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Eight Years

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She remembers the first time she ever laid eyes on her.  She had been sitting at table in the corner, alone, with an Americano, engrossed in some Emily Dickenson novel.  She remembered her drink so clearly because she never understood why anyone would ever want to drink an Americano.  She wonders how it’s possible for her to have memorized her features so vividly, but thinking back on the years spent together after that day, it’s no question in her mind. She can’t help but smile at the memory as she stirs her own cappuccino and stares mindlessly out the window, sitting in the very same table she had fond memories of.

She had continued to visit the same spot nearly everyday, always around three o’clock in the afternoon when she’d be just about ready to clock in for the evening shift. At the time, she thought it as a simple coincidence or routine, but looking back on it, she knew better and it made her smile.  Thinking about her always made her smile.  But it always made her unreasonably upset by the end of it all.

 

--

 

It’s dark and it’s late and the only thing Laura wants to do is close up for the night, go home, take a hot bath with the new bath bomb Danny had bought her for her birthday, and pass out. Thankfully, there are only a few other patrons in the coffee shop, a few working on studies, a couple on a date, and Carmilla sitting in her usual spot, hunched over a book and her third Americano.  Laura finishes ringing up a customer, waving them off with, “Have a nice evening!” She wipes up part of the counter and glances over toward the dark haired girl, politely sipping at her drink. She’d been there for a few hours now, and this wasn’t her first visit to the small establishment.

She walks around the counter, waves goodbye to the couple heading out the door, and makes her way in Carmilla’s direction.  

“We’re about to close up.”  

She doesn’t look up. “I know what time you close.”  Her tone isn’t harsh, but it’s not amused either.  

Laura doesn’t know how to respond to that. “Right,” she mutters under her breath. She looks at her book. “What are you reading today?”  

“Jane Eyre.”

“Again?”

“It’s one of my favorites. I’ll finish it tonight.” She still refuses to look away from her words.

“With the number of drinks you’ve had, you’ll probably be wired until morning.”

“That’s the point, sweetheart. It never takes me more than 24 hours to finish a novel.  I even read Les Miserables in 20.”

“That can’t be healthy.”

Carmilla shrugs. “I might die young, but at least I’ll be well read.”

Laura considers this, but still doesn’t see the logic or point.  She finishes up wiping up the rest of the tables and watches as the rest of the patrons leave. Everyone except Carmilla. Laura glances up at the clock on the wall and then back over to the only person left.  She’s slightly annoyed that she won’t leave, this being one of her very pet peeves.  She flips the ‘OPEN’ sign to ‘CLOSE’ and wanders around the counter to finish wiping everything down for the night.

“Let’s go out sometime.”

Carmilla’s voice cuts through the silent air, nearly causing Laura to jump out of her skin.  She turns around and Carmilla’s leaned up against the counter with a relaxed expression on her face.

“Unless you don’t swing that way, which in that case, we should still go out sometime.”

Laura smiles, reluctantly. “No, yeah, I mean, yeah I do, I can swing that way, I swing either way, or I have.”  She’s tripping over her words and she’s surprised at this sudden nervousness she hardly ever feels.  Carmilla laughs.

“Tomorrow night?  You don’t work, do you?”

Laura shakes her head, grateful for her butting in.  Carmilla grins at the response and stands to leave.

“Great.  We can meet…here, I guess.  Sweet dreams, darling.”

The little bell chimes and darkness swallows her whole.

 

--

 

The little bell of the coffee shop rings, jolting her out of her thoughts. Laura instinctively turns her head toward the door.  It’s just a teenage boy with a bad haircut and she feels a heavy sigh escape her. Her attention turns back toward the swirls of her drink and outside at the dark clouds and droplets of raining carelessly falling onto the glass window.

It’s the first time she’d been back to the little café since she quit after they had broken up. In a state of delusion, Laura had thought that the café was sole root of their problem and doing away with it would maybe fix things or at least get her to stop thinking about what might have been.  With time she had realized how stupid that thought had been; a small business was in no way, shape, or form the reason for a failed relationship.  At least this one wasn’t.

And then the news had come.  The news she had simultaneously, in the back of her mind, been dreading and hoping for, for the past eight years.  She’d been having dinner with Danny and LaFontaine.

 

--

 

“She’s back."

Everything inside Laura goes numb. She doesn’t need to ask who LaFontaine is referring to.  She feels her heart rate speed up, blood rushing to her head, and she feels like she’s going to faint or throw up or both.  She does her best to compose herself, to not show any sign of discomfort or any of the things she’s feeling.  A sudden wave of memories, good and bad, comes rushing back and she feels like a sledgehammer is pounding her relentlessly over the head.  

It had been years since she last saw, or even spoke to Carmilla Karnstein.  She remembers the last time she ever saw her just as vividly as she remembers the first, only that one stung a lot more.  For the longest time, she would replay that night over and over in her head trying to figure out where exactly things had gone wrong and what exactly it was that had been the final sever of their once beautiful relationship. She never mulls over it for too long as it only made her sad, and made her break the promise she made to herself that she’d never let anyone make her feel that way again.

She hates the hold Carmilla still had over her, all these years later.  She resents her to no end  

She tries to swallow the bite she had just taken as best she can.  She politely wipes her mouth with her napkin.  “Oh, yeah?”

LaF and Danny exchange looks of concern and surprise.

“Aren’t you in the least bit…I don’t know, shocked?” LaF asks, leaning forward.  Laura shakes her head and takes another bite, only this one a bit sloppier.

“No, not at all.  I haven’t really thought about her in a long time anyway.” But it was the complete opposite of what was really raging in the back of her mind.  She added, “It was a different time.”

Danny shakes her head. “Laura, we saw first hand how broken up you were after she left.  Just how long it took for you to become a functioning member of society again. There are times when I’m still not convinced you’re over all of that.”

“It’s been eight years. Guys, I’m okay. Really.  I have a husband, that I love very much.”

“Laura, we weren’t questioning your love for your husband.” LaF says.  Danny shakes her head. “We just didn’t want you to spiral into a deep depression or whatever if you saw her on the street or something.”

Laura ignores the first bit, trying so hard to concentrate on her rapid heartbeat and food in front of her. “I really appreciate the concern, you two are the best.  But Carmilla Karnstein and I are long over.  It’s been such a long time that she means nothing to me anymore.  I hardly remember her.  So can we please end this conversation now?”

The silence is her cue that they get it. Danny tries to change the topic but Laura’s already distracted.  It was all a lie.  As soon as LaF had told her she was back, Laura knew it was over.  Everything inside her was screaming for her to stop, to just stop lying. She can only hope they can’t see right through her.

 

--

 

That had been a week ago and Laura still hadn’t caught a glimpse or heard any word of Carmilla anyway. It made her relieved but also disappointed, even if it was just in the slightest.  A million questions race through her mind as she wonders why on Earth Carmilla had returned.  She knew her well and she knows for a fact there isn’t anything in this tiny town for her. Except her.

It sounded stupid and conceded, but truthfully the only reason Carmilla ever had to be there was for her, for Laura.  Her family was long gone, she didn’t have any roots or ties, or really any close friends, and her brother was living overseas in Europe.  So why did she come back?

Laura finally wanders out of the café and out into the damp air.  It’s not raining anymore, but the ground is wet from earlier. It feels refreshing though as she breathes in.  She looks at her watch and knows Ryan will be home any minute.   Normally she’d be bounding back, excited to hear about his day and share a nice meal, but today feels different.  She goes in the opposite direction of home and walks towards the park.

Laura and Ryan had met a year or so after her and Carmilla had broken up. He’d been a friend of Danny’s and had gone out with them one night to a few bars.  Laura hadn’t wanted to since she had still been in a state of depression over Carmilla.  Danny convinced her to go and Ryan soon became the first person that could put a genuine smile on her face since her former lover had left her alone.  After that night, she’d agreed to go out with him a few more times and, as they say, the rest was history.

He was nothing like Carmilla, and it was something that she desperately needed. Even the slightest hint of Carmilla would have put her right back in the same spot she’d been in during that dark year alone.  He was funny, kind, and gentle.  He truly cared about her and had a strong work ethic to support them.  He supported Laura and her career as a journalist for the local paper. Not that Carmilla wasn’t any of those things.

