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The Beach House

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Annabelle knew which car was Simone’s. She noted that information day two of her arrival. Getting to ride in the car felt like an invitation to know Simone more. She took in the clean interior and drew a deep breath in deciphering the clean car smell from the fresh laundry and faint citrus soap that was Simone. She savored the feeling of life she found in Simone’s presence. Simone glanced over at Annabelle as she lowered the top of the convertible. She surprised herself when she reached over and put a hand on top of Annabelle’s. Annabelle gently turned her palm over and they touched fingers lightly, palm to palm. Simone savored the intentional touch and withdrew to put the car in reverse and start their day trip.

“Can I be our DJ?” Annabelle asked. Simone laughed, “Please do. I don’t really know how to use all of that.” Annabelle was surprised. “You are always listening to music. You don’t listen to it in the car?” Simone felt a bit embarrassed, “I do. I just listen to the radio. To be honest I don’t know how to link my phone.” Annabelle laughed. “Well, before we go anywhere, let’s set it up.” Annabelle made quick work of pairing both phones as Simone smiled, looking on. It was indeed easy, but it afforded Annabelle to lean in close as she explained how easy it will be from here on out.

“I still want to be the DJ though.”
Simone smiled at her. “Consider the car your club. DJ away!”

Annabelle had the playlist all cued. It was called “New Eyes”. Annabelle had found herself wanting to share things she read, things she had seen and music she had heard with Simone. There had been immense pleasure for her in adding songs to this list, a step closer to sharing them. Now she was actually going to share them.
As Simone got on the highway, Annabelle asked, “Where are we going?”

Simone raised an eyebrow and replied, “Wouldn’t you like to know! It’s a surprise.”

A thrill of welcome ran through Annabelle. She was wanted here in this moment. She was sitting in a seat that she was invited to be in. She was starting a trip that was not only going to happen, it was earned on both sides. She was going to spend the day with Simone and Simone was going to surprise her with what that day would entail. She was pleased to see that they were heading in the direction of the coast.

Simone stopped for gas. Annabelle hopped out of the car to help her. She opened the cap and grabbed the nozzle, waiting for Simone to finish with the credit card. Simone leaned on her car, watching Annabelle pump gas for her. She liked the smell of gas for some reason. This moment made her like it more. Annabelle seemed to heighten everything. Even getting gas. She felt the slight needling within to decide what that means and then replayed Father Harris’s words. “Maybe the thing to do is not to figure it all out.” She felt the instant relief of those words. She returned to just enjoying this moment.

As Annabelle finished, Simone asked, “Road snacks?” Annabelle smiled her response, noticing the light reflecting in Simone’s eyes. She had gold sprinkled through the blue. How had she not noticed this before? The relaxed expression on Simone’s face was new to her. Without the stress of others around, Annabelle found herself locking eyes with her more and those silent exchanges seemed to express thoughts in seconds that Annabelle had not been able to communicate for months. She had communicated her want of SImone with a few overtures and a couple of failed attempts at connecting physically. This, though, was something new. Annabelle was prone to say the thing that ended a conversation because of her directness. Some experienced that as a challenge, but it was the only way she had ever known. Simone had noticed the exchanges too. This was a world she was used to, a more silent world that relied on what was not said more than what was said. Annabelle’s directness scared Simone at times. She was impressed at how quickly Annabelle seemed to come back from rejection. She couldn’t imagine facing someone after they had rejected their attempt to kiss. That memory had been replaying on loop since it happened. At times, she let it play a bit further and further. It wasn’t something she set out to do, but it was something she was gradually doing with less resistance.

As they wandered the convenience store, Annabelle had an idea, “Okay! We have to buy one thing for each other to try that the other one loves. It has to have a story attached, though. Is there anything you are allergic to or hate?” Simone laughed, “Nothing! I love every food out there.” She raised her eyebrows before adding, “It’s a problem.” Annabelle laughed, quelling the urge to comment on Simone’s body that was every bit beautiful.

