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beautiful stranger, it's finally safe for me to fall

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In her brevity at college, lecture halls were—still are—nerve-wracking to Misty. Always suffocating, not to mention nauseating from time to time. She began seeking out the corners away from the limelight. She was never a very participative student, and perhaps with the years, she became a bit of a loner.

 

School was never a priority in her life; not like she didn’t care, but she had other, more important things to worry about. Even when she was younger, after Mallory was born, she had responsibilities at home to take care of. Sara worked the mornings which sometimes turned into late evenings, and despite Marie’s help, much of the responsibility was laid on her. Misty never minded.

 

Tulane’s lecture hall is terrifyingly large, not to mention crowded. Everyone’s attention is directed toward the presentation and the speaker at the front. Most impressive of it all though is how Cordelia works the room. There’s a newfound confidence in her poise, the way she holds herself, the assuredness with which she speaks. Misty sits in the far back corner and finds herself enraptured in the lesson Cordelia is currently teaching.

 

“Now that is not to say the Baroque period started out being associated with the ‘strange’, ‘bizarre’ or even ‘gruesome’ aspects of art, as many people associate with it nowadays. Following the pronouncements made by the Council of Trent—the 19th ecumental council of the Catholic Church—on how art might serve religion, it became clear that a new style of biblical art was necessary as a response to the Protestant Reformation,” she explains. “This style had to be more forceful, more emotional to fully convey the miracles and sufferings of the Saints. It had to be imbued with a greater realism: exaggerated motion and clear detail used to produce exuberance, drama and grandeur.”

 

Cordelia wears a satin pink, flowered blouse and white pants that accentuate the curve of her ass (not like Misty is staring). She’s wearing her glasses and her hair down, and Misty notices how she taps the heel of her shoes between slides.

 

“Despite having started out in Rome, Italy, let’s remember Baroque art manifested itself differently in various European countries owing to their unique cultural sphere. Great example of this is France, which had its own, more secular relationship with the artistic movement, but we’ll touch on that later.”

 

The presentation behind Cordelia flips the slide to a picture of a gruesome, dark painting; two women stand to the side, the older one of them watching intently as the other takes a man by the hair and slices through his neck with a sword. 

 

“Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio, is sometimes referred to il padre of Baroque painting. ‘ Judith Beheading Holofernes’ ,” she explains, pointing back to the screen, “was painted somewhere between 1598 and 1602. There’s a lot to unpack in this painting: the technique, the composition, the emotion . Chiaroscuro was a technique used at the time to create this dramatic effect…”

 

Students quickly scribble information and tap away on their keyboards. Some others ask questions, which Cordelia gladly answers, but reminds them this is merely a review of the lesson they’d already covered, and that any specific, more in detail questions can be sent via email throughout the weekend. 

 

Misty pays rapt attention to Cordelia. She barely knows anything about art history, but say, if she would’ve had the opportunity to have a teacher as pretty as Cordelia, she would’ve made sure to be more interested.

 

The slides keep flipping, Cordelia talks about various paintings (each as dark as the previous one), different artists and how they all left their mark. About forty minutes later, Cordelia begins to wrap up the lesson. “Don’t forget your final is Monday. Study, rest, have some breakfast before coming in, alright guys? I’m sure all of you will do great.”

 

“Happy holidays, Miss Goode!”

 

“Have a good day!”

 

“Thank you, Miss Cordelia.”

 

“Take care.”

 

A string of ‘ thank you’ s and ‘ happy holidays! ’ follow after the students leaving the hall.

 

“Happy holidays, guys.”

 

“Excuse me? Can I see you in your office later?” Misty asks after waiting for everyone else to leave to approach Cordelia from the side. The blonde is distracted putting papers back in her bag, so she barely turns her head toward Misty.

 

“Is there something you’d like to review or- oh !” The face-splitting grin she offers her makes a swarm of butterflies erupt in Misty’s belly. “Mist! What’re you doing here?”

 

“Thought I’d swing by a little earlier and catch a bit of your lecture. Hope that’s alright?”

 

“Of course it’s alright.”

 

“You’re really good at what you do, you know?” Misty pecks her lips and then deepens the kiss. “Professor Cordelia is hot.”

 

Cordelia rolls her eyes amusedly. “Of course you’d think that.”

 

“Are you ready to go?”

 

“Mm, you’re gonna come back to my office with me. I gotta make sure the correct finals are printed today so they don’t have any trouble on Monday.”

 

“I’ll behave.”

 

“I’m sure you will.”

 

While they trek across campus Misty wonders what it would’ve been like had they met in another place, in another time. How her life would’ve turned out completely different had they met in college, or had they been high school sweethearts, childhood crushes. Roaming the halls of this big university, hand in hand with the most stunning woman she’s ever seen, skipping early morning lecture to eat pancakes at the diner, late night coffee dates, getting blind drunk after finals week. Coco would’ve dragged them out to countless parties, despite Cordelia’s reluctance, and Misty’s sure they would’ve slipped out early to have sex in the empty apartment, knowing Coco wouldn’t be back home until next morning. Though it wouldn’t have been right, she thinks, because growing apart and out of love as the summer melted away would’ve been a tragedy.

