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Take The Leap And Hope You Grow Wings On The Fall

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My shoulders rocked back into the bed as my husband grunted and strained on top of me. I knew the routine I had to just lay there until he finished and I could wash myself and he would be snoring away in no time. This was the last time we would have to do this for an age. That I'd have to endure doing my marital duties. Henry shivered and made an animal grunt over me rolling off me and mumbling unintelligible words before pulling the blanket over his shoulders and turning onto his side. He was asleep before I could have counted to ten. I got out of the bed and tip toed to the bathroom to wash myself out. I couldn’t turn the light on, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror afterwards it was too… Too… I just felt dirty.

He was gone tomorrow, shipping off to England before going to France or Africa and to war… It didn’t seem real. I felt guilty I was looking forward to him going… I didn’t really like him that much. I never had felt great being around or with him. He was 24 I was still 18, I got married quickly like most people did when America declared war in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. Well I was married last year, 1943, when this war seemed unending. My dad and my mom pushed me into it and now I was free of him.

I didn’t want him to die… I didn’t want anyone to die… It was just I needed breathing room, to find my head and my… Something. I needed something nebulous to me now which I hoped to pluck from the fog created by the constraints of a marriage which would help me being more at ease with myself. I finished wiping myself off. I really didn’t want to get pregnant. I always cleaned myself out after we had sex, which was always an ordeal, always, I couldn’t stand it, I knew I could still get pregnant I just wanted to minimize the chances.

I pulled the silk robe on which I had on the hook on the back of the bathroom door and made my way back to bed and lay as far as I could possible manage from Henry. He was breathing hard and his snores were unpleasant enough without the snorts and gurgling noises he made. I couldn’t sleep, I wrapped my arms around my shoulders basically hugging myself for comfort and security. I made a mantra of I’ll be alone tomorrow, over and over. It was a security blanket to keep myself sane.

I just stared out into the dark, unable to close my eyes. I was a little disgusted. I was always after sex. Always. I usually tried to find an excuse to avoid it, or do housework late into the evening so he would already be asleep. Drunk and snoozing. He was going tomorrow. He was going and I would be alone!

The night passed slowly, and sleeplessly. Henry didn’t have the same problem he was sleeping easily. I didn’t get that. I would be scared out of mind at the idea of going off to war, Europe was a mess. My dad had gone to Europe in the First World War and not too many of his friends had returned with him, he barely spoke about it but my mother had passed down tid-bits over the years.

When the dawn light finally broke through the curtains of our bedroom I knew I hadn’t slept a wink. Henry woke as the alarm clock rang loudly, the hammer ringing angrily side to side against the two small bells signalling it was 5.45. He groaned and got up. I stayed in my pretence of sleep avoiding any additional conversation past the necessary. I could hear him shaving and washing in the bathroom before entering the bedroom once more and rumanging in the closest.

“Laura,” he tapped my shoulder. I turned, acting groggy and tired, rubbing my eyes. “I have to go.”

He was dressed in his military uniform, with the cap and sleek polished boots which I spent ages shining. He leant over me and kissed my cheek and gave me a sincere and grim nod and left.

Get up. Get up and at least see him to the door. I threw my legs from the bed and found my slippers and went out following in his wake, he had picked up a large duffle bag and had it resting over his shoulder opening the front door. I came and stood behind him.

“Bye be safe,” I called after him. He turned and just nodded again, turning his back to me and walking out. We lived on an avenue full of bungalows with a lot of other military families and all the other men were marching out of their houses in almost unison taking what could be their final steps towards the congregation point at the top of the street to wait for the silver, metal army bus. I wanted to just shut the door and close that portion of my life away until he got back whenever that would be. That was too much. That would have been too rude. He waved to me from the bus stop as the bus pulled up to pick them up, I waved back just before he was obscured by the vehicle. I closed the door and rested my back against it sliding down to the floor. I was wiped out exhausted from not sleeping but equally my adrenaline was pumping. I couldn’t be happier.

Was a bad person? I don’t think so…

***

My mother came around the house later that afternoon.

“How are things with you darling?” She asked as I poured us each a cup of coffee and slid hers over the kitchen counter.

“Ok.”

“Well no let’s be serious here, you’re alone now.”

Oh great.

“I know but it’s been all of four hours.”

“Well yes that’s true I suppose. I married your father right after he got back from the first war and it was hard for me thinking about the danger he’d already survived, I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”

“Well I’m sure he’ll be ok,” I mumbled not looking up from my cup.

“That’s the spirit! It’ll just be lonely here without your husband and you don’t even have a child!”

“I know I don’t…” Thank god I didn’t.

“Well you need to stay active to keep yourself… you know sane.”

“Like?”

“Well you could get a job, women have been taking up jobs now the men are gone.”

“I suppose I could.” That wasn’t a bad idea to be honest.

“Well look into it.”

“I will. I don’t think I’d fit in a factory or anything.”

“Well there are plenty of jobs at the town hall for the army. It’s filing, secretarial work but it will help the cause. You can do your part and occupy your time with something meaningful.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Don’t just think about things just do them. You don’t want to wallow about the house and become a shut in waiting for Henry to come back.”

“I won’t!” I whined my frustration growing. I know I wasn’t that broken up about my husband leaving but she didn’t know that! I should be given a little bit of a break before she came after me. It was constant nagging from her. Get married. I did against my best thinking. Have a baby as soon as possible. Nope. Now it was get a job the same day I had been left alone. She really annoyed me sometimes.

“Well you have the car now right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well drive down there tomorrow morning, no need to waste time and mope about the house, be driven! This your chance to get some work experience!”

“OK!”

“Don’t be snippy with me young lady, I’m trying to help you.”

“I didn’t sleep much last night and Henry left 4 hours ago.”

“Excuses, excuses,” she waved me off dismissively. “We’re at war!”

“I know we are!”

“So do your part, you’re a young lady without children!” She added sternly raising her eyebrows at me heavily hinting at her disapproval of that fact. “You need to be a go getter!”

“Fine, I’ll go this afternoon then!” I cried out just wanting to stop her constant nagging. I didn’t realize I had to be on the receiving end of a barrage of ‘helpful suggestions.’

“Good for you,” she smiled taking a satisfied sip of coffee. I hated that smile, the smile of getting her own way. Acting like I was making my own decision when she really was pushing me into doing what she wanted. “Now do you want to come over for dinner tonight? It’ll be the first time you’ll be alone for pete’s sake.”

“Is it?” I racked my mind, but yeah I suppose that was true, I lived with my parents until I got married and moved out… I hadn’t really thought about that… I guess I could go, I wasn’t the best cook, Henry always berated me with rude and cutting comments about everything I attempted to stir up. “No, first night I should get used to being alone.” I decided against it.

“You can stay over if you like, if you do decide to come the door is always open for you,” she smiled. She was being nice now things were going exactly the way she wanted.

“We’ll see…” I didn’t want to commit to that yet.

“Well I’ll be off to the grocery store, I’ll get some butter and meat with the rationing book as a special treat when you come over honey,” she smiled again and reached over and pinched my cheek. How condescending.

She polished off her coffee cup and got up and washed it up herself. That was a little insulting towards my housekeeping abilities. I had barely drank any of mine, disgusting, foul drink. She left. Two people had left my house today and both times I’d been thankful.

I ran a bath and then changed into a smart, navy blue dress and black shoes with a small heel. I took my reflection in and smoothed my hair down, pinning it back with a hairband. Ok ready to go! I got into the cream colored coupe which was my husband’s pride and joy. He definitely loved the stupid car more than me, not that I really cared too much about it but it was nice to be in control of it and have it all to myself.

I rarely drove that much, I took the bus to the grocery store as Henry had the car out during the day when he was at his old job at the docks. So I took it a little slow and careful down to the town hall. There really wasn’t that much traffic. I guess a lot of the men had enlisted and gone off today, a few months ago wherever and whenever else people joined up and went off to Europe or the Pacific before that. A few men from my neighborhood had died, but I didn’t know them well enough to feel like it personally affected me.

Apart the rationing and men disappearing the war hadn’t felt like it had really come to America. There wasn’t fighting on our actual soil… Maybe that was selfish of me… I’m glad I wasn’t in London or Paris for that matter. Though I was blonde so I would have been alright I guess. I felt terrible for even thinking that.

I pulled up to the town hall. It was fairly busy I suppose for that place, the town itself was becoming increasingly deserted as the male population just emptied out, more and more over time as the fighting intensified. I got out of the car and looked at myself in the reflection of the window, making sure I still looked presentable. Fine. Passable.

I walked up the old timey steps into the hallway of the town hall. I hadn’t really let myself consider what I was doing, I was just tired and irritated by my mother. I wandered around a little lost in the atrium until a middle aged woman with a clipboard came up to me.

“Hello, good afternoon,” she smiled.

“Good afternoon.”

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah my husband shipped off this morning and… Well… I thought that…” I was stumbling over what I was looking to say.

“Help out with the war effort?!” She asked smiling broadly, it was a little unsettling, “good for you missy. Do you have any skills?” I just shook my head. I really didn’t. “Well we need someone in the mail room, we get a lot of letters from the local army base, they read them and make sure nothing suspicious has been written and well I’m not too sure what it’s men’s business, then we get a sack full and have to send them back out to their destinations. There is another position…”

“The mail room is fine,” I interrupted, I couldn’t be given too many options. I could push envelopes into pigeonholes or into a sack.

“Excellent! We don’t get too many volunteers because… Well, it is a little morbid but the post also includes the telegrams…”

“Which telegrams,” I asked cluelessly.
“About those who… Who pas… No who gave their lives in the war effort,” she said grimly.

“Oh. Right. Well ok,” I had already said I would no point backing out now and making a terrible impression. I was already in a daze getting myself into this mess… Though sitting at home all day would be even worse. I could have taken a day or two though. Screw it I was here, no turning back.

“Ok phew, good, we don’t get many people who want to work in the mailroom,” she explained. “When can you start?”

“Whenever,” I shrugged.

“Well I’ll take you there now, if that’s ok?”

“I suppose it is…”

I meekly followed the woman with the clipboard off the nice atrium down the stairs which instantly became grotty and dank and dark.

“I’m Peggy by the way,” she said over her shoulder, “Peggy Smith.”

“Laura Mic,” I started fake coughing, “Hollis.” I corrected. I don’t know why I gave my maiden name, I just did. Well that happened. I hope I didn’t have to provide any identification. I could just say I’m not long wed and I forgot in the moment I suppose.

“Right well the woman who works down here too,” she glanced side to side, “she’s off today, but she’s a… What’s the term, she’s an Austrian Jew,” she whispered like she was conveying a top secret.

“Oh ok.”

“Yeah she escaped before the war got serious, but,” she glanced around yet again. “She hasn’t said anything but the gals around here suspect her family didn’t make it out.”

“Right,” I mumbled. I didn’t really know how to respond to something like that.I tried to think how I’d react if that happened to me. I just couldn’t even imagine, couldn’t even start to form an idea of what it would be like to be at war. I was kinda bummed out that I had to use a rationing book. I had made myself feel bad at my own selfish behavior.

“So here is it!” Peggy gestured to a dingy little office, the glass had ‘Post,’ frosted into the window, she opened it up and, ok it was more roomy than it looked. There was what I expected, a sorting table with worn leather upholstery in the centre of the room with a lot of pigeon holes surrounding it, covering every wall from bottom to top. There was a heisen sack on the table tied from with rope at the top, the word ‘mail,’ was printed on it in that familiar army stencil font. I shuddered internally. I didn’t want to be here I realized. I couldn’t back out now. No one was loathed more in society than those who shirked their ‘duty,’ why had I let myself be bullied into this by my mom? What the hell was she doing? I bet she thinks that making me do something in lieu of her participating counted as her own contribution to the service.

“Right so what do I do?” I asked floundering a little, any confidence I had deserting me.

“Oh today? Well that is great! How eager of you!” She grinned. Condescending. “Nothing today, you need to be instructed, taught you know, it’s a little bit slapdash, but the jew will help you tomorrow? If that’s ok?”

“Yeah I supp… That’s sounds great,” I gave her a false smile which she returned enthusiastically.

Leading back up into the lobby of the town hall I heard a squeal and a flash of red hair rushing over to me. Before I couldn’t truly see what was happening the new person had my hands held in their own squeezing them.

“Laura!”

“Danny?!” I blinked confused. It was Danny Lawrence from my high school, I hadn’t seen her in quite a few months, since my wedding in fact. I had kind of sequestered myself in my house. Miserable and reclusive. She towered above me, genuinely excited.

“Yeah! You coming to work here too?” She asked happily. It was rare to see anyone other than grey and gloomy since… Since probably 1941. It looked alien. Huh. That was a depressing thought to have.

“I guess,” I mumbled back, I was a little taken out of place. “Yeah.”

“Come on let’s go get a coffee!” She half asked and half commanded taking my hand and pulling me to the steps taking us to the plaza.

“Bye girls! See you later Danny and see you tomorrow Miss Hollis.”

“Hollis?” Danny shot me a questioning look, as she shot a wave over her shoulder which I just copied out of politeness. “I thought it was Michael?”

“Yeah, I gave my maiden name.”

“Oh my god! Did Henry… Did he?”

“No!” I interrupted catching her drift. “I just gave my maiden name.”

“Oh ok.”

“He shipped out this morning, literally today.”

“And you came right to sign up to work? Good for you.”

“Yeah, when did you start up?”

“Like 4 maybe 5 months ago, Wilson was shipped off during my first week here,” she explained. I totally forgot she married Wilson Kirsch… Jesus, I hadn’t been a good friend after school. She was the year above me, ah that’s just a poor excuse. A really poor excuse.

“What do you do?”

“Switchboards, like most of the gals, you know Lola Perry is up there too?”

“I didn’t know, I haven’t been in contact with many people from school.”

“Too smitten?” She asked in a sing song voice, “too happy with your man?” Ew, no. Too miserable to get out of my funk.

“Sure,” I lied. I remember she was happy with Kirsch, I guess she was a Kirsch too now actually.

“Aww. Well it is great to see you, I mean terrible how we’ve come back together but great to see you,” she rambled out as she lead me across the street into a small corner coffee shop. It was almost empty. Like most stores and shops were nowadays. It was depressing. She fished out her cash and slapped down my hand as I followed suit. “Don’t be silly, my treat.”

“Oh thanks.”

“Grab a seat,” she asked. The coffee shop was dark and had red leather stools and uncomfortable looking wooden benches by plain wooden tables, which looked to be splintering. I wandered over to a booth and slid down the wooden bench and took out my pack of cigarettes and lit one up with a booklet of matches dragging the ashtray from the centre of the table in front of me. I rarely smoked but I felt like it now. It was a good thing to see Danny again, from what I remembered she was a bit overbearing but if I didn’t speak to people at my new place of work then I would literally speak to no one but my parents and stay home all sad all the time.

Danny sat down opposite me and without asking took a cigarette from my pack and a match from the book.

“I hope black coffee is ok?”

“Yeah that's fine, thanks.” I did need some caffeine, I was wiped out from not sleeping.

“So where's Henry going?”

“England first.”

“Oh right, Wilson went to the Pacific,” she told me. I really had nothing to say to that.

“Ok, so where you living now?” I asked trying to make conversation.

“Nearby, very near in an apartment in town, how about you?”

Mundanity ensued.

***

When we finished the coffee Danny returned to her work in the town hall and I drove back to my bungalow, my empty, lonely bungalow. The whole avenue seemed a little more grim than usual. I had nothing for dinner, the refrigerator and pantry were almost bare and I didn't have the energy to go out again. Using the little ration book was confusing to use. I sat with a glass of water in the small living room smoking just drained. Reality didn't feel quite there, it was a hazy fog I was detached from. I suppose I could use this as a fresh start. A fresh way of life.

I hadn’t really felt like a real person since I had left school and got married. I had just stumbled through the motions of what I had to do. The cleaning, the cooking, the sex, it had all just dragged by in a fog I had been numb to.

I was exhausted, but feeling more positive about things after a short period of reflection. I would get on with things, make my own decisions for once. Not let myself be pushed about by the events I caught up in.

My eyes opened and I was sitting on the couch. Oh wow, I had fallen asleep in the living room. It was dark still outside. Getting lighter though, there was a pale light weaved into the night sky pouring through the closed curtains. I stood up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I made myself something small to eat with the pathetic amount of ingredients I had. Which was powdered egg on a slice of slightly stale bread. Disgusting.

I had a shower and milled about just trying to kill time before I set off to this new post I had walked into blind yesterday. It was a little unsettling. Things still didn’t feel real. They would probably fall into place when I had a fixed routine, I hadn’t had a routine for a long time. Some order would be good for me. Some order and discipline around which I could carve my own choices and destiny out of. However meagre that might be, it would still be mine.

I hadn’t actually been given a time to arrive, to start at. Danny had dragged me away before the lady… Peggy I think her name was, could give me the details.

I set off around 7.30, aiming to arrive before 8 to see what was going to occur. I needed something to do. As much as I didn’t truly enjoy my husband’s company at least when he was around the house time passed by, there were things to do for him. I showered and dressed in a smart dress again and wore the same stockings as I did the day before, they were rationed as well. I didn’t know why.

There were a group of young, well older than me, women walking up into the town hall as I got out of my, well husband’s car. I hung back. I didn't want to have them taunt me or laugh at me, they reminded me of the clique of girls in school who I was always nervous and uncomfortable around. One thing I did like about staying at home most of the time for the last few months was the ability to avoid any awkward social situations. The hint, a small hint of the anxiety flashed over me momentarily. I shook it off before walking into the atrium.

“Hi!” Peggy ran over to me waving. She was too happy it was suspicious.

“Hi, reporting for duty,” I smiled back trying to fake the positivity. Eugh, why did I say that. I was kicking myself for that.

“Sorry dear you'll have to remind me of your name.”

“Laura M, Hollis, Hollis,” I repeated my maiden name.

“Of course, of course silly me, I forgot easily, this really is a man's job,” she explained slapping her head slightly to indicate forgetfulness. “Well take this,” she handed me a slip from her clipboard. “Just address and full name, age all that. You're over 18 right?”

“I am 18.”

“Good good, even if you're not,” she lowered her voice, “just say your are,” she winked. “It's the effort not the number,” she raised her head again and started speaking normally once more, “anyway remember your way down to the mail room?”

“Yeah.”

“Well be a good girl and see yourself down and wait for the refugee girl, fill that in and return it to me whenever, ok have a good first day and thanks for helping out and doing your part,” she patted me on the shoulder and hurried off. Ok. I made my way out the antechamber down into the bowels of the building to the post room.

I pushed open the door, the room was empty, I flicked on the light, it took a while to turn on, humming and crackling to life. I guess this was the first day of my new life, I couldn't get out of it now, well when the war ended. If it would end, it had been going for ages and ages with no end in sight. I walked around the table in the centre running my hand lightly across the worn surface. After a full rotation I hopped up onto the table so I was sitting with my back to the door looking up an almost full cork bulletin board. It was all just war propaganda leaflets about saving food and not talking to strangers.

I kept scanning them, I had seen them all before. I took out a cigarette and lit it tossing the pack and matches aside on the table top. I let a giant puff of smoke out tipping my head back letting it spread out around the ceiling.

“Who are you?”

I jumped out of my skin in shock, having not heard anyone enter, falling off my perch, I bumped my head on something falling down.

