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

Chapter Text

this morning

I told the flowers

what I'd do for you

and they blossomed

 

― Rupi Kaur, from “ The Sun and Her Flowers





“Perfect timing! Help me load these into the car.”

 

“Hello to you too,” Mallory says with the hint of a smile.

 

Thunder rumbles in the cloudy New Orleans skies as Misty gathers the flower pots and buckets from the sidewalk and secures them in the back of her kombi van. “Don’t be a big baby. It’s gon’ rain soon.”

 

“What are these for?” Mallory asks, motioning with her chin to the intricate arrangements lined up on the floor.

 

“Some fancy art gala.”

 

“Fancy sounds right.” Dubiously eyeing Misty, with her bohemian-styled dress and untamed curls she hadn’t even bothered to braid, Mallory chuckles fondly before asking, “Shouldn’t you be dressed up for this?”

 

“Nah, I’ll be in n’ out.”

 

“Are you still coming out with me Friday night?”

 

“I’ll check, ‘cause I have that thing.”

 

“What thing?”

 

“The thing I told ya ‘bout.” 

 

“Misty–”

 

Mallory’s cut off by the sound of the orange car doors closing and a quick peck on the cheek she can’t even reciprocate.

 

“Got your keys?” Misty asks her, jumping in the driver’s seat.

 

“Yes,” she says, reaching in her back pocket for the spare key to the flower shop Misty had given her.

 

“Bye Mal, catch ya later, yeah?”

 

With her trunk full of petals and the engine roaring, Misty drives away humming along to a tune on the radio.

 

Miraculously, she arrives at the museum where the event is taking place just in time. Though she’d foreseen the elegance of the gala, she hadn’t actually expected such level of luxury for a university fundraiser. It’s truly unlike anything she’s ever attended; from the carpeted entrance to the decorated, roman style columns and the bright lights illuminating the pieces hung up on the walls. People in long elegant dresses and tailored suits dart around the conference hall, alongside at least fifteen men and women in uniformed tuxedos carrying trays with appetizers and glassware, preparing for the first guests to trickle in.

 

Glittery people; rich, snobby men in the art scene with money and expensive tastes, and women with analyzing eyes and judgemental, condescending voices. Dangling earrings, delicate perfume, needle stilettos. The inherent glamour of it all. A desperate need to be noticed and acclaimed.

 

Misty isn’t a glittery person herself. She’s obviously out of place, suddenly self-conscious of her outfit and her beaten down, leather boots. But then again, this is a university fundraiser, and she shouldn’t be so quick to judge anyone.

 

In no time she unloads the decorations and has everything set in place. Misty carries the last arrangement of lilac orchids and acacias over to a table, face hidden behind long leafs when someone collides with her side and almost knocks her over. She stumbles backwards in an ungraceful movement that makes her feel a little embarrassed, and barely manages to regain her balance before landing on her butt.

 

“Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there!” a woman apologizes. Her voice is sweet and when Misty manages to set the arrangement down the first thing she sees are chocolate pools melting under thick mascara lashes.

 

Honey blonde hair frames her face, falling straight with a slight curl at the ends, and her ivory skin is complemented by a deep emerald dress that hugs all the right places but manages to stay classy. The sight alone makes Misty dizzy. God she’s dazzling . Misty makes a very conscious effort not to stare for long, but it’s impossible not to swoon when this woman is ridiculously alluring.

 

Mouth running dry, Misty has to physically make herself reply, “No worries.”

 

“Here, let me.” 

 

In her stupor, she’d failed to notice how some of the white decorative gravel spilled over her chest. The other blonde frets around it, not sure where to put her hands, instead pulling a handkerchief from her clutch and dabbing at Misty’s dress.

 

“It’s fine, don’t worry ‘bout it.” Misty dusts herself off with the pad of her fingers and offers a lopsided smile. “Wanna know a secret? It’s an old thing. I’ve patched up this baby plenty a’ times.”

 

“I really am sorry,” she apologizes again, wringing her wrists. “Did you help with one of the pieces?”

 

“Nah, I did the flowers.”

 

Something must click inside the blonde’s head because her defensive posture visibly relaxes. “They’re gorgeous.”

 

( So are you .)

 

“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”

 

“Misty. My name is Misty.”

 

“That’s a beautiful name. Fitting,” is all she says before she finally grins, barely a quirk of the lips that manages to make Misty’s breath hitch.

 

“Cordelia,” calls a man, said blonde whipping her head toward him. 

 

In Misty’s head, the sound of his voice is far off in another plane of existence altogether. She barely registers it. Everything else is muted. It’s as if the world around her melted away except for Cordelia.

 

Cordelia , her name claims Misty’s heart, fits right in the god-shaped hole behind her sternum; thinks the mere uttering of those eight letters could open the gates to heaven and build emerald empires and magical, yellow brick roads.

 

He strides toward them with an arrogant smirk on his face. His cologne is strong and his black hair is slick with too much styling wax. The navy blue suit he chose for the night isn’t as attractive as he believes it to be, and there is nothing Misty can actually do to stir him away, to leave intact this precious moment she was gifted with the other blonde.

 

Cordelia tenses her jaw and squares her shoulders, armor back in place to regard this particularly annoying man. “Hello, Richard.”

 

“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes. What a pity you’re spoken for.”

 

“It’s nice to see you too.” 

 

Misty’s face falls minutely, ridiculously disappointed. Of course she isn’t single. Why would she be? Cordelia is the kind of stunning that’s hard to describe, not just conventionally attractive but more . She wouldn’t be plastered in the covers of magazines, wouldn’t be the face of fashion houses– no , Cordelia is the kind of gorgeous that’s subtle, that makes you look twice and stop and marvel at her. The kind of beauty that doesn’t demand attention but glows nonetheless.

 

“Where’s the boyfriend? Wouldn’t want his arm candy prancing around in that dress all alone.”

 

Cordelia grimaces at his comment, clearly uncomfortable with the way his roaming eyes land on her ass. “Aren’t you a charmer.”

 

Grinning in a way that’s supposed to be nice, but is instead triumphant and cocky, Richard acknowledges Misty.

 

“And who might this be?”

 

“I’m Misty.”

 

“Richard. But you can call me anything you’d like.”

 

“And I’m sure I will.” Misty shakes his outstretched hand politely, her grip strong and assertive over his. Her fingers are calloused and muddy, and she thoroughly enjoys the way his brow furrows in the most absurd way. It throws Richard completely off guard.

 

“Right.”

 

“Well, Richard if you’ll excuse us,” Cordelia says.

 

“Are you sure you two ladies don’t need a date for the night?”

 

“Ya know what they say: three’s a crowd, Dicky.”

 

Richard’s smugness drops at Misty’s nickname and Cordelia has to suppress the urge to laugh. 

 

“I can assure you we’re fine.” Cordelia stirs Misty away resting a casual palm in her arm. Misty would have appreciated a warning before it completely wrecked her senses. Anyone passing by would be able to see her pounding heartbeat through the soft skin on her chest. The touch is nothing short of electric, and it’s not lost on either of them.

 

When she’s sure they’re out of earshot, Cordelia lets her shoulders sag and groans.

 

“Wow, what’n asshole.”

 

Cordelia chuckles. “And the evening’s just begun. I’ll need a drink if I hope to make it through the rest of the event.”

 

(Not a glittery person under the glittery layers, after all.)

 

“I’ll leave you to it then,” Misty sighs. Wiping her hands clean on the rumpled fabric of her dress, she extends one to Cordelia. “‘S pleasure to meet–”

 

“No, don’t go. I mean- I, I could really use some good company.” Cordelia winces at the desperation dripping from her voice, ashamed at her insistence. With her cheeks tinting pink, she backtracks, “What am I saying, you don’t have to–”

 

“Cordelia, I’d love to stay.”

 

Big brown eyes light up instantly. Though Misty isn’t exactly sure what compelled her to agree to this. Maybe it’s the way Cordelia talks, how she seems to give Misty her full attention; or the way she transformed into somebody else–completely let her defenses vanish–after learning Misty wasn’t a snobby colleague. Either way, Misty finds herself desperate to make her brighten up again, has now decided she wants to make those brown eyes glimmer and put the night sky to shame.

 

“So, drinks?”

 

Intercepting a waiter, Cordelia takes two champagne flutes from his tray and offers one to Misty. The room is quickly full of people with a luxurious air of importance. If it weren’t for the blonde standing by her side, Misty would’ve felt terribly intimidated.

 

“Why don’t we find a table?” 

 

Misty allows Cordelia to guide her to a round table near the entrance. When they’re seated Misty takes her time to properly take in the conference hall (arched entryways, high ceiling supported on double columns, thus big enough for at least 300 guests plus staff), but it’s not long until her stare lands back on Cordelia, who was already watching her though she pretends not to. Misty’s just about to speak when the chatter around the room begins to quiet down. She’s actually thankful for the interruption.

 

A short man walks up to the middle of the room, clinking his glass twice to gather everyone’s attention. Under the thick frame of his glasses he takes a quick glance around before clearing his throat.

 

“Esteemed guests, welcome to Tulane’s annual Celebration of the Arts Gala, brought to you by the School of Liberal Arts of our university,” Quentin Fleming says in a very peculiar high pitch. Misty recognizes him from the Gala brochure. “One of New Orleans’ premier fundraising events and an important showcase for local performing and visual artists.”

 

“Wow, this some fancy shit,” Misty leans in to whisper. “Imma take a wild guess n’ say ya work for the museum?”

 

“No, but that was close.” Cordelia takes her eyes off of him and turns to Misty. “I teach art history at the university.”

 

“This event helps to support our grant and scholarship programs here at Tulane. Most importantly, the mission of this Gala is to create a space where the arts flourish without restrictions and are properly appreciated,” Quentin continues, “Without further adieu, let’s give a round of applause to our faculty staff members, who made all of this possible.”

 

The plaudits are loud. Mr. Fleming doesn’t move from his spot, and Misty’s not sure what she’s doing here. She was supposed to be in and out–this wasn’t part of the job. But with the angel sitting beside her, does she regret it? Certainly not.

 

“Here, follow me.” Misty takes advantage of the noisy room and pushes her seat back, waiting for Cordelia to do the same. If she doesn’t get her alone now, she won’t have the guts to do it later; she knows she shouldn't stay for long.

 

“We’re leaving?”

 

“Only for a minute, if that’s okay with ya.”

 

All guests have their attention on Quentin, so Cordelia doesn’t think twice to say, “Lead the way.”

 

Weaving through waitresses and chairs, the pair slip out of the room unnoticed. Cordelia imagines they’re both little girls, playing hide and seek through the halls of an enchanted castle. Enchanted , that’s the term she’d use to describe this precise moment. It’s a refreshing feeling, out of her monotonous routine. Freeing and brand new. She’s drowned in the urge to reach for Misty’s hand, but decides against it. They don’t even know each other. And yet, here she is, following this beautiful stranger more than willingly.

 

Turning a corner, Misty doesn’t hesitate before pushing the first door open.

 

“I don’t think we should–”

 

The lights flicker on, illuminating the small space drowned in paintings and statues, some unfinished, some in the middle of being restored. Inside this room, time doesn’t exist. They found the secret chamber hiding the kingdom’s lost treasure.

 

Oh .”

 

“Real pretty, ain’t it?”

 

“Yes. I’ve never been back here on my own.”

 

“I might’ve gotten lost a couple hours ago. Stumbled in here.”

 

“I’ve always wanted to do curation.” Cordelia says softly, her focus on the deconstructed art. It’s magical, the way her whole face brightens at the sight. An awe that’s almost tangible. She could very well be another piece for the collection. Misty could stare at her forever; a marble statue sculpted by incredibly talented hands. Worthy of Michelangelo’s time. 

 

Cordelia’s freckled arms stay locked in front of her, as if she were intentionally preventing herself from touching anything she shouldn’t. Her eyes flick over the pieces rapidly, not staying focused solely in one for long.

 

“You paint?”

 

“Oh no. I’ve written a few columns for the university newspaper and pieces for exhibitions, but I don’t paint. I wish though.” As she speaks, Cordelia mindlessly plays with the engagement ring on her finger. It glints under the room’s lighting, flaring Misty’s blue eyes. “Do you?”

 

“Paint? Nah, not really. I can strum a guitar, but that’s as far as I go on m’art skills.”

 

“That’s pretty nice.”

 

“Are ya married?”

 

“Engaged.” Though she doesn’t sound excited. “He’s not one for art though, has never liked it. The one and only time he came to the Gala he fell asleep mid-speech.”

 

Misty fails to see how that’s humorous. Cordelia chortles, a dry little chuckle, but it sounds more like an exhale or a sigh than anything else.

 

“Well, congratulations. That Dick guy back there sure missed the memo.”

 

“Richard’s a jackass.”

 

Misty laughs heartily. “Miss Cordelia, what’a filthy mouth.” She hadn’t meant for it to sound as flirtatious as it does. All Misty can do is smile again, allowing herself a bit of gratification at being the reason for Cordelia’s sheepishness.

 

All of Cordelia’s attention is on her and she’s blushing furiously.

 

It’s like she’s entranced. Misty’s gaze is incredibly charged, Cordelia can’t tear her eyes away. She wonders if she stares too long in those ocean blue eyes, how deep could she swim without drowning. Or does she want to drown? 

 

(Let those eyes consume her, sit at the bottom of the sea never to be found again. Stored away safely in Misty’s consciousness.)

 

This is one of those particular occasions–and they’re few and far between–when Cordelia finds herself truly here. She has a tendency to always look ahead, be a step forward, constantly thinking on the next task to tackle. Most of the time she just feels detached. But now she is hyper-aware: the green flecks in Misty’s eyes like lily pads on the bluest pond, the faint smell of oil paint and dissolvent, hushed applause, her strong pulse thumping in her ears, Misty’s cheeky dimples. A memory that will forever be burned in her brain. Everything feels significant.

 

Shuffling outside the door breaks this spontaneously crafted bubble of silent but powerful emotions.

 

In the most nervous movement from her all night, Misty clears her throat, moving her hair behind her ears. It feels like they’ve been standing in the same spot for hours. “You better get back to your party. And I should get goin’.”

 

“Yes, you’re right.”

 

Misty opens the door for Cordelia and takes her back to the conference hall. Both women hover by the closed twin doors. Misty’s not ready to go, doesn’t want this to end. Meeting Cordelia is no coincidence, she can feel that in her bones. She takes a good last look at her, as if trying to memorize every inch of her angelic features just in case they never meet again. Misty won’t be satisfied, could never be, but at least she is calm to know she met the right person; and if just for a few hours, she was hers.

 

“It was nice meetin’ ya.” 

 

“You too, Misty.” ( Will I see you again? )

 

From an arrangement in the entrance Misty pulls a single thin stem with tiny blooms dotted over the top, rolling it between the pad of her fingers.

 

“Here, take it.” Their fingertips graze and Misty’s surprised the tiny white flowers don’t fry up with the electricity. “They look pretty with the dress.”

 

She’d purposefully decided not to tell her white clovers mean ‘ think of me ’.





Rain pours incessantly outside the flower shop, drops running down the glass windows like tears. 

 

Chiming softly, the small bell above the entrance announces her presence. A whirl of honey-blonde hair and a long dark skirt breezes through the doorway. Cordelia comes in a rush, basically strutting. Her purposeful step fails her as soon as she walks in, conveyed confidence melting away easily with the warmth of the morning sun and the coziness of the abounding shop. She seems to be all made up of long elegant lines and symmetrical curves; sophisticated and somehow so simple, so easy to look at.

 

Perhaps Misty wouldn’t be as baffled if Cordelia weren’t so damn pretty.

 

As Cordelia shakes her umbrella and straightens her knit sweater, her clothes drip and her muddy shoes squish against the clean wooden floor, but Misty can’t bring herself to care. The fact that she’s here makes hope fizz in Misty’s chest. 

 

From behind the counter Misty timidly stares at her, following her every movement, as subtle as it might be. When their eyes finally meet, Misty recognizes the longing that runs deep within those brown orbs, the exhaustion around them, the sad, downturn of the corners. She offers a kind smile, which Cordelia instantly returns.

 

“Hi.”

 

“Hey.” Misty only hopes she sounds as casual as she is pretending to be. “How you doin’?”

 

“Good, great,” Cordelia says. “I came by to say thank you. For the other day at the Gala.”

 

“I had so much fun. Never been t’one a’ those before.”

 

“I’m glad then. You saved me from a dreadfully boring night.”

 

“My pleasure.”

 

Her shoes squish again, and she chuckles. “I had to ask Quentin for the address, I should’ve asked you that night but uh, it totally slipped my mind.”

 

“I’m glad you did.”

 

They stare at each other for a moment too long before Cordelia adverts her gaze, letting the color rise to her cheeks. Now standing here, in more casual clothes and without heavy makeup, Cordelia is somehow more beautiful than before.

 

“Anyway I uh- I’m also looking for apology flowers? My fiancé and I,” ( oh right ) “well, we had a fight last night and I may have said some things I didn’t mean.” 

 

“Of course.” The disappointment shoots through her like an arrow, bent and splintered. Based on the way she’d described him the other night, Misty finds it to be a strange gift, supposes the flowers are merely a pacifier. “Well, let me fix you somethin’ up real quick.” 

 

Misty glides around the floor with ease, skipping from one stack to the next much like a bumblebee. Racking her brain for possible flowers, she decides on a bunch of purple blossoms, unthreading the stems with her fingers in a skilled action, and throws in some small white blooms finished with a splash of fuchsia petals in the middle. 

 

Cordelia’s left in awe at her, from the unruly golden mane to the joviality dancing in her eyes. “What do those mean?” she inquires as she motions to the white flowers surrounding the bigger, purple ones.

 

“Dogwood flowers say ‘ love undiminished by adversity’ .” Misty points to the purple blooms next. “Asters mean ‘ patience .’” 

 

Cordelia looks skeptically at the single flower in the middle, big white petals dipped in pink at the edges. 

 

“A striped carnation says ‘ my heart breaks’ ,” supplies Misty quietly. “They don’t really fit together, but the meanin’ goes well with the rest’a them, don’t you think?”

 

“They’re beautiful,” but Cordelia’s bright eyes seem to dull. “He’ll hate me,” she mumbles. 

 

If Misty weren’t paying rapt attention to her, she probably wouldn’t even have heard it. It’s a breathy confession that Misty’s aware isn’t for her, isn’t to be shared and so, she lets the wind carry it away.

 

(During her childhood, all her momma’s friends would relentlessly complain about their marriages, moan about how unhappy they were, laugh humorlessly about the hardships of it.

 

There was one particular woman with frivolous, wiry black hair who always kept silent. She listened, she laughed appropriately, but she never chimed in. Everyone else, including Misty’s mother, thought her marriage was one of those perfect matches made in heaven. In reality, they’d all later learn she was the most miserable of them all.

 

Misty was never one to mess with other people’s relationships–she never cared for gossip the way her mother did.

 

For a moment, Misty’s taken back to her childhood home, regarding Cordelia as if she were that very woman who always held back her love.)

 

You’re beautiful . Does he deserve them? Does he deserve you?

 

Or is he the reason you look so goddamn tired?

 

Cordelia seems to be captivated by the arrangement, touching her fingertips to the soft petals. 

 

She doesn’t look up at Misty as she sheepishly asks, “Do you think he’ll like them?”

 

Good God , if Misty could she’d wrap her arms around Cordelia and squeeze until all the self-doubt drained from her body, until all the insecurities flushed away and the chipped edges of her heart smoothed out. Instead, she settles for a simple “I have no doubt.”

 

Her reassurance does little to placate Cordelia’s racing mind. 

 

“Hey.” Misty places a tender hand atop Cordelia’s own shaking ones, and the blonde is momentarily distracted from her worries. A subtle blush creeps up her neck at the contact. “It’ll all work out, alright?” 

 

She squeezes, and moves her hand away. Cordelia almost feels disappointed when she does.

 

What a strange thing, to sprout in the middle of winter, to know you’ll bloom in spring .

 

“How much do I owe you?”

 

“Please, consider it a ‘thank you’, for the other night.”

 

“Thank you, Misty.” She takes the craft-papered bouquet from her hands and grins one last time.

 

As Cordelia steps out of the shop and into the rain that’s nothing more than a subtle drizzle now, Misty smiles to herself. She’s met customers every single day, brief passings and countless irrelevant moments. But Cordelia? Cordelia isn’t just anyone. She is a lightning bolt that strikes Misty and imprints herself in gold on Misty’s heart.





Hank comes home two days before planned from his work trip.

 

It’s just becoming light outside when he rolls his suitcase through the front door. The house is silent, his boots echoing through the hallways.

 

Already awake, Cordelia listens enraptured from under the covers of their bed. Today she doesn’t have the energy for much. As if the day ahead required more energy than she could muster. The room is engulfed in a dull, golden light, and she watches the way it spreads as the minutes tick by. When Hank’s footfalls drag up the stairs she closes her eyes and for some reason she can’t explain, pretends to be asleep.

 

The door opens softly. His boots squeak against the tiled floor despite his best efforts. He places something heavy on the bedside table and then sits on the edge of the bed next to a sleeping Cordelia, moving a strand of tousled hair behind her ear.

 

“Cordelia, wake up.”

 

Cordelia stirs. She fakes a yawn, fluttering her eyes open. “Hey, when did you come back?”

 

“I just came through the door.”

 

Curling her lips in a way she hopes resembles happiness, Cordelia can’t bring herself to say she’s glad he’s home. “What a nice surprise.”

