A/N: This is not a girl!peen fic. Quinn has lady parts.
Thomas sits on the floor and watches.
Mama is bustling about the kitchen, pouring things into a big bowl, stirring, opening and closing drawers, turning knobs on the oven. She's wearing his favorite dress, though he's far too young to consciously say so; he just knows that he loves the dark blue against her skin, and how the crinoline makes it poof out just so.
The entire time she's working, she prattles to him about cookies (which is what she's making, only she says it we're, like he's actually involved somehow and not sitting on the floor) and about how nice the weather is and maybe they can go to the park later and about how when mother gets home from work, they'll have a nice dinner and maybe watch Jackie Gleason on the box. Oh, about anything really.
It's the same as yesterday.
Mama slides the tray into the oven and turns another dial and there's a whirring and then she smiles down at him.
"Well, Thomas," she says with a bright smile, "I think it's high time we got this place ship shape."
He doesn't know what that means, but he grins and nods and she scoops him and laughs.
By the time the cookies are finished, Mama has been over every single inch of the house with her feather duster and she has also used the brand new vacuum cleaner that mother brought home in every single room. Thomas has lined up his shoes in a neat row, and all of his toys are now tidied and put away.
Mama is in the bathroom with the door shut tight when he comes out of his room, and she's making a sound like she found something funny and unexpected in the bathtub. He stops in front of the door, and she is abruptly silent. There's a muffled, "Thomas?" through the door, and when he says, "Yes, mama," there's a funny squeak like a mouse.
"Thomas," she says again, "can you go into your room for me and find me that book that you like to read? The one with the bunny?"
Thomas does as he's asked and when he comes back out, mama is in the kitchen again, but she doesn't look like she's been laughing after all.
He wants, in his way, to ask if she's better now, but he's learned that if says nothing she'll scoop him again a lot sooner. If he talks now, it might not be for the rest of the day. So he just hovers in the corner with his book about bunnies, and when it's clear that she's forgotten that she asked him to find it in the first place, he huddles himself down and flips through the pages.
He can't read yet, but he already knows how the story ends.
He's still in his corner when mother comes home. He hears her car in the driveway – it's a big square white car – and then her keys jingle at the door.
"Mama," he calls, because mama has been in her bedroom since Thomas brought out his book about the bunnies and sat down in the corner.
She flies up the hallway, hands flurried, smoothing her hair, fixing her dress. She flashes her smile down and Thomas and scoops him up. "Ready, Thomas?" she asks and then whisks them both to the door, just in time to welcome mother home from work.
Mother gets that same smile when the door opens, and they kiss one another hello before mother's attention is on Thomas.
"Hello, Tom," she says.
He ducks his head to acknowledge her, and there's a perfectly sculpted eyebrow raised in mama's direction.
"I thought you said he was getting better?"
Mama shifts him to her other hip, takes mother's briefcase from her and hangs up her coat. "He is," she says, shuffling backwards out of the closet and closing the door. Mother is already pouring herself a bourbon. "He really is, Quinn. He chatted up a storm today. He's probably just tired from all of the excitement. We made cookies!"
Mama wanders into the kitchen and shows off her cookies; mother's hmmm is the standard reply, but then she's already buried in her newspaper.
"I hope you didn't let him spoil his dinner."
"Oh, I didn't," mama says brightly, sinking into a chair next to mother. "We had a lovely day. We missed you, of course."
She gets another hmmm in response, and then Thomas is on the floor again, watching.
Mama serves dinner, and they eat as a family. When it's over, mother walks her bourbon into the den and fans open her newspaper again.
Thomas watches mama clean up the table and wash the dishes. This is the only time of day that she sings anymore, and it's Thomas's favorite. She has a voice that makes him think of what angels singing must sound like. He listens, and then she's done tidying up, and just like that, the angels stop singing.
It makes him wish that there was just a big supper going on so that she'd never stop singing again because when she does, he remembers how she sounds in the bathroom during the day when she's laughing at the tub, and it's just not the same.
This is the only time of day when they're all together.
Mother sits in her chair with her newspaper and bourbon, and mama sits on the couch and stares at the flicker of black and white coming from the box. When Jackie Gleason does something funny, mama always laughs and rumples Thomas's hair, but when she looks at mother to share the joke, those lines around her eyes always disappear.
Tonight, mama leaves Thomas on the sofa and leans against the arm of mother's chair.
Her fingers disappear behind mother's head, and there's a flutter in mother's eyes when mama presses her lips to a blonde temple and murmurs, "I missed you today."
Mother is stiff when she pulls away. "For Christ's sake, Rachel, Tom is right here. Control yourself."
Mama's face is the same as when she was stung by that wasp last summer, and she stands up abruptly.
"God, Quinn, I wasn't—I missed you today. I miss you right now."
"I'm right here," mother murmurs, and everything instantly seems to be back to normal. Mama resumes her place on the couch, but then a few minutes later she's up and in the kitchen.
"Thomas," she calls,"one last drink before bed," and Thomas trots into the kitchen and takes the milk from her. This is their ritual. Every night, she gives him milk before tucking him in.
Tonight she leaves him in the kitchen.
She barely slows on her way down the hallway. "I'm pregnant. Thought you would want to know," she directs into the den and then the bedroom door is shut tight, and Thomas can hear that little laugh that she makes sometimes. He doesn't know what pregnant means, but he thinks about it anyway as he curls himself down and sips his milk.
The television box has been making the fuzzy noise for a long time now. Still, mother doesn't move. Her newspaper is rumpled on the floor. Her suit, as pressed and stiff as ever, is the only thing about her that looks normal.
Every so often she softly whispers the same word, over and over. Who?
And Thomas sits on the floor and watches.