Chapter Twenty-Four: London's Angel Delight
In retrospect, the best thing to have done was probably to have warned her ahead of time. Possibly by letter so she could take her anger out on that instead.
Though, she hasn’t killed you yet so ‘in front of Rosy’ apparently also works.
There are about twenty hyperactive preschoolers in the living room and what smells like all the cupcakes burning in the oven yet you’re firmly rooted to the spot- hovering just inside the door and letting the cold air in. Oh, and receiving what looks to be the mother of all glares.
Just because Rose greeted Faith at the door with a cheerful, “Aunty Faith, Aunty Faith, Mummy and Daddy are getting married!”
To be fair, it’s not an official demotion in moniker- Rose has never called either of you ‘mama’ before, just Bee-Bee and Fay-Fay. Faith’s relationship with your daughter wasn’t exactly defined to her… until last week when you sat her down and explained that ‘Aunty Faith’ and ‘Aunty Dawn’ were your sisters.
Which makes the whole thing kind of gross. And not just because you out-and-out lied to your daughter.
“Daddy?” Faith chokes, swaying as if she’s about to topple down the stairs.
The bright purple present clutched in her left hand crumples as she accidentally crushes it.
“Yep,” Rosy grins, completely oblivious to the meaning of the word, “And I’m going to be a bridesmaid! You can be one too if you want! We can wear pretty dresses!”
When neither of you reply- still too caught up in either other’s shocked and angry gazes- she takes Faith’s empty hand and pulls her inside, turning back momentarily to shoot you a surprisingly adult scowl.
“It’s ok if you don’t want to wear a dress, my friend Cassie was the bridesmaid for her Uncle and she had to wear a scratchy pink one that totally clashed with her hair.”
The pink dress actually looked quite pretty on her, but Rose isn’t fully aware of colours quite yet- as proven by her ‘the sky is green if I say it is’ painting on the fridge. It sounds funny to hear Rose’s English accent say ‘totally’- yet another reminder of things you don’t have in common with your daughter.
Rose’s hair is long and brown and has little curls at the ends.
“I don’t know Rosy… I don’t think I’d fit into one of your dresses.”
“No silly!” She laughs like Faith too, those big, noisy chuckles that say she doesn’t care who’s listening, she’s enjoying herself. “You’d have a big person’s dress, it would just look like my dress!”
“Ooh!” Faith smacks her head in pretend realisation and Rose laughs harder. “I get it!” She swoops your little girl up into her arms and nuzzles her neck, blowing air so it tickles, “Silly Fay-Fay, thinking she’d have to wear Rosy’s dress!”
You want to leave them to this moment, it’s so rare the two of them get time alone and you have to crush down your tears at knowing they’re just going to get scarcer. But the corridor in the new house is too narrow for you to edge past them and the door to the street opens inwards.
Even though it’s ludicrously expensive the house still feels too small. You’ve never lived in a townhouse before and according to the guidebook this is one of the oldest areas of London so perhaps this is just how it’s supposed to be?
Either way, you’d hated it on sight eight months ago and you still despise it now. It might not be the house’s fault- you love the old-world-charm of the other shining white houses in this street. Maybe it was just the way Henry had looked at those two extra bedrooms, hope shining in his eyes as the realtor- no, ‘estate agent’ had prattled on. It was enough to make your womb ache in a way you’d tried to ignore. Stupid body, rebelling against your mind.
The other day, you slapped him when he wrapped his arms around you from behind.
He’d put it down to Slayer reflexes and apologised profusely for startling you. Satsu had looked at you knowingly. You’d done an almost identical thing to her. And your heart still carries that same sign; ‘I beat for Faith’.
It’s not like you want that to be the case; you want to settle down with Henry, have two more kids (a girl and a boy, Joy and Jack) and lie to Rosy forever. Maybe sometimes Faith can visit from… wherever it is she’s currently gallivanting off to with Kennedy, her yet-again-best-friend… but that’s it! No more Buffy and Faith. No more Faith and Buffy. No more accidental-yet-best-night-of-your-life sex. You’re engaged now and things are going to be different around here, very different.
Besides, that last time was totally not your fault; it’s a proven rule of dating, if your girlfriend is a slayer with occasional Sapphic desires, don’t go on a business trip and leave her in your big, empty, half-unpacked house with her ex- they might go slaying and find that there’s no food in said house and decide to test out just how soundproof the walls are.
Is the answer to that question. It’s oddly impressive just how well the British build houses.
And God, Faith looks good today… you didn’t even have to stop her at the door, send her upstairs and make her change into the pre-approved outfit!
No cleavage? Check- covered by the cute blue cashmere sweater Dawn gave her last Christmas. No short skirts? Check- leather pants but at least they’re not tight enough to make it look like she’s smuggling two bowling balls back there. No greasy Goth-hair? Check- in a classic French twist. No heavy make up? Well… half ‘check’… there’s still a lot of eyeliner but at least you can see the colour of her natural skin. No Creepy Junkie Look? Check- glowing with health, shiny hair and a nice fullness in the cheeks.
“B? You coming?” Faith motions toward the living room and you nod reluctantly, not looking forward to diving back into the throng of little horrors. It’s not that you hate children so much as you’re entirely disinclined to those you’re not immediately related to. Or ones you are related to, case in point; Dawn.
She’s standing by the fireplace, clothed entirely inappropriately for a children’s party in a cream Chanel dress and towering heels. One of her posh and interchangeable friends is leaning on the mantel next to her. They’re taking tiny sips from champagne glasses- about the only thing they consume.
The multi-coloured ‘HAPPY 5th BIRTHDAY!’ banner hanging over them looks gaudy and out of place in a room fit for a high-class magazine. It’s duck-egg blue with white edging, you’d tried to sway Henry more towards mint but apparently the colour reminded him of ‘the nursery’ at his parent’s house.
You think the banner would have fitted in the living room of the old London house- the one you lived in just after Rose was born- where things didn’t have to fit to a scheme of only three colours. Stupid house. Stupid rules. Stupid previously-unmarked-antique-coffee-table.
Thank God you have a small child to blame things on.
“I think I’m going to die.” Satsu deadpans from behind you.
You snigger and try not to snort. “Please don’t, my sanity needs you.”
“Your stomach needs me, your sanity needs professional help.”
So true. “It does not! It just needs… my sister to stop being a snotty bitch, my wedding to be planned for me, and…” You smile winningly, “for you to find an alternative to cake. There may have been a slight incident with the one we bought… and the cupcakey substitutes I tried to make.”
“If you’re referring to the tiny rocks in your oven- already on it. Bruiser is busy sharpening her teeth on them.”
“Her name’s Elsa now. El-sa.”
Just one more change in your life. And such a stupid one too.
Henry had said he felt silly calling out ‘Bruiser’ and you’d agreed. It was such a ‘Faith’ thing to name a female dog anyway. Plus she’s a freaking Labradoodle!
