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Your Librarian Bae

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“Come on, you’re killing me here!” Chloe hisses with a toothy grin. “Which one is she?”

Despite Chloe’s bright blue hair and torn black jeans, I gently nod my head towards the front desk of the library in a vain attempt to remain conspicuous. Much like a falcon staring down its prey, she peers passed several packed bookcases until her sights land squarely on the petite woman sitting behind a desktop computer.

Chloe’s brow furrows gently as her eyes seem to focus in further. If she had binoculars she’d be twisting them or… or some random shit like that. I’m not sure if binoculars actually do that in real life.

“The chick in the bun?” she asks.

I slowly nod, risking my own glance towards Kate’s desk. Barely a moment passes by before she offers me a little wave from behind her blocky computer, which I don’t hesitate to return. If anything, I wave back a little too fast.

Usually, I’d be more than happy to spend time with her. I’d probably wander right over there – get my hipster swagger on and talk with her about absolutely nothing in particular. But having Chloe here ‘scouting out the booty’ makes me slightly uneasy with myself. I suddenly wonder if I’m dressed in something Kate will like or whether she will be up to Chloe’s ever-so-high standards.

I’d still like Kate regardless of what Chloe thought of her, but we BFF’s still hold a lot of sway with each other.

Chloe promptly guffaws. “Dude, she’s like thirty.”

Thirty-four, I think you’ll find. And a half; she was born in ‘84 and her birthday was two months ago, in September.

“So fucking what?” I nip back, warily eyeing the front desk in the hope that Kate can’t actually hear me whispering. “She’s adorable. Spend five minutes with her and tell me she isn’t adorable.”

Like the littlest cinnamon roll that could.

“She grew up in Eighties,” Chloe hits back. She leans back into her plastic chair and crosses her arms loosely over her chest. She heaves her boobs up just that little bit too much for it to still be considered accidental. “She was probably hanging out with Reagan at roller discos and shit.”

“And we grew up in the Nineties; what’s your deal?” I was out cosplaying as Sailor Moon for cons and getting my Gandalf on at cinema screenings. Roller discos have nothing on me.

Chloe raises her hands in meek surrender.  “No beef here, my friend,” she calmly replies. Her head briefly nudges towards Kate’s vague direction. “If you think she’s hella cute then that’s good enough for me.”

“I do.”

“Even if she is thirty.”

“Dude!”

“Chillax! I’m kidding. If you want her to be your librarian bae, you go right ahead.”

I smile at that. I never really thought Chloe would be against anyone I decided to be into, but it’s always nice when your best friend gives you the thumbs up on anything remotely romantic. It’s like a seal of approval. A big A-OK stamp on Kate’s forehead.

I look back to Chloe and see her eyebrows raised at me. She has that cocky little half-smile on her face that makes her look very much like someone I don’t want to trust.

“Seriously, go right ahead,” she repeats. “I’ll hang back here.”

Chloe puts on a new smile, now. It’s the sort of smile you only see women wearing in the ads of crappy straight to DVD movies. That innocent, butter-couldn’t-melt sort of smile that coats you in a warm blanket of warmness before cooing you gently to a comfortable sleep. Before they make you throw up in your mouth a little bit.

She gives a little wave towards Kate with this particular smile on her face and I turn to see Kate waving back.

Dude!” I hiss. I came here to present my findings to my business partner, not attempt an exploration into the open market.

She’s still waving, her eyes uncharacteristically sparkling and peppy. “I think she likes me,” Chloe says. “Do you think she likes me?”

“You’re enjoying this.”

“Of course I am!” She’s stopped waving. Finally. “And I’m going to keep enjoying it until you get your ass over there and ask her out for coffee. Or some He-Man and chill. Or whatever it is that Eighties chicks do in their free time.”

“He-Man’s an awesome cartoon and you know it.”

“It was not. And don’t think going off-topic is going to make this go away, Caulfield,” she replies. She leans back comfortably into her chair, reaches blindly into the shelf behind her and pulls a book onto her side of the table. “Because I am not going anywhere. Especially with-” she glances at the cover of her newfound book. “’The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History’ to keep me entertained.”

I don’t even risk another glance at Kate – well, I do. But I only get as far as the shelves nearest to our table before I pull my eyes back to Chloe. She’s pulled her book open to a random page.

“There’s even some package action in here,” she notes. I can just about see the black and white image of a large man in what could only be described as a one-piece swimsuit. There is indeed a very prominent package on show.

Well, it’s on show but I wouldn’t call the package prominent, exactly. I mean, no offence to the old timer but it must have been pretty cold when the picture was taken.

“I could be here for a while,” Chloe continues, flipping to the next page. She purses her lips at something and sagely nods her head. “Yeah, there’s some real wise shit in here. Definitely gonna take me a while to process it all.”

Damn Chloe and her playful nudging. I bet she thinks she’s all that, with her girlfriend that’s she already asked out and kissed and junk.

I need a reason. A good one.

 “What if she isn’t gay?” I’m not sure I like this reason, but we’ll see how this goes. “She’s kinda religious.”

“Have you asked her if she’s a whatever-the-hella-sexual that gives you some under-the-blouse access?”

I… have not, though I have a very good reason for that.

