Two Years Later
It was full on dark by the time Jamie pulled their old Range Rover into the driveway. Dani, who had been fidgeting and practically straining at her seatbelt for the last thirty minutes of the drive almost cheered in relief.
“Oh thank god,” she groaned, “I’ve had to pee so badly!”
Jamie chuckled. “Well maybe if someone hadn’t insisted on turning left off the interstate when it was clearly right…” Dani looked at her sheepishly. “I mean, we have two phones and a GPS- how the hell did that even happen?”
“I was a bit distracted! It was noisy and I just missed the directions…”
“I can’t believe I agreed to drive all the way across the country with a bad back and that bozo constantly bark- ooph,” Jamie grunted as forty pounds of hyperactive mutt jumped on her head. “Bloody hell, get down you idiot!”
“Don’t be mean!” Dani laughed. She tugged the rescue pup into her lap and started mushing him. “Mommy doesn’t mean it, don’t listen to her buddy, she’s just a little grumpy ‘cause she got lost.”
“I got lost?” Jamie asked incredulously. But Dani was fully and thoroughly distracted by their mutt at that point. “Figures,” Jamie mumbled. Though she knew that, as much as she pretended to dislike the newest addition to their family, she honestly loved the stupid dog. She’d never admit that, but she was pretty sure Dani knew it anyway.
And even if she wasn’t in love with the stupid dog, she would have been in love with how Dani interacted with him. She was a goner from the start, basically.
Jamie was getting used to Dani bringing home nearly dead plants for Jamie to revive and rescue. It had happened already four or five times already. Dani would walk through the door to their apartment, holding a misfortunate potted plant in her hands, looking at Jamie with big, hopeful eyes. She didn’t know how Dani always managed to find them, but it was almost becoming customary. That’s why it didn’t make Jamie suspicious when Dani called her after work to give her a heads up about a rescue she was bringing home. It didn’t make her suspicious at all until her girlfriend walked through the door with one of the weirdest looking, most hyper puppies Jamie had ever seen.
“Poppins- we can’t have a dog!”
“But Jamie, look how sweet he is.” Dani was on her knees and cupped the dog’s face. She peppered kisses into its thick fur. “He needs a good home.”
Jamie looked on incredulously.
“How did this even happen? What possessed you to all of a sudden think- hey we should adopt a bloody dog today?”
“I walk past the shelter every day on my way home and today I decided to go in for once and I saw him and I just fell in love and…”
“We can’t take care of a dog, Poppins.” Jamie tried to speak softly, but firmly. She could already feel the tugs at her heart every single time Dani smiled at the pup. Jamie couldn’t let herself be overpowered. She couldn’t let the adorableness of the woman she loved win out. Not this time.
“We take care of plants,” Dani pointed out.
“Plants are different!” Jamie exclaimed. “They’re not alive for one thing.”
“You always talk about how plants are living things and that people don’t appreciate them or take care of them properly.” Dani was on her feet again, hands on her hips. “Those are your words Jamie.”
“Please Jamie.” Dani pouted. She brought out the fucking pout. “Please, can’t we try? We’ve been in our own apartment now for almost eight months; I think we’re ready for the next step for our little family.”
Jamie tried to ignore the way her heart fluttered at hearing Dani call them a family. “Can’t we get a cat instead?” she tried weakly.
Dani stepped closer, cupping Jamie’s cheek and stroking the skin softly. “Please baby, can we try? I know we can do it.” Dani kissed her, and if Jamie wasn’t already resigned to her fate by that point that terribly sweet kiss would have done it. “I’ll even let you name him.”
“Fine,” Jamie sighed eventually. “You temptress. But I tell you this; he will not sleep in our bed. No fucking way am I going to let that happen.”
Over the next few days Jamie tried everything she could think of to make Dani regret the decision, but nothing worked. Nothing daunted Dani. Two walks a day didn’t daunt her. Spending the money on vet bills and pet accessories didn’t daunt her- in fact, their first trip to the pet store seemed to exhilarate her. They left nearly broke. Even the stupidest name Jamie could think of for a dog didn’t daunt Dani. Both Dani and the dog fucking loved it, much to Jamie’s exasperation.
That’s how Jamie ended up with a dog in their bed and stealing the covers every single night. A dog named Cheeto.
Her life was truly something.
The look on Karen’s face when she opened the front door to see Cheeto pulling on his leash, paws slipping and scrabbling on the stone porch, trying desperately to get inside to the food he smelled was hilarious. It almost made owning a dog worth it.
“Cheeto, get down!” Jamie commanded, or at least tried to. “We’ve had him just over a month now and he still doesn’t bloody listen.”
“He listens to me,” Dani sing-songed as she hugged Karen.
“Only because you feed him the leftover bacon from breakfast,” Jamie mumbled, but she was drowned out by the excited shriek of a ten year old girl.
Flora flew down the hallway toward them, grinning widely at the canine. For his part, Cheeto was on his back in an instant, paws in the air, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth and looking like he was experiencing puppy heaven as he soaked up all the belly rubs Flora could offer.
