Valse Triste, Chapter 3

She wakes up to the smell of bacon, a lonely bed, and a hangover. She rushes to the bathroom to empty out yesterday's Chunky Monkey and wine, then brushes her teeth. A quick knock and Sarah bursts into the bathroom, out of concern, and she kisses the top of Julia's ratty blonde hair.

"Sis, you should shower then come down to eat. Syd's off to school and Joel's helping Crosby with the wedding preparations. We have the day to ourselves, hon."

She vaguely nods, still in the hangover-and-sleepy stupor, as she undresses to hop into the shower to clear her mind, hopefully.

She comes downstairs to a suspicious aroma of burnt food. Sarah grins at her, being caked in flour. "I made you peanut butter pancakes with a chocolate chip smile in it, like how you used to always insist on Ma how to make it." She tries her hardest to hold it, but starts laughing at how ridiculous her sister looks. Sarah pouts, then mentions," I burned the first few batches, but I managed to get some that weren't burnt. And stop laughing! Now I need to shower! "

"Thanks, sis. I'll happily eat it." She smiles, then goes over to fill her mug, then on second thought, gets another one for her sister. Sarah snatches the second mug, then they walk over to the table and eat the breakfast that Sarah prepared.

"So…" Sarah started slowly. Julia glances at her sister, a piece of pancake halfway to her mouth, and then responds with her mouth still partially full. "Yeah?"

"Eww, gross, Julia. Say it, don't spray it!" She swallows what was in her mouth, and then sets the fork down. "Yes, what is your question, sister that I love and adore?"

"Are you okay if we bring the sister in laws along for the dress shopping, or would you prefer just the two of us? I think Amber also wants to come shopping for the wedding, but if you want, we can blow them off and just go by our-"

"Of course, we all can go. Then we can have lunch someplace fancy, and bond with Jasmine… after all, we need to brace her against Crosby, for her sake." She finishes the statement with a smile, then eats the last piece of the pancake. "Thanks for breakfast, sis. I guess… I'll go get ready."

"Wait – I need to go back to Ma's place and get my clothes… will you be fine waiting, and seeing the Interrogation Squad? Or I can borrow something of yours…" Julia's expression is unreadable. "Look, just humour your big sister – she loves you and she's worried about you… and she loves you." Sarah grabs their plates and sets it in the sink, letting them soak for a bit prior to washing.

"I'm not ready yet for the full Braverman clan to question me, even though they probably bombarded Joel with questions." Julia's solemn expression and her normally sparkling blue eyes are muted.

"Okay… and oh, I can ask Amber to bring some stuff over." Sarah quickly sends off a text message to Amber, asking for some spare clothes. "Now hurry up and get ready. Hustle!" She playfully whacks Julia on the butt to get her to move.

Amber arrives with a small duffel bag, armed with something that looks like what she would be wearing, not what Sarah usually wears.

"Oh, come on mom. Just try it on, please?"

Sarah sighs, then goes to the guest bedroom to change. Amber lounges around, looking at Sydney's artwork that adorned the walls. In a moment of mercy, she pulls down the art that depicted their family with Zoe included, and shoves it behind a few law books. She sits on the sofa, then hears someone walking closely.

"Oh, hey Amber." Her normally boisterous tone, today – a soft spoken tone of voice. She awkwardly sits next to her. They never really repaired their relationship, with That Incident in her office. But Julia envied Amber's free spirit, and Amber envied Julia's gumption. Amber leans over to her a little, and Julia accepts, softly hugging her niece from behind. Amber grabs her aunt's arms softly, then hugs her tightly, softly whispering, "I love you, Aunt Julia."

"Me too… sweetie, me too. I love you so much."

Sarah walks in to see her sister and daughter comforting each other, with Amber softly humming a song that she remembered Seth singing to her to drown out the neighbour's fighting when they still lived in the ratty apartment in Fresno.