“Whatever, she only responds to Bruiser.” Satsu frowns disapprovingly. You’re not entirely sure whether she hates Henry more for being a man or for not being Faith. If she is nothing else she’s a romantic. Having first-hand knowledge of ‘true love’s kiss’ helps. “I’ll check the cupboards but I’m pretty sure all we have left is Angel Delight from when Xander stayed. I’ll see what fabulous thing I can create… maybe a pink castle pudding?”
“You’re a life saver, I love you.”
She grins and gives your shoulder a quick squeeze on her way out the door, “Don’t let your husband hear you say that!”
Truly you’re not sure you could actually manage to live your life if not for Satsu. She has got to be the best Nanny slash Housekeeper slash Personal Assistant in the history of the world. If you could paint you’d make a portrait of Satsu, hang it over the fireplace and worship it every day.
But then Henry might get the wrong idea. Or the right one. How is it that he’s never met a single man you’ve slept with but he’s met both women? And he has no idea.
There’s always the possibility he just assumes Faith is some kind of relation? Rose obviously looks like her and in the right light so does Dawn (but that’s a little too disturbing to think about).
Faith hates him of course, but there’s nothing you can really do about it. You’d been ready to start a life with her- you were in that place. Now you just want to throttle her. Again.
This is stupid, so incredibly stupid.
Things are supposed to get worse before they get better, but there’s a difference between ‘waiting’ and ‘being shat on’.
You waited for Faith, really, you did. Once you’d killed the demon that hurt Rosy and finally taken her home from the hospital there was an… attempt at family life. (An ‘attempt’ because you tried and Faith didn’t- which levels out at somewhere in the middle.)
Henry was never part of the plan- you were going to work hard, with Faith, to build something for your daughter to thrive upon. But Faith refused to face facts; she couldn’t believe that the two of you would need help to live your lives. First she became obsessed with your friends being out to get her; pointing out every little thing she did wrong and undermining her with Rosy. It’s not as if they’ve never done that before so you agreed to speak with them. Only, they argued that nothing of the sort had been taking place and, once you monitored the situation for a while, you were inclined to agree. So then you tried to get Faith help for the paranoia, which really wasn’t appreciated.
It wasn’t your fault this time, there isn’t a single person who can look back at the moment she punched you (and trashed your purple bedroom, scaring Rosy half to death) and think there was something you could have done to make it better. Because there wasn’t.
Her illness doesn’t discriminate; it didn’t have the grace to notice that you were finally in a place where the two of you could actually have come together and made something of yourselves. It pushed it’s way into your life like an alarm, set to remind you not to get too comfortable. Your pulse thumps in your left wrist painfully. Satsu sees you rubbing it on her way back in and offers a painkiller from her deceptively large back pocket. You’re still lingering in the hall, watching the mini-party from the outside. Rosy is introducing Faith to her friends, you laugh along with her every time Faith puts out her hand to shake and then catch Satsu watching you. “She seems ok.”
“Is it sad that I don’t have to do the ‘who?’ thing?”
“No.” She smiles sweetly, “I’m just saying- she seems better than when we spoke on the phone. I expected her to be more…”
“Crazy.” One of the many reasons you love Rose (aside from everything about her) is that she gives you a legitimate excuse to check up on Faith. You can call with the pretext of Rose wanting to speak to her when really it’s just to diagnose her through the different inflections in her voice. She watches her back now- or at least she tries to- because she knows how much it’ll hurt Rosy if her mother dies. You cringe. “Aunt. Remember to say ‘aunt’.”
Sassy shakes her head sadly, ‘so you’ve finally lost it then?’
“Oh shut up and get back to the kitchen.” You snipe, slightly hurt that Faith is taking this all so well- as if her being ok without you is actually some sort of betrayal. Why can’t she save up all the good days to use with you?
“I was just going to the toilet.” She huffs, like a petulant teen, sticking out her tongue.
You’ve learnt many things in England and in the ‘proper society’ that Henry is a part of. One of those is that there is a difference between ‘bathroom’, ‘toilet’ and ‘lavatory’. You’ve also learnt that it doesn’t really matter if you forget which of the second two is the posh one because nobody expects social graces from an American.
You don’t like England, the people seem so cold (thought maybe they were the same way in Scotland and you just couldn’t tell through the accent); it’s not that they’re rude or dismissive or even unkind. It’s just that you miss the fake smiles of American shop girls and not having to watch your tongue. They don’t forgive easily here.
The neighbours are nice, kind, polite, and a million other adjectives… it’s just this odd feeling… as if you could live here for twenty years and not even know their proper names; ‘The Cadburys at Twenty-Four’, ‘The Sweet Old Man with the Green Door’, ‘Mrs DuClef Across The Road’, ‘StJohn’.
Ok, so the last one is a real name- and confusingly pronounced ‘Sin-jin’- but he’s only about ten and you have no idea which house he actually lives in or his surname, just that he likes to talk to little girls in pink dresses and knows The Sound Of Music word for word… and is, quite probably, gay.
Rose spins daintily in the middle of the room for Faith, showing off her green, silk party dress with occasional, dotted sequins. “Isn’t it pretty? Mummy bought it for me last week- I was looking forward to the shopping trip but I suppose this was the… tactful… way to do it.” She winks at you with both eyes (because she has some weird inability to do it with just one). “I can be a little ill-humoured when I don’t get my own way.”
Everyone in the room immediately makes noises of disagreement- just the way they’re supposed to. Rose isn’t a difficult child; she doesn’t have tantrums or get angry any more than a normal child… and you can forgive her anything she does do wrong on account of having so much to contend with. You bought the dress without her because that way you could cut out the sizing tag before she saw. She gets frustrated when she can’t have the same sort of clothes as her friends because they don’t come in toddler sizes. It’s not GapKids she shops in, it’s BabyGap. And that’s hard for a five year old who’s just started school. Her uniform is tailor made to fit a two year old and it’s still just a little large.
When she was a baby you were ever so slightly afraid Rose could read your mind. Now she’s older you’ve resigned yourself to being easy to interpret and having a smart child. “Rosy.” You give her the chance to work it out with just a look and she bobs her head slightly, apologising to Faith for having other guests to see.
“That’s alright baby, I’ll go talk to your… other aunty.” Faith moves to talk to Dawn and you smile in relief as your sister doesn’t brush her off. Even the snooty friend looks surprised.
You wish there was a way to mend your little family and you wish that bringing someone else in to it was the answer, but you just can’t fully believe that marrying Henry will make it all better. You’re going to break what’s left of Faith’s heart and confuse Rose even more but at the same time… there’s this odd, selfless part of you who’d do anything to see Dawn and Faith friends again.
Though maybe it is selfish- Dawn is still a part of you and, although you’ve gone too far with Faith to ever come back around and be friends again, you’d like to believe there will be a Summers-Lehane ending.
Not in a gay, sexy way!
But at least a friend one.
The soon to be ‘Rose Alice Summers Fortescue-Darling’ grins up at you from her place on the rug, as close to Faith’s feet as she can be.
If you don’t marry him then maybe-
No. Not important. You should and you will.
