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Second Chance

Chapter Text

The outside of the building looked so ordinary. Just brown bricks, a few windows with a cat sitting in one of them. In every aspect it looked just like any other building in the street, but it was what went on on the inside that made it interesting.

The apartment’s dark secrets was what had brought Charlotte here, and she was preparing to face them. Once she went in there, there would be no way back. The future of several lives would be changed. Some for the better, and some for the worse, and Charlotte wasn’t sure yet what category she belonged to. This whole thing might as well be the end of her life, and there was only one way to find out.

The woman took a deep breath before looking into the rear mirror of her car one last time. The nose piercing that had once belonged to her past was back in place. Her red hair fell down her shoulders and over the black leather jacket. It was a look that had made her feel confident in the past, and she hoped some of that confidence was still there.

Without looking back Charlotte stepped out of her car and opened the back door. The instrument bag was still in exactly the same spot as Marco had put it, and she barely dared touching it. He would probably kill her if something happened to his beloved guitar, but she had no choice. This instrument was her ticket into the building.

The bag felt heavier in her hands than she’d thought. Adjusting her grip a few times, she walked towards the building and tried ignoring the racing of her heart. With every step she took, she walked away from what she knew and into a place filled with darkness and secrets. She felt nervous, almost naked and vulnerable, when she stood in front of the building. She probably was crazy, but Charlotte believed in this. She’d worked too hard for this to walk away now.

With her heart still racing in her chest, Charlotte let her eyes travel over the names that were taped next to the doorbells. She recognized them all, and she knew more about these people than she wished for. And yet, there was only one name that mattered. An innocent name of a just as innocent person, who had no idea that their life would be turned upside down soon. And they would bring Charlotte closer to what she truly wanted.

The metal of the doorbell felt cold underneath Charlotte’s finger when she rang it. No sound followed. Maybe this was the universe giving her a way out, one last chance to change her mind and turn her back. What she was about to do was insane after all, she was very aware of that. But Charlotte stayed.

Footsteps sounded a minute after she’d rang the bell and Charlotte was barely aware of how she straightened her back. This was it. This was the point of no return.

The door opened, and so did a whole new world of secrets and lies.

---------

“Die, sucker!”

It was by far not the first curse that sounded through the apartment that afternoon, and neither would it be the last. The speakers in the corner were blasting music that balanced on the edge of rock and metal. The television screamed as the people on the screen were mercilessly killed, but Merel's voice still managed to overpower it all.

The girl herself might be young and small, but her passion for videogames was anything but. And her passion for music was even bigger, or at least, it once had been. Ever since she’d moved into the apartment, the games had been more effective in taking away her rage. Her guitar stood in the corner of her bedroom, collecting dust and only touched a few times a week.

The videogames gave more satisfaction. She could kill people without consequences, shout from the top of her lungs without regretting it, and punch the buttons until blisters formed on her hands. She could release her anger and frustration without hurting anyone, and that was exactly what Merel needed. It had been going on for a few months now, and no one knew how much longer it would last.

“And a good afternoon to you as well.”

There was no need for Merel to look up when the voice sounded. Only one other person had a key to the apartment, and the scent of smoke betrayed that it was indeed Floor that was walking past her.

Merel didn’t answer, she never did and there was no need to. Floor and her were roommates, and that was it. They weren’t even friends and both of them seemed fine with that. The talking was kept to a minimum, no small talk at all, and they didn’t care about each other’s private life. Those had been a few of Floor’s strange conditions when Merel answered to the even stranger advertisement, and it had been exactly what Merel had been looking for. A roommate that would leave her alone and accepted her cat, that was all Merel wanted. And Floor turned out to be just that.

“I’ll be in the shower, you take care of the messages.”

“Yeah.” Merel answered, still not looking up from the screen.

Taking care of the messages, as Floor called them, had been another one of the conditions. It wasn’t much. Just opening the door when the bell rang and handing over the prepared packages. And most of all, never talking about it. Merel didn’t know what was in the packages. She had her theories, but none of them had ever been confirmed. Whatever business Floor was running, she wanted to know as little as possible about it.

A sudden disturbance in her view pulled Merel from her thoughts. She could no longer see the screen  where her enemies were out to kill her, all she saw was a ball of orange fur sitting in front of the tv. He was cute, and Merel loved her cat more than any other soul in the world, but she loved winning her game even more.

“Vincent!”

The cat didn’t care. He just moved his tail while staring at his owner, patiently waiting for the attention he deserved. Merel sighed. She couldn’t deny Vincent anything, and she knew the only way to make him move was to pet him. Carefully she tossed her remote on the couch and stood to pick up her cat, who started purring right away.

“You are a selfish pain in the ass.” Merel mumbled while rolling her eyes.

Vincent didn’t care. He just snuggled up in his owner's arms, and in the end Merel gave in as well. He was so much more than a cat. He had been by her side when no one else was, and she knew he always would be. She’d had Vincent since he was a selfish kitten, and she would take care of him until he was a selfish old cat. Merel would do anything for him, even sharing an apartment with someone who was most likely a criminal.

Chapter Text

The clock seemed to be moving in slow motion. Every second felt like a minute, her headache slowly grew as Merel’s blood made her way to her head, and the music barely reached her anymore. She was bored, so bored, but smiled when she saw her colleague walking towards her, upside down.

‘You look like a tomato.’ Otto frowned when he saw Merel hanging upside down on her chair.

The girl sat up again and looked at her friend while leaning against the back of the chair. She instantly felt better, but was still bored as hell. All she wanted to do was go home to Vincent and be away from humanity. Maybe shoot some virtual soldiers to get rid of her anger.

‘4 customers,’ Merel said ‘there have been 4 customers in the last hour.’

‘It’s a slow day, I know. Just think about the money and you’ll survive. Maybe we can go out for a beer when we’re done.’

Merel’s face lit up for a second. Otto was her best friend and it was great to spend time with him, especially outside of work. They both had a passion for music, they both worked the local music store after all, and could talk about it for hours. Their humor matched, their interests matched, and they both loved beer. At any given day, Merel would have accepted the offer, but today she had to decline.

‘I can’t.’ She sighed. ‘I have a new student this evening.’

‘Good, you’re meeting new people.’

Merel looked at Otto with a stern eye. She knew what direction this conversation was heading to, and she definitely didn’t like it. The main reason she worked here was to get away from the person Otto wanted to talk about, and Merel wasn’t having it.

‘Don’t.’

‘What?’ Otto smiled. ‘I’m just saying it’s great that you’re meeting new people.’

‘I do not want to talk about Alissa.’

‘You don’t have to, but you have to get out of your apartment more. Meet new people, make friends, stop being afraid of children. I know Alissa lied to you and betrayed you, but not everyone is like that. You can’t let her control your life.’

