Hi everyone, la lisboa here, bringing you the last chapter. I'm so thrilled that there are so many people out there reading this story. When starophie and I first had the idea, we had no idea it would be this popular. I mean, I love it, and she loves it, but we didn't know if anyone else would. Turns out a lot of people do! I'm so grateful to all of you who have left such nice reviews and those of you putting this story on your favorite/follow list. It's a wonderful feeling to know that there are people out there who enjoy what we do. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
The story is ending here...for now. We are still thinking about a sequel and/or the oneshot series that we'd asked about several chapters back. And those things might still happen, but it won't be for a while. We both need a break after this exhilarating journey to refresh and recharge. It's not goodbye, just so long for now!
la lisboa and starophie
Phoebe tapped her foot anxiously against the leg of the barstool. She watched the red second-hand of the clock tick its way around the circle, edging ever closer to eight o' clock. When it hit the twelve, Phoebe dropped her toast on her plate and jumped off the stool to dash to the phone. Her sock-clad feet skidded to a stop as the phone began to ring, and she picked it up and pressed it to her ear.
"Mommy!" she said happily. "Good morning!"
"Tell her hi from me," Bex called through a mouthful of cereal.
"Becca, don't talk with your mouth full," Angela scolded.
Maura's voice was light as she greeted Phoebe. "Good morning, little light," she said.
"Have you left yet?" Phoebe asked excitedly. Today was the day! She had been living in Boston for a few weeks, because the school year had started for the girls, but Maura still had some accounts to settle in Maine. Maura had stayed with them in Boston for the first week, but then returned to their home in Maine to prepare for the official move. Phoebe was surprisingly very comfortable already with Angela, Jane, and Bex, of course, but she missed her mother.
"No," Maura laughed. "I'm still packing up the last few boxes – but I should be home before you're out of school."
"So we'll see you when we get home?" Phoebe was bouncing on the balls of her feet, filled to the brim with nervous energy.
"I still don't know why we have to go to school today," Bex complained from across the room. "It's practically a holiday!"
"If you had your way, Bug, every day would be a holiday," Jane kidded, flicking the end of one of Bex's braids.
"That's how it should be," Bex grumbled.
"I will be there, waiting for a big hug from my girls," Maura promised.
"I miss you, Mommy," Phoebe said.
"I know, sweetheart. I miss you, too. But I will see you so soon!"
Phoebe grinned. "Okay. I love you!"
"I love you, too."
Phoebe replaced the receiver and returned to her spot at the kitchen island. They were in her mother's old house, or so Jane had explained. Phoebe could see traces of her mother everywhere from the style of the furniture to the decorations of the walls. It appeared that Jane hadn't changed much in the ten years since Maura had left. Phoebe wondered if that had been Jane's own way of keeping Maura alive, even after she was gone. The memory of her lived on.
Phoebe and Bex shared a room on the second floor. The house was large enough that each girl could have had her own room, but Phoebe liked sleeping in the same bed as Bex. She had her own bed, of course, but she liked being able to snuggle in next to her sister. Although Bex was a bit messier than she would have preferred (not that it was news to her; she'd known from camp how Bex could throw her stuff all over the place), they lived quite amicably in the same room. And if Phoebe ever needed a break from the chaos, she could always go to her mother's room down the hall.
Her mother and Jane had slept in separate rooms when Maura had been there. Phoebe didn't mind, but she knew it bothered Bex somewhat. While Bex had originally been averse to the idea of her mother being a lesbian, Phoebe could tell that Bex had accepted her mother's sexual orientation. It seemed far more worrisome to Bex that her mother didn't share a bed with Phoebe's mother than it was that Bex's mother wanted to share a bed with a woman at all.
But Phoebe wasn't surprised. Ten years was a long time to be away from someone, especially if that someone thought you were dead. From everything her mother had told her about Jane, it was only a matter of time. Phoebe could already see the way the frost was melting. Phoebe saw the way Jane's entire face would light up when she talked to Maura on the phone. And while Jane never said anything, Phoebe could tell she was looking forward to Maura's return.
"Aw, man, I left my backpack upstairs!" Bex announced.
Jane caught Phoebe's eye, and Phoebe grinned. They both knew Bex could be a little absent-minded sometimes, especially when it came to school-related things. Phoebe wondered if Jane secretly hoped that she would rub off on her sister.
"Run upstairs and get it, Bug," Jane said. "And hurry. We don't want to be late!"
"Yes, we do," Bex grumbled as she slid off the barstool and traipsed upstairs. Angela followed her, and Jane took the empty seat next to Phoebe.
"So, kiddo, today's the big day," Jane said, reaching for a piece of toast. "Are you excited?"
Although Jane's tone was light and the question was innocent enough, Phoebe could sense that's not really what Jane wanted to ask. Of course she was excited, but she was nervous, too. Nervous for how the four of them would live together under one roof. Nervous for the things that would change – and nervous to see which ones wouldn't. Even with the changes, Phoebe was more excited than nervous.
