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Lives Changed Forever

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It’s the first day of annual leave for Joan as she had finally booked overdue 2 weeks break from work – she owns an accounting business. At 7.45am, Joan woke up in good mood as she had a wonderful long sleep and she did her morning routines – shower, brushed teeth, get dressed and making herself a breakfast with a mug of coffee. While she was sitting on the chair beside the kitchen island, she thoughts about what to do today and decided that she will be cleaning the house, change the bed sheets then go out to do the foods shop. Once she’s finished with the chores around the house, she got in her car and drove to supermarket nearby. After parking her car, further away from the shop – at the back of the car parks as she like to have a walk to the shop and to ensure that no other cars will be crashing into her car if she parked further away – she had spent about 1 hour in the supermarket, getting everything that she’ll need for this week. Returning to her car and filled the boot with the bags, was about to walk back to the front of the shop to return the trolley when she spotted a woman sitting inside an open tent with a screaming child in her arms, not far from where Joan’s car is parked, so Joan walked quick to return the trolley and walked back to the woman, “Hi, is everything ok there?”

The woman lifted her head so fast that Joan thought she’ll give herself a whiplash, their eyes met for the first time and Joan was surprised to see that the woman is stunning, even that her face is not clean, but Joan still think she’s stunning. “Umm… yeah. Just trying to calm down my daughter because she’s hungry but I can’t do anything until I find the food or money.” Vera looked down in embarrassment.
“What is your daughter’s name and yours?”
“I’m Vera and this is Grace.”
“Nice to meet you both. My name is Joan. Right, I’ve got foods in the car so do you want to come over and see what you can use to feed Grace?”
“Thank you for the offer but no thanks as I’ll unable to pay back for the foods.”
“No, no. I don’t want anything for the foods. Just come and take whatever you need for yourself and Grace.” Vera looked up to see if Joan is lying but she couldn’t find anything but honest in Joan’s eyes, so she got up and walked with Joan toward her car timidly. Joan opened the car boot and asked Vera to pass over Grace so she could search through the bags which Vera did. “Hello beautiful girl. You have such an exquisite eyes colour.” Joan kept cooing at Grace while Vera went through the bags and only took out milk, carrots, and box of biscuit.
“That’ll do for us. Thank you very much, Joan. Let me get Grace back then we’ll get out of your skin to allow you go back to whatever you were doing before you stopped by us.”
Joan saw what Vera had taken out, “Are you sure about these? That’s not enough for you both.”
“Yes, that’ll be enough.” Vera took Grace back from Joan’s arms and walked back to her tent with the things in one bag.

Joan shut the car boot and got in the car then drove home. While she was putting the foods away, Joan couldn’t stop thinking about Vera and Grace. Life isn’t fair if she’s living in this lush apartment, and she have everything that she needs but Vera is living in the tent with her daughter. Joan had made the decision that she’s going back there and get both girls here as soon as possible so she grabbed her car key and headed back to the supermarket. Parked in the same spot, got out of the car, and walked over to the tent.

“Hello again, pack up your stuff now as you both are coming with me.”
“Going to where?”
“My house.”
“What? Why? We both are ok here.”
“Nonsense. I can’t stop thinking about you both since I left here a while ago, so I want to help you and Grace. Just come with me so you both can have bath, warm meals and warm clothes.”
“I can’t let you do that. It’s too much.”
“Please let me help. Even just for the day then I’ll give you a lift back here.”
Vera sighed and looked down to Grace’s sleeping face on her chest then looked back up at Joan’s eyes, “Ok, thank you again. Just for today as I don’t want to ruin your plans for the day.”
“Excellent, let go. And by the way, I don’t have anything planned for today so you can stay with me as long as you like.”
Joan helped Vera to carry sleeping Grace to the car while Vera packed everything she have into a rucksack and got in the back of Joan’s car so she can sit beside Grace who is lying on the back seat. Joan droves back home in silence as she didn’t want to wake up Grace.

Vera was absolutely speechless when she entered Joan’s apartment as she had never seen anything so luxury like Joan’s place. “Wow, what a place.”
Joan chuckled quietly and responded, “Make yourself at home. Eat anything you want from the kitchen. Do whatever you fancy to do in this house. Let me know when you want to go for a shower or bath so I can give you towels and clean clothes.”
“Thank you, Joan. I don’t even know what to say.” Joan carried Grace toward her living room and put her down on the sofa then covered her with the blanket and went into the kitchen to prepare the coffee machine. When Joan had just turned around to see where Vera is, what she didn’t expected was that Vera is right next to her and Vera had wrapped her arms around Joan’s waist. Vera starts to cry and mumbled which Joan had just made out – “Thank you so much.” Joan wrapped her long arms around Vera’s back and hold her tightly.
“It’s ok, darling. Stay as long as you would like to. I’ve got 3 spare bedrooms here so take whichever rooms you want to stay in.”
Vera had loosened the grip around Joan so she could lean backward and look up at Joan’s face, “Why are you doing this for?”
“I just want to help you and your young daughter. You both doesn’t deserve to be living on the street. Grace should be living in proper accommodation, not in that tent.”
“I know but it’s better than sleeping on the bench at the park.”
“How long have you been living on the street?”
“About 3 or 4 weeks now. I’ve had nowhere to go when we ran away from my home.”
“Why did you run away?” Vera looked down and was about to step away from Joan as she couldn’t tell her the reason, but Joan stopped Vera from moving away and hold Vera’s cheeks with her hands, “It’s going to be ok. You don’t have to tell me right now. Let just stay here for one night then you can do whatever you want tomorrow.”
Vera nodded and heard Grace is waking up, so she left the kitchen to see Grace in the living room. “Gracie, did you have good nap?”
“Yes Mummy. Who is da?” Grace asked Vera as Joan just stepped in the living room.
“That is Joan. Our Angel.” Vera turned her head around and both women smiled at each other.
“Hi Angel.” Grace spoke quietly, Joan moved closer to both girls and kneeled in front of Grace, “Hello again beautiful girl.”
Grace smiled – showing her full teeth – then jumped off Vera’ lap straight into Joan’s chest and wrapped her tiny arms tightly around Joan’s neck. Joan was surprised to see this reaction from Grace. Vera smiled proudly and said, “She really like you as she never gives anyone hugs, apart from me.”
Joan looked up at Vera with teary eyes, “She’s so precious little girl.”
“Joan, I’m hungry.” Grace whispered in Joan’s ear. Joan stood up and carried Grace in her arms into the kitchen and put her down on top of the counter.
“Right, what would you like to eat? I’ve got everything here.”
“Milk!”
“Here is a milk right coming up!” Joan walked over to the fridge to pick up the milk carton and walked over to the cupboard to take out a plastic cup and straw then filled the cup up about halfway through then walked back to Grace and allowed her to drink the milk through the straw. “Hold on Grace, let me fetch the cookie jar so you could dip the cookies in the milk and eat it.” Grace was watching Joan with strange face until Joan returned with the jar and took out 2 cookies then dipped both into the milk and reached one out to Grace until she took a small bite, “Yummy! More!” Joan fed Grace with 3 more cookies and decided that’s enough for the young child, so she cleaned up and carried Grace back to the living room, but Vera was sleeping soundly on the sofa, so Joan decided to take Grace out with her to buy new clothes for both Grace and Vera. Joan wrote a note and left it on the table in front of Vera with her mobile phone number and told Vera to use her house phone to call the number when she’s awake. Joan realised she don’t have a child seat in her car, so she phoned a taxi which arrived in few minutes and took both to nearby shopping mall centre. Joan and Grace spend over 1 hour – buying new clothes, underwear, and shoes for both girls and Joan bought the car seat as well. Joan was surprised that Vera didn’t call her which mean she’s still sleeping on the sofa. On the way home, Grace fell asleep on Joan’s chest. When the taxi arrived at Joan’s house, Vera ran out of the house with panicked face and opened the door beside Joan, “Joan! Where is Grace?!”
“Shh… She’s sleeping on my chest. Let me out first then you can carry Grace back inside.”
Vera released a deep breath then carried Grace back inside while Joan carried all bags and the box of the car seat. Joan put everything down on the floor in the living room while Vera had just put Grace down on the sofa and stood up to face Joan.
“I did leave a note on the table for you when you wake up. I was at the shopping mall centre to buy all of these for you and Grace.”
“Sorry, I didn’t see the note as I just woke up and heard a car pulling up outside, so I just ran outside.”

Vera noticed how many bags that Joan had just carried inside, “Did you said that these are for me and Grace?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“No, please Joan. You can’t do that. It’s not fair on you.”
“I want to do this. I can’t let you both stay in these clothes any longer. It’ll make me feel good to see smiles on your and Grace’s faces.”
Vera burst out crying and was about to collapse on the floor, but Joan rushed over and held Vera up while wrapping her arms around Vera’s back and held her there in silence until Vera had stopped crying.
“It’s ok. It’s going to be ok. Just relax and enjoy your night here tonight. I’ll let you go back to the tent tomorrow with the new clothes as it belongs to you now.” Joan spoke in gentle tone to comfort Vera.
Vera nodded and hugged Joan around her neck, when she moved back – she gave Joan a kiss on her cheek and thanked her several times. When Vera had stopped thanking Joan, she walked over to see what Joan had bought for both of them. Vera couldn’t believe what Joan had bought as she had never spent that amount on clothes. Joan picked up the bags and told Vera to follow her which she did until they reached at the door of the spare bedroom, “This is the biggest spare room in the house, so I want you to sleep there for as long as you want. It is en-suite so you can have a shower or bath there whenever you want. Let me fetch the towels so I can leave you there in peace.” Joan put the bags on top of the bed and brought the towels from the wardrobe and placed it on top of the bed as well then, she left the room.

Vera sat down on the bed and thought what she deserved to be here in this lovely home and in company of the wonderful woman. She never thought she’ll end up here, even for one night. She thought Jake, her husband, will eventually find them and drag them back home with him then beat Vera up all night for escaping. Before any more bad thoughts fills up in her head, she removed the dirty clothes and stepped in the hot shower.

Vera closed her eyes and sighed relieved.

Chapter Text

Vera followed the smell of foods cooking when she left the bedroom after the shower. “Something is smelling so good here.” Joan turned her head and smiled to Vera then moved away to show Grace is sitting on the counter beside the cooker, “Mummy! I am helping Joan!” Grace shouted excitedly.
“What are you both making?” Vera asked while walked over to Grace and kissed the top of her head. Grace looked up to Joan as she doesn’t know how to pronounce the words.
“We’re cooking Spaghetti Bolognese as Grace was telling me how much she loves the “hetti” which I’m guessing that she meant spaghetti.”
Vera chuckled and confirmed with Joan that she did meant spaghetti. “Thank you, Joan, for making this as it’s Grace’s favourite food but I haven’t been able to make it for long time.” Vera’s eyes turned into full of sadness and she walked out of the kitchen before she could cry in front of Grace.

Joan turned off the cooker and put Grace on the floor and told her to go in the living room to watch cartoon for a while. So, Joan searched for Vera and found her in the bedroom, “Is everything ok? Did I say something wrong?”
Vera looked up, showing that she had been trying to hold back the tears as her eyes were so full of unfallen tears and deep red around the eyes, “I’m sorry. I just felt like a failure mother right there when I mentioned that I’ve been unable to cook Grace’s favourite food for long time.” Joan walked over and sat down on the bed beside Vera.
“I know that I don’t know you for long or your background but don’t even label yourself as a failure mother. Grace is beautiful and clever little girl. You should be proud of yourself for how you’ve raised and taught her.”
“How can I be proud of myself if she keeps seeing my husband beat the shit out of me almost on daily basis?!” With that being said, the tears had finally burst out of Vera’s eyes and Vera covered her face with both hands while her body are shaking. Joan wrapped her arms around Vera and said, “It’s ok, just take deep breathes. I’m here for you and Grace. You can stay here with me instead of staying on the street or going back to your husband.”
“I can’t because he will find me one day. It’ll be the end for me if I go back there.”
“Just let me help you? I can get my lawyer to sort out the divorce and child custody for you if that is what you want.”
Vera remained silent for few minutes. “No, no, no. I can’t do that. He will find us and kills all of us.”
“The men like your husband are worthless and coward scum. They should never hit women or anyone else. If you let me help you, I can get rid of him and make him leave your and Grace lives forever.”
Vera lifted her head to look at Joan’s eyes, “Do you mean by that? As I cannot carry on living like this anymore. I need to get Jake out of my life and protect Grace before it is too late.”
“Yes, I do mean it and I’ll help you with anything that you need. Come on, let enjoy tonight and I’ll sort out with my lawyer tomorrow for you.” Vera hugged Joan tightly then composed herself before leaving the bedroom.

“Yummy! Thank you, Joan!”
Both women laughed when they saw Grace’s face as it was covered in tomato sauce.
Joan was surprised at how fast Grace was eating for her age as she had absolutely demolished the bowl in less than 5 minutes.
“Wow, that’s one fast eater little girl.” Joan chuckled at Grace.
“She had always been the fast eater. It’s because Jake loses his temper quite regular then he will flip the table with our foods being thrown across the kitchen.” Vera whispered quietly to Joan as she didn’t want Grace to hear the word “Jake”. Joan nodded and asked both if they want a bowl of ice cream and she got the respond from Grace was a loud squealing and little shoulders dance in her chair. Joan made 3 ice cream bowls with chocolate sauce on the top, again Grace demolished it quite fast.

Vera gave Grace a bath and put new pyjamas on Grace then put her in the king size bed that both of them will be sleeping together tonight. Vera stayed there until Grace fell asleep, so Vera headed back to the living room and sat down on the same couch as Joan but at the opposite side with her feet tucked underneath her thighs.
“Is Grace sleeping?”
“Yeah, went out like a light which is a rare thing. She normally is difficult to put to bed.”
“I think she’s comfortable here and she probably got the food coma.” Both women laughed.
“Guess so. You’re a good cook. I think it’s the time for me to tell you about my past.”
“You don’t have to do this tonight as it had been a long day.”
“I need to tell you, otherwise I will just bolt it and never tell you.”
“Okay, take your time.”

Vera gulped and began, “I’ve been with Jake, my husband, for 14 years. He is my first and only relationship as I was brought up in a strong Catholic family. When I just turned 18 years old, had a house party with some friends from school but the words got out there about the house party which meant more people came along – I didn’t know who they all were. Jake was very charming and flirt with me at every chance he could get. I woke up next day with Jake sleeping beside me in my bed, but I didn’t even know what had happened as I got really drunk that night. When Jake woke up, he told me that we had sex which meant he had taken my virginity, even though I don’t remember anything. Few weeks later, I discovered that I was pregnant. When I told my mother about it, she forced me to find and tell Jake then forced us to get married before I began to show the bump as it was one of the sins to have sex before marriage. So, we got married less than 3 weeks later. He was lovely to me until I had a miscarriage. His behaviour and attitude had totally changed after he found out that I had lost the baby. He thought I had faked the pregnancy to trap him and made him marry me. Jake did everything he could to destroy me – verbal, physical, emotionally, and mentally abuses every day. He won’t stop having sex as he was desperate for me to provide him a son, but I couldn’t fall pregnant again after the miscarriage until 3 and half years ago when I finally got pregnant. I did everything I could to keep him happy, but it never works. Jake was a changed man after I told him that I was pregnant again, who showered me with affections and never hit me once during the pregnancy. Until, we found out that we’re expecting a girl at the scan. His verbal abuse had increased during the pregnancy. He made me feel like I wasn’t worth to be on this Earth as I was useless and couldn’t provide him with children for many years and when I finally got pregnant – it wasn’t what he wanted as it’s a girl.”

