Family Confidential II:
Attack Of The Hormones
Endless. Unrelenting. Traffic.
Willow dropped her head against the steering wheel, careful not to hit against the horn in case she added even more noise to the cacophony of traffic noises surrounding her on all sides.
It was hard to love even her beloved car on evenings like this when she hit rush hour and the long minutes ticked by with her sitting enclosed in it.
She was sure Tara and the kids had eaten by now.
She’d be lucky to even make story-time, with the thoughts of bath-time and pre-bed snuggles well and truly abandoned.
It had been a long day, a long week, and a long few months. She hated to miss some of the little pleasures that got her through it all. She picked up her phone to check in with Tara but put it down quickly when there was a surge of movement.
Thirty-seven arduous minutes later, she put her key in the front door of the place she called home and opened it, hoping to hear the rush of little feet that usually greeted her. Alas, there was silence and she glumly shut the door behind her.
When she turned back around, Tara was standing in the doorway to the living room, wearing a dress Willow loved on her; purple with elbow-length sleeves, just enough fabric to keep her warm on the mid-Spring evening with its soft fabric hugging her soft curves.
Willow was happy to see her but was lamenting the silence.
“Did I completely miss bedtime?” she whispered as she set her purse down and hung her key on the rack, “I was hoping to snag a cuddle or two.”
Tara shook her head.
“They’re with your Dad and Michelle.”
Willow straightened back up and spoke in her regular volume.
“Oh. Is everything okay? Were they being unruly again? I swear I think those kids have finally listened and turned on their angel side and then they go and ruin the ruliness all over again!”
“I don’t think that’s a word, sweetie,” Tara replied softly.
“Well it should be,” Willow grumbled.
Tara walked forward and took both of Willow’s hands.
“I know you’ve been so stressed out lately. I wanted to give you a night off and you know your Dad and Michelle, they jump at the chance to have the kids.”
“They do now that Robyn sleeps all night,” Willow replied wryly, “Only took twenty months.”
Tara squeezed Willow’s hands.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about that tonight. You can just relax.”
Willow’s face softened, not at the prospect of some much-needed sleep but by the lines on Tara’s face she decidedly couldn’t see. None of the pain or worry that had immersed itself so fully on her wife’s features for the past few months.
“You haven’t been having the easiest time yourself.”
“Well, we can share all of the good things tonight,” Tara replied with a crooked smile that shot right to Willow’s heart.
Willow almost melted on the spot. She stepped forward to drape herself across her wife in a warm hug.
Tara just smiled again and silently led Willow through the kitchen and out to the back yard, where the small table that lived on their patio was set intimately for two, complete with candles and flowers in a jug to brighten up the dark tablecloth. Two roses, entwined, free of thorns.
“I made your favorite dinner.”
Willow thought she smelled the fresh bread to accompany Tara’s special slow-cooked chicken pot pie and was glad her stomach didn’t give away her sudden intense hunger. Her turkey sandwich — scoffed at lunchtime in her office while she tried to finish off some paperwork that never actually had an end — seemed like a lifetime ago.
Tara picked up an open but full bottle of red wine and poured Willow a glass.
“I got you wine for now…and chocolate strawberries for later.”
Willow was surprised; they hadn’t had much alcohol in the house lately but was grateful Tara had picked that day to get it. She took a slow slip, savoring how she could feel it relaxing her already, and put the glass back on the table.
“Both are much needed.”
She hugged Tara again, and saw over her shoulder that behind the table a blanket had been laid out with pillows in a perfect spot to do some stargazing; an activity they didn’t get to engage in often these days. In fact, she couldn’t even remember the last time.
She pulled back from the hug, hands caressing Tara’s shoulder blade and fingers caressing the nape of her neck.
“Tara…this is so sweet. It’s just what I needed.”
She went in for a kiss, which Tara returned, but only for a moment.
“One other quick thing.”
“I’ll tell you now, nothing will top cuddling with you on that blanket,” Willow replied, then raised an eyebrow alluringly, “Except maybe if we have an early night after…”
Her hands were creeping down toward Tara's breasts, but Tara plucked them before contact and held them between their bodies. She interlinked their fingers.
“This might,” she said softly.
Willow waited with a soft, expectant smile and Tara took a moment to fall in love with her all over again.
“You’re so beautiful,” she intoned with an adoring look and pressed their hands against each other so their palms squeezed together.
She inhaled a gentle breath, which exhaled through a blooming smile.
“You’re gonna be a Momma again.”
I'm a sucker, so I'm starting this fic off a little early :) I hope your Valentine's Day is as filled with as much love as Willow and Tara give us all and each other!
“You’re gonna be a Momma again.”
Eight Months Earlier
“Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday dear Robyn…Happy Birthday to you!”
Robyn slammed her fist right into the frosted ‘1’ on her birthday cake just in time for Willow to snap a picture and for everybody else to laugh. Robyn giggled as she brought a purple frosted finger to her mouth to taste, then used the rest to add a highlight to her hair.
Willow passed out slices of the second, non-smashed up cake, which Tara had wisely baked for the occasion, while Tara cleaned Robyn up and set her down on the ground in their back yard. Robyn started cleaning her sticky hands with her own spit and blades of grass.
There were quite a few people standing around enjoying cake and conversation but Robyn was quick to step up on her two little feet and toddle over to her favorite person in the world — her big brother.
She mumbled some ‘b’ sounds and JJ put his foot atop his soccer ball to stop it. He looked over at Alex with a grudging look.
“I gotta let her play. It’s her birthday.”
He kicked the ball to her gently and she rolled herself over it, giggling.
Tara weaved through the party-goers and made her way back through the sliding glass doors into the kitchen where she cleaned up her own sticky hands from all of the cake-handling. She cut what was left of the smashed cake into slices to fit into a Tupperware container for Robyn to have later (or, far more likely, for Willow and JJ to think they were sneaking it until it was gone).
She stepped back out onto the patio and craned her head around to see if any of the food or drink needed to be refreshed, then made her way across the grass to where Xander and Anya were sitting in lawn chairs, cooing over their very newborn daughter on one of her very first outings.
Tara sat with them on the third empty chair that the diaper bag had been sitting on and brushed a finger over the soft-as-silk tuft of blonde hair atop the baby’s head, casting a peach-ish glow around her locks that almost looked pink under the high summer sun.
“How’s little Megan doing today?”
“You mean Pixie,” Xander interjected in a doting voice toward his daughter.
“No, she means Megan,” Anya snapped in Xander’s direction, “I said you could give her a middle name, I didn’t say you could use it in front of everyone!”
Alex came running over then and started staggering around the place like he’d been attacked with something.
“Dad! She hit me with her pixie dust! The unicorns are coming!”
Xander jumped to his feet, picked Alex up under his arm and flew away with him making galloping sounds.
Tara smiled at the exchange but Anya looked less than impressed.
“They took my daughter and tricked me into giving her some kind of ridiculous, geeky name!”
Tara put an arm around the back of Anya’s chair, in a move meant to impart sympathy.
“Do you need a break? I’ll hold her for you.”
Anya immediately passed the baby over in her blanket to Tara’s more than welcoming arms.
“Thank you,” she said, looking around the yard for some kind of cooler, “Where’s the beer?”
“It’s a one-year-old’s birthday party,” Tara replied but almost immediately backed down upon Anya’s look, “In the fridge.”
Anya walked off and Tara settled the baby, smiling at her little yawns and feeling that swell in her heart when she gripped Tara’s finger.
“Hello Miss Megan Pixie Harris,” she clucked in that sweet and soothing voice only baby fever could inspire, “I’m glad you’re in our family. I’m glad we have a little cutie like you.”
The baby yawned and made some of those newborn mewing noises that could melt a stone heart. Tara looked over at her little baby waddling around and could hardly believe it.
It seemed like yesterday she was holding Robyn the way she was holding Megan now; watching her searching eyes and tickling her rosy cheeks.
The year had flown in, even more than JJ’s first year had, and Tara wished she’d savored it more. She loved watching her baby grow into a little girl but it tugged at the heartstrings too.
After a little while of baby-gazing, a shadow appeared over her. She looked up and her vision was blinded for a moment from the sun, but she eventually recognized Becky.
“Hey Becks,” she greeted, “You looked like Cousin Itt for a moment there in the sun with all the brown you have on.”
“Surprisingly, not even the worst thing I’ve been called this week. Kids can be very, very cruel. The ones I teach, not yours,” Becky replied, smoothing a hand out over her shirt, “We’re going to head home. Sorry to be a buzzkill, I’ve got cramps.”
“Time of the month?” Tara asked sympathetically.
“Cursed uterus,” Becky joked, but Tara could see she was in pain and deflecting.
She stood and gave a sidelong hug so as not to squish the baby.
“Thank you so much for coming, and for your gift. She loves bath toys. Want to bring some cake home? There’s a bunch of Tupperware on the island in the kitchen, just grab one on your way out.”
Becky smiled in thanks and Brian came up with her summer jacket, helping her into it. He gave a hurried goodbye and they headed off back through the house with Brian’s hand rubbing Becky’s back.
Tara smiled at how in love they were, even though she’d been so shocked when she first learned they were together. Then again, their extended family structure was nothing like she could have guessed it would be when she and Willow were still just a twosome in Boston.
Tara was contemplating whether she needed to move into the shade or if her body was giving enough cover to the baby, when Xander came by again, staying a safe foot away.
“Put on baby duty?”
Tara looked up, then down at the baby fondly.
“So I don’t have to graciously offer to take her off your hands?” Xander asked sheepishly.
Tara’s lips curled into a smile on one side and she nodded toward their boys abandoning the soccer ball and picking a football out of the mess of outdoor toys laying on the lawn.
“Looks like the boys might need some teammates.”
Xander offered a salute of gratitude and started to move away.
“Hey,” Tara called, “Let Robyn score one.”
Xander gave a thumbs up and went to grab Jesse to give the game some volume.
Some of the neighborhood husbands started to join in, grateful to have something to do at a party most were dragged to by their wives. Angel, Xander, Jesse and the boys formed their team against the others.
Buffy often both participated and annihilated everyone else playing, but she was busy amusing herself with a NERF gun this time, pulling Willow into her antics to ‘get’ as many people as they could without anyone seeing them.
