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“Rindy! Come on honey! We’re going to be late.”

It was the first day of high school for Rindy Aird and even though all she could feel was excitement, her mother was more nervous than ever, if that is even possible.

“Did you pack your bag? Don’t forget that your father will pick you up directly at school so you can spend the week with him.”

As Carol finished her sentence, she heard someone running down the stairs.

“I’m here Mom. And yes I packed my bag. Look!” she dramatically raised her arm, showing her sports bag full of clothes.

Rindy was Carol’s portrait. As her mother, long blond curls were framing her face, her blue-gray eyes were as piercing as a lake reflecting a stormy sky, and she was almost Carol’s height, way taller than a 14-year-old should be.

“Alright let’s go, the car is already waiting for us.”

Both left the large apartment situated on Madison Avenue, took the elevator, and not even five minutes later, were on their way to one of the most renowned institutions of New York.

“So, how are you feeling sweetheart?”

“I honestly can’t wait, mom,” she almost screamed, “to discover this new world, meet all those people, and just, you know, live a new experience. And... I am also glad that this school is for people more like me.”

At this particular comment, Carol frowned.

“What do you mean more like you? With divorced parents?” She sighed. “Honey we talked about it and you know it’s not that ra-”

“No no no, I didn’t mean that at all.” She reassured her mother. “But… you know… I mean people more like you…”

She blushed for an instant but quickly added.

“You are aware not everyone is nationally, even internationally, known nor is constantly stopped in the street as soon as someone hears their name, to take a selfie or ask for an autograph right?”

“Yes, I am aware.” Carol chuckled, “And first of all, I am internationally not known, my agency is. Second of all I’m not stopped in the street that often,” she added with a perfect arched eyebrow.

“And finally, I am sorry if it bothers you. But as you said, most of the kids here have their parents rather famous, so it might help you to keep your feet firmly on the ground,” she added with a chuckle while riffling Rindy’s hair.

“Mom!!! I spent 30 min on it this morning.”

“We are here Ms. Ross” the driver interrupted.

“Oh! Let me go grab your bag in the trunk and give you a hug, honey.”

“No mom, please. Um, could you please stay in the car?” Rindy asked rather sheepishly.

Carol’s face instantly dropped.

“Why? Does it bother you that much? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“No it’s not who you are, it’s... how you look like...”

“Do I have something on my face?”

Rindy took a deep breath.

“Mom, let’s admit it, you are beautiful,” Carol opened her mouth but Rindy raised a finger in order to not be interrupted.

“I know how you see yourself, but it’s a fact that people stare at you, even when they don’t know who you are.” She dropped her gaze as she added “and I know it’s selfish but I want my first day to be about me, not about who my gorgeous mother is, that mysterious woman no one could stop looking at.”

It is not that Carol wasn’t used to receiving compliments. She ran a model agency and people confounded her with a model on a daily basis. But her own daughter saying this as an irrevocable fact was something she didn’t prepare herself to hear while getting up this morning. And her crimson face was proof of that.

“All right, all right. I don’t want to steal your spotlight.” She made a joke to hide how deeply uncomfortable and touched, she was by this turn of events.

Divorcing her ex-husband, Harge Aird, hadn’t been an easy time, but she did it mainly for her daughter. And creating such a deep bond with Rindy was one of her biggest achievements. Knowing that her daughter looked up to her in this regard, was a great bonus, but nonetheless, it warmed her heart.

“Okay now give me a big squeeze” she hugged her daughter and whispered in her ear “I love you honey, have a great day. And don’t get in too much trouble!”

As Rindy opened the door and answered a joyful “I love you too, see you on Friday”, Carol quickly wiped a tear away.

“To my office, please Robert”.

———————

Carol was the founder and sole owner of Reflections, a model agency known worldwide. She had created it, following her passion for the world of fashion and three months after the creation of the agency, she hadn’t expected to know such success. Over time, the agency became an entity, her models being A-listers to events and every fashion week. But also representing and putting into light every women, and not just women being seen as perfection in a patriarchal society. Reflection had revolutionized the world of fashion and paved the way for body positivity. Carol Ross was considered an icon by many, even if most of them didn’t know what she looked like. She had made sure to put her agency and her models in the spotlight and not herself.

Carol entered the familiar building, noticing everyone either looking in the other direction or flashing her their fakest smile. There was no in-between. Either people were afraid of her, or they admired her so much that they were ready to do almost anything in order to get a simple greeting. But when she entered her office, she was welcomed with a much truthful sight. A coffee waiting on her desk, and a warming smile and open arms belonging to her best friend.

“I know I know, your baby is growing up too fast, you can’t believe she’s already a woman and soon she will leave to get on with her own life.”

“Now don’t mention her leaving Abigail, do you want to see me cry?” Carol joked as she hugged Abby.

“No, I’d rather have you not entering your first meeting of the day with your mascara on your cheeks. By the way, this suit is phenomenal”

Carol was wearing a purple velvety suit. The low-cut neckline would have made more than one person uncomfortable but the way Carol wore it translated confidence in not only the clothes but also her body. She was the definition of elegance and stylish.

“You like it? Rindy picked it up for me the other day while we were shopping.”

“Wait a second.” Abby interrupted her, looking as if Carol had told her she had robbed a bank. “You actually went to a mall? Are you crazy?!” After seeing the look on her best friend’s face, Abby changed her tone.

“Carol,” she sighed, “I know you want to keep a somewhat normal life, but you know it’s impossible. Not after most of your models, and yourself, have made the first page of most fashion magazines and are the first hired for the fashion week”

“I know. It was for Rindy’s birthday alright? We hadn’t done a daughter-mother afternoon in months. And don’t worry nothing happened. I know where to go when I don’t want to be bothered. I am a grown woman and I’ve been dealing with this for ten years now.”

Carol had learned, at her own expense, how to hide from paparazzi, fans, and models wanting to be recruited. She had developed over the years a certain bubble to protect her family and herself and didn’t let anyone in, even more since Rindy had entered her life.

“Your first meeting is here Ms. Ross.” Carol’s secretary announced over the intercom.

“Thank you, Naomi. I’ll be right here.”

She then turned to Abby.

“I don’t feel like seeing people tonight I’m sorry, but we can definitely go eat at some restaurant this week,” she proposed. Then seeing Abby’s disappointed face she added.

“I know but I need to be on my own for a little while. To recenter me. You know how I am”

“Of course.” Abby smiled, “I’ll text you so we can set up a date or I’ll see you on Wednesday. Go work wonders,” she winked as she left Carol’s office.

The blonde took a deep breath, pushed her daughter out of her mind, and went to indeed work wonders.

———————

Carol came back home quite late that night. She always immersed herself in work whenever Rindy was at Harge’s. But today especially, she felt a need to be by herself, to revitalize. Her life had taken a turn 20 years ago when she decided to create Reflections and hired Abby as her first model.

Abby was a gorgeous woman. With auburn hair and deep brown eyes, her posture and forms allowed her to stand out in any crowd. If you asked Abby herself, she’d always say that the beauty was Carol, but the latter never saw herself as such and spent years studying, researching, traveling to expand her knowledge, which resulted in her being the most intelligent and well-spoken person in any situation. They made quite the pair, always had, and were inseparable.

Carol’s life had been a rollercoaster for most of her adult years, and even though she was very proud of the life she had built for herself and the daughter she was raising, she often felt lonely. Paradoxically she was rarely alone. Either at the agency with several clients, taking care of Rindy at home, or even going to soirees and parties each shallower than the last one.

Needing simplicity, she dismissed her maid and cook for the week, took off her makeup, traded her suit for some sweatpants and a large t-shirt after taking a long-awaited shower. She ordered a pizza and put on one of her favorite movies, ‘A Woman Under The Influence’.

Carol woke up with a jolt and realized the movie had ended as the credits were being shown. She looked outside her window. It was dark. Then checked the hour. 10 pm.

“This will have to do,” she mumbled.

She took her keys, a cap, and sunglasses just in case, and without a second thought, went to the elevator, informed the receptionist her apartment was empty and left her building.

She had no destination in mind but found herself in Central Park and just kept walking. This was the fresh air she had been craving for weeks, for months.

She sat at a bench and looked at the people passing by, alone, with their partners, or in a group at night. She enjoyed the anonymity and freedom that New York City allowed.

And that’s when she saw her.

A somewhat short brunette was taking pictures of the park. She seemed to be playing with the light the street lamp that she was standing under provided. Carol could not take her eye off her. There was something in the way the brunette was engrossed in what she was doing, in her own world, completely oblivious to what was happening around her.

As the brunette lowered her camera, she met her eyes.

Suddenly, emerald green eyes connected with her and she stopped breathing. All her senses were focused on this woman. Both were captivated by one another, and couldn't hear anything else than their own heartbeat which seemed louder than ever.

The magic was broken when Carol’s phone rang. She got out of her trance and looked at her screen.

Rindy

“Hello sweetheart.”

When she looked up again the brunette had disappeared. Carol left out a disappointing sight.

“Of course everything’s alright. So tell me, how was your big day?”

———————

Carol got home an hour later with a different craving than the one she had had when she left. Even though she had listened to every detail of her daughter’s day, her mind hadn’t been able to move on from those green eyes. And neither had her heart.

Chapter Text

bip.. bip.. bip bip bip biiiiip

“Ugh I’m awake I’m awake,” Therese mumbled as she turned off her alarm.

She got out of bed and jumped in the shower. She started work in two hours but she liked taking her time in the morning, enjoyed singing under the shower, eating a real breakfast, and preparing herself without rushing. Today she chose to wear a simple blue blouse paired with black pants and black ankle boots. 

She was applying her makeup when her phone rang.

Incoming FaceTime: Dannie

Dannie was Therese’s best friend. They met in high school when Dannie defended her after some girls called her gay slurs. She had had her first kiss at a party and even though she hadn’t figured out yet she was a lesbian at that time, that kiss had been with her math classmate, Alice . Somehow the word got out and that is how Dannie found Therese. Being called unspeakable names in a desert hallway. He had consoled her and made sure she didn’t believe a word they had thrown at her. And that was it. From this day on. They saw each other on a daily basis, were both accepted into NYU and as their life evolved and changed, they had always taken time to catch up every few weeks in person and every other few days over the phone. 

She picked up on the second ring.

“Hi Terry-”

“Please stop with this surname,” she laughed. “I still have nightmares about Richard calling me like that asking me out twice a week.”

A few months ago, Therese had met Richard, one of Dannie’s friends who instantly became quite obsessed with her, one would say. And she literally had to scream “I AM A LESBIAN YOU DUMBASS”  to his face for him to understand she was not interested. Dannie had had the biggest laugh of his life and still liked to tease Therese about it. 

“But I just love the face you make every time you hear it. ” She could see her best friend smiling wide on the screen. “ Anyway if I remember correctly, you promised a certain person coffee before going to work today, and that certain person is outside your building waiting for you to kindly open the door to him.”

“I’ll be out in a minute, just let me finish my eyeliner and grab my coat.” She didn’t give him time to add any sentences and ended the call. 

Five minutes later, Therese and Dannie were walking to the closest cafe. She had already eaten but figured an iced coffee wouldn’t hurt.

“Speaking of Richard, it has been a while since you went out and, you know, went back home with some woman.” Dannie started, wiggling his eyebrows. 

Therese instantly elbowed him while laughing, “Oh shut up! Tell me you didn’t want to see me just to remind me how single I am.”

“No, actually I was testing the waters. Since it’s Friday I wanted to propose going for some drinks tonight. You know, go to a bar, seduce some ladies… Just have some fun.”

“Aren’t we a bit too old to hit on women in bars?”

Dannie gasped “Therese! We are not even 30 yet!”, she laughed at his expression, “You and I, my dear are still very young, and let me remind you that an angel face like yours could get anyone she wants.”

Therese was indeed a beautiful woman. Often described as angelic and ethereal, she had a calmness surrounding her and only her truest friends knew how witted and naughty she could be. 

“Alright”, she sighed, “I have this thing after work that I told you about, but I should be done by 7. Pick me up at 8 so I can have time to change and look at minimal presentable.”

“Perfect, we’re going to have so much fun, you’ll see!” Dannie exclaimed as he opened the door to the cafe. 

—————

Therese felt a bit over-conscious for the rest of the day after seeing Dannie. Of course, she knew she wasn’t too old to have fun and go to bars. The part that she had a problem coming to terms with was hitting on a woman, which might lead to more. In normal circumstances, she wouldn’t give too much thought to it. But right now, as for the past five days, she hadn’t been able to get her out of her mind. 

As she was on one of her usual photography slash therapy sessions at Central Park, the most beautiful woman she had ever laid eyes on entered her lens. She had been trying to get a particular shadow on the bench on the other side of the path when she noticed the blonde. Therese had been enchanted, lowering her camera the slowliest possible, scared that the stranger would evaporate if she made any noise. She hadn’t been able to take her eyes off her until a loud ringing had woken her up. Therese quickly fled the scene when she realized for how long she had been staring at this stranger. She wanted to avoid at all costs an awkward explanation as to why she had looked at the blonde as if she had been able to see for the first time. These piercing grey-blue eyes hadn’t left her mind ever since. 

Stupid Therese , she once again told herself, you saw her for only three seconds and suddenly you can’t even imagine seeing someone else? Stupid stupid stupid , she repeated in her mind as she entered her last class of the day. 

“Good afternoon! Please put your assignments on your desks. I will collect them during the class.”

Fifty-five minutes later and the last bell of the day finally rang. 

“And don’t forget to read chapters four and five for Monday. Have a great weekend! Oh Rindy, please come here for a second.”

As the teenage girl approached the desk, Therese pulled out her assignment and handed it back to her.

“I don’t think this is going to be a great help in understanding Jules Verne.”

Rindy was confused and opened the file only to find documents with Reflections written at the top. Understanding the error automatically, she explained.

“I apologize, Miss. Those are my mom’s work documents. We must have switched them. I am so sorry. I can ask her to bring my assignment to the meeting later. I promise you I didn’t do this on purpose. I won’t even touch-”

“Rindy, Rindy, take a deep breath. It’s okay. Your mother can bring them later. It happens. But be careful that it won’t repeat itself.” Therese added a small smile trying to appease the panicked teenager.

“It won’t, thank you so much Miss,” she added as she exited the classroom.

—————-

The meeting had begun ten minutes ago and Therese still couldn’t believe her eyes. She was there. Her woman was sitting in the assembly, listening to the principal introducing the professors and presenting the school and different goals of the year. This meant two things. Firstly, Therese would have to introduce herself and her course in front of her. Secondly, she was obviously someone’s mom which means she was most likely to be married. Therese tended not to guess people’s sexual orientation, but there was perhaps 0,5% of chance for her to be even slightly attracted to women. And even if she did, she would never take a second look at me. She forced herself to cut those incessant thoughts by bringing herself back to reason and real life. 

The time came for Therese to speak. She took a deep breath, stood up, and somehow managed to explain her way of working as well as aims she had fixed for her students throughout the year with the blonde not once looking away from her. Therese avoided those grey-blue eyes but could feel them on her at every moment. The goosebumps she could feel all over her body and the intense shaking in her hands were proof of that. 

This time, the blonde was wearing some light makeup, accentuating her already gorgeous natural traits. The only exception was the deep red that made her lips noticeable in a 500 miles radius. Added to her black suit, classy but simple, she exuded power and refinement. Therese tried very hard not to notice the rather low neckline that generated thoughts she shouldn’t have had while being in a meeting at her workplace which happened to be a high school.

Eventually, she finished her rehearsed speech and went back sitting waiting nervously, squeezing her thighs, while still feeling the blonde’s gaze on her. 

To Therese's horror, or delight, she wasn’t really sure yet, she saw the blonde approaching her the minute the principal dismissed the assembly. From the corner of her eye, she saw her looking for something in her bag and pulled out some documents. 

Therese expected some kind of greeting since the blonde was almost in front of her, but nothing could have prepared her for the deep voice that escaped the red mouth. 

“Hello there,” she began with a kind smile. Therese turned to her and saw an emotion in the blonde’s eyes that she couldn’t identify, “You must be Miss Belivet. I am Rindy’s mother. And I believe this is for you.”

Therese was taken aback for a second by this turn of events and just stared at the stretched-out hand, freshly manicured, not wearing a wedding ring, giving her the assignment. Realizing she had been staring, she shook herself up.

“Yes. Thank you, Mrs. Aird.” 

“Oh, it’s Ross. Thank God I never took my ex-husband’s name,” she joked. “But please, call me Carol.”

Therese’s mind was a mess. First of all, Carol wasn’t married, at least not anymore. Second of all the name was strangely familiar, even though she would have remembered meeting such a breathtakingly beautiful woman. 

“Carol,” she smiled. “I’m Therese”. 

“Therese, not Theresa?”, Therese whispered a no . “Therese Belivet. It’s lovely”.

“Thank you.” She never wanted Carol to stop saying her name. 

“Well Therese, I am very sorry about all of this. It’s all on me, to be honest. I was in a rush and sometimes I can be very absent-minded. I took her assignment by error. You should have seen the look on my client’s face when she realized the first sentence was about Jules Verne.” She let out a deep laugh and Therese couldn’t help herself but chuckle. She was certain her heart had never beaten faster and louder than in this moment. She was scared the blonde would be able to hear it. 

“It’s okay Carol, really. Besides, it allowed me to put a name on your face.” She had no idea where that confidence came from but she wanted to let Carol know she remembered her.

“I could say the same.” Carol smiled deeply and Therese had to restrain a sigh. “Those pictures must have turned out wonderfully.”

Therese nodded, her mind trying to comprehend that Carol remembered her as well. Both kept staring at each other. Therese silently ordering her thoughts to find again some sort of sanity. And Carol, looking softly at her until she seemed to have made a decision. With a determined voice, she asked.

“Would you like to grab coffee sometime? I understand if you wouldn’t, my daughter being in your class and all that-”

“I would love to.” Therese grabbed her hand to stop the rambling and instantly felt a jolt at the contact. “Let me give you my number so we can settle on a day.”

Carol, who hadn’t stopped looking at their hands, looked up. She smiled.

“Well, that’s that”.

Chapter Text

“I know I’m late, I’m so sorry.”

It was Saturday night and Carol was meeting Abby for dinner at a new place that had opened in town. It was a rule between the two of them to never go to the same restaurant, and they had respected it for as long as they could remember.

“It’s just been a hell of a week. With the New York fashion week beginning soon and Harge calling me on Thursday morning saying he had a work emergency and couldn’t take Rindy for the rest of the week. She’s at a friend’s by the way. I am not crazy, I wouldn’t leave her alone to go get drunk with her Godmother. I am so starved, I hope they have-”

“Wow, Carol slow down!” Abby burst out laughing. “Take a deep breath and enjoy your Saturday night, you’ve earned it.”

“Thank you.” Carol smiled. “But tell me about you, how is work going?”

“It’s going great. I am closing the Yves Saint Laurent show so I’ll be flying off to Paris next week. I can’t wait,” she grinned.

“That’s amazing! Oh, how I miss Paris. And Europe. It’s been a while since I’ve last put foot there. I am sorry I won’t be able to come with you this time, I just have so much to do here.”

“Hey now, don’t fret yourself about it. It’s totally alright Carol. I will just have to send you pictures of my daily croissants and baguettes.” Abby then added with a more serious look, “besides I might not be going there entirely alone.”

Carol’s eyes went wide instantly.

“What do you mean not alone?! You mean...”

“I’ve met someone. Now I see you coming and before you start getting ahead of yourself, it’s fairly recent.”

Carol looked at her with a twinkle in her eyes.

“I am so happy for you Abby, truly.” She patted her hand. “Now tell me all about her.”

“Well, her name is Elena. She owns a bunch of restaurants and directly manages one of them, Le Bleuet. And I actually met her when I had lunch there the other day between two meetings.”

“And you asked her out! That’s bold...” Carol joked.

“I had to! I couldn’t pass my chance over such a gorgeous redhead.”

Carol didn’t miss one bit.

“A redhead?! You think you’ve got what it takes to handle a redhead?”

“Oh shut up you nitwit.”

————————-

Three hours later and Carol was back home, in her bed. After the restaurant, they went to a bar, got some drinks. They were sure that with the dim light and the anonymity such places provided, they wouldn’t be bothered, Abby developed some notoriety as well over the years. Even more than Carol, for the large public, by appearing in some commercials, being the face of some collections and the muse of designers. Carol was extremely well known and respected in the fashion business, she owned the biggest model agency in the country after all. But people had to be personally interested in fashion to know what she looked like, having done a few photoshoots and interviews herself to promote Reflections, or appearing at prestigious events.

At some point Abby noticed a woman looking at Carol and encouraged her best friend to talk to her. They chatted for a bit. The woman proposed to dance but Carol wasn’t feeling it. What it was, she had no idea, but she certainly wasn’t going to experience it in a lousy bar, pressed against a stranger with music so loud she wasn’t even able to form a proper thought.

She could see Abby was truly happy. Probably the happiest she had been for a long time. And she was certain that even though she assured things were recent, Elena was part of this newfound happiness.

However, there was a certain feeling Carol couldn’t stop but try to suppress. Jealousy? Shame? Dread? Loneliness? Why would she feel lonely? She had Rindy, with whom she was closer than ever. She had Abby. She had her job and her colleagues. Did she miss being with someone? Sure she had some needs, like everybody. But she could take care of it herself. But did she miss the other parts of being with someone? The intimacy? To love and be loved? No, she reassured herself. She was loved way more than she ever expected to be. And she had a love for her daughter that could last three lifetimes.

Her thoughts drifted back to a certain brunette, as they often did lately. Therese. She had no idea what had gotten into her, but as simple as it might seem, she had just wanted to see her again, to get to know her more. There was something in Therese that attracted her. Intrigued her. And why would she deprive herself of forming a new friendship after all? Maybe Therese being Rindy’s teacher wasn’t the ideal situation.

“Oh, fuck it,” she said out loud.

Rindy was spending the day at her friend's house tomorrow. So she grabbed her phone charging on her nightstand and wrote before she could change her mind.

Carol: Hi! It’s Carol :) I was wondering if you were free to grab a coffee tomorrow afternoon? I know a nice place downtown.

She put the phone back on her nightstand and stared at her wall, on her back, waiting nervously. Not even two minutes later, it buzzed.

Therese: Hello Carol! Yes, it would be lovely. Tell me the hour and address and I’ll be there. Goodnight :)

After answering with the requested information, she stared back at her wall, but this time with a smile gracing her lips.

—————

Therese was late. She hadn’t been able to think about anything else than seeing Carol for the past twelve hours and she was 15 minutes late.

She finally arrived at Cream’s and walked in, starting to look for Carol at one of the tables, only to be stopped by a receptionist.

“I’m sorry Ma’am, I can’t let you in unless you have a reservation.”

“I’m meeting Carol Ross, she’s probably already here.”

“Oh yes, right away. Follow me please.”

Wow, fancy. She automatically thought. She chastised herself because she knew where she worked and which people attended the school, which families they were from.

She followed the receptionist to the back of the room. She held her breath and slowly exhaled when Carol appeared in her field of vision, an aura surrounding her. Even more beautiful than she remembered.

Stop it. You can’t develop a crush on one of your student’s mothers. What is wrong with you?

Her internal monologue was quickly shut off by the waiter’s voice.

“Ms. Ross.”

Carol raised her head from something she was reading on her phone and smiled. “Therese, hello.”

The blonde instantly got up and hugged her. Therese was at first a little taken aback but didn’t waste any time wrapping her arms around Carol.

“I am sorry, I hope you didn’t wait for long.” Therese apologized as she took her place across from Carol.

“Absolutely not dear, don’t bother with that. I am delighted you could come.” A smile graced her lips then was quickly replaced by a more serious expression. “So Belivet, that’s a very original name.”

“It’s Czech originally. I was born in New York City, but it is where I am from.”

“Did your parents immigrate here?”

This innocent question was always a delicate moment. The person’s reaction to the answer would either benefit the person greatly or make Therese put a mental cross on them. She hadn’t been this nervous about telling someone in a while.

“That’s what I was told but I never got a direct confirmation from them,” seeing how attentive, and genuinely interested, Carol was to what she was saying, Therese kept going. “I am an orphan. I know that my father died of a heart attack when I was six months old. The doctors said he smoked a lot but other than that it’s a total mystery. It was obviously unexpected and my mom couldn’t take care of me only by herself so she preferred to put me somewhere I could have at least a chance of a future.”