The door of the store opened before Merel could answer. She was glad that their conversation was interrupted, but even happier when she looked at the clock again. Her shift would be over in less than half an hour.

Unfortunately the costumer only spent a minute in the store before deciding she wouldn’t find what she was looking for. With a sigh Merel looked at the clock again, counting the minutes until the end of her shift. As soon as the bells of the nearby church started ringing, the girl almost ran towards the back to grab her bag and leave the store as quickly as possible.

Merel’s pace was slightly higher than usual, just to get home that bit earlier. It wasn’t for her new guitar student, the student wouldn’t arrive for another 15 minutes, but Merel couldn’t wait to bury her face in Vincent’s soft fur. Otto’s mention of Alissa had tied a knot in her chest, but she was determined to not let it get any tighter. The blue haired girl was no longer allowed to have that effect on her. Merel needed distraction, preferably in the fluffy form of her cat.

Already thinking about Vincent’s purring, Merel climbed the stairs to the second floor. The scent of smoke already filled the hallway. It was no surprise to find a tall, platinum blond woman in front of her door, nor was it unusual. Floor’s people came by at the most impossible hours of the day.

‘Finally!’ The woman let out as soon as she saw Merel, taking another sig from her cigarette. ‘I’ve been waiting here for at least five minutes! I need my stuff!’

Merel just ignore most of the what the woman said. These people lived in their own world, and there was no use in discussing with them. It was better to just give them what they wanted and stay out of their way.

‘What’s your name?’ Merel asked while opening the door.

‘Lilly. Now can you please hurry up?’

Once again, Merel ignored the last part. She took her time to open the door and take off her coat before walking over to the sideboard next to the door. Several plastic packages where displayed, each provided with a name. Merel easily found the right package and handed it to the woman. She closed the door again without waiting for a “Thank you”. There wouldn’t be one anyway.

As if he had been waiting for the door to be closed, Vincent made his presence known by rubbing up to Merel’s leg. A smile appeared on her lips and she kneeled down to pet him. His purring sounded immediately, making his owner smile even more. Vincent made her happy, happier than any human being ever would. He could be an asshole from time to time, but at least he would never betray her trust.

The sound of the bell made both of them look up. A glance at the clock told Merel it would either be her student, who would be early, or just another one of Floor’s people. Hoping for that first option, she made her way downstairs to the entrance of the building. She’d decided it was easier to meet her new students downstairs and guide them towards the right door rather than giving them instructions. It wouldn’t be the first time one of them got lost and accidentally knocked on the door of their neighbour. Usually it wouldn’t be a problem, but since the man living next door liked to walk around in his underwear, Merel preferred keeping her students away from her neighbour.

Trying to ban her neighbour from her mind, Merel opened the door and smiled when she took in the young woman standing in front of her. Red hair, leather jacket, nose piercing, nervous smile, and a guitar bag in her hand. This was definitely her new student, and she was beautiful.

‘Hi, I’m Charlotte. I’m your new student.’

Chapter Text

Charlotte was unlike any student Merel had ever had before. Or even unlike any human she’d ever met. There was a certain kind of awareness around her, as if she very focused on her goal. It wasn’t just the instrument in her hands, it went far beyond that. Charlotte seemed to have determined what her goal in life was, and every step she took went straight towards it. And somehow, Merel’s bedroom was on her path.

The blonde wondered what else had been on her path. The toughness in the redhead’s eyes and the roughness of her hands were silent reminders of old battles. Both mental as physical ones. And yet, none of it had affected the softness of Charlotte’s voice and smile. It intrigued Merel.

‘So…’ Merel said when they were both settled with a guitar on their laps ‘Tell me something about yourself.’

‘Like what?’ Charlotte smiled.

‘What brings you here?’

‘I want to learn how to play guitar.’

‘Yeah but… Why guitar?’ Merel asked ‘Do you have any experience? What kind of style do you want to learn? How old are you? What’s your job?’

‘I can’t tell you about my job, I would have to kill you.’

A smile played on Charlotte’s lips when she answered. At the same time there was a determination in her eyes, the same one Merel had seen earlier. She couldn’t decide if the woman in front of her was serious or not, and it made her that bit more mysterious.

‘What about the rest?’

‘Well… I don’t have any experience. I want to learn guitar because I like the sound of it, especially while sitting around a campfire. So, nothing too difficult, just basic stuff is fine.’

‘So like, Wonderwall?’

Charlotte laughed, and it made Merel smile. It was a wonderful sound that she immediately loved.

‘Yes, like Wonderwall.’

‘Okay, let me look up the chords.’

Merel spun around on her chair and turned to her laptop. She already had a vague idea of the chords, but experience told her it was easier for her students to be able to actually see them. And since she didn’t have the greatest of handwritings, her laptop was the perfect solution.

‘What about you?’ Charlotte suddenly asked.

‘What about me?’

‘Why do you play guitar?’

‘I don’t know…’ Merel answered after thinking for a few seconds. ‘It just seemed cool, and it turned out to be the only thing I’m actually good at.’

‘I’m sure that’s not true.’

Merel felt the blood making its way to her cheeks. Why did Charlotte have this effect on her? She was a stranger, they barely knew each other. And yet, there was something about her…

It wasn’t long before Merel found the chords she needed and spun back to Charlotte. The redhead wasn’t just looking at her, she seemed to be looking into her. It made Merel’s heart beat that bit faster.

‘Anyway,’ Merel smiled ‘here’s Wonderwall!’

 

The next hour Merel spent explaining the basics of guitar playing to her newest student. She made sure to cover all the essentials. The strings, guitar picks, chords, notes, tuning… Most of her students thought it was boring and immediately wanted to skip to playing. Charlotte was different. She was interested in every detail, wanted to know everything. And Merel was unable to deny her anything.

The class was more than overdue by the time the 2 women walked into the living room again. A new class was scheduled, and Merel would be lying if she said she wasn’t looking forward to it. Charlotte turned out to be a perfectionist, just like Merel was herself. She couldn’t have wished for a better student.

And Merel didn’t seem to be the only one to like the redhead.

While they made their way to the door, their path was suddenly blocked by an attention-craving Vincent. He ran up to the women, rubbing up to both their legs and meowing when the desired pats didn’t follow. 

With a smile Charlotte ducked down and let the cat sniff her hand before stroking his fur. Loud purrs immediately followed and Merel shook her head. He was such a gentleman.

‘What’s their name?’

‘Vincent.’ Merel answered. ‘He’s an asshole.’

‘Nooo, don’t say that! He’s cute! And he seems to like me.’

‘Of course he likes you.’ Charlotte looked up with a grin, and once again Merel felt the blood rushing to her cheeks. ‘I mean, he likes everyone that’s willing to give him attention.’