She makes my hands all sweaty and then I lose my nerve and talk with her about nonsense – she still laughs at the references she doesn’t get – then leave because that’s what you’re meant to do in situations like that. A handily crafted conversation on the subject of me kissing her has yet to present itself.

But I only mumble, “No,” because saying all of that wouldn’t hold water with Chloe. She’s about as compassionate as a rusted bucket.

“Well, now would be a great time to ask her! It’ll give me time to get my British on with Winky C right here. What was he? Like, an actor or something?”

“’Winky C’ was the British Prime minster during World War Two. You know; ‘we will fight them on the-”

She waves away the extent of my British knowledge circa ninteen-forty and motions to the open book with her hand. “See? If you had gone and spoke to Kate two minutes ago like I told you to, I would have totally owned that.”

“It’s not an obscure fact or any-”

She clicks her fingers and with a grin. “Go forth, Maxipad.”

“But-”

“Go forth and conquer.”

A try for another minute or so to fight for the right to stay in my seat. The first minute or so goes fairly well but then Chloe starts to read experts from her book and I can’t really get a proper word in. Her voice shifts in and out of a bad British accent that, according to Doctor Who, does not sound anything like Winston Churchill.

I’m not sure if it’s her continuous monologue or the bad (and wrong) accent, but I eventually get out of my seat and begin sauntering slowly towards the front desk of the library.

I eagerly await the chance to spy someone else waiting in front of her desk. At least then I would have an extra few seconds to plan the dribbling mess that’s surely going to fall out of my mouth.

Sadly, the only person remotely close to the desk is Kate herself. Even with the computer right in front of her, I can see that her head is aimed lower than the screen. From all the times I’ve spent talking to her, I assume she’s reading another book she’s pulled off the shelves.

When I stop wondering what Kate is doing behind the computer, I realise something quite important.

Shit, I’m almost there.

Kate notices this rather annoying fact. Actually, she doesn’t just notice it. Much to my own dismay, she has now pulled her eyes from the book that I still assume is on her desk to focus her sights on me. Her lips have curved into a gentle smile and I can’t help but rub the tips of my fingers into the palms of my hands.

Now I am there, separated from Kate only by an ornate desk and a computer older than God himself.

“Hey, Max”, she says. It sounds really cliché but I kind of like the way she says my name. I know she isn’t always the calmest person in the world, but I usually feel a little better if I’m talking to her. It isn’t exactly helping now but that’s beside the point. “Who’s your friend?”

“That’s Chloe, my room-mate,” We’re not dating. I’m single and ready to mingle. With you. “She’s, uh, not really into books.”

We both look to Chloe. She isn’t even pretending to read the book anymore; she’s resting an elbow comfortably on the table with her head in her palm. That sickly-sweet smile is back on her lips as she wiggles her hands in a wave.

“She seems nice,” Kate says, waving back. Her smile wavers. “She, uh, waves a lot, though. Is she okay? She won’t steal anything, will she?”

“She’s fine.” Just… I dunno, check her pockets before she leaves. “She’s fine,” I repeat.

Kate doesn’t look too convinced by my words, but she seems to let the issue go. Chloe keeps staring but Kate stops waving to her. I can’t tell if she’s worried about Chloe’s mental health, the threat she poses to the books in her library or maybe all of the above.

Either way, I have a job to do today. And it might suck.

A lot.

“I meant to ask on Friday,” Kate suddenly starts. She’s turned her chair towards me now. Her computer might as well not even exist at this point. “How is your course going? Did you get the wildlife assignment finished on time?”

“Yeah,” I reply. It wasn’t very hard, actually. I made it out to be more stressful than it actually was. I’ve taken photos of animals before and it really shouldn’t have been any different on a DSLR than it is on my little Polaroid. “Yeah, it was good. Got this really sweet shot of a squirrel drinking from a sprinkler.”

“You really should bring in your portfolio one day. I’ve only seen the Polaroids and you keep saying you have better shots.”

Not entirely true; my Polaroids are pretty awesome.

“I’ll try and bring it next time,” I say. That’s probably entirely true. But not entirely what Chloe expects me to do, which will only get me so far before she marches over here and pushes me and Kate closer together until we end up kissing.

It would be a nice end to my day but not the best of all possible worlds.

“But, uh, I was wondering if you-” What should I do with her? Chloe said coffee and I know Kate drinks coffee. Well, twice. I think she’s drunk coffee twice. I’m not sure if they were anything special.

Or… we could see a film.

Is a film too datey? I’m not sure I know any films she would like, either. It’s mostly all about comic book movies right now and I’m not sure which one she would like. Superman Vs Batman? Superman is kind of like Jesus.

Maybe saying Superman is like Jesus isn’t the way into her heart…

We could go out for a meal but then that leaves with the same issue of the date being too datey for a first date. There’s also the issue of whether Kate would like a first date at all which is somehow less of an issue than where our first date could potentially take place.

I should find out if she’s gay first. Or pan. Or bi. Or any of the other sexualities I’m not too up to scratch on. I’m not picky.

Not picky at all.

“Eh, excuse me?”

I didn’t see the girl behind me, but I am very aware of her presence right now. I recognise her plenty, even if her name escapes. Annalise? Alice?

Either way, I take an uneasy step to the side and let her to the desk.

