Actions

Work Header

wouldn't you love to love her?

Chapter Text

Trixie throws the door to her apartment shut behind her, not bothering to lock it, and toes the shoes off of her aching feet. She sinks down to the rug covering her hardwood floor, not even able to muster the will to make it to the sofa before letting her body sag.

She knew that moving out as soon as she finished high school to be alone miles away from her childhood home would never be easy, but she always told herself that it would be better than feeling like a prisoner in her own home. Her stepdad controlled every aspect of her and her mothers' lives, and as soon as she realised at 15 that it was never going to get better on its own, she got a job and started saving in secret until she could afford a deposit and a few months' rent for her own place. She moved out as soon as she graduated high school and never looked back, despite the guilt of her mother eating away at her; if she was okay, if he was still as bad as before. All she can tell herself is that her life is better now than it ever could be if she was still there.

Now, though, as she sits sweating in her black uniform on the ground, she feels herself slipping. Today had been a painstakingly long 10-hour shift, and her 40 minute break had done nothing to ease the load. Her feet throb from being stood up all day, and her head feels fit to bursting with so much tension behind her eyes. She feels how knotted her hair has gotten in the ponytail under her work cap as she tries to run her fingers through it.

Trixie takes her phone out from the back pocket of her trousers, rests her chin on her knees where they bend to curl her into a ball where she sits, and unlocks her phone. She opens her 'calls' app and taps the contact at the top of her recent calls list before putting it on speaker and onto the ground next to her, facing up.

The beeping rings once, twice, before being replaced by a tinny but familiar voice.

“This is your local prostitution service, Katya speaking, how may I help you?” followed by a cackle that probably would've been ear-splitting in person. Trixie wishes she really was there instead of on the other end of the line.

All she can muster in return is a “Hey,” sounding far more feeble than she had intended as her voice wobbles.

“Hey.” On her end of the line, Katya sits on her bed in her room at her parents' house - she hasn't moved out yet, had never needed to like Trixie – and cradles her phone in both hands at hearing Trixie's response to her joke, as though willing Trixie to feel the embrace on the other end of the line. “Are you okay?”

Trixie takes her cap off and pulls her messy ponytail from out of the back hole, heaving out a wobbly sigh that deflates her like a balloon. "Bad day.” She lets the weight of her head fall back against the wall with a soft, hollow thump, and looks up at the ceiling. There are cracks forming from where it meets the wall in the corner. 

“Want me to come over?”

Trixie follows the lines in her ceiling until she reaches a streak of yellow light cast from the sun beginning to set outside of her balcony doors. “Can we go for a drive? I don't care where, just...take me somewhere. I need to get out of here. Out of my head. I don't know.”

“I know. I'm coming.”

“Thank you.” Trixie lets her eyes close for a moment. “Will you stay on the line though? Just until you get here. I don't like how quiet it gets in here.”

Silence is better than deep shouting coming from the other side of walls or the floor below, better than the sound of her own pulse thumping in her ears as she forced herself not to make a sound as she cried in the bedroom of her childhood home. But she would take the sound of Katya over silence if she could for every moment until her death – her breathing, her mumbling to herself, her soothing words or jokes to make her happy. Katya's voice had soothed Trixie to sleep on countless nights while they were still in high school and Trixie had managed to get away to Katya's home for a night, or over the phone when she knew they couldn't be together in person. Lately, Trixie needs that less. But, oh, how she wants it.

She wants to wake up with Katya's hands in her hair and her own face buried in Katya's neck like she did once when they were 16, and Trixie had cried herself to sleep in Katya's arms, in Katya's bed. She wants to laugh with her until she cries, like she did in every class they shared in high school. She wants to sit and be there for Katya as she had been for her countless times, to guide her breathing and hold her hand through anxious moments, reassure her when she struggled to find purpose in her own art, her own life.

Katya doesn't know this. Katya doesn't need to know this. How she is one extra reason for Trixie to fight through the days because she is always one day closer to seeing her again. And Trixie isn't about to risk everything they've built as friends, because what if she doesn't feel the same way? What if, after all they'd been through during their years as friends, after they were seated next to each other in French in freshman year of high school and just clicked, after growing to be the person Trixie trusted and cared for most in this godforsaken world. What if, for once, they weren't on the same page?

“Of course,” Katya replies to Trixie's earlier question. “I'm here. Get some fresh clothes on, I know how dingy you feel after being in your uniform for so long. I'm on my way.”

Trixie slowly pulls herself up from the ground, picking her phone up along the way, and enters the door to her bedroom. It's naturally lit from the sun outside her window, and with the thin, coloured curtains acting as a filter, her room glows in a rosy pink hue. It makes the house feel just that little bit more like a home, and with the sound of Katya walking to her car coming from the speaker of her phone, she doesn't feel alone.

Trixie peels her uniform off and rolls it in a ball to use as a towel to wipe away the sheen of sweat coating her skin. She discards it onto the ever-growing pile of laundry in the corner – another problem she really couldn't bring herself to think about just yet – and pulls her ponytail out, wincing each time it snags on a knot, and fans her fingers through it at the nape of her neck in an effort to give it at least a hint of life. By the time she had lethargically re-dressed into her comfiest high-waisted denim shorts, and an off-the-shoulder white tee, Katya had announced her arrival and summoned Trixie downstairs. As she sees Trixie approach her car through the passenger-side window, she ends the call.

Once Trixie flings herself into the passenger seat, slams the car door behind her, and lays her eyes on Katya's face, the feeling of home sinks into her bones further and already begins to ease away her sour mood. Her heart very gently sings at the way Katya's wavy hair seems to float around her head and down her shoulders, glowing in the sunlight coming from behind her; the smell of cigarettes and Katya's rose perfume that had permeated the seats of her old faded red pickup truck that Trixie had fallen in love with; the way Katya's eyes soften when they lock with Trixie's and she smiles, not out of pity but just to make her know I'm here for you. Trixie returns the smile with a small one of her own and simply tells Katya to “Drive.”

As Katya pulls out of Trixie's neighbourhood and onto the main roads, she picks up speed to let Trixie open the windows and let the wind blow through her hair and it makes her shiver but it makes her smile again, even just a little bit, to know she is free despite how little it feels like it sometimes. She closes her eyes to focus on the cold whooshing sensation on her scalp, and the sound of it gushing past her ears mixed with the roar of the tires over the tarmac roads. The air smells fresh and crisp and just like spring, and Trixie opens her eyes to first gaze at the watercolour drip of the sunset's colours melting into one another, and then, turning her head to the side, to let her eyes fall on Katya as she focuses on the road ahead. The colours make her face glow as they hit the sheens of oil and sweat on her forehead and cheeks, accentuating the red blush under her skin, with strands of wavy blonde hair blowing over to stick on her face from the air coming from the window. Trixie leans over to gently pull them away from her skin, careful not to distract her from driving, and rolls the window back up.

“So,” Katya begins, chancing a glance away from the road towards Trixie, “Bad day. Wanna talk about it?”

Trixie turns her body around in her seat to be facing Katya fully, tucking one leg up under herself and bending the other up with her foot on the seat, and leans the side of her head against the headrest. “Same old, really. We were super busy, so it just drained the life outta me for everyone to expect so much from me at once, y'know? Like, I'm not fucking Hermione Grainger, I can't exactly turn back time to do a billion orders at once.” Katya nodded along, encouraging her to keep going. “And my rent is due next week so I'm always stressed at this point because I'm always scared that I don't have enough money even though I always do – barely – but I just can't help it, I don't know.” Trixie lets her gaze wander back out to the gradient in the sky.

Katya turns into a slip road that begins to take them uphill to one of their favourite spots: a range of hills overlooking the city. Sometimes they'd sit on the grass under the scorching midday sun and watch paragliders sail around the sky above their heads, wondering what it might be like to see the world from up so high, like a bird might; not so far away as a plane, not condemned to stay on the ground.

The uneven surface of the off-road track up the hill makes the car teeter unevenly, rocking them in their seats and making them both laugh. Katya braces herself with a vice grip on the steering wheel, Trixie with one hand splayed out on top of the glove compartment.

“I hope you peed before you came out,” Katya laughs.

“Shut up, you know that I didn't!” Trixie screeches in return, loosening her grip on the car as they reach the more even and grassy plain of the top of the hill.

Katya parks in a random spot on the flattened grass, her grin having not faltered in the slightest yet, and looks over at Trixie. “Come on, let's go.”

The two of them hop out of the car and walk around to the back end. Katya climbs up into the cargo bed and takes a big blanket out of it, dusting it off a little before throwing it down for Trixie to catch. She perches a foot against the the top of the siding, a hand on the carriage of the car, and launches herself up and over to land back on the grass in a squat.

They walk over to their regular little spot in comfortable silence, save for the chirping of grasshoppers in the longer grass lining their flattened path. The breeze from up so high above ground level makes the air cooler, but not cold, and it's soothing after the sweltering heat that Trixie had put up with all day inside her cramped little coffee shop. She hands the folded blanket back over to Katya so she can hold her own arms loosely in the air, her forearms resting crossed atop her head, to cool off her sweaty armpits and palms.

Coming up to the hills always feels like taking a step out of life for a moment, almost frozen in time; this little patch of nature almost like a separate world altogether from the city below, never stopping or slowing. Time seems to pause in this little place that they had found as a world of their own. Katya's family brought her up here when she was younger, and as soon as she learned to drive and got given her grandpa's old pickup truck as a hand-me-down, this was the first place she came to. It was a safe place for when life became too much, and she would always bring Trixie here when they were still in high school whenever she could as a vacation of sorts from her old home life, even if it was only for an hour. In the summers between their school years, they would spend whole days up here, laying in the sun until they burned and eating grapes by the vine. Sometimes they would wait until it got dark so they could lie on top of a makeshift mattress of blankets in the cargo bed to look at the millions of stars that couldn't be seen through the light pollution on the streets below. A lot of their happiest moments had been spent here, side-by-side, in their own little corner of the world.

“It feels as though we haven't been here in so long,” Trixie says, lowering her arms to let them hang by her sides again and sitting down on the grass once they had reached their main hideout; a small patch of grass with a few daisies peeking through, situated on a tiny part of the hill that jutted out from the rest of it, giving them the best view of the city and the setting sun. The sky behind them has become mostly dark blue now, and a thin streak of red sits at the bottom of the sky where the mini-cliff faces, meaning the sun is about to vanish for the day.

“I know, it must have been a couple of months. I've missed it.” Katya sits next to Trixie, close enough that their shoulders press against each other. She puts the blanket down on the ground in front of them, waiting until the air becomes cold enough to need it, and crosses her legs. “I've missed you.”

Trixie copies Katya and crosses her own legs, one of her knees having to rest on top of Katya's with how close they're sitting, and looks down at the grass and picks a daisy from in front of her. “I know, I'm sorry. I've missed you too.” She reaches up to tuck Katya's wavy hair behind her ear, and slots the daisy there, too. “I just wish I didn't have to work so much, I hate it. I hate not having time to myself or to clean my apartment. Or to see you.”

Katya loops her arm under Trixie's to link them and looks out at the sky. The sun had just dipped below the land, and so the only light left is of the yellow sky above it. “It's okay, I know how much upkeep it takes. I wish you didn't have to do it either, it's not fair on you.”

Trixie inhales deeply, slowly, and lets out a sigh, closing her eyes. She still sees the light of the sky beneath her eyelids. Katya glances over at her, taking in the way her skin glows and her freckles seem more prominent in the evening light. Her lipgloss shines and makes her lips look like a boiled candy. Katya bets that she tastes just as sweet, wishes that she could just lean in to know, but can't risk bursting this bubble of a perfect moment, of a perfect friendship. She lets her head fall onto Trixie's shoulder - with her being taller than herself anyway, but it's more obvious when they sit because most of Katya's height is in her legs - and closes her eyes too.

“You know...my offer's still open. What I said before, I mean. I still think it'd be a good idea.”

Trixie thinks back to that conversation she had had with Katya the last time her bills were due and she was freaking out over it. After seeing her struggle and become that anxious so many times, Katya had wanted to help. And, yeah, she thought the idea of it was self-indulgent too, sure, but she hated to see Trixie go through it every first of the month because of how much she struggled to cope on her own. So she asked if she could move in with her. And Trixie had said no.

And what Trixie had wanted to say was, “Oh my God, yes,” after they had both included it in their fantasies of what life would be like after they graduated from high school, free from the burden of education. She wanted to wake up to Katya every morning in her tiny flat, sharing a bed with her, sharing a life with her. But the more she realised how hard this life was, and the more she fell in love with Katya, the less she wanted to impose that on her. A problem shared is a problem halved, but its hard to imagine Katya sat chainsmoking at the tiny table in her kitchen – their kitchen – filing through bills to see which one she could get away with not paying until the next paycheck came in. Or to see the life drained from her after a painfully long work day, in the middle of a painfully long work week. It was bad enough to see her anxiety get so bad through finals. She couldn't thrust her into a life of taxes and bills and literally working until you drop just to maintain a life, and so prematurely, just because of her own selfish needs. And so she told Katya about it the first time she brought it up. And she would be damned if she wouldn't tell her again.

“Kat...” she starts, resting her own head on top of Katya's, and holds onto the arm that she has looped around her own. “I've told you about this. It's not as fun as it seemed when we were itching to get out of school and have a life of our own, you know. It's so fucking hard. I can't put you through all that stress, you'll just fall apart.”

“I mean, I already have a job, I could just pick up more hours where we need them. And I've gotta be able to support myself one day, Trix, my family aren't exactly gonna be around to pick up my slack my entire life.”

“I know, but...”

“But what? Trixie you've gotta let me help you! You can't keep doing this on your own, you're the one who's falling apart here, not me. And that's saying something, mama.” Katya's voice is pressing, but not degradingly; she genuinely wants Trixie to believe she can be helped, that Katya wants to help her. That wasn't exactly hard to believe. The more Trixie thinks about it, the less it seems like a bad idea. “We could balance each other's shifts out so you have to work less, you'd get more disposable income, and you'd get to be with me for every waking moment you're not at work! It's a win-win!”

Trixie laughs. “I'll think about it, okay?” Katya squeals and squeezes her arm, harbouring an instant grin that makes her whole face shift. “That wasn't a straight-up yes, by the way! I don't exactly wanna burden you with this paycheck-to-paycheck life.”

“It wouldn't be a burden, Trix. Not with you around. It'd be so worth it, just you wait.”

“Gag,” Trixie laughs, wrapping her fingers around Katya's hands that still grip like a vice on her arm, and squeezes in reassurance. “Now shut up and let me enjoy the rest of this sunset, bitch, I came here to forget about my life, not add more things to worry about.”

By the time the sky had begun to fade away from oranges and yellows into various darkening shades of blue, the chill in the air had settled in. Katya had unfolded the thin, light grey blanket she had discarded onto the grass earlier and wrapped it tightly around hers and Trixie's shoulders. It's not much, but the combined heat of their bodies staying trapped underneath the fabric is enough to keep them both comfortably warm. Both of their heads still rest against each other, swirling with a million thoughts per minute.

Katya feels Trixie's jaw move from where it was leaning atop her head; she was yawning. “Tired?”

“What do you think, bitch? I work like 25-hour days, I'm exhausted.” Trixie begins yawning a second time by the end of her sentence, pulling the corner of the blanket tighter around her body.

“Well, do you wanna go home? An early night would do you some good.” Katya pats Trixie on the knee, letting her hand rest there.

“No, I wanna stay with you. I've missed you. Plus, the view is stupidly pretty.”

“Can't see the view if you're closing your eyes to go to sleep, dumbass,” Katya deadpans. Trixie hits her lightly, mumbles “shut up loser,” whilst giggling, and shoves at Katya's legs to make her stick them straight out in front of her so she can lie down and rest her head in her lap.

“Less bullying, more playing with my hair,” Trixie says, half muffled from where she presses one side of her face into the tops of Katya's thighs, facing outwards towards her feet and the skyline ahead.

“Yes, ma'am.” Katya smiles to herself. She stretches one arm behind her to prop herself up, and her other hand lightly scratches Trixie's scalp, running her fingers through her thick blonde locks until she reaches their tips, then starting back again at her head. After a few minutes, Trixie's breathing becomes heavier and slower. Katya gently taps her on the head to wake her up without startling her. “Hey,” she says softly, “Get up Trix. I'll take you home so you can properly go to sleep, okay?”

Trixie simply groans in return and begins to sit up, taking one last little look around her favourite spot in the world before turning away to walk back to Katya's pickup.

When they pull back up outside of Trixie's house, Trixie is still awake, but only barely. Katya walks her up to her apartment with their arms linked together and unlocks the door for Trixie after she had handed her the key. “Want me to come in or do you think you can manage getting ready for bed on your own?” She's only slightly joking, but allows herself to indulge in her own imagination, seeing images flash in her mind of her sitting Trixie up on her bathroom sink-cabinet and wiping her makeup off for her, taking off her clothes and replacing them with the baby pink satin vest and shorts combo that she knows Trixie always wears for bed, has seen it in their FaceTime calls in the evenings.

“I'm good,” Trixie laughs tiredly, wiping sleep from the corners of her eyes. “Thank you for this evening. I needed it.”

“It's okay, I was just happy to see you in person again, your schedule is always so busy.”

“I know, I know. I'll see you again soon, I promise.” She leans across the threshold of her doorway to give Katya a long hug, wrapping her arms around her shoulders easily with how much shorter than her Katya was.

“Just let me know when you need me, okay? You know I'm here but don't worry - you'll be able to scrape this together, you always do.” Katya takes a step back, and calls into Trixie's apartment as she pulls the door closed behind her, “you got this!”

* * *

Trixie has not got this.

Just one week after her evening to recharge up in the hills with Katya, Trixie is right back where she started; on the floor of her apartment, surrounded by letters, sobbing her heart out. After adding up all of her bills – rent, water, electricity; the works – and comparing it with her monthly paycheck, she knows she doesn't have enough money for them all. Hell, she barely has enough for a few of them. It feels like a one-man game of Russian roulette, except every chamber has a bullet in it. She had worried that she wouldn't be able to get the money this time around – more so than usual, anyway – and had a sinking feeling that she would be right where she was in this moment after they hired a new guy to be a barista at the coffee shop just two weeks prior, leaving Trixie with less hours to pick up. And less money to pay her god damn bills.

Sometimes she contemplates getting a second job to make ends meet a little more smoothly, but she knows that she couldn't handle that. Her days are already full to the brim, so much so that she might as well move in to the Starbucks she is seemingly having to begrudgingly call home. Adding a second job to the mix would push Trixie so far over the edge that she'd probably end up in England.

Trixie looks around herself at where the folded sheets of paper surround her sprawled out legs on the hardwood floor, and finds herself reaching for her phone to dial the same number as always. The line picks up after just one ring, and Trixie speaks without even letting Katya get in a “hello”.

“Katya, I need your help,” she whimpers into her phone, having finally reached the tail end of her fit of tears.

“Trixie, are you okay? Talk to me.”

“Katya...how quickly can you get all of your things packed up?”

 

Chapter Text

Katya unloads the final cardboard box from the bed of her pickup truck – this time climbing down via the small door at the back rather than jumping over the edge like she usually does for obvious reasons – and carries it up to Trixie's apartment in the highrise via the elevator. The door of Trixie's tiny home remains open a just a crack from Katya's last visit a mere few minutes ago with her penultimate box in hand, and as she approaches it again from down the corridor she faintly hears Stevie Nicks's voice singing about a gold dust woman decorating the air. Stepping over the threshold, she dodges three other boxes that litter the narrow hallway leading from the entryway into the lounge, where she bends at the knees to place it on the ground wherever she finds space. “That's the last of them!” she calls over her shoulder.