“Ow,” I moaned rubbing my hand on the pain emanating from my skull. “Ow!” I shut my eyes and held my hand to my head.

“Are you ok?”

I opened my eyes to see a pair of big, dark brown eyes looking at me. I blinked a few times, before taking in the scene. A raven haired woman in a black dress was kneeling next to me. I had never seen anyone who looked like her before. She was beautiful. Like a movie star come out of the screen to life. I stuttered and spluttered out words like a fool before trying to compose myself.

“Are you ok?” she repeated, she had a slight accent, I couldn’t place it. I guess it was Austrian.

“Yeah… I just bumped my noggin,” I said and instantly went red with embarrassment at using such a childish term.

“You…” she paused and smirked, it wasn’t condescending, just bemused. “You hurt your head,” she stressed the word.

“Uh-huh,” I nodded, still having a little trouble finding words. I was bit intimidated by her.

“You are?”

“Laura Hollis. I’m helping you down here,” I said, I felt like I was coming across stupidly.

“Oh someone has finally been sent down to my crypt. You must be pretty naive and gullible to be tricked into taking a role down here,” she was still smirking.
“I guess I am,” I still hadn’t broken eye contact. I was losing myself in the dark pools of her eyes, the pain in my head fading away the longer I gazed.

“I’m Carmilla, Karnstein,” she held out a hand. I glanced down at it before quickly reconnecting our eye contact and reaching out to take the offered shake and shook her hand. This wasn’t going to be too bad I decided.

 

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Screams permeated my mind’s eyes, screeching ghoulish noises of death and destruction broke out of the darkness. Tanks and planes and the cries of war shattered the abyssal shroud I was coated in. Wrapped in oblivion which was torn to pieces by the flashes of Blitzkrieg. I shuddered and moved through the room, it wasn’t my room, it was familiar but I knew it was danger. I ripped open the door and the walls fell down like a doll house being deconstructed.

A plane cut a nasty trail over head and I ran, ran into the haze, tripping over my own feet, there was no path, no world, just white and black with rumbling noises howling from the purgatory I was locked in. The ground shook and knocked me down, I tried to pull myself from the floor but it was sticky and held me down like quicksand. Every time I attempted to regain my footing I was constricted tighter to the bubbling black soil.

I crawled as the cracking noise of jackboots came up behind me. I don’t know how but I managed to turn onto my back propping myself up on my elbows which were ensnared in nightmarish tentacles. Nazi boots, in Nazi uniforms circled me, I looked up holding a protective hand over my face, I could only see gas masks and glowing orange eyes boring down through my soul. The biggest of the stormtroopers reached down at me with a leather glove and the swastika banded arm and I shot awake in my bed.

America. I’m in America. I’m safe in America.

I rolled out of bed and got into the shower. I had a film of sweat, an eighth of an inch layer over my body top to bottom. I stood under the nozzle, letting the boiling hot water scourge my skin. I then turned the knob to turn the jet into a freezing torrent, shocking me back to the real world. Here in America. I repeated that to myself, just focus on that. Don’t think of what could have been as it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen to you.

I toweled off and patted my hair dry and changed into a black dress, I had a small little flat the government had kindly given me. I had lived in a manor house in Austria but… No. Don’t think of that. It’s better to be alive and here.

I walked to the bus stop and smoked waiting for the shuttle to take me to the town hall, for another day of drudgery, as an outsider, a weird foreigner in a strange land. I sighed and flicked away the butt as I got on and flashed the government issued pass and took a seat in the middle. I went down the side entrance of the town hall, so I could avoid the groups of women and older men who worked there. I liked to be a ghost. I hated being the centre of attention, not even that, having any attention on me. It reminded me of darker days and what fixated attention could potentially lead to.

I looked through the glass and saw someone in my little room. One small room at my home to my small room at work. Always alone but it looked like that might change. I pushed open the door, all I could see was a girl with brown, blonde hair, she was rocking her head side to side and blowing smoke up at the ceiling. I spoke and she fell. I walked round to help her. Ok, she was cute. Really cute. No, play it cool, play it normal. People might be tolerant here, but not that tolerant.

***

“Carmilla, Karnstein,” I introduced myself offering a handshake she took it smiling. She hadn’t broken eye contact maybe… No, she’s just odd. Stop being presumptuous. Things were looking up though.

Chapter Text

She seemed clumsy. I had never really liked clumsy people, it was a sign of stupidity but she didn’t seem stupid. I explained how we received a giant sack of post every couple, every few days, and had to sort them by zip code in certain pigeon holes corresponding with addresses. It was mind numbing work, but safe away from any horror.

“Got it?” I asked the tiny little blonde, placing a hand on my hip and appraising her. I think we were probably around the same age but I was talking down her like she was a child.

“Yeah it seems simple enough,” she nodded dropping the letters she was holding. I couldn’t help but smirk at that. She was adorable. “Well maybe I have a few kinks to work out,” she conceded as she bent down to pick up the assortment of spilled post.

I barked a short laugh at that. I hopped up onto the sorting table and pulled a cigarette from my silver case. It was the only nice thing I managed to sneak out of Austria with me, I always ran my thumb over it, from top to bottom over the inscription, carved in German into the case.

“Smoking break?” She asked.

“For me yeah, you still need to learn the ropes,” I shot her a smirk. She huffed and pouted, she was really cute. I caught myself looking too long and broke off the eye contact. “Something you could do is go get us some coffee.”

“Ok, yeah,” she perked up, “I can do that.”

“Do you know where to get it?”

“No…”

“So you can't do that,” I smiled to myself. I didn't know why I was playing with her like this, she just seemed easy to fluster and it was endearing. “Go out into the hall and there is a break room with some disgusting filter coffee, the cups are in the cupboard.”

“Why drink it if it's disgusting?” She asked cocking her head to the side.

“American coffee is horrible,” I said dismissively. Oh shit, I chastised myself internally, don't insult your host nation, they don't take kindly to any sort of criticism. I was expecting the patriotic fever to be returned at me but she just nodded again.

“Two cups coming right up!” She said enthusiastically and half jogged half walked around to the door. I turned my neck to see her standing outside in the corridor looking left to right confused not sure which direction to take. I couldn't help but crack a grin at her naive enthusiasm as she wandered off the wrong way.

I honestly felt relieved. I had been reclusive and alone for so long and the idea that someone would come and join me down in the grotty little mailroom scared me if anything. I needed to shake off the constant self doubt and fear but I don't think I'd ever feel safe until Berlin was on fire and everyone of those vile men were long gone, but it was no way to live in the meantime. I would have been happy to have some company down here in all honesty but I was so nervous and uncomfortable around others the worry had heavily outweighed the hope.

I knew first hand how niceness could morph and twist itself into an abomination in society.

“Here you go!”

It was my turn to jump in fright as the new girl placed down a coffee. I was broken from my dark introspection and cracked a small smirk at the look of determination and concentration she had holding a mug of steaming coffee in each hand. I would imagine someone carefully welding together parts for a missile would have the same grim determined look on their face.

“Thanks cutie,” I said before freezing and tensing up. Why did I let that slip out! Oh no, that was a mistake. I was cautious waiting for her reaction but she just smiled.

“No problem, I may have got a little lost looking for the place,” she admitted.

“Shocking.”

“Humph.”

“Don't be so sour,” I commented dryly sipping on the putrid mess this place called a coffee.

“Is coffee better in Austria?” She asked leaning back against the bulletin board opposite me cradling her beverage in two hands and making a face as she had a drink.

“Oh yeah,” I replied wistfully. “Chocolate and coffee is great there.”

She nodded as she stole a cigarette from my pack shooting me a cheeky grin, I thought about slapping down her wrist but the cute look overpowered that instinct. I placed down my coffee and reached for the matches and struck one as she leant over me brushing her hair out of the way of her face and behind her ear. I just stared down at the top of her face as she bent towards the flame.

“Thanks, ah!” She exclaimed as she dropped it to the floor clumsily. We knocked heads lightly as I went down at the same time as her to retrieve it. “Sorry,” she mumbled as she picked it up and started smoking it while rubbing her forehead and beaming a wide smile at me.

I had to return it, her sunny disposition was infectious.

***

We worked in quiet for most of the morning, I was a little on edge, trying to search the deepest recesses of my mind trying to find some topic of conservation to broach the silent gap. She worked hard but wasn't that coordinated and I had to correct her mistakes which I combined with mocking and gentle teasing. Teasing and sarcasm was the only way I could communicate with her, I wish I had some witty and clever and impressive topics to appear striking in her eyes. I couldn't find any though so I had to fall back on ribbing her. She acted offended but I think it was playful. Maybe I misread that or maybe I was reading far too deep into nothing.

“This is harder than I thought it would be,” she moaned scratching the top of her scalp.

“It really isn’t.”

“Well… I’m finding it hard.”

“Of course, let’s go have lunch then.”

“I didn’t bring anything.”

“You didn’t?” I asked, that was poor foresight.

“No, can we go the cafe?”

“Sure. I guess.”

She smiled widely and skipped, actually skipped to the door. I wonder if she was one of those girls who were 16 and lied about their age? Though she does have a wedding band, she hasn’t mentioned her husband. The few women who worked upstairs who I had the displeasure of speaking with blabbered on and on about their soldier husbands and how great they were. It was a little out of place. Maybe she wasn’t that happy with him… Or maybe I shouldn’t think about her like that. I shook my head to clear away the thoughts and followed the bubbling ball of energy she was out and up onto the street.

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I hadn’t had this level of energy for a while. I was in a good mood. Actually in a good mood. That happened to me for a long time. A very long time at that. It was liberating. Was I really that much of a depressive shut in that a short morning of contact with a new person could cheer me up? Or was this girl just nice, we had like, a connection. All she had done really was bully me, but I got the impression it was all in good fun, besides considering what she must have seen in her previous life I could hardly begrudge a little frostiness in her personality.

It had been unusual for the girls who were that gorgeous to want to friends with me anyway. Friends… That was a little presumptuous perhaps. I shouldn’t come across desperate and needy.

We crossed the ghost town plaza in front of the hall and over the road to the small cafe where Danny and I had a coffee together just the day before. I didn’t even know what they offered in the way of food. Rationing had really killed off my diet. I liked sugary things, cookies and soda but that was the main thing that was restricted.

I refused to let her pay, I had a little bit of money left to me by Henry and the army would dole out a small amount every month to the wives of soldiers. Just a pittance to stay alive. If I was careful with the combination of saving and stipend I would be able to live alright. I also thought my mother and father would probably invite me over to dinner now and again.

I got us two more black coffees, I don’t know why, I didn’t even like it, but it seemed like one had to drink it to be a member of society nowadays. The only food we could get which was reasonably priced was a baloney sandwich. Not the type of food you would ever go out to get to eat but hard times and all that.

Unlike me Carmilla chose a booth right at the back, secluded and out of the sun as weak as it happened to be. I guess that’s how kept that perfectly ivory white skin unblemished. That’s a weird thought to have. I hadn’t normally thought of another woman’s appearance outside of judgment or jealousy never just to appreciate it. I had never met a person like her I suppose.

“So you married?” She asked me gesturing towards my ring. My heart fell. I had actually considered taking it off this morning, but felt too guilty do so, it was like a shackle. A shackle which locked me into a misery I was free of, temporarily free as I maybe, but still free of it currently. Another odd thought was I didn’t want her thinking of me as a married woman. Wait she asked that question a few moments ago answer!

“Yeah,” I said. My voice sounded dejected and she definitely picked up on that fixing me with that piercing gaze, which I couldn’t read the meaning of but certainly was captivated by. “Yeah,” I was playing with the cheap ring, working it back and forth over my skin. I had never liked it. Never got used it being there, it always felt like it was rubbing against my middle finger and pinky, out of place and alien. “My husband went off to war.”

“Good for him,” she replied to me neutrally.

“I suppose so,” I replied equally neutrally.

“Do you miss him?”

“He left yesterday morning.”

“You can still miss people you love.”

“Love?” I said bitterly. Oh whoops, I let that honesty just slip up. I really should follow the advice stated in all the propaganda pamphlets and guard my tongue. I ate a bite of the sandwich. It was low quality, but I was hungry and it meant I couldn’t say anything else stupid.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to pry,” she said sympathetically, I quickly glanced up and she gave me a small smile, just the corner of her mouth upturning, her hypnotic eyes pooling with sadness. I had to smile back lowering my head again to eat.

“You aren’t,” I said after swallowing. “We got married quickly, too young I guess.”

“How old are you?”

“18. I’ll be 19 soon.”

“Oh so not long at all.”

“No. No it…” I stopped myself, I was about to admit it felt a lot longer. Months felt like decades. Time was so slow. I had thought about it like an hourglass, with huge grains passing through a neck a little too narrow for them to pass easily. “Yeah.” I finished on, not wanting to start talking as I knew I would just let my emotions blurt out. It was socially unacceptable to really open up about your feelings but they were even more repressed for me as I had no friends and an overbearing mother who would tell me to have a child. That was her advice for everything. How do you clean an oven? Why not have a baby instead? Oh great thanks for that, drat, stop, your mind is wandering.

“So…” I strained to find safe things to talk about. I couldn’t really ask about her family. What if she had a breakdown? That would be too much too soon. It would also make me look shallow to hint at how displeased I was, not having a perfect marriage when she had to flee a fascist regime. “Like it in America?” I wanted to hit myself for asking such a terrible question.

“Better than the alternative.”

“Yeah I guess,” I nodded slowly turning my attention back to the sandwich polishing it off. That was my fault being stupid not realizing that would lead to a comparison of where she came from and what happened there and why she was here…

“Hey,” she lightly kicked me under the table. “Relax,” she shot me a quick smile before lighting up a cigarette.

“Sorry. I just haven’t really spoken to anyone for a long time, I’m out of practice,” I admitted.

“I haven’t been that social either. Maybe we can help each other be more social.”

“That sounds like a good idea.”

The worry evaporated as soon as it came rising off my body at the first mention of her reassurance. I took out my own cigarettes and lit one up.

“How long do we have for lunch?” I asked her.

“It’s pretty informal, we’re borderline volunteers. As long as the work gets done we can take as long as we want. Plus there isn’t even that much work at the moment. It comes in fluctuations.”

“Oh ok.”

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I didn’t want to pry, well I said I didn’t but I did. I wanted to know about her husband about her marriage about her life, I just didn’t want to offend her and drive her away. I know nothing is going to happen and I have to be careful but even in a short period of time, less than a full work day, I was simply happier with her around. I would normally be irritated at the drop of a hat by others and yet I was glad to help her correct the mistakes she was making. It was a chance to stand close to her and evaluate what she was doing.

I slotted away the last letter of the day.

“What now she asked me,” looking around the room expectantly.

“We're done.” I lit another cigarette, it felt like a treat to end a day's work.

“What happens to the letters now?”

“The postman comes in with his assistant after hours or really early in the morning I'm still not clear on that. Anyway they come and take them off, presumably using the order we’ve put them in to sort them out.” Not the best explanation.

“Ok. So tomorrow then.”

“I guess so. I mean you've started on a Wednesday so you're having a really easy week.”

“That's the way the cookie crumbles.”

“Huh? I'm not good with English idioms,” I explained.

“Ok. What's an idiom?” She asked sweetly.

“Can't you work that out from context?” I smirked at her. “I don't think I should be teaching you english.”

“Yeah that's probably true, do you drive?” She asked brushing over my rebuke.

“No, I never got the chance to learn.”

“Oh, oh right,” she looked down at the floor frowning, I should try not to be such a downer. “We'll do you want a ride? I don't have anything to rush off to.”

“That'd be nice thank you.”

That was nice of her and I did want to spend a bit more time with her, try to forge some connection with another person. I followed her up to the car park. I had never been over to this part of the town hall, I tended to get off the bus come in, hide down in my hovel retreat and then wait for the bus and stay at home. I was surprised she had quite a nice car. Her husband's I suppose. I got in and gave her directions and played with the radio dial, it was all just awful, jazz, pop and country and talk were four options. I turned it off and it crackled. I struggled to find a topic, a nice safe topic, which wasn’t just small talk which would make us awkward together.

“So…” she started. Was she having the same inner dialogue as me? It would be reassuring if she was. I glanced over at her, she was concentrating on driving really intently her hands gripping the steering at ten and two. I didn’t know how to drive but she didn’t seem particularly confident either.

“So…” I repeated back and she shot me a quick look and I tried to quickly rearrange my face into a smirk.

“Do you live alone?”

“Yeah,” I wasn’t expecting that to be honest. “You?”

“I do now. It’s been two days, well one night.”

“How you finding it?”

“It’s nice to have my own space. I didn’t really want to come to work, but it is nice, so far, in the short term you know… Sorry I’m babbling.”

“It’s fine.”

“It is nice though, I never have any shred of… Of… Hmmm.”

“Anonymity?” I offered. “Independence?”

“Yeah I guess. I woke up this morning and got ready and came into the town hall, all on my own, that may sound childish, but I was always dropped off to school and picked up and my husband drove me around after that. So yeah, nice.”

“Good for you.”

“Thanks.”

***

“Thanks for the lift,” I said getting out of the car and waving as I closed the door.

“See you tomorrow!” She said returning the wave. Yeah I guess I would. I opened the door to the block of apartments I lived in and trudged up the stairs to the top floor. The 5th floor was terrible, the place got worse and more grotty the higher I ascended. Normally at the end of my day the cracking skirting boards and peeling paint just took the last shred of energy from me, but today, today was a new day.

Things had started to look up. I hope I wasn’t getting ahead of myself, it was still a glimmer of sunlight on what had been an otherwise very dark horizon, peeking through.

I threw my keys onto the small table by the door and pulled the deadlock closed. It had been a weird adjustment, going from living in a huge house with help to fending for myself, I had to remove those thoughts from my head immediately otherwise I knew I would fall to bits. My sanity was truly balancing on a knife edge, a tightrope walk of normality with pits of misery bubbling like the mouth of a volcano either side.

I slumped down in one of the two uncomfortable box chairs in my living room/bedroom/kitchen, it was two rooms. A bathroom and an all in one room.

It was still better than the alternative. I had to repeat that myself over and over. I’m in America and whatever might be crap now was still better than the alternative.

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I drove away from Carmilla’s apartment block. It had been pleasant surprise to meet her. She was different than anyone I’d ever met. Not that I’d met that many people and definitely not a variety of people. I think she might be the first foreigner I’d met… I actually was looking forward to going into the second day of work. I went home and filled out my details on the slip of paper Peggy had given me. I signed the bottom and there, I was done, officially part of the work force.

I placed it carefully on the side with the car keys on top of them.

I really had nothing to do. I hadn’t looked forward to anything for a long time, it was a little pathetic to be excited waiting for a job sorting out letters but hey best not to dwell on something like that.

I changed my bedsheets, that was something I had been meaning to do. I had slept on my couch the night before and I didn’t really want to have to rest on the same sheets I had to have reluctant, awful sex with my husband on. He was gone and out of sight out of mind and I needed fresh sheets so I feel clean when I sleep and wake up. It was a type of self made squalor, which made me feel dirty and reminded me of bad times.

It was therapeutic to tear the old, dirtied sheets from the mattress and ball them up and discard them without a care into the base of Henry’s wardrobe. I would not be opening that door anymore for the foreseeable future, I took a step back as I swung it shut and took a deep breath, letting my shoulders go, up and down relaxing finding my centre of peace. I smiled to myself and tried to whistle. I couldn’t but it was trying that counted as I took out fresh sheets and pulled them taut over the bed. Clean and new. Nice. I turned my back to the bed and threw myself backwards bouncing up and down a couple times before my momentum stopped and I was just resting.

