“Shit,” she whispered, digging in her purse. “Did I turn it off?”
“I know I didn’t,” I said, pulling mine from my pocket. It was just that there were no texts, no missed calls, nothing.
His reply came almost immediately. Everything is fine. Anna is asleep. See you soon.
Niall was stretched out on the leather couch in the living room, watching John Oliver on the telly. Anna was asleep on his long legs, one fist in her mouth and the other curled around her lion blanket.
“Good night out then?” he asked quietly, watching as we hung our coats up in the closet.
“The best,” I told him, taking in the scene in front of me. “Are you sure you don’t want to move in across the hall? There’s a flat for sale. This would be very convenient for us.”
He laughed. “It’s tempting. Your building is rather posh, and this little one is brilliant, yeah?”
“Cheers, mate,” I said quietly. “You let us forget to be worried.”
He smiled up at me, giving me that look that told me he thought I was a sentimental wanker, and then rested his hand on Anna’s belly. “It was really nice. Perhaps you can return the favor someday.” His smile straightened for the span of a heartbeat, and in that tiny flicker in his expression, I felt the full weight of his disappointment in his marriage.
Sara went to change out of her dress and I reached for Anna, picking her up with the confidence of a father who expects the child to remain sleeping. Except she didn’t; for once she woke when jostled, and her sweet little face screwed up in frustration as she began to cry.
“Ah, sorry, sorry,” I whispered, bouncing her gently. “Just a minute, little miss, your mum’s almost done.”
Anna didn’t want to be held and rocked, she wanted Sara, and the sound of her angry cry pushed an ache into my chest. But it didn’t bother me the way it would have only days ago. I felt recharged like a battery, full of patience and calm and the quiet that comes from genuine contentment.
Sara came into the hall, taking the baby from me, and I followed them both into the nursery, watching them settle into the rocking chair.
“She’s probably the cutest baby on the planet,” Sara said, grinning up at me. So relaxed, so fucking giddy. It was as if she knew all along we would end up right here, in this night.
I bent down, kissed Annabel’s soft cheek as she calmed down and began to nurse. “You got your sensitive side from your daddy,” I whispered. “Sorry about that, baby girl. But you also got your mum’s steel, so you’ll be okay.”