Trixie pokes her head from the archway leading into the kitchen, wooden spoon in hand. “Thank God. I hated seeing you carry all those boxes around, they look heavy. There's no way your body can handle that, you have the joints of an 80-year-old woman, I've heard your knees crack first thing in the morning and it sounds like a fucking salt and pepper grinder.” Trixie throws her head back to laugh at her own joke, watching Katya shake her head with an endearing grin on her face as she rounds the corner from the living room to the kitchen, and opens the fridge to pull out a freezing cold can of coke and press it against the back of her neck to cool her down; lugging every single one of her belongings to and fro for the past 30 minutes certainly hadn't proved to be ideal in the heat of LA. Although it's only March, it is warm. “I didn't see you offer to help me bitch! And I know you have a thing for older women so don't even pretend my arthritic knees don't give you a total boner.” She hops up on the narrow counter beside the window to catch the cool breeze coming through it and cracks open the drink in her hand.

“That's because I'm making dinner! And you're way stronger than me anyway with all that yoga you do. Your biceps could out-do Dwayne The motherfuckin' Rock Johnson. It's kinda hot, actually.”

Katya's face flushes an even deeper shade of red, and she opts for her trademark boisterous laugh and two quick gulps from her coke can rather than responding with actual words, until she decides to change the subject. “What's cookin'?”

“Just some mixed vegetables and sauce, we can make them into tortillas. It's way too hot for a proper hot meal on a plate, so I thought this would make a nice happy medium. We can eat it out on the balcony, if you want?” 

Despite how small Trixie's apartment is, the balcony had proven to be an honest-to-goodness blessing; the French windows in her lounge open out into the little outdoor space, just big enough to fit a tiny round table and two plastic chairs. Whilst she still lived on her own, Trixie spent most of her evenings sitting out there reading a book or watching something on Netflix on her laptop, since she doesn't have a TV (which had mortified Katya the very first time she visited, to which Trixie informed her that “it's way cheaper to pay for Netflix than a TV license and all of the channels,” which she was not wrong about). Luckily, the balcony overlooks the park at the other end of the street, rather than a brick wall like on the opposite face of the building. If she's home from work to catch the sunset just at the right time in the winter, she would sit out there with a blanket around her shoulders and watch the cold sun stream through the naked branches of the trees like tendrils of white gold. 

“Tortillas sound good,” Katya says, peering across the counter to hover her head near Trixie's to see the assortment of colours in the pan. It smells divine, and she's absolutely starving. “Want me to wipe down the table?”

“Oh yeah, please, I forgot about that actually.” Trixie opens the cupboard beside the oven that her legs had been partially blocking to let Katya grab the cleaning supplies from it. “Set up a couple of plates too, please!” she calls out to Katya as she passes through the lounge towards the double doors. Katya throws a silent thumbs-up into the air in response.

After Trixie had called Katya not long after their last trip up to the hills, Katya hadn't even hesitated to send her as much money as Trixie would let her on her mobile banking app – Katya knew she had enough to make up the rest of Trixie's outgoings but Trixie would never admit it, not until that final night when she finally realised that she couldn't do this alone. She had her bills sorted that same evening, and Katya had her things packed by the end of the week between shifts at the gardening centre she works at. Now, a week and a day after Trixie thought her world was falling apart around her, on her first self-claimed day off in months, she can officially say that she lives with her favourite person in the world. When piling the vegetables onto a serving plate and stacking tortillas onto a smaller plate for each of them, she puts one extra tortilla onto Katya's pile as a silent, useless 'thank you'.

***

“We need a god damn TV in here.”

Trixie looks away from the bird she's tracing against the sky as she leans against the balcony to look at Katya, who sits on the floor leaning against one of the brick walls, blowing cigarette smoke between the metal railings next to her. “You've lived here for approximately 3 hours and you're already bored?”

Katya grins. “Of course I am, you know how hyperactive I can get, my attention span is fuckin' non existent. But that wasn't my point. I just kinda need one for that,” she says, pointing with her free hand to a box wrapped in wires on the ground by the sofa that Trixie hadn't noticed until now; Katya's stuff is literally everywhere until they can find places to store it all. They probably have a trip to Ikea in their near future.

“Is that a fucking Playstation?”

“Yeah.”

“Since when did you have one of those?”

“My Mom got it for my brother for Christmas last year but he never plays it since all he does is, like, smoke weed with his friends and climb trees. Remember last November when he got both arms in a cast 'cause he fell out of one?”

“I mean, yeah, it was hilarious.” Trixie sits on the cold, stone floor of the balcony opposite Katya, switching between looking at her and peering through the railings to follow the flight of that same bird, which now sits on the edge of a garbage can in the park.

“Well he couldn't play it when he first got it because of them, and then once he got the casts off he kinda forgot about it. So he let me have it.” She takes another drag of her cigarette before stumping it out in the ashtray she had brought outside with her. “He doesn't even like video games, I have no idea why Mom thought that was a good investment.”

“Does it have Mario Kart?”

“What? No, that's a Nintendo thing.”

“So?”

Katya sighs, though it quickly turns into a laugh. “Trix, Mario Kart is a Nintendo thing. Playstation isn't, they're different, you play it on a different console.”

Trixie pouts, and Katya rolled her eyes. “How about we save up for a TV, and I can show you my Playstation? It's got games that are just as good at Mario Kart, I promise.”

“Fine.” Trixie stands up and grabs her own plate from the table to go and rinse it off in the sink, leaving Katya's behind.

Katya rolls her eyes again, yet sprouts a little endearing smile. “Okay, fine, we can save up for a Nintendo Switch too. But you're buying Mario Kart!”

Trixie immediately summons the biggest, toothiest grin that she can, and grabs Katya's empty dinner plate, too, as another silent thank-you. Katya smiles and mutters a quick “thanks, Trix,” as she laughs at her, stands up, and walks back into the lounge to sit down on the couch. She hears the plates tinker as they're placed in the sink, followed by Trixie's “I don't know what you're thanking me for, you're doing the dishes.”

***

Trixie's apartment is hardly built for two; there is a single, patchwork orange couch with only two cushions that had come with the place, which Trixie tends to take up all the space on by herself anyway once she sits on it with her legs out straight. The kitchen is connected to the entryway through a large arch rather than a closing door, which proves to be great for saving space, but less wonderful if Trixie wants to brew her old - and deafeningly loud - coffee pot first thing in the morning. And, of course, there's only one bedroom. Perhaps if they weren't so close, Trixie and Katya would have had more of an issue with that, in another lifetime, but they had each spent enough nights in each other’s arms for whatever reason – anxiety, nightmares, drunken loneliness after a late party – to be able to sleep in the same bed without it being weird.

But, Trixie thinks to herself - sitting on that same faded couch with her legs splayed out across the other cushion as she listens to Katya humming to herself in the kitchen as she does the dishes - those had only ever been one-offs, special circumstances, never really for more than a few nights at a time. This feels more permanent, more real, as they both legally live in the same space, sharing the same 934 square feet with nowhere to hide from each other besides the outside world. They would spend every evening together, every morning, and sometimes even lunchtimes and weekends. There's no escaping Katya anymore. Trixie doesn't know if that made her want to scream and run away, or pluck up the courage to march right into the kitchen at this very second and scoop Katya up in her arms, taking her to their only bedroom, their only bed, and welcome her home how she knew she really wanted to.

'Start as you mean to go on', they say.

Only Trixie's not sure where she intends to go from here.

Apparently, though, it's to the kitchen regardless, once she hears Katya yelp, followed by a splash of water hitting a hard surface and a clash of metal hitting the bottom of the sink.

“Kat, you okay? What was that?” Trixie calls, swinging her legs onto the rug beneath the carpet to head to the kitchen.

“Nothing, I'm fine,” Katya says, clearly not fine, with a tiny trail of blood trickling down the palm of her hand. 

“Yeah, clearly,” Trixie replies, grabbing the roll of paper towels from beside the sink and pulling a huge wad off to bunch into her hand, holding it in place with her own tight grip. “What did you do?”

Katya grimaces as the towel makes contact with the little wound, but lets Trixie do it anyway. “I was fishing around at the bottom of the sink to make sure I hadn't missed any dishes and there was a really sharp knife in there but I didn't know what it was at first, so I just grabbed it with my whole hand. Turns out it was the pointy end.”

Trixie simply huffs an endearing laugh out of her nose and shakes her head, looking up at Katya's face to see if she's hurting. They make eye contact for a brief moment, Trixie offering her a reassuring smile upon seeing that she isn't in too much pain. “I give you one job and you can't even do it without drawing blood, honestly. What am I gonna do with you, Kat?”

Trixie reaches into a high cupboard, instructing Katya to hold on to the wad of material herself, as she pulls out a small box labelled 'medical supplies'. She grabs a loose band aid and reaches out to Katya's hand to put it on. Trixie criss-crosses an extra one over the top for good measure, then hesitates before planting a delicate kiss in the centre of Katya's palm. “All done.”

“Thank you,” Katya sighs, noticeably calmer now.

As Trixie gathers the small wad of bloodied paper towels and tosses them into the trash, she glances over her shoulder at Katya, still perching on the countertop; “Of course you of all people would turn a basic chore into something requiring actual medical attention, you're such a mess.”

“Hey, I'm learning! This level of independence is still foreign to me,” Katya jokes back. "Hey, where are you going?" she calls to Trixie as she moves to sit back on the sofa.

"Bitch, what does it look like to you? There's not exactly a whole lotta real estate for me to cover without going down to street level, you know."

“But these bandaids aren't waterproof. So you're finishing the dishes, my beautiful housewife.”

Trixie groans an immense “fuck you” and rolls her eyes, yet can't help but grin at Katya's ridiculousness, and blush at the stupid, passing nickname.

***

Later that night, after Trixie had reluctantly already gone to bed for her early morning shift, Katya sits alone back out on the balcony to watch the remainder of the spring sunset. With her legs dangling between the wide railings, the blanket she had shared with Trixie up in the hills not long ago lays across her lap as she nurses a cigarette between the first two fingers of her injured hand, and a coffee in the other – decaf, however; she can be a chaotic soul, but a cup of fully caffeinated coffee at nearly 10pm is not a stunt she's prepared to pull after such a long day. A soft breeze brushes past her and into the wide open doors to the apartment, through which she hears Trixie snoring in her – their – nearby bedroom; Katya should really invest in some earplugs now that she thinks of it. She shivers, pulling the blanket further up and around her shoulders with any free fingers she can find, before leaning to stub her cigarette out in the ashtray that she had granted a new home of its own in the corner.

Having only ever moved house once in her life as a small child, getting used to all of her belongings living somewhere completely different was proving to be something of a difficult new skill for Katya to acquire; she had been tripping over her belongings that were strewn across the apartment floor all day, stumping her toes on corners of cardboard boxes, and had once already looked around the whole apartment twice for a box of cigarettes she thought were lost in the moving process that turned out to have been in the pocket of her baggy harem pants the whole time.

Still, the newness of it all, despite what she had been expecting her anxiety to tell her otherwise, felt liberating. Katya had felt guilty for having previously itched to move away from her parents, especially as an only child, but knocking on 20 and not wanting to go to college for anything in particular just yet made it a bit pointless and seem far-off. The first time Trixie had rejected her offer for them to move in together, she had cried as soon as she got home. The last time Trixie had called her so she could practically beg her to move in as soon as possible, Katya had cried as soon as she hung up, but for a very different reason. 

Katya puts down her coffee cup and starts to cry all over again. She feels wanted - needed - by Trixie, otherwise she wouldn't even be living here. But it quickly turns into the realisation that Trixie had only invited her to do so because she had no other choice. The words 'second choice' seem to refuse to leave her alone. She shivers.

Trixie's apartment is hardly built for two. Katya lets this fact sink right down to her bones as she stands up and walks into the living room, leaving her blanket and half-empty coffee cup behind her as she locks the doors to the balcony.

She falls asleep on the sofa that night; curled up into a ball, feeling the throbbing of her pulse in the little, fresh wound on the palm of her hand, yet the ache of the ghost of Trixie's lips on the mark somehow hurts a little worse.

 

Chapter Text

“Are you sure your eyes are closed?”

Trixie half-sighs and half-laughs. “If you're waving your hands in front of my eyes I'm gonna kick you. No I can't see, you loser.”

“Okay, good.” Katya waves her hand in front of Trixie's face anyway for good measure, but mainly to annoy her on the off-chance that she actually is cheating. “Now follow me.”

Trixie doesn't need to hold onto Katya to know her way around her tiny, familiar apartment. Katya knows this. They both reach out their hands anyway, and Trixie holds on extra tight just to allow Katya her dramatics.

“If you've covered all of my shit in cling film or post-it notes again like you used to when I first moved in, I swear to God, Katya -”

“First of all, that was hilarious, I don't know what you're complaining about. And no, I haven't, this is way cooler and more environmentally friendly. I think.”

It takes all of 5 seconds for them to reach the centre of the lounge area from the front door. “Can I open my eyes yet?”

It had been one of the few days in the week when Trixie was working but Katya was not, and so she'd decided to make good use of her time (and money) to finally buy a TV for them both. Trixie sees that she had already plugged the PS4 into it so she can watch Netflix, and Katya can play her video games.

Trixie feels so guilty.

“Katya...oh my God.”

“Do you like it?”

It only looks to be a couple of years old, and definitely not less than a few hundred dollars. “It's literally the coolest thing that has entered this place since I moved in. But you shouldn't have paid for it on your own, I thought we were gonna save up together?”

“Hey, it's alright. I already had some extra in my savings so I thought I'd treat us both. It's been weird living without one for, what, 3 weeks? I don't know how you've survived like this, honestly.”

Trixie kneels down to look at it up close; there's hardly a scratch on it. She can clearly see her own reflection in the black screen, and Katya's standing behind her. “Thank you, Kat.”

“You don't have to thank me. You can just make dinner for the rest of forever as payback.” Katya strides into the kitchen and opens the fridge to rummage.

Trixie hears a can of coke crack open from the other room before shouting back, “bitch, you can't even cook anyway!”

Katya laughs mid-swallow whilst walking back into the lounge and snorts cola out of her nose. Trixie just smiles and shakes her head, still mulling over cooking Katya's meals for the “rest of forever”. She doesn't mind the concept one bit.

It only takes two minutes of Katya coughing bubbles out of her nose - and a further ten minutes of Trixie moping about having to cook dinner after work - for them to decide on ordering pizza. As Trixie hangs up the phone to the delivery place, Katya makes her way out onto the balcony to smoke. The sun is already beginning to set, and the sky is airbrushed in a gradient from red to darkening blue. Trixie thinks fast, phone still in her hand, and snaps a silent photo of Katya leaning against the railing with her back to her, head in profile and a cigarette between her lips.

“You just got over a coughing fit, grandma, you trying to induce another already?” Trixie nudges Katya's arm with her elbow as a cue to make room on the railing, and leans beside her.

“Shut up bitch, that TV was so damn stressful to set up.” Both of their eyes fixate on the view, but Trixie can tell without even looking at Katya's face that there's no malice in her words. “I almost thought I wouldn't have it ready for you coming home. And the delivery guy tried to close the door at the same time as me so I touched his hand on the doorknob and it was weird so I accidentally shut the door in his face.”

Trixie always finds Katya's ramblings amusing, laughing through her nose with an exasperated “oh my fucking god,” her head bowing in the space between her body and the railing for a moment. “Thanks for caring so much about the TV though. I know I said I didn't really care for one but it means a lot. It makes it feel more homely in here, y'know?”

“Hey, it's okay. You don't have to feel guilty, it's both of ours. I'll be using it too.” Katya takes a drag from her cigarette, holding in the smoke whilst she speaks - “but I understand,” - then turned the other way to blow it away from Trixie.

Trixie blooms a tiny smile to herself, before sticking her butt out to lean right down and rest her head on her arms to look at Katya, and keep the setting sun out of her eyes.

“Anyway,” Katya repeats her cycle of smoking and speaking, “How was work today? Get any creeps winking at you while you served them again?”

Trixie sighs and let her eyes half-close, not wanting to take them off of the girl beside her. “I was on bar making drinks all day, thank God. It's the only part of the job that I actually enjoy. The cash register is easiest, but the level of human interaction? Far too much.” Katya laughs aloud at that. “It was actually kinda funny today. Brian – you remember him, tall, bald guy who talks too much? - he was supervising today and brought us a bunch of milk from out back to restock the fridges. But once they were full -” Trixie pauses to laugh, every other word heaving all of her breath from her lungs. “He just kept bringing them. Katya, there was just, fucking, milk everywhere. On top of the coffee machines, in the sink. I had to stop working for about 5 minutes 'cause I was laughing so much and there was nowhere to put anything. It was like a milk carton museum. You probably would've loved it, actually.”

Katya stops inhaling her cigarette, Trixie's story having captured one hundred percent of her attention, and by the time she finishes speaking it's burnt down to the filter. She doesn't even realise until Trixie points it out to her, as she tries to take a drag with her eyes having not left Trixie all the while she spoke. Katya laughs at her story, and Trixie laughs even more at Katya...being Katya. Within a moment they're both in hysterics, clutching at their own stomachs and each other's arms atop the railings.

“Oh fuck,” Katya makes her way over to the little table and chairs, wiping at her eyes. “I gotta sit down. That was the most physical exertion I've done all day.”

Trixie follows her, sitting in the chair opposite. “You literally set up a whole TV just now.”

“You think I have the finesse for that? I was only kidding when I said I set it up on my own, you know I'm technologically inept. The delivery guy was with a woman from the company, and she came in and set it up for me. She was butch as fuck.”

“How butch is 'as fuck'?”

“On a scale from me in eighth grade when I got a pixie cut to...I dunno, Lena Waithe post-head shave? Like a 9.”

Damn, girl. I love butches, you know I'm jealous right now.”

“Wait really? I thought your type would be more..like you?”

Trixie leans back in her seat with her arms out straight, palms flat on the table. “You tryna say you think my head is up my own ass?”

Katya shrieks, curling in on herself for a second, before yelling, “More like up your own pussy!”

Trixie surges forward to slap her on the arm with a smirk. “I mean, I do have my exceptions.”

“So you totally would be down to fuck a clone of yourself, is that what you're saying?”

“Katya!” Trixie slaps her again, on both arms at once, which just makes Katya cackle even more. “You know what I meant, bitch, I don't only love butch women. God, you're answering the door once the food gets here for that. I won't make you sleep on the couch but you're on thin fucking ice.”

“Okay, okay, I'm sorry.” Katya's laughter dies down to a chortle, and Trixie reaches out again to rub where she had slapped Katya's arms. It was only light and playful, but she was so pale that it was reddening slightly. “Who are your exceptions then, huh?”

“What?”

“What other ladies made it into your wank bank that aren't total daddies?”

“Gross.” Trixie looks down at Katya's arm where she still mindlessly feathers her hand over the redness there, and pauses for a moment.

“Well?”

She looks back up to meet Katya's eyes. “Your mom.”

This time it's Trixie who gets a slap, screeching with laughter.