The neighborhood wives seemed to be the main target, as they all clumped together in their little clique to chat.
Willow and Tara weren’t particularly close to any of the neighbors, but they were friendly and the kids played together so it was understood that party invites would be extended around the block.
Tara was generally in charge of maintaining neighborly relations and things like the PTA, so she had to negotiate who should be invited where. Since Robyn wasn’t in school she had stuck to their core group of the friends and just the surrounding block of neighbors, as well as the doting grandparents of course.
Ira was staying out of the game but did take a knee to offer JJ his best tips and to cheer from the sidelines.
Xander stayed true to his word and passed the ball off to Robyn during a quieter play.
Robyn had to use her entire arm circumference to hold onto the ball, which she did, hugging it to her chest. She looked around at all the large people staring down at her and squeezed the ball tighter, taking a wobbly step back.
“Come on, Robyn, this way!” JJ called encouragingly, standing in the end zone, “Bring me the ball, Robbie, you can do it!”
The men parted so she had a path to walk down and JJ kept calling and encouraging her down. Robyn started to toddle, getting faster and faster on her uneven feet until she was right in the center of the end zone and everyone was cheering for her.
Robyn let go of the ball and squealed in delight, promptly bouncing down to sit on her diapered butt. She clapped her hands, then rolled over and crawled to hug JJ’s leg, cuddling it like it was her blankie.
JJ blushed but discreetly gave his sister a hug, under the guise of dragging her off to the side so the rest of them could keep playing.
Robyn seemed happy to revert back to being a spectator, clapping for JJ and playing with the grass.
Willow passed by and plucked her up, not liking her quite so close to the action. She squealed indignantly to be put down but forgot about it a moment later when Willow put her with Ella and Alice making daisy chains.
Willow chatted to Alice for a moment, then moved up the yard to Tara, falling into the lawn chair beside her.
“Great party, baby. Everyone is having lots of fun.”
Tara looked at her witheringly.
“I saw what you were doing with those foam gun things.”
“We were just messing around,” Willow replied with a shrug, “Who said toys were just for kids?”
“I didn’t want him to get that NERF stuff in the first place and now you’re playing with it,” Tara replied with a clucking tone.
“Chill out, honey,” Willow replied, standing again to avoid a lecture, “Smell some baby head or something.”
Tara frowned at first, but then took the advice and held the sleeping baby at an angle that she got a good sniff of that inimitable newborn smell. The baby stirred, so Tara stood and started to pat her back and bottom rhythmically as she walked around.
She said hello and exchanged some niceties with people who weren’t engaged in any of the games until the baby was soothed back to sleep. She decided to go and sit with Michelle instead of on her own again.
They shared a greeting and Michelle looked over the baby for a minute or two, appreciating her smallness. Tara took her back, getting quite comfortable holding her, and shook her head as she watched Willow run around the yard pretending to be a ninja with Buffy and those NERF funs again; a game that was turning heads away from the football.
“Remind me, do I have two or three children?”
Michelle placed a hand on Tara’s shoulder.
“That’s why you love her.”
“Mmm,” Tara lamented.
JJ and Alex were the first to abscond the football to take up NERF guns, crossing team lines at the same time as Anya returned.
“Thanks, Tara. I’m sufficiently inebriated to deal with the demands of motherhood now.”
Tara smiled almost sadly as she passed the baby back.
“She slept the whole time.”
Anya held the baby in the crook of her arm and covered her with the blanket as an evening chill started to set in.
“I bet the brat will wake up as soon as I touch her,” she said, having to wait exactly three seconds before the baby started to cry, “Told you.”
Tara smiled despite this; the affection in Anya’s tone couldn’t be misplaced – she knew it well herself. She excused herself and went into the house to get a drink.
She got a bottle of flavored from the fridge, twisted the cap off and let the cool liquid fall down her throat in all of its mandarin and pineapple goodness. As she secured the lid back on, two hands slid over her eyes and a perky voice spoke in her ear.
“My wife-child?” Tara asked, but without any animosity.
Willow leaned in so her lips were right on the curve of Tara’s ear.
“The person who loves you more than anything in the world.”
She dropped her hands and greeted Tara with a smooch when she turned to face her.
“Did it really bug you that much that we were having fun?”
Tara sighed self-deprecatingly and held Willow’s face in her hands.
“No. It bugged me that I was worried about what the neighbors would think.”
Willow held Tara’s wrists loosely.
“Hun, we’re already the neighborhood gays. I would have thought we learned a long time ago not to care what the neighbors think.”
Tara leaned in so they were forehead-to-forehead.
“That’s why it bugged me that I was worried. I should know better. I’m sorry I got frustrated at you.”
Willow just smiled and picked up some stray confetti on a nearby surface and flung it over Tara’s head.
“It’s our daughter’s first birthday party. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about anything.”
Tara could only smile and took Willow’s hand to walk back outside with.
There, they were greeted with an unexpected scene – almost everyone, including the neighborhood wives, had flipped to the NERF game and had split into teams to have enough equipment to go around.
Tara was stunned.
“Did I just walk into the Twilight Zone?”
Willow stood up on her tiptoes in excitement and took a foot forward.
“Buffy needs cover!” she exclaimed, then looked back and offered her hand, “Are you coming?”
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, Tara figured and took Willow’s hand as they ran across the warzone to tumble in behind Buffy.
The party went on until nightfall came and the kids all started to get tired. Everyone rounded their clan up and departed to their houses or cars.
“Great party, Tara,” Barbara, the most high-brow of their neighbors said as they were leaving, “Maybe you could host our Labor Day get together.”
“Maybe!” Tara replied with a bit of a forced smile as she thought of ways to get out of it. She gave the obligatory hug as they parted, “Thanks for coming.”
She ended her hosting skills as pleasantly as she’d begun them and everyone left smiling. She walked into the kitchen where Willow had Robyn on her hip and JJ was sitting on a stool at the island, both demolishing a grilled cheese sandwich.
“Habe own—” Willow started to say, then blushed and finished the mouthful, “Have one here for you baby.”
Tara came toward them, stopping to put an arm around JJ.
“Hey,” she said, and stole a cheek kiss before he could object, “Thanks for being such a great big brother.”
JJ blushed and avoided reacting, but was smiling.
Tara sat beside him and watched how mother and son ate in the exact same, hurried way. Even Robyn was taking the bites she was offered with gusto. It made Tara smile. She loved how they’d all found each other.
A couple of hours of cleaning and winding down later, Tara finished the major tidying and decided the rest could wait until morning. She went into the living room to be met with the flurry of wrapping paper that Robyn had torn and chewed on earlier, so she decided to get that gathered up too.
A few minutes later, Willow came down the stairs from tucking in JJ, still with a party hat on and a grin on her face.
Willow came up, intending to give Tara a quick peck, but the party hat fell forward over her nose and thwarted her.
“Whoops!” she said, taking the string from around her face and setting the hat down, “It was a great day, Tara. I know you did most of the work, but she loved it.”
Tara stuffed the last of the gift wrap into a trash bag and put it by the door.
“I had a nice day, too.”
She sat down next to Willow on the couch, who was looking through the photos taken that day.
“She’s getting so big.”
Tara watched the pictures go by, then put her palm on Willow’s forearm to gently lower the phone.
“Let’s have another one.”
“Another party?” Willow asked, confused.
Tara shook her head softly.
Willow laughed, but then she noticed Tara wasn’t. Her head reeled and her eyes slowly widened.
“Whoa,” she said, clearly shocked, “Where did that come from?”
Tara’s brow furrowed for a moment.
“Where does it ever come from? A place inside, a place in your heart. We always talked about another one someday.”
Willow made a flippant gesture with her hand.
Tara was beginning to feel very rejected and scooted a little bit away whilst looking down.
“I’m not getting any younger.”
Willow looked at Tara and offered a slow nod.
“Oh. You want a baby,” she said with realization and a little chuckle, “Is this because you were holding Pixie all day? She’s a cutie, I have to admit. Clearly didn’t get Anya’s genes.”
Tara looked over to Willow, hurt spreading across her face.
“When you wanted a baby, I asked how could we do it. But when I ask, you talk down to me like I’m a child who doesn’t know their own mind?”
“Tara, are you serious about this?” Willow asked in disbelief, “Adding number three is a whoooolllle different ball game to adding number two. The space, for one! We’re out of bedrooms!”
“We always talked about remodeling the attic,” Tara suggested, but Willow was already up and swinging her hands about in a negative fashion.
“Tara, this is…it’s too soon.”
Tara seemed heartbroken by the exchange and could only repeat when she felt inside.
“I want a baby.”
“We have a baby!” Willow snapped, “Upstairs, right now!”
Said baby chose that moment to start shouting down through the baby monitor. Tara stood up, snatched it from the coffee table and turned it down.
“I know we have a baby, I love her more than anything. All I wanted was to tell you my feelings but clearly, they don’t matter.”
She walked off and up to Robyn’s room, where Robyn was standing in her crib, shaking her half-full bottle around.
“Omm-mee!” she greeted Tara with a gurgling smile.
“Hello my sweet girl,” she said as she approached, “It’s night-night time.”
Robyn lifted her arms out and produced a pout she most certainly learned from her other mother. Tara was fruitless to resist.
“Okay, one more story. It is your birthday.”
“Stow-ee,” Robyn cheered as Tara picked her up and went to sit on the chair in the corner with her.
Tara settled Robyn in the crook of her arm with her bottle and rocked her gently.
“Why don’t I tell you about the night you were born?”
Robyn looked up at Tara with those big, bright turquoise eyes that stunned everyone when they first saw her. Tara brushed some messy strawberry blonde locks from her daughter’s face and smiled when she remembered the first time she saw her.
“Well you surprised us, that’s for sure. We didn’t know you were coming until you were already almost here. Like when you crawled for the first time and scared Momma half to death just showing up in the kitchen.”
Robyn smiled around the teat of her bottle as if she understood she was mischievous, but it was really just in response to hearing ‘Momma’.
“I saw your head start to come out and I realized you were really on your way,” Tara continued, reminiscing for herself but in her soothing ‘Mommy’ voice for Robyn, “And then you were just here; perfect and pink and my little angel. And okay, maybe a little gooey too.”
