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and i've got my hands in your heart

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And I've got my hands in your heart, you've got your hands in my hair
I don't know these people, let them stare
And I've got you wrapped around my finger, you've got me wrapped up in your chest
We keep whispering "Why aren't we together yet?"

- Emily Kinney, "Married"

-

 

 

 

This lady's so pretty Angie can't convince herself to go talk to her. She can talk to anyone, any time, it's kind of her specialty, but just looking at this woman makes her tongue feel all thick. 

She watches the woman turn down man after man after man. Every guy Angie knows and some she doesn't are trying to talk to her, and she's dismissing them all, and Angie's liking her more and more by the minute. 

When Carlo—Angie’s worst cousin—starts heading her way, Angie can't take it anymore. She zigzags through the tables set out on the lawn as quickly as she can. Before he can say a word to the woman, Angie smacks him upside the head. 

"Leave her alone, fathead," she says. "Can't ya see she doesn't want to be bothered?"

Carlo lets out a long-suffering sigh and rubs the back of his head. "Ange, c'mon, I—"

"Was just leaving?" she suggests with a blatantly fake smile. 

He mutters under his breath about her sticking her nose in other people's business—even though she was the one who introduced the two people who got married today, so obviously sticking her nose in other people's business tends to end up good for the other people. But no matter, he does leave, and Angie turns to the gorgeous woman and rolls her eyes. 

"Men, I swear. I apologize for my sorry lot of brothers and cousins who haven't let you alone all night." She sticks out her hand. "Name's Angie." 

The woman takes her hand, firmly, none of that dead fish handshake thing people seem to think is ladylike. 

"Peggy," she says, and Christ, she's got an accent. As though she weren't pretty enough. 

Angie swallows, then off her mouth goes, basically without her permission. "Who d'ya know to get stuck at this bum wedding? The bride's my cousin. Or second cousin once removed or something. We might not even be related, but I call her parents aunt and uncle, so that makes us cousins." 

It takes Peggy a moment to realize Angie's done talking, and Angie tries not to roll her eyes at herself. She'd like to say she babbles when she's nervous, but she pretty much does it all the time.

"I know the groom," Peggy says. "Not well enough to have been invited, but I was anyway."

Angie is so glad she was invited anyway. "At least it's a free meal, right? You better have liked the lasagna, 'cause I helped my ma make it. Family recipe and all. They got a caterer for some stuff, but why pay someone when you can make a better meal than any of them?"

"It was excellent lasagna," Peggy says immediately, and her smile looks like she's not even exaggerating.  

Angie beams. "I knew I liked you, English. C'mon now, I know where they're hiding the good booze." 

When Peggy comes willingly, without a moment's hesitation, that's when Angie knows she's well and truly done. 

-

The wedding is at another maybe-relation’s house, Uncle Vinnie, and Angie’s never actually been there before. It’s a hell of a place—a big house with a big yard on three sides of it. When she came early to help set up, she accidentally discovered a liquor cabinet, then very intentionally memorized exactly where it was and how to get back to it. That’s where she leads Peggy, inside away from the guests, then away from the wait staff working in the kitchen, just the two of them sneaking through the hallways.

“Tada!” Angie announces as she opens the cabinet.

The good booze, to Angie, is the more expensive schnapps, the kind that doesn't burn when she drinks it straight. But Peggy’s eyes go wide and she reaches for a brown bottle with a name Angie can’t pronounce.

“Do you know what this is?” she says, enraptured.

“No, but if you do, you can have it,” Angie says. “I’m just here for the schnapps.”

By the time Angie finds the bottle of schnapps, going up on her tiptoes to reach it, Peggy is still holding the bottle, looking at it with reverence.

“Have it,” Angie says again.

Peggy looks at her. “I couldn’t possibly. The owner would certainly notice if it went missing.”

Angie shrugs. “Suit yourself. I’ll share my schnapps.”

“Perhaps just one glass,” Peggy says, looking back at the bottle.