He doesn’t look like her. Brunette, but he doesn’t look like her.
Henry is ambitious and smart, he has a nice job in the city doing something complicated you can never seem to name. His family are rich and classy and tolerate you because they’ve already got grandchildren. Funnily enough you don’t care that you’re only good enough to be the wife of a second son.
You’re well off but not incredibly so- you don’t have a maid or… well, there’s Satsu but she really only lives with you out of the goodness of her heart and because she knows you’re completely rubbish at anything even slightly domestic. Plus you pay her a lot. That helps.
“Mummy, can I please open my presents now?” Rose smiles as charmingly as possible, her little fingers obviously itching to start tearing into the boxes stacked next to the table of party food.
“Of course sweetheart, you’ve waited long enough.”
You congratulate yourself silently on how well the room has been laid out- the food table is a pretty little French thing you found at an antique shop, sanded down and painted white. It’s piled with healthy finger food and has a space in the middle for the cake or… whatever genius thing Sassy is somehow going to create from nothing. In front of the huge bay window is spread a quilt for the girls to sit on and then play games on later. A few of the parents and Rosy’s ‘older friends’ (i.e., yours) stand in groups around the room, watching the little girls and chatting about nothing in particular. You’re proud, this is Rose’s first functioning birthday- so far they’ve all gone wrong; your huge fight with her mother, a stay in hospital, day-walking vampires and last year’s rather unfortunate flood… caused by your tripping on nothing and grabbing onto exposed piping to keep yourself vertical. So really, it’s The Slayer’s fault.
Rose plucks the largest present from the pile with a strength that makes the mothers in the room raise their perfectly plucked eyebrows. Her dimples grow larger when she sees it’s the one courier-delivered from her ‘Italian Uncle’.
It’s weird, how babies’ faces can sometimes change. She used to look so much like you and now she’s just a tiny, tiny Faith. Rose is about a foot shorter than the other children- the size of a toddler but without the protruding stomach and chubby legs. You hear what the other mothers whisper (dwarf, midget, little person) and don’t correct them.
There’s pretty much nothing of you in her now; she’s all dark hair and dimples and big brown eyes. They have matching hairlines and eyebrows and you’re fairly sure that’s going to be another dimple on her chin. But… she smiles with only one side of her mouth and… and… ok, there’s nothing else. She likes to copy your every move and only makes friends with the kids you say are good (‘friends are for life’ apparently so she needs a second opinion) but aside from her mannerisms there’s not much of her that’s like you.
She’s a lot more self-contained than you ever were, no need for constant attention, to always be the one at the centre of the room. But she’s not how you imagine Faith was either- no ‘need for continual stimulation else she’ll go and find her own trouble’. Rose can happily play for hours by herself but is equally comfortable with friends (whom she picks carefully).
Giles calls her an ‘old soul’ and she calls him ‘Papa’.
“A doll! It’s a doll! And she looks just like me!” The other children gasp in awe and wonder as first a beautiful china doll is pulled from the box and then mini suitcases full of doll clothes; dresses, coats, shoes, accessories and even a necklace made of real pearls. A matching one for Rose sits in a purple box at the bottom of the cavernous parcel.
“Wow, that’s… wow…” You bend to examine the large doll with her.
It truly is gorgeous, ivory skin and dark brown ringlets. It must have been made to specification and from the last photo you sent him- it’s a perfect almost-Rose. The dress is made of burgundy slub silk and longer than the doll itself. Faith raises her eyebrows at you over Rosy’s head- that entire parcel must have cost at least a couple of thousand pounds.
Mimtal has only met Rose once- she was two months old and you’d dragged Faith to Italy in the hope it could break her out of her unfeeling slump. She’d seemed almost inhuman at that time- she just didn’t care. He’d been… not your last hope- that sounds too final, but- but certainly you’d expected that as soon as they saw each other she’d light up, become herself again, feel… feel anything. Just feel. The day before you begged Giles for three tickets to Rome she’d broken two fingers in an argument with a door and hadn’t noticed.
You’d planned for a week but only stayed three days. Faith refused to go outside so you played with Rosy in the pool and let him work his magic. Only he hadn’t. Instead he had dedicated his fervour to your daughter and talked in riddles with you over a candlelight dinner. Fucking useless waste of space.
“Rosy-baby, don’t tear the presents too, ok?” She ignores you and rips through her present-pile like a demon or… small child.
“Mummy, when are we having cake?”
“Touché.” You mumble and make it halfway down the stairs to the kitchen before your wrist twinges in warning. Faith grabs your shoulder and spins you back around.
You hold up a hand to quiet her before Rose realises she’s missing too and comes looking. “We can talk in the kitchen.”
It’s serene downstairs and goose bumps rise on your flesh. Satsu smiles sweetly when she sees you but looses it when Faith follows. “I’ll just… go check on the food. In the living room. It might need to be restocked.”
Ignoring your desperate and silent plea for help she hightails it up the stairs and you’re left, awkward and alone, in the middle of the kitchen. Elsa’s wines to be let in filter through from the garden as soon as she catches wind of Faith. “Faith, I… you’re angry, I know. I’m sorry about the ‘aunt’ thing but I just don’t want her to be confused by-”
“Excuse me?” The look she gives you makes you feel like you’re shrivelling up inside your cute navy dress. “You- you actually think it’s the ‘aunt’ bit that I’m angry about?! You think I’m angry that I was actually given some kind of a- a name for once?” Her shouts are loud enough to be heard upstairs, you’re sure, and you only hope Sassy shut the living room door. “It doesn’t even cross your mind that maybe I’m so angry because the name I should have been given has been gone to him?!”
“You want to be called ‘Daddy’?” You squeak. The only thing you can think suddenly is that the one time you argued with Henry he used his ‘indoor voice’- even though you were outside- and being yelled at is somehow sickly exciting.
“No! I want to be Mommy too! And- and since when were you ‘Mummy’? We never called each other… We…” She pauses and begins again with a new fever, a new anger. This fight is not about you or anything you once had. “I am her mother Buffy, her mother. Now I may not have carried her for nine months but she is the only family I have left and you’re a fool if you think I’m giving her up without a fight.”
“I’m not asking you to give her up! You barely even visit! She sees you, what, once a month? Henry is there for her. Every. Day.” The slap is just as surprising as being knocked back into the table. It splinters under the force of her throw and you shudder in shock.
She hovers above you as you cower beneath her, the snapped off table leg close enough for the imprinted memory of thousands of repetitions to rise through your hand. Your automatic response is to stake her. Because she’s a threat. “You want me to get a paternity test, is that it?!” Elsa barks crazily at the raised voices, “You want me to state my legal claim over her and sue for joint custody?! Half a week at my house half a week at yours? You want-!”
“Firstly; that’s a stupid idea!” You pull yourself up from the floor and into her face. She is not going to know just how much your back hurts. “Secondly; no one would believe the results anyway, thirdly; No kind of custody is going to be granted to an escaped convict and fourth…ly; you don’t even have a house!” Again she lashes out, this time with a fist to the gut. You punch her temple so hard her hair falls out of its pretty up-do. She hit you! Twice! While being totally aware, totally sane, totally… herself.
