“Do you want to sleep over? I think Whizzer is out for the night.”
“Would he have stopped you?” Charlotte tucked her hand into her pocket.
“Maybe, that's the risk I'm not willing to take.”
“You could take him in a fight!”
She smiled “Gee thanks.”
Charlotte was only her second girlfriend, the fifth person she had ever dated but the first three didn't truly count. Perhaps five was her lucky number, with her first girlfriend there was always a thin sheet of glass between them but with Charlotte, it felt like they were actually connected. For the first time, it was sincere.
Cordelia had propped her body against Charlotte's shoulder as they found their place on what was technically Whizzer's couch.
The shorter woman shifted her shoulder causing Cordelia's form to falter “Sorry it's just,” she didn't finish her sentence.
“What?” the blonde woman smiled it bore nothing but sunshine, a genuine and pure happiness.
“I got an offer for residency.”
“Babe that's great!”
“It's in Hartford.”
It didn't click that Hartford wasn't simply a neighbourhood that she had momentarily forgotten about. Hartford, Connecticut the nearly three-hour drive. Hartford the town that had never been a part of her mind. Hartford where her lucky five girlfriend would be stationed for at least two years. “That's good.” it was a lie she felt selfish but three hours of separation was simply too much for her.
“I know it's sudden, I got the call a few days ago.” that was a lie she had actually gotten it a month ago she just didn't have the gut to tell a single soul.
“Are you going to do it.” Charlotte nodded “When are you leaving?”
“I thought we'd have more time.”
“We still do.” she grasped her hand.
“How far is Hartford?”
“Two hours maybe three if you're unlucky.”
“I could make that maybe,” she barely drove she should've checked on the car more but she held the small belief that it was fine closely if not then paying for that parking spot was going to be more than an annoyance “That isn't so far.”
“I get Fridays and the weekends off! Although they do still have me running around for ten hours a day.”
“Take your blessings I suppose.” she shrugged “So ten days?”
“Do you need help packing?”
“No, I don't have all that much.”
She folded her hands “I don't know what I'll do without you.”
“What about your family won't they miss you?”
“Nope.” her answer was too short.
“Are you sure?”
“Well, my Aunts maybe,”
“Your Dad?” Cordelia smirked.
“I'd be lucky if he doesn't report me.”
“What?” the sentence didn't make much sense.
“I went to tell him that I was going to Hartford and for some reason, I thought ‘Hey he actually seemed happy for you, maybe he won't be so mad about the lesbian thing.’ Twist ending he was.”
“I'm so sorry Char.”
“No, it's my fault really.”
“Even if it was no one deserves to lose a Dad, a good Dad at least.”
“It's just I really wanted to keep him in my life. He's the only parent I've had really I don't know any life without him.”
“I get that,” she leaned back “Like I really do.”
Charlotte squinted “How?”
“My Dad actually died it's not the same thing but it's still losing a Dad.”
“Were you young?”
“Not really I was like fourteen maybe fifteen. Except he wasn't cool like your’s was.”
“This month is going to be so long.” Charlotte rested her head on Cordelia's shoulder she just wanted to have this night not be filled with tears “First I get offered residency, then my Dad just up and exits my life, next I'm gonna find out that I'm somehow pregnant and at the same time getting married.”
“I cannot imagine you with kids! Or a husband.”
“Really?” the blonde nodded “No I'm actually good with kids, I thought I would have kids until we started dating really.”
“I did too,” she crossed her legs “Except Whizzer didn't want kids and I am not good with them so I don't really know why I thought that.”
“You two are absolute nerds.”
“It's true.” together they laughed until said laughter collapse upon itself. They stayed where they had found themselves for minutes of sustained silence.
“Do you still wanna sleep here?”
“I don't know I figured you would be busy.”
“I wouldn't have accepted to come here and then wimp out on you this late.”
“I can never be too sure. Talking about late I think I'd pass out right here if I stay in this spot.”
“I should probably get to sleep too, I shouldn't mess up my sleeping schedule this much.”
For the first time laying next to Charlotte made her heart sink, this was a limited thing, their time was limited and would always be. For the next ten days she had to track every second, perhaps time would bend for them become elongated just to give them a few more days.
You can never be certain when a person will enter your life and when they will exit leaving you with nothing but wind. But Charlotte's exit rang prematurely she could never be sure if it was but at least for now it was too early. The morning came too soon, one day had strayed away from her and she had just let it. She didn't want Charlotte to wake up, she would leave if she did that, whatever they had would be just gone forever a ghost left to do nothing but mock her past. So she kept silent and still, a corpse of a woman. But she would never be still enough for Charlotte to abandon this residency, never dead enough for her to not wake up.
“You up, Sugar?”
“Yes.” Cordelia didn't turn over to look at her lover, her brown eyes would just make her stomach flip knowing that a morning in which she could look into them was not promised.
