Beth barges into the appartment immediately after I've opened the door for her. "Where's Lucien?" She looks around, only greeted by me and Frank.
"In Paris." My words hang in the air for a while, and when I turn around to face Beth, she looks confused.
"I thought you guys came back early?"
"I did," I shrug. "He just didn't."
The look of confusion changes into one of worry. "Em, you're not going to tell me you broke up, right?"
It takes me some time to come up with an answer, because neither yes or no feel like they're the right thing to say. I don't know what we are, besides severely messed up. "No," is my definitive answer, though there's a hint of doubt to my voice that Beth immediately catches.
"But you left him in France and you're here, whilst you're supposed to be on holiday together?" Her brow is raised, the corners of her mouth pointing down to showcase her worry.
"Technically," I gesture for her to actually come in and not stand in our hallway, "I didn't leave him. We... I asked him if he'd rather go to Paris alone, and his answer was yes."
"So he let you fly home alone?" She's made herself comfortable on the couch, immediately attacked by Frank.
"It's not that easy, Beth," I sigh, taking Frank from her lap as he's clawing at a hole that was already in her jeans. "He... we went through a lot in the past few weeks, and it's now all catching up to us. It's hard for the both of us."
"I thought you two had already figured that out when you spent some time with mum and dad," she mumbles. "That you were okay again."
I simply shake my head, it feeling heavy with all of the emotions that have been flooding me since I came home yesterday in the late afternoon. I've hardly slept, in stead paced the appartment for hours with Frank as my shadow.
"That's going to need some more time," I have to swallow hard to keep any emotion from showing through in my voice. "And work, from the both of us. It's... there's just a lot of eggshells, everywhere."
"That's what he calls them. He's afraid to hurt me, because he saw me at my weakest," I tell her, fiddling with my own thumbs to distract me from the burning sensation behind my eyes. "Because I was very hurt. In that time, he didn't feel like he had the space to feel his own grief. And now it's all catching up with him."
Her hand reaches for mine, something our mother used to do in situations like these as well, as a sign of empathy. I see you, I hear you. I'm here.
She smiles. "I know mum and dad aren't really ones to say these kinds of things, so let me pretend like I'm the wise parental figure for once," she chuckles at her own words. "Just once. You two need therapy, and a lot of it, but you'll be fine, Em. I know how much you love him, so you'll be okay."

She stays over for dinner and chats with me while I cook her favourite kind of pasta, leaned against the counter with a glass of wine in her hand.
"I talked to Chieve about it," she waves away my questioning look when she mentions a new nickname I haven't heard before, "and we both agreed we should do something for the baby. You know, like we did with Lou, something to memorialise her?"
Tears cloud my sight but I try not to let them escape as I roll up my sleeve. "I got this in Nice."
Beth's both hands grab my arm, moving her thumb over the little ladybug. "Lady bug...," when she looks at me, there's tears in her eyes as well. "Because they're always with us, aren't they, even when they aren't here anymore?"
"Luce got something for her too," I smile through the tears that are slowly falling. "And we named her. Claire."
She hugs me tightly, rubbing her hands over my back as she always does.
"Claire," she smiles when she lets go. "That's beautiful. Baby Claire."
I wipe some tears from my cheeks and nod. "Now, enough with the crying," I smile. "We have a pasta to finish, god dammit."
      She stays until long after dinner, and even then there seems to be no sign of her leaving.
"I thought I'd just stay the night," she shrugs when I ask her if she wants me to drop her off at home, or if she'll be taking public transport. "Watch a movie, that kind of stuff."
And so she does. We do the dishes together and even have a sisterly fight over whether or not she's drying my pans right. She does this whole dance routine to a Maroon 5 song with Frank in her arms, whose eyes tell me he'd rather be anywhere but right here, but it has me in a laughing fit so deeply I feel my stomach muscles cramping.
We even smoke a joint together on our balcony, which my mother would kill me for if she found out, so I make her take an oath to never tell her, not even with a gun to her head.
She then asks me where our mother would find a gun, and I tell her it's just a hypothetical. We have an entire debate about whether or not Ratatouille is the best Pixar movie ever made, which I feel very strongly about, and then decide to watch five episodes of Love Island on the couch with an entire pint of ice cream. She falls asleep in the middle of a dramatic moment in the show, and when I wake her up, she rubs her eyes, still half asleep.
"Should go to bed," she mumbles, and not much later we're both in bed, next to one another.

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