Rose and her girlfriend had quite… different approaches to classical music.
For Rose, it was a memory. She had played clarinet for basically all her life, but more to honour her late father’s memory than because she was particularly keen on playing classical music. It was fun to play, though, mostly because the orchestra she played in was fun. Personally she preferred listening to some good ol’ rock n’ roll.
Alisha, however, had not only grown up playing classical music, she had also grown up with the mindset that enjoying classical music was something a young lady of her status should do, and luckily for her, it went pretty well. She had started out learning violin as a little child and soon enough switched to the viola, which she still played in the orchestra.
Maybe it had something to do with Alisha generally being the elegant one, the feminine one. The proper one. Nobody had been surprised when Rose came out as lesbian the second she had hit puberty, really. She used to hang out with the other boys in daycare rather than with the girls, and proceeded to mostly make male friends at school, too. She had grown used to worn out leather jackets and boots with soles falling off long before she ever put on a frilly, silky dress for her first performance with the orchestra. (Oh, she liked her performance outfits. She did admit that dresses felt nicely airy, soft, and light on her skin, and she loved feeling pretty. But she used to think that Alisha wore them better.) She wouldn’t play with dolls and stuffed animals, she would play with race cars and LEGO robots.
So yes, maybe it was just fitting that Alisha always was the ladylike one.
All of this missed out on the point that Alisha also was absolutely shredded under those layers of lace and brocade and satin and whatever her maid stuffed her in for freaking public high school, and her middle name was chivalry. The first time they had gone swimming together Rose’s heart had almost stopped, because darn those abs and arms. And she just had to be so charming and polite and such a gentle…woman.
Rose also still remembered the day when she had tripped and hurt her ankle during a PE lesson, and Alisha had proceeded to bridal carry her from class to class that day. She had also bridal carried her to the bus station. Naturally, she had been completely unperturbed at the end of the day, and downright delighted to have been able to do Rose a favour. She had kissed the back of Rose’s darn hand before she let herself be chauffeured home that day.
Sometimes Rose wondered which historical romance novel her girlfriend had gotten her relationship ideas from, and more importantly, how she ever managed to date that girlfriend, and how she survived being smothered by that girlfriend on a daily basis.
Rose didn’t mind that her girlfriend was a hopeless romantic, no. However, she remembered every time she had just sent Alisha another silly meme on their messenger app, and regretted her whole life after.
Rose found herself in a very peculiar situation that she wasn’t used to having to deal with: she needed advice. More specifically, relationship advice. And she had no idea who to turn to.
Her parents were long gone. Her legal guardian, Brad, was usually easy to talk to, but she felt he and his motorbike riding, leather boots wearing, cheap beer in sleazy bars drinking rock band fellows weren’t quite the right people to give a girl advice how to properly show affection for her rich, beautiful, and noble-mannered girlfriend.
There was Dezel, but Rose could have sworn despite having a few years on her, he did not have any relationship experience to speak of. His latest love was a little orphan, limping but still as fast as lightning when running, loved ball games, and was a Labrador puppy named Jimmy. (And maybe his Jazz band.)
Edna’s views and opinions on romance were similar to those of a cat (you were expected to give her offerings and devotion, minus the leaving dead mice at your doorstep thing). Romance between two vaguely human beings wasn’t anything she indulged in or enjoyed even thinking about, so Rose didn’t expect much of asking her for relationship advice.
Lailah was generally an old-fashioned, romantic soul, but prone to prying, and likely to get her way because she pried very sweetly. Rose wasn’t sure she really wanted to have her music teacher and backup conductor in the orchestra prying into her and Alisha’s relationship. More importantly, Rose could have sworn she lost a brain cell during every one on one interaction with Lailah.
Maybe she should just leave the chivalry to people who did it well. Wait, there was a thought…
Which was how she found herself in a tiny café in Marlind, sipping coffee out of a golden cup and looking expectantly up at Sorey while shoving a cup of hot chocolate in his direction.
“Okay buddy, can I ask you a favour?”
“I need you to teach me how to be disgustingly, unapologetically romantic.”
Sorey blinked at her. “Okay? Why would you think I could do that?”