Charlotte didn’t comment, she just returned her attention to Vincent before eventually saying goodbye and leaving the apartment. It probably was just her imagination, but Merel could almost swear that the redhead’s scent still lingered in the air. A combination of leather, flowers, and something Merel wasn’t sure of.

With a sigh Merel sat down on the couch, Vincent joining her just a second later. It was only now that she felt how tired she was, and hadn’t eaten yet since she got home from work. Charlotte had occupied her mind and she’d completely forgotten about everything else. There truly was something special about that woman.

Chapter Text

The snoring of a cat and the sounds coming from her amp. That was all that was audible in the apartment, and Merel loved it. It was a good day. The hours at the store had gone by faster than usual and there hadn’t been any annoying costumers with stupid questions. Vincent was his adorable self, Charlotte would come over later, and she could spend some quality time with her beloved guitar. All was good.

It had been months since she’d been able to just sit down with her guitar, and just play. No thinking, no built up anger, no pushed back tears. Just her and her guitar. She felt free, and Merel loved it.

The last note she’d played still rang through the air when the girl stretched her fingers, not being used anymore to playing for hours and hours. It was in that moment that a knock sounded on the door. Merel sighed, put her guitar aside and got up from the couch.

She opened the door, expecting to be met by another one of Floor’s “friends”. She was ready to possibly be yelled at, be overwhelmed by either a strong perfume or the smell of alcohol. Once the door was open however, Merel was met by a stunning smile and the sweet scent of leather and flowers. Charlotte was even more beautiful than she remembered. A quick glance on her watch told Merel she’d completely lost touch with time. The hours had gone by like minutes.

‘You seem surprised to see me.’ Charlotte said. ‘Did you forget about my lesson?’

‘No, of course not! I just lost track of time.’ Merel admitted while opening the door further.

She let Charlotte in and closed the door behind her. Vincent was already present to receive his attention, and it was only when he seemed satisfied that Charlotte turned towards Merel.

‘I heard you play when I stood in front of the door. You seem very talented, and I’m glad you’re my teacher.’

Blood rushed towards Merel’s cheeks. She didn’t dare to meet Charlotte’s gaze, didn’t know what to say. Why did this woman have such an effect on her?

After a mumbled “thank you” the two women moved to Merel’s room, leaving Vincent behind in the living room. Just like the previous time Charlotte settled herself on Merel’s bed while the girl took the chair at her desk. Both with a guitar on their lap, they went over what they’d done the previous time. It had just been the basics, but Merel noticed how Charlotte seemed to struggle with the exercises. For a moment she was worried. Were the exercises she’d given Charlotte too hard? Maybe the redhead wasn’t as motivated or naturally skilled as she’d thought.

Carefully Merel put her guitar aside and kneeled in front of Charlotte. She wanted to correct the woman’s index finger to the right position, but was surprised when she touched Charlotte’s skin. It was soft, so soft, but also freezing cold. Merel gasped, and almost pulled the guitar from the woman’s hands.

‘Your hands are freezing!’ she said while grabbing Charlotte’s hands into her own. ‘You can’t play this!’

Charlotte giggled, and it was only when their eyes met that Merel realized what she was doing. She was so close to Charlotte, holding her hands while being surrounded by the mesmerizing scent the redhead carried.

And it was in that moment, right when she was about to drown in those hazel eyes, that a knock sounded on the door. The knock was hurried, impatient, and Merel sighed when she let go of Charlotte’s hands. She immediately regretted it. She missed the softness of the redhead’s skin, the feeling that was slowly growing in her stomach. And she already knew what was waiting for her on the other side of the door.

A cigarette in her hand, high heels, short skirt, plastic breast, and a nauseating perfume. The woman that greeted –or actually didn’t greet- Merel ticked all the boxes for being one of Floor’s “friends”.

‘Heather.’ The woman almost snapped as soon as the door opened. ‘Hurry up.’

Without a word Merel opened the drawer in the sideboard and looked at what Floor had left there for her. The messages, as they were called. There were 2 small boxes, one indeed being labelled Heather. She took the box and handed it to the woman, not receiving a Thank You before the door was closed again. It didn’t matter to Merel. All she wanted to do, was to get back to Charlotte.

With a smile she returned to her room, finding Charlotte still on her bed, her hands buried under her thighs to warm them up.

‘What was that about?’ Charlotte curiously asked.

‘Oh, nothing.’ Merel answered, not wanting to talk about whatever it was that her roommate did. ‘Just, someone picking up something. Happens all the time.’

‘So people you don’t know just randomly knock on your door to pick up things? What are you, a postal office?’

‘No, it’s not like that!’ Merel laughed. ‘They’re friends with my flatmate. She has some kind of business, and people often come to pick up their stuff when she isn’t home, so Floor asked me to just hand them the right package. That’s all.’

‘Oh, what kind of business is it?’

‘I don’t know. It’s usually small boxes so I convinced myself it’s phones. Floor and I don’t really talk with each other, that’s part of our agreement. We don’t talk if not necessary and I get to keep my cat.’

‘Right…’

‘Anyway!’ Merel smiled, changing the subject. ‘Are your hands warm? I want to start our lesson.’

With a smile Charlotte took her hands from underneath her thighs and cupped her own face with them. It was the most adorable sight Merel had ever seen, and it awoke the feeling she’d earlier felt in her stomach.

‘We’re all ready to go!’

 

Chapter Text

Hurt. Angry. On the verge of tears. And it was all caused by one person.

Merel looked at the blue-haired woman in front of her. She couldn’t believe it. After all Alissa had done to her, she still had the nerve to show up here. She’d betrayed Merel’s trust, and then acted as if it was nothing. In the end, that had been what hurt Merel most. Not once had Alissa been sorry for what she’d done, and she still didn’t seem to be.

‘Nice place you got here.’ Alissa smiled. ‘Are you going to invite me in?’

‘What are you doing here?’

‘Catching up. We haven’t seen each other in such a long time.’

Merel looked at the other woman in disbelieve. Was she serious about this? How had she even found this apartment? The whole reason of Merel moving to another city had been to avoid seeing Alissa after all. Before she even had the chance of go over all the question she had, Alissa’s voice sounded again.

‘Oh, hello Vincent!’

The woman pushed herself a way into the apartment, Merel trying to avoid her touch at all costs. She watched Alissa making her way towards her cat, and that’s when something snapped inside her. She could take the pain of Alissa hurting her, but she had to stay away from Vincent.

‘Get out.’ Merel firmly said, repeating herself when Alissa ignored her. ‘Get out! And don’t you dare touch him!’

This time the other woman looked up, a smile playing on her lips. Merel’s hate towards her seemed to grow even more when Alissa spoke again.

‘You don’t seem happy to see me, little bird.’