 

Not like it matters. Not like Misty would change anything now.

 

They walk past Richard’s office, and when their eyes meet Misty can see the annoyance of having been left as nothing more than an afterthought flicker in his selfish stare. (Cordelia doesn’t even notice him.) Misty offers to help count the printed exams while Cordelia runs to talk to Quentin about last minute matters, and once everything’s done they’re out.

 

Today they have planned going to the museum; it was Misty’s idea because she insisted Cordelia needed a break after the week she had. The NOMA has a new exhibition she’s sure Cordelia would be excited about, and being the last Friday of the semester, the couple ultimately decided it would be a good way to spend their day.

 

Upon Cordelia’s request, they drive on Misty’s van because she thinks the kombi is “pretty cool”, which admittedly makes Misty giddy. Marie would laugh and say they’re both acting like teenagers, but it’s nice to be with someone who’s excited about the small joys of life. 

 

Before letting her in though, she grabs the single flower she’d left sitting on the dashboard.

 

“I brought you something,” she says, handing Cordelia the calla lily. “It was the best one from the entire order that arrived this morning.”

 

Tears spring to Cordelia’s eyes at the thoughtful gesture; would she be acting crazy if she burst out crying in the middle of the parking lot? “I love it.”

 

( I love you .)

 

There’s an air of young naïveté to the day. Like a summer day and being 17 all over again. Cordelia climbs in the passenger seat, and Misty lets her pick the music from her playlist (already past the point of coyness for what she might find there).

 

Along the front of the museum, an arrangement of posters indicate the current exhibitions on display. Cordelia excitedly points to a blue poster, DEVOTION TO DRAWING: THE PENCILS OF EUGÈNE DELACROIX.

 

“It’s not that big of a show but,” Cordelia explains as they walk into the building, turning to look at Misty with her eyes dancing with excitement and full of bright expectations, “I’m sure it’s gonna be marvelous.” 

 

It is, opposed to Cordelia's observation, not a small show: there are around 40 pieces on display. The walls are covered in cerulean blue wallpaper, and there’s only three other people in the exhibition hall.

 

Misty observes them, an older couple and a young woman who looks like an art student with earphones and taking pictures of the pieces with her phone.

 

Wordlessly Cordelia pulls her along the way. She stops before every piece, gets a closer look, silently observes the details. If she likes it upon first glance, she squeezes Misty’s hand a bit tighter. The younger blonde takes on watching Cordelia’s expression instead, the lines around her eyes when she squints, the way her teeth capture her bottom lip, the big exhale after regarding a piece as if she were waiting for it to almost come alive and dance out of frame. Poor Misty somewhat understands what Cordelia finds so fascinating, or tries, but art had never been her particular area of expertise.

 

Finally, after five or six pieces and barely any words exchanged, Misty says, “Delia, tell me what you see.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“It’s different, through your eyes. I wanna know what you see.”

 

“Oh, I didn’t wanna lecture you. I could ramble about this for hours.”

 

“I’d listen. Ya have a nice way with words.”

 

(The way Cordelia smiles at her, appreciative and spilling enthusiasm, makes her heart soar.)

 

“So this piece right here—” Cordelia refers to the unfinished sketch of a man with a beard, dated 1824, “—see how the proportions are a little undeveloped, a little… skewed. It shows how much progress he made over the years.”

 

They walk back to the previous drawing, “Look at this one, how the proportions are more accurate. His linework is much more fluid.”

 

Misty nods, furrowing her brow.

 

“And this one over here—” Cordelia points to the next piece over, Two studies of a reclining male nude; figure studies after Rubens’s “Fall of the Damned”, “—portrays the way he understood shapes a lot better, and how they all work together.”

 

“Like a string of sausages.”

 

“Yes, exactly,” Cordelia laughs. “He had a better grasp of anatomy, overall.”

 

“This one’s really impressive,” Misty comments, referring to a drawing of a horse made with ink: The Giaour on horseback .

 

“It is. See how fluid the motion is? It’s not stiff, you can actually see the action line.” Her gaze gets lost in the paper, pupils jumping along every line and curve. “Almost as if you could listen to the galloping.”

 

Cordelia begins to walk but Misty pulls on her arm lightly. “That is- incredibly attractive.”

 

“What is?”

 

“How smart you are,” Misty leans in to kiss her cheek, letting her lips ghost over hers, “and how passionate you are ’bout it.”

 

And then she captures Cordelia’s lips in a kiss that’s so heartbreakingly tender it brings tears to her brown eyes.

 

“Perhaps the word you’re looking for is obnoxious,” Cordelia whispers close, which makes Misty chuckle.

 

“You’re never obnoxious. Maybe a little too cute for your own good.”

 

“We can leave whenever you get bored.”

 

“Nah, finish looking around. But keep talkin’ to me, I’m enjoying it.”

 

That’s what they do throughout the rest of the exhibition. If a particular piece catches Misty’s eye (they always involve animals, Cordelia notices), she’ll ask Cordelia for more details. Mostly she just allows Cordelia to talk freely, giving her the space to share her thought process.

