. “Do you have children, Dr. Duval?” He paces ever so slightly near the only door to the room. Like a tiger lurking about his cage, staring at his prey. “Or...have any experience of caring about someone...or for someone? Not in a medical sense, but in a familial sense?”
“Sir, I don’t really-”
He rushes to him, grabbing him by the shirt collar, “You know my daughter...and I think you know something about the people she used to run with.” The older man meets the younger man’s eyes, “and for some reason...my ex-wife and her girlfriend are protecting you.” He shakes his head slowly, “And I don’t understand why.”
Xav can tell these are the words of a hurt father, “I don’t know your-”
“I saw the photographs.” Marcus yells at him, brow furrowing more, “Don’t lie to me. I know that you two were awful close. Now, I don’t know the extent of your relationship, but I know what I saw.” He pushes the taller man against the wall, “Don’t lie to me.”
“I will defend myself if I need to.” He meets the other man’s eyes again, “I’m not lying to you. You have the wrong idea. It wasn’t like that between us.”
He fishes the mobile in the younger man’s pocket, glad it unlocks automatically due to the other man’s smartwatch. The contact information for his daughter on the first screen after unlocking. “What’s this?”
Xav exhales slowly, realizing the man knows and saw him previously. He isn’t certain how he’ll get himself out of this one. He wasn’t lying. However, the details, or lack thereof, of his relationship with Charlotte Wolfe was something only the two of them understood and accepted. He couldn’t admit defeat now. He feels a fist hit his nose from the man before him, frustrated with the silence.
Marcus snaps out of his anger, letting the man go and stepping back from him once he sees blood drop onto his scrub top. He shakes his head, “I’m sorry.” He hastily makes an exit from the closed room, leaving the other man to be alone. Marcus knows he just made a terrible mistake.
“I didn’t ask you to lecture me on anything. I just need you to set my nose, please.” Xavier looks to the nurse before him, someone who has actually grown to be a friend. “I don’t want you to call anyone, I don’t want this reported. I got what was coming to me. Understand?”
Donna scowls a little, “This will hurt.” She waits a moment for him to breathe in before pushing his nose to the proper position, giving him a bag of ice after, “He shouldn’t be practicing at this hospital, or any hospital if he can’t control his anger. When Ms. Wolfe finds out-”
“But she isn’t going to find out from you, is she?” It wasn’t a question, more of a warning, more of a request from him to her. “This isn’t your business.”
“Of course it’s my business. You’re the Registrar of this department and you’ve a broken nose.”
“Which is why I’m going to cut out and go home before anyone-”
“That’s just going to make you look unprofessional.” Donna shakes her head, inserting a nasal tampon to his nostril that still has blood leaking from it, “as will this, but far less if you just leave.” She’s careful, being sure to not damage his nose any more than it already is. “Do you want me to put on an external splint?”
“No, this should be enough.” Xav sighs, “Thanks.”
“You need to report him.”
“It was my fault, Donna.” He says again, trying to make her understand. “It has to do with his daughter-”
“What’s Charlie have to do with this?” She finishes, removing her gloves before it dawns on her. “Please tell me you didn’t sleep with her.”
“It wasn’t like that.” Xav tries to move his face about, looking at the small cosmetic mirror Donna had brought in the secluded office with her. When he notices that she’s still staring at him, he continues, “We met at a bar once. Friend of mine knew the bartender...and her band was playing. We hooked up, yeah, but it was only a few times. Neither of us wanted anything serious.”
“Then why would Mr. Dunn slug you?” Donna begins clearing up the supplies she sneaked into the room with her. “People don’t just hit other people because they’re angry.”
“They do all the time. We’d be out of a job if they didn’t.” He sighs softly, “He’s just a worried father...who doesn’t know who his daughter was then and wants some answers. Can’t fault him for that. I can’t give him those answers and he doesn’t understand that. He doesn’t know how she and I are...were connected. He doesn’t need to know that about his daughter.”
“I don’t even believe you.”
“You don’t need to.” Xav walks away from her, returning to the nurse’s station with a puffy nose. He reaches into his pocket, looking at the contact information for Charlie Wolfe, he sends her a text message. We need to talk.
Charlie looks to her old mobile when it vibrates. She can feel her anxiety and emotions going haywire. She reaches for the device, noticing he young man in the photographs and she now has a name for. Xavier Duval. The young woman bites her lip, trying to type a response, but noticing her hands her trembling far too much. She pulls her legs up to her chest, having relocated to her own bedroom. Hearing a knock, “I just want...to be alone right now.” Her tongue feels foreign in her mouth again and she closes her eyes, knowing what’s due to come on soon.
Serena opens the door anyway, glancing to the young woman in front of her. “Boys gave you up.” She closes the door behind herself, nearing the bed, “Even your Dad.”
“You knew...all this time, you knew his identity, where he worked. In your own department, no less.” She meets the woman’s eyes, “You’re not due home yet.”
“I left to tend to you.” She answers honestly, “I needed to be away from that place.”
Charlie studies the other woman’s face, “Mum doesn’t know you left.” She doesn’t need an answer or even an observation, she continues, “Are you planning to tell her?”
“I was going to go back, but I don’t know if I actually want to at the moment.” Serena shakes her head, offering the young woman a soft smile as she takes a seat at the foot of her bed. “Charlotte, your Mum and I didn’t...hold our knowledge of Xav from you in an effort to hurt you. Exactly the opposite. We wanted to find out more information, but...he wasn’t very...forthcoming with it at all.”
“He just text me.” She motions to her old mobile at the other side of her mattress. Holding her hands out to show their shaking, “I figure I’ve...a few more minutes before I go out.”
“The last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt you-”
“I know.” Charlie whispers, motioning for the woman to move closer, “Ditto. You and Mum, with this whole...weird blended family we have. I can’t...control anything.”
“Neither can I.” Serena starts to shake her head, “Neither can anyone else.”
She falls silent, leaning against the other woman once she moves up next to her. “If you say so.”
The older woman smirks ever so slightly, wrapping an arm around the other, holding her closely in a way that a mother holds her child. This isn’t your child. She can hear something screaming, over and over, in the back of her head. “I love you so much...and I don’t particularly care if you’re comfortable with that concept or not, but-”
“Serena...ditto.” Charlie nods, “It just...hurts when you and Mum hold out on me. Please, stop holding things from me. Please...I can’t take it again.” She places her shaking hand to her chest, “I can’t.”