Why she was offloading all those intimate details, that she would usually wait months to disclose, to a stranger, she had no idea. But the lack of pity and total empathy, and was it admiration ?, on Carol's face revealed how much of a safe place this was, she was. And Therese was certain that she could tell her most shameful and deepest secrets, the blonde would never look away.

“And I guess she was right, since I got here,” Therese ended pretty lamely. The way Carol was staring at her was too much and she had to look away before blushing, betraying how flustered she was.

She felt her hand being grabbed and when she looked at it she saw red nails wrapped around her wrists, Carol’s red nails. “You are amazing,” she began quietly, “truly an inspiration.”

Well, so much for trying to avoid blushing.

“Are you ready to order?” Thankfully the waiter chose this moment to make an appearance and without knowing, allowed Therese to regulate her breathing.

Carol ordered a black coffee and Therese an iced latte. Two seemingly innocent choices that spoke mountains about their personalities. “And you take pictures!”, Carol picked up the conversation in an instant, “as I can observe by the more than decent camera you own.”

Interesting, thought Therese, she seems to remember that night just as well as me.

“I do! This is one of the things that stayed with me from the orphanage.”

“How so?” Therese could tell Carol was really curious and wasn’t just making conversation. She hadn’t felt this listened to for quite some time.

“Well many kids would go from families to families, sometimes come back to leave again a few days later. The majority of them were afraid to be transparent and forgotten.” She didn’t mention that she was one of the kids that felt like that and that it played a huge part in why she took this matter such at heart. “And to prove to them that I wouldn’t forget about them, I would take pictures of them to print and keep. And it stuck with me. But I take more pictures of inanimate objects and landscapes now.”

Carol’s eyes were gleaming. “Therese it’s really beautiful that you managed to keep that for so many years. And would you like to go back to portraits?”

“I don’t know. I guess I haven’t found the right-” a pause, “-subject yet.”

Carol broke eye contact first for the first time and Therese was glad to witness the blonde being flustered by her words. This comment opened a door to a much more vulnerable Carol and the brunette was more than ready to explore the room.

Soon enough though, Carol pulled herself together. Therese still noticed the blush on her neck and the deeper voice Carol used to speak her next words.

“And is that what you want to be? A photographer?”

“Why? Has your daughter complained about my teaching skills?”

A deep laugh came out of the blonde throat as she tilted her head back. As the sound entered her ears, Therese thought she had reached heaven. She couldn’t help but chuckle herself.

“No, no. On the contrary, she seems to quite like you.” A deep smile was now covering her face. “I feel like going for a walk. Are you up to it?” Carol proposed. They were both done with their coffees.

And Therese didn’t think about it. “Of course, let me just ask for the note.”

“Don’t you dare. It’s on me, sweetheart.” Sweetheart.

Well, you can forget about not having a crush on her. The young woman sighed internally.

———————-

They were walking in Central Park next to one another, both seemingly lost in their own thoughts. Therese had always been rather quiet, preferring to observe and contemplate rather than talk restlessly. People around her were always disarmed by the quietness and felt the need to fill the silence with superficial and unnecessary conversation. She found out she felt quite comfortable with Carol next to her, simply humming, enjoying her company. There was an easiness, a natural bond between the women. Each seemed to understand the other beyond words and Therese found it deeply refreshing. She felt like herself, she weirdly felt at home.

Still, despite this warmth that implanted itself more and more as time passed, Carol remained a mystery. She realized she knew close to nothing about the blonde.

“So,” she began shyly, “you mentioned an ex-husband?”

Carol stopped humming abruptly and Therese internally screamed, thinking she had ruined it all. Until Carol turned her head towards her with a surprised expression in her eyes and answered calmly “Well yes, we divorced eleven years ago before Rindy turned four.”

“Do you mind me asking why?”

Carol smiled sweetly “No no. God it’s been a while since I’ve talked about it,” she chuckled. “Um, well. I met Harge at university, he was studying finance and I was studying management, so we had some classes in common. We became friends rather quickly and dated, naturally. I knew that he was pursuing me since the day I had met him. My parents liked him. My friends said we had a connection, so when he asked me to move in with him, I couldn’t imagine saying no.” She paused and went to sit on a bench. Therese joined her two seconds later.

“The thing is, I don’t think I have ever been in love with him you know. Yes it was easy, yes I felt cherished and I truly cared about him, but love? I don’t think I ever associated this word with him. So as it might be expected after we got married things started to fall apart.”

She took a deep breath and stared ahead of her. “We were very different and wanted very different things in life. He wanted a good trophy wife that he could claim everywhere, whereas I was working day and night to build a successful career. We had one thing in common though. We wanted a family. We wanted children above all else and we decided to try for a child, as our couple was falling apart.” She then glanced at Therese to see her reaction but the young woman was so engrossed in her listening that she didn’t let any emotion show on her face.

Carol continued. “I know what you are thinking. Having a child is never the answer to try to save a relationship. But I don’t regret it. I wanted Rindy with all my heart and she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.” A calm smile was now displayed on Carol’s face. As soon as her daughter was mentioned, she was radiant. “And in the end, I chose to divorce for her. Harge... couldn’t accept some parts of me, couldn’t understand them. So I restrained myself and by doing so, I hid my emotions and transformed into someone I barely recognized.” A sad smile was gracing her lips and Therese had the sudden urge to hug her. “I wasn’t a good mother. I wasn’t a good wife. And I knew I had to get out of here, to ensure a good life, a good education for my daughter. So I filled in the papers. Harge fought me, of course. But I got sole custody. We made an arrangement, I promised I would never keep him away from his daughter and we’ve been rather amicable ever since.”

Therese was lost in thoughts. She didn’t expect to get this much information and judging by the look on Carol’s face, the blonde didn’t expect to tell her all that either. But one particular sentence kept coming back to her mind. And not bearing the nervous look the older woman kept throwing at her, she voiced it.

“Carol. What you did for your daughter. It’s truly remarkable.” She instantly saw how relieved the blond was. “The risks you took, not knowing if you would get custody, not knowing what kind of relationship with your daughter would come out of it. You were an amazing mother. You still are. I hope you realize that.”
Carol brushed away a tear and laughed quietly. “I admit it feels good to hear it.” Therese giggled. “It still feels like a huge failure that I wasn’t able to make my marriage work but I am glad I was able to form such a close bond with her. I- what is it?” She stopped after seeing the frown Therese’s eyebrows were making.

“You mentioned him not accepting you. How could you have stayed in a relationship, raising a kid if you didn’t feel like yourself? If you didn’t feel happy? Carol,” Therese took her hands but saw the blonde glancing around them so she released them fearing she had overstepped, “look, I don’t know where you are at in your life right now, but you deserve to be entirely seen. To be understood as a whole and not have to hide a part of yourself. I hope it isn’t the case anymore.”

After hearing this last sentence, Carol ashamedly looked away, “Well,” she answered with a sad smile “that’s a conversation for another day.”

“What do you m-”

“I’m sorry, Carol Ross?”

Therese was interrupted by a voice and turned around expecting to see one of Carol’s friends or colleagues, what does she do for work already?, but was surprised to see two young girls, practically bouncing, looking excitedly at Carol. Carol who had frozen a few instants ago and resembled a deer caught in the lights.

“Yes?” She answered hesitantly.

“We’re very sorry to bother you. Could we please get a picture?”

Therese saw her force a smile on her face as she glanced at the brunette, “Yes of course.”

The younger women then turned to Therese who was trying to figure out what was happening, and why strangers were asking for a picture of Carol. “Would you mind taking it?”

Carol’s eyes widened and Therese answered rather robotically “Sure.” She then got up, took the girls’ phones, and took several pictures of them with Carol.

What is happening? Who is she? Who are they? Her mind was a mess.

The girls giggled and thanked Carol who returned their smiles and turned towards Therese wearing a panicked expression before quickly turning around.

Therese let out the first thing that came to mind. In retrospect, she could have been less direct but she was too stunned to think properly.

“Who are you?”

Chapter Text

Fuck. That’s it. Our friendship is over. It won’t even have lasted 24h. Congrats Carol, it might be a record. Why do you alway-

“Carol?” 

Carol turned around expecting Therese to be mad, red and angry. But she found her with a genuine confused expression on her face. She could see the wheels turning in her pretty head of hers spinning from here. And she looked, wait a second, did she look hurt?

“I- I can explain. Fuck I’ve never been in this situation before. A- Alright. Do you remember the career I wanted to build?”, Therese nodded. “Well, it worked. I became quite successful… My agency became successful.”

“Your agency?”

“I own Reflections Therese, the mo-”

“The model agency?” She saw the brunette’s face illuminating with realization. “The one with the huge billboard sign on Times Square?” her eyes widened.

“Well, yes.”

“Wow, I-” Therese went to sit again on the bench and nervously put her hair behind her ears. Carol was scared to say the wrong thing, she could see in Therese’s eyes she was thinking intently, and scaring her off was the last thing Carol wanted to do. At last, she saw Therese take a deep breath and meet Carol’s gaze.

“I’m sorry for this rather brutal reaction,” she chuckled and Carol released the breath she had been holding, “I was taken aback. But that’s impressive Carol. Very unexpected, despite your name that I probably should have recognized earlier. But nonetheless impressive.” She remembered now the work documents Rindy had given her instead of her homework, but she hadn’t paid much attention to what was on it once she realized it wasn’t about Jules Verne.

“Oh... My name...I tend not to personally involve myself in the medium. But”, she paused. ''are you mad?”

Therese’s eyebrow raised up instantly. “Am I mad? Of course, I am not mad Carol.” She got up and joined Carol who was still standing six feet away from her. “Why do you want me to be mad? Would have I preferred to know it before having strangers ask for a picture with you? Of course,” she smiled, “but I’m not mad. We barely know each other and I never gave you any reason to trust me-”

“But I trust you. I do” Carol insured. She didn’t know why, but she wanted Therese to be assured of that. “There are some difficulties with being on the public stage, and you never know how people are going to react, how they will see you. I realized that you didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t want your attitude to change. I didn’t want you to suddenly treat me differently or be intimidated by me, as I experienced in my past. And, I guess, that is why I avoided the subject. But I do trust you.”

“My attitude won’t change Carol. You didn’t suddenly become someone else. You are still the same person that you were five minutes ago to me. Sure you are now a very successful person,” she added with a grin. “But you are before and foremost Rindy’s mother, and dare I say, my friend?”

“Of course,” Carol smiled, relieved. “We are friends.” She had a sudden urge to take her in her arms.

Instead, she checked her watch, a gift from Rindy from last Christmas. “I am sorry I have to pick up Rindy. But I had a great time. Let’s do this again sometime alright?”

“With pleasure. Take care Carol.”

The last thing Carol saw as she walked away, was the brunette’s face and the radiant smile painting her face.

——————

“Come on Therese! You’ll have fun! And besides, how long has it been since you got laid?”

“No no! You can’t mention my sex life. This is off-limits.”

“Of course I can. Especially since you become more easily irritated and irritating. You might need a little… pick-me-up,” he added, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Ugh, this is so embarrassing. Fine, I’ll go. But,” Therese added quickly, pointing her finger at Dannie to make her point the clearest possible, “don’t expect me to necessarily go home with her.”

“Of course, of course.” If Therese could wipe off the grin that had taken its place on Dannie’s face, we sure would.

It had merely been a week since she had seen Carol. They had texted a bit in the meantime and had agreed to go for drinks the next time Rindy was at her father’s. She had had a great time with the blonde and was already looking forward to meeting her again. She realized she enjoyed the company of the older woman a lot. But right now, she was enjoying Dannie’s company way less. He had somehow arranged her a date with one of his colleagues at the Times.

Dannie was a journalist, and so was Genevieve apparently. Genevieve let out the other day that she was only interested in women and not even five minutes later, she had agreed to meet Dannie’s mysterious best friend who extraordinarily also happened to be a lesbian. And Dannie, sweet Dannie, had decided that the best moment to announce to Therese of this unforeseen development in her own dating life was just a few hours before the said date.

Therese swiftly kicked Dannie out and started getting ready. She was a bit nervous, she realized. Not that much compared to the state she had been in before seeing Carol, but still. She hadn’t been on a date in ages and she wanted to look good. She took a shower, applied some light makeup while her hair was drying naturally, and then stood in front of her wardrobe for thirty minutes, her body only covered with her towel.

“What to wear? What to wear?” Therese wondered out loud. “A dress? No, too much effort. Jeans? Not enough effort.” She finally settled on a black skirt stopping mid-thigh and a sky-blue blouse, thinking that a white one would have looked too formal. She put on her heeled strappy sandals and checked herself one last time in the mirror. She looked good. She actually looked more than good but she didn’t see herself as particularly pretty so that was something she couldn’t acknowledge.

She checked the time, took her bag, picked up her key, and locked the door of her apartment before heading for the subway.

They were meeting at a restaurant in the village and when she arrived, Genevieve was already waiting in front of it. Thank God Dannie had shown Therese a picture of her so she would be able to recognize her date.

Genevieve was wearing a very tight black dress, hugging her figure perfectly and Therese was reminded how Carol’s simple jeans and blouse had embraced her curves and made a basic outfit look like a tailor-made runway look.

“You must be Therese?” Genevieve's wide smile suddenly appeared in front of her.

“I take it you are Genevieve.” She answered, trying to sound enthusiastic. If the taller brunette had noticed any discomfort, she didn’t show it since the next thing she did was hug, no crush Therese within her arms.

As Genevieve softly whispered “I’m so glad we’re finally meeting,” Therese could only think about how Genevieve was squeezing her. She noticed the difference with the warm and soft embrace that she had experienced with Carol merely a week ago. She could have stayed in Carol’s arms for hours, whereas right now, she couldn’t wait for Genevieve to release her.

Stop. What is wrong with you? Stop thinking about Carol like that. She’s your friend. She internally chastised herself.

“All pleasure is mine,” she then added aloud to Genevieve and she stepped off the hug. “Shall we go inside?”

“Let’s.”

Genevieve guided Therese into the restaurant with a hand on her back, which seemed to burn through her skin.

And not the good kind of burning.

——————

Almost two hours later and Therese was convinced time had never passed this slowly. The restaurant was good, not exceptional, but she had drunk more than expected on a first date to put up with Genevieve's constant rambling about her job, her trips, her friends, and what else? Oh yes, her. Therese was once again thinking about how talking with Carol felt like a real conversation. How Carol had asked questions about Therese and had listened intently to her, had waited for her to find the right words to explain herself. Somehow Therese had managed to squeeze in the discussion with Genevieve that she was a teacher and was passionate about photography but it stopped there. Nothing more personal. God how she wished she was anywhere else right now. They were done with their plates, so surely it shouldn’t be too long before she could go home and call Dannie to let him know how strongly she despised him right now.

“You know years ago when I was backpacking through Western Europe, I was just outside Barcelona-” Therese's interest was suddenly picked and she sharply looked at Genevieve, “I was at the end of this path and I came to a clearing-”

No way. She didn’t. She must be joking. Wait I think she actually is serious.

She let Genevieve finish her ‘story’ as she silently made a sign to the waiter for the note. She still felt guilty about letting Carol pay the past week and, even though the evening with Genevieve could not compare to the amazing lunch with Carol in a million years, she was determined to not let that happen again. She feigned surprise when Genevieve reached the part of the woman crying in her story, paid the bill, got up and took her bag once Genevieve was truly done.

They were outside, Therese thinking of a way to say goodbye without seeming too rude when Genevieve slowly approached her and put a hand on her waist.

“Do you want to get some drinks? My apartment is pretty close and I’m certain I have some vodka there.” She asked with a voice Therese assumed was meant to be seductive.

Therese was about to politely decline when- “Miss Belivet?”

To her biggest surprise and mortification, she saw Rindy Aird standing in front of her as she turned around. And behind her, because bad news never comes alone, approached Carol. Magnificent, more beautiful than ever, Carol.

“Oh hi Rindy.” Therese instantly blushed, then looked behind the little girl, “Hello Carol.” Rindy looked at her mother confused, probably not knowing that they knew each other.

Carol on the other hand seemed to have a stiffness going through her entire body as her eyes set on the brunette. She coldly answered “Hi” while looking down at Therese's waist. Therese, observing every movement the older woman was making, caught the peculiar look and realized with horror that Genevieve’s hand was still on her waist.

She quickly took a huge step back and tried to calm her breathing as she heard “Come on, Rindy. Miss Belivet is obviously busy, let’s not bother her more than we already did.”

Rindy turned once again to Therese, looked at the woman by her side, seemed to come to a realization, and happily exclaimed “See you on Monday.”

Therese was certain she had never been more uncomfortable in her life. And she had experienced Sister Alicia catching her making out with a girl when she was fourteen.

“Bye Rindy. Goodbye Carol.”

When they had disappeared from her line of sight, she turned to Genevieve, who was grinning like the cheshire cat. But that smile slowly faded when she heard Therese's next words.

“I am just gonna go home. But thank you for the lovely evening.”

“Oh alright. Do you want to do that again sometimes?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Therese looked down, “I’m sorry.”

She didn’t let time for Genevieve to answer, fearing she would spiral again into one of her never-ending monologues.

“It was nice meeting you. Bye!”

She said as she waved and walked away.

I’m going to murder Dannie.

Chapter Text

“Mom?”

Carol was on her couch, pretending to read a book, her mind swirling with a million thoughts when she heard Rindy coming down the stairs. She put her book on her lap and turned around.

“Yes honey?”

Her mini-self sat in the armchair at her right and Carol turned to her, tucking her feet under her so she could face her properly. 

“How do you know Miss Belivet?”

It had been four days since they had run into Therese and Carol had anticipated Rindy to ask much earlier. But she first wanted to have a sense of Rindy’s mood about her being friends with her teacher.

“What do you mean sweet pea?” She feigned ignorance.

“Well, when we saw her last Sunday she greeted you, but not like someone you vaguely met, you know. She called you Carol.

Carol sighed. “How would you feel about me being friends with her?”

“Wait what? You are friends?”

Carol waited, not knowing what kind of reaction that was.

“Finally!”

That was something she didn’t expect. “What do you mean finally?” She chuckled.

“Mom, as much as I love you, you have to admit your life only turns around me, aunt Abby and your work.”

“And what is wrong with that?” She raised an eyebrow.

Rindy was quick to clarify. “Absolutely nothing. But it is nice that you meet and get along with other people. And not like you do at work or parties. Really get along. How did it happen anyway?”

“Naturally.” At Rindy’s hand sign urging her to keep going, she sighed. “I had a reunion at your school the other week and I apologized for taking your homework and switching it with my documents. And I don’t know. I guess we hit it off. We went for a coffee and had a nice time and... that’s it really.” 

Rindy got up and sat next to her mom. Carol could feel the teasing coming from miles. “You secretive little thing! Since when do we keep things from each other?”

Carol scoffed, “I don’t tell you everything that is happening in my life sweet pea.”

“I know mom, but still. You could have told me. What? You were afraid of my reaction?” Seeing a shy smile appearing on her mother’s face she giggled. “I don’t care if you are friends with my teacher. I can make the difference between school and home. You have to give me more credit than that! Besides, it’s not like she’s going to hang around here all the time.”

“You’re right, you’re right. Now you know everything. I have two friends instead of one. Can you let me finish my chapter?”

“No, I want to watch a movie,” Rindy said giving her puppy eyes.

No need to say they spent the rest of the evening watching rom-coms.

 

As Carol was laying in bed that night, her mind was once again preoccupied, as it had been for the past four days. 

She couldn’t get the image of Therese out of her brain. Running into her was something she definitely hadn’t pictured happening. She remembers Rindy’s face suddenly illuminating with recognition as they were walking next to each other and Carol was telling her about Abby's new girlfriend. She had followed Rindy’s gaze and right in front of them had been Therese. Therese with a woman . Therese with a woman who had her hand on her waist . That hand was imprinted in Carol’s memory. She hadn’t been able to tear her eyes away from it at the moment, and it’s all she could see right now.

The fact that this hand belonged to a woman shouldn’t have surprised Carol but it did. Therese was obviously on a date with that woman. And Carol didn’t know was upset her more. That Therese was on a date, that it was with a woman, or that she could go on a date freely without worrying who would see her and who would care about her sexual orientation. 

Yes, Carol had been with women. She had before Harge, at a time where dating was easier for her. And she had after Harge, twice. But she had not dated them, they had been one-night stands. A need to feel someone’s body and mostly a need for some kind of release. 

And she was certain these women didn’t know who she was. For both two women, it had been strangers, one met at a bar and the other one met at one of Abby’s parties. For both women, Carol had gone to their place, not hers. And for both women, she hadn’t spent the night. It had been sex. Nothing more. She had needed it at the moment and that was it. It wasn’t lost on her that except for Harge, she had only been with women all her life. Rindy knew that she was attracted to women. She had known as soon as she had been grown enough to care about her mother’s love life. And Abby knew of course. Hell, even Harge knew. But she was aware that coming out publicly would make her career take a turn, whether she wanted it or not. She could not go on a date as Therese did. She could not stand on the street with another woman’s hand on her waist. Yes, she didn’t get that recognized, but she couldn’t risk it. And seeing Therese in a situation she could never be, made her realize how upset it made her.

But that wasn’t all. She didn’t spend hours thinking about two women being able to date each other in the daylight. She spent hours thinking about that hand on her waist. And she didn’t know why. That is what upset her the most. 

Therese was her friend . They had seen each other only twice, three times if she counted the night she saw her in the park. They hadn’t seen each other since and Carol had refrained herself from texting her. She was her friend. She should be happy her friend might find someone. She deserved it. 

The hand on her waist once again appeared as she closed her eyes. She sighed and turned on her side.

She was her friend, for fuck’s sake. 

——————

Friday night, Carol was exhausted. This week had been a mess. First of all, Paris and Milan fashion weeks were finished so New York would be next week, and absolutely nothing seemed to go as planned. She had made a rule years ago to not let work get the upper hand over Rindy. Carol knew how valuable her time with her was and she wanted to be actively part of her daughter’s life, to eat with her, make dinners for her, to spend nights curled up on the couch watching some tv or listening to Rindy’s latest gossip. 

And she had succeeded. She was successful enough to be able to hire assistants. Of course, she was still at the head, and her days were more than hectic. But every night, around 6 pm, she was at home and disconnected the work part of her brain in order to be solely focused on her daughter.

But this was New York fashion week. She had a million things to do, a million things to think about and she didn’t need photographers getting lost, outfits in the wrong size being delivered, and her morning iced latte spilled on her desk to make her days more complicated. 

As she left Reflections at 11 pm, Carol was finally able to breathe properly. Everything was set. Next week should go smoothly. They had backup plans in case, God forbid, something went wrong, and backup plans in case the backup plans went wrong. 

Work hadn’t been the only complicated thing for her this week though. If only. Even in the middle of this mess, her mind seemed to constantly circle back to Therese and that damned hand. But she promised herself she wouldn’t give it more thought. At least not until fashion week was over. And certainly not this weekend.

Abby was back from Paris. And to celebrate, she was organizing a party on Saturday night at her superb loft, two blocks away from Carol’s. It wasn’t a professional event, but formal enough that Rindy was waiting for her at home with several dresses they had ordered last week and others she had been gifted, as she sometimes was by deisgners, to make sure she would be dressed properly. 

The elevator doors opened and Carol stepped into the comfort of her home. Rindy was on the couch, watching Friends for the millionth time, with the dresses hung on a hanging rail next to her. 

“Hello snowflake,” Carol announced her presence as she leaned down to kiss her daughter’s head. “I’m sorry for arriving so late. Today was frantic. Thank God it’s over. How was your day?” She asked as she removed her trench coat and burgundy ankle boots.

Rindy paused her episode. “It was good. Not as chaotic as you obviously,” she added with a smile. “Oh, by the way, I made some pesto pasta and saved you a plate.”

“You are the best, I am starving.”

Carol ate dinner as they finished watching the episode together. It was the one where Phoebe, Monica, and Rachel were taking dance classes. Carol and Rindy had memorized the dance years ago and of course , had to do it once again when the time of the choreography came. Rindy turned the TV off when the episode was over.

“Alright so I’ve already looked through the dress when they arrived earlier and they are all gorgeous but and Mom, one is incredible. And I think it’s not too much, but it’s elaborated enough.”

“I’ve taught you well.” Carol laughed. “Let’s look at it then.”

She started rummaging through her options. “This one’s too sparkly. Too short. I am not a big fan of this color honestly,” she was thinking out loud. “What about this one?” She pulled out a one-shoulder evening black dress.