She could tell Jane was nervous – excited, perhaps, but nervous, too. Phoebe tried to imagine what it would be like if she'd thought Bex had been dead for ten years, and suddenly found out she wasn't. Ten years was her entire life – it was a very long time. A lot had happened in ten years. And a lot more could happen in the next ten years to come.
"I'm very excited," Phoebe replied, smiling at Jane. "But I'm nervous, too."
"Nervous?" Jane repeated. "What are you nervous about?"
"It's just a lot of new things all at once," Phoebe tried to explain. "New school, new teachers. It's not like the work is hard or anything, and everyone seems really nice, and I think I will really like this school – I mean, it's not like I really had friends to leave behind at the old one – but I just-"
"Whoa, slow down there, kiddo," Jane said, laughing. Phoebe blushed, realizing that she had been rambling. But Jane was smiling at her.
"Listen, Phoebe," Jane said quietly. "It's okay to be nervous. Change can be a scary thing. But change can also be a good thing."
Phoebe couldn't help herself. "Is my mom coming back a good change?"
Jane blinked, and Phoebe wondered if she shouldn't have said anything at all. But then Jane wrapped her into a tight hug. "Yes," Jane whispered fiercely. "It's a wonderful change. I am so happy that she'll be here – that you'll both be here."
"Really?" Phoebe asked.
"Phoebe," Jane said, pulling back slightly to look at her. "All I ever wanted was your mother. And when she told me she wanted to have a child, then all I ever wanted was the two of you." Jane's voice broke. "And I was devastated when I thought I'd lost that. But now that you're here…I'm never gonna let either of you go."
"Not even for college?" Phoebe asked, shocked.
Jane laughed. "No. Not even then. It'll be Boston Cambridge University for you – that was your mother's alma mater."
Phoebe's eyes widened. "That's such a good school!"
"And I know you'd do well there," Jane said, smiling.
"Do well where?" Bex asked as she reentered the kitchen.
"At school today," Jane replied. "Come on, girls, let's go!"
Despite her best efforts, Phoebe couldn't concentrate. The teacher wasn't saying anything particularly interesting and Phoebe found her eyes focusing on the minute hand of the clock instead of the writing on the whiteboard. Only two hours until she would see her mother. One hour and fifty-nine minutes…One hour, fifty-nine minutes, and thirty seconds…
What would Jane say when her mother showed up? Would she take Maura into her arms, pull her close for a private moment? Phoebe wondered how her mother would react to that. She heard the love in her mother's voice any time she mentioned Jane; love, along with regret and longing. Was it a relationship that could be repaired, or was it one that would forever exist in the world of should have beens? And what would happen to her and Bex if their mothers split up?
"Bee, are you listening to me?"
Phoebe snapped her attention toward Bex. "Sorry. What did you say?"
"I asked if you wanted some of my cookies," Bex said. "It's snack time."
"It is?" Phoebe said blankly.
Bex laughed. "Yeah, silly! For like five minutes already."
Phoebe managed to laugh in return, and she accepted half of Bex's cookie with an embarrassed smile. She didn't want Bex to know how much she was thinking about their moms and what they would be doing. She didn't want Bex to worry about what would happen if their mothers didn't get back together – or even what would happen if they did. She was the older sister, and it was her job to look out for Bex.
The last hour and a half of class felt interminable. Phoebe wondered if her mother had arrived to the house yet – her house, Phoebe reminded herself – and if she'd started unpacking. Phoebe suppressed a giggle, smiling slightly to herself. If her mother had arrived, then of course she had started to unpack. Her mother wouldn't have it any other way. Phoebe could tell that Jane was more like Bex; the house hadn't been nearly as neat since her mother had left. But Phoebe also knew that her mother could survive Jane's less-than-neat habits, just as she could survive those of her sister.
Phoebe's heart threatened to beat out of her chest as the bus pulled up to their stop. She dashed from the bus, beating even Bex, who usually moved faster than her. Phoebe walked as quickly as possible, not wanting to run, but wanting to see her mother as soon as possible.
"Slow down, Bee!" Bex complained. "It's not a race!"
"Sorry," Phoebe said, although she only slowed down a little bit. "I'm just excited, that's all. Aren't you?"
Bex nodded. "It's gonna be so great with your mom here."
Phoebe bit her lip, wondering if she should caution Bex against having too much hope. But she couldn't bring herself to wipe that wide grin off her sister's face. Besides, Phoebe reasoned, it wouldn't do them any good to worry about things that only might happen.
But when Phoebe arrived home, she realized she didn't have to worry. All of her fears and anxieties were driven from her mind the second she saw her mother. Her mother's arms were around Jane as though it were the most natural thing in the world, and Jane's face had relaxed into a beautiful smile. Phoebe looked over at Bex, who was grinning.
"Girls," her mother said warmly, opening her arms. Phoebe and Bex ran forward to join in the embrace.
She hadn't known anything was missing until it was found. As Phoebe pulled Jane and Bex closer, she felt whole for the first time. Complete. Completely content with the world and her family, and just so, so happy. She wished this moment could last forever.
But even if it couldn't, there was no use worrying about that now. All that mattered was that their family was together, here and now. And she knew that she would never lose any of them.
Even if she did, she knew she would always find her way back again.