Joan remained silent and gave Vera a space while she was talking. Vera’s eyes were kept shut when she was talking so she opened the eyes and looked at Joan – seeing no disgust or loathing on Joan’s face but full of sympathy. “I’m sorry that you went through hell with Jake and wasted 14 years of your life with that lowlife scum man. I don’t how you’ll feel about this, but this house is a fresh start for you both so just stay here, and I’ll help you with anything until you’re back on your two feet.”

“Thank you, I do appreciate it, but I need to get Jake out of mine and Grace’s lives first.”
“I understand.”

“After Grace was born, Jake’s old ways had returned but he had never touched Grace. He didn’t care if Grace was in the room while he was beating me, so Grace had never seen Jake being good to me for over 2 years. I ran away from Jake few weeks ago because I heard Jake talking to someone on phone saying – “it won’t be long until Vera is out of my life forever” which I had interpreted that he’s planning to get rid of me. I couldn’t allow that to happen as Grace need me. That night he came home so drunk and passed out on the couch, I had already packed a small rucksack with essential things and cash that I had been saving up, so I picked up Grace and the bag and ran out of the house. I got far away as possible until my legs became tired. I used the cash to buy the tent where we had been staying in until today. Jake didn’t find us since then, but I was sure that he would find us if we stayed in the tent any longer, so you had saved our lives, Joan.”

“I just knew that I have to help you and Grace when I saw her crying in your arms. You don’t deserve this anymore as you deserve to have better life than last 14 years. If you allow me to help you and Grace, I would be the happiest woman in the world.”

Vera moved over to Joan’s side and leaned her head on Joan’s shoulder, Joan lifted her arm and wrapped it over Vera’s shoulder. “Thank you, Joan.”

Both women talked until they both got tired and went in separate bedroom. Vera crawled in the bed and watched Grace sleeping peaceful and thought to herself – Joan is right, we don’t deserve this anymore. I’m going to do everything I can to change that and give you a better future – before she fell asleep in peaceful.

Chapter Text

Next morning, Vera woke up alone in the bed and was about to get up to find Grace, but she could hear Grace laughing and her tiny feet running about on the wooden floor being chased by Joan. Vera stretched like a cat in the bed and went to the toilet and brushed her teeth then walked down the stairs. When she reached at the bottom of the stairs, Grace ran toward her, “Mummy! Save me from the dino!” Vera bend down and lifted Grace up before Joan can catch Grace. Joan was panting when she stopped few feet from Vera and Grace, “Sorry if we both were too loud and woke you up.”
“No, no. I didn’t hear you both until I woke up and wondering where did Grace gone to.”
“I was already here, reading the newspaper when Grace came downstairs or should I say “sliding down” the stairs. I’ve given her a cereal and orange juice for breakfast then she asked me to be the dinosaur and chase her around which we did until you came down. I didn’t want to go up and wake you up as you need to catch up with sleep.” Vera smiled at both and asked Grace if she is ok and having fun which Grace said yes and she love it.
“Thank you, Joan.”

Vera put Grace down and she sprinted off again, screaming – “Catch me dino!” Which Joan did and ran after Grace. Vera laughed quietly and went to make herself a coffee and cereal for breakfast. She looked up at the clock and was shocked to see it saying 9.54am as she had never slept in that late, she’s always up at 5.30am every day. 10 minutes later, Joan entered the kitchen with a pile of paperwork and put it down beside Vera, “My lawyer had dropped the paperwork earlier on this morning. This is what you need to get rid of Jake. Have a look through those when you have time.” Vera did a quick look through the piles, and she could see “restraint order”, “divorce application” and “child custody” across the paperwork.

Instead of reading through every detail, Vera had signed on each form and gave it back to Joan, “Thank you again for doing this. I’ll repay you once I have my own income.”
“You’re welcome and no, I don’t want a penny from you. Keep it for yourself or put it in a saving account for Grace. I mean it that I don’t want any money from you ever.”
“Why? Please let me repay you one day.”
“Seeing you and Grace being happy is enough for me.”
Vera hugged Joan tightly, Grace came into the kitchen and saw both women are hugging – “I want hugs!”
Vera stepped back and picked up Grace, she wrapped one arm around Vera’s neck and opened other arm – motioning Joan to join in the hug so Joan moved toward them, and Grace wrapped her other arm around Joan’s neck and pulled both women together hard which made all 3 faces being squashed together. Joan and Vera wrapped their arms around Grace and each other. After a while, Grace loosened the grips around the women’s necks, Joan moved back little bit and kissed Grace and Vera’s cheeks then left the kitchen, leaving the mother and daughter some time alone.

“Are you ok, Grace?”
“Yes. I love this house. Mummy, I love you!”
“I love you too my little star. I like being here too. Joan is good to us.”
“Joan is great!”
“Yes, she is.”
“I don’t want see Daddy. He is bad.”
Vera gulped as she didn’t know what to say so she kissed Grace’s cheek and hugged her again.

They didn’t realise that Joan was standing outside the kitchen door and heard their conversation. Joan got quite emotional when she heard the conversation, so she went upstairs to her bedroom and made the phone call to her lawyer to speed up with the paperwork as she’ll drop it off later today.

“I’m going out for an hour, so I’ll be back shortly. Help yourselves to anything in the house. The spare key is in the bowl if you both want to go out.”
“Thank you, Joan. See you soon.”

Joan had dropped off the paperwork and told her lawyer to do this as soon as possible because she wants Vera to move on with her new life sooner without Jake around anymore. On the way home, she bought flowers and box of chocolate for the girls. When she parked her car at the driveway, she can see Vera and Grace is standing at the front door, so she got out of the car and took the chocolate and flowers out of the car.

“Joan, you are back!” Grace shouted excitedly while running toward Joan and hugged her leg.
“Yes, I am, and I got this for you both.” Joan bend down to show Grace what she’s holding in her hands.
“Ooo, yummy!” Grace took the box of chocolate out of Joan’s hand and turned around to show Vera the box. Joan and Grace walked toward Vera at the front door, “Hello, here the flower is for you.”
Vera blushed and thanked Joan. Three of them entered the house. “Did you both had fun while I was away?”
“Yeah, we just chilled out on the sofa and watched cartoon together until you came back.”
“Sound fun. I’ll join you both next time.”
“Why don’t we do that now? Go and get changed into pyjamas or something more comfortable than these jeans you’re wearing right now?”
“Sure, I’ll be back soon. I’ll order takeaway for dinner tonight as I rather to be with you both than cooking in the kitchen tonight.”
“Great, you better hurry up as Grace is shouting for us to join her now.” Both women laughed. Vera joined Grace in the living room while Joan went to get changed into pyjamas vest and short. When Joan entered the living room, Grace and Vera was cuddling up on the corner of the L sofa with a duvet covering their legs. Grace lifted the duvet beside her and told Joan to sit there, beside her which Joan did and covered the duvet on her long legs that lying across the sofa beside Vera’s legs. During the film, Vera moved her leg and it touched Joan’s bare leg, “Oh I’m sorry, didn’t meant to do that.”
“It’s okay.” Joan smiled while Vera blushed little bit and Vera realised that she’s having butterfly feelings in her stomach from touching Joan’s leg which she had never felt before.

After the film finished, Joan ordered pizza with side orders for three of them which arrived 25 minutes later. They sat on the sofa and watched other film while eating the pizzas. Joan stood up to put the boxes into the rubbish bin in the kitchen and brought back more juices for them to drink then snuggled back under the duvet. Three of them spend the rest of the day and night having a lazy duvet day until Grace became tired so Vera put her to bed upstairs then joined Joan on the sofa. Vera gasped quietly when she felt Joan’s bare leg is touching her leg as Joan moved closer to wrap her arm around Vera’s shoulder, “Is this ok, Vera?”
“Yes, it’s fine.”
“Sure? As I’ve heard your gasp.”
“Sorry, I’m not used to feeling other people touching me so gentle as Jake is never gentle.”
Joan pulls Vera’s shoulder tighter while rubbing her fingers on Vera’s shoulder. Both women fell into silence while watching more films. After a while, Joan realised Vera is leaning heavily onto her shoulder, looked down and the reason is that Vera had fell asleep. Joan removed herself from Vera so she could check around the house to ensure everything are locked and lights are off then returned to Vera and picked her up in her arms, carried Vera up the stairs into her bedroom then covered Vera’s body with the duvet. Joan bend down to give gentle kisses on Vera and Grace’s forehead as they lied there, sleeping heavily.

“Goodnight my darlings.”

Few hours later, Joan woke up totally dazed and confused about the noises that had eventually woke her up. Once she realised where the noises are coming from – Vera’s bedroom – she jumped out of the bed and ran out toward Vera’s bedroom and barged in the room. Vera was screaming and covering her face with her forearms, but her eyes were shut, and she was crying, shouting things like, “No, no! Get off! Leave me alone! Etc.” And Grace was awake and crying, “Mummy. Mummy, get up. Mummy.” Joan ran toward the bed and sat down on Vera’s side of the bed talking in soothing voice, “Hey, Vera. It’s okay. You’re safe. Vera, wake up. Calm down, you’re okay.” While stroking Vera’s cheek, eventually Vera’s eyes slowly opening, sat up quick, and she was startled to see Joan beside her and realised Grace is crying beside her. “What?”
“You were having a nightmare that had scared Grace.” Vera turned her head toward Grace and realised she was crying and picked Grace up and hugged her tightly, “I’m sorry Grace. I’m okay. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sorry.” Grace had stopped crying when she heard her mother’s voice beside her ear then wrapped her tiny arms around Vera’s neck tightly.
“Mummy, I love you.”
“I love you too. I’m so sorry.” Joan was sitting beside them and stroking Vera’s back while they were talking.
“Are you both ok?” Joan asked worriedly.
“Yeah, thank you for coming in and calmed both of us down. Vera released one of her arms from Grace’s back and slid it around Joan’s waist to pull her closer to them, Joan wrapped her arms around Vera and Grace’s back and kissed Vera’s head.
“Do you want me to lie down with you both until both of you fall back sleep?”
“Yes please.”

Three of them got under the duvet. Joan is the big spoon while Vera is in the middle with Grace snuggled into her chest in front of her. Joan began to sing quietly which Vera found very sweet of Joan to do that. Three of them fell asleep together not long after. While listening to Joan’s singing, Vera thought to herself that being in Joan’s arm and warm home - she’s feeling safe and secured for the first time in her life.

Chapter Text

Few hours later, Vera woke up and slowly smiled when she felt Joan’s arm resting across her stomach which meant that Joan is still in the bed with them. Vera lying there for a while and listening to rhythmic breathing from Grace and Joan until Grace stirred and stretched her limbs. Vera kissed Grace’s forehead, “Good morning darling, are you ok?”

“Morning Mummy, yes I’m ok.” Grace smiled when she made eye contact with her mother. Grace tried to snuggle into Vera’s chest more, but she realised Joan’s arm is in the way, she grunted, Vera lifted the arm and wrapped it behind Grace’s back – this had woken Joan up when she felt her arm is being moved. Joan opened her eyes slowly and small grin developed on her face when she noticed that Vera had moved backward toward her front and pulled Grace tightly with her long arm covered both girls, Joan smelled Vera’s hair and kissed the back of her head. “Good morning girls.” Joan’s voice was raspy.

“Morning Joan, is this ok?” Vera turned her head toward Joan, lifted her hand and motioned to three of them being snuggled together.
“Yes, of course. It’s lovely to wake up to this.”
“Morning Joan!” Vera winced as Grace was shouting in her ear.
“Did you get good sleep, girls?”
“Yeah!”
“Yes, thank you for coming in earlier on this morning and calmed down both of us.”
“No worries, Vera.” Joan’s hand that covered Grace’s back started to tickle Grace which made her giggles and squirming in Vera’s arms. “Stop! Joan, please! Stop!” Grace couldn’t stop laughing while trying to get away from Joan’s hand. Eventually, Grace pushed Joan’s hand away and settled back on her mum’s chest.
“I’ll go and get breakfast ready. Let you both alone to chill until the foods are ready.” Joan got out of the bed and was about to leave the bedroom when Grace spoke, “Can I help, please?”
“Of course, come on.” Joan smiled and held her hand out for Grace to hold on while they went downstairs.

20 minutes later, Vera joined them at the kitchen and giggled when she saw the scene in the kitchen. The counter, Joan & Grace’s faces and hair were covered in flour. “What the hell had happened in here?” Joan turned around and laughed.
“Erm… we were trying to make pancakes, but Grace had other idea and start to throw the flour at me, so we ended up in flour fight.”
“Oh god. Let me help you to clean up.” Vera approached both girls but couldn’t stop giggling.
“Mummy, fun time!”
“Yes darling, it’s fun time but we need to clean up now so we can eat our breakfast.”

After cleaning the kitchen and both girl’s faces are flour-free, three of them sat down and ate the pancakes.
“Vera, do you have any plan for today?”
“No, I haven’t thought about what to do for today.”
“Do you want to go to the beach or swimming pool?”
“Um… they both sound lovely but we don’t have swimsuit and Grace had never been in the water before.”
“We can stop by at the mall to buy swimsuits and armbands for Grace?”
“If it’s not too much hassle then yeah it’ll be lovely.”
“Great, let finish this then go and get ready.”

In the changing room, Joan was waiting outside the stall for Vera and Grace to come out and put their stuff in the locker. Few minutes later, both stepped out of the stall, Joan’s mouth went so dry when she saw Vera in navy-blue one-piece suit that showed Vera’s curves. Joan swallowed hard and looked down to see Grace smiling in her pink swimsuit with armbands on both arms. “Here is the locker to put your stuff here then we can go to the pool.” Vera put the stuff in the locker and gave Joan the key, three of them had shower first before entered in the toddler pool. Grace stood by the edge of the pool, unsure about whether she should go in or not but when she saw her mum and Joan kneeling in the water with their arms stretching out and encouraging her to jump in one of their arms. “Mummy, I’m scared.”
“It’s okay. Joan and I will look after you. It’s okay. Come on, try to jump in my arms?”
“You will catch me?”
“Yes, I will.”
“Okay.”

Grace braced herself and jumped into Vera’s arms, “Ah, gotcha! Well done!” Grace clapped her tiny hands and giggling loud when she felt her mother’s arms wrapping around her, “Again!” Vera walked over to the edge of the pool and lifted Grace to stand on the edge and stepped back to the original spot. They spend next few minutes doing the same jump and catch. Joan was kneeling beside Vera with a huge smile on her face as she watched them having fun in the pool.

Joan had attempted to climb around in the pirate ship with Grace but unfortunately, she was too tall to fit in the ship, so Vera went in with Grace instead. Joan stood at the end of slide and laughed when Vera and Grace emerged out of the slide with huge smile on their faces. Joan held Grace while floating around in the twirl pool that went fast speed around for 2 minutes before settle back to normal speed.