“Good afternoon Alyssa,” Kate says. I was close. “Here for ‘Love Today or Die Forever’?”

“I thought I’d try my luck today again.”

“Well you were right! The lost orders came in this morning.” Kate smiles to herself as she picks up a book from somewhere beneath the desk. “Sorry for the wait.” Her smile falters.

But Alyssa is quick to smile back. “Nah, it’s cool. It’s either wait an extra day or buy it. My mom says food is more important.”

“Your mom is right.”

She’s wise as well as pretty.

Alyssa doesn’t stick around long enough for me to get into the conversation. Her eyes stay focused on the cover and she waves goodbye in Kate’s direction as she moves for the main door. I think I’ve heard of her book, though it’s not something I would usually go for. I think it hit the best seller list.

“Sorry about that,” Kate says.

“It’s cool, you gotta job to do.”

“I’m still sorry,” she says with a smile.

Wait a minute.

This…

This is an opening! I can feel the words forming naturally in my head, squirming trough the recesses of my less than stellar social brain and combining into actual words.

“We could meet up sometime after your shift, if you want?” Delightfully devilish, Maxine.

Kate seems taken aback for a moment but her composure is quick to return.

“You… want to meet with me? After work?”

“Yes.” Confidence.

The ladies like confidence.

“Okay.” She sounds unsure, but I will take it! “I’m meeting with my sister after work tonight, I’m afraid. I can’t do anything today. And I’m visiting my parents tomorrow.” Shit. Shit. “Maybe Thursday? I’m free Thursday.”

Yes!

Thursday. Two days to wait.

Yes! Hell to the almighty yes!

“Sure. I can show you my portfolio! We can go for coffee.” Or something. Coffee doesn’t necessarily mean coffee. It could be a drink of lemonade or a smoothie or-

Coffee.

I’m going for coffee. With Kate.

Things are looking up for ol’ Max Caulfield.

“So… that’s okay?” I ask. Just to be sure.

“Of course it’s okay! Coffee sounds lovely.”

She says it sounds lovely!

Coffee with me sounds lovely. Coffee with Kate sounds lovely.

Kate’s eyes wander behind me back to Chloe. I look with her and see the little shit waving again, still smiling. I want to punch her so bad.

Hug her too, I suppose. She technically got me up here.

“I better get back to her,” I say. “She struggles on her own.”

“Oh,” Kate replies, as if that was the answer to all of her concerns. “Okay. You go. I’ll see you on Thursday.”

Perfect.

Everything is perfect.

Over the next two days my mind stays obsessively focused on Thursday. What I should wear, where we should go. Should I actually bring my portfolio and, if not, what will we even talk about. It isn’t until we’re sat down in a small café near the library that I realise there was a slight oversight in my initial proposal.

“This is a date?” Kate asks me, confused.

Which is not exactly the sentence a girl ever wants to hear at the start of a date. But I’m the one that dug this whole and I’m the one that needs to get back out. “I-I would like it to be.” I really should have clarified. “If that’s okay?”

“It's… sweet of you,” she replies at first, only half answering my question. Her fingers link together, growing tight and frustrated with each other when they don’t do much to solve the problem. Her face seems equally unsure as a frown muddies her otherwise pristine features.

Then, “You really find me attractive?”

“Yes, definitely.”

My answer seems to offer her more questions than answers. Her brow furrows further. “Max…” she offers with a deep sigh. Her form deflates. “I’m almost thirty-five.”

“I know.”

“You’re twenty-two.”

I know that, too. “I’ve thought about the age gap. I knew it might be an issue for you. Or me, in some places. But I still wanted to try.”

The nails of Kate’s thumbs rub against the surface of each other, scratching. “Wouldn’t you rather have someone…” She searches in herself for the right word. A pained expression washes over her and that makes me feel even worse, knowing I’m the cause. “Younger? Nearer your own age?”

I should probably find the right words as well. “Not really?” Great start. “I see other people my age a lot and I’ve not felt the same way around anyone of them a I do around you. I know I only see you when you’re at work but you’re always really kind. You’re gorgeous.” I’m losing steam fast. On the spot, all the things I think and feel about Kate in this moment, right now come to the forefront of my mind and get stuck at the final hurdle before one eventually blurts out my mouth. “You’re – it kinda brightens my whole day when you smile at me.”

A growing blush eases over her cheeks. For a moment her teeth bite at her lower lip before she asks, “And this was always meant to be a date to you?”

“I could have been a lot clearer, I know. But… yeah. I wanted to ask you out on a date. That’s kind of why Chloe was waving the whole time.”

“Ah,” she says with a smile. “That makes a lot more sense now.” A slight laugh leaves her throat. “What did she think?”

I could take that question multiple way but I’m sure there’s only one-way Kate means the question to sound. “She was a little surprised about the age gap but was totally behind me. One-hundred and ten percent.”

It’s about as honest I can be without making Chloe out to be an ass. As true a description as that may be, that same ass is my best friend who pushed me into getting a date, so I owe her at least this much.

But Chloe isn’t the person I want to convince of anything.

Kate swallows. “If the situations were reversed, would you feel the same way? Would you want to date me if I was fifteen years younger than you?”

“I’m not sure. It’s a bit of a heavy question…”

The look Kate throws back at only seems to imply that “this is a bit of a heavy topic.”