Angie laughs and gets them both glasses. They pour their drinks, Peggy smiling this smile so small Angie’s pretty sure she’s trying not to. Peggy returns her bottle, but Angie keeps hold of hers. She leads Peggy back outside. They stay on the edge of the yard, away from most of the guests, people dancing and talking and finishing their cake. Angie hops up to sit on a brick wall on the edge of the garden. Peggy leans against it beside her. She closes her eyes and takes a sip.

“How’s the drink?” Angie asks, trying not to stare too hard at those red lips.

“Even better than I remembered,” Peggy says. She gives her an actual smile. “How’s yours?”

“Perfect.”

Turns out this reception isn’t nearly as bad as Angie expected. She doesn’t even really like Emilia, who got married, and her husband seems a bit too straight-laced. Plus, weddings inevitably lead to people asking her when she’s going to find a man and settle down, and she gets enough of that from her family on a regular basis, thank you very much. But she made it through dinner without much trouble, and now she somehow got herself the company of the prettiest gal there. She’s got no idea what to talk about, but at least she’s got her company.

It's good company, really, sipping their drinks in companionable silence. But silence, comfortable or not, is not something Angie handles well. So she says, “Did you really like the lasagna?”

“I can honestly say it was the best lasagna I’ve ever had.”

Angie flushes with pride. "Okay, okay, I got a confession." Peggy gives her her undivided attention and it makes Angie pause for a moment before remembering: yes, words, say them. "When I said I helped, all I really did was layer everything. You know—noodles, sauce, béchamel, cheese, noodles, sauce, béchamel, et cetera, et cetera." 

"The layering was my favorite part." 

She's teasing, obviously, but it makes Angie feel warm all over, like maybe it's something more. She convinces herself the schnapps is just hitting her quickly. Better that than think Peggy's a violets kind of girl. Angie's been wrong with too many girls to try that with this one.

She takes a bigger swallow of her drink and says, "So where ya from with that accent?” 

“England.”

Angie rolls her eyes theatrically. “I figured that much, English. I was lookin’ for something more specific.”

Peggy presses her lips together. Angie’s not a hundred percent certain, but she’s pretty sure that’s just another way of her hiding a smile. “London.”

Angie waits for more, but that’s it. “God, English, you sure do talk a lot. Can’t a girl get a word in?”

That gets more than a smile out of Peggy, gets a chuckle, even, and Angie feels like a comedic genius.

“My apologies, Angie,” Peggy says. “I don’t excel at making conversation.”

“You seemed to do all right with my brothers,” Angie grins.

Peggy smirks. “They made it easy.”

And that’s the thing. Even if Peggy’s not great at making conversation, Angie should be. She is, really, all the time, with absolutely anyone else. It’s what makes her such a great actress; she can make anyone feel at ease, so it’s simple to slip into character. At the automat, first time customers end up telling her about family problems or trouble at work—she doesn’t even have to try, usually, to get people talking. But here’s Peggy, who’s said maybe seventy-five words since they shook hands.

Angie doesn’t even know why she wants Peggy to talk to her, about anything and everything. Except—except that’s not true; she knows, of course she knows, she’s never been good at lying to herself about this. Peggy’s lips are red and her dress is blue and she might be English but Angie thinks she could be goddamn Captain America. This is what America’s about, right? Freedom and beauty and the way her chest feels warm when she looks at Peggy.

“Which of ’em was the worst?” Angie asks, because talking about men in times like these usually sets her straight.

Peggy just laughs. “I would guess that last one, if the look on your face as you stormed over meant anything.”

Angie tries to hide her blush with a swig of her drink.

“You tell me,” Peggy says. “They’re all your brothers and cousins, yes? Surely you know all their dirty secrets.”

That’s true, of course—that’s what she gets for sticking her nose in other people's business; she always knows their business. She may talk a lot, but she doesn't have a big mouth, not when it comes to people's secrets. 

Peggy must sense that, or something, because she quickly adds, “I don't actually want to know their secrets, of course. Just a little background since I know no one here and you know enough to know where the good booze is.” 

