They had successfully played house for two years. It had become normal for them. They hadn't heard anything from Lu or Collin in all of that time. Alden read a news article that their old home had burned down, but he figured that was part of the plan to disappear.
Lilly was enrolled in public school. She loved it. It took her a while to get used to kids her age, but now that she was starting junior high she was surrounded by friends.
Alden found a job doing medical recording from home. It allowed him to scan files for familiar names as he worked. Delia kept things running. She was their accountant. She kept their bills paid, gas in the car, inspections on time. All of the things they didn't know they'd have to do, she figured them out. She even learned how to repair the engine in their car and change its oil, breaks, and tires on her own. She found she liked fixing things. Alden was the best cook, so he kept them fed. Lilly was in charge of taking out the trash, doing dishes, and actually being a kid. Everyone had a duty. And at the end of the night, they had gotten into the habit of either sleeping on the living room floor with a sleeping bag, or all three piling into the master bed. Lilly hadn't seemed to trust that they would still be there when she woke up enough to sleep in her own room.
They trusted a few of their neighbors. Cari came over for dinner every now and then. She and Delia had become friends over the past two years. Delia had modified their past, confiding in her about her mother's death.
"You two haven't had a night to yourselves even once in the two years that you've been married. If you want, I can watch Lilly for you every now and then to give you two a break," Cari offered.
"I just don't know how Lilly would take it," Delia sighed. "She's never even spent the night at a friend's house."
"Talk to her about it," Cari suggested. "If anything happens, I'm just across the street."
Delia nodded. She talked with Lilly that night.
"I don't mind," Lilly said.
Delia hugged her tightly.
"You know we aren't going anywhere, right?" Delia asked. "We're going to go have dinner, but then we're coming back home and we'll be right across the street."
"I know," Lilly smiled. "I'll be fine."
Delia kissed her forehead.
"You're a good kid," Delia said.
"Yeah, yeah," Lilly sighed.
She walked across the street to Cari's as Delia and Alden got into their car. He drove them to a little bistro where he'd made a reservation. She had worn a dress and he had worn slacks and a button down shirt.
"You look a bit like him," she observed from across the table. "Like your father."
They had gotten used to referring to Lu or Collin as the other's father during public conversation.
"Thank you," he smiled and folded a napkin over his lap.
They shared pleasant conversation over dinner. They had somehow become parents who had to carve out a date night by getting a babysitter. It all felt very surreal, but commonplace at the same time.
Once they got back home, Alden had dessert and a bottle of wine waiting. They were now able to talk more freely.
"This is weird, right?" Delia asked. "You're pouring wine for me in our home while the child we're raising stays the night at a friend's house. I'm just about to turn nineteen, and were like this old married couple."
He handed her a glass.
"Yep, it's weird," he said.
"Why haven't we heard from them?" She asked and took a sip. "Do you think they're even still alive."
"Of course they're alive. It's Collin and Lu we're talking about. If they could plan a perfect escape for us, they can plan one for themselves."
He sat next to her on the sofa.
"Living like this is wearing me out," she sighed. "I never feel like I get to just enjoy your company. We don't act like we used to. We parent and we work and we sleep."
"We've given up a lot to take care of Lilly," Alden acknowledged. "But we do that for us, too. We do that for your mother and for Collin."
She nodded her head.
"We have tonight," he reminded her.
"We're too young to have to be like this," she frowned.
"You're killing the mood," he pointed out. "I'd kiss your lips if they'd stop complaining."
"I'm sorry," she frowned. "I just really miss living free if care on that plot of land in the middle of nowhere. I miss sneaking into your room. I miss the feeling of our first kiss."
He sat his glass down, then he took hers and sat it down. He took her hands in his and looked her in the eye.
"None of this changes the fact that you are my best friend and I'm still madly in love with you," he said.
"Then go mad once in a while," she laughed. "You're too stable. You always have been."
He pulled her into a deep kiss, then pulled away.
"Is that mad enough?" He asked.
"You're getting closer to the mark," she said through heavy breaths.
He kissed her again. Her hands clung to his face and tried to bring him closer. His arms wound around her waist. He had never kissed her like this before. It told her that he'd felt as desperate and lonely as she had these past two years.
She pulled away for a moment to breathe.
"Are you okay?" He asked her.
She nodded and reached for her glass of wine. She drank it down in one gulp.
"Am I making you nervous?" He asked, concern lacing his voice.
"A little bit," she breathed. "But it's okay. It's a good nervous. Like anticipation. Remember the night I gave you a hickey?"
"You mean the night you pegged me with a tennis ball?"
"I feel like that. I remember feeling your pulse under my fingers, and it made me nervous then."
He buried his head into the crook of her neck and kissed her their, pondering the hickey and deciding against it.
"You aren't being fair," she said.
"Who said I had to be?" He asked and kissed her lips again.
In the morning, he woke up with her in his arms, her back pressed against his stomach. He kissed her shoulder, then her neck. She turned in his arms to face him.
"Good morning," she smiled and sleepily kissed his lips.
"I'm taking a shower," she said and pulled herself out of bed. "I guess it wouldn't be too strange anymore for you to share it with me. We'd save water that way."
"You're always thinking about how to lower our bills," he teased and she threw a pillow at him.