The ceiling in her bedroom is white. Carina has studied it many times in recent weeks. It’s still white tonight. The color hasn’t changed. Is it brighter though? Or is it the same as yesterday? The ceiling has seemed so dull recently even though it’s white color hasn’t changed.
Maybe it’s the changed view. Carina isn’t laying in bed staring up at the ceiling. She has a pillow behind her head as she lays on the hardwood floor next to the bed. She tilts her head to the side to see if that changes the shade of the white ceiling. It doesn’t.
She’s not sure what the difference is between today and yesterday. But then she remembers she wasn’t here last night. She was at Maya’s. Somehow that seems like days or weeks ago, but it was one day ago.
Carina closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She wonders if anger is the right emotion to have right now. She’s not sure there is a right emotion for how she feels. It’s not one thing or the other. It’s a mix of a number of things but nothing that sticks out as obvious. Carina was angry. At the beginning, she was devastated and sad, but there was anger in there too.
But does anger get her anywhere? Does it do her any good? Does it serve her?
“No.” Carina says to herself. “It doesn’t.” She continues taking slow deep breathes. In and out. In and out.
There is a little voice in her head that whispers. “Perche?”
And Carina wants to know why Maya slept with Jack. She knows Maya mentioned that her father abused her and acknowledged that but is that the sole reason. There’s got to be more to the story.
She knows she could just ask Maya about it. She thinks Maya is at a point now that she would talk about it if she asks, but Carina doesn’t want to have to ask. She wants Maya to be the one to start that conversation. She wants Maya to be the one to own up to it. She wants Maya to initiate.
Carina zones out again.
The ceiling seems whiter than two days ago for some reason. She looks from one corner of the ceiling to the other three corner. They are all the same. Bright white.
A car alarm sounds outside bringing her back to her thoughts.
The abuse, the stresses at Maya’s job could be factors. But what else?
Carina shakes her head. She needs to stop thinking about Maya, thinking about excuses for her. The problem is, the problem might always be, that she can’t stop thinking about Maya.
That is Carina’s biggest flaw.
Her biggest flaw is that she cares too much for the people that she loves. Her family, her friends. It’s always been that way. From a young age. She was forced into a role where she was caring for her father, and Andrew, and to an extent, even her mother. She’s always been taking care of someone or finding a way to try to take care of a situation or help in some way.
She cares to a point where she doesn’t think about her own feelings and emotions until way later. She puts other peoples needs and problems and emotions before her own. Even now, with Maya.
Carina knows that’s not a healthy behavior, but it’s rooted deep inside her. It probably isn’t helped by her Italian lineage where families look out for one another even if it’s a detriment to themselves.
She smacks her palm against the hardwood floor. “Damnit.”
Carina doesn’t want to just sweep everything that’s happened under the rug. Even though that might be the easiest thing to do right now. She knows it will only cause problems in the future with her and Maya.
A future she wants with Maya. She’s not surprised by that at all. It’s not really something Carina has put a lot of thought into, but she knows she wants that. But she only wants it if Maya can figure her shit out. That is only if Maya owns up to the horrible behavior she has displayed. Only if Maya makes an honest effort to explain everything to her.
Carina isn’t actually sure the real reason why. She will need to know at some point, but they haven’t gotten to that.
She’s a grown woman and knows not everything is going to be fixed with one conversation. Or in the first conversation. And it shouldn’t be. It should be a process. A continued series of conversations.
Carina gets up from the floor and crawls into bed, tucking under the covers. On the hard cold floor, she doesn’t feel. She just thinks. But in bed, she lets herself feel. The sadness, the anger, the pain. Everything. Once more.
And then she lets it all go.
Carina knows those feelings will linger but she’s not going to let them control her anymore.
It’s inadvertent. Carina bumps into Teddy in the elevator.
“Ciao. Hello.” Carina greets.
“Hi.” Teddy isn’t really in the mood to talk. She hasn’t been in the mood to talk with anybody in the last few weeks. Not since she blew up her relationship and family with Owen.
“How are you?” Carina hasn’t seen Teddy around much lately but wonders about her mental state.
Here she is again, caring too much.
Teddy has mostly just been working and keeping to herself after everyone in the hospital heard what happened. She dodges the question. “Did you work things out with your firefighter?”
Carina hums. “Sort of.” She sighs.
Teddy raises and eyebrow at that. “What does that mean?”