The park holds memories too.  Everywhere she looks there’s a memory.  The movie theater and the amount of times they’d wasted a good $30 just because they weren’t paying any attention to the movie but instead fiercely making out in the back. The local 24-hour diner where they’d go get a late night meal after Carmilla convinced Laura to smoke a bowl with her. The library where Laura would be trying to study but Carmilla kept trying to distract her in more ways than just talk.  And this park. The place they’d wandered to after their first date, their first kiss, where Laura had finally suggested they move in together, the last place she’d ever seen her.

 

--

 

The air is crisp, alive and well with the autumn season.  Laura laughs at something Carmilla says, which in turn puts a huge smile on Carmilla’s face. Carmilla walks with her arms crossed to keep off the slight night chill.

“I just can’t believe you’ve never seen Sleepless in Seattle before.  It’s a Meg Ryan classic.”

Carmilla shrugs.  “I told you, I’m just not into that romantic comedy genre. Just can’t get into that sappy stuff.”

“Right you only tend to like that experimental type, right?  Like The Room.”

Carmilla raises an eyebrow. “I’m surprised you even know what The Room is.”

“Just because I’m into that sappy stuff, as you like to call it, doesn’t mean I don’t know what American film cult classics are.”

Carmilla simply smiles and lets a nice silence overtake the two.  They walk slowly across the barely lit park path, leaves swirling underneath their feet from the wind.  It’s almost as picturesque as Laura’s romantic comedies.  Laura’s eyes dart around, taking in her surroundings and eventually making their way in Carmilla’s direction.  They glance up and meet Carmilla’s also wandering eyes.  They smile and quickly look away.  They’re like two teenagers on a first date.

“I should probably head home. Got an early class tomorrow morning.” She stops and they face each other. “I had a really great time tonight.”

“You’re not just saying that, right?” Carmilla’s voice is hesitant and hopeful.  Laura laughs and she shakes her head.  “Don’t laugh.  People say that all the time because that’s what they think they should say.  I’ve had a fair share of girls who say they’ve had a great time and then that’s the last I ever hear from them.”

Laura raises an eyebrow. “Your fair share, huh?”

Carmilla shakes her head, flustered. “No, no. That’s not what I meant…I just meant that, you know…crap.”

Laura can’t help but laugh as Carmilla blushes. Carmilla looks up at Laura who has her head tossed back from laughter.  She calms down and their eyes are locked onto each other.  Laura’s smile fades as her expression softens and she doesn’t have another minute to think of a complete thought before she finds Carmilla stepping into her personal bubble.  She can feel her breath close to her face and she glances down to look at her lips.  One of Carmilla’s hands finds Laura’s own and the other pulls her closer by the waist.

“I’m going to kiss you now.” It’s barely a whisper and Laura feels chills go down her spine.  She tries to keep herself composed as best she can but it’s quite difficult.

“How chivalrous."  

“Shut up.”

Laura closes her eyes and Carmilla wastes no time closing the space in between them.  Laura swears she sees fireworks that night.

 

--

 

Laura doesn’t remember the last time she’s been kissed so thoroughly.  She hates that she can’t even say that about her own husband. Her lips tingle just at the memory and she quickly forces herself to shake the thoughts from her head. At this point, she almost wishes Carmilla would just appear in front of her.  But that would cause problems and that’s the last thing she needs.

The sun has disappeared by the time Laura wanders back home.  She enters their small two-bedroom home, tossing her house keys in the little bowl on the counter in the entryway.  The house looks lived in, comfortable and cute, settled in.  She wonders if she has settled.

“Ryan?” She calls out for her husband and wanders down the hall, hearing shuffling and some music coming from their bedroom. She peaks into the room and smiles softly upon laying eyes on his backside.  He turns around feeling her presence and grins.

“Hey babe.” He walks over and leans down, giving her a quick peck on the cheek.  He moves back to their closet and pulls out a few shirts. Laura frowns.

“Going somewhere?”

“You’re not going to believe it actually.  Charlie wants me in New York this weekend to sit in on one of the board’s quarterly financial meetings.”  Laura’s eyes light up. Ryan can’t stop smiling. 

“You’re finally getting promoted?”

“I don’t want to jinx it yet, but I think so.  We can put the house up and move out of this little town like we’ve always talked about.”

Laura forces herself to keep smiling, genuinely happy for her significant other. However, at the thought of leaving, her stomach drops.  Why, she’s not entirely sure.

“My flight leaves in three hours.  I’ll be back Monday morning most likely.  This could be it, honey. Just think of what a life in New York City would be like, and with me making a six-figure salary, we’ll be living like royalty.  At least bigger than a two bedroom cottage.”

Ryan’s entirely too excited about this and he has every right to be.  Laura wants to be the last person to ruin it for him. He zips up his carry on and collects a jacket from the bed.  He leans over to kiss Laura once more before departing.

“I love you,” he calls out and he’s out the door before Laura can form a response. She watches the door close, leaving her standing alone in the hallway.

 

--

 

“New York? As in City That Never Sleeps New York?” Danny asks incredulous.

Laura stabs her salad rather violently.  LaF looks at her and frowns.

“Don’t take it out on the greens, kid.”

“Hold up though, you’re not actually thinking of moving to New York City?  Since when did you become a big city girl?”

Laura shrugs. “This opportunity is amazing for Ryan, for both of us. Getting out of her might be the very thing I need.  You two said it yourself, you think I’m still a depressed mess.”

“Yeah but we didn’t say move to another country.”

“New York is hardly another country, guys, c’mon.  Support would be appreciated.”

“What about Carmilla?” Danny hits LaF hard and shoots the meanest of daggers toward them. They coil back, rubbing their arm and frowning.  Laura tenses, but the sound of her name doesn’t seem to affect her as much as she thought it might have. Her tone becomes terse.

“What about her?”

“Nothing. LaFontaine means nothing.  Right?” More daggers and LaF rolls their eyes.

“Of course.” They think about it for a moment before shaking their head. “No, not right.  Laura, you haven’t seen her yet, have you?”

Laura freezes. “What do you mean by ‘yet’?”

Danny sighs, annoyed that LaFontaine has decided to go down this path.  Laura looks between the two, having the worst sinking feeling that they’re hiding something big from her.

“What is it? What are you two not telling me?”

Danny sighs. “It’s not that we’re not telling you anything…”

“I saw her at the movies last night.  Perry and I went to a late show and saw her having a smoke outside of the theater. She looks good.” Danny hits them again.

She looks good.

It’s all she hears as she tries to focus on her food again, moving it from side to side with her fork. “I’m sure she does…” She tries to be as discrete about it as possible, but she knows her two friends both heard her. “I’m not worried about her. Honestly, I haven’t thought about her at all since you mentioned her a few days ago.” She knows neither one of them believe it, and she knows she’s lying through her teeth.

“She said she wanted to see you,” LaF tells her.

“Which I don’t think is a good idea,” Danny interjects.  She takes Laura’s hand in her own and stares at her hard in the eyes. “You know it’s not a good idea, right?”

Laura can see the concern radiating from Danny’s eyes.  Memories race through her brain of the number of times Danny comforted her after Carmilla left.  The number of nights she held her while she cried, the times she brought her ice cream to take away the pain, the night she found her at her all time low, essentially saving her life.  She smiles.

“It probably isn’t. I’m not going to go looking for it. If it happens, it happens. I don’t even know how I would get a hold of her.”

Another lie. She still had her number saved, the very first on her speed dial, something she would never tell a soul. But that was to say Carmilla hadn’t gotten a new number in the last eight years.

Danny doesn’t buy it though and releases her hands and sits back in her chair. She takes a long sip from her beer and excuses herself to use the restroom.  Laura’s face falls and she knows Danny doesn’t believe her. She doesn’t know what else to say to make her trust her.

“Just be careful,” LaF warns.  They lean forward. “She’s still haunted by that night.  She can’t go through that again.”

“And she has every right to be.  And I owe her my life for it. I just…”

LaF knows the look in their friend’s eyes.  She’s not there anymore.  They’re almost too afraid to ask, to say it out loud but they wonder if maybe Laura hears it, it will jog her out of it.

“You’re still in love with her, aren’t you?”

