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That's Not Very Punk of You

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She could feel the anger, palpable on her taut skin and pulsating in the creases of her tense muscles. Sweat was forming on her brows, all the heat rushing to her face. Her right fist burned with the force of strength she used to curl it at her side, fingers aching to release, the left fist crumpling her paper lunch bag.

Laura couldn’t breathe, or rather, she wouldn’t.

Because the moment she relinquished control and exhaled, she was sure to unleash the wave of wrath that was coursing through her veins. If she let that go, who knows what else she would allow herself to do. Something that would earn her more teasing, no doubt.

Laura was bullied, a lot. It was a typical high school cliche, but what was studious, straight A, non-straight lesbian (and a sophomore , no less) of her age supposed to expect?

It didn’t bother her, usually. She had worked to hard to build confidence and was far above falling prey to the low digs most of her peers aimed at her scholarly appearance and slightly out-of-ordinary habits. Of course, she had her moments of weakness but overall, held strong. What really gnawed at her patience was the nature of the verbal attacks. They weren’t clever or witty or well thought out, which lead Laura feeling annoyance rather than hurt.

But today was different. Today, someone had lit her fuse. A boy named Will in her 4th period English class. She had walked in, making a beeline for the middle center of the classroom as she always did. He mentioned her outfit as she passed, a whisper to one of his jock friends who was leaning an appropriate distance as to not look too interested in his friend but close enough to hear his statement. He called them “granny’s funeral clothes.”

Laura tried to brush off for the rest of the period, but it kept calling out to her in a mantra. She heard his statement and the countless others she had endured during her short lifespan in high school run through her head in a cycle. And as the final bell signifying her lunch break rang out, the thoughts had been ruminating for long enough and her fuse was close to the source of explosion.

She had shot out of her seat, impulse causing her to stand there and contemplate what to do, which lead back to the present task at hand: controlling her anger.

She’d never had this problem. She often dealt with over excitement rather than seething, all consuming rage. People in movies usually advised those in her situation to breathe but she had already established to herself that wasn’t going to happen.

She felt herself finally drifting off toward a sense of calmness, standing there and doing nothing. Except, it wasn’t true calm and she made the mistake of letting go, giving in.

She exhaled deeply, her eyes closing with the release of air. There was a moment of stillness, where all the emotion had followed her breath. It floated out into the open and drifted outward to become someone else’s problem. She inhaled again and her eyes pried open in a flash. Her adrenaline spiked and she knew there was only one way to fix this.

She raced forward, leaving behind all her supplies and sprinted out into the hallway. She dodged the stagnant students lingering by their lockers and weaved through the masses of people heading in the other direction.

After a few minor slips and almost collisions, she broke through the final line and sprinted into the open area of the quad. It was a grassy field, accentuated with sparse trees between sections of the school. It served as a resting ground for wandering kids to eat lunch or relax during their free period. But now, as Laura sped  over to the far brick building, it may as well been a battleground.

She was acting a little reckless, and a little dumb, but this is what those idiots had driven her to do. If they weren’t going to change their loathsome attitude, it was her that must change. As long as it got them off her back, gave her just a smidgen of peace and quiet and alone time, she would do it .

It , being, another cliche. A makeover. She needed to fit in with a different crowd, one that was full of apparently targetable misfits. Laura didn’t agree with their ideology or concept of hierarchy but god damn it, she was done. If this plan fulfilled itself, it would be her chance to prove the bullies wrong. She had style, elegance, a backbone. She would be picked on no longer, once they see how versatile and strong she could be.

It was easy to spot her (hopefully, wishfully) new mentors against the clay red of the bricks behind them. Their spot, the wall of the west science wing, was their designated and frequent hang out; each subgroup had their own and it was the silent school rule to obey these laws. No mingling with different crowns, territories are strict and final, remain in your territory and you won’t stir up trouble. Fuck the rules, Laura thought. She had run out of fucks to give not five minutes ago.

Laura felt the ground underneath her transition from grass to sidewalk and she skidded in front of the group with an abrupt halt. She didn’t waste time with pleasantries, jumping straight into her motive for making the arduous trek across campus.

“Make me emo!” Laura demanded with a stomp of her foot. The chatter that had been lightly bouncing between mouths died instantly. The group looked shocked, glancing at one another with wide eyes and confused expressions, except for someone who was leaning on said wall, just a few feet outside the immediate vicinity of the commotion Laura had caused.