She had grown a lot since the last time Jamie had seen her. She looked terribly adult in a way. Still cute as a button, but also all grown up at the same time. Miles, on the other hand, didn’t appear and was going through what Karen termed the sullenness of an almost teenager. During the last few calls Dani shared with her mom, Karen kept mentioning how all he ever wanted to do was sit around and play video games online with his friends.
“I’m so happy you both could make it out for the holidays again!” Karen gushed. She sounded genuine, and even pulled Jamie in for a tight hug. “I wish I could see you more often, but it’s going to be so nice to have the whole family together for Christmas again!”
It was still weird to Jamie to see Karen actually acting like an engaged and loving parent. She had had her reservations at first, but she was finally slowly starting to get around to trusting that the change was genuine. Even if she still put her foot in her mouth at times, Karen was truly making an effort to be the type of mother she never had been to Dani. And to Jamie also. Karen had even been there for the grand opening of Jamie’s shop.
“Wow, this really is something!” Karen walked the aisles of the little flower shop, taking in all the plants. “It looks like you’ve really figured everything out!”
Jamie shrugged. “I know flowers. Business on the other hand…” she shrugged again. “It’ll be hard. Might take a miracle, really.”
“Jamie, stop that!” Dani scolded her. “We’ve already talked about this. You need to stop talking down about yourself. You’re going to do wonderful with this shop, I just know it!”
“I rather agree with my daughter, Jamie,” Karen smiled. “I see no reason to suspect that your business won’t flourish. You’re one of the hardest workers I know.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Jamie mumbled, feeling somewhat sheepish and a bit awkward. “I mean, I’m going to keep doing landscaping on the side too, just in case. It’ll be busy but…I think it will all work.”
Karen stepped forward and pulled Jamie into a hug, surprising her. “It will. I’m very proud of you for this, you know.”
Jamie looked back at her girlfriend, stunned, as Karen walked off, still perusing Jamie’s set up. She knew that Dani and her mom had been working through stuff, but that was the first time Karen had ever interacted so easily with Jamie. It was the first time she had felt, almost, like she was Karen’s daughter too.
“That was, uh, different,” Jamie whispered to Dani. Her brow furrowed. “Didn’t expect any of this…reaction from her, I guess.”
“She’s doing well, Jamie. Really well. She’s even stopped drinking.”
Jamie’s eyebrows rose. “Well then. Guess miracles really can happen.”
Soft lips touched her cheek. “It’s okay if you don’t trust it,” Dani told her. She kissed Jamie again, sliding her arms around Jamie from behind. “She has to earn your forgiveness too, just like she had to earn mine.”
“Has she earned yours?”
Jamie felt Dani’s shrug against her back. “I think so.”
“Then what the hell…I guess she’s earned mine too.” Jamie turned in Dani’s arms. She wrapped her arms around Dani’s neck, leaning in to capture her lips. “I’m still gonna take every chance I can to give her hell though.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Dani grinned. She kissed Jamie again, and Jamie wondered if it was too early to test out the merits of the back room her little shop had.
It felt different not being in their own little apartment, but Jamie woke up feeling refreshed. It might have had something to do with Flora asking if she could sleep with Cheeto that night. Jamie all too readily agreed, ignoring Dani’s protests. So even though the setting was different, she felt more awake than she had in a while.
Owen, however, had seemingly made it his life’s goal to scare Jamie witless at least once per vacation. She had come outside in the early hours of the morning to go on a run and capitalize on her energy (she was trying to quit smoking and Viola had her on an entire training program…Jamie hated every second of it and was convinced the smoking was much less likely to kill her) when the cook had snuck up behind her and called her name loudly enough to wake up the entire block. He was only spared from a punch by how excited Jamie was to see him. They hadn’t seen Owen since the end of summer, when he and Hannah travelled east for a week.
It didn’t take much convincing for Dani to agree to an afternoon coffee with their friends. They sat in the backyard, sipping at their drinks and eating cinnamon buns, and Dani couldn’t stop gushing about Hannah’s baby bump.
“Are you getting excited?” Dani asked, exuding more than enough excitement for everyone.
“I am,” Hannah smiled. “Though it’s nothing when compared to someone,” Hannah looked pointedly in Owen’s direction. “I can only imagine the chaos my life will become when he has progeny to teach puns to. He’s way too hyper already.”
“I imagine being kept up ‘til all hours of the night will dampen some of his hyperactivity,” Jamie laughed.
“That’s what you think,” Hannah laughed. “Why don’t you take him to the mall today and see for yourself. I guarantee you he’ll either be sobbing happy tears into a bassinette or buying out their entire stock of baby shoes within five minutes.”
Owen’s beam was easy to see, even from beneath his bushier than ever mustache.