 

“I brought you some gifts,” he says. Hank scratches his freshly shaved beard. He smells nice. “Flowers and those swiss chocolates you like.”

 

(No, the swiss chocolates he likes. The vase of red roses make her think of Misty.

 

She berates herself for that thought.)

 

“Thank you, Hank.”

 

And in the most uncharacteristic move that takes her by absolute surprise, Hank leans down to peck her cheek. It’s incredibly sweet but unfamiliar.

 

These are the moments she likes him the most.

 

He tends to do this, after a work trip; performs a grand act of affection that makes her feel as besotted with him as she’d been that very first year after they met. When there was excitement, and she thought she truly had found something good . She misses those days, wishes she could claim them back. Or place herself in one of her own memories to experience them again. Hank spoils Cordelia rotten and for a couple days, she believes he loves her still. Just for a couple days.

 

Outside, the sun rises fully and filters through the drapes. A sense of peace washes over Cordelia. Perchance she’s reading it all wrong, fishing for lies in her swarming thoughts. Sure, he’s rarely affectionate, somewhat possessive (not to mention egotistical), dismissive about some of her stronger emotions, things that remain unspoken now–but that’s just the way he was built. He’s the man she fell for. Besides, those things aren’t important in the grand scheme of things. If anyone asked her, she’d tell without a doubt he’s a good boyfriend, will undeniably be a good husband. They’re just going through hard times; they’ll get through it. It is always such a glorious relief when she allows herself to believe Hank never stopped loving her.

 

And then she feels terribly selfish for not appreciating what they have built together . A life. How ungrateful.

 

Her life has so much joy.

 

“Let me take you out to breakfast,” Hank says.

 

“Really?”

 

“Why do you sound so surprised?”

 

“Nothing.” Cordelia studies him. He looks good, with his jaw set and his skin slightly tanner from his trip. Even with his hair shaggy and outgrown. This is the problem, she is helplessly attracted to him. She is helplessly, dumbly charmed. 

 

“Think you can be ready in twenty minutes?”

 

“Sure. Yes.”

 

“Alright. I’ll wait downstairs.” He runs a fingertip down the length of her arm. It sends shivers down her spine. “Wear something nice.”

 

Under different circumstances, Hank would have stumbled home and crashed face first on his side of the bed. There wouldn’t have been any chocolate or roses. He would have slept into the late afternoon and woken only when he got hungry. Those circumstances aren’t real, because that’s not how their relationship works.

 

This is how they always behave around each other after Hank travels; tender and sickeningly tremulous. As if being away helped him remember he has a fiancée he should appreciate. He’s not just a visitor in her life, he’s not just a friend crashing on her couch.

 

She wonders if he ever feels guilty about the things he does with other women; other women that aren’t Cordelia. Perhaps he feels guilty now –she’s been part of this rehearsed performance too many times for her to ignore. The thought makes her eagerness fade. Whatever this is isn’t an act of love , it’s an act born from guilt.

 

Cordelia isn’t sure when she got comfortable with his indifference, when she was okay with him not loving her. Because she loves him. She really does.

 

“Whatever you want.”

 

Some days, she doesn’t even have to repeat it like a mantra to convince herself.





It’s been four days since she’s been to the shop. Four days since she’d last seen Misty. Which shouldn't be important, but is for some reason she can’t quite figure out. It’s as if the moment they met everything changed (for better or worse, Cordelia isn’t sure either). Misty barged into her life, rooted herself in her heart and now the stems travel through her aorta and bloom at her hypothalamus.

 

She keeps wondering when Misty became the only thought strolling through her mind. Cordelia feels horribly guilty about it.

 

So, it’s been four days and Cordelia’s desperate to get in her car and drive there just to see her . (She doesn’t, because it’s silly. Utterly irrational. Misty makes her feel that way.) As much as she tries, Cordelia can’t stop daydreaming about her, watering said plant vigorously. Only momentarily distracted by Hank, who’s been chipper and more attentive than usual. Naturally Cordelia lets him, though she keeps him at arm’s length lest she begins to get too comfortable in a makeshift fantasy that won’t last for long.

 

That’s why the next morning Cordelia drives to the shop with only a smidge of guilt, all thoughts of Hank shoved to the back of her mind.

 

“You must really like flowers, huh?” Is the first thing Misty says when she comes stumbling through the door.

 

Cordelia chuckles. Maybe I just like you .

 

“Gimme a minute,” Misty adds, subtly pointing to a man in a grey trench coat rummaging through the succulents. “You find anyhtin’ you like, sir?”

 

The man in question turns to look at her with a tiny pot cradled in his hands. His nose is pointy, bushy eyebrows that frame his chubby face with an overall friendly energy. Under hooded lids, his brown eyes are small but kind. “Might be a nice addition to the terrarium, eh?”

 

“Yes, Mr. Pearson. I do believe so, but–” Misty reaches for a cacti topped with a small pink bud and hands it to the man, “–to add some color, don’tcha think?”

 

He laughs, admiring the plant as if it were something precious. Then he says to Cordelia, “She has a good eye. Quite something, this one.”

 

Yes, definitely something , Cordelia thinks. Something good .

 

Misty clicks her tongue abashedly. “Alright, stop embarrassin’ me in front of m’customers, Harold.”

 

“My wife will love it,” Harold says, following Misty to the counter and paying for both plants.

 

Cordelia watches her intently. She’s wearing a long breezy skirt that grazes her ankles with a sleeveless top. Strong arms, sharp shoulders. Any movement of her arm makes her biceps flex. Her hands catch Cordelia’s eye; capable hands, delicate hands that are also sturdy and firm. (Misty winks when she catches her staring.)

 

“Have a nice weekend, dear!” He calls from the entryway, interrupting Cordelia’s perilous train of thought. Her skin pulses, touch me again!

 

He’s gone and the moment the door shuts Misty turns to her with the most endearing smile.

 

“Do you, maybe want to grab some coffee?” Cordelia asks abruptly with her cheeks aflame.

 

Honestly she doesn’t know what she’s doing, mostly because she’s aware her intentions aren’t clear, though she isn’t ready to admit that yet. Not to herself, and definitely not to Misty.

 

For her part, Misty definitely wasn’t expecting such forwardness and it must show on her face because Cordelia bites her lip and clasps her hands, twiddling with her thumbs at the prolonged beat of silence. Misty gives her an apologetic pout. “Can’t leave the shop today, I’ve got a few deliveries to make.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“How about Tuesday?”

 

Cordelia contemplates her schedule, but nothing stands out. Though she’d clear anything she had for Tuesday, as absurd as that might be, just to spend time with Misty. “Perfect.”

 

(She’d be more than happy with five minutes of her time. What’s a couple more days, right?)


...

 

Tuesday doesn’t come as fast as Misty would like. The nearest cafe is in walking distance from Misty’s shop, and the women take advantage of the brief stroll to make small chatter and catch up on their days. They stand together in line, shoulders brushing and the proximity makes Misty’s palms sweaty. Although she doesn’t feel as nervous as Cordelia looks. It’s cute; she doesn’t comment on it. She learns Cordelia takes her coffee black, one sugar, and it’s the exact color of her eyes. Cordelia offers to pay for both her drink and Misty’s green tea– of course she does–but Misty insists she doesn’t have to. 

 

“Please, let me,” Misty said, and somehow Cordelia conceded.

 

“Only this time.” Meaning there could be a next one, meaning they could do this again.

 

The cool mid-September breeze of the evening has the women walking close together. They sip on their drinks silently for a moment before Misty can’t contain the urge to know everything about Cordelia: what her favorite book is, if she sleeps with socks on, her biggest fears, the simple dreams she deems unimportant but desperately wants to accomplish.

 

She puts a leash to her rabid curiosity and asks instead, “So, how long have ya worked at Tulane?”

 

“Around four years now. It’s great, I really do love it. Before that I worked at the New Orleans University.”

 

“Did you major there?”

 

“Yes.” Cordelia pushes her tongue on the inside of her cheek, as if deciding whether or not to continue talking. “That’s where I met Hank too, my fiancé.” 

 

At the mention of his name Misty’s smile crooks faintly, and she might not be as discreet as she’d planned to be because Cordelia’s demeanor bleaks.

 

Cordelia recovers quickly. “What about you?”

 

Misty traces the edge of her cup. “There isn’t much t’say. I grew up around the bayou and I’ve always felt this connection to nature n’ the earth.”

 

“I can see that,” Cordelia says, mostly referring to Misty’s bohemian style. Her aunt Myrtle used to dress that way back in the 70’s too. Admittedly she likes it a lot; it suits her.

 

“Yeah. I thought about bein’ a vet, but I can’t watch those lil’ creatures sufferin’,” Misty says. “And blood makes my stomach flip. I couldn’t do it.” She doesn’t plan to elaborate, but then Cordelia tilts her head, urging her to continue, wanting to know more, asking if she can get anymore of Misty. “Did three semesters before I dropped out. There wasn’t much decidin’ to do.”

 

“How did you come to work at a flower shop?”

 

“As a kid I used to spend m’summers with my grandma workin’ at the big backyard of her house. Gardenin’ gives me some peace of mind,” she explains. “With some odd jobs here n’ there after high school I managed to save up enough to make the first payment and the rest is history.”

 

“Wait, the shop is yours?” Cordelia’s excitement seeps through her pores. The skin around her eyes crinkle with a face splitting grin. “That’s incredible, Misty.”

 

Misty smiles at the genuity of it. “Thank you.”

 

“You should teach me about all this plant stuff someday.” Cordelia asks timidly. “I have a little garden in the back of the house. It’s nothing much really, but I never have time for it anymore.”

 

“Really? Of course, I’d love to.” 

 

They walk in relative silence for a couple minutes until Cordelia says with an amused tilt to her voice, “So, special someone?”

 

Misty laughs, her blue eyes glinting green with the sunset. “Hmm, jus’ me and Elvis.”

 

“Elvis? Is he your…”

 

“It’s complicated.” Misty purses her lips, teasing Cordelia unashamedly.

 

“I see.”

 

She doesn’t understand why Cordelia looks almost disappointed when she’s the one who’s engaged .

 

“Elvis is my turtle,” Misty chuckles. Cordelia’s bemused expression pulls a laugh that rumbles deep in her chest. “I’m sorry darlin’, you should’ve seen your face.”

 

Cordelia just gives her a dangerously saccharine grin. “You have a turtle?”

 

“Well, he’s a tortoise,” Misty says, “but that usually seems to scare people. Big shells.”

 

Wincing, Cordelia pictures the size of the animal.

 

“Exactly what I’m sayin’.”

 

“I’m not the biggest fan of animals,” Cordelia confesses. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re cute and all but better have them at a distance.”

 

“That’a shame. I’m sure you and Elvis would’ve been best friends,” Misty jokes, which earns her a poke to the ribs.

 

From Cordelia’s pocket her phone buzzes. At the name displayed on the screen her face falls. Does she really need to pick up? Her brow furrows while she gives Misty an apologetic look.

 

(It sends an illogical pang of jealousy and melancholy through Misty’s chest.)

 

“Hey, Hank.”

 

“Where are you?”

 

“I’m having coffee with a friend. Why?”

 

“You were supposed to meet me home thirty minutes ago.” 

 

Cordelia grows quiet, admittedly confused and Hank groans at the other end of the line. Annoyed he says, “We agreed to have dinner with my father tonight.”

 

“Shit, I forgot. I’m sorry, I’ll be right there.”

 

“Hurry up,” is all he says before he hangs up.

 

The line goes quiet and Cordelia stares dumbly at the screen. Frantically she rummages through her bag for her car keys, suddenly stopping when she remembers her companion. She turns sideways to look at Misty, mouth opening and closing like a flap, searching for the right words to say.

 

“Go, don’t worry.”

 

“I’m sorry. Thanks for–” Awkwardly biting her bottom lip, Cordelia motions to the coffee cup clutched in her hand. “Thank you.”

 

“Any time.”

 

Misty’s ashamed to admit it hurts watching her walk away. She finishes her lukewarm tea, and begins her short trek home. Her own phone rings as she’s just about locking the door to her apartment. Her sister’s ringtone pulls a snicker from her belly, not even bothering to glance at the contact name before she answers the call.

 

“How was the date?” Mallory asks.

 

“Wasn’t a date, Mal. She’s engaged.”

 

“It sure seemed like a date. A romantic date.”

 

“I know what a date is.” Misty rolls her eyes. If Mallory could see her face now she probably wouldn’t be teasing her at all. She didn’t have a chance to tell her sister much about Cordelia after the art gala but now she wishes she would’ve at least told her about the boyfriend. “Anyway, it was fine, we had coffee, chatted a lil’.”

 

“Just chatted?”

 

“Yes, we jus’ talked. She’s amazing, like really somethin’, y’know?” Misty says dreamily. “She’s an art teacher at Tulane and she’s written for museums and exhibitions. Some smart shit.”

 

“Mhm.”

 

“And she’s so damn pretty and soft. I can’t even find the words.”

 

“Oh you got it bad. Real bad, Mist.”

 

“What are ya talkin’ about?” Misty groans. “We’re just friends.”

 

Her sister laughs at Misty’s exasperation, though it’s not unkind. “Uh-huh. So why was it just fine ? It sounds great to me. Well, for being a non-date date.”

 

Because ,” Misty whines, “her fiancé called and she had to run home.” She exhales, a headache blooming already. Mallory waits for her to continue, because she knows Misty has something important to add. “And I’m jealous .”

 

The line goes quiet for a minute, Mallory thinking hard. “Oh,” she says finally. “Shit, sorry. It’s just nice to hear you so happy. You haven’t been this excited about someone for a while.”

 

“Fuck my life.”

 

“You really like her, don’t you?”

 

For a moment, Misty can’t bring herself to speak. “Can I lie?”

Chapter Text

“You really don’t know how to ride a bike?”

 

Cordelia grins bashfully at the question.

 

From the night they met, they’d effortlessly become a regular in each other’s life. Friends. What a strange happening. 

 

Fifteen minutes ago, Cordelia showed up to find Misty tending to the flower beds out front, an easy smile dancing on her lips as she greeted the other woman good morning. It’s a rare sunny Saturday in early october. She has a delivery to make a few blocks away, and after learning Cordelia had no other plans until later that evening, Misty had suggested they took a stroll around the park. 

 

The shop is a quaint little place crammed in a corner of a busy street lining the French Quarter. It has wide glass windows that allow light to filter in and a tile roof that makes a splattering sound with the rain; there’s a hand painted mural on the far back wall, and as soon as the door opens, faint traces of incense and the sweet smell of earth flood your nostrils. It’s lovely. Most local stores are within walking distance from it, but the park is a little far from the shop and so, Misty pulled out her old-fashioned, almost retro styled bicycle.

 

“To be fair,” Cordelia says between giggles, eyeing the bike with curious regard. “I was almost a professional cyclist back when I was thirteen.”

 

Misty chuckles, picturing a thirteen year old Cordelia clad in pink protection gear. “What happened?”

 

“One day I was just heading home from a friend’s when it started pouring rain. She lived just three blocks down, it shouldn’t have taken me long to get back.” She grimaces at the memory, a forlorn look on her wide eyes. “The road got slippery and I lost control of the bike. Broke my arm.”

 

Misty winces accordingly, brows furrowing at Cordelia. “Have you been scared t’ride a bike ever since?”

 

“I’ve been scared to ride a bike ever since.” She laughs, and it’s not lost on Misty how endearing the sound is. “Anyway… Tell me the meaning of those?” Cordelia asks, pointing to the three lilies and yellow flowers Misty holds already wrapped in a matching yellow bow.

 

“These are cinquefoils,” Misty explains, “for a momma. She just had her baby. They literally mean ‘beloved child’, and white lilies say ‘purity’.”

 

“That’s nice.” Cordelia’s voice breaks at the end, eyes glassy. Something about her defeated tone piques Misty’s interest. Blinking away, Misty doesn’t dare ask.

 

“Well,” Misty secures the large bouquet on the wicker basket and lowers the leather seat before taking off the security break. “There’s a first time for everythin’, don’tcha think?”

 

“What?”

 

“Climb in the back, I’ve got a plan. We just gotta deliver these first.”

 

Cordelia obliges, planting both feet on either side of the hind wheel and resting her hands on Misty’s shoulders. It’s a smooth ride, with only a handful of turns. Misty’s careful as she pedals, keeping her companion and her fears in mind.

 

Downtown New Orleans always leaves Cordelia fascinated, staring in awe at the colorful buildings and the people darting in and out of side streets and shops. Once, not too long ago, she was one of those people, basking in the delights this new city had stored away. She never makes the time for it these days, too engrossed in work and maintaining her relationship afloat–but perhaps, with Misty here, she can allow herself the things she enjoyed but stopped herself from wanting.

 

She doesn’t even notice when Misty begins to slow down and comes to a stop in front of a brick-red apartment building with elongated windows and a green tent lining the entryway.

 

(It reminds Cordelia of her college days, back when she and her best friend Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt had first moved in together from Los Angeles. Moving to New Orleans was mostly an excuse to get away from Fiona’s suffocating grip, but Cordelia was also fascinated by the city’s rich history and how it impacted the art scene.

 

Coco tagged along easily. As much as she loved the hustle of a city like LA, it was a much needed change. She’d never really been away from home, unlike Cordelia, and the idea of the freedom that entailed moving away excited her.

 

They’d both decided they didn’t want to live on campus and so, ended up in a tiny apartment above a bakery. They got free bread every Friday and fresh baked pastries whenever they showed up early on Sundays, before Coco started to gain weight and claimed she’d never eat carbs again. That didn’t last long, of course.

 

Three good years, just the two of them until Hank came along.)

 

“I’ll only be a minute,” says Misty, carefully taking the bouquet.

 

Holding the bike up, Cordelia watches her chat animatedly with the joyful doorman, even managing to make him laugh as if they were old friends. Misty has that magic. She doesn’t even have to try. Everyone naturally likes her. It’s no surprise Cordelia fell so easily into her spell, some kind of blinding-white magic that won’t allow her to think clearly. A risky thing, she knows. With each day that passes that laugh stirs up far bigger waves than the first tiny ripple.

 

“You have a nice day, sir!” Misty waves back at him.

 

Cordelia turns her gaze away, as if she hadn’t been looking at her all this time. (As if she weren’t looking at her all the time.)

 

“Would you like to sit?” Misty asks, noticing how Cordelia’s red, polka-dotted dress is shorter than hers. 

 

Wordlessly, Cordelia nods and sits with her legs crossed, patiently waiting for Misty to properly adjust her feet. They head toward the park that way, Cordelia’s nerves skyrocketing, and at one point she almost rests her hands on Misty’s hips affectionately, but abstains herself. 

 

“Alright, you ready?” Misty cranes her neck to look back at her as they reach the arch and iron gates of the entrance.

 

“I guess.”

 

“Hey, if you’re not up for it yet it’s fine. I won’t make you do anythin’ you don’t want to.”

If she only knew what Misty truly wanted. The way her subconscious refuses to give up this idea verges on comical. Cordelia’s engaged and straight for all she knows.

 

“No, no. Let’s do it!” Misty jumps down, and Cordelia twists on the uncomfortable seat. She looks around for the pedals, the firm hold on the metal bars has her knuckles turning white.

 

“Okay, relax darlin’.” With her forefinger Misty unclenches Cordelia’s death-grip, lifting her fingers one by one. “Y’know how to do this already. It’s just about gettin’ back out there.”

 

Cordelia’s nod is unsure still.

 

“I’ll be right behind you,” Misty reassures, “I won’t let you fall, okay?”

 

But catch me if I do, hold me tight in your embrace .

 

True to her word, Misty grips the back-end of the bike as Cordelia pushes onward. Her off balance makes it wobble violently, instantly clenching the brakes, halting about five feet from their starting point. 

 

“Sorry! Sorry.”

 

“That’s alright. Do you want to try again?”

 

Cordelia fails miserably two more times until on the third try she finally gets a semblance of what she’s doing. The fifth time around, Misty only keeps her hands on the seat for about a foot before letting Cordelia ride on her own the rest of the way. The older blonde looks so carefree, an expression of pure unabashed euphoria written all over her face. Her perfectly combed hair flies behind her as she goes, her polka-dotted dress flowing with the wind. 

 

Misty just stares at Cordelia, her own smile in place.

 

When Cordelia comes to a halt her chest is heaving from excitement. She smiles wickedly at the blonde twelve feet back and throws her hands up in the air. 

 

Misty wants to take a picture, preserve this precious moment forever. All she wants is to grab Cordelia’s face and kiss her senseless. And it’s ridiculous to be fantasizing about Cordelia this way, she knows, but she can’t help herself.

 

“Hey you did it!” Misty jogs up to her. Before she even gets an answer, Cordelia’s arms are looped around her shoulders in a hug that feels so right, that conveys a certain kind of thankfulness Misty’s not sure is solely about teaching her to ride a bicycle. 

 

“Can we try that again?”

 

“Whatever you want.” Misty doesn’t know if her words refer only to the bike either.

 

They ride around for another half hour before Cordelia catches her own rhythm, and before she knows it, gone are her fears and she’s a natural on it.

 

“You’re already a pro again,” Misty says as Cordelia rides in circles around her. “Show-off.”

 

Cordelia snorts.

 

“Look, Delia!” Not too far off an ice cream trolley chimes its tiny bell. “Do you want some ice cream?”

 

Misty’s excitement makes warmth bloom in Cordelia’s chest. Her childish demeanor is nothing but charming. Putting the bike aside, they end up buying two cones, one simple vanilla for Cordelia and a double chocolate chip for Misty. 