Tara was helping Robyn keep her bottle up as her sleepy hands loosened their grip. Tara hummed as she watched her daughter’s eyes close.
“I sang to you that night too…”
She quietly put the bottle off to the side and held Robyn to her chest, patting her bottom with a calming rhythm.
“Happy Birthday…to you. Happy Birthday…to you. Happy Birthday…Happy Birthday…Happy Birthday…to you.”
She felt Robyn’s even exhales against her breast and gently kissed her temple.
“Mommy loves you.”
She brought Robyn over to her crib and laid her down gently. She gave one last brush over the messy head of curls that neither Willow nor Tara could bring themselves to cut and turned to collect the empty bottle and go back downstairs.
She went straight into the kitchen to sterilize the bottle and planned to slip right back up to the bedroom, but Willow caught her wrist as she fled across the hall and stopped her.
“I remember. The longing inside.”
Tara paused and turned her head to offer Willow a look to continue. Willow kept hold of her hand.
“And I remember the…yearning looks you had when I was breastfeeding Robyn.”
Tara’s glance fell and Willow silently brought her back into the living room to sit down. She took both of Tara’s hands in her lap and exhaled before speaking.
“I shouldn’t have dismissed your desire. I know you’re not just broody from a day with the newborn, this is obviously something you’ve wanted for a while like I did. And you were really supportive; I want to be that for you too.”
Tara’s eyebrows rose in surprise, but Willow was in there before she could respond.
“So here’s what I think. We rushed into it last time because we had the luxury of doing so. And like I said, number three is a whole different challenge. So…” she paused to take a breath, “Let’s do the attic remodel. Let’s get you on some prenatal vitamins. And in a few months when we’re physically prepared to add another one, we can decide if we’re mentally ready too.”
Tara’s face broke out in a slow smile.
Willow nodded shyly.
“I always wanted to see you carry,” she admitted, then retrieved the baby monitor from behind the cushion, “And I kinda listened in just then. You’re so beautiful with her. And you were so beautiful with him. My heart is so there. Let’s get the logistics in order so my mind can be too.”
Tara held her hands in front of her.
“Can we do it like we did last time?”
Willow seemed surprised.
“You mean…you want to use my egg?”
Tara nodded keenly and Willow was stunned into silence for a moment.
“Yeah…yeah, of course, we can,” she eventually replied, touched and now already almost ready to jump in tiny feet first.
Tara threw her arms around her wife.
“Thank you,” she gushed, kissing Willow’s cheek repeatedly, “I love you, Willow.”
Willow closed the embrace and gave Tara a tight squeeze. She was nervous, but it was hard to deny her wife’s joy.
“I love you too, Tara. I love you too.”
Seven Months Earlier
Willow massaged her temple as the piercing sound of baby cries mixed with the steady buzz of an electric drill pounded through her head.
When she’d suggested turning the attic into a bedroom as the first step on the road to expanding their family, she thought it would take months to organize and plan — especially when she and Tara decided they’d build on an en suite bathroom to their bedroom while they had the contractors in.
But then they were put in touch with some construction friends of Xander’s and suddenly there were drawings being approved and materials being bought and their home was being invaded by loud sounds and tripping hazards everywhere.
At least it got them out of hosting Labor Day.
Willow knew the end product would look great; they had a big attic and were able to split it into two bedrooms with an adjoining bathroom between. JJ would move into one and the other had plans to become a guest room but would work as storage for now. Each room had a skylight and JJ was promised he could design it however he liked. Plans were still in the making.
The bathroom add-on had started modestly as they knew they needed to keep enough money for fertility treatments aside; just a basic set-up to let them run to the toilet in the middle of the night and have a shower in the morning when the kids were using the main. But when an investment came through from advice from Ira, he got a bottle of scotch and they got a fully-equipped bathroom to themselves with some little luxuries like a separate tub big enough for two, power shower with attachments for every body part you could think of, and under-floor heating. And, of course, hers-and-hers sinks.
Willow hadn’t said anything to Tara, but she’d taken the money coming in when it did as a sign. It left them with no financial worry about the medical bills or newborn costs and allowed them to maintain their savings going forward. Everything seemed to be in order.
She was ready for #3.
Just as soon as the wailing stopped.
She shook her head as she tried to align the words staring at her on her laptop screen into legible writing and sent soothing sounds across the living room to where Robyn was sitting in her playpen with a miserable, red, tear-stained face crying incessantly.
“Honey, shush, it’s okay. Momma’s here…and she really needs to get these files signed off.”
Another minute passed of Willow calling out reassurances until Tara appeared, much to Willow’s relief, and plucked Robyn from her pen to give her a cuddle.
“Come here, little love. It’s okay, it’s okay.”
Robyn continued to scream, which made Willow’s brow crease.
“You know it’s bad when Mommy cuddles don’t solve it.”
Tara held the baby to her chest, blocking one ear with her body and covered the other with her palm.
“It’s the noise. I’ll take her for a walk.”
“Can you take me for a walk?” Willow asked through a frustrated breath, “It’s driving me crazy that the place is like a building site.”
“Well, there is building going on,” Tara replied as Robyn started to settle, though still with some whimpering, “I’m going to walk her to the park to collect JJ from basketball, so you don’t have to collect him.”
“Gee thanks,” Willow replied without much enthusiasm.
Tara held back her exasperation.
“I’m trying to do you a favor. You seemed stressed about getting your work done.”
Willow closed her eyes for a moment, then looked back at Tara sincerely.
“I appreciate that. I do.”
Tara came over and dropped a kiss on top of Willow’s head.
“Why don’t you go out into the yard and plug your earphones in?”
Willow closed her laptop screen and stood.
“That’s a great idea. Thank you.”
She kissed Tara’s cheek, then rubbed the baby’s back.
“Good girl. Mommy’s going to take you out for some nice, quiet fresh air.”
“Yeah,” Willow replied with a smile, “You’re gonna see JJ.”
Robyn smiled and cuddled into Tara’s chest. She seemed happy again until she started patting the spot on her own chest her pacifier was usually clipped to. Her face scrunched again, all ready to wail, but Willow noticed and her Mom reflexes kicked in.
“Binky, binky, binky!” she said whilst diving across the room to pick up the pacifier from the playpen and back to pop it in her daughter’s mouth before the scream could even vocalize.
Robyn gave an experimental suck to make sure it was there and once satisfied it was, closed her eyes in bliss and opened them again happy.
“I don’t want to uncover her ears; can you help me get the stroller outside?” Tara whispered; well, whispered loud enough to still be heard over the racket.
“Of course,” Willow replied and went off to get it.
She met Tara at the end of the driveway, away from the noise. Willow kissed Robyn’s head before she was put in the stroller.
“Enjoy your walk.”
“Thanks,” Tara replied, squeezing Willow’s arm before taking hold of the stroller, “I hope you get your work done.”
Willow waved them off and Tara set off with Robyn garbling nonsensically behind her pacifier.
Tara listened, imagining all kinds of intellectual commentary about the birds and the trees. It was a short walk to the park where JJ had his basketball practice and Tara enjoyed the warm summer breeze as they strolled.
JJ hadn’t shown much inclination toward sports until Xander and Jesse got courtside seats to some Knicks game and took him and Alex one night. The obsession was instantaneous with JJ spending hours on the iPad watching videos and reading scores, begging for merchandise and spending hours shooting at their hoop in the driveway until they found him a team to join.
Tara was happy he was getting exercise and making friends and didn’t mind sacrificing afternoons and Saturday mornings for it.
When they got to the park, Tara positioned the stroller by a picnic table outside the court and sat there waiting for everything to finish up. About ten minutes later, JJ came running onto the grass and Robyn started bouncing in her seat.
“Ay-Ay!” she mumbled through the pacifier.
JJ wouldn’t hug his sister with all the guys watching, but he did sneak a hand into her stroller to squeeze her hand.
Tara couldn’t help brushing some dirt from JJ’s shirt.
“Hi sweetie, was practice good?”
JJ expertly twisted out of Tara’s fussing.
“We did layups. I got five in a row!”
“Well done!” Tara replied enthusiastically.
JJ’s hands rubbed down over his shorts.
“We have a game next weekend.”
“Can I come?” Tara asked hopefully.
JJ shrugged noncommittally but his eyes kept glancing in Tara’s direction.
“Yeah, I guess, if you really want to, that’d be okay.”
“I’ll be there,” Tara promised, and JJ let himself show being pleased for a moment, “Did Alex’s parents collect him already?”
JJ spun to look around the court.
“Um, Uncle Xan is…there!”
Tara started pushing the stroller toward the other side of the court, with JJ on her other side.
“Hi Xander, hi Alex,” she greeted.
“Hey Tara, hey little lady,” Xander said with a goofy smile and a wave into the stroller, “How’s the attic going?”
Tara smiled wryly.
“We’re still getting used to the noise, but they’ve been very nice to us. Thanks for putting us in touch with them.”
“My toothbrush had splinters in it last night,” JJ piped up.
“I got you a new one,” Tara said, putting a hand on JJ’s back, “How’s Megan?”
“It’s Pixie!” Alex corrected animatedly, but it faltered, “She can’t teleport us though.”
“Has to grow her wings, bud!” Xander quipped, then looked sheepish, “Baby is fine. A delightful surprise. I mean, uh, just a delight. And Mom is…”
“Crazy!” Alex interjected, “Mom is crazy!”
“Now, now, Alex, you know we don’t use the ‘c’ word,” Xander replied with a nervous chuckle, “Anya is…tired.”
“I’m sure,” Tara replied sympathetically, “Well if you need some help with pick-ups and drop-offs, let us know. Especially now the boys are in school together, it wouldn’t be a problem. We’ve been considering signing JJ up to the school bus for this year, you might want to think about it too.”
“I’ll let Ahn know, she might appreciate that. Thanks for putting in the good word for us at school. His last school was a little intense.”
“Mom got kicked off the PTA,” Alex added, matter-of-fact.
Tara didn’t act surprised, because she wasn’t, and Xander took a firm hold of his son’s shoulders.
“They asked a lot of a pregnant woman.”
Tara just smiled and patted his upper arm.
“I’ll let you get home to your girls.”
Xander seemed relieved to get away and not risk anything else that could get him on the bad side of his wife.
