This went up serialized for the As La Vista Turns promo, but I thought I’d run it off for folks who want it all in one piece.
Or read below.
Half the fun of being with someone as regimented as Zane was fucking with her. At least that’s what Dred told Emerson as she was annotating a list Zane had left up on the refrigerator.
He smirked. “It’s cute that you still hide behind that like you aren’t head over heels in love with her.”
“Not into girls. So what’d you add to the grocery list?”
“Cow brains. And horse hooves. With nutritional notes.”
“Gross, Mildred. Plus, hasn’t she been super nauseous lately? That’s just mean.”
She polished her nails on her shirt. “I’m definitely a horrible person. Gotta go.”
“Just admit you’re in love with her!” he called as she went up the stairs. “It’s not gonna kill you!”
Which was a stupid thing to say. Not to mention unprovable. Maybe it would kill her.
She couldn’t think of a clever enough response so she pretended she hadn’t heard him.
* * *
Two days later, while Zane was at work, she ripped out a seam and fixed it before Zane could see how bad it looked.
“She lets you mess with her stuff?” Obie asked, lingering in the doorway of the work room.
“Better to ask forgiveness than permission.”
“Uh huh. Wouldn’t it actually be better to let her fix her own stuff, though? That’s kind of how people learn.”
She shot him a dirty look over her shoulder. “You’ve seen Z sew. She fucks up a lot. More than enough opportunities to learn.”
He was probably giving her some kind of look right now, but she’d decided to focus on the tricky corner bit where really old embroidery met a denim seam and had to not look like crap. The embroidery was from Zane’s great grandmother’s wedding dress, the only frills on an otherwise simple dress because she couldn’t afford frills. Since Z was using everything she could, she wouldn’t want to be ripping out stitches in it.
And anyway, she didn’t have time. She was working as hard as she could right now, and volunteering at the drop-in center on Saturdays.
Obie tapped on the door frame, probably to get her attention. “The crew’s gonna be here in the morning, remember.”
The remodel was supposed to take three months. After which Obie and Emerson would have a suite downstairs, and Zane, Mildred, and James would be upstairs.
“Is the quilt going to be done? Yours, I mean. Not Zane’s.”
She flapped a hand. “Plenty of time.”
He hadn’t specified what timeline he was talking about, but it didn’t matter. Their quilt—the quilt she was making from a combination of both of their lives, the quilt that symbolized their family—would be done soon. Barring disaster.
* * *
Mildred’s phone rang as she was scooping up all the James-related toys floating around QYP. Zane was off scooping up the man himself, so she answered her phone a little out of breath, a little annoyed at the interruption.
“Whoa, you okay?”
Since expressions of concern were out of character for Emerson, she knew something was up. “What’s wrong?”
He cleared his throat. “You guys should see if you can stay with Jaq and Hannah for a couple of days. Or if Cameron’s not using his place.”
“A, um, pipe broke. In the farmhouse.”
“It’s gonna take a couple of days to fix it?”
“Not exactly. I mean, it would have probably been okay, except it led to this…chain reaction thing. Where the plumbing on the first floor basically exploded. But don’t worry, the plumber can fix it. And anyway, better that this happened now so we can get it fixed than later.”
Emerson babbling wasn’t good. “What the hell, boy?”
“Fuck. It’s the sewing room. But I swear Obie said—”
She hung up.
It had taken a while to make the tiny front sitting room feel like the right place for her work. She’d been sewing in her closet for so many years, planning things out on the bed, choosing between storing clothes or storing her stash.
Maybe the damage wasn’t bad. Except if Emerson was trying to get them out of the house…
* * *
Zane refused to drive her home. “We’re picking up Alisha’s keys and going there. It’s done. Ed said she was okay with it and they’re not back for another week. Plus, we can raid her sex toys.” The smile was weak.
“With James on the couch? Not sexy, Z.”
“I know. Sorry.”
“I’m just worried about the quilts.”
Some of those fabrics could be thrown in the dryer. Some weren’t supposed to be wet at all. And of them needed to be dry as soon as possible. And what about the machine? Oh god. Surely Obie would tell her if something had happened to her machine.
Zane slipped a hand into the knot where Mildred’s fingers gripped each other. “Whatever happened, the five of us are fine. If Aunt Florence were here, she’d be reminding us that was the most important thing.”
“Yeah.” It was true. And once Obie Instagramed the pictures, Aunt Florence would probably call to say the same damn thing. But right now?
