Just a little one-shot I wrote a few months back when I had a burst of inspiration and didn't want to write my Milton paper. Hope you enjoy :)
When she was in second grade, Piper's best friend aside from Prue and Phoebe was Tracy Hoffman. Sometimes, after school, she'd ride the bus home with Tracy, and the two would do their math homework together and play. Tracy didn't have any siblings, and her house was always quiet. It was a welcome change from the chaos of the Halliwell manor.
Tracy's grandmother lived with the Hoffmans, and Piper sensed that her presence contributed to the quiet of the house. Nana Florence could not have been more different from Penny Halliwell. At eighty-eight years of age, Nana Florence was a wrinkled, frail woman, old enough to be Gram's mother. Her hair, always pulled into a bun, was as white and shiny as piano keys. She dressed in conservative housedresses, wore knee stockings and pressed, primly buttoned wool cardigans. She shuffled rather than walked across the Hoffman's hardwood floors in a pair of well-worn gray house slippers—and that was if she walked at all. When Piper came over, Nana Florence was usually sitting in her wooden rocking chair, knitting. The squeak of the chair and click of the needles created a rhythmic, comforting tempo that made the fraction and multiplication problems seem less daunting.
Before she left in the evenings, Piper would walk up to Nana Florence's rocking chair and ask to see what she'd been working on. The old woman would smile, eyes crinkling behind her thick glasses, and let Piper finger the soft scarves and afghans that seemed to flow from the needles like magic. One day she surprised Piper with a little knit beanie cap, red with a trim of tiny white flowers. Two weeks later Nana Florence died. Mrs. Hoffman had found her in the rocking chair, seemingly asleep, two stitches away from finishing Tracy's Christmas sweater.
Piper couldn't bring herself to go to the funeral; memories of watching her own mother's casket being lowered into the cold cemetery dirt were painful and vivid, even after two years. Tracy hadn't understood, and never spoke to Piper again. Missing her best friend and the comforting click of Nana Florence's knitting needles, Piper asked Grams to teach her to knit. Penny had sighed and rummaged in a closet for some old yarn and needles. Three hours later, Piper surveyed her handiwork: twenty alternating rows of purl and knit stitches. The small piece of fabric had several holes, and resembled a jagged lightning bolt rather than a rectangle.
"Grams, I don't like it."
"Oh come now, it's very good for a first try."
"But it needs to be better. I want to add different colors and make pretty patterns, like Nana Florence did."
"Piper, dear, I don't know how to do any of that fancy stuff. How about I show you how to do something else instead? Maybe make some Christmas cookies? You've always wanted to use the oven, haven't you?"
Piper forgot about knitting until high school home economics.
Early September, 2001
She bought a book on knitting after she'd volunteered to host Wendy's baby shower. Come hell or high water or demons or the lingering pain of loosing Prue or Paige's unwelcome clutter all around her house, that baby was going to have personally knitted blankets and accessories. In the end she managed to produce a receiving blanket, a cap, a pair of booties, and a small teddy bear. Of course they were all ruined by Chameleon demon blood, and wound up in a landfill rather than a baby's bureau.
She hadn't wanted her daughter's entire wardrobe to consist of frilly pink garments (Heaven knew Phoebe would shower her with the stuff) so she'd knitted Prudence Melinda an array of rich purple toys and clothes. But the expected Prudence Melinda turned out to be Wyatt Matthew instead, so she gave the booties and caps and soft stuffed animals to charity and figured she'd make her infant boy some yellow or green trinkets later. But as the working mother of a baby who got attacked by a new demon every other week, she never had the time.
When they bought little Chris home from the hospital, she realized with a start that she hadn't even thought about knitting something for her newest child. Of course, she reminded herself, Wyatt didn't have any special hand-knitted mementos from her either. Still, when she held little Chris and looked into the green eyes that brought back vivid memories of her son's older self, she felt guilty.
She was tired from a day of Christmas shopping when she found the yarn. It was various shades of brown, ranging from light tan to dark cocoa. She fingered the soft fibers. They reminded her of something. Impulsively, she held the yarn to her cheek. It was soft, with just a hint of scratchiness, like the stubble on Leo's cheeks in the mornings. She bought the yarn on the spot.
Late at night, after everyone else was asleep, and the empty spot next to her in bed was too cold, she went down to the kitchen. She couldn't cook her anxiety away; the smell might draw Paige or Billie downstairs with whet appetites and unwelcome questions. Instead she retrieved the yarn and her old knitting needles from the back of a cabinet—she was the only one who ever used that part of the kitchen—and knit for hours on end. One row knit, one row purl, over and over and over, pulling each stitch tight, as tightly as she wanted to hold Leo.
Christmas Day, 2006
By the time morning turned into afternoon, the Christmas tree at the Halliwell house was surrounded by scattered piles of wrapping paper, opened boxes, and presents. Piper and Leo sat amidst the mess on the floor, looking fondly over at Chris, whose sleeping head squashed the furry face of his new toy monkey. Paige, Henry, Victor and Coop sat on one the wicker settees, cheeks rosy red with goodwill and homemade eggnog. Phoebe sat in the wicker chair, cheeks rosy red with goodwill and nearly six months of pregnancy. Wyatt's hands were pressed to his aunt's rounded stomach, eyes wide with wonder as he felt the whispering kicks of his unborn cousin.
Mumbling an excuse about getting more eggnog, Piper stood. Pausing to touch the barely discernable bump in her own abdomen (and silently thanking the tiny life that grew there for giving her a morning sickness-free Christmas) she grabbed Leo's hand and pulled him after her into the kitchen, letting go of him only to retrieve a lumpy parcel from the back of a cabinet. "This is for you."
"For me? And it couldn't go under the tree?"
She shook her head. He raised a questioning eyebrow, untied the ribbon and carefully unwrapped the gift. Freed from the tissue paper, a long scarf in varying shades of brown tumbled toward the floor.
Leo's face lit in a smile. "It's beautiful, Piper!" He bent to kiss her lips.
She kissed him back and took the scarf, and wrapped it around his neck. "I made it for you. Last Christmas."
Understanding filled his green eyes, and he pulled her close. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Piper wound her hand in the loose end of the scarf, and the pleasantly scratchy soft material warmed her fingertips.
Leo kissed the top of her head. "I love you."
She didn't say anything—just tilted her head up and to the side ever so slightly, so that the stubble on his cheek tickled her own.