It was good to spend time with their friends again. Jamie and Dani didn’t get to see them near often enough, though they did chat via text or phone almost daily. There was nothing quite like being able to spend time with them in person, though. Sometimes Jamie wondered if Dani would want to move back to California to be closer with them and with her family. Now that Becca had moved out of state as well, there wasn’t really anything holding them to Pennsylvania. Except for Jamie’s shop that she had opened so impulsively without ever considering that their future might not lie in that city…
Jamie tried to tune out her negative thoughts and instead focused on catching up with her friends and downing enough cinnamon rolls to make Viola yell at her later. She thought about the tiny box hidden in her suitcase. Jamie thought of all her secret phone calls to Viola and Becca and Owen, fine tuning all her plans. She thought about the very important question she had planned and what it would feel like if Dani said yes.
Jamie smiled. Suddenly it was easier to laugh with Owen and Hannah again.
Jamie was covered in dirt from head to toe. Her back ached. She knew it was too soon to be going back to work, Dani had told her so repeatedly and tried to talk Jamie out of it, but Jamie was too stubborn. She hated her time spent recovering after the crash, hated how all she could think about was her recent ill-fated reunion with her brother. So yeah, she ignored Dani and went back to work. And now she was paying for it dearly.
Jamie tiredly pushed open the door to the apartment. Becs had only been gone for a month, and Jamie and Dani had recently signed a lease on a new place. One month to go…
As she bent down to unlace her boots, Jamie bit her lip to stop from groaning. She probably should’ve kept up with the physiotherapy too, but it was expensive. They had bills and rent to pay, and Jamie felt more useful bringing home money than spending it on something that would heal on its own anyway. Eventually heal at least.
It took a minute for Jamie to realize that Dani was talking to someone. Jamie strained her ears. Was that…Owen?
“Owen seriously, stop laughing! I called you to help me fix this not to laugh at me!”
Jamie couldn’t quite make out the man’s reply, but based on Dani’s groan it must have been one of his god-awful puns.
“Hannah, make him stop.” Jamie smiled despite her pain. She hadn’t talked to Hannah in far too long. “Jamie’s had a rough few months, and now I’m ruining the cake and I haven’t even thought about supper and I just want her to enjoy her birthday!”
Jamie froze. She had been creeping to the kitchen, planning on surprising her girlfriend and friends. But Dani’s words gave her pause. Birthday? Jamie counted in her head.
“Bloody hell,” she breathed out. How had she not even known it was her birthday? Granted, it had been a hectic couple of months. But still…
“It’ll be fine!” Owen’s voice sounded tinny through what was likely Dani’s phone or computer. “Look, it’s batter to just relax, we’ll fix it! No use giving yourself a head-cake with all the stress!”
This time Jamie couldn’t hold in her groan. “Owen that was fucking terrible!” She entered the kitchen, and Dani turned to look at her in surprise. Jamie’s heart ached as she took in Dani’s red, wet eyes. She also noted the fact that the kitchen was a complete disaster. What could, potentially, have been cake batter- or frosting, or both, it was hard to tell- was spattered across almost all surfaces. Including Dani.
“Jamie! I didn’t hear you come home!” Dani quickly tried to shuffle the mixing bowl and some spoons behind her back. “You’re home early!”
Jamie grinned, though it probably looked more like a grimace. “Someone may have been right about it being too early to go back to work.”
She had meant it jokingly, but Dani’s face crumpled. Jamie panicked. She hurried to her love, embracing her tightly.
“I’m sorry!” Dani sobbed.
“Hey, hey, no.” Jamie was mystified at the reaction. She held Dani close, stroking her palm up and down her back soothingly. “It’s all good Poppins, it’s all good. There’s nothing to be sorry for.”
“There is!” Dani’s tears didn’t slow. “I just wanted your birthday to be perfect! And now you’re in pain again and the cake is ruined and…”
“It’s not ruined!” Without thinking about it, Jamie kissed Dani’s jaw, licking up some splattered cake batter. It tasted…terrible. But Jamie still smacked her lips appreciatively. “See! I can eat it like this! Which, quite frankly, I much prefer anyhow.”
Dani sniffed. “I ruined the cake.”
“I don’t care.” Jamie kissed Dani again, this time on the lips. “I don’t need a cake if I’ve got you.”
“We’ll get takeout.” Jamie kept kissing Dani. Her lips, her nose, her cheeks, her chin…everywhere. Finally she heard a little giggle from Dani. “It’s my birthday. And all I want is you.”
“You didn’t even remember it was your birthday, did you?”
“Absolutely not,” Jamie laughed, and Dani joined in. “There she is. That smile is the only present I need.”
Dani raised an eyebrow suggestively. “The only present…you sure about that?”
Jamie didn’t answer. Instead she just leaned in and kissed Dani again. They didn’t waste any time in deepening the kiss, and Jamie didn’t stop her hands from wandering under Dani’s shirt and exploring the smooth skin she found there. The pain in her back could wait, Jamie decided.
“Um…you guys are still aware we’re here right?”
With a sigh, Jamie broke off the kiss. Dani pouted. Jamie stepped around her girlfriend and bent down to look at the laptop. She grinned at Owen and Hannah.
“Sorry mates. Gonna have to say goodbye for a bit.” She winked at them and closed the laptop on their laughter.
“This is the lamest birthday ever,” Dani said when Jamie turned back around. “I’m sorry. I wanted to surprise you.”