She was clearly part of the pack and looked the part with her pitch black attire (sans the streak of pink in her hair), combat boots (that were probably heavier than her entire textbook list combined), studs on every available patch of her pale skin (seriously, did she ever see the sun?) and a dark, full face of makeup (emphasis on the eyeliner). Laura would not have noticed her presence if not for the light chuckle and unsettling stare she had fixated in her direction.

None of them spoke, just stared at her with significantly more relaxed gazes than the mystery jokester who was amused by her awkward, blunt approach.

“What?” One of them said. It was a boy with long fringe and a shirt displaying a scraggly logo of some popular screamo band. He flipped his hair out of his sightline, his expression morphing into a glare.

“I’ve been getting picked on for years because of my appearance,” Laura explained in rapid fire phrases, desperation bleeding into her plea. “And I figured if they won’t stop, then I have to do something because I am so close to losing my mind here!”

“Why us?” Another said, a girl who had a more toned down approach to the whole “scene” culture.

“No one will even approach me if I look like you so I need to look like you guys,” Laura whined.

There were a few mummers exchanged, followed by a hearty scoff. All of them started to collect their trash, shove notebooks back into what were probably bottomless pit bags, and stood up with grim faces. Laura watched in silent horror as most of them walked away without so much as an explanation.

“We aren’t emo,” the boy, who had spoken to her earlier grumbled, knocking her shoulder as he pushed passed.

Laura groaned, wiggling like a fish out of water at her idiotic nature. Of course, that didn’t go well. She practically barged into their space and demanded to be helped. She didn’t even know them on a personal or friendly level, just that they were known as the “emo kids” through the gossip train.

She was dragged from her own internal shame fest at the sound of a slow clapping applause from a single audience. The sole survivor of her social massacre, the loitering onlooker.

“Nice going, sweetheart,” she chuckled, her smirked growing to show suspiciously sharp canines. Laura wouldn’t be surprised if she had fake teeth implanted to resemble a threatening vampiric bite.

“What’dyou call that performance?”

“Unsuccessful,” Laura sighed, her pout matching the width of the person’s smirk.

“Well, that’s a name setup for failure,” she chuckled again.

“As is my whole life, it seems.” Laura felt uncomfortable, standing there with no real purpose, so she plopped down and rested against the bricks. She pulled her legs up to her knees and dropped her head into her folded arms in utter defeat. She would now be known as the foolish laughing stock of the school, rather than just the laughing part.

“Were you serious?” she suddenly asked.

“About what?” Laura mumbled out from the protection of her knees, which were bare with the ridding up of her jean shorts.

“The bullies.”

“Oh,” Laura said, lifting her head up to gaze at the stranger, unrestrained. “Yeah.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t heard all the things they say about me.” She continued weakly and the girl rolled her eyes in response.

“I couldn’t care less about petty high school drama.” Laura couldn’t help the quirk of her lips and the relief that spread through her chest. She didn’t know. And if she didn’t know, it was likely the only opinion she had formed about her was from what she just witnessed. Which, arguably, wasn’t much better than the reputation she already had, but at least it was her own. One she had created herself, instead of it being stolen and molded to whatever her peers saw fit.

Despite all the feelings bubbling up inside her, she stuck with a simple “cool” and let the conversation die from there. She expected the girl to walk away once she dropped her head once more, but she still lingered.

In fact, she had turned to face Laura, picking at the crumbling cement of the wall. Every so often, she glanced at her. She could feel her analytical stare, but couldn’t quite determine her course of thought. Her face remained flat, emotionless and uncrackable. Though it seemed natural given her… alternative demeanor, it must have taken years of practice to be that unreadable.

“I could help you,” she mumbled after several minutes of fiddling and alternating gazes.

“Really?!” Laura clambered up, clawing at the wall for better balance as she shot up again. She stood in front of the girl, barely taming the excitement buzzing on her skin.

When she nodded a yes, Laura spewed out a bunch of ‘thank you’s’ and hugged onto her for dear life. She was so thankful that someone was going to help her rectify the situation. Maybe she wouldn’t be the school’s verbal punching bag for the last years of her secondary education.

The stranger pushed her off after a few awkward seconds of Laura squeezing her and her standing as tense as a slab of wood.

“But only because I don’t want you tarnishing the name of punk.” Laura nodded emphatically.

