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Cupid don't love me like he used to do (I'm brokenhearted way too soon)
Charity blows a strand of hair out of her face and shakes her head. She turns to speak over her shoulder. "It's not in here."
"It is!" Vanessa insists from somewhere above her.
How Charity ended up on her knees with her whole torso inside that kitchen cabinet nobody ever goes in is beyond her. She remembers when Saturday nights used to mean drinking and dancing and trying to con some rich looking bloke into buying her champagne. Now Saturdays are about persuading two hyper toddlers to go to bed and watching something crap on the telly with Vanessa's head on her shoulder. And Charity is in no doubt which one she prefers.
She turns back to her task, eyes adjusting to the dim light a little more now. Vanessa insists there's a popcorn maker in there somewhere but Charity's damned if she can see it. She sighs and lifts what looks like a punch bowl off a box.
"You better not have me down here just so you can gawp at my arse, Vanessa Woodfield," she mutters.
"Course not." There's a pause. "That's just a bonus."
Charity smiles and shakes her head. She grabs the box that was under the bowl and manoeuvres it out. "This might be something." She emerges from the cupboard and sits on the floor, pulling the box into her lap and frowning when she sees it's not one of Vanessa's many abandoned kitchen gadgets, but a large shoebox; the kind you get boots in. There's a piece of paper sellotaped to the lid and someone's drawn a large red cross on it, alongside a heart that's cracked in two.
"That's not it!" Vanessa swoops in, grabbing at the box, but Charity holds onto it. She looks up to find Vanessa shaking her head, still trying to pull the box out of Charity's hands. "That's...you don't need to see that. Just give it to me and I'll put it back. It's nothing."
"Word of advice, babe," Charity says, getting to her feet, keeping hold of the box despite Vanessa's insistent tugging. Once on her feet she lifts it out of Vanessa's reach, smirking when Vanessa scowls. "Never play poker."
"Why've you got that out?" Tracy asks, coming down the stairs from checking on the boys.
"We haven't," Vanessa says. "Charity found it when she was looking for something else and I'm just after telling her it's just stupid and she doesn't need to look inside."
Tracy shrugs. "Let her have a look." She meets Charity's eyes. "It's just something daft we started when Carly was here. It's our First Aid Kit for broken hearts."
Vanessa closes her eyes and shakes her head when Charity breaks out in a grin. "Oh, you bunch of absolute saddos. What age were you when Carly was here again? Twelve?"
Tracy takes the box out of her hands and lays it on the table. Vanessa stands off to the side, her arms crossed over her chest, glaring at Tracy. Charity comes over as Tracy removes the lid, revealing a fully stocked 'kit'.
"Oh my God, it is actually real." Charity covers her mouth. "I was hoping it was just the box, to be honest. Might've preserved your dignity a bit."
She sifts through it, moving things to the side to see what's underneath. There's a bottle of red wine, two cakes of Dairy Milk - the big ones you get at Christmas, not the normal sized ones - what looks like articles out of a glossy mag, mascara, a Beach Boys CD, a box of tissues, a pair of scissors and a DVD of Beaches.
"Oi." Tracy bumps her with her hip. "It's dead handy, is this. Had a few outings lately an'all."
"Tracy," Vanessa hisses as Charity's smile falters. She hates to think of Vanessa sitting here, eating chocolate and drinking wine and crying over her.
"I was talking about me and David, and Dad and Meg-" Tracy says, trailing off when she glances at Charity and understanding dawns. "Oh, yeah. And there was that time you dumped her." She raises an eyebrow. "First time we've run out of tissues, that was. Impressive."
Two hands wrap around her right arm and Vanessa's chin comes to rest on her shoulder. She turns to look at her and is met with soft lips against her own. "Ignore her," Vanessa murmurs, squeezing her arm. Charity nods, stealing another kiss before gently extracting her arm from Vanessa's grip. She lifts a few of the articles out of the box, glancing through their titles.
"'Top Ten Reasons You Don't Need A Man In Your Life'." She winks at Vanessa. "I see you took this one to heart, babe."
Vanessa takes it from her, giving her a little shove. "Yeah. Lucky for you."
"I meant to update them articles, actually." Tracy flicks through a few more. "Make 'em a little more, you know, equal opportunities."
"Put some ones in about how crap women are, d'you mean?" Vanessa asks, frowning. "Where you gonna get them? Lads mags?"
Charity shakes her head. "I wouldn't bother doing that." She picks up the bottle of wine and opens the screw top, setting it on the table. "In fact-" She grabs one of the bars of chocolate and rips it open, breaking off a square and putting it in her mouth. "-there won't be a need for any of this in the future, so you might as well get rid of it all."
Vanessa frowns. "Eh? How d'you mean? It's for-" Vanessa stops talking, her eyes widening as they meet Charity's. "Oh."
"Yeah. Oh." Charity says, feeling a bit daft, but unable to regret her words because of the way Vanessa's gazing at her, a slow smile curving her mouth. Charity feels her own lips respond in kind until they're just standing grinning like idiots at each other.
"Right, I can see the two of you are having a 'moment'," Tracy says, making airquotes with her fingers. "And it's all very nice and whatever, but I might still need this, you know. And now I need to go and replace the wine and the chocolate."
"Hey, kid," Charity says, waiting for Tracy to look at her. "Next bloke stupid enough to break your heart, you come and find me and we'll go and slash his tyres and key rude words into his car." Tracy's smile grows as she's speaking, so she keeps going. "And then we'll come back and find this one-" She inclines her head to Vanessa. "-and the three of us'll go and get rat-arsed and dance to terrible music all night, yeah? Much healthier than all this maudlin rubbish."
