twenty seven || leslie's fantasy

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When Leslie woke up on Saturday morning, she was initially thrown off by the yellowish wall opposite her and the arm around her waist until the events of the night before thrust themselves into her memory and in a matter of seconds, she had mentally walked through every moment from meeting her boyfriend at the door in the evening to collapsing in her fiancé’s arms that night.

Easing out from under Greg’s arm, she peered out of the curtains. It was a bleak day, heavy rainclouds dragging themselves across the dark sky that carried the threat of an imminent downpour, but it did nothing to dampen Leslie’s spirits. She wasn’t a natural morning person but it even though it was only just seven o’clock, she was in a positively brilliant mood, raring to go. On the other side of the bed, Greg continued to snooze, his nose twitching in his slumber, so she wandered through to the kitchen and put the kettle on.

There was usually a certain darkness to Greg’s poky flat, no matter how many lights were on, yet that morning the dimness had dissipated and the ordinarily greying walls seemed bright and welcoming: Leslie’s vision was not so much rose-tinted as glaringly sunshine-infiltrated, every surface gleaming. She swayed around the cramped room, sashaying to one cupboard for a mug and dancing to the next for the coffee. She didn’t need the caffeinated pick-me-up so much as she had settled into a routine of having coffee every morning, whether she was comatose or bouncing off the walls.

The faint sound of shuffling feet floated to her ears before the tiniest voice spoke her name and she turned around to see Emma standing by the table, clutching a tatty teddy in on hand and scratching her neck with the other. Leslie grinned down at the sleepy girl.

“Hey, Emmy,” she said. Emma outstretched her arms towards Leslie, silently asking to be picked up. Even at her age, she took advantage of people’s reactions to her cuteness and spent far more time being cuddled that she ought to have. Leslie picked her up anyway, swaying slightly as she hugged her and inhaled the sweet, milky scent of the tired child.

“Hi,” Emma said. Her voice was smaller than she was, a tiny little thing with a shock of dark hair. Until recently, Leslie had almost half-expected her to have been Greg’s daughter rather than Jas’, their similarities were so great. “I’m hungry.”

“What d’you want?” Leslie asked. She opened the fridge once more, greeted with an array of yoghurts from the last time Emma and Freddie had stayed with Greg. The frequency of their visits had been gradually increasing over the past couple of months and Leslie had a feeling she’d be seeing a lot more of her soon-to-be niece and nephew, and a gut-churning sense that she would soon see a whole lot less of Jas.

“Cereal,” Emma said, pointing at the cupboard where Greg kept the cereal. Upon opening it, however, Leslie was greeted with a vast array of nothingness.

“No cereal I’m afraid,” she said, clutching Emma in one arm as she checked every other cupboard. Emma pouted.

“I want cereal,” she said, closer to hungry tears than a tantrum. Leslie shushed her and stepped out of the kitchen.

“It’s ok, we can go and get some. Let me just check on Greg and Freddie.” Still holding Emma, she peered around the bedroom door where Greg was still flat out across the entire bed like a starfish. In the room next door, Freddie’s position was much the same. Scribbling a quick note from the pad by the door, Leslie grabbed her bag and set Emma down on the floor.

“I’m in my jammies,” Emma whispered, sounding horrified at the notion of leaving the house in her pyjamas. Leslie held out the hem of her t-shirt and found Emma a pair of shoes,

“So am I,” she said. “It’s an adventure. We have to go all the way to the shop and get cereal and come back in our pyjamas.”

Emma giggled, hugging her teddy in a headlock, and gripped Leslie’s hand. “Ok.”

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