“Thanks, Tara. We’ll see you around.”
JJ started to wave repeatedly.
“Bye Alex, see you in school next week, bye Uncle Xander.”
Alex copied him as he was led away.
“Bye JJ, bye Robyn, bye Aunty Tara!”
The boys waved until they were out of sight, at which point JJ turned toward the stroller.
“Can I ride on the back bar?”
Tara allowed it since Robyn was awake but had to slow them down when he used it like a scooter and it almost got away from her.
“Two feet on or two feet off, sweetie.”
JJ put his feet on and spread his arms like he was king of the world. Tara thought it was adorable but kept it to herself in case he proclaimed her embarrassing and stopped letting her in on all his cute moments. Those days would come soon enough, she wasn’t about to speed it up.
He skidded off when they got home and Tara was about to call him back to take his dirty sneakers off but he suddenly spoke loudly and his words made her forget all about his shoes.
“What’s wrong with your ankle, Momma?”
Tara put the stroller in the doorway of the living room and stepped inside, where Willow had her ankle up on a cushion and was icing it.
“Willow, what happened?” she asked with concern.
“Someone put a saw on the top of the stairs,” Willow grumbled.
Tara came and sat on the arm of the couch.
“Did you fall down them, did you hit your head?”
Willow shook her head.
“No, I caught myself on the handrail but I’ve twisted my ankle up nicely.”
“That could have been one of the kids,” Tara said in shock.
“I’ve already called my Dad,” Willow replied, trying to hide her pain, “He says we can stay with them for the week until everything is done.”
Tara paused, then turned to unstrap Robyn.
“Jakey, will you take your sister out to play with the soccer ball you got her for her birthday?”
“Fine, but she’s not playing catch with me and Gramps!”
“I will play with her when you’re with your grandfather, I promise,” Tara said, setting Robyn on the ground.
JJ took Robyn’s hand and started leading her out the door.
“Come on Robbie.”
Tara looked over her shoulder to watch them until she heard the door to the back yard slide open. She then looked back at her wife.
“Willow, you can’t go changing our living arrangements without talking to me.”
Willow opened her mouth just in time for a drill to start and she motioned as if to say ‘see?’
“We have to leave the house to speak at a normal volume. I keep bumping to men I don’t know coming out of the bathroom. And I don’t like going into our bedroom for something to find some guy’s butt crack staring back at me,” she said, louder than normal, “Not to mention it can’t be good for the kids to be inhaling all of this sawdust and crap.”
Tara thought back to the toothbrush and sighed.
“I don’t disagree…I just don’t think we can impose ourselves on our parents like that.”
Willow waved a hand dismissively.
“It’s a week, they don’t mind. We put them up when their new floors were being put in. Gave them our bedroom, in fact. Why spend a fortune on a hotel where we can’t even cook for the kids? We have to get out of here.”
“Okay, okay,” Tara agreed through a slow exhale, “I’ll go pack us up. What are we going to do with you, can you walk?”
Willow lifted the ice from her ankle and stood to try and put weight on it, but winced and started to stumble.
“Stop, stop,” Tara said, grabbing her and easing her back down, “There are crutches in the basement from the time you slipped in the kitchen.”
“You mean the time Anya pushed me,” Willow corrected in a surly voice.
“That was never proven,” Tara replied, already on her way to the kitchen to get to the basement.
“Believing her over your own wife,” Willow grumbled, “Traitor.”
Tara returned a few minutes later with the crutches and first aid kit. She leaned the crutches against the couch and sat on the furthest cushion and gently took Willow’s ankle into her lap to wrap it.
“Thanks, baby,” Willow said as she was tenderly cared for.
Tara fitted ankle support over the wrapping and cast a sidelong grin in her wife’s direction.
“I bet you did it on purpose so you wouldn’t have to pack.”
“You got me.”
Tara finished her mending with a kiss to the tops of Willow’s toes, which wiggled in response.
“Keep this rested for the weekend and hopefully it will feel better.”
Willow sat herself up and leaned over to press a kiss to Tara’s cheek.
“I’m sorry I accused you of marital treason.”
“You did what now?” Tara asked with an arched eyebrow.
Willow’s eyes widened and she quickly grabbed the crutches.
“I should go check on the kids.”
Tara narrowed her eyes but didn’t pursue it. Instead, she decided to go upstairs to explain the change in circumstances to the site manager and to pack enough for all of them for the week. The contractor kindly helped her lug everything out to the trunk of the car and promised to keep her updated.
“I can call in in the afternoons before I collect JJ in case there’s anything you need me to see. Thank you so much, John.”
The builder shook her hand and returned into the house to finish up for the day.
Tara went into the kitchen to put some things in a cool box; food that needed to be eaten or was specific to lunches or snacks for the kids. The bottle sterilizer was brought out along with a stuffed diaper bag and Tara was very grateful there was a pop-up crib already in Ira and Michelle’s because she was exhausted and there wasn’t an inch of space left.
She walked back through the kitchen to the back yard, where Robyn was using her whole tiny body to push the ball to JJ and around to Willow, who used one crutch as her kicking leg.
“Guys we’re going to Grandma and Grandpa’s,” she called, picking up Robyn and patting JJ on the back, “Jake, make sure you have everything for school, please.”
JJ brushed past to go back inside and organize his book bag and Robyn started fussing.
“Don’t kick Mommy, don’t kick Mommy,” Tara said, holding her daughter’s legs to stop the movement.
Willow brought herself forward with a smile.
“Remember when I was pregnant with her and we joked we had a little soccer player?”
“We have a little cutie more like,” Tara replied, pulling the pacifier up from the clip to pop in Robyn’s mouth, “Little cutie monster.”
Willow patted Robyn’s back.
“She can be both,” she said affectionately, “I’m sorry you had to do all the packing.”
“It’s not your fault you got hurt,” Tara replied, offering an arm to help Willow step back inside, “But I’d like to go so we can settle in. I think we should send our parents out to dinner, or give them a gift card for another time they want to go.”
“Yeah, of course, and we’ll cook for them,” Willow replied, then looked down at her crutches sheepishly, “Well…”
“Good thing there’s nothing stopping you changing diapers,” Tara quipped, locking up the back door.
“I’m hearing you, help where I can. I’m not a complete dunce, we’ve been doing this relationship thing a while,” Willow replied with a charming smile, “I’ll hurry up the boy. Jakey, bring your iPad; you can’t hog Grandpa’s TV like you do with ours.”
Tara brought Robyn to strap into her car seat in the family car, their old reliable Dodge Stratus that they’d bought when they first moved to Buffalo in another, child-free, life. It was a miracle it was still going but it showed little sign of slowing down.
The supposed second ‘family’ car, the Mercedes, lost more and more of its family status until it had become exclusively Willow’s car where the kids were only allowed when absolutely necessary. Robyn had never even been in it.
JJ came along and got into the booster seat on the other side, leaving his book bag on the floor of the car.
“Momma needs help carrying her lady bag.”
“Do you mean her purse?” Tara asked and JJ nodded like it was obvious.
Tara walked back into the hallway and picked up both purses and two sets of keys.
“Come on, hop-a-long. I need coffee.”
“Enjoy it while you can…” Willow replied in a sing-song voice, meant to tease, “Believe me, the caffeine withdrawal is real.”
Tara grinned as she locked the door behind them.
“I will. And I’ll enjoy not enjoying it too. Or at least the reason why.”
Tara went to open the passenger side on the Dodge but Willow shook her head.
“I’ll drive the Merc.”
Tara’s brow creased.
“You can’t pick up your purse but you can drive?”
“Baby, it’s only around the corner,” Willow said with a breath of frustration, “I don’t need extra time added to the morning rush to come collect it.”
“Are you sure?” Tara asked skeptically.
“Yeah, I really only need the good foot.”
Tara didn’t look convinced, even slightly worried in fact, but Willow hurried her by tapping the crutch against the wheel.
Tara frowned and tossed Willow her keys, who caught them and kissed Tara’s cheek.
“See you in a few.”
Tara waved her fingers and got into the car with the kids. Robyn started fussing and waving her hands toward the window.
“Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!”
“Momma’s coming, Robbie, she’s just taking her car,” JJ said and handed Robyn her teddy that had fallen aside.
“Thank you, JJ,” Tara said in gratitude for the help, as she pulled out of the driveway.
She kept an eye in the rear-view mirror to check that Willow wasn’t getting into any bother, though thankfully it really was just a couple of blocks.
She parked on the street outside Ira and Michelle’s house so as not to block their cars and waited for Willow to pull up behind before getting out.
She went over and helped Willow out on her crutches.
“I hope you didn’t exacerbate it.”
“I will ice and rest as soon as we get inside,” Willow promised.
Tara let JJ out of the car and fastened Robyn onto her hip while she lugged the first of the bags inside.
Ira was at the door to greet them and looked at Willow with concern.
“Have you really hurt yourself, bubelah?”
“Nothing some rest won’t cure, Daddy,” Willow replied, leaning in to accept a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you so much for letting us stay,” Tara added as she came up behind.
“We’re delighted to have you,” Michelle said, coming out from the kitchen.
“Ga-ga!” Robyn called out, arms reaching toward Michelle, who warmly took her into an embrace.
“Hello Robyn, hello JJ,” Michelle said with a ruffle for JJ’s hair, “Oh, Willow let me get you some ice for that. Where’s Tara?”
“Thank you, Michelle,” Willow replied, easing her way onto the sofa and getting a cushion under her foot, “Tara’s doing the haul.”
Ira glanced out the door at Tara taking things from the trunk and patted JJ’s back.
“Jacob, help your mother.”
Willow glanced over to him.
“Grandpa’s right, go help Mommy please.”
JJ somewhat grumpily went out to the car and helped Tara bring the smaller bags inside. Ten minutes later, JJ came skirting into the living and only had to produce puppy dog eyes for three seconds until he was given control of the remote.
Willow shook her head but wasn’t going to contradict her father in his own house so she said nothing. Tara followed a minute or so later.
“Again, thank you both so much. We’d love to send you out to dinner.”
“There’s really no need, we’re happy to have you,” Michelle said happily, bouncing a grinning, giggling Robyn on her knee.