“Elinor, I promise you that it was a mistake.” Serena catches herself as it escapes her mouth, however the fact that it’s in the universe, doesn’t help things. “I’m sorry.” Maybe this is her problem. Maybe she’s letting herself see too much of her daughter in Charlotte when, in fact, the young woman was absolutely nothing like her. Except maybe for the mood swings, but at least Charlie had a real reason for them that she couldn’t control.
“It’s okay...I know it’s hard to...” She pauses, feeling her body starting to tense, “Don’t leave me, please.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” Serena pushes a few strands of hair from the young woman’s face, watching as her seizure takes hold. Maybe she needs to go back to her psychologist, maybe she should try antidepressants again. She’s sure her doctor would tell her that this situation she’s put herself in is in no way a good one in regards to letting herself mourn. She doesn’t know, however, if she should let her girlfriend know all of this. Bernie would do what needed to be done. Even if it meant that Charlotte would stay with Marcus, but Serena couldn’t possibly lose her now.
“Any idea where Serena’s gone off to?” Bernie leans over the nurse’s station, clad in her navy trauma department scrubs. She’s spent most of her morning and a good portion of her afternoon in theater, attending to a multi-vehicle pile up. Patients were spread across both AAU and Keller. Especially the ones with broken bones, no better than to let Marcus tend to them upstairs.
Donna lifts her head, shaking it negatively, “No, sorry. Saw her step out a while ago.” She’s conflicted. Should she say something to her boss? “And Dr. Duval also had to step out, unfortunately. Family emergency.”
“He doesn’t-” She pauses, glancing to her watch for the time. “Okay, um...how much longer until Ric gets in?”
“Could you possibly put out that I’m on the lookout for my partner, please? Also, I have a good feeling that Mr. Duval may have just gone to the one place he absolutely shouldn’t venture.” Her hair in a short tie back, messy. Bernie knows where Xavier has gone, at least she thinks she knows. Serena, on the other hand, is a mystery. Not in theater, not on Keller, even after she was told otherwise. She digs in her pocket, fetching her mobile.
Serena reaches over to the nightstand, having been holding Charlotte after her seizure within the confines of the young woman’s room. She notices it to be her girlfriend calling. She clears her throat before answering the call. “Hello, Berenice.”
“Where the hell are you?” Bernie makes her way to the consultants’ office, closing the door behind her in case she begins to yell. She doesn’t know why she’d need to, just out of habit , she supposes. “No one has seen you for hours and Xav left to tend to a family emergency. We’re...a bit of a sinking ship.”
“Yes, well, I um...I had to go.” She swallows, never a very good liar, but an awful good truth stretcher. “Charlotte ended up having a seizure. She’s fine. She felt it coming on. Thankfully, I’m here, making sure her airway remains clear and she doesn’t accidentally hurt herself.” Serena licks her lips, not a lie in the least. “She’s just holding onto me, scared. I didn’t want to take you out of theater for something so...mundane to us.”
The blonde closes her eyes, taking a seat behind her desk, “Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry...I...” She shakes her head, “I don’t know what I thought happened.”
“It’s fine, darling. We’re just keeping a very peaceful tone, but...I’m sure you understand.”
“Absolutely.” Bernie nods, knowing she wouldn’t go just for that. Unless she might, maybe it all scared Jason? Whatever . “Stay with her? I’ll be there in a few hours...we can talk then”
“Of course. Love you.” Serena mumbles into the line before disconnecting the call.
The blonde folds her arms, tossing her mobile onto her desk out of general frustration. Something within her tells her that there was something else going on. She glances over to the other woman’s computer, noticing she’s left her flash drive plugged in. Serena had left it behind and Bernie knows she’s rather protective of the small device. Bernie stands, moving around to the other desk, going into the folder containing the drive’s content. “Char’s mobile, forms...” She pauses, opening an unnamed file, simply filled with pictures of Elinor through the years. Bernie knows that this is why Serena takes this everywhere. Hearing a knock at the door, she lifts her head, “Come in.”
Donna pokes her head into the office, “Could I speak with you for a second?” When the surgeon motions for her to sit under the windows, she closes the door behind herself, “I mean, it’s not...I just wanted to let you know what’s going on and I’ve already spoken with Ms. Tate.”
Bernie raises an eyebrow, “Sounds serious.”
“It is.” She nods, “I’m not sure what happened, but your Mr. Dunn...broke Xav’s nose. That’s why he left. He didn’t want you to ask questions. Didn’t want me to report it either, but I had to. I was worried for the both of them.”
The blonde bites her lip a moment, “Marcus broke Xav’s nose?” She attempts to rationalize, “and you went to Ms. Tate before finding me about an incident that occurred in my department.”
“I didn't want it to seem as if you were being biased.” Donna leans back in the chair a little, “Ms. Wolfe, if it wasn’t...” She pauses, attempting to figure out the best way to say her thought, “if I didn’t think it was serious, I wouldn’t have said anything to Ms. Tate. You must believe me.”
“I do believe you...that’s what worries me.” Bernie sighs slowly, “How is Xav?”
“I set his nose. If he keeps icing it, he should be fine.” She nods, “Please, just...go and talk to Ms. Tate-”
“Marcus is responsible for his own actions. I understand his frustrations, but...we don’t bring our issues from home-”
“Issues from home?” Donna’s brow furrows with concern, “Everything okay with Charlie?” She pauses, “I mean...I remember how she was when she was in before. Have things gotten better, I hope?”
”Doesn’t matter.” Bernie swallows, shaking her head a little, “It has come to our attention that Charlotte and Xav have had some sort of...relationship before everything happened. He’s kept it close to the vest, but I think...Marcus just wants answers. He doesn’t know Xav or how his daughter used to be prior to how she is now.” She reaches across the desks for her mobile, messaging the young doctor, Everything okay? Keep ice on the nose.
Xav stands in front of his boss’ home. Unsure if he wants to go this extra step. He keeps his hands in his trouser pockets, just gazing at the house. Charlotte has a different life now and it was probably for the best that she forget him anyway. He knows she wasn’t in the best shape of her life when they had their moments.
Cameron notices someone standing out front. He moves to the front door, opening it and recognizing the man standing there. “Hey. You’re uh...Duval, right?” Noticing the man nod, he continues, “Want to come in?”