“Well, that's just 'cause I opened the cabinet when I was looking for hand towels for the bathroom," Angie says. "It's my Uncle Vinnie's place—but again with the maybe probably not even related thing, just like with the bride. He comes over some Sundays, though—tons of people do, really. Sunday's when my ma makes the most food, not that she ever doesn't make enough to feed an army, but you know what I mean.”

Once Angie starts, she can’t stop. She tells Peggy about everyone there, tries to explain the relationships—familial and otherwise—even though she has a hard time keeping them all straight. Peggy asks all the right questions, laughs at all of Angie’s corny jokes. Angie talks and drinks schnapps and feels warm inside.

She started with close family and has worked her way down to some of the last people she knows when she glances at the dance floor and rolls her eyes.

“That’s Louisa attempting to swing and looking like a fool,” she says. “You remember I told you about Janey? Louisa’s her sister, and frankly if I had a partner I’d get out there and show her how it’s done because she’s just embarrassing herself.”

“Well, then, let’s dance.”

Peggy is certain, no hesitation. Angie stares at her.

She can already feel a blush rising as she asks, “What—you and me?”

“Why not?”

“Because my whole family is here," Angie says, quiet and rushed and embarrassed. 

She flushes. Women dance together, sometimes—she’s seen some really amazing dances, actually, ladies doing the Charleston together and all—women can dance together like that. And that's how Peggy means it, Angie's sure, which is fine, but it's not how Angie wants it, and it's not how her family would see it, she knows, her family who wants her to go to secretary school and find a man and settle down.

She can't even look at Peggy, and she's sure it's obvious why—that knee-jerk reply and avoiding eye contact. She sits up straighter, tries to put a smile on. Still doesn't look at Peggy. 

“And I mean, I'd hate to show everybody up, ya know? Make 'em feel bad about their dancing abilities and all.”

“You’re too giving,” Peggy says with the same smile in her voice that’s been there all night.

Angie gulps down the last swallow in her glass. She considers pouring herself a third. But Peggy’s only just finished her one glass of whatever it is she’s drinking, and Angie’s already not in control of her mouth, as usual, so maybe more alcohol isn’t the answer.

“Fancy a walk?” Peggy asks.

Yeah, a walk. That would give Angie a good excuse to not have to look at her.

“Sure thing,” Angie says.

But then Peggy offers her arm. Angie thinks about her parents, about the way her mom’s eyes go all sympathetic on her sometimes and Angie thinks she might understand, thinks they might actually talk about it, but they never do. She thinks about how they’ll feel seeing their daughter on another woman’s arm in front of the entire family. She thinks about the way Peggy has smiled at her all night. What else is she supposed to do but take Peggy’s arm?

Angie’s puffed herself up, ready for the stares and whispers as they walk around the wedding, but Peggy steers her away from the tent and the tables and the people. Instead she leads her to the side of the house, a narrow secluded yard. Angie wonders how much of herself she’s given away, or if maybe Peggy is just particularly observant.

They walk slowly. The sun hasn’t fully set, but it’s hidden behind buildings, peeking through at sharp angles, that quiet amber light. Angie can almost forget about her entire extended family just around the corner of the house, far enough that she can only hear a slight murmur of their conversations, but close enough that she can clearly hear the band.

“What can I do to catch a show in which you star?” Peggy asks.

Angie chuckles. “C’mon, English, I ain’t starring in anything. I haven’t even gotten a call back in a month and a half. The only thing you can see me in is my role as the waitress who of course doesn’t mind your hand on her ass while she takes your order, over at the L&L.”

She risks a glance at Peggy, who is watching where they step, lips pursed.

“You deserve better, Angie,” she says.

You don’t even know me, Angie thinks. But she remembers watching all the men hitting on Peggy, remembers how annoying it was, and realizes the only reason they’re here to begin with is because Angie intervened when she thought Peggy deserved better, before they’d spoken a word to each other.