She sneers at you, “I thought you were a bigger person B, I guess I was wrong.”
“Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare give me righteous indignation! I was willing to wait for you as long as you were actually working towards whatever the hell it was I was waiting for!”
“You know you’re my wife really.” She spits out.
You’d been so hopeful. You’d seen her at the door, so nice, so normal. And you’d hoped. Perhaps irrationally. That she was going to be ok. She seemed ok. A tear runs its track down your cheek and to the hollow of your throat. You brush it away and try to stay calm. “No Faith, I know that I’m your punching bag.”
She slides cool fingers over your pulsing wrist. “I’m sorry, really, I am. That was only one time though…”
The table isn’t broken. She didn’t just punch you. Your back is not possibly bleeding. And that is not a rapidly healing mess of bone. “It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last but I’m never, ever giving you the chance to start that with Rosy.”
Faith’s look is one of the deepest betrayal, “I wouldn’t touch her!”
“You can’t know that! Get help. Then we’ll talk.”
She’s gone before you can look up again and Sassy’s arms wrap around you in her place. “Shh, shh, it’s ok. Don’t cry- you’ll have to do your make up again. Besides, Dawn’s coming, if she sees you crying she’ll probably start a big speech, with lots of long and complex Latin words, about the juxtaposition between the evils of declining and falling in love.”
You chuckle and let her wipe away the few tears that got loose.
“Now, I have to find a magnifying glass so I can work out if Angel Delight needs milk or water to make it… do… whatever it is it does. What is Angel Delight anyway?”
“I have no idea. But it’s bright pink.”
Dawn clomps down the stairs behind you and makes a startled little noise like a mouse when she sees the back of your dress. You spin, in an attempt to see what feels like a bleeding back. Surprisingly, it’s just a lot of torn navy knit and a few white scrapes. The table looks much worse in comparison. “What happened to your dress?! And the table…?”
“I… I caught it on something. On the table- I caught my dress on the table and then turned too quickly and, you know, slayer powered, so I ruined the table which… which is actually kind of awful because this might have been Henry’s Grandmother’s table or- or it could have been the one upstairs. Still killed a table though, right? Ha! ‘Killed a table’. Table. Wood. Dead. You don’t care, do you?”
Your sister smirks, “It’s fine, I like how garrulous you are.”
“Chatty. Weird. American.”
‘You love her’, your brain reminds you, and ‘She’s your own flesh and blood’. In fact, she’s more your flesh and blood than Rose is. Dawn is just a little… off right now, she’s just going through another crazy teen thing. In her early twenties. “I knew sending you to Oxford was a bad idea.”
“Buffy, I dropped out of Oxford.”
“See, bad idea.”
She made it through her first two years at University and then decided to recklessly squander her brain- becoming a PA-slash-model (and, you’re a little afraid to think it, but possibly a kept woman). Cute little Dawnie with the too-short jeans and nose in a book is a thing of the past. Now her manicure is more expensive than your shoes and she’s more interested in where ‘everyone’s doing cocktails’ than having a Physics principle named after her.
“Sorry, but… why are you here?”
You roll your eyes when she stops fiddling with the grapes long enough to give an insolent scoff. “Rose is my niece. Which is the answer to both ‘why are you at her birthday party, filling in as the only cool person she has?’ and ‘why are you in the kitchen telling me off for disappearing with my ex?’”
“Oh great, the ‘get away from Faith’ speech again.”
Dawn frowns, “I love her, B. And I love Henry. Might… possibly like him a little better. But that’s just me. When he looks at you it’s the sweetest thing and when you kiss- well, it’s the first time I’ve seen you kiss someone and not immediately wanted to retch. And anyway, Faith feels like you betrayed her- again- she doesn’t look at you the way she used to.”
“Shut up. Please.”
“No! Look, Faith goes up and down and you go backwards and forwards. Last week, before she phoned, I couldn’t get you to shut up about how brilliant your fiancé is and now she’s here and oh! So stupid, your mind is all twisted and you’re conflicted and…”
You glare, “Do you not understand the meaning of the words ‘shut’ and ‘up’?”
“Buffy, you can’t just shut me down every time I try and talk to you!”
“Well even if I can’t shut you down, I can always hope to shut you up.”
“You’re not funny and you’re not smart. Rosy loves him, you love him, this is… temporary insanity.” Like a disappointed parent she leaves in silence when you don’t immediately agree. Everything, with her, is taken personally.
You glance awkwardly around the kitchen, a little lost for what to do- you can’t exactly go back upstairs with a gaping hole showing off your bra clasp. There’s an attempt at getting Elsa to calm down but she’s happy barking her head off so you restlessly pace and touch things that suddenly seem so alien in your own kitchen! Your own goddamn, shitting kit-! “Oh. Oh great. Just fucking perfect!” There’s pink Angel Delight powder down your front and- and- “GRAH!”
“‘Ok’? of course it’s ok! Why wouldn’t everything be perfectly fucking spiffing!” Satsu blinks, hurt. “Sorry. That anger isn’t really meant for you.”
She passes another painkiller over along with one of your jackets- the red one, “I get it. So, back to avoiding Faith?”
You wave away the jacket, “the cut doesn’t suit this dress.” Which is a stupid, trivial, idiotic thing to think about when you have to wear something in order to go upstairs to the woman who’ll kill you. “I figure as soon as we’re alone again she’s going to beat me into a bloody and unrecognisable pulp- I’m enjoying my last few moments of being attractive.” Sassy stares, silent and reproving, until you shrug on the jacket anyway. “By the way, you’ve got my dental records on file, right?”
“You hate the dentist.” She smiles kindly and doesn’t reprimand you for tugging impatiently as she fusses to cover the tear. “I’m pretty sure the last records they have are from back when you had milk teeth.”
“Right. I knew that.” The jacket looks perfect. Of course. But you’re still unfortunately covered in pink powder. “I hate my life. I hate Faith. I bet she’s having happy mind-blowing sex with somebody else. That’s my hot sex. Mine! I might not want to use it right now but… still…”
Sassy shakes her head as if you aren’t looking, “Well, as long as she’s happy with Kennedy, it doesn’t matter.”
“What?” You choke on strawberry-scented air, Elsa barks harder, “She’s… they’re… they’re actually together now?”
“Well why not?” She shrugs, “If you can settle for second best, she can too.”
“Can you please make Bru-Elsa shut up?!”
You don’t say anything about the noises from downstairs when you re-enter the living room, just like you don’t say anything when later on in the party, after eating too much Angel Delight and getting too tired, Rosy gets over-emotional and runs to not you but her other mother, crushing her wet cheek to Faith’s chest. It’s something she’s always done, always sought comfort in her mother’s skin; the touch of a hand, their cheeks pressed together, any kind of touch.
But for how long?
How long will it take, how much time apart, until Rosy forgets her?