Simone asked, “What about you?” Annabelle decided it was time she told Simone the saddest thing of her life. “I am allergic to chocolate.” Simone stopped in her tracks. Most people did when Annabelle shared this. Annabelle shrugged, “It’s hard out in this world for a girl like me, Simone.” Simone laughed and delighted in Annabelle’s use of her first name in casual conversation. She had done it a few times to tease her before while at school. Her use of Simone now sounded like it just flowed from inside Annabelle. She had really taken her in as Simone and that gave Simone a feeling of liberation. Simone put the Hostess Chocolate cupcakes back, her favorite. She grabbed the orange version instead, knowing exactly the story she would share. She headed to the register.

Annabelle joined Simone at the counter where she had offered to pay for Annabelle’s loot. Annabelle declined and moved her left arm behind her back so that Simone couldn’t see what she got for her. Simone craned her neck to see. Annabelle bumped into her with her hip playfully. Simone’s smile widened and she soon acquiesced to not trying to glimpse the present. She stepped forward to pay and gathered the items. She winked at Annabelle, “See you in the car.”

Annabelle watched as Simone walked away. Her heart was pounding just from that wink. Simone was so hard to read sometimes. She knew she liked being around her and she knew that she wanted to kiss her back the few nights before when Annabelle had tried. She didn’t know what any of that meant, though. She didn’t know who she was to Simone and she didn’t really know how to find out. As she paid for the purchases, Annabelle decided that she needed to let Simone lead more. She decided she would pay attention to the small things and enjoy them. She wouldn’t try to kiss her again, not until she knew that was what Simone wanted. She wanted to be with Simone desperately, but she found herself wanting Simone to be happy above all things. This, too, was new for Annabelle. And she savored it.

Simone had pulled the car up to the door and was watching Annabelle make her purchases. This girl set her on edge like no one else. She was surprised to find she was pulled to this reality rather than pushed from it. Annabelle had made her nervous for many reasons, most because of Mother Immaculata’s insistence on Simone changing Annabelle’s behavior in some way. The attempts at physical contact had felt suspect to SImone. She had expected a manipulative student when Annabelle arrived, but she found her incredibly forthright and quite intentional with others. Simone took a breath in and asked herself, “Then why does she make me feel this way?”

Annabelle left the store and smiled when she saw Simone had moved the car closer. She opened the door and thanked her for that kindness. Simone took that in as information of Annabelle’s gentle spirit as she said, “You are welcome.”

Annabelle said, “What did you get me?” Simone smiled, “Well I am a pretty traditional Hostess Cupcake girl from Philly.” Annabelle delighted at the new information, “You’re from Philadelphia?” Simone feigned annoyance, "This is my story and I need you to focus on the Hostess Cupcake part of that sentence. " Annabelle enjoyed the teasing, “My mistake, please continue.”

Simone began again, “This delicious snack cake holds the wonder of my childhood. My dad used to walk to the corner-store every single Sunday morning for a paper and he would always invite me along. I lived for it. We would talk about the week and he would tell me something he was teaching in his classes,” Simone paused for an aside, “He was an economics professor back then.” Then continued, “He would always let me buy one thing and I would always go for the same snack, a chocolate hostess cupcake. Until I was 8. Everything changed. They were out of the chocolate cupcakes and I remember feeling like everything was ruined. My dad came up to me and I remember his heavy hand on my shoulder. He told me he wanted me to try his favorite.” Simone handed Annabelle the orange cupcake. “I didn’t like it at first. I thought it was just a crappy substitute for what I really wanted. Later in the day, though, I found I really liked it. I was thinking about the taste of it and then put together that my dad had given it to me as his favorite. I only came to love it more when I found out how much my mom hated the taste of these. Made it sweeter somehow.”

Annabelle took the snack cake. She had actually never tried it before and felt some sweet anticipation in holding its weight in her hand. “Do you want me to eat this now or give you yours?” Simone smiled, “I want you to eat it whenever you want to eat it. And I want my gift immediately.” She laughed and smiled widely.

