This town was adorable, it felt like something out of a Hallmark movie. The sidewalks were lined with palm trees and tall, flowering plants, small shops and neutral coloured little cottages with bright doors, all with white, sparkly Christmas lights that reflected off the river, which seemed to glow even without the lights. It felt too pure, too nice, to be tainted by her and Rose. They would be a drop of red on this otherwise white canvas.
She couldn’t focus on that right now, as she scuttles from her car and onto the front porch, escaping the rain. She’d wait for Rose there, she should be getting in soon, once Emilio had left for his trip, she could begin the drive up here (after, of course, insisting to Joey that she could drive herself. “ It’s a long drive up the coast, I can do it just fine on my own, I don’t need to trouble you. I’ll take the highway and be fine.”) And then her and Rose would have their riverside rendezvous for two all to themselves for four whole nights, before they had to go home and have Solano Family Christmas dinner together. What a life they were living.
The key doesn’t work in the lock. She’s at the right cottage, right? Oh God, what if she’s accidentally burgaling someone? She checks the card that has her reservation details on it, she’s definitely at the right house. She sighs, and takes a seat on the porch swing, settling in to wait for Rose. She’d get a key, too, and hopefully hers would work.
It feels like forever, waiting for the rain to clear and waiting for her redheaded lover, rainy day rescuer, to show up. The break in the clouds came before she did, releasing bright rays of sun shining directly into Luisa’s eyes. When she shields her eyes and squints, she notices two things– first of all, there’s a rainbow forming in the sky, and secondly, across the street there’s a woman who has emerged from her homely hideaway and is sitting on her porch swing, too. The woman’s doing the same motion she is, hand on her forehead, looking out at the post-storm landscape. And that’s when their gazes meet. The woman flickers a smile across her face, and motions to the cup of tea in her hand, asking if Luisa would like one.
After popping back in through her turquoise door, the woman reappears with a second, tall mug, a kimono over her broad shoulders, and flip flops on her feet, making her way across the road with careful steps. Once she gets closer, Luisa can notice more details about her– the weathering of her face and a scar underneath her bottom lip, almost as if she’d bitten through it at some point in her life. She had curly, dark hair tied up high on her head and sun-speckled, tan skin. She was probably old enough to be Luisa’s mother, but she didn’t look her age. She was beautiful, Luisa noted.
And a woman of few words. She passes Luisa the mug, and before saying so much as a greeting tells her that it’s mint.
“I like mint,” Luisa tells her, with a slight nod. “Thank you.”
The woman nods curtly, sitting down on the swing, keeping a distance between herself and Luisa though. “You’re welcome. Welcome to Longbourne, are you just renting for the holidays?”
“Just for the next four days, going home before Christmas,” Luisa says. “Do you live here?”
The woman nods. “I have lived here for almost 24 years, now. Where is home for you?”
“Miami,” Luisa answers. “Not too far away, this is just a weekend getaway for my–” screw it, so what if this lady’s homophobic, I don’t care what she thinks of me “– for my girlfriend and I.”
The woman doesn’t seem phased, as a wry grin spreads across her cheek, revealing smile lines. “So you brought the rainbow with you, we appreciate it.” When she says phrases like that, an accent peeks through just a tiny bit– the way Luisa remembers her grandma sounding when she was a kid. And her mom. “I lived in Miami too, for a while. It’s a nice place, but very busy. Hard to find a moment to just be at peace and with yourself, always too much noise around.”
“Yeah,” Luisa agrees. “Have you tried meditation, ever? It’s a really good way to just… breathe, and set your intentions for the day, or the night.”
The woman takes a sip of her tea. “I suppose I meditate in my own way. Walks by the lake, tea on the porch with kind strangers.” She smiles over the lip of her turquoise mug.
Luisa isn’t sure what to make of her, if she’s honest. She seems nice enough if not a bit odd, but that impression was probably mutual; she herself was known to give off quite the first impression. Her father chastised her for it often, every time she was introduced to somebody new, every time she took the opportunity to overshare. This woman didn't seem to mind in the slightest. Something about them just clicked.