Laura’s head snaps back in LaF direction.  Danny has returned and heard their question.  She takes her seat and narrows her eyes.  Laura feels the pressure of ten thousand disappointed moms.

“What?”

“Answer them Laura.” Danny’s voice is cold and Laura can tell she’s had enough of this night. But she wants to hear her answer.

“I’m not…I don’t…it’s been –”

“Eight years, we know. We’ve heard.  That still doesn’t answer my question, Laura.”

She pauses and she hopes her friends don’t take her pause as a silent yes. “I don’t…I don’t…” She hopes she isn’t going to start crying and she tries to will the possible tears forming away.  Her voice is barely above a whisper, “I don’t know.”

LaF and Danny are both silent, staring at their friend with different expressions but both laden with concern.  Danny looks visibly upset and she can’t bear to be at the bar any second longer. She scoots out of her seat, pays for her drinks and leaves.  Laura keeps her head hung.

“She hates me.”

“Stop, she doesn’t hate you.  Nowhere close. You just have to consider how this whole thing has directly affected her.”

LaF pays for the pair’s food and they head out of the bar not much longer after Danny left. LaF gives Laura a much-needed hug before they part ways outside.

“Just be careful. I know you’ll be okay. And remember, we’re both a phone call away.”

Laura gives her a small smile. “Thanks.” She waves goodbye to her friend before starting off in the opposite direction.

She knows she should feel bad for making Danny feel so bad, but she can’t help but feel like she’s overreacting to something that isn’t entirely her business. While she contemplated seeking out Carmilla herself the past few days, she always went against it, knowing full well what a horrible idea it is.  But part of her, a huge part of her she’s starting to figure, wants to see her, if not just to talk or catch up.

Like old friends would do.

She stuffs her hands deep into the pockets of her coat as she kicks at loose pieces of gravel on the sidewalk.  The night is brisk and it’s her favorite time of the year.  There’s something about this particular night, however.  She stares up at the sky and smiles, pleased she’s finally able to see a plethora of stars and a nearly full moon.  She lets the slight breeze hit her face as she closes her eyes.

Laura continues down her trek home but for some reason decides to cut through a neighborhood she hasn’t visited in years.

Eight years in fact.

Bare trees hide a quaint little apartment building situated about ten yards from the street. She stops in front of it and stares at the right window on the second floor.  It’s dark and she wonders who lives there, if they’re in love or if they’re single.  If they have kids, are young or old.  Just being on this street once again brings back the memories.  Laura had made Carmilla help her find an apartment.

 

--

 

It’s a warm summer day. The sun peeks through shaded green trees.  Carmilla stares up at the building, covered in ivy.  She frowns.

“It has character.  I guess.”

Laura walks up next to her and stares at her phone, looking at the listing for the place. “It’s cute. Don’t act like you don’t like it. C’mon.”

They trudge up the little driveway and are greeted by the leasing agent.  She smiles warmly at them and extends a hand out to shake.  She leads them up the stairs.

“The unit for rent is on the second story. It’s quite charming and will be available at the beginning of August.”  She leads them down a little walkway and they stop in front of a plain looking door. The leasing agent unlocks the door and opens it up for them to walk into.

“So here it is.  It’s a one bedroom, newly remodeled bathroom. All appliances are included. Tenant pays for electricity and cable.”

It’s a cozy but spacious place. The kitchen is on the smaller side but there’s a little room for a small dining table.  The floors are clean but the walls look like they could use a fresh coat of paint.  Laura is immediately charmed by it.  Carmilla, on the other hand, goes through everything with a fine-toothed comb, opening all the appliances, and cabinets and drawers.  She wanders into the bathroom, turning on the faucets and flushing the toilet. Everything seems okay.

Laura walks into the bedroom. It’s a decent size, probably able to fit a full size bed and a decent sized dresser.  She smiles upon hearing Carmilla grill the agent with various questions about garbage disposal and laundry facilities.  It’s adorable.  She looks at the room again and back at Carmilla.

“And security?”

The agent is starting to become annoyed by all the questions; she has already gone over all of this. “There are two deadbolts on each door and a dead bolt on the main gate.”

Laura walks up to the pair and snakes her arm through Carmilla’s.

“We love it and we’d love to get an application.”

The agent’s face lights up, glad she won’t have to answer any more questions.  She withdraws two paper applications from her folder.  Carmilla frowns and looks at Laura.

“Wait, we?  Laura, this is your apartment.  You know I don’t need to fill out any silly application. I have no problem being one of your references or something.”

Laura laughs and rolls her eyes, but doesn’t address Carmilla’s protest.  The agent leads them out of the apartment and explains some random things about the application and process.  Laura thanks her and starts back towards the street.  Carmilla, still dumbfounded holding an application, quickly follows her.

“Um, excuse me.  Care to explain what that was all about?”

“Well, for the amount of time you’re probably going to be over, I figured you could just move in permanently. That way we don’t waste unnecessary time and stress over making extra keys, etcetera.”

Carmilla is silent as she just stares at Laura, waiting for her to say, “LOL just kidding.”  But it never comes.

“You’re serious?”

Laura pauses to finally look at her. She’s not fucking joking. A grin spreads across Carmilla’s face, when at one point she might have been annoyed that Laura didn’t discuss this with her first.  But she’s way too into her to argue.

 

--

 

It had been one of Laura’s rather spontaneous decisions, but a day doesn’t go by that she doesn’t regret it.  She smiles as she remembers when they heard they got the apartment and move in day. If that hadn’t been a test of their will to be around each other, then she isn’t sure what would be.

Her gaze lingers on the window for a moment longer before she’s off again, walking down the road. She can only go a few paces however before she notices a dark figure walking towards her.  She can’t really make out whom it is, just that they’re probably female from the slender build.  She can see a cigarette dangling from their mouth.

And it hits her just as the figure is about to hit the first streetlight.  Everything goes numb and she knows it’s too late to do anything, to run anywhere.  The figure steps into the view of the street lamp.

And it’s in that moment, as soon as she lays eyes on her, she knows she is sunk as she realizes the hold Carmilla Karnstein had on her heart still exists.

She’s fucked.

Every moment, every memory, every kiss, every night spent together comes rushing back and she wants nothing but to run up to Carmilla and beg for it to go back to the way it used to be.  There’s no way she can let her go, let her leave.  She forgets about the ring on her finger, about her husband ready to greet her when she gets back home, and she hates that.  How could one person have such a hold, such an affect on someone like that?

There’s a bitter silence between them as they just stare at each other from about no less than six feet away.  Their faces are expressionless and neither one can read each other like they used to. This is something new, something that has been festering for the past eight years and now is ready to explode.

Neither one wants to be the first to speak. 

Carmilla’s the first to break the silence, however, and Laura silently curses to herself for letting her win.  “You going to say hi, or are we going to pretend this never happened?” 

Laura opens her mouth to speak but she can’t find her words.  Carmilla smirks, but it’s flat, dead almost. She starts to take a few paces towards Laura.

“I’m approaching you now, if that’s okay?”

Laura only knows how to nod her head.  Carmilla takes a few hesitant steps toward her, almost in a sarcastic manner.  She stops at about a three pace length from her. Laura takes in an audible deep breath, scanning Carmilla from head to toe in a matter of seconds.

She looks good. Really good.  Like, incredible.  In the back of Laura’s mind, a surge of jealousy courses through her towards whoever has been able to get with Carmilla in the past eight years. Flashes of their time together, mainly in bed now, snap through Laura’s brain and she has to physically shake her head to make them settle down.  Carmilla gives her a look.

“You okay?”

Laura nods, inaudible still.

“You lose your voice in the last six years?”

“It’s been eight.” She’s quick to respond, almost too quickly.  Carmilla nods.

“Ah, right. Eight years.  Seems like just yesterday we were committing some rather sinful acts of debauchery just over there behind the library.  You look good, Hollis.”

Laura turns a deep shade of maroon at the comment and makes it a point to stare at her shuffling feet. Carmilla just laughs quietly to herself, but it lacks any sincerity. 

“Does that make you uncomfortable?  C’mon Laura, if I remember correctly you were the one instigating it.” She winks with an almost sly grin, but Laura hardly sees it.  Carmilla notices that she’s not going to respond to her quips and fully realizes that the air between them has definitely changed.  “Hey, look, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to make you feel weird.”

