Rose was in such a state of bliss that her trip back to London seemed like mere minutes. Though she wished James had come with her, Rose was content knowing that she would be with him again shortly. She was grateful that Donna had given her James' credit card, because as it was, she didn't have a penny to her name. She paid the cabbie and climbed the steps more assuredly than before, her previous trepidation almost nonexistent. But unlike last time, when she opened the door, she was instantly met with the melodious sounds of childish squeals and giggles. And just like that, all the nervousness that had seemed to dissipate just moments prior came rushing back to her at full force. She poked her head into the living room and saw the source of those precious sounds.
Zoe and Sarah were running circles around Donna as fast as their little legs would move them, their long golden tresses flying about them. Little Zoe stepped too close to Donna and was instantly snatched up into her arms. Donna began blowing raspberries into her stomach, eliciting another chorus of squeals. Sarah began jumping up and down, trying to come to her sister's defense. But then, little Sarah's dark chestnut eyes caught a glimpse of Rose and she immediately ceased jumping. She began tugging on Donna's trousers, never breaking her gaze at Rose.
She pointed to Rose. "Aunt NaNa, who's that?" she asked as she finally broke her gaze and looked up at Donna curiously.
Donna looked to where Sarah was pointing and her eyes locked onto Rose. She could see the uncertainty and anxiety etched throughout Rose's face. She gave her a warm, reassuring smile as she lowered Zoe to the ground. She took each little girl by the hand as Rose took small steps towards them.
"That, my lovelies, is a very special lady."
Letting go of Donna's hand, Zoe walked over to Rose and looked up at her, cocking her head to the side. "So, who are ya?"
Just a little rude…oh, she's got James written all over her.
Rose smiled and knelt down so that she was almost at eye level with her. She didn't know what to say exactly. She wanted to tell them that she was their mum, but it didn't feel right to her for James to miss out on such a moment.
Sarah and Zoe both giggled. Rose quirked an eyebrow and smiled. "What's so funny?"
"That's how Daddy sounds," said Sarah.
Rose's smile broadened. "Yeah, I guess he does," she chuckled. She decided that she could at least give a partial answer to satisfy their curiosity. "I'm a very, very good friend of your daddy's…and your Aunt Donna."
Both girls looked to Donna for confirmation of the fact. Donna smiled warmly and nodded her head assuredly. "It's true. She's your daddy's favorite person—except for you two girlies, of course."
Zoe and Sarah turned back to Rose and beamed at her, who eagerly reciprocated. "Y'know what? I think we should go do somethin'…"
Forty-five minutes later, the four of them found themselves in the middle of the toy department surrounded by children of various ages and their weary parents. Shrieks, squeals, and pleading cries of "But I want it!" permeated the air. Though she was in the midst of all the chaos, Rose could think of no better place to be than there with her girls. She just stood there watching the twins dart from one new and exciting thing to the next, laughing as she saw bits of hers and James' personalities emerge from them. Donna, on the other hand, was not as amused with their surroundings.
"Couldn't we have just gotten them hopped up on sugar? Did we have to go to the toy department?" she asked in disdain. Just then, a boy of about ten rammed her shin with a box as he ran towards his mother. "Oi! Watch it!" Donna hollered after him.
"Look at them. They're so…perfect," Rose said focusing on her girls and completely ignorant of Donna and her annoyance.
"Yes...they're amazing," she agreed. "But this place is the seventh circle of hell. Can we please just grab a toy and go? If that buggy-eyed woman asks me the price of something one more time, I'm seriously gonna lose it!"
As if on cue, said buggy-eyed woman came up to Donna with some sort of alien action figure. Before she could even open her mouth, Donna shouted, "For the last time—I don't know! I don't work here!"
The woman turned on her heel and stormed off. Rose burst into laughter and walked up to Zoe and Sarah. "Okay, loves…let's pick one and go before your Aunt NaNa assaults someone."
Rose excitedly searched through the racks of clothing. She had never been a materialistic person, but she was a woman—and the opportunity to pick a whole new wardrobe was naturally appealing. Zoe and Sarah were playing with their new toys on the floor near her, surrounded by the countless bags of items Rose had already purchased. Right now, Rose was searching for something special to wear for James' arrival home. She found an emerald halter dress and held it up to her.
"Watcha think about this one?" she asked Donna.
Donna turned her head to the side and pondered for a moment. "Nah…"
Rose turned to put the dress back on the rack, but Donna grabbed it. "It would, however, look rather nice on me."
Rose amusedly snorted and handed over the dress. "Red, focus!"
"Oh, please!" she scoffed. "Rose, you and James have been separated for three years. You could wear a paper bag and he'd still find you irresistible."
"I just want to look special for 'im," Rose said with a grin, but then her expression faltered.
Donna furrowed her eyebrows in concern. "What's with the face?"
Rose was typically content with her appearance, but seeing Reinette on James' arm had given her self-esteem quite a blow. "It's just…have you seen what Reinette looks like?! She's so…I just don't wanna look like a plain Jane compared to her. I want 'im to like what he sees."
Donna snorted at that statement. Rose turned her head away, clearly put out with that reaction. Seeing Rose was genuinely in earnest, Donna reached a hand out and grabbed her arm.