 

“How did you decide you wanted to major in art?”

 

“That was a tough decision. History was my best subject in school, and art is so complex and moving; there’s a lot to see there.” Cordelia elaborates, “Fiona wanted me to study law, like her, and I actually considered it for a while but deep down I knew it wouldn’t make me happy.”

 

“So I take it your mother wasn’t thrilled when ya told her you were coming to New Orleans?”

 

“No she wasn’t.” Cordelia grins softly. “Myrtle, on the other hand, was very pleased with my decision so, you win some you lose some.”

 

“Sure, I can understand that.”

 

“I like this one.” Cordelia stops in front of a pencil drawing titled Hamlet reproaches his mother . Instead of delving into the explanation she asks, “What did Marie say when you left college?”

 

“She kinda saw it comin’.” Misty snickers. “I was very unhappy, towards the end. Sometimes I think she knows me better than I know m’self.”

 

“That’s nice. To have that support, I mean.”

 

Misty only squeezes her hand in reply.

 

When they’ve walked around the whole exhibition, Cordelia drags Misty back to the couple pieces she liked the most. She watches them intently all over again, so Misty allows her to do her entire process in silence.

 

“Which was your favorite?” Cordelia asks her when she’s done.

 

“I liked the one with the horse. It’s pretty and the ink looks nice.”

 

Cordelia’s hazelnut eyes seem to melt with her answer, obviously grateful to have had Misty’s attention. 

 

“Lunch? I feel like a bagel,” Misty offers.

 

“A bagel sounds great. And coffee.”

 

“Yes ma’am.”





“Misty Day, if you tickle me one more time I swear to god—”

 

“Alright alright, I’m done,” Misty laughs, sitting back on hind legs over the grass. “No more ticklin’.”

 

Cordelia smirks, knowing well Misty will tackle her down to the ground as soon as she gets another chance. Reaching out, she strokes Misty’s cheek with her dirty thumb, leaving a smudge on alabaster skin. “Payback.”

 

“I’m sure ya can do better ‘an that,” Misty replies unbothered, her grin growing.

 

Accepting the challenge, Cordelia swiftly throws a leg over Misty’s hips, trapping her down. The grass tickles her bare calves, and she’s sure it pokes through Misty’s dress too. She unsuccessfully attempts to tickle her this time, only to be thrown onto her back by an eager (and way stronger) Misty. Her fingers move all over Cordelia’s torso to the fold of her soft stomach, eliciting big belly laughs from Cordelia that decorate the birdsong.

 

“Fine, I give up!” Cordelia squeals. “Truce!”

 

“Told ya.” Misty gives her a kiss, and lets her free.

 

They happily lie outside, under the direct sunlight, with Misty resting her head on Cordelia’s chest. Her breathing evens under the weight of her blonde head. When Misty looks up at Cordelia she holds her stare for a while and moves a hand up to remove a stray eyelash from the apple of her cheek.

 

“Make a wish.”

 

Cordelia shuts her eyes and blows on Misty’s fingers.

 

“What’cha wish for?”

 

“If I tell you it won’t become true.”

 

Misty clicks her tongue. “Big dreams then.”

 

And Cordelia hums.

 

“Why The Merchant of Venice ?”

 

“What?”

 

“The book you dropped for me at the shop a month ago, why that one?”

 

“I like it,” Cordelia answers simply. “I remember reading it back in highschool. That line of poetry has stuck with me since.”

 

Misty blinks sluggishly, as if time had willingly slowed down for them. As if the world had gifted them this moment to stretch out for however long they pleased. “At the time it made me angry.”

 

“Why?”

 

“It felt like you were lyin’ to me.”

 

“I meant it then as much as I do now. You have my whole heart.”

 

“That’s so cheesy.”

 

“It’s Shakespeare, what did you expect?”

 

“I’m yours too, Delia,” Misty says, kissing the corner of her mouth. While Cordelia is distracted chasing her lips, Misty’s hands sneak around and poke her sides in an attempt to tickle her again. “C’mon up, up, or else the bugs will get us.”

 

They manage to sit up between giggles. Cordelia removes her gloves to wipe the corner of her eyes. She tips Misty’s straw hat, looking into her blue eyes before leaning in for another sweet peck of the lips. God she could kiss her forever, and some more.

 

The garden is a reduced space behind the house which Misty suggested they adorned with all kinds of colorful flowers in rows. They’ve been working on that all morning, finally getting around to decorating it the way Cordelia wanted taking advantage of the warm, sunny day.

 

For unforeseen circumstances, they’d decided to spend last night at Cordelia’s. She supposes that with Misty here, the empty promises her house shelters seem to diminish, if not disappear entirely.

 

It’d become a common occurrence for them to spend most nights at Misty’s; her home is cozier, and it doesn’t reek of Hank (not that Cordelia would say that outloud). Misty doesn’t quite care as long as she gets to hold Cordelia when the sun rises. 