“Yes! That’s the one! Try it on!” Rindy exclaimed.

Carol laughed as she headed toward the bathroom. “Alright, alright. Give me a second. I don’t want you to see it until I have it on.”

She quickly undressed and put on the dress. She had a zipper easily attainable, which gave the dress an extra point. She smoothed it down and then turned to the mirror. She gasped. The dress was magnificent. Hugging her figure in the right way. Cinching her waist and accentuating her forms. She had insecurities about her body, even more as she was getting older, but the dress seemed to hide what needed to be hidden and put into light her best features. She didn’t need to try the others on. 

“Okay, are you ready?” She yelled at Rindy.

“Yes! Hurry!” She heard from the living room.

She chuckled and came back. She put on a show for her daughter, feeling utterly confident in the dress. Walked and posed like her models. Rindy’s mouth hung open. 

“Mom. I- wow. You look amazing.”

“You think this is the one?”

“Oh definitely. You should never wear anything else.” She stood and circled around Carol checking every side. They were now used to doing some fittings together and Rindy always objectively pointed out what worked and what didn’t work in Carol’s outfits. Her sense of fashion developed a lot during the years and she was now Carol’s best stylist. She always had something to criticize, something that could be improved. So Carol was stunned when Rindy stood in front of her and said.

“It’s perfect. I have nothing to say.”

“A dress made you speechless? This day is going down in history.”

Rindy laughed. “Stop, you know I only mean the best.”

“Even when you hid your eyes so you couldn’t see my- what were the words -‘hideous blouse’?”

“Yes even then. Now you should send a thank you note to-” she checked the tag, “Armani, because this is one hell of a gift.”

“I will. Now if you don’t mind. I will go put on my pajamas so I can finally, finally rejoin my bed. Are you ready for your father to pick you up tomorrow?”

“Yes, my bag is already packed. But I’m staying with you until I see the final look, with makeup and all, remember?”

“Of course. Goodnight sweetheart.” She kissed her daughter’s cheek, turned the light off as Rindy went up to her bedroom, and joined hers that was on the ground floor. 

——————

Less than twenty-four hours later, Carol was by Abby’s side, greeting several guests, making small talk with others. Abby, as usual, hadn’t done things by half. Around a hundred people were here, there was a huge buffet in front of her large windows from which you could see New York illuminated. It had been organized at her place as she owned a huge penthouse freshly redecorated. 

Carol would be lying if she said she wasn’t having a good time. There were a lot of people she hadn’t seen for months, or only for work conferences, and it was nice to catch up in a more relaxed environment. Abby was in top form. She had missed her best friend and was eager to finally introduce Elena to Carol. To Carol’s understanding, things were now quite serious as Elena had decided to join Abby in Europe the whole time she was there. They had decided to officialize their relationship and had been captured by some paparazzi earlier in the week holding hands and kissing in the street. Abby was glowing and Carol doubted she had ever seen a bigger smile on her face. 

As Carol was talking to Jeannette, the wife of one of Harge’s former associates she had stayed close to, she saw Abby approaching her, a redhead by her side. 

“Excuse me Jeannette, I have to meet someone.” She touched her shoulder as she directed her attention to her friend.

“You must be the famous Elena. Nice to finally meet you.” She said as she took a nervous Elena in her arms. She felt her relaxing as she returned the hug.

Abby introduced them. “Elena this is Carol. Carol well this is obviously Elena.”

“How is Le Bleuet doing?”

“Really great! We’re booked every day for two months already. I might be thinking about managing another one of my restaurants. This is where I really thrive.” She smiled proudly. 

“I will definitely have to come and try it then! I might even need to call quickly if I want to have a reservation before next year.”

“Absolutely not. Abby has her own daily spot. She will just have to make a little room for you one day. Will you?” She asked Abby playfully as she pinched her waist, and Carol was instantly reminded of another hand on another waist. She drifted once again in her thoughts as the couple in front of her kept bickering. Abby suddenly lifted her head as she heard her name. 

“Oh that’s Phil! Elena, you remember Phil?” Elena nodded. “Carol, he's the journalist that did my last interview for The Times , the one I told you was hilarious.”

“Yes I remember. You were laughing so much you couldn’t even recount the jokes correctly.”

“Well, he’s the one coming our way. And I notice he brought some friends as I told him to. The more the merrier!”

Carol laughed as she turned towards the very esteemed Phil. But her laugh died very quickly when she saw behind him a rather short man and a similarly short brunette by his side. The brunette to whom belonged the waist she had been thinking about for a week. 

She saw in the corner of her eyes Phil and Abby hugging, but she couldn’t take hers eyes off Therese. 

“How are you doing Phil? This is Elena, my girlfriend, God it still feels weird to say that word,” she chuckled, “and Carol, my dearest friend.” 

As she heard her name, Carol reluctantly turned her face towards Phil, put a gentle smile on her face, and shook his hand as she tried to calm her racing heart. 

“Nice to meet you Carol.”

“Likewise.”

“This is my brother Dannie, and our friend Therese Belivet.”

Dannie and Therese who had stayed a bit behind appreciating Abby’s decoration approached the group and Carol saw surprise appear on the brunette’s face as her green eyes met hers. 

Carol was finally able to look at Therese's whole outfit and-

-holy shit.

She looked amazing. 

Therese was wearing a white beaded dress. The length went all to her ankles but it was see-through. Under it, she had this white fitted mini dress. The collar was magnificent, also breaded. And the whole look was cinched. 

She let her eyes go through her body and appreciate this newly discovered skin. She has never seen Therese wear something this revealing. But there was still something deeply elegant, a timeless beauty in her. 

Carol’s eyes then joined Therese's face and her knees went weak. 

Control yourself . Where the hell is this coming from? Have you never seen a woman before in your life? Stop acting like a horny teenager.

Therese had put on some slight makeup, making her green eyes stand out. Her hair was straightened and slicked back, her length smoothly put behind her ears.

She looked beyond gorgeous.

Carol objectively knew that Therese was a beautiful woman. But she had only seen her at work and in everyday clothes. And she already had to remind herself not to stare for too long. But right now, the hand on the waist was long forgotten. Carol had to remember that she was in public, and Abby had already realized how flushed she was, as nothing could escape her since they were able to read each other like an open book. 

“Carol are you okay?”

Carol snapped out of her stupor, “I’m sorry, you said something?”

“Dannie asked you a question.”

She turned towards him, hoping no one could notice she was subtly blushing. “My apologies, something must have come to my mind.”

“Indeed,” Abby mumbled. Carol gave her a death stare.

“Oh, I was just asking what you are doing. As a job I mean.” He clarified, clearly uncomfortable.

Carol felt somewhat ashamed by the reaction she had had. “I own a model agency.” She smiled softly, trying to calm the young man’s nerves. 

“And what do you do, Therese?” Abby suddenly asked. Carol felt her best friend was going to tease her for weeks about the little gay panic she just had. 

“I am a teacher. Actually Rindy-” she pointed to Carol “-is one of my students.” 

Abby’s eyes opened wide and looked at Carol. “What a coincidence! So you two know each other?”

“Yes, we actually grabbed a coffee a couple of weeks ago.”

“You don’t say?” 

Busted. Carol would never hear the end of it. She mentally told Abby to shut up and decided to ignore her teasing smile as she turned towards Therese once again.

“Yes, and it was quite lovely. It’s nice to see you again Therese.” She smiled at the brunette and ignored her accelerating heartbeat when the younger woman smiled back. She really needed to calm down. It had been too long since she had been with a woman, that’s it. She needed to get a grip. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to get some fresh air.”

——————

Carol was on the balcony smoking a cigarette. It didn’t happen often anymore since she had been pregnant but she sometimes craved one when her nerves got the better of her. And boy they did tonight. 

She didn’t understand the reaction she had had from seeing Therese. Was she the last person she expected to encounter here? Of course. Was she absolutely thrilled to coincidently come across her? There was no denying it. But why did she have such a strong reaction? 

After being able to calm herself, she had felt a pleasant feeling take place in her stomach. 

She was alone at the moment. She didn’t go to the main balcony accessible through the living room, but a private one connected to Abby’s room only she, Abby, and she supposed Elena, knew about. She enjoyed those parties, had been enjoying this one so far, but she often felt quickly overwhelmed by all those vague acquaintances making superficial small talk and throwing around fake smiles as if they were better than anyone here. Sure it was nice to connect with people outside of work, but two hours were more than enough for her and as it was approaching 11 pm, she had been here for almost three. She consciously decided to ignore that tonight in particular, Therese might have played a part in the need to get some moment alone to pull herself back together. 

So here she was. Alone on Abby’s balcony, smoking a cigarette, looking at Manhattan buildings lightened up, looking at the cars passing by in the streets. She found it oddly comforting. All those people always with somewhere to go. A purpose in mind. A goal to achieve. As if they exactly knew what they were supposed to do, who they were supposed to be, how certain they were of how their life would turn out. 

She never had that certainty. She worked hard to find it in work, but her personal life had always been full of surprising shifts. Not always positive ones, as she recalled the years leading to her marriage, then to her divorce and the custody battle. Being a mother was one of her purposes. And she almost lost it. That’s why she fought so hard to raise Rindy, to raise her herself and build a relationship with her. 

But even though she would always be her daughter, Rindy was her own person. She would one day go on with her life. And as much as she loved her, Carol’s purpose in life couldn’t only be raising her daughter. Because if it was, she would never get over her flying by her own wings. And she wouldn’t become one of those mothers that fell apart or categorically refused that their children leave the house in order to follow their own path. All she wanted for her daughter was to be happy. To be one of those people she could see in the streets, joining their future, running towards their dreams. 

“I am not interrupting anything am I?” Carol heard a voice behind her and turned around. “You seem like you could use some company.” Therese stepped into the balcony, a soft smile gracing her lips. 

“Of course, come here.” Carol invited her, making a sign with her hand, and turned back towards the buildings. “How did you find me?” She teased.

“I asked Abby if she had seen you and she said she saw you going this way. So I kind of explored a couple of rooms before finding this one.” She slightly blushed. 

“You should feel honored. Abby is very secretive about this little place. You must have charmed her.”

Therese laughed. “If my charms worked that well, believe me, I’d use them more often.”

Carol tensed as she remembered how Therese’s charms must have worked for a hand to land on her waist. 

“Speaking of charms. I hope we didn’t interrupt anything last week with Rindy? I am sorry we should have left you alo-”

“Oh not at all! On the contrary.” Therese smiled broadly. “You saved me from an uncomfortable moment where my date couldn’t see I clearly wasn’t interested in her.”

No, Carol absolutely didn’t feel a knot in her stomach considerably loosen. She didn’t feel her shoulder relax. 

“Well, in this case, I am glad we were able to help.”

They fell into silence as both continued to stare at the lively city. At some point, Carol lighted another cigarette and they automatically shared it. Carol loved how comfortable she felt with Therese. As they were both at ease, enjoying each other’s presence, sometimes brushing each other’s fingers as they passed the cigarette from one to another. When Therese finished it,  threw it into the ashtray and asked.

“Do you want to get out of here?”

Carol grinned broadly. “I thought you would never ask.” 

Chapter Text

They hailed a cab and before Therese could think twice, she gave her address to the driver. She figured if Carol wanted to leave a party full of people, it wasn’t to go to a bar full of other people. Carol raised her eyebrows at Therese, silently asking for confirmation and when Therese nodded, she smiled, appreciative, and stared outside the window as the cab went through the city’s streets. 

Therese took the opportunity to unashamedly stare at her. She was reminded once again how breathtaking Carol was. When she first saw her earlier this evening, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Carol was actually standing in front of her, at Phil's friend's party of all places. She should have expected it though. She knew about Carol’s job, she was constantly surrounded by models and of course, the blonde would have been here, even if the host hadn't been her literal best friend. 

Nonetheless, she was glad for the surprise. First of all because if she had known, she wouldn’t have been able to think about anything else for the entire week. And the older woman already took enough place in her thoughts. 

Carol's cold stare had been printed in her mind since last Saturday. She had tried to not take it personally, Carol was probably preoccupied with a million things. But she hadn’t been able to stop herself from wondering if she had done something wrong. 

She had been so worried that she had almost, almost , forgotten her tiny crush on Carol. However, life can be funny sometimes and she had been reminded of it quite abruptly tonight. Carol was mesmerizing. Her dress looked like its only purpose was to be worn by the blonde. Therese remembered how stunning Carol had looked every time she had met her. But to actually see her in a designer dress, are cheekbones and collarbones more prominent than ever, her hair gently curled, her presence simply outshining everyone else in the room. Therese had blushed when she had realized she had been staring for three minutes straight when she met Carol’s look and did she seem as flustered as her? 

Carol’s smile had then made Therese’s doubts evaporate, and she felt more than comfortable by the time she joined Carol on the balcony. And here they were. On their way to Therese’s apartment. Therese mentally listed what she had there to drink to offer to Carol. She absolutely didn’t plan to have some company and was praying that it was tidy enough, but not too much that it would make her appear like a control freak. She also hoped Carol wouldn’t be disappointed by where she lived. She was a professor, in one of the greatest schools of the city yes, but still a professor. And she definitely wasn’t able to rent a place looking like where they just came from, or like the kind of luxury and grandiose Carol was used to.

Breathe, Therese. It’s just Carol. It’s not like she would judge you on something so shallow. It’s not like she would judge you at all. 

“We’re here.” The driver announced as he stopped in front of Therese’s building. Therese paid him before Carol could even think about it, and raised her eyebrows at the older woman when saw her open her mouth to protest. They both thanked him and got out. The building didn’t have an elevator and given it was now more than 11:30 pm, they didn’t talk as they walked up the stairs. 

Therese led the way and opened her door feeling Carol's warmth behind her since the hallway wasn’t large enough for them to be at a reasonable distance. As she got in, she quickly cast an eye at her leaving room and was relieved to see it looked clean enough but still like a person was living there.

“It’s really lovely,” Carol said as she took a look from the entrance.

“Here, let me grab your coat.” Therese offered. “I like it. It’s not much but-”

“It’s very welcoming. It suits you.” Carol added with a soft smile. 

Therese instantly blushed and internally cursed herself for reacting like a schoolgirl and decided to steer the conversation towards another topic.

“Can I offer you something to drink? I have beers, white wine, I might have some bourbon left if you’re craving something stronger. Oh, and you can take off your shoes. Don’t worry I don’t expect you to stay in those heels.” 

Carol smile gratefully. “Wine is perfect thank you.”

Therese grabbed the bottle in one of her kitchen cupboards as she kept a discreet eye on Carol who was observing the pictures framed on her walls. The apartment wasn’t big. But Therese felt good in it. Her kitchen and living room were big enough that she was able to invite some friends over. Her couch was put against the wall, two of her favorite photographs framed above it. It was facing a tv and a corner unit on which Therese had displayed her record player and her most basic camera that she brought everywhere, next to a vase filled with tulips. In the piece of furniture were stored her huge collection of vinyl records. The record player and her first vinyl record ‘Easy Living’ had been a gift from Sister Alicia for Therese’s 14th birthday, and she had kept expanding her collection ever since.

Carol was now rummaging through the records as Therese brought their glasses, put  them on her coffee table and sat on her couch. 

“Can we play one?” Carol asked.

“Of course.” Therese smiled. “Choose the one you want.”

A minute later, the melody of ‘No Other Love’ by Joe Stafford was filling the air. Carol joined Therese on the couch, swaying a bit and by doing so, Therese caught a scent of her fragrance. 

“Oh, your perfume.”

Carol took a sip of the wine and Therese watched her throat move as she swallowed, she was hypnotized and Carol’s deep voice didn’t help. “Yes?”

Therese refocused her attention on Carol’s face and smile. “It’s nice.”

 

“Thank you.” Another sip and Carol put her glass down. “Harge bought me a bottle years ago and I’ve been wearing it ever since.”

“How come?”

“I don’t really know. It was when we first got together, so I think it became a part of me, whether I wanted it to be or not.”

“Did you? Wanted it to become a part of you?” Therese clarified. “I mean with a difficult divorce, people tend to get rid of things that remind them of their former spouse.”

“Harge is a part of me. I can get rid of everything I want, he will always be. Besides I like this perfume. And it would also mean I have to throw Rindy away.” She grinned and curved her left eyebrow to make it clear that she was teasing.

Therese laughed. “Point taken.” She then paused for a second, contemplating her next question, took a sip before putting her glass down too, and asked, “How did things unravel with Harge?”

She saw Carol being visibly startled by the question and Therese instantly regretted it. “I’m sorry, that was out of line. You don’t have to answer.” She lowered her head in shame. 

“No, it’s alright.” Carol caught Therese’s eyes and smiled softly. “I just… wasn’t expecting it.” She chuckled. “I don’t think I ever had to explain it to someone. The real reasons I mean. Of course, I had to explain it to get Rindy’s custody and released a short statement to the press. But Abby lived it with me, so I never had anyone ask that question.”

Carol was rumbling. Carol was nervous. She shakingly put a lock of hair behind her ear and Therese didn’t say anything. Waited for Carol to decide if she wanted to talk about it. Letting her lead the conversation that was obviously substantial for Carol.

She opened her mouth twice searching for words before actually beginning a sentence. “You asked, told me the other day that you hoped I was able to live freely, to be my entirely complete self. I can’t. I mean I can but to a certain extent. I can with Rindy, with Abby, and hopefully with you.” She took a deep breath and Therese listened attentively. “Harge… couldn’t understand certain parts of me. I think he always knew it was there, it’s not like I was trying to hide it when I first met him. He either chose to ignore it or thought he could change it, or that it didn’t matter. I don’t really. But it did. Matter. And he wasn’t able to change it. It’s not something you can change, it’s me. It’s a part of me.”

Therese tried not to think too much about what the meaning behind Carol’s words was. She had absolutely no clue what she was talking about and didn’t want to get a wrong guess and make her uncomfortable. So she nodded slowly making Carol understand that she could go on. This was a safe place. 

Carol took a deep breath. “Harge is the only man I ever dated.”

That was something Therese didn’t expect.

“But he is not the only person I dated.”

Oh.

Oh.  

“Carol,” Therese began carefully scared to misunderstand, “are you trying to explain to me that you are-”

“gay. Yes. I know it probably doesn’t make sense because I have been married to a man for 7 years. And I obviously was with him in more than one way, Rindy being here confirms that. And I know what you must think. That the whole idea of me being with a man for so many years but not being attractive to him is simply inconceivable. That I’m trying to see things where they are not. But I don’t think I’ve ever been really attracted to him. Is he objectively a handsome man? Yes. But did I ever felt deeply attracted to him? I’m not going to go into the details of our intimacy but it was rather mechanical. And I thought it was just him. But I never looked at another man. I don’t even understand how I ended up being married to Harge. Not that I would change it, he gave me Rindy, but-”

“Hey Carol, Carol.” Therese took Carol’s hand to stop her rambling. “Hey, I understand.” She smiled softly trying to put the blonde at ease. “It’s okay, I understand.” Therese’s thumb caressed Carol’s knuckle in a soothing manner and she was about to release her hand after a squeeze when she felt Carol gripping it. Therese certainly wasn’t going to move hers now. She looked at Carol and her eyes welled up with tears. 

“You do?” She whispered.

“Of course. You being married to Harge doesn’t change who you are Carol. It doesn’t change what you feel. Who put those ideas into your head?”

“My- my mom… I tried to explain to her why we were divorcing, she had always been so fond of Harge. And she shut me out. Said it was just a mid-life crisis. That because I was unhappy I was looking for excuses. I know she was wrong, but I guess it stuck,” she shrugged as a tear fell down her cheek, dismissing how hurt she had felt hearing those words coming out of her mom’s mouth. 

“She was wrong Carol, she still is. What you felt back then, what you are feeling, that’s what is right.” Therese softly caught the tear with her left thumb, as her right hand was still clasped into Carol’s. “What you told me. It must have been difficult for you. I feel really proud right now you trusted me enough to share that part of you with me.”

“Of course.” Carol smiled, a real smile this time, and released Therese’s hand. Therese instantly felt the warmth coming from Carol’s touch disappear. The blonde then got up. Whispered a quiet thank you , and went back to look at Therese’s pictures discarded on her counter. 

“Those are really beautiful Therese.”

“Oh, they’re just practices. I wasn’t really focused that day.” She dismissed.

“If those aren’t some you judge good, then I’m curious to see your favorite ones.” 

“Stay here, I’ll go look for them.” Therese was glad for the brief distance. She went to her darkroom, a rather big closet that she had managed to transform. And took three of her most beautiful pictures. She stopped for a second and took a deep breath. The more she found out about Carol, the more she wanted to know. She was undoubtedly the most magnificent person she had ever met. But Carol tonight revealed herself. She trusted Therese. She felt safe enough that she told her what only three other people knew, four if you counted Harge. It made Therese feel pretty special. However, she didn’t let herself linger on the fact that Carol was a lesbian. It didn’t change the fact that, even if Carol was attracted to women, she would never be attracted to Therese. It didn’t mean a thing. But Therese was fine with that, they were friends. That was enough. She could happily live with being Carol’s friend. 

She took one last breath and joined Carol back into the living room. She silently passed them to her and attentively looked for any kind of reaction. After what must have been the ten longest minutes of Therese's life, Carol lifted her head and said.

“Therese, you are even more talented than I ever thought, and the bar was already pretty high.” Therese’s dimples instantly appeared. “I mean it. Believe me, I have seen professionally taken pictures, I have met hundreds of photographers, but this... you... It reminds me why photography is considered as art.”

Against her will, Therese felt herself tearing up. “Thank you, Carol, it means the world.”

“Have you ever thought of pursuing photography? Professionally I mean.”

“Well actually…” Carol’s eyebrows shot up, “I never thought I was talented enough, it started simply at the orphanage. But Dannie’s friend owns a gallery and he saw some of my pictures the last time he was at Dannie’s place, and Marc, that’s his name, he’s going to display a couple of them next week at a fundraiser.”

“Therese!” Carol exclaimed, beaming with joy. “Why didn’t you start with that! That’s fantastic!”

“It’s not my exhibition or anything, but it’s still something.” Therese felt proud. To have her pictures shown, even in the mass of a hundred other art pieces, felt like a huge accomplishment. 

“Of course it is! Congratulations, darling.” And before Therese could comprehend, could begin to register what Carol had called her. She was surrounded by Carol's senses. Carol was hugging her. But not a quick hug as if to say good for you , but a real hug, a hug that screamed I feel so proud of you and I couldn’t be happier for you

She could feel Carol’s breath on her neck. Her soft hair touching her cheek. Her arms encircling her tiny waist and her palms pressed on her lower back. The perfume she had distantly felt earlier was now enveloping Therese, and all her brain could decipher was Carol. Carol everywhere. Only Carol. 

She hugged her even tighter and heard, or felt she didn’t really decipher all that was happening, a soft breath being released. Therese felt Carol relax in the embrace and closed her eyes. 

After a few minutes wrapped in each other, Therese felt like it had lasted 10 seconds and a lifetime simultaneously, Carol pulled back slowly. But not entirely. Carol kept her hands on Therese’s waist, where Genevieve’s had been a week earlier. But this time, it felt nice. It felt more than nice. Therese wanted those hands to stay exactly at this place forever. Their eyes met, and Therese realized how closed they were when she noticed Carol’s freckles. You could see them only if you were this close to her face. And Therese wanted to memorize them, every single one of them. 

They had both stopped breathing, or maybe they were, Therese didn’t know. Everything had faded around her. All she could see was Carol, her freckles, her grey eyes, her lips. Their noses were almost touching, and she could feel Carol breathing against her lips.

Then suddenly Carol pulled back. Therese regained consciousness and blushed profusely.

Carol looked everywhere except at Therese, she also seemed… startled, by what had just transpired between the two of them. Therese couldn’t have been the only one to feel it, right? This pull. This urge to get closer.

“It’s getting late, I should probably go.”

“Let me hail you a cab” Therese offered.

“No don’t bother, you already did so much.” Carol smiled delicately at the brunette. She went to put on her coat and Therese followed her into the entrance. Carol turned one last time to her. “Thank you, Therese. So much. For everything . It means more than you can imagine.” She smiled. “And congratulations again.”

And she was gone.

And Therese was left, speechless, on her doorstep, trying to convince herself that being friends with Carol was enough. 

Chapter Text

“Alright, that’s it for today. Don’t forget your first essay is due tomorrow.” Therese addressed her last class of the morning as the bell was ringing. “You can leave now. And please do it calmly.” She quickly added as she started to hear the scraping of the chair's legs. 