By the time their pizza arrives, the sun has set too far beyond the buildings and trees to be visible, save for the dying colours of the sky that are slowly invaded by the black and blue of the night. Whilst Katya pays the delivery guy and precariously arranges the pizza boxes on the too-small balcony table, Trixie takes the liberty to swap her work clothes for an old pink tee that had shrunk in the wash too much to be acceptable day wear, and a loose chequered pair of shorts a few shades darker than her top.

It only takes one look from Trixie for Katya to reconsider the layout of their meal; she had placed the boxes side-by-side, meaning that two whole corners of each of them overhang the table. One misplaced flail from Katya would send the whole thing toppling, and Trixie is far from prepared to sacrifice her first full meal of the day. After much squirming and kicking, each girl grasping their pizza box as though it was an open suitcase of money, they end up with Trixie eating from the table side-on and Katya eating from her lap. The compromise, of course, being that Katya gets to rest her feet in Trixie's lap, whilst Trixie's legs rest out straight atop the balcony railing.

They eat in silence, the air filled with the somewhat distant sounds of the city – honking cars and noisy phone conversations passing by below - as well as the faint, tinny hum of music coming from Katya's phone. As Lana Del Ray's voice fades from one song into another, Katya turns to Trixie and gesturs with her elbow – both of her hands occupied with a pizza slice - towards their legs. “You know,” she begins, before pausing to swallow her current mouthful, “This is sorta like a game of jenga, right?. Like Leg Jenga. Lenga.

“First of all,” Trixie begins, adamant on proving Katya wrong. “I dunno what Jenga your family raised you on that involved, what, three tiers? But you've been deprived and it shows.” Katya stops herself mid-bite to laugh, dangerously close to spitting cheese everywhere. “And second of all, if it was leg jenga it would be 'lega', not lenga, there's no 'n' in leg you trash bag. Or did your parents also not teach you to spell?”

Trixie basks in the absolute wail of laughter that she solicites from Katya, before absolutely losing it herself when Katya immediately bounces back with “whaddup, I'm Katya, I'm nineteen, and I never fuckin' learned how to read.”

**

It's only 10pm. Trixie knows she wouldn't last through a whole 45 minute episode of Stranger Things, and her desperation to finish season one by the end of the week seems, all of a sudden, unlikely. Not nearly as much, however, as staying awake in front of the TV. The end credits come and gp, and Katya can tell Trixie has no idea the TV has gone silent, having already half dozed-off, head on the armrest and a cushion cradled under her chin. Katya silently stands, locks the balcony doors, and draws the curtains with an attempt to keep the squeaking of the metal rings on the overhead pole to a minimum. By the end of her preparation for bedtime, the pizza leftovers are in the fridge, with the boxes stacked beside the sink to be taken to the dumpsters outside in the morning. Convincing Trixie that the relocation from couch to bed would be worth it seems almost impossible, until the compromise arises that if Trixie gets any of her makeup – which she refuses to expend any more energy to wipe off - onto the pillowcases, she will have to wash them tomorrow. Katya's grateful that she does agree to brush her teeth, however, since she's all too aware of Trixie's habit of sleeping with her mouth wide open, breath attacking whatever poor thing happens to be in its path (which, far too often already, is Katya herself).

Once Katya finishes her very brief night time routine (face wipe, toothbrush, pee; in no particular order) she walks in on Trixie in bed on her phone. Before climbing into bed, she takes her sweatpants off, leaving only her panties and a baggy tee for her to sleep in comfortably. Whilst still standing, she raises one leg and wiggles her toes, poking Trixie's side beneath the thin duvet; a silent signal for her to scooch over. “I can't believe I fall for this literally once a week at least.”

Trixie shuffles to let Katya under the covers. “Fall for what?”

“You looking like you're fully asleep in the living room which makes me feel bad, so I do all the clean-ups and shit. No fair.” Katya faces Trixie on her side, and unlockes her phone to scroll on Twitter.

“Okay fair, but I actually was super tired. Watching TV always makes me fall asleep. Don't you get that? Where once you get into bed you're less tired than you thought? I always have to go on my phone before I sleep anyway, the light makes my eyes sleepy for real.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. It's like a bedtime story, except instead of fairytales its racists on Twitter.”

“You follow Trump? Bold.”

Katya laughs – it's all she ever seemed to do around Trixie – but finds that she's much more tired than she'd realised, making it come out as a huff of breath from her nose rather than one of her signature full-body wheezes.

They stay that way for longer than they both expect – each being determined not to be the first to lose to the throes of exhaustion – and opt for sending each other posts on whatever platform they had hopped to in lieu of simply turning their phones around. The room is comfortably quiet, only interrupted by the occasional huff of laughter or comment. It's homely, to share each other's presence and not feel the need to do anything other than exist. Before they had met, Katya refused to let friends from school stay at her house, or even visit if it wasn't necessary. As someone with such enormous emotional expression, once it comes down to being outwardly neutral in an intimate environment, she can't cope. The thought of not filling the gaps with jokes and boisterous laughter in order to feel accepted becomes crushing. Yet with Trixie, this fear had quickly dampened down into nothing. Their meeting was the ultimate culmination of depression versus anxiety, and they complemented and grounded each other so often that it became second nature.

Katya chances a glimpse away from her phone to look at Trixie, who smiles softly at her screen. She prompts Trixie on it, and she actually turns her phone around for Katya this time to show her an entire Tumblr blog dedicated to pictures of cows. “They're so fluffy!”

“I thought I was the hippie dippy bitch around here.” Katya smirks, focusing more of her attention on Trixie than the pictures.

“Prove it, girl! Become a vegan and live in the mountains and shit.”

“Okay, wow, this is erasing my city girl identity. Shame on you.”

“Well, you could at least start with getting a reusable cup for all the coffee you pump into your withered body.”

“What, you expect me to walk into your Starbucks with a trough? 'Cause I'll go steal one from a farm, bitch, just try me.”

Trixie giggles. Both of their phones had gone to sleep from inactivity, and the room is pitch dark, save for the light of the moon coming in through the open blinds.

“The next time I walk in I'm gonna hand-chisel a stone mug for you to fill up.”

Trixie chuckles again at herself, and it soon turns into a yawn. She takes it as a cue to turn in for the night, reaching over to her bedside table to plug in her phone. “I yield. You win tonight, I'm on the brink of death at this point. Night, Kat.”

“G'night Trix.”

Katya plugs in her phone as well, but knows she won't fall asleep as quickly as Trixie. She waits until she hears her breathing deepen, then turn into a gentle snore, before she quietly opens the little drawer in her side table and pulls out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Trying not to disturb Trixie, she slithers out from beneath the thin duvet, closing the blinds on her way by, and heads towards the balcony in the living room. She peels back the curtains enough to get in front of the door to open it – the key is still in the lock, as always – but leaves them drawn once she's outside to prevent the soft noise from drifting in and waking Trixie up. Her legs are bare, but the air is on the brink between warm and cool that's comfortable even in a state of undress. She lights up her last cigarette of the day, and leans forward over the balcony to see the street below.

They live far enough from downtown Los Angeles for it to be an affordable place for them both, but the hustle and bustle diffuses to the outskirts enough that these streets are still alive at night. The Hollywood hills are away in the distance, obscured vaguely by neighbouring skyscrapers, and the letters are practically indiscriminate at night but Katya knows they're there. In the foreground of the view, the local park is lit by the odd streetlamp, but not a soul is in sight. Their apartment is on the fifth floor of the complex, but Katya still catches snippets of conversations from below; there's a man that appeared to be talking on the phone to a woman named Rachel about their baby. Two latino men chat away in Spanish, and a group of six older teenagers sing loudly, with two of the boys in the cluster vogueing side-by-side. They become Katya's favourite passers-by of the night, and she makes a mental note to tell Trixie about them in the morning.

There it is again. There are only ever so many trains of thought before she inevitably comes back around to thinking about Trixie. At this point, she can't bring herself to be mad about it. In Junior year of high school, she would berate herself for thinking about her in any capacity beyond her own mental boundaries of friendship. She could remember one science lesson, where Trixie spilled hydrochloric acid in a cut on her hand during a lab and Katya genuinely panicked, insisting on helping Trixie rinse it out at the sink despite her other completely functional hand that could turn on the taps, and even walking her to the school nurse because she wanted to make sure she was okay. She knew it was a weak concentration of acid, but her caring overwhelmed her common sense. Sitting in the chair of the nurse's office, she realised that she had left her bunsen burner on back in the classroom, unattended. She had prioritised Trixie over literally everyone else in their class, and probably the whole school, including herself. That was when she knew that Trixie was much more than just a friend to her - but it should have been a schoolgirl's infatuation, here and gone by the end of the year, and certainly by graduation when they'd inevitably part ways. But senior year came and went, as did graduation, and still Katya, knocking on twenty, thinks about Trixie as though they're an old married couple, or as if she was sixteen again. She feels silly, but at the same time knows that she'd want nothing more than for the former to be true.

All the while she's lost in her thoughts, she mindlessly drags away at her cigarette until it burns down to the filter, the sounds of the city completely glossing over her now. She moves to stub it out on her little ashtray on the table, only to remember that it now sits on the floor in the corner, their pizza boxes from dinner having evicted it from its usual home.

She almost couldn't bear going back to bed, back to Trixie. Then again, she'd been dreaming to be able to say that she shared a bed with her for the last two years, so could hardly complain now. Her anxiety had eased since she first moved in, and she no longer feels like an intruder, as close as she is to Trixie. She locks the balcony doors behind her, quiet as a mouse.

Trixie hasn't moved since Katya left the bed, and Katya is both grateful and amazed that her side still remains vacant. Katya slowly peels her corner of the blanket away before sliding underneath and getting comfortable, before freezing as she feels Trixie shift in her place. She lets out a tiny grunt in her sleep, and throws her leg across Katya's before settling again. Katya relaxes once she realises that Trixie hadn't actually woken up, but still feels chained to the spot by Trixie's leg – she can't move her now, otherwise she'd wake up for real. She doesn't much like sleeping on her back, yet would sacrifice a whole night of sleep if it means she gets to be Trixie's personal pillow. She smiles to herself in resignation, and allows the steady rhythm of Trixie's breathing to slowly lull her to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

“Hi, welcome to Starbucks! What can I get ‘ya?”

Trixie waits as a woman, who she could only assume was in her fifties by the everything about her, squints up at the menu board behind her head. She scratches at a squiggle of black sharpie on the too-bright screen of her cash register with the short nail of her index finger. Shifting the weight on her feet from one to the other, she cocks her hip out to the side. Her shift this morning is only five hours long, and she is currently on her fourth hour and forty-second minute. Coming in at 5am to open the store never seems worth it when her alarm forces her into the day, but always does by the time she clocks out before the morning is even over, knowing she has the rest of the day to herself.

“Can I just get a latte?”

“Sure – is that in the Grande size?”

The woman agrees, not entirely sure what a ‘grande’ is, it seems; yes, she would be taking out, and yes, that would be everything for today. She pays with her card, and Trixie doesn’t even write the order on a cup – there’s nobody else in line, and she’s the only person behind the bar, so she just goes and makes it herself.

At the sink, she cleans the metal jug she had just used to steam milk in. With her back to the café, she hears someone clear their throat from somewhere in front of the register. She quickly dries her hands on the corner of her apron, and the boredom and falsity of customer service immediately drops from her face once she sees who it is.

“Well hello there, pretty lady, you come here often?”

Katya could barely keep a straight face as she spoke whilst looking at Trixie in uniform. Green is so not her colour.

“Why, thank you ma’am. Welcome to Starbucks, what can I get you on a fine day like this?”

Katya puts both hands on her hips and put on a pout. “I’d like a latte, please – extra hot and wet.”

Trixie holds back a laugh. “Large?”

Extra large.”

Trixie can’t keep up the façade any longer, dissolving into a fit of sniggers and giggles, but careful not to make enough noise that her manager would come out and say anything.

“So I guess I’ll be making you a black coffee then, huh?”

Katya grins. “You know me well. But make it iced this time, I’m sweating like a hooker in church.”

“What’s new?”

Katya leans over the countertop to lightly smack Trixie’s wrist, laughing.

“Okay, you know what? I was gonna give you that as one of my free drinks since I finish soon, but now you’re paying full price.”

“Hey!” Katya’s jaw drops slightly. She starts to fish inside her small tote bag for her wallet anyway.

Trixie drops the act and begins to laugh, rolling her eyes. “Oh my god, bitch I was joking. Of course I’m not gonna make you pay.”

“You’re too good to me, Trixie Mattel.”

“I know.”

The last fifteen minutes of Trixie’s shift pass quickly. Only one or two other customers come to be served, since nobody ever really comes here on a Sunday morning. She chats away happily with Katya as she makes their drinks, and Katya leans almost all of herself onto the countertop. Trixie can see her cleavage where her forearms squish her boobs up towards her chin, and she isn’t complaining about it. There are patches of sweat on Katya’s crop top by her armpits and under her boobs, and her nipples poke through the fabric since she doesn’t wear a bra.

Soon enough, Violet – another barista – emerges from around the corner, still tying the strings of her apron behind her back, to relieve Trixie of her duties. She makes sure to grab the two drinks she had hidden on a shelf next to one of the fridges before she left: a black iced coffee for Katya, and a peach iced tea with lemonade for herself.

Now that she was doing more shorter shifts than she used to be able to afford to, her feet no longer ache liked they once did. If she had an 8-hour stint at the store, Katya would still come to drive her back home in a heartbeat, without even being asked. After her shorter days at work, however – and especially in the mornings – Trixie often liked to take the half-hour walk home.

Now that May has reared its head, the days are longer and especially sunny, and it makes Trixie glow like a peach. Even having grown up in California, she could never get enough of the sun. Still, she doesn’t particularly want to walk for thirty minutes in the direct heat whilst wearing her all-black work clothes, so she locks herself in the break room to peel herself out of them. In their place, she puts on a loose, cream-coloured dress that flows down to her mid-thigh, and a pair of birkenstocks instead of her black, syrup-stained sneakers. She dusts a hearty amount of baby powder on her inner thighs in anticipation of them rubbing together and getting sore. Content, she throws a ‘goodbye’ into the office and vaguely hopes her manager hears her.

As she passes by Violet on her way out, she sees that a line of people is starting to grow quite substantially now that more people in the city are awake and wanting coffee. With a drink in each hand, she waves goodbye with her pinky finger, giving her best pity eyes and sticking out her bottom lip in a frown. She hands the black coffee to Katya, wipes the cold condensation on her hands from the outside of the cup onto her dress, and they walk out of the store together.

Katya pulls a pair of sunglasses from where they were hooked on the strap of her tote bag, and clumsily puts them on her face. Trixie unhooks one arm from the strap of her pink backpack, lets it fall heavily into the crook of the opposite elbow, and goes looking for her own pair in the little front pocket. She finds her keys, a half-empty packet of gum, and a receipt, but no sunglasses. Just as she is about to complain about it to Katya, she watches as she fishes them out of her own bag, and wordlessly hands them over.

“How did you-?”

“You left them on the countertop in the kitchen this morning by your mail. Had a feeling you might need them.”

A smile slowly creeps onto Trixie’s face. “Thank you.” She puts them on with one hand, making it seem much more effortless than Katya had. She hands over her drink to Katya so she can hoist her backpack on again properly with a grunt, determined not to stop walking in the middle of the crowd to do so.

Katya simply smiles in response. “Whatcha wanna do today, doll?”

Trixie thinks for a second, before letting the gargle of her empty stomach decide for her. Instead of towards home, she leads Katya through the park until they reach a café that neither of them has tried yet. She gets a plain toasted bagel with strawberry cream cheese that’s almost as pink as her bag. Katya gets a cinnamon-raisin one with just butter, and a huge chocolate chip cookie for them both to share. They take them back to the park in a little paper bag, and sit in the shade under the only tree that hasn’t already been claimed by various other members of the public.

It had been almost two months since Katya moved in. The way that they would laugh with each other every day in between working their asses off to make rent has made the days blur together in a way that feels as though it had been closer to two minutes, rather than months. Yet the way that Trixie knew to expect to find her socks in Katya’s drawer, or how Katya had learned to heat Trixie’s mug with hot water before making her tea so that it stays hotter for longer, made it feel as though they’d been doing this for years. Part of Trixie wants to strangle her past self for not letting it happen sooner. Part of her still worries that, even with two paychecks coming in, there will still be a bill that she can’t cover. The rest of her is just happy to wake up to this weird woman every morning, even if it isn’t with a kiss.

They share bites of each other’s bagel in between sips of their drinks. Katya gets cream cheese on her nose and Trixie wipes it off with her finger and onto the grass. When a drop of butter trickles down Trixie’s chin, Katya does the same in return, but instead sticks her finger straight into her own mouth to lick it clean.

“Katya, oh my god.” She blushes. When they swap back again, Trixie swipes cream cheese from her own bagel and dots it straight back onto Katya’s nose.

“Hey! I was only doing you a favour. You can thank me later when you’re not trying to wash grease stains out of your dress.” She tries to lick her nose clean with the tip of her tongue, and partially succeeds. She wipes the rest off with the back of her hand.  

They finish the rest of their impromptu brunch in contented silence, except for the slurping of a straw at the bottom of an empty cup once Trixie finishes her drink. She stands and gathers everything that needs throwing away and walks over to the nearest trash can. Looking at the pile in her hands, she just puts everything into the recycling and hopes for the best.

When she gets back, she takes her hair out of its ponytail and lays her head in Katya’s lap, who has now shifted to lean against the trunk of the tree. She gently massages Trixie’s scalp, running her fingers through the long tresses of her hair, careful not to snag any knots and wincing for her when she does. Trixie hums and closes her eyes.

“How was work?”

“Pretty chilled, actually.” Trixie didn’t mind opening the store, but she did mind her manager; she was an unpleasant woman to work with on the best of days. With just the two of them, there would be nowhere to hide if they got busy and she needed help. “It was quiet enough for me to be able to manage everything on my own pretty much all morning, so she just spent the whole time in the office.”

“I’m glad. I know how much she gets to you sometimes.” Katya smiles. “Any weird and/or wonderful encounters today?”

Trixie begins to laugh a little before she even tells the story. “Oh, there was this one guy – bless him – who tried to pay for something in change, but his glasses must have fell off his face about ten times, and he kept dropping the coins. I really had to try not to laugh and I felt bad because he seemed pretty embarrassed about it. He almost caught them every time.”

“Almost.”

“He did nearly end up trying to pay for his order using his glasses. I hope he gets them tightened.”

Katya chuckles, resting her head back against the tree trunk, before realising she’d rather be looking at Trixie. “Only one more shift to go.”

Trixie had demanded a vacation week from work for Katya’s birthday. It didn’t exactly take much persuasion, since she’s legally entitled to it, but Trixie likes to think she has at least some power in the workplace. She made sure to fill out the request form very forcefully; she even used full stops at the end of her name and the dates.

“One more shift.” She smiles.

***

Katya groans as she squats to pick up a potted tree that had blown over in the wind. “Come here, baby, I’ve got you.”

She wipes her hands on her gardening overalls and checks the rest of the outdoor plants in the centre. One or two more need helping back to their feet; some need deadheading with the small pair of cutters she keeps in her big front pouch. She always says hello to them, as well as a small ‘sorry!’ if she does end up having to cut some parts off, stroking their leaves as though it’s the closest she can get to holding their hand.