She could feel Charlotte smile “Well then good morning!”
“Good morning.” she bit the inside of her cheek “Are you doing anything today?”
“Not that I can think of.”
“Can you stay here?”
Cordelia tried to hold still, making a moment last forever could happen if she just held onto every second they could become minutes.
“Do you think Whizzer got home last night?”
“I feel like I would've heard the phone ring if he didn't.” that phone had always been so loud “I'd check but if he's not home by now he's usually not dead.”
Charlotte chuckled “What if this is the one time he manages to die?”
“Well now I need to!” she threw the corner of her quilt up and slid her legs over the edge of the mattress. She walked to lean out the doorway “Whizzer?” she called into the frozen air of their shared hallway but her voice pulled nothing back “Whiz-kid?” he usually replied to that stupid nickname “You might be right.” she looked back at her girlfriend.
“I hope I'm not I never got to bring up that bail money.” she rubbed her palm “Also I'll miss him or something.”
“Hold on.” she placed her foot against the cool hardwood flooring, her fist landed itself against Whizzer's door “Whizz it's time to get up!” when she got a groan as a response that was all she needed as confirmation that he was in fact not dead “He's not dead Lottie!”
“Are you absolutely sure?”
“I,” she looked down “He's probably not dead.” she was certain enough in her verdict to walk away from the door and return to her own room.
“What do your next few days look like?”
“I have work tomorrow until Thursday, I can call out sick.”
“Weren't you saving your sick days?”
“Yeah but that was a stupid plan.” she wasn't sure if it was but for now this is what her sick days should be spent on.
“So you're lying for me? I don't know if I should feel honoured or not.”
The word honoured didn't fit her, her company was not an honour in any sense of the word “I don't know either.” she sat on her bed brushing a delicate hand against the patchwork fabric “So we'll have weekends?”
“If you can make it out there.”
“I pretend to be a very devout Christian so I at least get Sundays off, Saturdays too usually.”
“We could do that.”
“Yeah.” she leaned back “Do you think you'll miss the city?”
“Probably, it's all I've ever really known, but it's not like I'm leaving forever.” two years was a minuscule amount of time to be spent “Unless Hartford harbours a charm that I simply cannot leave behind.”
“I can't do weekend trips forever.” she wasn't sure if she could even make it two years.
“Maybe it's a charm that you'll see too!”
She had packed a little too fast. One afternoon surely wasn't enough. All of Charlotte's things reduced to a residence in cardboard boxes. It felt wrong, her studio had always kept just a hint of her personality but now it could have belonged to anyone and would belong to someone other than her girlfriend.
“You're efficient.” it was a silly comment but the only one that came to her mind.
“I learned from the best.” who ‘the best’ was exactly didn't seem to matter “I'm gonna miss the city.”
“Maybe it's for the best,” it wasn't she knew it wasn't “You should live somewhere different at some point.”
“I thought it would come later I guess.” she shrugged “When I was little I'd always imagine moving when I was like forty.”
Cordelia laughed “Why forty?”
“I don't know I was a small weirdo.” she smiled “I also figured if I was forty any family that would depend on me could have someone else to lean on.”
“You were a mature and considerate little weirdo.” she grinned “Do you think we would have gotten together if we had met when we were kids?”
“Maybe,” she scrunched her nose “Or I would've just ignored you.”
“It's impossible to ignore me.” she giggled.
“It really is.”
Why had those ten days pass so quickly? Her idea that time would slow for them was clearly wrong, wasn't it? Charlotte's life was packed into the back of a truck and within the day she would be in Hartford, a city Cordelia still couldn't place on a map. Her hand waved a cheery goodbye, she had grinned, placed her weight on the balls of her feet. Her entire body was thrown up into the air as if she had less than a care in the world. Her body bounced in the air with little regard for the weight she bared in her chest, a sinking feeling, an endless void that contained nothing but led.
She had never missed a person before, not like this. Sure leaving family behind was hard but never isolating. But being in a city of strangers did nothing but perpetuate an emptiness. Why did she feel so lonely without Charlotte? She had so many other people in her life, she met someone new every day, and all the same her heart still sang a song only for her doctor. Calling Charlotte that had never struck her as it did now, it was a joke before the reply was often one of the term's prematurity but now it seemed so far away from her. Just over the horizon to the point that her hand could trace its exact shape but never quite seize it in a firm grip. She had until Friday afternoon, at three she would leave the city, at six she would arrive, and then she had the weekend. But that couldn't last forever Monday would always come, the sun would always set for them, the world only kept spinning it would never stall for the two of them.
“You have actual walls now!” Cordelia spun her arms extended out into the air as if she were in some picturesque outdoor scene.
“I had walls before!”