Is this guilty feeling going to last? Because, to be honest, you’re sort of hoping she does forget. Regardless of how many mothers she quite literally has you’re the one who carried her! She’s supposed to be clingy with you! Not psycho-Faith.
You rush around to hide your feelings and keep away from Faith. She almost catches you in the hallway but your hands are full of Sassy’s Pink Marvel so she has to dodge or be covered in Angel Delight. The other mothers laugh kindly at your tales of Pudding Misfortune and sympathise with having food down your front. They congratulate you on such a good party and marvel over the moulded pink castle mousse. Sassy winks over the top of the departing children and lets you take the credit.
“Thank you.” You whisper and squeeze her hand as you reach for the same party bag.
“Dawn was telling funny tales of the ‘sibling rivalry’ between the three of you.” She whispers back, motioning to what feels to be a vibrant handprint on your cheek.
“Do I have to thank her too?” On the way out Dawn mentioned something to Faith about missing her like she misses carbs and you got the funny feeling she’ll be ok.
She smiles and helps one of the Huntington twins (you can’t for the life of you tell which one) with her coat. “She also tripped over the rug and said the-” Her eyes dart down to the little blonde head, “C word. And then insulted me when I told her off.”
“I’m sorry about her. Sometimes I think the monks took all the worst parts of…” You trail off at her chastising glare, “Why don’t you use all that parenting on Dawn instead? I’m the grown up one!”
“My mummy is a grown up!” Huntington Twin A pipes up, looking proud of her mere ability to talk. It’s really not surprising Rose is top of her class if they’re all this stupid.
“I know dear.”
“My mummy has sex!”
Further down the hallway, and attempting to help Huntington Twin B put on her mittens, Lexie Huntington flushes bright red. Tavi Benn (the ‘ex-wild-child’ who, sometimes, you think Faith might have turned into if she’d been born with money) laughs and slings an arm around her best friend’s shoulders, “Had that talk, huh?”
“Possibly a little too soon.” Lexie chuckles back.
Is it weird that every time you see blonde and brunette women being close to each other you immediately think they’re doing it?
“Do you have sex?” Twin A asks, motioning to either you or Satsu or- more disturbingly- both.
Sassy gulps like a goldfish, “Uh…”
Allegra, the redhead who picks her nose, turns her little innocent face towards the room in general, “What’s sex?”
You’re five seconds from dissolving into hysterical giggles when Bliss Benn sighs and pats her friend’s arm, “It’s what Rosy said makes babies. From vaginas.”
Occasionally, or perhaps disturbingly often, Rose loves to use her height to her advantage. Hiding in a crowd of other children is one of those moments. You scan the hallway full of bobbing heads at waist height (your waist anyway) for the telltale gap and spot it near the door. “I see you Rose Alice Summers Le…” Tavi raises an eyebrow, “-ve that… place… and come hand out party bags.”
“Fine.” The crowd of children parts to let her through but you can’t see her properly until she’s standing on your feet and grinning up. “Hi Mummy.”
“You know, I only used the word ‘vagina’ in the proper context so really I was just educating them.” This is Faith’s fault. That you can be sure of. She was the one convinced that speaking to your child as if they’re an adult and enlarging their repertoire was a good idea. You’re so never letting Rose near a newspaper or cultural programme again. Stupid liberal upbringing…
Fortunately, the other mothers laugh and don’t seem to mind that you’ve inadvertently ruined their children’s innocence. Rose is going to believe in Father Christmas until every single other child in her year has lost their virginity- even the geeks and purity ring wearers.
“Thanks again.” Tavi plucks the ‘Going Home Bag’ out of Rosy’s hand when her daughter seems content to just stand and smirk with a wicked glare. “And- it was lovely to speak with you, Faith. I’ll definitely try and find that record.”
“Do.” Faith folds her arms and amusedly doesn’t help with the children (who seem suddenly to number more in the hallway than they did in the living room). “Keith Moon’s solo is like… whoa.” They share that creepy ‘The Who Are God’ look. “But it’s pretty rare so you might not find it.”
Tavi shrugs, “My ex-husband has a music dealer. Literally, a guy who finds him music.”
“Believe me, it was the most legal service he spent his money on.” Everyone else turns to stare at her. Lexie smirks behind her hand. You’ve picked up on the hints, of course, everyone has- they’re just too English to mention it. “Oh don’t look at me like that- you all know!”
Bliss frowns, “Know what Mummy?”
Lexie rolls her eyes at you and you get a little giddy- Alexis Huntington and Octavia Benn are, by far, the cool parents at the school and the little girl inside you desperately wants to be their friend. “Nothing Blissy, your mother is just being facetious.”
“Oh, Mummy.” Bliss shakes her head in a very ‘Rose’ way and gives her mother the same condescending look you received upon asking exactly how ‘Bliss’ could be a nick-name for ‘Felicity’ (though, really, you walked into that one with the whole ‘Buffy’ and ‘Elizabeth’ thing).
“I know, B, I know.” Tavi grabs her girl and heads towards the open door, skirting around hyperactive-yet-oddly-well-behaved children. “Say goodbye to Rose.”
“Then say goodbye to Buffy.”
“Do you ever intend to eat ice-cream again?”
“Then say goodbye to Rose.”
“I hate you.”
Tavi, stops, turns and waits.
“Goodbye, Felicity.” Rosy smarms, knowing she hates the name. “That child is so badly behaved.” She mumbles out the side of her mouth once they’ve left. Twin A giggles like the airhead she’s going to grow up to be.
Tamara Rhodes, her three ugly boys, Ophelia Van Der Burke, Thora Saxe-Barnes, StJohn and their parents all leave along with a few families you don’t really know all that well but invited either because Rosy mentioned their children or Lexie and Tavi know the parents. Because you now apparently respond to peer-pressure. Even the kind the other person isn’t aware of.
“We’ll see you tomorrow, is about ten alright?” Lexie shuffles towards the door with twice the baggage of the other parents (even Tamara with her three children). Faith moves to grab a bag and Lexie jumps, not used to people entering her personal space without asking- or, occasionally, bowing. “Oh. Thank you. We might also have Bliss with us- Edmund is supposed to have her but, well…” She growls slightly, making you smirk. You’ve heard many, many stories of Edmund The Awful.
“That’s fine. The more the merrier.” You almost check Faith to see if she’s sticking around but she can’t and her back is turned anyway.
Instead of kissing your cheek or giving you a hug, like your other (American) friends, Lexie trills something out in French and gives you the pleasantest smile you’ve ever seen.
“I’m starting to love English people.”
“Don’t let Giles hear that.” Sassy clomps down the stairs behind you. Sometimes it feels as if this whole place is full of stairs. Two large and one small room on every floor over five floors, meaning you spend most of your life going up and down. There are also two ground floors- the one on the same level as the street and then a floor beneath it (which is really just a huge kitchen) that leads out to the garden. And yes, in the short time you’ve lived here there have been many ‘Oh my God, I left the… in the kitchen/garden’ moments just as you’re getting into bed on the top floor. Stupid House. Stupid weird, alien place, where even the pavement makes a different noise as you walk along it, all those slates, stone slabs, clicking under the clack of your heals.