 

Children dart around them like pinballs while parents stroll a step behind, keeping a careful eye on them. Misty watches Cordelia longingly smile down at their fair heads. Almost as if she wanted to pick them up and swing them in the air. To kiss their pudgy cheeks and buy ice cream for them too.

 

“You seem to be good with kids,” Misty mentions casually.

 

“I’d like to think I am. I love children.” There’s a dulling twinkle in her eyes but she doesn’t sound cheerful. Cordelia swallows down with difficulty the soggy emotion glueing to the trachea. “I’m just not having any.”

 

Ah, that explains the odd look and her overall sad demeanor. It makes Misty’s throat constrict painfully, if only for a second. Cordelia grows quiet, so Misty doesn’t inquire further.

 

They amble leisurely, letting the silence hang but it’s not uncomfortable. Misty eats her ice cream happily, and inevitably gets her chin smeared. Cordelia laughs heartily at her silliness and without thinking, swipes her thumb to get it clean. It’s not until Misty’s cheeks tint rouge that she realizes what she’s done.

 

Oh no, was I completely out of line? Should I apologize? Ignore it? Have I made things awkward–

 

“Delia?”

 

“Hm?” What am I doing? Get a fucking grip. Cordelia shakes her head gently, leveling her eyes to Misty’s.

 

There’s nothing but crystal clear sincerity there. “I’m just glad we met.”

 

Cordelia feels her chest close up and collapse under the weight of an emotion she thought she’d never experience again. “Me too, Mist.”

 

A seemingly insignificant admission, though it shakes the earth under their feet. Gravity feels funny now that it’s out in the open. As they walk, their fingers brush but neither of them dare reach out for the other’s hand. Cordelia takes the plunge anyway. Without looking at Misty, she intertwines their fingers and squeezes.

 

The coolness of Cordelia’s engagement ring lacerates Misty’s heart, a frigid contrast against the warm skin in between her fingers, but she doesn’t pull away. Even though she knows she should. What does that say of her? Should she feel apologetic? Surely not, it’s not like they’re doing anything wrong. Misty knows she shouldn’t get used to this; she shouldn’t get used to Cordelia, but maybe it’s too late for that. 

 

Just friends .

 

That’ll have to be enough.





Turning the key to the ignition silences the engine of Cordelia’s car. The lights on her dashboard die down as her heart flounders around her ribcage. All the way from the park to the house, a flock of squabbling thoughts latched onto the forefront of her mind; a thronging of unfinished sentences and ridiculous fantasies involving a certain curly-haired florist. Cordelia has to take a deep breath and cover her ears to barely silence them out. She drags her palms down the sides of her face, as if she had to physically drain the turmoil from her body.

 

What is it about Misty that enthralls her so much?  

 

Is it the kind smile? The soulful, bottomless ocean eyes?

 

Or is it that damn accent that makes her sway? The way she says her name with such assuredness, unlike Hank’s uncertainty?

 

One of the nicest things about Misty, Cordelia has noticed, is the particular way her face transforms when she sees her, as if she were the only other person in the whole wide world. 

This is crazy. They’ve only known each other for roughly two months. Cordelia’s never had such strong feelings–of whatever nature–for anybody else. Not this way. Misty makes her feel special; Misty makes her feel seen .

 

Was she flirting with me?

 

No, she couldn’t be, Misty knows I’m engaged.

 

Oh God, I’m engaged. I’m going to marry Hank. Of course I am.

 

Misty wasn’t flirting. I wasn’t flirting.

 

She does always say I look pretty, or compliments me, and she makes me laugh. But friends do that, right?

 

Misty’s gorgeous, and she has the most dazzling smile. God, she’s so cute. She dresses nice, and her whole personality is so happy, a little ball of sunshine. I just want to grab her face and k–

 

How silly of me , Cordelia thinks and groans. Stupid. I’m just being stupid.

 

Gripping the steering wheel hard, she lightly bangs her forehead against the cool surface of the horn. It makes an ominous, continuous noise that tunes out the images of azure eyes and dimpled cheeks and bellflowers.

 

She needs to talk about this with someone; there’s only so much overthinking Cordelia can do on her own. As she pushes the car door open, she unlocks her phone and presses the contact name at the top of her favorites list.

 

“Hi, Co.”

 

“Hey babe,” Coco chirps distractedly. It only takes her a second to redirect her full attention to Cordelia. “I only have a minute. What are you doing later tonight?”

 

“Nothing I can think of, why?”

 

“Dinner at my place?”

 

“Don’t tell me you’re cooking.”

 

“Pasta is harmless. And after two glasses of wine you won’t even know the difference.”

 

“Please don’t burn the building down.” Cordelia chuckles. She places her keys at the ceramic dish on the kitchen aisle, and puts the kettle on. 

 

“You think you’re funny, don’t you?”

 

“I know I am,” Cordelia says. “See you at six?”

 

“Perfect, love you.” 

 

“Love you too,” Cordelia exhales. 

 

Whenever Hank is away, the house is not only quiet but empty. Hank works at a construction site owned by his father, though his extensive wealth isn’t shared with his son. It pisses Hank off. Their relationship has been strained ever since Hank’s mother passed away when he was only seven years old–it’s one of the things he and Cordelia bonded over, and it’s a defining factor in their relationship.

 

(The coldness, the detachment, the neglect. Cordelia’s therapist pointed it out once, but she’d been reluctant to listen.)

 

Yesterday, he’d taken the first flight to Florida. Or Wisconsin? She lost track. He travels a lot. And when he comes back it feels more like he’s visiting her, as if he didn’t partake in the life they built. Perchance that’s what keeps their relationship going.

 

The kettle boils. 

 

If she were to tell anyone how she felt, they’d call her crazy. The hard-working, dedicated man everyone knows isn’t the man who easily loses his temper and cheats on his fiancée. 

 

Cordelia realizes how much she misses him. They’ve been through a lot together, he’s given up so much for her; she’s made big sacrifices for him. Hank is such a good man. Because Hank is passionate, he’s patient with his grandmother and nice to his neighbors. He’s good at remembering birthdays and always smiles at waitresses and waves at the mailman. She has no real reason to doubt him.

 

Or maybe, just maybe, Cordelia is kidding herself.

 

...

 

The door to Coco’s building buzzes and Cordelia makes her way up to her best friend’s fancy loft.

 

“I want to live here,” she’d told Coco the first time she’d seen the apartment, with its marble kitchen countertops and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the entire city. “I have to live with a boy now, take me back please.”

 

“Oh no, don’t even get me started on that one,” Coco had joked, and they’d both been teary-eyed as the last of Coco’s boxes had been dropped off.

 

“How are you, Cords?” Coco asks now, enveloping Cordelia in a hug.

 

Cordelia hums. She silently hands Coco the bottle of red wine she brought with her. “I need to tell you something.”

 

“What’s wrong? Are you alright?”

 

“Yes, yes, I suppose everything’s fine.” She swallows down thickly and sighs.

 

Coco walks into the kitchen with Cordelia in tow. She motions for Cordelia to sit on a stool in the aisle with the shiny marble countertop, and Cordelia imagines a scenario where she and Hank lived here: in a beautiful, spacious loft, maybe with a little blonde girl in pigtails (she’d had always wanted a girl) or a rowdy boy with brown, messy hair, just like his father’s. They could still have some of that. Not everything , but some things. 

 

“I’m being stupid,” she breathes.

 

“Ugh, what did Hank do this time?”

 

Sadly, Cordelia has a tendency of putting herself down when Hank is involved. To say Coco doesn’t like him is an understatement. They’d never gotten along and they probably never will. Cordelia knows this, but Coco never brings it up unless it’s absolutely necessary; Fiona already thrives on making Cordelia feel guilty about him.

 

“No, he’s been very sweet lately. I actually think we’re getting somewhere.”

 

(As always, hopeful. As always, mistaken.)

 

“Then what is it?” Coco asks impatiently. She twists the corkscrew speedily and almost breaks it in half when she pulls. “Shit, this is why I need to buy an electric one. You’re making me nervous.”

 

“I met someone,” Cordelia murmurs meekly. “I met someone and she, she makes me feel something I haven’t felt in a long time–”

 

“Wait, hold on. She ? As in a woman?”

 

“Yes. Yes, a woman who isn’t Hank.”

 

Coco hands her a wine glass and pours her a fair amount to get her tipsy. “I mean, if Hank was a woman you wouldn’t even be having this particular issue in the first place. Holy shit, babe this is–”

 

“Really bad. Catastrophically bad. Coco, I’m engaged .”

 

“You’ve been engaged for years. And in all those years I haven’t seen my best friend be even remotely excited. This is so good!”

 

“I can’t do this to Hank.”

 

“Where did you meet her?” Coco asks, as if she hadn’t heard what Cordelia just said.

 

“She decorated the gala. She’s a florist.”

 

“A florist, how cute.”

 

Whining, Cordelia takes a big sip of the crimson liquid, hoping it gets her drunk before the other blonde makes her admit things she isn’t ready to. “I can’t stop thinking about her. What’s wrong with me?”

 

“Do you want a list or–”

 

“Am I being selfish?” Aggravation drips on her words as watercolors. It’s rare for Cordelia to act this way sober, simultaneously uncomposed and vulnerable. 

 

“Of course you’re not,” Coco says truthfully. She just has to wait as Cordelia rides this wave of panic down. An unhinged splur of uncontained self-doubt. “Don’t say that. You’re not doing anything wrong.” 

 

Coco knows Cordelia wants to apologize. Instead of letting her speak, she re-fills her glass. “What’s her name?”

 

“Misty. Misty Day.”

 

Above them the angels must be singing a melodious tune, and the cherubs blushing furiously, silver-lined wings and coy grins with the way Cordelia enunciates her name. 

 

Coco rolls her eyes good naturedly. “So is this like, a thing?”

 

“Honestly I don’t know.”

 

“Ah okay, so you haven’t fucked her yet.”

 

Cordelia squints warningly at her. Coco smiles mischievously.

 

“I can’t do this to Hank,” she says again, though she doesn’t sound nearly as convinced. Cordelia can hear the uncertainty in her voice, and Coco hears it too. “Besides, this could just be me making things up. She probably isn’t even interested in me.”

 

“Please, you’re not that clueless. She must’ve done something to get you so dumbly smitten. Shit, you’re even blushing. Disgusting.”

 

Cordelia thinks back to every interaction, every look, every grazing touch. A warmth floods through her, and she has to snuff it out before it reaches the place tucked away behind her heart or else she’s totally, utterly doomed. “I’m not throwing my relationship away for some stupid… crush.”

 

“Is it just a crush, though?”

 

“I love Hank. I love him, I do.”

 

“Are you trying to convince me? Or yourself?”

 

Neither of them speak. The tensed silence is answer enough.

 

“Is there even the possibility of you being together?”

 

“Coco–”

 

“No, listen. I know you’re with Hank but, if you weren’t, would you be with Misty?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Work with me here, Cordelia.”

 

“Fine. I would be with her, yes.”

 

“This is so exciting! When’s the last time you dated a woman? College?”

 

“No, Coco this can’t happen. Just thinking about Misty makes me feel like a cheater. And I’m not–” Her voice breaks and turns almost into a shameful whisper. “I’m not a cheater, Co.”

 

( Hank is .)

 

“I’m not saying jump her bones right now. Just think about it, consider it.” Coco doesn’t say, ‘ keep it as a possibility for when you and Hank are done’ , though they’re both aware it’s bound to happen–it was always bound to happen.

 

“There’s nothing to even think about.”

 

“Then why have you spent the last twenty minutes telling me about her?”

 

Shrugging, Cordelia chugs down what’s left of her drink.

 

“Look, you know I’m always here for you,” Coco tells her very seriously. “Whatever decision you make. Just don’t stay with Hank out of habit.”

 

“See? I’m just being stupid.”





Cordelia is something. She thinks it might be happy, or at least content enough. Somewhere between not happy and not sad; whatever it is she feels at that blissful moment between waking up and the realization that the day has begun. She has a job she genuinely loves, a wonderful circle of close friends, a beautiful house.

 

And Hank’s there too, sure.

 

Their relationship is stable. Too comfortable. Perfect to everyone else outside of it. It’s not that she’s complaining , she shouldn’t do that, because there’s virtually nothing to complain about. It’s just stagnant. Stuck.

 

Rotten .

 

Perhaps she should have an affair. A one night stand with a man at a hotel bar; she’d let him buy her a drink and put his hand on her thigh, and she’d laugh at his terrible, pompous jokes. Cordelia can almost picture it. After one too many drinks, they’d fuck in a room with fresh linen sheets and dim lights. Hank would never know; Hank would never find out. They’d be even.

 

It’d be a great incentive for reconciliation. Might make something happen–something different –or shove her relationship over cliff's edge where it’s been teetering on for so many years.

 

But the thought of doing something with anybody else who isn’t Hank fills her with a heavy, joyless sensation. Actually, the thought of some skeevy man touching her body without any real appreciation repulses her.

 

She couldn’t do that to him.

 

This is the life she chose. Probably not the life her ambitious seventeen-year-old self envisioned (the glamour and the art), but nowadays it’s hard to remember those audacious plans she once had. 

 

Sometimes, when Hank is away on a work trip, Cordelia dips her toes into a daydream of different circumstances where they hadn’t met. Is it awful? And if she truly loves him, then why is she fantasizing about leaving him?

 

She can’t keep doing this. She can’t keep pretending. She’s still deciding on what’s worse: ending her relationship or admitting Fiona was right all along. Fiona had warned her; Fiona had smelled his bullshit from miles away long before Cordelia could. Fiona knew. What Fiona had failed to mention was how hard it would be to deconstruct her idea of the love she’d built in her own head.

 

It’s as useless as watering a plastic plant. A fake, plastic love.





“I can’t believe we’re running late, yet again .”

 

Pushing the door open with force, Cordelia walks into the flower shop red faced with her lips twisted into a scold. She’s followed by a man a couple inches taller than her that Misty guesses is the boyfriend. 

 

He laughs mirthlessly. “You’re the one who took thirty-five minutes on fucking makeup. Why are you blaming me?”

 

Cordelia blinks to suppress an eye roll. She walks up to the counter and it’s like her whole demeanor brightens, as if all her irritation dissolved into thin air. In her mind, Misty is associated with cheerfulness and peace, so she smiles that pretty, open smile Misty’s getting used to.

 

“Hi, Misty.”

 

“Hello, Cordelia.” Misty eyes the man she supposes is her fiancé. She shoots him a small smirk but none of them say anything for a minute. Under the counter, Misty toys with the stem of a single flower she’s been meaning to give Cordelia, but hasn’t had the chance to. (By the looks of it, it won’t be today either.)

 

“Oh sorry. Misty this is Hank, my fiancé.” The words come out forced and for a moment Misty thinks she almost regrets it, regrets him.

 

“Nice to meet ya,” Misty chirps. Hank’s lips quirk barely before turning into a smile but not quite. She turns back to Cordelia. “What do you need today?”

 

“It’s my mother’s birthday,” Cordelia grimaces, “but she hates roses.”

 

Misty laughs at that. “Noted.”

 

While Misty works on a bouquet of dahlias, Hank and Cordelia continue to argue between teeth. The whole ordeal is laced in spite, gently wrapped in colorful, deceiving cellophane. The sound of the clippers on long, wet stems quiets down their bickering.

 

For all the times she could’ve thought Cordelia was flirting with her, this interaction crushes the small sliver of hope to dust. Knowing about Hank is one thing, but seeing him standing there, tangibly real is something entirely different.

 

Was she stupid enough to think she really had a chance?

 

“Here you go. ‘Elegance and dignity’, for your momma.” Her footsteps sound heavy to her own ears as she walks back to hand Cordelia the arrangement.

 

“You’re the best. Thank you, Mist.” Again, Cordelia seems to completely forget about her boyfriend. Carelessly she hands him the flowers and bashfully asks Misty, “Are you doing something Saturday night?”

 

A thrilling sensation bubbles in the bottom of Misty’s stomach but deflates when Hank practically shoots daggers at her. Cordelia bats her doe eyes, patiently waiting. Misty wants to scream. What did her heart get her into?

 

Before she can answer, Hank puts a heavy hand on Cordelia’s shoulder. It seemingly wakes her from her faraway vivid dream. “We’re gonna be late.”

 

“Right, yes. Sorry.” Cordelia bites her lip. Habit. The expression on her face betrays her. 

 

Hank pays for the bouquet and that’s that, another pair of customers come and gone. Misty finds no comfort in the way Hank puts his hand on the small of Cordelia’s back and guides her out the building without as much as a parting glance.

 

The single white, calla lily remains untouched under the counter: ‘I dare you to love me.

 

...

 

Hank is quiet as they climb into the car, his jaw clenched. Whenever they argue (read: fight), he’s never one to stay quiet; Hank always has something to say, something to fire her up. It’s unusual for him to let her have the last word.

 

“Please try to be nice to Fiona, we’re already late and–”

 

“I can’t believe you,” he scoffs, disgust plastered all over his face. “Were you ever going to tell me?”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Oh please Cordelia, how long have you been fucking that hippie florist?”

 

Obviously shocked, Cordelia stays quiet for a second and it’s the wrong thing to do. Hank’s knuckles whiten from gripping the steering wheel. He breathes raggedly in a futile attempt to contain his anger.

 

“I’m not fucking anybody, Hank. Misty and I are friends.”

 

“I’m not blind and I’m not stupid. Have you seen the way she looks at you?” Hank spits. “It’s like she wants to have you right there, dammit!”

 

To say the thought of having Misty’s mouth all over her body sends a thrill down her spine is an understatement. She has to blink away furiously to keep the blush from spreading down her neck and dissuade the pressure building between her thighs. “Unbelievable, you’re such a child.”

 

“Is that why we don’t have sex anymore? What, are you a dyke now?”

 

“What did you just say?”

 

“You heard me.”

 

“You’re being ridiculous. What, now I can’t have friends?”

 

“That’s not what I said. You can have all the friends you want, fine by me, as long as you don’t fuck them.”

 

Cordelia gawks at him for a long moment. Finally she whispers, “I’m not having sex with Misty.”

 

When they arrive to the restaurant of the Grand Roosevelt Hotel, Fiona’s already waiting. Remarkably annoyed, clearly. Impatient as if she had better things to do. She’s almost done with her martini, rolling the olive around the glass, as the couple is led to her table.

 

“Well, look who decided to join me. Delia, Hank,” she scoffs his name bitterly, with an aggression that threatens to turn her tongue yellow.

 

“I’m sorry mother,” Cordelia glares pointedly at Hank, “we had a little setback.” She hands Fiona the wrapped bouquet with a forced grin, “Happy birthday.”

 

“Heh, thank God they’re not roses.”

 

“Yes well, this florist has a good eye for such things,” she makes a point of saying just to piss off Hank. She’s to blame for this tiresome game just as much as he is.

 

“How’s work?” Fiona asks disinterestedly. 

 

“Good. It’s going well—”

 

“Have they promoted you yet?”

 

Cordelia is looking for the position of department head at the university, but Quentin Fleming, the current art department head, hasn’t decided yet. It’s between Cordelia and her colleague Richard–but by the looks of it, Richard will get the job.

 

“Not yet. Quentin is still weighing his options.”

 

“He’s been deciding for months.” Fiona quirks her brow, unimpressed. As if she’d expected nothing else from Cordelia, even if it’s completely out of her control. 

 

“I don’t think you’ll get it, babe,” Hank says casually. “Quentin and Richard have been friends for years.”

 

It’s purposefully twisting the knife, hitting Cordelia right where it hurts. Pathetically it works; unconsciously Cordelia slouches and shrinks down in her seat. If looks could kill, Fiona would’ve already obliterated him. 

 

They both decide to ignore him.

 

“Put him under some pressure. Why would he hesitate between you and what’s-his-name?” Fiona waves a waiter over. She uses that same hand to jab accusingly at Cordelia. “I’ll tell you why, because you’re not showing him you can do this.”

 

“Mother–”

 

“That, or he’s just plain stupid. But then again, you’ve always settled for less than you’re worth.” Fiona eyes Hank, who’s distracted pretending to read the menu, but is actually fidgeting with his phone under the table.

 

“Fiona. Can we not?”

 

“Fine. I can’t force you to see what you’re incapable of acknowledging.”

 

“Are you ready to order?” The waiter interrupts.

 

A raging swoop of annoyance hits Cordelia, but she opts to remain quiet. She refuses to behave like a child. She’d never been messy, nor talkative or loud. One of her first tantrums happened when she was nearly four years old. She’d dropped her ice cream cone on the sidewalk and smeared her shoes; her body doubled over and whipped about as she stomped, and Fiona had been so unpleasantly surprised, she shook Cordelia’s tiny shoulders forcefully and demanded she behaved properly. Fiona’s screaming had effectively silenced her up. She remembers clearly, she’d done her best to never throw a tantrum like that again. 

 

Cordelia lets her head hang, resting her face on her hands. No point in making a fuss now. 





The drive back home is silent and uncomfortable and they’re both angry . For different reasons, of course. Because Hank is angry at her out of jealousy, possessiveness that’s always been there, creeping under his fake easy-going façade. Cordelia is furious; at him for having the cynicism of accusing her of cheating when he’s been cheating on her for months– oh, she knows . She knows about the girls and the late hours at the office and the work trips that aren’t really work trips. The hotels he visits with his work buddies (read: girl friends) are billed to her credit card.

 

Jesus this man is an idiot. 