Once every student had left the room, she picked up her bag, closed the door, and went to the staff room to grab some lunch. She had bought something on her way to school this morning, having been quite distracted the night before, enough to forget to prepare something for lunch. 

It was Wednesday, and in two days would be the fundraiser, her photographs being displayed for the first time. She had spent the night before on the phone with Dannie trying to contain her excitement and diminish her nervousness at the same time. They talked about what she could wear. Therese asked about the style of the event and what would be more appropriate. She simply was a bundle of nerves.

And if her brain couldn’t be busy enough, she was constantly thinking about Carol. Carol that she had hugged three days ago. Carol that was gay. Carol that she had almost kissed. Carol who hadn’t given any sign of life since Saturday night when she fled Therese’s apartment. She was wondering what had happened. Had they really been on the verge of kissing? 

Therese sighed. There was nothing good in going over those same thoughts a hundred times again. She quickly finished her lunch and grabbed some papers to grade to distract herself and focus on something else than a certain blonde and a certain exhibition. 

But her peace was short-lived when after ten minutes of grading the copies, her phone buzzed with an incoming call. Upon seeing the name of the caller, she picked it up right away.

“Carol,” she beamed.

“Hello Therese.” She could hear the older woman smiling on the other side of the phone. “I hope I am not bothering you. It’s been a hell of a week and I have a ten-minute break before going to another meeting and then getting ready for the Marc Jacobs fashion show.”

Therese was lost at words, as she couldn’t imagine this schedule actually being someone’s day. But it was. And Therese suddenly felt stupid for overthinking Carol’s silence. 

“You’re not bothering me at all. You are actually saving me from grading a very boring paper.” She joked.

She heard Carol giggle. “I’m glad. But I was actually calling about the fundraiser.”

“What about it?”

“Well, I was wondering if you would let me and Rindy come, to see your photographs exposed.” A pause. “Would you?”

Therese couldn’t believe her ears. It was one thing to have Carol being thrilled for her about the opportunity. But to actually take the time to put it in her already overburdened days. It was more than she ever expected. 

“I would love to!” She exclaimed, maybe a bit too cheerfully. “I mean,” she tried to sound less euphoric, “you don’t have to. I know you’re really busy. And I’m sure Rindy would find more interesting ways to spend her Friday night-”

“Nonsense! I already asked her and she said she would get mad at me if I went without her.” Therese laughed. “The nerves of this girl sometimes, I swear.” 

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Therese muttered jokingly.

“Hey! I heard that!”

Therese started laughing so much she received dirty looks from some of her colleagues. She mouthed an apology and focused again on Carol.

“Well, I’d need the hour, I gathered it’s on Friday, and the address too dear.” The endearment, as innocent as it was, made Therese’s stomach flutter.

“Of course, I’ll text you everything.”

“Perfect. I should probably get going anyway. I’ll see you on Friday.” 

“Yes. Good luck for the rest of your week Carol.” Therese was aware she was using every opportunity to say the blonde’s name. 

“Thank you, darling. Have a nice day.” And she hung up. 

Therese could feel herself blushing as the darling made its way to her mind. She checked her watch and saw her first class of the afternoon was starting in ten minutes. She grabbed her stuff and quickly joined her classroom, images of Carol more present than ever as she could still hear her voice and laugh echoing inside her. 

——————

Wait. Why is Carol Ross going to your exhibition?!

“Dannie!” Therese hissed. “Lower your voice for fuck’s sake.”

Therese had gone for drinks with Dannie on Thursday night, a day before the fundraiser. She knew she would only pace up and down in her apartment all night long if she didn’t distract her mind. So when Dannie offered to go to a bar and catch up on the latest gossip, she didn’t think twice before saying yes.

However, she now realized she might have needed to think twice before telling him about Carol coming on Friday night. Or maybe it would have been more preferable to choose another place than a crowded bar to reveal this kind of information. 

“And please stop saying her last name as if she was an alien and not a person who you met and actually got along with.”

“Please, we spoke for barely five minutes, and I didn’t see her for the rest of the night.”

Therese did, and it was one of the most incredible nights she had ever experienced. 

“Come to think of it, I didn’t see you for the rest of the night either.” Therese averted her eyes and kept quiet. She saw Dannie’s eyes opening wide. “You were with her?” Therese instantly blushed and chastised herself for having such strong reactions. “Therese, what is going on here? And don’t try to deny it, I know you and I know you would have mentioned it to me if it wasn’t something really out of the ordinary.”

“I- we-” Therese took a deep breath and tried to regain a normal color on her face. “We met a few weeks ago, and just got along. And she was tired of socializing last Saturday so we just… took off.”

Dannie didn’t miss one beat. 

“Where did you go?”

“...my apartment,” Therese muttered. 

“Ther-”

“No, but it’s not what you think, alright? We just, we became friends. And since she’s,” Therese looked around and whispered “famous, I thought she might want to go somewhere with fewer people, a quiet place.”

“And she’s coming on Friday? With her daughter?”

“I told you already that Rindy is one of my students. It’s not like I have never met her.”

“But she’s not only a friend,” Dannie stated as if it was a fact. 

Therese frowned, trying to hide her discomfort. “Of course she is, I told you-”

“Therese.” His tone was definitive.

“I might have a little, tiny, practically non-existent crush on her. But it’s practically nothing so you don’t need to look all pleased with yourself.”

“We’ll see about that,” Dannie smirked.

“No we will see nothing, she’s a friend.”

“Hum hum. Only a friend who would rather be alone with you than at her best friend’s party, take her daughter to your exhibition although only two pictures are shown, and- oh -did I mention how beautiful your friend is and I’m guessing she’s somehow also interested in women because you wouldn’t have that sparkle in your eyes if she didn’t.” He concluded proudly. 

“Shut up,” Therese muttered while blushing once again and taking a sip of her drink to hide it.

Dannie laughed.

——————

“Okay, how do I look?” Therese stepped out of her room and stood in front of Dannie, who was waiting for her in the living room to be ready so they could take a uber to the exhibition. “Is it too much? Is it too plain?”

“No it’s perfect Therese, you look amazing.” Dannie smiled

She was wearing a black silky dress that stopped right above her knee. It was sleeveless but a black blazer of the same length, left open, was covering her slim body. Her hair, strengthened, was pulled back behind her ears and was cascading over her shoulders, her sharp jawline emphasized. To finish the classy look, a deep red was adorning her lips, making a sharp contrast with her light makeup. Her green eyes were hypnotizing and her brown hair was shining. She was stunning.

Therese laughed nervously. “I hope so. Let’s go, I don’t want to be late.” She grabbed her purse, put on her black stilettos as Dannie strengthened out his suit with his hands, and five minutes later they were in the uber, on their way to the art gallery. 

The driver dropped them right in front of the gallery, they paid him, thanked him, and got out. Therese strengthened her dress with her hands out of nervousness and Dannie gave her an encouraging smile. Since the doors weren’t opened yet, there was a man at the entrance waiting for the artists in order to let them in. Dannie and Therese entered the gallery and Therese’s eyes were suddenly everywhere. 

The fundraiser assembled different forms of arts. There were beautiful statues carved into marble at the center of the room. Colorful paintings were hung on the white walls, their pigmentation greatly emphasized. Pieces of pottery were displayed on high rectangular poles. A cello was neatly waiting in a corner, probably for someone to play throughout the night.

And finally, her eyes landed on her two photographs. They had been put into white frames, directly hanging from the ceiling, only a transparent string holding them was in direct contact with them. It felt like they were floating. Those photographs were two of the series she had taken the night she first caught sight of Carol. They were actually photographs of the shadow she had been experimenting with before her camera focused on the blonde. They weren’t Therese’s best work, but they held some sacred meaning. And Therese felt like you could actually feel it looking at the pictures. And obviously, Marc had felt it too, for the photographs to be there tonight. 

Speaking of Marc, Therese heard his voice on her right and noticed a bar with already some people, she supposed the other artists, with already a glass of wine in their hand, and a buffet just waiting for the gallery to open its doors. On the side of the bar was a door, probably leading to a storehouse and a studio. 

“Therese! I am so glad to see you here.” Marc exclaimed walking towards her with his arms wide open. Therese hugged him and smiled broadly.

“Thank you so much for this opportunity. It is more than I could ever ask for.”

“Stop it, you are here because you’re talented.” He dismissed her comment with a hand gesture and shook Dannie’s hand.

“How are you, Dannie. I’m happy you could come.”

“I’m good! Very excited for tonight.”

“So am I my friend, so am I.”

“Well, I am a bit nervous.” Therese interjected, joking, “but I’m sure it’s normal.”

"Absolutely. Come on you two, I’m going to present you to the other artists. We are expecting a hundred people. Since it’s a fundraiser, all the exposed pieces are to sell and of course, the highest price gets it but spontaneous donations are accepted, but you already know that Therese I think,” Marc explained as they walk to the other artists. “But what I think I didn’t mention is that all donations are anonymous, except if the person personally wants the artist to know they bought their piece. Alright, let me introduce you.”

——————

Two hours later, Therese felt like she had talked to more people during the night than she ever had to talk to. Explaining her art, describing her pictures, telling where that passion came from. All those talks were invigorating but also very exhausting. Her mind was constantly swimming with a hundred thoughts while trying not to constantly repeat herself and hoping to leave a great impression on potential buyers.

Therese was describing the light she had captured and the many other possibilities she had played with in the past to get different shadows to a lovely couple when she noticed several heads turning towards the entrance. Goosebumps instantly appeared on her arms and even though she couldn’t see the doors from where she was standing, she knew what work of art had captured everyone’s attention. She knew who had finally arrived. 

Therese focused again on her conversation but as she was listening to the woman complimenting her work, her breath caught in her throat when she got a glimpse of Carol. 

“And how it reflects on the leaves that seem so delicate, just like crystal on-” the woman’s comments had become background noise.

Carol was wearing a suit. It’s not enough that women in suits were Therese’s weakness, Carol had to wear them better than anybody. She had on grey fishnet pants and an open blazer that showed a white blouse tucked in her pants. The couple finally went to see another piece of art and Therese let her eyes unashamedly roam over Carol’s figure, her waist was fitted, the top two buttons of her blouse undone, her alabaster skin, and the side of her breasts on display.

Therese blushed, and when Carol lifted her head, her grey eyes directly finding Therese’s green ones, the brunette felt an ache between her legs. As Carol started walking towards her, Therese swiftly turned around, trying to even her breathing and come back to her senses. When she heard a deep voice.

“Do I have such a strong effect on you Miss Belivet?”

Therese’s dimples instantaneously popped up. “Carol.” She turned back towards the blonde and said softly. “Hello.” Carol chuckled. “Thank you for coming.”

“Of course! We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Therese was distracted by Carol rubbing her shoulder when her mind caught the we

“Where’s Rindy?”

“She wanted to see the paintings, over there.”

Rindy was indeed in front of a huge canvas with a concentrated look on her face, as if she was trying to figure out how the universe had been created. 

“I told her she could choose how she wanted to redecorate her room and she developed a sudden passion for modern art. So when I offered her to come to see the exhibition with me, she practically jumped for joy.” Therese laughed. She had missed Carol more than she wanted to admit. 

Carol then looked behind Therese and she grew quiet as she saw the photographs. “Therese. These are absolutely beautiful.” She passed the brunette to stand directly in front of them. She noticed the dates in the photographs’ description and looked at Therese, asking for confirmation. Therese nodded and saw an emotion pass through Carol’s eyes. 

Carol couldn’t take her eyes away from the photographs. Therese couldn’t take her eyes away from Carol. The brunette was observing every little feature of the blonde’s face, trying to decipher any sort of emotion or reaction resulting from what Carol was thinking. She could have stayed like that for hours, memorizing every little detail of Carol. 

She came back to her senses as she remembered where she was. Just in time to hear her name.

“Miss Belivet?”

“Rindy,” Therese smiled, “when we are out of school, you can call me Therese, dear.”

Carol looked at them and Therese saw a smile she had never witnessed until then. A deeper one, softer but still as genuine. It held an emotion Therese couldn’t work out.

“Alright then, Therese.” Rindy experienced the name. She then asked her mother. “Mom, can we put an offer on one of the paintings?”

“An offer? You seemed quite enamored with the piece but I didn’t think it was that much.”

“I really love it. Mom pretty please?”

“I’m going to look for Marc.” Therese offered. And walked away to let the mother-daughter duo decide privately.

She pointed Carol to Marc and went to the bar where Dannie was sitting, drinking a cosmopolitan. She sat next to him and asked the barman for the same drink. 

“Hello stranger.”

“Here is the artist,” Dannie exclaimed. “How is it going? You’ve been talking constantly since they opened the doors.”

“I know it’s crazy.”

“If your photographs aren’t sold by the end of the night, then my name isn’t Dannie McElroy.”

Therese laughed. “I hope so.” The barman gave her her drink, she thanked him and took a sip of it. When she looked at Dannie again, his attention was focused on someone else in the room. Therese followed his gaze and quickly understood.

“So,” he began with a teasing tone, “Carol came.” He smiled like the cheshire cat. 

“She did.” Therese smiled once again as she was looking at Carol and missed how Dannie’s eyes softened.

“I totally get it. You have great taste.” He joked again. 

Therese laughed and poked his rib. “Stop it!” 

Dannie laughed and Therese looked at Carol again. It seemed like whatever she was doing, wherever Carol was, her eyes would always find her. 

Carol was finishing her conversation with Marc and gave him a paper, probably an offer for the painting. 

“Well, see you later,” Therese told Dannie as she got up and joined Carol. She could hear behind her her friend chuckling. 

She joined the mother-daughter duo as Rindy was giving her mother a hug. 

“It looks like Rindy won the argument.”

Carol looked up. “Yes, but it doesn’t mean we’ll bring it home. Alright, sweetie?” She addressed her daughter, “don’t get your hopes up until we have it in the car with us, if we bring it home.” Rindy nodded.

Carol turned again to Therese. “She gave me her special eyes. She knows I can’t resist them.”

“Mom stop!” Rindy whispered at her mom. 

“What?”

“It’s embarrassing.”

Therese and Carol burst out laughing. Rindy looked at them both with a disbelieving look. 

“You two are impossible. I’m going to get something to drink.”

“No alcohol,” Carol told her as Rindy walked away towards the bar. 

She was still laughing as she turned to Therese. “This child I swear to God.”

“You have such a great relationship. It’s refreshing to see.” 

“Thank you. You know I worked hard for it.” 

“And you definitely succeeded.” Carol smiled softly at Therese's words.

“Thank you.” She then looked proudly at her daughter, ordering a drink a few meters away from them and Therese was struck once again by how beautiful, how radiant Carol was. She was illuminating the space.

Before having a second thought, she voiced what was so loud in her mind. “You look absolutely radiant Carol. You are breathtaking.” She blushed when she realized what had come out of her mouth.

Carol’s head instantly jerked towards Therese and she looked at her as if she thought she had imagined the words. When she seemed to realize they were real, her eyes shined and she grabbed Therese’s wrists. A jolt of electricity went through the brunette’s body.

“So do you sweetheart. You are exquisite.”

Sweetheart . Is that what it felt like to be struck by lighting? It must be because Therese couldn’t breathe anymore. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t move. 

Carol released her wrist and Therese regained consciousness. 

“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Carol started, instantly seeming tenser. 

“Yes?”

“Harge has Rindy next weekend. And I could use some company on Saturday night. And I was wondering if you would like to have dinner at my apartment?” A pause. “Would you?”

Therese didn’t even have to think about it. “Yes, yes I would.”

“Well,” Carol’s shoulders seemed to suddenly relax and Therese realized she had been nervous, “that’s that. Sold.” She smiled. “We should get going, but I’ll text you the address.”

“Perfect.” 

Therese couldn’t help but lean in for a hug that Carol grandly gave her. They parted, way too soon in Therese’s opinion, and Carol waved as she joined Rindy. Therese waved at Rindy and went to the bathroom, needing a break from this lovely but intense hour. She didn’t see them leave but when she came back ten minutes later. They had left. 

She then went to be with Dannie for the rest of the evening. When all the guests were gone, Marc came to find Therese and announced to her something that she had dreamt of hearing for years. 

Both her photographs had been sold, and for more than she ever thought possible.

Chapter Text

“Mom! Rachel’s on the phone for you.”

“I’m here honey! Taking a bath.” Rindy opened the door to Carol’s bathroom with Carol’s phone in her hand. The blonde put down the book she was reading. “Rachel my publicist?” Rindy nodded. “God I hope it’s not an emergency, I wanted to enjoy my Sunday.”

Rindy handed her the phone and quickly exited the bathroom. “Rachel?”

“Carol! Is this a bad time? I’m sorry for calling on a Sunday morning.”

Carol got worried when she heard the slight edge in Rachel’s voice. “No, it’s alright. What’s happening?”

“There are not a million ways to say this. A picture of you is in a gossip magazine, a paparazzi picture.”

Carol strengthened up instantly. “What? What do you mean by a paparazzi picture? Is Rindy on it?” Carol tried to avoid at all cost for Rindy to find herself in gossip magazines. They were ruthless and always ready to spread unfounded information just to sell more.

“No it’s not Rindy, and it’s not a major article but you could be asked about it.”

“When was it taken? What does it say?”

“It’s a picture from Friday night at the exhibition. I’m informing you because I know you were there for personal reasons and not on work duty. There are two pictures. One is you holding a young woman’s hand, and the other is you hugging her. We can’t see her face and Rindy is nowhere in sight but we can see you. And below the pictures there’s a caption saying, I quote, ‘The ice queen seems to be showing a rare moment of warmth as she casts her legendary spell on an impressionable young girl’ .”

“Well, I’ve been called worse things by journalists.” 

Carol had discovered the media circus and how truly dangerous it could be during her divorce. She had been dull for years before the divorce and she had been used to seeing her name either associated with the company and people only praising her appearance and making all kinds of speculations of how she had gotten to the top. But when Harge and her had to go to court for Rindy’s custody the frenzy got on a whole other level. Harge was feeding the journalists on one side with ambiguous declarations of why they split up and how was the real Carol Ross. And on the other side, she was followed, photographed, and asked questions wherever she went, while trying to raise and protect Rindy who was only four. 

It luckily calmed down after the divorce was settled. And in more than ten years, Carol hadn’t been seen with someone or hadn't been known to date someone. So she would sometimes see her name appear in the gossip magazines, to either claim an imaginary relationship, always with a man since they had never been suspicious about her being interested in women even though Harge had hinted at it numerous times, or to remind the whole world how cold-hearted and incapable of loving she was. She had learned over the years how to build a shell and had taught Rindy how to build one when her daughter’s name appeared for the first time in a gossip article. She had sued the photographer who had taken pictures of Rindy while she was at school, she had won the case. She has never seen her daughter’s face in the press since. 

Compared to all of this, a mere picture of her hugging a friend was nothing. But what bothered her here was the other person shown in the picture. How she was described. Therese was far from impressionable and she didn’t like that people could see their relationship as Carol trying to trick the young woman. It had been a while since she felt comfortable around someone else than Rindy and Abby, and Carol was certain Therese didn’t need and didn’t want that kind of negative press.

“Rachel, does it say something else about the young woman?”

“No, and I’ve already checked the social networks and some rare people are wondering who she is but the article isn’t really talked about. You shouldn’t worry about it, it will probably go unnoticed but in case it doesn’t, you should be aware of it.”

Carol chuckled out of nerves. “It’s been a while since we had this kind of conversation.” Rachel had been Carol’s publicist for the last 18 years. She had recently talked to her during the fashion week, obviously, but only about the press for the agency and articles about the Carol Ross being invited to A-lister parties and sitting next to Anna Wintour during shows. 

“It has. Hopefully, the article won’t make any waves. I don’t even think it’s worth mentioning it to your friend.”

“Alright if you say so. She’s a very private person though, so if her name appears anywhere, please tell me about it.”

“Want to keep her to yourself huh?” Rachel joked. Carol laughed at that comment. Maybe she laughed a bit too much. Maybe that comment was a bit too close to reality. Maybe Carol wanted to keep Therese to herself.

“Anyway, whoever this is, keep her close Carol. It had been a while since I had seen you so relaxed in a public space and with Rindy nowhere in sight. It’s refreshing."

Carol smiled softly. “Thank you, Rachel. Now if you don’t mind I have a chapter to finish before all my bubbles’ bath are gone.”

“Of course! I’ll let you to it. Take care Carol.”

“Bye.”

Carol hung up, let out a deep sigh, and closed her eyes for an instant. Therese’s face appeared in her mind and she tried to imagine how she must have looked, hugging Therese for Rachel to tell her something like that. She was curious about how Therese and she looked next to one another. She was also nervous and hoped that the article wouldn’t start some trend or anything that would lead to how it was ten years ago. She was always nervous about that part whenever her name or detail about her personal life was mentioned somewhere. 

But most of all, she was mad. Mad at the photographer because she wanted Therese to be safe and not be put into all this madness. But she was also mad at herself because she did want Therese all to herself. And she had no right to want that. 

————

I’m leaving my apartment. Do you need me to bring anything?  

Carol smiled at the text she had just received from Therese. It was Saturday night and Carol had been preparing her dinner with Therese all day. She hadn’t spent all day in the kitchen since she wanted to keep things simple, but it had taken a while to choose her outfit, baggy blue jeans and tucked white blouse, and make her apartment look presentable. 

Carol: Just your wonderful self :)

Therese: See you in 20min then! 

Carol turned the oven on once again to keep their meal warm and put different sorts of wine out to occupy herself while waiting for Therese. Finally, she received the usual call from the janitor announcing a guest coming up since the elevator opened directly into her place. 

She strengthened imaginary creases on her blouse and ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she heard the ding of the elevator. 

Therese appeared and Carol caught her awe-struck expression as she was discovering the building.

“Hello dear.”

Therese smiled fondly. “Carol.” She stepped forward and was about to hug Carol when something in her right hand stopped her. She held a bouquet of tulips and gave it to Carol. “These are for you. Thank you so much for the invitation.”

“Oh you shouldn’t have! It’s my pleasure, really.”

“No, I wanted to.” Therese insisted and Carol blushed, blushed . She scolded herself internally for acting like a teenager being asked to go to prom. 

“Come on in. I’m going to put these in some water. You can take off your coat and put it and your bag in the closet right here.” Carol pointed to Therese. 

She then went to her living room to which her kitchen was connected with a counter that more often than not served as a bar. 

As she was arranging the flowers in a vase she saw Therese's eyes discover the loft. Carol was actually curious about Therese’s opinion about it. Not that she necessarily sought approbation, but she would have loved to be in the younger woman’s mind as her gaze wandered from the entrance to the painting hung above the staircase, to the huge library that occupied a whole side of the wall, to the living room area. Rindy’s collection of DVDs and Carol’s collection of Vinyl were proudly displayed next to the TV that was hooked up to the wall. A glassy coffee table, on which Carol put the vase, was placed between the TV and a large white couch. 

“This is the living room, obviously. And there is the kitchen. And at the end of this corridor,” Carol pointed it to Therese on the right side of the living room, “there’s my room and my bathroom. Very appreciated when you have a teenage girl.” She joked and Therese nodded, laughing. “And upstairs,” Carol continued, “there’s Rindy’s room with her bathroom as well. That leaves her some privacy. And we also have a guest room and an office.”

“This is a great place, Carol.” The blonde smiled appreciatively. “I absolutely love the art and this piano.” She said as she walked towards her grand black piano presiding under the staircase. “Do you play?”

“I wish I could. Rindy does.” Carol clarified. “She wanted to take lessons when she was six and she’s been playing it ever since.”

She looked at Therese hovering over the keys, her fingers caressing the instrument, not daring to do more.

“Go ahead,” Carol encouraged her with a smile, “I can see you dying to try it.”

“Oh I barely play I-”

Carol gave her a look. “Therese.”

Therese laughed shyly at her own manners and sat. “Oh alright.”

She started to play a melody Carol couldn’t recognize. But it didn’t matter because the brunette instantly transfixed the older woman. Therese’s elegant fingers delicately brushed the keys as she produced a wonderful melody, and Carol was stunned once again by how gorgeous the younger woman was. 

She was mesmerized by the brunette and instinctively walked behind Therese’s back and put her hands on her shoulders as Carol needed to feel, to physically feel how intoxicating the brunette was. 

