Daisy has a little girl and Ally thinks she’s perfect. Marigold is so perfect that maybe Ally’s mom won’t be in a rush for more grandchildren. (Ally’s mom is still adjusting to being a grandmother.)
The problem is, Ally’s not great with children. There’s a reason Daisy was always the one asked to babysit. It’s not that Ally endangered the neighbourhood kids or anything but, maybe, perhaps, she didn’t always say the most appropriate things in their presence.
The day she told the Fenwick kids about Santa and the birds and bees led to an entirely awkward conversation with her parents and a pair of very confused six year-olds.
It’s really no surprise when Marigold comes home from preschool one day with a request from her teacher not to tell all the other kids that her uncle is a superhero or that her aunt’s ex-boyfriend was eaten by raptors.
“Did you tell them that they were lady-raptors?” asks Ally. “That’s the important part.”
“And, then, Darling-Marigold,” says Colin, throwing Marigold vertically into the air to a height of at least eighteen feet from where Ally is standing, “And then I woke up in New York City, nearly seventy years later, with a helluva a hangover and a broken heart.”
“What’s a hangover, Uncle Colin?”
Ally is actually going to punch Colin in the dick for corrupting her niece.
“It’s a whole lot easier to cure than a broken heart,” says Colin.
“Or a broken-” Ally remembers that she’s in the presence of a five year-old. “Ahem. What happened next, Uncle Colin?” she asks, sweetly.
“Please call me that in bed,” says Colin.
“Tell me more about Disgusting Donald,” says Marigold. She’s not well. She’s curled up in Ally’s bed, having hurled on every clean surface in the apartment. Daisy won’t get out of work till late and Ally’s next deadline isn’t for a week so she offered to collect Marigold from school and look after her till Daisy or Eddie can come get her.
Sometimes, Ally regrets her life choices. Or her sister’s life choices. Marigold is pale and clammy but she hasn’t thrown up in a good fifteen minutes.
“Well, Disgusting Donald thought he was a really cool guy. He thought he was an outlaw when really he was just a criminal who stole stuff from other people.”
“This is a boring story,” says Marigold, wrinkling up her nose.
“Okay, but — and stay with me here, baby girl — he was in space.”
Marigold perked up.
“And Disgusting Donald liked to hook up with lots of ladies, and we’re not going to judge him for that because that would be hypocritical —”
“What’s hook up, Auntie Ally?”
“Oh. Right. Well, he liked to kiss lots of girls.”
Marigold wrinkled her nose. “Jonathan tried to kiss me in the playground yesterday.”
“Oh no,” says Ally. “What did you do?”
“I knocked him down and licked his cheek and asked how he liked it.”
Ally’s a little impressed. “Well. I think we know why you’re sick, baby girl.”
“Did you tell Marigold she got sick because of boy cooties? Really, Ally?”
“If that’s how she chose to interpret it, I can’t be held responsible.” Ally sips her wine. “And if little boys can’t take it, they shouldn’t dish it out.”
“So, because he was an avoidant vegan, Rick had to leave the country. In fact, he had to leave the entire planet.”
“And then what happened?” Marigold is sitting on the couch and if anyone asks, they have not just spent the day watching Mexican wrestling with Colin and they definitely ate healthy food. Burritos count as a food group, right?
“He had a makeover, which mostly involved some intense eyebrow sculpting and a bowlcut, and he went to live on a spaceship where they found his emotional stuntedness appealing rather than really really annoying.”
“Coooool,” says Marigold, hugging her stuffed dog tighter. “And then what happened?”
“Oh, he ended up in this really complex on-off relationship with a woman who was far too good for him before he decided to throw his lot in with his equally emotionally stunted captain.”
“Do you ever wonder if we shouldn’t tell Marigold all these stories?” asks Colin, one night. It’s cold and his giant feet are like freezing blocks of ice against Ally’s legs and he doesn’t care that she hasn’t bothered shaving her legs lately, and he still doesn’t care how she looks in the morning, even when one of her eyes is stuck shut with sleep and her hair is flock of seagulls meets 1980s Tina Turner. He still loves her, even though it’s been nearly six years and some glorious fights. They’re not married and they’re not engaged and Ally is incredibly happy.
“I literally never wonder that,” says Ally.
They’ve all gone for a picnic by the sea; Ally and Colin, Daisy, Eddie and Marigold, and Ally’s mom, who always looks faintly horrified at every gust of wind, scowling at the sand which has the temerity to get inside her open-toe shoes.
Marigold and Ally paddle together, and Ally holds Marigold’s hand tightly.
“Oh, hey,” says Colin. “Guess who I saw the other day?”
“A lady-raptor!” says Marigold.
“Ooh, good call but no.”
“A green lady!” says Marigold.
“This game has taken a turn for the decidedly surreal,” says Colin.
“An invisible lady!” says Marigold.
“Maybe,” says Colin. He tucks Ally’s hair behind her ear. “Tom Piper.”
“Oh my god,” says Ally. “Did he recognise you?”
“Well, given that we’ve never met and I only know him through the power of investigative-slash-stalking abilities, we nearly had a super awkward moment. I said hello, he looked me up and down and asked if he knew me and I said whoops I thought you were someone else.”
“Who did you think he was, Uncle Colin?” asks Marigold.
“Oh, my old war buddy. Great sidekick. Used to fly. Kept a robot falcon as a pet. Totally don’t recommend that. Have you ever tried to clean up after a robot falcon?”
Colin scoops Marigold up and dangles her over the sea and she shrieks and shrieks.
“Do you want kids?” asks Ally. Colin is brushing his teeth and she’s actually remembering to take off her makeup.
Colin spits out his toothpaste. “Is this a trick question?”
Colin shrugs. “Not really? I mean. I would rather continue taking anti-baby precautions but if there was, like, a security breach, I’d be okay with it. If you’re okay with it. Your choice, babe.”
“I love you,” says Ally, fervently. “And, no, I don’t want kids. I’m happy with Marigold time.”
“You’re good with her,” says Colin and Ally nearly laughs except he seems to mean it.
“You are,” he says. “She’s gonna grow up to be a woman who’s not gonna care how many boys’ faces she licks, or whether they end up in space or in Congress, because she’ll see her awesome aunt, who’s been growing out her bangs for, what? Ten years now? But doesn’t give a fuck about what other people think of her.”
“That’s sweet,” says Ally. “But I do. I do give a fuck. That’s kind of the problem, isn’t it?”
Colin puts his hands on her shoulders and kisses her forehead. “Hot take. Ally Darling gives a fuck. Colin Shea still loves her.” He kisses the corner of her mouth. “You missed some eyeliner, babe.” As he leaves the bathroom, he pats her on the ass. “See you in bed.”
Ally looks at herself in the mirror and her lips quirk into a smile. “Be right there, Uncle Colin.”