 

Cordelia is furious at him, but furious at herself mostly. For overlooking these things, for turning a blind eye at his ways. Three years wasted. Seven if she counts the four they’d been dating before he unceremoniously proposed.

 

See, it’s not like Cordelia wanted some big gesture, some huge declaration of love–because she knew he loved her, she did–but it would’ve been nice, a little effort. Maybe a nice candle-lit dinner, or even some flowers and champagne, something other than a half-assed “let’s get married” that was as un-enthusiastic as it sounds. He asked one night after shitty sex, after calling her babe in that dirty way of his and biting her ear as he came.

 

“Let’s get married,” Hank had said. Sure, spontaneous works for some couples and in another universe, under different circumstances, it would’ve worked for Cordelia and Hank too. Instead, she’d agreed because she was supposed to agree, because Hank was her security blanket. They’d been together for years, a marriage proposal is what she wanted, right?

 

What would she be without Hank?

 

“We need to talk,” she says over the kitchen counter as Hank takes his jacket off and throws it over the back of a chair. Of course, she’s the one who will fix this. She’s always the one to fix everything. “I can’t believe you’d accuse me of cheating –”

 

“Oh, that’s rich–”

 

“Let me finish Hank,” she says sternly. “I’ve done everything for you. I left my job at a perfectly good university for you–”

“You left UNO because you wanted to–”

 

“I bought this house with my savings, for you . And you accuse me of cheating, when you’re the one fucking every girl you talk to!”

 

“Now I’m the cheater? Way to play the victim, Cordelia,” Hank jeers. “Calm down.”

 

“Do not tell me to calm down.”

 

“Can you take a breath for one second? Jesus, you’re always so fucking dramatic!”

 

“I’m not an idiot, I see the texts and hear the calls. The receipts of my credit card are sent to my phone, Hank. You ever thought about that?”

 

“I have no clue what you’re talking about. Those are work trips , Cordelia. You know, work? Activities that pay for all the shit you buy.”

 

“Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid–” Her frown deepens, and her hands tremble with anger, but her voice doesn’t waver. “Don’t you dare scrutinize me about work when I’m breaking my back everyday—“

 

“Oh, I know what this is.”

 

Cordelia huffs. “And what is that exactly?”

 

“If you’ve always known about this ‘alleged’ cheating, then why don't you say anything?” Hank snickers. He struts around the aisle to stand in front of her, and Cordelia takes an involuntary step back. “You’re only bringing it up now that I’ve caught you.”

 

“Oh my god. You’re pitiful, you really are.”

 

“Does it feel good when she fucks you?” He asks, so close to her ear she can feel his hot breath. “Do you bend over for her the way you bend for me?”

 

“Hank stop.”

 

“Or is it you think of her when I fuck you?”

 

“You’re an asshole!”

 

“What did you just call me?”

 

“I said,” she growls. Her glare is deathly, voice an octave lower. She isn’t thinking. She isn’t thinking and it will cost a high price. “You’re a fucking asshole.”

 

The slap that follows comes unexpected and it throws Cordelia off balance. She falters back with the force, cheek stinging hot. Everything stands stark still. The pain ignites the anger sitting at the pit of her stomach, but the greater shock overrules any other response. Quietly she slithers away from his body, cowering from his explosiveness.

 

Maybe Hank wants her to talk back, just so he can hit her again.

 

“Pack your shit,” she says with tears brimming her eyes, “and get out of my house.”

 

Desperate and guilty, Hank tries to get a hold of her; a palm that barely curls around her upper arm, fingertips to her swollen cheek. “Delia, shit, baby I’m sorry. I didn’t mean–”

 

Cordelia hastily pulls him off. This is what she should’ve done months ago. “Get out of my house, Hank.”

 

With trembling fingers, she slides the cold engagement ring from her finger and throws it at his face. It hits him square in the chest, clinking as it falls to the floor. It sounds like glass shattering to her, plans and aspirations broken, mosaic shards glinting mockingly at them both. Her head buzzes. She’d step over the fucking tacky thing, she’d spit at Hank right now if she could.

 

(She doesn’t.)

 

“And take your fucking ring with you.”





“Hey!” Misty dimples at her and waves with dirty, gloved hands.

 

Cordelia drove to the shop this morning with such an irrational, careless sense of freedom . As if the violent tide she’d been drowning in had dragged her off to shore and she could finally breathe. She’s so used to it, she’d forgotten how crisp and clean fresh air is.

 

(It feels so goddamn nice for someone to be happy to see her.)

 

“Mist, can we talk?”

 

“Sure, is everythin’ alright?” Misty’s grin is replaced by a light frown. She pulls off the gloves and sets them aside, says, “Let’s go in the back.”

 

Cordelia follows Misty through the shop and behind the counter, ignoring all the warning signs droning in her head that she shouldn’t do this; disregarding the absurd notion of doom perched on the back of her mind. She fails to see the tide rising up again. But she has no time to think this through. Cordelia knows what she wants. Her mind’s made up. 

 

Misty lets Cordelia in the back and shuts the door. Two shelves line the walls of the narrow hallway, stacked with buckets full of flowers of all colors, shapes and sizes. Light trickles in through the window in the back wall.

 

“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” Misty asks.

 

“Hank and I–” Cordelia opens her mouth, but finds herself with nothing to say. She bites her bottom lip before simply stating, “It’s over.”

 

“Oh, Delia I’m so so sorry.”

 

“Don’t be.” 

 

“You wanna talk about it?”

 

She shakes her head no. Unconsciously they draw close together; pure magnetic force. Life stops and there’s nothing else besides them now. Cordelia hasn’t been more sure of anything in her life when she breathlessly says, “Kiss me.”

 

“Are you sure?” Misty whispers, their lips almost brushing with the movement.

 

Please .”

 

She doesn’t have to ask her twice. Without wasting another second, Misty’s soft lips are on Cordelia’s. The kiss is urgent, borderline desperate for this feeling to be mutual. Cordelia’s lips taste like strawberries and coffee, and Misty’s completely enamoured. Their breath is heavy, their hands are everywhere, and the high voltage is back. An electrical charge weaving through the air.

 

Cordelia smiles into the kiss, moving away to come up for air. 

 

It doesn’t take more than a moment for Misty to chase her lips again. This kiss is less urgent, softer but passionate. Misty pins Cordelia to the door, her thigh barely pressing between the other blonde’s legs. A question dancing on the tip of her tongue because as much as she wants this, as much as she’s been dreaming of it, she won’t push Cordelia. In response, Cordelia opens her legs and then shamelessly grinds down on Misty’s thigh.

 

“Delia–”

 

“Don’t- Just fuck me.”

 

Misty wastes no time moving her lips down to the curve of her jaw, leaving open mouthed kisses down the column of her throat all the while pushing her thigh up higher for Cordelia to use. Ringed hands travel south, squeezing at the dip of Cordelia’s waist, guiding her gyrating hips. The whine that leaves Cordelia’s mouth as Misty removes her thigh is downright angelic.

 

Her hands toy with the button of her pants, looking at Cordelia for confirmation. She nods frantically, and Misty chuckles. Her lips are back to her neck, nipping at Cordelia’s pulse point as one of her hands moves inside her pants, barely stroking over her panties. It’s so faint Cordelia’s breath grows impatient and rough rather quickly.

 

Misty ,” she warns, cheeks flushed rouge.

 

Misty laughs, pecks her lips while that same hand explores inside her underwear. “You’re so wet.”

 

Cordelia moans as the long digits move up and down her slit, gathering the wetness but intentionally avoiding her swollen bundle of nerves. Her hips cant upwards chasing for some friction in desperate need of release. Misty presses her body closer to Cordelia’s, effectively trapping her back against the door. Cordelia’s head tilts back with a light thud on the wood. With teeth on her neck and quick circles over her clit, Cordelia comes with a high-pitched groan and a blissful sigh.

 

Through hooded lids, Misty can see her blown out pupils, dark like big black pits. Surely she would’ve gotten swallowed whole in them had she kept staring but Cordelia moves.

 

“I want to touch you,” she says.

 

“Not yet baby,” Misty pecks her cheek, “And not here.”

 

Misty takes her hand and guides her through the side and up the stairs. Cordelia knows Misty lives in the back of the shop, but she’d never been past the back door behind the counter. The wooden floor is the same chestnut color, with the same rough white walls and high ceiling. They go through the apartment blindly. Inside Misty’s room, she pushes Cordelia atop the bed, finally removing her blouse, leaving her only in her soaked underwear and bralette.

 

“That’s not fair,” Cordelia breathes. “You’re fully dressed.”

 

“Then come take it off.”

 

Cordelia pulls the dress off, kissing down Misty’s collarbones to the valley between her breasts and her ribs. Misty shudders. She pushes the other blonde down before she gets too worked up, wanting to taste Cordelia first. “Let me take care a’ you.”

 

She kisses Cordelia with the force of a thousand suns; heat spreads through her body like wildfire. Misty’s fingers tease the buds under the thin fabric of her bra, making them harden with the coolness of her jewelry and Cordelia’s moans grow desperate.

 

“Easy baby, I’ve got you.”

 

She removes her undergarments and hooks her arms around her thighs, biceps flexing, and kisses her there; one tiny peck. Cordelia is all spread open for her, glistening wet and Misty takes pride in having Cordelia in such compromising position, completely at her mercy. Under Misty’s ministrations Cordelia squirms. Using the tip of her tongue, Misty draws a line up her labia and then flattens it to retrace the motion over and over. She eats her out slowly at first, only increasing her pace when one of Cordelia’s hands tangles in her hair and pushes her closer. She has Cordelia right there , right at the edge when she pulls apart entirely.

 

Cordelia whines again, chest and neck flush from the exertion. Her eyes fly open, wide and a little annoyed. “ What the –”

 

“I want you to look at me when you come, Delia.”

 

Without much warning, Misty pushes two fingers inside her easily, her thumb rubbing her clit. The moans tumble from Cordelia’s swollen lips and her eyes fight to close, especially with the way Misty’s fingers curl deliciously and repeatedly hit that spot inside her making her see stars.

 

“Open your eyes,” Misty coaxes. “Come for me darlin’.”

 

And with the way she says it, Cordelia wouldn’t be able to control herself anyway. Even if she had a gun to her head. With a breathy, broken moan and a claim of Misty’s name, her second orgasm engulfs her in pleasure and an explosion of something good and warm and unknown. 

 

Within your body, ancient remnants of love .

 

“You okay?” Misty asks, brushing Cordelia’s hair out of her face. 

 

With a panting chuckle and a playful squint, she tells her, “You’re so mean.”

 

Misty’s eyes glimmer.

 

When Cordelia gathers her strength back, she swings a skinny leg over Misty’s, effectively trapping her under her body. 

 

“You don’t have to.”

 

“I want to. I want you, Misty.”

 

Cordelia grinds her hips leisurely atop the expanse of her stomach. Her lithe body trembles with anticipation. Misty reaches to take her bra off, Cordelia eagerly doing the same. 

 

Delicate fingertips trace the curve of Misty’s breasts, going over pebbled nipples and moving down to tap each of her ribs as piano keys. Misty’s pale chest is flush already. Cordelia leans down to place a messy kiss on her lips, teeth knocking together as her hips continue to move.

 

“Don’t tease, Dee.”

 

Grinning, Cordelia unmounts Misty’s body. Slowly she bends down between Misty’s legs, hastily pulling her closer by her hips, and spreads them apart. All her doubts and uncertainty about touching Misty are gone as soon as she meets Misty’s baby blues, hungrily transfixed on her and her only. She doesn’t even waste any time taking Misty’s underwear off, rubbing her through the already soaked fabric.

 

When Misty’s hips buck, Cordelia bites her lip so hard she almost draws blood. One of her hands pulls the panties to the side while she uses the other to tease Misty’s entrance. Her mouth waters at the sight desperate to taste her as if she were some lavish dessert, but she solely focuses on using her fingers first. The first two slide in easily, Misty’s walls pulsing around them. She scissors and curls her digits painfully slow, relishing in the other woman’s throaty moans.

 

As soon as they become whimpers, Cordelia bends down to suck on her throbbing clit. Her lips wrap around it and she tastes divine.

 

“Oh, God–” Pale legs tighten around Cordelia’s head.

 

Misty’s close–Cordelia feels it as she moves her fingers deeper, and without much warning adds a third to push Misty over the edge. Misty comes hard and fast, breath caught in her throat before releasing a scream she attempts to muffle with her fist.

 

“If I’m mean,” she whispers, “you’re some kinda devil.”

 

Cordelia grins cheekily. Misty pulls the fingers to suck, keeping unwavering eye contact and it’s so erotic Cordelia wants to make her come all night. But when Misty tugs at her to lie down she complies without resistance.

 

“Come ‘ere.”

 

Misty drapes an arm around her waist, peppering kisses down the back of her neck and what she’s able to reach of her spine. And Cordelia’s terrified–of these feelings that are so strong, of this woman who could wreck her, of what this means and what the light outside these four bedroom walls will bring.

 

She scoots closer to Cordelia and kisses her again, holds her in a way no one has done before. The panic strikes in waves rapidly, making Cordelia’s head swim.

 

“I–” She abruptly stands, pushing Misty away.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“It’s not you. It’s–” She looks like she wants to say something, like she’s going to combust any second now. “I need to go.”

 

“What? Why?”

 

Misty quietly observes as Cordelia redresses, gathering her belongings in a quick blur that suffocates Misty and leaves her powerless. “Cordelia,” it’s just above a whisper, and in her rush said woman doesn’t even hear it. Misty remains silent even though she wants to further protest; she doesn’t know why she isn’t stopping her. 

 

“I just–” Cordelia stands under the door, barely turns back and says, “I can’t do this, Misty.”

Chapter Text

“A fragile thing romance could be when flowers left on windowsills turn into muttered apologies under breaths. 

 

Slowly, I think I’m becoming quite lonesome again.”

 

– Orion Carloto, from Flux





A delighted sigh escapes Cordelia’s parted lips, her jaw slack and head tilted back in pleasure. Firm hands grip her undulating hips, and she’s sure she’ll have a mosaic of finger-sized bruises tomorrow morning. The fast pace she set has her calves burning and her thigh muscles straining. Wet lips kiss the column of her throat, her breath catching when they turn into harsh bites. Her hands find the headboard before her gaze meets turbid blue eyes.

 

It’s in the primal way her core heats up that she finds an excuse for this; this is purely sexual. She shouldn’t be here, in this bed that’s foreign but growing familiar with every stupid, reckless encounter. A wrecking ball to the carefully built walls around her heart. Cordelia walked out of this for a reason, one she should’ve admittedly analyzed with more precision. She was hurt. She felt vulnerable and betrayed. She was looking for comfort in the one person she’d grown so fond of and it backfired. 

 

This little rendezvous will further complicate and tangle her already twisted feelings–but isn’t it thrilling? 

 

If she screws her lids shut, she can almost retrieve a memory that will bring her over the edge with images of sunshine hair and creamy thighs, the smell of incense and patchouli sticking to her own body. But all she gets now is Hank grunting almost animalistically as his hips thrust upwards.

 

Against her salty skin he mumbles something along the lines of ‘ you’re so tight ’, and ‘ keep going ’, but Cordelia pays no mind. She thinks of Misty, fingers toying between her legs, clear baby blues, the hot pleasure building steadily at the pit of her stomach. Cordelia’s thighs around his waist quiver. Then Misty’s velvet voice and that mellow, dulcet accent is all she can focus on, strolling through her hazied mind like a melodious tune.

 

Cordelia comes without warning, almost moaning Misty’s name repeatedly as she would a holy prayer, but swallowing it down like bitter cough syrup.

 

Disappointed in herself, Cordelia rolls off of Hank with a groan. She rests her forearm over her tired eyes and at last allows the reality of what she’s done sink in for a minute. The light pressure in her groin isn’t warm and satisfying. Her body aches in a particular way that comes after being with Hank. She hadn’t noticed before; a stark contrast to the blissful way her body reacted to Misty’s gentle touch. She scoots further away from him, angling her torso so she’s almost lying on her side. The soft sheets covering her naked body make her feel embarrassed.

 

Here she is, back in this sick game Hank and her play. Does she find pleasure in this feeling? He’s never fucked her as good as he does now. It makes her feel dirty, as if they were having an affair behind his wife’s back. As if she were the other woman. Is she one of his girl friends now? Does she deserve it? Ungrateful, ungrateful, ungrateful–

 

Sighing one last time, she decides that’s enough time in his bed, so she reaches for her bra and underwear, strewn somewhere on the polished floor of his new apartment.

 

“Looking for something?” Hank asks in that asshole tone of his. She doesn’t want to face him, but she turns to find her purple cotton bra hanging from his fingers.

 

“This doesn’t change anything, Hank.” Cordelia means that, she really does. She snatches the piece of clothing from his grasp.

 

“Sure babe, whatever you say.” His smugness makes Cordelia want to punch him. “What, she doesn’t fuck you as good as I do?”

 

“She doesn’t- We’ve never–” Suddenly, she’s hit with the realization she has no obligation to give him an explanation. Cordelia wants to apologize for her behavior, for her infidelity , but she bites back her words. She owes him nothing; not anymore. “Don’t stroke your own ego,” Cordelia scoffs, “You’re not as good as you believe you are.”

 

“But you keep running back to me. Admit it, you want me.”

 

A week and a half ago, Cordelia would’ve never believed she’d ever even talk to Hank again. She was officially done with him and his bullshit. She was determined. It was immeasurably gratifying. That is until (“in true Cordelia fashion”, as Fiona would say) she’d screwed up with the one person she actually cares about.

 

She’d fucked up and worse of all, she’d come running straight to Hank. (“Typical Delia”, again, Fiona’s words.) Mindless sex, no strings attached. They’ve been sleeping together for the past week, and every time without fail, Cordelia’s mind conjures up Misty’s head buried between her legs. Except when it’s over and she comes back to her senses, Hank is looking expectantly at her. As if waiting for an apology, any sign of regret on her part. And most times, she almost gives him the satisfaction, just to shake the weight of their last fight off her shoulders.

 

Now Hank kisses her again, and Cordelia allows him to pull her down and under the covers. His beard scratches the side of her cheek. He smells of cologne and deodorant. The muscles on his back twinge as he climbs on top of her, and Cordelia is reminded of why she feels so attracted to him. His fingers are soft against her warm skin, whispering sugar-coated lies and sticking his hot tongue in her ear. ‘ You’re so naughty, babe’ , flashing behind her eyes in big blocky letters, ‘ so sexy’ . Her body reacts involuntarily, almost giving in to him, almost letting him have his way (again). 

 

Then what? They’ll fuck and pretend it’s routine, go on about their separate ways as if they hadn’t been engaged just two weeks ago. Cordelia feels a surge of humiliation. The thought makes her ill.

 

For the last seven years she’d been fruitlessly searching for meaning in a painfully loveless relationship. And there simply is no meaning.

 

“God this was a mistake,” she says, abruptly pushing him off.

 

“Was it?”

 

“Yes. I was lonely and—“ and scared because I have real feelings for someone, and what if I ruined it? “—and stressed. I- I needed to blow off some steam.”

 

“Make all the excuses you want.”

 

“This is the last time. I’m serious, Hank,” says Cordelia sharply, as if she were remonstrating a child. Hank sure acts the part. He just finds it funny.

 

“Okay.” He shoots her a smirk. Cordelia grimaces. She scurries to gather her belongings, not particularly interested in listening to him anymore. Hank watches her and says, “Call me when you realize you wanna get back together.”

 

“I won’t–”

 

“Or ask her if she’d like to have a threesome.”

 

Asshole . The egocentricity of this man is truly despicable. Cordelia is rendered speechless, though she feels a scream scratching up her throat. Instead she flips him off and slams the door as she leaves.





“Coco!”

 

“Can you blame me? He’s got chiseled abs and a great butt, not to mention a dick that could hold up a tent–”

“I truly don’t need to know every detail,” Cordelia cuts her off, not uncomfortable with her best friend’s conversational topics but also not used to being so specific about her own sex life. Or lack thereof. 

 

“Suit yourself then.” 

 

“Latte and a muffin,” says Hugh, placing the pastry and coffee mug in front of Coco.

 

Ugh , you’re a lifesaver Mr. Grant, thanks.”

 

The “LA girls” (as Hugh Grant, the owner, used to call Coco and Cordelia back in their college days), still frequent the bakery underneath their old apartment, half-way across town. They’d spent countless days here, tucked away eating warm bread and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Blame it on the nostalgia.

 

With the semester almost coming to an end, Cordelia has some spare time to wedge in her schedule before finals week is upon them. After the breakup she’d buried herself in paperwork and had even written a couple more columns for Tulane’s newspaper and magazine. She began working long, tiresome hours, even pulling all-nighters–and then she found herself back in Hank’s bed. Right. Apparently breaking up with him took a bigger toll on her than she’d expected.

 

“After the fiasco that will be Thanksgiving with my parents I’ve given up completely on trying useless, no carbs, gluten-free diets,” continues Coco, “I’m telling you. My mother doesn’t give two shits about my figure.”

 

“You’re exaggerating.”

 

“Please,” Coco scoffs, “of course I am.” She forks her banana muffin, offering a piece to Cordelia who takes the bite gladly. “Just know this: this guy and his girlfriend really know how to treat a girl right.”

 

“I fully believe you.”

 

“I mean, he could do better than, Jane? Janet? Whatever her name is. Sure, she’s attractive, legs for days and whatnot, but she’s got this weird hair situation going on. Mm, she could seriously use a stylist.” She twirls her own blonde hair mindlessly, but stops. “Am I being a bitch?”