As soon as Carol’s hands touched Therese’s shoulders, Carol felt a shiver going down Therese’s spine and the young woman stopped playing for a second. She seemed to be able to focus again as Carol stepped away and finished the song softly.

“That was beautiful. And you said you barely play.” Carol teased Therese.

“Thank you. This is the first song I learned at the piano. We had one at the orphanage and sister Alicia only had partitions of Billie Holiday, and for some reason, this song, Easy Living , stayed with me.” 

Carol smiled softly at this information. When she thought the young woman couldn’t get more interesting. There was always a new facette to her. Always an aspect of her personality that made her more mesmerizing, if that was even possible.

“So photography isn’t the only thing you kept from that time. You hadn’t told me about your other special talent.”

“Well to be fair, you also kept something from me.”

And even though Therese made that comment lightly, Carol froze. Her mind went to a place she didn’t want to think about. It went to certain pictures. In a certain magazine. She hadn’t told Therese about it because there had been no other comment or article and she didn’t want to make a fuss of it. Nonetheless, she waited for Therese’s outburst of how she could have hidden something so important.

“You thought I wouldn’t put together that you are the one that bought my photographs when you literally hung them above your vinyl collection.” Therese laughed and Carol relaxed in an instant. She turned towards the wall where she had indeed put the purchased art and used this moment to let out a breath.

When she looked at Therese again, she had a guilty but playful expression on her face and shrugged her shoulders. “Busted.” Before Therese could comment on Carol’s choice, the blonde added. “And it is not because they are yours particularly. I mean it’s even better that they are yours but I would have bought them anyway. They are incredibly beautiful.”

Therese smiled gratefully. “Thank you Carol.”

The oven then beeped and Carol rushed to the kitchen, not wanting their meal to burn. “I made salmon, I hope you like fish. Maybe I should have checked. Please tell me you’re not vegan.”

Therese burst out laughing. “I love salmon. Stop overthinking, I’m sure it’s going to be delicious.”

“Alright, alright. Please sit.” Carol showed Therese the table on the side of the kitchen that the brunette hadn’t noticed before. “What would you want to drink? I have red, white wine, rosé, some stronger alcohol, and juices if you don’t want alcohol at all.”

“White wine is perfect. Your hands are already full, let me grab it. What are you having?”

“White is fine as well.”

Therese served them both a glass and sat as Carol brought the salmon, accompanied with peas. “It smells wonderful Carol. You must have gone through a fair amount of effort to prepare all this.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble really.”

Once they were both served, Carol sat, opposite Therese, and they clinked their glass as they smiled widely at each other. Carol couldn’t remember a time where she had felt this peaceful. 

“To you my dear. It is a pleasure to have you here.”

“To you Carol.” Therese smiled.

————

A couple of hours later, the plates had been emptied, the table had been cleaned and Therese and Carol had moved to the couch. A bottle of white wine still opened on the coffee table and each of them had a glass in hand. Therese was seated at the end of the couch, her back against the framework, crossed-legged. And Carol had one arm propped up, her legs tucked under her, slightly turned towards Therese.

Carol was listening to Therese telling her about the end of the night at the exhibition, and some calls she had received since, as some soft music was playing on Carol’s record player.

“So far I received two calls. But I think they are pretty serious, I have appointments next week and I need to perfect my portfolio.” Therese said proudly.

“Do you know what they are looking for?”

“They didn’t say but I know one is more inclined in my type of photography. The other one tends to expose more abstract and unrealistic ones. But the first one, his name is Alain, mentioned a permanent spot in his gallery so that would be a great way to begin.”

“It would be a wonderful way! This is amazing, Therese.” Carol squeezed Therese's ankle and released it a second later despite the warm feeling that went through her body at the contact. “I am sure you’re going to impress them. Both of them.” 

Therese’s cheeks reddened at Carol’s compliment and she took a sip of wine. The song ended and Carol got up to change the vinyl. She smiled appreciatively when she came across one of her favorites and put it on. She couldn’t help but start humming as the first notes of She by Elvis Costello started to be heard.

“Oh I love this song.” She started to swing a bit as she came back to the couch and suddenly had an idea.

Before she could change her mind, she stood in front of Therese and extended her arm. “Dance with me?” She asked softly. 

She could see the confusion that went through Therese’s eyes, then the surprise when she realized Carol wasn’t joking, and finally the smile that spread to her face as Therese took Carol’s hand.

They walked around the couch and went to the middle of the living room. Carol took Therese’s hand and chose to ignore how perfect it fit in hers. Her other hand instantly landed on Therese’s waist. A shock of electricity went from her head to her toes as their bodies were pulled closer, and she realized maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. 

But Therese put her hand on Carol’s shoulder blade, started moving her feet, and any reason that made Carol doubt was suddenly forgotten. 

 

She

May be the face I can't forget

A trace of pleasure or regret

May be my treasure or the price I have to pay

 

She may be the song that summer sings

May be the chill that autumn brings

May be a hundred different things

Within the measure of a day

 

They found their rhythm in an instant, just like everything seemed to click naturally between them, and soon they were dancing, feeling more at peace than ever, Therese’s head resting on Carol’s shoulder.

It felt as if time had stopped. Both could have stayed there forever and wanted this moment to last a whole lifetime. Both would have been content, feeling one another’s warmth, sensing their heartbeat, in the doomed lights of Carol's apartment.

Slowly Therese detangled the hand that was in Carol’s and slowly put both of her arms around Carol’s neck. 

 

She who always seems so happy in a crowd

Whose eyes can be so private and so proud

No one's allowed to see them when they cry

 

Carol gently put her own hand on Therese’s waist and pulled their bodies even closer as her hands joined on Therese’s lower back, circling her.

 

She may be the love that cannot hope to last

May come to me from shadows of the past

That I remember till the day I die

 

Therese raised her head slowly from Carol’s shoulder, buried it in Carol’s neck, and inhaled her sweet perfume, trying to be as close as possible to drown into Carol’s scent. Feeling Therese’s nose against her throat, Carol swallowed, tightened her hold on the brunette, and felt goosebumps rising on her arms.

 

She

May be the reason I survive

The why and wherefore I'm alive

The one I'll care for through the rough and rainy years

 

Therese raised her head entirely and connected her green piercing eyes with Carol’s grey stormy ones. Both kept on dancing slowly, never breaking eye contact, feeling more connected than ever. 

 

Me I'll take her laughter and her tears

And make them all my souvenirs

For where she goes I've got to be

The meaning of my life is she

 

As the song finished, they slowed their pace and Therese whispered softly.

“You are mesmerizing.”

Carol closed her eyes hearing the honesty in the younger woman’s voice. Her heart was beating so fast and strong she was afraid Therese would be able to hear it.

“Carol.” Another whisper. Carol opened her eyes and stared directly at the brunette that had changed her life so much in so little time. 

“Carol.” Therese’s gaze dropped to Carol’s lips and slowly went back up. Carol swallowed. “I want to kiss you.”

Carol let out a whimper and looked at the brunette’s rosy, and very attractive lips. She tried to even her breathing.

“Carol.” The blonde looked back up. “Can I kiss you?”

Carol merely nodded, and soft lips were pressed against hers. The world went quiet. The next song that was now playing, silent. The horns of the cars and taxis that were always a background noise in New York, forgotten. All that mattered were those soft lips pressed against hers. 

As Carol’s hands found once again Therese’s waist, Therese’s lips started moving, and soon, they were kissing tenderly, lips gliding together. There was no urgency in the kiss. It was only tenderness. Discovery. As both women were trying to contain the butterflies in their stomachs. 

Carol hadn’t been kissed with such fondness in years, she wasn’t sure she had ever been kissed like that at all. Therese started picking at Carol’s hair at the base of her neck and the blonde released a sigh. At this, Therese’s mouth opened and Carol felt her tongue asking for entrance. The blond instantly felt a deep ache between her legs. Carol opened her mouth too and let their tongues connect. At the first contact, both whimpered, as if it had been what they had always been waiting for, what they had been craving. 

The kiss quickly became sloppier as Carol grabbed Therese’s waist with more force. She was becoming more aroused at each stroke of Therese’s tongue. Therese’s hands slid into Carol’s hair as she stood on her tiptoes to get a better grip. 

And even though their bodies were flushed against one another, it wasn’t enough, Carol wanted more. She couldn’t think of anything. So she opened her mouth wider and started to take control of the kiss, exploring Therese’s mouth as her hands started wandering around the brunette’s body. 

She stroked Therese’s spine and let go of her mouth to start kissing her neck. Therese released a moan and that sound made Carol realize what would happen if they kept going. And it made her snap back to reality. 

She dropped her hands, detached her lips from Therese’s neck, untangled herself from the brunette, and took a step back.

“Wait.” She whispered. She tried to catch her breath. 

Therese’s eyes widened. “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t ha-”

“No, it’s alright.” Carol tried to reassure her. Both were panting and Carol was deeply aware of her drenched underwear. She tried to sort her thoughts, as so many things passed her mind. 

“It’s not you. It’s just-“:

Therese’s eyes softened as she saw Carol struggle. “What is it?”

“I just, I don’t do one-night stands. And I certainly do not want that with you.”

Therese seemed taken aback by the admission but quickly recovered. “Me neither. Carol, you know this would mean much more than a one-night stand.” She tried to reach Carol but the blonde took another step back. 

“No, you don’t understand.”

Therese’s face was now adorned by confusion. “I- What’s happening Carol?”

Carol took a deep breath and started expressing her thoughts. “You don’t want more than a one-night stand with me, believe me.” Therese’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re young Therese. You’re only at the beginning of your career. Your whole life is in front of you.” Carol dropped her head, ashamed of even thinking about Therese wanting her. “You can have anyone you want. And the last thing you need is a middle-aged woman, raising a teenager, not even out of the closet.”

Therese approached Carol one more time and this time, the blonde let her take her hand. Therese raised Carol’s head with her finger and looked directly into the grey eyes. “How could you know what I want?” She whispered. “Hum? I know Rindy is your priority, and I know you both come as a package, but Carol,” the blonde’s eyes were shining with tears, “I know what I want. With you. And everything you mentioned doesn’t scare me.”

“A picture of you was published in a magazine. A gossip magazine.” 

Carol dropped the information that had been on her mind for most of the night, the one she had been feeling guilty about for most of the week. And Therese’s reaction was as she expected. The brunette instantly dropped her arm and took a step back. 

“What?”

“I- I just, they took a picture of me, at the exhibition, and we can’t see your face, and your name isn’t mentioned but still Therese.” She saw the panicked emotion in the brunette’s eyes. “I am used to being called names alright? And being criticized, and being taken in pictures without my permission, but this is a ruthless world. And you deserve so much better than that.”

A tear fell down Carol’s cheek and Therese tried to approach the blonde once more but she took another step back. 

“Carol..” She pleaded

“No Therese. This is my mess, and I came to peace with the fact that’s it’s the price for my business to be successful. But you deserved so much better.” Carol smiled softly while tears kept coming out of her eyes. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry it happened.” The words impressionable young girl came to her mind. “But I promise you it won’t happen again.”

“Carol.” Therese pleaded once more.

Carol looked at her and gathered all the courage she had in herself to say those next few words. “I think you should leave.”

Therese’s eyes widened. “No, we can talk about this.”

“Please leave!” Carol insisted.

Therese didn’t move.

LEAVE.” Carol shouted.

The brunette looked at her one last time, gathered her shoes, her bag, and her coat, and practically ran out the door. 

Carol collapsed on the ground, crying. 

Chapter Text

Abby was on her way to bed, joining Elena who was already asleep, when she heard her phone buzzing, announcing a message. It was almost midnight, they had had a quiet Saturday evening at Abby’s apartment, ordering sushi and watching a movie, so Abby wondered who was texting her this late. She picked up her phone and smiled when saw the name of the sender. But as she read the text, her smile quickly turned into a frown.

Carol: I ruined everything Abby. I can’t believe I was able to fuck it up.

Abby didn’t hesitate and answered I’ll be there in ten minutes.

She was wearing sweatpants and a large shirt so she quickly put on a sweatshirt, socks and went to Elena’s side of the bed. She kissed her forehead and when she didn’t wake up, she softly shook her shoulder. Elena opened her eyes.

She groaned, “what is it?”

“I have to go see Carol honey. I’ll probably stay for the night at her place.”

Elena sat up sleepily, “is she alright?”

“I don’t know. I just received a text.” 

Abby showed it to her girlfriend and Elena read it and said.

“She seems pretty shaken up. Don’t keep her waiting baby.”

Abby kissed her and went to put on her shoes.

“I’ll text you when I’ll get there.”

“No problem. And keep me updated. Love you!” Elena screamed as Abby was reaching for the door.

“Love you too!” And she was out.

Abby lived two blocks away from Carol’s so she decided to walk since taking a cab would take longer. Not even ten minutes later she was in Carol’s building lobby. Thankfully she hadn’t been recognized, or at least stopped, in the street. She thanked the doorman and waved to the receptionist who knew her quite well by now. Carol having the elevator opening up directly in her apartment, had a list of people allowed to come upstairs, which consisted of Abby, Harge, her assistant Naomi, her publicist Rachel and some of Rindy’s closest friends. Every other person either had to be mentioned directly by Carol at the reception, like her makeup artist John and her hairstylist Helene who sometimes came to prepare her for events,  or they had to wait for the receptionist to call Carol and ask her if the person was allowed to go up.

Abby texted Elena in the elevator letting her know she had arrived. Seeing her not answering, she assumed she had fallen back asleep. She smiled softly thinking about the redhead currently sleeping peacefully in her bed. 

The elevator doors opened with a ding and as Abby came in, she found the place barely lighten up and very quiet.

“Carol?” She called. No one answered so she walked further into the apartment. 

She passed the couch as she was calling for Carol once again when she spotted her on the floor, her back against the couch, a glass of bourbon in her hand, mascara on her cheeks, staring at nothing. 

The last time Abby had seen her best friend in such a state had been during the divorce, so to say she was worried was an understatement.  She kneeled next to her best friend in a second. 

“Sweetie, what’s going on?”

Carol didn’t answer and took another sip of her drink. 

Abby tried once again. “Carol? What did you ruin?”

Carol closed her eyes as if only thinking about what had happened hurt her too much. She opened her mouth slowly and let out with a hoarse voice, “Therese.”

“What about her?”

Carol opened her eyes again and turned her head to Abby. She smirked, mocking herself. 

“I was selfish. I acted impulsively. And I ruined everything.”

Carol sighed and Abby started stroking her arm to encourage her to keep talking. 

Carol stared once again in front of her but continued, “she was my friend. She actually became my friend. And that was fine. It was more than fine, it was great.”  She took another sip of her drink, “but I had to kiss her. How could I be so stupid?” She mumbled to herself. 

“I’m sorry honey. She’s a fool for rejecting you. Anyone would be lucky to have you.” Abby whispered softly, comforting her friend.

But Carol shook her head no. “She kissed me too Abby. That’s the problem.” 

“I’m not following you.” 

Carol put her arm away from Abby’s hand, “she’s young and she’s naive. But I should have known better. I should have told her right away about the picture. I-”

“Wait what picture?”

Carol sighed. “A paparazzi took a picture of her with me. The way they described her, Abby,” Carol looked at her best friend once again, “you know how cruel they can be, and she deserves better than that.”

“Carol…”

“No.” Carol finished her drink with one last gulp. “I know don’t worry. I know I’ve acted selfishly. With my situation , Rindy, and our age difference. I know what you’re going to tell me. And I know I don’t stand a chance. But I was impulsive and I ruined the bit of friendship that we had. I’m pathetic.” Tears started falling down again on Carol’s cheeks.

“Hey hey hey,” Abby said softly as she put her arms around Carol's shoulders and let the blonde put her head on her chest. She soothe her for a few minutes and said.

“This is not what I was going to say, Carol.”

Carol raised her head and looked at Abby. “What were you going to say?”

“You might think that you know what she deserves but you don’t know what she wants Carol. You told me that she kissed you. Who stopped the kiss?”

“I did, but-”

“No, let me speak sweetie. You stopped the kiss. It means that she wanted it as much as you. Now give her more credit. Yes, she’s young, but it doesn’t mean she’s naive, Carol. She’s 30-”

“-29.”

“Alright 29. So what?”

“So I’m 15 years older than her and I have a child and-”

“Did you ask her directly what she wanted?”

“Abby, she can’t possibly want a teenage girl entering her life for someone she can even hold hands with, in the streets.” 

Carol tried to distance herself from Abby but the redhead took her hand and forced her to look at her in the eyes. 

“You don’t know that Carol. Give her a chance to tell you what she’s feeling, what she wants.”

“It’s too late.” Carol smiled, sadly. “I told her to leave.”

“She will come back.”

Carol shook her head no.

“She will. I saw how she looked at you. She won’t give up on you that easily.”

——————

knock knock knock

“Ugh.”

knock knock knock

A groan. “Leave me alone. I’m not there.”

knock knock knock knock knock

“Therese I know you’re here, open the door.”

knock knock knock knock KNOCK KNOCK!!!

“Okay, I’m here! Oh my god!”

Therese reluctantly got up from her couch, where she had been sleeping on, since she got home from work. She opened the door and went back to sit on her couch. It had been a week since she had last seen Carol. Six entire days had passed since Carol had told her to leave. She had had no choice but to get back home, silently crying on the subway, and not so silently in her bed. Six days, where she had had to put herself together during the day to show up at work and deliver her classes. But five nights spent lying awake wondering what had gone wrong, playing the night again and again in her mind, thinking about the photograph that she had looked for, of course. Thinking about Carol’s words and what Therese actually wanted. And crying. Crying because she missed Carol. Because even though she had met her less than two months ago, her life seemed empty without the blonde in it. 

Dannie closed the door and stood in front of Therese. “You think you can ignore me for a week and I won’t bang on your door to find out the reason?”

“I told you I wasn't feeling well. I might have caught something.” Therese feigned a cough. 

“And apparently you think I’m stupid enough to believe that.”

Therese didn’t answer. She got and went to get a beer in her fridge, she took one for Dannie that she handed him while sitting back on her couch. 

As she took her first sip, Dannie asked “what happened with Carol?”

Therese almost choked on her drink at the simple mention of her name. She recovered quickly but didn’t answer. Dannie sighed and sat next to Therese. 

“Look I’m not stupid alright? All you could talk to me about a week ago was that dinner at Carol’s place and since that night I haven’t heard from you. And when I come to your place, I find it messier than ever, even though you always clean and tidy your apartment, your eyes bloodshot and from what I’ve seen, your fridge full of alcohol. And I also know that I’m the only person you talked to about Carol and you need to somehow relieve yourself from all your thoughts. So tell me. What happened with Carol?”

“Please stop saying her name.” Therese couldn’t help herself. Because every time she heard Carol’s name she was reminded of how the last image she had of her was asking Therese to leave.  “I- I don’t know where to begin.”

“Start by the dinner?”

Therese took a deep breath and started to tell Dannie about arriving in the fancy building. How everything looked clean and expensive, and beautiful. She told him about discovering Carol’s apartment that she had imagined just that way, completely suiting Carol's elegance and charm. She told him about the piano and how she had played for the first time in years. Dannie was surprised about this. 

“You played some piano? But you hadn't played since-”

“The orphanage I know. But I wanted to. I just felt so comfortable and,” she paused to find the right words, “at home, peaceful. I don’t know, it just felt natural.”

Dannie smiled faintly. “Keep going.”

She then told him about their dinner and how Carol played it down but Therese knew she must have spent hours preparing the whole evening. She told him about their never-ending conversations, the relaxed atmosphere. Then came the part when Carol asked her to dance. Therese had been taken aback. She didn’t expect the night to take such a turn, she even thought that Carol was joking at first. When she had realized she wasn’t, there had been no way she would have said no. 

“So we started to dance. And it was great.” It was amazing. She had wanted to never leave Carol’s arms. “The whole thing was just very spontaneous and carefree.” There was a tension between them, a tension that had been growing since they first met. Therese could feel it in every fiber on her body.  “And… we kissed.”

Dannie’s eyebrows shot up instantly, “you kissed?!” He clearly hadn’t expected the night to go there either. “Did she kiss you?”

Therese’s cheeks went red as she recorded how bold she had been. 

“I.. um.. actually told her I wanted to kiss her. And I asked her if I could. You know,” she was fumbling with her hands, “consent and everything.”

Dannie’s eyebrows couldn’t have gone higher even if he wanted them to. “Okay… then what?”

“Then we, um, got carried away.”

“You slept together?!” 

“No no, we didn’t.” Therese was quick to rectify. “But things got heated up. And maybe we would have, I don’t know, but she stopped it.”

Therese’s cheeks reddened again, but from the embarrassment she had felt when she thought she had read it all wrong, it had all been in her head. Dannie pointed out that it definitely wasn’t in her head since Carol had nodded and kissed her back. 

Therese finally proceeded to tell him how that night had ended. She told him what Carol had told her, she told him about the picture, and she told him she had had no choice but leave even though it had been the last thing she had wanted to do. 

When she finished telling Dannie everything, Therese let out a deep breath and she couldn’t help but let some tears fall on her cheeks too. It’s not that she was hurt, she understood where Carol was coming from. But it simply didn’t seem enough, and she felt helpless and lost. 

Dannie gave her a hug and thanked her for telling him what happened. He then took her hands, looked into her eyes and Therese prepared herself for whichever comment he was going to make. She wasn’t sure she could handle him, or anyone really, criticizing Carol, despite everything. 

“First of all, have you seen the picture? I hate to say this first Therese but if your face appeared in a magazine without your consent-”

“I found it. Wait, let me show you.” She got up and went to pick up her phone she had left in her bedroom. She came back on the couch, pulled up the article, and showed it to Dannie.

“We can’t see my face. My name isn’t mentioned anywhere. I don’t even understand why she had such a strong reaction.”

“Did you read the sentence under the picture?”

“Yes I did, and so what? I know it’s not true. You know it’s not true. And Carol knows it too. I just can’t believe my back and some poor adjectives had this effect.” Therese sighed. 

But Dannie didn’t let it go. “No Therese, it’s important. Look, maybe Carol’s reaction seemed excessive but she’s not wrong.” Therese was about to refute him but Dannie raised her hand so that she would let him speak. “She must know more than anyone how this works, and how paparazzi are. I didn’t tell you but I googled her name a few weeks ago-”

“You did what?!”

“I googled her name! I’m sorry but I wanted to make sure she had never been in a scandal or some bad fame she could drag you in. And-”

“But-”

and , I stumbled upon the articles written during her divorce. Therese, they were ruthless. They were absolutely horrible. Calling her the worst of names, taking pictures of her everywhere, stalking her, harassing her. It’s no wonder she kept her private life so private and had such a strong reaction. I think she wants to protect you, Therese.”

“I can protect myself.”

“But protecting yourself would mean keeping your private life private. It would mean not being able to date her publicly. Not holding her hand. Not take her on a date. Constantly hiding. And I understand her for not wanting to bring you into this.”

“I don’t care, Dannie. I don’t care about all this.”

Dannie sighed. He looked out of Therese’s window and she let him think for a few moments. After all, she had been thinking for the past six days. After a couple of minutes, Dannie turned back to her and said. 

“I’m going to ask you two questions.”

“Go ahead.”

“Do you not care because it’s something you naturally want but because it’s Carol you would make a sacrifice if it meant being with her, or do you not care because it’s something you actually don’t even want as long as you are with her?”

Therese had thought about this all week. What she really wanted. She didn’t even have to think about it because she already knew the answer. 

“I want her, Dannie. It wouldn’t be a sacrifice at all. I don’t need to hold her hand and claim her in public. Because first of all, she’s not my propriety, nor anyone’s. But also because being with her, being able to simply spend time with her in private, show affection in private, would be more than I ever dreamed of. I never felt that way, Dannie. I never felt so comfortable and like myself around someone else. I never wanted to spend so much time with someone and learn every little detail about them.”

“Okay.” Dannie paused and thought for a second. “My second question then is, are you aware that she is fifteen years older than you. She’s not alone, she has a child. A teenage daughter, who is your student. This can’t be a meaningless fling for her, she even told you so.”

“I know that. The age gap is not a problem. Her being older than me and it being a barrier to our friendship never even entered my mind when I was with her. And it wouldn’t be either for more. As for Rindy. I know she is a mother. And I also know her daughter is her priority. God, I am not asking her to marry me.”

“No, but she has to consider her child. She can’t jump into something reckless.”