“Tell me about your girlfriend,” the woman suggests. “Shouldn’t she be here by now?”
“Well, that’s Rose for you, running on her own time.”
“I hope she’s alright, that she’s safe and all.”
“Oh! I’m sure she’s okay, just slow.” I hope she’s okay.
“I hope she isn’t abandoning you out here.” Luisa didn’t understand how the woman could just say things like that, so dry and succinct, and then take a sip of tea and move on. Years of not giving a care, probably.
“I hope so too,” Luisa mutters in response, taking a sip of her own tea. “Guess that’s something you always live with, living as the other woman, right?
“The other woman?!” The woman laughs. “Okay, the lesbians have drama too, I see.”
Luisa laughs with her. “You have no idea.” She smiles, though. “It makes you feel special, in a way. Like, she really loves me, or she wouldn’t be going through all the trouble to make time for me. She could make her life a lot easier and just stay with her husband, but she wants me. ”
“Oh, sweetie, you deserve someone who can make you feel special all of the time, not just when their husband’s back is turned. You’re worth one hundred percent.”
This woman’s so cute, Luisa can’t help but feel her advice right in her heart, even if it hurts. Because she was right , in a way. But if she just knew Rose…
“Thank you,” Luisa tells her, her cheeks turning red. “You don’t even know me, and you’re so kind. And wise.”
The woman shrugs. “Wisdom comes from experience.”
“Did you have a man that didn’t put you first?” Luisa asks.
The woman shakes her head. “I had a husband much like your lover does, I’m guessing. Wouldn’t notice if I was messing around with another man, wouldn’t notice if I didn’t come home. I was a lot to deal with, maybe too much…”
“You’re never too much,” Luisa disputes. “Rose never makes me feel like I’m too much. I’m definitely a lot to deal with, I know that, but when someone loves you they should make you feel like you’re easy to love.”
“You are easy to love,” the woman smiles. “Look at you, you’re adorable. Look at that smile.”
“You’re too kind,” Luisa laughs. “But there’s a lot you don’t know about me. Rose knows it all, and she loves me anyways.”
“I believe you, when you say Rose is a good woman,” the woman nods. “She makes you happy, clearly. As you’ve said, she makes you feel loved.”
“You might be the only person to ever say Rose is a good woman,” Luisa laughs. “But I see her as good.
“What makes her not good, then?”
Luisa snorts back a laugh. “Oh you know, she lives a secretive murderous double life, died and came back to life, all that fun stuff.”
“I don’t know that I’d call it fun, it’s certainly strange coming back to life,” the woman exclaims quietly. “Certainly makes it hard to maintain good relationships.”
The sound of a car pulling into the gravel driveway interrupts them before Luisa can ask any questions. Luisa recognizes the blue, slick sportscars as one of her father’s, that Rose had borrowed for the weekend. Sure enough, her redheaded temptress steps out from the driver’s side, in heels and a tight, short dress. She retrieves her suitcase from the backseat, along with something else. Upon noticing what’s in her hand, Luisa can’t help but smile.
“You brought us donuts, thank you,” she laughs. “Fancy ones, too.”
“Yeah, sorry, they weren’t ready when I went to pick them up, I had to wait. The bakery’s in Boca, it’s highly praised and they weren’t cheap, so I’d hope they’re worth the effort.” She presses a kiss to Luisa’s cheek and slides a hand onto her back so easily, so effortlessly; as if they’re wives who’ve been married for years, as if they are a family, not hiding out from one. “Did you make a friend?” she asks Luisa.
“Oh, yeah, she’s our neighbour across the street,” Luisa fills her in. “She’s been keeping me company while I waited for you.” That’s when she realizes that she’d never gotten her new friend's name. As the woman gets to her feet, collecting her teacups and smoothing her dress, getting ready to leave the couple to it, Luisa asks her. “I’m sorry, never got your name?”
“It’s Mia, dear.”