 

“Yes, a little,” Cordelia chuckles, leaning her head to the side in amusement. Her hair cascades over her back, exposing the base of her pale neck.

 

“But enough about me!” Coco’s eyes widen frantically, her undivided attention now on Cordelia. “Who left that pretty little hickey there, Cords?” she asks, pink lips wrapping around another piece of forked bread. 

 

Oh no .

 

“Ooh! Was it our favorite florist?”

 

“Uh, well—”

 

At her panicked look, Coco’s face falls. “What did you do?”

 

Cordelia’s face flushes with embarrassment, and she hates Coco momentarily for always catching her red-handed.

 

Cordelia .”

 

“I did something very, very idiotic , Co.”

 

“Do tell.”

 

So she does. She tells her about Fiona’s birthday dinner, Hank’s ridiculous accusations and a more detailed version than what she’d spewed over the phone of the fight. “It was a long time coming, really. He just wasn’t the same anymore, you know? I’d been thinking about it, about leaving him. But, well, the timing was never right.”

 

“The time to leave your boyfriend of seven years is never right, babe.”

 

“I suppose. After all the cheating…” (Once, not more than a year ago, Cordelia and Coco had gone out for dinner. They’d taken an uber back to Cordelia’s since Hank was out of town, and after too many glasses of wine Cordelia had told Coco about the affairs she knew he had. “I don’t wanna be alone tonight,” she’d slurred, so Coco had stayed. It was heartbreaking to watch Cordelia blame herself for things that weren’t her fault. They’d never talked about it again.) “What really blew it was him accusing me of cheating. And I guess he was right—”

 

“You didn’t cheat on him.”

 

“Didn’t I? It was still a betrayal. I was flirting with Misty while I was engaged to him. That’s cheating too.”

 

“I mean, it’s all about perspective, really.”

 

And then I actually slept with her.”

 

“So maybe you rushed things! So what?” 

 

“I’m such an idiot.” Finally, Cordelia rests her head in her palms, avoiding Coco’s gaze. “She was so sweet but- I don’t know. I should’ve waited. I may have panicked. And called Hank.”

 

“You what?” Coco asks incredulously. “No, you absolutely did not. Please tell me this is a joke. Are you joking?”

 

Cordelia shakes her head dumbly.

 

“I can’t believe you. Oh my god.”

 

“I know, I know,” Cordelia soughs, “I wasn’t thinking.”

 

“Clearly. And Misty?”

 

“What about her?”

 

“Is it over?”

 

“I ruined it.” The shrug she gives Coco is pathetically rueful and non-committal. “Fuck!”

 

The items on the table clink and clatter at the contact of Cordelia’s foot with the table leg. People around the bakery turn their heads curiously, accepting Cordelia’s apologies quickly in hopes to avoid further second hand embarrassment. Coco ignores them, never taking her eyes off of her best friend. Cordelia looks like she’s about to cry.

 

“Shit,” Coco says, white foam coating her upper lip. The face she pulls is one of discontent, but Cordelia knows it’s not judgemental or condescending. “I can’t believe you slept with Hank. I thought you’d dropped his piteous ass for good.”

 

“Please, don’t remind me.”

 

“Sorry. Look, this will all blow over, alright? You’ll fix it.”

 

“What if I can’t? What if I’ve already damaged it before it even started?” A tear rolls down Cordelia’s flushed cheek, and she allows Coco to wipe it off with the pad of her thumb.

 

“No babe, don’t cry. It’s gonna be alright.” Then her tone lightens, eyebrow quirking before exclaiming, “I know exactly what you need!”

 

No ,” Cordelia doesn’t even need to hear the rest of Coco’s plan to know what she’s thinking. “No, you’re not setting me up with anybody else. I’m done.”

 

“Okay but, hear me out. Wallowing in your own self-pity won’t fix anything. And you obviously won’t be going back to Hank.”

 

“Wasn’t planning to.”

 

“Yes, you said that last time,” rolling her eyes, Coco takes a sip of her latte. She changes the subject while she still has the last word. “Anyways, my point is I know someone perfect for this situation.”

 

Cordelia tilts her head again and gives Coco a painfully anguished look.

 

“He’s charmingly cocky and just conceited enough he’ll be just like Hank. But like, a bajillion times better looking.”

 

“That isn’t as comforting as you think it is.”

 

“Do you want my help or not?”

 

Cordelia pauses. “Do I have a choice?”

 

“Nope. No you don’t.”





“Misty, are you even listening to me?”

 

“What?”

 

Mallory furrows her brow. “What’s wrong?”

 

“Why would anythin’ be wrong?” Misty says, overly defensive. She hadn’t told Mallory anything else about Cordelia besides what she already knew. The warm lights outside the club cast long shadows over Misty’s features, which give her this stoic mask, almost indifferent but so unnatural to the blonde’s demeanor.

 

“You got this funny look on your face–” Mallory doesn’t seem to care about her older sister’s brash attitude, but she is distracted when two figures appear in her peripheral. “There’s Queenie and Zoe!”

 

“Hi y’all!”

 

Mallory greets them first, happy and having completely forgotten about her sister’s dilemma; to which Misty is relieved. She’s in no mood for probing questions. Misty wraps a slender arm around her friends, hugging them close. All four women dissolve into giggles, soothing Misty’s worries.

 

Queenie frees herself from Misty’s hold, says breezily, “Don’t be gettin’ all soft on me.”

 

Misty chuckles, following after them as they step into the crowded club. Zoe chatters animatedly, with Queenie making side comments and occasionally mocking the brunette’s choice of words. Misty listens half-heartedly, nodding and grinning accordingly, until Mallory asks Zoe a question, and Misty’s ears seem to sharpen and focus involuntarily.

 

“You’re taking classes with Richard Johnson next semester, right?”

 

His name sticks out in Misty’s mind. She’d completely forgotten Zoe is majoring in philosophy at the School of Liberal Arts in Tulane. The recognition slides into place easily, as if it’d been jammed and released.

 

“Nope, apparently he’s not teaching Introduction to Art History anymore,” Zoe replies. “Cordelia Goode will teach it.”

 

“Oh! Misty knows her. Right Misty?” Mallory adds, oblivious to Misty’s pounding heart.

 

“Yeah,” Misty feels the color drain from her face, tongue running as dry as sandpaper. She can’t seem to be able to swallow. “She’s great.”

 

“What will it be?” the bartender asks her, instantly catching her eyes as the four women approach. God, she really needs the alcohol now.

 

“Two shots of tequila, please.”

 

“You never drink tequila,” Mallory comments, leaning on the bar beside her. Misty shrugs with a mischievous glint in her eye. 

 

Queenie deems it a good idea and asks for a round (read: two) of shots to get everyone started. “Yo Zoe, is Madison coming? I need a drinkin’ buddy who won’t pass out on me.”

 

Zoe’s lips quirks up at the mention of the girl’s name, doing a poor job of hiding her excitement. “She said she would.” Then Queenie’s sarcasm clicks in her mind, “Hey! I didn’t pass out on you last time!”

 

“You totally did,” Mallory says, “Bet you don’t even remember.”

 

Queenie guffaws, “Of course she doesn’t remember.” 

 

“Shut up, I did not . I’d remember.” There’s a pause, all of them trying to bite back snickers. “Did I?”

 

They burst out laughing again, loud enough even the barman’s lips quirk up. The song playing comes to an end and fades away, changing to some pop tune that attracts the people standing on the sides to the middle of the dancefloor.

 

“Guys I love that song!” Zoe exclaims. “Come dance with me.”

 

“Girl, you’re so white,” Queenie quips, still laughing. “Fine, but you owe me a drink later.”

 

Zoe turns to Misty, who doesn’t move from her spot. “Are you coming?”

 

“Nah, I’ll hang over here for a minute, yeah?” Misty says. “Hold on to your phones.”

 

Zoe accepts this, skipping away with Queenie and Mallory in tow. Misty watches them make their way through swaying bodies until she can no longer see them. She fully plans on sitting here until she’s drunk enough to forget the sole cause of her troubles, but then she feels a set of eyes burning holes in the back of her head.

 

Across the room, a blonde woman holds her gaze and gives her the tiniest smirk. And though it feels wrong to grin back, she does. Her friends are distracted, she’s sitting alone at the bar and there’s no point in throwing herself a pity party. So, Misty throws back another shot feeling the alcohol burn down her throat along with her scalding feelings, and takes a deep breath.

 

“Hi darlin’. This seat taken?”

 

The woman grins wickedly, shaking her head ‘no’, quickly raking her eyes over Misty’s body. “Go ahead. I was actually wondering if you were here alone?”

 

“Kinda. M’friends are hangin’ somewhere.”

 

“Mm, lucky me. I’m Hayley.”

 

“Misty,” she offers.

 

“What are you drinking?” Hayley asks, but doesn’t wait for an answer. She picks up her glass from the high table behind her, a fruity, pink concoction of some kind, and subtly shoves it in Misty’s face. “You have to try this.”

 

All her feelings–even the acidic, thumping anger–are nicely coated in thick, glazed caramel; it’s the alcohol. The cocktail tastes as fruity as it looks, though she’s sure there’s more vodka in it than fruit syrup.

 

Would Cordelia like this? This keeps happening, thoughts popping and disappearing in her head. What could she be doin’ now? Windshield wipers clearing out her musings. Would she be here with me?

 

In another life they could do this (whatever this is, or was, or could’ve been). In another life where the skies are always purple and they have different lives, different jobs and better luck. In a past life where they’re movie stars, or ghosts, souls trapped in the same screaming house, inevitably drawn together. In another, where there’s witches and warlocks, and the end of times doesn’t seem as scary when they hold each other’s hands firmly, standing at the front lines. Perchance, someplace else where an intrepid reporter stumbles into an unholy place, and comes to find romance in the form of stained religion. 

 

But right now, in this life, Misty shares a drink with a woman whose eyes aren’t dark as coffee but moss green; her hair is silky and straight, but it’s the wrong shade of blonde and doesn’t curl at the ends. She smells of mint instead of vanilla, and has a darker sense of humor and a quicker wit. 

 

“You’re a cutie,” Hayley flirts. She places a cool palm over Misty’s knee and squeezes affectionately. She’d insisted Misty finished the pink drink, laughing and cracking jokes breezily, but it’s not as endearing as she hopes it to be. “And really hot, if you don’t mind me saying.”

 

For a moment Misty feels disoriented as she realizes she isn’t talking to Cordelia. This is not one of their casual, easy conversations. This woman is somebody else entirely. There are no real feelings between them. No tangible future for them. But that won’t stop Misty; not tonight.

 

She’s drunk . She has a pretty woman sitting next to her that looks like she could devour her any second, and she’d let her. Misty can’t deny the attention feels nice. Though it’s coming from the wrong person. Her mind is a colorful spin-the-wheel but every space ballot has Cordelia’s name written on it. She flips it, and it lands on Cordelia, and she needs to call her, to tell her right now what she feels.

 

Hayley doesn’t move her hand from Misty’s leg, letting it rest as if it belonged there (it doesn’t). Misty excuses herself with promises she’ll be back, pulling out her phone from her small leather satchel.

 

The blasting music obliges Misty to walk further back, away from the people and the noise. She covers her other ear, trying to focus on the ringing line and for a dreadfully long minute, Misty doubts Cordelia will pick up the phone.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Delia?”

 

“Misty,” Cordelia says in a bated breath. “It’s almost two am.”

 

“I know- I know n’ I’m sorry. I just–” Just what? What is it she wants, what is it she’s looking for making this call? “–I jus’wanted to hear your voice.”

 

“You’re not making any sense,” Cordelia says with the grogginess of sleep painting her words. “Go to bed.”

 

“No but- just listen. Please,” Misty closes her eyes, letting the tequila and the vodka and whatever else she drank tonight overpower her senses. Her mouth buzzes. “Please don’t go.”

 

Cordelia sighs at the other end of the line. “Fine, I’m here. I’m listening.”

 

“D’you know you have the prettiest eyes?”

 

Stunned silent, Cordelia beats her flourishing emotions with a stick and puts them back in the dusty, bottom drawer of her mind.

 

“N’ the prettiest smile.” The music is nothing but background noise now, though Misty’s teeth chatter with the beat. “Lord, I miss you.”

 

“Are you drunk?”

 

“What?”

 

“Misty. You can’t just- I can’t–”

 

“I thought you n’ your boyfriend were over.”

 

“We are , but that doesn’t mean I can do this–”

 

“You said that,” Misty mumbles, defeated. “Last’ime. You said that.”

 

“And I meant it.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Then why did you call?”

 

“Because–” (Hadn't Cordelia heard her?) “ I miss you .”

 

“Go to bed, Misty.” There’s a click, and Misty stands there with the phone pressed to hear ear longer than necessary.

 

I love you ,” Misty says after the line has gone quiet, and there’s no one there to hear it. “I love you,” she repeats, but her muddled mind won’t grasp it. Throwing flowers into the abyss.

 

“Hey there you are!” Hayley squeals behind her. “I thought you’d bailed on me.”

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Misty gives her a cheeky smile. It’s wrong, it’s all wrong. She shouldn’t do this. She should tell her ‘ thanks for the drink, I had a nice time, see you around’, and leave.

 

Alternatively Misty asks, “Do ya wanna dance?”

 

The words shock even her. Misty holds out her hand for Hayley to take, gripping it hard as if she were a lifeline to her sanity. Hayley smiles at her, lips glossy and stained from downing the rest of her drink. She allows Misty to drag her into the middle of the crowd; sweaty bodies bumping into each other, swaying to the beat. The music is loud and full of bass, the floor vibrating under their feet. In a bold move, Misty’s hands find Hayley’s waist, pulling her closer to her body. Hayley moves easily, arms up in the air when the song livens, throwing her head back in glee. Her cheeks are flushed, eyes glossy under the strobing lights, but Misty doesn’t have the urge to kiss her.

 

When the song transitions into the next, Hayley twirls around and presses her back to Misty’s front. Misty locks her hips against Hayley's back side, bodies moving together in an easy, sensual rhythm. Between the alcohol and Hayley’s body grinding against her, Misty wonders just how calamitous it’d be to get lost in this crowd forever.

 

The song is too loud for Hayley to hear her, so Misty leans in close to her ear and says, “Can I take you home?”

 

“I think I’d like that.”

 

...

 

None of the conversation with Cordelia sticks to Misty’s mind the next morning. There’s a slight throbbing in her head before she even opens her eyes. Her back muscles ache, her calves burn, and she must’ve slept wrong because her neck feels tense. Misty groans loudly as she stretches and turns, acknowledging the soreness settled in her bones.

 

There’s a shuffling beside her that makes her eyes fly open. The blonde curled in her bed lies on her side, hair sprawled around the back of her head. Misty can see the expanse of her naked back, the curve of her spine. 

 

Misty smiles, warmth blooming in her chest as she stops to listen to the woman’s breathing. Tracing her fingers over the blonde’s shoulder blades, she murmurs, “Mornin’, Delia.”

 

But then the woman in her sheets stirs and in the morning light she doesn’t look much like Cordelia at all.

 

“I think you’re very confused, cutie,” she says. Her voice is too smooth, not raspy enough. There are no constellations in her cheeks, no creases around her mouth. Misty can’t remember her name. “You also called me that last night when we- Anyways.”

 

“Shit, I’m really sorry.” Retreating to her side, Misty arranges her pillows to sit up against the headboard, pulling the sheets over her body.

 

“Me too. I was kinda hoping we could make this more than a one time thing.”

 

She doesn’t mean to but involuntarily Misty grimaces. There’s no denying the blonde is beautiful, but she’s not Cordelia. God, she’s not Cordelia, and anyone can come and charm Misty, but if they’re not Cordelia she doesn’t want them. 

 

Misty wishes she would leave. 

 

“She must’ve been someone pretty special,” the blonde sighs.

 

“She was,” then Misty regrets it, “She is.”

 

“I hear you loud and clear.” She seems to take the hint, offering a sad smile. “I should get going then.”

 

Misty watches the blonde silently, immersed in some kind of trance. Her blue eyes follow her as she disappears into the bathroom, and as she gathers her things, Misty finds herself thinking of all the things she should’ve said to Cordelia that sunny day two weeks ago: ‘ Don’t go, I want you, tell me what’s wrong so I can fix it’ .

 

The blonde gives Misty a wave and a bovine, “Bye.”

 

Did I do somethin’, Delia? Was it me?

 

For the second time in a month, Misty is left naked, unmoving and alone in her bed, completely silent as a blonde walks away with a shard of her heart.





The nature of their relationship remains nebulous: Misty was blindsided, her whole world tilting on its axis. This isn’t how it was supposed to play out, and it’s precisely what she feared would happen.

 

Misty isn’t having a good day. 

 

She’s angry . (It is not a common thing, for Misty to be angry.) She carries a heart so heavy she thinks it might be malfunctioning. She’s spent too many nights in dark rooms with people who didn’t even like her enough to begin with, and she’s let herself sink into emotions so thick they’re unhealthy, but sleeping with Cordelia was a mistake so violent, it fills her with a certain despair that brings her to tears. 

 

It is Cordelia who left; it is Misty that remains. That is to say: I am loved less than I love . Not that Misty would admit that.

 

How dare Cordelia use her and dispose of her like that?

 

The day after, Misty stared at the ceiling fan for too long, ate breakfast alone, barefoot and in an oversized t-shirt that smelled musty. She washed the grey sheets of her bed, adding extra soap and fabric softener to the washing machine in hopes of getting rid of Cordelia’s smell. Vanilla and crisp, sweet perfume. How do you bleach the shriveled image of someone out of your brain? She put her hair up in a messy bun, and let Connie Francis play in the background, the record starting over and over and— 

 

Cordelia shouldn’t have asked to fuck her if she wasn’t planning to stay and sleep in her bed. If she wasn’t going to intertwine their legs and let Misty kiss the crown of her head and hold her to sleep. If she was going to fucking leave . Drifting in and out of Misty’s life so fast she could barely savor the sweetness on her tongue. It’s acrid now.

 

(Perhaps it’s wishful thinking.)

 

Blaming Cordelia solely wouldn’t be completely fair either. Misty allowed it to happen, sought it out even. And she frankly shouldn’t have. She knew this. Now her absence is evident at the foot of her bed, and there are no more cheerful good morning texts nor goofy smiles left. 

 

Empty, empty, empty .  

 

There are too many feelings harbored; emotions simmering in a metaphorical pot that’s bound to spill. Yes, Misty’s fucking furious because, out of all the people she’s found herself tangled with, she would’ve never expected Cordelia would be the one to break her heart.





“Mallory thinks I should give her some time,” Misty sulks.

 

Marie grins, no teeth. “Your sister is right.”

 

“Don’t tell her or she’ll get all smug ‘bout it.”

 

“Have you talked to her?” Marie asks, curling a piece of hair from the woman sitting in her salón chair. Her head is almost all done, looking funny with only three quarters curled delicately and the rest tousled and frizzy.

 

“To Cordelia? Nah, I don’t think she wants to talk to me at all.”

 

“If you never try you’ll never know, mama. Call her.”

 

“Maybe this ain’t somethin’ we should talk over the phone y’know?” Misty slouches in her seat, seeking Marie’s eyes in the mirror.

 

“Now you’re only making up excuses to avoid her.” Marie turns to Misty, pointing the hot pink curling iron at her. “Don’t get smart on me. It didn’t work when you were younger and it sure as hell won’t be workin’ now.”

 

Misty giggles.

 

She has old, faded memories of going over to Marie’s house after school, eating crackers, the smell of burning sage, muddy feet.

 

(Marie Laveau met Sara Day long before Misty was even born. They had been neighbors for years, and eventually became close friends. Perchance because they shared the excruciatingly painful trauma of losing a child; Marie had lost her baby when she was only a couple months old, and Sara lost her first son at the early age of two. Misty doesn’t know any more of the details. Marie had been there through it all. Especially on Sara’s lowest, ugliest moments, with her teeth bare and the feral, unhinged rage clawing up her bones.

 

After Sara’s death, Marie took care of the Day girls as if they were her own daughters.)

 

“What am I even supposed t’say?” Misty huffs. “‘ Hi Cordelia, I know you don’t want me but I do, so I think we should be together? ’”

 

Marie gives her a stern look, scoffing at Misty’s quirky antics. “How ‘bout: ‘ Hello Cordelia, can we talk about what happened between us?’ ” The hair straightener sizzles as it clasps around another strand of black hair. Marie concentrates hard on the task at hand, says, “You children complicatin’ your feelings.”

 

“What if I get rejected?” Misty asks meekly, pulling a sad smile. “Reckon m’heart won’t be able to handle it.”

 

Through the mirror she can see the woman in the chair smiling as if thunderstruck. “Sounds like you’re in love, sweetheart.”

 

Marie meets Misty’s eyes in the mirror again. “Mhm, you heard the woman.”

 

Misty is dazed silent.

 

“Cat got your tongue?”

 

“Quit playin’, Marie.”

 

“Don’t you love her?” Marie takes another piece of hair. She glances rapidly at Misty. “There’s no shame in that.”

 

“I dunno what to tell you.” In her desperation, Misty stands from the stool. Her boots squeak as she paces behind Marie. “Of course I have feelings for her. But what does it matter?”

 

Again, the woman in the chair shrieks, “That’s all that matters!”

 

Careful not to get her rings tangled, Misty runs a hand through her overgrown curls, “She doesn’t want me. Shit, not even as a friend.”