“Is uh...Charlotte okay?”
“She is. I’m sure she’d want to speak with you. Maybe you could...help her figure a thing or two out.” He tilts his head to the side, “You just have to get over the fact that this is the...hallowed house of the Campbell-Wolfe...tribe.” Cam smirks a little, amused with himself. “When I used to work at Holby, it was weird that my Mum was my boss...also my other boss was her girlfriend.”
“I couldn’t possibly imagine.” Xav smiles just a little, “I know Ms. Campbell left earlier. I’m sure it would...be odd for her if I were here.”
“You know, she’s a lot nicer outside of work. Also, it isn’t all about her.” Cameron motions for him to enter the house again, glad when he finally obliges.
“Looks like you were on the wrong end of an argument.” Cameron smiles a little toward the man, “Care for a cuppa? Making myself a batch, may as well make it for us both.” He motions toward the kitchen with his thumb over his shoulder.
“Yes, that would be great. Thanks, mate.” Xavier cautiously stays seated on the sofa within the lounge of his superiors’ home, noticing the other man rise from his seat. It only gives him the opportunity to really give a good look to the photographs on the bookshelves and walls. Some of Ms. Campbell’s late daughter as she was growing up, and some of Ms. Wolfe and her children. He quickly realizes the young man he was just speaking to is a Wolfe. He bites his lip as he’s surprised of just how loving these women seem, just as the man returns back to him. “So, I take it your Mum is my boss. Correct?”
“From what Jason tells me, yes.” He smiles a little, “I’m Cameron Dunn. My Mum is the illustrious Bernie Wolfe. It was pretty...interesting when I used to work at Holby. Don’t realize how weird it will be to call your own mother Ms. Wolfe instead of Mum. Slipped up quite often.” He grins, thinking of the time he worked at Holby City, “She didn’t let me live it down either. Not even once.”
He nods slowly, “Did you work there long?”
“I was an F1 at the time...and no. You try working when your Mum is your boss.” Cam shakes his head, “I ended up going elsewhere for intense training and now I’m the head of a medical aid unit. Simple things so it doesn’t clog up ED or AAU. Sutures, setting dislocations, ear infections, rashes. Simple things like that. Lower income area. Most of it charity really.”
“Impressive.” Xavier’s face softens a little, “So...I take it that going into the medical field is a family trait.”
“No, not in the least. Not for my sister.” He pauses, meeting the man’s eye, “You know that though. Charlotte was the one I expected to go into something...anything medical, but just...didn’t. She went a completely different path.” Cam swallows, “Listen, I don’t know what your past with my sister is, but it seems like the two of you were...close somehow. I isn’t my business, or that of anyone else, but...I don’t ever remember her mentioning you.”
“Because she wouldn’t. It wasn’t like that. I tried to tell your Dad that-”
“And I’m betting he gave you that.” Cameron motions to his own nose, “Let me get you a bag of ice. Have to throw some on there if you’re going to keep swelling down.” He stands before the man has the chance to object, needing to retrieve the tea as well. He bites his lip, conflicted with the desire of wanting to tell his sister that the man was there, but wanting her to stay where she is as well. He decides to text her. If you get the opportunity, you’ve a visitor. Reply within the next ten minutes with literally anything or I’ll take it you don’t want to see them.
Serena hears the mobile buzz, opening an eye slightly. The young woman, still in her arms, would be of no shape to do much of anything for the rest of the day. Charlotte would still be asleep. She reaches over to the young woman’s nightstand, reading the message from the young man. She quickly, carefully, pushes herself off the bed, securing Charlotte in the center before leaving the room. Running a hand through her hair, she begins to descend the stairs. Finally reaching the landing, she stands in the doorway of the lounge, she takes note of her Registrar in AAU sitting on her sofa. “What happened to your face, Dr. Duval?”
Xavier stands at the sound of her voice, nervously, “I um...” He shrugs, shaking his head, signalling that he doesn’t really want to talk about it now. “Ran into a door.” An amused smirk plays at the corner of his mouth, “I do hope I didn’t wake you.”
“Not in the least.” She shakes her head, seeing Cameron carrying a tray back to the lounge. “Thank you, Cam, for entertaining-”
“Dad punched him in the nose. He didn’t give him up though.” Cameron hands the other man the ice bag Serena would use for, quite literally, anything and everything.
“Ma’am-” He tries, shaking his head a little.
“I’ll take care of Marcus. Don’t you worry.” Serena nods, walking into the room more. She feels the purple elephant in the room, heavier by the second. “Did you come to see Charlotte?” He didn’t need to respond, she continues, “I left because...she was having some issues and requested that either her mother or myself tend to her. She just had another seizure not terribly long ago. She’ll be...a bit out of it for at least a few more hours.”
Xavier nods a little, knowing she wouldn’t let him see the young woman, “Of course.”
“Let me attempt to rouse her a bit before-”
“Wait, you’re...I can talk to her?”
Serena furrows her brow a little, “Of course, I’m not about to stop you.” She shakes her head slowly, “I only beg of you to...be kind, be honest, and be open with her. She’s...fragile and there’s good probability that she won’t remember you in the least.” She folds her arms across her chest, “I just...want you to be prepared before you’re...disappointed.”
“I truly think you all believe we were in a relationship, but it truly wasn’t like that.” Xav shakes his head, glancing between she and the other man. “We were...friends with benefits. I’m happy she’s okay and...I just wanted you all to...just let her forget about me. Please-”
“You won’t let her forget. I’ve seen the messages on her mobile from you.”
He swallows, “Well...I’ll stop. I’ll leave it alone. I’ll let her control the-”
“You promised not to leave.” Charlotte slowly makes her way down the stairs, sliding down one after another on her bottom, surprising herself that she could be up and about so soon after one of her attacks. Her voice slowed, ever so slightly slurred, “Mum’s girl.”
Serena pauses, her eyes widening with slight astonishment when she hears the young woman’s voice, forcing her to turn around to where the girl was slowly sliding down the stairs. “Hey, sweetheart, why didn’t you stay in bed? I was coming right back.”
She doesn’t have an answer, not really certain herself. She just stares at the woman’s eyes when Serena moves in front of her. “Tired.”