Laura finally looks up at her and tries her best at a small smile.  She doesn’t think it’s very convincing.

“Don’t worry about it.” It barely comes out above a whisper. She feels so stupid for not being able to piece together simple sentences, for not being able to think coherent thoughts. She can’t be the one sounding like a bumbling idiot, so she tries again.

“How are you?”

Carmilla raises an eyebrow and considers the question. “Living.  I suppose that’s an easy way of putting it.”

“What brings you back here?”

“Just some old alumni stuff over at the school.  They wanted me to do a guest lecture.”

“A guest lecture? Never pegged you as the type.”

Carmilla takes a long drag from her cigarette before stomping it out with her foot. “Things change I guess.”

Laura brushes a loose strand of hair out of her face.  Her expression remains stoic, unmoving.  And that’s when Carmilla notices the ring and her whole world ceases to exist.

“And you’re married.” Carmilla raises an eyebrow at the blatant show of her stud sitting pretty on her left hand.

The statement takes Laura off guard for a second and it makes her jolt a little inside. She stares down at her finger and blushes.  Why is she blushing?

“Oh yeah. Going on four years.”

It’s Carmilla’s turn to be speechless.  Her words are lost and anything that she may have considered on saying is long gone

“So how long are you in town for?”  Laura hates the silence and hates how awkward it has become.

“Just…just a week or so.  Listen, I need to turn in. Need to be up early.”

“Right, right. Of course.”  Laura fakes a laugh. “I should be…going too.” Carmilla gives her a tight smile and brushes past her, their shoulders making the slightest of contact. Laura inhales sharply and glances down at her shoulder but Carmilla is already some paces away from her. She turns around.

“Hey, Carmilla.”

The other woman pauses and waits.

“It was really nice seeing you.”  The sincerity of Laura’s voice makes her want to die.  She exhales softly and turns her head, but only slightly.

“Yeah, you too.”

Laura figures it’s the best she’s going to get from her.  She nods, almost to herself and walks in the opposite direction, the darkness swallowing her whole.

Carmilla continues to wait, having a feeling when she was out of sight.  She turns her head fully and stares at the spot Laura had been standing just moments earlier.  She shakes her head and silently curses to herself.  She feels like an idiot.

Not in a million years had Carmilla expected the marriage thing.  Any hope, any dreams, everything she had been banking on for this trip are completely shut down in a matter of seconds upon seeing the rock on her finger.  At least she’d married well. 

But honestly, what was it that she had expected?  For Laura to be waiting around, twiddling her thumbs, holed up inside her apartment until Carmilla came back for her, riding on a white steed? She felt stupid for even thinking she would be waiting around, let alone want her back.  It’s not like she was the reason for their separation. No.  In fact, if anything, it had been Carmilla that had walked out on Laura. Laura should have been the one to come after her, not the other way around.  She had been in the wrong, and yes maybe it had been a little over dramatic to stomp out but she had been sure Laura would eventually come try and find her.

When some weeks passed and Laura was nowhere to be found, she’d given up.  She’d sneaked back to the apartment when she knew Laura wouldn’t be home to collect a few things she needed and she was no more. She was out of her life, and Laura was out of hers.

It stung. It really did. There was no way the pain of losing the one person you ever truly fell for dissipated so quickly. In fact, Carmilla wonders, that pain still lingers, those feelings still true as she walks through her old college town in hopes of running into her former love again.  Why else would she have returned?  Yes, the college had asked her to do a few guest lectures; that was no lie.  But a simple favor wasn’t enough of a reason to return to a town full of haunted memories.

She kicks at the ground when she thinks back to how her stomach was doing backflips just moments earlier when she’d been so consumed in her own thoughts, right before she’d laid eyes on the woman that was driving her mad for the past eight years. A day hadn’t gone by that she didn’t think about her, that something she would come across wouldn’t remind her of Laura somehow.

And it isn’t until that moment that Carmilla finally knows.  In retrospect, she’s known this whole time, whether she’s been too afraid to admit it or not.

She’s still deeply in love with her.

And that was a huge problem with no solution in sight.

 

--

 

Laura hurriedly slams her door shut, making sure to deadbolt the locks as if in fear of something getting in.  What was she running from? If she was running from herself then she was fucked.

It scared her to wit’s end the feelings she got when she saw her.  The fact she’d nearly forgotten her husband’s name or the fact that she only wanted to run up to her and take her lips with her own. She shuffles through her pockets until she withdraws her phone and dials the one person she knows will be real with her.

“What?” Danny’s voice is snappy and Laura squeezes her eyes shut, mainly to keep tears from coming from them.

“I saw her.”

There’s silence. Laura can feel Danny’s disappointment seeping through the phone.  She speaks up as to try and offer an explanation. “I swear I wasn’t looking for her, it just happened.  And I know you’re affected by this and I know you care but I don’t know what to do.”

“What do you mean you don’t know what to do?  You’re not planning on seeing her again, are you?”

Laura’s silent. She knows what the answer is, what the answer should be, but she can’t find it within herself to physically say it out loud. She can hear Danny sighing on the other end.

“Damn it anyway, Laura.”

“We hardly exchanged any words but as soon as I saw her, God, everything went blurry. I forgot about Ryan and wanted nothing but to kiss her.  Fuck, I’m a terrible person. I’m absolutely terrified, Danny. Please.”

She knows she sounds desperate now and she can only hope that Danny will understand. She needs comfort even though she knows she doesn’t deserve it.  She hears Danny sigh heavily.

“Give me ten minutes.”

Laura lets out a sigh of relief as she hears the line go dead.  She looks at her phone and tosses onto the couch as if it’s laced with something deadly.  She slumps down the door, her back dragging down the hard wood.  Her face falls into her hands, but no tears come out. She can’t feel anymore and she just wants someone, anyone to wrap their arms around her and tell her everything is going to be okay.  Ryan being gone somehow makes it worst.

Like clockwork, ten minutes go by and there’s a soft knock on the door.  Laura straightens up, hoisting herself off the ground. She opens the door to face an exhausted looking Danny clad in sweats and holding a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.

“You owe me one,” she says, handing Laura the ice cream and pushing her way into the house. Laura smiles and closes the door behind her.

“I’ll add it to the list.”

Danny scoffs and plops down on the couch.  She looks up at Laura who stands still, staring down at the tub of ice cream in her hand. Danny pats the cushion next to her and Laura looks up at her, tears finally brimming from her eyes. She sets the ice cream aside and collapses onto the couch next to Danny who wraps her arms around her.

And she sobs.

 

--

 

The bar is pretty empty and the lights are low.  Some soft, old eighties ballad coos in the background and Carmilla tosses the last of her beer back and beckons for another.  Of course she feels the need to participate in the classic trope of drowning her sorrows and miseries with alcohol.  The habit never seems to die.

“Someone break your heart, sweetie?” the bartender asks, sliding another drink towards her. She’s a woman in her mid 40s with a collage of tattoos on her upper right arm.  Carmilla grimaces and takes a long swig.  She shrugs.

“I know the type,” she presses further. “Been doing this way too long, seen and heard a lot of shit.”  Carmilla doesn’t respond but stares blankly at her reflection in the long mirror behind the counter and array of different types of liquor.  The bartender raises an eyebrow. “You still love ‘em?”

Carmilla lets out a hollow laugh but still doesn’t respond.  The bartender just gives her a knowing smile.

“First loves don’t die hard.  They usually never die at all.” She fills up two shots of tequila and slides them over.  “On the house.”

Carmilla stares at the two drinks, usually not one for tequila particularly. But she eventually shrugs, not one to deny free booze.  She grimaces at the taste but throws them back rather quickly.  Carmilla hardly hears the door open.  She hardly even notices someone slide up next to her.

“Didn’t take you for one to drown your heartache out at a dive bar.”

LaFontaine flags down the bartender as Carmilla rolls her eyes. 

“Didn’t take you for one to frequent dive bars,” she quips back, swishing the remains of her beer in the bottle.  LaF shrugs.

“Heard what happened.”

“Word travels fast around here.  What’d you hear?”

“Just that Danny is trying to do some major damage control right now.”

“I’m sure she’s so broken up about it.”

“Laura?”

“Who else?”

“She sounded pretty broken up over the phone.  What exactly was the conversation between you two?  Can’t imagine it was very pleasant.”