“We insist. We know it’s like takeover city here with the kids,” Willow replied, then added pointedly, “And we won’t be taking over your TV either.”
JJ turned around, defensive.
“He said I could!”
“He’s okay, really,” Ira replied fondly, “And I won’t hear a word of this dinner. I’m going to cook us all rib eyes.”
“Dad—” Willow started, but Ira held a hand up.
“I’ve already been to my butcher and Michelle has been kind enough to prepare her scalloped potatoes, so dinner is all set. It will be a joy to eat with our family.”
Willow had to smile; it would be nice for the kids to have a week with their grandparents even if it might be a bit of a strain for her and Tara to live with other adults.
She reached behind and took Tara’s hand to kiss it, then hold it.
They shared a ‘here we go’ look but neither were dreading it too much.
Anything was better than the monotonous bang of several hammers, the constant whirring of a drill and the thump, thump, thump of the resulting headache.
Tara stood in front of a sitting Willow at the end of the bed, trying to get eye drops into her wife’s reluctant eyes.
“Willow you have to keep your eyes open. The doctor said you need to use them twice a day to get the dust out.”
Willow's eyes shut tighter every time the bottle came near.
“I’m trying, they’re going into self-defense mode!”
Tara dropped her hand in frustration, then pushed Willow back and climbed onto her chest, pinning her arms with her knees while she forced Willow’s eyes open and dropped the solution in.
“Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!” Willow protested, body wriggling for freedom.
Tara stood up again and secured the lid on the bottle.
“Tough love. It’s all done.”
Willow tried not to rub her tearing eyes as she blinked the drops into them.
“You’re not that rough with the kids,” she said with a pout.
“They’re children,” Tara replied curtly.
Willow knew an irritable Tara when she saw one, and also knew it was rarely without reason. Her eyes finally cleared and she walked over to Tara, who was taking clothes out for the next day from the open luggage case.
“Is the whole living with the parentals thing getting too much? I know it’s been a long five days but John says they’re on-plan to finish up this weekend as planned. It must be the first remodel to ever finish on time!”
Tara shook her head. She missed sex and privacy in the evenings, but Ira and Michelle were actually godsends for helping with the kids and more than generous with their time and hospitality.
Willow chanced putting her hands on her wife’s shoulders to start a light massage. When she felt Tara relax, Willow placed a small kiss on her neck.
“Is it the doctor stuff?”
“Your eyes will be fine if you let me do that twice a day and you don't even need the crutches anymore for your ankle,” Tara answered absently.
Willow paused and continued to massage Tara's shoulders.
“…I meant the other stuff we talked to him about? Our check-ups before we go see the fertility doctor?”
She didn't really need to wait for an answer. She remembered how it was for her when she was the one in the ‘drivers’ seat.
“I know it’s nerve-wracking, but once we get the general health screen all done and dusted, we’re all set to start with the clinic.”
Willow watched Tara’s shoulders hunch once and knew she was holding back tears.
“I just want it so bad,” Tara said through a cracked voice.
“Hey…” Willow said softly, turning Tara toward her and giving her a hug, “I know you do. And I do too. I’m with you 100%. I know I said I needed time, but I was just surprised. I don’t need time, or more time at least. I don’t. I want this, for you and for us. I can’t wait. You get that right?”
“It’s not you, it’s just…everything. So much that could go wrong.”
“It’s daunting,” Willow agreed as she cupped Tara’s cheek and brushed her thumb along her wife’s cheekbone, “But it’s so worth it.”
Tara took a moment to gather herself.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t take this out on you.”
“We would’ve been here all night if you didn’t,” Willow joked, eliciting a smile, “I hope I don’t have a black eye. A twisted ankle, black eye…people will start to talk.”
She took each of Tara’s hands and linked their fingers.
“But my ankle is fine, my eyes are fine, I am fine and we are fine,” she assured, “It’s gonna be okay. This is the easy part. The hard part will be jabbing my ass with those hormone needles. I know it will pierce your heart to pierce my beautiful butt.”
Tara put her hands either side of Willow’s hips and brought her just that small bit closer.
“Not when I know I’ll get your beautiful baby.”
Willow was warmed and moved to rest her forehead against Tara’s.
“It’ll all be okay. We’ve already conceived together. We’re just reversing roles. Try not to worry, it’s totally counter-productive.”
She kissed her wife, who responded tenderly until they were interrupted by a tiny but shrill babble.
“Omm-mee, omm-mee, omm-mee.”
Willow turned to look at Robyn holding herself up in her travel crib at the foot of the bed and smiling happily up at them.
“And look how well the first time turned out,” Willow said, reaching out and tucking a piece of Robyn’s wild hair behind her ear, “When are you gonna say ‘Momma’, hmm? Don’t worry, I’m just the person who carried you for nine months and pushed you out of my body.”
Robyn just blew bubbles and Tara picked her up.
“She knows who you are. She smiles when she hears Momma. Look.”
Sure enough, Robyn was smiling at Willow, who took it as a small comfort.
“I’m still kind of hurt I haven’t made the top five. JJ, Mommy, Story, Hug, and Dog all beat me out. We don’t even have a dog!”
“Dogggg!” Robyn proclaimed excitedly, looking around, “Woof woof!”
Willow rolled her eyes but plucked the baby from Tara to give her a cuddle.
“C’mere little bean,” she said, pulling back the sheet on the bed, “We’re not having sex anyway, she might as well just come straight to bed with us.”
“Seksssss,” Robyn repeated, hissing like a snake and grinning like a fool.
“Are you freaking kidding me?” Willow asked incredulously, “Sex gets the number six spot?”
“Hush, hun, before she picks up something else,” Tara replied, getting into the bed on the other side.
Willow set the baby down, who curled up between them like a cat. She stroked Robyn’s hair to settle her back to sleep, then smiled at Tara.
“Let’s make another one of these. We’re good at it.”
Tara watched her angelic, at least when she was asleep, daughter’s face and felt her worries melt away.
“Let’s do it.”
Tara stretched out in bed, enjoying a rested feeling, which wasn’t always a given on a weekend morning.
She’d felt Willow get up earlier, so she had luxuriated in staying in bed whilst leaving her wife to deal with the children after close to a week of doing most of it herself. She swung her legs out of bed and picked out some clothes to wear.
In general, they were a morning pajama family at the weekends, but Tara didn’t like walking around Ira and Michelle’s house in her PJs.
She slipped into her comfortable shoes and made her way downstairs. She went into the living room first, where JJ was playing with his cars with the TV on in the background and Robyn was building blocks in her pen.
“Good morning sweetie,” Tara greeted JJ, ruffling his hair, then going to Robyn to drop a kiss on her head, “Hello my darling.”
JJ gave a distracted answer back and Robyn squealed behind her pacifier and offered Tara one of her soft blocks. Tara set it on top of the tower already created and Robyn took great pleasure in immediately demolishing it with her hands and feet.
Tara just smiled and straightened up again.
“She went out,” JJ replied without looking up.
“When?” Tara asked, but JJ just shrugged.
Tara knew there was no point looking for concentration when there were toy cars or basketballs around, so she went off into the kitchen where Michelle was reading a magazine and nursing a cup of tea, while Ira was sitting opposite with a mug of coffee and a newspaper.
“Good morning, Tara,” they both said in unison, then smiled at each other for the whimsy.
“Hi,” Tara replied, keeping herself on the other side of the room, out of their space, “JJ just told me Willow went out.”
“She said she had to run some errands,” Ira replied.
Tara flushed pink with embarrassment.
“I’m so sorry. If I’d known I would have gotten up with the kids.”
Michelle waved a hand.
“You deserved a sleep-in, I saw you take on those extra cases this week.”
“Willow fed them, we’ve just kept an ear out,” Ira reassured kindly, “It was really no problem.”
Tara nodded, but her blush hadn’t died down.
“Well thank you, I really appreciate it. I’ll leave you to it.”
“Oh and, well, Tara…” Ira called after Tara, who turned back to face him, “Young Robyn seems to have learned a new word…”
If Tara thought she’d blushed before, it was nothing compared to now.
“Oh?” she said innocently, then quickly continued, “Good to see her vocabulary expanding. I-I’ll go teach her some new ones.”
In a conversational pivot Willow would be proud of, she turned and went back to the living room, closing the door to prevent any noise from traveling. The kids were caught up in their own games, so she took the remote and changed it to a morning chat show.
JJ spun around in protest.
“I was watching that!”
“What was it?” Tara challenged.
JJ looked caught out.
“Um…Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?”
Tara shook her head.
“It was My Little Pony.”
“I like that too!” JJ replied with puppy dog eyes.
Tara sighed and put the cartoons back on.
“Have you thought about how you want your new room to look?”
JJ nodded excitedly.
“Uh-huh, yeah! Momma says I can put a hoop in there!”
Tara had to resist the urge to roll her eyes at her wife.
“Soft balls only inside the house,” she said, to a grumpy face from JJ.
“Why? It’s my room.”
“Because the sounds will go past your room and disturb everyone else,” Tara replied.
“Fine,” JJ replied curtly, in a manner at least 10 years beyond his age.
“Drop the attitude, mister,” Tara warned.
JJ looked over with his big, green eyes apologetically and scooted his butt toward Tara.
“Do I still get to paint it how I want?”
Tara was as taken in as she ever was by those eyes and smiled softly at her son.
“What color do you want?”
JJ’s eyes flashed with vibrancy.
“All of them.”
“All of them?” Tara asked with an arched eyebrow.
JJ nodded excitedly, then tumbled back over himself and made a gun shape with his hand.
“I wanna get a paintball gun and go pow! pow! pow! everywhere.”
It unsettled Tara’s stomach when JJ pretended to play with any kind of gun but they regularly talked to him about the dangers and she knew — hoped — it was a fairly typical thing he’d grow out of.
“That’s certainly unique,” she posited, her lips quirking up on one side in memory, “I used to do art projects kinda like that in college.”
“Can I?” JJ asked, biting his bottom lip for good measure.
Tara melted and reached out to cup her son’s face.
“I have to find out if that’s even possible and if it is, how expensive it is, but…” she trailed off with a smile, “I don’t see why we can’t do that.”
JJ’s eyes bugged and he leaped up into Tara’s lap and smothered her in a hug.
