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When she walks into the bedroom, she finds her daughter sitting on top of the covers all ready for her bedtime story, nearly bouncing with excitement. Five-year-old Carly likes Granny's stories best.
Catherine leans against the doorframe, listening to her mother beginning to read only to be interrupted by the little girl. "Granny? Tell me again how your Mommies freed all the sad dolls and brought down the evil prince?"
"Sure, honey." Her mother closes the fairy tale book and with a wink at her granddaughter, she begins again, "Once upon a time..." Carly claps her hands happily.
"Mom," she chides gently. They are both just a little too excited about this story.
She gets a smile and a shrug from her mother and a pout from her daughter, so she just shakes her head and turns to prepare dinner for the adults, half-listening to the tale her mother weaves to send her little girl off to dreamland. Carly loves her Grandma's storytelling, Brothers Grimm with a feminist spin and just a tad of real life that leaves enough room for magic.
Someday when Carly is old enough, she will find out that those sad dolls were real people, the bad prince a long hunted serial killer with the chilling nickname Kiss-Me-Not. Carly might not be creeped out by that the way Catherine was when she learned some of the facts behind the story.
She prefers not to think of it much, the reality her mother dealt with when she worked as a foreign correspondent and later as an FBI press liaison. She has the vision of a safer, quieter life for her own family, very much like her grand aunt she was named after.
Starting to cut vegetables for a salad, she imagines Carly listening with wide eyes. She just can't get enough of the heroines of that story and their adventures, made suitable for children's ears. Catherine only vaguely remembers the two women who raised her mother, a highly decorated lieutenant of the SFPD and a Pulitzer Price winning reporter, but she remembers feeling slightly intimidated on family visits even though they'd always welcomed her.
Part of the feeling always comes back whenever Carly demands that particular story. Catherine supposes that it's the need to protect her from harm, even of the imaginary kind. Those threats are long gone, the 'bad prince who sewed the princess' lips shut so she wouldn't tell the secret', or the 'evil witch that guarded the house of the sad dolls so they wouldn't run'.
Part of her feels damn proud that this is part of her family history though the adventurous streak seems to have passed a generation in her. Through catching the infamous Kiss-Me-Not and bringing down a world-wide operating human trafficking organization, they still made the decision to have a child together. Catherine can hardly imagine what it had to have been like in those times. These days, no one even uses the term 'gay marriage' any more; it's just marriage for everyone.
She feels nostalgic all of a sudden; maybe she'll get out those old photo albums after dinner with pictures of the house where her mother had made her first steps.
In the bedroom, the narrator's voice is going quieter, the listener's eyelids growing heavy as she is now snuggled under the covers. "They lived happily ever after."
Unwittingly, Catherine has to smile. That part seems to have been true. You could see it in the way they looked at each other in those photographs, even near the end. The love had always been there. She only hopes that the same will be true for her and Dan, thirty-something years later.
She steps back in the room where Carly is fast asleep now, leaning down to kiss her temple, her hand brushing a strand of reddish baby-soft hair back from her daughter's face. "Thanks, Mom," she says.
They leave the room quietly
, on tiptoes. At the door, Catherine turns to look at her little girl. Sighing a bit, she thinks that quiet and safe might not be what Carly is going to envision in her life. In any case, she knows who to blame for that.
"I think I want to hear the story tonight, too," she tells her mother. It's for a different reason that Catherine likes to hear about those strong beautiful women in her ancestry.
Truth be told, she's just a sucker for happy endings.
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