Xavier follows up behind her, offering a gentle smile when the young woman meets his eyes. “Hello, Charlotte. How are you feeling?” He pauses, knowing his boss was focusing on the young woman, “Do you need help getting back up to bed? I bet Mum’s Girl won’t be terribly far behind. She just wanted some water or tea, I’d bet.”
Serena is surprised at his gentleness, moving slightly aside for the young man to take her near step-daughter in his muscular arms. “Charlotte, this is Xavier. He works with your mother and I. He just decided to pop over for tea.”
“Lucky me, I got to see you.” He nods, effortlessly carrying the young woman to her quarters. “I’ve heard a lot about you from Ms. Campbell and Ms. Wolfe.”
“Are you afraid of the Big Bad Wolfe?” Charlie watches the man’s face, grinning a little, amusing herself with her simplicity. “Thank you for helping me.” She feels herself beginning to fall asleep in his arms, even though it isn’t very far of a distance in the least.
Xavier finds himself biting his lip, letting his boss open the door to the young woman’s quarters so that he can gently set her on the bed. “I thought she was beautiful...and we tried to date for a bit.” He folds his arms after putting her down, standing next to Serena at the edge of Charlie’s bed. “But we were better...mates. It was great whenever we saw one another, but...we realized we would simply never work together in the long term. We didn’t want the same things. So, we’d sleep together whenever one of us was in town. We liked it that way...nothing more, nothing less. Just mates with benefits.”
“I’m sorry that she doesn’t recognize you, Xav.” Serena folds her hands together in front of her, actually meaning her words and not for it to sound like some sort of dig at the young man.
He knows that she did though. Her mention of Big Bad Wolfe was a type of pet name he’d refer to her as and he knows she has ink embedded in her arm in his honor. “Yes, it’s too bad. Some things aren’t meant to be...as long as she’s settled though.” Xavier swallows back his pride, keeping it from his face, “I’d better get back to AAU.”
“Not with that nose. You should head home...take a rest with a bag of ice or frozen peas on your face. Don’t need you scaring patients just yet.” Serena smirks, glancing up to him, “At least...not with your face.” She winks when he looks toward her, the both of them displaying their amusement after.
Bernie casually makes her way up to Keller Ward, catching sight of her former husband stepping out of the break room. She shakes her head a little when he turns on his heels as if he plans to walk away from her, “Marcus.”
“I know, Bern.” Marcus lifts his hands in an innocent pose. His hand badly bruised and the knuckle cut just a little, “I...messed things up.”
“Messed them-” She shakes her head a little, grabbing the sleeve of his scrubs, pulling him back into the room. She gives a look to the nurses in the room, causing them all leave without even being asked. Bernie points for him to sit, which he quickly obliges. She folds her arms, “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
He swallows, tears sprinkling his eyes, “Cam says she’s not bouncing back. I want to know who was at that house party on the night this all started. I want the truth of what they were all thinking.”
“You don’t think I want the same?” Bernie finds herself pacing ever so slightly, like a lioness attempting to size up her prey. “Xavier Duval was in AAU the night she was brought in. He wasn’t there. In fact, he helped not only Detective Morgan, but Charlotte at times.”
“I admit, I overreacted and I apologize for that...and my actions. They were completely unprofessional and unnecessary.” Marcus nods slowly, “However, that young man knows some of the people she was around at the time. He was friends with some of them. He could point us in the correct direction.” He quickly wipes his cheek, “Cameron says Serena returned home just in time...and that Char stopped breathing during this one, but Serena said not to tell us.”
“It’s only a few hours since Serena left. Char’s usually asleep or unaware of her surroundings for about twenty-four hours...at very least.” The blonde pauses, shaking her head, “And what is Cameron doing at Serena’s? He’s supposed to be at work.” She stops herself when she notices she is getting off subject. “Doesn’t matter. You punched an innocent young man in the nose, breaking it by the way, based only on a hunch.”
“A good hunch.”
“A terrible hunch, Marcus. Come on, you’re an adult. Act like one.” Bernie scowls, “You can’t do things like that. Whatever hope you had of working here full time is out the window at this point-”
“Actually, Dr. Duval has declined to report anything and Nurse Jackson’s claim is mere conjecture.” Abigail Tate stands in the doorway, watching the former couple, “Technically, may I clarify, technically conjecture.”
“Ms. Tate...so nice to see you again.” Marcus turns his head to glance toward the woman, “Bernie may allow you a turn to yell at me if you ask nicely.”
Bernie rolls her eyes, “I’m not yelling at you. I’m stating the obvious.”
“She’s right.” Abigail nods, “One-hundred percent correct. Also, there was never anything caught on the security cameras...I had that checked already. Mr. Dunn, you’re nothing other than a specialist here at Holby. My concern lies with the safety of my staff as well as the patients we serve. If they fear you having an outburst and lashing out, whether it be physically or verbally, I couldn’t possibly expect to bring you on as a consultant here. I can, however, continue employing you as a specialist.”
His brows lift slightly, “I’m confused.”
“We will have a, let’s say, ninety day period where we see if you fit here at Holby City Hospital. If you can control your behavior with both staff and patients, I’ll consider you for a more...full time position. You are to remain here on Keller. I’ve heard many compliments about your professionalism and kindness here...which is why, as you could imagine, the report of your outburst was completely unexpected.” The CEO explains, folding her arms, “I do not want you to have any other interaction with Xavier Duval behind closed doors. You will remain in open areas if any contact is required. Is that understood?”
Marcus smiles a little, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Very good.” She takes a deep breath, releasing it quickly, lifting her vision to meet that of Bernie’s, “Have a moment?”
“Gladly.” Bernie walks away from her ex-husband, walking alongside the woman away from him, “That man is so infuriating.”
“Probably one of the many reasons you divorced him, eh?” Abigail grins to herself, “If you don’t want me to hire him full time, let me know. Your presence here at this hospital is far more important than his. You constantly prove yourself an ally and an asset to this hospital. If him being here makes you uncomfortable, I’ll kick him out. Get me?”
She gives a nod, tucking her hair behind her ear, “Thank you, Abigail.”
“Ninety days.” The CEO gently places a hand on her arm, telling her to try to give him time before making her decision. Let her feel his presence out. Bernie would speak with her partner about it all. She knew Serena would know what to do for the long run.