Angie lets go of Peggy’s arm when they’re on the opposite side of the lawn, as far from other guests as they can get. She doesn’t want to walk back. Instead she kicks off her shoes and toes through the grass. It’s not as nice through her hose as it would be barefoot, but it’s something. Peggy watches her, and Angie’s brave enough to smile.

When the band kicks up a Gershwin tune, Angie can’t stop herself from glancing toward the sound yearningly.

“That’s it,” Peggy says, toeing out of her shoes and stepping right in front of Angie, too close. “We’re dancing.”

“What?”

“You cannot look so wistful at the sound of a song and expect me to do nothing about it,” she says. “I’m not spectacular, but I can lead.”

Angie looks around them, anywhere but at Peggy’s determined eyes.

“There’s not enough room.”

It’s not even true, really, there’s plenty of room as long as she didn’t try any of her bigger moves, which she wouldn’t with an unfamiliar partner anyway, but she’s gotta say something to stop herself from stepping into Peggy’s arms.

“Do you know Balboa?” Peggy asks. “I knew a nurse from California during the—I learned a bit. It takes no room at all.”

Angie could kiss her. As though being gorgeous and interesting and English weren’t enough, she knows enough about dancing to know Balboa? Angie knew a girl from California, too, learned the style by being rewarded with a kiss for every step she mastered. She’d learned it in record time. And here’s Peggy, arms already in position, just waiting for Angie to say yes, to take one step forward and let that hand with bright red painted fingernails rest on her back, to dance a dance that by definition means their upper bodies will be pressed together, faces close, to say yes and step forward to dance a dance that will surely make her go up in flames.

Angie swallows her heart and steps forward.

Peggy immediately pulls her close enough that the only thing Angie can let herself think is at least she can look over her shoulder, instead of at her face. Peggy takes off before Angie’s ready. Angie, who has already bragged about her dancing skills, who can learn a routine for an audition after a single demonstration, almost trips over her feet on the first step.

It gets easier. Peggy goes slow, and Angie knows her entire face is probably red, but at least she’s keeping up. Peggy’s body is strong, sturdy, but her chest has this give to it where Angie’s chest is pushing into her. Angie knows this is going to kill her, this is how she’s going to die, so close to Peggy she can barely remember how to breathe, and when she does, there’s Peggy’s perfume in her lungs like water, like she’s drowning, and she hasn’t thought much about death, but it’s never seemed so simple before. If she’s gotta go, this is the way she wants to do it.

Peggy does a pop turn and twirls Angie out for a spin, around and around and around, and when she catches her again, Angie forgets not to look at her face. Peggy’s smile is bigger than it’s been all night. Angie’s grateful that it takes her a moment to reorient herself after spinning, because it gives her brain enough time to remind her that no, she cannot kiss Peggy, that will do nothing more than ruin a perfectly nice evening.

“You’re good at this,” she says instead, and Peggy’s smile gets even bigger.

“I’ve had some practice,” Peggy says, “but never such a fantastic partner.”

Angie blushes, looks away. “Practice, huh? That nurse made you lead every time?”

“She didn’t make me,” Peggy says. “I rather enjoyed showing her off.”

Angie snaps her eyes back to Peggy’s. Surely she didn’t mean…but Peggy quirks her eyebrow like there’s a joke that Angie’s not quite getting.

“You’d understand if you’d seen her legs.”

Angie’s mouth drops open involuntarily and it’s Peggy who glances away this time, a smirk playing at her lips. They do a throw out, and when they come back together, Angie’s feeling brave.

“I’ve seen yours,” she says. “So I think I get it.”

Peggy beams, leads Angie into another spin and lollies around her. Angie's heart seems to be doing the same thing her body is: spinning in circles so fast and tight she can't catch her breath. 

They finish the song with more eye contact than they've had all night. Angie wants to kiss her wants to kiss her wants to kiss her. But before the band starts the next song, the blood stops rushing in her ears enough that she can hear people talking, clips of conversations, can hear her entire family too close to take the risk. Instead she does an over the top bow, like she's finished a Broadway performance, waves to invisible audience members. Peggy smiles gently at her. 