“First lesson is, we aren’t emo. Don’t call us that,” she said. “Also, don’t tell anyone it was me.” Laura could fill in the unspoken words. She didn’t want Laura telling people it was her who helped. She was used to that, people not wanting to associate with her.

Again, Laura’s head bounced up and down, channeling all her energy into accepting whatever terms and conditions came with this arrangement. She was currently receiving a concerned grimace in response to her actions, so she took a deep breath and calmed down. She didn’t want to freak her out.

“My name is Laura,” she announced, hand outstretched.

“Carmilla,” she offered in return. “Punks don’t shake hands.”

“Right!” Laura said, dropping her limbs like Carmilla had set it on fire with her mental abilities.

Carmilla shook her head and reached down to pull a pen out of her black satchel. It was covered in different pins, ranging from quotes about anarchy, to satirical parodies of gender roles. She grabbed Laura’s arm and proceeded to write down a series of numbers, that, when she turned her arm upside-down, looked like the workings of an address.

“I’m assuming you don’t skip class,” Carmilla said and Laura gawked.

“Definitely not!”

“Right… stop by my house after school then. Don’t bother ringing the doorbell, just come on in.”

“Isn’t that a little intrusive?”

“No boundaries,” Carmilla shrugged. “And my parents are never home.”
“Think you can handle that, princess?” She flashed that smirk again and Laura’s mind wandered to all the connotations that came with an empty house run by an unsupervised teenager. She felt a blush steadily creeping up her face and the words in her throat catch.

She just nodded, because apparently Carmilla could make her speechless. Maybe, it was because she could read her mind and her body knew words weren’t needed (she didn’t exactly know what powers punk people had, but they seemed a bit unethical and darksided. Which was fine, Laura could handle darkness. She had her own shadows inside, too).

“Great, later.” Carmilla seemed suddenly bored, her emotions fading back to what seemed to be her base level. She gathered her bag and gave her the “rock and roll” hand sign, slinking off to do god knows what; skip class or smoke weed or whatever the delinquents do.

Laura exhaled the breath she didn’t know she was holding once Carmilla had gone. What a trip this was going to be.

She stared down at her arm, where the lettering stuck out like a deep tattoo, where her skin still burned from the other girl’s touch. It was a good thing she wasn’t popular, because the rest of her evening was free and she was feeling a little newfound recklessness. Her dad would not approve going to a stranger’s house without permission, but that’s what punks did, right? Not care? Defy adult authority? She high fived herself with a squeal of joy. As in, physically, one hand hitting the other.

She was off to a great start.

-

Laura imagined Carmilla’s house to be full on vampire aesthetic; old architecture and gothic spires and curtains blacking out the view of their dead front lawn.

However, upon arrival, it looked like every other suburban home. Clean, green garden, white picket fence, tan exterior with two stories.

After school, she called up her father and lied about needing to aid one of her teachers in their classroom and he bought it faster than she bought Taylor Swift’s 1989 album (Taylor Swift™ No copyright infringement intended. Property of TAS LLC Management 2014©) when it went on sale. Just as a precautionary measure, she turned off her phone’s location, in case he felt so inclined to verify her whereabouts like the overprotective dad he is.

The walk to her house wasn’t that difficult, she actually lived just a few blocks down from campus and only a couple streets over from Laura’s home, which was pretty convenient. She didn’t know what Carmilla had planned for her or how long this transformation would take. No matter how long, she was determined to become the perfect punk prodigy and Carmilla seemed like a more than qualified teacher.

Laura did as she was instructed, opening the huge white door without so much as knocking. It pained her to do so, it felt like a crime. Technically, it was a crime. Speaking of which, this could be a total set up to get Laura arrested, or worse, murdered. Carmilla could have played right into her distress and created this elaborate plan to call the police the second she entered. Welp, fingers crossed. Punks weren’t allowed to be scared or feel pain, Laura told herself as the door slammed shut behind her (it was a heavy door, okay?).

The clomp of Laura’s shoes echoed through the eerily quiet foyer as she made her way further inside. She was met with a staircase, stretching up to the upper level and two options to go left or right. To the left was an open living room area with a huge flat screen television and several plush couches. To the right, a spacious kitchen with miles of granite counters and stainless, steel appliances. The whole house looked as though hadn’t been lived in, clean and spotless, like one of those model homes they used to showcase real estate.

Laura stood there, gazing back and forward at the two ground floor options when a voice spoke from above, echoing off the tiles and the walls and the modern art paintings.