Vanessa closes the distance between them, wrapping her arms around Charity's waist. Charity drapes an arm around her shoulder.
Tracy nods, her eyes a little brighter than before. "Yeah. That sounds okay, I s'pose."
"That's settled then." She squeezes Vanessa once, kissing the side of her head and whispering in her ear. "Get the glasses and get that wine poured. I think we'll make do with these immense slabs of chocolate instead of popcorn, eh?"
Vanessa nods against her, returning the squeeze. "Come to think of it, I might've given that popcorn maker to Harriet the last time she was running a jumble sale."
"So it was just an excuse to ogle me," Charity says.
"Might've been," Vanessa says, slapping Charity's backside as she moves away to get wine glasses.
"As if she needs an excuse," Tracy says, packing things back into the box and taking it over to the counter by the door. "I'll stick this stuff in the recycling tomorrow."
Vanessa comes back to the table with three glasses and starts pouring. Her eyes land on the stuff Tracy's left out of the box and she picks up the copy of Beaches and holds it by the corner, wrinkling her nose in distaste.
"Babe?" She waits for Vanessa to look up then tilts her head and slants her eyebrows in question. "Seriously?"
"My dad bought it by mistake," Vanessa says, with a roll of her eyes. "And it's better than Ti-bloody-tanic."
"Oh, it's a quality film if you need a good cry, Charity," Tracy tells her,. There's a wicked smile twisting at the edge of her lips. "Anyway, hasn't V ever told you that she wants to be your h-'"
She's not sure exactly what happens next but there's a blur of movement at the side of her eye and somehow Tracy ends up on her back on the couch with Vanessa lying on top of her, a hand pressed over her mouth. Charity's considering stepping in to separate them when the front door opens and Ross strolls in, as he's taken to doing recently.
"Moses forgot this." He holds up his elephant. "He's not-" He stops short when he clocks the sight on the sofa, his eyebrows lifting. "Aye, aye! Didn't know this is what went on on a Saturday night over here. Might've invited myself along before now."
"Yeah, this is pretty typical," Charity agrees. "Only usually I'm where Tracy is."
Ross's nose wrinkles. "Well, you've gone and spoilt it a bit now." She whacks him in the shoulder as Vanessa pushes herself up off her sister..
"How sad is it that that's the closest I've had to a fumble in months?" Tracy says, straightening out her top as she sits up. She raises an eyebrow at Ross. "Welcome to my exciting life. Saturday night playing gooseberry to a couple of sickeningly happy lesbians."
"Uh," Charity points at herself. "Not a lesbian, thank you."
"Uh, pretty much married to a woman," Ross says, rolling his eyes. "What's the difference?"
Vanessa and Charity both come back at him at once.
"We are not pretty much married, I'll have you know! We're-"
"There is a difference, actually. Charity identifies-"
"Oh, God. See what you've done," Tracy says, as they continue to babble on, mostly at each other. "You've wound them up and now I'll have to listen to them all night.."
"I was heading for a pint. Join me if you like," Ross says with a shrug. "Don't want you turning green and hairy, do we?"
The invitation catches Vanessa's attention and she stops talking, lifting her eyebrows and gesturing to Ross and Tracy with her head. Charity nods.
"Yeah, why not?" Tracy smiles. "Better than spending all night watching these two think they're being subtle about feeling each other up under a blanket."
"Maybe you should keep your eyes on the telly instead of us, then," Vanessa protests, cheeks growing pink.
Tracy looks up from slipping her shoes on. "Even if I did, I'd hear the pair of you anyway."
Ross clears his throat. "Maybe we should just stop here instead."
"No you will not," Charity tells him, snatching Moses' elephant out of his hand and turning him in the direction of the door. "Now, go on. Go and spend some money in my pub. I've got three kids to feed and a demanding girlfriend to wine and dine."
She receives a smack to her hip before Vanessa's arms wind around her waist, her nose pressing into Charity's shoulder. "Hardly. Bottle of cheap plonk and a packet of Quavers does me, you know that."
"You are a cheap date," Charity agrees. "I'll say that much for you."
Tracy grabs her jacket from the hook as Ross opens the front door and they both step out.
"So, what time were you thinking of bringing her home?" Charity asks, crossing her arms and leaning back against Vanessa. "Not a minute after eleven, do you hear? And you can kiss her on the cheek when you walk her to the door, but that's it."
"Shut up, Charity," Tracy says, turning to walk backwards up the path. "As if having one embarrassing big sister wasn't bad enough."
"Love you too, Trace!" Charity calls after them.
Ross makes some comment that Charity can't hear, but it makes Tracy laugh as they head up the road.
Vanessa makes a noise against her back. "Is this a thing, do you think?" she asks. "Her and Ross?"
"Dunno." They watch until the pair of them go into the pub. Vanessa steps back and lets Charity close the door. Charity turns and leans back against it, lifting a shoulder and letting it drop. "She could do worse, I suppose."
"Wow," Vanessa says, coming closer and pressing her front against Charity's slipping her hands into the back pockets of Charity's jeans. "You almost said something nice about somebody just then."
"Turning soft in my old age, aren't I?" Charity pushes Vanessa's hair behind her ears, looking into her eyes. "And do you know why?" Vanessa shakes her head. Charity traces down Vanessa's nose with her fingertip before placing it under her chin and tilting her face up. "Because you are the wind beneath my wings."
Vanessa's eyes narrow, but she's clearly fighting a smile. "I hate you."
Charity grins, leaning in until her lips are a breath from Vanessa's. "Liar."
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