“Really?? Thank you, thank you!”
“Uh oh, what was Mommy just charmed into?” Willow’s voice came from the doorway she’d just walked through.
“He wants to decorate his room with a paintball gun,” Tara replied, while JJ remained clung to her with a massive smile as if she’d just given him the world.
“That is…” Willow said, considering it for a moment before grinning, “Awesome!”
JJ jumped off of Tara, ran over to hug Willow’s legs, then went to pick Robyn right up to dance with her.
Robyn loved it and tried to tap her feet around in time with JJ, while Willow managed to whip out her phone to get video. Tara stood up and came over to Willow.
“Where did you disappear off to?”
“Finalizing things,” Willow non-answered, “We can head home whenever we’re ready.”
“I thought you had the kids, I stayed in bed,” Tara replied, arms lightly folded across her chest.
“Dad said he didn’t mind.”
“We can’t take advantage like that,” Tara replied, shaking her head.
Willow continued to play on her phone without answering and Tara was starting to get mad at being ignored when her phone buzzed in her pocket. She took it out and unlocked the screen.
You need to get laid. I have an ‘opening’ at 9 pm
Tara slowly grinned and playfully threw her eyes to heaven.
“I’m going to go finish packing us up before there’s nothing left of me but the spot I’ve been charmed in.”
Willow snuck an ass pat on Tara as she left, and winked when her wife looked over her shoulder.
Willow spotted Robyn on the crawl, so quickly plucked her up and back into her pen. She protested but soon got distracted when her foot hit against her book of animal sounds and she went on a quest to find a non-existent cow.
Michelle appeared then with a plate with two slices of warm banana bread and butter, which she set in front of JJ. He started gobbling it down immediately.
“’hanks!” he said through a mouthful.
Michelle smiled at him, then up at Willow.
“How did the errands go?”
“Great,” Willow smiled, “We’re going home. Getting out of your hair. Finally; I’m sure you’re saying.”
“Can I stay here?” JJ asked, licking the butter straight from the slice.
“What’s here that you can’t get at home?” Willow asked, pretending she couldn’t see the table manners.
JJ smiled wide, his two new front teeth shining brightly.
“I think I might just have some more to send home with you,” Michelle reassured.
JJ turned his sweet smile to her.
“Thank you, Grandma.”
“You’re welcome honey,” Michelle replied lovingly, “We were glad to be able to help.”
“I know you’re being kind,” Willow said, laughing tiredly as she looked down at Robyn, “No one appreciates this one screeching at 2 am…and 4 am…and 6 am. Someday she might actually sleep through the night.”
“Oh, we had earplugs from the time we stayed with you,” Michelle said pleasantly.
“I should get me some of those,” Willow joked, “But I don’t think Tara would appreciate it. Hey buddy, I need you to start getting your stuff together.”
“Do I get to see my new room?” JJ asked excitedly.
“You sure do. Now, remember, you can’t move in until we paint, which may be a few weeks considering what you want to do.”
“I can wait, I can wait,” JJ replied eagerly, “Can I see it right now?”
“If you get all your stuff together,” Willow replied pointedly.
JJ jumped up and started gathering all of the toys that had taken over the room. Willow shot another apologetic look Michelle’s way, but she remained in her besotted grandmother bubble and just complimented JJ on his tidying skills.
Willow snuck off upstairs, checking the second guest room aka JJ’s room. It had basketball posters on the wall and an area of toys that stayed there all the time rendering the ‘guest’ part of the room limited to one in particular. It looked neat and pristine, definitely having had a mother’s touch to tidy it.
She continued down to the room she and Tara were sharing with Robyn. Robyn could have had her own room as Ira and Michelle had five bedrooms, but she wouldn't have settled on her own so they'd had company all week. In the room, she saw her wife folding things into a case.
“I was going to clean up Jake’s room.”
“You didn’t exactly rush upstairs after me,” Tara replied wryly, though in good humor, “And you can’t blame the crutches, you only needed them for a couple of days.”
Willow reached out and tapped Tara’s butt before stealing a squeeze.
“I just love watching you go too much.”
“Stop smacking my ass,” Tara said, not too convincingly.
“Stop having such a smackable ass,” Willow countered with a devilishly raised eyebrow.
Tara picked up a bag and shoved it at Willow’s chest in pretend annoyance, though she really loved it.
“Yes, ma’am,” Willow replied with a wink as she departed.
They packed up the car, then packed up the kids before saying goodbyes and thank yous to Ira and Michelle. JJ eagerly waved to his grandparents as the car drove off until they were out of view, then he started bouncing in the booster seat he was close to growing out of as they turned the corner to their street. His hand went to the seat belt but Willow caught it in the rear-view mirror and turned around with a raised mom-ish eyebrow.
“I better not see anything close to unbuckling before this car stops.”
JJ’s hand paused above the button but Willow stared him down until he removed it completely. Tara pulled up in the driveway and JJ leaped from his seat, though he could only bang on the window with his palms until Willow set him free.
She followed him up to the door to let him in, where he immediately went bolting up what was now the first set of stairs to the second set of stairs that led to his new bedroom.
“Don’t run on the— oh, it’s pointless,” Willow said in exasperation as she watched his head disappear around the new stairwell that led to the attic rooms.
Tara came up behind, carrying Robyn on her hip.
“He won’t be excited when we have to go to the ER for a split head,” Willow replied, which made Robyn giggle for some reason.
“Momma’s funny isn’t she Robbie?” Tara asked with a smile and a bounce, “Momma’s so funny.”
“Momma wasn’t trying to be funny; she was trying to be safety-conscious!” Willow fake-grumbled with a smile, “Follow me.”
Tara followed Willow up to the second story hallway and to the bottom of their new stairs.
“You got a baby gate,” she said with a smile, grateful for her wife’s attention to detail.
“Like I said, Momma’s safety-conscious,” Willow quipped as she opened the gate for Tara to walk through.
Tara walked up the winding stairs, for the first time seeing the finished product they’d paid a decent chunk for and had their house turned upside for — not to mention having to move out.
There was a small corridor separating the two rooms, with each room having horizontal sliding doors to seal in privacy, both of which were opened right now to give them the full effect. The bathroom at the end of the hallways had an entrance from either room and had a full shower, toilet, and sink.
In the room to the right, JJ was skidding around, touching various points.
“And this is where I can put my bed, and this is where I can put my Knicks poster and this is where I can put my basketball hoop and this…”
Willow came to stand beside Tara and put an arm loosely around her shoulders.
“It looks great, doesn’t it?”
“I’m starting to wonder why we didn’t nab the whole space for ourselves.”
“Well this way we still have a guest room, which is nice,” Willow replied, then kissed Tara’s cheek, “Plus I love our room. It’s bright and warm and ours. Especially now that we have our own bath.”
She traced a finger lightly down Tara’s spine as she said that, who shot her a look to behave, though not before a noticeable shiver.
JJ ran up then, excitedly jumping on his tiptoes.
“When can I move all my stuff up??”
“I told you, buddy, we have to paint first and it might take a while to organize what you want,” Willow replied, “A couple of weeks.”
JJ was dejected but picked himself up.
“Can I play in here?”
“Yes, just make sure the baby gate is closed after you.”
JJ started to skid down to his ‘old’ bedroom to collect his Legos and some other toys but thought better of himself before Willow had a chance to correct him this time and slowed down, taking each step carefully before running off when he knew he was out of sight.
Willow heard the thud of his feet as he ran again.
“What’s gotten into him?”
“Being a little boy has gotten into him,” Tara replied light-heartedly, then leaned in and pressed a kiss to Willow’s lips, “You did great. I’m sure it was a lot to clean and organize.”
Willow smiled bashfully.
“I wanted you to get the full effect. The guys were pretty good, they cleaned up after themselves. Didn’t the roof lights turn out great?”
“Everything did, really,” Tara replied, walking from the corridor into JJ’s room and over to the far wall where closet space had been built in, “I’m very impressed.”
“You haven’t even seen our bathroom.”
She curled her finger in a ‘follow me’ motion and brought Tara back downstairs and into their bedroom.
Tara was pleased when she walked into the bedroom that the new addition didn’t shrink the rest of the room. Their house had always been a three-bed in a four-bed-space, so they had generous rooms to work with and she was grateful for it now.
Willow gestured for Tara to have a good look and took the baby from her, who started to fuss, not wanting to be away from Mommy.
Tara walked into the bedroom and it took her breath away for a moment. It was truly elegant with porcelain and marble features; dark, warm tiles, a shower Tara couldn’t wait to be under on a cold winter’s morning and a tub fit for two — and then some.
“That’s what I said,” Willow replied, smiling despite Robyn hitting at her collarbone, “Truly our own space.”
Tara touched the smooth marble of the sink and enjoyed thinking of everything from bubble baths for two to sharing the sinks to brush teeth in the morning rush. It didn’t matter if it was sexy or mundane; as long as she got to do it with Willow by her side.
Robyn’s whines could only be ignored for so long and Tara turned back to take her.
“Okay, fussy monster, I think it’s naptime.”
“Reality setting back in. I guess I better go make lunch and start researching this paintballing business. And I’m sure the house will be in chaos before dinner is even thought about and that there’s homework to be done and baths to be had and I’ll have just enough time to brush my teeth in that beautiful, expensive sink before crashing and starting the whole thing over again.”
“I was promised a good lay,” Tara interjected playfully, making Willow grin again.
“Hey, I never said it would be good.”
Tara rested her chin on top of Willow’s head and pressed a kiss to her hair part.
“For what?” Willow asked, confused.
Tara took Willow’s hand and gave it a tight squeeze.
“Making this house a home.”
Six Months Earlier
JJ kneeled at the window in the living room, face pressed against the glass and eyes darting back and forth across the street outside.
A few false hopes were dashed as black SUVs drove by without slowing, and so he nearly leaped out of his skin when one finally turned into the driveway.
“Uncle Jesse is here, Uncle Jesse is here!”
He skidded out of the room and over to the front door, jumping the few inches he needed to snap the lock and open it. Jesse was coming up the pathway with a large black duffle bag, which JJ pounced on.
“Is that it, is that it, is that it?!”
“Hey, careful little dude,” Jesse advised, bringing the bag up behind his shoulder to protect it, “It’s sensitive equipment.”