I just lay there. Lay down and relaxed. My muscles felt loose, the tightness and stress floating off my body.

***

I blinked my eyes open, I was still on the bed with no pillows, no blanket and with my feet near the floor. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to sleep but I must have just passed out in my blissful self-reflection. I could be gross and just to work in the same clothes as yesterday… I debated it for about three seconds before taking the lazy option. It was a dawn, I had more coffee, I was getting a taste for it, I wish I could make some hot chocolate but that was rationed really strictly.

I just had coffee and cigarettes until it was time to go, well perhaps a little earlier even. I may have been a bit starved for conservation though I had spent a lot of yesterday trying to find things to talk about, I really didn’t want to slide into awkward chit-chat of no substance. I was going to make an effort today to actually speak and not let my confident get riddled and shot down with self-doubt.

I paused as I got out of my car in the town hall parking lot near the entranceway to check around to see if she was arriving at the same time to accompany me down to the mail room. I lingered perhaps a little too long, it would useful if you could only smoke outside because that would be a good excuse to hang about. I found Peggy inside and handed over the slip with my details on and made my way down to my post. She wasn’t there and I felt crestfallen, I worried she might be off today. I actually managed to unsettle myself by being so needy for the company of someone I had just met.

“Morning,” Carmilla greeted me making jump. Eugh, I really should stop being so easy to scare. She looked a bit rough, rough for her was still amazing looking, but sleep deprived, her eyes were darker than yesterday and there were the signs of bags starting to form underneath.

“Morning!” I squeaked, I didn’t want my voice to come out that high. She grunted in response and slumped down in the sole chair in the office, looking exhausted. “Can I get you coffee? I know where to get it now!” Why was I being so excited and energetic when was she was clearly tired, I was relieved when she broke a small smile in the corner of her mouth.

“Please.”

“Coming right up!” I said punching upwards in the air to indicate energy. I needed to stop doing things like that. I walked out in a hurry feeling my cheeks going red. I didn’t know why I was so worried about how I came across with her, but I did, so I really stop acting like an idiot. I hurried into the small kitchenette area, it was deserted. The whole basement level seemed completely devoid of life. How was Carmilla comfortable here alone before I started, it was kind of spooky. Who even made this coffee?

I took out two mugs and filled them from the drip filter coffee pot and held them gingerly as I walked back. I was basically shuffling and had to knock on the door with my foot, why did I even close it? She opened it and I tripped and spilled the hot liquid onto her outstretched hand.

“Scheiße, die mich verletzt,” she hissed recoiling. I rushed past her and dropped the drinks on the table and turned to grab her burnt hand.

“Sorry, oh my goodness, sorry I didn’t mean to, I’m a butterfingers, are you ok?” I asked frantically as I held her hand in both mine turning it over examining it for damage.

“It’s ok, it’s only lukewarm,” she told me as I looked up concerned, she was smirking at me. It wasn’t a smirk it was a more of a small smile and the tiredness had left her eyes.

“What?” I asked a little confused why she was amused cocking my head quizzically to the side.

“You’re…” She was smiling one second and it disappeared with a frown the next as she pulled her hand away, I hadn’t even realized I was still holding it. “Nevermind, don’t worry. Thanks for the coffee.”

I felt really put out, she wasn’t friendly all the way up to lunch, just seemed preoccupied and full of worry and I was probably mistaken by fearful. We didn’t have too much to do but she worked slowly, filing and organizing what needed to be filed and organized.

“Want to grab lunch? My treat?” I offered my heart catching in my throat worried she’d say no and that I’d done something to upset her and ruin this new friendship before it could really get started.

“Sure.”

We went across the street. I really should start packing a lunch, it was too expensive to eat out each day, even at a cheap cafe, but I suppose it was my second day and it was like a treat! A cheap ration restricted treat. We had baloney sandwiches again and coffee.

“We don’t have this in Austria,” she broke our slightly awkward tension and I felt relieved she was talking again.

“You don’t? It’s pork sausage isn’t it?”

“Yeah but an Americanized version.”

“Oh right. Yeah I hear you have great food in Europe.”

“Not anymore,” she said sullenly poking at her food and looking miserable once again.

“Nevermind that then,” I decided to take the lead and steer the conversation away from this, not letting it fall into pitfall of stiff tentative silence and small talk that could follow if not dodged. “What do you do for fun?”

She snorted laughing.

“What?!” I asked confused not understanding that reaction.

“Two things,” she said calming down and holding up two fingers and laying a finger from the other hand on one to count them off. “That’s a terrible question, and secondly it’s funny personally because I don’t do anything, I come here,” she jerked her thumb of the hand she had just counted off towards the town hall. “Then I go back home and read the handful of books I have, try to sleep and repeat.”

“Oh same!”

She laughed again.

“What?!” I asked indignantly but it just made her laugh harder. “Humph!” I crossed my arms and pouted.

“Again two things,” she finally stopped chuckling and repeated the process of holding up her fingers as a checklist. “One this is your second day so not really a routine and two it is hardly some… Look it isn’t something to be happy about. You reacted like we shared a similar interest not that we’re both lonely shut ins.”

I laughed too and she joined in. It should have been sad but it was actually quite a good point. Take a risk why not? What’s to lose.

“Want to do something with me then this Friday after work? Or the weekend?” I added to give her a bigger window to reduce the chance of rejection.

“Yeah sure,” she frowned looking down before glancing up and I cracked a wide, toothy smile, being purposefully goofy, she smiled back. “What’s good to do around here?”

“Erm…” I really didn’t know, so I just held my palms up at chest height and shrugged.

“We’ll find something to do I’m sure. A bar is a bar is a bar.”

“Great!”

We exchanged a smile. I hadn’t actually had a drink of alcohol since the few glasses of wine I had to have on my wedding day to fortify myself for what I would have to do that night in the bedroom. Numb myself to it. I still cried after regardless, when Henry was snoring like a wild boar. This would be very different though, I am sure of it!

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I had refuse the lift from Laura that day, I felt bad using up her petrol… Or gas whatever the Americans called it. Plus I needed to rest, I had been haunted by nightmares the day before and I finally had something to look forward to. An actual night out. It might be a flop, it might be nothing but I liked her and though I knew nothing would or could or even be hinted at happening I could fantasize and enjoy her company. Also just break the mundane, repetitive cycle I’d fallen into.

There would hardly be any men around anymore either to get drunk and talk to us.

I showered and dried myself, the shower was weak and terrible and the apartment was too cold, the heating was not working but it was better to do it at night and warm up in bed than in the morning waiting for the bus.

I snuggled up in bed after a slice of cold ham for dinner. It was best not to reflect on the meagre food too much, I just munched away thinking of my… Outing? Plan? Whatever it was tomorrow.

Sleep came easily.

***

This can’t be real. I was already running, in mid flight down a corridor of barbed wire fences, I didn’t know what was chasing me but I knew something was. The corridor was getting more narrower with every step and the ground more uneven, my feet my bleeding and dirtied black from being bare against the stone and mud.

The world was burning either side of the fences, cinders and fire and ash and black billowing noxious smoke. Orange and red disembodied eyes floated independently blinking too slowly to be human and shaped like an animal’s in through the vile fog. Speakers started appearing above me floating ahead of me, they crackled and burst to life a fanged mouth instead of a megaphone making the noise covered in the metal case.

“Wir mussen die juden ausrotten,” they blared.

“Lass mich allein,” I whimpered back. “Lass mich allein!”

The corridor was ending, closing and wrapping itself around me, I tried to climb it but the barbed wire clawed and ripped at my skin and I fell back on my back. The fences rearranged themselves again, twisting like a labyrinth. I turned on my heel, frantic and sick and disoriented trying to find an exit, there was none I realized and fell back down, to my knees. I took my head from my hands and saw one of the aisles had a pleasant low glow emanating from it.

“Carmilla?” Laura’s voice cut the haze from under the one source of calming light in this hell and I jolted awake. I was alone in the apartment, but didn’t feel as anxious and depressed as I usually did when I woke up.

I just reminded myself it was Friday, I was in America, I was safe and I was going out with Laura tonight. I smiled slightly as I curled up on my side and wrapped my quilt around my shoulders.

Chapter Text

I felt like a new person waking up on fresh, clean, untarnished, unblemished sheets, in a bed that felt like mine. I never had that when Henry was still around, it felt like I was sharing, well, a stranger’s bed almost. It was refreshing, in only four days, or three nights sleep I had thrown the shackles and restraints from my previous life off, I was walking a little taller my spine straightening out with the weight that lifted from my shoulders and back.

I would have enjoyed resting in bed a little longer, something I always hated, as it smelt of him, but now I had no reason to lie in, I wanted to get up and get to the town hall down in my, well, our grotty little room in the spooky basement.

I opened and closed all the cupboards in my kitchen. I really had nothing in. I needed to go to the store and actually get food. I had reason to shop before, when I had a responsibility to cook for my other half, yuck what an awful phrase, but the last couple weeks he had been eating at the base where he trained, he only came back to use me… I had depressed myself and gave myself a disgusted shiver thinking of having to lie under him.

I patted the side of my head trying to get out those memories. Fresh start, well temporary fresh start, but still if that chain was going to come back and strangle me back into the marriage I didn’t want then it was fruitless to waste time wallowing and going over bad memories, upsetting myself in a period where I had the opportunity to break free.

So I guess I wasn’t eating breakfast today… I also guess I would have to that cafe and eat baloney for the third day in a row. It was a little bit self-centred to be disappointed at dining options when a lot of people I knew where dodging bullets… But still three days in a row.

I drove away from my house, well my hus… No! It was mine at the moment, my car. I needed to strike forth and have self-confidence and have some freedom, I hadn’t done anything off my own back until the last couple days, and they had probably been the best I’d had in… Maybe ever. Just eating baloney and filing post away. It really was a poor reflection on the life I’d led. I needed to stop all this horrid upsetting introspection and focus on what was going well. Independence and having a made new friend, who I really felt a connection with, and, and, and! My first night out ever. Literally ever, I’d never been out ever, not ever been drunk, I was under the thumb of either my spouse or my parents…

I would probably have to see my mother soon, I didn’t particularly want to. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my mom perse. It was just she was a living, breathing, nagging embodiment of those who had control over me. The symbol of an outside force who was able to determine what was best for me without consulting my needs first, scrap that, not first at all, not consulting my needs at all not even considering them. Wouldn’t have been a fleeting thought in my mother’s head, just like it wouldn’t even crop up in Henry’s considerations.

I got out of the car and Danny came bounding up to me, blindsiding me and despite telling myself not to startle so easily I jumped and squeaked a little.

“Hey Laura!”

“Morning Danny,” I replied playing up the bleary eyes and voice to pretend I was tired and not really in the mood for deep conservation.

“How you finding it here? Where are you again? I haven’t seen you about at all… Have you started? Is today your first day?” She rattled off. Which question to pick first to answer.

“No I started Wednesday, it’s good, I’m down in the mail room.”

“Oh! Poor you! The crypt we call it.”

“It’s alright.”

“Well I’ll put a word in so you can transfer upstairs with me if you want?”

“No, no, no,” I replied a little too quickly. “It’s just I don’t mind it and I want to give it a go down there for now, I’ll get back to you on that though, thanks,” I tried to appease her. She nodded.

“Now there’s a good attitude to have! Well let me know if you need anything,” she smiled. “Hey!” She waved to a couple of woman walking up the plaza to the main building, “wait for me,” she started walking off briskly. “See you later Laura, we should do something soon!” The tall redhead called over her shoulder.

I think I should have been a bit offended by that brush off, that she ran off to what she clearly deemed a better quality of socializing but relief overpowered that.

Phew.

***

“This one is impossible to read!” I complained to Carmilla looking at the terrible spidery writing on the sealed envelope I was inspecting. I felt a little warm and giddy as she slid up next to me, really close, I could feel her breath very gently blowing loose strands of my hair. I had to lock my jaw and really focus not to visibly shiver.

“Ok?”

“What?” I asked confused. Had I zoned out and not listened. Oh no. I did have a bad habit of daydreaming but that was hardly a daydream it was more of… Something else. I didn’t have a word to describe it. Probably should chalk it down a strange aberration.

“Are you still not listening?!” She said poking me in the upper back.

“Yes?” I made that sound like a question, it shouldn’t have been a question.

“Oh good lord, ok go get us coffee and I’ll do it,” she sighed. I turned round so we were face to face. Woah, we were close, I was getting a bit flustered. Ok recomposure. I shot her a smile and walked away to the door.

“Will do!”

I went through the borderline haunted halls of the town hall basement and fetched two cups of coffee. I rummaged through the cupboards to see if there was any sugar. Obviously there wasn’t.

“Here you go,” I beamed happily at her as I passed over the cup to Carmilla really carefully this time. I didn’t want to burn her again, she must have been really hurt to revert to Austrian… Was that a language? I probably should ask her. No she’d think I was stupid that was a bad idea, I don’t want her to think I’m an imbecile. She is so well versed and clever and I think I come across as a naive small town girl who doesn’t know a thing. Though in my own defense, to myself, I have hardly been given any chance to broaden my horizons past what I’ve been forced to do.

“Thanks,” she mumbled her mouth just above the steaming liquid in between blowing to cool the liquid. “Now get back to work,” she smirked over her coffee. I huffed and her smile cracked a fraction wider.

A little later in the morning Peggy came knocking at the door. Smiling wide and knocking at the door she had already opened.

“Morning, morning, morning guys,” she greeted us. “Just thought I’d see how things were going for you guys down here. See how you’re fitting in Mrs. Hollis.”

Mrs Hollis… Eugh.

“Fine, I’m learning,” I said neutrally.

“Good, that’s good to hear. There isn’t much to it is there?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“Things going well Miss Karnstein?”

“Yeah she’s doing fine,” Carmilla replied taking out a really nice silver cigarette case. That’s pretty.

“Excellent! Can I steal one of those?” Peggy asked pointing to the case. Carmilla didn’t reply verbally just held it out letting her unslot one. “Thanks, well carry on girls. I’m so pleased. It’s always great to see people fitting into these roles. I know it’s difficult with the men gone but you’re doing well coping.”

“Thanks,” I responded giving her a thin smile. Praise made me uncomfortable, I always worried if it was sincere or patronizing, and in this case it certainly seemed to be the latter. Maybe she was just genuinely kind and I was being paranoid.

“Well I’ve off upstairs, back to work!” She chirped and turned on her heel and walked away without closing the door behind her, we both stood in silence listening to crack of her heels on the stone floor disappearing.

“Yuck,” I whispered under my breath shaking my head.

“I know right,” Carmilla agreed, I actually didn’t think she had heard me.

“Huh?”

“She’s irritating, to say the least.”

“Yeah it’s that phoney, well maybe that’s unfair it just seems fake, enthusiasm.”

“I get it, I’m suspicious of people that are too happy. Well you can be all happy and bouncy and annoying,” she elaborated as I scowled at her and pouted. “But it isn’t that plastered on fake nonsense.”

“I’m not annoying.”

“Yes you are.”

“Humph!”

***

I devoured my sandwich under Carmilla’s smirking gaze.

“What I’m hungry,” I said with a mouthful of food.

“Can’t you feed yourself? We can’t come to the cafe everyday.”

“I haven’t bought any food in ages,” I said polishing off the last corner and mopping up the crumbs with the tip of my finger.

“So no, you can’t feed yourself then.”

“I suppose so,” I shrugged. I was happier now, I enjoyed cafe time. She was taking small bites shaking her head slightly looking down. I lit up a cigarette and leant back into the booth’s upholstery and sighed. “Where we going tonight?”

“You asked me... “

“Yeah but… But… Yeah,” I conceded.

“Relax. We’re in the town centre, there will be somewhere. I just need a drink.”

“Me too!”

“Really? I think it’ll be adorable to see you all drunk and just babbling on about nothing,” she smirked at me sipping her coffee. I had to stop drinking coffee all day along with her as it was making me hyperactive I think. I had caught myself bouncing from foot to foot a couple times and humming out loud indistinct jumbles of tunes.

“I… Don’t… Know… What… To… Say… About… That,” I said slowly trying and scrambling for a witty comeback but just failed to think of anything. “Dammit,” I conceded after scrunching my face up in concentration looking for anything clever and came up with absolutely nothing.

She barked a laugh as I folded my arms over my chest grumpily. I stared down at my lap, I wasn’t actually in a bad mood I think she just liked me playing up the hurt feelings and I… Well I wanted to do things she liked…

I glanced up and she had an amused smiled playing over her lips and I had to giggle.

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“Well that’s done,” I remarked lazily placing away the last letter of the day in the appropriate slot of the pigeon holes and clapping my hands together and rubbing them together.

“Yay!” Laura chirped punching the air and beaming at me wide eyed. She was so cute, it was a weird mix of so easy to mock, so easy, yet the more I mocked her the reactions were just even more adorable. I doubt she was playing it up, I would be just reading into far too much, looking for a sign I wanted to see, rather than the truth that was actually there.

“Do you need to go home or anything?” I asked. I was a little nervous but I had always been able to create a very good false front, to pretend I was stony and cold and composed when I wasn’t inside.

“For what?” She asked confused.

“I don’t know I thought you might to change or shower or something,” I felt bad about those suggestions after I said them as her face fell and she scanned herself self-consciously. Despite that I tried to fix my features into cool appraisal rather than concern.

“Why? What’s wrong?” She had just a hint of panic in her voice.

“Nothing.”

“No come on what?”

“Nothing,” I stressed.

“Just tell me!”

“Nothing!” I snapped back getting a little annoyed, not with her, with myself for bringing it up.

“Ok! I just didn’t know.”

“Well you’ve been working all day I thought you might be more comfortable changing that’s all, you look great,” oh no that just slipped out and I looked down at the floor. Just smoke. Smoking covers up self-doubt.

“Thanks you do! I mean you do, you too!” She scrambled over her words, her cheeks getting a little pinker. “Look…” She started and then just looked up at me with her eyes all big.

“Well?” I smirked down at her waiting for to keep to digging this hole. It wasn’t that kind of me but I did enjoy watching her squirm under my gaze, she was so cute and in this state she became even cuter.

“Eh?” She offered up her palms in a shrug.

“Well?” I repeated.

“Let’s go,” she finally got her composure back.

“After you,” I was still smirking as I gestured with my cigarette for her to take the lead. She literally skipped every couple steps, I looked down at her feet then raised my eyes up her legs but had to shake my head to get rid of those thoughts. She did have nice legs though. It’s ok to look. I just have to be careful and not get caught, and if I do not to dart my eyes away and act like I was doing something wrong. Looking guilty would probably arouse suspicion.

Outside I flicked my cigarette away and looked over at Laura who was meandering around the top of the stairs.

“What now?”

“My car… What do I do with it?”

“What do you mean? It’s a car you drive it.”

“Well yeah I mean later, I can’t drive drunk.”

“You could give it a try?”

“I don’t think so.”

“We’ll work something out, unless you want to go home and get a bus back?”

“I don’t know how buses work…”

I had to laugh at that.

“With petrol and wheels, they’re like giant cars,” I drawled at her sarcastically.

“What?”

“You said you didn’t know how buses work, I was helping you cutie,” and there it slipped out again, she still just looked puzzled if anything, move on quickly, move on, “you know wheels, axles, combustion engines.”