Three of them spend 1.5 hour in the pool until it’s time to leave. After got changed, both Joan and Vera were dried their hair with the hairdryer while Grace was sitting on the chair inside one of the stalls beside the mirror. They talked while drying their hair, few minutes later, Joan went to get Grace, but she had fell asleep on the chair, so Joan lifted her and carried her to the car. On the way home, Vera watched Joan’s face while she was driving and reached her hand across to hold Joan’s hand on her leg, “Thank you for taking us to the pool. We had so much fun. Thank you again.”
“It’s my pleasure and it was worth it to see the smiles on both faces and listening to the laughs.” Joan begins to stroke Vera’s hand with her thumb and quickly looked at Vera and smiled before focusing on the road again. Joan picked up McDonald’s on the way home, woke up Grace when arrived at her house so they could eat McDonald’s for lunch.

Few hours later, Joan had just got off the phone with her lawyer and went to find Vera sitting on the sofa in the living room and sat down beside her. “Vera?”

Vera paused the program that she was watching and turned around to face Joan, “Yeah?”
“Um… I’ve just got off the phone with my lawyer. He said that he can speed up the process with your application forms, only if that is what you want. If not, he will go through the normal process. So, I’ll need to let him know what you’ve decided.”
“I wish I can choose to speed up the process, but I cannot afford for that, and I don’t want you to spend too much on us. Tell him that I can wait until he gets it sorted out.”
“Vera, I’ve told you this before that you’re not paying a penny for anything. Let me pay for everything to get you out of that shit life. You deserve to have a fresh start.”
“I know you’ve said that, but I felt like I’m asking too much from you.”
“Nonsense! I don’t have money worries so please just take what I’m offering you. Grace deserves to have better future and she will thank you when she’s older if you’re helping her by getting rid of her useless father.”
“You’re right but again I’m feeling bad because you’re stranger and you’ve done more for Grace in few days than I’ve since she was born.”
“Stop talking like that, all I want for you and Grace is to have better future.”
“Thank you, Joan.” Vera looked down until Joan lifted her chin with her hand and they made eye contact.
“Excellent, I’ll tell my lawyer to speed up.”

Vera slowly leaned forward until her lips are only millimetre away from Joan’s lips, pausing there as she wasn’t sure if Joan would accept the kiss, but her thoughts was thrown out when she felt Joan’s lips pressing her lips gently. Their mouth moved around each other for a while. Joan stroked Vera’s jaw during the kissing and Vera wrapped her arms around Joan’s neck. They were still kissing for a while until Grace jumped on Vera’s laps, “Mummy, I want my kisses.” Both women pulled back fast and nervously laughed. Vera gave Grace several kisses around her face, “You happy, Mummy?”
“Yes darling, I’m so happy.”
Grace looked at Joan with serious face, “No kissing my mummy. She is mine.”

Both women burst out laughing while Grace looked at them so innocent.

Chapter Text

Vera joined Joan in the living room as she had gone upstairs to put Grace to bed after she fell asleep on Vera’s chest while watching film. A while later, Joan realised that Vera had been staring at her for few minutes, she pressed the pause button to pause the film and she turned her head to look at Vera, “What? You’ve been staring for a while.”
“I’m just thinking about you as I barely know anything about you apart from your name and where you live.”
“Right, let do questions and answers game now. You can ask me anything that you want to know about me, and I’ll answer. You can answer your own questions if you want me to know something about you as well.”
“Okay, umm… how old are you?”
“I’m 46.”
“I’m 32. When is your birthday?”
“24th August.”
“Mine is 17th April. Where is your partner?”
“I’m not with anyone. Had been single for few years now.”
“Wow, I thought there would be a queue of men waiting outside, wanting to date you as you’re attractive woman.” Vera nervous laughed.
“Ah, men aren’t my thing. I’m into women.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah, I have been lesbian since I was 19 years old.”
“Right. Any kids?”
“As you can see around, nope. As I never found right person to start family with but now it’s too late for me as I’m too old now.”
“I’m sorry that you haven’t found right person as you would have been a wonderful mother as you’re great with Grace.”
“Thank you.” Vera leaned forward and hugged Joan before settled back to the original position.
“I think that’s all I want to know about you, thank you for sharing.”
“You’re welcome. Just ask me anything at any time if you want to know more about me.” They smiled at each other.
“Will do. Let continue watch the film? I’m going to bed when it’s finished.”
“Yeah sure, let me get the remote then we can relax back to watch the film.” Joan pressed the play button and lie down on the sofa beside Vera. Both women were silent during the film. Once the film is done, both women got ready to go upstairs to their bedrooms and bid each other goodnight before went in their own bedrooms.

2 weeks later

Joan was in her bedroom, putting underwear on as she had just finished shower when the door opened and Grace ran in the room, “Hi!” Joan turned around while strapping the bra on, “Hello Grace, are you ok?”
“Yeah! I want to play with you.”
“Let me get dressed first and I’ll come downstairs to play with you.” Joan knelt and gave Grace high five with both of her hands, “Joan, come on!”
“Two seconds, I need to put my clothes on first.” Vera walked in the room as she had been searching for Grace for a while, “Oh! I’m so sorry.” Vera covered her eyes when she saw that Joan is half naked, kneeling on the floor beside Grace – only bra and knicker are covering her body – “Come on, Grace. Let go and leave Joan to get dressed.” Vera reached out for Grace while still covering her eyes with other hand and pulled Grace out of the room, went back downstairs to the back garden. On the way downstairs, Vera realised that she’s starting to get aroused from seeing Joan being half naked, but she pushed the thoughts away as she shouldn’t be getting aroused about Joan.

5 minutes later, Joan came outside to the back garden, joined both girls and sat down beside Vera on the grass, “I’m really sorry for barging in your room as I…” Before Vera could finish the sentence, “It’s absolutely fine. I’m not annoyed or mad with you. It just happened as Grace walked in when I was putting my underwear on.” Joan kissed Vera on cheek then stood up and start chasing Grace around in the garden. Vera is watching both Joan and Grace running about, laughing loudly, and talking to each other – Vera had never seen Grace smiling and laughing so much since Joan entered in their lives and she knew that she cannot let Joan go ever as she and Grace will always need Joan in their lives.

“Vera, can you use my phone to order something for our lunch?”
“Yeah, where is it?”
“Should be in the kitchen or living room.”
“Okay, I’ll be back in a minute.” Vera went in the house to find Joan’s phone and found it in the living room. While walking back to the back garden, Vera spotted that Joan have an email from her lawyer, “Joan, your lawyer had sent you an email.”
“Oh, please give me the phone.” Joan put Grace down from her shoulders and walked over to where Vera is standing at the door to take her phone. Joan was reading the email for a while, Vera sat down on the sun lounger chair with Grace sitting on her laps. Joan scratched her head before turning around to face Vera as she’s unsure of how to tell this to Vera. “Umm… Vera?”
Vera looked up, “Yeah?”
“I’m not sure how you’ll take this news, but my lawyer had said that Jake had agreed to sign the divorce papers but… Um…”
“What is it?”
Joan sighed, “Jake wants to fight for the child custody and he’s wanting the full custody.”
“No. No. No way he’s getting the full custody!” Vera held Grace tighter to her chest and tried to control her emotions in front of her daughter, “She belong with me, not him!” Vera bowed her head and burst out crying while holding Grace.
“Mummy? Why cry?” Grace lifted her tiny hand and stroked Vera’s cheek then looked up at Joan to see if Joan can give any explanation of why Vera is crying out of blue. Joan approached them and sat down beside Vera then wrapped her arms around both of them and kissed Vera’s head, “It’s going to be okay, Vera. My lawyers will fight hard for you, so he won’t have any chance of taking Grace away from you.”
Vera sniffed and nodded before lifting her head to kiss Grace’s forehead and looked up at Joan, “I know your lawyers will do their best, but it still scares me if I lose my daughter.”
“I will never allow that to happen to you as anybody could see that Grace belongs with you, not with him.” Joan squeezed Vera’s shoulder and kissed Vera’s head before standing up to leave Vera with Grace and went back inside the house to reply the email to her lawyer. She told her lawyer to do everything they can to ensure that Jake will never see Vera and Grace ever again and she will pay them any price they want to charge her as she want to keep Vera and Grace together and to have happy life without that useless father and husband.

Chapter Text

First week back at work had been long and hard for Joan as she had piles of paperwork to catch up from when she was on annual leave, she texted Vera that she’s going out with her colleagues for drinks after work this afternoon as it is Friday which she normally has few drinks with the staffs, so she won’t be home for dinner and won’t be home early. Joan went out with 2 colleagues – Helen and Sally. Both women are in their mid 30s.

They went to Italian restaurant for dinner first before moving to other pub. Arriving at the pub, Helen ordered 2 bottles of wine for them to share. Once the bottles are finished, “Who want shots?” Sally asked.
“Not for me, I’m too old for shots!” Joan laughed.
“Nah, nobody is too old for anything. Come on! Don’t be a pussy.”
“Urgh, alright then but if I get hangover tomorrow, you’ll do my workload on Monday.”
“Deal! Woo hoo!” Sally went to the bar and ordered 9 shots – 3 each – and brought the tray back to the table.
“It’s fireball, sambuca and tequila.”
“Why do you have to order different ones?” Joan rolled her eyes.
“Don’t be a spoilsport, Joanie!” Helen giggled.
In few minutes, all shots are gone, “I knew it. I’ll regret this tomorrow. Have fun working with extra paperwork on Monday, Sally!” Joan smirked at Sally.
“You’re no fun boss.” Sally pouted.
“The perk of being the boss.” Joan winked and Helen laughed at Sally.
Few hours later, all 3 women are completely drunk. Joan got taxi home alone as Helen and Sally lives at opposite direction, so they got taxi together. When Joan got dropped off, she tried to open her front door but struggled to put the key in the lock for a while but eventually opened the door and slammed the door when she got in the house. Kicked the boots off, dropped the bag and keys on the table in the hallway.

Stubbed her pinky toe on the kitchen island, Joan hopped around and holding her toe – “Ah fuck sake! Jesus Christ! Bastard.” Joan continues to shout and swearing at herself then sat down loudly on her arse to have a look at her toe. That had woken up Vera, so she ran downstairs to the kitchen, “What the fuck? Joan, stop shouting as you’ll wake up Grace.” Vera said annoyed.
Joan looked up at Vera, “I wasn’t shouting. Look at my toe as it’s bleeding!” Joan lifted her foot to show Vera. She went to find the first aid then applied a plaster on the toe, “That’ll do until the morning. Come on, get upstairs to bed.”
“Thank you so much!” Vera pulled Joan up on her feet, Joan took a water bottle from the fridge and tried to walk up the stairs, but she couldn’t walk straight and was about to fall backward but luckily Vera was walking behind her, so she grabbed her waist and held Joan up the stairs – Joan was giggling mess while walking up the stairs, “Shh! Please be quiet!” Vera whispered as they were walking past her bedroom.
“Sorry!” Joan spoke quite loudly which made Vera sighed in defeat, so she pushed Joan to hurry her up and get in her own bedroom. At Joan’s bedroom door, Joan turned around and kissed sloppily Vera on the lip, but Vera pushed her away before Joan can do anything further, “Aw, come on! I want to fuck you.” Joan said and tried to grab Vera’s arm to pull her in the bedroom, but Vera fought her hand off, Joan didn’t try to pull her again and stumbling into her room. Vera stood there shocked. Joan collapsed on top of her bed and fell asleep – fully clothed. Vera sighed at the door, walked over to Joan, and tried her hardest to change Joan into pyjamas but only could manage to remove the jeans. She left Joan there in her blouse and underwear and went back to her bed – she was happy that Grace didn’t wake up during Joan’s antic.

Few hours later, Joan woke up face down in the pillow with her hair being everywhere and groaned when she lifted her head to see the clock which said 7:16AM. Joan rolled over to lie on her back and rubbed her face. Her stomach was like a washing machine. She moved up the bed so she could sit back against the headboard to drink the water, opened the drawer to search for painkiller and was happy to see the packet in the drawer so she took 2 and drank more water. She realised she’s still wearing yesterday clothes but minus the trousers and boot, she tried to think what had happened when she came home but her mind was blank. She forced herself to get up and go in the shower as she’s stinks. She took her time in the shower and brushed teeth before got out and dried herself. Joan put t-shirt and joggers on then went downstairs, she looked at Vera sheepishly and said, “Good morning, Vera.”
Vera looked at Joan but didn’t smile or looked happy, “Good morning.” Vera replied flatly.

Joan sighed, went to make herself a mug of black coffee and joined Grace at the dining table. Grace was talking fast which went over Joan’s head and showing her the artworks that she did yesterday with Vera when Joan was out all day. Joan kept complimenting Grace for the artwork which made Grace so proud of herself.
“Do you want some of the breakfast or not?” Vera asked.
Joan turned around to see Vera and shook her head, “Sorry, no. I’m feeling bit rough just now.”
“Ok.” Vera made two plates of pancakes, bacons and fried eggs and brought it through to the dining table. Grace went for it but she’s learning to eat slower now than before as both women had tried to teach her that nobody will take her foods away again.

The table was awkward as everyone were sitting there in silence until Joan spoke, “Vera, I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done when I came home. I cannot recall anything since I left the bar in the taxi. I’m sorry again.”
Vera said nothing and continue eating her breakfast. Joan couldn’t cope with the awkwardness, so she got up and left the dining room and went outside to lie down on the L shaped sun lounger. A while later, Joan heard the back door opened and closed but she didn’t turn her head around to see who’s coming out, but she knows who’s coming as can hear the quick running steps. Eventually, Grace stood in front of Joan, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, why?”
“You are not happy.”
“I’m okay, just a sore head.”
“Come on. You need nap time.” Grace held her hand out, wanting Joan to hold it so she could bring Joan inside for a nap, but Joan didn’t reach out.
“Grace, I don’t want to go inside as I’m ok here. But I do need one thing from you that will help me to feel better.”
“What?”
“I want Grace’s hugs.”
“Yeah! Pick me up, please.” Joan picked up Grace and put her legs around her lower stomach, so Grace is sitting on Joan’s stomach, Grace leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Joan’s neck and Joan wrapped her arms around Grace’s back.
“I love you.” Grace whispered in Joan’s ear.
“I love you too, darling.” Joan stroked Grace’s back. They stayed like that for next 10 minutes until Grace pulled back, “Feel better now?”
“Yes, thank you. You are the best hugger.” Grace giggled which made Joan smiled and her heart burst with joy. They chatted away until Joan decided she need to go inside and find Vera to see what’s the matter with her today, “Grace, let go inside so I can talk to your mummy.”
“Okay.” Grace jumped off Joan’s stomach and off the lounger, waited for Joan to stand up and held her hand while walking in the house. Joan told Grace to go in the living room as Vera is washing the dishes in the kitchen.

“Vera?”
“Hmm?”
“Is everything ok?”
Silence… Joan walked over to Vera and stood beside her, ducked her head lower which made Vera turn her head and they made eyes contact.
“What have I done last night?”
Vera sighed and dried her hands with the towel before turned around to face Joan.
“Well, you were very loud when you got in the house but luckily Grace was dead to the world, so she didn’t wake up.”
“Right, is that why you’re mad with me for being loud?”
“No. You can’t remember what you did at your bedroom door?”
“No, like I said not long ago that my mind is blank since the bar.”
Vera looked away for a moment before looking back at Joan, “Do you want to know?”
“Yes, please tell me. I don’t like the atmosphere this morning.”
“I know you was drunk but I didn’t like what you’ve said and tried to do to me.”
Joan was getting more confused, but Vera continued.
“You snogged me, tried to grab my arm to pull me into your bedroom and you said, ‘Aw, come on! I want to fuck you.’ When I pushed you off me after kissing me.”
Joan was mortified when she heard what she had done that to Vera, “Oh god, I’m so sorry!” Joan turned around and dashed out of the kitchen, took two steps at time up the stairs until she reached her bedroom and sat down on the bed, thinking to herself, “Fuck! What have I done? She’ll hate me for this. I won’t be surprised if she decided to leave here with Grace for my stupid behaviour. What a bloody idiot am I?!” Joan rubbed her face and fell backward onto her bed.