Carmilla shrugs, her mind starting to reel back to just hours before. “It was fine, nothing to get all worked up about.  Not much to say to an ex-flame that you haven’t seen in so many years.”

“Those were some rough times after you left.  Laura wasn’t…she wasn’t right.”

“So she saddles up with some guy, settles down, turns in to be a housewife?”  Her tone is defensive, almost angry and she knows it. LaF knows it.  Hell, even the bartender who’s trying not to eavesdrop knows it. Carmilla shakes her head for sounding so hostile.

“Sorry,” she mumbles. She finishes her beer. “I should go.” Carmilla stands up to leave, collecting her jacket from the stool next to her.  “It was good seeing you LaF.”

“You’re going to have to talk to her, at least to try and put some things to rest. I saw how fucked up Laura was after you left the first time.  I don’t think I want to see what she’ll be like if you leave again.  Not without at least trying to talk some things out.”

“I…” She wants to, she really does.  But facing Laura and talking out what happened between them in the past isn’t necessarily something she wants to relive or face.  She knows that doing so would absolutely destroy her and the wall that she constructed over the past eight years.  That’s something she can’t afford to do. “It’s not that simple.  I’ll see you around.”

She turns to leave and is just about at the door when LaF calls out, “She still has the same number.”

Carmilla pauses at the door, but only for a moment before pushing her way out and into the crisp night air.

 

--

 

Laura softly stirs, snuggling her head deeper into her pillow.  Something is nudging her.  Someone is nudging her.  She can feel sun coming through the closed blinds and she thinks it’s a good a time as any to open her eyes.  She has to blink a few times to figure out who is trying to wake her up.

“Laura, hey, good morning sleepyhead.  Or, good afternoon.”

She’s still groggy and her words come out slightly slurred and jumbled together. “Mm, Danny, what time is it?”

“Two in the afternoon. LaFontaine needs my help with some things down at the shop.  Says Perry isn’t being much help.  You gonna be okay? You had a rough night last night.”

Laura can hardly remember as she frowns.  She waves her off and slumps back down onto her bed facing away from Danny. “I’ll be fine.” Her voice is muffled. “Go help our friends.”

“Call me if you need anything at all.  You hear me, Laura?”

“Mhm.”

“Don’t let anyone in the house and don’t make any phone calls you will surely regret later. Got it?”

“Yes mom.”

Danny is silent as she stares down at Laura’s form underneath the duvet. She frowns.  Laura hopes she leaves soon so she doesn’t say anything. She can hear Danny sigh before she hears the jingle of her car keys and the front door slam shut. She finally breathes out a huge sigh of relief.

She turns onto her back so she’s face to face with her ceiling fan.  The previous night was a bit foggy; all she remember is Danny coming over with a tub of ice cream and herself crying until she fell asleep from the exhaustion.  Maybe that’s all she needed to remember.

She turns her head over and sees that her phone is plugged into the charger. She grabs it and starts scrolling through her contacts.  Her finger lingers over a particular one in the “C section.”  There’s even still a little emoji heart in between Carmilla and Karnstein.

She seriously hadn’t even changed that?

Laura clicks on the name and pulls up her contact.  Her contact photo is a candid shot she had taken at the lake, a day that she remembers quite vividly.  It was the first time Carmilla had said “I love you” and the first time Laura had said it back to anyone other than her family.

 

--

 

The sun is just about to set over the lake and the beach is pretty desolate save for a few people scattered here and there. Laura stands at the edge of the shore; just enough for the small waves coming ashore to softly hit her feet and ankles.  Carmilla sits up only a few feet or so away from Laura, her knees hugged up to her chest. She rests her head on one of her knees and watches Laura enjoy the sunset and the water.

It makes her smile.

Everything about this day makes her smile.

Laura makes her smile.

Laura turns around to face Carmilla, her expression eager. “Carm, look!  It’s about to set!”

She jogs up the short few feet up to her girlfriend and plunks down in the sand next to her.  Carmilla can’t take her eyes off of her though as a new feeling swoops through her as she gazes at Laura’s half lit face from the orange and pink sun.

Laura giggles upon noticing Carmilla staring just a hint longer than usual. “What?”

Carmilla shakes her head, her grin growing even wider. “I’m about to do something really cheesy.”

“Oh God.” She laughs. “What? Do I dare ask?”

Carmilla answers her with a soft kiss. Laura smiles into it. Carmilla pulls back, but only slightly, her eyes going from her lips to her nose to her eyes to that little birth spot just below her left cheek.

“I…I love you.”

Laura’s breath is caught in her throat and she freezes.  Nobody had ever told her that before, besides her family members.  She’d never told anyone that before, besides her family members. She knows that if she waits any longer, Carmilla’s going to flip a shit.  She can already see the anxiety building in her face from her prolonged response.

Laura smiles and kisses her back, thankful for once being able to collect coherent thoughts in a rather demanding situation. She can feel Carmilla relax before she pulls back and giggles.

“I love you too.”

 

--

 

“You told her what?!”

“I didn’t outright tell her to call her…”

“So I’m over here trying to keep Laura away from Carmilla, and you’re going behind my back and telling Carmilla that the only logical thing to do is try and sit down and chat it out?”

“I just told her she had the same number.  Danny, be reasonable here.  You think Laura is going to be able to go back to being a functioning member of society again after this little stint?  Of course not.”

“She’ll be fine. She’s been fine for years.”

LaF shakes their head. “No, you see, that’s where you’re wrong.  Danny, I respect you, you’re a smart gal, but you to need to think this through.  As soon as Carmilla leaves without at least putting some things behind them, she’s going to be back in the same boat.  No matter how hard she tries, no matter how much support we give her, no matter how many meds she has to go back on.”

“But when Ryan gets back…”

“If anything that’ll make it worst.”  LaF taps their foot and contemplates asking a question they’ve been wondering for a long time now. They feel like they already know the answer though.

“Does Laura…does she still love her?"

Danny shrugs and throws her hands up in the air as a sign of slight defeat. “I don’t know.  I doubt they’ll ever stop caring for each other.”

“That’s not the same thing.”

“I don’t think that wondering if they’re still madly in love is the best of ideas. Don’t bring it up to her either. Putting that thought in her brain is the last thing she needs.”

LaF pauses for a moment.  “Thing is though. It never left.”

Danny doesn’t have any comeback.

 

--

 

Carmilla lays against her pillow, half propped up, playing with the phone in her hand. She flips it between her fingers, the screen still lit and on Laura’s open contact.  Her eyes become fixed on the moving light and Laura’s name taunting her.

Ever since LaF had not so off handedly told her that Laura still had the same number, it was almost like every time she looked at her phone, it was teasing her back. Was she supposed to take it as some sort of sign that?

She toys with the idea of trying to call Laura.  But what would she say?  If anything now, she was the one who was trying to avoid her, not wanting to talk or find out about anything that had to do with the god damn ring sitting on her stupid finger. But that part inside of her that wants nothing more than to know the woman she once (still) loved aches harder than any.

“I’m a fucking fool,” she mutters to herself as she presses the call button. She puts the phone up to her ear and hears the dial tone.  She almost hopes it goes to Voicemail.

 

--

 

Her phone buzzes from across the room and Laura’s heart skips a beat when she sees the caller ID. She hates that. “Hello?”

“Let’s get dinner. I’m bored.  Unless you’ve already done the very domestic thing of putting something on the stove which in that case, I should probably invite your darling man candy out instead.”  Carmilla isn’t sure what makes her say it, but somehow mocking him in an offhanded type way makes her feel a little better.

This carefree approach surprises Laura and she smiles.  The banter feels natural as if their past is nothing to write home about and they’re the oldest of friends.  She feels like she’s seventeen again with a stupid crush.  If only things were as simple as that.  “My cooking has improved significantly, thank you very much." She can hear Carmilla snort on the other end.  “Don’t laugh.”

“I’m sure it has. But unless you want to make me one of your five star dishes of fish sticks and frozen French fries, I’m still starving.  And bored. Meet at Roadside in ten?”

 

--

 

“Don’t tell me there’s a bun in the oven now too.”  Carmilla’s trying so hard to keep things light and jokey but most of her questions of the night, she’s insanely curious about and is mainly just using to try and fish for answers.  But Laura shakes her head, much to her relief.  She chews on her steak.