“Well… what were you like? When you were my age, I mean.”

The words settle over our table and warmth begins to take hold. The barriers from the previous minutes seems to fade ever so slightly at the edges, leaving room for the ambience of the small café to filter through. Kate searches the content of her cup, thinking on things before my time.

“Not much, if I’m being honest. I studied illustration at university, helped at a few shelters every now and then. Met with friends on the weekends.” Then she laughs, smiling as it breaks free. “I ran an abstinence club.”

“You ran an abstinence club?” I ask, not entirely sure how to even respond to that.

I relax when Kate immediately replies with an embarrassed, “Yes! I know, it’s a bit silly. I was a bit naïve when I was younger.”

I talk before I think. “That’s not so bad. We’re all a bit naïve when we’re younger, right?” I get that same look again, then look that implies I haven’t thought any of today through. As if all of this is just going to end up being a waste of our time.

Nothing unfriendly, certainly not coming from Kate. But… certainly not naïve. Or optimistic.

I should start asking questions of my own, if there’s even going to be a chance of this working out.

“So, going back to… everything else.” Can’t really slip this in anywhere else. “You said you ran an abstinent club. Does that mean you’re straight?”

Maybe it’s a leap but being religious often links up with people being straight. Either way, Kate doesn’t question my logic.

“I’ve not really had any reason to think about it before,” is her first response. Several seconds pass inside her own head, leaving me with the baristas and idle chatter of the world around us. Until finally, “I… I’m not against it. Being with a woman, I mean.”

I realised a while ago that coming out to yourself is a whole spectrum in itself. It can vary from a pleasant surprise right up to a massive Falcon Kick to the crotch and having all of it dumped on you when you thought you were meeting a friend for coffee cannot be the easiest way to deal with it. In an ideal world I might have got one bit of information before the other. I probably should have just put on my big-girl bra and asked instead of dancing around everything.

“You don’t have to have all of this worked outright now,” I tell her.

“I know. This is… it’s just a lot to deal with.”

“How about we just deal with today right now, then?”

“You mean just go on a date?”

“If you’re still okay staying here, knowing it’s a date. We can just chill and have a nice time. Leave all the big stuff for later.”

“Leaving the big stuff for later is not how you deal with them, Max.”

Spoken like a true adult. “No, but I would still like to spend time with you. Maybe if we just have this, we can find easier answers to everything else.”

Part of me feels that was just me trying to keep the date going, to make sure something still happened. But the rest of me is sure that ‘doing’ will get us further than simply thinking about it. If things click, problem solved. If not…

Well, there’s always later for them. At least then we’ll know to go in that direction.

“Okay,” Kate answers.

And we do.

Time passes by, interrupted only by the eb and flow of the talk that surrounds us. What had begun as something loud and public eases into something more contained. People leave the café as we stay, leading into a soft evening filled with little noise other than our own

It’s probably cliché. It certainly feels like it.

The staff announce to those of us still inside that they will be closing in five minutes and in the end, the date isn’t cut short by either of us.

I’m not even sure if I can classify meeting Kate at the café as a true enough date anymore, but the time simply spent talking with her over mugs of hot chocolate and pastries?

There’s probably nothing I would have enjoyed more.

Stood outside the entrance to the café – or the exit now, I suppose – there’s a brief lull in activity. Neither of us really move, me with my hands in my hoodie and Kate stood stock still with her little black handbag.

“So…” I begin, hesitantly. “What do you think?”

Kate sucks in her lips slightly, trying in vain to stop a smile from easing onto her lips. She begins to lean over, stops, then goes all the way and pecks her lips against my cheek.

“You’re sweet,” she adds, pulling away. “I had a nice time.”

“Nice enough to have another date?”

Despite the pink on her cheeks and the peck she left on mine, her giddiness falters once more. Her fingers class tighter to her bag but compared to the start of the night, when her nails were twitching and her fingers busy, she resolves herself quickly.

“I think I might like to try another date.” Yes!

I beak out into a cheeky grin, something Kate immediately takes notice of. “But we might need to work on your maturity.”

“I can be mature. Shall I start by walking the lady home?”

Kate frowns down at me “Lady?”

I’m sure I feel my gut rushing right past my ovaries as it hits the floor. “N-no, not lady, you’re not a lady. Like, a royal lady–“

I hear Kate laugh before I see it. One of her hands moved to squeeze my forearm, sliding down further until our arms are linked. “I’m just messing with you, Max.” She bats her eyes at me. “This lady would most like to be shown back to her home. Even if it should be me looking after you.”

“You’re my date, not my babysitter. I’m taking you back home.”

“Do you know even know where I live?”

“Not quite, but you said you walked to work, right?” That’s what I remember her saying, at least. The library wasn’t far from here, so she couldn’t live too far away. Right? “You can tell me where to go and I can keep you safe.”

Despite only being half serious with my claim, Kate pulls me in tighter. Suddenly feeling that having my hands in my hoodie are definitely not the right way to go, I slide my hand down her arm until my fingers meet hers. Once again, her body is slow to react to my touch, unsure on how to proceed. But proceed it does, and soon we’re holding hands.

“You okay?” I ask.

Kate nods, peering over. “I think so.” She squeezes my hand for emphasis. “I can take my hand away, if you want?”