“Can I see it?” JJ begged with his sweet green eyes that had charmed many people twice his size.
Jesse kneeled down and unzipped the bag. He reached in and brought the paintball gun out with both hands. JJ’s eyes grew big but before he could reach out to touch it, his mother’s voice boomed from behind.
“That’s the only gun that’s ever going to pass this threshold.”
Jesse hid the gun away in the bag and put it over his shoulder again.
“Don’t worry, Tara. Health and safety first. I won’t let anything happen to your little guy,” he said as he rose with a smile.
“Mmm,” Tara replied unsurely, “I’ve laid the plastic down, so you can go right on up. Jakey, you have to listen to everything your Uncle Jesse says.”
“I know, I know,” JJ replied with annoyance but quickly retreated when he saw the look on Tara’s face, “I mean, I will, I promise. It’s this way, Uncle Jesse!”
He bounded up the stairs, leaving the baby gate swinging in his wake.
“Thanks again for doing this, Jesse, you’re making one very happy boy,” Tara said, picking Robyn up as she came crawling from the living room.
“No problem, happy to help,” Jesse replied easily, “We do this all the time on boys’ weekends. He and Alex will be old enough to come along soon.”
“Mmm,” Tara replied again, “Well I’ll have lunch ready for you boys when you’re done.”
“Not gonna say no to some of your home cooking,” Jesse said as he moved toward the stairs, “We’ll have this done in no time.”
He ambled up after JJ, taking alternating steps. Tara watched, sighed, and turned to Robyn sitting on her hip.
“You’re not going to terrify Mommy and ask to bring guns into the house, are you?” she asked, tickling her daughter’s chubby pink cheek, “No, you won’t. No, you won’t.”
Robyn blew bubbles and cuddled into Tara’s side. Tara walked into the kitchen and put her into her highchair. Robyn started to fuss but a few Cheerios kept her busy mauling and chewing. Tara checked on the shoulder of pork cooking in the crock pot, then went about chopping veggies for coleslaw and sweet potato fries.
As she put the fries into the water to par-boil, she heard the front door open and close, then saw Willow appear a few moments later.
“Hello, my honey pie,” Willow greeted, wandering over to kiss Tara’s cheek, then rounded the island again to catch Robyn’s hair, “And my cutie pie.”
Robyn looked and smiled while clapping her hands.
“Mmm, mmm, mmm!”
“Mom-ma,” Willow said slowly, “Mommmm ma.”
Robyn just flashed her front teeth in a grin and Willow sighed, though was smiling too.
“Did you pick up the prescription?” Tara asked, just as Willow put a pharmacy bag up next to her.
“Yep. In no time my ovaries will be thoroughly stimulated,” she announced cheerily, “Which is good because they were starting to get a little lazy. Only waking up once a month!”
She perched herself on a stool and looked at Tara, who was grinning at the cabbage she was chopping.
Tara looked up with her softly slopping lips, which Willow swooned at, still.
“I just love you.”
“Enough to carry my baby?” Willow asked sweetly.
“Enough to carry two,” Tara joked, just as they heard a thud from above.
“Paintballing?” Willow inquired.
Tara didn’t look up this time to mask her disdain.
Willow pursed her lips and lowered her voice.
“Better keep the baby talk down.”
Tara pointed toward the door with the knife in her hand.
“Go hide that stuff in our room, in the locked drawer.”
Willow slid off the stool.
“I know, I know, no needles to find their way into little hands,” she said, then looked over her shoulder as she sassily shook her ass, “Only in big butts.”
Tara grinned again, which Willow saw as a victory and sauntered off up to their bedroom.
She secured the hormones in the old mini-fridge she’d rooted out and locked it and the equipment in the highest drawer on the dresser. She couldn’t say she was looking forward to getting those needles jabbed in her ass every night, but she loved that Tara had asked for her to do it.
She wasn’t hung up on the DNA of anyone in their family but having Tara grow a life she could gift her was a wonderful feeling, and the exact reason she’d asked Tara to give her Robyn. Once Tara had asked that of her, the last reservations had gone; she just couldn’t say no. She wanted it just as much.
After double and triple-checking that drawer was locked, she climbed the attic staircase to check on the boys. There were about ten paint splashes on the wall, as well as all over the plastic covering, and JJ was seriously pondering the next set of colors to load up.
Willow hung back and took a few sneaky pictures of him in the goggles, fuelling her own fantasies of him being a little scientist. She took a photo of Jesse helping him hold the gun, deciding she wouldn’t show Tara that one, but JJ heard the sound this time and spun around, incredulous.
“Momma! Get out of here! You can’t see ‘til it’s done!”
Willow took a shot of his adorable little outraged face but got out of there before a paintball was directed at her.
“I’m leaving, I’m leaving.”
She went back down both sets of stairs to the kitchen and walked in behind Tara, closing her arms around her wife’s middle.
Tara leaned back whilst continuing to mix the bowl in front of her and enjoyed Willow’s embrace.
Willow pulled up the goggles and angry face pictures on her phone and held it in front of Tara to see.
“Oh, he’s so cute,” Tara said in that affectionately doting motherly voice.
“And very, very serious,” Willow replied, mock-stern and grinning, “I think it’ll look pretty funky up there. He’s creative, like you. That makes me happy.”
Her chin rested on Tara’s shoulder and she looked at the pictures for another moment before putting the phone away.
“You know, we never talked about the donor.”
“I just assumed we’d use the same one as before,” Tara answered easily, “We still have some on ice.”
“But he looked like me,” Willow said, brow creasing.
“Yes?” Tara asked, voice indicating confusion.
Willow let go and came around the other side of the island to face her wife.
“Don’t you want one that looks like you?”
“I don’t care about that,” Tara replied with a shrug, followed by a soft smile, “I get to carry him or her. That’s more than enough. I think it’s smart to have them be genetically linked too if we can.”
Willow nodded slowly.
“Yeah, you’re right,” she replied, pausing for a moment before reaching out to stop the spoon Tara was mixing with, “Tara, are you sure you want to use my egg? They could be full siblings.”
Tara stopped what she was doing to give Willow her full attention.
“They will be full siblings, just like Robyn and JJ are,” she said, holding Willow’s hands and squeezing them, “I very much want to carry your baby.”
She lifted Willow’s hands and kissed between them both, making Willow feel that heart-fluttering, stomach-flipping, all-around-melting feeling that only Tara could evoke.
“Okay,” she replied with a sweet, gushing smile, “I love you, Tara.”
“I love you, my darling,” Tara said and they met in the middle for a kiss.
They parted with a little nose nuzzle, then Willow stepped back with a little pep in her step.
“Put me to work.”
Tara nodded toward Robyn.
“Play with your daughter.”
“You sure?” Willow asked.
“Positive,” Tara replied, “She misses you when you’re not here.”
Willow went over to Robyn and first cleaned up her slobbery hands and discarded the half-chewed, soggy Cheerios. When she was freshened up, she picked Robyn up and held her up like she was flying.
“Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” she asked as she flew Robyn out of the kitchen and into the living room where they could play together, “It’s Super Robbie!”
Tara reveled in hearing her daughter’s joyed giggle float through the walls and was so happy that soon there would be even more laughter in their house.
She closed her eyes for just a moment to picture it, then glanced down at her belly. It was her turn to get a pep in her step as she finished off the pulled pork, ready to assemble into sandwiches.
A little while later, feet came pounding down the stairs and JJ skidded into the kitchen, paint in his hair and clothes and still with the goggles covering his face.
“Mom it’s so cool!” he gushed, then got a waft of all the smells around and clutched his stomach, “I’m hungry.”
“Go sit at the table,” Tara advised as she handed him a clean dish towel to stop her chair cushions receiving any transference of paint, “Here, put this under you. And tell your Momma lunch is ready, please.”
He rushed off and Tara smiled at the older man still standing there.
“Did it all go okay, Jesse?”
“He’s a pro,” Jesse replied, “I’ve seen grown men have more trouble shooting that thing. And he was very color-conscious.”
“How does it look?” Tara asked, a little wary.
Jesse just smiled.
“Hipsters would probably make thousands if they did what he did in an art show.”
Tara arched an eyebrow and Jesse threw a hand up, dismissing his own words.
“It’s busy but perfect for a kid’s bedroom.”
Tara opened the fridge and knocked the cap on a bottle of beer off, handing it over to him.
“You earned this. I’ll bring your lunch in, in a second.”
He started to walk away but Tara called him back.
Tara handed him a dishtowel too, which he took with a smile and enthusiastically waved it in the air.
Tara finished up the sandwich platter and brought it into the dining room, with another trip for lemonade before sitting with the rest of them. They had all dutifully waited but were quick to dig in when Tara sat down, throwing out thanks as their hands and mouths got busy.
“Thank you, baby.”
“Ta-ta omm-mee, omm-mee ta-ta!”
Tara lifted a few sweet potato fries onto Robyn’s high chair table before taking her own portion.
“You’re welcome, everyone.”
Jesse’s sandwich was big enough to need both of his huge hands to hold onto, though he was making decent dents into it.
“Alice and Ella are gone on a shopping day, but they’ll be so jealous I got fed here.”
“You can take the leftovers,” Tara offered graciously.
“They still wouldn’t get any of it.”
After lunch, Jesse cleared the plates and JJ jumped up to help; wanting to maximize the time with his uncle.
Willow brought Robyn into the living room to play for a little while before her nap and Tara took a load of laundry upstairs to fold and put away. As she returned the basket to the laundry room, JJ turned from where he was sitting on the island and grinned at her.
“Uncle Jesse says he can take me REAL paintballing when I’m eight.”
Jesse chuckled nervously.
“I said you had to ask your moms, little dude.”
“Can I?” JJ asked with the puppy dog eyes Tara could very rarely resist, no matter who in the family it came from.
“We’ll think about it,” Tara answered diplomatically, “That’s still a while away yet.”
JJ pouted but didn’t argue. Jesse headed out with plans to call Xander and Alex for some 2-on-2 basketball later and JJ was immediately trying to pull Tara upstairs to see his room. They met Willow on the way from leaving Robyn’s room.
“Jeez, we’re coming,” she said as their eager boy took his new stairs two by two.