Vera didn’t expect to see Joan panicked and run away from her as she thought Joan would brush it off and acted like it didn’t happen and use the “drunk” excuse for her behaviour, but Joan didn’t do any of those as she had disappeared to upstairs. Vera closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead as she was unsure what she should do now – go to check on Joan or leave her alone until she comes down – she decided to go and check on her. Vera checked on Grace first before going upstairs - Grace was fine and busy watching the cartoon. Standing at the door frame of Joan’s bedroom, Vera can see Joan is lying on the bed with her arm covering her eyes, “Joan.” Vera spoke before walking over to where Joan is lying and sat down beside her. Joan removed her eyes to look at Vera and tried to sit up and move away from Vera, but she stopped her from getting up by holding her shoulder down, “I’m not mad at you. It’s ok.”
“But you should be mad with me.”
“Why should I?”
“Because I knew what you’ve went through with Jake and I’m doing the same thing as he did to you last night.” Joan sniffed and wiped the tears away from her eyes.
Vera closed her eyes and moved herself down, so her head is resting on Joan’s shoulder and wrapped an arm around Joan’s stomach.
“Vera, what are you doing?” Joan froze and not sure what to do when Vera moved to rest against her body.
“Shh…”
“You have every right to be mad with me, like you are this morning. I’ll help you to…”
Before Joan could continue, Vera had interrupted her, “Shh, be quiet.”
Joan nodded and remained silent then looked up at the celling and held Vera’s shoulder.
Few moments later, Vera lifted her head to look at Joan, “I know you didn’t mean to do what you’ve did last night but I forgive you as long as you don’t do it again. The reason why I was quiet this morning is I wasn’t sure how I can tell you about it, but I feel lots better now after telling you. Last thing is I am not going anywhere unless that is what you want to have your own house back without us.”
“No, no, no. I don’t want you and Grace to leave. I love having you both here. And thank you for forgiving me for my stupid behaviour, I promise you that I will not be drunk ever again.” Vera nodded and rested her head back on Joan’s shoulder, Joan squeezed Vera shoulder and kissed her forehead.

Chapter Text

“Joan, can I talk to you for a minute?” Vera asked while walking into Joan’s study room as Joan is working from home today. Joan looked up and removed the reading glasses, “Yes?”
Vera walked closer to Joan’s desk, sat down on the chair and sighed loud, “Joan. Since you found Grace and I in the tent, our lives had been changed for the better because you’ve provided everything we needed and wanted. I couldn’t have done it without you being there. Grace absolutely loves you. You are remarkable woman.” Vera stood up and walked to the window to avoid looking at Joan’s face as she’s scared if she looks at her eyes and she’ll crumples. Joan became more and more worried while listening to Vera as she had uneasy feeling in her stomach, but she remained silent until Vera is finished talking.
“But I think it’s better if we move out to find our own place to stay and I’ll find a job to support us because I’m pretty sure Jake will say something that will ruin my chance of getting full custody of Grace because I don’t have my own place to stay and I don’t have a penny in my name to bring Grace up. I cannot rely everything on you and I need to find my own feet to move on with Grace.” Vera stopped talking any further because her eyes are full of tears, she wrapped her arms around herself and tried not to breakdown. Joan said nothing, walked over to Vera and stood behind her, “Vera, look at me please.” Vera shook her head, Joan turned Vera around and pulled her toward her chest – stroking the back of her head and wrapped other arm around Vera’s back tightly, “Shh… Vera, I don’t want you to leave because I love having both of you here, but I completely understand if that is what you want to do. I will certainly miss having you and Grace around in the house. Nothing makes me happier than seeing you and Grace having so much fun and the sound of both laughing always fill up this house. I will definitely miss listening to the laughing, small feet running everywhere and your voice. But again, I completely do understand your reasons for wanting to move out as Grace will always be your priority.” Joan’s voice cracked toward the end of her talking and the tears are rolling down her cheeks slowly. Hearing Joan’s voice breaking made Vera sobbed harder and her body trembled. Joan hugged Vera tighter than before and both women stood there crying together for a while.
Vera got her breathing under control again, “I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done for us. I don’t want you to think this is the end of our friendship or that I don’t appreciate what you’ve done. But I know what Jake is capable of so that why I’ll need to prepare myself and protect Grace from Jake’s threats.”
“Of course, I’m not thinking that you’re using me or anything like that. I just don’t want you both to leave but yeah, I know where you’re coming from. I’m happy to help you to find new place and new job as I’ve got several friends who are in real estate and I’m sure there are plenty of jobs out there for you to apply.”
Vera pulled back from Joan’s chest, looked up at Joan’s eyes and leaned forward until their lips met gently, “Thank you, Joan.” Vera mumbled during the kiss and stepped back. Joan released the grip she had around Vera’s back to give each other a space. Both women wiped the tears away from their faces.
“Right, let me contact my friends and see if they have any home available to rent ASAP and you can use my computer to apply jobs or whatever.” Joan walked out of the study room to make phone calls and leave Vera to do her things. While walking out of the study room, Joan’s heart became heavier, and she was trying not to cry anymore as she need to be strong and be there for Vera and Grace during this difficult time.

Few hours later, both women, Grace and Janice (Joan’s friend) are having a look around the apartment – fourth one.
“The places you’ve showed me are beautiful and I love each one but I’m not sure how I can afford to stay in any of these apartments. Can you please show us the cheapest apartment that you have but haven’t showed us?” Vera’s face became flushed as she became embarrassed to talk about cannot afford these places.
“Vera, please pick which apartment you like from the four places that Janice had showed you so far and let me sort out the deposit and furniture.”
“Joan! I cannot let you do this because you’ve already done so much for us.”
“Please let me do this! I want you and Grace to be comfortable and settled.” Joan begged while holding Vera’s hands.
Vera removed one of her hands and rubbed her forehead.
“Mummy! The bedroom is so big and pink! I love it!” Grace shouted while running back to Vera from the bedroom that she had been staying in for a while. Vera sighed and turned to pick up Grace, “Do you like this one?”
“Yeah! Do you like it too, Mummy?”
“Yeah, I guess I do like this place.” When Vera turned around to speak to Janice and she could see Joan is standing there with a huge smile on her face at the corner of her eyes.

After completed the paperwork, three of them entered Joan’s car and Joan drove them back to her house – picked up pizza on the way home. Three of them were eating the pizzas at the dining table, “Are you sure about paying the deposit and furniture for the apartment?”
“Yes, as I want you both to be comfortable with where you are staying at.”
“Again, thank you so much.” Vera held Joan’s hand before lifting the hand and kissed Joan’s knuckles.
“Just remember, any problem or need help with anything – just call me and I’ll help anytime.”
“Yeah, I’ll remember that. I will never forget what you’ve done for us. I am glad you are in our lives.”
“I am glad that you both are in my life too.” Both women smiled at each other before picking up their slices of pizza and continue eating while Grace is blabbing about nonsense things.

Chapter Text

Every night when Joan enters her house, she absolutely hates it because it’s so quiet, spotless, and dark. The house seems more homely when Vera and Grace are around – the house is always full of noise, Grace making mess with toys/colouring pens being everywhere and the house always smell of delicious homemade foods that Vera is cooking for them every night. Joan sighed, put her handbag on the table, and took off the coat and shoes and hung them up on the hook and shoe racks then went upstairs to her bedroom to have a shower. Once the shower is finished, she got changed into pyjamas and on her way down the stairs - she ordered herself a pizza, as she cannot be arsed to make herself a dinner. She was startled when the doorbell went off, so she fast walked to the front door and opened the door, “Oft!” Joan was knocked back when a small child bulldozed to her legs and squeezed hard around her legs. Joan looked down and smiled widely, “Hello Grace!”
“Hi Joan! I missed you so much!”
Joan reached out both hands, lifted Grace up into her arms and gave her kisses all over her face while giggling at each other. Vera stood there smiling and her heart is melting at the sight in front of her and she know how much Grace had missed Joan since they moved out few weeks ago and Joan didn’t visit much as she said she would.
Joan realised that Vera is waiting to enter her house, so she moved backward to give Vera a space to walk inside, Vera walked past Joan but before she fully walked past – she kissed Joan on her cheek and smiled before walking to the living-room.

Joan entered the living-room with Grace still talking in her arms, while Joan tried to sit Grace down between Joan and Vera on the sofa, but Grace won’t let Joan’s neck go so Joan sat Grace down on her laps instead. Looking at Vera, “How are you both doing so far?”
“Grace is doing wonderful at the nursery; she’s becoming more social butterfly which is amazing thing for me to see. She’s picking up more words and forming into sentences. She’s more calmer and happier. So, yeah things are good for Grace.”
Joan couldn’t stop smiling like Cheshire cat and looked down at Grace, “What a clever girl you are! I’m so proud of you, my Gracie.” Grace looked up at Joan and planted a sloppy kiss on Joan’s cheek, “I love you, my Joanie.”
Joan chuckled at how Grace changed her name into Joanie because she called her Gracie, “I love you too.”
Looking back at Vera, “I’m so happy to hear about Grace but what about you?”
Vera gulped before answering, “It’s not easy for me. I’m struggling to adapt from living with Jake to be alone with Grace but I’m learning to let go the past and create new memories with Grace. I’ll get there at the end.”
Joan moved her hand to hold Vera’s hand and squeezed gently, “I know it will be hard for you but you’re a strong woman, so I have every faith in you that you’ll thrive more while living on your own. You’ll enjoy the freedom and doing things whatever you want without any fears anymore.”
Vera held back the tears, nodded her head and got her emotions in control before Grace could see her crying again, “Yeah but…”
“But what?”
“I miss you. So much.”
Joan was taken back when she heard this from Vera, “Oh Vera. Come here.” Joan opened one arm, Vera moved closer and rested her head on Joan’s shoulder. Joan wrapped her arm around Vera’s back and stroked her hip, “I miss you and Grace so much as well.”
Vera felt Grace kissing her forehead and Joan is kissing the top of her head, she sighed happily at the feelings of both girls kissing her head and she feel so safe in Joan’s arm.

Joan put cartoon on the television which made Grace so focus on the television and became quiet in Joan’s arms. After a while, Joan spoke, “Vera, I’m sorry that I haven’t been around you and Grace much since you moved out. I thought it was better to give you a space to find your feet. I promise that wouldn’t be happening again as I’ll be around more for you and Grace.”
“Thank you, Joan. That’s all I want is for you. Can I ask you a question?”
“Yeah, shoot.”
“Do you like me?”
“Yeah, of course I do.”
“No, no. I mean more than friends?”
“Oh.” Joan wasn’t sure how to answer this, so she remained silent.
“Joan?”
“Um… I don’t want you to think I’m taking an advantage of you during your tough time or anything like that. But yeah, I do have some feelings for you. I completely understand if you don’t have the same feeling for me and we can just remain -.”
“Joan, stop rambling. I’m glad to know that you have feelings for me because… I think I feel the same.”
“You do?”
“Yeah, I’ve realised how much I’ve missed being around you and having you close to me. I used to hate having people to touch me or kiss me, but not with you.” Vera lifted her head off Joan’s shoulder and looked at Joan. Huge smiles lit up both faces, leaned toward each other until their lips met softly halfway.
Leaning back again, “I’m glad you’ve asked the question because I didn’t want to scare you away if I confess my feelings for you.”
“I’m glad I asked as well so now we know where we stand at.”

The doorbell went off and interrupted their conversation, “That’ll be my dinner. Be back in a minute.” Joan passed Grace over to Vera’s laps and went to answer the front door. Vera’s eyes were about to pop out of her eyes when she saw the piles of foods in Joan’s arms as she walked past the living room, “Joan! What the hell did you ordered?” Vera laughed.
Joan stepped back into the living room, “This? I was going to eat half each tonight and the rest tomorrow night. But now you both are here so do you both want to join me if you haven’t had your dinners yet?”
Vera looked down at Grace, “Do you want to join Joan for pizza or go home for dinner?”
“Piiizzzzzaaaa!” Grace screamed, jumped off Vera’s laps and sprinted to the kitchen. Vera chuckled quietly before got up from the sofa and joined them at the kitchen.

Chapter Text

Joan is trying her best to comfort Vera during the night as Vera is very restless and crying constantly throughout the night, “Everything will be ok, and you’ll be free from Jake after the court this morning. Please just try to switch off and get few hours sleep.” Joan said while stroking Vera’s head on her chest.
“I’m scared that he will fuck me around and make me look like a bad mother.” Vera sniffed and wiped the tears off her cheeks.
“You are not a bad mother.”
“But…”
“Shhh… stop being negative. Anyone could see that Grace belongs with you, not with that dickhead.”
Vera nodded and closed her eyes, listening to Joan’s heartbeat below her ear and it soothed her to fall sleep very quick. Joan breathed in Vera’s scent and closed her eyes as well.

Few hours later, Joan woke up first and wiggled her way out of Vera’s grasps then covered Vera’s shoulders with the duvet as Vera snuggled further into the pillow and snored quietly. Joan went to pick up awake Grace from the cot in the guest bedroom and carried her to the kitchen and began to prepare breakfast for three of them. Half hour later, the breakfast was ready, so Joan went upstairs to wake up Vera, “Good morning, how are you feeling now?”
Vera stretched her body and yawned before replying, “Morning, I’m ok at the moment. Thank you for looking after me through the night.”
“No worries, I know you’ll be exhausted if you didn’t get any sleep. I’m glad you had few hours of sleep. Come on, the breakfast is ready, and someone is waiting for you downstairs.”
Joan leaned down to kiss Vera before leaving the room. Few minutes later, Vera joined the girls at the dining table, kissing the top of Grace’s head before sitting down beside her, “Morning darling.”
“Morning Mummy.” Grace looked up at Vera and gave her toothy smile before resume eating her breakfast. Vera couldn’t finish the breakfast as she was too anxious about the court today, drank all the coffee before went back upstairs to have a shower. Joan noticed that Vera is on tenterhooks since she woke up, but she hasn’t said anything to her, so she doesn’t become even more nervous wreck.

After a while, three of them got ready and entered Joan’s car as she’s driving them to the court. Turning the car engine off at the car park, Joan turned around to face Vera, “Vera, please stay strong and be positive. You can do this, I love you.”
Vera looked down at her hands, Joan reached up and stroked Vera’s cheek before moving her head toward herself and kissed Vera few times.
“I love you too.” Vera said before leaving the car and lifted Grace from the car seat and put her down on the ground then closed the car door. Vera swallowed the huge lump in her throat before holding Grace’s hand and walked in the court building with Joan walking beside her. They met Joan’s lawyer at the reception, he told them that Grace will be taken into a room with the social workers. Vera hesitated at first place as she wasn’t sure how Grace will react to be with strangers, but Grace went in the room like a trooper. During the hearing, Vera had broken down several times when Jake’s lawyers tried to make Vera sound like a lunatic, and she had made up the stories about the abuses she had went through with Jake. All Joan wanted to do was run to Vera and comfort her, but she couldn’t, so she remained in her seat all way through the hearing.