“I know Dannie. But I told you. I am ready to accept Rindy coming first. God, I can’t even fathom thinking otherwise. It’s a no-brainer for me. And I recognize that I am Rindy's teacher and this situation might not be ideal, but it won’t be forever. And I can only hope we would talk about navigating all this. God Dannie, don’t you see? I’ve spent entire days thinking about all this, and I know I want it. I know none of this scares me because she is worth it. She is worth it.”

“In this case, you should go see her.”

“What?” Therese was sure she hadn’t heard what she had thought. 

“You heard me well, Belivet. When will she be alone?”

“I’m not sure… I overheard Rindy saying there was a party tonight and she would leave her mom alone but I can’t possibly-”

“Sure you can.” Dannie got up and put Therese up too. “You have to tell her everything you just told me.”

This was insane. Dannie had actually gone mad. “What? No no, I can’t, Dannie. She asked me to leave.”

“Yes, because she thought it was the only solution. But you have to show her there is another one. Go fight for her for god’s sake!”

Therese’s mind was a mess. “But what if she doesn’t want me?”

“Look, all of us, you know, we have affinities for people. We like certain people and we don’t like others. And you don’t know why you are attracted to some people and not others. The only thing you really know is you either are attracted or you’re not.”

“Okay. Thank you for this philosophical speech but what is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that you and Carol have a special connection, a special attraction to one another. And it’s actually amazing to witness. I know I was there only once, for ten minutes. And it was more than enough for me to see it. It won’t be fixed until you try Therese, but you have to. You owe it to yourself because, as you told me, you never felt this for another person.”

Therese’s doubts were dissipating and being replaced by determination “You think there’s a chance?”

“I’m 99% certain there’s a chance.”

“I’m- alright. Yes, you’re right. Okay, I should- but I need to shower I can’t go see her like this.” 

Therese was suddenly overwhelmed. Overwhelmed in a good way. She had to see Carol. She had to tell her what she was thinking and what she wanted. And this time she would make Carol listen. And if she didn’t want this, then alright, Therese would have tried. But Dannie was right, she wasn’t going to let her go without fighting for her. Carol deserved it. She was worth it.

Chapter Text

Therese’s mind was in a frenzy. She had somehow managed to take a shower, dress, and even put on some makeup and brush her hair, which is more than she had wanted to do during the past week. 

She was glad she had work because otherwise, she would have stayed on her couch all day, watching bad movies, eating junk food, and looking for Carol’s social media only to find the verified accounts of the agency. Instead, she did all this at night.

But work had kept some sort of routine, of normalcy, and allowed her to stay grounded when her thoughts kept circling back to Carol.

As she was in the subway on her way to Carol’s apartment, Therese thought about Dannie’s words and realized she should have put herself together way sooner. To begin with, she shouldn’t have left, she should have made Carol listen. And she was damn well determined to make her listen now.

Therese almost missed her stop but she thankfully got out in time. Carol’s face was imprinted in her brain, when Therese closed her eyes, the blonde was the only thing she could see. But somehow, she couldn’t imagine actually seeing Carol face to face five minutes from now.

She finally arrived at Carol’s apartment and was surprised when after being let in by the doorman, the receptionist asked her how she was doing, making clear that he remembered her from last week. He didn’t even call Carol’s apartment and let Therese go to the elevator without question. 

She pushed the button to the 35th floor and tried to even her breathing. It was 9:30 pm. Therese had no idea how she was going to find Carol. She could only hope she didn’t have anyone over, or Therese wouldn’t interrupt anything. 

31..32..33..

The elevator slowed and Therese wiped her sweaty hands on her pants. She was pretty nervous, and by the time the elevator's doors opened with a ding! , she felt like a decade had passed since she had saluted the receptionist. 

Therese let out a deep breath and entered Carol’s apartment. She heard quick steps approaching the hall and Therese didn’t dare make another move. She felt like the steps were echoing her heartbeat. Growing stronger and faster by the second.

Carol appeared with a worried look on her face but stopped in her tracks when she realized who had entered her apartment. 

“What are you doing here?”

Her tone was harsh. Blunt. But Therese didn’t even pay attention to it. She was too busy looking at Carol. It hadn’t been an entire week since she had last seen her but God, she looked more beautiful than ever. 

She was wearing sweatpants, a large t-shirt engulfing her torso, her hair was pulled in a messy bun and her face was bare of any makeup. Therese had never seen her like that. She was transfixed.

“Therese?! What are you doing here?!” Carol repeated herself, her voice suddenly more on edge.

That made Therese get out of her stupor. She realized she had been staring at Carol for five minutes, standing in her entrance hall, and she hadn’t pronounced a word. 

She gulped. “I need to talk to you.”

“I-”

Therese didn’t let her time to refuse, “please?”

She saw an emotion crossing Carol’s features as the blonde was holding her breath. She slowly let it out and quietly said, “okay.”

Carol turned around and went back to her living room not saying another word to Therese. Therese followed her and observed her putting in pause the movie she was watching, sitting on her couch, and facing Therese who had stayed standing in front of the coffee table. 

Carol looked at her and Therese forced herself to keep an eye contact. The older woman’s face was inscrutable. Was it a good idea for Therese to come here? Maybe Carol had used an excuse but she simply didn’t want anything to do with Therese. Maybe she didn’t want to see her again. Maybe…

No. She couldn’t go there. Therese remembered how Carol had kissed her. She remembered the effort Carol had put in the dinner, the time she had taken to come to the exhibition, the personal details she had revealed to Therese. There was something and Therese had to fight for it. 

She is worth it , she internally repeated to give herself some courage.

“I can’t leave things to what happened last Saturday Carol, I can’t.” She started. She was so nervous she couldn’t even remember everything she had thought about saying on her way here. She took a deep breath and continued.

“You said that I didn’t know what I wanted and even though I understand where you are coming from and I understand that you think you are making the right choice by pushing me away, it is not going to work.”

Okay. It was now or never.

“Because I know what I want Carol. I want you. I want all of you. Everything that comes with you.” Therese might have missed the breath Carol took if she hadn’t been studying her every feature and reaction. “And everything you mentioned doesn’t scare me. Your fame doesn’t scare me. I looked at the article Carol.” 

Therese went to sit next to Carol. She wanted them both to be on common ground. She wanted them both to feel equal. For this to feel like a conversation and not Therese arguing a point.

“And you are right. I am not used to my picture being taken without my consent, and of course, I don’t want to enter a media circus. But I prefer this option to being away from you.”

Carol’s eyes teared up instantly.

“I hope I am not mistaken when saying there is a connection between us. I hope I am not the only one feeling that attraction and not being able to fight it.” Therese paused and took Carol’s hands. She expected the blond to pull away but she didn’t. She kept looking at Therese, a tear now rolling down her cheek. 

“If you tell me that it is one-sided, that I am wrong about all this, I will leave you alone. I won’t bother you and I will gladly be your friend.” If Therese was sure of one thing, it’s that she could not be only Carol’s friend. 

Therese couldn’t stop, she had to let Carol know how she was feeling. She had to make her understand that Therese knew what she was doing, that she had thought about it and it wasn’t some fling. She was about to continue when Carol squeezed her hands and said with a hoarse voice,

“You are not. It is not one-sided.”

Therese could have jumped out the window, she was sure she would have been able to fly. 

She tried to contain herself and not show the magnitude of happiness those words had provided to her. 

“Well in this case, don’t you think there is something worth exploring here? I am not asking you to change your routine for me. I am not asking you for anything really. I just know that it is what I want, you are what I want. And I am willing to try this, if you are.”

There. She had said it all. All the cards were in Carol’s hands.

“I’m- With Rindy, and work and also the media attention that can come at any time, I’m just-” Carol shrugged her shoulders as another tear fell down her cheek. “I am scared you’ll end up despising me.”

“Oh, Carol how could I hate you?” Therese wiped Carol’s tear with her thumb and Carol smiled shyly but softly at her. 

“I just want you to be aware of what you are getting into. It won’t be possible for us to see each other every day or every two days. Of course I want to be with you, Therese.” Carol grabbed again both of Therese’s hands and squeezed them as she kept talking. “If you only knew how much I want it.”

Therese’s whole being was trembling with emotion and affection for the blonde. “Oh Carol.”

“And even if I long to see you, to be in your arms, and to kiss you, it won’t be easy.”

“But we will make it work Carol, I know we will,” Therese assured. She was certain of that.

Carol smiled affectionately. “Oh darling.” As Therese’s brain registered the term of endearment, Carol released her hands and pulled Therese into a hug.

Carol’s natural scent invaded Therese’s senses and she realized she had never thought an odor could be associated with a sentiment of belonging. Because this is where she belonged. In Carol’s arms, her hands around her waist, her head pressed against her chest, and Carol softly kissing the top of her head.

“I missed you,” Therese heard the blonde murmur above her, “so much.”

Therese raised her head to look at Carol. “I missed you too.” 

Carol cradled Therese’s cheek with her right hand and slowly brought her face to her. When their lips touched, Therese felt all her worries, all her anxiousness vanish. They kissed softly, tenderly for a few minutes. Mouths slowly gliding together. Their breath synchronized. Therese’s arms still around Carol’s waist and Carol’s hand still cradling Therese’s cheek. There was nothing urgent in the kiss. Just both of them reconnecting, reminiscing what it felt like to feel the other. It felt like a soft spring breeze. The promise of something warmer, a perpetual sunrise stretched out ahead of them. 

When they parted, they looked at each other and smiled widely at the same time, eliciting a chuckle from both of them. 

“I should probably go. I bothered you enough.” Therese said. She looked towards the elevator.

Carol brought her head back with her finger under Therese’s chin. “Rindy will be back only tomorrow. Stay? Would you?”

“I’d love to.” Therese laughed softly. “Come on, let’s finish your movie.”

Carol pressed play and Julia Roberts appeared on the screen. 

“Pretty Woman?”

Carol smirked, “a classic.”

Carol installed herself on the couch, put her feet on the coffee table, opened her arms and Therese instantly went to curl up into her. Carol put a blanket over them and Therese felt as if she had reached heaven.

When the movie ended Carol kissed Therese’s forehead and removed the blanket that was covering them. Both got up, Carol put the empty glass of wine she had drunk earlier in the sink and she took Therese’s hand, guiding her to her bedroom.

Therese entered the room and the first thought that entered her mind was that it was Carol. The door was in the middle of the room and in front of her, Therese faced a king-size bed, with sage green sheets. On either side of the beds were white nightstands. On the left one, there was a plant that Therese recognized as a piece-lily and in front of it was a framed picture of Carol holding a few months old Rindy in her arms, her daughter laughing at the silly face the blonde was making. On the right one was a bedside lamp with a book, glasses and a bottle of water. Above the bed was hanging a black and white picture of a simple building with a sign saying Reflections.

“It was the first place I used for the agency. We had to move later when I employed more people, but it is the first place I truly felt at home. Then home became Rindy” Carol explained, smiling at Therese when she saw her eyes discovering the bedroom. She was still holding her hand. 

On each side of the bed were two doors. In front of the right wall of the bedroom, there was a huge library filled with fashion books on one side, and novels, dictionaries, and other books Therese couldn’t decipher on the other side. On the left side was a huge patio door that led to a balcony with a breathtaking view over the illuminated buildings. On each side of the patio door were sage green and cold brown paintings, both of a woman's abstract body form. Therese could feel a soft carpet under her bare feet. She had taken off her shoes during the movie.

“You’ll need something to sleep on.” Carol opened the door on the left side of her bed that led to a huge walk-in closet. 

Therese followed her and thought for a second that she had entered a movie. The closet was as relaxing as the main room, with walls painted in the same sage green as the sheets, and all the white furniture. On one side of the closet were blouses and dresses hanging, on the other side were clothes folded. At the end of the walking closet, against the well were disposed of bags and shoes, all splendid. Next to the door by which they came in stood a large mirror, and on the other side of the door, a glassed table with jewelry displayed and organized. 

As Therese took the room in, mouth opened, Carol casually opened a drawer and gave Therese an ACDC t-shirt. The contrast with all the designer items Carol owned was too important for Therese not to chuckle.

Carol looked at her smiling, “what is it?”

“I didn’t take you as an ACDC fan.” Therese teased her.

“Who isn’t?” 

Therese laughed, “you have a point.”

Carol turned back to the drawers and murmured “and you’ll definitely need some pants because otherwise…” 

Therese felt a warm feeling invading her body and would have been ready to pay to hear where that thought was going.

“There.” Carol handed her some shorts and Therese saw her eyes taking in her figure for an instant. She had to squeeze her legs when she felt a sudden ache there. Therese blushed and she chastised herself for acting like a horny teenager. She looked at Carol’s face and saw her smiling mischievously.

“The bathroom is the door on the other side of the bed, there is a toothbrush in the bottom drawer of the cabinet.”

Therese thanked her and went to the bathroom. She was once again taken aback by the room, even if she should have known what to expect by now. The walls were once again painted sage green with a large marbled bathtub on the side, a toilet against the wall and a large marbled cupboard with a sink put on it and a mirror hanging above it. On its right was a tall cabinet with five cupboards and makeup organized in the empty storage place. And on its left was an open shower.

Therese quickly found the toothbrush and brushed her teeth. She then took off her clothes and put on what Carol had given her. The t-shirt was hanging loose with her small figure but the shorts fit her pretty well. Therese blushed once again when she realized those were Carol’s clothes. Clothes that she had she had worn. Clothes that had touched her body. 

She rinsed her face with cold water, consciously trying to make the blushing disappear and when she was satisfied enough, she got out of the bathroom. Carol was looking through the patio doors at the view and turned around when she heard the door open. 

At Therese’s sight, she smiled “you look pretty good in my clothes.”

Therese laughed. “I’ll be just a minute, make yourself at home,” Carol said before going into the bathroom herself. 

Therese sat on the bed and looked at the view thinking about all that had happened tonight. She was at Carol’s apartment. She had gone to talk to Carol and Carol had actually said she felt something between them. She actually wanted to give a try to what was between them. She doubted she had ever felt happier. 

She quickly texted Dannie who she remembered she had left without any news, told him she was staying at Carol’s and he answered with a winking emoji. She laughed and put her phone on the left nightstand. She assumed Carol slept on the right side since the lamp and the book were put there so she put the covers back, laid down on the left side of the bed, and turned toward the bathroom door, waiting for Carol to come out. 

Carol finally opened the door, turned off the bathroom’s light, and went to do the same with the bedroom's, but stopped walking when she saw Therese in her bed. Therese laughed softly at the blonde’s reaction and extended her arm for Carol to join her. She had taken her sweatpants off and was also wearing shorts, the same t-shirt as earlier, but had freed her hair from the bun. She was a vision, and Therese couldn’t believe her luck.

Carol quickly went to turn off the light, then came back to her side of the bed, took Therese’s hand, and laid down facing Therese, they clasped hands between the two.

“I hope I didn’t take your side.” Therese joked.

Carol smiled, “no you didn’t, it’s perfect.” She whispered, “you’re perfect.” 

Therese was still not used to being so close to Carol and with her right hand, she started to trace Carol’s face’s features. At the gentle touch, Carol closed her eyes, and Therese saw goosebumps appearing on the blonde’s arm. Therese started by tracing Carol’s sharp jaw, went up to her ear and came back down by her cheek. She then traced Carol’s chin and avoided her mouth directly going to her nose. Carol smiled at the conscious detour, her eyes still closed. Therese traced her nose, making sure to pass over every freckle, only visible if being close enough, then went up to her forehead until her hairline. She then went down again through her temple and then covered Carol’s eye with the tip of her finger, feeling it moving subtly under her lid. She traced her brow and did the same thing with her other eye. She finally went back to her chin and this time started to trace Carol’s lips.  She started by only delimiting them with her finger and then went over her upper lip, and her lower lip. When her finger was at the middle of Carol’s lower lip, the blonde kissed her fingertip and slowly opened her eyes. 

Those blue piercing eyes stared into Therese’s and the brunette had the certainty that no other view in her life would come close to the beauty of Carol. Carol, bare-faced, peaceful and glowing, kissing her fingertips. She looked like an angel. An angel flung out of space.

Therese let her fingertip go back to Carol’s jaw, then to her neck and her hair. She raised her head from her pillow and approached Carol slowly. When their lips were just an inch apart, she stopped and breathed for a second. She could feel Carol breathing against her mouth and let them both feel this connection. Carol didn’t initiate anything. She laid perfectly still, both of her hands still holding Therese’s, her eyes closed. When Therese couldn't take it anymore, she slowly closed the gap and let her lips brush against Carol’s. She pulled back for a second and brushed them again. She could feel Carol slowly releasing a breath every time Therese brushed their lips. She did it six times and Carol let her take her time, didn’t move a finger, moving only her lips when they were brushing Therese’s. 

Finally, the tenth time Therese brushed her lips against Carol’s, she stayed and made them lips press together, creating a real contact. She kissed Carol again and slowly the blonde reacted to the kiss, moving her lips against Therese’s. The mouths synchronized as they simply kissed, Therese’s upper body pressed against Carol’s. It was the most intimate kiss both had ever experienced. Genuine satisfaction and pleasure in being able to do the simplest thing. 

Therese slowly broke the kiss, opened her eyes, and looked at Carol’s content face, a smile gracing her lips, her eyes still closed, savoring the moment until the last second. Therese couldn’t help but smile herself, her dimples instantly showing. Carol opened her eyes, looked at Therese with an emotion inside her eyes the brunette couldn’t decipher, and went to kiss both Therese’s dimples. The younger woman laughed. 

They fell asleep in one another’s arms.

-------------------

Carol woke up with the natural light coming out the patio doors around 8 am. She had put on sheer curtains a while ago but had made the choice to not completely cover the windows since she liked being woken up by the light gracing her face. 

She felt Therese move between her arms and she realized she had ended up spooning her, her arm around the brunette’s waist, her hand holding hers against her chest. Carol let herself feel Therese’s warm body against her and she inhaled into the younger woman’s face. 

It was her first time waking up spooning someone but she hoped it wouldn’t be the last. She had never spent a whole night with the girl she had slept with. And as for her marriage, Harge was always holding or spooning her in the beginning, and there is no need to say that as time went on, the further away they slept next to one another, even coming to not share a bed anymore in the last months.

But Therese was there, in her arms, and god it felt good. It felt amazing even. Carol couldn’t believe her eyes last night when she had seen Therese in her hall. After last Saturday, she had waited for days for a text, for some sort of sign that she was still thinking about her so that Carol could tell her the huge mistake she had made. But the brunette hadn’t contacted her and Carol slowly lost hope, realizing that the younger woman probably didn’t want anything to do with her anymore. So to see her turning up, unannounced and telling her all those things, willing to fight for her and compromise. Carol had simply not been able to hold back her tears. 

She had quickly sent a message to Abby while Therese was in the bathroom: she came back .

She came back. And she was now in her arms, grasping Carol’s hand more tightly. 

Carol could feel her waking up and she waited patiently until the brunette turned around. She looked at her and smiled. Oh, how Carol had missed her smile. 

“Good morning”, Therese said in a hoarse voice.

“Morning, darling.”

Therese put her head against Carol’s chest and wrapped her arm against her waist. Carol was aware that they both used the tiniest excuse to be as close as possible to each other. She smiled at the thought.

“Did you sleep well?” She kissed Therese's head as she felt her nodding against her chest.

Therese looked up and said, “the best sleep I had in a while.”

Carol kissed her, not caring about her morning breath, because she looked too adorable not to, and because she wanted to and she had decided to do things she wanted and stop being afraid.

She broke the kiss and asked “breakfast?”

Not even a second later, Therese’s stomach growled and both laughed “I guess I have my answer.” 

Carol kissed Therese’s forehead one last time and got up, went to get a hoodie, and took one for Therese, as she knew it tended to be colder in the morning when the sun had barely reached the living room.

She threw the hoodie to Therese on her way out of the bedroom. “Come on sleepyhead.”

She went to the kitchen and put out of the fridge the rest of the pancake dough that she had made with Rindy yesterday afternoon. She started making the pancakes when she felt hands circling her waist and a kiss being deposited at the base of her neck. 

“I hope you like pancakes.”

“Who doesn’t?” Therese said, throwing back at Carol her answer from the night before. Carol laughed. “Can I help with something?”

“Um, what do you drink in the morning?”

“A latte is fine.”

“You have the espresso machine right there,” Carol pointed at it, “milk in the fridge and sugar in this cupboard”? Carol opened the cupboard at the right of the cooker hood.

“And you take a black coffee with two sugars right?” Therese asked.

“How do you know that?”

“From that time we had coffee together.” Therese shrugged. “That was hot,” she added, murmuring. Carol heard her and burst out laughing.

“You are something else Belivet.”

“And it’s only the beginning.” Therese winked at her. 

Carol felt her knees going weak and had to concentrate to not burn the pancake for an instant. She heard Therese laugh at her reaction. The effect the brunette had on her was insane. 

After managing to make all the pancakes, she sat with Therese and both ate their breakfasts and drank their coffees peacefully. 

When they were done, Therese helped her clean, a drastic change to living with a teenage girl and even being married to Harge, and Carol couldn’t help but enjoy how comfortable they were around one another and how connected they were in every aspect. 

Carol checked the time when they were done and realized it was already 10 am. She turned to Therese with a sentiment of dread and said,

“Darling I’m sorry but Rindy will be back in around an hour.” 

Therese’s face fell with the realization that their time together was coming to an end. 

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry. I wish you could stay longer.”

Therese smiled sadly but went to Carol and took her hands. “It’s okay Carol. This is already so much more than what I expected coming here last time.” 

Carol quickly thought about the coming weeks. “I don’t know when we’ll be able to see each other properly again.”

“We’ll manage Carol. I told you we would manage.” 

Carol smiled softly. Therese was an angel. Her angel.

She got a sudden idea. “Well, you could always come for lunch to my office. It wouldn’t be as private as here, but it would still be something.” 

Therese smiled, “Yes that's a good idea. Besides, I could see where you operate your magic,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes. 

Carol laughed. “I am not so sure it is a good idea, after all.” Therese feigned pouting. “Come on, go get changed.” 

Therese laughed as she went to Carol’s bedroom. She came back ten minutes later in her own clothes but with Carol’s ACDC t-shirt in her hand. She proudly showed it to Carol and at the blonde’s raised eyebrow, she said, “I'm claiming this and taking it home with me.”

Carol laughed and dragged Therese to her by her waist. “Alright alright, but it is not the only thing you’re leaving with.” 

And she kissed Therese. Really kissed her. The brunette’s arms fell at her side and Carol directly opened her mouth and stroked Therese's lower lip with her tongue, asking for entrance. When Therese granted it, she didn’t lose a second connecting their tongues. She gave her a kiss she would remember for days, for weeks. 

When she pulled away, she said with a grin, “Goodbye Miss Belivet.”

“Bye Carol.” 

Therese’s laugh was the last thing she heard as the brunette went to the elevator.

Chapter Text

It had been six days since Therese had last seen Carol and she already missed her like crazy. They had both been busy with work, and Carol with Rindy as well. They had managed to text regularly, telling the other about their day, and had even been able to call each other on Tuesday night after Rindy had gone to bed. Therese quickly realized that even though Carol worked in a field that was luxurious and seemed to be only glitz and glamour, she had long days, filled with never-ending meetings, working with difficult clients, and as a single mother, she couldn’t afford to work late, to show up at every event, to immerse herself into work and work only.

Well a single mother, not really. Therese smiled at that thought.

She was in the teacher’s room, grading some essays since her next class was in more than an hour. She was absolutely passionate about teaching and she enjoyed at every instant the interactions with her students, even if some could be a bit difficult to manage. But what she had not taken into account was the number of papers she would spend her time grading. Still, she managed to keep on schedule without having to bring work home on weekends, and that was something she was grateful for since it left her that time to work on her photography and explore the city with her camera. 

Therese was finishing a copy when someone sat opposite her. She lifted her head and smiled politely at the blonde that glanced her way. As Therese put the copy on top of the others that were done and went to grab another one from her bag, she heard a voice saying.

“You must be Therese?”  Therese looked up at the blonde again and shook the hand that she was extending.  “I am Cynthia.” The blonde introduced herself.

“Yes that would be me. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

“I don’t think I ever saw you in the school before.” Therese mentally checked all the people she had met since the beginning of the year but she was certain Cynthia wasn’t one of them.

“No that would be surprising”, the blonde laughed, “I started on Monday. I moved from Idaho last weekend so I haven’t really had time to socialize yet.”

“Idaho wow. And what brings you here?”