“Since you upgraded your relationship with Mikleo, you two are even more unbearable than before. I swear I get the cavities from watching you two making heart eyes at each other. You’re lucky I like you two so much and have made a lot of money off bets on your general and sex life, otherwise I would have taken action to end either your or my own life already.”
“We didn’t upgrade anything. We’re still best friends. We don’t suddenly stop just because we’ve kissed.”
“Sorey, you two are boyfriends now. Do you see me running around and calling Alisha my best friend when I kiss her neck?”
“No, but I wouldn’t say anything if you did.”
“Alright, I give up. Back to topic. Teach me.”
Sorey looked slightly uncomfortable. Maybe it had something to do with Rose practically climbing over the table to loom over him menacingly. If possible, he’d probably hide in his hot chocolate.
“You know, as far as I can see, Alisha has no problem with you being “less romantic” than her, so maybe you’re just overthinking it?”, he tried to soothe her.
Rose fell back into her chair looking genuinely disappointed. “…I should have asked Lailah.”
“Rose, I’m serious. If Alisha had a problem, she’d tell you. Wanna bet?”
Rose stared at him, long and narrow. “For real tho, what’s the first thing you do if you wanted to spend some quality time with Mikleo?”
“Do what you both enjoy. Play a duet with her.”
“There’s duets for clarinet and viola?”
“…You could write one?”
Rose gave up with a sigh. But she did keep thinking about it while she chewed on a spoon.
Maybe a good old fashioned surprise visit would have to do for now.
Rose didn’t turn up at Alisha’s house unannounced very often, but it did happen. Alisha wasn’t allowed to leave without her parents’ or at least her home tutor’s consent, anyway, so whenever Alisha wasn’t with Rose, she was bound to be at home. It was usually a safe bet. And on Fridays she had viola lessons, anyway.
The old, fancy house with the lavish front garden and the fountain would have intimidated some people, and the long way from Brad’s place to the estate at the outskirts of Ladylake would have stopped some people from spontaneous visits. But if anything Rose was determined and did not fear any gods or rich old nobles. A few years from now she’d surpass their wealth. (Somehow.)
As Rose stepped closer to the front door she heard the tell-tale sounds of Alisha’s viola bow gliding over the strings, from time to time interrupted by some muffled words. She smiled and rang the doorbell.
Nobody opened. So she tried again. And again, more insistently and longer, until the sound of the old-fashioned, heavy real bronze bell threatened to deafen her own ears. Rose looked around the house and concentrated on the sounds. All she could hear was the viola. If anything else was happening in the house right now, the viola drowned them out. Well. Supposedly even the Diphda’s personnel had one or the other Friday evening off. Still, was it so much to ask for somebody in the house to open the door when the bell rang…?
Rose shot a long (and longing) look up to Alisha’s bedroom window. Alisha’s viola playing as well as her tutor Maltran’s deep, stern voice still rang out of the building. Rose mustered some courage and took a deep breath. Unannounced or not, she wasn't just going to give up and go home now. Alisha’s room was on the upper floor, but located above the winter garden, so maybe if Rose just climbed on the roof…
The plan sounded good enough in Rose’s head to give it a try. The garden’s roof wasn’t high and there was bound to be a ladder somewhere. She found it easily enough – when your estate was this big and far away from the city centre, you didn’t bother to hide everything away.
Still, even standing on the roof (and concentrating on not slipping), Rose had to get on her tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the room, and it wasn’t a good one. All she managed was getting a glimpse of Maltran’s ridiculously gelled, crimson red hair, and the sound of her booming voice. Alisha had stopped playing for the moment, which left Rose feeling suddenly empty and exposed. She stretched out her neck to rest her nose on the window sill and listened to Maltran’s rant about Alisha’s discipline. It made Rose a bit jealous, because she couldn’t see Alisha.
She craned her neck up a bit more, made a little jump, and ended up halfway draped over the window sill and hanging over the frame like some piece of wet cloth left to dry. She blinked, once, twice, and realized that both Alisha and Maltran had stopped talking and were now looking at her with looks of polite confusion on their faces.
“Uhm. Nobody opened the door when I rang,” Rose explained. Alisha snickered, then turned to Maltran.
“Maltran, would you please let my guest in through the front door?” Alisha asked with a smile.