"I'm sorry, Rose. It's just that, you don't have anything to be worried about it. Yeah, she's pretty…but she has to try at it. It's not who she is. You're you…you don't have to try to make people like you or make yourself beautiful. It's just who you are."
Rose smiled, her eyes misting just a tad at Donna's reassurance.
Donna returned her smile, but then it morphed into a playful smirk as she said, "And from what you've already told me, it's pretty obvious he liked what he saw—and you were just in jeans and a jumper!"
Rose chuckled as a blush made its way up her face. "It was rather amazing…"
"So you've said…multiple times."
Rose looked away, lost in the memory. "I forgot how he used to—"
"Stop!" Donna instructed quickly, her face contorted in mild disgust. "I don't need or want to know what my brother does or doesn't do. Your snogging habits are really not my concern."
Rose giggled as Donna shuddered at the obvious mental image she had just envisioned.
"Aunt NaNa! Sarah won't stop takin' my chips!" Zoe complained.
"She was drinkin' my milkshake!" Sarah countered.
Sarah stuck her tongue out before grabbing another chip and popping it into her mouth. Zoe retaliated by taking another long swig from the milkshake.
"Girls—share!" Donna scolded.
"How did you meet Daddy?" Sarah suddenly asked Rose.
Rose was slightly caught off guard at the question, but happy to recall the memory.
"Weelll," she drawled out purposefully, causing the girls to giggle at the mimicry, "I was in a bookstore…"
Rose ran her finger along the book lined shelf. Halfway down, she saw the title she was looking for. She had finally found it—and there was only one copy. She had gone to five bookstores and they were all sold out. Apparently, six times' a charm. She ordered a latte from the store's in-house coffee shop and decided to take a few moments to enjoy her find. She sat down in one of the leather seats and eagerly opened it, taking in the unique "new book" scent. She had just turned a few pages, when the barista finally called her name. On instinct, Rose placed the book on the coffee table in front of her and went to the counter to get her drink. She wasn't gone more than a minute, but when she turned around, the book was missing. She looked around and saw a tall, dark haired man walking away—with her book in his hand!
Rose ran after him. "Um…excuse me, that's my book," she said kindly, though slightly annoyed.
The man looked at the book in his hand and then back to her. "Did you buy it?"
"Well, not yet, but—"
"Then technically it's not yours," he said.
She narrowed her gaze. "Oi! Rude! I was getting ready to…I only put it down to pick up my drink. Then, you swooped in and took it—vulture!"
"Now who's being rude?" he grinned at her.
Rose tried to remind herself that she was angry and shouldn't be caught up thinking about how incredibly sexy she found that grin.
"Well, it doesn't belong to ya."
"Doesn't belong to you, either," he said, his grin growing more brilliant than before.
She felt her insides quiver looking at him. Suddenly, an idea came to her where she could come out a winner on all counts.
"How 'bout a trade?" she suggested.
She grinned as she thought of her plan. "Well, you give me the book…"
"And in exchange?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Rose took a step forward and snaked her hand up to the back of his head, pulling him down for a kiss. It ended just as quickly as it had begun. Even though brief, it clearly left him awestruck. She grinned at his wide eyes and slightly agape mouth.
"Thanks," she said, holding up the book she had managed to pinch. With a tongue in teeth smile, she turned and walked away.
"…and then, he followed after me and we went for chips. And…uh…that's that."
"You kissed Daddy?" Zoe giggled.
Oops! Maybe too much information.
"Um…yes. A quick lil' kiss."
The two girls let out a flurry of giggles. "You're much nicer than Miss Adams," Sarah said decidedly.
"Oh yeah?" Rose asked, quirking an eyebrow up. She didn't like the idea of Reinette around her children. Honestly, she just didn't like the idea of Reinette.
Sarah nodded her head. "Yeah! She doesn't like to play with us or eat banana pancakes."
"And she doesn't like chips!" Zoe chimed in.
Rose leaned forward as if sharing a secret. "Maybe she's an alien," she said, causing all four of them to giggle together.
Rose zipped up the back of her dress and looked at herself in the mirror. She had finally settled on a deep crimson dress. It was nearly knee length and hugged her curves just right, highlighting them rather than advertising. Her hair fell down her back in soft golden waves. Her makeup was minimal but enough to highlight her features. Overall, she was quite satisfied.
James was due home any moment. He had sent Donna a text earlier and said he would be arriving around this time. Rose wrung her hands and realized that James still had her wedding band. Her hand felt naked without it, but it wouldn't be long before it was back on her finger. She stared off, allowing her worries to flutter through her mind. She was snapped back to reality when she heard the commotion of doors opening and closing and muffled sounds. She quickly put on her heels and began the trek downstairs. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, Donna was there waiting with a drink in her hand. She held it out to Rose.
"What's this?" Rose asked in confusion.
"Whiskey," Donna answered, still holding out the tumbler. "You're gonna need it!"
Rose crinkled her brow. "Why do I-?
An unfamiliar voice caused her to stop midsentence. She walked towards the source and found her girls in the living room with James…and Reinette. Donna walked up beside her, still holding the drink out for her. Rose took the glass and downed it in one go, as Reinette's gaze met her own.
Here we go…