“No, not for me. Not yet anyway. I’m still really focused on my career.”

“Investigative journalism still?”

Laura nods. “I’m starting to think there’s not the biggest market here for that though. Nothing interesting happens.”

Carmilla shrugs. “Oh, I don’t know.  Word on the street is Smokey’s down the block isn’t following correct sanitization procedures. Should probably check up on that if I were you.  Could be your big break.”

Laura cracks a smile and is grateful for how non-threatening and demanding Carmilla is coming across. “I’ll be sure to check it out.”  She moves her pasta around with her fork, staring at the sauce she is swirling around on her plate. “You know, I’m thinking of moving soon.”

Carmilla keeps a straight face even though something inside her sparks.  She raises an eyebrow. “Oh really?  How come?  You’re not running away from your lover boy are you?”  She hopes she says yes.

“Oh God no. He’s the one who actually brought it up.”  Laura gauges Carmilla’s reaction to this, but can’t get a good read.  She’s always been good at compartmentalizing.  “He’s away on business this weekend but it’s more than that. He’s up for a great promotion that could take us away from this little college town.”

Carmilla has no idea how to process this bit of information.  Her stomach twists but she doesn’t know how to deal with it. What would happen if she moved? Would she really never see her again after this weekend was over?  Was she seriously thinking that Laura would run away from her husband just to run back into the arms of the person she’s convinced broke her heart in the first place?

She feels so incredibly stupid.

She manages to stutter out, “How…how do you feel about that?”

Laura shrugs and Carmilla can’t help but notice that she doesn’t seem overtly excited about the prospect. “Could be great actually.  Lot of memories here though."

“Not all bad I hope.”

“Of course not.” She looks up at Carmilla from across the table, but the dark haired woman keeps her eyes focused on her food and shoveling it into her mouth.  “It’s part of the reason I’m not sure I’m ready to leave quite yet.”

Carmilla wipes her mouth with her napkin and returns it to her lap.  She stares at her water cup, tracing little lines through the condensation. “Fresh starts can be therapeutic.  Good for you.”  She doesn’t know if she’s talking to Laura or just trying to convince herself.

“Yeah, I don’t know…I guess we’ll see.  But enough about me, what about you?  Where have you been? What cool things have you seen?”

Carmilla takes a deep breath, somewhat glad the conversation has taken a turn, although she’s not so taken by the idea of sharing her past eight years with Laura. She’ll go for the abridged version. “Did some backpacking in Europe with some leftover college funds my mom left for me. Was there for a year or so before heading back.  Took some fine art courses, tried to write a book.  Worked at a stupid coffee store.  Lived in a handful of shitty small towns, the next worse than the last.”

While Laura feels rather impressed with how busy Carmilla has kept herself, a part of her feels jealous and slightly angry that she was able to continue living her life so carefree while Laura had wallowed in a depressive hole.  Of course Laura had no idea of knowing whether or not Carmilla was actually enjoying herself all those years and what kind of state of mind she was in, but at the moment, she didn’t really care.

“Oh. You were quite busy.”

Carmilla shrugs. “Nothing to fawn over.”

Some sort of resentment only continues to fester as Laura feels stupid for thinking Carmilla could possibly still have feelings for her, especially after traipsing through Europe immediately after she walked out.  Did she even care?

“You do all of this alone?”

Carmilla doesn’t want to answer this particular question.  Yes, she had done ninety nine percent of this alone. But people have basic needs and she was bound to run across someone she was moderately attracted to, to at least bed once in a great while.  But Laura had her little fuck boy that she had no problem explaining right away without hesitation.

“For the most part, yeah.”

Laura doesn’t press it any further.  She doesn’t want to.

 

--

 

“Dinner was nice. Thanks for feeding me, both my stomach and my boredom.”

They walk side by side through the dimly lit park.  It’s pretty late and pretty empty, making more room for the tension dangling in the air above them.

“Yeah, I had a nice time.  Where are you staying?”

Carmilla points in a random direction. “Just over at the shell cottage.  Got a room there for a couple of nights or so.” There’s a silence, both looking anywhere but directly at one another. “I should probably head back now…” Everything in her voice though says other wise.

Laura nods as the conversation slowly dies and they stand awkwardly down the block from the restaurant.  The conversation throughout the night and dinner had been fine, light like two friends catching up after not seeing one another for a while.  There is, however, one thing that has been nagging at the back of Laura’s mind all night, really, ever since she heard Carmilla was back in town.  She’s almost too afraid to ask, but she has to know.

“Why?”

It’s abrupt, definitely not how Laura imagined it to come out.  Carmilla’s head shoots up and finds Laura’s eyes, full of question and wonder.

“What?” But she knows.

“Why are you here? I’m sorry if it seems abrupt or rude but I really have to know.  Carmilla, why are you here?  And don’t feed me the alumni crap.”

Carmilla searches for an answer, her eyes darting around knowing that Laura’s are begging for their attention.  She hadn’t been expecting Laura to ask her that again and she didn’t have a good answer for her, besides the truth, which in all honesty, she wasn’t really sure what the truth was anyway.  Laura is patient though, studying Carmilla as she racks her brain for an answer. Carmilla lets out a heavy sigh and finds her eyes glued to her feet shuffling awkwardly together across the concrete.

She shrugs softly. “I was just passing through.”  Her tone lacks any conviction and both women know it.  It’s a lame answer and Carmilla wishes she could come up with something better.  She’s shy all of a sudden, feeling bashful in front of the one person she’s ever been able to fully lay her cards out in front of. 

The answer is nowhere near good enough and Laura knows it is pure bullshit. She feels a sudden surge of resent ache through her, angry that Carmilla would give her such a two-cent answer. Her nostrils flare and she can feel blood rush to her head.  She shakes her head, trying to keep her cool 

“No. That’s not an answer.

Carmilla’s head shoots up surprised by Laura’s answer and sudden abruptness.  Laura may have been trying to play down her newfound hostility but Carmilla could see right through the veiled disdain.  She frowns, her own temper starting to rise.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me,” she quips, crossing her arms as a way of establishing an invisible concrete guard. “That’s bullshit and you know it.  We both know it.

Carmilla’s eyes narrow, “Then why’d you ask?”

Laura can’t respond quickly enough before Carmilla turns on her heel and starts down the road. Laura’s frown etches deeper into her face, infuriated that Carmilla would just walk away on her like that. It wasn’t the first time though. She stomps after her.

“Oh no. You’re not walking away.”

Carmilla keeps walking, refusing to turn around. “I’ve done it once, I have no problem doing it again.”

“You’re a coward. You come here for God only knows why and then you can’t bear to be honest after walking out on me eight years ago. Don’t act like you’re all disaffected about this.”

Carmilla whips around, throwing all her efforts together to try and keep her emotions together. Everything was hitting her all of a sudden.  Carmilla hardly ever let anyone see her cry.  Except Laura. She was the only one who was able to see through her sometimes icy exterior.  But this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.  She wasn’t supposed to let her see her break down like this. She feels the tears ready to burst, but she tries with all her might to sniffle them back, keeping her eyes dry. There was no way she was going to let Laura win this one, let her see her break down.  Not tonight. 

“You want me to be honest?  I waited for you, Laura. I waited for you to come after me. I was mad and frustrated and we were arguing that night but I thought you would have fought harder for me, for us. I feel so stupid for even thinking that you would be waiting around for me still.  And the scary part is that I still lo– ”

She catches herself mid sentence.  She scowls and turns around again, trying to go anywhere but where she currently stands. Laura’s a little taken aback and she doesn’t know how to take this bit of news.  She wishes Carmilla would have finished her sentence. She’s stubborn however, and refuses to let her excuse herself.  She continues to follow her.

“And so when I didn’t, you just decided to give up?  You gave up on this just as much as I did.  When you never came back, do you know what that did to me?”

She’s shouting now and she doesn’t care if she’s making a scene, not that there are a whole lot of people out and about.  Carmilla throws up an icy exterior.

“It got you that pretty rock on your finger is what it did.  I don’t see your life in any sort of shambles, Laura.”

Laura knows what she needs to say, what she needs to tell her next.  She’s almost hesitant but Carmilla needs to know. She stops walking after Carmilla and her voice drops low.