Cynthia shrugged her shoulders. “Adventure? I was tired of the little town I grew up in and I was able to put some money aside over the years so what better place to start over than New York?”

Therese smiled. “You are not wrong there.”

“So what are you teaching?”

“English literature,” Therese answered, “I have to say I am very surprised at how interested the students seem to be in the domain.” She had genuinely been taken aback by this beginning of the year. Of course, she expected students to do their homework and interact with the material, but for them to actually ask her questions about the texts they were studying, staying after the bell had rung to get books recommendations constantly reminded her why she was grateful to do this job.

“Lucky you! I wish my students would go out of their comfort zones but I guess it is not as intuitive as with literature.” At Therese's confused expression, Cynthia added, “I teach physics.” 

“Oh, yes indeed. It’s completely different.” Therese conceded. She had never been a scientific person.

Therese’s phone buzzed with an incoming text and she quickly looked at her screen seeing a message from Carol asking her if she was available for a call.

Therese didn’t hesitate and started to gather the things she had gotten out of her bag to grade the assignments. “I am sorry, I have to go make a call.” She told Cynthia.

“Of course”. The blonde answered with a smile.

As Therese was getting up to find a more private space she heard the other woman ask. “Say, Therese, would you like to go for a drink sometimes?”

Therese smiled. She could tell Cynthia was desperately trying to make friends, and probably of her age, which only corresponded to Therese amongst their colleagues. It was a feeling Therese only knew too well, after being cast aside all her life. She could still sometimes feel the dread and loneliness that had inhabited her for years. Thank God Dannie had entered her life. 

Well thinking about Dannie.

“I am supposed to go out with my best friend Dannie tonight, you can join us if you want?” She dared proposing knowing that Dannie never minded meeting new people.

Cynthia’s face broke into a wide grin. “That’d be great! Let me give you my number really quickly.” 

Therese silenced her notifications, just in case, and gave her her phone. Two minutes later, she was done and gave it back to Therese. 

“Thank you so much. It was very nice meeting you.”

“It was nice meeting you too. See you tonight then?”

"Definitely," she smiled.

Therese left the room. It was already mid-October so she was glad the school had a covered backyard reserved only for the staff and the professors. It allowed her to be sheltered from the cold and wind, but also alone since at that time of the day everyone in the building was busy.

Therese sat on a bench and called Carol. On the third ringtone, she picked up.

A deep voice came through the phone, “Hello dearest.”

“Carol,” Therese smiled widely. God, she had missed her voice. “It’s two-thirty, aren’t you supposed to work?”

“I just got out of a very exhausting meeting.”

“Long day?”

Carol sighed, “difficult. You would think after twenty years in the business and creating a name for myself and my company, I wouldn’t have to prove myself to white middle-aged men. But somehow I do.”

“They are mad because they will never reach even one percent of your success.”

Therese felt Carol’s smile in her next sentence. “Anyway, so I deemed that I deserved a fifteen minutes break.”

Therese laughed, “Being your own boss has its advantages.”

“Yes but it also is an advantage for my employees, believe me.”

“How so?”

“I would have snapped at someone,” Carol chuckled, “and we wouldn’t want that. I already feel like I am terrifying 90% of the people in this building.”

Therese decided to tease her. “They clearly have never seen you in your Hello Kitty shirt. I am sure the greatest designers would approve.” Therese had gotten a picture of Carol on Wednesday night and the shirt Carol was wearing had been the last thing Therese expected her to wear, but somehow the cutest she had ever seen her in.

“Hey! It was a gift from Rindy from when she was six!” Therese burst out laughing and she heard Carol having the same reaction on the other side of the line. The blonde calmed down and continued, a smile heard in her voice. “I swear darling, you must have some kind of superpower to be able to appease me like that.” 

“I am just that good Carol, but don’t worry you will get used to it.”

“Oh, I don’t think I could ever get used to you.” Therese felt her heart melting. Only one sentence and she was reminded of the effects Carol had on her. “Anyway, I should get back to it.” 

Therese checked the time and saw it was already two forty-five. It had barely felt like three minutes to her. “Yes, I have a class soon anyway.” 

“Okay then. I miss you, darling.” The blonde sighed.

“I miss you too Carol.”

“Have fun tonight with Dannie!”

“Thank you,” Therese smiled at Carol remembering every detail of her life, even if it was something she had mentioned only once, “one of my colleagues is actually joining us. She’s new in the city and doesn’t know anyone so I thought it would be a good way for her to start meeting people.”

“That’s an excellent idea, the more the merrier!”

Therese couldn’t help herself but say, “I wish you could join us, Carol.” 

“So do I dearest, but you know I have Rindy this weekend,” Carol said. She didn't mention how they would have needed to be careful with choosing the bar, probably having to reserve a VIP section.

“Of course, of course. And I’m sure you’ll have a great time with your daughter.”

“Definitely,” Therese could hear her grin through the phone.

“But it’s just that I miss you.” A pause. “And your kisses.” The reaction was immediate. Therese heard Carol taking a sharp amount of breath. 

“Don’t start teasing me now Miss Belivet.” Therese burst out laughing. “Look, let me take you for lunch next week. Or even better, why don’t you come for lunch at my office? That way we will be able to have some privacy.” Carol concluded with a seductive voice.

Therese was now the one holding her breath. “Are you sure? What about your employees?” 

“Everyone gets out on their lunch break. And besides, they would never pluck up enough courage to go into my office without being summoned.”

Therese whistled dramatically “That’s power.”

“And you haven’t seen the beginning of it.” Carol’s voice dropped lower than Therese had ever heard her and it sent instant chills along her spine.

Therese swallowed. “That’s a date.”

“Perfect. Have a nice weekend Therese.” Carol ended softly. 

“Bye Carol.” 

Therese hung up and stayed for a few minutes, sitting on the bench, thinking about the goddess she had just got off the phone with. She quickly got out of her trance as she remembered she had a class a three, put her phone away, picked her bag, and entered the building again 

------

“Please be nice to her Dannie, she just arrived in town and is trying to make friends.”

“Who do you take me for?”

“And try not to hit on her?” Therese raised her eyebrows at her best friend.

Dannie sighed dramatically. “Alright alright.”

Therese looked at the door of the bar and saw the blonde enter. “Okay she’s her. Behave.” She murmured to Dannie one last time before turning back to Cynthia who had spotted her and was approaching their table.

“Hi! Thank you so much for inviting me.” She said with a wide smile once she had reached their table.

“Oh it’s my pleasure! This is Dannie.”

Dannie was quick to give her a hug and Therese pointedly looked at him, which made him roll his eyes over Cynthia’s shoulders. “Nice to meet you Cynthia.” He said to the blonde once they were all seated again. 

“Nice to meet you too! What are you two drinking?”

“I’m having a cosmo.” Therese answered 

“And I’m drinking a Manhattan.”

“Oh I’m going to ask for that. I’ll be right back.” Cynthia got up and went to the bar.

As soon as she was gone, Dannie turned to Therese. “She seems nice.” At Therese’s look, he quickly added. “I won’t hit on her don’t worry. Besides, I am not the one with a weak spot for blondes.”

Therese blushed instantly at Carol’s mention and Dannie burst out laughing. “Oh shut up.”

“How is it going by the way?”

“It’s going great, don't worry. You would have known by now if it wasn’t.”

“Right because the state I found you in two weeks ago will never leave my mind. But I’ll forgive her.” Dannie added with a smile.

Therese chuckled. “You don’t have a choice. You’re stuck with me and I am with her so…”

“Good thing she can get us to great parties.” Dannie lifted his drink, toasting to that idea. 

“You are impossibl-”

“Who can get you into what?” Cynthia was back at the table with the drink in her hand and she sat in the vacant seat.

“No one. So how was your first week in New York City?” Dannie was quick to change the subject and Therese mouthed a thank you

Cynthia then went on and told Dannie about her new life. She explained to him and Therese that she had grown up on a farm, raising pigs and chickens and she had desperately needed an entire new life in an opposite world. So far, it was great, exhausting because she had had a million things to do in very little time while starting teaching in a new school in a new city, but great nonetheless.

As the night went on, she became more comfortable and Therese and Dannie were surprised to find she was very funny. The music got louder, and she surprised everyone by knowing every word to every song. When the night ended and they decided to go home, they had danced for hours, had laughed until not being able to breathe anymore, and had sung until their voice broke. 

The only thing that would have made the night perfect for Therese was if Carol had been there. But it was alright. She knew she would see her soon. And she was certain it wouldn’t be the last time she would go out with Cynthia and Dannie, so another possibility clearly wasn’t out of the way, even if Cynthia wasn’t aware at all of who Therese was dating. She wasn’t even aware Therese was dating someone. They hadn’t broached that subject yet, which Therese felt grateful for. She wouldn’t have liked lying or avoiding a conversation when they were all having so much fun.

Therese sent a text to the group chat Dannie had created during the night when she was home to let them know she had made it back in one piece. She then sent a similar text to Carol, but realizing it was 2 a.m and Carol probably wouldn’t see it until the next morning, she turned her phone off and went to bed. While falling asleep, she imagined a night like this with Carol, out in a bar, not caring about anything or anyone, singing at the top of their lungs, Therese kissing Carol, Carol taking her home, Carol taking her to bed. She felt an ache settling between her legs at the thought and changed her vision in order to calm her body and relax. 

Her dreams had other plans.

------

Carol was in her office, writing an email when Naomi, her assistant, knocked on the door and let her know she was taking her lunch break. Carol had been immersed in work since she had arrived at the office and hadn’t realized it was already 12:30p.m. Therese was supposed to arrive in fifteen minutes. 

She quickly finished her email, put her glasses down, went to the bathroom that was attached to her office and checked herself in the mirror. She was wearing a black blouse tucked into pastel pink pants, and a red blazer that went down to her thighs. It’s not that she was nervous about seeing Therese, she was beyond excited, but she anticipated Therese seeing her at her workplace for the first time. When she made sure her outfit and her hair were in place, she exited the bathroom and quickly took a look outside her office, pleased to see everyone had gotten out. Lucky for them, it was a sunny and rather warm day for October 22nd, so people had preferred getting some fresh air. They would be back around 2p.m.

Therese was supposed to bring food for both of them on her way to Carol’s office, and so Carol rearranged the creamy couch she had on the side of the room, and removed the magazines that were on top of the coffee table in front of the couch.

Finally, the receptionist at the entrance of the building called to let her know someone named Therese was here and Carol gave the permission to let her go up. Not five minutes later, she heard a knock on her door. 

The first thing Carol saw when she opened the door was Therese staring in the other direction, looking at Naomi’s office. Therese in a black leather skirt and green blouse. Therese’s hair in a ponytail, her jawline salient. Therese looking absolutely ravishing.

“Well hello there.”

The brunette turned her face towards Carol and the blonde was astonished to see that the blouse made the green in Therese’s eyes even more prominent than usual. Two emeraudes were staring right back at her.

“Carol.” Therese smiled. Carol prayed she would never stop saying her name.

Seeing Therese holding her bag on one shoulder and their meal in her opposite hand, she said, “Well come in.”

She closed the door behind Therese, not before quickly glancing in the public room that was now completely empty

“Did you have any trouble finding the office? Here let me take you this.”

“No no, the instructions were pretty clear and then I asked for you at the reception and I saw on the man’s face that I was at the right place.”

Carol took the bags in which their meals were and put it on the coffee table. She smiled at the receptionist’s antics. “I sometimes feel like an alien seeing his face every morning I enter the building.” 

“I mean you do know how to make an entrance.” 

Carol laughed. “Do I?”

“Hum hum.” Therese put her bag next to the couch and Carol saw her take a look at her office. It wasn’t too extravagant. White walls and floor. Creamy couch and chairs. Glass coffee table and desk. Carol’s only two Vogue covers, framed and hanged on the wall. And under it, black storage units. On the units were disposed flowers, books and magazines. On Carol’s desk, a computer, a fixed-line phone, a black lamp, multiple files and a picture of Carol and Rindy on their last trip to Italy. On the other wall was a coffee machine and a door that led to Carol’s private bathroom. It was a simple, professional office. Assembled and decorated to instaure Carol’s seriousness and power to clients, potential investors, board members of the company. 

The ‘detail’ that gained Therese’s attention though was the floor-to-ceiling windows that replaced the back wall, behind Carol when she was sitting at her desk, in the direct point of view of entering the room and sitting across from Carol in a meeting. They gave an unobstructed view of Manhattan’s building that the 33rd floor office offered. 

Therese stood in front of it and said, “the view is amazing.”

Carol couldn’t spend another minute away from the brunette and went to her, circled Therese’s waist from behind and murmured. “Right now, I prefer mine.” Therese laughed. She kissed her temple. “Come on let’s go eat. I’m starving.”

Therese had gotten Libanese. Carol unpacked their food, they both sat on the couch and started eating. Telling each other about their days. Therese told Carol about going out with Dannie and Cynthia last weekend and Carol talked about how Rindy was all about gossips and friends since starting high school. 

“It’s normal she’s a teenager. Believe me with the things I hear students talk about, you don’t have to worry about Rindy.”

“Oh I’m not worried! I just wished she could talk about something else than her friend’s latest heartbreak.”

Therese laughed. “Well at least it’s not hers.” 

Carol jokingly smashed Therese’s arm. “Don’t say that! I honestly have no idea how I will react when it happens. Will I start crying with her? Or will I go to this person’s house and say two words to them.” 

Therese chuckled. 

“Also! I wanted to tell you that Abby is organizing a party next weekend for Halloween, and she said she’d really like to have you there.”

Therese raised her eyebrows. “ She .”

Carol’s laugh was instantaneous. The nerves of this girl.

“Alright alright. I would also like to have you there very much.”

“Better.” Therese winked and Carol felt her stomach flutter and a heat coming between her legs. Control yourself. 

“Anyway,” Carol came back to safer aspects of the conversation, “your friends are invited too. I know it can become boring very fast if you don’t really know the people there.”

“But you will be there?”

“Yes but.. you know..” Carol dropped her gaze. She suddenly felt shy. She didn’t like that she was inviting Therese to a party at her best friend’s place and they wouldn’t be able to act as they wished. And she felt bad for putting Therese in such an uncomfortable situation. She was about to tell Therese she understood if it was too much when a hand grabbed hers. She raised her head again to find Therese directly looking at her, a soft smile on her face.

“I do, and it’s alright Carol. I’d really love to come. I’ll talk to Dannie about it.”

Carol smiled. “You can also invite... Cynthia? I think that was her name. And Phil. I know Abby adores him.”

“Alright.” Therese squeezed Carol’s hand and released it. The blonde instantly missed the heat coming from Therese’s touch. “Do we have to put on costumes?”

“Absolutely. It’s Halloween after all.”

Therese laughed.

They finished their meal peacefully, after which Therese used the bathroom and Carol cleaned everything. It was already 1:30p.m and both knew Therese would have to leave soon if she wanted to be in time for her next class.

Carol bent to put the empty boxes in the bag Therese had arrived with and when she stood up again, she found the brunette leaning on the open door of the bathroom, unashamedly looking at her. When she realized she had been caught, Therese smiled, her dimples instantly popping out, and blushed. And thrill went through Carol’s body. 

Therese was not only adorable, but seeing her checking her out like this was hot . Carol crooked her finger and made a sign for Therese to join her. Therese took small steps and once she was close enough, Carol brought her hand on the back of her neck and pulled the brunette to her.

The moment their lips connected, Carol left out a sigh. It felt good, really good to be kissing Therese again.

The brunette put her hands on Carol’s waist and pulled the blonde closer. Carol cupped Therese's jawline as she felt the brunette vigorously respond to the kiss. She opened her mouth and teased Therese’s bottom lip with her tongue. As soon as she responded and opened her mouth, Carol slid inside. She felt Therese moan and the brunette’s grip on her waist tightened. 

It felt really good.

Carol backed Therese until she was pressed against a wall. Therese let out a whimper at the contact and releasing Carol’s mouth, Carol started kissing Therese’s neck. 

“Carol-” Therese's voice was hoarse. Filled with arousal. Which didn’t help Carol’s state. 

“Hum.” She murmured as she kept on kissing Therese's neck. She went up to her jawline. “God you smell good.” Before Therese could answer, she locked their lips in another embrace. 

“I missed you.” Therese whispered against Carol’s lips. 

Carol smiled and kissed her once again before saying. “I missed you too darling.” 

“We have to stop.” They went for another kiss.

“I know.” Another kiss. “We are going to.” Another kiss.

knock. knock. knock. 

“Carol?”

Carol and Therese jumped away from one another and the sound of someone else standing on the other side of the door. But Carol’s body tensed as she recognized the person to whom the voice belonged to. 

“No.” She murdered in disbelief while trying to make any evidence of what they had been doing disappear. Of all people. Of all days. Carol couldn’t believe what was going to happen.

She looked at Therese and saw she had strengthened her blouse and seemed to had pulled herself back together and she went to open to the person on the other side of the door. 

“What are you doing here Harge?”

Unbelievably enough, her ex-husband was indeed standing in front of her. “Is there need to be a problem for me to visit my ex-wife?”

Carol noticed Therese sitting on the couch suddenly tensing out hearing the words. “How did you get up here?”

“May I remind you we first visited this office together. They know who I am.” 

Carol sighed. She didn’t want to argue with her ex-husband right now. Not with Therese on the other side of the door, looking at her fingernails, seeming more nervous than ever. 

“Well it’ll have to wait, I have company.”

At this information, Harge raised his eyebrows. “Oh. It will only take a minute. Please?”

Carol sighed. She looked at Therese, directly this time, silently asking her a question, and when she saw Therese nodding, she opened the door wide to let Harge enter the room. 

As soon as he walked in, his eyes landed on the brunette and Carol saw the surprise on his face. Therese stood out and extended her arm to Harge. “Therese Belivet, nice to meet you.” 

“Harge Aird.” He shook her hand. “Belivet? As in Rindy’s teacher?”

He looked at Carol once again, his eyebrows raised so high Carol was sure they’d soon touch his hairline. 

But Therese didn’t let herself be intimidated and answered. “Yes.”

“Well,” Harge turned his head once again towards Therese and seemed to seize her up before saying, “that’s bold.”

Carol had had enough. “Rindy is already aware of our friendship. And she’s delighted about it. Now, why are you here?”

“Is she also aware of your lipstick on her professor’s neck?” Therese’s eyes widened in horror and she pressed her hand against her neck. 

Carol was boiling. She was really close to unleashing her anger at Harge for trying to humiliate her and Therese in her own office. “We’ve been divorced for ten years, I certainly don’t have to justify myself to you. Now, what do you want?”

“Relax Carol,” Harge laughed, “your little secret is safe with me.” Carol menacingly started to point her finger at him. “Alright, before you stab me, I have a work emergency and have to go to Chicago this weekend. I can’t have Rindy.”

“That’s it?” Harge shrugged his shoulders. “Yes I’ll take Rindy, of course.”

“Super.” Harge smiled wide and Carol had a sudden image of her hand meeting his cheek, in a rather brutal way. Instead she went to open the door, signaling to him it was time to leave. 

“We could have had this conversation on the phone.”

“But somehow I don’t regret taking the time to come here.” He looked at Therese one last time. “Pleasure meeting you Miss Belivet.”

He left the room swiftly and Carol closed the door behind him. She put her back against the door and sighed. What the hell was she thinking? Therese coming to her office. Of course someone would catch them. 

No. Stop. You wanted this. And you still want it. Don’t let him invade your thoughts. He stopped controlling you a decade ago. You are free to do whatever you want. 

“Carol?” Therese hesitantly said. 

Instead of answering to her, Carol went to the phone on her desk, dialed the reception of the building. 

“Miss Ross?”

“I would appreciate that you don’t let my ex-husband walk freely in the building. Please note that he follows the same rules as anyone else, and therefore I must be informed before the authorization for him to come up is given.”

“Very well miss.”

“Thank you.” She hung up. She sighed and rubbed her forehead.

Carol jumped at the sudden contact of a hand with her lower back and feeling Therese retracting it, she grabbed it. She turned towards Therese, and the brunette cupped her cheek, making her look at her. There was so much fondness in the gesture that Carol almost melted on the spot

“Hey,” Therese said softly, “it’s okay.”

“I’m sorry darling, I didn’t want to ruin our time. And it’s certainly not how I imagined you two meeting.”

“You didn’t ruin anything alright? I’m more worried about the things he could cause.”

Carol laughed bitterly. “He won’t say a thing. He could have done it ten years ago and he didn’t.” Seeing Therese’s worried look, Carol needed to reassure her. “I know it didn’t seem like it but we are usually quite civic to one another. It’s just that he can be quite.. an asshole.” Therese laughed. “But he wouldn’t dare say a word to anyone, don’t worry darling.”

Therese smiled tenderly and laced their fingers. “Alright then.”

“He also has the worst timing.” Carol sighed. 

“He does.” Therese laughed. “And I’m sorry but I’m gonna have to go.”

“Alright.” Carol brought their joined hand to her mouth and kissed Therese’s knuckles. “Also, I wanted to see you this weekend but it seems like it won’t be possible.” 

Therese went to get her bag by the couch. “I guess I’ll see you at Abby’s party then.”

Carol smiled. “I guess so.”

Therese went to her one last time and kissed her chastely. “Bye Carol.” She smiled against her lips.

“Bye darling.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this looks good Dannie? I don’t want to appear ridiculous in front of her friends.” Therese asked for the millionth time. 

“You look amazing! She is going to lose her mind when she sees you.”

Therese smiled shyly. Today was the 31st, which meant Abby’s party for Halloween. Therese had followed Carol’s idea and invited Dannie, Phil, and Cynthia since she didn’t have anyone else to celebrate it with. They had spent the last weekend going from store to store to find a costume for everyone. Cynthia was going as Rapunzel. She had gotten a purple dress and very long hair extensions. Dannie and Phil were dressed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. They had even found a pipe and a magnifying glass that they planned on carrying all night long. Of course, they had put on the fitted clothes and Phil had even glued a mustache. 

Therese had decided to go for Mrs. Santa Claus. She was wearing a red dress and a large black belt taking in at her waist. She had also managed to find a Santa hat. She hadn’t been able to spend a lot of money on it and she hoped it wouldn’t be noticeable, that the costume wouldn’t seem cheap, and most importantly that she wouldn’t embarrass Carol

“Are you absolutely sure?” Therese asked Dannie one last time.

“Yes! Can we go now?” Dannie sighed, “or we are going to be late.”

Therese finally turned herself away from her mirror. They were all dressed up and Phil and Cynthia were waiting in her living room to leave together. 

“Alright. Let me just brief Cynthia real quick.”

Dannie and she went to the living room and found the two others looking at her pictures, framed on the wall. She had a vivid flash of Carol at the exact same place five weeks ago. She shook the thoughts away.

“Okay,” she told them, “I am going to grab my camera, and then we can go.” Therese intended to take some pictures, first of all, because she never stayed away from her camera for too long, and second of all because this night was promising to be one she would want to remember and be able to go back to in the future. “But first, Cynthia,” she called the blonde who turned to her, “I have to inform you there might be some pretty well-known people.” Cynthia’s eyes got wide. “So it’d be pretty great for you not to do this face,” Therese laughed, “and to, you know, keep it cool.” 

“Got it chief.” The blonde gave Therese a thumbs up. “But how well-know? Just so I prepare myself.”

“Well Abby Gerhard is throwing the thing so…” Dannie said.

“Fuck. Wow, okay. How do you know her?” Cynthia looked at Therese.

Phil interjected before she could come up with an answer that wouldn’t involve Carol. “I interviewed her for the Times and we got along. Can we go now?”

“Yes let’s go,” Therese said. “Everybody out.” She ushered them out the door and let out a deep breath as she locked her apartment. She couldn’t wait to see Carol again. It was definitely going to be an interesting night.

-----

They arrived at Abby’s place twenty minutes later. Therese knew that there were going to be a lot of people, considering Abby’s contacts and her love for partying, but she didn’t expect to enter the apartment already filled with a hundred people. And it was barely 10 p.m.

They passed the first group of people as they walked into the gigantic living room. Therese was reminded of the first time she had come here. How she couldn’t keep her eyes off the pieces of art gracing the walls, the incredible decoration and she just couldn’t get over how spacious this apartment was. Cynthia seemed to be in a similar state of mind as Therese saw her turning her head everywhere as if trying to capture a sense of everything surrounding her. Therese was also relieved to see that their costumes blended pretty well with the others. They didn’t seem out of place. 

