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‘Well, maybe we can skip that this year,’ Tina wondered. ‘Maybe she doesn’t even believe any more?’
‘What? Of course she believes!’
Tina smiled at how aghast Bette sounded. ‘You think?’
‘I . . . Of course she believes. And the tights’ll be fine, I’ll wash them, they’ll be fine.’
Tina tried to study Bette’s shadowed eyes, gauging her mood. ‘Y’know, everything doesn’t have to be perfect, honey. We really don’t need to wrap a drum kit.’
Bette sighed, stared at her wife and then blinked as if she’d just woken up. ‘Oh my God . . . He’s getting a drum kit, Tee.’ She buried her face in Tina’s neck. Tina chuckled. ‘What were we thinking?’
Tina kissed her wife’s hair. ‘Don’t . . . It’s too late to worry. And we won’t wrap it, we’ll just set it up and cover it with a throw.’
Bette raised her head. ‘You honestly think I’m not gonna wrap that thing when I know how long it’s gonna take him to get it un-wrapped? Trust me, that half-hour is gonna seem way more important once he starts hitting those things. That kit’s getting wrapped and it’s getting wrapped good. Hell, I’m gonna wrap the sticks.’
Her voice was combative but everything Tina knew about the type of mother Bette was told her that the real reason she wanted to wrap the drum kit was that she knew Ben would find that funny. And now they slowly began to smile at one another, and then laugh softly, the kind of laughter that is actually an exhausted surrender to the insanity of raising children. And then, as that ebbed, they fell into a stare. A long, silent study of each other’s faces, of the slopes and curves and planes that had for so long formed the very definition of what they found beautiful.
‘So . . .’ Tina said eventually, stroking Bette’s stray curls back from her temple. ‘You gonna kiss me?’ Her breath was warm, still tinged with the sharp mint of wintergreen floss. ‘Sweetness . . .?’ Her tongue almost touched Bette’s bottom lip. ‘That way you kiss me . . .?’
This last was said in a different tone, lower, husky, and it shattered Bette’s control. She pounced like a panther, capturing Tina’s mouth, rolling her lips in a perfect cadence as her tongue swirled deep. Tina wrapped herself around Bette’s hips, climbing against her, pressing herself closer, closer, melting into her beloved . . .