Katya only ever wears the gardening gloves that are part of her uniform if she absolutely must; she enjoys getting earth under her fingernails, feeling the delicate roots of a plant that she’s repotting.

Once she’s standing upright again, she drops the cutters back into her big pocket, and wipes a hand down the tops of each thigh, leaving streaks of dirt all the way down to her knees. She thinks it’s endearing, that it adds to the gardener’s aesthetic.

Her hair is falling out from underneath the bandana she had tried to wrap it in to protect her head from the sun, so she blindly stuffs it back underneath with one finger. It comes away damp with sweat from the back of her neck, and she wipes across her forehead with the back of her hand to stop any more of it dripping down into her eyes.

Amongst the rows of outdoor plants, there is a little square of wooden pallets, upon which sits a number of garden statues. They are all Katya’s favourite: the weird little gnomes, and the busts of elegant women, and the intricate wall hangings of the face of the Green Man. She traces her fingers over the cold stone of all of them, leaving behind faint muddy fingerprints like a child.

She knows that her shift will be over soon, and so starting any new tasks feels a bit pointless. She sits with her back to the windows of the centre’s indoor café, cross-legged on the floor, careful not to put any weight on the pallets so she doesn’t send any of the statues flying. The small statue right in front of her is of a woman; she’s naked, with long flowing hair that goes down past her breasts, and she’s holding a water jug, surrounded by flowers.

She smiles up at the figure. “Hello, you.”

“Right back at ‘ya.”

Katya jumps slightly and turns her head and shoulders to look behind her. “What are you doing here?” She smiles when she realises who it is, despite already having recognised that voice. “I thought you didn’t finish for another hour after me?”

Trixie stands, still in her work clothes. From Katya’s angle, the way her jeans hug the curve of her hips, cinching in at the waist, should be criminal. She’s holding two iced drinks in her hands; something pink and white and slushie, which she takes a sip of herself, and another black coffee for Katya.

“We had one of the super chilled out supervisors today and she let me go early.” She shifts her weight from one foot to the other. “Looks like I have some competition now, I guess.”

“Huh?”

Trixie nods her head towards the statue that Katya had been talking to. Katya ducks her head and smiles. “Shut up!”

She groans as she stands up, making a show of cracking her hip joints when she does just to get a reaction from Trixie, and leads them both inside.

“How did you find me? This place is pretty big.”

“Your manger said you were working outside today. She also asked if you could bring one of the wheelbarrows in on your way back. Something about a delivery?”

“Oh, sure.” Katya grabs the wheelbarrow that sits by the automatic doors just before they open. It doesn’t take her long, but Trixie makes a point of standing right over the threshold so they don’t close again before Katya can make her way through. On their way to the manager’s little desk, they pass a small craft section, shelves of pet items, and rows of indoor plants. Trixie stops in her tracks.

“Oh, my god. Katya, look.” There’s a little African violet with soft pink flowers sitting on a shelf, all on its own, in a terracotta pot. Trixie manoeuvres the drinks in her hands so that she’s able to pick up the pot with the tips of her fingers and brings it over to show Katya. “It has no friends, we have to take it home.”

Katya looks back at Trixie over her shoulder, still holding onto the wheelbarrow, and smiles endearingly. She is convinced that either the plant, or the drinks, or both won’t survive the journey outside to Katya’s pickup. She drops the handles of the wheelbarrow. “Come here.”

When Trixie makes her way over, Katya reaches out to take the plant from her. She takes the pair of cutters from the front pouch of her overalls, lays them in the bottom of the empty wheelbarrow, and shimmies the plant pot in its place so that it tickles her chin and makes it look like she’s glowing bright pink from underneath. Trixie smiles, overflowing with a simple kind of joy.

***

The little violet plant ends up on the tiny windowsill in front of the kitchen sink, crowded by the knick-knacks that Katya had brought with her to the apartment, including a solar-powered dancing cactus figurine with rosy cheeks. She waters it generously inside the saucer of gravel that it sits upon as she waits for Trixie to emerge from the shower, already having washed and changed out of her own muddy overalls. She washes the dishes to pass the time. One small, black suitcase stands by the front door. Another suitcase, white with little pink flowers, lies open on the bed, waiting for Trixie to finish packing her toiletries.

Soon enough, Trixie emerges, dressed in light blue denim shorts and a thin blouse. Her backpack is slung over one shoulder, and another, strangely shaped bag is over the other. Her wet hair sits in two long braids down her back, with her wispy baby hairs already having dried in curls around her rosy face. She hasn’t reapplied her makeup, and is glowing with moisturiser and peace.

“Ready?”

Trixie nods, zipping up her suitcase and meeting Katya by the door. Katya insists on carrying both of their bags, and Trixie swoons ever so slightly at the sight of her bare arms flexing as the stoops to pick them up.

“Oh, wait!” Trixie turns back into the kitchen and picks up her new houseplant with both hands, looking at Katya like a child in a pet store.

“We can leave it here, Trix – we’re only going for four days, it’ll last that long without us.”

“Katya, we can’t abandon our daughter at home. I’m not about to create a whole Home Alone situation.”

It sits in one of the cup holders in the front of the truck as Katya drives, and Trixie eats from a bag of sour patch kids, occasionally putting one into Katya’s mouth even though she drives with only one hand. Trixie is playing one of her summer playlists as loudly as she dares through the aux cord, with the windows rolled all the way down, and she sings along perfectly in tune even with a mouth full of candy. Katya sings along, much more quietly, not wanting to be louder than Trixie since she knows she’s not half as good as her. She has the visor pulled down to keep the sun out of her eyes as she drives right towards it.

It only takes them forty minutes to drive to Long Beach, even with the traffic.

There’s no elevator in their Airbnb, but the little studio that they’re renting out is only on the second floor. Trixie used the money that she was going to put towards a TV for their apartment to pay for a little getaway for a few days for Katya’s birthday.

The routine is the same as always. Trixie unloads some tins and bags of food that she brought from their own cupboards to cook them both enough pasta to last them for two dinners. They sit out on the little balcony to eat, and the sun sets on their side of the building just like at home, but over a view of the ocean instead of the park. Instead of metal railings, the balcony is bordered with glass panels. At home, Katya would dangle her legs through the gaps and smoke a cigarette after dinner. Here, though, she sits cross-legged, nose pressed to the glass, as she watches the sun hit the ocean and turn it orange.

Trixie promises her that they’ll go down to the beach to watch the sunset tomorrow, on her actual birthday. Katya also makes her promise that she won’t forget to take the houseplant back home with them, having given it a temporary home on the television stand. Trixie pinky promises, sitting down next to Katya, thankful that the little evening breeze makes the smoke from her cigarette blow in the opposite direction. She holds a mug of tea in her lap, and once Katya finishes smoking, she hovers both hands over the steam to feel the warmth. Trixie takes one of her hands and wraps it around the body of the mug instead, holding her own hand over the top of Katya’s. They watch the sun dip past the horizon. Trixie doesn’t drink any of her tea because she doesn’t want to move Katya’s hand away again. Neither of them says anything.

Chapter Text

Trixie wakes up before Katya does. She had never understood the appeal of early mornings; the only reason she would ever be awake early enough to see the sunrise during daylight savings would be to go to work. Now, though, standing on the balcony of their Airbnb and watching the sky lighten to blue again over the ocean, she's beginning to think that maybe she could become an actual morning person. The little whistling kettle is heating up on the stove, and Trixie keeps the balcony door open just a crack so that she can hear it sing once it’s ready. The apartment is too far from the ocean to be able to hear it; but the sounds of the waves are just as clear in her imagination as she watches them lap towards the shore.

Once the kettle begins to whistle, she pours a cup of hibiscus tea for herself and a black coffee for Katya. Trying not to dip the mattress too much, she climbs back onto her side of the bed and sits cross-legged. She turns to put the coffee over on the little table on her side of the bed, and sips on her own drink as she waits for Katya to wake up.

It only takes about five minutes of scrolling through Instagram until she hears she bedsheets shuffle, followed by a groan. She tosses her phone to the end of the bed, turning to face Katya.

“Good morning.” Trixie smiles as Katya wipes at her eyes with her knuckles, gently kicking Trixie’s knee as she stretches out her legs under the covers.

Katya smiles softly, rolling onto her side to face Trixie. “G’morning, Trix.” Her voice crackles with sleep and it makes Trixie laugh gently, blowing air out of her nose.

“Happy birthday.”

Katya yawns. “Happy birthday.”

Trixie’s laugh graduates to a full-blown wheeze, doubled over herself.

“What? What??”

“You said happy birthday back to me, you dumbass.” Trixie steadies herself and loses it all over again within the same breath.

“Oh!” Katya starts to laugh along, hiding her face in her pillow as she rolls onto her stomach. “Shut up, bitch, I’m not awake yet.”

Trixie turns and grabs the coffee from behind her, and nudges Katya through the material of the blanket with her foot. Katya groans, but it quickly turns into a happy hum as she lifts her head and sees the mug in Trixie’s outstretched hand.

Katya sits upright, flinging the blanket to the foot of the bed as she decides, all of a sudden, that she is too hot. She isn’t particularly tanned, but the contrasting white of the duvet and the fuzzy blonde hairs on her legs make her look peachy. With grabby hands, she takes the mug from Trixie; the coffee is just far away enough from boiling that she can drink it fairly comfortably, and so she does, taking two big gulps as soon as she has a hold of it. She scrunches her nose as it burns ever so slightly on its way down. Her hair is short enough that sections of it tumble out of her ponytail, having been ruffled against her pillow in the night, so she tucks them behind her ears with her free hand.

“So,” Trixie begins, “how does it feel to be in your twenties, you old hag.”

“Awful. Crippling. I feel so much closer to death.”

“It’s alright, I’ll come to your funeral. Not sure who else would turn up, though.”

Katya shoves Trixie’s knee with her bare foot and smiles, rolling her eyes.

“God – you’re, like, an adult. A real one, not just an elderly teenager.” Trixie sips at her tea. “And you’re not even old enough to buy alcohol to celebrate it. That’s so fucked up.”

“Well, not legally. I can get married though. And buy a gun!”

Trixie snorts. “How about we marry each other, then rob a liquor store at gunpoint. In our wedding dresses. Y’know, just to confuse the hell out of the legal system.”

“What more could I ask for on my birthday?”

“Well, actually…” Trixie stands, putting her mug down on the end table, and walks over to the row of various bags and suitcases that are against the wall. She fishes around her own suitcase – the only one of them all that isn’t already open and spilling over – and pulls out a fairly large box, wrapped in brown paper.

Katya’s brows furrow; she puts her drink down, and Trixie places the gift on the bed in front of Katya once she settles.

“Trixie, you didn’t have to get me anything – you literally paid for this whole trip!”

Trixie shrugs. “I wanted to. It’s not a real birthday if you don’t have something to unwrap.”

Katya’s face softens. She feels as though her heart might melt through the gaps in her ribcage if she doesn’t catch it. She brings the box up to her ear and gently shakes it. “Is it Legos?”

Trixie laughs and gives Katya a light shove. “Just shut up and open it!”

Trixie had given up wrapping gifts with tape last Christmas in a bid to cut down on plastic. Instead, the paper is tied up in twine, ending with a bow on the top. Katya pulls on one of the loose ends until the whole piece falls away, and the paper follows shortly behind. “Oh, my god. You did not!”

Katya throws the paper onto the ground and fumbles to open the box in her lap, picking away at the tape on the edges with her nails. Once the lid is flipped open and the tissue paper inside is thrown to the ground, Katya is left with a brand-new pair of red, suede roller skates.

Trixie.”

“Do you like them?”

“Are you kidding me? I love them.”

Trixie squawks. “You do?”

“Oh, my god, yes, shut up!” She throws herself forwards, wrapping her arms around Trixie’s torso in a hug that catches her by surprise. Laughing, they fall to the side, landing against the pillows and headrest, with Katya’s head tucked under Trixie’s chin.

Trixie scoops one arm around Katya’s waist, and rests her other hand on the back of her head. Her hair has that unwashed, human smell of home, and Trixie gently scratches at her scalp, making her sigh.

One of Katya’s arms is trapped between the pillows, and Trixie. With her free hand, she squeezes Trixie’s waist.

“You wanna get up?”

Innaminit.”

Katya’s voice is muffled against Trixie’s chest, and Trixie can’t help but honk with laughter at the sound of her. Katya soon joins in; the vibration of her voice and the feeling of her breath against her chest goes straight to Trixie’s thighs. Katya feels her tense against her, and sits up, almost nose-to-nose with Trixie.

“You good?”

Trixie blushes, clenches her teeth, and smiles. “Never better. Now finish your coffee before it goes cold. I’m taking you out.”

“Like, on a date, or are you assassinating me?”

“Oh, I’m absolutely murdering you.” Trixie deadpans.

“Finally!”

***

Trixie wraps the long ends of her shoelaces around the boot at her ankle, before tying it off in a neat bow, and repeating the same thing on the other foot. She rolls her feet back and forth from where she’s sitting, grinning like a maniac. Her skates are pastel pink, matching the two stripes at the tops of her white, knee-high socks. Her legs look about a mile long, until the tops of her thighs are cut off by the cuffs of her favourite, high-waisted pair of jean shorts. The two black straps of her helmet hang on either side of her face, before she clips them together under her chin.

She swivels down from the bench to the ground, kneeling in front of Katya, and ties her laces tightly. The two braids poking out from either side of her helmet are so long that they almost touch the ground as she bends over. She takes her time, finishing them both off with a bow, before putting her palms on Katya’s kneepads to push herself back up to standing.

“They feel good?”

Katya rolls her feet back and forth, copying Trixie, and tries to wiggle her toes. “I think so?” She clips her own black helmet on, which Trixie had packed for her without her knowing, pulled from a cardboard box under the bed after Katya had brought it when she moved in, but neglected to bring her actual bike.

Trixie quickly scrolls through her phone to find her favourite summer playlist and puts it on as loudly as she dares to in public, before sliding it into her back pocket with the speaker facing upwards.

Trixie holds out both hands, and Katya grabs onto them as best as she can with her wrist guards on, pulling herself up. She wobbles, tightening her hold on Trixie like a vice grip.

Trixie had been promising Katya that she would teach her how to roller skate since Junior year of high school. Katya is immediately regretting it, ever so slightly.

“Hey. I’ve got you.”

Katya looks up at Trixie and nods once, before looking back down at her own feet.

“Remember what I told you on the way down here? Put your feet in a ‘v’ – yeah like that – and then just pick them up one at a time, you don’t even need to push if you don’t want to.”

For the rest of their morning, Trixie guides Katya up and down the cycle lanes of Junipero Beach, going backwards so that Katya can go forwards and hold onto her with both hands the entire time. Katya follows Trixie’s instructions, and Trixie always stays close enough that they both need to bend their arms generously to keep their hands together. Katya only mildly panics whenever she comes across a pebble or a stick in her path, emboldened by the fact that if Trixie can tackle it backwards, she can do it forwards, albeit incredibly slowly.

She gets good enough that they can skate side-by-side; Trixie laments being able to watch Katya’s face as she concentrates on the ground, brows crossed and the tip of her tongue poking out from between her lips. Katya mourns the feeling of both of Trixie’s hands in hers, then decides that still being able to cling onto just one is more than enough, even though it will simultaneously never be enough. The feeling of holding Trixie had become a paradox; the more she did it, the happier she was, yet the more she wanted to do it.

She only falls twice. The first time, she lands on all fours, since Trixie hadn’t taught her how to slide on her knees yet, worryingly aware of how breakable her wrists are. The second time she falls, she takes Trixie down with her. Trixie had lent all of her protective gear to Katya until they could both afford to buy her good ones, and so she hits the ground with bare bones.

“Ah, shit, fuck.” Katya is surprised more than hurt, except for the shock of the fall having absorbed up into her knees, aching her bones. “Are you okay, Trix?”

Trixie looks down at the side of her thigh; the skin there is reddening, marked with white lines where the scratches from the ground are still fresh. She laughs. “I’m good. Are you?”

“Yeah, I’m wearing this fuckin’ suit of armour, mama, don’t worry about me.” Katya traces a finger around the mark on Trixie’s leg. “That looks sore.”

“I’m used to it, honestly. Unlike some people,” – she looks up at Katya with a smirk – “I know how to fall safely. This is, like, the one sport I’ve done in my life where having thick thighs is an actual perk.”

Trixie swivels around onto one knee before standing up again, making it look easy. She holds out both hands for Katya, and she takes them, hauling herself up against Trixie’s weight, mindful of trying not send them hurtling back down again – she was not prepared to lose a wrestling match with gravity for the third time in an hour.

“You ready?”

Katya eyes a nearby bench. “Actually, I’m gonna sit for a bit, if that’s okay? That last one kinda hurt my knees.”

“Sure, girl. I know you’re at risk for osteoporosis now that you’re old, so -” Trixie dodges a swipe from Katya by skating away from her, laughing as she calls for her to come back in a whine.

When she does, Katya catches her in a hug, despite Trixie being perfectly able to stop on her own.

“Want me to stay with you?”

“Yes, more than anything in the world, at all, whatsoever – but I do also wanna see you do tricks.”

Tricks!?” Trixie squawks, head thrown back.

“Yeah! Show me your tricks, Trix.” Katya waddles over to the bench behind her and sits, letting her legs fall akimbo out in front of her from the weight of the skates.

“Okay, well – this one’s called the Downtown.”

Trixie moves her legs in an incomprehensible pattern of diagonals that somehow move her from side to side, and Katya cannot take her eyes off them. She then spins on the spot, her arms hung up in the air like she’s on the dancefloor.

“…and this one is called Shooting the Duck.” Trixie skates away from Katya for some space. Once she passes by her again, she drops to a squat while still rolling forward, sticks one leg out in front of her, and grabs the toe of her skate. Katya doesn’t blink, watching slack-jawed as Trixie shows off for her.

“And I thought you were a vegetarian and a pacifist.”

When she’s done, Trixie gives a bow, and Katya stands up to give her an applause. Trixie blushes.

“That was amazing. You are amazing. How the fuck did you get so flexible? I thought I was the resident gymnast in our home?”

“I started exclusively stretching that leg, literally just to be able to do that one move. Don’t expect anything else from me, you whore.”

Both of their ears perk up at the sound of a blown-out music box approaching somewhere up on the road, playing the tune to ‘Do Your Ears Hang Low?’.

“Okay, but can I have an ice cream? It’s my birthday, mom. Moooom?”

Trixie pats the pocket on the back of her shorts to check for change, fully aware that it looks like she just slapped her own ass for the hell of it. She smirks at Katya. “Wait here.”

She turns and speed-skates back the way they came to catch the ice cream truck before the kids start coming in hordes, and the music playing from her phone diminishes surprisingly quickly, like a passing ambulance with the sirens on blast. As Katya calls after her, complaining about being abandoned, she shouts back over her shoulder, “I’m coming back for you!” – and she does, with a cone of soft-serve in each hand. One is half-pink, half-white, and the other has so many chocolate sprinkles that the ice cream itself can’t even be seen.

They sit on the bench with their helmets unclipped as they eat. Katya sits sideways with one elbow perched on the backrest, watching Trixie as she slouches down in her seat with her head leaning backwards over the edge, getting strawberry ice cream down her chin like a kid. The midday sun has come in full force and it is hot, but the breeze coming from the sea cools the sweat on the backs of their knees and necks. Katya takes her helmet off to feel it on her forehead, uncomfortably aware of the sweat plastered there, making the helmet’s inside layer of foam all damp. Her baby hairs are matted to her temples, and she has a red line across the middle of her forehead, which Trixie makes sure to laugh at.