She was scanning through people's faces, particularly looking for a familiar one, when she spotted Abby and Elena next to the buffet. They were dressed as Thelma and Louise. Phil had spotted them as well and started walking towards them with the rest of the group following him. He reached them first and Therese saw their face illuminating when they recognized who it was.

“Hi, guys! I am so glad you made it.” Abby exclaimed. 

They hugged Phil, Therese, and Dannie, and Therese presented them to Cynthia who suddenly seemed very shy.

“Nice to meet you,” Elena said with a smile, having caught on to the blonde’s nervousness.

“The drinks are here. As well as the food. Feel free to serve yourself.” Abby told the group, as Elena went to say hi to other people. 

Cynthia, Phil, and Dannie went to get a drink but Therese purposely stayed a bit behind. Abby immediately understood and quietly told her. “She arrived thirty minutes ago. I don’t know where she is right now but I don’t think you’ll have any problem finding her.” She wiggled her eyebrows.

Therese blushed at her obviousness. “Thank you.”

Abby squeezed her shoulder. “Enjoy the party.” And left. Therese joined the others.

She was serving herself a drink while Dannie and Phil were commenting on people’s costumes when she heard Cynthia whisper next to her. “Oh. My. God.”

Therese muttered. “Please we say no panicking.”

“No, but this is different. She is a goddess.”

“Cynthia.” Therese hissed.

Cynthia took her hand and turned her towards a corner of the living room. “No, but look. Not only is Carol Ross standing there. But she is looking… ugh! I don’t even have words.”

ugh! was a good way to express what Therese was feeling right now. Carol indeed was in the corner of the living room, talking to someone, and looking so breathtakingly beautiful Therese thought she was going to faint. She looked like the angel of temptation itself. She was wearing a silk slip black dress going down to her mid-calves, her collarbones prominent, her figure complimented. Therese was also aware that Carol was undeniably not wearing a bra. That detail sent a shockwave through her body. Carol’s back muscles that Therese desperately wanted to catch a sight of were covered by large black angel wings. Her makeup was minimal but her cheekbones seemed sharper than ever. Her nails were painted red, as well as her lips. The mere thought of her lips drove Therese crazy. But red lips were her particular weakness. A fact that she had revealed to Carol during one of their late night’s calls. Finally, Therese noticed her strengthened-out shoulder-length hair and had a sudden urge to run her fingers through them. In fact, she had a sudden urge to cross the room and kiss her right there.

“See? You’re speechless too.” Cynthia brought Therese back to reality. She tore her gaze away from Carol even though all she could think about was doing the exact opposite.

“Yes, she’s gorgeous.” She conceded. Because there was no way someone with the ability to see would have said something else. “Anyway, let’s toast to your first party as a New Yorker!”

Thankfully she managed to change the subject and they then joined Dannie and Phil.

-----

Around twenty minutes later, Phil had gone to talk with other people he had met through Abby and Therese, Dannie and Cynthia had moved closer to the balcony since the view wasn’t something they saw every day. 

Therese was facing away from the living room, talking to her friends when Cynthia’s eyes went wide and she said, “Um.. she is heading our way.” 

Before Therese had any chance to ask what she meant, Dannie stepped towards the living room and joyfully said, “Hi Carol! It’s so good to see you again.”

A deep voice instantly answered, “Likewise, how are you doing?”, and Therese had to put all her concentration in her hand to not drop her drink. She started to fear she wasn’t going to survive the night.

“Great! This is Cynthia, she’s new to town.”

“So I’ve heard. A pleasure to meet you.” Therese saw Carol’s perfectly manicured handshaking Cynthia’s trembling one, the older woman visibly having a strong effect on her.

Finally, because it would have been weird to not do it but also because Therese couldn’t wait any longer, she looked at Carol. The blonde’s eyes, which looked kindly at Cynthia, transformed into a storm when they set upon Therese. The brunette’s arms instantly got covered in goosebumps and she was glad they were partially covered by her dress.

“Hello, Carol.” Therese tried to keep a neutral tone.

“Hi.” Simple words, but they actually were having an entire conversation. “This is a great costume.” You look fantastic .

“And yours… suits you very well.” You took my breath away. “In fact, it might be my favorite one so far.” You are always the most beautiful person in the room .

“Is that so?” I want to kiss you.

“Hum hum.” I want to kiss you too .

The world around them faded away, as it always seemed to do whenever they caught a glimpse of one another. But Dannie was quick to bring them back to reality. “Carol I think Abby’s making a sign for you to go see her.”

Carol turned towards the living room and indeed saw her best friend making crazy gestures in her direction. “You’re right.” She turned once again towards them and shrugged her shoulders. “She can’t seem to be able to survive without me. Well, I’ll see you later.” 

“Yes, see you later,” Dannie said.

“Bye,” Cynthia added quietly.

“Enjoy the party.” Therese finished, with a glint in her eyes. 

“Thank you, I will,” Carol said with a smile. She then started walking away and Cynthia immediately turned towards Dannie.

Therese continued to stare at the blonde when she turned around and mouthed “ I like the hat. ” Pointing at her head. The effect was instantaneous. Therese felt a surge of pleasure between her legs and turned crimson. She hoped no one had noticed her strong reaction to Carol’s attitude. 

-----

As the night went on, they met a lot of people. Cynthia became more and more relaxed. She even danced with Dannie at some point. Therese, always more comfortable staying in the background, made sure to not be dragged into the dancefloor. She stayed in her element and took photographs of people. People talking. People dancing. People laughing. People kissing. There was just a carefree atmosphere surrounding her. And she felt carefree too. Because every time she locked eyes with Carol, they shared longing stares from opposite sides of the room. And even if it was from a distance. It was intimate. It was real. And Therese felt carefree. 

She realized that she had worried way too much about not fitting in. Even if some people stayed on the side, simply having conversations and sharing drinks with friends. Others, a lot of others, participated in drinking games. Abby and Elena, she found, had acquaintances from all generations and it seemed like everyone was under some kind of spell, that some would probably call alcohol, and getting along partying as if there was no tomorrow. An escape from adult life and all its responsibilities it brought with it. But mind you, Abby and Elena made sure to stay sober and checked that everything went well, and everyone leaving got back home safely. Because Therese realized too that not everyone had a driver waiting for them, as she had expected it to be. She came with a lot of clichés in her mind even though she knew damn well that Carol and Abby didn’t care about any of those things. Therese knew she should have known better than to come with all those judgmental ideas engrained by Sister Alicia at the orphanage when Carol and Abby had been nothing but welcoming to her and her friends.

At some point, she was debating with Elena about a drinking game and whether Abby’s team or Dannie’s was going to win. She lifted her head to look at Dannie when she caught blue piercing eyes looking right through her behind him. Her breath caught in her throat. She locked eyes with Carol, who winked at her and peacefully started walking towards Abby’s room. 

She knew what that meant. It was the opportunity to finally see Carol, away from prying eyes.

She waited a few minutes after Carol had disappeared in the hallway that led to private rooms of the apartment, as to not raise any suspicion, and then excused herself to Elena, who barely glanced at her as she was closely watching Abby. 

She started walking towards Abby’s room, towards Carol, and with each step, her heartbeat increased a bit more. She looked one last time at the living room as she reached the door and checked that no one was paying attention to her. She opened the door and quickly got in. 

But the room was empty.

As well as the balcony.

She was about to go back to the hallway to look for other doors when noticed that the bathroom door was slightly opened and light was coming out of it.

Her heart started racing. She walked towards the bathroom and opened the door to find Carol leaning on the counter. She turned her head towards Therese as she entered the bathroom and closed the door behind her. A smile appeared on the blonde’s face. Therese could barely breathe. 

“I thought you would never come.” Therese swallowed. The sight of Carol’s fair skin contrasting to the dress and her dark lipstick was maddening. Therese saw Carol’s eyes descending along her body and coming back up. She saw a hunger in those now stormy grey eyes and a chill went through her spine. “You look,” Carol grinned as she took a step towards Therese, “ravenous.”

Carol was getting closer, and when she stood right in front of Therese she put her hands on her waist. “And you look,” Therese started, “magnificent.” 

Therese then put her hands around Carol’s neck and started picking at her hair. 

“You were driving me crazy out there,” Carol squeezed Therese’s waist, as to emphasize what she was saying and Therese felt all her blood go south, “I thought I was never going to get you alone.”

“Please,” Therese scoffed, “do you know how hard it was to keep a straight face with you so close to me yet so far away like that.” Therese saw Carol catch her breath, and it brought her even greater pleasure to realize the effect she was having on the blonde. “And with this,” she brushed her thumb against Carol’s lower lip, “calling me all night long.”

Carol grinned. “I thought you would like it.”

“I do.”

“And I checked, it doesn’t leave marks.”

“Oh," Therese smirked, "how convenient.”

“Indeed,” Carol murmured. She brought her face close to Therese’s and the brunette thought she was going to kiss her. But Carol actually turned her head and whispered in her ear. “Come home with me tonight?”

She pulled back, looking at Therese’s face waiting for an answer. Therese didn’t even have to think about her answer, but she was becoming so aroused that she had trouble forming words. And they hadn’t even kissed yet. 

Finally, with a hoarse voice, she said the minimum of words she was able to mutter at the moment. “Yes.” And pulled Carol to her. 

Their lips touched, their mouths instantly opened and Carol’s tongues slid inside. They kissed. Hungrily. Therese started pulling at Carol’s hair up to her neck and Carol ran her hands up and down Therese’s waist. Their mouths moved in unison as Carol moved Therese against the counter. Two seconds later, Therese isn’t really sure how, she was sitting on the counter. She opened her legs and Carol stood between them. Carol’s grabbed Therese’s neck, seeming not to have enough of her. Therese slid her hands from Carol’s neck to her chest and briefly felt Carol’s breasts through her dress, and she felt her hard nipples. Carol shivered at the contact. Therese was absolutely sure that if she checked her panties right now, they would be drenched. She couldn’t help herself, she let out a moan. But she didn’t have to worry about anyone overhearing them as it was swallowed in Carol’s mouth

Carol started kissing and biting down her neck. And Therese whimpered. Actually whimpered . Carol was grazing her teeth along Therese’s collarbones. Her hands that were so far grabbing Therese’s neck started toying with the material of Therese’s dress on her cleavage. 

How that moment was real, Therese had no idea. That Carol wanted her that much, it seemed impossible. But it was real. And it was happening. And if they didn’t slow down, they would soon alert everyone not only of their relationship but of what they were doing in there. 

Thankfully, Carol didn’t go any further, even though Therese could tell it cost her a lot not to, and kissed up her neck and went back to her lips. She kissed once again, Therese’s tongue grazing Carol’s. Eventually, they parted.

Therese was trying to catch her breath when Carol said, “Well, that’s that. I can’t let us go our own separate ways tonight Miss Belivet.”

Therese chuckled. “Oh, believe me, it’d be the last thing I want.”

Carol hummed as she stroked Therese’s arm, and went down to do the same with her thigh. 

“Carol,” Therese warned.

Carol hummed again as she looked at Therese, but didn’t stop the stroking on the brunette’s thigh.

Therese grabbed her hand and firmly said. “Behave.”

Carol backed up and closed her eyes at the authoritarian tone coming from the younger woman. “God, you are hot.”

Therese laughed and hopped off the counter. “Come on, before someone starts wondering where we are.”

They checked themselves in the mirror, tamed their hair, put their clothes back into place. Therese looked for lipstick marks and was indeed impressed to not find any. 

Carol embraced Therese from behind and looked at them in the mirror. Therese had to admit they looked really good together. Complementary. 

Carol kissed her temple before letting go. “It’s too early to leave but we’re definitely not staying here until 4 a.m.”

Therese laughed. “Just make a sign and I’ll understand.”

“Perfect. Wait here for a few minutes just in case.”

“Got it chief.”

Carol winked and went out the door.

Five minutes later, Therese emerged in the living room, surprised to see that time had continued passing while they were in the bathroom and that Abby and Dannie were in the decisive round of the game.

Therese kept having fun during the night but her mind kept coming back to the bathroom and the obvious promise of going back to Carol’s apartment. She felt herself getting flushed every time she caught Carol’s eyes or even thought about it. 

About two hours later, Therese felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. It had been a great aspect of the dress. Pockets. She unlocked her phone to see a text from Carol.

Models are leaving. The paparazzi will be concentrated on them. Ready when you are.

Therese answered in a minute. Let me go grab my coat. 

As she passed towards the closet, she swiftly told Cynthia she was going home. The blonde was hammered and barely paid attention to her. When she told Dannie and Phil she was leaving though, they grinned like the cheshire cat, and Dannie requested a debrief later. She thanked Abby and Elena again. 

She then finally went to grab her coat and got out of the apartment to find five girls, probably the models Carol was talking about, and Carol herself waiting for the elevator. Carol and Therese went into the elevator first, staying in the back. Therese could feel heat emanating from the blonde’s body, and the tension building up between was so palpable that if the girls had been sober, there is no way they would have missed it.

The girls go went off the elevator first, and Carol and Therese waited for them to go out. Therese started walking towards the main entrance when Carol pulled her into a hallway and opened a door at the end of that hallway. They walked out into the back street of Abby’s building. Carol’s driver was patiently waiting for them. She opened the door for Therese and then got in herself.

“Simple precaution.” She told the younger woman as they both settled. “To my apartment please, Robert.” She addressed the driver.

Carol linked their pinkie fingers and Therese grabbed her hand. Their fingers interlaced naturally. A sweet metaphor for the night to come. 

Chapter Text

They arrived at Carol’s apartment and Carol took Therese’s coat and hung it in the closet. Therese walked into the living room and put her bag on the couch. She somehow felt shy. It had been easy to get carried away into Abby’s bathroom with the adrenaline of hiding and the thrill that had built all night long. But now that they actually were at Carol’s apartment, Therese wasn’t feeling so confident anymore. 

“Do you want something to drink darling?” Therese smiled at the pet name. Carol must have sensed her nervousness and Therese could tell she was trying to appease her with her reassuring smile. 

“Some water would be nice.”

Carol chuckled. “Did you drink that much?”

“Not really but between the alcohol and the food, you know, it gets a bit dry.”

“I get it.”

She served Therese a glass of water and then took one herself. She went to sit on the couch and made a sign for Therese to join her there. Carol took one sip and put her glass on the coffee table. She then took off her wings. 

“I hope you don’t mind me destroying the illusion but it’s not really the most comfortable thing right now.”

Therese laughed. “The illusion wasn’t depending on the wings, believe me.”

“Great then.” Carol smiled. She turned towards Therese, one arm resting on the back of the couch.

Therese noticed she looked peaceful. Happy. She herself put her glass on the coffee table after drinking half of it. She then sat back on the couch and looked at Carol again.

Carol’s eyes soften. Her arm resting on the couch reached out to Therese’s hair and she started playing with it tenderly. She whispered. “You are so beautiful.”

Therese’s heart skipped a beat. She reached for Carol's other hand and laced their fingers. Their bodies naturally got closer and Therese closed the gap between them. They kissed gently. It was different than in the bathroom but as powerful. It was full of affection, full of caring, full of want. Therese felt herself melting on the spot. They stayed there for quite some time. They kissed and kissed and kissed until their lips were bruising. At some point, Carol’s thumb run over Therese’s knuckles, and the brunette let out a sigh. Carol opened her mouth and this time, Therese slid her tongue inside. It became fuller but remained soft. Their kiss built gradually, naturally, until at one point Therese couldn’t take it anymore and parted slowly. 

Carol opened her eyes and looked at her, eyes full of tenderness, not probing for anything, not expecting anything and that is what made Therese say, “Take me to bed?”

Carol smiled and nodded. She got up and extended her arm to Therese. Therese grabbed her hand and Carol led her to the bedroom. 

They entered the room and Carol turned around and kissed Therese again. She put her hands on Therese’s waist and brought her close. Their pelvises were almost touching.

“Is this okay?”

“Yes.” Therese breathed.

Therese put her arms around Carol’s neck and reached out to kiss her again. Their mouths opened instantly and a second later, Therese felt Carol’s tongue brushing Therese’s. Carol took one of her hands away from Therese’s waist and removed her Santa hat. She smiled in the kiss at the now free hair and lightly scratched her nails to Therese’s scalp. 

Therese shivered at the feeling and brought their bodies even closer. The moment their pelvises touched, they both moaned in the kiss. 

Carol broke the kiss and took her hands to Therese’s belt. She put her hands on the belt and looked into Therese’s eyes. Therese nodded and she took off the belt. Therese felt the dress lose around her waist, her chest feeling enormous, due to the butterflies internally spreading. 

Therese brought her hands to Carol’s neck, to her collarbones, shoulders, back muscles, gently caressing. She went back to her shoulders and pulled at the straps holding Carol’s dress. She broke the kiss.

“Can I?” She looked at Carol wanting to decipher any possible doubt crossing the blonde’s face. Instead, she found pure adoration written on her face. 

“Please.”

Therese lowered the straps and let the dress fall by itself, pooling at Carol’s feet. In front of her was now exposed Carol, only standing in her heels and black panties. Therese’s eyes dropped to her breasts, fuller than she had anticipated. She slowly brought her hand to the round breasts and run her thumb over one of the pink nipples. Carol closed her eyes at the touch and sighed. Therese brought her other hand to Carol’s stomach, feeling her muscles flexing with the brush of her fingers. 

Therese raised her head and stared directly into Carol’s eyes. “You are magnificent.” 

Carol brought her close again and kissed her. Therese felt the older woman’s breasts pressed against hers. Her nipples, hard against her dress. Carol's hands soon found the zipper on the back of her dress. She slowly pulled it down, teasing Therese.

It wasn’t long before Therese whimpered. “Ugh. Please, Carol.”

Carol smiled and finished putting the zipper down, then brushed the dress off Therese’s shoulder and let it fall. Therese stepped out of it, taking off her heels at the same time. Carol did the same. 

She then saw Carol drinking in her body. Therese was wearing red panties and a bra. Carol cupped Therese’s breasts, much smaller than hers. She then reached again behind Therese and unhooked her bra. Therese let it slide off her arms.

As soon as it had touched the ground. Carol reached for Therese’s waist at the same time that Therese reached for Carol’s neck. They met in the middle, bodies pulled together, nipples brushing against one another. 

Therese moaned at the feelings and her legs squeezed in pleasure. Carol turned them around and drove Therese to the bed. When the back of Therese’s knees touched the bed frame, they parted and Carol pushed her down the bed. Therese laid down and Carol lowered herself directly on her body. Carol pulled a thigh between Therese’s legs and Therese buckled at the pressure applied. 

Carol kissed her one last time and started descending. She started with her neck, this time not caring if leaving marks, went on to her collarbones that she sucked and bit. Therese was whirling in pleasure. Carol then kissed her right breast and Therese looked at her. Their eyes connected and Carol took her nipple in her mouth.

“Oh, God.”

Carol swirled her tongue around the nipple, sucked it, and released it with a loud bop.

It felt like the most erotic sound Therese had ever heard.

She then did the same with the other breast, while Therese continuously muttering fuck, God, and Carol

When Carol was done with her breasts. She went to kiss Therese again, her hands caressing her ribs, her waist, and wandering behind and grabbing her ass.

Carol asked. “Is this still okay?”

“Yes. God, Carol.”

Carol’s hands went back to Therese’s breasts and her fingers pinched her nipples. “What do you want angel? Tell me what you want.”

“I want you- oh God.”

“Yes?” Carol kissed her jaw. 

“I want you to taste me.” Therese had slept with other women. But never had she wanted someone down there as much as she wanted Carol.

Carol moaned at her request and started descending her body once again. She kissed down her stomach and when she reached her panties, she parted Therese’s legs. She smelled her through her underwear and both moaned at the same time.

“God, you smell good darling.”

“Carol, please.”

Carol kissed her crotch through her underwear once and then took it off. She glided it down Therese’s legs and threw it somewhere on the ground. She settled back between Therese’s legs and parted them again revealing Therese’s glistening folds.

“Oh my Therese, you are drenched.” Therese felt the cool air and moaned. “Darling look at me.” Therese regulated her breath and opened her eyes. She locked eyes with Carol as she parted her folds and ran the tip of her tongue down their length. Carol moaned at the taste. The feeling was overwhelming and Therese couldn’t help but close her eyes again. 

Carol went for a second taste, this time really running her tongue through them. She parted Therese’s labia and found Therese’s clit with her tongue. At the first contact, Therese groaned. Carol did it again, as her hands found Therese’s nipples again. She ran her tongue around Therese’s clit, paying attention to the sounds Therese was making and the way her body reacted to the left side of it, or how her breath became more ragged when she ran her tongue in an anti-clockwise manner. After a few minutes, she enveloped her clit with her lips and sucked on it. The reaction was instantaneous. Therese’s hips jerked off the bed and Carol used her arm to keep them still. 

“Um, Carol.”

“Yes, angel tell me.” Carol ran once her tongue through the length of Therese’s folds before coming back to her clit.

“I need you- oh God...I- I need you...inside- please.” Therese choked on her words. 

Carol took her hands away from Therese’s nipple and brought her finger down to Therese’s entrance. She lubricated it through her folds and then put the tip at her entrance.

“Don’t tease.”

Carol slid the finger inside. 

“Oh.” Therese let out at the sensation of Carol being inside her.

Carol started pulling it out slowly to slam it back in again. She did it a few times, with her tongue still concentrating on Therese’s clit. 

“Another one, please.”

Carol took her finger out and placed two at Therese’s entrance. She slid them in and moaned at how tight Therese felt. Therese felt the vibrations through her whole body. 

“You feel so good angel. Do you have any idea how good you feel? And how gorgeous you are? You are breathtaking.”

Therese moaned. Carol set a pace with her fingers and she went back to Therese’s clit with her tongue. She gradually increased the speed of her finger and her tongue and Therese’s moans got louder. Therese felt the start of a knot forming.

“That’s it, honey, God you’re so beautiful.”

The knot became more and more important, “Come for me angel,” until it came loose. Therese almost shouted as she felt her release. Carol drove her through it. She was everywhere. Her scent was surrounding the room. She was inside. She was around. Everything was Carol. 

“That’s it.” 

Carol helped her ride out her orgasm and then retrieved her fingers. She climbed back to Therese's body as the brunette was catching her breath. She put her arms on each side of Therese’s face and with one hand caressed her hair. When Therese opened her eyes, Carol was looking at her with something like marvel in her eyes. Therese reached for her and kissed her. She could taste herself in Carol’s tongue and moaned. 

They parted and Carol said, “you are amazing.”

Therese didn’t let one-second pass. “No, you are. Thank you.”

Carol laughed. “My pleasure darling.”

“Talking about your pleasure.” Carol’s laugh faded away as Therese turned them over, finding herself on top of Carol. Carol’s eyes instantly darkened. 

Therese didn’t lose time and took one nipple into her mouth and sucked it. Carol’s chest elevated from the bed. Therese went on with the other breast. And as her mouth was focused on Carol’s nipples, her hands removed her underwear, revealing a patch of blonde curls. She felt a pride, a privilege in being able to see Carol like that, for her to trust her enough to show her this kind of intimacy. Therese knew Carol hadn’t had a lot of lovers in her life, so she truly felt honored. And she intended on cherishing every inch of Carol’s body. 

She continued sucking Carol’s nipples as her hand wandered south. She finally made contact with Carol’s folds and Carol let out a whispered fuck

“You are drenched,” Therese exclaimed. She still couldn’t wrap her mind around her having such a strong effect on Carol’s body.

“Hum hum. So you better not tease me Miss Belivet.” 

Therese grinned and circled Carol’s clit with her fingers. She started stroking it and didn’t dare stop when Carol’s already fast breath changed to ragged. Therese sucked down her body as her fingers never stopped moving. She kissed every inch of Carol’s skin, her fingers going and going. She soon realized by the intensity of her moans that clit stimulation would be enough. 

She went down Carol’s body as Carol whispered “That’s it, faster.” Therese adjusted her pace and set her face just above Carol’s mound. She looked at her. Beautiful and open. She kissed her there, never stopping the movement of her fingers. And when she bit the inside of her thigh, marking her, Carol came. She came strong. She came loud. 

This was the most erotic sound Therese had ever heard. 

And God was it beautiful, Therese could have had stayed there listening to those sounds for hours. Carol finished and grabbed Therese’s shoulder, pulling her up to her face again. 

They kissed. And kissed. And kissed. They kissed with their legs tangled up. They kissed with their arms around one another. They kissed with their heads sharing the same pillow. And they kissed with their hearts beating to the same rhythm.