‘GET OUT!’

Merel nearly screamed this time. Raising her voice and fighting her tears hurt her throat, but it wasn’t stopping her. She wouldn’t give Alissa the satisfaction of seeing her cry, not ever again. She just wanted the other woman out of her life, or at least out of the apartment.

And unfortunately, the mess just became bigger the longer Alissa stayed.

A soft knock sounded on the still open door. Charlotte stood in the doorway, guitar in her hand, confusion on her face. Merel almost wanted to beg the redhead to help her, but Alissa finally seemed to understand she wasn’t welcome.

‘Oh.’ She said, eyeing Charlotte before making her way to the door. ‘It’s like that, huh?’

Without another word Alissa left the apartment. She turned around one last time, winking at Merel with a smirk before disappearing around the corner. It was more than Merel could take. Her small frame was shaking. She felt too angry to cry, but was so glad to see Charlotte at the same time. She tried to breathe, tried to calm down, but the worry on Charlotte’s face only grew.

‘What was that about?’ The redhead carefully asked.

‘Alissa, my ex-girlfriend.’ Merel answered, not looking Charlotte in the eye. ‘I don’t understand how she dared to come here. I want her out of my life, that’s why I moved all the way here. And she has the nerve to come here! She makes me so angry! I- I…’

‘Hey, easy, easy. She’s gone now. It’s okay.’

Merel finally looked up when she felt Charlotte’s hand on her shoulder. For a few seconds she just stared. She stared at the calming smile on Charlotte’s lips, at the dozens of freckles on her cheeks, at the hazel eyes she so desperately wanted to believe. Then she sighed.

‘I’m sorry.’ Merel mumbled. ‘You shouldn’t have to see the mess that’s my life. You’re just here to play guitar.’

‘Are you kidding? We’re not going to play guitar today, you won’t be able to teach me anything today.’

‘But-‘

‘No buts, take the day off. Or, hour, if you have other students.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘I am.’ Charlotte smiled. ‘But you’ll have to make it up to me. I’ll pick you up at 9 this evening for drinks.’

Charlotte looked at her for another second, the smile still in place. Then she left, and somehow had calmed Merel down with just a few words and a smile.

 

Just as awful as her morning had been, that’s how surprising her evening was.

Not only had Charlotte indeed arrived just in time to pick her up, she’d done so on a white motorcycle, fully dressed in leather. Merel had felt her heart racing during the ride to the bar. She was excited to finally ride a motor, even if it was just at the back. She made sure she remembered every detail of it. The sound of the roaring motor, the smell of the leather, the feeling of the wind, and the feeling of being so close to Charlotte.

And that last feeling hadn’t left her yet. Charlotte had been innocently touching Merel all night and giving her smiles that were a little less innocent. Once Merel would have been sure the redhead was flirting with her, might even have flirted back, but not tonight. Alissa was still on her mind, and the pain had returned to her chest when she started telling Charlotte about how the blue-haired woman had cheated on her. Over and over again, without ever being sorry.

‘So, yeah. That’s when I realized she didn’t love me.’ Merel concluded her story. ‘Lying and cheating and using them, you don’t do those things to someone you love.’

‘I totally agree.’

There it was again. An innocent touch to her hand, a sweet smile to accompany her words. Charlotte had to be aware of what she was doing, but Merel didn’t want to give in to it. Not yet, at least. Not after being reminded how much Alissa had hurt her.

‘You look like you need another drink.’ Charlotte laughed, already raising her hand to order more beer, but Merel stopped her.

‘No, don’t.’ She said, pulling down Charlotte’s arm. ‘I already had enough, I don’t need a hangover tomorrow. I think I want to go home.’

Charlotte smiled once again, taking Merel’s hand in her own while looking her in the eyes. Merel’s heart beat a little bit faster. What was Charlotte doing?

‘Only if you promise me you feel better.’

‘I do. Promise.’

Charlotte let go of her hand after lightly squeezing it, and got up to pay the bill. Merel hadn’t lied. She did feel better than she did that morning, but now she was insecure instead of angry.  Charlotte seemed to like her, really like her, and maybe she felt the same. But what if Charlotte was just being a great friend? They’d barely known each other for a few weeks after all. And yet, there was something about the redhead that fascinated her to no end.

The butterflies in Merel’s stomach returned when she got on the back of the motor again and wrapped her arms around Charlotte’s waist. The scent of the leather was so strong, but Charlotte’s natural scent still seemed to get through. The motor started, Merel tightened her grip and felt her heartbeat increasing again. Was this adrenaline? Was this love? Maybe it was a combination, but it was the best Merel had felt all day.

The drive to the apartment was way too short for Merel’s liking. She didn’t want to let go of Charlotte, didn’t want to say goodbye to her. But she did anyway. Carefully she got off the motor, making sure she didn’t leave any marks on the white material. Then she just stood there awkwardly.

‘So, eh, thanks for this evening.’

‘You’re welcome.’ Charlotte answered. ‘Are you still up for that guitar class tomorrow?’

‘Yeah, I am. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

With those words Merel turned around and wanted to make her way towards the door of her apartment. But Charlotte stopped her before she’d even taken her first step.

‘Merel.’

The blonde turned around. Charlotte was still sitting on her motor, smiling like she’d done all evening. Without looking away from Merel, Charlotte raised her hand, still covered in a leather glove, and carefully placed on Merel’s cheek. The girl barely dared to breathe when the leather made its way to her chin, carefully pulling her closer towards the other woman.

Merel knew what was happening, but her heart still skipped a beat when Charlotte slightly kissed her lips. They were so soft and tasted so sweet. She was so overwhelmed by everything she was feeling she could almost cry. It was relief, it was longing, it was trust. She trusted Charlotte, she trusted her so much that she even dared to kiss her back.

 

Chapter Text

They were so soft, so perfectly shaped, so beautiful. It was all Merel could think of. The way Charlotte’s lips had felt on her own, how they’d filled her chest with joy. How soft and careful the redhead’s fingers had felt of her face. How badly she wanted to feel all of it again.

All of it was so close, literally within reach. All she had to do was speak up, or just stand up and get what she wanted. But she was frozen. Merel just sat on her chair, her thoughts lost in the memory of the previous evening.

‘Penny for your thoughts.’

The smile that accompanied the words was mesmerizing, and it took Merel a second to be fully aware of her surroundings. The music had stopped, Charlotte’s hand now resting on the strings instead of dancing over them. The woman’s eyes were on her instead of on the instrument in her hands. And Merel was still looking at the lips that had taken her breath away.

‘You.’ Merel admitted, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks. ‘And what you did yesterday.’

Charlotte smiled, she always seemed to smile. It was one of the many mysteries that made her so fascinating. That seemingly innocent smile, of which Merel knew it wasn’t so innocent at all, and the honey sweet voice. It was so fascinating.