"You've made my evening, Angie," Peggy says when Angie doesn't come up with any sort of conversation. "I only came to this wedding out of duty to a coworker. I was planning to sneak out as soon as possible before you came over." 

Angie blushes and drags her toes through the grass. 

"And now I probably know enough about your family to blackmail every single one of them." 

"Hey!" Angie says, and Peggy is laughing at her, and this feels like everything she's ever wanted. 

"It's your fault for talking so much," Peggy teases. 

Angie plays at outrage. "This is what I get for trying to be a good hostess!" 

"This is what you get for being so talkative." 

"Oh, that's it," Angie says. She shoves playfully at Peggy's shoulder. 

"You don't want to start a fight with me, Miss Martinelli," Peggy says, and god, Angie wants to play poker against this woman, because she can't sell a single lie, the way she's grinning so hard. "I'm trained in a variety of martial arts." 

Angie laughs, big and loud. "You should have broken those out for those lousy men earlier." 

"Had you not rescued me, perhaps I would have." 

Angie loves the idea of Peggy roughing up her cousins, especially Carlo. She loves the idea of her "rescuing" Peggy. 

She leans against Peggy’s shoulder, considers tangling their fingers together but doesn’t have the nerve. Peggy’s still smiling, and Angie can’t stop either. Even though she’s already told herself otherwise, she wonders if they’re secluded enough to sneak a kiss.

“Angela!”

And God, if there was ever a sign that Angie shouldn't be even thinking about kissing girls at a family wedding, her mom shouting her name while she's close enough to Peggy to breathe her air—that's it. 

“Coming, Ma!” she calls. She slips back into her shoes and is quickly off.

By the time Peggy has caught up to her, Angie’s mother is in the middle of an overdramatic rant about how no one has seen her for half the night and couldn’t she have danced with little Joey Marasco just once? She knows how he pines for her.

“You told me I couldn’t show up the bride, Ma,” Angie says. “I took that to mean I wasn’t allowed on the dance floor.”

Peggy must try to stop a laugh, because she ends up making an undignified snort. Mrs. Martinelli turns to her with an appraising look.

“And who’s this?” she says.

The prettiest damn woman I’ve ever seen. Angie fights a blush. “This is Peggy. She didn’t really know anyone from the groom, so I was a good hostess and took her under my wing.”

“The lasagna was marvelous,” Peggy says earnestly.

Angie’s mom chuckles. “Angie tell you to say that?”

“No, ma’am,” she says, posture like she’s in the army. “Though she did brag that you had made it, so I knew to pass on my compliments to the chef.”

Mrs. Martinelli laughs again and says, “This one can stay. I like her.”

Angie can’t remember a time when her mother liked a girl she brought home—just as friends, always as friends—and tries to ignore the swoop in her stomach.

“The tablecloths are ours, Angela. As soon as the dishes get cleared, get them all up.” Her mom heads off to order her brothers around.

Angie smiles at Peggy, pulse already picking up just being alone with her again. It’s time for her to leave, should be anyway, most of the guests having filtered out already. Angie hadn’t realized how late it was.

"How can I help?" Peggy asks instead of saying goodbye. 

Angie immediately wants to kiss her again. 

"You're something else, English," she says, as close as she can get to conveying what she really means. "Everything needs to be washed, so we just gotta get them into the big laundry bags." 

Peggy goes to work like it's the end of the world. She doesn't wait for Angie to actually let her know where the big laundry bags are; she just starts taking linens off the tables, balling them up, and carrying them to the next table with her. By the time Angie gets to her, she's got an armful of tablecloths so big she can't see to get them into the bag. 

It's truly night now, dark but for lights from surrounding buildings and strings of lights that are already being taken down. Everything feels softer in the dark. Angie and Peggy gather the tablecloths and glance at each other and Angie never wants the night to end. 