 

(The previous afternoon, Cordelia received the call she’d been so anxiously waiting for. They were in the kitchen preparing dinner when Quentin’s name appeared on her phone screen, Cordelia’s heartbeat drumming loudly in her ears. Misty stood by, glancing at the teacher for any indication of what he might be saying at the other end of the line. When her bottom lip trembled violently, Misty almost forgot about the soup she was supposed to be watching over and which was spilling down the sides of the pot.

 

“Thank you, Quentin,” Cordelia said shakily, “it was a pleasure working with you.” Then, she hung up.

 

“So?” Misty asked impatiently, one hand stirring but with blue eyes on the blonde.

 

“I got the job.” It was as if she couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth. “Mist, I got the job!”

 

Misty almost tackled them to the ground with the force of the embrace she gave her. Their soup burned.)

 

“We have a couple hours until Coco and Mallory get here,” Cordelia says as she stands. She helps Misty up, so they make quick work of putting away the gardening tools.

 

“We also need a shower.”

 

“You do.”

 

“Hey! Are you implyin’ I smell?”

 

“No,” Cordelia tries to say very seriously, but the upturned corners of her mouth tell otherwise. “I’m saying you should get in the shower with me.”

 

The sliding door to the living room rattles a bit when Misty hastily moves it open.

 

“That’s such an indecent proposal,” Misty exclaims, faking surprise. As she walks by, she playfully slaps Cordelia’s ass.

 

“Fine, I’ll go by myself then.”

 

“Who said I refused?”

 

“Get your butt upstairs then.”

 

Taking her hand, Cordelia eagerly leads Misty up to her room (as if the hours they spent in her bed last night hadn’t happened at all).

 

“Can we try something?” Cordelia suggests when they get to the bathroom, hand hovering over the drawers on the shelf beneath the sink.

 

Misty’s eyes glimmer at the possibilities: yes, anything you want . But nothing actually prepares her for the look Cordelia gives her, as if she were offering herself to Misty, entirely hers for the taking. Cordelia pulls out the object and Misty instantly says, “I’d like that.”

 

“Yes?” Cordelia asks tentatively.

 

“Yes.” Misty eyes the purple strap, enthusiastic to try it on. In one swift motion she removes her dress and underwear. “Help me into it.”

 

Cordelia beams, somewhat bashful but ultimately excited. She fastens the straps around Misty’s hips, resisting the urge to get down on her knees and take her into her mouth (there will be time for that later), because the heat between her legs rapidly increases. 

 

Misty beats her to the shower, teasingly glancing back at Cordelia as she sways her hips. “Are you gettin’ in or what?”

 

The moment she’s inside Misty guides Cordelia against the glass divider. Her breasts push up on the cool surface, which pulls a whine from deep within her belly. Her fingers twitch, trying to hold on to something but ending up with palms flat.

 

Misty pushes against her, wet skin warm against her arched back despite the cold water running behind them. Misty’s hands travel up her torso, squeezing at the cinch of her waist, pulling back so she can grab Cordelia’s breasts. She cups them, letting the space between her fingers pinch her already pebbled nipples.

 

Cordelia’s breathing quickens, groaning softly under Misty’s touch. Still, her mind manages to grasp onto some semblance of clarity. “We’ll run out of hot water.”

 

Misty practically purrs in her ear, “Then we better hurry.”

 

With her left hand she teases down to Cordelia’s front, pressing softly on her clit but not moving. She feels all of her, fingers spreading through her wet folds, and Cordelia shudders. Her knee pushes Cordelia’s legs open, followed by a loud thump from her forehead leaning on the glass.

 

“Misty, baby,” she pants, “don’t tease me.”

 

“But where’s the fun in that?” Misty takes the chance to run a single finger down her slit to her entrance.

 

Cordelia’s thighs shake, thankful for Misty’s arm propped around her chest hoisting her up. She opens her legs further, silently urging Misty to touch her . Touch her like she means it.

 

“Eager, aren’t we?”

 

“God, I don’t think I’ll be able to stand for long.” Then she pushes her ass back into Misty’s front, moaning at the contact with the silicone.

 

Misty slides both hands to her waist and pushes her down so she’s almost bent over. She grabs the base of the strap and strokes it before lining it up to Cordelia’s entrance. Misty pushes inside very slowly, letting Cordelia’s walls expand and adjust to the plastic member.

 

It’s unfairly sinful, the way Cordelia moans loudly at the feeling of being completely full of Misty. Not just physically but every other aspect of her being too. Her head swims in thoughts of Misty, a bottomless fountain of dreams. It feels as though Misty is the reason she has a heart, a body. As if she were only now realizing. She never wants to be touched by anyone else’s hands, or kissed by anyone else’s lips.

 

One of her hands flies back to hold onto Misty’s forearm. Ivory skin soon tints rouge from the strain, legs opening even wider to allow for more space.

 

Misty rocks into her slowly, drawing wide, gentle circles around her clit. “Feel good?”

 

“Yes,” Cordelia gasps, “yes.”

 

But when Cordelia’s hand lowers to touch herself, Misty swats it away. She kisses her cheek, then nibbles at her earlobe. “Hands off, no touching, darlin’.”