‘If you liked it we could do it again, you know.’ Charlotte said while carefully putting down her guitar. ‘All you have to do is ask.’

Merel’s heart made a little leap. There was no way she’d refuse this offer. Kissing Charlotte again had been all she could think about since they separated the previous evening. Without a second thought she put down her own guitar and sat down next to Charlotte on her bed. She was excited, but nervous at the same time. She didn’t want to be so desperate to be close to someone, and yet here she was. Charlotte had wrecked the walls Merel had built around herself, and it had caught her by surprise.

‘Can I kiss you?’ Merel asked, already losing herself in Charlotte’s hazel eyes.

‘Not if I kiss you first.’

Within less than a second Merel felt the redhead’s lips upon her own again. Less careful than they’d been the previous day, more filled with confidence. And that’s exactly how Merel felt as well. She buried her hand in the woman’s red hair, making sure she and those wonderful lips would stay exactly where they were.

The feeling of joy exploded in Merel’s chest. She’d almost forgotten how good it could feel to kiss someone, and she made sure to engrave every detail of it in her mind. The taste of Charlotte’s lips, the softness of her hair, the way her piercing pressed against Merel’s own nose, and the way Charlotte shifted and used her weight to push Merel down on the bed.

Merel let her. She let Charlotte take control, and she loved how the woman’s body felt against her own. She hadn’t felt like this in such a long time, and she only wanted more. She wanted to feel more of the joy that was spreading through her body, wanted to feel more Charlotte.

Merel protested when she felt how Charlotte started pulling back. A small groan left her lips, and she refused to open her eyes, just to hold on to the feeling a bit longer. Charlotte giggled when their eyes finally met again.

‘I think that’s enough for now.’ Charlotte smiled. ‘I’m afraid I might kill you otherwise.’

‘I just… really like it. I really like you.’

‘I like you too.’

A warm feeling spread through Merel’s chest when those words reached her ears. She smiled and pulled Charlotte down for another kiss, but it was once again cut short by the other woman. The unique scent lingered, but she missed the warm feeling of the redhead’s body on top of hers as soon as Charlotte sat up.

‘Do you want to stay when our class is over?’ Merel asked, well aware of the begging look in her eyes. She just couldn’t hide her longing for the other woman.

‘That depends. Are you planning on actually teaching me something today? I have a feeling you didn’t hear anything I’ve played yet.’

Charlotte was right. Merel hadn’t paid any attention at all to what Charlotte had been playing earlier. And with that kiss fresh on her mind, her attention wouldn’t go into the direction of the guitar anytime soon.

‘I think we both know the answer to that.’

‘Alright, then I’m happy to spent some more time with you and Vincent.’ Charlotte answered.

They both got up, leaving the instruments behind as they made their way to the living room and Merel taking a quick glance at Charlotte’s behind. How was it possible that everything about this woman was so beautiful?

Vincent was already laying on the couch, seemingly guarding his kingdom, when the two women joined him. Charlotte greeted him in her sweetest voice, giving the cat no chance but to give in to the soft touch of the human. It was amazing how she had both Merel and her cat wrapped around her finger.

It was a comfortable silence they sat in, but it only lasted a minute until the door of the apartment was opened. Floor walked in, eyeing the stranger on the couch before making her way to the drawer with the messages. Quickly finding what she needed, she took out a few boxes and replaced them with a new one. Then she left again. Not saying a word, but once again eyeing Charlotte before closing the door.

This was everyday behaviour for Floor. Coming and going whenever she pleased, never greeting her roommate. Merel was so used to it by new that she didn’t even care anymore, but Charlotte apparently did.

‘Was that your roommate?’

‘Yeah, that was Floor.’ Merel said. ‘Don’t pay attention to her, you’ll barely ever see her.’

‘What does she do all day then? Busy job?’

‘I don’t know, and I don’t care. As I said, we don’t really talk to each other and we barely know each other. We both just do our own thing.’

‘So she never has anyone over?’

Merel didn’t like where this was going. Why was Charlotte so interested in her roommate? She’d kissed Merel less than 5 minutes ago, and now she wanted to know if Floor was single? Was that all it took for Charlotte to lose interest in her, just one glimpse of Floor?

‘I don’t know.’ Merel eventually answered. ‘Not really, sometimes. She isn’t home a lot so I don’t know.’

‘Hmm.’

That was Charlotte’s only reaction before she returned her attention to the cat that was laying between them. Merel’s mind was still trying to get around what had just happened, and apparently it was showing. Charlotte looked up suddenly, giving her the most comforting smile before lightly pecking her lips. And just like that, rest and peace returned to Merel’s mind. It was just her and Charlotte, and Vincent.

 

Chapter Text

Time was a very strange concept. Some days seemed to last eternally, but Merel’s last weeks had flown by like hours. Just like this day had. It felt like she’d arrived at her work only a few hours ago, but the clock above the door told her otherwise. Her shift would be over in just a few minutes, and Merel was thrilled about what was about to happen.

Butterflies tickled the inside of the girl’s stomach just by the thought of seeing Charlotte again. Every fiber of her being longed to be close to the other woman, to be touched by her smile and her honey sweet voice. It was a feeling Merel hadn’t felt in a while, hadn’t allowed herself to feel.

When she’d left Alissa she was barely more than ruins inside, shattered pieces of the person she used to be. The woman she’d once loved so much had hurt her more than she’d ever imagined, and she never wanted to go through that pain again. So Merel had closed her heart. No one was allowed to come near, to get a glance behind the walls she’d built around herself. And then Charlotte walked into her life, and decided those rules didn’t apply to her. Charlotte had made her way past Merel’s walls without much effort. She’d done so with a smile on her lips, like everything she did, and just like she walked through the door of the store.

Merel’s heart skipped a beat when their eyes met and her lips were immediately pulled into a smile. She still didn’t understand all the effects Charlotte seemed to have on her body, but Merel couldn’t care less. Charlotte made her happy, and she was allowed to have any effect she wanted.

Slowly Charlotte made her way towards the counter where Merel stood, her eyes sliding over the many decorations on the wall. She leaned her elbow on the counter once she reached it, playing with her keys and looking Merel right in the eye.

‘I’m looking for something very specific.’ Charlotte said in a low voice. ‘I’m looking for a guitar player with very talented fingers. One who is also very cute, and wants to take a ride on my bike with me.’

Merel bit her lip as she heard the other woman describe her in a way she’d never heard before. She leaned on the counter as well, mirroring Charlotte’s pose.

‘I think you’re lucky.’ She smiled. ‘We may have just what you’re looking for.’