2 hours later, three of them are back in the car after the court hearing. Grace is sitting quietly in the back as she’s tired, Joan is hugging Vera and stroking her head and back while Vera is sobbing in her arms.
“I can’t believe I’m free from that horrible man.”
“You deserve to be free from him. Now you have a bright future ahead of you.”
“I know. I couldn’t have done this without you. I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done for us. I’m only free from him because of you. Thank you so much, Joan.”
“You know I will always be here for you and Grace. I’m very glad that I found you at the car park. I’m happy that I’m able to help you to turn your life around as that what you deserve to have. Here to a fresh start.”
Vera moved away from Joan and rubbed her face before facing Joan again, “Please take us home.”
“Yes, of course.”

Arriving at her flat, Vera went straight to her bedroom to change into pyjamas while Joan carried Grace up the stairs and was about to go in Grace’s bedroom when she heard Vera saying her name, so she went in Vera’s bedroom with Grace still in her arms, “Yes?”
“Please put Grace in my bed as I want to have cuddles with her.”
“Sure, please pull back the duvet.” Vera did it and Joan lowered Grace on the bed before standing back up. Vera crawled into the bed, lying down beside Grace, and turned on her side and wrapped an arm over Grace’s stomach. Joan was silently leaving the room to leave them alone, but Vera whispered her name which stopped her from leaving the room and Joan turned around to face them, “Please come in the bed as I need you here.” Joan didn’t need to be asked twice, she removed her coat and shoes before settling behind Vera with her arm wrapped around Vera’s side and holding Vera’s hand on top of Grace’s stomach. It didn’t take Vera that long to fall asleep as she’s so happy that she’s no longer married to that horrible man. She also feeling so comfortable and safe in the bed with Grace sleeping soundly in front of her and Joan is like a comfort blanket behind her.

The divorce had been approved by the judge, but the judge cannot award Vera any spousal support and Jake could keep the house, as he’s the one who had been paying for the house since they moved in, but Vera wasn’t bothered about the house or money from Jake as all she care is get Jake out of her life. But for the child custody hearing, it had been postponed to other day as the judge want to wait until she gets the report from the social workers who had been interacting with Grace during the court hearing.

Chapter Text

One and half hour later, Joan was confused as she felt tightness around her neck and kisses were planted on her cheek and she slowly opened her eyes and smiled when she saw it was Grace hugging and kissing her, “Hello.” Her voice is sleepy as she isn’t fully awake yet from the nap.
“Hi! Wake up!” Grace whispered as quietly as she could because Vera is still sleeping beside them.
“Yeah, I’m awake now. Come on, let get out of the bed and leave your Mummy to sleep bit longer.” They shuffled their ways out of the bed, Joan carried Grace in her arms and left the bedroom to go into the kitchen. She poured an orange juice in a mug for Grace and in a glass for herself – they both drank very quick as they were thirsty from the nap.
“Do you want bowl of strawberries?”
“Yeah! I’m hungry.”
“Okay, give me a minute to chop them up.” Joan took out the box of strawberries and cut them in small pieces for Grace and halved them for herself before putting them in two bowls and gave one bowl to Grace who’s sitting on the kitchen island beside her. They both ate the strawberries in silence for few minutes while watching out of the kitchen window.
“Joan?”
“Yes darling?”
“I love you and Mummy. I don’t love Daddy.” Joan was taken back as she wasn’t sure what she could say next but luckily Grace moved closer to her and hugged her waist. Joan just stood there and hugged Grace back.
“Grace, do you want chicken nuggets and chips for dinner?”
“Yes, please. I love nuggets!” Joan smiled down at Grace before lifting her off the island and put her down on the ground. Joan put the TV on in living room and placed Grace to sit down on the couch while she went back into the kitchen to put foods in the oven for their dinner – she wasn’t in the mood to prepare homemade meal tonight, so she just put frozen foods on the tray and put in the oven. 20 minutes later, the foods were ready – she turned off the oven before went into Vera’s bedroom to wake her up, but Vera was grumpy and refused to get out of the bed, so Joan just left her to sleep in bit longer. She ate her dinner with Grace while Vera’s plate is in the oven to keep warm. Eventually, Vera joined them at the table with her dinner when Joan and Grace had just finished their dinner, “I’m sorry for being grumpy in the bed.”
“No worries, I should have known better that you’ll want to sleep longer instead of waking you up.” Vera nodded and focused on eating her dinner while Joan kept Grace entertained at the table. Joan kept glancing at Vera every time it’s Grace’s turn to talk but all she could see is Vera is completely exhausted with dark black marks underneath her eyes and her eyes are so far away in deep thoughts, “Vera? Vera? Hey, don’t drift too far away.”
This had brought Vera back to the earth, she blinked hard before refocusing on two people in front of her, “Sorry, I was miles away in my head.” Joan reached out and squeezed Vera’s hand before giving her a soft smile.

Joan gave Grace a bath before tucked her in the bed – Grace fell asleep pretty much straightaway. Joan kissed Grace’s forehead before leaving the room. She went in her bedroom and saw that Vera is lying on top of her bed while watching the TV, “Vera, I’m going to have a quick shower then I’ll join you to watch the telly shortly.”
“Yeah, okay.”

Joan entered her bathroom, started the shower to get the heat going and removed her clothes before went under the hot water. Few minutes later while Joan is rubbing the shampoo on her head, she gave out a small yelp when she felt two arms wrapping around her stomach from behind, “Vera? What are you doing? I’m naked!” But Vera remained silent and continue to hug Joan from behind. Joan couldn’t open her eyes because the shampoo is rolling down her face from her hair, she moved her head underneath the water to remove them and eventually she could open her eyes and tried to turn around, but Vera tightened her grips around Joan’s waist, “Vera, what’s going on?” Joan asked again. Instead of answering, Vera turned Joan around and stood on her toes to kiss Joan hard on the lips. Joan was dazed by the action from Vera, so she lost focus for a moment before she held Vera on her hips and pushed her away little bit. But Vera pushed herself back to Joan’s body, “I need something to make me to feel good about myself, please!” Vera begged. Joan was actually torn about whether she should go through with this or stop this before doing anything further with Vera but if she decided to stop this, she will make Vera feel undesirable and nobody want to touch her but that’s not true as much as Joan want to take things further with Vera - she knows it’s not right time to do this. Joan looked down at Vera’s eyes and she could see Vera is battling with demons in her head.

Before Joan could do anything, Vera kissed her again and run her fingers through Joan’s wet hair – this had thrown all Joan’s doubts out of the window. Joan became defenceless and let Vera take the lead. Joan held Vera’s hips and stroked there with her thumbs. She let Vera take the control of kissing for a while before she leaned her head away from Vera and began to kiss down Vera’s jaw and neck. When Joan reached Vera’s nipple and began to lick around softly – Vera started to moan bit louder as she enjoyed the feeling of Joan’s tongue on her nipple. Switched to another nipple and asked, “Are you ok, Vera?”
“Mmm.” Vera replied before closing her eyes and pushed Joan down until she’s on her knees. Joan shuffled forward, pushed Vera backward until her back touched the wall and lifted Vera’s leg onto her shoulder. Before Joan did anything else, she prayed to herself that Vera will enjoy this and won’t be hating her afterward if she thinks Joan is taking advantage of her during her vulnerability moment, even though it was Vera who came onto her. She looked up at Vera to see if Vera had changed her mind or anything that she wants Joan to stop but there was nothing as Vera is leaning back on the wall with her eyes shut. Joan leaned closer to Vera’s centre and licked tenderly up and down the slit while stroking Vera’s legs. Joan pushed her tongue inside the fold and felt how wet Vera was which she didn’t really expected from her. Vera moved her hands to run slowly through Joan’s hair and sighed happily. Joan moved her tongue slowly before increasing the speed and she kept looking at Vera to see if she’s showing any signs of discomfort but none so far. Eventually, Joan moved up to lick around the hard bud, which caused Vera to jerk her hips as she’s so desperate for the release and latched her mouth around the clit. Joan’s mouth is moving at lightning speed which didn’t give Vera a time to control herself before she felt her body trembled like wildfire and she screamed out, full of happiness. Vera was about to collapse to the ground, but Joan held her up by holding her hips. Removed Vera’s leg from her shoulder, she stood up and held Vera tight against her chest. She could feel Vera’s breathing even out so Joan knows that Vera is coming back down from her high ride.
“Joan, thank you.”
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m ok now. Thank to you.” Vera hugged Joan tighter. Joan kissed at the top of Vera’s head. Vera moved her head backward slightly and looked up at Joan, “I would have reciprocated but I don’t know how to please women.”
“It’s okay, I’m not expecting anything in return from you today. All I want is to make you feel good which I hope you do feel good now.”
“Yes, I feel good and lots better now. Thank you again.”
“Whenever you do reciprocate, there is no pressure as just go with the flow. I’ll help you along the way if you need. I know you’ll make me feel good just like I did to you just now. Again, there is no pressure.” Both women smiled lightly at each other before kissing few times.

Chapter Text

The night before the court for Grace’s custody.

Grace is being difficult child tonight as she can sense that her mother is very tense and so anxious all day/night – Grace is refusing to eat her dinner without many persuading from Vera until the final piece, refusing to have a bath until Vera get in the bath with her, screaming her head off when Vera put her in bed and won’t stop crying until Joan spoke to her on the phone which had calmed Grace down immediately and she fell asleep shortly after listening to Joan’s singing through the phone. Vera had noticed that Grace is being super clingy all day, so she knew that Grace is feeling the negative vibes from her.

Vera broke down when she got in her own bed as she’s so worried about the custody verdict tomorrow and she keep thinking that tomorrow morning will be the last time she’ll see Grace as Jake will win the full custody and take Grace away from her forever. Eventually, Vera fell asleep from exhaustion but woke up after having a nightmare which had left her covered in sweats and tears. Vera felt her way around to find the lamp switch and found her phone. When Vera saw the time and thought it’s too early to be contacting Joan as it’s 3.09am but thought to herself “I’ll just text her instead of calling.”
So, she typed out, “Joan, are you awake? Sorry to text at this time.” Few minutes passed and no reply from Joan, Vera sighed and threw her phone beside her before settled back against the pillows. Vera looked up at the ceiling, blocking the negative thoughts from entering her head by thinking about the happiest moments with Grace and recently with Joan. She was startled when her phone began to ring, so she picked up her phone and answered, “Hello?”
“Vera?”
“Yeah.”
“You ok?”
“Yeah, sorry to text you at this time. I’m ok. Go back to sleep.”
“No, I’m not going back to sleep if there is something bothering you which I’m sure there is. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be texting me at this time of morning.”
“Uhhh… I had a bad dream and just want to hear your voice.”
“I’m coming over now.”
“No, no. Joan, you don’t have to come over.”
“It’ll be better if I come over to give you hugs and you can listen to my voice than through the phone.”
“Only if you’re sure to drive at this time of morning.”
“Yeah, I’ll be 15 minutes.”
“Okay.”
“Love you.”
“Love you too.” Vera waited until Joan hung up on her before putting her phone down on the table.

Exact 15 minutes later, Joan entered Vera’s apartment with the spare key, entered Vera’s bedroom and lie down beside her under the duvet. She opened her arms and tightened the arms around Vera’s petite body when Vera crawled over and rested on Joan’s side, “Vera, I’m here now. Tell me what’s the matter?” Joan kissed Vera’s forehead.
Vera closed her eyes before answered, “I’m so anxious that tomorrow is the last time I’ll see Grace as Jake will win the full custody. I was having nightmares of different scenarios that’ll happen tomorrow.”
“Oh, Vera. That’s not going to happen as you will win the full custody of Grace.”
“How do you know that? I don’t have a job, so I don’t have the income to support Grace. I can’t tell the court that I’m relying on stranger to survive until I get a job!”
“Grace told me something which I’m sure she had said the same to the social workers last week. Plus, my lawyer is one of the best in the country so he will be fighting hard on your side.”
Vera lifted her head and moved back away from Joan, “What did she said?”
“She said ‘I love you and Mummy. I don’t love Daddy.’”
“Why didn’t you tell me that until now?”
“I’m sorry that I didn’t mention that before.”
Vera sighed and lifted her head to kiss Joan on the lips. Joan stroked Vera’s arm and back with her hands, “Let get comfortable and get some more sleep.” Vera nodded and kissed Joan one last time before snuggled back underneath Joan’s chin. Joan refused to close her eyes as she kept watching Vera sleeping on her chest, Vera made several sudden movements which Joan knew she’s having some kind of bad dream but settled down quickly after Joan reassured her with gentle words and strokes on her arm.

The bedroom door opened around 7.30am, before Joan could turn her head to look at the door, all she could hear is “Joan! You’re here!” and small feet running across the bedroom and crashed into the side of bed. Joan turned her head to look at Grace trying to jump up onto the bed and they both broke out into huge smile. Joan gentle moved away from Vera and picked up Grace from the ground to sit down beside her, but Grace chose to hug Joan around her neck and pushed Joan to lie down so she could lie on top of Joan’s chest, “Good morning, Grace.”
“Morning! Why are you here?”
“I came over when you were sleeping last night so I could give Mummy cuddles and make her feel better.”
“Is Mummy ill?”
“No, she just need the cuddles.” Grace nodded, reached out with one hand and stroked Vera’s cheek softly before whispered, “Mummy. I love you.”
Feeling the small hand on her cheek had woken her up and smiled at the sight in front of her as Joan and Grace are watching and smiling at her, “Good morning.”
“Good morning.” Both replied same time.
“Waking up with you two in my bed is my favourite thing now.” Vera moved closer and kissed Grace on her forehead before moving up to kiss Joan on the lips. Joan wrapped her arm around Vera’s back when Vera rested her head on her shoulder with Grace resting on her other shoulder. Vera closed her eyes to stop the tears from falling as she think this is the last morning she’ll have with Grace.
Joan knew what Vera is thinking so she said, “Vera, it’s going to be ok. It’s not the last time we’re snuggled up like this as there will be plenty mornings to come where you’ll wake up with us beside you. Please be positive.” Vera sniffed and released a deep breath.
“You’re right. I’m just being irrational.”

Joan is sitting behind Vera in the court room, all she could see is Vera’s body is trembling non-stop since she entered the room and sat down beside her lawyer. All Joan wanted to do is go over to Vera and hold her hand, but she knew she couldn’t do anything until it’s finished. Grace is in the other room with the social workers and child protection officers. During the court, Jake’s lawyer had tried everything to make Vera look like a bad mother for taking his child away from him and ruining Grace’s future but luckily Joan’s lawyer is prepared for the attacks so he did sensational job of defending Vera and gave out the reasons for Vera to leave the family home by using evidences as back-up such as hospital records and old police records that Vera had called the police at the beginning of the abuses. Plus, the social workers had given their reports of their time with Grace at the previous court meeting which told the court that Grace want to be with her mother. Grace had made comments that she doesn’t like her father and she’s scared of him. When the social worker asked her to draw her family – she drew herself and two women. The social worker had asked her where is her Daddy and she replied, “I don’t have a Daddy.”

Few hours later, the judge had decided to award the full custody to Vera with no contact between Jake and Grace and ordered Jake to pay child maintenance allowance every month. Jake was fuming and began to scream out horrible names to Vera before the court security dragged him out of the room, but Vera refused to look up at him and listened to his words. Before she could stand up, she felt Joan’s strong arms wrapped around her shoulders from behind and whispered into her ear, “It’s over. You’ve won.” A tear fell from her eye and rolled down her cheek, “I won.”

