AUTHOR'S NOTE: There are a couple of quotes from S.E Hinton's The Outsiders. Used with love.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Night in the Life
"So, finish reading chapter twelve of The Outsiders for Monday. There will be a quiz." Rosie Stone held up her hands to forestall the groans she knew would be coming. "And there will be a prize for the one who gets the best score."
The bell rang, and a line of kids in various brightly coloured coats streamed past her, some smiling, some even going so far as to wish her goodnight. She busied herself tidying a few papers on her desk although it was very much a case of locking the stable door after the horse had bolted, but better than nothing until she noticed that one child had lingered behind.
She looked up and smiled warmly at him. "Matthew," she said, her voice full of the affection she was forced to curtail during school hours. "Did you want something baby?"
Matthew shrugged, his eyes cast down towards the floor, and Rosie's smile fell from her lips. She knew what that look meant.
"Mark's at your house tonight?"
Matthew shrugged again, but nodded minutely. Rosie sighed.
She opened her arms wide and Matthew rushed into them, nestling under her chin and shaking with suppressed sobs. He quickly recovered himself though, and pulled back, wiping his eyes. "Sorry," he mumbled.
"Don't you dare," Rosie murmured, stroking achingly familiar blonde hair back from his forehead. "Don't you dare be sorry." She looked away for a moment, then nodded briefly, seeming to come to a decision. "Meet me by the car, okay? I'll be right out."
He smiled, and she was reminded for the millionth time of why she loved him so much. "Thanks Auntie Rosie," he said, leaning up plant a sloppy kiss on her cheek.
Rosie waited until he was gone before she pulled out her phone and dashed off a quick text. Better cancel Blackbird tonight sweetie. We've got company.
The reply was almost instantaneous. Again? Fourth night already this month. I'm gonna stab my sister in the eye next time I see her.
Rosie smirked. What with? A rusty spork.
Grinning, she packed up the papers she had to grade and the lunch she'd forgotten to eat and made her way out to her car where Matthew was waiting. With any luck, they'd beat the traffic.
"Pizza okay for you tonight?" she asked, knowing what the answer would be before she even asked. "I'll get Auntie Selina to pick some up on her way home."
Her nephew's smile was more than enough of a reply, and was almost almost worth the cancelled dinner plans with Selina.
She dashed off another quick text to her girlfriend a pizza order this time - and gamely pulled into traffic. She effected deafness when Matthew retuned her radio.
Selina retired to her office after dinner to call her sister. Rosie left Matthew watching TV and joined her, watching from the doorway as her girlfriend paced in front of her desk.
"Caroline," Selina said tightly. "I was wondering if I could speak to Matthew." She paused to listen to the response, and Rosie smiled, taking a tiny bit of perverse pleasure in the verbal ass kicking her sort-of-sister-in-law was about to receive. "No shit he's not there because he's here. Again. And yet you haven't called his phone, you haven't called the school, you haven't called me. Did you even care?"
Rosie reached out a hand and briefly tangled her fingers with Selina's. "Don't get too worked up," she whispered. Selina quirked her lips for a moment before returning her attention to her sister.
"Maybe he should just live here all the time," she said, trying hard to sound nonchalant. "It'd be easier, right? Rosie could take him to school. And you'd see him as often as you wanted." The longing in her voice was obvious to Rosie. She wondered if Caroline heard it. She wondered if Caroline cared.
Suddenly Selina's face hardened. "Oh, you did not just use the D word," she growled, and Rosie decided it would be best to close the study door and get back to Matthew. The conversation between the two sisters sounded like it was about to get...heated. Her nephew didn't need to hear that.
"Hey buddy," she said, throwing herself onto the sofa with a sigh. "Anything good on?"
Matthew shrugged. "Not really," he murmured. He seemed far away again. "Is Auntie Selina calling mom?" he asked. "Do I...do I have to go home?"
Rosie smiled sadly. "I don't think so baby," she said. "Not tonight, anyway." She looked away, and her eyes lighted on the cabinet by the window. "Hey," she said, getting up and crossing over to it. "I know it's early, but...how would you like to have one of your birthday presents now?"
The child perked up. "Yes please!"
Rosie grinned, extracting a thin package from the cabinet. "I know all the kids have been asking for this..." she said, handing it to him and watching him tear open the wrapping paper, revealing a copy of Forza Motorsport 3 for Xbox 360. His face fell. "What's the matter honey?" she asked, her brow knitting together in a frown.
He shook his head. "Nothing," he murmured. "Thank you Auntie Rosie." His voice was flat.
She crossed the room in two quick strides and knelt before him. "Honey, what is it?" she asked steadily.
There was a long pause. Matthew couldn't meet her eyes. "I don't have an Xbox anymore," he murmured eventually.
Rosie blinked twice, nonplussed. "But...we got it for you last Christmas," she said, confused. "What is it...red rings of death?" She smiled. "They can fix that you know."
"No." Matthew shook his head. "Mark...Mark sold it."
She drew in a sharp breath. "I'm sorry!" Matthew wailed immediately, his face crumpling. Rosie shook her head at once.
"Oh no baby...it's not your fault." She drew him into her arms and held him as tight as she could. "None of this is your fault. None of it."