For a second Merel was sure the other woman would kiss her. Then a cough sounded. Both women looked up and pulled away from each other, the blood rushing to Merel’s cheeks when she saw her colleague.

‘Hey, Otto…’ Merel said awkwardly. ‘This is Charlotte, my girlfriend.’

Merel’s heart slightly beat faster when the word rolled over her lips. It was the first time she actually called Charlotte her girlfriend, and it felt right. She loved how the word tasted on her tongue, and she loved the way Charlotte looked at her with a smile. She wasn’t denying it, but instead pecked Merel’s cheek to confirm it. She was her girlfriend.

‘You haven’t told me about her yet.’ Otto said, eyeing Charlotte sceptically. ‘Are you sure this is a good idea?’

‘You’re the one who said I should meet new people and get over my ex. So here I am. Do you mind if I leave a few minutes early?’

‘I guess so.’ Otto mumbled, his eyes still set on Charlotte.

Merel ignored him. She knew he cared about her and he just wanted to protect her in his own big brother-like way. Without another word Merel made her way towards the back to grab her bag and jacket.

The ride to Merel’s apartment was a short one, but for Merel it was filled with so much happiness. The feeling of the powerful machine underneath her pumped adrenaline through her entire body. Having Charlotte in her arms filled her chest with butterflies. Charlotte was her girlfriend. The thought made her so happy she just couldn’t stop smiling. Her girlfriend. This amazing woman was hers, her girlfriend.

Somehow Charlotte had found the time to spent at least an hour with Merel every single day in the last few weeks. They’d play guitar together, play video games, in which Merel had noticed she became less violent and angry than she used to be, spent time with Vincent, go for walks in the area,… Every minute she spent with Charlotte seemed to fly by, and Merel could barely believe she’d met this incredible person just over a month ago. She felt safe with Charlotte, trusted her in a way she thought was impossible for her. She loved Charlotte, and Charlotte was hers.

Happiness still buzzed through Merel’s body when they entered the apartment building. Hand in hand they climbed the stairs in silence. It was a comfortable silence, in which Charlotte would smile every time their eyes met, and Merel lightly blushed in return.

Charlotte was driving her crazy, in the best way possible, and Merel wanted to make sure the other woman was aware of it. As soon as she’d closed the door of her apartment she literally jumped in Charlotte’s arms, the other woman reacting just in time to catch her. Merel wasted no time and immediately kissed her girlfriend, pouring all her love into it. She wanted Charlotte to feel the same, feel as loved as Merel felt. To feel wanted.

Slowly Charlotte lowered Merel to the ground, their kiss ending after one short peck. Merel opened her eyes and almost immediately lost herself in Charlotte’s hazel orbs. Her fingers were still playing with red strings of hair, but she wanted more, so much more. She wanted everything that was Charlotte.

‘Do you want to spend the night?’

The question was loaded, and they were both aware of it. Merel wasn’t just asking for waking up next to each other, she was asking to become one. She wanted to give Charlotte all she was, without any walls to hide.

It stayed silent. Merel bit her lip when she saw the doubt in Charlotte’s eyes. Was she going too fast? Maybe Charlotte didn’t want to be her girlfriend after all, but had been too polite to correct her in front of Otto. Did she just ruin the best thing that had happened to her in the past year?

‘I, I mean, if-’ Merel mumbled, trying to save the moment, but was cut off when Charlotte suddenly raised her hand and gently stroked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. The touch was as soft as her voice when it sounded again.

‘I’d love to spend the night with you.’

 

Chapter Text

The world was so beautiful.

Sunlight lit up the room and birds were singing outside. The sheets felt so soft on her naked skin. Merel barely dared to open her eyes, scared to find out it had all been a dream. When she eventually faced the world she was met with a familiar sight, one that would never fail to make her smile. Carefully she raised her hand and ran her fingers through Vincent’s orange fur. The cat immediately started purring, spreading an extra dose of happiness through Merel’s body and she sighed. The world was so beautiful this morning.

After a few minutes of adoring her cat Merel turned around. The other side of the bed was empty, just like she knew it would be. Charlotte had told her she had to get up early for work, but she failed to mention the post-it she would leave on her pillow. Curiously Merel crawled towards the pillow and read the note.

“Can’t wait for our class”

Butterflies filled the girl’s stomach and she buried her face in Charlotte’s pillow. The redhead’s scent surrounded her, making her heart beat a little bit faster. She couldn’t stop the smile on her face, but neither did she care. Merel was so happy.

It wasn’t long before her thoughts drifted towards the previous evening. It had felt so right to be with Charlotte. She’d discovered so many new things about the other woman, and they all made her love Charlotte even more. She loved how her chest was adorned by freckles, how careful and insecure the redhead had been. It was so unlike Charlotte, who always seemed to do everything with great confidence.

But last night had been so different. At first Charlotte had barely dared to touch her, waiting for Merel to assure her it was okay. Her movements were so painfully slow, as if she was experiencing all of it for the first time and wanted to make sure she would remember everything. The sight of it had melted Merel’s heart.

The morning was so perfect she never wanted it to end. Unfortunately Vincent didn’t agree. It wasn’t long before he decided it was time to be fed, and started meowing to demand his owner to get up. Merel gave in, she couldn’t deny her little prince anything he wanted.

A shiver ran up her spine when she left the warmth and the comfort of her bed. The clothes she’d worn the previous day were scattered on the floor, evidence of how impatient she’d been. Avoiding the clothes, and Vincent who kept walking between her legs, Merel made her way to her dresser where she grabbed some fresh clothes and put them on before leaving the bedroom.

The world in the rest of the apartment wasn’t much different. The living room was bathing in sunlight, it was quiet, and Merel swore there was still a hint of Charlotte’s scent.

After feeding Vincent Merel sat down on the couch with her guitar on her lap. Her mind was filled with melodies, as if last night had opened a portal to new inspiration. Or maybe it was just another effect Charlotte had on her. Merel let her fingers dance over the strings, let them play whatever they wanted to play. Every chord, every rhythm, it all reminded her of Charlotte. The freckles on her chest, the way she’d breathed in Merel’s ear, the look in her eyes when they had both reached their heights. Every single thing had its own melody, and Merel was more than happy to play them.

‘You got laid last night.’

Merel opened her eyes when the words sounded. Floor was standing in front of her, her arms crossed across her chest and a stern look on her face. Merel had been so into her own thoughts that she hadn’t even heard her flatmate entering the room, but usually that didn’t matter. They didn’t talk, nor did they care about each other. Why would Floor suddenly care now?

‘Yeah.’ Merel answered, and returned her attention to her guitar.

She didn’t owe Floor an explanation, so for her it was the end of the conversation. Apparently, Floor thought otherwise.

‘What’s her name?’

‘Charlotte.’

‘How do you know her?’

‘She’s a student.’

