The door's lock clicked loudly, startling Tahlia from her nap. She looked down at the half-finished doodles in her lap.
The hall light clicked on, and Bree's keys hit the table, followed soon after by the sound of her shoes hitting the floor.
"Bree, oh my god, you startled me, I was sleeping," Tahlia slur-mumbled, sitting up. "What time is it? Wasn't the party over at eleven?"
Bree padded into the room, leaning over her wife's forehead and kissing it. "Quarter past one. A few of us got together at the bar after things started to wind down at the party."
Tahlia rubbed the sleep from her eyes as Bree settled in next to her. "Mmmgg... god... you not only stayed all the way to the end, but you went to the afterparty too... don't you get tired of those people?"
"Tired? No. But I do eventually miss you so much that I have to come back," Bree said through a laugh. "Brought you this, by the way. I asked the hostess to serve the cake early so you could have some before you left, but she didn't want it to get stale while everyone was eating dinner, so we compromised."
Tahlia's sleepy brain considered the small plastic container in front of her, peering at the slice of cake inside it. "...Nuts?"
Bree shook her head. "I checked. She knows not to have nuts when she's inviting you, so it's from a nut-free bakery. Besides, I have a lot of kisses to catch up on, you know I can't have nut breath while kissing my wife."
"You're the friggn... best..." Tahlia snuggled up against her wife, closing her eyes.
Tahlia's eyes bolted open again, and she nudged the drawings out of her lap, letting them fall into the back of the couch. "They're... just... nothing, they're not anything..."
Bree's piercing no-nonsense eyes met Tahlia's wordlessly, not judgment but simple curiosity in them.
Tahlia let her gaze fall into her lap. "Uh, I was working on some maybe... designs for my little boutique... I know it's... not exactly... possible, but... I want to... y'know, gotta hold on to those dreams..."
Bree picked up the papers (oh god she was picking up the papers) and looked over them (OH GOD SHE WAS LOOKING THROUGH THEM), and Tahlia steeled herself. Her mother, her friends, everyone had told her it was unrealistic to imagine that they'd give up their stable life here. Bree... Bree who was a data scientist by day and coach of the local girls' soccer team by night, Bree was going to say the same thing, and Tahlia couldn't bear to hear it from her.
"You were working on these while I was at the party?" Bree asked. Her voice was neutral.
But nor could Tahlia hide anything from her lover's eyes, even now as she abandoned her contacts for glasses.
"They're really good. I think I like this one best. Actually, that reminds me, I had a long wait for compute time today, and I did some searching and sorting in my free time." Bree bent over, picking up her work bag and extracting her tablet from it. She swiped through some screens, then handed it to Tahlia.
Just a confusing table. "It's all numbers and colors to me, babe," Tahlia laughed sheepishly. "Um, English, please..."
"It's a list of retail properties for rent in small towns around the suburbs. I sorted first by general price range and then by distance from us. The rows that are green are ones that I can commute to my current job, yellow I could probably work remotely most of the time and come back to the city now and then, and orange means we'll probably have to live separately some of the time."
"...Retail properties for rent?" Tahlia's tired brain was not keeping up.
"Yeah. You were talking a lot about your ideas for the boutique last night while we were cuddled up watching TV. I made sure to only list places that are big enough to support having the three separate sections you mentioned."
"Wh... I didn't think you were paying attention! You were barely saying anything!" Tahlia was flabbergasted. "You just asked a bunch of questions and you didn't really say anything!"
"Well, you know I don't. Y'know. I don't know what to say with that stuff," Bree said, shrugging. "You were so excited, but I don't really know anything about clothes or that kind of stuff, and I didn't want to ruin your excitement, so yeah, I was just smiling and nodding along a little bit... But, um, I wanna help, and this is the only way I can help."
Tahlia stared at the tablet. "These orange rows... You'd... be okay with living separately?"
"Of course." Bree tapped the property address on one of the rows, bringing up a cute little shop that stood alongside an adorable cafe that Tahlia would love to sit and eat scones and sip tea at. "Rather be with you, of course... but if it comes to that, we'll make it work."
The tablet's screen blurred, and Tahlia threw her arms around Bree. "I love you so much that I could cry."
"I think you are crying."
Tahlia laugh-sobbed at Bree's ear. "Shut up!"
Bree curled her arms around Tahlia. "Anyone would do this for the person they love."
"No... anyone wouldn't. I'll spare you a really emotional declaration of love... for now. But come tomorrow night, I'm getting all of my feelings for you out on the canvas, and you're going to have to sit and listen to me tell you how every single brush stroke means I love you."
"Sounds like torture," Bree cooed in Tahlia's ear, holding her wife more tightly. "I'm looking forward to it."
"This is gonna be a lot of work," Tahlia mumbled. "But if you help me, I think I can do it, so..."
"Don't even ask," Bree murmured. "You already know the answer's yes."