Annabelle was in love with this day. Annabelle reached into her pocket and pulled out her treat for Simone. “This is a ring pop. When I was 7 years old, me best friend Trevor was moving away. We were both heartbroken. Before he left, he put together a song and dance for me, performing it in our front yard and presenting me with the ring. He didn’t propose marriage to me, though. He proposed something else that ended up being the best thing ever. He dropped to one knee and said, ‘Annabelle promise you won’t ever marry a guy and I promise I won’t ever marry a girl. Not ever!’” Annabelle giggled at the memory. “The best part ever, though, was that we both ended up being gay!”

Simone laughed. She was struck with how easy it was for Annabelle to talk about her sexuality. She couldn’t imagine feeling that at ease. For her, sexuality was filled with turmoil and shame. There wasn’t an ounce of that for this young woman.

Annabelle quieted as she realized she should probably make a proposal to Simone, bring it full circle. She hadn’t thought that through. She unwrapped the ring pop and then thought about the spirit of Trevor’s proposal. “So, Simone promise you will always be true to yourself. No matter what.” Simone’s breath hitched as she reached for the ring. Annabelle laid her hand on top of hers. “You didn’t promise.” Simone looked into Annabelle’s eyes and there was sadness there. Quietly she said, “I promise, Annabelle.” Annabelle smiled and turned Simone’s hand palm down, slipping the ring on her right hand, wishing Simone had offered the left and wondering what it would feel like to put a real ring on her finger.

Simone left her hand in Annabelle’s a bit longer. She breathed in deep and smiled. This woman made her feel more emotion in a single day than she had felt for many years combined. It was extravagant and she wanted to live inside of every moment.

Simone backed out as Annabelle returned to her DJ activity, describing the next song for Simone. Simone returned her right arm to lean on the console, something she never did in the car alone. She quickly was rewarded with Annabelle moving her own arm to be flesh against hers. Simone felt a thrill run through her that made her audibly gasp. The music hid it from Annabelle, but nothing hid it from Simone. She wondered what being true to herself meant in a moment like this. She decided it simply meant being and so that is what she chose. To be here now. With Annabelle. All to herself.

The ride took about an hour and there were several moments of physical connection, some more bold than others. She found herself more bold in her responses, the farther they traveled from the school. At one point Simone reached for Annabelle’s hand and held it, lacing her fingers, palm to palm and the occasional rubbing of her thumb over Annabelle’s outer hand. She saw Annabelle close her eyes a number of times and feel the warm sun on her face. As they rounded the bends of the coast, Simone had removed her hand to have both hands on the steering wheel. She felt Annabelle lean into her more during these times. Not touching her, but connected. Simone smiled as she saw their destination in sight.

Annabelle was scrutinizing the coast and decided that Simone must have just brought her to a favorite beach spot. It was pretty private, tucked away. She wouldn’t have known that there was parking where Simone pulled in and parked. The beach was empty and there was a slight chill to the air. Simone grabbed some things and put them in a bag, Annabelle adding her items as well.

Simone started to walk toward the stairs and smiled at Annabelle to join her. Annabelle walked with her, as next to her as she could on the narrow staircase. It emptied onto the beach, but she noted Simone slowed a few steps away from the bottom and reached for Annabelle’s hand to guide her which Annabelle immediately accepted, releasing the hand when they turned left. They were on a deck of a beach house. Annabelle saw Simone reach into her pocket in search for a key. “Is this your place?” Annabelle was amazed. It was beautiful. The next thought, though, was the true cause for amazement. “Simone brought me to her own place at the beach. This is her home!” Simone could feel the happiness of Annabelle and it made her smile. She was hoping for exactly this reaction.

Simone confirmed it was her place and that her folks had given it to her “when she graduated.” Annabelle knew that Simone had gone to UCLA for bachelor’s and master’s degree. She figured this was the carrot that kept her enrolled and made her finish. Or maybe it was when she graduated from St. Teresa’s. Simone went on to share that it was a gift due to their guilty consciences. Annabelle knew Simone didn’t see her folks as she had disclosed this to her in the library while they looked at some of Simone’s pictures. There clearly was broken relationship there and Annabelle wanted to know more. She also knew Simone would share what she wanted when she wanted.

