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Her back was not so painful after her soak, and a couple of Advil, but it still wasn’t very mobile. She lowered herself carefully onto the mattress and lay quite still while Tina finished massaging-in her hand cream and then fixed the bedclothes just so and then finally put out the light.
‘Phew!’ Tina cuddled against Bette’s side. ‘What an exciting day!’
‘The turkey? Pickleball?’
Tina laughed. Bette pulled her closer. There was a long pause, and then Bette:
‘Do you think it’s weird that Stephanie assumes I keep our social calendar?’
‘Tonight, when she said she’d “ping me some dates”. It’s like she thinks I’m “the wife”.’
Tina took a moment. She had an inkling where this was coming from, but she wasn’t sure about getting into it now.
‘And how the hell would I know Zadie Smith? I don’t move in those circles.’
The irascible tone was like a beacon to Tina, flashing as clear as could be.
‘We know people on Zadie Smith’s level,’ she said, ‘you know we do, and you know that’s why Stephanie asked, because it’s not unreasonable. But I think writers make you nervous since you signed the book deal.’
Bette lay staring at the ceiling. Tina laid her hand on her wife’s chest, watching her in the violet-grey of the bedroom. Could feel her heart beating. She waited for the penny to drop. Bette blinked a few times.
‘I can’t get the damn thing started,’ she said. ‘I don’t feel . . .’
Bette moved her head. Tina pulled back so they could look at each other. There was a long pause. Bette choosing her words.
‘Sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do when the kids are all up and out of the house.’ She swallowed. Tina could see her eyes glistening. ‘Seeing Fake Angie going to college, and Real Angie not coming to the cabin . . .’
‘But she is.’
‘She is this time, but there’ll be a time when she doesn’t.’
‘And that’s natural.’
Bette raised her left hand and slipped her fingers through Tina’s fine, silky hair, then gently cradled her neck and kissed her. A warm, soft kiss.
‘I’m gonna say something I’ve said before,’ Tina said when they broke, ‘because I know it can take you a while to really hear things . . .’ Bette watched intently. ‘You can spend more time on your writing. We can sort out childcare. We can hire you an office, or an assistant, or an office and an assistant. Anything you need.’