“I tried to kill myself.”

The words hit her like a ton of bricks falling from the highest point on the planet. She stops dead in her tracks, and her facial expression softens only a little though as her face contorts from anger to confusion to sadness to serious concern.  She spins around to face Laura who is fiddling with her fingers and hanging her head.  Carmilla takes a few hesitant steps forward, her eyes never leaving Laura.

“It was stupid. Everything felt useless. I was seeing a psychiatrist who put me on heavy antidepressants.  You can put two and two together.  Thankfully Danny found me when I uncharacteristically missed a movie night without warning.” Her voice remains low, quiet, and almost ashamed.  Carmilla wants to reach out to her, to wrap her up in her arms again, even if it is just to comfort her and reassure her that she’s here now.  She can feel her breathing speed up and her heart races and her thoughts go fuzzy at the thought of a world without Laura in it.

Laura can feel the tears ready to burst and she knows there’s not much time left when she feels a few stream down her cheeks.  She refuses to look up at Carmilla.  She refuses to let her see that she’s the first one to break.  Laura can feel Carmilla become closer and closer to her and she can feel the hesitancy like a thick perfume.  She wants to fall into her arms, she wants to forget this ever happened, forget that they ever fought in the first place so many years prior.

Carmilla is speechless. Every time she tries to form words, to find anything to say it comes out as nothing but dry air. Silence has overtaken what was once fighting and raised tones.  Carmilla’s stubborn streak that partially got her into this mess comes down as she steps forward and slides her arms around Laura, pulling her close, her chin resting perfectly atop Laura’s head.  Laura’s not one to hesitate as she presses her body fully into her and buries her face into Carmilla’s chest and lets out long, aggravated sobs.

Carmilla feels helpless as the young woman she always knew as so strong and fearless is now a bubbling mess in her arms.  She strokes her back gently, and whispers in her ear that it’s going to be okay, even if she doesn’t believe it herself.  She hates this, she really does.

Laura’s sobs die down, but she’s still an emotional mess, her breathing staggered and heavy. She clutches onto Carmilla, clinging almost desperately onto her shirt.  Her fists bundle the back of her shirt in her hand and there’s no way she’s letting go.

“Hey, look at me,” Carmilla says softly.  Laura doesn’t let go but peels herself off of Carmilla’s now tear stained shirt. She sniffles but doesn’t want to look at her, knowing another set of waterworks will commence as soon as she does. She looks to the side, her face stained with tears and sloppy, smudged eyeliner.

God, I’m fucked, Carmilla thinks as she studies Laura’s puffy face, more beautiful than ever.  Any feelings that she may have thought were gone, or she may have tried to hard to suppress were back full fledged.  It made her weak in the knees, her heart soar, and her stomach flutter.  She gently takes Laura’s chin in a delicate grasp and turns her head to face her.

“God, you’re incredible.”  It almost comes out as a whisper as Carmilla takes Laura’s eyes with her own. It’s the only amount of reaffirmation that Laura needs.  Neither one really know who makes the first move, but they both know it’s all over as soon as their lips crash together in what has to be the longest awaited kiss. It feels like the first time; it’s eight years earlier and they’re stupid, barely adults falling for each other all over again.  And maybe that was it though; maybe they never had fallen out of it in the first place.

That swooping feeling Laura always got when she was with Carmilla comes rushing back as she can feel Carmilla push back against her with fervor.  It’s the moment they’ve both been dreaming about, craving for. All thoughts are pushed out of Laura’s brain, namely her husband and ring on her finger, as she gently bites down on Carmilla’s lower lip.  A small, light moan emits from the dark haired woman as her tongue parts Laura’s lips, sliding across the bottom.

The energy coursing through her body is incredible, and something she hadn’t felt in a long, long time.  Yes, there had been other girls, but Carmilla had always found herself comparing them to Laura. Every single goddamn time, she couldn’t help it.

This is what she wanted.

This is who she wanted.

 

--

 

They stumble clumsily into Carmilla’s room, still attached to one another and giggling madly like two schoolgirls.  Neither one bother with finding the light switch as Carmilla carefully guides Laura towards the bed in between smiles and kisses.  They can’t keep their hands off of each other, feeling as though they need to make up for lost time, to reacquaint themselves with each other’s bodies all over again.

Carmilla’s hands grip the bottom of Laura’s shirt as she tries to tug it up and over her head. Laura grins, breaking away only for a moment as so to help her with the task.  Lips reattach to each other in no time at all and Laura feels the edge of the bed at the back of her legs and she knows she can still take all this back, she can still run away back to Ryan and forget Carmilla completely.

Like hell that is going to happen.

She knows she’s an awful person for thinking that way but she’s only consumed with thoughts of Carmilla and the way her hands slide down her sides and how her lips gently tease her mouth open and the just the way she looks at her like she’s the most incredible person in the world.

What happened?

She lowers herself down onto the messy tangle of sheets, bringing Carmilla down with her. She can’t help but smile at the sight of the unmade bed, remembering just how annoyed it would make her when Carmilla refused to make her side of the bed every morning. She thanks God that nothing has changed.

Carmilla’s mouth leaves Laura’s, much to her disdain, but quickly attaches itself to the base of her neck, sucking gently.  Laura keeps her eyes shut, relishing in the feeling she hadn’t felt in ages as Carmilla slowly makes her way from her neck down to her bare stomach. Laura’s breathing is ragged, even though hardly anything has actually happened yet, and she can’t express how turned on she feels in that moment.

Carmilla’s hands graze across the waistline of her jeans as she slowly unbuttons and unzips them at an agonizingly slow pace. She slides them down her smooth legs and dips a finger between her legs, eliciting a soft moan from Laura. She grins and captures her lips once again, just so fucking happy to know she was the cause of those noises once again.  Her thumb brushes over her clit and she can feel Laura’s hips buck up as she tries to silence another moan.

“Oh God.”

She’d missed this. Oh, God, how she’d miss this. Carmilla hadn’t forgotten a beat, knowing just how to touch her, where to touch her.  She can feel herself shivering at her touch alone, craving for every moment.  She wants to move slowly, to make up for the lost time, but at the rate Carmilla is touching her, she knows she won’t last very long.

Carmilla dips a finger into her, just very briefly to feel just how wet she is. It elicits quite the sound from Laura who wants nothing more than for Carmilla to fuck her fast. It’s been way too long for the teasing game to be happening.

Carmilla nips at her jaw and down her throat as she slowly circles her clit with her thumb. Laura tilts her head to the side in order to give her better access as she whimpers.

“Carm, please.”

Her plea is soft, but desperate, something that Carmilla has only been able to daydream about hearing as of late.  She lightly kisses the top of her breast before swiftly thrusting two fingers, feeling her hot walls wrap around them.  Her pace is quick as she watches Laura’s head thrashes around, her eyes sewn shut and head throw back.  The palm of her hand gently presses down on her clit and Laura knows she’s moment away from seeing stars.

 

--

 

“I didn’t really forget.”

“What?”

“When I first saw you. I said it’d been six years. I knew it had been eight. Eight years and 29 days to be exact.”

Night sounds filtering in from a cracked window fill the small room as the pair lay entangled amongst the sheets and with each other.  Laura smiles softly and swallows the physical pain she feels just hearing Carmilla express how much she missed her.  She missed this.  She missed everything about what had happened that night.  The dinner, their carefree conversations, the laughter, the feeling of Carmilla’s lips against her own, the sex, the moments afterward spent just laying in bed and enjoying each other through the silence.

And there wasn’t any way she could have that back.

“We both know how this ends.”  It absolutely kills Carmilla to say it, but it’s the obvious truth and someone has to be the first to acknowledge it.  Lying next to her in bed naked is as good a time as any.  

It’s like a stab in the heart and she seriously hates that she isn’t the one to say it first. She’s the one who is married, who has a life.  But she thanks the heavens that her and Carmilla are at least on the same page about this. She didn’t seriously think that she could just up and up leave, just run away with her.

Laura’s voice is barely above a whisper.  It’s difficult for her to keep her voice steady, but she tries the best she can. “I know.”

Silence overtakes the two as they stare into the dark space.  Laura can feel Carmilla softly stroking her hair and she closes her eyes, the feeling everything she had been longing for in more only in the form of the simplest thing she could think of.  Everything about this feels so incredibly right, no matter how wrong it actually is.