Simone noticed their reflections walking side by side as they approached the door. She glanced a moment at the face of Annabelle in the reflection and saw she was doing the same to Simone’s reflection. They locked eyes for a moment and smiled, breaking the eye contact as Annabelle gazed out at the ocean and Simone opened the door. She invited her in the door, quickly doing a “smell test”. She hadn’t been up here in a few weeks and never brought guests, a frustration to Michael when he wanted to spend more time on the weekends. She longed for time alone in this place, morning walks, taking pictures, being away. There was not an ounce of that feeling in present company. She wanted Annabelle in this place with her.

The house smelled fine, but Simone cranked open a window in the kitchen and living area just the same. Simone offered Annabelle a drink from what they bought at the convenience store. Annabelle accepted and gazed around the common areas as she sipped. Simone watched as Annabelle’s eyes bounced off of the objects, taking each new thing in. She looked at each object seconds after and wondered what type of conclusions this brilliant woman was compiling with her new discoveries. Simone had to puzzle out many things regarding Annabelle over the last few months and, for most of them, she still didn’t know if she was right.

Simone opened up the deck patio door and invited Annabelle to come out with her. Each took off their shoes and settled in, Simone tucking her legs underneath so she could face Annabelle and the beach without turning completely. Annabelle hugged her legs to her chest, resting her elbows on her knees and parting her legs in a relaxed pose. While SImone could steal glances in the way she sat, Annabelle could not. Annabelle had to turn her head and intentionally look at Simone. Simone’s heart would beat a bit faster each time she saw Annabelle glance her way, immediately following her glances when Annabelle looked away.

Simone had noticed Annabelle was pretty the moment she saw her. Annabelle was assured and appeared unafraid, she carried herself with a lot of dignity. As Simone looked at her features now, taking extra moments to really take her in, she noticed parts she never had before. Her posture was impeccable no matter how she sat. She had a grace when she moved, like her body had muscle memory for every single action she took. There was fluidity to her movements. Her right side profile looked like a shadow art she had grown up admiring in her mom’s art collection. It was a profile of a woman with her lips slightly parted. Simone’s mom had always said, “I always wondered what she is talking about.” Simone did not see that piece of art as a woman speaking. She saw her parted lips to be a taking in of breath, bringing in life. It always soothed Simone. As she considered Annabelle’s profile and noticed the slightly parted lips, the soothing feeling came. The soothing morphed to wonder and the wonder to awe. Simone thought, ‘Annabelle is absolutely beautiful.’

As she realized this, Annabelle turned her head. Simone tuned into what Annabelle was saying, “You should live here full time.” Simone recovered her words quickly and explained it was too long of a drive. Annabelle had a teasing expression as she suggested Simone make a career change. Simone smiled when the words first reached her, but as they traveled into her thoughts, it suddenly had a different meaning. It seemed as though that meaning settled on Annabelle as well. “What if I wasn’t your teacher? And what if you weren’t my student?” Simone’s gaze deepened as she looked into Annabelle’s eyes. They both communicated longing. Simone broke contact. She did not know how to be true to herself where Annabelle was concerned. Since this was the case, it was deeply important to not start anything she was conflicted about. Nothing physical would happen with Annabelle.

Simone asked herself, ‘What about emotional? Can I have a deep emotional connection without anything more?’ She knew this was already in motion and that was the main cause of Simone’s willingness to bring her here. Simone wanted to know Annabelle, talk with her, listen to her, just be with her. Simone realized that she also wanted Annabelle to know her. She wanted Annabelle to enjoy her. She swallowed a little harder at the next truth that swirled within. Simone wanted Annabelle to want her, just like Simone wanted Annabelle. A breath in for SImone as she attempted to refocus back to the moment. A thought trailed on by that said quite simply. “Annabelle does want you.” Simone felt the stirring intensely.

