Leap Year

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Richard barely noticed Bill leave, he was so excited. Later, the medical details finally exhausted, Richard sat next to Laura on the sofa, gradually realizing what both Laura and Bill had seen instantly. Things were going to change. He put his arm around Laura. "I'd like us to move in together. I want to be there all the time with you and the baby, be a full-time father. What do you think?"

"I'd like that." She kissed him. "We'll both need to move."

"Move? Oh right, of course. We'll need more space, with the three of us."

"What I'd really like is a house with a garden. Do you think we could afford that?"

"I think so. We'll start looking." He looked serious. "There will be a lot of changes, won't there? A lot to think about."

There was a short pause.

"What about Bill?" Laura asked.

Richard felt his heart drop through his stomach. He really hadn't considered until then what all the changes would mean to their relationship. He looked at Laura. "I still love him, but this week on, week off arrangement isn't going to work anymore, is it?"

"No, not when we move in together it won't, unless... we'll have to think about it."

Richard cleared his throat; he had to ask. "Are you still okay with Bill and me having a relationship? With the baby and everything?"

Laura stroked the side of his face. "I'm fine. I love you, just the way you are, and Bill's part of you. In fact, I was counting on Bill to be around to help with the baby. I've seen him with Jessica, his niece, and he's very good with her." She kissed him again. "We'll work something out, you'll see."

"Richard," Laura called. "Can you come here a minute? I may have found the answer!"

Richard came out of the kitchen, drying his hands. Laura was sitting on his sofa with her feet on a stool, the newspaper housing advertisements spread over her growing stomach and an excited smile on her face.

"What is it?" he asked, smiling in response.

She pointed to one advertisement. "It's a house in Kensington. See? It's actually two semi-detached houses. Both of them are for sale. Do you think Bill would be interested? If we bought them together, one each, I mean?"

Richard took the paper from her, not quite daring to hope she'd found a solution. Bill had been drawing away from him ever since Laura had made the announcement about the baby. He had done his best to reassure Bill they could still be lovers, but Bill had decided it wouldn't work, that it wouldn't be fair to Laura and the baby, that it was time for him to move on. Richard would have been even more distressed if Bill's actions had matched his words. So far, though, he couldn't keep his hands off Richard when they were together, as if he was trying to build up a store of memories for the future.

Laura was still talking, thinking aloud. "That way he could have his own space but be near us, be involved with the baby as much as he wants to. And it would be easy for you to visit him, privately, I mean."

The more Richard thought about it, the more he thought it might work. Of course, if they broke up, one or the other of them would have to sell their house, but that was a risk in any permanent relationship. "I'll go and see him tonight, take this with me and see what he says," he decided.

But when Richard returned later that evening, he was frustrated. He ran his hand through his hair. "He was interested, I know he was, and then he started coming up with all the reasons why he couldn't do it. I think he feels he's the third wheel on the bicycle. He just doesn't believe you're okay with this for the long term. I don't know what more I can say to convince him!"

Laura hugged him. "Come to bed, love, let him think over the idea, maybe he'll change his mind."

The next morning Laura went back to her flat. She simply had to spend some time on her own writing; she had let it slide the last few weeks and her next deadline was approaching fast. She bought a newspaper on the way, taking a quick look at the headlines. She'd forgotten it was a leap year; tomorrow would be Sunday, the 29th of February. She bet the paper would be full of stories about it.

An hour later she was back at Richard's. "I know we haven't talked about getting married, but—" They talked for another couple of hours, then Richard rang Bill and invited him over for Sunday lunch, promising him roast lamb.

They were all sitting at the table enjoying a glass of Barossa red wine when Laura dropped her bombshell. "I'm thinking of getting married." She looked at both men, a smile curving her lips. "A civil ceremony, maybe in a park or garden."

"Congratulations!" Bill looked a bit sick, but put on a determined smile. "Have you set a date?"

"Well, that rather depends on you. When do you think you would be free?" Laura took a small sip of wine.

Bill looked at her in surprise. "Isn't it up to you and Richard? I mean, I'm flattered to be asked, but surely it's a decision for the bride and groom?"

Laura took a deep breath. "That's why I'm asking you. It's leap year and this is the only day it's customary for the woman to propose. So, Bill, I'm asking you if you'll marry me?"

Bill's mouth dropped open. His eyes flew to Richard's.

Richard was grinning. "We talked about it; this is the only way we could think of to let you know you're part of our family, all three of us together, 'til death us do part."

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