Chapter Text

Vera had found a job at the café at the same street as her apartment which suited her perfectly as it’s 9-3pm so that mean she could drop off Grace at the nursery before going to work and pick her up after work. Grace’s nursery is only 10 minutes walk from the café. Joan had agreed to mind Grace every Monday and Friday which mean Vera will only need to pay for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to send Grace to the nursery – they had fought several times about it because Vera felt she’s asking too much from Joan after what she had done for them since day one but Joan was being stubborn by saying things like she absolutely love having Grace, Vera need to save money for their futures and her business is doing fantastic which mean she doesn’t have to be in the office 5 days a week as have plenty of staffs to do the work for her. At the end, Joan had won the debate as Vera had finally agreed to let Joan to have Grace every Monday and Friday while she’s at work.

Few weeks later, Joan took Grace to the Botanic Garden to have a walk around and teach Grace few things about the plants. Grace took in all information from Joan like a sponge. They had a quick lunch at the café. On their way back to Joan’s car, Grace spotted a huge yellow flower that she hasn’t seen before so she took off by running toward the flower, “Grace, slow down!” Joan shouted behind Grace, but she was too late as Grace didn’t notice the few steps that she should walk down toward the flower which send Grace flying over the steps. Grace put her hands in front of her while falling toward the ground and she screamed out in pain when her wrist cracked from the fall.
Immediately, Joan ran over to her and picked her up in her arms, “Are you ok?”
“No! My hand hurt!” Grace wailed and tears were pouring down her small face. Joan checked Grace’s wrist and she knew that her wrist is broken by the sight of small bone sticking out of her wrist.
“Fuck.” Joan thought to herself. “Grace, I’m going to take you to the hospital now. It’ll going to be okay.”
“I want Mummy!”
“I’ll phone Mummy and get her to meet us at the hospital.” Joan walked to her car, put Grace down in her car seat and drove to the hospital. On the way, she tried to call Vera twice, but she didn’t answer. So, she left a voicemail.

At the hospital, the doctor had put the bone back in position and put Grace’s wrist in cast. Grace had chosen rainbow colour for the bandage. By the time Vera listened to the voicemail and rushed to the hospital, Grace was lying on the bed while nurse is putting the rainbow bandage on the cast with Joan standing beside her and stroking her other hand. When Vera entered the ward and saw Grace lying there, she ran over to her and pushed Joan away from Grace and kissed Grace’s forehead, “It’s okay. Mummy is here now. Are you hurt?”
Grace shook her head, “I’m ok now.” Vera stroked Grace’s cheeks and kissed her forehead several times.
“I’m sorry, Vera.” This made Vera realised that Joan is beside her and she flipped, “I knew I shouldn’t have let you to watch Grace as you’ve let her get hurt! Get out!”
“It was an accident! I’m so sorry!”
Vera turned around and pushed Joan out of the room, “Stay away!” And turned back to Grace.
Joan stood at the door, gobsmacked and speechless as she didn’t expect to see Vera so furious with her. Joan is heartbroken that Vera would think that she could hurt Grace when she would never lay a finger on anyone. Before Joan turn around to leave the hospital, she looked into the room and saw Vera is sitting beside Grace while the nurse is nearly finished with the cast. She sighed and walked away to her car. She walked like a zombie with her thoughts are being invaded with negatives thoughts – is it her fault, could she have done more to prevent this from happening, etc. She was so lost in thoughts and didn’t realise she had managed to drive to her house. Shutting her front door, she slides down the door and began to cry in her hands.

Back at the hospital.

Vera asked Grace what happened.
“I was running away from Joan when I saw that huge yellow flower. I fell and hurt my wrist.”
“Joan didn’t hurt you?”
“No. I fell.” This had hit Vera as she had blamed Joan for hurting Grace when she had never hurt her at all. It was an accident. Vera felt terrible and guilty for how she reacted toward Joan when she arrived. She hopes Joan could forgive for her behaviour.

In the taxi on the way to Joan’s house, Vera tried to call Joan, but it kept going through to voicemail. Arrived at Joan’s, Vera saw that Joan’s car isn’t there at the driveway, “Fuck! Where is she?!” She tried the doorbell and looked through the letterbox, she didn’t have Joan’s house key as left it at her apartment, but the house is empty and no sound coming from the house so they sat down on the doorstep, hoping that Joan will return shortly.
“Where is Joan?”
“I don’t know. Hope she will come home soon.” Vera wrapped one arm around Grace’s shoulder and pulled her closer.

About 25 minutes later, while driving closer to her house, Joan freeze and stopped the car in the middle of the road when she saw Vera and Grace sitting on her doorstep. She thought about driving past them but decided against it by driving and parked at her driveway. Both women stayed where they are and unsure what to do or who to make the first move. Grace sprinted to Joan’s side of the car, banging on the door, and said, “Joanie! Come out!”
Joan sighed and opened the door, before she could get out of the car – Grace hugged her leg that just stepped out of the car and Joan stroked her hair, “How’s your arm?
“Still sore but Mummy said I’m brave girl!”
“Yes, you’re brave girl. Come on, let me get out of the car.” Grace let go of Joan’s leg and moved backward but once Joan is fully standing up, Grace lifted her arms – motioning Joan to pick her up which she did and wrapped her arm around Joan’s neck as she can’t wrap the other arm around flexibly due to the hard cast. Vera remained silent on the doorstep and watching them but stood up quickly when Joan walked toward her. Joan refused to look at Vera, walked past her and opened her front door.
“Joan, I’m so sorry. I had overreacted in wrong way and shouldn’t have blamed you for what happened.”
Joan stopped walking and stood in middle of the hallway with the front door wide open behind her. She took a deep breath before turning around and put Grace down on the floor and looked at Vera, “You thought I’m like Jake, didn’t you?”
“No, I know you’re nothing like Jake but…” Joan lifted her hand to stop Vera from continuing.
“If you know I’m nothing like Jake but why did you pushed me away when I tried to explain what had happened? It fucking broke my heart at what had happened in the room!”
“I’m so sorry! Sorry! I didn’t think straight when I saw Grace lying there with bandage on her arm and I just assumed the worst!”
Joan closed her eyes, clenched her hands before releasing them, “Please leave now. I can’t have this conversation right now.” and turned around to walk into the kitchen.

Vera picked up Grace and was about to leave the house when Grace started to fight to get out of Vera’s arms and shouting Joan’s name. But Joan refused to rush to calm Grace down as she need them to leave her house so she could rethink and sort out her feelings. Eventually, Joan heard the front door closed and her house is silent again which mean Vera had managed to leave with Grace.

Chapter Text

Two days later, both women haven’t contacted each other. Joan realised it’s Grace’s 3rd birthday today when she saw the note on the calendar. She sighed, got herself ready and drove to Vera’s house with presents in the back of the car. Arrived at Vera’s front door, Joan wasn’t sure if it’s good idea to ring the doorbell or not as she hasn’t seen Vera or Grace since the accident, but she rang the doorbell before she could change her mind. Two seconds later, the door flung opened wide with baffled look on Vera’s face, “You’re here.”
“Hello, Vera. Can I come in to see Grace?”
“Uhh… yeah come in.” Vera stepped aside and Joan walked in the house. When Joan walked in the living room, Grace looked at her and sprinted her way over to Joan and she lifted Grace into her arms, “Joan! You are back!”
“It’s good to see you, Gracie.”
“I miss you so much!” Grace said before kissed Joan’s cheek and hugged her harder.
“I’ve missed you too.” Joan squeezed Grace around her waist. Vera stood quietly at the door and watched them.
“I’m going to put you down so I can give you your birthday presents.”
“Ooh! What presents?!” Grace spoke excitedly. Joan sat down and put Grace to sit beside her before giving Grace her presents in the gift bag. Before Grace could open the presents, Vera interrupted by asking Joan if she want anything to drink and Joan asked for cup of tea so Vera went in the kitchen to make it and left Joan with Grace. It was an awkward moment between the women.

Grace had demolished her way through ripping all wrapping papers and she couldn’t stop smiling widely at each present. When Vera returned with 2 mugs of tea, she was shocked with how much Joan had bought for Grace – piles of colouring books, case full of pencils, books to help with writing, stories books, thick photo album and unicorn doll.
“Mummy! Look what Joan got for me! I love it!” Grace got off the couch and carried the photo album over to Vera. She opened the first page, Vera read what Joan had written on the first page – “My Gracie, this is your memory album. Add more photos here as you grow up into beautiful woman. Your Joanie.” Vera flipped a page and saw the 3 photos lying around on two pages – the first photo is Vera lying on the couch with Grace in her arms at Joan’s house, the second photo is Joan standing beside Grace in her kitchen – both are laughing at each other with Grace’s face is covered in Bolognese sauce – and the third photo is Vera standing outside in Joan’s back garden, hugging Grace with lovely sunset in the background. Vera laughed at the last photo because she realised Grace is making funny face behind her when Joan took the photo of them. “Grace, it’s lovely present from Joan.”
“Yeah! Thank you, Joan!” Grace walked away from Vera to check the others presents.
Vera looked up at Joan with tears in her eyes. Vera swallowed the lump in her throat before start speaking, “Joan, this is beautiful. Thank you.”
Joan nodded, “You’re welcome. I hope you and Grace will be adding more photos to create memories together.”
“Yes, we definitely will. I hope you’ll help as well?” Vera asked uncertainly.
Joan looked down at her hands, avoiding eyes contact, “That’s up to you.” And stood up to put the wrapping papers away in the rubbish bin in the kitchen. Vera knew she must apologise for how she behaved at the since the accident. So, she followed Joan into the kitchen and stood few metres away from Joan, “Joan. I must apologise for how I behaved since that day. I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I reacted like that when it wasn’t your fault at all. I’m sorry.” Vera wrapped her arms around her waist and hugged herself tighter.
“It’s ok. I understand why you’ve reacted like that as I know all you want to do is protect Grace from everything.”
“But I’ve hurt your feelings.”
“It’s fine. Come here.” Joan opened her arms wide while walking over to Vera and hugged her. “I’m not mad with you. Forget about what had happened and move on.” Joan kissed Vera’s forehead and held her head against her chest.
“Mmm… Thank you for forgiving me.”
Grace ran into the kitchen and stopped in middle of kitchen when she saw the women are hugging each other and she smiled widely before resume the running until she crashed into both women’s legs and hugged both legs tightly. Joan let Vera go to pick up Grace in one of her arms and wrapped another arm around Vera’s waist again.
“I’ve missed this. Three of us hugging each other.” Vera said.
“Hmm. Me too.”
“Me three!” Grace shouted which made both women giggled.

Joan had ended up staying over for dinner and put Grace to bed after the bath as Grace won’t let Joan to leave earlier. “Will you stay here tonight?” Vera asked while they’re snuggling together on the couch.
“Um… Only if you’re ok with that.”
“Yeah, I would love if you stayed with me as I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you and Grace so much as well.”

Next morning, Joan felt soft strokes on her back between her t-shirt and underwear, as she’s lying on her front with both hands under the pillows, so she opened one eye and looked at Vera who’s lying beside her with gentle smile on her face, “Good morning.”
“Good morning, Joan. Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah, it was good. You?” Joan turned to lie on her side, facing Vera.
“I always sleep better with you.”
Joan shuffled closer to Vera, stroked her cheek, and leaned forward to kiss her. Vera turned the kisses into passionate kissing, threw her leg over Joan’s hip and pushed Joan back to straddle her – their lips never broke apart when Vera moved them. Vera moved her hand from Joan’s neck to her breast and fondled which made Joan to moan quietly. Joan reached down, gripped the bottom of Vera’s top, and pulled it up – Vera moved back slightly to remove her top and moved back down to kiss Joan hard again. Joan moved her hands down again to hold Vera’s ass and started to move her to make Vera grind against her. Vera was instantly turned on. Joan tried not to take the lead as she wants to see what Vera want to do so she just continues to stroke around Vera’s ass and hips. Vera sat up, panting slightly, and said, “Take off your t-shirt.”
Joan slowly sat up with Vera still sitting on her legs, “Why don’t you take it off for me?” And lifted her arms up in the air, waiting for Vera to remove the t-shirt. Vera smirked when Joan raised her eyebrow at her and began to push the top up slowly. Vera threw Joan’s top behind her and pushed Joan back down on the bed. Her hands are still on Joan’s collarbones, she looked at Joan’s eyes and moved her hands down towards her breasts. Stroked the thumbs over the erected nipples and bend down to lick slowly over one nipple which made Joan groaned and held Vera’s head there.

Before Vera could move her way down from Joan’s breasts, her bedroom door flung wide open and Grace ran into the bedroom – Vera never shut any doors properly to allow Grace to enter or leave the rooms whenever she wants – “Good morning, Mummy!”
“Ah shit!” Vera tried to move away from Joan and cover herself, but Joan grabbed and wrapped her arms around Vera’s back and held Vera down against her chest.
She stopped running when she saw who is underneath her mother, “What are you doing?”
Joan spoke first, “Good morning! We were playing and hugging.”
“Morning, Joan! Where are my hugs?!”
“Come here.” Joan felt Vera’s body become stiff in her arms and whispered, “It’s okay.”
“She shouldn’t be seeing us half naked.”
“Pft. She’s a child and she’ll forget about this.” Vera sighed, rolled off Joan and pulled up the duvet up to her shoulders while Joan lifted Grace up onto the bed and settled her in between the women.
“I want my top off. Like you and Mummy.” Joan chuckled when she saw Vera’s horrified face, “Yeah, if you want to.”

Grace clapped her hands and removed her pyjamas top immediately then settled back down against the pillows with the women.

Chapter Text

“Sorry, I need to get up now and get ready for work.” Vera kissed Grace’s forehead. Just before Vera got out of the bed, she realised she’s topless and turned around to face Joan, “Where is my top?”
Joan picked up Vera’s top from the floor beside her and threw over for Vera to catch and put it on then she left the bed. Joan watched Vera walking around the bed and entered the en-suite bathroom, enjoying the view of Vera’s legs and firm butt and said, “You have fantastic legs!”
Vera turned her head which showed that she’s blushing and gave Joan a small smile then went inside the bathroom. Joan wanted to join Vera in the bathroom but remembered that Grace is lying beside her in the bed, so she stayed where she is and watched cartoon on the TV with Grace. Eventually, Vera left the house just after 8.30am, leaving Joan there with Grace as it’s Monday which mean Joan will watch Grace for the day.

Grace was sulking all morning when she realised that she can’t go to the swimming class today due to the cast on her arm. Joan had signed Grace up for swimming classes every Monday mornings but today is the first time Grace had to miss and she’ll miss next several weeks until the cast is removed.

“Grace, please behave yourself.” Joan said when Grace threw down the colouring book and sat down on the floor as she didn’t want the book.
“No. I want go to swimming!”
“You know that you cannot go until the cast is removed.”
“Why?!”
“The doctor said you cannot let your cast get wet so that why you’re not going to swimming classes until your arm is better.”
“I love swimming!” Grace’s chin trembled and she’s fighting back the tears.
“I know you love swimming, but you can’t for few weeks. Once the cast is removed, I’ll take you back there.” Joan crouched in front of Grace. “I promise you that you will go back to the classes.”
Grace looked up at Joan, “You promise?”
“Yes, I promise.”
“Okay.” Grace stood up and hugged Joan around her neck.
Joan rubbed her hand around Grace’s back, “How about we go for a walk to your Mummy’s café so we could have lunch there?”
“Yeah.” Grace sounded flat and Joan didn’t like it but there was nothing for her to do about the swimming classes for next few weeks.