This was the part of being with Annabelle that had Simone the most confused. Even when she did not fantasize about Annabelle, she wanted her. Her body wanted Annabelle so completely that it brought on a rush of blood through every part of her. The throbbing feeling would appear so strongly that she had to grip whatever was around her. Sometimes, when Annabelle was this close, that meant Simone had to do everything in her power to not grab for her directly. Simone took in a deep breath and said she was going to run to the bathroom and wondered if Annabelle wanted to head to the beach for a walk. Annabelle nodded, watching Simone stand and enter the house.
Annabelle released her knuckled grasp of the outdoor couch she sat on. It had washed over her, the feeling. It wasn’t accompanied by many thoughts, just by Simone’s presence. She stared out at the ocean, enjoying the warmth of arousal. She was used to conjuring this feeling, not simply accepting it. The first time she had felt this way was in the company of her first girlfriend Lily. They were all of 14 and didn’t know what was happening or what it meant. It just would happen when they touched each other in certain ways that weren’t even sexual. She had other girlfriends and other experiences, allowing herself to be sexual the most with Laci who had moved away with her family months ago.

Annabelle thought about the feeling of warmth and anticipation. It was like an undercurrent of electricity, a buzzing that was always on. There was never a moment that she didn’t long to be near Simone. The undercurrent was steady and she loved to feel it. She realized it connected her to Simone. Simone was out of sight even and it remained. Then there were these moments, these looks between them that turned the current up. That was the difference. The current wasn’t something she controlled. It was something they both controlled. As long as it was on, they were connected. No matter where they were and if they were together, Annabelle and Simone were somehow still with each other. Annabelle realized she was out of her depth. She was confident sexually and knew that she had an innate sense of how pleasure worked. That wasn’t at play here, though. Making SImone feel good would not be enough to quench this need for either of them. Annabelle did not just want Simone’s mouth on hers, she wanted all of her. And she wanted that endlessly.

Simone returned to the deck and had her camera around her shoulder. She smiled an invitation to Annabelle. Annabelle smiled back, both adding extra seconds to the glance, allowing this current to run back and forth, without impediment, fully welcomed. Simone thought a single word that had never occurred to her to use before. ‘Lovely. Annabelle is lovely.’

Annabelle and Simone approached the beach, Simone looking around for light and shadow. She started to take pictures right away and Annabelle was struck at how quickly the activity absorbed Simone. Annabelle felt this when she was writing songs or singing. The creativity of it just swept her away. Kat was always pushing Annabelle to name herself as a rock star wannabe or some stardom crazed person. Kat couldn’t have been more wrong. Annabelle didn’t long to perform. She longed to express and music gave her the vehicle. Once that connected in Annabelle, her world changed. Her long silence after losing her father had been broken when she wrote for the first time. She wanted music to go with the words so she sat in her room for an entire summer teaching herself the guitar. It was the fastest summer of her life and she often wished to return to it nearly 4 years later as it contained concentrated solace.

Simone was captivated by her photography so Annabelle took the time to gaze at her, memorizing every part that she could. Simone’s hair was picking up the breeze and announcing its presence like a sail. Simone looked toward the sky every now and again between shots. When she did, the sun would catch her eye and the gold was visible to Annabelle ten feet away now that she knew it was there. Simone moved her mouth when she concentrated. Annabelle loved that she was witnessing something so innate in Simone that Simone likely didn’t know she did it. As her mouth moved, Annabelle looked at her lips.

Annabelle thought about the other night when she had tried to kiss Simone and a wave of embarrassment crossed over her. It wasn’t so much that she was rejected, though that did sting. Annabelle was embarrassed when she realized that what she had tried wasn’t right for her and Simone. She had charged against the current and Simone had withdrawn. Annabelle gave some structure to a fleeting thought. ‘Simone did not want to withdraw from me that day.’

Annabelle had actually leaned into kiss Simone after seeing a cue from Simone that she wanted her to. It was subtle. She had reached for Simone’s cross after noting Simone had been playing with it. When Simone tried to explain the fidgeting as a nervous gesture, Annabelle had quickly been taken with the idea that Simone felt nervous around her. She had surprised herself when she dropped Simone’s necklace gently and ran her fingertips across her skin just above Simone’s shirt line. Annabelle saw a heavy lidded wantonness reach Simone’s eyes that day, but Simone would not admit her desire for Annabelle.