Bernie enters the house she now shares with her girlfriend. The day has felt far longer than it should have been. Having to deal with the fallout of her ex-husband’s outburst, it feels like it has been forever since she’s been at home. Her girlfriend walks out from the lounge, holding an extra glass of wine out toward her. “Well, this is a pleasant surprise.”
“I was awful and left you alone. I apologize.” Serena nods, “I...need to get a better handle on myself and trust that Cameron is more than capable of tending to his sister.” She leans in, tenderly capturing her partner’s lips, “And I’ve realized, that we need to take more time for ourselves.”
“Well, I can agree with that.” She gives another kiss, intensifying it a bit and just holding the woman by the waist after. “I believe we...could find other methods to care for Charlie. We can’t put all that pressure on ourselves all the time.”
“I don’t mind that, actually.” The silver haired woman shakes her head a bit, downing the contents of her glass. It’s obvious she’s had a couple before her girlfriend arrived home as well. “We are more than capable of taking care of Charlotte ourselves...we simply need to adjust our schedules. Possibly speak to Ric and Abigail...see what he thinks would be the best of our options.”
“Okay,” Bernie nods slowly, “I can agree to that.”
“Good.” Another quick kiss. “Because we are amazing mothers who love our daughter.” She notices her girlfriend give a light hearted grin, “And no matter how hard things are about to get...or going to remain, we can keep up with it.”
The blonde can tell something else is bothering her girlfriend, “Absolutely.” She wouldn’t touch it right now. She didn’t need to. Bernie takes a large swig of the wine in her glass, “Charlotte is settled and asleep?”
“Like a newborn babe, as is Cameron...from what I can tell.” Serena nods, “Are you hungry?”
Bernie doesn’t answer her, “I just want to spend time with you, really. Today was awful when you left. The things I had to listen to.” She keeps an arm around her partner as they make their way toward the kitchen. “Reports with Abigail and so on. I left before Ric even arrived. Suppose he’s running late, but I just...couldn’t stay any longer today.”
“I completely understand.”
“Has broken Xavier Duval’s nose, I’m aware.” Serena feels the other woman look over to her. “He popped over to see Charlotte. He’ll probably have a black eye or two tomorrow, but I don’t believe there will be any lasting damage if he properly ices it.”
Bernie releases a sigh she wasn’t aware she was holding, letting her girlfriend go in order to access the take-away menu drawer, watching the woman take a seat at the table. “I’m ordering pizza. I don’t care how late it is or how horrid my heartburn will be.”
“Pineapple?” She raises an eyebrow, seeing her partner nod, “I’ve grown to appreciate it. Not as bad as one would expect.” Serena pauses, “Or maybe it is and I’ve just grown...immune to how awful it truly is.”
‘I’m going to go with the first one.”
Serena lets a silence fall over the room, “I’ve...been thinking a great deal about Elinor as of late. I try to go and spend time in her old room, but I just...can’t. I can’t. It’s too much for me.” She swallows, “So, sometimes, I just...hold onto Charlotte...and it helps me. As unhealthy as it sounds, it does. I’m not replacing my Elinor, as she’s absolutely irreplaceable, but...it’s nice to be able to take care of Charlotte as if she’s my own. It feels good to have a child to tend to again.”
“I know.” Bernie nods slowly, lifting her mobile in front of her to place her order via an application like her son had showed her previously, “I knew from the day you insisted Charlotte come to stay with us, that it was how you were feeling.”
The other woman licks her lips, surprising herself that she could admit it finally, “And you aren’t angry?”
“No...we are family. Cameron, Charlotte, and Jason have parents that love them without question. You and me...and sometimes Marcus, but he’s on my shit list currently for being an arsehole.” The blonde shakes her head, moving closer to her girlfriend to softly kiss her hair, “For instance, I even heard Marcus talking about fatherhood and proper car seats with Jason as if it were nothing out of the ordinary...like a jovial uncle.”
Serena nods a little, “I’m trying very hard to...figure out where I fit.”
“You were the missing piece, Campbell.” Bernie crouches next to her, “ our children, and myself, feel the same way.”
She quickly inhales, feeling herself start to tear up. Serena doesn’t say anything, not knowing what to say. She leans in, capturing her girlfriend’s lips again. There was no way she could properly display the amount of love she has for this woman before her, but after dinner, she would do her best to try.
Bernie knocks on her daughter’s bedroom door, hearing an approval of entry before opening the door, “Were you sleeping?”
“No...just staring at the ceiling, feeling my TBI leech my emotions and personality from me little by little in a way that even I am not able to notice, on a grand scale.” Charlie responds in a still slurred voice, but something about the response makes her mother know she’s being honest, even with a touch of dry wit, “I’m sure you, and everyone else that knew me prior, notices it though.”
“Okay.” She draws out, nodding slowly. She knows the young woman will move past it in due time. “So, as you know, Serena had to cancel your Girl’s Day or whatever it was you both were calling it.”
“She had a name for it. I don’t remember what it was.” The young woman attempts to push herself up to a sitting position, being as careful as possible.
“You were going to dye your hair, among other things.” Bernie begins to smirk a bit as she steps into the room more, taking a seat next to her daughter after a moment, “I believe there was also a possible pedicure and manicure...something along the lines of that.”
“Serena didn’t think you would like to do those things.” Charlie smiles just a little, “I think you would...if you tried them.”
“In that, you are correct.” She meets her daughter’s chocolate eyes, matching her own. “However, I figured if she had to cancel, and the main name of the game was to rid you of those faded locks of yours...” Bernie tilts her head to the side, hoping the young woman would pick up what she was putting down.
“You’re going to color my hair.” She hums her amusement softly, “What color are we going with? I’m feeling rather indecisive.”
“Oh...well, I didn’t think of that.” Bernie shrugs, “What did you have in mind?”
Charlie shrugs a little, staring toward her mother for a moment, “What’s your favorite color?”
“My...Charlotte, you aren’t going to dye your hair a particular color just because it’s my favorite.”
“Because it’s...just not a very good idea. What if you decide tomorrow that you hate it?” Bernie shakes her head, “it may be something that-”
“Mum...what is your favorite color?” Charlotte asks again, smirking ever so slightly. “Hell, I’ll get the rainbow if I want it. It’s just hair. Grow it, cut it, color it, rinse and repeat. It’s not a big deal. Silver and navy blue? Neon green? Magenta? Aubergine? You name it...I have someone that helps take care of that for me. I can...see if-” Charlie pauses, realizing she doesn’t remember the young flamboyant man’s name that would handle dying her hair if it were particularly difficult.