Once Trixie finishes her ice cream, she gives the empty cone to Katya, who eats both of theirs.

“I don’t understand why you don’t just get yours in a cup instead of a cone,” Katya says with her mouth full.

“’Cause I know you love waffle cones – you know, like a psychopath – so you get to have extra.”

“Aww, that’s gay.”

Trixie snorts. “You’re gay.”

“God, I should fucking hope so.”

Katya polishes off both of their waffle cones quickly, even after Trixie had told her to “go slowly, or else you’ll get indigestion!” She licks at the gaps in between her fingers where chocolate sprinkles had fallen and melted down her hand, and Trixie has to look away, or she’ll explode.

“Do you think you can make it back on your own?” Trixie clips Katya’s helmet for her as she tries to wipe her sticky fingers on her shorts.

“I think so. Maybe.” As Trixie moves to clip her own helmet straps, Katya pushes her hands out of the way so that she can do it for her. As they both stand up, Trixie begins to skate away, slowly, so that Katya can keep up with her. She manages quite well, discovering that she can keep her balance without holding onto anything. Still, she reaches out to hold onto Trixie’s pinky finger with her whole fist. “I might need to hold on just a little bit, though. For safety.”

“If you break my finger, I swear to God I’m skating all the way back to Los Angeles and leaving you here.”

Katya gasps, “Fine,” and laces their whole hands together instead. Trixie blushes like a pomegranate.

***

Trixie’s holding her flip flops in one hand and has a rolled-up beach towel tucked under her opposite arm. Katya is several paces ahead of her, her own pair of birkenstocks held loosely in her grip, as she runs a few strides, stops and squishes the sand between her toes until Trixie catches up, then sets off all over again. The sun is still golden in the sky, with the slow suggestion of yellow turning to orange as it lowers towards the ocean’s horizon. As it hits the water, it looks like someone has scribbled a line of golden light through the blue with a fountain pen, and it’s painful to look at for more than a second. Trixie watches the water ripple out of the corner of her eye, unfailingly in awe at Katya more than she ever will be at any ocean, any skyline.

“Is here good?” Katya calls back, waiting for Trixie to reach her as she wiggles her toes and feels her feet slowly sink into the sand. They’re nervous to sit too close to the shoreline, simply because Trixie refuses to carry a soaking wet towel all the way back up to the apartment.

Trixie looks around them; despite the seemingly endless beauty of the place, there’s hardly anyone else on this little stretch of the beach. She gently places her sandals on the ground, side by side, and rolls out the towel whilst perched in a squat so that she doesn’t get sand on her knees. Katya throws her shoes to the ground, followed by herself once the towel is flat. Trixie picks up Katya’s sandals where they landed upside down a foot apart, and places them more neatly beside her own.

Katya leans back onto her elbows and rolls her legs from side to side, making her feet look like windscreen wipers in a downpour. She smiles up at Trixie, looking over the top of her sunglasses with a squint after they’ve slipped down her sweaty nose, and watches her sit beside her to rummage inside her backpack.

Both of them are still full from dinner – an all-you-can-eat Thai buffet, at Katya’s request as Birthday Girl – so Trixie leaves the two doughnuts she had brought with her for later, opting instead to reach for the two glass bottles at the very bottom: a pink lemonade for her, and a cherry coke for Katya. They clink their bottlenecks together in a cheers; Katya downs a third of her drink in one go. She pushes the bottle down into the dry sand until only the top half is exposed, so that it stays upright.

“Oh, my god. I’m not putting that back in my bag when you’re done. I know it’s your birthday, but I’m not getting sand in my backpack for you.”

“That is totally valid, and I respect your decisions as a mature and independent woman wholeheartedly.” Katya lets the words roll straight out of her brain and off the tip of her tongue at full speed, and she immediately makes herself laugh because of it. Trixie rolls her eyes, but without fail, Katya’s laugh is too contagious to not join in herself. There’s always a jolt in her core whenever Katya says anything even remotely funny; her body is compelled to laugh, cannot help but push her happiness out into the world whenever Katya is nearby and smiling. She has never been able to reconcile the opposing forces inside her of giddiness and comfort; it’s like she meets Katya again for the first time every day and a new butterfly hatches in her stomach, and yet sometimes she wakes up and has to remind herself that they aren’t twenty-something years into a long and happy marriage.

“What?”

Trixie blinks herself out of her own brain and back to the beach. “Huh?”

Katya laughs again. “You were just staring at me for a minute. I thought I had something on my face.”

“You do, it’s called sun damage.”

“Bitch! I put on sunscreen today!”

Once.”

Katya pushes herself up and grabs Trixie by the arms, shoving her until she’s laying on her side, and tickles her waist where her blouse has come untucked from her shorts. Trixie squawks, flailing her arms towards Katya with her eyes scrunched shut. She quickly changes tact, reaching out for Katya’s stomach to tickle her back. Immediately, she feels the muscles of her abs tense as Katya begins to laugh. Her sunglasses fall off as she doubles over, landing on the towel beside Trixie, and surrenders, wheezing with her knees curled up towards her middle, pressed against Trixie’s as she does the same. They both let their arms fall limp in the space between them, breathing heavily with grins plastered to their faces.

“I fucking hate you,” Trixie says, readjusting herself to rest her head in the crook of her own elbow, fiddling with the strands of hair on the back of her head.

“No, you don’t.” Katya beams back at her with those impossibly white teeth, and Trixie can’t help but stare at her mouth, her eyes, the eyelash stuck to her cheek. She reaches out to gently swipe it away, and holds it out on the tip of her finger in front of their faces.

“Make a wish.”

Katya takes hold of Trixie’s wrist and holds it just above them both before blowing the eyelash away straight upwards into the air. There’s not much of a breeze, but she doesn’t see it come back down again, assuming that the wind has carried it away somewhere. She lowers Trixie’s hand, but doesn’t let go.

Trixie looks down at Katya’s fingers loosely wrapped around her wrist, then back up to her face; Katya is looking straight into her eyes.

“Katya, I…”

Katya’s eyes flicker down to Trixie’s lips as she speaks. “Yeah?”

Trixie takes a breath, and it hitches in her throat. “Fuck.” She presses her eyes closed, and sits up, wrapping her arms around her legs with her face pressed into her knees.

Katya watches her move for a second before following her, sitting cross-legged just slightly behind her. “Trixie?”

Her voice is muffled against her own legs. “I’m sorry.”

Katya furrows her brows. “Sorry? For what?”

Trixie props her chin on her knees, but her eyes remain shut. “I just-”. She lets the rest of her breath go, unable to string any combination of words together that wouldn’t make Katya want to drive back home and pack up all of her shit and leave Trixie here on the beach.

“What’s on your mind?” Katya reaches out a tentative hand against Trixie’s back. It makes her heart leap; she’s convinced that Katya can feel it through her muscle and skin and bone.

“I can’t tell you.” Trixie sniffs; Katya shifts around to look at her face, but she’s not crying.

“Trixie. You can tell me anything. Please.”

Trixie turns her head to look at Katya, her cheek smushed against the tops of her knees. She flits her gaze between Katya’s eyes. “I don’t know how to.”

Katya reaches out to tuck Trixie’s hair behind her ear from where it’s falling into her face, and shifts closer. She takes a deep breath. “I used to hate the colour pink before I met you.”

Trixie lifts her head slightly. “What?”

“It was probably my number one least favourite colour. But then you sat down next to me in French class our first week of Freshman year dressed head-to-toe in pink. Since then, you’ve been the first thing I think of whenever I see anything pink, in any shade.”

“Katya-”

“You made me like bubblegum, and Dolly Parton, and pancakes with too much syrup, and Mean Girls, and myself, Trix. You stayed up with me until 1am the day before my English final because I couldn’t sleep until I’d gotten every single one of my flashcards right. You cycled for forty minutes to my house with a full can of gas in your basket when my tank was too empty to make it to the nearest station. Whenever there’s something funny, or exciting, or sad, or weird, you’re the first person I want to tell, even if you’re the one who told me about it in the first place. When I wake up after you’ve already gone to work it feels like I’m missing a limb because you’re not there for me to say good morning to. You make me happier than anything else in the world, Trixie.”

Katya pauses for a breath. Trixie doesn’t say a thing; she simply stares at Katya, wide eyed, fully upright with her mouth agape.

“Trix, say something. God, please tell me we’re on the same wavelength here, because if we’re not-”

Trixie doesn’t let Katya finish her sentence before lunging forward and cupping her face to kiss her on the mouth.

Katya takes a tiny moment to be surprised before she kisses Trixie like it’s the last thing she’ll ever do. She reaches forward and cups her face in return, before one hand wanders to her hair, stroking her cheek with the thumb of the other. They kiss once, twice, three times, more than they care to count, breathing through their noses so that they don’t have to come up for air. Katya ends up on her knees, crawling forward to get as close to Trixie as she possibly can, leaning up over her with her hair falling either side of their faces and the ends of it tickling Trixie’s cheeks. Katya only pulls away when she feels something wet on the side of her nose, and realises that Trixie is crying. She swipes at her cheeks with the pads of her thumb, but two more fat tears run down her face in their place.

“Trixie.” Katya rests her forehead against Trixie’s, and Trixie closes her eyes.

“How long?” Trixie’s voice is thick with tears, and she sniffs again, deeply and wet.

“I had a crush on you in Sophomore year. But it wasn’t until Senior year that I realised I was absolutely, hopelessly in love with you.”

With that, Trixie lets out a sob, and immediately Katya wraps herself around her, letting Trixie bury her face in her shoulder. She traces her fingers over her back with one hand, whilst holding her as closely and surely as possible with the other.

“What about you?”

Trixie takes a moment, levelling her breath and swiping at her running nose with the back of her hand before she looks up at Katya, their noses almost touching; she has to cross her eyes just to look in to Katya’s, but she couldn’t care any less about looking a fool. “Junior year.”

Katya takes a shuddering breath. “How the fuck did we both not notice?”

Trixie sniffs again before putting on a voice, “This just in at eleven, lesbians are fucking stupid.”

Katya laughs, head thrown back, and Trixie smiles along with her. “You’re not stupid.”

Trixie sees the orange glow of the sun reflected in the stark blue of Katya’s eyes, and whips her head around to look over the ocean at the sky. “Hey. We forgot about the sunset, that’s literally the whole reason we came down here.”

“I mean, I’m not complaining. I think it turned out better than I had hoped for.”

Trixie chuckles, tugging on Katya until she sits in between her legs, leaning back against Trixie’s front, with both of them facing forward to watch the sky turn red. “If this isn’t the best birthday you’ve ever had, I want a refund on the emotional turmoil it took to get me here.”

Katya leans her head back to kiss Trixie on the cheek. “Oh, I don’t know. There’s always next year. And the year after that, and the year after that.”

“And the year after that.”

Chapter Text

Katya comes home from work on Friday to find the balcony doors open a crack, and the linen curtains that hang over them are billowing gently in the breeze, as if waving ‘hello!’ to her as she locks the apartment door behind her. Beyond them she can see Trixie, sitting lopsidedly with her back to the apartment, hunched over herself with a hand braced against the railing of the balcony.

“Trix?” She jogs across the small lounge to the doors, and Trixie jumps at the sudden sound of Katya’s hand against the door as she stops herself.

Trixie turns her head; she is wide-eyed and smiling, but it quickly changes as she furrows her brows in concern at Katya, who looks like she had just slammed on the brakes to stop herself from hitting a deer in the middle of the road. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Katya immediately softens once she realises that Trixie isn’t upset or hurt. “Oh, I thought you were crying, or something. What are you doing?”

Trixie swivels the rest of her body around to show Katya the contents of her other hand: their little violet flower in its terracotta pot. “I was just…talking to her.”

“Oh, my God. You’re adorable.” Katya smiles sweetly at the sight of Trixie mothering the tiny flower they had brought home just over a week ago, and lowers to her knees in front of her to kiss the tip of her nose.

Trixie smiles so widely that her nose scrunches up. “How was work?”

“Pretty okay, actually. I was sorting the indoor plants today, so it was nice to just be under the AC instead of the sun.” Katya reaches out to tuck a stray strand of Trixie’s hair behind her ear, and lightly strokes her cheek with her thumb. “Close your eyes.”

Trixie furrows her eyebrows for a moment, unsure, but does as Katya says.

“Now hold out your hands.”

Trixie does so, her palms turned upwards. Katya rummages in her bag and Trixie curls her fingers around whatever it is that Katya has put in them, telling Trixie to keep her eyes closed for just a second more as she delves back into her bag a second time.

“Okay, you can open them now.”

Trixie looks down at both of their hands; in hers, is a small, baby blue and white pansy; in Katya’s is a little red marigold with wavy, yellow edges. Both are sitting comfortably in terracotta pots that match the violet plant in Trixie’s lap. She coos sweetly.

“Katya! Oh, my goodness, look at them. They’re babies.”

“Do you like them?”

“I love them.” Trixie looks up at Katya; if she mixed the blue and white of the pansy in her hands, she imagines she would get the colour of her eyes. She leans across and kisses her sweetly. “Thank you.”

Katya smiles, stands up and helps Trixie to her feet by her elbow, who has a plant pot in each hand, and gathers them together on the little round table. “I was thinking of building a little shelf for them to go in the corner where the sun shines the most. You know, a decent-sized one, so there’s room for more.”

“God, that’s so gay. I’d love that very much.” Trixie swipes away the dusty dirt from the sides of her legs after sitting on the floor. “Only if I can watch you build it, though.”

Katya barks out a laugh, leaning back against the door frame. “Now that’s gay. But yes, obviously.”

“Of course it is, girl – being gay is a competition and I am winning.” Trixie walks towards Katya and goes to wrap her arms around her torso, only to be stopped halfway by the door frame pressed against the length of her spine. Trixie lets her hands rest on Katya’s hips, who reaches her own arms up to drape over Trixie’s shoulders, loosely locking her hands together at the nape of her neck.

“I think you’ll find I’m the winner here, mama.” She tugs Trixie down towards her, kissing her softly, slowly, aware of the wisps of Trixie’s hair tickling the sides of her neck as she tilts her head down towards Katya.

When she pulls away again, she lets her head thump gently back against the doorframe. The lids of her eyes are heavy as she opens them, and she lets her arms loosen and lower down to wrap around Trixie’s waist. “I’m tired.”

“I’m not surprised. That was a long shift, even if you weren’t outside in the heat all day. Go take a shower, I’ll make us something to eat.” Trixie runs her finger under the strap of Katya’s gardening overalls, hooking it around the clasp and letting the weight of her arm hang gently from it.

Katya looks up into Trixie’s eyes, at the frizzy parts of her hair that catch in the sunlight like gold dust, at the plump, rosy apples of her cheeks, and smiles lazily. “You’re my girlfriend.”

Trixie smiles back down at her. “I am.”

“It’s still so strange. I’m not used to it yet.”

Trixie chuckles, “In a good way, I hope.”

Katya kisses her once more. “In the very best way.”

***

It’s a Saturday morning, and by some divine intervention, both Trixie and Katya have the whole day off. Trixie wakes up before Katya, as she is wont to do with the early sunrises and even earlier work alarms that her body has grown used to. It’s been a week and a day since they left for Long Beach. Trixie looks at Katya’s roller skates hanging by their tied-together laces on the hook on the back of the bedroom door, and smiles.

She showers under just-warm-enough water, wincing as it hits the sunburn that somehow still lingers on her chest, and steps as far back as the small cubicle allows her to, her back pressed against the cold, white tiles. It soothes the burn on her shoulder blades, too, and she sighs.

As she turns the showerhead off, she hears a faint rapping at the bathroom door.

“Yeah?” She shouts back.

“Are you almost done? I gotta piss.”

Trixie snickers, wrapping a towel around her body, her unwashed hair still in a messy bun on top of her head, as she moves to unlock the door.

As it swings open, Katya immediately stares at Trixie’s cleavage as it pokes out from the top of her towel and laughs.

“Oh, my god, Trix. Your tits are so red.”

Trixie lightly smacks Katya’s arm. “Shut up!” Her jaw drops, but the corners of her mouth turn up regardless.

“No, seriously, step back into the light,” Katya says as she takes hold of Trixie’s shoulders and walks her backwards into the bathroom. “You look like a pomegranate.”

“Well, eat your heart out, Persephone. And I think you’ll find I’m a peach, thank you very much.”

Katya grins, walking around Trixie towards the toilet. Trixie quickly grabs and wets her toothbrush, squeezes on some toothpaste, before taking it as her cue to leave.

“You don’t have to go – I don’t care. It’s not like you haven’t seen this glorious pussy before, mama.”

It wouldn’t be the first time this week – nor the second – Trixie admits to herself, as she sits on the edge of the bathtub to brush her teeth, crossing one leg over the other.

Katya pees, washes her hands, then grabs her own toothbrush, sitting back on the toilet with the lid down to mimic Trixie. They brush their teeth in contented quiet and rinse their mouths out, sharing the same plastic cup of water that they keep on the side of the sink.

“This is so weird.”

Katya wipes her mouth on the corner of the little hand towel hanging on the wall. “What is?”

“Just – we’ve been in a relationship for literally a week. If someone looked at us from a distance and squinted, they’d think we were in our mid-forties – married, or something.”

“I mean, you can speak for yourself, but my skin ain’t that bad. Yet.” Katya rests her hip against the edge of the sink. “Plus, I’m pretty sure we’ve been like this since we were, I dunno, negative two years into a relationship.”

Trixie snorts, “You know what I mean, though?”

“Yeah.” Katya tucks the corner of Trixie’s towel in more firmly where it threatens to come loose. “Moving in together first and getting into a relationship second – people do tend to do that the other way around,” she jokes, but smiles tenderly up at Trixie, planting a single kiss on her flushed cheek.

She can’t help but look back down at Trixie’s bright pink chest again, and reaches into the little cabinet above the sink, pulling out a small, glass jar full of what appears to be a translucent green slime. “May I?”

Trixie nods. She reads the little handwritten label stuck to the lid of the jar – aloe vera – as Katya unscrews it and dips two fingers inside, before lightly smearing it across Trixie’s chest. It’s surprisingly cold, and she lets out the tiniest of gasps before sighing happily, closing her eyes.

Katya takes her time, rubbing small, gentle circles over the part of her skin that look the most tender, before swiping up more broadly towards her collarbones. She circles over each of her shoulders twice, then more forcefully presses her fingers into the tense juncture between her shoulders and neck. Trixie groans.

Katya moves back down her chest, tugging the top of the towel down, but not off, as she dips her fingers once more into the little jar of aloe. As she tucks them underneath the fabric, she grazes Trixie’s skin with the tip of her nail. Trixie winces, sucking in a little hiss from between her teeth, and Katya coos lowly at her, pressing a kiss to where she had caught her skin – then another, and another.

Trailing back up towards Trixie’s collarbone, she gently grazes her teeth across the paler parts of her skin, and Trixie hums. Katya pulls back for a moment to screw the lid back onto the jar and place it back into the cupboard, reaching up on her tiptoes to the top shelf. When she turns back around, she wraps one hand around the back of Trixie’s neck to pull her down into a languid kiss. With the other hand, she finally tugs at the corner of Trixie’s towel from where it’s still tucked into itself, and it curls away from her body, landing on top of both of their feet where they stand almost toe-to-toe.