Annabelle watched Simone now and revelled in her new awareness of her. Simone needed Annabelle to go with the current rather than pushing against it or pushing it forward. Annabelle’s desire to be with Simone deepened as she realized she was okay waiting for the physical. She felt the surge run through her and was surprised to see Simone glance back to her. Annabelle thought she saw something in her eyes, a response to what had just happened to Annabelle physically. It was a flash and was gone, but the hum remained.

While taking pictures, Simone was remembering a walk she had taken with Father Harris when she was 16 or so. She was a mess about so many things back then, but Father Harris was a steady, kind presence. He just shared thoughts he was having on these walks and they always connected to some soul mystery that existed within her. “I have long thought that our living is about returning home. The way life flows, it seems that way to me. The river is constantly seeking its way back to the ocean, seeking other water to join in its journey. Birds flying across thousands of miles, penguins marching in an ancient search for bringing new life back home. Flames reach up and up and up, ever higher, like they are trying to return to their source, the sun.” Simone lifted her gaze to Annabelle. She took in the reality of being with Annabelle in this moment, in this way that they were creating. It made Simone wonder about the source of their connection and how she would find her way back to whatever home her living was seeking.

Annabelle walked further down the beach and laid down in a sandy cove, nestled with rocks. She looked at the clouds, her favorite activity. No matter where she was, she always looked for clouds and wondered at their shapes. Another gift from her dad from long ago. It was an immediate pressure release. She soon sensed a shadow casting over her that was very welcomed as it announced Simone’s presence. The hum heightened. Annabelle smiled up at her and Simone smiled down, snapping a few pictures as she did. She sat down next to where Annabelle lay. “I’ve noticed you look at the sky a lot. What are you looking at?”

Annabelle moved over a little, less out of need and more out of invitation for Simone to come close. Simone adjusted and laid at a slight angle allowing her head to slightly touch Annabelle’s head. The hum increased for both. Annabelle had lifted her hands to identify some of the shapes she saw in the clouds. Simone stared at the hands as they moved. They were graceful hands. Simone had witnessed those hands light many cigarettes. She watched them hold books and write furiously. They had played the guitar and reached out for friends. Simone had watched them part the water as Annabelle had swam toward her the night Simone had caught her in the pool after midnight. Those hands had reached for Simone on many occasions. Those fingers had traced her collarbone creating the strongest feeling of want that Simone had experienced in her life.

Simone waited for Annabelle’s arm to drop after she pointed out the shapes in the clouds. When it did, she reached for Annabelle’s hand. Annabelle laced her fingers through Simones in a move that was becoming more familiar, their hands knowing the other will fit in this way, just so. Each allowed their thumbs to grace the outer part of each other’s hand.

Annabelle placed her other hand on top and held Simone’s hand as though it was treasure. She lifted it so it was within her line of sight and she traced the outside of it all over, running her fingertips up and down Simone’s arm. Simone had closed her eyes to the sky to better take in the sensation of Annabelle’s touch. Being with Annabelle was light. They both were becoming comfortable with the idea that the other person liked to look at them. The shyness was slipping away and it was becoming more natural to be connected with sight and touch than it was to not have those elements. There was a happiness in Annabelle at this moment that captivated Simone. They sat up and Simone grabbed her camera again. but it was something more. The way Annabelle was sitting struck Simone with a desire to take her photo. It was the way Annabelle moved her head and the way she allowed her body to be just a little more on display. Simone reacted immediately and felt the increased hum, moving her legs apart ever so slightly without even knowing it. She was saying, “Come in closer” to the hum, come in closer to Annabelle.

Simone set the camera down and was pleased when Annabelle reached for her hand again. She saw Annabelle look away and sensed some slight nervousness. “Can I ask you something?” Simone said, “Sure.” Simone knew immediately what the question would be. It would be about whether she and Amanda were together or not. Annabelle had been putting the pieces together starting with the picture, then the quote in the book matching the quote on the rock Annabelle had seen while smoking one day. Simone realized she was actually wanting Annabelle to know more. It was not lost for a moment on Simone that both of their necklaces came from their first loves. That connection was more than coincidental. It meant something to Simone. What it meant, though, was beyond her.