“It means that we are working on it. I don’t know if I’ll ever forget what Maya did, but she is serious about how sorry she is and how stupid it was and how she wants to work things out.”
“And how do you feel about it? I didn’t mean to butt in that day. I just know what it’s like to-“ Teddy sighs.
“You don’t have to explain anything to me. I know how complicated things can be with Owen.”
Teddy forgets that Carina and Owen had a fling. “Oh, I wasn’t talking about Owen. But yes, him too.”
Carina doesn’t question that. “How are things with him?”
“Not as good as things are with you and Maya, it sounds like.” Teddy shakes her head. “He won’t even talk to me. Unless it’s about the kids.”
Carina hums. “Give him time. He’s an alright guy.”
Teddy scoffs. “An alright guy? You don’t sound very convinced of what you say.”
Carina shrugs. “I just- I don’t know. I guess I don’t know him all that well.”
“You slept with the man.” Teddy feels weird saying that out loud.
“Si.” Carina nods and looks up at the numbers as the elevator descends. They are nearly to the ground floor. “But we never got to know each other. It was just a little fun. A distraction for me at the time.”
“From?” Teddy can’t help but ask.
Carina turns to look at her. She sways from side to side. “I thought I was in a serious relationship with someone, and they just dumped me out of the blue.”
“Do you always have to be such a mysterious Italian?”
Carina grins. She thinks it’s part of her charm. “No, I don’t have to be.”
The elevator dings and the doors open. “We’re here.” Carina faces forward and steps out of the elevator. “Good luck with Owen. Sorry about the-“ Carina was going to say wedding but that might sound insensitive. She leaves Teddy standing in the elevator with her mouth hangs agape.
“Wait.” She runs after Carina. “I need your advice.”
“About?” Carina says as she walks outside.
“Owen.” Teddy says. “How do I get him to talk to me?”
“I cheated on him. I hurt him. I know that. I know he’s mad and he has every right to be. What did Maya do?”
“Well, you were there.” Carina raises an eyebrow, references the encounter with Maya in the line for the coffee cart.
“That was it?” It can’t be that easy.
“Well, we don’t work in the same building, for one. So that was helpful for me. I didn’t have to see her every day. It was actually a week before she tracked me down. So, I hadn’t seen her at all in that time. She had called me everyday though. She didn’t leave any messages. She was smart enough to not. She would text me though. Little memes or funny cartoons or just a picture of something she liked or thought I might like.” Carina shrugs and looks off into the distance. “It was a signal from her that she wasn’t giving up. I knew one day she would track me down and I would have to talk to her, and we would have to figure out what was going to happen moving forward. They were annoying at first. And I deleted them all without really looking at them, but she was trying to send me things that would make me happy. Which is so stupid, but that’s Maya for you?”
“Stupid?” Teddy wonders.
“No, no, no. Not stupida. But-“ Carina sighs. She doesn’t know how to explain it really. “she just- that was her trying to care. Because she cares about the people she loves. She knew I was sad and she wanted me to be happy. And that was what she did. Even though she’s the one that made me sad in the first place.” Carina looks around the parking lot before starting the walk to where her car is parked.
Teddy wrinkles up her nose at that. “Really?” She can’t really believe that.
“Yes. I might be the only person to understand it though.” Carina smirks. Now she thinks the texts were kind of cute but at the time they were just annoying. “It’s not the same though. Me and her and you and Owen. You guys have years and years of history. There’s a lot of complicated feelings there, I’m sure. Maya and I are new, fresh. It’s easier in some ways.”
Teddy hums. Carina has a good point.
“Your advice did help though.” Carina adds.
Teddy raises an eyebrow and folds her arms over her chest.
“If you love her, forgive her.” Carina smiles. “And I do. I love her. That doesn’t mean I forgive her so easily. And I can’t forget, but there is a path forward for us. I know that. I don’t know what your path forward with Owen looks like or if there is one. Cuz of all the years of- baggage?” Carina raises an eyebrow to see if she has that correct.
Teddy rolls her eyes. “Yeah.”
