Someone Lost, Something Gained



The guest room is an utter mess. Boxes are stacked in every available inch - some Mom-Mom’s, some Granddad’s, and now Hattie’s - and a thick layer of dust covers the furniture. Veda frowns and starts ripping the blankets off the bed, hoping she can find the duster around here somewhere.

“Okay, so. I was meant to go shopping this morning for food, since it’s my day off. But then you rang, and now here we are.”

Hattie slides the pillows out of their cases, drops the fabric into a pile at her feet, and tosses the pillows back onto the bare bed. “We can go now and pick up takeaway on the way back.”

“You just drove how many hours to get here?” Veda snorts. “Shopping can wait. I wanna get you settled in.”

“V, please. It was only four hours. We can shop today, I promise.”

Veda sighs - as much as she just wants to relax tonight, let Hattie get accustomed to being in the house again, she knows it’s pointless to argue. So she relents with as much grace as possible. “If you insist. I suppose you can start unpacking, and I’ll throw your bedsheets in the wash.”

“Call your boyfriend,” Hattie shouts as Veda makes her way down the stairs with an armful of blankets.

“Already planning on it, brat.”

Once the machine is started, a low thrum of noise muffled by the laundry room door, Veda moves to the living room and drops onto the couch. This morning has already been hectic and full of surprises. She’d planned on doing very little in the way of existing, but instead, she has managed to see Niall naked and gain her favourite cousin as a roommate. And now she has a date to plan.

Niall answers on the second ring, as if he’s been impatiently awaiting the call. Veda smiles as her stomach clenches, his voice soft and light as he greets her, and she can’t help but wonder why she ever doubted the feelings she has for him, Ellie’s warning be damned. Exhaling slowly, she settles further into the cushions.

“Hey, Hattie is mostly settled in now.”

“That’s good,” he murmurs, and she closes her eyes, imagines him sat next to her on the sofa, his fingers gently playing with the ends of her hair.

“Yeah, I’m-I’m glad. Uh, Nonna knows about the date now.”


“Yep. She kinda… figured it out when I walked in, so now you have a lot of Italians invested in you. Us.”

Niall laughs quietly, and static fills the line for a moment. “Well, I suppose I better exceed their expectations.”

“What are you up to?” Veda asks after a long silence, grimacing at how awkward the question is - he is going to think she’s never dated before.

“Currently, I am being a bed for a very needy dog. Me taking you home evidently means I was never going to come back.”

“Aw, I miss David Barkie already.”

“Of course you only miss my dog,” he says on a chuckle, and her face heats up.

“Not just the dog. I, uh, I miss you, too.” She pauses, scrubbing a hand over her cheeks. “God, I feel so lame right now.”

“Don’t. This is… It’s new. Of course we wouldn’t be good at it.”

She sighs and picks at a thread on her shorts. “Well, yeah, I guess that’s true, but we’ve never had awkward silences like this before I asked you out on a date.”

“Ve-Veda, again, it’s new. We’ll figure it out.”

Exhaling sharply, Veda decides not to argue further. Instead, she changes the subject to the reason why she rang him in the first place: planning the date. His voice grows muffled, distant, then he’s listing off his schedule for the next week. Veda brings up her own on the Saint Francis employee portal, frowning when she sees the times she’s listed to work conflict with his.

All except Wednesday. He has the day off, and she is meant to be out of work by four.

“Wednesday it is,” Niall says softly; she can see his gentle, sweet smile in her mind. “I’ll be ‘round at six?”

“Perfect. Now, you cuddle my baby boy. I have to do the shopping I meant to do before you needed food to fight a hangover.”

“All right. I’ll see you Wednesday.”

Veda stares down at her phone with a dopey smile on her face after she ends the call. This isn’t the first date she’s ever had - she has been in a few serious relationships, though more on the toxic side - but it is the first one in years. And it is with someone who is far better than any guy before. Someone who gives more than he takes, who genuinely cares and listens. Someone who has seen her at her worst and still sticks around.

Shopping with Hattie ends up being an adventure in itself. They both were raised with opposition mindsets: Debbie taught Hattie that only name-brand will do, whereas Veda learnt that generic is often better - and damn near always cheaper. Veda can’t see the point in spending an extra two bucks on a box of macaroni, so she refuses to cave on this particular hill. Hattie, however, will not back down when it comes to potato chips.

“Lay’s or nothing.”

“Fine,” Veda groans. “Get the four-dollar bag of air.”

Thankfully, living with Hattie looks like it is going to be a helluva lot easier than shopping. She wakes when Veda does on Tuesday and even has all of Veda’s scrubs cleaned and ready to go by the time Veda gets home from work. It’s unusual for the rack to be full in the middle of the week, considering Veda washes laundry on Friday nights. The best part is though they now live together, there is no rush to fill every single silence with idle chatter.

Sure, they reminisce over Granddad and memories made with this neighbourhood, and Veda tells her everything that happens at work. But ultimately, the quiet between conversations is comfortable, less lonely. The house doesn’t feel like it’s closing in on Veda, and she actually has started to look forward to time spent within the walls.