“Sedric.” The blonde nods, having researched the information to the best of her abilities, “and he’s been wondering where you’ve been.”
She feels herself begin to tear up, lifting her hands to cover her face in a mix of excitement and surprise, “How did you figure it out?”
“I have my sources.” Bernie nods, “I was in the Army after all. I have ways of obtaining information if I need to.” It’s always been a running joke in their family. Somehow, their mother would just know things and neither Charlotte or Cameron would ever be able to decipher how she obtained her information in the first place.
Charlie leans forward, wrapping her arms tightly around her mother, “Thank you so much.” She swallows, holding onto her for a few moments, “What did you say to him?” She pauses, “Like...what if he starts talking about something and I have no idea what he’s talking about?”
“It’s only been a couple months, Char. I think you’ll be okay...and if you aren’t, I’ll be there.” The blonde holds onto her daughter in return, “I will always be there.” She finds herself gently rubbing her daughter’s back when the young woman doesn’t move away after a moment. “Charlotte?”
The young woman hums softly, nuzzling her face against her mother like she used to do as a small girl when her mother was home from a tour. It wasn’t often, but she would do so until she hit the double digits. Before she started to stay away from them all. She finds herself starting to fall asleep.
Bernie swallows, not wanting to let her daughter go. She understands now why Serena enjoys this so much. Having hardened her heart, she only let her barriers down for a select few. Her children being two of those few, though they seemed to keep her at an arm length for the same reason. “Do you want me to let you sleep and I can reschedule with Sedric, or would you like for me to help you ready yourself?”
“No, I need to go. I look and I feel...faded.” Charlie takes a deep breath, “I’m just feeling lazy, I suppose.” She begins to smile a little to herself, “Serena’s right, you are comfortable too...and you smell good.”
“What would you like to wear today? Denim trousers and a blouse?” She likes this closeness, she hasn’t felt it in a while from her children. Not since they were very small. “You haven’t really properly dressed much since you’ve been...back. Simple training bottoms or leggings when you go to your appointments. Of course, it’s entirely your decision. I just thought you’d like something different.”
“I would like that, Mum.”
“I think maybe we will take the chair today. What do you think?” Bernie feels her daughter nod and a wetness begin to cover her shoulder a bit, signifying her daughter was silently crying. “Maybe I’ll even buy you a pack of fags on our way home...as long as you don’t tell Serena where you’ve gotten them from.” She tries to cheer her daughter up a bit.
Charlie smiles a little, lifting her head to look her mother in the eye, “It will be our secret.”
Bernie leans her shoulder against the wall near door to the Consultant’s office, smiling to herself as she watches her daughter wheel herself about the unit, speaking with the nurses and their assistants who had helped her during her times of duress. She notices the proud smile from Serena, watching the young woman as she light heartedly teases her, and they banter. Much to the enjoyment of the staff.
Xavier waves his hand over the automatic door opener, entering to AAU. Gray sweatshirt wrapped around his upper body. He notices the chortles from the various staff members, trying to hide away from Charlotte’s attention. Moving towards a bed, he sees the young woman’s mother from the corner of his eye. He swallows, licking his lips a little. He feels like he needs to say something. Anything to the woman. “Ms. Wolfe, isn’t today your day off?”
The blonde doesn’t turn her head to face him, only nodding a little. “Brought her round to see her father since he hasn’t really been able to...leave, just yet. Well, he’s able to leave, I’m just too angry to have him over, honestly.” She finally tilts her head to the side, “Black eyes...you haven’t been icing that nose like you should.”
He nods a little, “Yeah, I uh...” He pauses, finding himself smirking ever so slightly, “How did you find out?”
Shrugging, Bernie bites her lip in a smile, “I have eyes and ears all over this place.” Finally she turns, motioning him inside of the office, closing the door once they finally enter, “You should have come to me that same day, not just run away, and to my own home...of all places.”
“I...I didn’t really know why I went, Ms. Wolfe. I...was expecting to be argued with a bit more, but...your son Cameron uh...upstanding bloke that one.”
“He’s alright, I guess.” She nods, an amused expression continues to cover her face, “I’m quite proud of him, but...don’t tell him I told you that.”
Xavier smirks, “Listen, I...I had no idea how bad off she was. Even today with the dysarthria.” The smirk begins to fade a bit, “I thought if she was well enough to go home, you’d want to keep a close eye on her.” He swallows, “The woman in there...is not the woman I knew before, but something tells me that you know that.” Xav notices the change of expression on her face, starting to grow ever so slightly downcast, “She’s changed for the better...and it’s all thanks to you.”
“To me?” Bernie modestly shakes her head, “No, no. She’s made incredible strides, Dr. Duval, all on her own.”
“If it weren’t for you-”
“If it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have been looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places.” A quick, bitter huff of a chuckle escapes her lips, “If it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have started drowning her sorrows in alcohol and illegal narcotics...and changing bed partners like she changes underpants. No, I’m not the bright spot here.” Motioning with a hand to the window towards her partner, “Serena is the reason she’s changed the way she has.”
Xav had a feeling she would downplay her own contribution to the care of the young woman, “I’m sure that’s...partially true, but she doesn’t do it all on her own. It’s the two of you together.” He nods slowly, “When she was injured initially, who stayed with her night after night, just holding her?” When his superior doesn’t respond, he continues, “I don’t know how you’re able to get her up and down the stairs every day. I don’t understand how you aren’t terrified that she’ll just...stop breathing. Stop existing.” He pauses, “Except, I do...I can see it in your eyes. You and Ms. Campbell...after I...saw her the other day, I would think you all just wanted to stay at home, watch films, drink wine, and eat take-away. I didn’t, even once, realize just how difficult you both have it...caring for her-”
“Caring for Charlie is the easy part.” Bernie shakes her head slowly, looking away as she feels emotions begin to rise in her. “You, Dr. Duval, you’re the only one around here that really knows what she was like before it all. Before the TBI, and the seizures. Before the emotional roller coasters and forgetting conversations we had only a few hours prior.” The woman moves closer to the window, lifting a hand to rub the back of her own neck, “When she was the Big Bad Wolfe .”