There’s a strong red line across the tops of Trixie’s breasts, beneath which they remain starkly pale. Katya kisses along the line of sunburn again - crowding Trixie back against the little countertop beside the sink - before she dips below it to kiss at the supple skin of her breasts, massaging them firmly with both hands. As she rolls and squeezes her nipples between her thumbs and forefingers, Trixie lets out a whine, bracing herself against the edge of the surface with both hands.

Katya bends down to grab onto the backs of Trixie’s knees; as she does so, Trixie pushes up from her feet to sit on the countertop, wrapping her legs around Katya’s waist to pull her as close as she can. Katya squeezes the flesh at her hips and thighs, kissing her forcefully but slowly, still, as Trixie weaves her fingers into her hair and pulls.

Katya moans deeply, and it makes Trixie do the same. Katya moves down to kiss Trixie’s neck, who tips her head to the side, making her bun hang uncomfortably. With one hand, she pulls at the hair tie, hissing when it snags at her scalp, and it cascades down onto her back and shoulders – and into Katya’s face. She blows a raspberry with her tongue as she tries to spit out the hair in her mouth and Trixie laughs, apologizing. Katya smiles, chuckling low in her chest, and sweeps the hair from Trixie’s shoulders around to her back, kissing her once, sweetly, on the lips, before ducking her head down again to kiss at Trixie’s neck, her shoulders, her collarbone, until she’s low enough to take one of her nipples in between her lips. She bites down gently, circling her tongue around it as she rolls the other in between her thumb and forefinger.

She squats as low as she can to plant a kiss onto the soft rolls of Trixie’s tummy before her legs become weak, and she drops her knees to the ground. Trixie looks down at Katya, reaching down to stroke the top of her head and tug at her hair. Katya turns her head to kiss the soft skin on Trixie’s inner thigh, feels the ripple of the stretch marks there against her lips.

“What do you want, babydoll?”

Trixie whines. “You know.”

“I know,” Katya smiles. “I wanna hear you say it, though.”

Trixie takes in a ragged breath. “You.”

Katya hooks her arms up and around Trixie’s thighs, pulling her closer to the edge of the countertop. Her ass cheeks are stuck to the cold ceramic, so Trixie pushes herself up and forwards to help.

“Gonna have to be more specific than that, sugar.”

Trixie’s heart skips two beats at every new pet name Katya throws at her, and feels her own pulse in her clit. “Fucking – eat me out, god, Katya. Please.”

Katya smiles and sticks out her tongue, dragging it from Trixie’s entrance all the way up to her clit, where she places a light kiss, and Trixie squeezes her eyes tightly shut. She’s soaking wet.

Katya circles her clit with her tongue, pressing down just hard enough to make Trixie moan rather than shout, stroking up and down the tops of her thigh with the palm of her hand. Trixie tries to grab onto the smooth surface of the worktop, the edge being too far away from where she leans back against the mirror. Katya notices her, reaches up a hand for her to cling onto, and she does, thrusting her body up and towards Katya with her other arm braced behind her.

Soon enough, her thighs begin to tremble, and she can feel herself slowly sliding down the mirror with the sweat on her back. She whines Katya’s name, who looks up at her through her eyelashes.

“Harder.”

Katya obliges, sending Trixie over the edge with a groan. She guides her through it, slowing but not stopping, until she pats Katya on the cheek and pulls her up by the arms. She’s panting, but kisses her anyway, and can taste herself on Katya’s tongue. Katya pulls back, smiling, and rests her forehead against Trixie’s.

“I just showered, you bitch.”

Katya barks out a laugh. “I didn’t hear you complain!” She smooths over the fuzzy tops of Trixie’s thighs where they both hang limply either side of her. “I think that’s a new personal best. I’ve never seen you come so quickly.”

“Fuck you,” Trixie smiles lazily, still catching her breath, and wraps her arms around Katya’s shoulders as she hops back down onto shaky legs. “I love you. Come here,” she says, as she takes Katya’s hand and walks them both the short distance to their bedroom, kicking the door closed behind her with her heel, and pushes Katya down onto the bed.

***

Katya comes home from work on Sunday to find the balcony doors shut tightly. All the lights are off, and the curtains are pulled to, blocking out most of the light from the setting sun to leave the apartment dull and forlorn.

“Trixie?”

She peers her head around the archway leading into the kitchen, the bedroom door, the bathroom door; Trixie isn’t home. Katya pulls out her phone to send her a text:

just got home! thinking of ordering pizza, u want anything ? <3

A moment after she hits ‘send’, Trixie’s phone buzzes and lights up from where it lays, face-up, on one of the sofa cushions, before it dims back down to nothing, leaving the room in a hazy near-darkness once more.

Katya lets her tote bag slip down her arm and onto the ground with a gentle thump. She rubs at the corners of her eyes with her middle fingers and puts her hands on her hips, huffing out a sigh, and chewing at her bottom lip. Walking around the perimeter of the apartment, she throws open the curtains in every room but the bedroom. Once she reaches the two long, thin curtains covering the french windows to the balcony, the orange glow of the sunset hits the back wall of the lounge, as well as Katya’s face – blindingly so – and the room burns. Looking down, she sees Trixie, sitting in front of her three plant babies, watching the sunset. Katya’s heart immediately settles, softening.

She grabs the door handle and pushes it open, and Trixie jumps a mile at the sound, but doesn’t turn around. As soon as she steps out onto the balcony, the first thing Katya notices is that the air smells thickly and irrefutably of cigarette smoke. A small part of her wishes that she found it disgusting, disappointed with herself for not doing so. A much bigger, more urgent part of her lurches when she walks forward and sees a half-smoked cigarette between two fingers of Trixie’s right hand, the other fiddling mindlessly with the soil in one of the plant pots in front of her. Her fingers are muddied up to the first knuckle. Balancing precariously on one of her knees is Katya’s ashtray. It had been empty this morning, until Katya had her one morning cigarette before work. There are at least five or six bent and smushed-up butts in there now.

“Kat – I’m sorry, I’ll..” Trixie’s voice is hoarse and thick with tears, but she isn’t crying anymore. “I’ll buy you another pack, I promise.”

“What? I don’t care about that, it’s okay.” Katya kneels beside Trixie, her knees brushing up against Trixie’s outer thighs. From up more closely, she can see how red Trixie’s eyes and cheeks are. She avoids Katya’s gaze, staring heavy-lidded out ahead of her at nothing in particular.

“What happened?”

Trixie sniffs, takes another drag of the cigarette between her fingers, and passes it over to Katya. “How do you manage to fit your legs between the rails? I got stuck once I got to my knees.”

Instead of sharing the cigarette with Trixie, Katya takes the ashtray from Trixie’s knee to stub it out, before putting it on the ground beside her and away from Trixie.

“Trixie, you hate smoking. What’s wrong?”

Trixie shrugs. “Felt like an appropriate response.”

Katya shifts to lean her side against the railing, facing Trixie’s side head-on. “To what?”

“My mom’s getting a divorce.”

Katya lets the air sit for a moment, undisturbed, as she thinks. “I thought that would be a good thing? You hated your stepdad, honey – he’s an asshole.”

“I know.” Katya reaches out a tentative hand to move Trixie’s away from the plants, and she lets her. Katya wipes the dirt from Trixie’s fingers with the fabric of her overalls, picks gently at the soil under her nails, smoothing a thumb over the top of her hand.

“She asked me to come back home.”

Katya’s heart sinks, and the hand holding Trixie’s falters in its soothing motion, but she doesn’t stop.

“Oh.”

Trixie finally looks over at Katya; her gaze has dropped to their hands in her lap. Trixie squeezes her hand, and it makes her look up. “I said no, Katya.”

Katya blinks. “Oh.”

Trixie leans her head forward, resting it awkwardly between two rails, and closes her eyes. “Kat, what kind of a daughter am I?” She takes a deep breath, tugging at Katya’s hand to bring her closer. “As soon as I got the chance, I left her. And now I just keep leaving her.”

Katya shuffles closer as much as she can, pushing the plants out of the way with one hand and resting the side of her head on the rails beside Trixie’s, still facing her. “Trixie, listen to me. She’s the one who left you. Not physically, that’s not the point – she chose him over you, even though she knew, Trix. There’s no way she didn’t see how he treated you.”

“But she’s my mom, Katya!” Trixie whines, squeezing her eyes closed so much that her nose scrunches up, forcing herself not to cry again.

“Exactly, sweetheart. She should have chosen you. It’s not your fault that she didn’t. You don’t have to be the grown-up when it comes to this. You don’t have to be your mother’s mother.”

Trixie takes a shuddering breath. “I’m the only family she has left. She can’t afford to live without both of us.” Trixie opens her eyes to look into Katya’s. “She’s the only family I have left.”

Katya squeezes Trixie’s hand, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I’ll be your family, Trix. I’m here.”

They sit for a little while longer after Trixie makes her way over and into Katya’s arms, who strokes her hair and kisses her temples until she soothes. The cigarettes get put back onto Katya’s bedside table, alongside the pack she takes to work with her. Katya makes Trixie go and wash her hands in the kitchen sink, while Katya gets her a glass of blackcurrant squash with ice, and the little metal straw that she knows Trixie likes. They’re practically hip-to-hip in the tiny kitchen, and Trixie takes comfort in feeling Katya’s warmth radiating nearby. Trixie plays Stardew Valley on the PlayStation while Katya stands behind the sofa and braids her hair, planting kisses on the rosy tips of her ears until it makes her laugh, ticklish, and Katya hugs her from behind.

“Thank you,” Trixie whispers, resting the side of her head against Katya’s.

“For what?”

“I dunno, just…being here.”

Katya presses her nose into Trixie’s cheek, speaking quietly so close to her ear. She contemplates making a joke about having no choice, that she lives here, but lets it slide away. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, Trix. Not when you’re here.”

Trixie closes her eyes at the sensation of Katya’s warm breath on her cheek, and lets herself smile, just a little bit.

Chapter Text

Trixie watches a yellow leaf float down from a tree a few feet in front of her. Beneath the sounds of the breeze and her own huffing breaths as she walks at a brisk pace, she hears the gentle crunch of it under her shoe. Summer had been kind to them to its very end, and Trixie sighs a little at the sight of fall rearing its head. With the weight of twenty still new on her shoulders, she finds herself longing for change, and she smiles despite herself; a change of season would have to do for now.

In the elevator up to her apartment, Trixie looks at herself in the mirror on the back wall. Her hair is still in a bun, but enough strands have fallen out at the nape of her neck and sides of her face to overstep the boundary from cute, to straight-up messy. One of her eyebrows is smudged a little up towards her temple, and there’s tiny flakes of loose mascara underneath her bottom eyelashes. As she turns to walk out of the doors once they open, she catches the slump of her posture in her reflection. She rolls her shoulders back, and winces at the crick in the bones of her spine.

Once she’s inside her apartment, she throws her backpack onto the bed through the already open bedroom door. At almost midday, the September heat outside hadn’t been uncomfortable, but it still had come close. Inside, the air is cooler, making Trixie sigh and close her eyes contentedly, smiling to herself when she realises that Katya had left the AC on low for her to come home to, before leaving for work herself.

She pours herself a glass of apple juice, dropping in three ice cubes that make little splashes up onto her hand, one by one. She licks the juice from her wrist before it can dry and go sticky, wiping the new moisture away on the leg of her work jeans, and drinks half of it down in one go.

Her hair is greasy and smells like coffee, and so she turns the shower on, beginning to peel her legs out of her jeans. As soon as they’re on the floor in a pile, her phone vibrates with a message from where she had left it on the closed lid of the toilet.

Katya: just on my break! how was work? <3

Trixie smiles, then reaches inside the shower cubicle to turn it back off.

Trixie: average tbh, I only wanted to die for about half the time I was there lmao

For the next twenty minutes, Trixie sits on the lid of the toilet in her underpants whilst texting Katya on her break. She won’t be home from work for another three hours, at least, and she feels like a sap for missing her as much as she does, revelling in every moment she can get to talk to her.

Trixie tells Katya about the most ridiculous customers she had to deal with today, from the hilarious to the rage-inducing. Katya tells Trixie about the new orders of houseplants they just got in, teasing that she might bring one home for her if she’s lucky. Eventually, Katya laments that her break is over and they exchange a cluster of love heart and flower emojis, before Trixie sets her phone down to turn the shower back on again.

She washes herself slowly, lethargically, almost dizzy at the feeling of the hot water on her head and back; she turns the temperature down so much that she shivers at a sudden burst of cold, having gone too far, and cranks it up again more carefully. Reaching her hand past the shower curtain, she feels around for the countertop until she hears the tinkering sound of fingernails on glass, wrapping her hand around the half-drunk glass of apple juice. As soon as she brings it into the cubicle with her, the glass fogs up and the cold condensation on the outsides drips down onto her toes. She drinks the rest of it down in three gulps, mindful of avoiding shower water getting inside it, and tips the shrunken ice cubes onto the shower floor to melt away down the drain.

Climbing back out again, Trixie goes through her usual routine, ending up smelling of jasmine flowers and softened from her forehead to her ankles with moisturiser. In the kitchen, she rinses her glass out and fills it back up with water. Her stomach rumbles as she leans over into the sink; there aren’t any more leftovers in the fridge, but she doesn’t feel like cooking after work and the idea of ordering takeout for one at noon depresses her. She decides to deal with it later, at her body’s disapproval.

As she opens the balcony doors, the difference in air temperature between the apartment, and outside, is more obvious. She closes them behind her, not wanting to waste any of the cool air inside by letting it escape, and sits in her favourite spot; not on the chairs, but on the concrete floor, right in front of the railings, on the cushion that Katya now leaves on the ground because the floor hurts the bones of her ass when she smokes. In the corner, a set of wooden shelves is overflowing with flowers of every colour, all fighting over one another for the sunlight, and Trixie smiles; they would have to find somewhere else to put them - or get a garden, at this rate.

She remembers helping Katya build their makeshift floral nursery – or rather, hold the hammer and nails for her whilst she worked – with pieces of wood she had brought home from work, sweating in the June heat. She had ended up with a splinter that Trixie had to squeeze out for her, sucking on the tip of her thumb and peppering it with kisses as though trying to vacuum the sting of it away.

Through the railings, Trixie watches the cars on the streets for as far as she can see. One has a trunk so full that it looks like it’s completely blocking any sort of rear view, with a box on top to match. A few minutes later, she sees another car full to the brim, this time pulling a trailer behind it with a sheet of tarpaulin on top.

After six or seven similar cars all heading in the same direction, Trixie finally realises that it must be the students moving back to campus at UCLA for the fall semester, and she suddenly feels very big. She smiles.

***

A few weeks later, Katya drags Trixie to the park with her roller skates hanging over her shoulder like a handbag, wearing the biggest grin on her face.

“You are the only person I know who has enough energy to work an eight hour shift and then still want to go skating afterwards.”

Katya bounds down to the park entrance two paces ahead of Trixie, yet still insisting on holding her hand in the space between them. She shrugs. “It’s my favourite thing to do with you. Besides looking at you. And making you laugh. And eating you out.”

Trixie screeches with her teeth clenched shut, grinning, and jogs two steps to catch up with Katya. “Shut up, you’re so gross, I can’t believe I’m in love with you.”

Katya gets so caught up in looking at Trixie that she trips on a thick branch on the ground, having not noticed it at all, and Trixie tugs on her arm to keep her upright, laughing. Katya joins in, doubled over so much that she has to stop walking and put her hands on her knees to brace herself.

“You’re such an idiot,” Trixie squawks, “Come on.” She wraps a hand around her elbow to pull her back down the path and through the park gates, avoiding the joggers and families and dog-walkers as they pass by.

At the first bench they come to, they lace up their own skates, pull on their own knee pads, but always insist on clipping each other’s helmets. As they do, Katya stands up on her toe stops holding onto Trixie’s arms, who cups her elbows in return, to plant a kiss first on her nose, and then her lips. They stuff their shoes into Trixie’s backpack before setting off.

Despite Katya’s general tendency to flail, she had taken to skating quickly, much to Trixie’s surprise. She’s far from needing to hold onto Trixie for dear life anymore. Instead, as they cruise through the park, their fingers gently wrap around each other; loosely enough to let go at a moment’s notice and weave through crowds, but firmly enough to know that the other is there.

They manage to do an entire lap of the park before the sun starts to set. Katya had stumbled once – tugging on Trixie’s arm without warning, sharply enough to elicit a yell – but didn’t fall. Trixie only lets go of her hand once, careening towards a bench to re-tie a lace that had fallen out of its bow. Katya skates in circles on the wide path in front of her, and even practices going backwards a little bit. Trixie beams with pride at her. Quickly enough, Katya rolls back towards Trixie, drumming a gentle rhythm on the top of her helmet with the pads of her fingers as she bends over to retie the other lace, just to be sure. Trixie reaches up to pinch Katya’s inner thigh in return, who squeals and skates away.

Trixie soon catches up, slapping Katya’s ass as she overtakes her.

“Wait, wait! I wanna race you,” Katya calls.

Trixie turns on the spot to wait for Katya to catch up, laughing. “A race? What are you, five?”

Katya wheezes out a small laugh. “Shut up! Please? It’ll be fun, I promise I won’t push you over or throw any banana peels in your direction, or whatever.”

Trixie squawks. “A banana peel? This isn’t Mario Kart, you witch.”

“God, I wish it was though,” Katya cackles. “Please? If you win, I’ll buy you a donut.”

Trixie ponders for a minute, before smirking. “Fine.”

They decide to race from the nearest upcoming bench to the park gate at the end of the walkway. Trixie counts down from three, looking over her shoulder to make sure nobody else is coming towards them from behind, and they set off. Trixie’s legs move faster than Katya has ever seen before, and she tries running on her toe stops to build up some speed where she struggles to push off on her skates as quickly. Trixie chances a glance behind her and almost loses all her breath in one go from laughing so suddenly at the sight.

She reaches the gate long before Katya does, panting like a dog with her hands on her hips. When Katya catches up to her, she holds out her arms to catch her in a hug and bring her to a standstill.

“Congrats, you absolute powerhouse.”

Trixie giggles, “Why thank you,” releasing Katya so she can look at her face. “You seriously thought you could beat me just yet, mama?”

“Oh, absolutely not,” Katya admits. “I just wanted an excuse to buy you something sweet.”

Trixie opens her mouth to respond, but clamps it shut again at a loss for words, simply blushing with a grin.

***

Trixie checks the time in the corner of her laptop screen: 9:52pm. It’s hardly late by her standards, but she yawns despite herself, her eyes dry from staring at the blue light of her screen for the past couple of hours. She blinks, rubs at them with her knuckles, and turns the brightness down a few notches on her keyboard.

The laptop is balanced precariously on the arm of the sofa, her legs curled up beneath her body as she leans in towards it. Katya is sitting on the floor in front of her playing the Switch she had gotten Trixie for her birthday, and every now and again Trixie reaches down to play with her hair as she waits for a website to load, making Katya pause her game to close her eyes and sigh for a brief second, before turning back to it.

She flicks through the tabs on her browser – which there are hundreds of, it seems – until eventually she gets tired of it, closing the lid to turn her full attention to Katya. Little braids form one after another on the top of her head as Trixie mindlessly weaves them into existence.