Veda almost manages to forget how nervous she is for the date but is reminded when she finds herself rushing up the stairs on Wednesday afternoon. She strips on the way up to the third floor, dropping her scrubs where they land as she all but sprints into the en-suite bathroom. She has less than an hour to get ready, and she hasn’t even begun to pick out an outfit.

She could win an Olympic medal with how quickly she showers. The water doesn’t even get the chance to warm up properly before she steps out, shivering and reaching for a towel. Hattie has hung a simple sundress on the rack with her scrubs by the time Veda enters her room again.

Veda stands rooted to her spot as she stares at the dress. Nothing elaborate, the pale yellow dress is easy to move in, and it makes her feel pretty. It was one of Granddad’s last gifts to her before his diagnosis. It was her favourite at one point - for all of an hour. Now pain stains the fibres: She’d worn it for a “date” with him, the night he told her of the cancer.

Her cousin meant nothing by the choice; she probably knew that the colour brought out the golden tones to Veda’s hair, the bronze in her skin. Veda swallows thickly and rips the dress from its hanger, stuffing it in the back of her top drawer. Her heart aches with the loss, a hurt she can’t acknowledge tonight. Not when she’s on the precipice of a bright spot in her life.

Veda wipes away the tears, sniffles, then stares at the ceiling. Forcing some semblance of control over herself, she moves toward the closet to choose something else. Something less imbued with love lost and broken hearts. Focusing on the impending time spent with Niall helps. A lot.

One final swipe of mascara thirty minutes later, and she steps back to examine her face in the mirror. Nothing looks out of place or uneven - or like she’s tried too hard to be beautiful. She chose to keep her makeup light, mostly to spite Hattie’s unhelpful note taped to Veda’s bedroom door: “Make him want you!!!”

Her phone vibrates on the counter beside the nylon makeup bag. Veda bites down on her lower lip, fighting a smile, when Niall’s face grins back from the screen. Dropping the tube of mascara with the rest of her cosmetics, she scoops up her phone and slides the icon to answer.



Oh, no. Dread sinks, heavy in her belly, but Veda goes for a joke. Maybe it will remove the tension from his voice. “Nope. Mitchell Pimp House. We whore ‘em, you bore ‘em.”

“Clever.” But Niall isn’t laughing. In fact, he sounds even more frazzled now. “I-I hate to do this, but I can’t make it tonight. I swear, I’ll explain later. I don’t have time right now. I just wanted to let you know and say I’m so, so sorry.”

“Oh. I, um, I understand. Just… call me later?”

He promises to do so, then the call ends. Disappointment surges, ugly and sharp, inside of her. Sighing, Veda lets her phone clatter to the countertop and reaches for a makeup wipe. He sounded genuinely apologetic for having to cancel, but…

She got her hopes up too high. She knew better, but still, she let herself be too excited for this date. Of course it wouldn’t happen. At the last second, it was ripped from her grasp, just like everything else that’s brought her happiness.

Hattie glances up from the television when Veda finally heads downstairs, dressed in a pair of ratty pyjamas with her honey-blonde hair pulled into a messy bun. “Uh-oh, what happened?”

“He cancelled on me.”

“Oh, no! Why?”

Veda shrugs helplessly. “I dunno, he didn’t say. He said he’d tell me later.” She groans and flops down onto the couch next to her cousin. “I really thought he wanted to go out with me, but maybe he doesn’t and just has no clue how to tell me.”

“V, I love you. So much. You know that, right?” at Veda’s nod, Hattie swats the back of her head. “Stop being so stupid. Of course he wants to go out with you. Nonna told me about how often he’s been over here and that he looks at you like you’ve - her words, not mine - ‘hung the stars in his sky’. What does he do?”

Veda rubs at the back of her skull, frowning. “His job? He’s a ped nurse.”

“Then have you considered that maybe, just maybe, he got called into work on an emergency?”

“No,” Veda admits petulantly after a long pause; Hattie’s argument is logical, and Veda can’t believe she didn’t think of it.

“Jeez, Veda, you work in a hospital.” Hattie rolls her eyes, shoving a hand through her dark hair. “You are surrounded by nurses, doctors, surgeons, and whatever else every single day. Yet you still somehow managed to let it slip your damn mind they get called in all the time? Hell, you get called in all the damn time, and you’re a registrar!”

“Well, you don’t have to be so rude. And will everyone stop saying that he feels that deeply for me? We’re friends. Well, I suppose more than that now, considering we’re going on a date. Eventually. Hopefully.”

Hattie pats Veda’s knee, lips quirking, then shakes her head as she turns One Day at a Time back on. Veda sticks her tongue out at her cousin before rising to her feet, heading to the kitchen. Hattie had begged for a bottle of Bailey’s when they went shopping, and Veda hadn’t argued. She may not be getting some time with the beautiful Irishman she fell for, but Irish coffee is a pretty good substitute.