“I meant the bus stops and their routes,” she said innocently completely immune to my sarcasm.

“I know. I’d offer my couch but I don’t have one,” I shrugged.

“I can just sleep on the back seat I suppose,” she said quietly chewing at her lip.

“Well make a decision I need a drink,” I told her tapping my wrist as if I were wearing a watch.

“Ok I’ll see how I feel later,” she said nodding decisively, “let’s go!” She took a few purposeful steps forward before grinding to a halt. “I don’t know where to go…” She told me. I couldn’t help but laugh at her confusion and sudden abandonment of her confidence. It came and went in a blink of an eye.

“Don’t look at me,” I shrugged back. “Didn’t you grow up around here?”

“Yeah… But I don’t know where to go for an alcoholic beverage…”

“An alcoholic beverage?” I laughed.

“Look we just can’t go around in circles here of me being confused and you mocking me.”

“I only mock because I care,” I said. I tried to smirk but the warm, genuine smile cracked my aloof facade.

“What?” She looked at me questioningly with those big eyes doing that thing I realized was a trait where she would cock her head side to side.

“Nothing. Let’s just go for a coffee at the cafe and ask the woman who works there, we’re not looking for a night club for god’s sake.”

“Ok!”

I laughed.

“What?”

“It’s just funny to me,” I started, “that we’re such pathetic shut ins who don’t go out socially that we have a problem even finding a place to go out to drink in.”

She giggled that adorable girlish laugh.

“Come on stupid,” I dragged her by the crook of her arm across the plaza holding her until her little legs caught up with my stride. We went into the cafe and barista smiled warmly. I guess we were becoming regulars. “Afternoon, can we get two black coffees please?”

“Sure thing hon, 50c.”

“Here,” I put two quarters down onto the countertop. “By the way do you know if there is anywhere we could have a couple drinks around here?”

“Oh yeah, a few. There is an Irish Pub which I wouldn’t recommend for you nice young ladies, then, no that’s too far…” She looked up thinking, “are you walking?”

“Uh-huh,” I confirmed.

“Well there’s a nice quiet bar called Charlie’s like four blocks away.”

“Ok thanks,” I said and walked over to the booth Laura and I had sat at for three lunches in a row. Three days I reflected… It had felt a lot longer than that. Not in a bad way. Just longer. In a good way if anything. Laura was still lingering by the cashier.

“Sorry, look I’ll be honest,” she said to the barista. “We’re not good with directions so we’ll kind of need a specific route… Please?” She was so sweet.

“Sure thing hon.”

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It was a nice night, nice enough, the dusk was still warm and the wind was still, barely existent, just a tingle which ran a current up and down my skin with an electric pulse, I ran my hands back through my hair. I had just left it loose, I used to curl it as the style of the day dictated but now I was free and I let my hair mirror that. It was a small, miniscule act of rebellion but I reasoned with myself that it didn’t matter how small the act actually was but how important it meant to me.

I was skipping every couple steps, I hadn’t done that since middle school. Had I not been happy since then? Maybe.

“This looks like the place,” Carmilla said and I stopped skipping. I hadn’t realized I had taken a few feet lead on her pace and when I turned back to face her she was smoking and shaking her head smirking. I think it was at my childish behavior. I was becoming convinced she found it endearing.

We were outside of what was definitely what I pictured a bar to look like. It had a brown sign with ‘Charlie’s,’ painted with a stencil over the door spanning the entrance and the two dark windows either side of it.

Inside the lighting was low. There were circular tables with lights on them, small versions of table lamps in the their centre with stools arranged around them. I didn’t want to sit there, I wasn’t that tall, some people in my past may have described me as short, even tiny, whether that was true or not I don’t think it would make the smoothest impression trying to climb up in order to sit.

The bar was long and bent around the wall to close itself off and had beer taps on it and bottles of liquor stacked on shelves behind it. I really wanted to play it cool, like this was normal and I wasn’t out of place and new and nervous in this setting. There were booths, not dissimilar to the ones at the cafe only the backs of the benches were higher giving each other privacy from one another. They also had the low lit lights in the centre.

“Over there?” I asked pointing at them.

“Sure, I’ll get the first round,” she said. “What do you want?”

“Whatever you’re happening?” I said trying to sound casual.

“What I’m happening?”

“Having, having whatever you’re having,” well that didn’t go to plan.

There were a couple of middle aged women and a few old men hanging around the bar scattered fairly unevenly about drinking. Most alone. It was only 6.30 I supposed, but the bar did feel really empty.

I slid down on the leather, dark green bench in the most secluded part of the establishment, I bounced up and down on the seat. It was surprisingly comfortable. Boing, boing, boing.

“What are you doing?” Carmilla asked sliding in opposite me putting down and pushing a tumbler glass over.

“Nothing,” I said hurriedly. I didn’t know why I was nervous, I felt eager to impress. We had been together the last three days, I felt like I knew her better and longer than that, not that I knew too much about her, but this was the first time outside of the work environment. It was just more than that. I felt butterflies and giddy. I just couldn’t place it, couldn’t place why I felt nervous and yet conversely excited. Really excited. Alcohol helps with nerves doesn’t it? I picked up the glass and to gave the clear liquid inside an imperious sniff.

“Just drink it,” she commanded, raising her own glass out. I gave her a confused look. “Clink them.”

“What? Oh,” I understood and knocked my glass against her’s. She had a drink and I took a tentative sip. It wasn’t nice. Bitter and it gave me a burning feeling down the back of my throat and I had to try my hardest not to cough and retch. “Wh-wha…” I gave in and coughed.

“Aw,” I could almost sense her smirk despite my hard coughs forcing me to close my eyes. “It’s just gin and tonic.”

“No… Oh goodness, right I’m ok, not much tonic!”

“Not much. No.”

I glanced up and she had the glass right in front of her face, obscuring her chin and her eyes were almost smokey and looked like disturbed water, pooling and rushing in the dark brown circles. I lost my breath worse than the strong alcohol did to my throat.

“It’ll get easier to drink the more you drink,” she said in a low voice. That giddy feeling deep in the pit of my stomach increased, her gaze and her voice churned my insides and it felt like the butterflies deep down inside were going into a frenzied rushed tornado. She motioned with her eyebrows to encourage me to drink more. This was my idea and I took another sip and didn’t cough this time, it was still sour. Maybe it was like smoking, I had coughed and sputtered for ages after my first cigarette but now it was a pleasure.

“Why would you pick this?” I asked placing the glass down.

“Would you prefer a belt of scotch?”

“Probably not…”

“Well there we go.”

“We could drink something weaker like beer.”

“Beer?! We’re women... “

“Women can’t drink beer?”

“Shouldn’t not can’t, it’s not particularly refined.”

“Wine then?”

“That’s rationed, it comes from Europe mostly. Oh don’t look at me like that!” She sighed slipping out of the booth and returning a minute later with a small glass bottle of tonic. “Just top it up until it’s palatable. Or drinkable at the very least.” I smiled at her, that was considerate.

***

“You know what!” I said before stopping realizing I was speaking very loud. I looked around but no one seemed to notice. Ok! Back to shouting. No not shouting, talking. “I am having fun! This doesn’t taste so bad!” I announced motioning with my glass spilling some of it over my hand. It was the third. It was nearly 8 and I had got the last drinks, they needed to check my ID to make sure I was 18. Which I would normally take as an insult which attacked my insecurities but in my current state just added to the confidence.

“Told you,” she mumbled past the cigarette placed in her lips as she lit it up.

“Well?” I asked accusingly.

“What?”

“Are you having fun?”

“Eugh. Yes, but I will stop having fun pretty quickly if you keep having to verbally monitor fun levels,” she drawled sarcastically blowing the smoke directly in my face. I made the snap decision to grin goofily at her so that’s what she’d see when the smoke cleared. As I wanted her to she broke into a bodily laugh. “You’re an idiot.”

“Well you’re hanging out with me.”

“It makes me feel better about myself.”

“Hey!”

“Oh god don’t pout and look all hurt, it prevents me from being sarcastic which is literally my favorite thing to do.”

“How selfish of me,” I took another drink. It was still bad but tolerable and I couldn’t believe how affected I was in such a short of time.

“Shut up.”

“You shut up!” I lightly kicked her shin under the table, she hissed and I felt bad instantly I was behaving like an idiot wasn’t I. I tried to look apologetic, I left my foot touching her leg, just above the top of her foot. We made eye contact, I didn’t know what it was I was looking for but I found it in a subtle acknowledgement and I just left my leg there touching her.

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I was definitely feeling it more than I was letting on. Definitely. I was able to keep a stoic face even when I was not feeling like that inside. Just the opposite of the cute blonde opposite me who reacted viscerally to everything, smiling, bouncing around, cocking her head side to side, pouting. Her leg was resting against mine, she left it there after kicking me playfully. I was really starting to doubt whether or not she was just naive and didn’t really know what she was doing or she was starting to feel what I felt. Maybe she did and she just didn’t know it yet. Why would she?

My heart was starting to beat a little faster, as I weighed up whether or not it was a good idea to make the smallest hint of a move. I shifted in my seat, she was just babbling away happily about how the gin didn’t taste that bad and what other drinks she’d like to try as I kicked off my flat shoes and ran the bottom of my foot down the bottom of her shin onto the top of her foot. My heart was literally in my throat, I was somewhat expecting the gin to be thrown in my face and a vicious name to be hurled in my direction but the tension just imploded when she starting playing back with her foot, lightly wrestling, slowing back and forth.

“What you thinking?” She asked me.

“Huh?”

“You’ve just been quiet for a while…”

“I’m just listening to you.”

“Aw. I think aw,” she leant one elbow on the table and rested her chin and cheek in the cradle of her hand sipping from her tumbler, her hair had fallen loosely around and over her hand. I really wanted to lean over and push back the loose strands but that was far too bold a gesture. “I can’t always tell if you’re joking with me.”

“I’d play it safe and presume I’m mocking you,” I teased. She responded by kicking off her shoe and caressing her foot down on mine. Ok well. Huh.

“How old are you?” She asked out of the blue.

“That’s not polite.”

“Sorry, it’s just I feel like I know you but I don’t really know too much…”

“I was born in 1925.”

“1926.”

“Look at that we’re bonding!” I drawled. She pulled her foot away and my nerves kicked back but she just slipped on her shoe and stood up.

“Two more coming up!” She beamed at me. I had to return the smile it was infectious. I wanted to make a whooping noise and punch the air. I really think, well, really got a vibe back from her. It wasn’t just my imagination, why would she physically response like that if not? It was probably for the best to play this as safe as safe could be.

She came back with a real spring in her step and I let her catch me running my eyes up and down her body, she just grinned shyly tilting her head down and back.

“Here you go partner!” She almost shouted at me. She was really buzzed. As was I actually, it was hitting me harder now my nerves had defused.

“Thanks,” I took another sip as she slid in opposite and started bouncing on the upholstery like she did when I caught at the first drink. She kicked her shoe off and went straight back to what we were doing before. She could just be a child thinking we’re playing a silly game… I just really didn’t think so. There was a lot on the line for me here though.

“You know, it’s depressing to think this might be the first time I’ve enjoyed myself in a long time, like a really, really long time.”

“Your honeymoon?” I asked her.

“NO!” She exploded. “Definitely not, it was non-existent, a depressing stay in a hotel for one night, that may have been one of the worst nights of my life.”

“Oh right.”

“I hate him,” she slapped her hand down on the table. “Wow, I’ve never said that outloud.”

“Do you regret it?”

“Marrying him? Yes.”

“Ok, that’s honest… I meant telling me?”

“Not at all. I feel really guilty about this but I’m glad he’s gone. I’d rather be lonely and friendless than have him around.”

“You’re not alone now,” I said trying to sound sympathetic.

“No, no, you’re right,” her frown cracked and she smiled and reached over the table in between us and put a hand over mine. My heart jumped back up into the top of my throat. She rubbed her thumb over the top of my knuckles staring down at our hands. She was really concentrating, her brow furrowed. She snaked her slowly back to hold her drink in both hands, she looked up slowly, to meet me eyes and I smiled, she smiled back and looked back down still smiling as she brushed her hair back over her ear.

“Thanks for trusting me,” I said. It felt clunky and awkward but I needed to say something. Besides she seemed like the type to receptive to that emotional hack stuff. I felt a bit dirty until she ran her foot up my inner shin and back down, dispelling my self-disgust.

“No problem! It feels nice to get this crap off my chest. I’m sure my problems are nothing compared to yours.”

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I was running my foot up and down her stocking covered leg under the table getting the parting between my big and second toe either side of the bone. I don’t know why I started or if she did, but I liked the sensation as minor as it was. Maybe this is just what people do when they go out… I didn’t think so. Even with my complete lack of social experience this wasn’t normal and especially not normal for two women… I wasn’t planning on stopping though. It made me almost shiver feeling her leg against mine, the motion the small adjustments. I felt my stomach do somersaults when I was touching her hand. If I had the attitude I wanted to have, which was to enjoy myself, well I was enjoying touching her, even through clothes, even with my foot so why overthink and ruin it?

“Each problem is subjective. I’m sure the King of England has problems he wants to complain about,” she replied. That was diplomatic.

“I get it, I don’t want to press you,” I told her, I really didn’t. I didn’t even think I wanted to know what she had seen. It had felt good to finally admit my true feelings about Henry. Though that was nothing compared to stormtroopers and war.

“Can you cheer up a bit now cutie?”

“Will do!” I beamed at her, and took out a cigarette and sparked it up. I kind of liked it when she had called me ‘cutie,’ I guess it could be a childish thing, like you give a nickname to a child, but I didn’t think so, it was a term of endearment.

***

I was definitely drunk. Very drunk as we stumbled out of the bar into the night air. It was only about 10.30 but I hadn’t drunk much in the past and Carmilla advised I didn’t have anymore. Oh crap. I definitely couldn’t drive… It would be a 3 mile walk home. I suppose I could do that. I think I’ll tell Carmilla that.

“I think I might have to walk home now, I can’t drive.”

“Just sleep at mine.”

“Really?”

“Yeah of course, I can push my two box chairs together for a make shift bed. You’re minature,” she said holding her thumb and forefinger close together to highlight just how small I was.

“I am not! And thank you! How do we get there? Bus?” I asked, I had lost any social awareness, well I hadn’t I just didn’t care and I was hopping each step, enjoying the feeling and the night, just letting my stress and cares loose.

“Not this time of night. We’ll have to walk, it’s about a kilometre.”

“How many miles is that?”

“Less than one.”

“If it’s a mile why don’t you walk in the morning?”

“Laziness. Will you stop that!” She grabbed my arm and stopped me from rocking and leaping about. I fell into step with her pace and looped my arm through the crook of her elbow.

“Ok! I’m just in a good mood!”

“I know it’s adorable and I’m glad you but it doesn’t mean you have to hop stotch your way to my flat!”

“Flat?”

“Apartment.”

“Is Austrian a language?” I finally decided I didn’t care about embarrassment and just asked, I knew immediately from her snort of derision it wasn’t.

“No.”

“German?” I asked in a high pitched questioning tone.

“Well done,” she reached over her own body with her free hand to tousle my hair.

“Ahh,” I shook my head to try to fix it, I squeaked happily as I got all of it out of my face, “all better!” I started humming and rocking my head side to side. “Are we there yet?”

“I will literally kill you.”

“Ok sorry… Are we though?”

She laughed and I giggled.

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She was just a ball of energy it was great to see and really infectious. I got the impression she hadn’t had much fun for a long time. I hadn’t either, a really long time, it felt like lifetimes but I was fine with letting her enjoy herself, I was enjoying myself taking in her mood. I just smoked and let her ramble on about whatever. This part of the town and how she hadn’t been here for a while and what she did as a kid. It was pleasant to hear her drunken string of consciousness.

We got to the building my apartment was in and I unlocked the door as she skipped back and forth in front of the steps. I had to shake my head and grin at the same time. She followed me in as I closed the door behind us and I put my finger to my lips to signal silence she nodded really enthusiastically.

She followed me up all five flights of stairs, all of her bubbling positivity was knocked out of her by the ascent. I opened the door to my room and let her in first.

“Nice place.”

“Yeah sure.”

“I mean it!”

“It’s tiny and old and just awful,” I told her locking the door behind us.

“But it’s yours!” She stressed. “I’ve never had my own place. I’m always just a tenant in someone else’s place,” she sounded miserable all of a sudden.

“Well thanks. Do you want a coffee or some water or… Well that’s it really.”

“I need to sleep,” she said rubbing her eyes.

“Ok.”

I walked past her and pulled the box chairs together so they were connected by the cushions and got a spare blanket from the hamper.

“Ta-da!”

“Thanks!”

She jumped over the arm rest and lay on the impromptu bed and rearranged the small cushions behind her head then looked up at me expectantly.

“What you want me to tuck you in?” I asked smirking. She just nodded and grinned. I sighed dramatically and throw the blanket over her. She yawned and rolled her shoulders back getting comfy.

“Goodnight!”

Ah screw it why not?

“Goodnight cutie,” I replied leaning over her holding my hair back so it didn’t spill over her face and lay a soft, brief kiss on her forehead. I moved back and she smiled closing her eyes. She was asleep in literally a minute. I wish I could do that.

I poured myself a glass of water and got under my own sheets and listened to the soft, half whistle of her sleeping breath and closed my own eyes.

Chapter Text

I woke with a shudder, I had dark dreams once again. I could hear Laura snoring from across the short space between my bed and her couch. It was such a nice noise, it was almost as if a cat was purring in its sleep. It can’t be that late can it? We got back to my apartment around 11 and she went straight off to bed. I had some water and curled back up under my sheets and closed my eyes. My head was starting to feel compressed, the gin was wearing off. I just shut my eyes and focused on sleeping, using the rhythm of Laura’s breathing to rock me back into sleep.

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I needed the toilet. I woke up and was initially confused as to where I was, this wasn’t my bed. Oh. It flooded back and I relaxed. The settings became familiar even in the dark and I could hear the sound of Carmilla snoozing away behind me. I got up and looked for the bathroom. There were only two doors in the apartment, or flat as she had called it, one was the exit so the other had to be the bathroom. I went relieved myself in the dark and went back into the room and turned on her faucet and scooped water with my hand to create a basin to slurp a few sips from.

I jumped with shock as Carmilla started to speak. I spun on my heel expecting to see her sitting up but she was curled up in a feline like position moving her head and muttering.

“Nein, nein, lass mich allein!” She murmured. She was beginning to thrash about a bit. Poor girl, my heart panged, she must be having nightmares. I change imagine whatever it was she experienced was probably a waking nightmare… I tip toed over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder which was trapped to her side. Even in the very low light that was making its way into the apartment from under the door and over the curtains from the street I could see her face was contorted with a deep scowl.

I considered waking her up but I’m pretty sure it was ill-advised to wake a sleeping person. She convulsed and restarting saying things in German under her breath. Her distress was palpable. I wanted to soothe away her fears but I really had no idea how to do that if she was sleeping… Unless…

I shuffled to move silently around to the side of her bed where her back was facing and raised the blanket she had a death grip on and got in next to her. My heart was beating a little bit faster, I was nervous. She didn’t wake from the small tremor of my body lying down next to her on the mattress. I took the discarded corner of the blanket and pulled it over my shoulder as I slotted behind her sleeping form.