While Simone expected the topic of Amanda, she was surprised with the phrasing of Annabelle’s question: “The girl in the pictures. Were you in love with her?” That was the thing with Annabelle, she got to the heart of it. She didn’t ask, “Was Amanda your girlfriend?” or “Are you gay?” She asked about the thing that mattered. This was a very easy question to answer and Simone did so while staring into Annabelle’s eyes, feeling years and years of secrets begin to awaken. “Yes.”

Annabelle held her gaze, seeing the depth and the fear all in one moment. She glanced down at the cross Simone wore and said, “You still wear her cross.” This Simone was not prepared for. No one knew this was from Amanda. No one. How could Annabelle know this? Simone was truly dumbfounded and a little frightened. “How did you…” she trailed off as she gazed at the cross her hand was now holding again, only holding it more protectively than as a touchstone. Annabelle quickly explained, “She is wearing it in all the pictures.” Simone had exposed something she did not even know she had in sharing those pictures. She suddently felt afraid. Who else had pieced this together? She started running through her mind at the different people she knew since she was young. No one had ever seemed to notice the cross. No one ever asked her about Amanda at all.

The exposure was too much, though, and Simone needed a break. She tried to explain and heard Annabelle call out to her. Simone felt badly, but she just needed a little time before they talked about this anymore. Simone walked toward the beach house, but kept on walking to an area tucked a bit out of the way so that she could have some privacy. Tears were coming and she didn’t want to start crying and ruin the rest of her time with Annabelle. She ducked into the cove and sat against some rocks, staring at the water flowing in and out.

Simone had been wearing her cross because Amanda had left it for her the day she died. Amanda had been in her life since she was 13 years old. Their relationship had been Simone’s entire world. They had been in school at UCLA together, when Amanda had abruptly dropped out just one semester before graduating with her bachelor’s. Amanda had several bouts of depression and they both had been through several attempts to reconcile who they were to each other and what they believed. Simone may have had a nun for an aunt and caretaker at her boarding school, but that had nothing on Amanda’s religious upbringing as her parents allowed for very little outside of a life for Christ. Amanda was expected to follow suit and she certainly tried, but she was never free. Not ever. There love was always a secret and it always would be.

When Amanda had dropped out, Simone had been frustrated. They had been arguing a lot because of Amanda’s decisions. The day she died, Amanda had promised to meet Simone at the beach house so they could talk about their relationship. She had been trying so hard to support Amanda, but Amanda kept shutting her out. Simone had expected Amanda to be at the beach house when she arrived, but she didn’t find Amanda there. When Simone called to find out where she was, Amanda was cold and withdrawn. She said she didn’t want to come and she wanted Simone to move on without her. Simone had been livid and hung up on her. She couldn’t stand this up and down relationship anymore. It made Simone not want to be with anyone at all it was so taxing. She had gone throughout the rest of the day, arguing back and forth with Amanda in her head. Simone had deciding to give her the night and then try again the next day.

The call had come at 3am and it was from Amanda’s sister. Her voice had been shaky as she told Simone she had some bad news for her. Amanda had taken all of her pills that night. Simone later learned she had taken three months worth of the antidepressant she had been stockpiling this whole time. Simone had asked Amanda if she was taking her meds and Amanda had sworn up and down she was. She hadn’t been.

The fury that Simone felt was unmatched. She trashed her beach house and found herself sitting among broken glass all around, including shards from a window. She had cut herself all over. As she sat on the floor, surrounded in glass, she sobbed and slept. When she woke a few hours after, she removed her clothes and sat in the shower for a long time, watching small cuts bleed. 

Amanda had left a letter with her parents that basically apologized to everyone she hurt and explained it hurt too much to live. It was a few weeks before Simone found the cross and the letter in the beach house. Amanda had come by that day unbeknownst to Simone. She had left Simone a second note, hinting at their love and leaving the cross. Simone had found it in a drawer Amanda used when she would stay. It was on top. Amanda had hoped she would find it. Simone wondered if she had hoped she would have found it in time and began to blame herself for Amanda’s death. She never shared the existence of the cross or the letter with anyone and yet, Annabelle knew the cross was Amanda’s.

