December Drabbles #9 – Making Arrangements
Big Love, Margene/Barb, sharing a bed (some Nicki/Barb, because I am an addict)
prompt by piperrhiannon, random selection d20 by marxer, word count around 500
The first night is Barb’s night, and she doesn’t think about the arrangement until later, when she holds her pillow, awkwardly, as Margene turns down the sheets on the queen bed in the suite next door.
“It’ll be like a sleepover,” Margene says, grinning. Her mouth is a little too tight around the corners, and her eyes don’t shine like they could. She is nervous about this. She should be, Barb thinks (momentarily cruel), stepping in to their family like this, making them stretch, letting them grow. Because they’ve told Barb, hesitantly, about the baby, and now when she looks at Margene, it is all she can see. Some continuing, glowing line. A bubbly future that she fails to be.
This bed isn’t as soft, though Barb wonders if she’s imagining it. Nicki has managed to gloat about tonight being special at least twice before Bill placed a hand on her shoulder, reminding her, silently, that all of his wives are equal, of course, and that she is his second.
Tancy gets a cot made out of quilts (brought from home) on the floor, and the boys share a fold-out crib. Sometimes they cling to one another in sleep, Wayne absently tugging on Raymond’s hair.
This is supposed to be a vacation. Days spent coaxing Nicki into some semblance of a bathing suit, slathering the babies in sunscreen, pushing strollers along rocky paths with Tancy lagging behind, complaining that she had to come instead of staying with a friend like Ben and Sarah got to. Margene sunbathes, watching Raymond out of the corner of her eye, and Barb scolds Bill for kissing them in public, each in turn.
“We’re safe here,” he says, and she looks around at the wilderness, her stomach twisting. No one else seems to mind.
Tancy calls Margene mom, giggling at a joke, and Barb sneaks off to the bathroom to cry. She blames it on lunch, and Bill complains to the manager. They all get free drink tickets, which Bill throws away.
And it’s been years since she’s shared a bed with anyone but Tancy or Bill. And before that, just a few desperate nights of sickness with Nicki by her side, and Barb tries not to dwell on those… the frightening warmth that came from such a normally stiff, cold figure. Waking, sometimes, with strange arms around her and sinking back into sleep.
“Not sure if I’m up for a sleepover,” Barb says, getting in to her side of the bed. The children are quiet. Margene smells fresh from a shower. Barb Henrickson thinks in full names, full sentences. And Margene is a run-on, her hair spilling over the pillow.
Mostly, Margene is warm. “Don’t let me bother you,” she says, from across the bed, her voice a kind of husky whisper, cast low. Barb has never spent a spare thought wondering how Margene sleeps. But she thinks about it now, attempting to see in the filtered dark, trying to make out the shape next to her, under the cover. Curiosity.
She is curled up, arms at her chest, knees pulled to her stomach. Instinct kicks in.
“Are you cold?”
Margene answers too loud, too fast. “No, no–” corrects herself, ” No, I’m fine!” but the damage is done and Barb scoots closer, shoving her thoughts to the back of her head. Their bodies barely touch.
“I really am fine,” Margene insists, even as she wiggles a little, tucking her body against Barb’s.
“It’s alright.” She closes her eyes, tucks her arm between them. It is, actually, alright. Tancy rolls over in her sleep and Barb inhales the scent of fruit and chlorine.