“You’re lucky, usually I’m blasting music.” Laura startled, throwing her arms up in a krav maga stance.

“God, is that you?” Laura whispered, searching around for the source.

“He doesn’t exist. Up here, cupcake.” That was a new one. Cupcake. Not really an insult she had received before. It didn’t sound like one though, which threw her off.

Laura looked up to see Carmilla, sitting on the stair banisters, legs dangling in between the bars. Laura blanched, an embarrassed flush already on it’s way to her face.

“How long have you been there?”

“Long enough,” she smirked.

“Gee, thanks,” Laura replied with a dry undertone. Carmilla ignored her, changing the subject as though she hadn’t spoke.

“You failed my first test.”

“What test?”

“I told you to let yourself in. You did, but punks break rules. You followed my orders.” Laura gasped.

“Are you kidding me! I went out of my way to break societal rules and you’re- you’re!”

“I’m what, tell me,” Carmilla egged her on, daring her to use the profanity that was sure to follow the bullshit examination she had given her. Laura took a deep breath, the air expanding her lungs. She was preparing herself. Now, she knew this whole experience would be a test and she was ready to ace it.

“A bitch!” Laura exhaled, her voice slamming out and straight up to Carmilla. She nodded, pleased at her example of punkness.

“Good, but you can do better next time,” Carmilla appraised (or apprehended, Laura wasn’t sure), standing up and disappearing toward the interior of the second floor.

“Come up!” She called out and Laura rushed over, taking the steps two at a time. She tried to let Carmilla’s voice guide her back but it didn’t work when she said nothing else. Laura ended up checking each room she went past (and there were a lot of them) until she found Carmilla in what really seemed to be the most fitting of all.

It was the perfect representation of an angsty teen. Her walls were white but layered with stains, covered in band posters and graffiti she had done herself. There was no light filtering in through the single window because it had been blacked out using multiple measures of isolation. The room was in complete disarray. The bed was unmade and there were clothes covering the floor, no attempt to even throw it in the ripped up basket in the corner. Records and books were strewn about and trash, there was so much of it. It looked like Carmilla hadn’t cleaned in forever.

Laura stood at the threshold, a mix between disgusted and shocked, while Carmilla acted as though it was normal. She sat at the edge of her bed, scrolling through her phone.

“I would invite you to make yourself comfortable, but I don’t really care,” Carmilla grumbled out. Laura puffed up her chest, steeled herself, and fought a path through the forest of mess to sit next to her.

Carmilla continued to fiddle with her phone, and regular Laura would wait until she finished. But punk Laura was impatient, so she tried to smack Carmilla on the arm with as little force as she could. Carmilla smiled, huffing out a laugh. She chucked her phone off into an abyss of blanket and finally focused on her.

“So, how can I be of assistance?” She sighed, picking at the black chipped nail polish on her borderline sickly fingernails.

“I need a new look. One that screams ‘don't…” Laura paused, thinking of a better curse word than “mess”.

“Don’t fuck with me,” Laura continued. “And I need a backbone.” Carmilla was silent for a moment, contemplating.

“I can help with the clothes but the backbone, that’s all you.” Laura furrowed her brows, about to argue when she spoke up again.

“Before your panties get too twisted,” Carmilla chuckled, “It comes from within. You already have one, you just have to use it.”

“I don’t know how,” Laura mumbled, staring holes into her shoes. If she couldn’t stand up to the bullies, it would prove to be useless. Any sign of weakness would be exposed and chipped at until she fell back into normal habit of developing early onset aneurysms.

“Hey.” Carmilla grasped her bicep, the touch incredibly soft for someone whose appearance was rough.

“The pity party stops the minute you walk into my house.” Though the phrase seemed harsh, Carmilla said it with a gentle reverence. Laura thought for a moment that maybe someone, maybe she , cared.

“You do know how, because you used it with me,” she reassured and Laura smiled, then looked at her. She was right, she did indeed use some harsh intonations and aggressions toward her earlier. They weren’t necessary but Laura supposed it was good practice.

Carmilla held eye contact for a lingering beat before she cleared her throat, standing up and shuffling over to the closet, kicking worn shirts and wrappers to the side. She pried the doors open with such a force that they rippled with the aftershocks. Laura winced but Carmilla didn’t seem to mind, rummaging through the contents inside. She couldn’t see from her vantage point still slumped on Carmilla’s bed but could hear the telltale noises of hangers scraping against metal and drawers being opened and closed with a squeaking pull.