“Carmilla, I…”

She kisses the top of her head so lightly that Laura can hardly even feel it. She shushes her. “I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just enjoy these hours we have left together.”

Laura couldn’t have been happier with that statement, even though her heart shatters into a million pieces when Carmilla says it.  Carmilla’s voice is so broken, so meek that Laura can feel the tears welling up behind her eyes.  She makes it sound like their time is limited, that after tonight, it’ll be another eight, possibly more, years before they see each other again.  But Laura knows better.  She’s grown up, she’s a real adult and she knows just exactly how these adult things work.

They don’t talk much really, but instead let the comfortable silence fill in the gaps from the last eight years.  Laura tries to distract herself by lightly drawing shapes on Carmilla’s bare stomach, stopping every now and then to take her hand in her own and gently kiss it. Carmilla feels the butterflies every time she does, but they’re soon replaced with the worst sinking feeling when she remembers how very temporary this all is.  Every fiber of her being longs for eternity, longs for it to last longer than a few more early morning hours, but she realizes now that there’s no way either one of them can responsibly make that happen.

A half hour or so passes and Laura’s ministrations have stopped and she can feel the soft pattern of her breathing against her warm body.  Carmilla’s still as wide-awake as can be as she continues to stare up into the dark, empty space above her.  She closes her eyes and tries to snuggle even closer into Laura, if that’s even possible.  This is it. There’s no way she can bear to see her again after tonight.

Carmilla finds the covers and pulls them up tight to Laura’s chin.  She leans down once more and places a soft kiss on her head.

“I love you.”

It’s the last thing she says, the last time she looks at her, before she stealthily slides out from under Laura, collects her clothes, and leaves for good.

 

--

 

Light seeps through the blinds and Laura starts to stir under the covers. She shuffles slightly, turning over. But something’s not right, and even though she’s still half asleep and her eyes are still shut, she knows exactly what it is.  She thinks that maybe if she keeps her eyes shut then it won’t be true 

Moments pass before Laura opens her eyes slowly.  She squints against the light and forces herself to turn on her other side.

It’s empty.

She’s gone.

And she sobs.

 

--

 

It’s that stupid little coffee shop that Laura finds herself standing in front of, staring at the window where she first laid eyes on her.  She glances down at her left hand, the weight from the rock that once took residence there, gone.  She sighs and fidgets with the bare finger.  She should be used to it by now; it’s been two years.

A soft breeze flows through the air and she closes her eyes.  She doesn’t want to open them; she never wants to open them as she half expects to see her when she does.  She forces herself to do so every time though.

The guilt of cheating on her husband absolutely destroyed her along with the fact Carmilla had so blatantly walked out of her life again.  And although Ryan was fully ready to forgive her, she ran away.

Like a coward.

She was a coward.

Carmilla was a coward.

She had packed up some clothes in a duffel bag and slipped away just as fast and quiet as Carmilla had done.  She had no idea where she was going to go; it just had to be anywhere but there. She hadn’t even told her friends. But, Laura being Laura, she obviously couldn’t go without telling someone something.  And it was a matter of time before Danny or LaFontaine or Perry had called her wondering where the hell she was.

It wasn’t until that very moment when Laura found herself in front of that stupid café once again that she realized just how much she needed the two-year hiatus. She felt different.

Over the past two years, Laura’s mind constantly wandered over to that 24-hour span that she’d seen and spent with Carmilla.  She replays their night over and over again, ravishing in the feeling of her touch and the comfort she brought to her.  How her skin felt on fire with every lingering touch and just how much she was still utterly in love with her.

She’d wondered if maybe the two years of finding herself she would be able to shed that cloak.

No such luck.

She knows that if Carmilla appeared right there, right in front of her, she’d be a puddle. Ten years since they initially broke up, and she still wanted her.  Wanted her like the day she’d first realized she was in love with her, like the day she admitted to herself she had more than just a little crush on her.

Like the day she thought it’d be forever.

She doesn’t know if she’ll ever see Carmilla again, and some little part of her hopes she doesn’t. That little part is small, however, as she longs more than anything to feel her touch once more.

All things happen for a reason, so why the hell had the last ten happened?

Laura sighs, taking one last look at the café and walks off.  She heads through the park once more.

It hasn’t changed much since she last saw it.  Nature is still the same, as much as it can be, the years just making the trees grow with age and the leaves rejuvenate with the passing of time.  Things look just that much more worn out. It’s exactly how Laura feels. Worn out with nowhere to go.

Laura walks up the clear concrete path and takes in her surroundings.  Not many people are here today and she’s almost kind of grateful for that, as selfishly as that sounds.  She notices a happy couple by the small pond and an old man doing a crossword puzzle on a nearby bench.  These day-to-day things make her smile.  It’s not until she notices a dark haired woman sitting on one of the half wall concrete slabs a mere twenty feet away or so that makes her smile fade and her heart beat a million times per minute.

It’s impossible.

As if on cue, the woman looks up.  She has a phone wedged to her ear, and the smile or laugh she was in the middle of, fades faster than Laura’s.

Carmilla mumbles a quick, “I’ll talk to you later” into her phone before shoving it away quickly in her back pocket.  She hops off the half wall and makes two hesitant steps in Laura’s direction.

It’s impossible. This isn’t happening. It couldn’t be happening. What kind of cruel universe is Laura living in?

She wants to stay strong.  She needs to stay strong. Her lips are quivering and she knows she’s ten hot seconds away from bursting out into tears. Carmilla’s face stays unmoving, her eyes refusing to look anywhere but at Laura.  Laura doesn’t want to hear her say anything. She stomps up to her and starts beating her fists against her chest.  They don’t have much force to them, at least not enough to actually hurt her, but enough to make Carmilla have to stand her ground.

But she let’s her pound away, feeling as though a knife stabs her heart every time a fist meets her chest.  She can hear Laura mumble, “I hate you” under her breath, over and over.  They both know it isn’t true, but she let’s her let go of her frustrations.  Hesitantly, she puts her hands under Laura’s elbows and breathes a silent sigh of relief when she doesn’t make a point to move away from her.

Laura’s energy soon wavers and she feels physically exhausted.  She let the tears fly freely and she silently thanks God that Carmilla is allowing her to beat at her chest.  Her rhythm comes to a much slower pace, but she’s still crying like there’s no tomorrow.  She’s doing everything she can not to give in to what she knows will be Carmilla’s open arms, but she knows she’s not going to last much longer.  Exhaustion takes the best of her and she collapses forward, her head landing on Carmilla’s chest and her arms folded up at her own chest. She feels Carmilla’s arms slowly snake around her body as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.

She openly sobs and buries her face deeper into Carmilla.

Carmilla rests her chin on the top of Laura’s head, hanging on to the small woman as if her life depended on it.

Like hell she was ever going to let go again.

Several moments pass before Laura’s sobs start to settle down and her breathing only starts to regulate.  She knows people are probably staring and she knows her eyes are puffier than the fluffiest cloud. Carmilla’s shirt is tear stained and dripping wet but neither one cares.  Laura’s not ready to look at her quite yet.

“Let’s start over.”

Carmilla is the first one to break the silence and it’s hardly above a murmur.  Laura can feel Carmilla drawing circles with her hand at the small of her back and God, she could stay like this forever, maybe just without the puffy, bloodshot eyes. She sniffles and allows herself to peel away from Carmilla.

She wipes any spare tears away, trying her best to collect herself.  Carmilla refuses to look away, desperately trying to find her eyes. She extends an arm out and all Laura can do is stare at it, a small smile forming on her face.

“Carmilla Karnstein.” There’s a pause before Laura slowly shakes it.  She lets out a small laugh and finally locks eyes with her.  The butterflies are alive and well in both of their stomachs.

“Laura Hollis.”

“It’s a pleasure. And if I may be blunt, I’d love to take you out on a date.  That is, if you swing that way.  And if you don’t, well, we should still go out anyway.”

Laura laughs, only it’s much more full this time.  They don’t let go of each other’s hands.

“Seven o’clock. Tonight.  Roadside.  Don’t be late.”

It’s impossible for Carmilla’s grin to grow any wider. “I wouldn’t dare.”