Jamie shrugged. “I don’t like birthdays. But seriously Poppins, I don’t need a cake or a fancy dinner.” She grabbed Dani’s apron, pulling her in close. “All I need is you.”
“Is your sister going to show up at the ass crack of dawn again?” Jamie asked as they retired to their room for the night.
Dani snorted. “Probably. She’s going to want to make sure you go on your run.”
“Nooooooo,” Jamie moaned as she flopped down face first onto the bed. “I hate running. Smoking was easier.”
“But this is so much healthier for you,” Dani said as she started running her fingers through Jamie’s curls. Jamie loved the feeling.
“It might be physically but mentally…” Jamie trailed off. “Actually ya know, truthfully my back’s acting up again. I might honestly need to skip a day.”
“Is it bad?” Dani asked. Her voice sounded sad. Jamie knew the memories from her crash and the injury weren’t things Dani liked to remember.
“Not so bad,” Jamie mumbled. “Think all the driving just kinda messed it up a bit.”
“Do you want a massage?” Dani asked. Suddenly she didn’t sound so sad.
Jamie turned her head and squinted up at her girlfriend. “Poppins, you flirt. In your mom’s house even?”
Dani shrugged. “Didn’t stop us before.”
“Well, I’m turning over a new leaf.” Jamie sat up, pecking Dani quickly on the lips. “I will no further defile this poor bed. ‘Sides, I think a bath might be in order.” Jamie made her way into the bathroom. She paused at the door, turning back to look at her pouting girlfriend. “That was most definitely an invitation, by the way.”
Dani grinned and flew off the bed, running to join Jamie.
“Shit, I don’t know about this Dani.”
Jamie was shaking. Outside of heights and confronting her feelings, nothing scared Jamie. But here she was, sitting in their car and trembling like a leaf. Even Dani’s hand, confident and soothing as it stroked her thigh, wasn’t helping to calm her down.
“Jamie, you don’t have to do this. You know I won’t think any less of you if you don’t meet with him.”
Jamie breathed out a heavy sigh. “Yeah I know.”
“And if you do decide to go through with it I’ll be beside you every step of the way. You know that right?”
“I know, Poppins.”
“I love you.”
Jamie turned and smiled at her favourite person. “I love you too.”
The folded up piece of paper Jamie brought home from their first Christmas out west had resided in Jamie’s pocket for months. It haunted her, that stupid piece of paper. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to try and reunite with her little brother or not. Eventually she told Dani about it, hoping the other woman would be able to give her some advice. Dani was a wonderful sounding board, able to both calm Jamie down and give her pep talks when needed. She was able to play devil’s advocate, and she proved to be pretty insightful about the whole situation.
But in the end, she left the decision entirely up to Jamie. Dani said she didn’t want to influence Jamie in either direction, but she would support Jamie no matter what.
In the end, Jamie reached out. She was curious, if nothing else. She at least wanted to know that her little brother was happy. That he had a good life in the end, regardless of how it started. Jamie didn’t check her emails for a full three days after first reaching out. When she finally was ready she made Dani check for her.
“He wants to meet with me? Really? That’s honestly what he said?”
Jamie couldn’t believe that little Mikey- or Michael Gallant as he had signed off on his email- actually wanted to meet with her. So they set a date and Jamie and Dani decided they’d turn it into a little road trip and getaway. Now though, Jamie was having severe second thoughts.
“He probably hates me. Or doesn’t remember me at all. Or wants to rub it in my face everything I couldn’t do for him. Or he hates me.”
“Or maybe he’s just like you,” Dani offered, “curious to catch up and see how it’s all turned out.”
“And if he hates me?”
Dani gripped Jamie’s hand tightly. “It’s impossible to hate you.”
Eventually, Jamie got up the nerve to go into the restaurant where she was set to reunite with her little brother. And it was a total disaster. But true to her word, Dani never left her side. And when they got to the little hotel they had booked for the night, Dani drew her a warm bath and lit some candles and washed Jamie’s hair as she cried.
“I’m sorry,” Jamie blubbered. “I thought I was ready, I thought I could handle seeing him again. I’m sorry I made us go through all that.”
“Don’t apologize baby.” Dani pressed soothing kisses into her wet hair. “You have nothing to apologize for. You did great! Michael is just…” Dani sighed. “He’s a typical college boy who grew up with wealthy parents who doesn’t realize all that you sacrificed to make sure he got as far as he did. None of this is on you.”
“I just feel like an idiot.” Jamie shrugged miserably. “Like, what did I think…we were magically going to be happy siblings again? Fuck it, who needs a family anyway.”
“Jamie…” The next thing Jamie knew Dani was climbing over the side of the tub, even in her clothes. She kneeled in the warm water in between Jamie’s legs and cupped her face. “Jamie you do have a family. You have me, and you have Becca. And even if they’re in other states you have Hannah and Owen, and Viola and Arthur. We’re your family. And we’ll be around forever.”