“Giles doesn’t count. I don’t like Giles.”
“Still? Over something that happened…” She ticks the years out in the air, “Seven years ago? You do realise you’ve known me for less time than this stupid feud has been going on?”
“He tried to have my lover killed! Twice! With two different lovers!”
Rose frowns, confused, “Why do you have two different lovers? Are they different to Daddy or are they both Daddy?”
“What?” Sassy unknowingly echoes.
“You know- one is Daddy before you marry him and one is Daddy after you marry him. Why would someone want to kill Daddy? That’s silly. Daddy is a nice man.”
“Yes,” You agree, smiling at her clipped vowels, “He is. Your Daddy is a lovely person.”
The evening sunshine drifts across her face, making her eyes glitter and the tiny sequins on her dress catch the light. “Do you think when I grow up I’ll have a lovely lover?”
Satsu smiles and you smile and try hard not to think about how the first person to even attempt to touch your daughter is going to have both their hands cleaved off. By all three parents. “I think that won’t be for a very… long time, young lady.”
“Eh,” She shrugs, “I can wait.”
Yeah, wait forever. Wait until she has to join a nunnery just because it’s the only option open to her… which in this day and age probably isn’t true. She’d be some kind of crazy cat lady now- the modern equivalent. Though… did they not have cats in the past? Why didn’t they have crazy cat ladies back then? Or maybe they did and no one really cared enough to make a note of them. Huh.
“Okay, then.” Sassy chuckles, “Come on, Kid, let’s get you into your pyjamas before Daddy gets home. Buff, there’s a bowl of left-over Angel Delight hidden behind the vegetable sticks- just for you.” Rose skips up the stairs after her, humming ‘Happy Birthday’ to herself.
“Oh. I don’t-” She raises an eyebrow; ‘oh really?’ “Ok, ok, I’m an Angel Delight Whore, don’t judge me!”
The cogs visibly turn in Rosy’s head, “What’s a ‘whore’?”
Sassy shakes her head before you can give some kind of stupid answer- possibly involving rope and alliteration. “It’s a Japanese word that’s not used very often. Anyone who says ‘whore’ is really just calling themselves stupid- you can’t use it to insult other people, just yourself.”
“I’m not stupid.” Rose considers and climbs up a few more steps (she’s still a little too small to walk up by herself), “Mummy is a little bit though.”
Her eyes crinkle the way they do when she’s genuinely amused and that pretty, tinkling laugh that’s pure ‘Satsu’ floats down the stairs just before they round the corner and disappear from view. “Yes, I think sometimes she is.”
“I love you!”
“Good job avoiding me today.”
“Bleh!” You jump in surprise and almost inhale the damn mousse. God, so good…
Stupid Faith leans lightly against the doorframe and watches you try not to die.
Your hand skims your slapped cheek, “Obviously not that good. Did Alexis and the girls get away ok?”
“Yeah. Yeah, they… they’re ok. Cute kids.” She sighs and runs her fingers against the painted wood. It’s pretty and white. “So… You’re really gettin’ married?”
There’s a long silence. “Congrats.”
You want to say something soppy, to tell her she was right earlier, that she’ll always be your wife really, about how she owns your heart and that you’re family now. Forever. Instead you nod awkwardly and mumble a thank you.
“So… turned into Bridezilla yet or are you pretending to be a normal person who doesn’t need to control every single detail of everyone’s lives?”
What the hell? She’s making jokes now? “Are you… are you no longer mad at me?”
“I’m just…” You jump a little as she pushes off the wall, even though it’s soft and slow. The mouse sticks to your palate. “I was just upset.” There are barely a few inches between you and your heart tries to beat back towards hers. She caresses the handprint on your face and it’s so easy to slip back into forgiving her that it shocks you into not. “I know that you’re with him now and whatever we had is pretty much over except for Rosy but… I’m the dumpee and- and that means I don’t have a cut off point, I didn’t know to wind down my emotions to the point where I could. I…”
Oh shit. Please Faith, please don’t.
“I… I just… I’m still in love with you. And that feels like such a ‘duh’ thing to say because of course I love you- you’re Buffy. You’re the one for me.”
She smiles self-deprecatingly and swipes at her teary eyes.
“Sorry, you don’t have to say anything back. I’m just… explaining why occasionally I want to throttle you or… point out to your stupid fiancé that we’ve had sex five times since the two of you got together, one of which he was in the room for! And while I appreciate our new and oddly teenage ‘doing it in front of sleeping people’ kink it doesn’t quite make up for what I lost!”
You bristle because this so isn’t what you want to be talking about, it so isn’t fair. You’re trying to build a life. One that’s all your own. And yes, Faith is like… your crack, and every time she’s around your heart thumps harder and it feels like you can barely breathe but… but this isn’t right. You have to give up bad habits, you have to move on and you have to dedicate yourself to a man that loves you and cares for you and wants to give you the world. Because he’s better for you than the girl who punches your lights out when she’s upset or denied.
“I’m the other woman, Buffy! The Other Woman! You’re supposed to love me and only me and we’ll move back to Italy and have those three kids you’ve always dreamt of!”
“You know about that?”
She smiles in a way she knows is charming. “Rose, Joy, Jack. I do actually pay attention when you talk.”
More babies? When she can’t even take care of the first one? “Rose wrote you a letter. It’s pinned to the fridge.”
“She can…? Oh. Guess I missed that milestone.” Faith shrugs and you try your hardest to read in her eyes whether she’s actually that nonchalant or is just covering it up.
“She spoke, I wrote. She did do her own name though.”
“I’m sorry. God, seems like just yesterday she was this tiny little thing I could hold in just one hand.”
You remember that too, the first time you woke after giving birth (so you may have passed out- even a slayer can only take so much pain!) to find Faith perched on the edge of the hospital bed, her long hair tied just above waist-length with a pink ribbon and a tiny pile of blanket in her hand. She was staring so intently at that little bundle she didn’t notice you’d woken. The look in her eyes made your insides roll and dance- she was in love, and so were you, with a tiny little thing that barely opened her eyes. Rose was so small even then that the blanket probably took up more room in Faith’s hand than she did but at the time you’d all just put it down to Summers’ women (with the exception of Dawn The Occasionally Literal Giant) being short.
There are so many things stuffed in your memory when it comes to Faith that it’s hard to remember to occasionally take them out and sort them- weigh one side against the other and realise that… perhaps, there really are more good ones than bad.
You remember a party, senior year (that was really at a frat house) filled with boys who looked longingly but knew who you were really going home with. The dark-haired girl, who everyone seemed to know and love, had threaded a strong arm around you at the start of the night and claimed you as her own. You’d played Spin The Bottle and she’d made the others laugh by sprawling on top of them when it was your turn to spin- thus ensuring maximum chance of being chosen- and squeezing herself into a tight ball the rest of the time because she’d made a promise to not kiss anyone else.