“Yeah, please don’t do that.” I’m good.

“Good.”

It is.

Kate doesn’t say much, exposed in the evening air compared to the warm café. Even as she guides me to her home, I’m not entirely sure what I need to say. Or if I should be saying anything at all. Brief moments of aimless chatter unite us as I follow her lead.

Everything culminates in front of a small apartment building, not much different from those surrounding it. Each is new, freshly painted and free from the wear and tear that would undoubtedly claim them within the next ten years or so. They’re young places, not yet experienced in the ways of being a building but grounded by those that came before.

“See? Nice and safe.”

“My hero,” Kate drones, though she leans in gently and plants a soft kiss to my hairline. My smile grows as blood rushes to my face and there’s nothing more I can do than stand there like a complete dweeb.

The silence once again falls flat, until she quickly adds, “Would you like to come inside,” and swallows. “For some… some coffee?”

This is… flirting, right? You don’t ask someone in for coffee and then offer them actual coffee? Especially after going out for coffee.

Right?

“We just had coffee,” I say. Kate gives me another dubious look. “I mean, I-I think I get what you’re talking about.” I hope so or shit, I’m blowing it big time. “I just mean we don’t have to get into anything you don’t want to. We can just talk and work things out later.”

Evidentially, this does not help the situation any. Kate grasps my hand slightly firmer than I would like and breathes in deeply through her nose.

“Then… I would like you to come inside. F-for coffee.”

Oh my god.

“O-okay,” is all I manage. I’m not even sure if there are any other options, my brain is just that fucked.

Even as she reaches in her purse for her keys, my hands begin to grow sweaty. My head feels itchy and the night has become much warmer than it has any right to be. It isn’t until a click and the pull of a handle leads me back to Kate, looking into her eyes as she beckons me through the front door of her complex.

As with the outside, the inside is young and new with maintained carpets and clean walls. We pass by a set of stairs as Kate leads me to an elevator.

There’s a momentary pause before Kate presses the button, a steely determination bracing her features.

Before I can even question her, the doors open, and we step inside. Kate stands close to me, her fingers briefly reaching for my hands before the seconds tick by and the doors open once again. I didn’t pay attention to how many floors high up we travelled.

I’m guided down a hallway, past identical doors until we apparently hit the one that is most relevant to Kate. Keys still in hand, she unlocks the door and pulls me gently inside. “Come in.”

I oblige.

Above all, her apartment is comfortable. Once we’re through the entrance hallway – and my shoes have been removed – a cosy room greets me, with a plush sofa against one wall and tall brass lamps that flicker on to light it all in a gentle, warming glow.

We passed by other doors that must have led to other places, some that I am more likely to see than others, but for now I’m in the living room and being ushered to sit myself down.

“Would you… Um. Like something to drink?” Kate asks.

Whether she has forgotten she invited me in for ‘coffee’ or not, all I can do is nod and say, “Sure.”

She’s out of the room moments after, no questions as to what drink I want. The living room door eases closed behind her of its own volition and I’m left alone for the first time in several hours.

My fingers itch and drift towards the edge of my pockets.

 

* * * *

 

Brooke picked up her phone.

Kate. “Huh,” was all she mumbled before answering. “Hey, Katie. Everything alright?”

“I’ve got a problem.”

Shit. Okay, shit. That was not at all the best start to any phone-call. The toys and dolls forgotten on the couch, Brooke sat down. “What’s wrong?”

“You can’t laugh.”

“Kate, how long have we known each other. I would never laugh if something was wrong.”

“Please, just… promise me. Or something.”

“I promise,” Brooke replied softly, hoping she was telling the truth. “What’s happening?”

“I had a date today.”

Brooke breathed a pent-up sigh of sheer relief. Of course, Kate would be worried about a date. The ‘why didn’t you fucking tell me you got a date’ speech could come later, but still. “That’s-”

“I brought her home.”

Oh, fu-

“I offered her sexy coffee and now she’s sat in my living room.”

Brooke had many problems in her life, not including her children and her job and occasionally her doting husband but this made all of them both worthwhile and completely irrelevant.

There would be a lot to unravel over the next few days.

Okay, chill. Brooke was chilled. “Okay. Okay, Katie I have a lot of questions.”

“I don’t have time for questions!” Kate hissed, followed by a short pause. “I need advice. What do I do?”

Brooke could think of a few things, but Kate very likely did not mean it like that.

… Or maybe she did?

“I need to know something to help!” Brooke replied. Shit, Kate had a woman in her apartment that Brooke had yet to hear of – when the fuck was Kate out as gay? – and the sudden weight of the situation fell on her. “First, don’t panic. You’re lovely and she’s clearly interested.” She needed to offer sage, bisexual wisdom. “Give me some quick generics. What does she do, what does she like? Where did you meet?”

Kate’s reply comes quickly but stilted. “Uh, s-she’s in university for photography and I met her at the library.”

University? “How old is she?”

“Early twenties.”

Jesus Christ. “Early twenties?” Brooke asked, impressed.

Her pride clearly didn’t shine through all the way to Kate. Her response chose to answer another question. “T-twenty-two.” Oh my God. “But she’s really lovely and she thinks I’m sweet and I’m still working everything out.”