Jamie started to protest again, but Dani cut her off with a kiss. Every time Jamie tried to speak Dani kissed her, and kissed her, and kissed her again until Jamie stopped crying and smiled once more. She kept kissing her until her brother was the last thing on her mind and she accepted that she really did have a family. She kept kissing Jamie all night, long after they moved to the bed. And Jamie once again thought about how damn lucky she was to be able to love and be loved by someone like Dani.
Viola arrived in all her glory around six in the morning. Jamie tried to pout and tried to pretend she wasn’t happy to see the Lloyd’s again, but it was all a show. Viola had grown on her like an actually loveable parasite, and it was impossible to dislike Arthur even if he did constantly act like he had downed twelve cups of coffee. Izzy was getting big and even more beautiful. And as for their newest addition…
“Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen anyone so adorable!” Dani gushed as she held three month old Luke in her arms. She smiled down at him. “You are my favourite nephew. You are so special and so handsome, yes you are,” she cooed.
Jamie’s heart did funny things as she watched Dani with the baby in her arms. Even Cheeto was intrigued. He hopped up onto the couch beside Dani- Karen’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets- and sniffed at the tiny bundle in Dani’s arms with a cute look of curiosity on his face. Jamie even snuck out her phone and took a quick picture of the scene. It almost seemed…it could even be…Jamie wondered if she was getting a glimpse of her future. The thought made her heart pound crazily.
“So, are you still planning it?” Viola whispered conspiratorially. “You’re still proposing on Christmas morning?”
Jamie nodded confidently. “Yeah. She’ll never see it coming…she knows I think proposing on holidays is way too cliché.”
Viola grinned. “And the ring?”
“You’ve seen photos.”
“Photos do not do jewellery justice!” Viola seemed offended by the very thought of it. “I have to see it in person, Taylor, please let me see it before you propose.”
Jamie’s protestations were cut off by Dani, looking over at them curiously. “What are the two of you whispering about?”
“Er…” Jamie blanked.
“Jamie here was just saying how excited she is to hold the baby.” Jamie whipped her head around, looking at Viola in horror. Viola’s smile widened. “She can’t wait, right Jamie?”
“No way…I can’t…Viola no. No Dani, come on you know babies terrify me. Fuck, I’m gonna drop it, please don’t…Dani no!”
The sight of Jamie with a tiny baby in her arms did insane things to Dani’s heart. It was galloping and stuttering in her chest. Jamie held Luke like he was the most fragile thing in the world, and her eyes were wide in fear that she would drop him…and Dani thought it was perfect. One day Dani hoped Jamie would be holding their children that way, albeit maybe with a touch more ease.
“Like what you see?”
Dani turned to see her mom beside her on the couch, smiling at her softly. Dani grinned, glancing briefly back at her girlfriend. “I do,” she said quietly. “It’s…she’s special.”
“I know she is,” Karen smiled. “Have you both talked about kids yet?”
Dani shrugged. “Casually. Neither of us is ready for kids in the immediate future. It’s going to be years away still.”
“Of course! Marriage does come first after all.” Dani blushed at her mom’s words. “Will you show me the ring?”
“I sent you a picture.”
Karen waved a hand dismissively. “A picture is fine, but I want to see it in person. Really see the shine and the sparkle first hand.”
Viola came and sat on Dani’s other side. “And you talk about me whispering…what are the two of you gossiping about?”
“I think you could probably guess,” Karen laughed.
“Ooh…are we talking about the special question you’re planning on asking on Christmas morning?” Viola’s eyes were bright with excitement. “Have you shown mom the ring yet?”
“Guys, keep it quiet!” Dani shushed them. “I don’t want to ruin the surprise!”
“Are you sure you want to propose on Christmas?” Karen asked. “Won’t Jamie find that a bit…”
“Cliché?” Viola supplied with an odd knowing smile.
Dani simply smiled. “It is cliché. But what hasn’t really been cliché worthy about our relationship so far? We love each other, and I want to marry her, and Christmas is how this all began. So it just feels right.”
Dani couldn’t take her eyes off her girlfriend. Jamie hadn’t really relaxed, still sitting stiffly with Luke bundled in her arms. But she was smiling down at him brightly, with pure adoration in her expression, and when Jamie looked up and their gazes connected, Jamie’s smile only grew.
Dani knew she had to try to keep quiet. She knew Rebecca was in for the night, and even though she was playing music Dani knew that wouldn’t camouflage much. Dani knew she had to stay quiet, but Jamie’s lips were on her chest and she had two fingers buried knuckle deep inside her and Dani was just having a really, really hard time not voicing her please.
Dani had the sheets gripped tight in her fists. She had her teeth sunk into her bottom lip, nearly drawing blood, trying to keep the noises from escaping. But then Jamie’s lips moved lower and latched onto her clit and Dani’s back arched off the bed.
“Oh fuck Jamie, yes!”
Any voice in the back of Dani’s mind telling her to keep quiet had long since vanished. All she could think about was the intense pleasure she was experiencing. Jamie’s mouth and fingers were doing magical things and Dani could barely think straight. When Jamie curled her fingers just so and Dani’s orgasm started flooding through her, she couldn’t hold back any longer.
