“Smile for the camera Lain.”
Lainey grinned at her daddy, anxious to go though. It was her first ever day at big kid school! She was excited! Quite a few of her friends started earlier, but because she was younger, she started school later on.
Nick gave Lainey a smile in return, making sure to get plenty of pictures. It felt weird that she was going to school, based on the fact she’s not even five yet. She was going to be one of the youngest in her year, and it was kind of sad that she wasn’t going to be in the same school year as Roisin, who was going to be one of the eldest in her school year.
“I wanna go! Come on!” Stomping her foot, Lainey was getting sick of the pictures. She wanted to go to school already!
Sighing heavily, Nick took a moment as he watched Lainey. It felt like yesterday he and Elle found out they were having a girl, and now she was off to school. It made him feel old, or at least older than what he actually was. “Alright, but you’re having more pictures at school.” He gave her advanced warning, and she pouted.
“Daddy…” She whined, giving him a look.
“What-ty?” He asked in the same manner, grinning at her as he took her hand and they walked out of the apartment.
Today was a bad day, or at least it was a day that Juniper had bad feelings about. Today just wasn’t a good day.
Fiddling with the necklace, Juniper sighed heavily. Today was the type of day where all she wanted to do was go to sleep and pretend like this day isn’t a real day.
Usually, anniversaries are nice occasions. Happy. This would have been a happy one if it wasn’t for other circumstances.
When she left her bedroom, she saw Roisin looking at the front door with a frown. “What’s up sweetie?” Juniper asked, bending down to Roisin’s height.
“I wanna go too.” She whined, pouting at her mommy. “Why can’t I go?” It wasn’t fair. Roisin wanted to go too! School sounded exciting and fun!
“You’re too little, baby. You’re going to have to wait until next year.” Juniper explained, but saw that Roisin was fascinated by her necklace.
“Pretty.” Roisin smiled, reaching for the charm on her necklace. “I have it now?”
“One day you can have it.” Juniper gave her a sad smile, knowing that when Roisin was older, she’d know the truth about everything.
“Daniel bought it?” Roisin asked, remembering he bought mommy and herself a lot.
“We’re not talking to him, remember?” Juniper asked, frowning as she did so. She did not need to be reminded of her adopted child’s father today.
“Right, right.” Roisin mumbled, and then smiled. “Good.” Following up with that, she asked. “Who bought it?”
Juniper thought for a moment, wondering how to say it and whether or not she should mention Sam. However, she knew that it she opened that door, she wouldn’t be able to close it again. Smiling softly, she excused. “One of mommy’s boyfriends a long time ago.” As far as Roisin was aware, Nick was daddy, and if she started talking about Sam being daddy, not only would it confuse her but she didn’t know how to end that conversation once starting it.
“Can I be friends?” Roisin asked, smiling. The only one of mommy’s boyfriends she met was Daniel, and he was okay but not great. She wanted to meet more and see what they were like.
Juniper shook her head softly, frowning. “Sorry baby, you can’t. I don’t talk to him anymore. He’s not very nice.”
“Oh, okay.” Roisin answered, frowning slightly. She didn’t like him now if he wasn’t nice but he made mommy happy so she could put up with him. “Play now?”
Grinning, Juniper nodded. “Sure, let’s play now.” She had the day off of college and had nothing else on for the day, so there wasn’t anything major to even distract her.
It wasn’t too long before Nick came back after dropping off Lainey for her first day of school. It made him feel weird to think that she was old enough. Well, she was barely old enough. Going around the corner, he noticed Juniper and Roisin were playing together. Part of him didn’t want to interrupt, but when she smiled at him, he went over.
“Did you take plenty of pictures?” She asked, seeing the camera in his hands.
“Yeah… I think I pi- annoyed her.” He was about to use profanity, but remembered that Roisin had a habit of repeating words she found fun to say.
Raising an eyebrow at him, Juniper was pleased that he managed to stop in time. She too could remember the day one of them swore in front of Roisin, and how she repeated the word ‘fuck’ for almost the entire day (Roisin liked that word because it sounded like duck). “You’ll have to show me them later.” She smiled at him, still paying attention to Roisin though.
“When it’s less weird to think that I have a daughter at school then I will.” Mumbling as he sat down with them, his attention also turned to Roisin as he asked her. “You’re going to stay little forever, right? And you’re not going to go to school and you’ll stay with me?” He asked, grinning at her.
“Yeah.” Roisin went over to her daddy and cuddled with him. “Love you.”
“I love you too.” Nick grinned back, cuddling her. “Don’t ever grow up, okay?”