Brooke just about registered the soft sound of a door closing to her right as Warren slumped down on the couch next to her. “Right, that’s Lillie in bed. Had to read Spider-Man twice but-“

Holding her hand over her phone, Brooke whispered, “Kate’s a fucking cradle snatcher!” to her husband.

That had not been Warren’s expected response. His tired mind took several moments to comprehend the words. “What are you talking about?”

“Kate brought… someone back to her apartment. For coffee. They’re twenty-two and at university and she brought them home.”

“Isn’t Kate older than you?”

Yes.

“Fuck, does he sound nice? Kate needs someone nice.” Then he paused, and Brooke knew where she’d screwed up. “Wait, you said someone. She brought a girl?”

Fuck. “Shut up!”

“I didn’t know Kate was gay.”

“I still don’t know what she is!” Brooke hissed. Realisation hitting her that precious seconds were ticking by, she brought the phone back up to her ear. “Kate you still there?”

“Were you talking to Warren?”

“No, I was just –”

“Brooke!”

“I’m really sorry, he just came downstairs! But now he can help too! Right?” She looked to Warren and he worriedly shrugged at her. Typical. “He said he’s happy to help.”

“Can one of you give me advice then?”

Warren chimed in, . “Just be yourself.”

Kate huffed. “I’m a nervous thirty-four-year-old virgin with a girl in my living room! That’s not useful, Warren.”

“But you said she thought you were sweet,” Brooke added. “If she thinks you’re cute then she won’t care. Have some wine, or something. Relax on the couch, talk to her for a few minutes. Shit, say what you just told us. Just don’t panic.”

There was no response for a moment. Brooke thought back to Warren’s previous question. “Does she seem nice.”

“Yes, very.”

“And you just met at the library. She ask you out?”

“Yeah.”

“Then she’s already into you. She’s probably more worried and inexperienced than you are.”

“I’m not even sure that’s possible.”

“Stop doubting yourself over this. A girl asked you out and then said yes when invited into your apartment. If she’s only in it for the sex then she’s not worth all the hassle anyway.” She looked to Warren who gave her a thumbs up. “Talk to her. Have a glass or two of wine. Just ease yourself into this. You don’t need to fuck her.”

“I-I… yeah. Yeah, you’re right.”

“That isn’t an excuse not to try, Kate. If you want her you get a set of balls and get through there.”

“I know. I know, I’ll try.”

“You’ll try what?”

“I’m g-going to try and get closer with her.”

“Great. I’m hanging up now.”

“Wait, what if she–?”

Brooke hung up her phone, letting another huge sigh loose from her chest. She let her head fall into Warren’s shoulders, breathing in the moment as the quiet stretched on. If Kate’s final question was truly important then she would phone back.

“That was weird,” Warren eventually said. “Think she’ll follow through?”

“No idea. But it might get her laid sooner or later. If tonight goes well.”

“You’ve got sex on the brain right now,” he laughed.

Brooke let one hand interlock with Warren’s fingers, teasing her thumb into his palm. Her other hand rested atop her pregnant belly. “You complaining?”

“Not at all,” he replied, pulling in for a simple kiss that ended all too quickly.

Another second ticked by in comfortable silence.

“Wanna fuck me in the kitchen?” Brooke asked.

“Sure.”

 

* * * *

 

I pull out my phone, finding Chloe’s number.

“Dude I think I’m getting laid.”

You can take out your phone when alone in someone’s home, right? This wouldn’t be weird to walk into. Seeing your date frantically texting her best friend for help, panicking herself into a blank oblivion.

But before I can write ‘please help I don’t know what to do’ I get a reply.

“I thought we weren’t to gloat about getting puss!”

“I wasn’t finished typing! I was going to ask if I should keep going? She wasn’t even sure we were on a date and I don’t want to push her.”

“She’s old enough to be your teenage mom dude”

“I still don’t wanna make her think she has to fuck me.”

“Then tell her. Tell her what’s what and then let her decide after. If you do get laid tho...”

“Don’t.”

“Just remember.”

“Don’t.”

“Flicking bean doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

“It’s been almost ten years.”

“Don’t literally flick the bean.”

“Please stop.”

“That shit is going to hurt and you’re lucky to be seeing the bean. Praise the bean.”

“You’re not going to let me live that down are you?”

“Never. I’m telling my grandkids.”

“You don’t even have kids yet.”

“I set high standards for my future children. I require grandchildren for this. I need to make sure this lives on for longer than us.”

“I hate you so much.”

“Love you too maxipad. Get off your phone!” A new message. “Get to it!”

Left to my own devices, it isn’t long before Kate returns. Not with coffee, strangely enough. Instead, she’s got a bottle of wine in one hand and two glass in the others. The blush from before remains, and if I didn’t know better I’d assume she was already a bit tipsy.

When she speaks those fears are evidentially unfounded. “I-I don’t know if you like wine or are old enough to like wine but I have some wine.”

That gets a chuckle out of me. “I can see that.”

Kate swallows. “And I don’t know what I’m doing but maybe it will be nice if we can sit down and have some together?” She clutches the bottle to her chest. “Like how you treated me for the coffee.”

I’m honestly not the biggest fan of wine. You can put it in front of me at a restaurant and I’ll dive right into the experience but knowing Chloe since I was a kid has really helped broaden my alcoholic horizons.

I say yes to the wine.