My breath hitched and I was at the height of my nerves as I wrapped my arm over her shoulder and around her arms which were folded loosely in front of her. She hummed lowly still sleeping and shifted back into me. I was moving really slowly making sure I didn’t disturb her at all as I softly lay my head down on the pillow right on the edge and shut my eyes. I was still very tired, but the nerves were outweighing the sleepiness.

Her back wasn’t touching my front the only contact was my arm over her shoulders, I had move my other arm so it was pointing backwards underneath my ribs and behind my spine. It was slightly uncomfortable but I didn’t mind the discomfort to be here, next to her. My nerves went and my choice was reaffirmed as she purred and grabbed my wrist in her slumber and nuzzled her head in the pillows and her sleep became regular and peacefully once more.

***

She was gone when I woke up and I needed to take a moment to remember where I was, it was disconcerting, I remember when I first married Henry and moved into his bungalow every morning for almost a month I woke up with confusion and just out of place. I sat back up holding my hands outwards propping my torso up. I looked around the apartment blinking away the sleep and yawning.

Carmilla was standing behind the counter top which cut off the kitchen from the living room, despite it all being one room. She had a coffee cup in one hand and glowing, lit cigarette in the other, she was just staring down at the floor her brow furrowed.

“Morning,” I said, my voice came out a bit raspy and sore. She was startled by the sound.

“Oh morning,” she said absentmindedly, recomposing herself. “Morning,” she repeated before looking down again.

“Is something wrong?” I asked, getting out of her bed.

“No.”

“Come one tell me!” I whined as I went over to the makeshift box chair, bed, and looked for my own cigarettes I had discarded before the first time I went sleep. I took one out and lit it up and walked over to the other side of the counter which acted like a barrier between us and leant my elbows on it. “Come on!”

“Why did you get into the bed with me?”

“Huh? Oh, it was… Erm, you were shaking and thrashing and speaking German.”

“I was?!”

“Yeah and I thought if I lay next to you it would be comforting, you know like subconsciously.”

“Right…”

“Yeah it always helped me when I had nightmares as a kid and my dad or my mom got in my bed when I was sleeping,” I explained. She finally looked up from the floor to make fleeting eye contact, I tried to smile reassuringly hoping I didn’t look imbecilic.

“Ok.”

“Sorry,” I said quickly, I really didn’t get her reaction, I was worried I had somehow messed things up after our first social outing together. “I thought it was the right thing to do!”

“Ok.”

“What’s the matter?” I was getting panicked.

“Nothing, nothing, honestly.”
“Well clearly is something wrong!”

“No.”

“Come on!” I reached out tried to put my hand on her wrist but she snatched it away. “What the hell?”

“Nothing, I just…” She stopped and scowled and discarded her cigarette in the ashtray on the countertop. “It’s fine I guess I’m just hungover.”

“I’m not… I feel fine,” I said slowly. Maybe that was just it. She was feeling the effects of the alcohol wearing off. I knew Henry was a mess after a night of heavy drinking. I felt out of place and like I was intruding, it was awful. We just stood there in silence as I finished up my cigarette quickly stubbing half of it. “Ok then well I’ll leave you to recover then…”

“Ok. Do you remember the way back?”

“Yeah.”

“Ok.”

“See you Monday,” I said hopefully.

“Ok.”

I shot her one last look and she caught my gaze and her face contorted as she scowled, twisted her mouth and stared down immediately breaking our mutual eye contact.

I was put out, truly crestfallen. What was wrong with her? We had a nice night, she even kissed me goodnight! Not like that just… Just it was a nice evening, more than nice, it was what I needed to pull me from the slump, the rut I had fallen into and now what? Perhaps I was over reacting. I couldn’t look inside her head and know what she was thinking. I pulled open the door and waved goodbye twisting my torso to look back at her and she gave the most limp, unenthusiastic wave back.

That was odd. I guess I didn’t know how she felt. I didn’t know what she had seen, what she had experienced, had to endure. So I shouldn’t judge. Shouldn’t jump to conclusions that she was mad at me or disappointed or something like that. The hangover and the night terrors combined could easily make one grumpy of a morning, would want to be alone. I just wished she could have been a little more receptive towards me as I’m definitely going to spend every moment from leaving her apartment to arriving at the town hall Monday morning, worrying if it was something I did.

I trudged my way back, almost a mile, past the bar where we had such a nice time, it was just a depressing sight in the cool, dry light of the morning, just drained, just sapped away the last shred of energy I was running on.

I walked past the cafe and over the plaza and unlocked my car drove straight to the grocery store. I might as well get this over and done with before I could spend the entire day lounging about at home feeling bad about myself and worrying myself sick that Carmilla and mine blossoming friendship had wilted and died so early.

The supermarket wasn’t that busy, especially for a Saturday morning, I guess women had the chance to go during the weekday nowadays. I grabbed a basket, I didn’t need a trolley just for myself. This was tedium. A pit of tedium. I lazily pushed basic items off the shelves to catch them in my basket. My mind was elsewhere. So when my elbow was tugged at it didn’t feel real, like a ghostly hand was reaching through the veil to grab me back to the real world and out of my panic stricken, self-doubt riddled day dream.

“Laura?”

“Perry?” I said surprised, I wasn’t expecting her to be here. I don’t know why not. I mean she lived in the town and Danny told me she even worked in the same building.

“Yeah hey how are you?”

“Good, good,” I wasn’t as receptive as I should be I still was one foot in my own head one foot in the supermarket. I blinked and shook my head clearing away the fog of my inner monologue.

“So Danny tells me you’re going to start working at the town hall with the rest of us gals.”

“I already did.”

“Where are you based,” she frowned, “I haven’t seen you about. I haven’t seen you since we graduated high school.”

“I’m down in the mail room.”

“Oh the crypt.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s good to see you though, we should do something soon, catch up. I’ll introduce you to the technical wizard I’ve made friends with in the call rooms.”

“Sounds good.”

“Yeah she’s called Susan, but prefers to called by her last name, it’s strange but I really like her.”

We nattered and spoke as we made the rounds of the aisles catching up. It was good to see her, she wasn’t overbearing like Danny, and despite being really highly strung was still a distraction, in the nicest way, from the Carmilla situation.

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I’m an idiot. An imbecile. A moron. Why had I treated her like that? Cold and distant.

It’s complicated. I had vile night terrors just horrible, they were of cold steel, ashes and mechanized death and Laura, being the sweet, adorable girl she was tried to comfort me even in sleep… It was a risk though, a risk which if I gambled on and came up short would ruin my second chance at a second life. A wasted second chance would be nothing short of an insult to those I knew how never got a second chance, had their first chance at life stolen from them by a leather clad hand…

But that last look she gave me, with those huge, expressive, gorgeous eyes just wrenched my heart. I wanted to stride over my room to grab her cheek and jaw in my palms after sweeping aside her hair and just throw the dice and kiss her right then and there.

Just focus and think.

Playing with our feet under the table at a bar on a night out was a different kettle of fish to lying in the same bed together. I was probably being stupid. I really think she felt the same as me, I really did. What she had told me about her husband and how she felt, how she was responsive to my touching and that one light kiss I gave her was well received. I did really like her…

Just if everyone women who wasn’t that fond of their spouse felt the way I felt it would be a very different world.

Still I don’t think that was the case. I really didn’t. I was being stupid, why would she get into the bed and hug me to help with my terrors if she didn’t feel something. She probably doesn’t even know what she wants, or how she feels and I was cold. I cursed myself. I was being ridiculous. I should be there to help her, develop whatever we had if there was anything even there to develop. Pushing her away was a terrible move.

I must have chain smoked half a pack of cigarettes that morning. Just sitting in the box chair I had used to make a little bed for Laura, smoking and swilling down cup after cup of coffee. The hangover I had was gone. Replaced with worry. I couldn’t be angrier with myself. I should probably apologize.

I may have done more damage to whatever we had then and the progress we made last night. Though that was wrong. Thinking of it like there progress to be made. I didn’t want to force or make anything happen, I simply had to react to how she behaved. Oh I don’t know. Now I’m confused with my own… Own mind.

Panic flooded over me.

What if she thought I was mad at her? It would have been a natural reaction. We had an intimate evening out, laughed, joked, touched and then she tried to go above and beyond and soothe away my nightmares and I pushed her away with my own selfish introspective doubt. Her presence, unbeknownst to me was definitely a help. The horrors I dreamt off slipped off at some point in the night. It must have been when she placed herself down next to me and wrapped a protective arm around me.

Those were the actions of someone who was trying to care and I let my own paranoid and suspicious mind to take over, to take control of me. To squander, potentially squander, things. I better makes amends on Monday. Just say I was hungover and in a bad mood and things would be back to normal wouldn’t they? I guess I could pray to the God I no longer believed in that I was just being overly dramatic and making a complete mountain out of a molehill. I was starting to calm down somewhat then I flashbacked and remembered that I physically recoiled from attempting to reach out to me… I literally slapped myself in the forehead in frustration.

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“LAURA!” My mother’s voice ripped me out of my day dream. She was snapping her fingers in front of my face, it was an obnoxious habit she had. I had spent all of Saturday worrying myself about Carmilla and I. Then worrying myself about how I was so worried and what that meant, that I was so concerned about a few moments of coldness between us.

“Yes?” I replied to her. I had driven over for a family, Sunday lunch, despite not really wanting to I thought it would be a great distraction for me in my current state.

“You were staring off into space it is very rude!”

“I was…” I began and stopped realizing I couldn’t say what I was obsessing about and was so wrapped up in my own head that I couldn’t even focus long enough to think of an excuse.

“Just off in space!” She snapped.

“Leave her alone, her husband left this week!” My dad piped up from the head of the table, smoke billowing up from his pipe.

“That doesn’t excuse being so rude and neglectful of her parents! Especially since we’re feeding her,” she retorted. My dad just sighed and rolled his eyes. He had given up fighting her along time ago, letting her dominate him, he just seemed exhausted and wanted to be left alone to read the paper and mow the lawn… And well that was pretty much it.

“Sorry mother,” I said with as much reverence as I could feign.

“Now how is this job you’ve gone and gotten,” she said with so much disdain I was tempted to throw my water in her face. You were the one who bullied me into going you monster! I screamed inside my own head so loudly my brain rattled.

“Fine.”

“Fine,” she mimicked. “I’m asking you a question young lady, I’m your mother put some respect into your answer. Do you believe this? She doesn’t even care enough to form more than a single word!”

Eugh.

“What do you want? It’s fine, it’s light work and I’m just learning the ropes,” I really had to bite my tongue not to tell her to shut up for once in her life.

“Lose the attitude missy.”

“Thanks for dinner mom, dad,” I said getting up from the table and grabbing my keys I’d left on the table in the hall.

“Come back here now,” my mom’s shrill voice cried out and I heard the scrambling of chair legs scraping and her rising to her feet. I didn’t think my courage would hold if she physically restrained me so I rushed out of the front door and closed it behind and began jogging to my car and got in slammed the door and had the key turning in the engine before my mother was out of the family house and was reversing by the time she was screaming something at me. I couldn’t hear through the glass but her rage was apparent.

***

I don’t know how long I had sat with my head on hands with my hands on the steering wheel parked in the drive to my bungalow. I should have stayed and stuck it out with her irritating hectoring and pestering and not rushed out. It would cause a real headache later on for me but I had other things on my mind and that issue was taking precedence over my mother’s hobby of bullying and nagging me and telling me I hadn’t lived up to her expectations. Just needling, needling until it felt like I was growing needles under my skin.

I had to make amends with Carmilla. If there was any reason to. She may have just been hungover and bothered by what she saw in her sleep and I’ve read so much extra into this to torture myself.

The question that hung over all of this was why was I so bothered?

There must be a reason past just I wanted to be her friend, but I couldn’t place it no matter how far and deep I searched and tunneled into myself. I hadn’t felt this weird knot in the pit of my stomach before. It was a ball of nerves and worry and yet delight and wonder. It was beyond words. I couldn’t understand, just couldn’t. The only outcome I could take from it was… What was it.

“Ahhhh!” I threw my head back from their resting place on the wheel and cried out loud to myself to try to push some of the anguish out of me.

I took a few breaths and got out of my car. It was late dusk, barely dusk, the last strands of sunlight were barely clinging onto the horizon. I went to my parent’s house barely past noon. How long had I zoned out for…

I opened my front door and just went and sat on couch and took out a cigarette. My mind drifted again back to my turmoil, self-created, or imagined whatever they may have been until the burning tip went through all the tobacco and burnt my fingers. I dropped it and huffed. I stamped on it. I’d clean that later. I took out a second and lit it and actually smoked it this time around. I was on edge worrying about tomorrow. A week of awkwardness and distance would kill me, especially if that was just a taste of what to follow for the foreseeable future.

Why was I so anxious?! Why was I so torn up and making myself sick over something so small as her being uncomfortable with me for all of 30 seconds… It was just such a contrast. A night of closeness and bonding, both emotionally and physically only for it to finish on a sour note. The contrast was what was hurting.

It can’t be what I think it is… It just can’t be. That is unheard… Well not unheard of just... I needed to smoke more. The chain smoking started with fervor. Cover it up for now, bury it deep and fix the problem at hand tomorrow morning, if there was even a problem to fix. I shouted out loud again digging my nails into my legs.

***

It was about an hour early than I arrived at the town hall the first half week. I hadn’t been able to sleep. I had wandered about. Had a shower. Wandered about. Cooked something and my stomach was too choppy to eat. Wandered about. Had a second shower. Smoked and got dressed and left when the slivers of dark were lingering in the blueish hues of the sky.

I felt an ominous chill in the air and my mouth was dry. She had been cold for 30 seconds Laura! I called out to myself inside. You’re tearing yourself apart over this! Get it together. Your husband went off to war and a mildly bad brief interaction has done a hundred times more the damage to your psyche!

The plaza was empty. As was the car park, almost. I must be one of the first few people to arrive. I leapt down the stairs two at a time into the ‘crypt,’ and went to the post room. Hoping she was there and also dreading that she was also. I hadn’t thought of what to say despite thinking of nothing but her. I was basically just going to have react to how she was.

I pushed open the door to see her sitting on the sorting table in the middle sitting facing the door, a cigarette in hand. My heart began pounding and jumped up into my throat but it eased and disappeared as she smiled a shy small smile looking up at me.

“Hey,” I breathed out my voice barely coming out audible returning the small smile.

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“Hey,” I responded. She smiled. She smiled. That’s ok, repairable at least… Maybe I’m just an idiot, well I already decided I was, but she probably just thought I was hungover and didn’t spend a whole weekend wrecking her sanity over it like I did. “Sorry about Saturday morning, I had a nasty hangover, I didn’t mean to be short with you.”

I hadn’t noticed at first, too wrapped up in my own worries but her shoulders relaxed and her smile grew broader. She leant back and checked either way out of the hallway and closed the door behind her and skipped over to me. My heart hitched up, we were really close. She kissed me softly once, a mere peck, on my forehead as I had done to her before she slept at my place.

“Don’t worry about… I barely gave it a second thought,” she said unconvincingly but still sweetly. “You could make it up to me and be the one who gets the coffee?”

“I’m still your superior, so you know,” I started before sighing dramatically, “fine.” I walked out of the door, trying to maintain my cool composure until I was out of her line of sight and the smile that broke out on my face was accompanied by two waves rushing through my body. First the wave of worry just washing itself out, the second rapture flooding and coursing through my veins to the tips of my extremities.

Chapter Text

“So I walked out of a family dinner with my parents,” she told me as I slacked off our daily tasks to have a cigarette.

“Really?”

“Yeah…”

“I just wouldn’t expect that from you,” I told her smirking.

“What?” She could get so easily flustered and it was delightful when she looked side to side in confusion with those big brown eyes and shot nervous glances and smiles.

“Being all bold and action packed,” I smirked at her, making sure my face was smug and half-smiling as opposed to slack jawed and staring adoringly.

“I know right,” she beamed, impervious to my taunt, “wait,” her wide grin went, “I’m meant to be worried aren’t I?” She scrunched up her face rocking her head side to side. “I guess it’s a mix.”

“A mix?” I was simply prompting her to continue. I felt already, from the short time I’d known her, that a small amount of encouragement was needed to coax out the inner thoughts she clearly had repressed and wanted to express but was shy too.

“Yeah a mix. It’s going to be a headache. A real headache. My mother is a headache. A walking, talking, nagging headache… It’s going to be a headache.”

“I’m glad you’re expressing yourself, I truly am, but if you use the word headache again I’m going to throw hot coffee into your face,” I interjected.

“Well she’s a pain,” she restarted. I sighed overly dramatically. “Fine! I’ll try harder to find better words.” She scrunched up her face again over her terrible sentence. “Hmm. Where was I? Oh my mom being a headache,” she smiled and stuck her tongue out at me. “Yeah it’ll come back to bite me and bite me bad but it was liberating. I couldn’t face her bothering me and poking at me and trying to get a rise from me.”

“Are you sure she’s trying to get a rise from you? Or is she just… Obtuse?”

“I think a rise. She used to drive my dad mad until he just gave up and now I’m his replacement. She can’t really push him around, and now my husband is gone I just know she thinks she can slide back into that role of telling me what to do… I want to do what I want to do… For once!”

“Do you want to get us more coffee?”
“Not particularly.”

“Well do. You need to be told what to do sometimes,” I teased. She pouted and hopped up to her feet and went to the door pausing on the threshold.

“Only because I like you… And I want to!” She emphasised and proceeded to trip over her feet, she put her arms out either side of her for balance, “ok, let’s go.” I waited until she was out of earshot to laugh before I turned back to work.

“One steaming cup of joe!” She said placing the mug down like it was volatile and could explode at any moment. She probably still had the incident when she lightly burned me on her mind.

“Careful!” I shouted and she jumped and split it.

“What?” She looked around her eyes darting left to right.

“Nothing,” I laughed taking the mug from her hand which she hadn’t shaken. She slapped my arm.

“Hey! Why do that,” her annoyance soon turning to a shared smile.

“You’re cute when you’re flustered.” There I said something forward. Just throw that dice out. Die out, pair of… Focus.

“I am?” She asked so sweetly my heart melted as she dragged one of her feet back, pawing over the floor as she glanced up at me with big eyes.

“Sure,” I said shaking my head and turning my back to her to fetch my cigarettes. She bounded over to me, bounded.

“Can I have one… I left mine in my car.”

“No.”

“Pleaseeeeee,” she was whined. She was really close now. She had her hands held behind her back and was leaning forward, eyes shut tight as she was asking.

“Fine cutie,” I rolled my eyes as she opened hers and reached past me to the table behind me where my silver cigarette case was. My breath hitched as her hair ran over my clothed arm and I could feel her body warmth from our proximity.

She moved back and lit it up. We were still standing really close. She took a drag but didn’t move back. I wish I knew what was happening in her head. She did give me mixed signals. She was just so naive and innocent I didn’t know if she knew yet… I kind of imagined inside her head was a pinwheel spinning half the time when she was dancing around and bouncing about, I knew that wasn’t the case and she wasn’t stupid just excitable and letting off steam she had let bubble under the surface for too long, but I just wanted to be able to read something.

Was this awkward? It didn’t feel awkward. We were standing really close and smoking in turn, my eyes were stinging and she was smaller than me so taking the brunt of the smoke so must be feeling worse. Should I say something? Should I wait for her to say something? Should I move. Did she just want to stand near me in silence.