"Angie, aren't you done yet?" her mom calls. "Get them into the car. I'd like to be home at a reasonable hour." 

Angie rolls her eyes at Peggy. "We live thirteen blocks away, Ma. I think you'll make it." 

"Angela Irene, don't you dare sass me." 

"She's so dramatic," Angie mutters and Peggy's mouth quirks up. "Car's this way." 

They load up the trunk, pushing the bags of linens in as tightly as possible. There are dishes and probably even leftovers that have to fit in after. Angie hopes it'll all fit, doesn't want to be squished in the backseat with two brothers plus various things on their laps. 

She doesn't say this to Peggy. She doesn't say anything to Peggy. Somehow, after spending the entire evening talking to her, she can no longer come up with a single line of conversation. It seemed hard when she didn't think there was a chance Peggy was interested, but knowing that she is doesn't help. Knowing that little smile is at least a little more than friendly doesn't help Angie in the least. Before, she could convince herself not to kiss Peggy because Peggy wouldn't like it, wouldn't want it, would think she was a freak. Now, as much as she tries to remind herself of things like they're within sight of her mother, she wants to kiss her. She doesn't know how to even talk to her anymore because she wants to kiss her so badly. Angie breathes and remembers that she's not brave enough to make the first move anyway, and that at least makes it easier. 

They walk back to the tent in silence. Angie wants to tell Peggy she doesn't have to help clean up. Wants to say nothing that would ever make Peggy leave her side. 

She introduces Peggy to her father and brothers, manages not to twist her hands together while she does it because there's no reason she should be nervous. They all grin at Peggy and none of them ask what she's doing there. 

Eventually it's her mother who says something, once everything is packed into the car. "Didn't you have any other place to be?" 

Peggy doesn't meet her eyes at first, and Angie thinks she might be blushing. "I'm happy to help. It's too nice a night to rush home to a murphy bed." 

"How are you getting home at this hour?" Mrs. Martinelli asks. 

"The subway is just a few blocks—"

Angie's mom barks out a laugh. "Not a chance, Margaret. I've seen the way my boys have been looking at you—" Angie shoots a glare at her brothers. "—I'm not letting you take the subway at this hour with less respectable men. You'll come home with us for the night." 

Peggy's mouth opens and closes. She looks to Angie like she'll be able to help her, but Angie shrugs, trying like hell to keep the blush off her face. 

There's not an extra bed, is the thing. Angie's going to be in her childhood bedroom for the night, and her brothers are bunking up in theirs, too, and Uncle Tommy didn't stay to help—he's probably already passed out on the couch. There's not an extra place for Peggy to sleep. 

"I couldn't possibly—" Peggy starts. 

"You can, and will. You'll bunk with Angie and I'll make you breakfast as payment for your help." 

Angie turns away from the streetlights, hopes no one can see how red she's sure her face is. Peggy takes a moment before she responds. 

"I suppose there's no use arguing," she says. "And I'm not sure I want to, with the promise of your breakfast." 

Angie can't believe how good Peggy is at impressing her mother. 

"Angela, sit on Rico's lap so we can all fit," Mrs. Martinelli says, climbing into the passenger seat of the car. 

Shit. They're going to have to squish in the backseat, and her mom was right, Freddy and Rico have been eying Peggy throughout the whole clean up. Freddy was one of the first ones to hit on her at the beginning of the night, and Angie can just see him planning to do it at the end of the night, too. She resolves to sit less on Rico's lap and more on his side, protecting Peggy from having to touch any part of him. 

Peggy looks at her apologetically as Angie gets into the car. 

"Shove over," Angie says, pushing at her brother. 

"I'm not sitting on Freddy's lap, Ange," Rico complains. 

"You can squish together, you idiots." 

"Angela, be nice to your brothers," Mrs. Martinelli says and Mr. Martinelli laughs. 

Once the boys are close enough together, Angie sits sideways next to Rico, pushes her back into him a little more than necessary, and gestures for Peggy to get in. 