When Carmilla emerged from the her own gothic Naria , her arms were full of different articles of clothing, or she assumed it was several pieces and not just one giant blob of black, accented with the occasional shade of grey. She utilized the same path she created earlier, dropping the pile right next to Laura. The blob disbanded, spreading out over the faded black of Carmilla’s sheets, some of them falling, now lost to the desolate landscape of the floor.

Carmilla motioned for her to stand up and Laura delicately shifted to a spot with the least amount of litter taking place. She grabbed Laura’s arms and held them out to her sides, looking her up and down. She tried hard not to twitch beneath Carmilla’s (once again) burning grip or her intense stare, but before she could really process what all these involuntary movements and feelings meant, she dropped them and step back.

“We seem to be the same size, so pick anything that calls to you,” she said, gesturing with a weak hand toward the pile, “or whatever.”

Laura watched as she navigated her way to the book stacks and chose the one of top. She dusted it off and then threw herself onto her bed with a huff, cracking it open to a random page and started to read. Ignoring the sting of Carmilla’s possible disinterest, it was Laura’s turn to riffle through what she had chosen for her to try on.

There wasn’t much variety in the style or color palette of the wardrobe options so it didn’t take Laura long to compile an outfit; a sleeveless moon tank top, leather pants with rips at the knee, a studded bracelet and combat boots that were a size too big for her small feet.

She was about to ask where the bathroom was or if she could have a little bit of privacy while changing, but when she looked over, Carmilla was lying still with a book resting open and covering her eyes. And with the gentle whistling following each inhale, she assumed the girl had actually fallen asleep.

Laura rolled her eyes at Carmilla’s irresponsibility as a host and undressed right there, which wasn’t exactly a smart idea but she committed to the danger of it all. It was a punk thing to not care, to be unashamed of her body or anything really. Easier said than done, Laura was only successful at faking her new punk attitude; she didn’t really feel it yet. She was sweating bullets the whole time, trying to change fast enough and ensure that Carmilla wasn’t going to wake up mid-make over or that she was feigning sleep to catch a peek of her nude.

Neither scenarios happened and Laura breathed a sigh of relief once she had changed shirts and finally managed to slip the tight leather over her legs and butt. It was quite a feat that involved a lot of maneuvering her limbs, the squelching of leather as it warmed against her skin, and determination. She buttoned them with an air of finality and slipped the boots on, lacing them at tight as possible so she wouldn’t trip over her own clown feet. The added touch of the bracelet was the last piece to complete the look. It was simple, and not outrageously punk, but it was contrastly different from her usual appearance, which Laura considered a winning attempt.

Even after all her shuffling, self pep talks, and almost falling over while slipping on the leather pants, Carmilla was still fast asleep. Laura debated what to do. She had time, considering the other girl wouldn’t be there to immediately pressure her into thinking as quick as an experienced punk would.

She thought about just letting Carmilla sleep, changing back into her normal clothes, and leaving for good. She could forget this ever happened and come back to her sense. Another option consisted of waking her up with a gentle calling of the name or a shaking of the shoulder as to not startled her. However, she knew Carmilla and the all seeing, extremely punk gods would disapprove. Making up her mind and acting before her conscience could talk her out of this, she bolted over and swiped the book from Carmilla’s face. She stood there, struck by her exquisite facial features.

A moment of weakness, perhaps.

She snapped out of it quick and proceeded to step back, then chuck the book at Carmilla’s stomach. It landed with a dull thunk and Laura flinched when Carmilla did, the impact of the object coursing through her sleeping figure.

She inhaled sharply at the rude awakening, rubbing her eyes and smudging the black lines there. Laura forced her features into a harsh scowl, remembering all the anger she previously felt to switch back into punk mode.

“Wake up,” Laura said, attempting to harden herself. It was futile and she ended up stammering to find a proper insult and finish the sentence.

“Butthead.” Carmilla chuckled in response, sitting up.

“Shithead, headass, shit-for-brains, or McFly would have been a better choice.” She scoffed.

“Nice attempt, though.” Carmilla stretched and Laura allowed her a moment to collect herself while she made a mental note of the fresh advice.

“Holy shit.”