She finally took a couple steps back and hopped backwards onto the sorting table which was an island in the middle of the room.

“Thanks!”

“For what?” I asked confused.

“The cigarette…” She said scrunching her face up at me.

“Oh…” I had lost my trail of thought by her closeness, just staring at her. After worrying myself sick over the weekend that I had pushed her away with idiocy I didn’t want to push her away again. If I did even do that. I don’t want to push her away but trying to pull her closer could be like magnetic negatives, but just letting things take their course without making any move could allow things to peter out and fade away. The moment could be lost if I just left it to float away into the mist without me doing anything to try to grasp at it. What am I thinking about. It makes sense but... Goddammit. I need to think on this some more.

I could just put my hand behind her back now dip her back as if we were mid tango and kiss her right here and now and just see what would happened. Though once I’ve crossed the Rubicon I have to take Rome, if Rome was someone who I wanted to be receptive and meet me halfway so the whole analogy of storming a city didn’t really work. I made my stomach feel sick with my mind racing and going to weird, ridiculous places.

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She hadn’t spoken for almost a minute. That might not seem that long but when we had been mid-conversation and then she just zones out, it is somewhat disconcerting. I thought we were ok again maybe better than before. I even tried to show her that by kissing her on the forehead as she had kissed mine on Friday… Now she was working the tip of her canine into her lip worrying the point in the red skin creating a white mark. The hell was wrong? I was trying to be cute and stand close to her, enjoying her warmth and her presence and it seemed to make her drift off.

That is odd I suppose. I wish I could read minds. Actually five minutes hearing my mom’s mind and I would probably be in a straight jacket. I could just ask. Just ask. Do it. Be brave. I paused, having trouble bringing myself to do it. Wait, think about the hell you put yourself through over the weekend wondering what was happening with her and between us, just ask what harm could it do? Actually best not to think on that, as I would come up with ludacris scenarios and panic myself into a panic attack.

“What you thinkin’?” I asked in a sing song voice rocking my head side to side with the rhythm of each word. She broke her thousand yard stare and stopped biting at her own lip and looked up and smirked. I was guessing at my stupid, childish antics. I knew she liked it when I did that as I did kind of like her being rude to me… Wait no. That would be a terrible reflection on me. Ribbing me not being rude. Well there was no barb and no malice behind the mocking.

“Just thinkin’.” She emphasised the same ‘in’’ way I had said it.

“About?” I asked poking her in the chest. How far was I willing to push this?

She opened her mouth and closed it and looked down and started working the tip of her canine back into her lip, her brow furrowed. I put my finger under her chin and lifted her face back up to make eye contact.

“About what?” I pressed.

“You,” she said flatly.

Ok. I wasn’t expecting that. A small voice in the back of my head screamed tell her you think about her.

“I think ab…”

There was a sharp rap on the glass pane on the door and I jumped apart from her as if a spark of electricity jolted from the floor to ceiling between us.

I turned on my heel trying to look normal. Acting casual was the least casual looking act one could do. Lola Perry, who I had seen in the supermarket, woah I forgot about that, my mind really was fixated on a singularity recently. She came in with a wave and another girl who had short red hair.

“What you guys up to?” She asked being very friendly.

“Nothing,” Carmilla and I said in unison, very sharply. Oh that looked great. What were we actually doing? Though thinking that we were doing something wrong in itself suggested we were…

“Right,” she frowned for a moment before her smile returned. “Thought I’d come down and say hi now I know you’re here,” she explained. “Hi I’m Perry,” she held her hand up Carmilla who shook it.

“Carmilla.”

“Nice to meet you, this is Susan,” she pointed out her friend.

“Lafontaine,” she corrected sharply. Before offering a hand for both of us to shake in turn.

“Hi,” I waved from my side.

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The two girls who came in were nice enough I suppose. I got a weird vibe from them. Well from between them. Maybe they liked each other too. It was a bit irritating to hear the curly haired one go on and on about how this room could use a clean and suggestions on how to best accomplish that. I just wanted to focus on the girl I liked. I couldn’t presume that she was going to tell me that she thought about me as well but I was on thin ice. It was a dangerous path I needed to make sure I didn’t stray from the destination otherwise I’d be lost in the wilderness. It was just what I needed, more confusion and uncertainty.

“Aw,” I said to Laura as she pulled a sandwich out of her bag. “You brought a little sandwich.”

“What makes it little?”

“It… You’re holding it.”

“Wouldn’t that make it big, if I’m little.”

Well she had me there. I liked going to the cafe, but it was too expensive to make a regular occurrence.

She was sitting on the island table leaning her legs over the side swinging them about a foot from the floor. I really was trying to train myself not to stare adoringly but she made it really hard especially with just how pleased she was eating her sandwich. Did she do this on purpose? I would ask one day. Provided I wasn’t wrong and the villagers didn’t chase me out of town with pitchforks and burning torches.

“What you thinking about?” I asked tentatively after a few moments of silence as she munched away happily.

“I don’t like mustard.”

“You don’t like mustard?”

“No I don’t know why I put it on my sandwich.”

“Ok.”

Well that was a dead end. A few more moments dripped away.

“What are you thinking about?” She finally asked as she licked mustard off her finger having finished her lunch, she made a sour face and looked angrily at her thumb as if it were the digit’s fault.

“Mayonnaise…” I said rolling my eyes.

“Really?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

Well that was my doing. I wanted to scream with frustration.

“What are you actually thinking about,” she asked, breaking the awkward silence again. Was it awkward? She might not feel awkward then it wasn’t awkward.

“You,” I said flatly, looking down at the floor. My nerve would have broken if I looked at her expressive eyes as I answered.

She walked up close to me and once again put a finger under my chin and raised my face to look at her, she was smiling a small smile. We were face to face and she moved her hand from under my chin to the side of my face. She closed the distance between us, slight as it was, and put her head sideways and breathed in at my neck. I shuddered. There was a snapping noise and I jolted.

“Hey,” she still sitting on the table clicking her fingers together. “I thought I was the daydreamer.”

“What?” I mumbled a little out of it.

“You looked like you were a million miles away.”

“About half a metre,” I corrected gauging the distance between us.

“Huh?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re silly.”
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I am a colossal moron. I really felt I should have said, should have told Carmilla I was thinking about her all the time too. Just because we were interrupted didn’t mean I couldn’t revisit where we were but what would come of that. I was thinking of her but I didn’t really know why, I may know, but. But was a word I using a lot in my own head. I was now sitting at my kitchen table having wasted a day. The day had lost the excitement of the week previous, it was better than I had feared over the weekend I supposed. On balance.

I really needed to do some self exploration. I know I do. I just was scared to.

A car skidded into the driveway interrupting my self reflection. This kept happening! I tried to tell Carmilla I was thinking of her as she had said she was thinking of me and Perry came, I was now trying to work out what I thought and felt and someone was here. Who would be here? Oh no.

My mother. It must be. I crouched down away from the line of sight provided by the windows and walked, well waddled into my bedroom which didn’t have a window facing the front lawn. Well this was humiliating. There was a knock at the door. It wasn’t what I expected from my mother. It wasn’t sharp and frantic. Still I didn’t want an argument. I wasn’t in the mood. I was trying to mull things over and if she blindsided me with a telling off and a list of advice on how I should do what she wants I would fold. I was in a haze and having cries and reprimands would just break me down and I would probably just fall apart and agree to whatever she wanted.

Not that it was particularly great for my self-esteem to be kneeling in the bedroom hiding from her. If it was even her, but no one had any reason to come here, or even knew I lived here.

“Laura!”

That wasn’t a woman’s voice. I waddled, crouched walk back to the hall and peeked around the door frame. The small pane of glass placed about head height in the front door, well not my head height but a normal person, no, not normal, tall, I’m getting distracted, I could see a man.

I snuck into the living room and peeked out to see my parent’s car. So it was my dad, but had he come alone. I had woken up of my self-created cerebral fog somewhat and decided to brave it and take a chance. I needed to be braver and I did walk away from the family meal in the first place. Come on Laura.

I pulled open the door.

“Laura?” My dad was alone, he had his signature pipe in his hand and shirt and tie with a jumper over it.

“Hi dad…” I said quietly. I looked around him leaning side to side.

“It’s just me.”

“Huh?”

“Your mother isn’t here, relax sweetheart.”

“I wasn…” I started but he cocked an eyebrow at me, “fine. Yeah. Come on in then,” I moved aside and he walked in and took a seat on the couch. “Coffee?”

“Yes please.”

I went to the kitchen and put on the machine to heat up the pot sitting there. It wasn’t the freshest but it would suffice. He sat politely waiting in silence for me to bring in two drinks.

“Thank you,” he said taking the mug from me. I sat in the armchair and lit up a cigarette waiting for whatever was about to come.

“So. So Sunday lunch was eventful.”

“Sorry.”

“Are you?”

“Not really.”

“No. I didn’t imagine you would be. Your mother doesn’t even know I’m here you know.”

“Oh.”

“No. I told her I needed to go out. She is rather cross at you Laura, but I understand.”

This was unexpected. My dad had been somewhat of a silent figure in my life for almost a decade. I didn’t really have much to say, I was happy to listen.

“Is there a problem? Or was it just a little too much of her… Shall we say overbearing nature?” He asked.

“No. Just overbearing.”

“Honestly Laura.”

“Honestly? I’m just…”

“Go on. You can talk to me without judgement.”

I doubt that. Dad I’m attracted to another girl. Attracted. That word just shot up in my head unrestrained. Was that the right term. I think it might be. Ok. Ok. Ok. It seemed to fit. I really wish I had this revelation alone. Though it may not have happened if I were alone. The word only slipped through due to the fact I wasn’t focussing and worrying it was just how I actually felt…

“Laura?” My dad broke my train of thought speaking very softly and encouragingly.

“I’m just having a hard time at the moment dad.”

“Are you sad about Henry leaving.”

“Sure.”

“Sure? That doesn’t sound like the voice of someone pining their lost unrequited love.”

“Perhaps not.”

“Well. I can understand that. You need to make some friends. I see my friends once a fortnight and it keeps me sane.”

“The girl I work with, we went out for drinks Friday.”

“Well good, good, invite her over for dinner. It isn’t good to be cooped up in here alone,” he put his hands on his legs and pushed himself up. “I just stopped by to tell you not to worry about me and I’ll actually talk to your mother and convince her to be nicer to you. I do have to rush off before I get chewed out too.”

“Thanks daddy,” I got up and ran over to him and hugged him around the waist, he placed a hand on my back. He was a very subdued man, and this was very unexpected but a nice surprise. I walked him to the door.

“I’ll try to convince her. We’ll give you some space at the very least.”

I waved goodbye as he drove away. I closed the door and rested my back against and slid down so I was sitting on the floor. Well that was enlightening. I had been honest with myself. Now what though?

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I had lost any skip to my step I had last week, not literal skip like a certain tiny blonde, but I was a bit down. I wasn’t quite sure why. Things weren’t going badly or anything I just wanted more. Not even wanted. Felt like things ought to be different. Maybe I’m just being entitled. My psyche had really shifted from panic and worry on Saturday and Sunday but still....

But still. That was basically the best summation of what was happening in my head.

I walked around the side of the town hall and down in the side entrance to the basement level. I made my way through the now familiar route to my post.

“Hey!” Laura jumped out of a corner blindsiding me.

“Argh,” was all I could manage.

“Sorry, didn’t meant to startle you.”

“Well hiding in the dark and leaping out at me, why would that startle me?” I quipped my heartbeat returning to normal.

“Soooooooo,” she started falling into line with me, matching my pace as we walked together. “I was wondering, do you… Would you like to… If you are free…”

“Spit it out.”

“Want to come over for dinner one night. One night, eating, you, me, food, mine… Erm… Yeah,” she stopped by the door to the mailroom and under my gaze her eyes darted left to right before focusing on me and smiling really widely.

“Ok,” I said pretending to be disinterested, inside my heart skipped and somersaulted. “When?”

“Well… I hadn’t really planned… What night is good for you?”

“You should have a plan.”

“Wednesday?”

“Tomorrow?”

“That is… Yeah.”

“Ok I’ll bring a bottle of wine… Wait,” as I said that word she looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “Can you cook?” Her shoulders relaxed. Was she really that on edge? Was it that big of a deal. I suppose she could barely get the question out in the first place.

“I can.”

“That doesn’t sound confident.” Why am I doing this? Why am I pushing. I do want to socialize with her outside of work again, see what is happening between us, see if it anything is progressing. I just couldn’t help it, her reactions were worth it every time.

“Well. Well in my defence…”

“You haven’t done anything to defend yet.”

“Well. Right. I will be using ingredients that have been rationed so…”

“So…”

“So it may not be the best meal you’ve ever eaten.”

“I wasn’t expecting that. Just not poisoned would be a plus.”

She folded her arms over her chest and frowned and pouted. I broke a smile and put my hand to her arm and squeezed it.

“Relax I’m just teasing you.”

“I know!” She beamed unfolding her arms, her bubbling energy returning. Oh well she tricked me. “Now where does this go?” She picked up an envelope and waved it under my nose.

“I hope you’re better at cooking than you are at your job,” I said snatching the letter from her hand.

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Ok. I needed to cook the beans and carrots for 20 minutes. This wasn’t going well. I had offered to pick Carmilla up and bring her over but apparently there was a bus stop at the end of my road. I was totally oblivious to that fact. Besides I was glad she wasn’t here while I cooked a meatloaf, it wasn’t going terribly but it wasn’t going well. I think if she was lurking in the background and criticizing everything I did I wouldn’t be able to make anything. I was a terrible housewife. I really was. It would be edible. That’s all I could do and hope for.

I was covered in gravy and had several angry red marks on my forearms where I’d burnt myself from boiling water splash back but I think I was done. I rushed into the shower to get the clumps of food out of my hair, I had no idea how they had got there but I was pretty sure the meatloaf did it on purpose to make me look stupid. As I stood under the jet of water I panicked for the entire duration that when I opened the bathroom door there would no house just burnt cinders with Carmilla standing by a doorframe with no walls around it laughing at me.

I had recomposed myself a bit before she arrived. I was setting the table when there was a knock at the door. I had really debated whether to seat her opposite me or next to me and decided on next to me. I rushed to the door and flung it over, perhaps a little too eagerly. She was standing there, looking beautiful with a bottle of red wine in the cradle of her arm.

“Nice place.”

“Thanks,” I smiled at her.

“Well.”

“Well what?” I felt the panic rising.

“Are you going to invite me in?”

“Of course. Welcome, come in, in we go,” I rambled. She just smirked and brushed past me, I felt the warmth of her body come in fleeting contact and almost shuddered and shivered. I really was attracted to her wasn’t I? It wasn’t just a theory which I needed to try to work out why I was feeling as I was and what it might be but it was that.

I closed the door closed slowly behind her, deep in thought.

“It smells…” She began speaking breaking me from my inner monologue. She was pausing and I looked at her expectantly. “Like food.”

“It is food,” I said happily basically chirping. I was planning on using my overly sunny disposition to charm her out of criticizing me. “It’s even edible!” She opened her mouth to retort but shut it to crack a smile.

“Well done.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“Do you have any wine glasses?”

I have wine!”

“I have wine.”

“So do I! I think.”

“Right. Well do you have glasses?”

“Yes.”

“Wine glasses?”

“No.”

“Regular glasses then. How fancy. ”

I saw her catch how I’d laid the table out I could see her cock a half smile at that and I felt the giddiness rising up as I walked past her to get two glasses.

***

“Don’t make that face!” I whined gesturing with my glass, I may have been tipsy, perhaps past that point actually. “It isn’t that bad.”

“We don’t have meatloaf in my country.”

“Well treat it as a learning experience.”

“It’s nice to have a night out again though.”

“Yeah I thought so,” my knee was resting on hers but that was it as far as physical contact. When she finished I took the plates and took them to the sink. I would do that later. Tomorrow.

“Thanks for dinner… I guess.”

“I’m going to ignore that ‘I guess,’ part, but you’re very welcoming.”

“I’m welcoming?”

“Welcome.”

“Is someone drunk?”

“Maybe,” I chirped holding my thumb and forefinger an inch apart. I plonked myself back down. Ok here goes. I drained the rest of my wine. “Look, can we talk.”

“We are and have been.”

“I meant. Well. Do you know what I mean?” I asked really hoping she would help me a little here.

“I might.”

Oh great.

“Well, right. Look. Ok.” I paused and took a deep breath. “I feel something.”

“It might be indigestion.”

“It might but past that. I wanted to say on Monday before Perry came in that I think about you too.”

“You do? How do you think of me?”

“I don’t know, that’s the problem with talking, I can’t really describe it. I just think about you.”

“My amazing personality.”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, it’s hard to make fun of you if you’re honest and adorable.”

“Well I don’t want to make fun I want to be serious.”

“Go ahead.”

“I don’t know, I’m floundering.”

I made an eep noise as she just leant over the table and kissed me very lightly on the lips. It was brief and unexpected. It shocked me. I didn’t know how to react. I was frozen still. Completely frozen. I tried to speak but I just stuttered. She looked at me, biting the inside of her cheek.

“Shit,” she mumbled standing up. “Sorry. That was a mistake, fuck.” She walked to the door. I was still unable to move. Do something I screamed inside my head. Stop her leaving. Stop her. “Thanks for dinner.” She closed the door and left.

I spluttered. Then put my fingers to my lips to touch where her lips had touched.

***

I rushed into work the next day. I wanted to apologize tell her how I felt and I was just shocked and I didn’t want her go. I hadn’t slept a wink. I fluctuated in waves between pure panic and elation. Fearing what would come of my non-reaction, my stunned silence and happiness at how soft her mouth was against mine. It was the briefest of kisses but her mouth felt right. Henry’s lips were chapped and dried and rough and I always hated it. That one peck rocketed to the height of best kisses I’d had.

When I got to the mailroom no one was there. So I smoked and I waited. When 10 o’clock rolled around Carmilla still hadn’t shown up. I was starting to truly freak out. What if she had run away or moved somewhere else to work in the town hall because I was an idiot.

I didn’t eat lunch. My stomach was in knots. Where the hell was she?

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I don’t know why I didn’t go into work. I just felt like a moron. I drank and was loose and I pre-empted what she was going to say and kissed her. She may not have even been going where I thought she was. She probably wasn’t. I was just looking for that. I was so desperate for that to be true I just ignored any possibility she wasn’t thinking the same as me. If she was she wouldn’t have frozen up and just stared into space with a death stare like I’d just… Just… Kissed a married woman in her family home. I slapped my hand to forehead. Cursing myself.

I was vaguely aware of my feet aching from the persistent pacing I’d done. I had run through the most far fetched scenarios of skipping town or pretending not to remember what had happened. I kissed you? Are you crazy? Wasn’t the best idea I’d had.

There was a knock at my door breaking me from my trance. Oh god. Was it the villagers with the pitchforks?! I just stared at the back of the door. There was another knock.

“Carm?”

It was Laura. I debated for only a second whether or not to open up but that went in another second and I torn open the door and we just looked at each without speaking. She walked in past me and I closed the door behind her still without having spoken a word. I turned to her she looked very concerned.

“You weren’t at work today.” She finally spoke up without looking up.

“No.”

“Was it something I did?”

“No.”

“I just was… I was shocked, I didn’t know how to react. I’m sorry,” she looked on the verge of tears and she walked at a very fast pace to be up close with me and put her hands in my lapels. “I’m an idiot. I thought you might have run away or would never talk to me again,” she rambled off her voice cracking.