Katya pauses her game again, leaning her head back as far as it will go until it hits Trixie’s shins, and she can look up into her eyes. She smiles, and the apples of her cheeks bunch up more than usual from this angle. Trixie reaches down to lightly pinch them.

“Hey.”

Katya reaches up a hand behind her until she finds Trixie’s. “Hey. You’ve been quiet.”

Trixie hums, smoothing over Katya’s forehead and cheekbones with a featherlight touch. “I’ve just been thinking.”

“About what?”

Trixie takes a beat before replying.

“I think I wanna go to college.”

Katya blinks, taken aback. “Oh! That’s not what I thought you were gonna say - that’s great, Trix!” She shifts on the floor to sit on her knees, facing Trixie with her arms crossed in her lap. “What would you study?”

Trixie shrugs. “I dunno. Music, fashion, beauty – anything.”

Katya tilts her head and frowns slightly. “Honey, you can’t go to college just for the sake of it. You have to want to study something specific, that’s kinda the point.”

“Why not? I don’t have to decide on a major straight away.” Trixie turns to face forward, her legs crossed, and hunches over to lean in towards Katya further, fiddling with her hands as they sit in her lap. “I’m so tired of working a shitty job with shitty people just to survive. I want something to give my life a purpose, Katya. Something to make me happy.” The corner of her mouth turns up in a little smirk. “Besides you.”

No matter how many times Trixie shows or tells her that she loves her, Katya often finds herself at a loss for words. She simply sits, and blushes, smiling despite herself. She thinks for a moment.

“Okay, then. Show me.” She nods towards Trixie’s laptop and sits up on the couch, leaning into Trixie’s side with her chin on her shoulder as she goes through each tab, telling Katya about each school and each course. They range from Oregon to Illinois to Massachusetts, and Katya listens to every single one, notes which cities and classes make Trixie’s soul dance just a little bit, or maybe even a lot, and which ones she’s keeping in mind just in case.

They only realise how long they’ve been looking when Trixie gets a pop-up saying that she’s almost out of battery. When she looks at the clock again, it's almost half-past eleven. She closes the lid of her laptop and puts it in her lap, but doesn’t move to get up. Without the light from the screen the room is darker, lit only in a hazy yellow light by a lamp in the corner of the room. Katya squeezes the squishy top of Trixie’s arm where she’s wrapped around it like a koala, sighing into her shoulder.

“We should go visit.”

Trixie rests her cheek on her own shoulder, almost touching foreheads with Katya. “Visit who?”

Katya huffs out a laugh. “The schools, dummy. You should see them in person before you decide where you’re gonna go.”

“With whose time and money, Kat? We can’t afford to travel around the whole country.”

Katya rubs her cheek against the material of Trixie’s t-shirt and it bunches up in her armpit slightly. “Pick your two favourites, then. You never know, you might get there and realise it’s just not right for you. Or you could realise it’s exactly where you want to be.”

“I suppose so,” Trixie ponders, picking at the corner of a sticker on her laptop with the edge of her fingernail, then smoothing it over again once it comes up. “We have got time. I mean, I wouldn’t be going until a year from now. We could take a vacation week, or two.” By the end of her sentence, she’s yawning again, and Katya takes the laptop from where it rests on Trixie’s thighs. She stands up, tucks it under one arm, and holds out the other to pull Trixie to her feet.

“Come on. We can talk about it more tomorrow.”

Once they’re in bed, Trixie lays flat on her back, staring up at the ceiling without even realising her eyes are still open in the pitch darkness of the room, with Katya curled into her side again. The room is silent, except for the sound of Katya’s breathing in her ear, and passing cars and people on the street below. She doesn’t even know if Katya is still awake, when she whispers into the empty space above her.

“What about you?”

Katya doesn’t reply right away, convincing Trixie that she hadn’t heard her after all – but then she’s shuffling a little, sniffs, hooks a leg over Trixie’s thighs. “What do you mean?”

“What if I end up really far away? I don’t wanna drag you across the country and away from your family, but I don’t wanna just abandon you here to live alone like I was before you moved in. It’s not fair, and -”

“Trixie. Listen to me – wherever you want to go, I’m there. I’ll follow you anywhere, at this point, if you’ll let me.”

Trixie blinks, turning her head towards Katya. She can’t make out her face, only the silhouette of her head, grounded by the sensation of her body pressed against her own. “You mean that?”

“More than anything, doll. I love you.” Trixie can hear the smile in her voice, then the muffle of it against her shoulder. “Now go to sleep.”

Trixie does. She dreams of every city at once, and Katya by her side through them all.

 

Chapter Text

Trixie takes a picture of the conveyor belt at baggage reclaim, and her heart leaps when she swipes through the filters on snapchat to see her location stamped on the screen in little white letters: Boston Logan Airport, MA. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Katya jump as the klaxon goes off, signalling the prompt arrival of their suitcases. Locking her phone, she huffs out a quiet, breathy laugh from her nostrils and smiles at Katya, who squeezes Trixie’s pinky finger with her whole fist in response.

“I hate baggage reclaim, it’s so stressful,” Katya mutters.

“Is it weird that I love it?” Trixie grins, making her nose scrunch up. “Just – everything about airports feels so special and cool. Except for pat downs at TSA,” she adds as an afterthought, her face contorted.

Katya chuckles. “Is it too late to request that we drive over to Massachusetts instead of flying?”

Trixie glares at Katya, completely deadpan, and it makes Katya howl suddenly. Trixie jumps at the sound, hyper-aware of the several people nearby who have begun to glare at them, and promptly shushes Katya with a hand on her arm.

They hop on a shuttlebus that takes them all the way downtown. Katya sits in Trixie’s lap on a single seat by the doors, crammed in by people with bags as big as themselves. Trixie keeps her arms around Katya’s waist the entire time, squeezing her tightly when they’re bounced from side to side. Katya never takes her eyes off their suitcases from where they stand on a rack at the opposite end of the carriage.

As they walk out of the bus station through wide-open doors, skyscrapers surround them on almost all sides. The tops of them are cut off by a dense white mist, making the tallest ones seem shorter than they actually are. It’s colder than they’re used to in January, with something between snow and dirty rain lightly spitting at them, clinging to their cheeks and stinging their eyes as they look up at the towering buildings. In this brand-new place in a brand-new state, Trixie feels so small and so big at the same time. She wants to cry.

“Oh, my god. Katya,” she says, turning around to face her.

Katya seems equally as enthralled, smiling up at the sky. “I know.”

Trixie takes a deep breath, looking down at her phone for directions to where they’re staying. “This feels so different to Chicago already,” she says, bouncing her line of sight between the direction she’s going, to over her shoulder at Katya. “I mean, I loved it, but…I dunno. This feels brand new and familiar all at the same time.”

“I mean, the Midwest versus New England – I might be biased since my parents are from here, but I think I already know which one I’d move to,” Katya teases.

“Hey, I still might choose to go to Illinois, it’s nice out there! And my family is from the Midwest.” Trixie grunts as one of the wheels of her suitcase gets jammed inside a pothole.

“Exactly – look how they all turned out.”

Trixie stops in her tracks to turn around and gape at Katya, reaching across the space between them to pinch under her armpit and make her squeal, laughing. “Listen, I’m not saying I agree… but I don’t disagree.” Katya howls in response, urging Trixie to turn back around and lead them the rest of the way towards the hostel. They walk briskly, keen to get out of the unfamiliar cold.

Trixie is out of breath once they make it inside and into the reception area, flopping down onto an armchair with their bags in between her splayed-out legs whilst Katya checks them in. She walks away from the desk with two key cards in her hand, holding one out towards Trixie.

“I know it was my idea to stay here and commute down to UMass,” Trixie begins, reaching out to take the card, “but I’m already slightly regretting it.”

Katya shushes her, pulling her back to her feet by their outstretched arms. “You’re gonna love it. It’ll be easier for us to explore the city from here once we’ve toured the campus. You’ll get to figure out the subway system a little bit, too – I know you love those, you weirdo.”

Trixie smiles and leads them both up to their room on the fifth floor, relentlessly grateful that the elevator goes all the way up and not just halfway like the placed they’d stayed at in Chicago.

The room they’re in consists mostly of just bunk beds – there’s three pairs of them, lined up from toe to tip. It’s clearly already partly lived-in, with clothing haphazardly strewn on the ground and some beds left unmade. The bunk at the far end of the room, right by the window, is the only pristine pair of beds left. Trixie leads the way, stepping over a crumpled t-shirt and an open bag of toiletries on her way. Katya narrowly misses a tube of mascara rolled over on its side as she follows behind.

Trixie glances over the two beds; they’d turned out to be three-quarter size rather than just singles. She shares one look with Katya, pointing up at the top bunk with her eyebrows raised, and receives an enthusiastic nod in response. Trixie climbs the ladder, yelping as Katya grabs her ass cheeks with her whole hands before following behind.

“Oh. We have to make the beds,” Katya resigns once she finally notices that the mattress is bare.

“Did you walk in here with your eyes closed?” Trixie chuckles, lying down against the thin, uncovered pillow. “There was one of these on the bottom bunk, too,” she says, kicking at a large, clear plastic bag with bedsheets and a towel inside.

Katya shrugs and crawls up the bed until she’s sitting cross-legged right behind Trixie. She pulls up the sleeve of Trixie’s sweater and strokes along the exposed length of her arm with the back of her index finger. “You’re not allowed to fall asleep, by the way. We just lost three hours from the time change.” Katya takes her phone from the back pocket of her brown cord pants. “Woah. It’s 3pm. What time did we leave?”

“4am,” Trixie groans into the pillow, forcing herself to sit upright after a few moments. “God, I’m not looking forward to getting those hours back when we go home, it’ll be so much worse.”

Trixie rubs tentatively at her eyes with the tips of her fingers, and then more thoroughly with her knuckles once she remembers that she isn’t wearing any makeup.

“Is there anything you wanna do before it gets dark? We’ve only got, like, an hour.” Katya mindlessly taps on Trixie’s knee over her leggings and pulls the fabric up with her thumb and forefinger, watches it spring back down again with a gentle, airy pat.

“Not really…but we do have to go and get some food for later. They serve breakfast here and leave leftovers out for lunch, but not dinner.”

Right, yeah. I forgot about that.” Katya moves to climb back down the ladder. As she stands with both feet on the middle rung, she leans her upper body forward. “Hey,” she says softly, waiting for Trixie to lean into her and give her a single, simple kiss.

“Hey. Thank you for coming all this way with me.”

“Any time, honey. You know I’m always down for an adventure if it means I get a week off work to spend with you.”

Trixie ducks her chin, blushing with a toothy grin. “Gross, shut up. I love you.”

“I love you too.” Katya jumps the rest of the way to the floor, winces at the tingling feeling of the shock of the fall shooting up through her feet and into her weary legs; she’s moved them more in the last twenty minutes than since walking through LAX before dawn. She rolls her ankles in the air one at a time as she waits for Trixie to climb down.

“Come on,” Trixie says, grabbing her backpack and shoving her key card into the front pouch before she takes hold of Katya’s hand. “I need the cheapest instant ramen we can find within 300 metres, stat.”

***

Katya points to a location on the subway map. “Alewife?” she says, looking over at Trixie, “that’s you!”

“Excuse you, I think you’ll find I’m a fruity cocktails and wine wife, thank you very much.”

Katya’s booming laugh echoes around the underground tunnel and she beams up at Trixie until she smiles, too, and she shoves a cold fist into Trixie’s pocket to hold her hand.

“Wait, don’t-” Trixie sighs, “the air down here is making me all sweaty.”

Katya removes her hand - as does Trixie - and instead loops it around Trixie’s elbow, looking out towards the edge of the platform to wait for the carriage. Trixie looks down at Katya and smiles, pressing a kiss to her temple, as they hear the ear-splitting screech of metal on metal slowly get closer, and then stop altogether in front of them.

After travelling four stops, they find themselves back overground as cold, white daylight starts to filter in through the windows, and they get off once the carriage comes to a stop. It only takes a few minutes for the heat of the subway to leave Trixie’s body, leaving her scrambling to find Katya’s hand to hold onto. She pulls her scarf up to her nose and puffs hot air into the fabric to warm the bottom half of her face.

Katya looks over at her and laughs lightly, and it emerges as a loose, white cloud of steam in the air. She takes a deep breath and huffs it back out slowly with her mouth wide open to watch it happen again, and then a third time. “How are you feeling?”

“Cold.” Trixie’s voice is muffled behind her scarf, and her shoulders are tensely hunched up to her ears. She turns her head to face Katya fully. “I’m a little nervous, actually.”

Their hands are already squashed together inside Trixie’s pocket, but Katya gives her two little squeezes anyway. “Wanna talk about it?”

Trixie looks around a little frantically as she tries to follow the crowds of what appears to be other prospective students with their parents heading towards the centre of campus. “Just – what if I don’t like it? We came all this way and spent way too much money on flights, and stuff. I don’t want it to turn out to have just been a waste.”

“Well,” Katya begins, tapping the little metal arrow on the crosswalk signal as they wait for cars to let them pass, “it’d be better for you to find that out now rather than later, right? Especially if we ended up blindly hauling ass cross-country with everything but the kitchen sink with us.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

Katya reaches up on her tiptoes, pulling Trixie down slightly with the leverage of her hand in her pocket, and plants a kiss on the highest point of her cheekbone - the only part of her face below her eyes that’s still visible.

They walk for twenty minutes down a straight road, with almost everyone else on the street going in the same direction as them. Trixie walks as quickly as she can, emboldened by the promise of indoor warmth in the fight against her cold, sluggish limbs.

The thermostat seems to be turned all the way up in every building they tour around, and the tips of their ears sting from so many polarising temperature changes. The longest time they’re outside is whilst walking to the softball field. As soon as Katya sees it, she skips on the spot, overcome with glee.

“Trixie, if you don’t take up softball while you’re here then I might have to break up with you. Or maybe pretend to be a student here just so I can join the team.”

Trixie cackles like a crow. “Honestly, if you don’t start a four-year degree literally just to join the college softball team, I might have to break up with you.”

Katya feigns horror with a hand on her chest. “Fucking game on, bitch. I’m shocked that you don’t believe in me.”

“You know what else is shocking? The fact that you think I’m ever going to do any kind of sports by choice.”

“But it’s softball! You gotta try it at least once, mama, it’s a lesbian rite of passage.”

Inside the library, Trixie finds herself physically holding back a whine when she learns that they’re not allowed to go any further than the foyer because they don’t have student access cards.

Not yet,” Katya says into Trixie’s ear as they walk back outside again, eliciting a grin from Trixie that Katya can’t see fully beneath her scarf; only the rounding of the pink apples of her cheeks and the barely-there squinting of her eyes.

They walk around the science building partly so that Katya can see the labs, but mostly because Trixie doesn’t trust either of them not to get lost if they were to stray away from the group before the designated end of the tour. Once that comes, however, they’re led to the very back of campus towards the Harbour Walk. Without any buildings or trees obstructing their view, the ocean opens itself out in a rippling, grey mirror image of the sky overhead. They’re surrounded at a distance by islands dotted across the water, with two adjacent bays on either side of the mainland jutting out just a little bit further than the land they’re standing on. It looks like a pair of arms, curving inwards towards them in an earthly embrace.

Katya lets go of Trixie’s hand for the first time since they got off the subway, bounding towards the barrier at the edge of the land to brace both hands against it and lean forward. The wind whips around the ends of her hair jutting out from the bottom of her black knitted hat, and she closes her eyes at the feeling, as though she’s being slapped in the face.

Trixie follows behind more slowly, fixated on a narrow, unobstructed point on the horizon in between two islands. There’s no end to it in sight, and the line where the sky meets the sea is a hazy strip of grey on grey. As she reaches the barrier, she leaves her hands in her pockets, opting instead to lean her stomach against it, one foot crossed in front of the other.

Katya leans her whole bodyweight against her arms on the barrier, lifting her feet up off the ground whilst bent over at almost a ninety-degree angle. Trixie watches her, nervous that she might tilt too far forward and end up in the ocean.

“How are you feeling now?”

A few metres down, the water laps against the rough concrete foundations of the land, and Trixie fixates on its slow splashes and ripples. “This is a whole different ocean.”

Katya’s boots hit the ground again with a dull stomp, but gives Trixie space to pick at her brain, not moving from where she landed. “It is. Europe’s over there, somewhere.”

Trixie smiles, looking back out at the narrow strip of endless ocean right ahead of her.

“Are you happy?”

Trixie takes in a deep breath, feeling it shudder its way into her chest. “I’m…yeah.”

“You sure?”

Trixie steps towards Katya, leaning down on the railing again so that they’re the same height, and Katya wraps an arm around her back. “I feel like…God, this is dumb.” Trixie fold her arms on top of the barrier and hunches in on herself. “I’m so happy that I don’t know what to do with myself.”

“Okay.” Katya nods, slowly swiping her arm up and down the length of Trixie’s back. “I was a little worried – you look like you’re about to cry.”

“Yeah, exactly. I don’t know whether to laugh, or – well,” she stops, gesturing towards her face with a limp wave of her hand as she begins to tear up, choking on her own words. Her bottom lip quivers, but she’s smiling.

“Aw, honey.” Katya turns Trixie in the circle of her arms until they’re chest to chest and places a hand on the back of Trixie’s head, bringing face down into the crook of Katya’s neck. Trixie’s uneven breaths filter through the gap between Katya’s scarf and her neck, and the heat of it prickles as it lands on her skin.

She holds her there for a few minutes until Trixie’s breathing evens out, and she lowers her hands to rest loosely in Katya’s square front pockets, with her fingers curled limply around the open lip of the felt fabric.

“God, I’ve cried about school before, but happy tears? Absolutely unheard of.”

Katya laughs lowly in her chest, the sound muffled as it tries to come out through a closed-lip smile. She takes Trixie’s hands in her own and brings them up to her face to kiss the backs of them, first on her right hand, and then her left. It leaves no visible mark, but Trixie feels the moisture of Katya’s chapstick catch the breeze more than anywhere else on her skin, cold and yet still the tiniest bit warm at the same time.

“It’s just…such a cool place here,” Trixie gushes, “and the people are lovely – Katya, those professors were the best women I’ve ever met in my life. Except you. But it is an incredibly close second, so you’d better watch your behaviour.”

Katya pulls on Trixie’s index finger and loudly blows a raspberry with her tongue, and Trixie rolls her eyes, her grin still firmly set in place.

“Are you good?” Katya waits for Trixie to nod. “Okay, good. I want to go exploring.”

“Bitch, what do you think we’ve been doing for the past hour? Playing a virtual reality game?”

Katya wheezes, clenching her eyes shut tightly, and Trixie lets go of one of her hands to lead them back inland.

“Shut up, shut up, you know what I mean! I wanna explore the city! I’ll take you to the Fine Art Museum so you can finally be with all of the other statues of beautiful women, where you belong.”

“Are you calling me a statue? Am I not fun and whimsical enough for you, you circus clown?” Trixie deadpans, despite a blush deepening the already pink high points of her cheekbones.

Katya throws her head back, her whole face scrunched up around a toothy grin, and flails Trixie’s hand around in the air, now holding onto it with both hands. “Okay, I changed my mind, I’m leaving you here immediately. Good luck, enjoy school!”