It took them 15 minutes walk to the café, Vera smiled widely when she saw Joan opened the door and held the door open for Grace to walk in, but Vera’s face turned into frowned face when she saw Grace walking slow with slumped shoulders and her face is focus on the ground, “Hello! What a nice surprise to see you both.” Vera moved from behind the counter to walk over to her daughter and knelt in front of her, “What’s the matter, baby?” And held Grace’s hands.
“Joan said I can’t go to swimming today.”
Vera lifted Grace’s chin to look into her eyes, “Joan is right as you can’t get your cast wet so that mean no swimming for a while.”
“I know.” Grace’s eyes are filling up with tears and Vera wiped them away with her thumbs then kissed Grace’s forehead and pulled her toward her chest to give her a tight hug. While hugging Grace, Vera looked up at Joan and mouthed, “I’m sorry.” Joan stroked Vera on her shoulder, “It’s okay.” She mouthed back to Vera.

Vera stood up with Grace in her arms and whispered into her ear, “Grace, do you want a hot chocolate with whipped cream?”
“Yes please.” Grace whispered back.
“Can you sit down with Joan and choose what you want for your lunch?”
“Okay.” Vera put Grace down on the ground, they walked over to where Joan is sitting and Vera asked, “What would you like to drink?”
“I’ll have large cappuccino please.”
“Okay, won’t be long.” Vera walked away. Grace crawled up Joan’s legs and sat down on Joan’s laps with her head resting on Joan’s chest.
“I’m sorry for throwing the book. Can we do colouring together when we get home?”
“Apology accepted and yes of course we could do that after this.” Joan kissed Grace’s forehead.
“Thank you, Joan.”
Vera came back with 2 mugs in her hands and put them down in front of Joan.
“Thank you, Vera. Can you join us for lunch?”
“Um… I’ll ask the manager. Be back soon.” Vera walked away to ask her manager and he approved for Vera to have her lunch break with them so she went back to them and sat down beside Joan, “He said yeah I can have 30 minutes lunch break with you both.”
“Fabulous, right. Grace, what do you want for lunch?”
“Erm… cheese toastie!”
“Good choice. I’ll have cheese and ham toastie with side salad.”
“I’ll put the order in then I’ll come back.” Vera went away for a minute and came back with glass of Diet Coke.
“How’s your shift so far today?”
“It was busy during the breakfast then became quieter for last one hour until you both came.”

Three of them had lunch together and chatted away until it’s time for Vera to go back to work. “Thank you for coming in with Grace.”
“No problem, I knew the only way to cheer her up is by bringing her to see her favourite person.” Joan winked at Vera and leaned forward to kiss Vera on the lips.
“I love you.”
“Love you too.”
Vera crouched to give Grace a kiss and hug, “Grace, be good for Joan. I love you and will see you at home in few hours.”
“Yes, I will. I love you too. Bye bye!” Grace skipped all the way until she reached the door, “Come on, Joan!”
“Bye Vera.”
“Bye!” Both women waved each other until Joan opened the door and left the café with Grace skipping in front of her.

Chapter Text

“Are you home at the moment? X”

Joan read the text from Vera and wondered why she’s asking the question, so she called instead of texting back, “Hello, is everything ok?” Joan asked worriedly when Vera answered.
“Hey, yeah everything is fine. I’m just wondering if you’re in the house or in your office?”
“I’m working from home today, why?”
“Um… the café is closed today as water pipe had burst so I wonder if I can come over and have lunch with you before I pick Grace up?”
“Oh. Yeah, sure. Come over whenever you can and I’ll finish up what I’m doing at the moment. Just let yourself in the house.”
“Great, see you soon!”
“Bye.”

Joan rushed to finish the paperwork and put it back in the briefcase for her to take back to the office tomorrow then went downstairs to start cook tomato sauce and pasta for their lunch. While stirring the sauce, Vera’s arms wrapped around Joan’s waist, “Hello, something smells good here.”
“Hello again. I’m making tomato pasta for lunch, and it’ll be ready in few minutes.” Joan turned around in Vera’s arms, rested her hands on Vera’s bum and leaned down to kiss Vera.
“Mmm.” Vera sighed happily when Joan pulled away from her lips.
“Someone is in good mood today.”
“Yeah, I am.” Vera smiled at Joan and gentle pulled Joan’s head down for passionate kisses. Moved her hands down until it reached bottom of Joan’s shirt and stroked her way up underneath the shirt, feeling Joan’s smooth back.
Joan blindly reached behind her to switch off the cooker, put her hand back on Vera’s bum and squeezed both cheeks softly.
After a while, Joan pulled away again, “I thought you’re here for lunch but seem like you’re having different thoughts.” Joan chuckled which made Vera to blush lightly.
“I hope that’s not bad thing?”
“Certainly not.” Joan smiled softly and leaned down to kiss Vera on the lips again.
Vera pulled back slightly, “Can we go upstairs now?”
“Yeah, lead the way.”

Joan closed her bedroom door and turned around to face Vera who sat down on the side of the bed who seems lost in her thought by staring at her feet, “You alright?” Joan asked.
“Vera?” Joan asked while walking over to Vera, knelt in front of her and cupped her cheeks.
Vera snapped out of her deep thoughts, “Sorry, yeah?”
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, sorry I was miles away.”
“We don’t have to do this right now, if you don’t want to. There is no rush.”
“No, I do want to.”
“I can tell there is a but coming…”
“Yeah, as I don’t know what I’m doing or how to please you. I don’t want to disappoint you.”
“Oh, Vera. Don’t be silly. It’s not competition. I want us to go with the flow and see what’ll happen. Remember I’ll stop any time you want me to or if you start to feel uncomfortable.”
“I know but I’ve never enjoyed the sex.”
“Let me change the experience for you and show you what real, good sex should be all about. Yeah?” Joan stroked Vera’s cheeks with her thumbs.

“Yeah.” Finally, Vera gave a small smile to Joan, and she reached forward to pull Joan toward her to give small pecks that lingered longer and longer until Joan felt Vera’s tongue.
Vera removed Joan’s shirt and reached behind her to unclasp the bra before leaning back to help Joan to remove her bra and reached out to touch both breasts.
“You are stunning.” Vera whispered.
Joan lifted her hands to rest on top of Vera’s hands on her breasts, “Thank you. You know that you can touch me anywhere or do whatever you want to my body. Take your time.”
Vera nodded her head and squeezed Joan’s breasts softly then moved her thumbs to stroke across the nipples several times. Vera was mesmerised with how Joan’s nipples are responding to her touches.
“Can I take off your top?”
Vera nodded and removed her hands from Joan’s breasts so Joan could lift her top above her head and her bra quickly joined her top on the floor. Vera gasped when Joan gently pushed her backward to lie down on the bed and their chests touched as Joan rested on top of her. They stared at each other eyes for a while until Joan leaned down and started to kiss Vera passionately with her tongue. Vera ran her hands down Joan’s back and reached in between their bodies to unbutton Joan’s jeans. Joan sat back on her knee so she could remove Vera’s trousers and underwear then stood up to remove her own and rested back on top of Vera to resume the kissing. Joan stroked her hand down from Vera’s neck to hips, before Joan could reach Vera’s centre, “Wait, stop.”
Joan rolled off Vera and lie down on her side, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. I just want to do it first.”
“Do you mean you want to do it to me first?”
“Yeah, if it’s okay?”
“Of course.” Joan stroked Vera’s cheek and gave her light kiss.

It seems to give Vera the confidence that she needed to continue as she rolled on top of Joan and began to kiss Joan hard before moving her way down until she reached Joan’s nipples and began to suck them softly. Vera played with Joan’s other breast with her hand while sucking on one breast and lowered her other hand down Joan’s body until it reached her pubic hair.
Joan could feel Vera’s hands are shaking slightly, “Vera, it’s alright. You’re not going to hurt me.” Joan stroked Vera’s back and gave her a smile when Vera stopped sucking her breast to look up at Joan.
“I know but I’m nervous anyway.”
“There is nothing to be nervous about. There is no right or wrong way to do this. We can stop if you don’t want to carry on.”
“No. No. I want to do this and make you feel good.”
“And you will make me feel good.”
Vera moved up to kiss Joan on the lips again while her fingers run through Joan’s pubic hair until it reached the bottom of fold and used her middle finger to run up the slit.
“You’re wet.” Vera murmured during the kissing.
“Yeah, for you.”
Vera blushed but her confidence are building up, so she continue to stroke her finger up and down the slit. Adding another finger, she found Joan’s clit and began to rub around in circle, “That feel good, keep doing that.” Joan whispered, moved her hands down from Vera’s head to her back and began to rake her fingernails down Vera’s back while moaning during the kissing.

Vera moved down to suck around Joan’s neck, Joan’s back arched as she moaned. All Vera could hear is Joan panting above her which she assumed that she’s close and enjoying this. She rubbed her fingers around Joan’s clit faster while sucking Joan’s sensitive spots on her neck until she heard Joan gasped and her hands tightened the grips on Vera’s ribs then Joan released a long breath and stroked gently around the ribs where she had gripped. Joan felt her body spasmed as she orgasmed against Vera’s fingers. Vera slowed down her fingers, stopped sucking her neck and lifted her head to look at Joan but she had her eyes closed and steady breathing. When Joan opened her eyes, they smiled widely at each other.
“Good?” Vera asked.
“More than good.” Joan laughed quietly.
“Did I do good?”
Joan kissed Vera, “You did great.”

Vera lifted her fingers from where it was at Joan’s centre and sucked the juice off her fingers, she was surprised at the taste as she thought it’ll taste awful, but it wasn’t. Joan watched Vera’s reaction while stroking slowly around Vera’s back and flipped Vera onto her back. It didn’t take Vera that long to have her orgasm from Joan’s fingers as before Joan flipped her over, she could feel her clit is throbbing hard.

Vera was panting heavily when she opened her eyes and looked at Joan who’s lying on her side, watching her so Vera turned over on her side as well and hugged Joan.
“It was lovely. Thank you for allowing me to experience that.”
“That what good sex should be all about. There will be plenty more of that to come if that’s what you want.”
“Yeah, I’ve enjoyed that and do want more as it was amazing.”

Joan smiled and kissed Vera’s forehead, “Do you want the lunch now?”
“I’ve forgot all about it. Sorry, my bad for distracting you from the cooking.”
“Good distraction anyway.” Joan chuckled and both women got out of the bed to enjoy their lunch together.

Chapter Text

Vera sighed as she lied down on the couch beside Joan, “Is she sleeping?” Joan asked as she opened her arm and Vera snuggled at her side with her head resting on Joan’s shoulder.
“Yeah, pretty much straightaway as I didn’t even finish two pages of the story book before she fell asleep. Must be exhausted from the nursery.”
“That’s good thing then.” Joan kissed Vera’s forehead and focus on the television again.
“Mmm.”

They remained like that for few minutes with their legs stretched out on the couch and snuggled together with Vera’s hand stroking Joan’s stomach under her t-shirt until Vera swinged her leg over Joan’s thighs and straddled her. Vera kissed Joan hard and passionately. They made out on the couch like two teenagers until Joan moved them down on the couch, so Vera is on her back and Joan is on top of her.
“I love you so much.”
“I love you too.” Joan replied while moved her mouth to kiss around Vera’s neck and reached down to unbutton Vera’s jeans. Joan was about to move her hand inside Vera’s underwear when Vera grabbed her wrist, “No, I want your mouth.”
Joan stopped kissing Vera’s neck to look at her, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, please?”
“Sure. Remember to tell me if you’re uncomfortable or don’t like it and I’ll stop.”
“Yeah, I will.” They smiled at each other, Joan kissed Vera few times before shuffled backward to sit on her knees and removed Vera’s jeans and underwear in one go. Picked up Vera’s left leg and began to kiss her way along Vera’s leg until she’s beside Vera’s centre, Joan looked up to watch Vera’s face but all she could see was excitement with slightly nervousness expression on her face. Joan placed Vera’s leg on her right shoulder, bend forward with her hands stroking Vera’s thighs and swing a broad lick up Vera’s slit. Vera gasped at the first contact and slowly kneaded her own breasts on top of her t-shirt and bra.
Joan continue to lick up and down the slit slowly until she pushed her tongue inside the folds and she slowly increasing the speed along with Vera’s moaning as she got louder and louder.
“Fuck. Joan, that feels so good.” Vera continue to moan and reached one hand down to run through Joan’s hair while her other hand is kneading her breast.
“Jesus Christ! Ughh… Don’t stop! Yes. Yes. Yeeesss!” Vera gasped loudly and her back arched when Joan latched her mouth on her clit and sucked hard until Vera orgasmed then she slowed down but didn’t stop and sped up again until Vera had her second orgasms that caused Vera’s body to convulse with tingling feelings everywhere.

Vera had to push Joan away as Joan wanted to give Vera a third orgasm, but she couldn’t handle other one at the moment. So, Joan climbed up the couch to lie down beside Vera and stroked her cheek, “Are you okay?”
“I think you’ve paralysed my legs.” Vera laughed that made Joan grin smugly and bowed her head to kiss Vera. Few minutes later, Vera reciprocated with Joan’s help on how to give her orgasms with her tongue that left both women out of breathes and covered in sweats while snuggled together on the couch.

Next morning, Joan dropped off Grace at nursery then Vera at café on her way to her office. Later that afternoon, her mobile phone rang, and she answered without looking at the caller ID, “Hello.”
“Hello, am I speaking to Joan Ferguson?”
“Yes, who are you?” Joan moved her phone away from her ear to check the caller ID, but it showed “No Caller ID” and put the phone back at her ear.
“My name is Miss Richards and I’m one of the teachers at Grace Bennett’s nursery. I’m just calling to see if you or Vera are on your way to pick up Grace?”
“Umm… what time is it?”
“It’s quarter to four.”
“I thought Vera would have collect Grace a while ago as she normally would have.”
“I’ve tried to contact Vera several times but couldn’t get through to her so that why I’m calling you.”
“Right, I’ll be there in 15 minutes. Thank you for letting me know.”
“Great, thank you.”
“Bye.”
“Bye.”

Joan stood up, tidied her desk and left the office, “Sally! I’m leaving now. Can you please close the office tonight?”
“Of course, is everything ok?”
“Family emergency. Thank you so much!” Joan rushed her way down the building until she reached her car and drove off fast. She tried to phone Vera twice on her way to the nursery, but she didn’t answer which caused Joan to worry even more as Vera had never ignored her calls and this behaviour is out of blue from Vera – never picked up Grace at the nursery and she’s not answering the calls.
“Fuck sake, Vera! Answer the phone!” Joan slammed her hand at the steering wheel when Vera failed to answer her call again and she sped her way until she arrived Grace’s nursery.
“Joan!” Grace shouted and smiled while running toward Joan and she picked her up to give her a hug then spoke to the teacher, “I’m sorry about what’s going on this afternoon. Thank you so much for watching Grace bit longer until I’ve arrived.”
“Not a problem. I’m glad you’re here to pick her up. I hope everything is ok with Vera.”
“Thank you again. We better get going now and find Vera. Have a nice evening.”
“Bye Miss Richards!” Grace shouted over Joan’s shoulder and gave her teacher a wave.