There is absolutely nowhere Angie can put her hands. Her entire front is pressed tight to Peggy, Peggy's body is half-sideways, too, so if Angie lets herself, she could count the other woman's eyelashes. One of her arms is almost wrapped around Peggy's shoulders; she tries to keep it on the seat back, not touching Peggy, but there's not enough room at all. Her other arm stays flat against her side, hand clenching in the fabric of her own dress. 

"Everybody in?" her father asks. 

"Better be," Freddy says. "There ain't any room back here." 

Thirteen blocks, Angie reminds herself. Thirteen blocks is nothing. Not far enough to need a cab or the subway. Which, well, maybe she should have just walked it, even at night, because nothing out there could kill her as easily as Peggy reaching for her hand in the dark of the backseat, tugging it into her own lap, thumb brushing over the back of it. 

"How'd you end up in America, Peggy?" Freddy asks. 

Angie squeezes Peggy's hand. "Did you see Louisa attempting to dance tonight?" she asks loudly. "I don't know why everyone let her make a fool of herself like that. Didn't she figure out after the last family wedding that she should just stay off the dance floor?" 

"Angela, do you think you could manage to not be rude just for one night?" her mom asks. "It was a nice wedding, a beautiful ceremony, and Louisa was enjoying the reception and actually interacting with family, unlike some people in this car." 

"It was a nice wedding and a nice ceremony and I'm glad Louisa enjoyed herself, but don't try to tell me you weren't judging her, too," Angie says. "And I already told ya—I was entertaining Peggy. Being a good hostess. The family got along just fine without me." 

Mrs. Martinelli huffs. 

"I'm not wrong," Angie mutters. 

Peggy's thumb strokes over her hand again and Angie really should have been counting blocks so she has some idea of how long she has to survive this. Her entire body is against Peggy's. 

"So, Peggy—" Freddy tries again. 

"What would you have had me do, Ma?" Angie cuts in. "Leave Peggy to fend for herself? You know how many bums—including these two back here with me—wouldn't leave her alone?" 

"Sons of mine would never—"

"I saved her from Carlo, Ma." 

That quiets her finally, like Angie knew it would. She doesn't trust her brothers much to begin with, but no one trusts Carlo. 

Freddy seems to have finally given up on talking to Peggy, starts talking Dodgers baseball with Rico. Rico gestures and the action pushes Angie farther onto Peggy, whose hand moves from her own to catch her at the elbow. 

"Sorry," Angie says, not much more than a whisper. She doesn't look at Peggy. 

"There's nothing to apologize for, darling," Peggy whispers. 

Just when Angie thinks she's not going to survive however many blocks are left, they arrive. The boys tumble out of the car as quickly as possible, and Angie can finally breathe again. Peggy squeezes her elbow before getting out of the car herself. Angie misses the closeness before she remembers they'll be sharing a bed for the night. Her palms sweat. 

The apartment’s on the fifth floor. Unloading the car doesn’t take more than one trip, but everyone except Peggy complains anyway. They wake up Uncle Tommy, who grumbles about the noise until Mrs. Martinelli mentions how much quieter they’d be if they’d had another set of hands helping them.

“You lot get out of my sight,” Angie’s mom says. “It’s past my bedtime.”

Angie tugs Peggy down the hall to her bedroom. Shuts the door tight behind her.

“I’m so sorry my ma’s making you stay,” she stage whispers, quiet enough not to bother everyone else getting ready for bed. “Her motherly instinct doesn’t seem to have an off switch, even in regard to grown women who aren’t even in her family. Breakfast will be worth it, though.”

“The company alone is worth it, darling,” Peggy says, and Angie blushes.

“Maybe, but I don’t even got a pair of pajamas that’ll fit you,” Angie says. “I only brought one for me and anything in the drawers is from when I was still a teenager.”

“I can wear my slip.”

Angie swallows. “Right, well, bathroom’s right next door this way,” she gestures at the wall. “My toothbrush’s the red one, if you wanna use it. You wanna go wash up while I change, then I’ll go after?”