“Do you want to talk to me again?”

“What?!” She sounded like she was about to cry, it broke my heart, “of course I do! Will you be in work tomorrow at least?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Good, good,” she finally let go of my lapels. “Look I didn’t sleep a bit last night.”

“Me neither.”

“Right, ok, well I have to go and rest. Please come in tomorrow please!”

“I will.”

“Ok, see you then.”

She walked past me to the door and opened it, I turned once again to see her pausing with her back to me, one hand on the door, cracked a couple of inches apart. Her shoulders rose and fell with a loud deep exhale and she closed the door and span around and marched up to me and before I could think she had pressed her lips hard to mine kissed me ferociously but briefly.

“Ok. Good talk!” She smiled at me and turned and actually left this time.

I was frozen this time, before I put my fingers to my lips to feel the warmth of her mouth.

Huh, I wasn’t wrong, look at that.

Chapter Text

I really should be paying more attention to the road, but I wasn’t and couldn’t really pay attention. My mind was racing, conversely I was driving very slowly. I hadn’t truly thought out what I was going to do when I went to her apartment. I just went there, scared she had disappeared. It may have been an overreaction. I had just rushed to her apartment begged her not to quit her job because I was slightly awkward last night and then. Well I did what I did. I didn’t regret it… I just felt like I ought to show her. Show her. Yeah.

I also, selfishly needed some breathing room to think. If I made a reciprocating gesture it would stop her fleeing me or giving up on me and I could think. Still I was happy. Scared and happy was a weird mix but exciting. I hadn’t ever felt like this. Ever. I had just gone through the motions that others pushed me through. This was the first big choice I made myself, ever though she may have kick started the chain of events, I could have just hid at home and pretended nothing happened or asked Danny to help me transfer positions. I didn’t though. Why am I self-deprecating myself now of all times? Be pleased with yourself Laura! Yay! Yay and Ahhh! Ahhh and Yay!

My mouth was still tingling as I could feel her’s still just there dancing over my lips.

I had a suspicion that it may have been my meatloaf that had tipped things over the edge and made her want to kiss me in the first place.

***

I was a little worried walking into work the following day, the Friday. What would we talk about? Would we talk about what had transpired between us? Transpired was the wrong word it suggested something bad… Or would we wait until we were in a social situation? Should I walk in give her a quick peck hello and get on with things? Or should I just act normal? What was normal. Kissing another girl wasn’t normal… Be brave. New Laura is brave Laura!

“Good morning!” I chirped as I pushed open the mailroom door to an empty room. Oh.

“Morning,” Carmilla greeted me walking in from behind and I jumped a little. So much for brave I suppose. She walked past me and threw her bag down and sat on the sorting table and lit up a cigarette.

“Morning.”

“We already covered that,” she smirked to herself as smoke started to rise around her.

“Want a coffee?” I offered. She just nodded and I rushed off to fetch them.

“Thanks,” she mumbled as I placed her mug down.

“So…” I paused and quickly turned to close the door to give us some privacy and quickly turned back to her. “Are we… Should we… erm. Morning,” I repeated after flailing for a way to broach a conversation.

“Deja vu.”

“Haha, yeah, but no,” she cocked an eyebrow at me, I was rambling. “So do you want to talk?”

“Do you?”

“I asked first!” I whined stamping my foot and crossing my arms over my chest. She laughed at that.

“Seriously do you want to talk?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then why ask? Do we have something to talk about?”

“Obviously! We,” I looked around to check no one had magically slipped into the room. “Kissed, like twice.”

“Do you regret it?”

“No, gosh no,” I stressed, I hoped she didn’t think that. That hadn’t even crossed my mind, that she would think I was being a scaredy cat.

“Good, good,” she nodded staring off into the distance wistfully before refocusing on me. “We probably shouldn’t talk in depth about… We shouldn’t talk here,” she corrected.

“Agreed.”

“Agreed,” she mimicked me mocking me.

I playfully slapped her arm and we exchanged a smile.

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Oh I hated the clock, not the fact time was passing slowly because I wanted to get out of here and go to the bar with Laura and talk to her and see if she was just having some experimenting crisis or if it was something more, but the actual clock. Ticking away slowly being awful on purpose.

“So where do you want to go tonight?” Laura asked pulling out her little sandwich, breaking for lunch. I shot the clock one last disapproving glance.

“Really?”

“What?” She said. I had to pause to appreciate how adorable she looked as she surveyed her sandwich with a small smile and rock of her head.

“Where do you think?”

“Yeah I suppose we don’t know anywhere else.”

“Good girl, working it out yourself.”

“I’m smart!” She declared before biting into her food and making a face.

“Mustard?” I asked as I got my own lunch out.

“Yeah… I don’t like it. How did you know that?”

Did I daydream that conversation, I know I daydreamed her almost kissing me but… Huh. That was weird. She needed an answer, think quickly, oh I know mock her.

“You’re a wimp and anything slightly spicy would hurt your little mouth.” Good one me.

“Yeah it does,” she nodded as she had another bite. She must be doing that on purpose.

“You know we’re almost done right?” I shifted around the last handful of post. “Never is much to do on a Friday.”

“We could leave early,” she suggested with raised eyebrows.

“Oh look at you cutie being all rebellious.”

“I’ve been doing a lot of rebellious things recently,” she said slyly before going a little red at her own admission.

“You’ve done like two rebellious things, yeah two not a lot.”

“Wah!”

***

“I don’t want to drink gin.”

“Then don’t,” I replied as we walked in the twilight air towards the one bar we knew existed in town.

“I don’t know any other drinks.”

“Have bourbon.”

“Is that nice?”

“Sure, I’m sure you’d like it,” I lied, preemptively chuckling internally as I imagined her coughing at the sour amber liquid.

“Ok.”

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I almost spat coughing as I swallowed the most disgusting, strong alcohol I had ever had. Not that I had much but eww, this was horrible. I managed to catch my breath and… Oh no I hadn’t I began spluttering again.

“Not good?” She asked me.

“N-n-n-no.”

“Aw.”

“You told. Ok,” I took a deep breath, “ok, all better,” I told her as I eyed my drink suspiciously.

“Let the ice dissolve and it’ll taste better.”

“You know a lot of drinks huh?”

“We start younger in Europe.”

“Wait, you told me this was good!”

“And you believed me?” She asked, her face showed she was truly pleased with herself. “I just wanted to see your reaction. I’ll swap drinks if you want?”

“I’ll wait for the ice to melt.”

“Ok. So you wanted to talk?”

“Yeah, but I want to drink my drink first.”

“Dutch courage?”

“What?”

“Nevermind.”

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She looked troubled, I couldn’t tell if it was the obvious thing on her mind or if it was just the burning taste left by my ill-recommended beverage. We sipped, well I sipped and she swirled her drink, in quiet. It was not a comfortable silence at all. It wasn’t painful but there was a pressure building up, increasingly worse. A fog was surrounding us, I wanted to say something but I knew I had to let her go first. If she had been soul searching and wondering about herself and all that I couldn’t push. I pushed that night at her house by interrupting her train of thought, slow and hesitant a train as it may have been, and she froze up. It turned out well in the end, better if anything but it wasn’t mutual. I kissed her and she reacted badly. She then came over in a panic and I froze up, it was both of us acting independently of each other. I had to suppress that desire to blurt out what I wanted to and sit back and wait for her to come meet me so there could be some unity here.

She eventually pushed aside her drink after giving it a couple of sniffs and stood up and went to the bar and returned with a clearer drink. I’m guessing she went with gin and tonic as I did.

“This tastes delicious in comparison.”

***

“They’re not too bad,” Laura told me. We had started talking about those two redhead girls who came and bothered us before. Dancing around the inevitable deep talk we were destined to have the small talk had began after she sank half of her new, more palatable drink. It clearly hit her harder than me.

“How do you know? You don’t even know one of them!”

“I give people the benefit of the doubt!”

I just rolled my eyes at that, got up and fetched us another two drinks.

“Thank you!”

“It was your turn you know.”

“Thank you!”

“How can someone be annoying and adorable at the same time?” I asked as I took out a cigarette.

“You like it, I know you do.”

“I like you.”

“Thanks, I like you too.”

“How sweet.”

“Even though you’re all moody and mean to me.”

“Even though you’re like a child in an adult’s body, not an adult sized body but still.”

“You’re being mean now.”

“I know.”

“Right,” she stopped and looked down at the table furrowing her brow and breathing out one quick, hard breath. Well here we go steady yourself. She looked back up at me shot me a small smile and looked around the bar to make sure we were out of earshot I guess. “So. We need to talk right.”

“I liked our talk the other day,” I replied referring to our second kiss when she came bursting into my flat all emotional. I felt my stomach knot as she smiled at that brushing her hair back behind her ear as she did it, nerves from what was to come and just how beautiful a sight was to see her do that. She took a hefty swig.

“I did too. I really did too. It’s definitely a conversation I’d like to have more.”

I felt a wave of relief at that. I didn’t think she regretted it, it was just nice to hear a verbal confirmation of that.

“But?” I asked tentatively.

“But? But nothing, just… It’s not a normal thing to do…”

“Does that bother you?”

“I felt it should. You know what it’s like when my husband left for war, the guilt I had was a guilt at the absence of guilt. It’s something I feel like I ought to feel bad about…”

“The kiss or the adultery?”

“The adultery… God I didn’t even think about that.”

Oh shit, why did I say that, great job Carmilla talk her out of what you want.

“Do you care?” I asked, my heart leaping up into my throat, waiting with baited breath for her answer.

“I…” she paused to have another large swig. “I don’t to be honest. No. Am I bad person? It’s a sin. On two accounts.”

“You’re a Christian I’m guessing?”

“Presbyterian, yeah, but I don’t go to church unless I’m forced. You’re jewish right?”

“I was.”

“You were?”

“I don’t believe in god anymore… Though I guess in some people’s eyes if you’re born a Jew you’re always a Jew.”

“Ok… So what happens when you die?”

“You die.”

“That’s it?”

“I think so.”

“Right… Sorry, we’re getting distracted. I’m getting distracted,” she corrected as I shot her a look. “I don’t feel bad. I don’t know what I feel. Or how I feel. I don’t even know how I feel about you. I just…” I didn’t want to break her thinking out loud so I waited, every second was torturous, but I stood firm on the outside, screaming so loudly inside my head my eyes rattled. “I want to see where things go, I’m happy, I’m excited and I was destroyed and drove myself mad with hysteria when you were only a slightly cold to me that Saturday morning.”

“I was scared too that I’d driven you away that morning.”

“Ok. I thought you thought nothing of it while I obsessed.”

“I thought you thought nothing of it while I WAS obsessed.”

We paused. Sharing that exchange of a revelation of mutual experience was calming.

“I’m just at a crossroads I suppose, I guess I can chose to let self-doubt and concern over things that might happen to ruin something which makes me happy, or.” She paused to finish off her drink. “Or I can do something I’ve never done, and follow my feelings and I feel like I should do that. Why not? Why shouldn’t I?”

“It isn’t what people SHOULD do in society, in polite, decent society,” I replied. I kicked myself again for pushing back against her coming over to the way of thinking I wanted her to have. It would be selfish and just wrong of me to not let her come to these conclusions organically. If I wanted her to give things a chance with me I wanted it to be on the right ground, not dishonest ground.

“Well… Yeah that’s true. But! But,” she said forcefully, “I’ve done everything ‘decent society,’” she spat the phrase out like it was toxic. “What it wants of me, I got married straight from high school, I lay there,” her face was twisting in anger now, “under my husband as he used me, felt disgusted with myself but repressed it deep inside, stayed home and was meek, cooking and cleaning and other things I didn’t want to do. What has that brought me?”

“Go on,” I prompted as she took a break to light a cigarette up and in one go down the bourbon which had melted and blended with the ice perfectly now. Still that hurt my throat just watching her do it. She coughed once and shook her head to clear the bitterness.

“Misery.”

She left the word hanging there.

“Are you miserable now?”

“Not with you,” she said really softly, barely audible, I reached over and squeezed her forearm. It was the biggest physical gesture I could manage in public, but it seemed to help, she was tense but I felt her muscle relax under my grip.

“Well thank you.”

“For what?” She asked confused.

“Being so honest and sharing with me.” Yuck I hated myself for being so sappy but it did feel appropriate.

“I kind of feel like an idiot for saying it.”

“Why?”

“Because you’ve experienced true horror and here I am moaning about nothing.”

“It isn’t nothing, didn’t we cover this already?”

“I suppose. Ok, phew,” she smiled at me, closing her eyes and giving me the toothiest smile I’d ever seen. “Now that’s ok of the way want me to get a drink?”

“Obviously, you've been freeloading on me all night.”

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I skipped back from the bar with two more drinks clutched in each hand, not energetically to spill them I was just so happy. All the doubt and self-hatred and all the rest of agony which I had inflicted on myself was gone, I was drunk. That bourbon hit me really hard. Yet it was more than that, I hadn’t let go and let my emotions out… Ever. It was liberating.

“Here we go!”

“Thanks.”

“Sooooooo, how are you?”

“What?” She laughed sipping at her glass.

“I thought I’d lighten the mood up. Change topics a bit.”

“Are you drunk?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Adorable.”

“I am right?!” I shot her a smile as I kicked off my shoe under the table and started playing with her leg, caressing it as I had done the week previous.

“Do you want to get out of here? Go back to my place?”

“I don’t think I’m ready for that…”

“I wasn’t, no, wait. I didn’t. I didn’t mean that, I just meant so we could have some time together.”

“Yeah that’s a good idea.”

“It’s not great that you spill your guts out and then we have to sit in a bar with people in it.”

“True.”

***

“I swear it wasn’t this far away last time.”

“You were drunker last week,” she waved dismissively. “This is what happens when you drive everywhere, you’re too lazy to walk a kilometre. Typical American.”

“I’m not lazy.”

“Then don’t complain so much.”

We walked into her apartment building and I followed her up the stairs and was tired before I got to the top and decided to whine and moan my way up the last couple of flights. I followed her in and went over to her box chairs and sat down and bounced up and down on the cushions. I could barely get comfortable before Carmilla had locked the door and strode over to me and sat over my legs, her legs tucking in between my thighs and armrests.

“Eep.” Was the only noise I could manage.

“I’ve wanted to do this since I met you,” she mumbled, sweeping her hair back over her shoulder and leaning down to rest her forehead on mine. She kissed the side of my temple and upper cheekbone and down my jaw under my ear. The tingling and warmth which exploded from the touch of her lips dispelled any remnant of doubt I had from this. She placed a hand to rest against the side of my face she wasn’t kissing, pressing her hand into my face lightly and kissing my neck from the other side.

My breath hitched and I made an involuntary noise I had never made before, it was a mix between a rasp and an exhale. There was a building tension just running through every part of my body, my veins were screaming just under the surface of my skin. I moved my hand to her back and my other to rest on the arm she had up to my face. I was barely touching her, but that was enough for now, just to show her I was receptive back. That this was what I wanted.

The spark which raced over my mouth as she finally captured my lips in a soft kiss, breaking apart to lay several kisses before taking my bottom lip between her’s, was incredible. I responded to what she was doing moving my mouth in motion with hers, reacting to everything she did. She was so soft and tender, I didn’t mean to think of my husband but the comparison blew him out of the water. This was what a kiss should be; caring and delicate and reciprocal. I hadn’t even considered that something could be this intimate and… Perfect, but it was.

I moved my hand around from her back to hold onto her waist and the side of her stomach which she took as encouragement to intensify our kiss, her hair fell forward and tickled the sides of my ears and neck.

Time didn’t exist. I was in bliss.

She finally broke apart from me pulling my bottom back very lightly and playfully with her teeth resting her forehead on mine again, as we had when we started. We weren’t breathing heavy but it was elevated and my arms were still entwined with her body.

“Hey,” she breathed, I could feel the warmth of her breath onto my face.

“Hey,” I mumbled back, a little dizzy, giddy and on the borderline of seeing stars. She ran the back of her fingers down the side of my face, the nails trailing a path down my cheek and turning her palm to cup my cheek. She gave me one last peck before climbing off me and sitting in the other chair. Lying back into it. Completely relaxed.

“Hey, give me one of your cigarettes, I ran out.”

I passed her one and we both smoked for a short time in a very calm and comfortable silence.

“That was nice,” I said quietly and contentedly.

“Nice? That’s all I get? I thought I was better than that.”

“Very nice?” I tried and she barked a happy laugh, I hadn’t heard her have that much joy in her laugh and it made me happy in return. My cheeks were starting to get sore from the grin I couldn’t shake, I was elated.

I had made the right choice. Definitely.

Chapter Text

She left before midnight, to make the walk back to the town centre and drive to her house. The night couldn’t really get any better than it had. I suppose it could have… But she wasn’t ready for that. She’d really come to terms with things at a speed. I needed a little space for reflection too. If things did progress to the next stage she’d see the mark on my arm. Sitting in the dark in a chair with a cigarette I rolled back the sleeve of my dress, I always wore long sleeves. I looked at the number.

It was self-inflicted. I knew those who were caught and who were rounded up had a serial number tattooed into their arm to identify them as dirty. In a darker time, both mentally and day to day I used the point of a knife to carve a number into my arm. Just 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0, my mind wasn’t working particularly well back then, I was thinking of survival more than anything, not some creative thing to hack into my own flesh.

I only ever looked at the white and red mark which looked like it could have been branded with a searing hot poker when I felt happy. When things felt like they were going too well. To remind myself of what could happen at the drop of a hat. I used to look at it a lot when I got off the boat in this country. Knowing I was safe. I was in a safe place, a haven, and I used it as a reminder of what could happen, what could happen to my mind in a dark enough state and how lucky I was.

I rolled my sleeve back down.

I was safe. I had believed that was enough, the best I could achieve, I had a small time job, I was in my own place and I could afford small luxuries every once and awhile and I thought that would be my lot. I looked at things in comparison. I may not have been able to find a romantic partner, or true friendship or anything like that, but it was better than being dead, or tortured or… Whatever living hell my peers had and were still being subjected to. So I had stopped looking at the self-inflicted wound, I had become complacent in a normal, standard, boring routine. Now things had changed and I finally felt I needed that reminder again.

Thinking of Laura and thinking of what we did tonight and the possibilities of the future made me smile ear to ear. It was a strange mix to sit in the dark with tears rolling down my cheeks into my smiling mouth. It wasn’t bittersweet. It was sweet. The bitterness was in the past. I wasn’t a perfectionist and I didn’t expect perfection but there was definitely a glimmer on my horizon. There were problems, of course there were. She was married. It was unacceptable in pretty much everybody's’ eyes, we weren’t going to ever be able to move in together and… I shook my head, I’m rushing ahead of myself. Just be happy.

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I probably shouldn’t have driven myself home, I was drunk, but what had happened had injected me with so much energy and adrenaline that I was focused. That was no excuse I chastised myself as I poured out a glass of water. Still I was overjoyed. That was amazing, more than that, I didn’t have a word to describe the feeling, it was intense at the time and my blood was still up, rushing instead of pumping through my body. The warmth and glow hadn’t come close to wearing off.

I went around my house and took all the photographs of Henry and I, not that there were many. Three in fact. I took them and I put them face down so I didn’t even have to look at them.