“Where is Mummy?” Grace asked when Joan put her down in the car seat.
“I’m not sure. We’re going to the café first to see if she’s there, if not then we will go to your house.”
“Okay.”
Few minutes later, Joan parked outside the café and ran inside the café, leaving Grace in the car as she won’t be in there for long. Joan approached the manager, “Hello, is Vera here?”
“Hey, um no. She left here few hours ago. She said she’s not feeling very well.”
“Oh right, ok. Thanks.” Joan ran back to her car and drove off to Vera’s house.

Carried Grace in her arms from the car to Vera’s front door and she rang the doorbell, but Vera didn’t answer the door, so she tried the doorbell again, no answer. Joan sighed and used the spare key to open the door, “Vera?”
No answer and the house is silent. Joan put Grace down on the floor, they walked in the living room and didn’t see Vera there so they walked down the hallway toward the kitchen and Joan could hear whimpering and sniffling coming from the kitchen when she opened the door, so she stopped Grace from entering the kitchen by holding her back, “Grace, please wait here.”

Joan slowly stepped in the kitchen and looked around but didn’t see Vera standing or sitting on the chair as she would have expected Vera to as she spotted Vera is sitting on the floor at the back corner of the kitchen with a huge knife in her hand, “Vera?” Joan spoke gently.
Vera looked up and Joan’s heart broke at the sight of Vera – puffy eyes, tears are everywhere on her face and her body is shaking uncontrollable – “What’s going on?” Joan asked as she walked few more steps toward Vera and heard a very quiet murmur, “Jake.”
Joan slowly crouched down in front of Vera, wrapped her hand around Vera’s hand that’s holding the knife and slowly pull the knife away then threw it away across the kitchen floor.
“Vera, I’m here and it’s okay. Can you tell me what had happened?” Vera shook her head and wrapped her arms around her knees on her chest more tighter then began to rock forward and backward. Joan sat down on her bum, wrapped her long arms around Vera and pulled her toward her chest, that when Vera broke down and made a mournful howl.

Joan looked up at Grace, standing at the door with panicked face and she motioned for Grace to come over which she did. Grace gave Vera a tight hug with Joan’s arms around both of them.
“Mummy, it’s okay. I love you. Joan love you too. Don’t cry.” Grace kissed Vera’s head.
“Grace, we both love you too.” Joan whispered.

Chapter Text

A while later, Joan realised both Grace and Vera had fell asleep in her arms, so she stood up and lifted both in her arms in one go. She carried them to Vera’s bedroom, so they’ll be more comfortable lying there than on the floor. Joan phoned her lawyer about what had happened, and he told her to contact police and show the CCTV from the hallway of the building that show Jake banging the door which should be enough of evidence to show that Jake had broken one of the restriction orders. When Joan walked in the kitchen, she spotted a photo on the dining table that she never noticed before, so she walked over and picked up the photo. It was three of them walking together at the park, Joan had red cross mark across her face and on the back of the photo – “Say goodbye to your bitch! I’m taking my daughter back!” Joan sighed and will show this to the police when they arrives shortly.

Eventually, the police arrived, and Joan told them that she’ll be the one to speak to them on Vera’s behalf as she’s sleeping. She showed the photo to the officers and took them to the building security to get access to the CCTV which the security officer was happy to show and gave a copy to the police officers. Joan explained what had happened as best as she could, but the police officers told Joan that they’ll need to come back again to speak directly to Vera to get the full picture and gave Joan the number to contact them when Vera is ready to talk.

About an hour later, Joan went into Vera’s bedroom with 2 glasses of water for them to drink when they’re awake but they’re already awake and hugging together on the bed, so Joan walked around and sat down beside Vera.
“How are you feeling now?”
“Scared.”
“I know but everything will be ok. You have me and Grace here with you now.” Joan reached down and squeezed Vera’s hand on top of Grace’s stomach and bend forward to kiss Vera on the forehead. Vera slowly nodded.
“There are water on the table for both of you as I’m sure you both are thirsty.”
“Yeah, I’m thirsty!” Grace said, sat up and took the glass from Joan then drank all quickly.
Vera shuffled backward to sit up against the headboard and drank the water.
“Vera?”
“Hmm?”
“The police were here earlier on. I’ve showed the photo that I found on the table and the CCTV from outside your door. They will be back as they want to talk to you.”
“I don’t want to talk to them.”
“Vera. You cannot keep hiding from that man. He need to be sent to the prison as it’s not fair on you to continue living in fear, knowing he’s around so he need to be sent away then you can enjoy your life and freedom without that vile man lurking nearby.”
Vera put the glass down on the table, got off the bed and walked into the bathroom. Joan sighed and looked at Grace, “I promise you that I’ll always protect you and your mum. I’ll be here no matter what. I love you and your mum.”
“I love you too.” Grace crawled over and hugged Joan.

Joan phoned the police when Grace fell asleep, and they said they’ll be there in half hour.
“Vera, the police are coming soon.”
“I told you that I don’t want to talk to them!”
“It’s better talk to them tonight than later so they can catch Jake sooner.”
“Why cannot you listen to me?!”
Joan ignored the way Vera had just spoke to her as she believed that the sooner Jake is put away, the sooner Vera can start living her life properly and more freedom for her to enjoy with Grace as she left the living room to make herself a cup of tea in the kitchen.

The police arrives. Vera had refused to go through what happened today as she continue to stare at the wall ahead of where she’s sitting on the couch with Joan beside her.
“Miss? We cannot help you if you don’t start telling us what happened. Joan had already showed us the photograph and the CCTV. We just need a statement from you, and it’ll be enough to send Jake away for long time.”
Vera pulled her knees up against her chest and hugged her knees before releasing a loud sigh, “Jake had given the photo in envelope to my manager this morning just before I arrived at the café. When I opened the envelope, I thought of the worst-case scenarios that will happen to Joan and Grace so I couldn’t concentrate working at the café. I made an excuse to leave the café by saying I’m not feeling well. On the way to here, I realised Jake is following me from the café, so I ran home and just managed to shut the front door and locked it when Jake started to banging the door for ages. He was screaming out nasty things through the letterbox. I actually thought he’ll break the door and probably kill me so that why I grabbed the kitchen knife and sat at the corner in the kitchen.”

Vera took a deep breath before continuing and wiped a tear that rolled down her cheek, “Somehow the banging and shouting stopped abruptly then the flat became so silent. I haven’t moved from where I was sitting as I was scared that Jake had managed to get in the house and hiding somewhere. I sat there until Joan came home and found me there.”
Joan reached out and stroked Vera’s shoulder as she started to cry hard again with her head bowed between the knees.

“Miss, thank you very much for telling us what had happened. I know it’s not easy to tell us this but thank you again. I’ll speak to our superiors and get Jake arrested as soon as possible. Once Jake is in custody, I’ll let you know.”
“Thank you so much, Officers.” Joan said and showed them the door.
Joan sat down beside Vera again, Vera crawled over Joan and sat on her lap with her head on Joan’s chest. Joan stroked around Vera’s back and rested her chin on top of Vera’s head.
“It’s okay, darling. It’ll be over soon.”
Vera remained silent. Few hours later, both women fell asleep in Vera’s bed with Joan spooning the younger woman.

Joan woke up early morning when she heard rustling and lots of movement around the bedroom. She reached out for Vera, but it was empty, so she turned on her back and looked around the room. She found Vera standing in front of her wardrobe with large backpack on the floor, Vera was grabbing the clothes and stuffed them in the rucksack.
“Vera? What are you doing?” But Vera didn’t hear Joan as she was so focus on the task, so Joan got out of the bed and walked over to Vera.
“Vera?” She tried again but no response again.
Joan held Vera’s shoulder gently to get her attention but that had freaked Vera out as she swung around and punched Joan across her jaw which send Joan stumbled few steps backward.
“Fuck! I’m so sorry!” Vera covered her mouth with both hands in shock that she had actually punched Joan. Her eyes immediately covered with tears and her body started to tremble.
Joan rotated her jaw and wiped the blood away from her lip with her hand and looked at Vera, “It’s alright. I’m sorry for freaking you out. I’m not hurt apart from small cut on my lip.” She used her tongue to clean the blood from her lip as she didn’t want to continue using her hand and smearing the blood on her hand and walked over to Vera.
Joan opened her arms, “Come here, I just want a hug.”
Vera jumped into her arms and hugged Joan hard, “God, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to punch you!”
“It’s alright as it was just an accident. You didn’t hear me calling your name, so you had a fright when I touched your shoulder. Don’t feel bad.”
“I’m still sorry.”
“Why are you out of the bed at this time of morning and packing your bag? Were you trying to sneak out without me knowing?”
“Uh… I had bad nightmare that I thought it was real so I thought it’s better to leave you so you wouldn’t get hurt by Jake if you continue being part of my life.”
“Vera.” Joan cupped Vera’s cheeks to make eye contact with her. “I’m not going anywhere. Jake will be locked up soon so he wouldn’t be able to hurt you, Grace or even me anymore. I want to be here for both of you and Grace for the rest of our lives. I want to help you to find your happy ending as that what you deserve. Please let me help you to get better. Please talk to me when you have nightmares or something are bothering you, I’m here to listen to you. Don’t even forget that I love you and Grace.”
Vera closed her eyes as tears began to roll down her face, Joan kissed her forehead softly and pulled her closer again to hug her.

Vera whispered, “Thank you. We love you too.”

Chapter Text

Joan helped Vera to put the clothes back in the wardrobe then both women sat down on the edge of the bed, “Why didn’t you wake me up and talk to me instead of trying to run away?”
“I didn’t think straight as I just panicked and thought it was the right thing to do. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay but next time you have nightmare, please tell me.” Joan wrapped her arm around Vera’s shoulder and pulled her closer to her chest and kissed her forehead.
“I will.”

Few minutes later, the bedroom door is pushed wide open, and Grace skipped in the room, “Good morning!”
“Good morning baby.” Vera said and lifted Grace on her laps.
“Good morning, Gracie. What are you doing up at this time?”
“I heard you talking and…” She stopped abruptly when she noticed a cut and bruise around Joan’s lip and pointed at Joan’s face, “What happened?”
“Umm… I opened the wardrobe door and banged my face into it. What a stupid woman I am.” Joan chuckled nervously.
“Come here.” Grace lifted her hands and Joan leaned forward to allow Grace to cup her cheeks and she kissed the cut so gentle, “Now you should feel better.”
“Yes, I do feel better. Thank you so much Nurse Grace.”
Grace turned toward Vera and her face turned into serious, “Mummy, you need to be careful when kissing Joan.” She pointed her small finger up at Vera’s face.
“Aye, little miss. I promise that I will be careful.” Joan couldn’t stop sniggering at how serious Grace was and Vera lightly banged her elbow across Joan’s ribs and gave her the side eyes.

Two days later, Vera was informed by the police officers that Jake had been arrested and sentenced to serve 20 months in the prison. Joan was thrilled about the news, but Vera sat there in silence and refused to say other word until the police left the apartment. When Joan returned to the living room, Vera wasn’t there so she searched and found her in the bedroom – lying on the bed with the duvet covering her head. Joan walked around the bed and sat down beside Vera, “What’s the matter?” as she could hear Vera quietly crying under the duvet.
“I don’t know why but I’m feeling guilty that he’s in the prison.” Vera whispered.
“I can understand why you’re feeling guilty as he was your husband and Grace’s father but that what he deserves after what he had done to you for more than 14 years! It’s time for you to embrace your freedom and independence. He’s not around anymore to destroy your soul any longer as he cannot do anything to scare you from the prison.” Joan pulled back the duvet to see Vera, but Vera had covered her face with her hands and cried harder in her hands.
“I should have moved away with Grace when I first left him so that way he wouldn’t have to go to the prison if he couldn’t find us.”
“Vera, stop. You cannot keep running away from him. He should learn his lessons in the prison. I hope he’ll realised what he had done and will reflect himself during his time there. I’m very happy that Jake is behind the bars so he cannot do anything to you and Grace.” Joan stroked up and down on Vera’s arm and kissed her forehead.

Few weeks later, Vera is slowly retreating into bad depression as she refuse to get out of the bed all day, barely eating and drinking every day. She doesn’t take care of herself by going for shower or brush her teeth and doesn’t talk much. Joan had done everything as best as she could – nursery runs, provide Grace with whatever she need and want, go to work, house chores, etc. This leave Joan exhausted every night. The women haven’t slept in same bed for few weeks because Vera kept waking up every night, tossing about in the bed that interrupts Joan’s sleep, so Vera decided to sleep in the guest bedroom – Joan had tried to persuade Vera to come back to the master bedroom, but she refuse every single time. Grace had turned to Joan when she want comfort because trying to hug Vera is like hugging a lamppost as she’s so stiff and silent. Grace is keeping her distance from her own mother as every time she approach Vera, she either burst out crying or hide under the duvet.

One point, Vera decided to come out of the bedroom to sit in the living room with Joan and Grace to watch film on the television.
“Come here and join us on this couch.” Joan opened her arm and motioned Vera to sit beside her as Grace is sitting at other side of Joan’s hip, but Vera shook her head and remained where she is at the other couch.
“Vera?”
“No.”
“Why?”
“I don’t want to.”
“Okay.” Joan rolled her eyes and resume watching the film.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me.”
Joan turned her head to look at Vera, “I don’t understand why you’re being difficult. I just want you to come and sit with us. It had been a while since three of us snuggled up together and watched a film.”
“I’m not being difficult.”
“Yes, you are.”
Vera stood up suddenly and left the living room. Joan sighed and stood up to leave the living room as well, “Grace, stay here. I’ll be back soon. Just want to check on your Mum.”
“Okay.”

Joan found Vera sitting on the stool in the kitchen, “Vera, will you tell me what’s wrong with you?” Joan placed her hands down on the dining table and looked down at Vera.
“Nothing wrong with me.”
“Staying in bed all day long. Barely eating anything. Haven’t left this house for couples of weeks. Not taking care of Grace. Are they all being ‘nothing wrong with you?’” Joan pointed at her fingers as she spoke each sentence. “I think you’ve got depression and you need to get help to get better.”
“I don’t fucking need any help! I’m fine!”
“Fine? Really?”
“Yes!”
“You haven’t been the same since Jake got send to the prison.”
“That’s not true.”
“Yes it is!” Joan voice got louder and louder as she got more annoyed with Vera for being in denial.
“I don’t know what is your problem, Joan!”
“Seriously?!” Joan swung her arms out at the sides before resting her hands behind her head.
“I’m this close to call the doctor or even psychiatrist to get you sectioned at the mental hospital, but I won’t even do this to you as Grace need her mother around her.”
“If you’re desperate to do that then fucking do it!” Vera shouted as she stood up from the stool.
“No, I won’t! You’re going to snap out of this dark hole right now and be the mother that Grace had always know you as! I’m not her mother but she’s looking at me as her mother at the moment but that’s not right as YOU are her mother, not me! You must get better as soon as possible otherwise I’m calling someone to get you sectioned then you’ll lose Grace forever as the Social Services will have to take Grace away from you! I don’t have any legal ground to keep Grace if you got sectioned. With Jake in the prison and you locked up in the hospital, you can say goodbye to your own daughter!”
“You won’t do that to her!”
“I will if I have to as it’s for her own good! I’m not allowing her to grow up and watch you going down in the destructive downward spiral! So, it’s either you’ll change soon or say goodbye to her!”

After few moments of silence and intense stare off between the women, Joan turned around, “Fuck this shit! You better make a decision before I get back!” Joan put her shoes and coat on and left the apartment, leaving Vera stunned and speechless in the kitchen.