 

To compensate, Misty finally begins to rub her clit. It throbs under the slick pad of her fingertips. Cordelia’s hips begin to rock backward into the strap, faster than the pace Misty set. Deciding to tease her even more, Misty stops moving altogether and allows Cordelia to move however she pleases, erratic and unsynchronized, until she’s whining in protest.

 

“Faster?” Misty asks puckishly.

 

“Please. Just don’t stop.”

 

Misty chuckles lowly, speeding up her pace and enjoying the arch that forms on Cordelia’s body as she lets her head hang from pleasure. A couple more thrusts have Cordelia’s thighs shaking, palms sliding down the glass tiredly, so Misty readjusts their position. She brings Cordelia up and rests her entire weight against her front, her own nipples rubbing against the soft skin of Cordelia’s back. They take a step forward so Misty can rest an arm on the glass, effectively trapping Cordelia. Her other hand returns to Cordelia’s waist, and she begins thrusting into Cordelia from this new angle.

 

Cordelia’s soft, insistent moaning reverberates through her skull and she’s trapped in some sort of hazy dream she’d never like to wake up from.

 

“I’m so close,” Cordelia moans, and her breasts bounce, and that image alone is as captivating as it is pornographic. “Keep going.”

 

With Misty’s hands rather occupied, Cordelia lets her own fingers wander down to her clit. Her walls begin to clench around the strap as it repeatedly hits the spongy, magic spot inside her. She begins to loudly moan Misty’s name over and over, claiming it as her own.

 

Her lips form a perfectly shaped “O” when she finally comes; she stops breathing for a second that feels heavenly, and when she comes back down from the high she’s so in love she’s afraid her heart might grow wings and soar up to pink skies.

 

Misty pulls out slowly once she feels Cordelia regain strength in her legs. She rests her chin on the slope of her right shoulder and presses a kiss to the side of her neck.

 

“God, you’re wonderful,” Cordelia breathes, turning around in Misty’s arms. She pushes her against the opposite wall, gets down on her knees and devilishly smiles up at Misty, who looks at her with bated lashes. Cordelia’s fingers wrap around the base, and her pretty pink lips suck her off eagerly, tasting herself on the purple plastic.

 

The sight is so erotic Misty could come from it alone. Cordelia fumbles with unfastening the straps around her hips, but manages to help Misty out of the garment. She kisses up her knee to her thigh, planning on teasing Misty as much as she had teased her; her plans fail the moment she sees Misty’s stomach muscles pull and her fingers fist Cordelia’s hair. She’s so close already, and Cordelia is too excited to taste her. There really is no point in torturing her.

 

She swings one of her legs up, calf over her shoulder, and leans in. “You’re dripping.”

 

Misty only hums in response. When Cordelia’s mouth begins to explore, Misty throws her head back in pleasure, thumping against the tiles on the wall. Cordelia’s tongue splits her open, diving into her as if she were dessert. She works magically through her folds, sucking on her clit just so it makes Misty’s toes curl. Her hands toy with her own nipples, broken moans falling freely from her parted lips.

 

Once again Misty tangles her fingers in Cordelia’s hair and pulls her closer, consciously canting her hips into her mouth. Cordelia reaches around to grip her ass, making Misty’s thighs shake around her head. She’s so close. Cordelia harshly sucks on her clit, barely scraping her teeth against it, and she’s gone. A string of Delia, Delia, Delia bounces off the condensed walls of the bathroom, echoing like a cathedral and resonating in Cordelia’s heart as if it were a confessional.

 

(Only a creature as divine as Misty could make someone as ordinary as Cordelia feel holy, however undeserving.)

 

Cordelia moves away when Misty’s hips stop twitching, trailing kisses up her body the way a constellation is built.

 

“We need to do this again,” she coos in Misty’s ear.

 

“Yes, definitely.” Misty beams, out of breath. “We might need more time for what I have in mind though.”

 

Cordelia grins.

 

The water is freezing when they finally decide to get under the stream.

 

...

 

“Oh you’re decent, thank God,” Coco jokes as soon as Cordelia opens the door.

 

“And why wouldn't I be?”

 

“Misty’s already here isn’t she?”

 

“I- yeah.”

 

“Exactly.” Coco smirks, and Cordelia blushes beet red. Done mocking her best friend, Coco raises a hand to show she’s holding a carton box, and says in a singsong, “Congratulations.”

 

“Oh, Co.” Cordelia recognizes where the cake is from immediately. She takes the box with both hands and steps aside to let Coco in first. “You shouldn’t have, thank you.”

 

“Shush, you deserve it. And Hugh was very pleased to know about the promotion.”

 

“I’ll stop by the bakery to thank him tomorrow.”

 

“Delia?” Misty calls, standing at the bottom of the staircase wearing Cordelia’s white, fluffy slippers. “Did you see my shoes?”

 

“Fuck you’re beautiful,” Coco blurts out totally bewildered by Misty’s presence. “Like, pictures don’t do you justice now that I’m looking at you, babe.” 

 

“Thank you.” Misty’s eyes pinch around the corners when smiling, something like a silent titter. “It’s nice to meet ya too, Coco.”

 

“I’m sure you’ve heard all about me,” (double kiss, one to each cheek) “but don’t believe everything Cordelia has told you, I’m not that bad.”