“My guess is he doesn’t want to see you or talk to you because every time he does he is reminded that you cheated on him. And also, that everyone in the hospital heard about it. It’s humiliating.” Carina didn’t want to see Maya and she didn’t for a week. Which doesn’t seem like that long of a time. But she also didn’t have to have her co-workers know about Maya cheating. “At least, that’s how I felt. I didn’t want that reminder. Which is silly, because I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I was reminding myself.” Carina comes to a stop at her car. She turns to put a hand on Teddy’s shoulder. “My suggestion is to just give it some time. You can’t force a conversation. I’ve learned that the hard way.”
Teddy nods. “Thanks.”
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a dinner date with my firefighter.” Carina winks. “Just don’t tell her it’s a date.” It’s become her and Maya’s little inside joke now. They don’t call them dates, but they are dates.
Teddy smirks, happy for Carina. That at least one of them can be happy right now. “Sure, have a good time.”
“Grazie.” Carina unlocks her car and hops in.
They are sitting on the couch in Maya’s apartment as a movie plays on the tv. Maya had invited Carina over for dinner with a simple text in the middle of the day. A failed dinner, it turned out, when Maya burned the pot of chili that she was making. She was worried about everything else and forgot to stir the chili for ten minutes and it stuck to the bottom of the pot and burned.
Carina had come in and found Maya sitting on the kitchen floor with a wooden spoon in her hand, a defeated look on her face. She had sat next to Maya and asked what was wrong. Maya told her about the chili, and Carina took the spoon from her hand, getting up to stir the pot, and then do a taste test.
“Oh, yeah, that’s burnt.” She confirmed and turned the stovetop off. She sat down with Maya again, putting a gentle hand on her knee. “It’s just food, bella.”
Maya sighed. “But I wanted tonight to be perfect for you.”
“Maya.” Carina cooed. “We’ll order something. It’ll be okay. It’s not that important.”
“Are you still mad?” Maya asked.
Carina sighed. “Maybe a little. But after I had time to process the last couple of days, last night, not so much anymore.” She patted at Maya’s knee before removing her hand.
Maya nodded at the new information. “I just want you to trust me again.”
“I don’t think burnt food is going to sway that one way or the other.” Carina tried to tease.
Maya huffed and rested her head on Carina’s shoulder. “I can’t even make chili, how am I supposed to get anything else right?” She wasn’t really looking for sympathy, just venting a little.
“You know how you can earn my trust back?”
Maya lifted her head from Carina’s shoulder, looking up into Carina’s eye with hopeful blue ones. She thinks she has some ideas.
“By being honest. Which you have been. With the things you’ve said.” It’s the things Maya hasn’t said that still worry Carina a little. “By being accountable. By owning up to your mistake.”
“Have you?” Carina narrowed her eyes at Maya.
Maya hung her head. “I slept with Jack. Because my dad abused me. Or because I was in denial. Or both.”
Carina waited to hear if Maya is going to say anymore. When she didn’t, Carina got up off the floor and went across the room to order something for them to eat for dinner. She wasn’t going to push. She wasn’t going to initiate.
They ordered food and had a little meal at the table before moving to the couch. Maya asked Carina all about her day and how she was feeling while they ate. Carina asked if Maya did anything during the day or if she just stayed in the apartment. Maya told her she went for a walk, sat at a bench in the park, before going to the store to get the ingredients for the chili.
Maya isn’t paying any attention the movie. She has her arm on the back of the couch, behind Carina, as her mind wanders. It doesn’t just wander; it goes for on a specific journey. She knows now probably isn’t the best time to bring this up, but Maya also knows that there isn’t going to be a best time and she needs to tell Carina.
“He didn’t let me have fun. He didn’t let me have friends. I mean I had friends, sort of, but I never got to hang out with them outside school or track. I never got to go to their houses and spend the night. Well, there was one time but then I told him about it and- nevermind.” Now is not the time to go off on a side tangent. “I never got to hang out with people. It was always about training for track and then the Olympics. He controlled what I did. My whole schedule. What I ate. He said serious athletes are on serious diets. It was all protein and fruits and vegetables, lean meats. No candy or sweets. No snacking between meals. Even at home, my family ate differently than I did. My brother got to eat junk food and have soda. I didn’t because I was in training.” Maya sighs as she sees it clearly now.
It took her a long time to realize that what he was doing wasn’t for her benefit. Well, it was for her benefit, in his mind, to get to the goal. But it wasn’t for the benefit of a developing child, teenager, or even young adult.
“Maya.” Carina finds her hand, holding it gently. She turns to Maya, angling her body towards the blonde.