“What?” Laura said, turning to look back at Carmilla, who was now at the edge of her bed, eyes glazed over and mouth slightly ajar. Laura’s words seemed to break her out of her trance. The stone was replaced in her eyes and her signature smirk returned for another gracing of presence.

“You look,” she interrupted herself to saunter over, piercing gaze never once leaving her body, or rather, outfit. Laura held her breath the closer she stalked, heart beating out of her chest.

“Ravishing,” Carmilla said. Except, she didn’t really say it. She breathed it, exhaled it from her bones. It was more of a sultry, seductive purr. Laura twitched. She didn’t know how to handle those types of adjectives and undertones, especially directed at her.

“Thanks,” Laura said in a drawn out statement. Not only was she unsure of Carmilla’s intentions, but her own. She gulped, “Why does it sound like you want to eat me?”

“Not eat .” Carmilla hadn’t moved out of her space yet. She was lingering, fiddling with the fabric of her shirt in slow, deliberate strokes and playing with her hair, which was now released from it ponytail holder and laid flat against her back.

“Maybe just a bite,” she finished, smirk widening just a touch to reveal those canines again. Laura tensed, trying to control her breathing, which was frankly, out of control at this point. She could feel each of Carmilla’s exhales on her cheek and assumed that Carmilla felt hers too. The lack of space between them was certainly doing something to Laura, but it wasn’t something she wanted to acknowledge.

“So… what’s next?” Laura managed to squeak out and as if on cue, Carmilla backed away.

“Makeup.”

“Great, excellent,” Laura breathed out, finally letting go of the tension that had been building throughout her muscles. Carmilla was already riffling through the mess that was her dresser top, sorting through the miscellaneous pile that possibly contained beauty supplies.

“Sit,” she grumbled out, referring to the bed and Laura obliged.

Carmilla worked fast to “paint” her face in what she assumed would be typical goth fashion. She wasn’t exactly sure what products she was using. She had caught glimpses of what she thought was an extremely white foundation and the obvious, essential black eyeliner but everything else was a mystery.

Carmilla touch was surprisingly gentle and she handled Laura’s cheek with care, turning her head this way and that to work from different angles and check to make sure she was satisfied with her job.

“Done” was all she said when it was over, gathered all supplies in a heap and thrust them back into their designated trash pile.

Laura hesitated for a moment. She was actually kind of… nervous to see how this makeover had turned out. It was her last hope really and she didn’t know what she would do if it didn’t go according to plan. However, she had an odd sense of faith in Carmilla. She seemed to know what she was doing, and so Laura trusted her.

She took a deep breathe and walked to the mirror. She kept her eyes trained to the ground, not yet ready to take a look. She felt Carmilla move to stand behind her, but at a reasonable distance. Laura wished she would close that distance, but now wasn’t the time to be a thirsty lesbian.

She cleared her head, puffed out her chest, and opened her eyes.

What was reflected back at her… made her laugh.

She couldn’t stop, in fact. She found herself heaving, lungs begging for air as she bent over to slap her knees.

She looked like a caricature of herself, like a poorly copied clone or an imposter trying their best to impersonate her.

She looked dead, the white powder caked onto her face like she was a doughnut, like she was anemic or hadn’t seen the sun in her whole life. The black eyeliner framed her face and extended into points at her eyelids. It was actually a really fierce look, if you ignored her complexion. And then, there was the outfit. It was fine on it’s own, but combined with the makeup, it was just over the top and too exaggerated for Laura’s taste.

She wiped her tears away, careful not to mess up what was there and willed herself to get a grip. It was pointless. This was the happiest she felt in a long time, it was the best laugh she had had since god knows when. So she kept going, and Carmilla stood there with a concerned look on her face, confused as all hell about what was even happening inside Laura’s brain.

“I’m sorry,” Laura wheezed. “You did a great job, it’s just… look at me!” This started up another intense, unstoppable round of laughing for her as Carmilla took a second gaze, really saw what was in front of her and thought about what it meant. And then, she was, too. Laughing like Laura, like she couldn’t get enough air, like it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen.

It took a solid ten minutes and a bit of moving around for the final chuckles to die down and their bodies to regain calm. They both were on Carmilla’s bed again (since it was the only real place to relax comfortably), Laura sitting, leaning on her hands behind her and Carmilla sprawled out like a star, maybe looked as bright as one, too.

“That was ridiculous.” Laura shook her head, sighing.