They got to the top and pushed the sliding door along the floor until they could walk into the room. The walls had sporadic bursts of paint in every color of the rainbow; some huge splashes and other small splatters.
“I did it all, I did it all! I used the machine and went splat, splat, splat, splat!” he said, motioning what he’d done with his hands, before turning to them with much more innocence, “Do you like it?”
Tara bent down and held her son's face gently in her hands.
“It looks wonderful, honey. I’m very proud that you had an idea and you saw it the whole way through. I love all of the colors.”
JJ flashed his smile, missing a tooth, and Willow offered her hand.
“High five, bud.”
He met the high five and jumped along with it.
“When can I move all my stuff?”
“We’ll let the paint dry overnight and get everything moved up tomorrow. How does that sound?” Tara suggested.
JJ threw his hands around both of their legs.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Willow stroked his fair hair.
“We love you Jakey.”
JJ leaped toward the door.
“I’m gonna go pack all my toys in my toy box!”
“Quietly please, don’t wake your sister,” Willow advised, which JJ acknowledged by making his steps quieter on the stairs, “You know, it’s not awful. I was kind of looking forward to decorating though. Getting my overalls on and being all sexy with paint-wisped hair.”
Tara put an arm around Willow’s shoulders.
“Soon we’ll have a new nursery to decorate.”
“Is it weird I’m looking forward to getting jabbed in the ass?” Willow asked with a sly grin.
Tara grinned back.
“It’s not the weirdest fetish.”
Willow bumped Tara’s hip with her own.
“Shut up,” she said, before adding coyly, “You’ll have to kiss it better.”
Tara raised her eyebrows suggestively.
“Like I need an excuse.”
They met for a quick kiss, after which Willow sighed.
“This month is going to be pretty crazy.”
“Yes,” Tara agreed, “But it’s always pretty crazy.”
“We’ll get through it. We always do. Together.”
Tara moved, taking Willow’s hands and resting their foreheads together so their noses bumped.
Willow stood, bent over the end of the bed with a tensed body and eyes flashing with anger.
“I’m not giving the dresser a 10-minute moon here, can you hurry up?”
Tara finished filling the syringe with the ovulation stimulation hormones and approached Willow from behind.
“I’m sorry, honey,” she said apologetically, “Is there a certain way you want me to do it? You said I hurt you yesterday.”
“Yeah, quick,” Willow replied with curtness on the verge of rudeness, “As in very.”
Tara swallowed her own emotions and steadied her hand enough to jab the needle into the exposed top of Willow’s butt. Willow snapped herself away before Tara was even finished retracting, pulling her pajama bottoms up and sulking off.
“Ow, by the way.”
“I’m really sorry Willow,” Tara replied, at a bit of a loss, “I don’t enjoy it. I’m trying to do it as quickly as possible.”
“Yeah, well, a lot of people are thankful you’re not a nurse,” Willow replied snarkily as she fiddled with the alarm clock they continued to set despite all of the electronics around with the same features.
Tara looked away. She knew the hormones were making her wife far more irritable than usual, but the words still stung. She didn’t feel like she could say anything though, because she knew she’d been cranky too when she was doing it nearly two years ago.
She moved over and put a soothing hand on Willow’s back.
“I know it’s hard but it’ll all be worth it.”
Willow’s head snapped toward Tara, venom in her voice.
“Will it, huh? Is it after I get repeatedly punctured, or after I have all this crap soaring through my veins, or after I have to get knocked out so I can get a probe shoved up my vagina?”
“I did this, I know exactly how it feels,” Tara replied, trying to sound sympathetic, “But I promise as soon as we hear the words—”
“Words schmords, nothing about this is good.”
Tara reached out to touch Willow’s belly but thought better and retracted it.
“This is the only way to get your egg.”
“Maybe I don’t want to give you my egg anymore!” Willow replied with nothing but petulance.
Tara couldn’t brush that one off; it hurt.
“I-Is that the hormones talking o-or do you mean it?”
Willow knew that was too far and the look on Tara’s face made her feel a hundred times worse than any set of hormones could. It just made her angrier and she turned away completely.
“Oh, just leave me alone.”
She felt the springs of the bed shift beneath her as Tara stood up, then heard the heart-wrenching sniffle as Tara passed by the doorway and left her alone, as she’d asked but nothing like she actually wanted.
She sunk down onto the floor with her head in her knees and felt like bursting into tears. She rubbed her eyes with the heels of her palms for a few moments to try and stave it off until she heard soft footsteps coming back.
She dropped her hands, ready to profess her deepest apologies and pronouncements of her own stupidity, but a much tinier version of her wife appeared in lieu of who she expected.
“Hey, where did you come from?” she asked as Robyn toddled over to her with her blankie dragging behind her, clutched in her little hand.
Robyn climbed into Willow’s lap and Willow started to crane her head to look for Tara, expecting her to be right behind but was soon distracted as Robyn nuzzled into her.
Willow did a double-take and held Robyn out in front of her.
“What did you say?”
Robyn offered a toothy grin and flailed her arms.
Willow wanted to cry for a whole new reason but emitted it all in a smile instead. She brought her daughter in close and cradled her to her chest like she was a tiny baby again.
“Yeah, baby girl. I’m your Momma.”
They had a cuddle with Robyn clinging to her Momma and blankie with the same intensity.
After a moment, there were heavier footsteps and Tara appeared, speaking before she even got to the door.
“I know you want to be alone, but I just want to say if you really don’t want to keep doing this—”
“I do,” Willow interrupted, caressing the back of Robyn’s strawberry-blonde locks as she looked up to Tara with apologetic eyes, “I do want to give you my egg. As many as you need. If it means a hundred needles or a thousand or a million. If it means feeling like this for a week, or a month, or a year. I want you to carry my baby and everything that entails.”
Tara moved onto her knees near her wife and daughter and Willow moved to rest her head on Tara’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry I’m such a crabby cow.”
Tara gently gathered them both into her embrace.
“I hate seeing you so all over the place. You must feel awful.”
Willow hated herself even more in the wake of Tara’s kindness.
“Not enough to take it out on you,” she said, discreetly wiping the corner of her eye on the neckline of Tara’s top, “I just have to keep my eyes on the prize. I promise I won’t act like that again. I love you, Tara.”
Tara kissed the top of Willow’s head.
“I love you so much Willow and I love you for doing this for me.”
They all cuddled together on the floor for a minute or two until Robyn reached out to yank some of Willow’s hair.
Tara’s eyes widened.
“I know,” Willow replied softly, the joy clearly evident in her voice and not even a hint of pain from the hair-pulling, “Lucky number seven.”
Tara kissed Willow’s shoulder repeatedly, knowing how much this meant to her wife, then leaned in a little further to kiss Robyn’s forehead.
“Good girl. That’s your Momma. That’s your Momma, you know your Momma,” she said in a soft voice before continuing normally to Willow, “Did she wake up or did you wake her up for a cuddle?”
Willow’s head swung around to look at Tara.
“You didn’t get her out of bed?”
Tara’s brow creased.
“No, I went downstairs to make some tea.”
Willow’s mouth hung open.
“She came in here by herself.”
“She what?” Tara asked, and was immediately standing and rushing over to Robyn’s room.
Willow followed a few steps behind her and watched Tara examine the crib for damage or instability, but it was perfectly intact.
“Did she climb it?” Willow asked in disbelief.
Tara was literally scratching her head.
“There’s no way she could climb it yet, is there?”
“Well, she got out somehow,” Willow lamented.
“JJ didn’t climb out until he was two,” Tara pondered to herself, but had to concede a point when she looked over and saw the butter-wouldn’t-melt look on her daughter’s face, “But he wasn’t this mischievous little cutie monster.”
Willow peered into the crib and had a little tug of the slats, hoping to find something wrong that could be fixed so she didn’t have to face the reality of it all.
“We can’t lower the crib, it’s handmade,” she said eventually, resigned.
“Looks like we’ll be researching toddler beds again.”
Willow shook her head.
“I’m not ready for that.”
“You mean she’s not ready?” Tara questioned.
Willow held Robyn closer to her again.
“No, Climby McClimberson here is clearly ready. I’m not ready for my baby to be a toddler!”
Tara could only laugh and Robyn fed off it, giggling along with her. Tara pursed her lips to stop herself and lowered her voice.
“We need to get her back to sleep or we’ll be up all night. We’ll have to take her in with us.”
Willow started to nod, then stopped and handed Robyn off.
“Wait, I have an idea.”
She went over to the door to close it just in case the noise traveled upstairs and woke up JJ, then went back to the crib and turned it around so the low side was against the wall and the higher side faced out.
“Look how smart your Momma is,” Tara said to Robyn, who reached out again for Willow.
Willow took Robyn again for a big cuddle, while Tara knocked out the lights and left the nightlight on. They both kissed the baby and Willow set her back down into her crib and set her mobile to spin.
Her pacifier was popped into her mouth so she knew it was time to settle. She sucked on it and looked at them expectantly, so they duly obliged.
“Goodnight, sweetheart, well it's time to go,” Tara sang in a gentle, soothing tone.
“Do-do-do-do-do,” Willow added in some soft doo-wop.
“Goodnight, sweetheart, well it's time to go,” Tara continued, smiling at her wife.
“Ba-do ba-do,” Willow smiled back.
Tara slipped her hand into Willow’s on the other side of the crib.
“I hate to leave you, but I really must say…”
“Goodnight, sweetheart, goodnight,” they sang together and Robyn gave a last, slow suck of her pacifier before nodding off.
They both watched to make sure she was peaceful, and just to admire the little life they made together. It was quite affirming and they both squeezed each other’s palms at the same time, then shared a smile.
They walked back into the hallway and both sought out each other for an immediate hug and quick smooch.
“What are we like?” Willow asked as their heads rested together and their arms stayed around each other.
“Any other family,” Tara answered, kissing Willow again just because she could.
“I’m going to take my shot in the butt like a champ from now on,” Willow announced surely, though became distracted as her eyes fell to Tara’s lips, up to her eyes and back down again, “You know there are other side effects apart from the grump…I’m sure you remember…”
Tara’s lips quirked into a suggestive crooked smile before she took a step forward to lead Willow into the bedroom.
“Oh, I remember…”