 

Marie clicks her tongue. From the vanity she pulls a plastic comb and a spray bottle. She swirls the chair around, now facing the woman. Still inspecting her work, she says to Misty, “You’re so stubborn.”

 

“We were just friends, that’s all. And nothing else will happen now.”

 

The setting spray clicks as Marie shakes it. She sprays the woman's head, moving the bottle in a zigzag motion. “Voilà! All done.”

 

The woman smiles at her reflection in the mirror, and then at Marie. “Thank you so much, Marie!” 

 

“Now, you lemme know when that head of yours needs a touch up, alright?”

 

“Always treatin’ me so well.” She addresses Misty now, “I’m telling you, this woman works miracles.” Her smile grows sympathetic, “And good luck with your girlfriend, sweetie.”

 

Both Misty and Marie watch her walk toward the checkout, amused.

 

“You sound angry,” Marie says finally.

 

“Maybe I am! She just left me there. I’m not sayin’ I hoped she would reciprocate m’feelings.” Misty’s voice grows quiet toward the end. They hadn’t let this thing between them bloom enough to add a label to it; girlfriend . In hopes to avoid Marie’s knowing gaze, she keeps pacing the room. “But I thought maybe- Well, it’s dumb.”

 

“It ain’t dumb, baby girl.”

 

Misty wants to scream.

 

“Sure feels like it.” She crosses her arms over her chest, shielding her emotions, corralling them back lest they decide to spill right here in the shiny tiles of Marie’s beauty salón for all her customers to dissect.

 

“Misty, look at me mama.”


Her baby blues swim in unshed tears, salty as the ocean. “I can’t believe I fell in love with her.”

Chapter Text

“What is it people say about feeling rejuvenated after a workout?” Coco huffs, “Because that class was kick-you-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck fantastic .”

 

They take pilates class three times a week, upon Cordelia’s insistence of course. It took a lot of convincing to drag Coco out of bed for a 7am class when her day usually doesn’t start until 9am. Cordelia snickers. “Please, you love it.”

 

“Do you have time to stop for a coffee?” Coco looks at her over her shoulder, after waving the receptionist of the gym goodbye and blowing an exaggerated kiss to the kickboxing instructor. (They’ve slept together a couple times now, and Cordelia can’t look him in the eyes without blushing.)

 

“Sure, I don’t have any lessons scheduled today,” Cordelia explains. “Workshop.”

 

“Wanna head to the bakery?”

 

Early November brings with it the crisp weather of the season. A gust of wind hits their warm bodies on their way out the gym, and yes, coffee sounds great right about now. They pull the zippers of their jackets higher up their neck and stalk toward their cars.

 

“Hugh is closed this week, remember?”

 

“Right. Well, I feel like a green smoothie anyways.”

 

“Oh, I know a place! There’s a great café downtown where–” Cordelia regrets it as soon as the information tumbles from her lips. She hopes Coco doesn’t pick up on it and finishes lamely, “–where they do great smoothies.”

 

Coco, too excited about her drink to even notice Cordelia’s voice faltering, nods furiously and agrees without a doubt. “Then get your butt in your car and let’s go.”

 

“We’re driving in two cars? I’ll take us and bring you back on my way home”

 

“Fine, but I get to choose the music. I won’t stand a whole ride listening to your granny playlist.”

 

After throwing their gym bags in the back, the bluetooth connects as soon as the car is on instantly playing some groovy song. Coco’s face pinches comically, lips pursed, brows up to her hairline.

 

“Shit, Cords what is this?” Coco complaints. “You just aged like sixty years, babe.”

 

Cordelia snorts. “Shut up or I'll kick you out.”

 

“Disconnect your phone then!” 

 

They drive to the coffee shop with pop music blasting through the speakers and open windows. Coco sings loudly and the weight on Cordelia’s chest alleviates enough for her to enjoy this simple, mid-week morning. 

 

...



A sign outside the cafe in colorful chalk lettering reads ‘ open mic wednesday!’. Since it’s early in the day, Cordelia hopes it’s not too crowded and follows after Coco as the blonde pushes her way inside the shop.

 

“Yes, Cordelia, I already said I was sorry–” Coco protests, cutting herself off when they get to the counter. “Hi, give me two green smoothies, please.”

 

“I’m gonna kill you,” Cordelia interjects. “You set me up with Richard ? What were you thinking?”

 

“I was thinking my best friend needed a distraction. And the only person available was Richard.”

 

“The only person available?”

 

“Let me say that again: the only person you’d agree to go out with.” She hands over her credit card without even glancing at Cordelia, but she can practically hear her eyes rolling. Turning back to her, Coco puffs. “Gosh, I should’ve set you up on a blind date.”

 

They move along as the line grows behind them. Cordelia looks at her incredulous. “Oh no no, last time you sent me on a blind date it did not go well.”

 

“I know, I know.” They collect their drinks, thank the barista, and head for a table. Coco chortles at the memory; that was a disaster, it’s true. “I apologized for that too, didn’t I?”

 

“I wouldn’t say it was an apology –”

 

“Babe, we’re not talking about that.”

 

“I’m gonna kill you.”

 

“Yes, got it. Anyways, isn’t it great you didn’t see it through?”

 

Cordelia actually chuckles. “It would’ve been better if you hadn’t set it up at all. I despise that man.”

 

“Thought you liked them kinda douchey.” Coco winks jokingly. “My bad.”

 

“Plus, it would’ve been really awkward back at work,” Cordelia points out, thinking of that unpleasant scenario. “Losing a job to the asshole you’re screwing; can’t get worse than that.”

 

“Why do you automatically think you won’t get it?”

 

“I don’t know, Co.” Cordelia shrugs one shoulder, deflecting her best friend’s stare. “Quentin’s been on it for a bit too long.”

 

“So? That doesn’t mean anything.”

 

All of a sudden the bubbles in her smoothie appear quite interesting. Cordelia stirs her straw in loopy shapes until all of the foam is gone and sighs. “Richard and him are buddies or something. That’s surely an advantage.”

 

“Quentin isn’t gonna chose Richard just because they’re pals ,” Coco begins, but then ponders on it. “Okay, that’s fair. But Quentin has proven not to be that much of a jackass.”

 

“I guess,” Cordelia mumbles, now chewing on her straw.

 

“I should’ve set you up with a guy I know from work,” Coco resolves. “He’s nice and single.”

 

“Why do you always want to set me up with men?”

 

“Bitch, you just had to say that. My friend Elizabeth is—”

 

“No, no more dates. Coco, no more dates.”

 

“Fine, fine. Your loss.” She taps her nails on the table when most of her foam is gone too. “Are you ready to go?”

 

“Yeah, I have to be at the school by 11.”

 

When they’re picking up their things the place begins to get busy and the customers settled down. Cordelia actually wonders where all these people came from since it’s 10am on a Wednesday. Coco struts out first, squeezing between the small crowd, Louis Vuitton bag swinging. Cordelia goes to follow suit but then, an all too familiar blonde walks up to the front of the cafe, guitar strapped to her back.

 

Cordelia stops dead in her tracks.

 

Their eyes meet in every room. In every overflowing street. Across empty halls or crammed restaurants, their eyes will always meet.

 

Misty doesn’t smile, rather she grimaces sadly and it takes a lot of willpower from Cordelia not to run up to her and kiss her madly until all the hurt melts away. Misty looks at her with a certain pain, a certain regretfulness and Cordelia is sure if she looks away she might never recover from this moment again. It feels like a swift kick to the shins.

 

“How y’all doin’?” Misty clears her throat. “My name’s Misty n’ I’m just here to play a lil’ something for y’all.”

 

Cordelia’s been presented to an ethereal being. She’s been introduced and re-introduced to new versions of this magical woman. As if she presented her to different versions of herself. This Misty is confident, happy. (Not the hurt woman Cordelia had left sitting alone in her bed.)

 

“Was gonna begin with a sad tune but, no need to be so glum.”

 

Everyone’s attention is on her. No need to be loud or put on a great show; she is just a woman sitting there with a guitar but her energy is radiant. Her fingers try out a couple notes before deciding on a song. “Right, here we go.”

 

Cordelia wakes from her reverie as soon as the first arrangement of notes of the song begin. She rips her eyes away from the blonde angel in the room and forces herself to walk away with her heart in her mouth.

 

Sweet wonderful you, you make me happy with the things you do…

 

Outside, Coco glances up from her phone and frowns at her. “What took you so long? I was about to go back in for you.”

 

“I uh–” Cordelia bites her bottom lip. The gears in her head grind against one another making a horrible, abrasive sound. “Nothing. I thought I saw an old friend but I must’ve mistaken her. She’s no one I know.”





Her heart is still pounding from the fact that she’s actually here, in this flowery room, with a row of cactus plants lining the windowsills, and the mixed smell of lavender, rosemary and incense in the air. When she’d gotten up this morning, Cordelia had been convinced she wouldn't come. But she kept driving, as if she were on autopilot, thinking of other mundanities: classes, what she’d cook for dinner, calling Coco, running to the grocery store (she needs to buy a carton of eggs, milk and oranges). And then, before she knew it, she was pulling into a parking spot available beside the shop.

 

She sat in her car for twenty five minutes, staring straight ahead, focused on the fire hydrant perked in the sidewalk. She almost turned the car back on and drove away, but she knew she had to do this. It was only fair. Finally, she gathered enough courage to step out, pushing down the brutal urge to vomit.

 

What she hadn’t expect to find is a young woman prancing around the room as if she were at home, completely at ease in Misty’s space. Must be around her early twenties. Wavy shoulder-length brown hair that makes Cordelia somewhat insecure about her dull blonde. (Coco would hit her upside the head for putting herself down.) Cordelia feels a hundred needles of jealousy piercing through her heart. Although she must admit, she’s relieved; she wasn’t prepared to be face to face with the vision that is Misty Day.

 

The short brunette greets Cordelia with a warm grin. “Hello, what can I do for you today?”

 

“Um, I just,” Cordelia trails off, motioning to the pocket-sized book in her grasp. She’s gripping hard enough she might bend it. Nervous like a schoolgirl; when did she regress to a seventeen year old? “I came to drop something off.”

 

“Ah, Mist won’t be back until later tonight.”

 

Mist?  

 

“You must be Cordelia,” the woman adds.

 

Cordelia’s defensiveness chimes in before she can stop it. “Yes, and you are?”

 

“Oh no, no it’s not like that! I’m Mallory, Misty’s sister.”

 

“Sister?” They didn’t really know each other huh? There wasn’t any time; they didn’t get the chance before Cordelia ruined it. She doesn’t know about her parents, or if Misty has other siblings, she doesn’t know her favorite color, if she speaks other languages, if she’s lived anywhere outside the country. But she wants to. She wants to know everything and now she can only hope Misty will let her.

 

“Half sisters,” Mallory laughs. Yes, Cordelia can see the resemblance, around the eyes and the dimples. “Same momma, different dad.”

 

“I see. It’s nice to meet you,” she says despite her growing nerves. Cordelia hands over the book, and Mallory grins after reading the cover. “Well, will you tell her I came by? And make sure she gets that, please?”

 

“Sure thing! Most people leave here with something, not the other way around.”

 

Boldly, Cordelia says very convinced, “I’d like to think I’m not most people.”

 

“You’re definitely not.” 

 

Cordelia feels a surge of confidence bubbling in the pit of her stomach. Maybe she wasn’t mistaken. This is salvageable. But under the fluorescent lights of the morgue, who’s to blame but herself?

 

...



“Busy day?” Misty asks, carrying two costals of fertilizer with difficulty. Mallory rushes to help and waits until they bring all four bags to the back room until she gives her sister an answer.

 

“I wouldn’t say busy,” Mallory starts. She watches Misty peek out the front door before locking it and flipping the closed sign. “Ehm, Cordelia came by today.”

 

“What?” Misty hisses, the way a kid does when they’re insulted: something between shock and unhappiness. 

 

“I guess she came by to talk to you. She dropped this off.”

 

The copy of The Merchant of Venice sits atop the counter, seemingly invaluable, as though it doesn’t mean the whole world to Misty. Both women hold their breath, Misty’s ears banging with her heartbeat. She takes the book gingerly and with trembling fingers. Her palms sweat. Misty opens the book to the first page. There, under the title she finds Cordelia’s elegant handwriting: Act III, scene II . Hurriedly she flips the pages, desperately hopeful but knowing it could mean nothing.

 

One half of me is yours, the other half is yours,

Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours,

And so all yours.

 

“You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me.”

 

“What happened between you two?” Mallory asks tentatively.

 

“I’ll tell you what happened,” Misty says, banging the book on the counter, wanting to rip off every single page and set it on fire. “She fucked me over.”

 

It’s not until later that night that Cordelia finally calls. And Misty isn’t prepared for this; for Cordelia’s shallow apologies, for her discourse about her boyfriend and her feelings. There’s nothing left to say.

 

So she lets the phone ring continuously. Background noise. She changes into her pajamas, wipes off her makeup, feeds Elvis. It’s only after the third missed call that she musters up enough courage to pick up. “What?”

 

“Mist- Hi, I um–” Cordelia’s voice quivers through the line, and Misty almost feels guilty. “Did you get what I sent you?”

 

“Yeah, thanks.”

 

“Right…”

 

“S’that all?”

 

“Look Misty, I want to apologize. I shouldn’t have- well…”

 

“Shouldn’t’ve what? Slept with me?” Misty physically winces. “Left me there without any explanation? Toyed with m’feelings?”

 

Cordelia emits a small sound of hurt, as a wounded puppy would. “I’m sorry. I was scared and hurt–”

 

“Doesn’t make it okay.” Misty tries hard not to allow her own voice to falter, focusing on the way Elvis nibbles on his broccoli.

 

“I know, I know.”

 

“Then what the fuck Cordelia? You can’t just show up at my doorstep like it was nothin’!” A surge of anger burn holes through her chest, firing up all her nerves. She doesn’t even feel when Elvis bites her finger until she’s bleeding. “With your fucking poetry stirrin’ up all my feelings! This doesn’t work like that.”

 

“What else do you want me to say then? Do you want me to beg?”

 

Silence.

 

“Forget it. It doesn’t matter,” Cordelia sighs. 

 

“Great, are we done here?” Misty deflates, sitting at the edge of her bed.

 

Their rhythm is all off. This isn’t how it was supposed to play out.

 

“No, Misty listen to me please,” Cordelia insists, but her words sound tired and repetitive. “I’m sorry.”

 

“You’ve said that. You’ve…” What was her point? Misty can’t turn it into words. Something to do with the frustration of being naïve enough to open her heart to Cordelia the way she did. “Whatever.”

 

“I mean it. I hurt you. God, I hurt you so bad and when I didn’t know how to fix it I went running back to Hank. Which was stup–”

 

“You what?”

 

“What?”

 

There’s a connection she is trying to make. Something half-glimpsed, a slippery thought she can’t catch. She should’ve known this would happen. “You fucked him after you slept with me?”

 

Shit , Misty–”

 

“Don’t let me get in your way! Why don’t you call him? I’m sure he’ll be pleased to know you want him back now.” Misty hangs up without even waiting for Cordelia to say anything else. She’s heard enough.

 

Her phone rings again. She lets it go straight to voicemail, and then it buzzes.

 

Cordelia, 8:03 pm

Misty

 

Cordelia, 8:03 pm

please pick up, let me explain

 

Cordelia, 8:07 pm

I really am sorry

 

Misty doesn’t reply to any of her texts. She pretends she doesn’t care, though she cares way more than she’d like to admit. Is this what love is supposed to feel like? Her spine melts into her mattress, limbs too heavy to move. The tears come in waves, so she braces herself and weeps into her pillow.





“Where’s your darling boyfriend? Is he not blessing us with his presence today?” Fiona asks in the fakest, mawkish tone she can muster, watching as Cordelia unloads her luggage from the trunk of the taxi cab. She makes no effort to move or help her daughter whatsoever. Instead she lights up a smoke and waits for her to walk up the porch.

 

(All the honeysuckle in her garden is dead, and Cordelia resolves the universe has an unfair amount of metaphors for her love life.)

 

Cordelia rolls her suitcase up the entrance of her childhood home, shrinking smaller and smaller with every step she takes. Being in Fiona’s presence does that to her. She finds it completely pointless to be back in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving–it’s not like Fiona has ever cared about family traditions–but her auntie Myrtle had insisted she come visit and Cordelia couldn’t turn her down.

 

“You know mother, as much as you mock me I’m not apologizing for what I do or don’t with my life.” She mumbles, but it lacks all the confidence and assuredness for it to be believable. “Not anymore.”

 

Fiona arches a perfectly shaped brow.

 

“And no, Hank isn’t coming.”

 

“Thank goodness,” Fiona laughs, walking back into the house. “I’m in no mood to play house with you two.”

 

Taking a deep breath to hide her scowl, Cordelia follows after her. She would’ve preferred to spend Thanksgiving alone, wrapped in a silk robe and a nice bottle of wine. What a wonderful life.

 

“Jesus Delia, what the hell happened to you?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You look like a truck ran over you.” Fiona inspects her with some judgement, scrutinizing. Cordelia isn’t sure if she’s actually worried about her wellbeing.

 

“Thank you, Fiona,” she says, “Always so kind.”

 

“Don’t be so oversensitive. I’m just pointing it out, can’t I do that?”

 

Her rib cage begins to strain from the weight of her recent choices, and she knows she’ll have to break the news to Fiona sooner or later. Better do it now. “Hm, there’s actually something I need to tell you.”

 

Fiona looks at her expectantly, feigning interest.

 

“Um, Hank and I–”

“Christ, don’t tell me you’re pregnant.”

 

Ah, a wonderful life indeed! It’s as if Fiona had slapped Cordelia across the face. The hurt is obvious, etched on her delicate features. She struggles to swallow her thick emotions, mumbling, “You know I can’t, Fiona…” Cordelia bows her head, cheeks burning. “What I meant to say is: Hank and I broke up.”

 

Fiona’s lips quirk up (it’s amusement rather than concern). There’s a certain bitterness that lays underneath the surface and spreads like mold. “Should I be impressed?”

 

To her credit, Cordelia does her best not to snarl back. “No, of course not.”

 

“Is that why you look so- morose ?”

 

“We’d been together for years.” Cordelia shrugs, fighting the urge to cry. “Guess I’m just shocked still.”

 

“I told you that man was a loser, running around town with a hammer and a truck as if he were some Bob-the-builder wannabe,” Fiona lectures. The smoke from her cigarette leaves her lips like a chimney, but with how furious she is it’s as though it were coming out her ears. “And a fucking pig. He reeks of bullshit, I’m shocked you couldn’t see that.”

 

“Why can’t you just be my mother?”

 

“What do you want me to do? Congratulate you?” Her needle stilettos click against the tiles as Fiona struts away. “Ha! Maybe I should for finally catching up on his act.”

 

“Oh, don’t start Fiona.” Neatly, Cordelia folds her emotions and puts them aside, back inside her suitcase. “It’s over, alright?”

 

“Well, cheers to that then,” Fiona smirks, already done with this conversation. “Better late than never.”

 

 

As expected, Thanksgiving is a disaster.

 

Cordelia ends up having dinner at Myrtle’s, and it is tremendously similar to her childhood. She has no idea how she survived living under Fiona’s roof when she was younger. Thus, she’s a blabbering, sniffing mess by the time the turkey is out of the oven.

 

...

 

After five years of dating, Cordelia and Hank decided to start a family. They postponed the wedding, and everyone was thrilled for them. This was a step in the right direction; this was what they both wanted.

 

She remembers the obstetrician, with his sad frown and sympathetic eyes behind wire rimmed glasses. His office was white, sterile and cold. He’d clasped his hands in front of him and said calmly, “I’m not going to lie to you. I need you to understand, your body isn’t strong enough to conceive. I am sorry, but there’s nothing we can do.” 

 

The doctor kept talking, seeking her eyes out but Cordelia couldn’t bring herself to listen. Hank’s hands gripped her own tightly, almost painful. She couldn't focus. An instant, sharp sense of disappointment washed over her, which turned her numb. She doesn’t remember getting home that day. Next thing she knew, she was calling Fiona to break the news. A quick hello, a brief summary, goodbye. For once, she was grateful for her mother’s disinterest.

 

(Cordelia hadn’t allowed herself to cry until a couple days later, curled up in Coco’s lap, both of them drunk and sprawled on Coco’s nice, shiny floor.)

 

She’d expected Hank to break up with her then and there. But he didn’t, which Cordelia saw as a good sign; a sign that this could flourish into something good. She’d been terribly mistaken, of course. Was a family the right thing for them? Or was it a way to salvage their severed relationship? Is this the reason Hank is so bitter toward her after all these years? 

 

Now here, in her childhood bedroom, she thinks back to the appointment in the cold office, and wonders if it could’ve been any different was she able to get pregnant. Cordelia presses a warm palm to her belly, feeling how it fills up with air and deflates. 

 

Ever since she was a little girl she dreamed of a fairytale love. She saw herself with a kind man, a charming man. Later, a beautiful woman. Inside every scenario or combination, that perception remained. She is still looking for the same things she did as a child. A love that would leave her breathless and dizzy and vulnerable in the best ways.

 

(A foreign concept, opposite to what Fiona had taught her. She was always running around with some skeevy new man. Not even her aunt Myrtle had managed to find it and settle down—Cordelia supposes it had something to do with her “radical feminist lifestyle,” as she calls it, but it is no secret Myrtle hadn’t settled down with any man or woman because she didn’t want to fully commit to anyone.)