 

“Please, not even you believe that,” Cordelia protests.

 

Coco shrugs, which makes Misty laugh. They all move inside to the kitchen. Cordelia puts the cake in the fridge and with the door still open glances back at Coco. “Pink or white wine?”

 

“Ugh, you really know the way to my heart,” Coco exaggerates. “Pink.”

 

Just as they’re beginning to settle in and get the conversation going (which isn’t hard for Coco), the doorbell rings.

 

“That’s Mal,” Misty says. “I’ll get it.”

 

Mallory walks into the room holding a bouquet of flowers, closely followed by Misty. She beams warmly at Cordelia, the way long-time friends or family grin at each other, and something inside Cordelia’s chest aches but blooms at the same time. It’s a feeling hard to describe, but it’s real and it’s there and Cordelia wouldn’t trade it for anything in the entire world. 

 

“Coco, this is my little sister: Mallory.” Standing side by side, it’s impossible to deny the resemblance, or the existence of a certain light surrounding them both. “And Dee, you know Mal already.”

 

“Congratulations Cordelia, truly.” Mallory talks to her warmly, confidently. Cordelia likes her already.

 

“Marie sends her regards, baby.”

 

“And these,” Mallory adds, handing the arrangement of yellow blooms over to Cordelia.

 

“Thank you.” And for the nth time this week, Cordelia’s eyes water. 

 

“Oh no, no no. Cords, do not start crying for the love of God.”

 

Fortunately Cordelia actually laughs, turning to the sink to place the bouquet in water and attempt to regain her composure. Misty swoops to her side, wrapping an arm around her waist and leaning in close.

 

“You okay?”

 

“I am,” Cordelia sniffs. “Just a little overwhelmed. This is very sweet; all of it.”

 

“You deserve it. All of it ,” Misty repeats back to her. She places a kiss to her temple, and one to her cheek after wiping a stray tear away.

 

“Alright lovebirds, come socialize will you?” 

 

Turns out Coco and Mallory have a lot in common, and it’s not hard for them to hit it off. Mallory has some wild college stories too, most of which Coco finds either hilarious or perfectly relatable. 

 

“I’ve got so much to teach you,” Coco tells Mallory proudly.

 

When they finally cut the cake, Coco demands she make a toast. “You’ve worked so hard for this, and you deserve it more than anyone else, no matter what you think. If you could only see how wonderful you are, you’d rule the world.” Coco’s voice breaks slightly, and she doesn’t even try to mask it. “To my best friend, who’s only beginning to see how ridiculously amazing she is. Congratulations, Cords.”

 

All four women clink their glasses, and Misty holds her close and kisses her and she feels cherished in a way she’s never experienced before. 

 

“You bitch, you made me cry,” Coco chokes, taking a bigger sip from her wine glass. 

 

Everyone laughs when Misty smudges Cordelia’s nose with cake frosting, and Misty finds the face she makes (scrunched up nose and cross-eyed) charming.

 

Mallory chases Misty around the kitchen and into the living room when she smudges her chin too—seemingly accidental—with too much frosting. She manages to tackle her older sister to the ground, getting back at Misty by daubing twice the amount of cake on her face.

 

The conversation carries on in the living room after. It’s pleasantly surprising how Coco and Misty interact as if they’d known each other since college too, not to mention the way she’d easily clicked with Mallory. Between Cordelia, Mallory and Coco (mostly Coco), they finish off their second bottle of pink. It’s no surprise Coco begins to overshare a little, despite her inhumane tolerance to alcohol, so Cordelia guesses she must be really comfortable in the sisters’ presence.

 

“Alright, I’m gettin’ ya some water,” Misty tells Coco, chuckling at the absurd anecdote she’d been telling.

 

“Cords, you talk to Mallory.” Coco says, following after Misty to the kitchen.

 

“Coco,” Cordelia warns, knowing perfectly well what Coco is doing.

 

“Won’t be long.”

 

Misty is pouring her a glass of lemonade when Coco comes sauntering in.

 

“So, Misty, I’ve been dying to know. How is she in bed?”

 

Out of curiosity rather than shock, Misty arches her brow.

 

“As in: how’s your sex life?” Coco plops down on a chair, taking the offered drink from Misty. “I have a theory Cordelia is very vanilla but, things might’ve changed.”

 

“I would’ve had the feeling you would know?”

 

“Me and Cords? Babe, we love each other but not that way. I must say I’ve definitely thought about it but dick is my one true love.”

 

“In that case, I ain’t tellin’ you,” Misty quips. “I thank the heavens everyday for not making me deal with penises… only plastic ones.”

 

“Oh my god. Please tell me you’ve dicked her down.”

 

“Pfft, first thing we did. Totally made her come like, twelve times.”

 

Twelve times?!” Coco whisper-yells.

 

Misty nods, trying very hard not to burst out in laughter.

 

“Did you fuck her missionary or, how- how did you manage that?”

 

“Missionary? Coco, your straight is showin’. No. See, the trick is to lay her upside down, with her head almost on the ground and her legs up like a stiff cat.”