Maybe if she kept her answers short, Floor would get the hint. She didn’t want to talk about it, especially not with Floor. If her roommate showed interest in something it usually wasn’t a good sign, so Merel didn’t like Floor asking about Charlotte at all. Especially not since Charlotte had shown mutual interest a few weeks before. Charlotte was hers, and Floor had to stay away from her. Merel did not want Charlotte anywhere near whatever Floor’s business was. But Floor seemed determined.

‘She’s been here often lately.’

‘Yeah, she’s my girlfriend.’ Merel answered, the annoyance clear in her voice. ‘Why do you care suddenly? We never talk to each other, why are you suddenly so interested in my life and who I’m dating? I don’t ask about the people that knock the door all the time.’

Floor just looked at her. Merel noticed how her jaw slightly clenched, as if the other woman had to think about her answer. Whatever the reason was, Merel wasn’t all too interested in it. She just wanted Floor to leave her alone, which she eventually did after mumbling an answer Merel didn’t expect at all.

‘I don’t trust her.’

 

Chapter Text

Merel had been right all along.

Charlotte was naturally gifted, just not in the way the blonde thought. During their first meeting Merel already saw the other woman was musically gifted. Charlotte really seemed to have a feeling with the guitar in her hands. The way her fingers played the strings was so smooth, so beautiful. Not once had Merel suspected that there was another instrument that fitted the redhead better.

And yet, there was.

The voice that rang through the room touched Merel in every part of her being. The emotion on Charlotte’s face was audible in the redhead voice, and Merel swore she’d never heard anything purer than this. The guitar wasn’t Charlotte instrument, but her voice definitely was.

‘I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do, about you now…’

Butterflies tickled her heart every time their eyes met. Merel could so easily lose herself in this moment. Not only was Charlotte’s singing mesmerizing, Charlotte was singing for her. Every word seemed to come straight from her heart, as if the words were written only for the two of them.

‘You’re my wonderwall…’

Never before had it been so hard for Merel to focus on the guitar in her hands. She only wanted to listen to Charlotte’s singing, only wanted to look at her. But the singing would only continue if Merel continued playing, guiding Charlotte through the song. And if playing forever was what it took to hear Charlotte sing forever, then that’s what she would do.

‘you're gonna be the one that saves me..’

The song came to an end. Charlotte’s last note faded, and so did Merel’s. For a second everything was so peaceful in the room, and then the emotion on Charlotte’s face changed. No more pure love and joy. Instead the woman seemed distracted, sad maybe, maybe there even was a hint of guilt on her face. It worried Merel instantly, but there was no time for her to ask about it.

‘I need to use the bathroom.’

Charlotte got up and left the room, leaving Merel behind with her worries. What was going on with her girlfriend? What could have such an impact on a person, but isn’t allowed to be talked about? Even after dating for 2 months, there still wasn’t a lot Merel knew about Charlotte. Charlotte still insisted she couldn’t tell Merel about her job. She’d never heard Charlotte talking about any colleagues, friends, or even family. Not once had Merel been invited to her girlfriend’s place, she didn’t even know where Charlotte lived.

An uneasy feeling settled in Merel’s chest. Why did Charlotte have all these secrets? Would she be honest about it if Merel just asked her straight away? On one hand she wanted to confront Charlotte about it, but there was a bigger part of her that was scared for the answer.

In the last few months of their relationship, Alissa had been secretive as well. Back then Merel had confronted Alissa about it, and she’d gotten a straight answer. “I’m seeing other people when I’m not home.”

The worry in Merel’s chest grew. Charlotte had been gone for several minutes now, and the questions in Merel’s mind only seemed to multiply. She wanted to focus on something else, anything at all. And that’s when her eye fell on Charlotte’s phone. The redhead had been using her phone to read the lyrics earlier, and the device now laid forgotten on the bed.

Without a second thought Merel got up and grabbed the phone. It looked more expensive than anything Merel would ever be able to afford, and it once again made her wonder about Charlotte’s job. Maybe the device in her hand would be able to give her some answers.

Merel bit her lip when she pushed the button to bring the screen to live. The phone was locked, required a fingerprint to be unlocked, but a smile still grew on her lips. On The screen was a picture of the two of them, showing Charlotte kissing Merel’s cheek during their walk at the local park. Merel still remember the moment the picture was taking. She had seen it as their first official date, and apparently it had meant just as much to Charlotte.

In some way it was reassuring. Charlotte wouldn’t use a picture of them on her phone if it didn’t mean anything. Would she?

Merel nearly dropped the phone when suddenly the device started vibrating in her hand. The picture on the lockscreen disappeared, fading to black with a name written in the middle of the screen.

Marco.

For a second Merel wondered what she should do, her finger already hovering over the screen. Could Marco be the door into Charlotte’s personal life? She answered the call.

‘Charlotte’s phone.’ Merel said, her voice lightly shaking with nerves.

‘Eh, who is this?’

‘I’m Merel, Charlotte is in the bathroom. Should I give her a message?’

‘Oh… No, just tell her to call me back as soon as possible. It’s important.’

‘What are you doing?!’

Merel nearly jumped when Charlotte stormed into the room again. She grabbed the phone from Merel’s hand and turned her back to the blonde to take over the call.

‘Hello? …  Yeah… Alright, I’ll be here.’

Merel kept staring at Charlotte, hoping to get an explanation. The call only lasted a minute before Charlotte hung up, finally turning towards her girlfriend again. Her face didn’t exactly comfort Merel.

‘I have to go.’ Charlotte said. ‘There’s an emergency at work, they need me.’

‘Will you come back this evening?’

‘I don’t know yet, I’ll text you.’

Charlotte left the room again, this time followed by Merel. The redhead stroke Vincent’s fur when she passed him, then grabbed her leather jacket that was lying next to him on the couch. She put it on, turned towards Merel and lightly smiled before kissing her goodbye.

It was something Merel would never get tired of. The feeling of Charlotte’s lips on her own was so comforting, so hypnotizing, that she barely realised it when the words rolled over her lips.

‘I love you.’

‘I love you too.’

There seemed to be pain in Charlotte’s eyes when she said it. And almost as if she was scared of the words she’d spoken, Charlotte opened the door and left without looking back.

 

Chapter Text

It was calm, so unusually calm, and Merel loved it.

It was her day off. She hadn’t seen Floor all day. No one had knocked the door to pick up anything. It was just Merel and Vincent, just like it had been all day. And Merel absolutely loved it.

The television showed the menu of the game she’d been playing. It had been fun for a few minutes, but it hadn’t been long before it bored her. She no longer felt the anger and rage she used to play the game with. A few months ago the shooting game had been Merel’s way to get rid of all the negative feelings in her lives, and now there was nothing left of them. Her chest no longer tightened when she thought about Alissa, her heart was filled with nothing but love now.