Maya shakes her head. “I didn’t get to do normal teenage things. He had me training and then doing my homework and going to bed everyday after school. On weekends, I was traveling for meets or was doing more training. I wasn’t allowed to sleep in. And if I did, he would come in and dump a pot of ice cold water on my head. I guess I knew he was a little harsh and maybe it wasn’t the most conventional way of training an athlete but the results where there, so I didn’t question it. I won nearly all my races. If I didn’t win, I knew it just meant more training so a ran to avoid that after a while.”
She looks down at her hands. “Everything he had me doing had I certain mentality to it. So, in my mind it was all about the focus and getting to a certain goal. When I reached that goal he would give me a pat on the back and then start right away on the next goal. He would tell me that only winners got congratulations or a hug at the end of a race. He made love and affection conditional. I had to earn it.” Maya understands that now. She sees how he did that. How he manipulated her.
“Eyes forward at all times. The only thing that mattered was the finish line.” Her voice is cold, militaristic, as she mimics her father.
“I never got to date or have a boyfriend.”
“Or girlfriend.” Carina says to try to lighten the mood.
Maya laughs cynically. “He would have gone berserk if he knew I had a girlfriend.”
Carina sighs sadly. “Even now?”
Maya shrugs. “Probably.”
Carina gives her a sad smile.
“I’m sorry.” Maya matches Carina’s sad smile.
“For what, bambina?”
“I’m sorry that he is the way he is. I’m sorry that I am the way I am because of him. I really am. I’m sorry that I can’t tell him that I’m bisexual. Or that I have a girlfriend?” Maya wonders if she gets to call Carina that anymore, or again.
Carina smiles softly. “Si.” She leans in and presses a gentle kiss to the corner of Maya’s mouth. “Fidanzata.”
Maya sighs, relief washing over her. “I’m sorry that he doesn’t get to know you or see how amazing, and talented, and brilliant, and funny, and sexy, and everything that is light and wonderful in life that you are. And part of me feels like I’m hiding that, you, because I can’t be honest with him. But I don’t want to hide you or- I want to tell everyone about you and how amazing you are and how happy you make me. But I can’t do that with him.”
“And I ruined what we have because of him. Because he taught me that love, and kindness, and rest, and sleep, and general happiness, and I’m sure other things that I haven’t even thought about yet, weren’t important. Or weren’t things that I was allowed to have or want. That they weren’t things that I needed in life. That they were just distraction from achieving a goal. So, I’m sorry.”
“The thing that scares me the most isn’t that I can’t love or can’t be happy. Cuz I can be. You’ve shown me that I can be.” Maya smiles a little. She’s more than pleased that Carina has come into her life and shown her that. “It’s that I am going to always feel like I don’t deserve those things. It’s that I will always be hesitant and resistant to those things. Or that I will find some way to sabotage those things. Like I did with us. With you. And I can’t promise anything, or that I won’t try to distance myself, or hurt you, or just do something stupid again. So that’s what scares me the most because you don’t deserve that.”
Maya lifts Carina’s hand to her lips and presses a kiss to the back of it; and the then flips her hand over and presses a kiss to her palm before wrapping Carina’s fingers over the palm, sealing the kiss in her hand. “Cuz I love you. I do. So much. I’m in love with you. So much that it hurts. It hurt when I did what I did. I think part of it was about me and punishing myself for wanting love, for needing love, because I had been trained not to. And I needed to do something to make myself feel terrible. And making the person I love the most in this world feel sad and hurt and terrible would make me feel the worst.” Maya is crying now. She doesn’t know when it started. It’s the slow silent tears that just slip from her eyes every few seconds. “It wasn’t a mistake. You keep saying it was a mistake, but it wasn’t.”
Carina screws her face up. “No, not mistake. Sometimes I- English isn’t my first- you know what I mean.”
Maya nods, knowing that Carina doesn’t always use the right words with the correct meaning for a situation. “I knew what I was doing. I was doing it to hurt myself and you. And I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry I’m such a mess. I’m sorry that I threw it in your face just to hurt you. I really am. I regretted it as soon as I saw the look on your face. That devastation.” Maya rubs the tears from her cheeks with the heel of her right hand.
Carina isn’t sure what to say. She chews on her lip as the thinks about how to respond. She hears everything that Maya is saying. She’s glad Maya is owning her actions. She understands where she’s coming from, but she’s scared about how Maya thinks this could happen again. Carina doesn’t want to go through that hurt again. She doesn’t want Maya to cheat on her again and feel that pain. She doesn’t know if she could handle that without completely falling apart.