“Not as many.” she took her arms down “Maybe the charm of Hartford is the space.”
“Maybe.” she tilted her head “So how's Whizzer?”
“I don't know,” she had honestly barely seen him “Good probably. Not dead yet. How's work been treating you?”
“It's surprisingly really great! Tiring but great!”
“That's good.” her voice didn't show as much enthusiasm as she wished it to.
“Was the drive too much?” that had been worrying Charlotte, could something as simple as a drive that stretched on for too long ruin this?
“No it was beautiful really!” that was only a slight lie, sure the drive was beautiful but she had never enjoyed being alone like that. Nothing but her thoughts for hours on end.
Grocery shopping, jokes about how the drama of their situation, and a couple nights spent with her arms wrapped around Charlotte led them both to Monday morning. She didn't want to leave, Hartford didn't charm her but the new resident did. Her apartment wasn't the same without the small notions of Charlotte, her life wasn't the same without Charlotte by her side and it would never be. The idea of one's happiness being pinned on a certain person is a dangerous one, but wasn't this different? She could be happy without Charlotte but her doctor made it so much easier.
Life was a lonely game now. Sure she had Whizzer and various other friends but there was never the same connection with them. That was to expected wasn't it though? Charlotte was one of a kind and no one could fill her vacancy.
She had built her entire life around three days, she waited the entire week just to go on that drive, just to walk up those flights of stairs, just to knock on the same door until her lover revealed herself. For just under seventy-two hours she hid her isolation under her skin and simply lived.
“Are you in town for December?”
Oh right, Christmas “The last two weeks of December and the first week of January have been taken by my family, Whizzer will be up here though.”
“Oh is he not visiting with you this year?”
“Nope, he's acting like he's going to see his Mom. Maybe he’d make the drive for you!”
“That would be nice,” she spun her cup around “I haven't seen him since I moved.”
“Really?” that didn't seem right it had almost been a year, right? Maybe she had just stretched time.
“I think.” she looked up “Or I just forgot it, probably for good reason.”
“He probably like kicked down your door or something.” it seemed out of character but not out of consideration.
“While we're on the subject how exactly is your family?”
“All I know is that Mary is good, I hope.” she had forgotten to call yet again “She got married last June so she probably is.” that was her one wish for now “I haven't kept up with the other thousand of them though. But how's your family?” she wasn't sure if that was still a sore subject.
“My aunts are great! My Bubbeh is complaining about the heat in her apartment so she's pretty much the same. It's pretty clear that my Dad hasn't told any of them.”
“Have you talked to your Dad since all of that?”
“I called him maybe a month after I got here.” she had never expected to tell this story, “He said that he'd always be proud of me but he couldn't agree with my life. I don't know if that was disowning or not but I really don't want to ask.”
“I mean at least you have the rest of your family,” her response didn't quite fit “Not that they would replace a Dad but having roots is good.” she was too flustered to piece together something halfway comforting.
“Yeah I got what you meant.” she smiled.
“I wish we could just live together.” Charlotte mused “Not here, we could just have a little apartment wherever. It wouldn't be just you sleeping at my place or me at yours we could have a home together.”
“We could.” the blonde bounced her foot on the floor “When you get back we could rent a place together, somewhere cosy, just our little nook of the world.”
“That does sound nice.”
“So then let's do it!” it was a simple plan surely one that was easy to fulfil.
“I mean it.” she wrapped her arm around her shoulder “Charlotte Dubois will you move in with me when you're done in Hartford?”
“This is my first proposal,” she laughed “Yes of course!”
She would have made it through thousands of three hours drives if it meant Charlotte was on the other side. That was the lesson she was meant to learn here, she could find her home in a person. She was making the best of a situation she would have changed in a heartbeat to be at home, to let out a breath she held for four days at a time, to let her feet touch the cool water yet again. Seventy-two hours seemed so small but for the joy it carried it was just enough for her. She would need to learn to breathe without assistance but that was a mountain she wasn't quite prepared to scale yet, someday she would be strong enough.
“You know I will.” she wrapped her arms around Charlotte's shoulders.
“I love you Lotte.” she squeezed in.
“I love you, Delia.” Charlotte rested her head on Cordelia's shoulder “I'll see you Wednesday.”
“You mean Friday silly!”
“I know what I said.”
Then it fell into place “Really?”
“I got accepted to a fellowship at Gracie Square, goodbye Hartford forever!”
“Did you ever figure out what charm it has?”
“Nope,” she pushed her mouth to the side “But maybe that's a mystery that isn't meant to have an answer.”
“Well I think it's a cute town.” it was she had thought that on her third drive up “So that's the answer.”
“Wow, you're truly the mind of our generation!”
“Well, what can I say? I learned it from a very beautiful girl.”
“You're a nerd.” she chuckled “See you Wednesday?”