Mildred stared out the window and thought of all the scraps she’d saved over the years. What would water stains do to that silk pillowcase she never figured out how to use? Or the satin from Aunt Florence’s maid of honor dress, which she’d been saving to make into something way more beautiful than her parents’ doomed marriage, even though she’d never figured out what.
James began to snore in the back seat and Mildred squeezed Zane’s hand. She couldn’t speak, but she could do that.
* * *
They’d gotten pretty lucky. The sewing machines were fine. Most of Obie’s stash had escaped unscathed, and his silks had all been in plastic bins on the far side of the room from the original pipe bursting. There had only been six ties in the splash zone, waiting for mailing, and only one had to be remade. Though all of the packing materials and boxes were toast.
The domino effect plumbing issue, combined with some old water damage in the ceiling in Mildred’s sewing room, meant her stash hadn’t gotten off quite as easily.
“I’m so sorry,” Obie murmured, standing at her side. The rest of the household was out back. James was exploring all the construction-related stuff, as he did every time he saw it. Zane and Emerson were either watching him or bickering. Or both.
“Everything cotton is dry and put away upstairs. Everything I could wash, I washed. Or soaked, because you don’t even want to see the stuff that came out of those pipes. Some of this stuff, though…especially the pieces Aunt Florence brought home. Everything hand-dyed is pretty much not savable.”
“I figured.” And she had. But that didn’t make seeing the carnage hurt less. “Get rid of it all. Please. Are the quilts…” She couldn’t finish the question.
“They’re totally fine. I let them air dry flat and then put them away in your closet. I did have to pull all the pins, though, but I tried to replace them. We took pictures so we could recreate as closely as possible once they were dry.”
He kissed her cheek. “I’m so sorry, Dred.”
“That we live in a house where the plumbing’s ancient? Whatever. Do we have a bid on how much it’s gonna cost to replace it?”
“Yeah. Even after splitting it four ways, it’ll still be a pretty penny. I’ll show you.”
She only lingered for a moment to stare at her waterlogged stash before turning away.
* * *
The quilt was done just in time to lay across their bed on the first night they had the upstairs to themselves.
The remodel happened fast—to everyone but Zane, who said time was dragging—and the night they finally finished moving the boys downstairs was quite the celebration.
These days that meant the four of them toasted with glasses of milk and gluten-free cookies before trudging to bed.
They went upstairs by themselves, listening to the unaccustomed sounds of Emerson and Obie settling in below. James was fast asleep, curled on his side.
“He looks so big these days,” Zane whispered.
Then they stopped in the now-empty room, which still smelled like the boys.
Zane pressed against her side. “Sometimes I get scared.”
“Yeah. Well, I made you something that might help.”
It started as a joke. It started as a way to make fun of Zane, and her lists, and the whole thing she did where she freaked out and wrote stuff down. But somehow it…changed. Maybe during the plumbing fiasco. Or even earlier.
Mildred handed over the notebook. “It’s not done or anything. You can do the rest yourself. I just sort of—”
“Oh my god. You made me lists.”
“I guess so.”
It was a little obscene, watching Zane page through the notebook with so much enjoyment. Lists for everything: things to do for the extra room, kitchen organization, the sewing room to make it easier for them to share space. Lists of things James was growing out of that they should get rid of, or that they should save.
Zane looked up. “You made a list of things you could do when I’m not feeling well.”
“Yeah, well, the one for shit you can do for me is way longer.”
“And includes ‘Torture Emerson.’ Good note.”
Mildred rolled her eyes. “Anyway.”
“Nuh uh. You’re not getting out of this that easily.” Zane closed the notebook and pulled her down to sit on the bed, on the quilt she’d been working on for months, the one that was all for them. “Thank you. It’s…the sweetest thing I think anyone’s ever done for me.”
“Cram it, Z.”
So Mildred kissed her. Hard. To make her stop talking. Which worked until Zane turned her face away and said, “I love you so much. Not just because of the lists.”
Mildred sighed. “That’s at the front. I put it on a list so you wouldn’t forget.” She didn’t have to look. She knew that list by heart.
1. Love yourself.
2. Love your family.
3. Love your friends.
4. Love Mildred.
“Aw, Dred. But that’s redundant.” Z tapped number two. “You’re covered right here.”
“Jesus, you’re corny.” She swallowed hard. “So I’m pretty much done with this conversation now, but that’s where you are on my list, too. Anyway.”
“I love you too.” Zane kissed her, sweetly. “Let’s go to bed.”
And they did. But Mildred lay awake for a while under their quilt, holding Zane’s hand and thinking about love.