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and shining like it never did before

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Franziska is no stranger to early mornings.

She spends most of hers in cold isolation, cycling through the same numb routines to prepare for the day ahead. Her work demands it, and the monotony is so ingrained into her very self that she is lost for what to do now.

Now, as she lays in bed beside Maya Fey.

The other girl is passed out, tangled and twisted into the blankets and sheets she’d stolen countless times during the night. It’s a rather amusing sight, how utterly uncomfortable she looks, but Maya snores and rests like she’s in heaven; like this is how she sleeps every night, and Franziska is pretty sure that it is. 

Maya’s bedroom is nothing like her own. It is barely decorated, but somehow manages to make her feel more at home than either of her family’s estates. There’s a warmth to the mess of it all, one that invites her in to feel like she belongs. If it weren’t for her habitual solemnity beckoning her to pull away, she’d accept that invitation and pretend she belongs here.

But she doesn’t, and desperation to return to what she knows has her debating the best way to get out of bed without waking Maya. She slides one leg out from beneath the blanket, but the girl stirs, squirming and twisting her arm through the sheet beneath her. Miraculously, she does not wake and slips back into her messy, peaceful rest, but Franziska is too worried to attempt her escape again for at least another minute. She sighs, and resigns to wait and watch for an opening.

Watching Maya brings its own challenges, she quickly discovers. The sunlight streaming through the curtains embraces her; it reflects on her skin with tender warmth and wraps her up in its rays. It makes her look like the angel she is, holy and ethereal. Franziska cannot convince herself to look away, too taken with the beauty she finds in the wild mess that is the girl beside her. She wishes she could take the sleeping girl into her arms, but she knows that she does not deserve that privilege.

It’s difficult to peel her eyes away, but she forces herself to. If she stares at Maya a moment longer, she will never find her opening to escape this moment. She will be trapped here until the girl wakes, in a prison of sunlight, comfort, and divinity.

The girl , she keeps thinking, as though the two of them aren’t just a month apart in age. Maya only seems younger because she acts nineteen, while Franziska crawls into her shell and builds up fragile walls of maturity and strength. She wishes she could leave it behind and embrace her youth like her, but she refuses for the same reason she’s quietly exiting the bed again, because she does not deserve it.

Behind her, the girl wakes with a quiet, confused whisper. “Fran..?”

Muttering something between a curse and a prayer, she turns around and regrets it immediately.

The sun is no longer curling around Maya now, because she overpowers it. Even freshly awake and in her tired stupor, she shines brighter than the light outside; with her kindness, her concern. She looks incapable of comprehending the world around her, but still manages to see through Franziska’s defenses in an instant.

“You’re leaving?” Maya lazily wipes a spot of drool from her chin, and it does not repel her like it should.

Maybe because part of her doesn’t want to be repelled; maybe she wants to be convinced to sit back down and sink into this home. Franziska knows she shouldn’t. She should tell her “yes” and slip out of the room, leave all this behind before she is caught here for an eternity.

It seems she already is, however, because as soon as Maya pats the bed beside her and beckons her return, Franziska is helpless to do anything but comply.

“That’s better,” she mumbles, and flops herself back into the mattress. “Oh… You don’t have work today, right?”

Not today, but it would be a good excuse. She works so often that Maya, while she’d be quite disappointed, would not question it and let her out. Then this odd encounter would be over. Franziska would leave, and neither of them would discuss this or last night again.

But she doesn’t want to disappoint her–or at least that’s what she tells herself–so she whispers a gentle “No,” and any safety that excuse would have guaranteed is thrown out the window as Maya gives her a happy little hum and does exactly what she wished to do just minutes ago. She wraps her arms around Franziska and pulls her close. She’s dragged back into bed, into a golden cage made of the sun’s rays and Maya’s content sighs.

Her embrace is far stronger than she expected, as though Maya is worried she might run away if she has the opening–and she might, so she cannot blame her. As tightly as she’s drawn in and captured, it still feels affectionate. It is not numbing like every other aspect of Franziska’s tired life. It is alive, it feels beautiful, and she wishes she could deserve it.

Maya takes a deep breath, her chest rising and falling against her back. She can’t recall a single time where she’s been close enough to someone to share something as tender and personal as breathing. Silence encompasses them, and Franziska listens for more, feels for her heartbeat. It’s analytical, she lies to herself. I’m just curious

When she does pin that gentle rhythm, she feels her own heart flutter. Her breath and heartbeat race and beg for attention, so she hopes that by now, Maya has fallen asleep. It’s embarrassing to her, to become a puddle of worry and uncertainty in another person’s arms. She doesn’t want her to witness this, how close she is to entirely crumbling into a pile of glass and broken stones.

“You can leave whenever you want to,” Maya says, still awake. Her heart stops. “But if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t.”

Does she want to leave? Rationality says she should, but rationality disappeared in the dark hours of last night, in red wine, in soft lips, in the desperate prayer of her name rolling off Maya’s tongue.

“I don’t,” Franziska breathes out, and she hadn’t realized that her voice could sound so light and hopeful. It catches her off guard, urges her to creep back into her walls. She doesn’t.

With another heavy breath, Maya pulls her even closer than before. Franziska does not know where her body ends and her partner’s begins, and their heartbeats conform in a euphonious rhythm that quickly becomes addictive. It goes against everything she knows, but she does not wish for it to end. She wants to close her eyes and stay here forever, wrapped up in the light that is Maya Fey.

There isn’t an ounce of selfishness to the embrace. Maya clings to her like it’s a necessity, not for herself, but for Franziska. They both know she needs it, to not feel so cynical and jaded, but to feel loved. Not in the way she thought her father did, nor in the way her little brother does, but in a new way. A new, brilliant way that she loathes her former self for ever thinking she didn’t want or need.

Another deadening habit, doubt comes in, and her mind suddenly reels back toward its pessimistic conclusions again. Toward guilt, toward hesitation. Maya must peer into her head (or maybe her uncertainty is just that obvious), because one of her hands creeps around to Franziska’s. “You don’t want to leave,” she whispers, “so stop acting like you do.” Reluctantly, she allows their fingers to intertwine, and a thumb grazes over the back of her hand, longingly. Lovingly.

“I know, I just don’t–”

You don’t want to leave,” she repeats, cutting her off. Normally, an interruption would anger her, but instead it makes the doubt creep back into the shadowed crevices of her mind, leaving her alone. “Let that be enough. Don’t you ever let yourself have what you want?”

The answer to that is obvious, and fills her with more shame than anything else that’s led up to this moment. Franziska cannot bring herself to say it, but the silence is enough.

“Then let it happen,” Maya pleads. “At least this once.”

She was wrong, she realizes. All along, the prison has been herself, the desperate way she clings onto what she knows and thinks she deserves. It’s only now that she lets herself go that she feels whole, like the person she’s supposed to be. Laying here, in simplicity and light.

The sun curls around them both, and with one steady breath, she lets herself give in. They melt together as the warmth consumes her piece by piece and then all at once, until she is engulfed by all she wants and deserves. Franziska allows it, closing her eyes and allowing them to be connected; allowing herself to feel .

They will lay here for eternity, but not because Franziska is trapped.

They will lay here because she wants to.