“Fuck! Jamie! Oh god…” Dani panted. Jamie came back up to lie down beside her, smirking. Dani pulled her in for a kiss, tasting herself on Jamie’s tongue, and moaned deeply. “Fuck Jamie. That was amazing. I love you.”
The next morning saw an exhausted looking Rebecca glaring at them both in bleary eyed annoyance. Dani decided the least she could do was cook their roommate a nice big breakfast.
“Sorry,” she said to Becca meekly.
“I’m sure,” Becca said. She was gripping the cup of coffee Jamie made her like it was a lifeline. “Put a sock on the door next time or something so I can just run away for the night.”
“You could try out noise cancelling headphones,” Jamie suggested with poorly concealed mirth.
Becca’s glare was withering. “And crack a window next time, will you, your room smells like a goddamn brothel.”
Dani’s skating ability had not really improved in the two years since she had last been out to California. She still stumbled along gracelessly; tripping repeatedly over her toe pick and working up a sweat merely not face planting every five seconds. Her only saving grace was Jamie, dutifully glued to her side and helping hold her upright.
“Honestly Poppins, it’s no wonder you trip all the time…you’re not supposed to push off with your toe pick!”
“Well what’s it even there for then?” Dani retorted.
“It’s there to provide the rest of us with endless entertainment,” Arthur intoned as he breezed past them with little Luke strapped to his front.
Dani frowned at her brother in law. “Show off,” she muttered.
“Jamie, look at how well I’m doing!” Flora skated up to them with a wide grin and came to a flourishing stop, showering them with snow. “I learned how to stop last year!”
“Not too shabby, munchkin!” Jamie smiled. “You might have to teach Dani here a thing or two. Between you and me, she’s a bit heavy to be holding up all the time.”
Dani gasped, offended, and made to shove Jamie. As she did so, her blades slipped on the ice and she wind milled wildly for a moment before landing heavily on her backside. Dani groaned. Jamie laughed up above her.
“You’re mean,” Dani pouted. She ignored the hand that Jamie was offering to help her up, choosing instead to cross her arms over her chest.
“C’mon Poppins, you know I’m only joking.” Jamie grabbed her under the arms and hoisted her back to her feet. Dani couldn’t deny that the show of strength was somewhat of a turn on. “Your skating ability does not factor into the many reasons why I love ya.”
“You won’t laugh at me again?” Dani questioned.
Jamie spun around so she was facing Dani, skating backwards. She held out her hands for Dani to grip.
“Of course I’ll laugh at you! Just like how you laugh at me when I snore in my sleep, or burn my porridge, or…”
“Alright, alright,” Dani laughed. “I get it. We both have our things.”
All in all, it wasn’t half bad, Dani thought. She got to hold onto Jamie for an entire hour, and listen to her girlfriend’s beautiful laughter. She got to see the brilliance of Jamie’s smile, and marvel at the sight of her in a beanie. Skating may not have been her favourite thing to do, but she did admit it definitely came with some perks.
“Dani calm down.”
Dani ignored her friend as she raced down the hallway. She scanned each room as they went by, looking at the numbers. They had made her wait hours before telling her which room Jamie was in, hours. Dani hadn’t been able to do anything except for wait, unfathomable scenarios flying through her head at warp speed, each more terrifying than the last. For the longest time she hadn’t even known if Jamie was alive or…or…
“Dani, it’s okay, they said she’s okay,” Rebecca said. “But you need to slow down, just breathe.”
“I’ll breathe when I see her,” Dani said. “But until then I can’t relax. I need to see her Becs. I need to know that she’s okay.”
“I know Dani. She’ll be fine. Jamie’s a fighter and they said…ouch!”
Dani had stopped suddenly and Becca had run into her back. Dani was frozen in place, rooted in spot, staring at the door in front of her. Room 374. Jamie was in that room. Jamie was behind that door. Jamie, her perfect Jamie, who had just been driving home from work when…
“Dani, you alright?”
Dani stared. “Becca what…what if she’s not okay?” she whispered hoarsely. “What if I go in there and she’s not okay? What if she’s…”
“Hey. Stop that.” Becca gripped Dani’s shoulders firmly, turning the girl to face her directly. “Don’t think like that. Jamie’s tough as nails; she’s not about to let something like this stop her. But also…Dani she’s going to need you to be strong. You’re going to have to be there for her and take care of her. So you have to stop thinking like that.”
Dani nodded, but inside her heart was still beating wildly. She had gotten the call hours ago. Dani hadn’t realized she had even dropped her phone until Rebecca was standing in front of her, calling her name, asking her what was the matter.
Dani had been able to conjure up all the worst scenarios in her mind as she rode in the back of Uber to the hospital. All she had been told was that Jamie had been t-boned at an intersection. Some idiot ran a red light and hit Jamie’s truck straight on at fifty and…
“Dani, they told us she was okay.”
“But what if…”
“No. No what if’s. She’s alive, and there’s nothing serious. They told us there’s no serious injuries.”
“They said her back…”
“Is going to be fine, with time. They said she’s lucky, that it’s a miracle there’s nothing seriously wrong. Yes, she’s injured. Dani she’s hurt. But she’s okay now, and she’s going to continue to be okay.”