A new burst of butterflies woke up in Merel’s stomach by the thought of Charlotte. The redhead had claimed such a big part of her heart, and she’d managed to do so in only a few months. Every text message, every kiss, every touch even made her fall in love with Charlotte more. And Merel was sure that tonight would be no different.

Only four more hours until she would see Charlotte again. Or so she thought.

A knock sounded on the door, ending Merel’s calm day for herself. Gently she lifted Vincent from her lap and placed him on the couch. The cat didn’t even seem to care. He just started purring again and opened his eyes just enough to see who dared to disturb his quiet day.

Merel opened the door, a smile growing on her lips when she saw who it was. She couldn’t help it. Seeing Charlotte always made her smile, even if their meeting was unexpected.

‘Hey Charlie!’ Merel smiled before planting a kiss on her girlfriend’s lips. ‘What are you doing here? I thought we were meeting this evening?’

‘We need to talk.’

It was then that Merel noticed Charlotte wasn’t smiling. It was so unlike her. Charlotte always smiled, and her now serious look immediately worried Merel.

‘Eh, okay.’ Merel stepped aside so Charlotte could walk in, but she refused.

‘Not here.’

The worry grew. What was wrong with talking in the apartment? Merel didn’t even dare to ask. Instead she just grabbed her jacket and joined Charlotte in the hallway. They walked down the stairs in silence and left the building. Merel noticed two police cars parked across the street, some men standing around the cars and eyeing her and Charlotte when they opened the door. Charlotte looked up at the men, then quickly looked down again.

The police didn’t worry Merel, she’d seen them around so often in this area, but Charlotte’s behavior certainly did. The redhead didn’t smile, didn’t look at her, didn’t allow Merel to hold her hand. Merel was desperate to know what was going on, but Charlotte didn’t say a word. They just walked, and Merel internally panicked.

It was only when they were at the park that Charlotte stopped walking. She sat down on one of the benches near the entrance of the park, and carefully Merel sat down next to her. Finally Charlotte reached out to her. She carefully took Merel’s hand and sighed.

‘Charlie…?’

‘I haven’t been honest with you.’ Charlotte stated. ‘I have been keeping a lot of secrets.’

‘Like your job?’

‘Yes, like my job.’ Charlotte said, and then finally looked up at Merel. ‘Merel, you’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you. This wasn’t supposed to happen, and I never had any intentions of hurting you. I swear that what we have is real, and that my feelings for you are real, even though nothing else is.’

None of this made sense. What had Charlotte’s job to do with her relationship? Maybe this wasn’t about Charlotte’s job at all. What the hell was going on with Charlotte?

‘What are you talking about?’ Merel asked confused.

‘I’m a police officer. I’ve been chasing a big drug dealer for nearly a year now, and I needed to get closer. That’s why I took lessons from you, you were my cover and that was supposed to be it. But then I learned that you’re interested in women, and I saw it as a chance to get even closer. I wasn’t into woman, or at least I thought, but Merel… Falling in love with you was never part of this plan, but I did. And I let you fall in love with me because it was the only way to get to your roommate. Floor is the head of one of the biggest drug operations we have ever seen. Those people that came over to your apartment all the time were mostly dealers picking up drugs.

‘Merel, I know this sounds scary, but we arrested Floor this morning. My colleagues are at your apartment right now, searching the place for evidence. That’s why I had to take you out of there. And yes, technically you’ve been helping a criminal, but I can protect you. You didn’t know what Floor was up to and what was in those boxes, right? Merel, you have to promise me you had no idea.’

Merel just stared at Charlotte in disbelieve. Slowly the meaning of her words sank in, and she could no longer stand the feeling of Charlotte’s hand holding hers. Charlotte had used her, and broken her trust. Even after she knew what Merel had gone through, the other woman had chosen to keep using her for her own personal goal. She had betrayed her, just like Alissa had done.

‘Merel…?’

Slowly Merel pulled back her hand. The worry in her chest was replaced by pain. The one person she’d trusted to never hurt her, and yet here she was. Charlotte had broken her trust, and apparently also taken her home. And now she was just supposed to trust her? Merel got up from the bench, completely ignoring Charlotte’s begging face.

‘I can’t even look at you anymore.’

With those words Merel broke her own heart and walk away from the woman she loved. Even though she had nowhere to go.

 

 

Not once in her life had Charlotte been this nervous.

The glass of water in front of her was slowly warming up. She’d taken one sip, but the nerves seemed to be closing her throat. Her leg was bouncing up and down, the minutes seemed like hours.

Charlotte had lost count of how often she’d unlocked her phone since she sat down. By now she was 100% sure this was the right bar and this was the time they’d agreed upon. And yet she found herself unlocking her phone again.

Trying to distract herself Charlotte opened her facebook app, only to close it again a few seconds later. The news about the trial of the biggest drug cartel in years was everywhere, and Charlotte was more than sick of it. She’d spent so much time into that case, and eventually it had paid off. Sort off.

Floor Jansen would never be a free woman again. She’d spend the rest of her life behind bars, just like several other of the dealers that worked for her. Charlotte was proud of that, but the price for this result had been so high.

She’d lost the one she loved. Not once had she seen Merel again, not even at the trail. Marco had made sure that she wouldn’t be punished as an accomplice, but instead got protected as a witness. She was safe, and that had been the most important thing.

Charlotte looked up when the door of the bar opened again. Her heart immediately started beating faster as she finally saw the person walking through the door, and nearly knocked over her glass when she stood up.

The person noticed her, and joined her at the table just a few seconds later. Charlotte didn’t know where to start.

‘I’m glad-’

‘Sit. And listen.’

Charlotte didn’t say anything and just did as she was told. She just sat, and listened.

‘I’ve been thinking, a lot. Mostly about you. You hurt me a lot, but I think you’re aware of that. I opened up to you, and you betrayed my trust just like others had done before you. But, at least you never lied, and you did care about me, and you were sorry.’

‘I still am.’

‘I know. And that’s why I’m here. I can’t stop thinking about you, Charlotte. As much as you’ve hurt me… I can’t get you out of my head. And If what you said was true, that what we had was true, then… I think I want to try it again. But this time with the real Charlotte. I want to know who you really are, no more secrets. I want to start over completely, as if nothing has ever happened between us.’

‘I’d love to.’ Charlotte answered.

This was so much more than Charlotte had even dared to hope for. She could almost cry of relief, wanted to hug the other woman so badly. But instead she watched her get up and walk out of the bar again, only to re-enter 5 seconds later.

She walked towards Charlotte again and smiled when she sat down across the table again.

‘Hi, I’m Merel.’

‘And I’m Charlotte.’

And she was not going to mess up this second chance.