She held him for a long time, waiting for his breaths to even out, waiting for her burning anger to subside. By the time he was calm again Selina had emerged from her office, looking somehow simultaneously weary, sad, and unutterably pissed off. Rosie quirked an eyebrow at her in a silent question.
"She says she's not coming 'all the way to Highland Park' on a weekend," she murmured darkly, but her face cleared when Matthew turned in the circle of Rosie's arms to look at her. "Any objection to bunking with us for the weekend buddy?" she asked.
His radiant smile was all the answer she needed.
It was supposed to be a guest bedroom, but Selina couldn't think of the last guest that had slept there other than Matthew. His things were everywhere clothes in the closet and drawers; books on the shelf; posters on the wall. It looked like his room. At least a week out of every month it was his room, and what she wouldn't give to make the arrangement permanent. She stood, her hip and shoulder leaning against the door-frame, as Rosie tucked him in and began to read to him.
"That's a homework book," he complained, but without any real sourness in his voice.
Rosie rolled her eyes. "Downside to staying with your teacher, I guess," she said. "I know what you're supposed to be reading."
Selina managed a small smile as Rosie began to read, her soft, mellow tones filling the room. Silently, she sloped off to her own bedroom to get changed. An early night was definitely in order.
She sighed as she pulled her hair out of its ponytail. Her watch ended up on the bedside table and her ring was placed beside it in its usual place. Selecting a plain white t-shirt and some long, flannel pyjama bottoms, she quickly changed and headed back to her nephew's room, hoping she was in time to say goodnight.
"...that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you're gold when you're a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn."
Selina stopped in the doorway again, listening to her girlfriend reading. It was at times like this she could imagine her in the classroom. She wondered if the kids loved her as much as she did.
"It's just when you get used to everything that it's day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way, it's a good way to be..." Selina thought she heard a slight catch in Rosie's voice, but she recovered well. "And don't be so bugged over being a greaser. You still have a lot of time to make yourself what you want. There's still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don't think he knows. Your buddy, Johnny."
Rosie closed the book, noting Matthew's drooping eyelids. "We'll finish it tomorrow," she said softly. "Sleep now."
"'Kay..." he mumbled. "Night Auntie Rosie...night Auntie 'Lina..."
"Goodnight," Selina whispered from the door. "I love you."
"Love you too..."
He was asleep almost before he finished speaking. His mouth hung slightly open as Rosie pulled the comforter up around him, pressing a brief kiss to his forehead. Selina thought she heard her girlfriend whisper something, but she couldn't make out what it was. The question was pushed from her mind when Rosie turned to her, her eyes dark and shining with unshed tears. Wordlessly, she held out her hand and led the other woman to their bedroom.
"What did Caroline say?" Rosie asked tonelessly while Selina fussed over her; unlacing her shoes and unbuttoning her shirt before handing her a nightshirt to change into.
Selina shrugged. "That her son's not going to live with a couple of dykes," she said tightly. Rosie flinched.
"Not more than a quarter of the time, anyway," she replied sourly. "Only when one of her boyfriends is around or she's out drinking or she's just plain got something better to do."
Selina grimaced. "Pretty much," she said. She thought of her nephew sleeping in the other room, and of the semi-regular tears her girlfriend shed over him. "I really hate her sometimes," she admitted softly.
Rosie stood abruptly and stalked into the en-suite. Selina followed her and watched as she began to brush her teeth with quite unnecessary violence. Rosie stood with her back to her for a long time after she was done, bracing herself on the sink. Finally she looked up and met her girlfriend's eyes in the mirror. "I want to try and get custody anyway," she said firmly. "To hell with everything. To hell with her. I want him with us, Selina." Her voice broke a little. "I want him with us..."
Selina came up behind her and wrapped her arms round her waist, breathing slow and deep as she rested her forehead on the other woman's back. "Oh, honey..." she murmured sadly. "You know I want that too. But-"
"Don't say it," Rosie interrupted, her voice tight.
Selina sighed. "Okay," she murmured at last. "I won't say it. Just...come to bed. Come to bed with me now, and we'll talk about it in the morning."
Rosie turned in the circle of her arms, reaching up to tangle her hands in Selina's hair. "I love him, you know," she whispered. "And I love you. I just wish...I wish he was ours."
Tears nipped at Selina's eyes which Rosie quickly kissed away. She followed the path they would have taken down her lover's cheeks, taking in her eyelids and the bridge of her nose before claiming her lips in a long, slow, sad kiss.
Selina took in three deep breaths when it ended, her head bowed. "I love you too," she murmured finally, then smiled crookedly. "Sorry we didn't get to go out tonight."
Rosie shrugged. "There'll be other nights," she said indulgently.
"Still," Selina replied, and hesitated a little before adding: "Happy Anniversary."
Rosie leaned forward and dropped the sweetest of kisses onto her girlfriend's forehead. "Happy Anniversary to you too," she whispered.
Selina smiled a watery smile. "Come to bed."
They settled down next to each other under the covers, feeling the comfort and familiarity of their togetherness settle over them as surely as the blankets they'd pulled around their bodies. Selina reached over and flicked off the lamp and the apartment was plunged into darkness.
Except for the night-light in Matthew's room, leaking its brightness into the hallway and, from there, under the door of his aunts' room. It was supposed to be for his benefit, but...Selina and Rosie slept better when it was there too.
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