Nine am. Patty opened the door before Ellen had time to knock.
"We're running late. We lost Blueberry."
Patty rolled her eyes, but it was unconvincing. Ellen could tell that it was exactly this sort of thing that gave most meaning to her life these days and that behind the eye-roll, she was secretly enjoying the mundaneness of it all.
"Late" to Patty apparently meant exactly on time.
"Oh no, did you find him?" Ellen said, leaning down to rub Catherine's blonde hair.
It was funny, she thought, she could not have imagined a child more suited to being Patty's granddaughter. If someone had asked her to picture what Julia would have looked like, Ellen would have imagined a child strikingly similar to Catherine.
Only then did Ellen notice that the TV was on; a new, portable TV sitting on the worktop where Catherine had been eating her breakfast moments before.
"What were you guys watching?" Ellen asked.
Patty gave a quick, dismissive flick of her hand and said "Oh, I don't know, some documentary about coal mining lawsuits in Nigeria. Catherine seemed intrigued."
"Intrigued by coal mining class actions at three," Ellen laughed, "she's definitely your grandchild, Patty."
Ellen wondered when it had stopped feeling strange to be at Patty's apartment on Saturday mornings – Sunday afternoons – Friday nights – at some point it had stopped feeling inappropriate and had just become – normal. Normal and yet never boring. She enjoyed stepping into these private moments more than she allowed herself to believe; a moment between Patty and Catherine, a mundane problem like losing a stuffed toy. Ellen couldn't figure out why she was so intrigued by these scenarios, but she was.
She looked around. The tidiness of the place irritated her for some reason. Just one time she would have liked Patty to open the door to reveal a mess; toys strewn all over the floor, plates left unwashed on the sideboard, dirty clothes abandoned on the couch. Yeah, that would have been nice – and normal. I guess billions of dollars in the bank account sort of guarantees a mess-free existence, Ellen thought.
She snapped out of her daydream.
"We found Blueberry," Catherine said - in the sweetest of voices Ellen had ever heard. It was almost a whisper.
"Yeah, luckily we did. Are we ready to go?" Patty asked.
"Yeah" another little whisper escaped Catherine's mouth and Ellen's heart melted just a little more.
"Good girl. Hop on over there to Ellen and ask her nicely to put your coat on for you. It's winter time. You'll be cold without it."
Ellen picked up the coat, which had been hanging on the end of the stairs, and knelt down to help Catherine put it on.
"Oh, by the way, I had to fire the new nanny."
"Actually, I have to admit, the last one was quite flaky."
"The flakiest of the lot. Mrs. Ororo was a temporary arrangement but I'm thinking of trying to get her permanently once we're back from the lake house."
"Good idea. She was nice. Catherine seemed to like her."
"Yeah. Right. Are we all ready?"
Nods all round.
Patty ushered Catherine and Ellen out the door. Catherine grabbed a hold of Ellen's hand, as they left the apartment.
Patty stopped for a moment and looked on as Ellen walked ahead holding her grandchild's hand. She realized that had anyone else been looking at the three of them it would instantly appear as though Catherine was Ellen's child - and that Ellen was Patty's daughter. She smiled to herself. In another life she could have been experiencing just that. Yet here she was, in her own very real and very fucked up life, experiencing something completely different.
Jesus. As usual, that therapist would have a field day with these thoughts.
She lost herself in that thought until Ellen turned around to catch her staring.
"Yeah, I'm fine, Ellen. Go on, I'm right behind you."