“Okay.” Roisin responded obediently.
Even though it was sweet, Juniper felt guilty. The four of them, almost like a little family, it made her think. Specifically, it made her think about how things would be if she was still married to Sam. Well, would she even still be married to him or would he have killed her by now? Five years would be an awfully long time for a psychopath to wait.
There was a large part of her screaming about how wrong this was, almost rueful and mourning of what could have been. What should have been. Herself, Sam, Roisin, maybe even another one. Maybe. Maybe she could have spoken to him. Maybe they could have resolved their issues peacefully. Maybe he would have ditched the plan. She had seen visions of herself and Sam when they were old, so it was a possibility. At some point in time, that was what was going to happen. But…
She ruined it.
“Are you alright?” Giving her a concerned look, Nick asked this as Roisin went off to play with the doll house. Juniper looked as if she was going to burst out crying at any given moment.
“Huh? Yeah, I’m fine. I’m totally fine.” Her voice choked slightly as she held back the urge to cry. “I uhm… I think I just want some time alone today.”
“Did something happen?” He asked. Often, she would email or text Anthony and Lukas to see how baby Juniper was doing, and it often didn’t end in a good way. The other day she got a video of the baby managing to sit up on her own, and then falling back down after, and Juniper couldn’t take it. “Do you want to talk about it? I don’t think emailing them is too great of an idea if you keep getting this upset by it.” He knew it was hard for her, and knew that she wanted to see pictures, but he didn’t see the worth if it was upsetting her this much.
Sighing softly, she knew he would mention that. “Look, I promise I’ll be fine again tomorrow. It’s just today… it’s not a good day. It’s nothing to do with the emails. I just need to be left alone today and to just think.”
The hesitation was clear as day on his face, wanting to say that he didn’t want her to but also realising that it must be a bad day. He tried to think about what could be bothering her if it wasn’t to do with the baby, but nothing came to mind. “You’d tell me if it was something really bad bothering you, right?”
“Right.” She agreed, and then sighed slightly. “I… It’s nothing to do with Juniper, I just wanna have kind of a quiet day today. ” She mumbled, standing up and heading into her bedroom.
So it was a quiet day. Not much happened. Juniper mostly kept to herself while Nick did some work from home and kept Roisin occupied before picking Lainey up from her first day of school.
There was a knocking sound on her door, and she looked over to see Nick there. “Hey, I just wanted to check that you were alright.”
Giving a small smile, she nodded. “I’m fine.” Moving the book she had away, she then asked. “Do you need me for something or did you just want to check up on me?”
“I was just gonna check up but what’s in that?” He asked, looking over at what she was looking at. He could make out that it was a photo album.
“It’s nothing.” She excused, moving it further away.
“Nothing? Just a photo album filled with empty pages and you were admiring the nothingness?” He asked, giving her a look.
“Yep. Precisely.” Nodding in response, she smiled at him. There was a silence as he continued his doubtful look and it became evident that he wasn’t going to leave until she told him what it was. “It’s my wedding album.” She mumbled.
“Seriously? I didn’t think you had that.” Surprised by that answer, he was expecting it to be something to do with Roisin, not that.
Nodding, she answered quietly. “Yeah. I took this just in case I wanted it. I saw it in the study as I left and I knew I wanted to keep it, I didn’t want to leave it in that house.” Her attention was on the album, not looking back at Nick who was walking into her room.
“You can’t just drop that piece of information and not expect me to be curious.” He pointed out, grinning as he did so. Picking up the album and sitting next to her, he let her open it as she explained what things were.
“Well, that’s me and Mia, who was my best friend. She was my maid of honour at my wedding.” Juniper began rather dryly, not really wanting to talk about it. “She was pretty drunk.”
“Geez, you look so young in it.” He pointed out, looking at her and then back at the picture with a slight grin. It’s weird to imagine her blonde. “It’s weird seeing you with your natural hair colour. I’m used to pastel variations of every colour under the sun.” He commented, and then furrowed his eyebrows when he noticed writing on it. “What does that say?”
Laughing once, Juniper explained. “Mia was trying to be funny. It says ‘I know your mommy is keeping you a secret but auntie Mia loves you’, and then she rambles off about something else I can’t quite make out, I see Belle’s name in there I think? She wrote it when she was drunk, and I don’t think she knew about it either. I didn’t know at the time, but she and my other friend Brie were betting on whether it was a shotgun wedding or not; Mia betting that it was. I wouldn’t have found out if it wasn’t for Mia telling me when she had a bit too much to drink. I know she didn’t remember though because for a good three or four months after the wedding she kept hinting at her suspicion that it was a shotgun wedding.”