I didn’t consider Kate to be a drinker, from what little time I’ve spent with her at the library. I’m not sure I could have pictured it a few days ago. Though, if you’d asked me to pick one drink that matched her personality, it might as well have been wine. It’s reserved, brought out on only special occasions.

Well, for the most part.

Kate pours my glass first, filling it as full as I assume is socially appropriate for a glass of wine – just under halfway seems to be her aim – before she pours one for herself. Kate is less hesitant about her own amount, dropping in a touch more after she seems finished.

She sits down next to me. “Cheers,” she says.

“Uh, cheers,” I reply, clinking my glass with hers.

Tipping my glass back, I take a sip. It’s bitter, seemingly no different from any wine I’ve had in the past. Hopefully my distaste doesn’t show.

Kate clearly doesn’t mind the taste, easily drinking half of her own. She releases an unsteady sigh as she sits there, looking into the glass.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t think all of this through.”

“The ‘bringing me home’ thing?”

“Yeah…”

I guessed. Honestly, I’m a little glad. “Listen, we don’t need to do anything.”

There’s a glint in her eye. “What were you expecting?”

“W-well, you said coffee and coffee usually means – u-uh…” I almost say sex but the word suddenly feels insulting. “I thought you meant we were going to s-sleep together.” Sleeping together is the same thing! Jesus, Maxine. “Or something.”

Kate’s laughing again. “I’m teasing! Just teasing.” She takes a deep breath. “I know what I meant.” She finishes the rest of her wine and pours herself another half glass.

I stare down at my own glass, the wine all but untouched. I decide to change that. It’s on my second mouthful that the flavour gets a little bit too much and I decide that smaller mouthfuls in quick succession will benefit me better in the long run.

“I don’t think I’m going to get there tonight, though,” Kate says next, something obscure over her features. Guilt or sadness or frustration perhaps, I’m not sure. But something related to them. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have tried to push through… this. Whatever it is. I’ve not dated in a while.”

You haven’t dated a woman ever. Not the easiest thing to push through.

“That’s okay. I was a little surprised you asked me here, you know? Nothing to be sorry about.”

“I suppose. I’ve just –” She looks into her glass again, eyes flicking towards me. “I’ve n-ever gotten this far.”

“Far into… what?”

More blush. Words struggle to leave her lips, even as she tilts her head this way and that to entice. “Having someone in my apartment. Willing.” She rolls her eyes, sipping at more of her wine. “I’m a virgin.”

Oh.

“Oh,” is all that I manage. It’s all I can think.

Kate offers a half-hearted smile. “Again, didn’t think this all the way through.”

That’s not the sort of smile I like to see on her face. It’s not warm, or soft. It’s… pale. Something that had potential once or has yet to achieve it. Its disappointment given form and I know full well it’s aimed directly at herself.

“I mean, it wouldn’t matter anyway, right?” I ask. “I’m not a guy. You’d be starting from scratch anyway.”

The idea clearly enters her mind, though I’m not sure it helped nearly as much as I wanted it to. “Maybe.” Something seems to click, though. her eyes focus. “No. No, you’re right. I could start from scratch. I invited you here. I haven’t done that before. I could try other new things. Newish things.

I’m about to ask what she means when she locks eyes with mine. “I haven’t done much kissing...” Kate begins. “Can I kiss you?”

The change in attitude catches me off-guard. “You want to kiss?”

“Y-yes. If you want to?” And there’s her attitude settled again.

I mean, sure. I most definitely do want to kiss.

“Have you kissed anyone before?”

Kate almost looks offended. Her brow furrows just that little bit over her eyes and her cheeks puff out. “I have kissed people. Two boys.”

“What kind of kisses?”

Cheeks deflating. Brow furrowing… more. Red peppers her cheeks as the defiance tuns to disappointment. “Just… normal kissing. Nothing special.”

‘Nothing special’ breaks my heart a little.  “No tongue?”

“N-no tongue.”

My mouth is suddenly dry and a weight lowers itself onto my shoulders. I’m not exactly experienced with kissing either. At least, I wouldn’t quite mark my previous relationships as anything close to intense. I’ve never considered myself to be the more experienced one in any case.

It’s an absurd feeling to know that I am top of the proverbial food chain right now.

“But it would be nice to try.” Kate’s fingers dance over my hand, holding at my skin tentatively. “If… if that’s okay?”

“I don’t mind helping with that.”

“Are you sure?”

Hmm, let me think.

Do I want to make-out with the thirty-four-year-old that I’ve had a crush on for several months?

Who has no experience in making-out?

Who really wants to make sure I’m okay with everything that is going on?

Who is the kindest woman I have ever met? With the warmest cheeks I’ve ever seen when someone lets me close enough to see them blush as she has tonight?

Yes.

Yes, I do.

“I’m pretty sure.”

“Okay,” Kate says, looking at me expectantly.

That weight is back, the one that tells me I have to be the responsible one in this make-out session. I need to show Kate the ropes.

I want to show her a good time.

… I need to show her a good time. There is no way in hell that she deserves anything less than a fucking good time.

She so deserves better than those two boys who barely kissed her. I don’t even need to know the context; they both had someone utterly adorable that they missed their chance. Now it’s Maxine’s time to shine.

Her breathing is already deeper, thick with apprehension.