Dani nodded, swallowing hard. She gave Becca a shaky grin before turning back to face the door. Slowly, ever so slowly, she inched it open. Dani gasped.
Jamie looked so small and fragile in the hospital bed, hooked up to all manner of machines. Her eyes were closed, and there were bandages on her head. Dani had been told that Jamie had suffered a concussion, but there wasn’t any sign of serious damage. But Dani could see the cuts on her skin from the broken glass, she could see where bruises were starting to bloom…
Dani rushed to the side of the bed. She sat in the chair there and immediately grasped Jamie’s hand, squeezing it tight.
“Hey Jamie,” she said softly. “Hey you. How are you doing?” Dani’s eyes, having already shed so many tears that night, started burning again. Jamie just looked so fragile. “They said you’re going to sleep for a bit. And that’s good Jamie, that’s good. You need to heal. So I want you to get all the sleep you need, because when you wake up you need to be as strong as possible. But I’m going to be right here beside you while you sleep, okay? And I’m going to be right here beside you for when you wake up. Okay? I’m not leaving you.”
Dani leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on Jamie’s forehead, right below the bandage. Part of her wanted to crawl into the bed with her love, but she didn’t want to disturb any of the wires or hurt her girlfriend.
“I love you Jamie,” she whispered. Dani felt Becca’s hand squeeze her shoulder soothingly. “I love you so much.”
Dani was drunk. It was a lovely feeling, really. They were all in Owen and Hannah’s backyard. The kids were all to bed- in Miles’ case pretending to sleep while surely setting a new high score- and Karen and Henry had said they would be on Luke duty for the night. So they were all gathered around in the warm night air, drinking and laughing and partying two days before Christmas. Even Edmund was there (albeit looking a bit awkward) with his lovely new girlfriend happily leaning into his side.
But Dani was drunk, and Jamie was beautiful. Jamie was beautiful and gorgeous and breathtaking and stunning and every single other complimentary word that Dani didn’t have the mental fortitude to think of right then. Dani was drunk, and she loved her friends, but all she really wanted was to get Jamie in bed.
“Poppins,” Jamie said under her breath. “If you keep looking at me like that I won’t be able to control myself.”
“Who wants you to control yourself?” Dani nipped at Jamie’s ear. “I certainly don’t.”
Jamie laughed before taking a long inhale of her spliff. “You say that now, but I think you’d be singing a different tune if I went ahead and did all the things I’m thinking of doing in front of your friends and family.”
Dani simply snuggled even further into Jamie. They were lounging on some of Hannah’s patio furniture, and Dani had essentially claimed Jamie’s lap as her spot for the evening. Jamie didn’t seem to mind, however. When Jamie offered Dani the blunt, she didn’t think twice about taking a hit.
“So are you excited for Christmas?”
Jamie laughed. “That’s quite the change in direction from a moment ago, Poppins.”
“I know,” Dani shrugged, smiling. “I just want to make sure you’re excited for Christmas this year.”
“I am,” Jamie grinned. “Yet another Christmas with my favourite person and our two year anniversary to top it off…why wouldn’t I be excited?”
Dani smiled at the woman she loved. She leaned in and kissed Jamie, closing her eyes at the feeling. She loved every single part of their relationship. She loved every single thing about Jamie. And she absolutely could not wait to propose to Jamie.
Dani stepped through the door to the dark and quiet apartment with a sigh. Logically, she knew both her roommates weren’t going to be there- Becca had an exam and Jamie had gotten caught up at work and had already texted her she’d be late. Dani knew that she wouldn’t see her friend or her girlfriend. But she still couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
She didn’t think they’d both forget her birthday so easily.
Dani didn’t want to put any expectations on Jamie, but considering how big of a fuss the gardener usually made about Dani’s birthday she just figured things would be even more of an event. Especially since they were together now.
With a sigh, Dani flicked on the light switch.
Dani let out a startled yelp. The apartment was full to bursting with people. She put a hand over her heart, now thudding in her chest, and laughed. Owen and Hannah were there, Viola and Arthur too, some of Dani’s coworkers, Rebecca…and there, standing almost sheepishly in the corner, was Jamie. Dani locked eyes with her girlfriend, and she knew instantly this had been Jamie’s doing. Somehow, some way, Jamie had planned all of this and made it all happen without her finding out.
It was probably one of the best birthday parties Dani had ever had. She couldn’t believe that everyone had made it, even those from the other side of the country. The drinks and the conversation flowed easily and there was more than enough pizza and Owen had made a spectacular three tiered birthday cake that was so decadent Dani had already eaten three pieces. Dani was overjoyed.
It took a while before she had made her way through the room, talking to everyone and receiving their birthday wishes. Eventually, Dani made it to her girlfriend.
“Happy birthday Poppins,” Jamie said, flashing her trademark crooked smile.
“Thank you.” Dani kissed Jamie lightly. “And thank you for planning all of this. I can’t believe…I can’t believe you did all this.”