“All right.”

Peggy just looks at her. Angie swallows again, wonders if she’s supposed to say anything.

“Are you going to get out of my way, dear? You’re blocking the door.”

“Oh! Right!” Angie moves away from the door.

Peggy smiles and her fingers brush over Angie’s arm as she leaves the room.

Angie closes the door again and leans against it. She can’t believe she’s survived this far, but she’s sure as hell not going to make it through a night in a twin bed with Peggy in nothing but a slip.

She’s changed and brushing out her hair when Peggy returns, face bare of makeup. Angie thought maybe she’d want to kiss her less when her lips weren’t painted red, but. Well. Turns out she was wrong.

“I’ll just be a jiff.”

She takes her time washing her face and brushing her teeth. Hopefully by the time she gets back, Peggy will be under the covers; Angie can’t afford to actually see her in her slip.

Peggy is indeed already in bed. Angie thanks God under her breath.

“I didn’t know if you had a preferred side of the bed,” Peggy says. “I can move if you’d like.”

As though there are really sides of the bed when it’s that small.

“It’s fine,” Angie says. “Mind if I hit the light?”

“Go right ahead.”

The curtains on her window block out most everything from outside, so Angie can’t see much more than vague outlines of her room with the lights off. She makes her way across the room and feels like a teenager. That’s the last time she can remember being this nervous about a girl. The dark does make her braver, though, makes it easier to slip into bed beside Peggy without flinching every time they touch. Peggy’s facing her, but Angie is lower in the bed, the top of her head around Peggy’s nose even though there’s not enough light for Peggy to see the flush on her cheeks. Angie’s arms are bent into her own chest.

“Angie, I—”

“I had fun tonight, English,” Angie says in a rush.

Peggy puts her hand on Angie’s hip, gently. “As did I. I was planning on leaving early, you know? But then you found me and I stayed later than anyone else.”

Angie doesn’t move. The thought of Peggy staying, just for her, the feel of Peggy’s hand on her waist, she can’t move for fear it will all dissolve into nothing more than a dream.

“I’m glad you stayed,” she whispers.

She’d kiss Peggy if she thought she could get away with it, but she can still hear her brothers rolling around in their old bunk beds, occasionally muttering to each other, probably something rude, though she can only make out the timbre of their voices. Her door’s never had a lock on it, any and everyone busting in all the time, no regard to whether she’s sleeping or even dressed. There’s no privacy in this home, never has been.

Angie knows all of that is mostly her rationalizing her inaction, her fear. Even here, face to face in the dark, Peggy’s hand warm through her pajamas, Angie doesn’t have the nerve to kiss her. For all her bravado, she’s got no follow through.

She lies still long enough for Peggy’s breathing to go deep and even. Through the wall, her brothers are quiet.

Angie tilts her head up, allows herself to look at the shape of Peggy’s jaw in the dim light. Her heart feels warm, and too big for her ribcage, and she leans forward, just a little, presses her lips against Peggy’s shoulder, half because it’s the only place she can reach and half because kissing her on the mouth while she’s asleep seems creepy. Peggy’s skin is soft, and Angie’s heart is definitely too big for her body, and she thinks she’s gotten away with it when Peggy’s breath hitches. Angie’s lips are still on her skin.

The whole city has gone quiet with Angie, holding its breath. She can hear the click of Peggy’s throat as she swallows. Angie barely moves her head and looks up. Peggy is so close, staring down at her, and Angie can’t quite make out the look in her eyes, but her lips are full and parted just the slightest bit, and it’s Peggy who moves, who leans down first, then Angie lifts her chin and it’s all so soft. Angie must be a teenager, truly; it’s the gentlest kiss she’s ever had. Peggy doesn’t ask for anything. They kiss once, twice, three times, mouths open but tongues tucked away.

Angie has to pull back; her heart’s beating too fast.

“I’m glad I stayed, too, darling,” Peggy says, and Angie can see her smile in the dark.

 

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