With that, Katya releases her grip on Trixie and takes off running through the stretch of frosted grass and dormant dandelions that leads up towards the cluster of buildings ahead. Trixie stops and lets her jaw drop for a moment before she starts to run too, chasing after Katya as the wind starts to unravel her scarf, and she lets it blow behind her like a white flag.

***

Trixie tucks her thumb under the strap of her tote bag, untwisting the coil of the fabric digging into her shoulder, before reaching up to grab a second bag from the cab of the pickup truck to pass it around to Katya. A leafy head of lettuce sticks out of the top, and as she presses down lightly on it, the sound of crinkling plastic wrap comes from somewhere inside the bag. She jumps at the sound of the truck’s horn honking sharply as Katya locks the doors, as she does every time, and walks up the steps to the foyer of the apartment building.

With her keys still in her hands, Katya reaches up onto her tiptoes to unlock their mailbox for the first time in a week, and Trixie calls the elevator. As soon as Katya gets the little hatch door open, a thick stack of letters falls straight to the floor in a scattered heap.

“Jesus Christ,” she mutters under her breath. Trixie turns around at the sound of them hitting the ground and laughs weakly at Katya staring morosely down at them all, not making any move to try and pick them up.

“Wow, the postman must have just shoved these all in and ran, huh?” Trixie lets her bag fall into the crook of her elbow as she bends down, sliding all the letters into one messy pile with most of them still facing downwards. She tucks them into the top of her tote and stands upright.

“Thanks, Trix…I didn’t wanna drop my eggs,” Katya offers, vaguely pointing at the carton threatening to poke out of the top of her bag.

The elevator opens and a woman’s voice announces the floor number, and Katya pushes the button once they’re inside using the tip of her front door key.

“Honey, it’s a bit late for that. You’re on your period, you’ve been dropping eggs all day.”

Katya’s face slowly, lethargically peels open into a grin that squints her eyes closed, and she huffs out a deep, breathy laugh. “That’s not how it works, oh my god - please tell me you know that that’s not how this works.”

It took three days after the actual date had passed for them to realise that it’s been one whole year since Katya moved in.

Trixie remembers, all of a sudden, as she sees Katya’s face brighten, and it compels her to cup Katya’s face in her hands, smoothing both thumbs over her cheeks. Katya’s expression gentles, but her eyes remain more alert than they had been this morning, her mouth still curled up at the corners just enough for Trixie to be able to lightly pinch her cheeks, and it makes Katya scrunch her nose up even more.

Once they’re inside, Trixie takes the other bag of groceries from Katya and sits them up on the countertop, insisting that Katya lay on the sofa with the AC turned up high. She brings her a glass of water and two Tylenol pills before returning to the kitchen to put the groceries away. The stack of letters gets tossed beside the sink for later, and she puts away the few frozen items they’d bought first so that she feels less guilty about letting herself really take her time with the rest.

A brown paper bag of peaches is the last thing to be put in its place, left out to the side for Trixie to take out one for herself, and one for Katya. She walks through to the lounge to see Katya lengthways on the couch, her head propped up at an unhealthy angle on the arm of the chair, rubbing at her eyes with one hand. Trixie kneels right in front of her, and when Katya opens her eyes again, she recoils a little before realising that it’s just Trixie, and smiles. Trixie holds the peach out to her, and Katya reaches out towards it, propping herself up to sit cross-legged. Trixie stays right where she is, with the backs of her knees getting all sweaty from how she’s kneeling.

Katya eats her peach cupped in both hands like a little kid and gets the juice all down her chin and forearms. Trixie grimaces a little, anxious for her not to get the fabric of the couch all sticky, and insists that she go get a paper towel. Just as Katya stands up, Trixie takes the little blue sticker from her own peach and presses it to Katya’s outer thigh.

Katya cleans herself up in the kitchen, throwing the stone of her peach in the trash. As she dries her hands and around her mouth with the little towel beside the sink, she turns over the envelope on the top of the mail pile. It’s addressed to Trixie; in fact, they all are, with various university insignia stamped on the corners of each envelope.

“Trix?” She grabs the whole pile to take back into the lounge with her, only to turn around and see Trixie on her way into the kitchen to wash her own hands, working around her peach stone with her mouth.

“What’s up?”

Katya holds the envelopes out in a fan in front of her. Trixie glances over at them and throws her stone into the trash before doing a double-take that makes Katya huff air out of her nose in a little laugh.

“Oh, god.” Trixie stares down at them, both of her hands bunched up into fists in front of her face.

“…Are you gonna open them?”

Trixie nods, but doesn’t reach out for them.

“Do you want me to do it?”

“No! I’ll do it.” She tentatively holds her hand out as Katya folds them back into one neat pile and hands them over.

Trixie leans back against the countertop and the edge digs into the small of her back, making her bones crack deliciously. She stares down at the letters in her hands, dumbfounded, unsure where to start.

Katya throws a pitying smile into the room, but Trixie doesn’t catch it. “Do you want to start with your first choice or your last?”

Trixie’s brows crumple together. “I don’t know.”

Katya takes the envelopes back from Trixie and shuffles them around before picking one out at random and handing it over. It’s one of Trixie’s reserve choices, and she tears into it with a hooked finger. Once she sees the word ‘Congratulations!’ written on the very first line, she heaves out a sigh of relief and lets herself breathe a little more easily. One out of five is certainly better than zero; no matter what, she’s going to college.

“Okay,” Trixie nods, “next one.”

Katya hands Trixie her letters one by one, watching as Trixie’s face softens, her posture growing a little bit taller with every acceptance she receives. The final letter is the one she is both dreading and looking forward to the most, and she hesitates just a little once they reach it, but holds her hand out anyway. She’s slower to open this one, peeling the flap back from where it’s stuck down rather than ripping into it like the rest. As soon as she reads the first line, Katya sees the muscles of her jaw clench as she squeezes her eyes shut, hiding her face behind the paper.

“Trixie?”

There’s a silence that feels too fragile to pry into, until a deep, wet sniff cuts it cleanly in two. When Trixie shows her face again, she’s quietly crying. Katya’s face falls, but just as she reaches a hand out towards Trixie, Trixie turns the page around for her to see.

“I got in.”

Katya screeches in absolute delight and lunges forwards, scooping Trixie up into the air with arms wrapped tightly around her waist. Trixie wraps her arms and legs around Katya’s whole body like a koala, with her acceptance letter still held between her first two fingers. She reaches over to let it fall down onto the countertop with the rest of them, leaving her hands completely free to wrap into Katya’s hair, around her shoulders, anywhere she can get them.

“Trixie, Trixie,” Katya chants like a prayer into the mound of her that she’s got her face smushed into. “I’m so proud of you, I love you so much.”

Trixie knows. She holds on even tighter, doesn’t let go.

Chapter Text

Trixie kicks the front door closed with one foot and squats down to lower the cumbersome cardboard box in her hands to the ground. The tinkering sound of porcelain rattles from inside as she removes her hands from beneath it, and then she’s standing upright again, more out of breath than she would care to admit.

Katya drinks directly from the faucet in the tiny sink in the kitchen area, wipes her mouth clean with the back of her hand, and then immediately launches herself onto the bed in the corner of the room. The frame creaks as it takes her weight, and she only narrowly misses Trixie’s hard-shell suitcase with her elbow as she lands.

It had taken them seven days to drive across the country with everything they own in the bed of the truck – mostly because Katya insisted on making it through at least one state every day, and neither of them really cared to stop in Iowa or Indiana for the night.

Trixie walks over to the bed and crawls up in between the overnight bags and suitcases full of clothing to sit right by Katya’s head, pulling it into her lap as she exhales a huge lungful of air.

“Fuck. We made it.”

Katya gazes straight up at Trixie, her eyes drooping and confused at looking at her from upside down, and smiles. “We made it.”

“I’m doing literally anything you want for the rest of forever. I can’t believe you just drove non-stop for a whole fucking week, thank you, thank you.” Trixie bends down to pepper Katya’s cheeks and chin with featherlight kisses, whispering ‘thank you’ between each one as she smooths Katya’s hair away from the sides of her face.

Katya yawns, “You know I’d do it again, honey. Although my carbon footprint is probably as big as Texas now, with all that gas we went through.”

The tiny new studio apartment is only a forty-minute walk outside of Trixie’s campus. Three thousand miles and two flights of stairs later, they’re home.

With every box that gets unpacked, Trixie feels the four narrow walls expand around her; the tapestry from their old bedroom and the potted plants from the balcony, and Katya’s stack of books that she still hasn’t read but has been meaning to, all embroider the blank fabric of the place into something more familiar, less clinical.

Katya’s French press doesn’t fit inside the shallow kitchen cabinets, so she leaves it out on the side as a display piece, hoping that it comes across as a design choice rather than a design flaw. Trixie puts her yellow whistling kettle on the back corner of the stovetop even though it’s still empty, and Katya makes sure she takes up just a little less than half of the closet space, because she knows Trixie will need more than her.

Trixie is absolutely thrilled with the combined washing machine and dryer that sits right beside the fridge. She remembers the basement laundry room of their old place, casts the burden of it off her shoulders like a weighted shawl, before peeling her actual, sweaty clothes off right in the middle of the apartment. She throws them into the laundry bag that now hangs on the back of the bathroom door, leaving her standing in only her underwear and socks. At the end of August, it’s still comfortably warm, but she shivers a little at the AC hitting the clammy skin of her torso. Katya comes over and wraps her arms around Trixie from behind, feeling how Trixie’s naked back sticks to the thin front of her t-shirt. She buries her face in Trixie’s neck, inhales the scent of sweat and gentle floral perfume, and closes her eyes, content.

***

After her first and only evening class of the week, Trixie slides her laptop into the inside pouch of her backpack and zips it closed, hauling it up onto her shoulders. The rows of people ahead of her slowly filter out of the lecture hall and she follows behind, sweating a little under her thick, cream-coloured cord jacket. She knows that it’ll be breezy once she’s outside, and she doesn’t have the energy to take her bag off again and carry her coat until she gets there, so she waits patiently through the prickling heat on her chest and back.

Out in the student parking lot, Trixie scans the rows of cars. Some are neatly parked; others had clearly been left in a rush, sitting all wonky in the bays. Most of the license plates are from Massachusetts; there are a few from Maine, a handful from New York, and two from Vermont, all in the same row. At the very end, nailed to the back of a faded red pickup truck, is the only Californian plate in sight. Its horn honks and Trixie laughs, waves back at the hand that’s sticking out of the driver’s side window.

Trixie climbs up into the truck, drops her bag to the ground, and brings her legs up onto the seat as she swivels sideways, turning her whole body to face Katya.

“Hey!” Katya leans over to kiss Trixie but gets stopped halfway by her seatbelt having reached the end of its tether. Trixie giggles, meeting her the rest of the way to kiss her on the mouth. “How was class?”

“Necessary,” Trixie smirks, rolling her eyes. “Gen Ed honestly kicks my ass, but it’s worth it in the long run, I guess. How was work?”

Katya starts to reverse out of the parking lot, her small, dangly earrings being thrown all over the place as she looks at all of her mirrors and over her shoulders. They’re a pair of tiny, silver hands; in one is a rose, and in the other, a sword. “Really good, actually. A middle-aged lesbian couple came in and bought about half of the big men’s shirts we had on display. One of them complimented my earrings, so I told her that my beautiful, intelligent and hilariously funny girlfriend got me them. They gave me a pretty generous tip after that.”

Katya had found a job at a vintage thrift store downtown, and she couldn’t be more thrilled with it. She made sure to pick up enough hours on her contract so that Trixie wouldn’t need to work alongside her studies anymore, and with Trixie’s loan to fill in the gaps, they live more comfortably than Trixie ever imagined she would as a student in the city.

Trixie smiles, reaching down to pick the aux cord from where it dangles on the ground to plug it into her phone. A guitar begins to play quietly from the car radio, and she leans forwards to turn up the volume just enough for her to be able to sing alongside Stevie Nicks’ voice without drowning her out completely.

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night, and wouldn’t you love to love her?” Trixie sings softly, lightly nudging Katya’s arm where it rests on the gearstick with the toe of her boot. Katya glances over at Trixie and smiles, feeling affection blooming in her chest like a lotus flower.

Trixie turns her head to look out of the front window, frowning a little when she realises that Katya has missed the turn back to the apartment.

“Where are we going?”

Katya smiles, keeping her eyes on the road. “Why, you don’t have to pee, do you?”

Trixie shakes her head, “No. Why, are we going far?”

“Not really. But we might be out a little while.” Katya ends the conversation by turning up the radio just a little further, and Trixie watches her, smirking, her brows furrowed inquisitively, as she starts to sing again.

After a little while, Trixie scoots across the bench to sit in the middle of the cab, with the gearstick right between her knees, to hold Katya’s free hand. In between gear changes, Trixie rests it in her lap, tracing circles over her palm. When Katya moves to shift gears, she brings Trixie’s left hand with her, holding it against the lever underneath her own hand before laying it limply in Trixie’s lap again.

Once they’re outside of the city, Trixie has even less of an idea where they might be going. Katya takes a turn away from the main road, and the tarmac turns into gravel and dusty earth as, all of a sudden, they’re driving through the middle of the woods. Trixie stares in a vacant awe at the towering pine trees on either side of them, and crawls back to her side of the car to roll the window down and stick her head out to look around. The cold air rushes against her scalp and face and she shivers, but can’t stop staring up at the forest.

“California never looked like this,” she says, her mouth agape as she tilts her head up.

“It’s beautiful, right?”

Trixie brings herself back inside the car, rolling up her window as she goes, and finds that Katya is looking at her.

“Eyes on the road, dummy,” Trixie says, and she can hear the smile in her own voice, all gooey and warm, watching as Katya does as she’s told.  

The road begins to wind uphill, and Trixie leans back in her seat, glancing over at Katya as she focuses on the ever-steepening incline with the tip of her tongue darting out to wet her lips, her brows furrowed just slightly. Eventually the trail flattens out into a small clearing amongst the trees, with patches of grass having withered - and even disappeared altogether in certain spots - where cars have parked on top of it.

Trixie watches quizzically as Katya kills the ignition and hops out of the truck, before following shortly behind herself, her backpack left tucked snugly underneath the dashboard.

The wind blows Trixie’s hair into her face as soon as her boots hit the ground and she shivers, zipping her coat all the way up to her chin as she jogs to catch up with Katya a few paces ahead.

“What are we doing here?”

Katya turns to grab Trixie’s hand, swinging it between them as they walk. “You’ll see.”

Katya leads them through a narrow opening in a gathering of trees. As they come out of the other side, the landscape opens up, green and endless. The city looks impossibly small and faraway despite them only having driven for twenty minutes. The skyscrapers seem to stand in one long, staggered line, all a similar shade of deepening blue as the sky reflects on the thousands of windows of the buildings. It looks exactly the same as during their very first flight into Boston, just as the plane had begun to land: somehow unreal and untouchable, as though it had simply been dropped from the sky just for her to see. For miles surrounding it is nothing but the forest, and Trixie wants desperately to walk across the treetops to make it back home, counting how many branches she can step on before she falls right through to the earth below.

“This is…”

“Familiar?” Katya says, leading them closer to the edge of the hill. She sits down on the grass, tugging on Trixie’s arm until she sits, too. “Remember that little hideout in the hills we always used to go to when we were in school?” Katya waits for Trixie to nod before continuing, “I went exploring the other day while you were in class, and I found this place. It reminded me of home. We could always come up here, escape the city for a little while if it all gets too much. Bring a picnic, maybe, and just…exist.”

Trixie finally tears her eyes away from the view to look at Katya. She reaches across the narrow space between them and pulls Katya into her lap, nuzzling her face into the crook of her neck as she wraps her arms around Katya’s slender frame.

“Halloween’s in a couple of weeks, too. We could always come up and sit in that little stone circle over there, summon a few ghosts. The possibilities are endless!”

“God,” Trixie chuckles, “you’re a witch in another life, I swear.”

They sit on the hill for almost an hour, watching as the sky gets October-dark and the lights in the city flicker on in a harmonised yellow glow, before the ground gets too cold for comfort. Heading back to the truck, Katya opens the tail gate to reveal a little pile of blankets and cushions from their bed at home, all neatly arranged against the back of the cab.

“When did you do all this?” Trixie asks.

“This morning, while you were in class.” Katya holds out her hand to help Trixie up onto the bed before following behind, grunting as she pulls herself up in one huge lunge. Katya makes Trixie wait for a beat as she lays down first, getting the cushions comfortably underneath herself before bringing Trixie down, tucked into her side with her head on Katya’s shoulder.

“You’re not allowed to fall asleep,” Katya whispers into Trixie’s ear, making the hairs on her arms stand on end. Trixie pulls the blanket over them both.

“Why not?” she grumbles into Katya’s chest, snuggling as close as she can get without climbing inside Katya’s skin; if she could make herself at home in there she would, she thinks.

“Because. Look.” Katya points up at the sky where the North Star shines, the brightest of them all. Trixie spots it straight away, and once her eyes adjust to the darkness more and more begin to appear. They’re just far out enough from the city that they can see more stars than they can count, and Trixie’s heart sings.

Oh.”

“Look, there’s the Big Dipper…and that one’s Cassiopeia.”

Katya holds Trixie’s hand as she points straight upwards, guiding her through the night sky with soft kisses to her temple. Her breath condenses in the air as she speaks, filling in the spaces between the stars where the sky is completely cloudless.

“When did you learn about constellations? I didn’t know you knew all these.” Trixie shifts so that she’s lying on her back, but firmly keeps her grip on Katya’s hand in between their bodies.

“I used to love astrology when I was a kid. Or...wait, no, astronomy. Astrology is the one with the signs and the planets, right?”

“Yeah, it’s all the gays on the internet blaming their problems on the fact that their mom’s a Caprisun and that Mercury’s making lemonade, or whatever.”

Katya lets her arm fall and land on her stomach, bringing Trixie’s down with it, as she starts to wheeze out a laugh that makes her knees curl in towards her chest. Trixie chuckles fondly, turning her head to the side to watch Katya as she delights, and then mellows, before returning her gaze.

“Thank you for showing me this, Kat. It’s beautiful out here.”

“I’m glad you like it,” Katya smiles, smoothing over Trixie’s hand with her thumb where it rests on her tummy. “I love you so much, Trix. Like, so much.”

“I love you too, honey. Come here.” Trixie tugs on Katya’s arm and they both turn to face each other, their foreheads resting together. She looks down at Katya’s mouth as much as she can with their noses in the way, and kisses her slowly. Katya’s nose is icy cold against her own and she tastes like spearmint gum. Trixie kisses her, kisses her, traces her tongue over the tiny bump on the inside of Katya’s lip where she had bitten it, smears the moisture of her pomegranate chapstick down both of their chins. Trixie only pulls back when she begins to yawn, and Katya leans forward, still trying to kiss into her mouth until she realises what she’s doing and begins to cackle.

“You wanna head back? You can have a nap while I make us some food.” Katya tucks Trixie’s hair behind her ear where it begins to fall in her face, making her nose scrunch up as it tickles.

“A nap? Girl, it’s almost 7pm - if I go to sleep now, I’ll be awake all night.”

“Well, you can still relax. Have a shower, put on a movie. I’ll get us a bottle of wine on the way back.”

Trixie hums. “Okay, that sounds like something I can get behind. Deal.”

Katya smiles and begins to stand up, holding out a hand towards Trixie. “Come on, babe. Let’s go home.”