Jamie shrugged slightly, rubbing the back of her neck. “Ain’t no big deal. Was kinda worried you wouldn’t like it actually.”
“Jamie. In what universe would I not absolutely love this?”
“Well in that case, you’re welcome.” Jamie took Dani’s hand and led her into the kitchen. A gift wrapped box was sitting on the counter beside the fridge. “This is your friends and family appropriate gift,” Jamie said as she handed Dani the box.
Dani raised her eyebrows. “Do I even want to know what the inappropriate gift is?”
Jamie flashed her a devilish grin and a look so clearly suggestive that Dani had to clench her thighs together. “Oh trust me, Poppins, you definitely want to know. And you’ll definitely like it. I already made sure Becs had somewhere else to stay tonight.”
They got to see Becca on Christmas Eve. She had convinced her family to do their annual Christmas family reunion on the west coast that year, and Dani was thrilled to be able to see her friend again. They hadn’t really gotten a chance to get together with Becca since she had moved to start her new job at a law firm, and when they saw each other at the diner they agreed to meet at for breakfast Dani squealed in delight. Quite a few patrons turned their heads at her uncontainable enthusiasm, but she didn’t really care.
It was good to catch up. Becca was thrilled with her new role, though incredibly busy. She kept shooting Dani furtive glances, and when Jamie went up to the counter to order their food she leaned in close.
“So…are you still planning on popping the question tomorrow?”
Dani’s smile felt like it stretched from ear to ear. She nodded eagerly. “Yup,” she said, popping the p.
It was Becca’s turn to squeal. “Ohmygod I can’t even…I’m so excited for you!”
It was a fun morning of catching up, but Dani did consume far too many milkshakes than was probably advisable. She didn’t want to miss a second of time with Becs, but after several minutes of her bouncing in the booth, Jamie ordered her away to the washroom. On her way back to the table a bit later, she saw Jamie showing Becca something in her hand before carefully sliding it into her pocket. Dani didn’t think too much of it. Knowing Jamie, she had probably found another dispensary with some exciting new strain.
Becca and her parents joined the Clayton’s for their Christmas Eve bash. It was, as always, a wild and crazy affair. The kids were hopped up on sugar in no time- courtesy of Arthur, of course- and the adults maybe only slightly overindulged. To Dani’s surprise, Karen never so much as had a single sip of wine the entire night. Dani couldn’t help but walk up to her mom and give her a warm hug partway through the evening.
“What’s this for?” Karen asked, surprised but clearly pleased.
Dani shrugged. “Just because. I love you mom.”
“I love you too, dear. Are you ready for tomorrow?”
“Absolutely,” Dani smiled. She searched the house for Jamie, seeing her tucked away in a conspiratorial yet animated looking discussion with Arthur. “Do you think she has any idea I’m planning on proposing?”
Karen’s eyes twinkled. “I don’t think so, Dani. I think tomorrow morning is going to be quite the surprise.”
Dani had it planned perfectly. For weeks she had been coaching her mom on how to both take care of and not take care of a plant for Dani to hide the ring in the roots. Rescuing plants with Jamie had kind of become their thing and Dani knew it would be both symbolic and fun for Jamie. It was the perfect way to propose, really. Once Jamie found the ring, she’d get down on one knee. She had enlisted Arthur weeks ago to be the videographer. She told Becs she’d have her on standby for a skpe call right after she got her answer.
Jamie also planned out every detail…as unlike her as that usually was. She had scrounged through her phone for a picture of the two of them on Christmas morning the day they sorted through all their messy feelings. She had (poorly) photoshopped a ring onto Dani’s hand and had ordered it as a puzzle. She was planning on hiding the piece with the ring until she was sure Dani would put it in last and then get down on one knee. Viola had already agreed to film everything, with Karen assuring she’d snap lots of pictures. Becca made her promise to call immediately afterward.
As for their family…they stood around, smiles threatening to get stuck on their faces, waiting for the penny to drop for both girls.
When it did- when Jamie and Dani realized they both had the same idea to propose on Christmas- the happy laughter and tears of joy seemed endless. The kids started up some sort of celebratory chant and Arthur whistled sharply in celebration. Cheeto barked along crazily while Karen cried and hugged her daughter and daughter to be tightly. Viola cheered and bounced Luke on her lap who sported a toothless grin at all the excitement.
It took Jamie two tries to get the ring on Dani’s finger, her hands were shaking so bad. It took Dani three.
“It’s so perfect,” Dani breathed, unable to take her eyes off the diamond glinting on her hand.
“It really is,” Jamie beamed. Her eyes, however, were on Dani. “I love you so much Poppins. I’m so happy you said yes.”
Dani kissed her deeply. “Of course I would say yes! I’m so glad you want to get married too…I love you.”
“We’re not bloody getting married on Christmas though. We’ve had enough clichés to last a lifetime.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Dani grinned. “You’re signing up for a lifetime with me…which means all the cheesy and clichéd memories we can possibly make.”
“You know what Poppins? I think I’m good with that.” They shared another kiss, all smiles. “I love you Poppins.”
“I love you too.”