“Ready?” Lillian asked, shifting slightly in the stool next to Alva’s and settling her guitar strap around her shoulders. Alva took a deep breath in, and nodded, fingers nervously gripping the edge of her seat.
“Lights coming on!” Mei shouted from the back of the studio. The black of the stage was suddenly lit, a spotlight on the two of them.
“Take it away, you two.” Emmy said, from the audience. Alva couldn’t make her out anymore. She watched, mesmerized, as Lillian began to strum at her guitar, tapping her foot in time to the familiar tune. Alva exhaled sharply, as Lillian caught her eye, and grinned. Then she nodded and the two of them leaned forward towards the mic.
In the dead of night I will meet you in my sleep, And in the morning light you’ll wake up next to me.
Alva’s breathing slowed as they sang the first few lines, settling in to the song. She looked over at Lillian. There was something about the lighting that accentuated every dip and curve of Lillian’s face. Alva didn’t dare take her eyes off her. It was so they’d get all the cues right, she told herself.
Like a dream come true I’ll take you where I roam, Then follow you back home.
Alva couldn’t help but notice the beads of sweat already gathering on Lillian’s forehead. She realized her palms were sweaty too. It was only a rehearsal, but when she was up here it felt like they were the only two people in the world. It was exhilarating. And absolutely terrifying.
Tell me you care. Tell me you care.
She watched Lillian’s face as they sang. Her eyes were closed, brows furrowed in concentration. Salt and pepper bangs clung to her forehead.
If I lose my way and forget what I need, Just remind me now of what you give to me.
Lillian’s eyes cracked open, and she glanced over at Alva. Their eyes met and Lillian flushed pink, sweat now dripping down her face.
If you hold my hand and take me where you go, I’ll show you the side no one knows.
Their faces were already close as they leaned forward to sing into the mic, but Alva gasped as she realized that they were mere inches apart, now. Lillian seemed to realize it at the same moment, her eyes widening and fingers slipping a little on the strings of her guitar. She hit a foul note, winced, then picked the tune back up. Alva chuckled ever so slightly, nerves still jangling in her chest. It was moments like these that scared Alva the most. She’d been ignoring her feelings all semester, but whenever she was alone with Lillian they came bubbling back up to the surface. She licked her dry lips, using all her concentration to keep her focus on the lyrics still slipping out of them. Lillian’s eyes were flickering between her guitar and Alva’s face. Her ears were burning red, from the slipup or what, it was hard to tell.
Then their eyes met and the song faltered, trailing off into nothing as Lillian’s fingers stopped strumming the guitar and the words caught in both their throats. Alva’s face was burning hot, now, heart thumping in her chest. The tension in the air was palpable, enough to forget that Emmy and Mei were still in the same room. Her attention was glued to Lillian, and to her horror she found herself slowly closing the gap. Part of her thought she saw Lillian doing the same, but that couldn’t be true, and the other, more sensible part of her immediately snapped her away. In a panic, she knocked over her stool, and ran off the stage towards the door.
“Where are you going!?” She heard Emmy and Mei shouting behind her, but that only made her run faster, bursting out the door and into the snow. Slamming the door behind her, she let out a choked sob, before sprinting away back to her dorm.
“What the hell was that?”
“What do you mean?” Mei grumpily tossed a a neatly folded shirt into her suitcase before turning to fix Lillian with a blank stare.
“You know what I’m talking about.”
“You’ll have to be more specific.” Lillian said, pretending to pack her bag as she avoided Mei’s eyes.
“You two stopped in the middle of the song, stared into each other’s eyes, nearly kissed-”
“We weren’t about to kiss.” Lillian said, aggressively yanking a jacket off it’s hanger and stuffing it into her duffel. Mei snorted, and sat herself on Lillian’s bed.
“Please, Lillian. She was staring at you like you were a goddamn goddess, and then leaned in real close. And you were doing the same, don’t tell me you didn’t want her to kiss you!”
“I didn’t! I don’t know what she was doing!” Lillian floundered, randomly stuffing pairs of socks away. Mei sighed, flopping onto her back.
“Come on, you know that crap’s not going to work on me. You wanted her to.”
“Fine! So what if I did?” Lillian snapped.
“Then why’d she run off?” Mei asked.
“Don’t ask me, I don’t know.”
“Aren’t you going to try and talk to her?”
“I can’t, we’re all leaving tomorrow for break.”
“Are you going to try and find her beforehand?” Mei said, propping herself up on her elbows. “This is definitely something you need to talk about.”
“She’s leaving too early. A four am flight or something.” Lillian said, in a defeated tone. Mei pulled a face.
