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10 / Date Night

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When you're stressed, children can be exhausting.

A repeated call of 'MUMMUMMUMMUM' can make a person lose control. Scream. Hit. Cry. When a household consists of two mothers, this could be doubled, rather than halved. It can be especially hard during meal or bedtimes, when the child doesn't want to eat broccoli because it's not pizza or go to sleep because they're not tired, despite the purple bags being packed under their eyes.

Our children were not like that.

I wouldn't say they couldn't be little nightmares when they wanted to be, particularly when they were meant to be going to sleep, but usually, they were well behaved. They ate, and enjoyed their vegetables. With a story and some night-time music, they would relax and go be fast off before the first song had finished.

So it was with ours. Alexandra would follow whatever her older sister did, as if she were a shadow of the bigger girl, and Grace knew this so played up to it. If one cried, they both did. If one threw a tantrum, we'd find them both on their backs on the floor, stamping their feet with arms folded. If Grace went to sleep quickly, we could be sure that Alex would be too.

After their meal, I bathed them together, having bath-time fun with their dolls. We snuggled on the sofa with their favourite book until they were yawning, and I carried them up to their rooms. It was becoming increasingly difficult to do, with Grace being so big, but I hoped there'd never come a day when I was unable to if they wanted or needed it. An audiobook was chosen over music, so I dimmed their lights and left them to Dawn French reading Coraline.

I'll be about 25 minutes, babe. Just leaving.

OK cool. See you soon.

You want me to grab an Indian?

Come home, babe. We'll decide when you get here. I can go collect.

Amanda's text was my 25 minute countdown. I poured myself a glass of wine and set to preparing our meal. I asked Alexa to play my main playlist and sang as I cooked. I was looking forward to this. Amanda would be tired and drained, but she'd be able to manage a smile, I was sure. I'd just lit the candles when I heard her car pull up. I topped up my wine and poured one for her, standing in the hallway ready for her to come in.

"Oh, you're amazing," she said when she saw the glass in my hand. "Just what I need."

"Yes, I am," I said. "But that's why you married me."

"One of the reasons, I suppose."

"Come on," I said, kissing her deeply before leading her to the dining table. "Dinner is served."

"Smells good! What did I do to deserve this treatment? What have you done?"

What have I done? I knew she was joking, but the comment still kicked me in the stomach.

"You don't want to know," I laughed, hoping it sounded sincere. "I'm allowed to treat my wife once in a while."

"Oh, I'm not complaining."

There was the smile. There was the affirmation that everything was, and was going to be, all right. We tapped our glasses together.

"Cheers."

"Tables."

Dinner was, to be fair, delicious. I wasn't the best cook in the world by far, but I could manage to serve up palatable dishes that had yet to make any of us ill. And I did love a steak. Even the kale was enjoyable, something that I was struggling to convince myself of. It was a vegetable. They were a necessity rather than a nice addition to a meal. I wasn't meant to like them so much.

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by Shaun Allan
@ShaunAllan
Gwen, desperate to feel something, kills someone. But she quickly lea...
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