That night you’d ruined your liver and the surface of your lips from kissing her too harshly. She was so like a flame, beautiful and captivating, that you’d felt as if you’d never get enough. Faith had laughed when you told her that and held you back, kissing you only sparingly, like you were something precious and the number of times she could touch you was limited. She’d seemed like a dream, something you could never really grasp, no matter how hard you tried she’d slip through your fingers like silk or the trails of water left by a fast-swimming fish.
And still she has that effect on you. Still when you’re in the same room a hazy fuzz descends upon your vision, still she seems to waver like a mirage until you think you can forget to be angry, forget to expect… forgive everything.
“Occasionally I forget how old she is and cut up her food. And then she gives me that ‘Ultimate Look Of Distain’ she’s so good at.”
Faith nods in sympathy, “Sucks to be you.”
“Hey! You’re the one who drank from the green cup!”
“You still have that?!” The old, gross, slightly mouldy, plastic cup Rose insists on drinking milk from? The one no dishwasher can fully clean? The one she’s had since she was six months old and guards like a hawk since the fateful day Faith accidentally took a sip from it two years ago?
“Do you want to try wrestling it from her tiny-yet-powerful grip? Because, let me warn you, the girl has fingers of steel and a glare that could make a vampire cry.”
She sighs like you’re a lost cause and scoops out a handful of Angel Delight. It sticks to her fingers as she attempts to suck it off and you try desperately to think of Giles in Speedos and not how soundproof the walls are. “Dude, you’re a slayer; suck it up.”
“Don’t call me ‘dude’- there’s no such thing as Bostonian Surfers.”
“There so are!”
“How would you know?”
“Because I-” Your witty (and well considered) response is cut off by a glob of Angel Delight hitting the exact centre of your face. You toy with congratulating her on a good shot but instead scoop up your own handful and rut it into her nice blue top. “Ha!”
“O-M-G! This is my favourite top!” You hold a laugh in so hard there’s the possibility of organ rupture. “Don’t give me that- I broke my leg and your sister made me watch episodes of Gossip Girl and The OC back to back. I’m considering trading you in for a leggier, dumber model. And then turning evil and ruling the world with my sarcastic jibes.”
“Blair isn’t actually evil.” You reply before you can stop yourself.
“Oh shut up,” You finger off some of the pudding on her top and refuse to let it go to waste, “We both know my taste in television never evolved beyond fourteen but at least I don’t watch Saturday morning cartoons.”
She scoffs and punches your arm. You hold in a wince. “I have a five year old daughter! I need to keep up with the trends!”
“Tell the truth.”
“I like the funny voices.”
You ‘ha’ your victory and do a very small happy-dance. She rolls her eyes but flashes her dimples and makes your heart blossom.
It’s like calling someone after ten years apart and only having to say ‘it’s me’ for them to get it. The smile is simple and easy and yours.
You grin back, still a little lost in the moment, so mainly just because it’s Faith and a smile that belongs to you. “You look nice.” She does.
“Thanks. You…” She trails off, noticing how roughly half of you is covered in Angel Delight mix. “You look like you need to sit down. Or possibly see a nurse.”
You try not to imagine what sort of an affliction would involve being covered in pink powder. The mousse itself doesn’t seem to want to come off your face. Even when you use your sleeve. “Please tell me this doesn’t really look as puss-like as I think it does?”
Faith frowns, “I think you just ruined pudding for me.”
“Not possible. I’ve seen you have ten puddings in a row- after a full meal.”
“Yo, that was like a… big… demon.” Pause. “Ok, so I don’t actually remember which time you were there for but I’m guessing there’d been something… athletic… happening.” She leers.
“A-ha-ha-no.” You shove her back but she just giggles and leans closer. “Faith.”
The warning tone does nothing. “Shh, B…” Watching her edge ever closer you shudder- in the wrong way.
“Faith…” The table rattles as you step back into it then screeches against the grain of the wood floor. “Stop.”
“You mean ‘go’.”
You smack away her hand. “I mean ‘stop’.”
The front door rattles just as the seed of doubt swells in Faith’s eye.
“Bethy!” She winces at the sound of Henry’s voice, at the name he insists on calling you- because ‘Buffy’ is just too American. “Sweetheart, I’m home.” He chuckles, rounding the door into the living room.
You sigh in relief. It’s not wrong to only want her touches when you want them. There’s been too much of the bad kind of touching today.
“Faith, nice to see you.” Henry nods amicably, shaking her hand (and ignoring the pudding covering you both) as she nods back in a generally bemused manner, “How are you?”
“Good… working… hard.” She lies, barely interested.
He chuckles, thinking she’s making a joke and being friendly, and pulls you towards him, wrapping one of his big arms around your tiny shoulders. You smile thinly as she visually scoffs with an ‘are you kidding me?!’ look. Henry laughs again even when she comments on your mushiness making her sick. He thinks he loves you, he thinks you’re his. And why shouldn’t he? You haven’t told him any different and you know that love is not love if not returned… at least, that’s what you think.
Though… it might be nice to be his- to love him.
He doesn’t even know you love her.
Faith is merely counted among your friends in his eyes, an odd friend though; one you barely see but care about enough to promote to ‘aunt’.
Is that weird? That he’s never asked about Rosy’s father? He’s marrying you- taking her on as his stepdaughter and yet he hasn’t questioned her paternity. You know he cares, that he honestly does want to be a part of her life but why not ask? If it’s to spare you heartache then that’s understandable but how does he know there isn’t some raving, psychotic loon father locked up in a high security prison with a stripy shirt and a huge scar on his forehead?!
Way to freak yourself out
“So you’re having fun with the…” He leans forward and lowers his voice, “slaying?”
Faith takes a moment to decide whether or not this discussion is worth it, chewing imaginary gum. “Ye…ah.” She shrugs, rolls her eyes and walks off upstairs.
“Well, she’s getting sweeter.” They’ve only met a handful of times in the last two years but this is probably the deepest and nicest conversation they’ve had so far.
“Just because I love you doesn’t mean I have to love your friends.” He brushes pink pudding off the top of your nose and then licks his finger, “Mm, please tell me there’s more of this in an actual bowl and not just down your front? I can only envisage the court cases from having invited small children to lick you.”
His eyes twinkle at you from beneath his regal brow and your breath catches slightly- he is the type of handsome rarely seen out of black and white movies. In the flashbulbs of disposable cameras he is ugly and in the grey day he is plain but caught like this, with the low, orange glow of autumn sunset, you think you might just fall in love.
It’s unfair to compare him to Faith and you shouldn’t do it. They are that thing children can never begin to understand; both ‘good’ but ‘different’. They are beyond comparison because they are two such separate things.
He likes to talk and you love that about him. When you are finally both in bed at night the two of you sit for at least an hour and discuss anything that might be on your mind. It’s strange that he knows so much about you and yet so little. You disclose the minutiae of your day and then digress to heavy topics, how you feel about world events, your own values and dreams. He might not know your history but he knows you as a person; he can predict how you will react to any situation, knows which pages of the newspaper to leave open for you and memorises anecdotes that he thinks you will enjoy. Yours is a meeting of minds.