Maltran considered Rose for a hot second that felt like ages, and Rose felt her hands slipping from the window sill. “Of course,” Maltran finally offered and Rose let out a sigh of relief.
Luckily, it turned out Maltran had been about to dismiss Alisha for the day, anyway, and Alisha’s parents had left over the weekend, so they were blissfully unperturbed. They laughed, they talked, Alisha tried to get Rose hooked up with another book, they made some music. At their own pace, without anyone watching their every steps (and every note).
Rose’s eyes darted back and forth between Alisha’s fingers delicately but firmly holding the viola bow and moving it in gentle strokes back and forth over the strings, and her left dancing over those strings. Alisha didn’t look tense at all, but Rose knew how much strength and dexterity it took to hold an instrument in such an uncomfortable position and play it, too. Whoever invented string instruments must have been a masochist. And yet Alisha looked comfortable, blissful even, listening only to herself and the clock ticking.
…dang, this was dangerous.
Rose would think, if she wasn’t already dating Alisha despite all odds. She couldn’t help but wonder when the day would come when Alisha’s parents (or Maltran) would rip her head off for allowing herself to be seduced by Alisha’s soft, blond tresses coming loose from her tie and falling down one shoulder in gentle curls.
…And honestly, those fingers. Damn. Rose was lucky nobody could hear her thoughts because Alisha’s parents would surely throw her out just for the silent intrusive thought swears.
Alisha’s voice threw her out of her reverie.
“Rose, I’ve been thinking for a while.”
Rose let the clarinet flop on Alisha’s bed and made herself comfortable sitting backwards on a chair and leaning on its back. “Please do think aloud.”
“You adjust to so much for me. It’s always you coming over, it’s you spending time alone with me although you have so many other friends, getting new clothes to please my parents, and here there’s me… still the rich, spoiled girl you met me as. And I don’t even open the door when you’re ringing.”
“Er, it’s okay. I should have texted you instead. And I guess your fancy house is objectively preferable to my sleazy place, and equally sleazy bars. And I do see my other friends aplenty, but I didn’t start dating you to share you with anyone.”
Alisha buried her fists in her skirt. “That’s not the point. I just don’t want to feel like you put more effort into our relationship than I do.”
Rose felt her face fall. A river of memories flooded her thoughts, and in none of them was Alisha the one putting less effort into their relationship. Alisha was the one who always held the doors open for Rose. Alisha was the one who had forgiven her for the snails in her bag back at primary school and wanted to be friends, anyway. Alisha was the one who spent hours and hours helping Rose practicing on the clarinet because she always skipped practice when alone, although Alisha had absolutely no idea how on earth to play a woodwind. Alisha was the one who dealt with Dezel’s suspicious glares. (Dezel was a good guy, really. Rose knew that. Alisha knew that, too. Still, the girls had known each other for about a decade now, maybe he could finally stop silently judging his most precious’ person’s girlfriend like an overprotective dad.)
“…I feel so friggin’ guilty now, babe.”
Alisha looked up. “Guilty? It’s fine. Neither the window nor the garden’s roof took any damage.”
Rose stared at her, so Alisha continued talking. “It must have been horrible for you that I never came over! I would love to see your “sleazy place“! I’m sure it’s not even that sleazy if you live in the same house as Dezel. I could meet the other people from his band! From Brad’s band! Show them I’m not just some spoiled girl stealing away a person they care for! Listen to your rock music with you! Just be… part fo your life.“
Rose dropped down lower on the chair, her arms still crossed over its back, and her eyes following every move of Alisha’s lips.
“Hey, Alisha? How about we move in together once we graduate high school? I mean, your family might be crazy rich, but they never really cared for what you did anyway. And noble status is kinda. You know. Second to last century? I mean to say, nobody really cares anymore that the Diphdas were some kind of royalty who knows back when, no offense. So we could live like. Normal people? In a normal apartment somewhere? Maybe not a sleazy one, though. I do not actually recommend those.”
Alisha smiled and Rose felt like the sun had just burst through thick, grey clouds on a cold winter day. “I would love that!”
“There’s only one problem,” Rose said with a hand on her chin and her forehead furrowed in thought. “Neither of us can cook. We will have to starve. Or invite Dezel over every other day.”
Alisha giggled and Rose felt her heart jump out of her chest.
“But that sounds lovely.”