He finds himself standing a little straighter, not understanding how she could know of the nickname he fondly referred to Charlotte as previously. Xav finds himself at a loss for words, just staring at the two of the aforementioned women through the window. “Her strut...”
Bernie nods slowly, doleful smirk on her face. “Yes.”
“All of it. This is someone else now.” Xavier doesn’t move from his position near the door, just nodding a little. “And you...are a bigger part of her than you give yourself credit for, Ms. Wolfe. The part before, I don’t know where you would have...come into play,” He lifts his hand in defense when he knows she’ll try to say something, “Your part in her life is the opposite of what it was before. Your role...fresh for the picking.”
She falls silent for a moment, knowing she said just enough to help him understand that she knew more about them than he cared to let on, but not wanting to scare him. “This was supposed to be me asking how your nose was.” Bernie swallows, turning to face him again. “Do you want me to properly check you over? I’m certain Donna had you covered, but...”
“Ms. Campbell already has.” He nods, meeting her eye. “Ms. Wolfe...what you do here is incredible, what you do at home is...far greater than absolutely anything here.” Xav folds his arms, “You’re a hero...through and through. Not only to the patients you service, but to your family...and it has absolutely nothing to do with that military persona you love to portray.”
“You don’t really know me too well.”
“Same goes to you for me.” Xav shrugs, “You only know what has been told to you and what you’ve seen here...it also goes for Charlotte. What a doctor or therapist says...what you read in studies covering the subject...she’s already surpassed all of those expectations.” He motions with a tilt of his mead, insinuating that he’s referring to the young woman still, “who is to say she can’t make another album, or teach again...or get back that strut?” It wasn’t a question, just a statement. “You surpass expectations too. Just another thing Charlotte has obviously inherited from you.”
“I’ve always been a fast healer...same for her.” Bernie nods, offering the young man in front of her a soft smile, “Thank you, Dr. Duval...you’d best get back to your rounds.”
He nods quickly, smirk playing at the corner of his lips as he opens the door, returning to the bed. HIs quick exit earns him the attention of the young woman he was attempting to hide away from. “Hello, Ms. Wolfe.” Xavier attempts to make the interaction quick if there needed to be anything at all. However, he pauses as he notices her begin to push up from her chair to stand. “Don’t need to get up on my account.” That’s right, Xav, don’t let this room see you anything other than cocky.
Charlotte meets his eyes as she stands, beam beginning to grow on her face. Today has been laced with her past life. This man no different from them. Her rough voice like a song to his ears. She leans forward, snogging him hard, deeply. The room around her freezes and she doesn’t really see anyone except this man before her, not really sure where he fits in or why that was the only reaction she could muster. She begins to feel her legs give way only to have him hold her closely. “Hey.”
“Well, yeah...that was...a hell of a hello.” Xav nods, “let me help you back to your chair.” Ignore the action, treat it as if just one of those weird emotional outbursts from her illness. “Don’t need you falling out, eh?”
“No, um...” She just watches him. “No.”
“Charlotte, are you about ready to head home?” Bernie attempts to remedy the situation, quickly understanding that the young man didn’t want any part in this new portion of her daughter’s life, regardless of what his position was formerly. “You choose the takeaway tonight since Serena won’t be home until we’re fast asleep.”
“I’m fast asleep.” Charlie changes her tired focus toward her mother, “You’ll wait for her. You always do.”
“You’re right, but do you blame me.” She grins, glancing toward her partner. “Do you like her hair? That’s what we popped over for.”
“Navy and aubergine...looks magical.” Smiling proudly, Serena slowly eye contact with her partner, “I’ll see you both out, Dr. Duval, hold down the fort.” She’s certain the man would want nothing more than for the young woman to leave.
“We had to see Dad first or else he would whine about it.” Charlie absently takes hold of Serena’s hand as she stands next to the wheelchair. They board the elevator, luckily alone. For all of them really.
“Can we not say that out loud, please?” Bernie widens his eyes slightly with an amused expression forming on her face, knowing her girlfriend would understand what kind of day she’s had with her daughter, “I said it once and she continues to repeat it.”
“Oh, it’s okay when it’s just the three of us.” Serena does her best to contain a laugh, feeling the younger woman trace the veins on the back of her hand. Getting the feeling Charlotte has been a mile away throughout the day. She leans over, softly capturing the lips of her girlfriend, mouthing, “ You okay?”
“ I need a drink. ” Bernie lifts a hand, pushing some of her longer fringe behind her ear, hair gathered in a clip behind her head. Hearing her girlfriend finally give a low chuckle, she smirks with relief that their next destination would finally be home.
Thank you guys so much for checking this story out. Contemplating my next direction with this series. I have an idea, but am unsure how I'm going to implement it.
My plan is to head back to this series' roots, incorporating more hospital...stuff...than this one did, but it's a matter of...figuring out how to go about doing that. Who do I hurt? Who will cause the most strife? Many things along the lines of that. None of which are things that I actually want to do, but believe I need to in ordering to keep the series going.
I don't even know anymore. Writers' woes, I suppose.
Still though, thank you so very much. You've no idea how much it means to me that you've all stuck around for it and even the ones that didn't stick from the beginning and are catching up on things, welcome and I hope you don't think it sucks too much. <3
Bernie sits in bed, lap tray resting in front of her. Glass of scotch neat, paired with pineapple pizza. Some movie from the eighties playing on the television hidden in the mirror before her. She hears her partner move up the stairs, taking another bite of her pizza, knowing the woman would complain.
“Do you enjoy the feeling of crumbs on silk sheets?” Serena scowls once she reaches the doorway, “No reason you couldn’t simply eat that downstairs, even on the sofa, then come up here to put your feet up.”
“I’m certain you had a difficult day, however...I’m pretty certain mine was far worse.” She lifts the short glass of Scotch, taking a sip.
The silver haired woman nears the bed, reaching over on the plate to take a bite of her girlfriend’s pizza slice. “I get that impression.” An amused expression grows across her face, “What happened?” Her mouth stuffed as she chews, placing the pizza back onto the plate, leaning up to begin unbuttoning her blouse.
Bernie begins to chuckle a little, “Well, we were only twenty minutes late for her hair appointment. I, of course, apologized profusely. The young man was lovely though. I explained to him when I made the appointment, who I was and that she may not remember things and to please not get offended.”
“Well so far.”