With him you feel as if you are a better person, or- or maybe he just uncovers the one you’ve been all along. When Rose aced the entrance exam to her posh pre-school (because where you start in life is of ‘the utmost importance’) and you refused to take any credit, he sat you down and corrected you. He reminded you of your ‘human intelligence’, your ability to read people and empathise. Sitting together, watching the news one night, you’d elucidated why certain figures were acting the way they were- not from any knowledge of the situation, merely from empathy, the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
You’d thought of Faith and been ashamed. It was hard to empathise with her sometimes, hard when someone so close to you acted badly to see anything past your own hurt feelings. An old argument with Kennedy came back to you- she’d asked (screamed) why you couldn’t relate your own depression to Faith’s. You shut down the argument before she could continue because, in all honesty, you’d never seen it that way before, the self-loathing and misery you’d felt after being ripped out of heaven was buried so far down in your subconscious you’d never desired to evaluate it. Like the partially healed flesh under a torn-off scab it hurt to even consider it. But you should have done. That didn’t make you feel every smart.
“Are you alright, darling?”
“I- oh.” You realise suddenly that there’s a tear rolling down your cheek. “It’s nothing. Just a silly little…”
He takes you in fully; the messy clothes, watering eyes and red handprint. “Faith?”
“We had a fight. About cake. Or- the lack of cake. So then I suggested Angel Delight. And she hates Angel Delight. So we fought. And I covered her in pink mousse. And she covered me in pink mousse.” Five gallons of it. “Apparently she won.”
Henry takes a deep breath and ‘hmm’s that way you’ve come to realise most English men do.
“You think that’s stupid don’t you?”
“No, it’s just… silly.” He says, in a way that makes you think things won’t ever be silly again. But then cracks a grin. “I like it!”
You grin back in relief. There seems to be a lot of that around him.
“How’s my favourite girl?”
“If I didn’t know you were talking about my daughter I’d be upset! Still, am I at least second?” You kiss him and smile coquettishly.
“Second?!” He gasps, “No, of course not, you, my love, are my favourite woman.”
The Angel Delight spreads across his chest as he pulls you close to kiss until your toes curl. “Yummy.”
There’s a pitter-patter of little feet running down the stairs so you sit Henry down in his favourite chair to save him from being knocked over by a freakishly strong, miniature child. “Daddy! You’re home!” Rose sluggishly runs to him and throws herself across his lap- taking a messy leap to get there.
He lifts her up with her favourite new toy so they can be face to face. “Hello Sweet Pea. Did you have a good party? I’m so sorry I couldn’t be here.”
“That-” She pauses for a ginormous yawn. “Tha’s… o… kay…”
You share a chuckle with Henry as Rosy tries to literally shake off her tiredness. She seems smaller when she’s sleepy, for no reason other than her body relaxes. Like a floppy little doll. Rose first fell in love with Henry when he picked her up and swung her around in the air. She’s so used to everyone treating her as if she might break at any moment it excites her when people are willing to rough and tumble. When he’s sitting down and she stands on his lap they see exactly eye-to-eye. “Tired?”
“Just a little. I have a new friend though.”
“You made up with Felicity Benn? I thought we hated her?”
She gives him her best conspiratorial evil glare. “Oh we do. Bliss is still on probation, she wouldn’t even have been invited but someone wants to be friends with her mummy.”
Faith, who must have followed Rose down silently, snorts, “Mummy’s just hoping she’ll get some.”
“Faith!” It’s half a gasp of surprise and half a gasp of ‘how dare you’, with an underscore of ‘thank you for saying that low enough for only my slayer hearing to pick up on’.
“What’s wrong?” Henry asks in concern.
“Nothing, nothing, Faith just… startled me. Go on, Rosy, tell Daddy about your new friend.”
A mean little voice behind you grumbles, “Bitch.” But you pretend not to have heard.
“This” Rose pauses for dramatic effect, and then pulls the china doll from behind her back with a flourish, “Is Mimi.”
“Mimi?” He gasps as if he hasn’t even noticed the toy before now. “Well, my goodness Pea, she’s your prettiest friend yet!”
“You’re only saying that because she looks just like me!” Rosy snuggles further into his lap and sits Mimi down on his other leg. “We’re twins.” She shows him their matching necklaces and he makes the mandatory impressed noises while raising his eyebrows at you- who would send a five year old a necklace of pearls?
“Great-uncle Mimtal sent her.” You answer, with classic ‘crazy old relatives’ voice.
He smirks, “Ah. Well, she’s lovely Rose.”
“We’re going to be best friends. Forever.”
“So no more Bliss-and-Rose?”
She shrugs and rolls her eyes, “Only if she grovels.”
“Well, she did say you are ‘half her height’ so I guess it’s only fair.”
“Exactly! I’m at least armpit height.” Rosy yawns again- one so huge she has to lean backwards to get it out.
Henry kisses the top of her head lightly and hugs her tightly. “You should be getting to bed, Sweet Pea. You can tell me all about your party in the morning, and I’ll make you French toast and smoked salmon… maybe even give you a present?”
She snuggles deeper into his side. “Mm, presents…”
“Oh no, don’t go falling asleep on me or we’ll never get you up to bed.” Henry sets her back on her feet with a little pat on the back.
He stands up, intending to take her, but she toddles over to you. “Mummy?” Rose stretches up her arms, too tired to walk up the stairs- her new doll permanently clasped in her left fist. You pick her up awkwardly with your right hand- the left still isn’t strong enough and in heels she’s even further down. It’s actually sweet when, noticing your wince, Faith steps in to lift her away.
“Come on, baby- let’s go get snuggled up.”
Faith freezes. You gulp. Henry doesn’t even look up.
You follow Faith and Rose upstairs, watch as they go through the nightly ritual your little happy family of three normally performs; tucking Rose in with a story, a kiss, her teddy and, the latest addition to the family, Mimi. “Nighty nighty, Ro-Ro.”
“Pyjama pyjama, Fay-Fay.” Rosy mumbles sleepily, turning towards Faith’s caressing hand. “Do you love me?”
“We did this one earlier!” Faith flushes and looks guiltily at you- the two of them have a thousand different code words and sayings. You used to feel left out but not so much anymore.
“But it’s my favourite…!”
“Ok…” Faith moves the neck of Rose’s pyjama top so she can lay her hand on the skin above Rosy’s heart. “I love you from my toes to my nose, because you’re always my little Rose, from the first start we’re never apart, grown not of my heart but in my heart.” Hugely corny, hugely cute, utterly unFaith
They Eskimo kiss and Rose opens her arms out to you. “Bee-Bee, cuddle?”
She’s going to kill you. Swear to God, she’s actually going to be the death of you. You’re going to look at her cute little Faith-face next to the original, being so sweet and adorable and your heart is going to combust into a ball of… flame. Or… or…
Life sucks. “Sure, Baby, always cuddles for Ro-Ro.”