“God, that’s disgustingly early. Well, what about texting?”
“I’d feel… weird about that.”
“I don’t know, I just would. I feel like I’ve got to talk to her face to face.” Lillian shrugged. Mei sighed.
“What do you want to happen? Where do you want this to go?” She said.
“I’m not sure.” Lillian answered truthfully. Mei took a long look at her.
“... Well. I hope you two figure it out soon. Emmy and I are worried about you.”
“What? Why?” Lillian said, turning to look at her.
“Because we’re your friends, doofus.” She said, chucking a pillow at Lillian. “Now finish up packing, I want to go to bed.”
Alva fiddled with her seatbelt as the cab slowly made its way back to campus from the airport, bouncing in her seat every time they hit a pothole. The roads were still slick with unshoveled snow, and hadn’t been properly paved since the previous spring. Alva was sweating buckets. Despite the cold weather and the cab’s broken heating system, her coat was off and fleece unzipped. She hadn’t felt this nervous since her first day of college, but this wasn’t a good nervous. It was an uncertain, scary sort of nervous, and she was caught between feelings of needing to see Lillian again, and sheer terror at the thought.
The winter holidays had been torture. Three straight weeks of no contact with Lillian. She wanted to send her a text, or give her a call, but the hard knot of doubt that had settled into her stomach wouldn’t let her so much as open her contact. She’d had no word from Lillian either. All she was left with was replaying the moment she’d tried to kiss her during rehearsal over and over again in her head.
Alva buried her face in her hands. She couldn’t believe she’d given into her feelings like that, in the middle of rehearsal with Emmy and Mei right there ! Milo curled tighter around her neck, purring comfortingly. Alva let out a long exhale, reaching up to stroke his head. He had been a steadying presence over break, and she was glad he was with her now.
“I just hope I haven’t ruined everything.” She whispered. Milo meowed and lightly bit her ear.
Despite the holidays being over, winter was far from done. Alva’s sweat turned cold the minute she stepped out of the cab, the air cutting right through her coat. Milo hissed and ducked into her coat, gripping the front of her fleece with his claws. The sky was slate gray and a few stray flakes were fluttering down to the thick layer of snow on the ground. Alva could see her breath fogging out in front of her as she strained to pull her rolling suitcase to her dorm on the uneven and poorly shoveled paths. Emmy was going to help her lug the bag up the stairs and to their rooms, but she was on her own for getting it across campus.
Panting, she came to a halt in front of the dining hall to catch her breath. Milo poked his head out from under the coat, nose twitching at the cold air. He sneezed, then retreated. Alva sighed, the cold air prompting her to cut her break short. She turned around to grab the handle of her suitcase once more, but froze stock still as she caught sight of Mei leaving the dining hall with Lillian in tow.
She didn’t move, praying that the two wouldn’t see her. But sure enough, Mei caught sight of her and nudged Lillian, who turned around and met her eyes. Nobody made a move. Alva didn’t think she could. Slowly, Lillian began walking towards her. Now it felt like even Alva’s lungs had frozen, mouth working furiously to suck in air.
All of a sudden Lillian picked up speed, flying down the path towards Alva. She barely had a chance to react before Lillian was on top of her, knocking her to the ground in a furious embrace. Alva’s lips were so cold that it took her a minute to realize that Lillian’s mouth was pressed firmly up against hers. Her eyes widened and she pulled away slightly, staring at Lillian nonplussed.
“Oh, shit, sorry, did you… not want this after all?” Lillian gasped, starting to get up. Alva reached out and grabbed her arm.
“No, wait… sorry I’m just. Confused? I didn’t think you wanted it.” Lillian stared at her in disbelief.
“What have I ever done to make you think that?”
“Oh, uh, I’m… not sure? But I… god, come here, will you?” Alva said, pulling Lillian back to her and wrapping her tail tightly around her waist. She pressed their lips together, hard, not daring to break contact. A warm feeling was bubbling up inside her chest, combating the cold snow that was slowly melting into her coat. Finally, unable to take the heat, Milo burst out from in between the two, meowing loudly. They broke apart, startled.
“Wow. Okay. Well um.” Lillian started, before they both broke into happy peals of laughter.
“Do you want to continue this inside?” Alva asked, with a warm smile.
“Definitely,” Lillian nodded, standing up. “Uh, do you need help with your bag?”
“ Yes, please .” Alva groaned, grabbing Lillian’s proffered hand. They look at each other, and broke into smiles again, Alva leaning in to give Lillian a quick peck on the cheek before they turned their attention to her large suitcase, the dorms, and the rest of a very happy semester.