“She sounds cool.” Nick grinned. The only thing he really knew about Mia was that she hated Juniper’s husband who killed her, and that she was Juniper’s best friend. Apart from that, he knew next to nothing so it was nice to at least put a name to the face. “I think I would have liked her.”
“I think she would’ve liked you, or at least approved of you.” Smiling slightly in return, she recalled the conversation that she had with Mia a while ago. “Which is saying something because she’s hard to impress.” That, and the fact that Mia had a crush on Juniper, well, she probably wouldn’t have approved of all too many guys.
“That’s good to know, I guess.” Turning the page, he stumbled across a picture of her and Sam together. Feeling a lot more awkward, Nick wasn’t so sure what to say about it. Why did he feel so awkward about seeing her with her ex? Was he jealous? No, that’s stupid. But still, even though he felt awkward looking at it, it almost felt like he couldn’t take his eyes away. From the picture, it looked like she really loved him but he wasn’t sure if he could tell if Sam felt the same way from what he saw. It felt weird seeing her like that, it was odd. The two women; the two Junipers, they were like two completely different people. Only, he wasn’t sure which version of her seemed more real. Did she still have feelings for her ex-husband? A large part of him selfishly hoped not.
Closing the album, he noticed the date on the back cover, and that it was today’s date five years ago. “It’s your anniversary.” He pointed out the obvious.
“Five years.” Sighing heavily, the image of her happy with Sam was burned into her mind. If only she could have that back, the happiness she felt then. “It’s kind of scary how fast time can go by.” She mentioned, somewhat idly as she got up and placed the album back in a drawer.
“Is that why you’ve been upset today?” Nick followed up, looking at her as he did so.
Staying quiet for a long time, she sighed heavily before nodding. “Yeah.” As she fiddled with the necklace she was wearing, her attention was fixed on the floor. “I know you probably think it’s stupid, me getting so bothered by this, but I just…” Looking down, Juniper mumbled a response as she sat back with Nick. “I miss him.”
She was expecting him to call her stupid for missing him, which was why she was surprised when he understood. “I get that. I get the same way about Elle sometimes. It’s stupid because it didn’t work out first or second time but still. I guess it’s different though because if I wanted I could just talk to her, not like I would want to but I could.”
“I get your point but it’s not much comfort when I know I’m going to die alone.” Juniper said outright, sighing heavily.
“Oh come on June, don’t be stupid.” Nick argued in response. “You know that’s not true.”
“Isn’t it? Okay, so think of this: I’ve had my one chance at love, and that’s already ended. Now that’s over, what next? More relationships like the ones I’ve tried? I don’t especially feel like going through all that again.”
“You do realise that we’re people and not the animals on Noah’s ark, right? We don’t all just have one person each and if we do, then I guess I’m dying alone too then because I’ve already had mine.”
“Elle doesn’t count. She’s a bitch. You’ve still got your chance. Me on the other hand? I’ve blown it. I had my chance, I’ve had my love, now it’s gone and I’m going to die alone.”
“So Elle was a bitch but Sam was a completely nice and perfect guy? Don’t be so stupid June. He was an ass, I can’t believe it’s possible but he’s even worse than Elle. There’s still someone out there who’ll love you and who’ll love Roisin. You’re too young to start adopting cats.” Teasing slightly at the end, he looked over at her as he said this. Even if his feelings for her never became more than just feelings, there was a part of him that would be fine with that as long as she was happy. That’s what he wanted most: to see her happy.
“I hope so.” She mumbled quietly, looking to the floor as she did so. After a beat, she looked up at him and spoke again. “Somewhere out there, there’s got to be someone for each of us. Two people who like kids and treat ours as their own. People who we can trust with anything. People who we care deeply for, to the point of caring too much for friends.”
“People who might not be that far away.” He chimed in.
There was a long pause, the air seeming the hang in the weirdly tense room. They were both looking at each other, seemingly entranced.
It was an unexpected occurrence. One which, on the grand spectrum of things, was bound to happen but the timing was unexpected. It’s difficult to know when exactly things like this happen as the world is full of so many variables.
There is no determined cause and straight forward effect. Every conversation and answered question creates a new fork in the probability path. Maybe if he had answered no to her question a month ago about if pasta would be alright for dinner, this may not have happened for another year. Maybe if she had enquired further about his current photo shoot two years ago, they would already be together.
The world and all it’s inhabitants are based on coincidences and mishaps. Correspondences and links.