I thumb her fingers as they roll over my palm and pull her hands towards me. “No worrying, okay?. Just go with the flow.”

“What if I mess up?”

I smile at her. “There's not much to mess up. It’s fine.”

“What if I use… y’know…  too much tongue? Or something.”

You can you as much of your tongue as you want. “Do whatever you want to do. If you like more tongue then that’s your business, no one else’s. If there is too much of anything, we can change it up. That goes for you as well.”

Despite my reassurances, Kate’s insecurity doesn’t shift. If anything, it lingers, filling the spaces under her eyes and adding weight to her features. Speaking about all of this is one thing but getting into the action is something harder for her, it seems.

“It’s weird though, isn’t it? For me to be this old and not know how to do any of this.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a late bloomer, Kate. I don’t care in the slightest.”

“I shouldn’t have to ask you to take the lead.”

“I don’t have to take the lead,” I say. Part of me can’t get rid of the idea of letting Kate take full control. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Let the older woman show you how it’s done? “You could.” That could still be arranged, with some minor alterations.

“I don’t know what I’m doing!”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t be assertive.”

“I suppose...”

Kate really needs a confidence boost. Screw those two boys.

I pull her hands up and over my hand. I twist her fingers together so that her grip settles on the nape of my neck. I pull at her hips and nudge her closer to me. To my surprise, she takes this as something else and lifts herself over my lap, her knees at either side of my hips.

I’m smiling. I’m smiling so fucking hard and I’m warm and this is amazing. But I keep it together, if only so Kate doesn’t explode. Or make me explode first.

“Go for it.”

After a quick breath, she does. What begins as a rough meshing of our mouths develops into something softer as Kate pulls me in, wrapping her arms around me of her own accord. Her breath tickles my lips and her nerves continue to flare with each passing moment of continued contact.

Warm. That’s all I can think as she settles into me. Shaking at first, her movements tentative despite how forced they are. Every second is sudden to get it over with but enjoyed while it lasts. Her body settles into my, her behind resting comfortably in my lap.

I part my lips ever so slightly, if only to invite. To let her know she’s welcome. I feel Kate sigh as she joins me, her tongue easing past my teeth. Never fighting against mine or attempt to overpowering anything. Its shy and explorative, despite all her worries from before. Her movements slow as my tongue meets hers, comfortable to follow where it is led.

I don’t know how many minutes have gone by before either of us make a sound other than breathing. Apparently, it was me.

She briefly pulls back. “Are you okay?”

“Hmm?” I reply, eloquently. “Yeah, I’m good.”

“You got a bit loud,” she states, eyes staring vacantly into my face. “Should I keep going?”

“Please.”

“B-because I don’t want you to feel like I’m pressuring you or-”

I pull at her hips again, shifting myself further under her and pulling Kate closer than she was before. My hands may have slipped a little closer to her butt than I intended but the rouge at her cheeks implies I got the message across.

If I do get any louder, Kate doesn’t make comment, only apologising when she realises that she herself gets too carried away. Our time at the café seems wholly unimportant compared to this moment, for as long as it lasts. I’ve never had ‘make-out sessions’ that were just that, spending so much time in contact with another human being who wanted to be in contact with you. From what she’s said tonight, Kate hasn’t either.

The misgivings she may have had about seeing a woman seem laughable as we kiss in her apartment, her straddling me in a warming embrace. Or maybe straddling is the wrong word. Straddling implies something sexy, something where someone else is in charge.

We’re just happy being here, with each other.

I’m certainly comfortably sitting beneath her.

The kissing evolves into touching, but never moves past it. Kate’s fingers spin themselves wildly through my hair as I play with the tight skin of her lower back. Max Caulfield does not get kinky on a first date. And Kate seems enamoured with it.

But moments don’t last forever.

Kate eventually pulls away properly, her lipstick smeared inelegantly around the edges of her lips. She thumbs my check, planting a final peck on my lips. “I have work tomorrow.”

Then another peck, slightly longer. My head follows her lips as she pulls away.

“I have an early class. Probably shouldn’t skip.”

“No,” Kate says with a smile. Her head inches forwards, stopping. Then starting again, planting what is definitely a final kiss before she shifts herself up from my lap.

There’s a beaming grin on her face as she pulls her hands through her hair, attempting fruitlessly to undo the messy curls I may or may not have given her. She then does the same for her clothes before looking at me again. “That was… lovely.”

“Lovely is a good word for it,” I laugh.

Kate settles into a silence after that. Her smiles fades for the briefest moment. “This is probably really silly of me to ask, considering you asked me out in the first place. But would like to do this again?” Her eyes widen. “I mean meeting up! Not just kissing.”

“But you did enjoy the kissing?”

The smile returns. “I did enjoy the kissing. But it would also be nice to have a proper date, not just coffee, you know?”

I do indeed. “I’d like that too.”

We exchange numbers and hugs and all the things people do when they part after kissing for the first time. I’m outside and on my way home, back to my own apartment and the grilling I’ll get from Chloe the moment she hears my key make contact with the door.

But I’m not sure I even care.

If nothing else, I got to kiss Kate Marsh. I got to kiss her for a really fucking long time and I gave the her the promise of kissing again. We both did.

That’s worth anything Chloe could throw at me.