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‘Zadie Smith? Baby, you love Zadie Smith!’ Tina went on while Bette took off her jacket.
‘I admire her writing, Tina, but I don’t want to play pickleball with the woman, for God’s—’
Sasha came skipping into the hallway, followed by Solly, who went straight to Tina, pressing his head against her knee and wagging his tail into a blur.
‘Check it out,’ Sasha said, showing Bette a star-shaped sticker on her school sweatshirt.
‘“Awesome Attitude”,’ Bette said, reading it.
‘I helped Kendrick with a math problem and then I cleaned up the art corner.’
‘That’s great, sweetheart.’ Bette caressed her daughter’s thick blonde curls. ‘I’m glad you had a good day.’
Sasha fist-bumped Bette then ran back into the living room to watch TV, while her parents exchanged incredulous looks, given that their youngest was by some distance the most untidy of their children . . .
In the kitchen, Shane was standing by the stove half watching over dinner and half looking at her phone.
‘Hey,’ she smiled. Bette and Tina said hi and asked where Ben was. ‘Gaming,’ said Shane. ‘Dinner is T-minus however long spaghetti takes.’
‘Smells great,’ Tina said, still trying to pacify a frantic Spaniel doing figure-eights around her legs. ‘I’ll just go freshen up.’
She headed off down the corridor. Bette went to the dining table and eased herself into a chair.
‘Y’okay?’ Shane asked as she turned the heat down under the sauce.
‘I’ve been better,’ Bette sighed. ‘How about you? How was your day?’
‘Good.’ Shane rubbed her head. ‘Pretty good . . .’
Bette’s spidey senses tingled. Shane looked up from under her hair in that very particular way she had.
‘Yes . . .?’ Bette said, drawing the word out expectantly.
‘I, uh . . . I got a date.’
A huge feeling welled up in Bette’s chest. Excitement for her friend, but also relief, because Shane hadn’t so much as looked at a woman in the whole year she’d been living with them. Tina had asked her once if it was because she felt awkward about bringing someone back to the house, and Shane had admitted she wanted to know the ground rules. So they’d agreed that she could bring people back but if they stayed for breakfast and the kids were there, they’d just say the woman was a friend. And yet, no one. Unless, as Bette sometimes suspected, she was conducting her sex life elsewhere. Like on her recent visits to see Alice in LA, and Shay in Houston . . .