Maya can see the doubt on Carina’s face, in her eyes. “I know that’s not what you want to hear; but I’m just telling you what goes through my messed up head. I don’t think it would be cheating because that was too painful. For both of us. But some other form of self-sabotage or sabotage. I will try though. I will try to address the problems head on. I will try to be better, do better because you deserve someone who is honorable and a stand up human being.”
“Maybe you should see someone else.” Carina suggests.
Maya cocks her head to the side, panic rising in her chest at Carina suggesting she see other people. How is that the solution here?
“Oh.” Maya breaths a sigh of relief. “Right.”
“What did you think I was saying?” Carina wonders.
“Uh, um, just that you wanted us to see other people.” Maya mumbles quickly.
Carina chuckles lightly. “Come.” She pats at her leg.
Maya furrows her brow.
“May I?” She wants to ask and make sure it’s okay that she touches Maya before she does. She gets a small nod from the blonde. Carina reaches out and pulls Maya’s leg over across her lap before doing the same to the other, this time with Maya moving with her until she is sitting sideways in Carina’s lap. Maya wraps an arm around her neck. Carina sets a hand on Maya’s thigh, softly. “It’s scary. What you just told me.” Carina says it in a whisper.
Maya nods. “I know.”
She looks down at her hand on Maya’s leg, not able to look into her eyes. “But I’m glad that you did. So, thank you. It’s good to be honest with each other.” She looks up now. Her bottom lip quivers a little. Carina let’s out a shaky breath. “So, I’m going to tell you that it scares me and that I might always have that thought in the back of my head that you will go out and cheat on me every time we have an argument.” Carina hopes that this isn’t the case and that they can both learn from what’s happened and how they can better handle arguments and issues in the future, so there is never a repeat.
Maya grimaces. “I don’t want to. I didn’t want to. I just had this rage inside of me- I’m terrified of that too- by the way. I was in denial, and I was angry, and god, I’m so stupid.”
“Maybe.” Carina smirks a little. A lightheartedness returning to their conversation.
Maya chuckles and rolls her eyes. “I want to try, and I want to make this work and I want to be with you. I want-“ She shakes her head and then lays it on her shoulder that is propped up on Carina’s shoulder. “I WANT.” She says emphatically. “I want, Carina. I’ve never let myself want anything before. Well, anything that my father didn’t want for me. Or for himself.”
Carina just smiles at Maya. It’s so simple, maybe.
“What?” Maya asks of that smile.
“Look at you.” She’s glad Maya is telling her all of this. She’s happy, relieved that Maya is forthcoming and owning up to her actions.
Maya looks down at herself.
Carina laughs. She didn’t mean literally. “Maya, everything you are saying right now proves that you want to try and are willing to put in the effort to make this work. And, really, that’s all I can ask, because if we don’t have that, then this won’t ever work.” She kisses Maya softly at that. “Maya, you are amazing. You are brave. And so beautiful. Sure, there’s stuff you need to work on. Heck, there’s stuff we both need to work on, stuff that I need to work on. I need to realize when I’m being pushy or that you need space. I know that now. It’s part of us learning how to communicate together, to grow together. Which I think is a positive thing and a beautiful thing. I’m willing to work with you to get through this. Bambina, you make me so happy. Happy like I’ve never felt before. Happier than my work, or my family, or anything else.”
“Really?” Maya smirks a little. She can’t believe that’s true, or possible.
“Really.” Carina connects their lips for another kiss. “Ti amo, Maya Bishop.”
“I love you, too.”
“You talk about me deserving not to be hurt. But, Maya, you deserve not to be hurt either. You deserve love and happiness and all the good things in life. No matter what your dad did or said to convince you that you didn’t. We both do. It doesn’t have to be one of us or the other. I think it is possible for both.”
Maya’s heart swells. “I love you so much.” She tightens her arm around Carina. Sometimes she feels like she just needs Carina to tell her stuff like that. To reassure her. To let her know that it’s okay. That it’s okay to feel feelings, and to love, and be loved. Words. Words of affirmation. She needs those words from Carina. “Can you keep telling me that? Especially if I forget.”
“I will tell you everyday, if you need me to.”
Maya nods. That sounds perfect.