 

Coco looks very confused trying to figure out the position. “And she liked that?”

 

“Sure. Loved it. Especially after when we used the sex swing.”

 

A sex swing ?”

 

The clogs in her mind turn fast. Misty’s enjoying this way too much. She nods eagerly, unsure as to how Coco is believing all this. “Blindfolded her too.”

 

“I can’t believe you’ve turned Cordelia Goode kinda kinky . That’s- fucking amazing.”

 

“Yeah. We’ve done some other wild shit.”

 

“Well bitch, spill. How good is she?”

 

“She definitely knows what she’s doing.”

 

“Does she now?”

 

Well, that’s not a lie . “She does this thing with her tongue—”

 

“Who does what thing with her tongue?” Cordelia interrupts, blushing furiously from the other side of the kitchen.

 

“Cords! Misty made you come twelve times?! Why hadn’t you told me that?”

 

Misty doubles over, erupting out in laughter with tears streaming down her face. Even Cordelia can’t resist the urge to laugh once realization hits Coco and she pulls a face so disappointed it’s hilarious. 

 

“Misty!” Coco whines. “You bitch!”

 

“I’m sorry Coco. You ate that shit right up.”

 

“I’m guessing there’s no sex swing?” Coco asks, stomping her foot.

 

“Did you wanna borrow it?” Misty croaks between giggles. She sighs contentedly, finally managing to compose herself.

 

“Maybe I did,” Coco mutters and Cordelia’s eyes grow comically wide. “Please, don’t act all saintly. As if you didn’t know me.”

 

“I do, unfortunately,” Cordelia says, rolling her eyes.

 

“Mist, you ready? Mama just texted.” Mallory walks in then, phone in one hand and wine glass in the other. 

 

“Tell Marie we’ll meet her at the salon.”

 

“You’re going?” Coco asks, somewhat upset.

 

“Don’t worry Co, you’re kinda stuck with us now.”

 

“Maybe next time I’ll bring the sex swing, we could give it a try.” Misty winks. She smirks seductively at Coco, who enjoys the unabashed flirting, even if it’s fake.

 

“Funny.”

 

The corners of Misty’s lips quirk up. “Alright, Mallory n’ I gotta go.”

 

The Day sisters bid their goodbyes and with a kiss from Misty—which Coco endlessly mocks—they’re gone.

 

“That’s what you get for meddling with my sex life,” Cordelia giggles, locking the front door after them.

 

“Yeah well, you’re not telling me anything.”

 

“I just don’t understand why you’d want every detail.”

 

“It’s crucial! Otherwise you’re not giving me anything at all.” 

 

They settle back down in the living room, the sun outside beginning to set. The temperature drops rather quickly, the December evening chilly enough for the house’s heating system to have kicked on. Funny how the morning had been warm to lie outside, even just for a few hours, but now they throw a blanket over their feet.

 

“I really liked her. She’s absolutely our favorite florist now.”

 

“You do?”

 

“Yes, Cords. I truly do, and I’m so happy for you.” Coco tells her sincerely, “You deserve someone as great as Misty.”

 

“Thank you, Co.”

 

“Look at you, you’re glowing!” Coco exclaims, but then seems to remember something else. “Ooh, before I forget- we need to talk about that review you wrote.”

 

The opinion piece on “ Absent Lovers ” was published the first Monday of December, in Tulane’s last magazine issue of the year. 

 

Now, Coco reads back to her some of what she’d written in California. “‘ Love is, perhaps, the only common factor shared in all of humanity. It is universal, untimely, and unexpected. One perfectly common day she’s gone and you happen to find a piece of yourself missing the next morning. Stolen. People say the nights are the hardest, when there’s no one there to curl up next to. Of course, I’d have to disagree. It’s the morning I dread, when the golden light seeps through my window but the other side of my bed is freezing; I roll over to find no one there. Was it just a dream? ’”

 

Coco clears her throat, but her voice sounds wet still.

 

“‘ Swinarska plays with muted color along with haunting, staring eyes void of any emotion to represent that empty seat across from you at the table, that lonely toothbrush, the missed calls and unanswered texts; and the longing, excruciatingly raw. The expectation of a feeling untested, untouched, unfinished. Lost love. It’s about losing her, and losing your own half of the color spectrum too. ’”

 

Cordelia bows her head, swallowing hard, as if she were being watched and thus had to be shamed for her feelings on display.

 

“Cords, is that really how you felt?”

 

“I might’ve spilled more than I intended to, yes.”

 

“Have you told Misty yet?”

 

“About the article? Not really, I don’t think she’d be interested in—”

 

“That you love her.”

 

“I- what?”

 

“Oh, babe. Let’s skip the part where you pretend to be shocked, shall we?” Coco prods, somewhat encouraging. “You can’t write something like that without knowing you’re in love.”

 

“Is it that obvious?”

 

“Clear as day. So, have you told her yet?”

 

“No, I haven’t.” Cordelia closes her eyes and wraps her free arm around her torso, a defensive, prickly feeling creeping in. “But she hasn’t said anything either, so.”

 

“Wait really?” (It’s not helpful that Coco sounds surprised.) “With the way she looked at you all evening I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d told me you were eloping right now.”