 

Awfully cruel of Cordelia to deny herself such things.

 

Why is she still debating this? She doesn’t know. Acknowledging the fact that it’s over is painful enough as it is. Work. Cordelia needs to focus on work. She’s been so distracted lately the papers are beginning to pile up. She left it for so long she even had to bring work to California. She’s got deadlines to meet, papers to grade, classes to plan, readings to do, a column piece to write–she doesn’t have the time to untangle the mess that is her brain right now.

 

First on her to-do list is an opinion piece on Katarzyna Swinarska’s newest collection: Absent Lovers . Great. She reads the title twice, and decides it’ll be more productive to laugh instead of breaking down sobbing the way she wants to. A hysterical laugh, devoid of any hilarity. How is she supposed to write an art review when the subject matter pulls at her own heartstrings.

 

Her phone buzzes. Normally she would ignore it but what if it’s Misty? Is that too hopeful?

 

Hank Foxx, 2:39 pm

babe are u coming today

 

Cordelia’s face tweaks. Why the hell is he still calling? 

 

Outgoing, 2:40 pm

No.

 

Outgoing, 2:40 pm

And stop calling me babe.

 

Hank Foxx, 2:41 pm

don’t be like that

 

Hank Foxx, 2:43 pm

u enjoy it

 

Which part of “ this is the last time ” did he not understand? Cordelia fumes. She punches the call button. Hank must let the phone ring, considering whether to pick up the phone or not.

 

“Hello–”

 

“I’m not one of your naughty girls , Hank.”

 

“Here we go again,” Hank groans. “Don’t you get tired of being so dramatic? So uptight? You’re the one who came back to fuck me.”

 

“Oh my god, I can’t do this again. I refuse to do this again.”

 

Not even when they broke up had she been this angry. Then, she’d hoped it wasn’t really over–she made sure it wasn’t really over. Deep down she knows it’s because now she’s the one who screwed up. She treated Misty like a distraction, and now Hank is a distraction, and honestly, she’s growing tired of distractions. Look where that got her. Of course she made a mistake. She threw her own heart in the blender, and Misty’s too. Cordelia was kidding herself if she thought she’d be fine. 

 

Truthfully, she should’ve broken up with him eons ago. The pent up rage builds inside of her like molten lava, from the pit of her belly until her whole body quivers with the powerful emotion. 

 

“I’ll treat you like one of my sluts then–”

 

“Fuck you, Hank.” And it’s said so bitterly, so full of pungent anger, Cordelia’s afraid her throat might blister and rot. “Fuck you, you fucking- fucker- fuck!





Betrayal doesn’t sit right in her tummy. Misty’s not even angry, she’s wounded; there’s a difference. For the last two days, she’s been reading and re-reading Shakespeare’s dumb scene to the point of having it memorized. She’s picked up her phone with her thumb hovering over Cordelia’s contact, written texts and deleted them, recorded voice notes she will never send. On the third day, she makes her decision. Despite everything, she makes the call.

 

Cordelia picks up on the first ring and Misty can’t help the relief she feels when she hears her voice. Damn her stupid heart.

 

“Give me another chance Mist, please.”

 

“One chance,” Misty breathes, hoping she doesn’t regret this in the long run. “You get one chance, Cordelia.”

Chapter Text

ELEKTRA: Do I hold you now in my hands?

ORESTES: Now and forever.

 

—  Sophocles , Elektra , trans. by Anne Carson from An Oresteia





“Ma’am, your name isn’t on the list.”

 

“Could you check again please? It’s Goode, with an e ,” Cordelia repeats, growing impatient but never rude.

 

“I’m sorry Ms. Goode, it’s not here,” the restaurant host says apologetically, now turning away from Cordelia to heed the couple waiting behind her.

 

The sun begins to set, casting long elegant shadows on the concrete pavement, accentuating the way Cordelia’s dress wraps around her body, stretching her silhouette a couple inches taller than usual. The golden light behind Misty’s frame makes her hair burn a fiery gold, almost like a halo imprinted on the concrete. 

 

“Delia, it’s alright,” Misty placates, curling ringed fingers around Cordelia’s bare upper arm. Her skin is cool to the touch, too exposed to the brisk autumn air despite being shielded inside the building.

 

“No, it isn’t alright. I wanted this to be perfect, I owe you that.” 

 

Of course, Cordelia had gone all out and planned the presumably perfect date in one of the fanciest restaurants in New Orleans. She’d called and made the reservation with enough anticipation to avoid any complications or misunderstandings. It would be a shame to let it go to waste with how beautiful Misty looks in that red jumper that elongates her legs and squares her shoulders in such a way Cordelia has a hard time remembering how to breathe properly. 

 

“Nah, you don’t owe me anythin’. And you don’t have to impress me; you already have.” With the way Misty smiles, dashing and assured, it’s impossible to deny her anything. In hopes of saving the night, Misty offers, “C’mon get in the car. I know a great place close by.”

 

It’s roughly a ten minute drive to their new destination. An uncomfortable silence sits like a thick foam between them; anyone outside the vehicle could see it overflowing. Cordelia can practically feel the suds coming up her nose. “Listen, I know I’ve said this already but I’m really sorry about—”

 

“Don’t.” Misty places her hand on Cordelia’s knee lightly, squeezes, moves it away. “I don’t want you to apologize anymore. What’s done is done.” 

 

Things are still falling into place. Mending. It is all very tender, but it’s going somewhere . Misty is being as open as she can handle right now, though wary, protecting her heart from further damage, and Cordelia can understand that. 

 

“Make a right here,” Misty instructs, “and it’s on that corner, beside the yellow building.”

 

Even in the dark the streets look familiar. They’re not far from the flower shop. Cordelia’s visited countless times in dreams now, she could find her way to it with her eyes closed. 

 

Cordelia struggles to find a parking spot while attempting to school her riotous emotions but failing miserably if the insistent staccato of her heart is any indication. The engine dies. They sit in silence for longer than necessary just stealing glances at each other; a look of pure wonder etched on Misty’s face, perhaps inquiring what it is that has Cordelia fidgeting, clinging onto her as if she would step out and leave any minute. There’s a thousand things running through Cordelia’s mind, tripping and stumbling over one another the way puppies would. One look in Misty’s eyes and it’s all gone. Wiped from her head. Misty tucks a strand of honey blonde hair behind her ear. Long fingers play with the shiny, dangly earrings she wears; Misty likes them.

 

“Thank you,” Cordelia whispers, fluttering her eyes shut to savor this moment. “For being here tonight.” Her heart beats at a steady pace now, unlike the erratic beating she’d experienced before. A sweet feeling peeks out behind her sternum, though it feels foreign and detached. Dusty.

 

They make sure not to stain their fancy clothes on their way to the diner. Cordelia’s heels clack wetly on the sidewalk after stepping in a puddle, to which Misty had uncontrollably laughed at for five minutes. (Cordelia doesn’t find it all that funny, though she couldn’t help but crack a playful smile in return.)

 

Inside the diner, they stand out like a sore thumb. It reminds Cordelia of the day they met at the Gala and Misty’s worn out, leather boots. Their unforeseen presence and wardrobe choice is a stark contrast to all the other customers around. Misty doesn’t mind; for once, Cordelia doesn’t either. She has no appearances to hold in here—then again, that feeling is constant whenever she’s with Misty.

 

(One of the things she likes most. Also one of the things she’s not used to. There’s always someone to please, someone to impress, some façade to hold in place. Not with Misty. Never with Misty.)

 

They take off their coats and slide into a booth side by side. Accidentally, Cordelia’s pinky grazes Misty’s; their feet, under the table, happen to brush against each other. Misty concentrates on these slight zones of physical contact, engrossed on the delightful hum of electricity around them, pulsing wildly on her skin.

 

Sure, they’ve been sharing brief touches all night, but this is a different kind of closeness, almost like a secretiveness. It’s not that Misty would ever dare hide Cordelia, but prying eyes tend to be jealous eyes, and she’s too protective of this precious, fragile thing to let anything or anyone break what they just stitched back together.

 

“Hi,” Cordelia mutters, close enough to be intimate but not too much as to feel invasive.

 

“Hi.”

 

“I like the place.”

 

“Mallory and I used to come here all the time,” Misty explains with a faint grin, “Not much anymore since her college schedule is all over the place.”

 

“Misty Day, fancy seeing you here,” the waitress approaching their table says. She’s obviously quite excited to see the blonde, winking and flashing her perfect teeth. If Cordelia wasn’t sitting in the way, she’s sure she would’ve gone for a hug. Cordelia scoots closer to Misty’s side unconsciously.

 

“Hi Tiana, how’s business?”

 

(All her animosity fades away when Tiana shoots her a kind smile too.)

 

“Can’t complain. It’s been real busy these couple months.” Tiana hands them large menus and cutlery, quickly setting up so she doesn’t interrupt anymore than she has to. “Can I get y’all started with something to drink?”

 

“You have to try their milkshakes, they’re the best in town,” Misty tells her, Tiana already jotting down the blonde’s usual.

 

“Then I’ll have strawberry,” Cordelia chimes happily.

 

They end up ordering a large portion of fries and chicken nuggets, alongside two slices of apple pie plus one cherry because Misty swears this is the best pie she’s ever had. Tiana snickers as she writes, too familiar with Misty’s exuberant orders, and turns on her heel to walk away.

 

When she’s gone Cordelia redirects her attention back to her date. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”

 

“Yeah. M’mom had two daughters–which I am very thankful for.”

 

Cordelia’s finger toys with the edge of her plastic menu. It wobbles. She wants to ask more but she’s awfully nervous.

 

“Cordelia,” Misty places her hand atop Cordelia’s free one. She intertwines their fingers, waiting for Cordelia to turn her head back toward her. “I want you to ask me things. Ask me .”

 

Cordelia nods shakily, visibly relaxing but her response is interrupted by Tiana. After she deposits the drinks and collects the menus, she informs them she’ll bring dessert last and disappears again with the promise that their dinner will be out shortly.

 

The expression on Cordelia’s face means she’s hesitant still, and Misty begins to elaborate on what she thinks Cordelia was getting at. “Mallory and I grew up around the Bayou with my momma. My father was never in the picture y’know? And neither was Mallory’s.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

 

“Don’t be. She had the worst taste in men.” The long spoon Misty uses for her milkshake sinks into the whipped cream like a shovel in the snow. Misty brings it to her mouth and chuckles. “Mom was too nice, too good for anyone.”

 

“Sounds like you two got along pretty well.”

 

“We did, all three of us losers,” Misty laughs soulfully, but Cordelia can see the shiny look of remembrance in her azure eyes. “I don’t have many memories of her, but the ones I do have are all happy ones.”

 

Cordelia pushes her tongue inside her cheek, following where this story is going. 

 

With a faraway tone to her voice, Misty seems to be caught in a memory reel. “She died when I was eleven. Mallory was three.”

 

She could almost cry at the unfairness of it all. Needing to convey her sympathy, Cordelia intertwines their fingers atop the table, a way of saying: I’m sorry, I’m here, I understand . “What was her name?”

 

“Sara. Sara, without an H.” She makes a point of emphasizing it by drawing out the letter in the air. “I used to be very specific about that when I was a kid.”

 

“It’s beautiful.”

 

“She was. Marie took us in after the accident. She’s our other mom.” Then she assures, “You’ll like her.”

 

“I hope she likes me .” (She’d never been as nervous to meet one of her partner’s parents before. She’s absolutely lost on what that could possibly mean.)

 

“Who wouldn’t?” Misty says, looking at her as if she’d hung the stars and lit up the moon. All Cordelia wants is to kiss her senseless, right there and then, but she knows it’s not the time. Not here, not now.

 

Her heartbeat quickens, screaming: My love! How I’ve missed you!

 

Before the intensity that builds between them can escalate, it’s shattered by the arrival of Tiana with their food. “Here you go ladies. Holler if you need anything, alright?” 

 

Misty’s stomach makes itself known with a loud growl that sends Cordelia into a fit of giggles. Misty dives into the fries without second thoughts, dipping two in her chocolate milkshake before taking them to her mouth. Then she nudges her with her shoulder playfully. “Alright, enough ’bout me. This shit is turning sad.”

 

“Let me try that,” Cordelia asks, curiously eyeing Misty’s movements. 

 

“You’ve never dipped fries in your milkshake before?”

 

Cordelia shrugs shyly, so Misty takes it as an opportunity to take a fry, swipe it into her milkshake, and feed it to the older blonde. Cordelia’s face brightens at the funny taste.

 

“Knew you’d like it.”

 

“What do you wanna know?”

 

“Tell me about the adventures of lil’ Delia.”

 

“I grew up in LA with my aunt Myrtle, and my mother who came and went. I’m an only child but our relationship has always been a bit… strained.” She stops then, not wanting to talk about her complicated relationship with Fiona any longer than necessary. But there are certain things she’d like Misty to know, and most of the stories in her childhood have something to do with her mother’s decisions. Even after all these years, Cordelia sometimes wonders... What would Fiona think of me now? What would she say? She can picture her face clear as day in her mind. 

 

Cordelia proceeds to tell her about Myrtle and her god-awful cooking, about being sent away to boarding school when she was thirteen, coming back junior year and meeting her best friend.

 

“Were you sent away overseas?” Misty asks between sips of her shake.

 

“No, I was actually sent here. It shouldn’t have surprised Fiona Coco and I decided to move here for college.” Obviously she skips the parts of the story about Hank and fills up the spaces with ridiculous anecdotes about her college years. Most of the stories have something to do with Coco and her usual obnoxious self. Parties, boys, and that particular story Coco hates of how she, in a drunken stupor, got arrested and Cordelia had to bail her out.

 

They’re cry-laughing by the end of their meal and Cordelia feels the most content she’s felt in a long time.

 

...

 

By the time they walk back to Cordelia’s car, the orange sun is gone and the stars shimmer in the night sky.

 

“I could’ve walked,” Misty protests, fastening her seatbelt. “The shop’s just a couple blocks down y’know.” 

 

The keys are already in the ignition but Cordelia doesn’t turn the car on. She wants to stretch out this night for as long as she can, even if that’s just a few moments. “I wasn’t letting you walk alone in the dark. I would’ve at least walked you home, but not in these heels.”

 

“They’re nice heels.”

 

“Why, thank you.”

 

“You look beautiful,” Misty adds, leaning over the seat. (In all honesty Misty doesn’t want tonight to be over either. It’s been perfect so far.) Her palm meets the apple of Cordelia’s cheek, brown eyes big and captivating. She inches closer, tilting her head until Cordelia’s hot breath tingles her chin. Her plump lips look so inviting, and if she said she wouldn’t give up anything to kiss her once again and have her all to herself she’d be caught in a monstrous lie.

 

Then, Cordelia turns away and sneezes. “Well that’s a moment I ruined.”

 

Misty can’t help but laugh. “Bless ya.”

 

“Thank you. Will you pass me a tissue from the glove compartment?”

 

It’s as tidy as the rest of Cordelia’s car, and Misty makes a mental note to clean up her own van. She hands the tissue over, but a small wire poking from under some papers catches the corner of her eye.

 

“What’s this?” Said wire has a Y shape, and looks like a tiny aux cord. 

 

“That’s a splitter. It’s for uh, two headphones to go into one input.”

 

“That’s cool.” A light bulb pops above Misty’s head, and this might just be the best find ever. “What kinda music you got on your phone?”

 

The bewildered look Cordelia shoots her is hilarious. “Oh no, no. I’ve got a lot of embarrassing, very guilty pleasures in there.”

 

“C’mon, who doesn’t.” Misty says, rolling her window down. She sticks her hand outside and says, “Weather’s nice, and the city’s just comin’ alive. So, are we doin’ this?”

 

Well, she could ask: Will you run away with me? Help me hide the body. Let’s go off the deep end , and Cordelia would say yes. Yes I’ll do anything as long as I’m with you

 

“Alright. Yes, let’s do it.”

 

...

 

Turns out walking around in those Jimmy Choos was a horrible idea. Though they manage, because Cordelia—as Misty’s grown to learn—is a well prepared woman. (Yes, of course she carries a pair of sneakers in her trunk.)

 

The city lights warm up the streets and people walk about as if on daylight, and Misty’s heart is still pounding hard and fast because this right here is what she’s been chasing all her life. Misty understands now what all those broken-hearted singers and fools in love sing about. And if she had to relieve the heartbreak just so she could find Cordelia again, she would, no questions asked. This is the woman she loves; in any universe, place or time, it doesn’t matter.

 

To Misty’s surprise, the first song in Cordelia’s playlist is Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 —“My aunt Myrtle’s favorite,” she explains at Misty’s equally perplexed and delighted grin. (Cordelia isn’t surprised Misty mouths every single word to the song, even playing bits of air guitar.)

 

They amble past clubs and bars, closed shops, restaurants and liquor stores, but with their earphones in the rest of the world melts away into the abyss.

 

There is nothing, and then there is you, and in the blink of an eye nothing becomes everything.

 

When Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass begins, Misty’s a bit taken aback by the change in genre. She would’ve never guessed Cordelia had that in her music library.

 

“Coco likes it. It’s our workout song.”

 

“Makes sense… Can we skip it?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Okay, okay,” Misty exclaims at the first notes of the next song. “You might see this comin’ but, this is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artists.”

 

ABBA’s Super Trouper fills their ears and Misty not only sings the entire thing, she also rocks a couple dance moves through the chorus. She even asks to repeat the song and manages to get Cordelia to mimic her dancing.

 

They stop to slow-dance (or attempt to) under lamp posts more than once, and it doesn’t matter the people that walk by throw them strange looks. Cordelia serenades her with an awful rendition of Mine by Taylor Swift and Misty, in return, softly sings to her The Villager’s The Wonder of You .

 

About an hour into their little impromptu stroll, Misty suggests they find a 7-eleven. (“We’ve been walking for a while, it’s time for a snack,” she’d claimed with the most endearing pout Cordelia’s ever witnessed.) They didn’t pause Cordelia’s playlist as they went in the store, and after much debate they decided on sharing a trail mix and caramel m&m’s.

 

They sit on a bench outside while they decide where to head next. Misty feeds Cordelia all the almonds, so she eats most of the yogurt bites herself. The fluorescent lights outside the corner store shine a neon green on Misty’s alabaster skin. She’s a vision of an otherworldly creature—divine perchance—sent to Earth to steal Cordelia’s heart away. What a sweet dream.

 

Harvest Moon by Neil Young comes up in the queue; it’s fitting and Cordelia wishes it weren’t so she could at least foresee the fall she’s about to take, but she can’t even remember what standing on solid ground feels like now. 

 

“Will you dance with me? I jus’ wanna hold you close now,” Misty asks her as she stands, bringing her back from her daydream.

 

Cordelia allows Misty to pull her to her feet, hands sliding inside her coat and around her waist. She sways them gently, so when Cordelia rests her head on her shoulder it all dissipates: the fluorescent lights don’t allow her to see past Misty’s frame, she doesn’t feel anything else but her breath on the side of her face. She plans on letting herself be swept away by Misty. Her head is raveled in a feverish state of content and bliss, she could pinch herself.

 

Yes: this is what love feels like.





“I wish you’d kiss me,” Misty whispers into the night, close enough to Cordelia’s mouth so that only she picks it up. 

 

Quickly Cordelia’s neck feels hot despite the low temperature. Her breath hitches lightly, goosebumps erupting all over her skin. All Cordelia has to do is angle her face forward, chin poised ever so slightly. Plump lips meet hers for the first time in months and in all her 33 years of age, Cordelia has never felt as alive as she does now. Misty fists Cordelia’s gray coat, pulling her closer. The kiss is urgent, loaded with a plethora of emotions both unspoken and unexplored.

 

It’s late; they’d walked longer that they’d planned to. Misty stands with one foot inside the shop, holding onto the doorknob but refusing to let go of the other woman yet. “Would you like t’come inside?”

 

“Are you sure?” Not because Cordelia’s hesitant about this but because she wasn’t entirely sure Misty would let her back into her life (and her bed) so soon.

 

“Yes, Cordelia.”

 

Once again, Cordelia is blindly led through Misty’s apartment and into her room. It’s easier to navigate since she’s been here before, but the waiting game is just as exhilarating as it was the first time they found themselves in this position. Tonight Misty wastes as little time as possible to get Cordelia sprawled on her bed, too eager to feel the warmth of her skin once again.

 

She hovers above her, chains and necklaces dangling on Cordelia’s face. Holding eye contact, Cordelia catches one of the flat pendants with her teeth and pulls lightly. Misty smiles cheekily, coming down for a deep, playful kiss.

 

“I missed you,” murmurs Cordelia in the semi-darkness of the room.

 

“I’m here now.” Misty says, lifting Cordelia’s chin so she can place kisses all along the curve of her jaw. “I’m not goin’ anywhere.”

 

“Neither am I. Not again.”

 

“Good then.”

 

Cordelia watches intently as Misty stands and moves her hair to the side. She reaches around to undo the side zipper of her pantsuit and lets the shoulder straps fall through her arms. Misty steps out of the piece of clothing, now standing only in her underwear. Cordelia’s heart races deafeningly, transfixed on the woman standing in the middle of the room as if she were some kind of marble statue, eyes glinting like moonstones. 

 

Next she takes off her rings, and Cordelia has never wanted to suck on those long fingers as much as she does now. She can’t comprehend the heat that rushes through her body; it’s not only arousal, it’s something personal, meaningful.

 

“You look so cute when you blush like that.”