“Yeah, it was,” Carmilla agreed. She nudged Laura with her foot. Laura glanced over her shoulder just as Carmilla switched positions to sit next to her. Her face was serious, almost a little solemn as they stared at each other.

“I know it’s rough, being bullied. It happens to me all the time.” Carmilla placed a tentative hand on her shoulder and Laura wanted to desperately to lean in, somehow. She hadn’t really considered how other people got treated. She was always so focused on what people said about her. It felt lonely, like she was the sole person to endure their stupidity; but now, it dawned on her that it was untrue. Here was Carmilla, sitting beside her, admitting she had, is going through the same struggles. Her heart clenches at the thought of Carmilla being in pain.

“I hate it,” Laura said, the tears rushing toward the surface. She swallowed, forcing them back. Carmilla grip flexed and she took comfort in the contact.

“Me too.” She sighed heavily, as if she was tired. Tired of holding the burden, of taking the abuse without so much of a whimper.

“I learned a while ago that it’s impossible to stop them. But I don’t change, not for them or anyone. Neither should you.” Laura laid her hand on top of Carmilla’s, rubbing back and forth. She was right, and told her just as much.

“Of course, I am,” she scoffed, but it was without malice, as a genuine smile appeared. Laura smiled back, glad that Carmilla’s fight, her spirit was still there, shining through the darkness. She admired that part about her (and a lot of other things, too).

A silence washed over them, both of their minds wandering to places of the past and present. Their hands were still joined at Laura’s shoulder, neither wanting to release their holds.

“I have a confession.” Laura didn’t even flinch. She was in an open, chill mood. Nothing could shake her right now.

“Spill it.”

“All that stuff I said about being punk, the rules and the attitudes… I was just fucking with you.” Laura froze, turned to see guilt ridden muscles lines and worried eyes.

“Punks aren’t actually like that!?”

“Nope,” Carmilla chuckled and Laura would be furious. Before now, she might have even felt betrayed. When people messed with her, it was to mock her, to belittle her and tear her down. However, she knew Carmilla meant it differently. So she laughed again, pushed Carmilla’s shoulder lightly.

“Headass,” Laura snorted.

“That’s my girl.” Carmilla’s tone was reverent and her smile, fond. But it only lasted a few seconds, as it was her who froze once she realized what she said, not Laura. A blush rose on both of their cheeks as she stuttered to correct herself, rectify the situation, or ignore it entirely. Laura decided to help her out and change the subject.

“Y’know, after all those lies and deceitful deceptions,” Laura teased and Carmilla groaned playfully, “I don’t regret it.”

Carmilla’s brows flew up.

“You don’t?”

“No!” Laura grinned a goofy grin and Carmilla just shook her head. “That was the best laugh I had in awhile, pretty amusing stuff.”

“Yeah, I guess it was pretty funny,” Carmilla acquiesced with a timid shrug.

“See? Maybe you aren’t made of stone under all that flawless skin.” Laura chuckled and Carmilla gave her a look that sent the message “you’re gonna regret that” and when the smirk arrived, Laura knew it was over. The mistake had been made and she was in for it … whatever it was.

“Oh, so you’ve been thinking about my naked skin, have you?”

“That’s not what I said-”

“But it’s what you implied-”

“I think that’s kind of a reach, don’t you think?” Laura tilted her head, her own smirk mirroring Carmilla’s.

“It’s like reaching for the stars, you gotta try at least.” Laura ignored the faint indication that she was comparing her to the stars and instead, rolled her eyes at Carmilla faux philosophical tone. Carmilla giggled… an actual giggle. Not very punk of her.

“Thank you,” Laura said, in another abrupt realization that she hadn’t thanked Carmilla for everything she had done for her today.

“It’s no problem,” Carmilla said, eyes shining. “The pleasure was all mine.”

“Not all yours,” Laura mumbled. Carmilla gave her another look but she cleared her throat, distancing herself from the conversation or train of thought that could stem from that statement.

“So… what now?” Laura asked and Carmilla shrugged.

“You wanna order pizza and watch a shitty horror movie?”

“Can I change first?”

“I’ll buy you dessert, if you don’t.”

“Comprise. I’ll remove the face paint and the pants. They’re starting to chaff.” Laura squirmed.

“And you'll keep them off?” Carmilla smirked at the choking noise that erupted from the other girl’s mouth.

“What? The pants?”

“Yeah.”

“Yours off too, and you've got yourself a deal, emo.”