The new routine and newfound knowledge took some getting used to, the latter particularly for Oliver. He had more forgiving days than others. When having a bad day, his temper fell on Grace, harsh words that he'd held back in the beginning making themselves heard in an unrelated incident. Grace withstood these bursts as much as she could, almost relieved he was showing more anger. It helped to know that after a bad day he'd come to her door and to make peace, sometimes apologizing though it was still a difficult task for him. They couldn't forget the problems they'd had prior to Victor.
Annie was slowly allowing Grace back into her own routine. She was still standoffish at most times but lately had been coming to her again when she needed her mother. Whether or not things had ever smoothed over with Molly, Grace wasn't sure. She hoped, but had to assume Annie would speak about her to at least Oliver if things had been patched.
As for herself, Grace felt like a stranger in her own home. The most Oliver would let her do was type up letters and run errands. His new secretary posed no real threat to her, though beautiful and a few years younger than she would have liked, she couldn't compare to over a decade of experience not only in the field but with Oliver's unique work environment. She didn't get the feeling Oliver had hired her as an attempt for revenge, though she couldn't bock at it if that were the case.
More than anything else, she was bored. A full staff meant there were no chores to do. Annie was at school all day and busy with her friends and homework in the evening — assuming it was a night she allowed Grace in her company. The isolation made her realize how few friends she had outside the house. Reaching out to the wives of some of Oliver's closer associates seemed risky. Rumors had been going around thanks to Victor. Oliver shielded her from as much as possible. There hadn't been anything in the gossip columns which was a relief. Keeping it contained to their social loops was more bearable. After all these years they still whispered about Oliver Warbucks and his secretary-turned-bride. This probably hadn't been a surprise to any of them.
She hadn't realized how much of herself had revolved around Oliver. Of course, when things were going well it was a non-issue. Only now that things were rocky did it seem to matter. But she was past the point of going back to her routes. Her family was gone or estranged and old friends long lost. She'd been working her entire adult life, nearly all of that time for Oliver. Her life didn't exist outside the house. For a while, this was burdensome, but in desperation, she let herself outside more. She bought some simple dresses to walk around the park and window shop. If she had to spend time alone she might as well do so among strangers. That way she could distract herself from the never-ending thoughts of what'd she'd done to turn everything upside down.
It felt good to blend in. Though her face often appeared in the paper alongside Oliver, most people only memorized Oliver's features. Without the expensive cars and tailored clothes, nobody gave a second look. It was an enlightening experience. She saw at what lengths people went to make a few cents. Some put on puppet shows, others playing music or painting portraits, and others resorted to panhandling, looking too hungry and tired to put much effort into a specific talent. She was grateful to be in the position to quietly help these people out. She was sure to choose one or two people a day who appeared to need a break the most. She'd drop a few bills in their cups and walk away without so much as meeting their eye. Right now, it was the only thing she could do to make her feel good about herself.
Being out in public more also allowed her to catch glimpses of dreams that were slipping through her fingers. Mothers pushing their baby in a stroller, mothers running around trying to catch their toddlers and scolding the older ones for not looking out for them, young couples strolling hand in hand, looks of love radiating from their eyes… she hadn't realized how much she'd missed out. It felt as though Annie was already grown. Adopting her at ten didn't leave much time for childhood. She'd been raised to be independent and didn't need the same constant care. She could go to the park on her own and meet up with her friends. Family outings were more chaotic going to the theatre or one of Oliver's parties. Her relationship with Oliver? There had been a honeymoon period, of course, but it wasn't what she saw between a lot of the couples she passed. Their relationship didn't have to change much once they were married. They shared a room, sure, but their days were the same. Adding romance to the mix was nice, especially since Oliver had changed so much with Annie in his life, but it was still different. They weren't so young and they were sure of their lives.
For a while, they'd talked about having a baby, trying for some time. When nothing ever resulted in a pregnancy, they quietly moved on, hoping for a surprise down the line. She hadn't thought about it so much as their relationship declined. If she did, it was more of a worry, not wanting to complicate things any more than they already were. Now she was left with too much time to realize that she had little time left to make a dream that had once been the center focus of her life become reality. She never intended to be a career woman forever. She was from a traditional Irish family. The thought of not having children was a foreign concept. She was blessed to call Annie her daughter, but the longing for a child she could nurture from the beginning became a constant ache.
It was a yearning she kept to herself. She couldn't give Oliver space and bring up the topic of a baby at the same time. Not because she thought he'd react badly, rather, she couldn't handle the confusion it would bring. What was most important was rebuilding trust with him. It was a conscious decision, at least, though it didn't hurt any less.
The months continued to pass and she'd grown accustomed to her time away. Once the summer months hit and Annie had dropped most of her apprehension around her, the two of them spent time together. At least one of her springtime fantasies were playing out, Grace often thought. Friends still took precedence over parents, though. Nothing shocking for a teenager. Grace was relieved the day she saw Molly rejoin Annie's friend group, though the tension was still evident. It was a start.
Oliver wondered where Grace went every day. He'd noticed the slight changes over time. Her clothes, her hair, the quiet and pensive air about her. Grace had panicked at the initial inquiry, fearing he thought she'd been unfaithful again. He denied that being the reason for asking, but it didn't go unnoticed by her when suddenly he was finding more work for her to do. Figuring she'd spent enough time on her retreats, she took the tasks on happily.
Weeks continued to pass, Grace realizing how much her and Oliver's relationship had come to a standstill. Most interactions were either cordial, mealtimes and goodnights at their doors, or official, work-related and routine. Carefully, she broached the subject of getting away to the country for a long weekend. No work, no pressure. He considered it, going back and forth between declining and accepting. Last-minute finally brought an affirmative answer, deciding that he too was tired of the blurred lines of their relationship.
Everything was brought out into the open. Salting old wounds, catching up on things the other had missed out on, where they wanted to go and how they saw themselves getting there… doors were slammed and tears were shed, but by the time they headed back to the city, they felt a renewed hope. Things weren't over for them, and it was time to start pushing forward. Together.