 

“Well, yes but—”

 

“Cordelia, it’s obvious she loves you too.”

 

And when Cordelia really thinks about it, perhaps Misty’s been trying to tell her all along. 





Two weeks fly by fast. Now that school’s out Cordelia has a lot of free time, most of which is spent at the flower shop or Misty’s bedroom. They’ve settled into a nice routine. They have breakfast together at least three times a week. Some days Cordelia brings her writing to the shop, and they carry on in silence, just basking in the extraordinary mundanity of each other’s presence. 

 

Misty always manages to surprise her; like on Thursday, when she came in with two bags full of groceries for them to turn into bread and pasta, (she’d also bought the specific brand of wine Cordelia likes and strawberries) with the excuse that there was no point in waiting for the weekend since Cordelia was staying over anyway, and they needn’t an excuse for date night.

 

Despite the drowsiness left behind by the alcohol, they’d made love for hours that night and slept in the morning after.

 

It is precisely in those little details—not the expensive wine or the grand gesture of ‘date night’, but in the way she holds her, in the way she speaks to and of her—that Cordelia knows, with a certainty that could be easily mistaken as foolishness, that this will be the magnificent love story she was wishing for. 

 

It does feel surreal, in a way that’s almost cruel. A figment of her imagination, born out of her deepest desires, which threatens to disappear with the arrival of consciousness. But then Misty’s lips are on hers, and her scent fills her nostrils, and there is no way this has been a dream because not even the most heavenly fantasies could conjure this up. This is her life now.

 

On this Sunday, Cordelia ambles across Misty’s living room with tentative steps, mulling everything’s that has happened in the last few months over in her brain.

 

What Coco said to her that evening has stuck with her for days. This is a conversation she needs to have now or else she might go a bit crazy. “Mist? Can I ask you something?”

 

Misty stops strumming the guitar upon Cordelia’s inquisitive look. 

 

“What’s the meaning of white violets?”

 

Misty’s lips twitch upwards. She puts the guitar down and pulls Cordelia down to sit on her lap. “White violets say ‘new beginnings’: let’s take a chance .”

 

Thinking back to every instance Misty’s given her flowers, it all begins to make sense. She did think about it—after all, Misty does this for a living—but discarded the thought because it seemed unlikely, too hopeful. “And the bouquet Mallory brought me that Tuesday?”

 

“Celandine, ‘joys to come’, and yellow poppies, ‘wealth and success’.”

 

“You have such a good eye for this. They were beautiful by the way, thank you.”

 

“I’m happy you liked them. Though it was technically Marie who picked them out.”

 

“What about the yellow ones, the first night you stayed at my place?”

 

“Yellow irises mean passion. Larkspur is ‘an open heart’.”

 

“And the lily? The day of the museum?”

 

Then, Misty knows what she’s asking her. It’s not only sheer curiosity about botany. She squirms a little, but seeing as there is no reason to lie, hugs Cordelia closer and burrows her nose in the crook of her neck. “I’d been planning to give you that for a long time. It means… It says, ‘I dare you to love me’.”

 

Oh .”

 

“Oh,” Misty repeats with a bit of hesitance.

 

“Tell me about the red chrysanthemums?”

 

The red chrysanthemums sit idle on the dining table as if they weren’t some grand declaration. Funnily enough, it’s the smallest bouquet Misty has built for them. She’d brought it up this morning, after breakfast, and Cordelia should’ve known it meant something important when Misty kissed the top of her head so gently.

 

“‘ I love you’ .”

 

“You mean it?”

 

“I do. I love you, Cordelia.”

 

“Is that- have you been trying to tell me all along?”

 

“I suppose I was, yes,” Misty sighs. “I’ve been in love with you for months.”

 

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

 

“What if you didn’t love me back? I told you the only way I knew how without putting my whole heart on the line.”

 

“Of course I love you too.” There it is, that dustied box she thought she’d never touch again. Out in the open. “God, Misty I love you so much I could cry.”

 

“I wasn’t sure if it was too soon, too much.”

 

“You’re never too much.”

 

In Misty’s embrace all her desires all fulfilled. This is as close as she can physically get to her, and if she could she would shed her skin and climb inside her bones, make a home near her diaphragm so she could feel her breathing and her beating heart.

 

This love she’s found isn’t about the sacrifices she’s made. Misty isn’t Hank, and she won’t use her mistakes as ammunition. There is no ulterior motive; their relationship isn’t going to implode on pettiness and recriminations. Misty’s grateful for Cordelia’s presence, for her love; that seems to be enough for her.

 

“I’ve never felt the way I do about you.” Misty traces the edge of Cordelia’s cupid bow with the pad of her thumb. She gives her this look , achingly tender. “It’s scary.”

 

Interesting, how the universe works to bring two complete strangers into orbit, pulled together by the same gravitational force. Somehow, they found each other.

 

Somehow, this sprout in her heart bloomed into a rose garden.

 

“But isn’t it worth it?”

 

“Yes,” Misty answers fiercely, as if it were the only thing she was entirely certain of. “You are.”