As Simone sat on the beach remembering this extraordinarily painful time, she shook her head in wonder. She understood that Annabelle was observant, but this was so in tune. It gave Simone a feeling of fear and want, something that was becoming very familiar for her where Annabelle was concerned. Simone stood and walked toward the water, holding the cross. She debated removing it and placing it into her pocket or even dropping it into the sea. It seemed like she should take some sort of action now that Annabelle knew the connection. She imagined reaching for it in class absentmindedly and imagining Annabelle seeing it. She was surprised that she was actually comforted by that. Someone would know that Simone lost something more than a dear friend. Annabelle knew she lost her first love.

Simone decided to find Annabelle, planning to explain that she was just surprised Annabelle had put this together. She looked down the beach and didn’t see where Annabelle went. She decided she was likely at the beach house and headed up the deck. As she walked past the window toward the open door, she saw Annabelle walking toward the deck with something she was reading. Simone took a step inside and saw that Annabelle was holding the letter Amanda left her when she died. At first, she didn’t look up to see Simone standing there. When she did, though, she was met with a look of fury.

Simone quickly approached, knowing Annabelle was saying words to her, but none of them mattered. She ripped the letter out of her hands and yelled, “This is bullshit.” As Annabelle reached for her, Simone stood her ground and attempted to wave her away. “I am not going to talk about it!” She felt Annabelle’s arms engulf her more than she heard any words she said. Simone pulled away and Annabelle’s hold on her grew tighter.

Simone grasped the letter in her hand as she heard the words Annabelle was saying to her, over and over, like a mantra, “I’m not letting you go. I’m not letting you go.” Simone’s fight drained and an intense well of sadness she had not tapped for far too long welled up and out as Annabelle held her more tightly. Simone dropped the letter, freeing herself to hold onto Annabelle unencumbered for the first time in their relationship.

Annabelle held Simone as she Simone did the work of undoing and knitting her soul back together. Annabelle gradually got Simone to lower to the floor with her where Annabelle could hold her better. Simone had made the transition seamless and had leaned into Annabelle’s comfort. Annabelle wrapped her body around Simone. Her legs and arms holding her tightly. Simone leaned against her chest and sobbed, enveloped in comfort in the very place she had stood when learning Amanda had died. Simone reached around tightly as well, holding Annabelle as they both rocked. Soon, it was not Annabelle holding Simone. It was not Simone holding Annabelle. It was love holding them both and that needed nothing other than two people willing to breathe and be until the sorrow lifted enough for life to return.

After some time, Annabelle rose and reached for Simone. Simone stood with her, seeming exhausted in every way. Annabelle guided Simone to the bed and Simone did not object. Annabelle climbed in as well and pulled Simone to her again. Simone continued the hard, hard work of grieving, Annabelle continued the hard, hard work of waiting.
Simone had never been held in this way. The moment she had relaxed into the arms of Annabelle she experienced all she needed. This is not a state that is learned outside of longing. It is a state that is only reached through brokenness. This was something each of them knew and that ache was a call and response that healed them as they allowed.

Annabelle stroked Simone’s hair, her back. Simone’s head was in the crook of Annabelle’s neck. Simone nuzzled in further, completely losing herself in the comfort, the caring of Annabelle. This drew out sadness in a way that nothing else ever had.

As Simone’s heart lightened, she did become aware of the heat of Annabelle’s body pressed against her. Simone felt Annabelle become aware of her again as well. The physical her. The mutual her. The breast to breast. The curve to curve and she wanted to be lost in what she felt. She pulled Annabelle close as Annabelle pulled Simone close, a synchronized moment that comes with complete openness. The reaching for one another made them feel this moment had been orchestrated for them. Annabelle was exhausted. Simone was exhausted. Soon, their breathing had become matched. This was calm enough to soothe both of them into sleep while the healing call and response remained.