 

“Let me touch you,” prompts Cordelia. She moves to sit on the edge of the bed, placing feeble hands on Misty’s hips, squeezing. She can feel her pulse pounding heavily between her legs. Before Misty gets too worked up she grabs both of Cordelia’s hands, bringing one arm to her mouth and peppering kisses on the inside of her wrist. After, she pulls Cordelia up to a standing position.

 

Misty slips her cold hands under Cordelia’s dress, roaming her body beneath the fabric. Slowly she traces her curves, palms her chest, runs her fingers down to the small of her back. She turns her around with her front pressing to Cordelia’s back, moving her combed honey blonde hair to the side, catching a familiar whiff of vanilla.

 

“Misty…”

 

“Yes, Delia?”

 

Funny how the only sound Cordelia can manage is a small whimper. Misty undoes the zipper, letting the black dress drop and pool at their feet. Cordelia reaches back to unclasp her own bra, fully moaning when Misty’s hands pinch her nipples. She kisses a trail down her neck to her freckled shoulders, and with a fingertip traces her spine. Cordelia flutters her eyes closed at the sensation.

 

Her underwear comes off next. Cordelia would’ve sat down had she known Misty would glide her hands down her thighs, scratching lightly with blunt nails as she drags her panties off. She’s surprised her legs are still holding her up, but she’s mostly leaning back on the younger blonde for support. With a hand holding Cordelia’s hip bone, Misty places kisses up her thigh.

 

“You’re shivering,” Misty comments, inching closer to where Cordelia wants her most.

 

“And you’re such a tease.”

 

“Perhaps.” Her thumbs draw circles on Cordelia’s lower tummy. “I can’t help it, you’re just so pretty.”

 

(Cordelia almost melts into a puddle.)

 

“Take me to bed.”

 

Circling around Cordelia, Misty pulls her along. She instructs Cordelia to climb on top, guiding her thighs up and around her head. She waits for Cordelia to get comfortable and spread open, instantly locking strong arms around her ivory-colored legs. To say Cordelia is wet would be an understatement; Misty licks her lips in anticipation.

 

If she leaves a love bite—or two—on the inside of her thigh Cordelia won’t mind, will she? When Cordelia squirms under her ministrations Misty doesn’t care much about the answer anyway. She nips and bites wherever she can, coaxing the most enticing, breathy sounds from the woman above her.

 

“Is this okay?”

 

“Yes,” Cordelia breathes, though her mind is cloudy and she couldn't build a coherent thought even if she tried. “More than okay.”

 

The way Cordelia’s thighs shake around her head as Misty pokes her tongue inside her folds sends a rush of arousal through Misty’s own body. She licks broad lines, then thin ones all through her length, but when she finally wraps her lips around Cordelia’s clit and sucks , Cordelia sees stars. Her pace picks up steadily. She eats her out until Cordelia’s moans tumble from her lips carelessly, too engrossed in her own pleasure to care about keeping her volume down. Under her palms Misty can feel her muscles twitching and pulling with the strain.

 

“God, Misty,” Cordelia whines, arms flying up to the wall to support her weight. Misty had never heard her name be uttered with such reverence before. “Please don’t stop.”

 

What can Misty do about such a request but to happily comply?

 

When her legs clamp around her head and her hips ride her tongue in an erratic pattern, Misty knows she’s close. She works her tongue faster, mostly focusing on her bundle of nerves. Cordelia’s mind goes numb as hot pleasure engulfs her and she comes with a groan and a blissful sigh. Her body stops jerking for a minute, breath caught in her lungs, mind blank except for the feel of Misty’s mouth delicately lapping up her orgasm.

 

Untangling themselves would be easier if Cordelia’s legs could work properly instead of shaking as soon as she moves, but they manage. Misty wipes at her mouth and chin, though hungry for Cordelia still.

 

“You’re beautiful,” she says, kissing Cordelia’s pink-flushed shoulder. 

 

“So are you, Mist. That was…”

 

“Good?”

 

“Very good.”

 

“Glad to hear that.”

 

Mindlessly, Misty traces patterns over Cordelia’s warm stomach. She goes to kiss her cheek, then her chin, her jaw, the base of her throat. Cordelia tangles her fingers in between golden locks, grabbing fistfuls when her thighs are parted by Misty’s knee. Misty’s lips travel down her body, exploring a map of exquisite points Cordelia thinks only this woman has been able to find because she’s never been touched this way—full of aflame desire, somehow tender and bewitching.

 

“Let me touch you,” Cordelia says for the second time that night, hands traveling down Misty’s spine to unhook her strapless bra. When it’s out of the way, Misty moves to straddle Cordelia, angling her body downwards to continue her trek. The sensation of their exposed chests rubbing together rekindles the arousal in Cordelia.

 

“Can I?” Misty asks, inching her fingers closer to Cordelia’s navel.

 

Please ,” she nods frantically. Misty begins to lower herself but Cordelia stops her, pulling her close by the shoulders. “Come up here with me.”

 

The sound of Misty moaning softly as her digits explore the wetness between her legs makes Cordelia’s hips buck. She thinks Misty will keep teasing her, and she’s about to protest before Misty’s index and middle fingers follow along her labia to her entrance. Misty kisses her right when she slips her fingers inside her. She swallows the loud moan that leaves Cordelia’s lips, biting lightly on her lower lip, eager to please her. Wanting more friction Cordelia moves her hips in rhythm with Misty’s pumps. Her thumb draws gentle circles on her clit, fingers curling inside her and all Cordelia can focus on is Misty’s voice urging a second orgasm out of her. 

 

All of it is very intoxicating; Misty’s hands, her skin, her scent, her words… Misty is very intoxicating. Cordelia momentarily wonders how she could go so long without knowing what being cherished by her felt like. 

 

Her toes curl with the feel of Misty’s other hand toying with one of her nipples. Their teeth knock together rhythmically as they move. In whispers Misty asks her to come undone for her. White, hot heat begins to coil in her core and with a pinch of her breast and a harsh flick on her clit, it spreads throughout her body; a wildfire. Cordelia comes again, chanting her name and holding onto Misty as if she were a lifeline.

 

Misty removes her fingers as the tremors subdue, moving wild strands of hair out of Cordelia’s face as she comes down from her high. Her cheeks are flushed, lips swollen, eyes still shut. Never in her life did Misty imagine she’d touch someone this mesmerizing. Cordelia doesn’t have the capacity to move or speak and she barely even notices Misty shuffling beside her.

 

“Drink some water,” Misty says in a low voice. Cordelia hadn’t heard her slip out of the room and back. “Are you okay?”

 

When Cordelia’s breathing evens out, she opens her eyes to Misty’s baby blues staring back at her. She takes the glass from her and nods, chugging down the cool liquid. “You can’t keep doing this to me. My legs won’t work tomorrow.”

 

“Not my fault you’re so sexy.”

 

“Quit sweet talking me,” Cordelia laughs, pulling Misty in for another kiss. “I’m already in your bed.” She slips her thigh up between Misty’s legs, feeling the warmth pooling there. A loud whimper escapes Misty’s lips when grinding down, and another when Cordelia squeezes her ass. 

 

“You’re wet.”

 

“Feel me.” Misty guides Cordelia’s hand inside her damp underwear, fingertips spreading the wetness.

 

Cordelia maneuvers them so Misty is lying on her back and places her hands on Misty’s hip bones, pulling her down the mattress. The twinkle in her eyes is feral with her pupils blown out. Her fingers hook on Misty’s underwear and peels it off.

 

“Turn around.”

 

Misty’s impish grin is enough incentive to try this. Once she’s on her stomach Cordelia pulls her further down until her feet swing off the bed. Cordelia places kisses from her shoulder blades to her lower back, leaving a mark here and there. When she pushes Misty’s legs apart the younger blonde actually groans. “Delia, please.”

 

Though she finds it amusing, Cordelia doubts Misty will last long so she pushes two fingers inside her easily. She’s so wet. Her free hand grips at the juncture where Misty’s thigh begins as her body pushes back on Cordelia’s fingers. The sight of Misty practically fucking herself and the deep groans reverberating through her airway blur the lines between sinful and divine. 

 

“More baby,” Misty mewls beneath her, “I want more.”

 

Cordelia twists her arm around Misty, beginning to tease her clit. She believes Misty manages to swallow down a scream out of pure decency for the neighbors, though they should’ve worried about that sooner. The mounting pleasure has Misty whining raggedly, grabbing the sheets in fistfuls; she’s full of Delia, Delia, Delia . Her body thrums with every stroke and pulses with lustful need. With a third finger and an angled thrust of her wrist Misty comes loud and clear, moans bouncing off the walls like a chorus of angels.

 

Her walls clench around Cordelia’s fingers one last time as she pulls out. Her body becomes a boneless pulp, melting with the pillows. She’s in a state of content so deep she almost utters it, those three sacred words she’s been dying to spill. It’s somewhat tortuous to keep it to herself, but can she risk losing it all again? Instead she mumbles, “God, where did you come from?”

 

“I’ve always been here,” Cordelia answers truthfully. “I’m glad you managed to find me.”

 

“So am I. Very glad.”

 

Since Misty’s body is stretched out right in the middle Cordelia snuggles up around her, intertwining their legs. She moves Misty’s messy curls from her face, yawning when the other blonde does so as well. They curl up together under the covers, too exhausted to move, and fall into a deep sleep in each other’s arms.

 

...

 

Cordelia wakes up to the early morning sun filtering through the drapes. Light reflects on the crystals and trinkets Misty has arranged on a shelf, creating a kaleidoscope of shapes on Cordelia’s naked body. The bed is cold and stiff. It all smells like fabric softener and patchouli. Cordelia would like to wake up like this every day of her life. (Is it too soon to confess that?) 

 

For a long moment, she allows her memories from the night before to brighten along with the sunlight. It’s very obvious to her what that strange emotion is now. She should’ve known sooner, but falling for someone as quickly as she is doing is quite scary. She can’t rationalize it, that’s beyond her control. It feels dreadfully… real . Plenty more certain than what she’s felt for anyone else she’s been in a relationship with. The best part is, Misty seems to feel the same way too. There’s someone at the bottom of the pit who will catch her; it’s reciprocated. 

 

Her cheeks hurt from smiling so much (not to mention the soreness on her limbs). She allows herself another second before sitting up and looking around. One thing in particular catches her attention. There in the bedside table is a vase full of white violets; they’re bright and pretty and make Cordelia’s heart swell.

 

After slipping in a pair of borrowed pajama pants and an oversized band tee that Misty left for her at the chair of her vanity, she decides it’s time for the day to begin. Cordelia easily finds her way through the small apartment, mostly by following Misty’s dulcet, melodious voice singing lowly. Her bare feet make little noise as she comes into the bright kitchen. Something sizzles on the stove, a pleasant sugary smell traveling through the open space. There’s a record playing lowly in the background, though Misty is nowhere to be found.

 

Just like the flower shop, the entire apartment has earthy tones and an overall bright, old-fashioned energy to it. There’s flowers and plants on every corner, every shelf, every windowsill. (Cordelia pictures a messy-haired Misty, only in a t-shirt watering the plants every morning.) The wooden floor creaks near her and Cordelia almost faints when she glances downward.

 

“What the–”

 

The tortoise’s tiny paws move sluggishly in her direction, body swaying left to right with every step he takes.  

 

“I see you’ve met Elvis!” Misty finally exclaims, emerging from the adjoined living room. Her hair is combed into a loose braid and she looks adorable wearing her own t-shirt and shorts.

 

“Elvis… right, of course.”

 

“He needed to stretch his legs out a bit.” Misty picks him up and holds him close to her chest, his head snuggling into her body. “He seems to like ya.”

 

Despite her reluctance Cordelia smiles. Seeing how Elvis is basically harmless and Misty is completely relaxed around him helps ease her fears. She lifts a tentative hand to awkwardly pat his shell, which earns a big laugh from Misty.

 

“He’s not a dog, Delia,” she says between giggles. “Here, like this.”

 

Misty takes Cordelia’s hand and makes her caress the top of his head with her pointer finger. Elvis seems to be enjoying the attention, and Cordelia gets comfortable enough to do it on her own. That is until a burnt smell itches Cordelia’s nose and Misty’s eyes go comically round. 

 

“Shit, breakfast,” she mutters, quickly turning away to deposit Elvis back into his (obnoxiously large) shelter and removes the pan from the flame. What comes out is a charcoal black pancake, stiff enough it clinks against the plate like a stone. “Well, that’s not ideal.”

 

“With enough syrup you won’t even know the difference,” Cordelia scoffs, following after her.

 

“That’s true.” Misty shrugs, setting the plate aside for the moment. She turns to Cordelia, quickly pecking her lips before pouring more batter into the buttered pan. “Hi sleepyhead.”

 

Cordelia couldn’t wipe the foolish smile that settles on her face even if she tried. “Good morning.”

 

“Did ya sleep okay?” Misty hands her a much needed cup of coffee, taking a swing from her own.

 

Humming at the heavenly drink, Cordelia nods. She’d slept better than she had in a very long time, and she’s sure Misty’s presence has something to do with that. “I loved the flowers.”

 

“I’m glad. Picked ‘em out early this morning for a very special lady.”

 

Cordelia saunters into her space, running her hands under Misty’s oversized shirt and squeezing at her waist. She pecks her lips tenderly again. “Thank you, they’re perfect.”

 

Misty’s fingers tease at the waistband of the borrowed pajama pants, but before she does anything else she asks, “Hungry?”

 

“God yes.” 

 

“I figured.”

 

“And who’s fault is that?”

 

“Please, you liked it.” 

 

“I really did. Perhaps we should continue where we left off though.”

 

“Then ya better eat your breakfast or you won’t be able to keep up darlin’.”





Unfortunately for them, Cordelia’s schedule is packed the week that follows. Misty first comes to her office with the promise of lunch and sugary goodies. (She did get lost on her way there, because obviously she didn’t pay much attention to Cordelia’s instructions, but she doesn’t need to know that.) She leans against the open door, knocking on the frame as to not startle the blonde working on her desk. “Ya look real cute in those glasses, Miss Cordelia.”

 

“You think so?” Cordelia asks, touching her fingertips to the thin, rectangular frames. A faint blush creeps up her cheeks.

 

“Mhm.” Misty swings a long leg inside, flared jeans swinging. She places her paper bag and two coffees atop the desk and leans down for a sweet kiss. “Hi.”

 

“Hi.”

 

“Ms. Goode?” Both women jump apart at the loud knock on the door. 

 

“Kyle.” Cordelia clears her throat loudly, blushing crimson to the tip of her ears. “Hello- um.”

 

“I can—” The boy standing in the entrance runs a hand though his shaggy blonde hair. He waves awkwardly at Misty, then back at Cordelia. “I can come back later.”

 

“Yes, you—” she stammers as he immediately turns and walks away. “Okay.”

 

Misty’s laugh bounces off the brick walls while Cordelia quickly stands to shut the door.

 

“Poor kid.”

 

“Nah, he’ll be fine.” The younger blonde fidgets with the items on Cordelia’s desk. Everything is organized neatly, but what else could Misty expect from a woman like Cordelia? “I like your office, by the way. Spacious.”

 

“I spend a lot of my time here, if not most of it. Thought the space would be convenient.” Cordelia grabs the paper bag and walks to the back where she has two couches and a coffee table. 

 

“I can think of some other things to do here,” Misty insinuates, placing the coffees on the table before taking a seat next to the teacher.

 

“Yeah? Why don’t you show me.”

 

“Wow, you’re such a rule breaker.” Her warm fingertips run up Cordelia’s cool arm, enjoying the goosebumps that erupt under her touch. Despite the mirth there’s also a mischievous glint in her azure eyes. With her mouth very close to Cordelia’s she prods, “So bad.”

 

One kiss turns into two, and before Cordelia knows it Misty’s lips chase hers desperately. She’s tempted to swing a leg over to straddle Misty; the idea alone makes her hips twitch. A familiar warmth settles between her legs and she has to pull away before she ends up fucking Misty in her office couch. (Some other time, definitely). Laughing at the silliness of it all, she rests her forehead against Misty’s cheek and tangles her fingers in her hair.

 

“Food—” she states, as if saying it out loud would get her mind to switch channels. “Lunch.”

 

“Are we namin’ things in a kindergarten?” Misty jokes, squeezing at Cordelia’s sides. “Crayons. Scissors. Teacher .” She goes in for a kiss, but when Cordelia puckers her lips she dodges her mouth and nips at her jaw. “Am I in trouble, professor?”

 

“I can’t even imagine what you must’ve been like in high school,” Cordelia giggles, pushing Misty off her lightheartedly.

 

“A heathen, that’s for sure,” she snorts. “Nah, m’teachers loved me.”

 

“Did they really?”

 

“...Some of them.” From the bag Misty produces two glazed donuts, one chocolate and a blueberry scone. “I was very talkative and got bored pretty easily.”

 

“Why am I not surprised?”

 

“Haven’t changed much I guess.”

 

“I’m glad you could come over,” Cordelia says. “End of term is always a pain, and with the insane amount of work Quentin handed me over last minute it’s been busy.”

 

“Well, thank you very much for meetin’ me so last minute! It was a pressing matter that I came here n’ kissed ya.”

 

As promised, Misty kisses her numerous times with sugar coated lips making up for the fact they almost spill the coffee over the nice carpet… twice. They finish eating their pastries unhurried, sharing stories and talking about easy mundanities.

 

Another knock on the door interrupts them. Cordelia doesn’t even get a chance to answer before it swings open to reveal one Fiona Goode in all her glory. (Cordelia’s surprised she even had the decency to make herself known before barging into the office.) She throws her coat on Cordelia’s leather chair and removes her gloves.  

 

“Fiona?” Cordelia asks, slow to register her mother’s presence. “What are you doing here?”

 

“I dropped by to see my daughter, can’t I do that?”

 

“And the real reason you’re here is...” 

 

“I have some business to attend to, if you must know.”

 

“You don’t have any clients in New Orleans.” 

 

“And how would you know that?” Fiona debates. “I needed to come into town, alright?”

 

Cordelia nods absentmindedly.

 

“Where are your manners, Delia?”

 

“Oh! Forgive me. Fiona this is Misty; Misty, my mother.”

 

“‘S a pleasure to meet ya, mrs. Goode.” Misty smiles amiably but not too kind, aloof. There’s something defiant about it.

 

Fiona’s brown eyes then make a quick head-to-toe scan. Finally she shrugs her shoulder and cracks the faintest, tiniest grin. It’s only painted on her mother’s face for a second but Cordelia sees it, and it means the world to her. Then Fiona scoffs. “Seems like you two are very close gals.” 

 

Just like that, the magic’s gone. Cordelia exhales unevenly through her nose, clenching her jaw.

 

“What? What’s that face you’re making?” Fiona questions.

 

Cordelia shakes her head. Misty can almost taste the animosity on her tongue. This was not the way she'd plan on meeting Fiona. She begins to understand what Cordelia means when talking about her mother.

 

Fiona speaks to her next. “What is it you do again?”

 

“I own a flower shop.”

 

She raises her brow, silently holding Misty’s steady gaze. Her confidence doesn’t waver for a second in Fiona’s presence, so she doesn’t engage in this authority game Fiona is trying to lure her into.

 

“You picked out the Dahlias for my birthday.” It’s not so much a question as it is a statement.

 

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

“Good,” is all Fiona says and Cordelia feels a knot untightening at the bottom of her chest she didn’t even know was twisting there. Her mother’s response is a polar opposite to what it was with Hank, and though she knows she shouldn’t compare the two, she can’t help but notice how Misty is everything he’s not; she’s everything bright and sweet and worthy.

 

“I should get goin’. I’ll text you later, yeah?” Misty says, squeezing Cordelia’s arm instead of kissing her cheek like she’d want. She shoots Fiona a tight lipped smile and leaves, winking at Cordelia behind Fiona’s head. She doesn’t know what ground Cordelia and her mother stand on, doesn’t know the rules, and she wouldn’t want to stir up any unnecessary trouble. She’s not interested in Fiona’s mind games.

 

Cordelia watches Misty until she disappears from view.

 

As Fiona paces her office unhurriedly, Cordelia remains silent. She waits for the first jibe, or the beginning of a long winded critique about her choices, or an unfairly harsh interrogation—only nothing comes.

 

“Aren’t you going to say something?”

 

“Your office is so bland. It lacks personality.” Fiona waves vaguely at the bare brick walls. She takes a seat on the single couch opposite to Cordelia.

 

“Not about my office. You’ve seen it before, and it’s the exact same as the last time you were here.”

 

“Precisely my point.”

 

“I’m asking about Misty.”

 

“Why are you so adamant on this? You sure as hell didn’t want my opinion when it came to loverboy, Mr. Congeniality.”

 

Cordelia shrugs. She’s not about to tell Fiona she wants her approval because Misty is the only person that matters. Misty is no accident nor coincidence, and she’s never felt like this before.

 

“After Hank Foxx, anyone is an upgrade. She doesn’t seem to be incompetent,” she appeases, though to Cordelia it sounds like approval. “Well don’t look so shocked.”

 

“I wasn’t expecting that.”

 

“Don’t make it a big deal.”

 

“I’m not.”

 

Except it is a big deal. Whether Fiona supports her or not shouldn’t matter, but it does. All her life she’d been seeking this out. Obviously she’s not looking for her permission, Cordelia’s a little old for that, but it does feel freeing. The things in her life Fiona approves of are scarce, and with a little luck, Fiona won’t be as harsh picking apart Misty or their relationship. 


In the end, it all comes down to one thing and one thing only: love .

Chapter Text

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.”