“And she was fine, but her anxiety was in overdrive. I’m not entirely certain why, I don’t believe she remembered the young man. He would ask her how someone was or if she remembered something and her face was just...blank. Nothing going on whatsoever. She cried for ten minutes and I thought for certain that she was going to start her usual. She didn’t though. She...” Bernie shrugs, shaking her head a little, “sang. Right there...in the chair. Aluminium all over her head.”
Serena pauses, furrowing her brow, “That’s...bizarre.”
Bernie nods, “tell me about it.” She pauses a moment, “Scared the boy half to death, but...she didn’t seize.”
Continuing to undress from her day of work, “I’d really like to take a hot bath, but I also really want to listen to the rest of this. I’m intrigued.” Wrapping her robe around her nude frame, her girlfriend follows like a lost puppy, amusing her more than she would care to admit. “Could have had this all prepared for me.” She teases.
“Or for myself.” The blonde smirks, taking a seat on the tiled floor, watching her partner closely. Of course she would. Waiting for the door to be closed and secured by the woman, she continues after, “After the foil came out and hair was washed, she fell asleep in the chair. I told him to give her what she usually likes. He would know best. Which...I think he did a fantastic job. Even managed the scar by blending it in to the design. I’m still impressed.”
“Seems very Charlie. If I knew I could get away with something so wild, I’d give it a go.” Serena finally climbs into the well filled tub. Bath salts and some oils scenting the air with lavender among other scents. This was the one she usually uses when she leaves work in order to help her relax.
“You could pull off going bald. You’re perfect.” Bernie takes hold of her girlfriend’s hand when it’s offered to her. “Charlie didn’t wake until it was time to leave. I gave him a hundred percent tip...he deserved more, honestly, with the way she cared on. He was so patient with her, even trying to help her relax throughout it. Unsuccessfully, but he tried.”
“Soup and sandwich. Then she wanted to head to show you. First time she’s worn denim slacks in months. I knew she was getting so incredibly tired. The very small nap probably held her out just long enough.” She sighs, “How was Xav after we left?”
“Acted as if it didn’t happen at all and he wasn’t affected by it. Donna seems suspicious of him. I want to speak of it with her, but I also don’t want to poke my nose where it doesn’t belong.” Serena sighs softly. “Charlie was quite the buzz in the ward once you all left. It’s already reached Radiology. Per the usual, they have a different story. Apparently Xav and Charlie were secretly married once and he cheated on her. I mean...we can’t all lack imagination.”
“Good ol’ Radiology.” Bernie chuckles a bit, “At least they’ve forgotten she’s our kid.”
“At the very least.” Serena weaves her fingers between that of her partner’s. “Water is nice and hot...you could rest those tired, aching muscles with me, if you care to join...” Watching as her girlfriend begins removing her cotton t-shirt, she gives a throaty chortle, “Didn’t take you much convincing.”
“Didn’t need to.” The blonde sits opposite her partner in the clawfoot tub, “I should have brought some wine in for us.”
“Chilled in a bucket of ice.” She nods, reaching down to gently stroke Bernie’s calf with her fingernails, almost absently.
“We returned home, and...had supper. Pizza, obviously. Pretty certain if the girl reckoned she could live on pizza alone, she’d give it an honest shot.” Bernie nods, amused slightly at the thought, “Got her up to bed because she was falling asleep halfway through her first slice...and I just...held her.” She swallows, still uncomfortable with the newfound intimate emotions shared with her children even though they were far more comfortable with one another now than they were even a few months prior.
“It isn’t hard to do.” Serena lifts her head, watching her girlfriend’s face, “All she wants is love and support and, by George, we are more than willing to give that to her.” She gives a closed mouth, tender smile, “Just let yourself give that to her, Berenice.”
The blonde takes a deep breath, going quiet for a few minutes before continuing, “This is a whole new territory for me.” She relaxes a bit more, “It’s been...a bit over two months...and this...” Bernie shakes her head slowly, her eyes dampening, “this relationship with Charlotte...even how much it’s progressed with Cameron.” She lifts her head, “It’s what they should have had all along.”
The silver haired woman nods a little, “I was the same way with Elinor.” She knows her girlfriend become cautious when she speaks of her late daughter, having needed to leave for a bit of time when things became too hard for her to maintain. “She drove me absolutely potty as a teenager. I would bury myself in my work so I didn’t need to interact with her because we would simply clash. When my mother took ill, she helped when she could. She was around a bit more often, but...” Serena shrugs, “we were closer, but it was too late for us to remedy the past and...” Serena doesn’t feel herself growing upset this time, probably because of the overall feeling of relaxation within the room, “However, darling, you get the chance I never allowed myself to take...and lost before I realized what I was doing. You’re the luckiest person in all the world.”
“I’ve been having difficulty sleeping...waking myself with the fear that I’m going to go into her room and...find her with her eyes open...not blinking...not breathing.” Bernie nods a little, “Happens often...it’s why I check on her three times a night or...just sleep in bed with her sometimes.”
“I know you do. You’re getting better than your former six times a night.” Serena offers a knowing smile, “I only get up the two.” She hums her amusement, “I think possibly some oxygen for her while she sleeps may be a good option. Put our minds at ease, at least, even if it is only slight.”
“I agree.” She licks her lips, “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” The silver haired woman furrows her brow with slight confusion, gently massaging her girlfriend’s calves under the water with her nails.
“You’re losing sleep because I can’t sit still at night. You’re also getting up at night to check on Charlotte. None of which would be happening if...” Bernie shakes her head a little, attempting to find her words. “You didn’t sign up for this...to tend to my adult daughter...or the half assed manner I regard everyone in my family with.”
“I did though.” Serena nods, “the person you are, loving, giving, awkward...funny, that person is who I love. I don’t care what our children throw at us, doesn’t change how I feel about you.” Her tone simple, matter of fact, “In fact, I welcome it all with open arms. Would serve us well to be able to...remedy our past indiscretions...especially if it’s together.”
Bernie begins to smirk a bit, “I think you just like being called Mum’s Girl .”
“I must admit, I have become partial to it. Also, I’m growing a bit more lenient with my opinion on tattoos.” She chuckles a little to herself, “Thinking of getting one myself.”
“That says Mum’s Girl ?” Bernie leans forward, moving her face closer to her girlfriend’s, preparing to capture her lips in a kiss.
“How’d you know?”