I sat down in the living room and sparked up a cigarette and used my free hand I played with my wedding band. I didn’t want to take it off. I was a cheater. I had cheated tonight. No, we hadn’t had sex but I wanted to, there was a small voice which in the back of my head told me to not go further with her but I wasn’t ready for that, definitely not and the louder, clearer voice knew that.

Still kissing another person like that, passionately and fiercely was cheating. It wasn’t adultery yet was still bad, still a sin. Kissing a woman was worse. Double sin. I wanted to though, I didn’t want to kiss my husband, thinking back I hadn’t wanted to kiss any of the boys at school. I hadn’t wanted to kiss the girls either, it hadn’t seemed like an option though not until I met her…

It hadn’t felt right to stay, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all. I could just tell. I was too… Too… Indescribable. My mind was racing in circles, positive circles, but too fast to even consider getting any rest any time soon.

The absence of guilt… Was that in itself guilt? I don’t think so. Though finally I was able to look at it with some perspective, why should I feel guilt? I hadn’t been treated particularly well. I can’t remember the last nice thing anybody said to me apart from Carmilla. Even when I did what my mother wanted and got married the first thing she said to me after the vows was to inform me in a non-subtle manner she wanted a grandchild and during war especially it was a duty. If I had a child she would want a second and then probably a third and then she’d criticize my mothering. So screw her.

Why should I feel guilty? I did something I wanted to do. Admittedly something which would get me arrested and… Could women be chemically castrated? Maybe, but it would be bad regardless. Still I didn’t need to worry about that right now. Spoil my good mood with far out hypotheticals.

I physically bounced up and down in my seat from just the wave of happiness that electrified my body realizing I wasn’t guilty and I didn’t need to beat myself up about. Something good happened and it was in my power, my control.

Yipee.

***

I may have spent the night on Friday cleaning my house… Well I did. It wasn’t the best idea to do that at in the dead of night but I needed to occupy my time with something that wasn’t just sitting down and leaping around; giddy.

I even woke up early Saturday morning despite not getting that much rest. Buzzing. Still buzzing. I think I dreamt about her. I wasn’t too sure my dreams were sweet a comfortable, pleasant warm haze I could snuggle into.

I was drinking a lukewarm coffee when there was a loud knock at the door. Three raps. Who was that?!

I rushed over through the hall and pulled open the door to see a military official. Oh no. No. The guilt I hadn’t felt jolted to life in me. Henry had been killed and I was out cheating on him…

“Good morning ma'am,” the mustachioed soldier addressed me in a very stern voice.

“Morning…” My voice rasped out a fraction away from trembling.

“Are you Mrs. Piper?”

“No,” I shook my head as the tension rose off me, I felt my teeth and my jaw unlock, I hadn’t noticed I had locked up.

“Oh. Do you know a Mrs. Piper?”

“She lives directly opposite,” I told him pointing over the road.

“Thank you very much. Sorry to bother you ma’am. Have yourself a lovely day,” he nodded and turned on his heel.

“Has something happened to Stuart Piper?” I asked in a small voice.

“Sorry I can’t say anything.”

That means yes.

“Good day sir,” I called after him as he walked stiffly away. I closed the door and stumbled, half blind to the couch and slumped down. In one second I had thought that I was widow and then in the blink of an eye I wasn’t. I got up and peeked out of the front window and saw Mrs Piper in her dressing gown talking to the soldier. I could see him handing her a letter and her opening it and falling to her knees and hugging at the man’s waist. I couldn’t hear but I could imagine the sobbing and wailing. It felt like that was meant for me. I don’t think I would react like that.

Should I go over there and try to comfort her? I’m not sure. That would be the neighborly thing to do… Good lord, ok, I have to. I’ve seen it I need to go.

I waited, lurking in the window behind my curtains like a creep until the soldier left and I opened my door and walked very reluctantly across my front lawn and the road, her next door neighbor had come out and paced over to me. Waving.

“Hey Laura.”

“Hi Judy.”

“Did you see the military vehicle pulling up and going to Laurie’s door?”

“No… But I saw the soldier he came to my door originally, he didn’t have the right place.”

“Oh sweetie you must have been so scared!” She said her mouth twisting into a fake sympathetic look. “You know that he was coming for you.” She clarified. How patronizing.

“Yes. I did for a brief moment. Nevermind that. I was going to come see if Laurie is ok,” I told her. As much as I didn’t like her or any of my fellow housewives, it was a passive aggressive group to associate with.

“Of course me too.”

“After you,” I said waving for her to take the lead. She knocked on the door and a very teary Laurie Piper answered it. Her face was red and blotchy. I had never seen that look of disheveled, distraught agony etched on someone’s expression. “Hi Laurie,” I spoke barely over a whisper.

“How are you sweetheart?” Judy asked her that false contrite look plastered on.

“Not good. Did you see the man?”

“Yes.”

“He went to Laura’s first looking for directions.”

“Right. Well come in,” she let us past her, she was still in her dressing gown. She made her way into her kitchen to get some coffee. It was weird being in this house, it was exactly the same as mine. I guess they’re all the same. There were a lot more pictures of the couple who lived here than I had up, not that I had them up anymore but still. It felt more homely, more of a shared space. Poor woman.

Judy had no problem sitting down on the couch and waiting expectantly for the drink. I slinked my way to join her. This felt wrong, like a horrible intrusion on her grief.

We both thanked her in turn as she handed off the coffee.

“So,” Judy started, “bad news?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.

“Me too.”

“Thank you.”

“What happened?” Judy asked her. Did she care out of compassion or out of a desire to find out a piece of gossip. Laurie sobbed a couple times before she could even answer. This was going to be rough.

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Despite my slight hangover I thought it best to go visit Laura. It would be a nice surprise! I hoped it would be a nice surprise. It would be best to. I needed to go and see her, solidify our bond. Not let things compress and evaporate some of the passion we had last night. Show her I cared. There was a lot reasons to go and see her.

I got the bus and walk and the bus and the walk. Last time, well the only time, I was here, I thought as I walked down her avenue, her lovely, perfect suburban avenue, I was fleeing thinking I’d misread the situation and kissed a married woman. Well I had done that and again, and then again… A married woman who didn’t want me to kiss her was more accurate. Now I could appreciate how nice it was here. Unlike her dreadful cooking. Meatloaf? Disgusting. Only in America.

I went up to her house and before I knocked I rolled up my sleeve and looked at my scar. Ying and yang. If that’s even appropriate.

I knocked and waited. I waited then I knocked. No answer. I glanced in the window I couldn’t see anyone inside. Right. Maybe she out? Her car was in the drive… Unless she was in the shower. I guess I’d have to wait. I pulled out a cigarette and went to sit on the bonnet of her car to smoke.

I heard some commotion over the street and I turned to see her and another lady leaving the house opposite her’s. What the hell? I thought she had no friends… That isn’t nice though we did bond over that mutual sad fact about both of us. She waved goodbye to both of the women she was with and walked back towards me with her head down, looking at the ground. She walked past me, still not looking up and I waited until she pulled out her keys to speak.

“Hey.”

“Ah!” She cried out dropping her keys on the floor turning quickly on her heel, the shock disappearing as she saw me. “Oh hey. What you doing here?”

“Thought I’d come see you, hang out.”

“Great come on in!” She smiled and I hopped off her car and joined her, crossing her threshold going into the house. “Want a coffee? Something to eat? I still have some leftover meatloaf,” she offered in a sing song voice.

“No thanks, coffee is fine,” I replied as my stomach turned at the mere thought of eating that stuff again.

I waited while she got the coffee as I sat on her couch when she brought the cup in she hovered above me for a moment, I looked up to see her upturning the corner of her mouth clearly debating something. Deciding on it she leant down and kissed the corner of my mouth.

“Hi!”

“Hi, yeah we covered that,” I laughed as I accepted the steaming cup. “What were you up to? Book club?”

“No the lady across the street; Laurie Piper, her husband died on some Island I can’t pronounce near Japan.”

“Oh right.”

“She was a mess, she really loved him. I think she might be the first wife on this avenue whose husband has died.”

“How did he die?”

“Bayonet.”

“That’s a nasty way to go.”

“Is there a nice way?”

“Shot through the head? Quick I suppose,” I said solemnly. I didn’t know why I was pursuing this line of questioning.

“You end up the same either way.”

“Yeah. Did you, or do you know her well?”

“Not at all. I only went because the soldier delivering the telegram came here first, mistaken address, I thought it was Henry, so I thought I ought to go talk to her. Not that I did much talking, I just listened.”

“Right.”

“This happens in war doesn’t it?”

“How did you feel when you thought he was coming for you?” I asked my heart jumping up to my throat.

“It was a split second.”

“A lot of emotions can come and go in a split second,” I told her, I knew that all too well.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s true, I felt guilt that I may have cheated on him the next before I found out he died, but that went pretty quickly. The thing that really happened from it was sitting listening to Laurie go on and on about how awful she felt and realizing I really wouldn’t feel that way in her position. It hammered home what a happy marriage could be; she had loads of pictures of them together and I spent the morning putting mine face down.”

“Face down?”

“So the frames are down… You know?”

“I get the picture.”

“Picture that’s good.”

Oh I didn’t mean to do that, pretend I did and smirk.

“So…” I prompted her.

“So I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve learned anything.”

“Oh good for you.”

“Humph.”

“Did you have fun last night?” I asked, diverting attention to what I wanted to talk about.

“I did,” she said in a small voice, going a little red and burying her chin to her chest for a second making a tiny humming noise before shooting back up to smile at me.

“Good. You know you were all drunk.”

“Not that drunk!”

“I was just checking,” I said lowering my voice. “‘Cause I had a great time,” I put my coffee cup down and shifted over to the edge of the couch nearer her armchair and I rested my elbow on the armrest and my head in my hand making eye contact, I noticed she moved closer to me in response.

“Really great,” she basically just breathed out instead of talking.

Ok.

I broke eye contact for only a moment to look down at her lips flickering my eyes back up to eyes and then back down. I heard her emit a shuddering exhale as I leant forward, raising myself from the seat getting closer and closer to her before she finally moved herself, closing the gap between us as our mouths captured each other simultaneously.

It was just soft and calm, her lips responding to my lead. It was really uncomfortable on my side and my legs twisting my body to be able to kiss her but I didn’t care, it was worth it.

After a couple of moments the pain was getting too much and I had to break the kiss and as I opened my eyes she did the same and I saw a flash of panic.

“What’s wrong?” She asked in the most heart-wrenchingly adorable voice.

“The angle.”

“What?”

“Leaning over it hurt.”

“Oh, phew, I thought I did something wrong…” She chirped. She then glanced down at the gap between the couch and her and nodded to herself, probably recognizing what I’d said. “Well I can fix that,” she murmured shyly.

“Better furniture?”

“No.”

She stood up and came over to me and as I did to her the night before she straddled my lap, tucking her knees around mine. She let her blonde hair spill down over my face and shoulders as she looked down at me. I could tell she was nervous.

“Wait!” she cried leaping off me and running to the window and yanking closed the curtains. “Ok all good!” She smiled at me hopping and skipping her way back, I took the initiative and half stood up, propping myself with the back of the couch and wrapped my arm around her waist as she squeaked in surprise and threw her down underneath me and climbed over her until we were face to face our noses brushing each other.

She rocked her head back and kissed the tip of my nose before resetting and brushing her nose against mine again, she made an excitable squeaking noise again, she was just staring deep into my eyes. I couldn’t wait anymore and I closed my eyes and pressed my mouth to hers, softly at first, pulling back and leaning forward, laying kiss after kiss, making them longer with each time. I didn’t know how far this would go but while things were going well I moved my hands to grip at her waist and the flat of her stomach. I felt her breath come out raggedly into my mouth before recomposing herself.

I worked my fingertips between the gap of the hem of her blouse and her skirt just wanting to touch her skin, she gasped in her small, adorable manner, hummed and broke the kiss, I moved from her mouth to her throat and I felt her body tremor as I tried my best to be sensual against the tender flesh. I pushed up her blouse revealing her stomach and ran my fingernails over her, making light, unpainful white scrapes down over her belly button and down her side as I pushed my knee under her thigh.

She giggled and gasped as her hand came to rest on my lower back and used her other under my arms to tug me back up until we were face to face and she could re engage our kiss. Taking her actions as encouragement I kept pushing my hand further up her torso until I could feel the wire at the bottom of her bra, working the material up just to touch the sensitive skin under there. She dug her nails into my arm and broke away the kiss.

“Carm,” she breathed hard. “Carm, I’m not ready yet.”

“That’s fine,” I mumbled back letting my hand slip back down. “Can’t blame a gal for trying.”

“No,” she giggled like a schoolgirl, “I can’t,” she leant up and pecked my lips as I slid back off her. I was glowing. She was right too, I didn’t really want our first time to be on a couch, and I didn’t want to have explain away the horrid markings on my forearm. It gave me hope that she had said ‘not ready yet,’ which suggested it would happen just not right now. I could understand she was coming to terms with how she felt still.

***

“Are you sure you don’t want some?” she asked me as she peered in her refrigerator and I may or may not have stared at her legs as she bent over.

“No!”

I didn’t want any of that appalling meatloaf, was she obsessed or was I imagining it.

“Ok! I have some cold cuts,” she mumbled.

“Let’s go out.”

“Where?”

“Somewhere to eat.”

“Oh, good idea.”

I held my hand out for her to take as she skipped her way over to me and grasped it and we walked the short distance to the door hand in hand. It was the only time we would be able to do this intimate thing, it would impossible in public so when there was a knock at the door we leapt apart. She rushed over to open it and some pompous looking woman was standing there with a smug satisfied expression.

“Oh hi Judy,” Laura greeted her unenthusiastically.

“Laura! Oh I didn’t know you had company,” she shot me a fake smile, I didn’t respond.

“I’m making some cupcakes for Laurie, to cheer her up, I thought I might as well I didn’t think you would,” she said snarkily. “I don’t have enough flour, can I borrow some? Well have some, you can pretend it’s a joint gift.”

I’ve never wanted to punch someone so quickly.

“Yeah sure wait here,” Laura said, she was clearly flustered it would have been cute to appreciate if I wasn’t angry on her behalf.

“So how do you know Laura?” She asked me from across the threshold. I sighed before answering.

“We work together.”

“That’s an interesting accent where’s it from?”

“Eugh, not from around here.” I replied flatly walking into living room giving her the cold shoulder.

“I don’t think I have any flour…” Laura said coming back from her kitchen.

“Of course you don’t. Well you’ll need to give me a lift to the store, you know, to help Laurie,” I could hear every ounce of poison dripping through her ‘request,’ well that sunk my plans. I suppose I shouldn’t be too bitter, a woman has just lost her husband and they’re trying to be supportive no matter how passive aggressive the form of the help took.

“Sorry Carm, I have to,” she said me her face looked hurt.

“It’s ok. I’ll see you Monday morning.”

“Want me to drop you off somewhere?”

“No, I don’t think so, I’ll find my way back.” I didn’t want to spend a second with that woman more than I needed.

I hated other people, ruining my fun.

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Things really could turn from amazing to terrible quickly couldn’t they. I had thought I couldn’t feel better than they had on Friday night at Carmilla’s apartment and yet with her on top of me on my couch touching my body, our mouths working in unison against each other… It was incredible. Beyond that. I really had to dig deep to stop her undressing me and touching my breasts, it took everything. I realized on reflection I did want to have sex with her. It was new feeling. Before her sex had been a terrible ordeal I lay there and took it. Violated by a man I didn’t love and I thought it was the lack of love which made it so harrowing but I guess it was his gender…

I didn’t want to rush though. I had rushed my marriage and I hated it. I cried with bitter sorrow and self-loathing most times I’d had sex as I cleaned that disgusting sticky mess out of myself while he snored like an animal in the next room.

Everything felt right with her. Everything fell into place. A kiss was more than a kiss it was pure electricity sparking between us. When her fingers touched my bare skin I felt… I guess it was passion. Passion and desire and the need for more. It was liberating and terrifying at the same time. I didn’t want to squander it though…

What am I doing?!

If anything the death of Mr Piper should teach me something; that life is fleeting and it’s best to take an opportunity when it presents itself… No, no that wasn’t it; some opportunity was too callous a way to look at it. However I had the chance at having the experience I’d heard about and been told about. Having sex with someone you wanted to have sex with… That was a novelty idea. It shouldn’t be though, it shouldn’t be.

I am confused.

No. No I am not. I want to have sex with her, I want to touch and kiss her more than I have and I want and I need that.

Definitely.

How do women even have sex with each other?

Maybe there are books in the library? No that’s stupid…

I would work it out. I just needed to ask her out… Then in.

That and buy more flour.

Chapter Text

I had spent all Sunday moping about. I don’t know why, it isn’t because I tried to go further with Laura than she wanted… I don’t think so. I worried I was happy and I didn’t deserve to be. Maybe it was just one of those moods. It would pass and didn’t mean anything. Only I did torture myself whenever I felt a pang of happiness; I pinched myself when I had a relatively decent day, to stop myself enjoying anything. Now I was sitting on a bright, sunny day with the curtains wrenched closed, in the dark tracing the tip of my nail over the self-inflicted serial number I’d cut into myself. It did still have the power to push me back to Earth and keep my head from dancing around in the clouds.

Was it still necessary to do this to myself though? I guess I would only know if I stopped. Then if I stopped and it was necessary to ground myself it would be too late. Did I deserve to be happy? I don’t know. Sometimes I think I don’t; I think I should always be miserable as penance for being so lucky to survive the hell that my family and peers did not. Never forget. Though on the other hand if I was so lucky to survive I should try to enjoy the chance at a life I had and they didn’t.

I need a walk.

I left my apartment and descended down to street level and set off to the centre of town lighting a cigarette as I went. It was a bright day but I covered, I didn’t tan well and I had to hide my scar. I really needed some food… I left my ration booklet upstairs and I wasn’t going to go up again. I took step after step, placing one foot in front of the other not able to focus. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, I couldn’t focus my mind on a topic then I couldn’t make myself miserable.

I wanted to cry out loud, let some of my frustration out in a guttural noise. Stop it! Stop being a fool! You’ve found a girl you like and not just because I wanted to find a girl. It wasn’t just finding someone who was like me and making her into someone I wanted her to be with in my own mind to justify some inner lust. I actually liked her. It was too perfect. Well not perfect. She was married. That could hardly be defined as perfect, but regardless we clicked and I liked her goofy, childlike optimism. Plus she was pretty easy on the eye. Not that I’m shallow or anything, it was just a nice bonus. She made me laugh. I just shouldn’t try to push her to go further than she was ready for. We had our first kiss, proper kiss, and only a few days later I was trying to undress her on her couch. I should take things slower, by her pace and most of all stop making myself crazy forcing guilt on myself. I escaped torture and decided to make life harder than it needed to be by torturing myself!

I just need to take things slower and being respectful, that and go back home and get out of the sun. Why would I think a walk was a good idea? Stupid idea.

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I was nervous. Again. I don’t why I make myself nervous. I guess the fear of embarrassment. I had spent Sunday being annoyed by Judy who all of a sudden decided we were to be friends. Turning up at my house and demanding in that sickly sweet false front that I help her bake and do things for Laurie. Who I really got the impression just wanted to be left alone, though Judy insisted that she knew what was best and that we needed to collaborate to cheer her up. Though by cheer her up I think she meant show off how amazingly generous and lovely she was.

Maybe I was judging her too harshly as she had interrupted Carmilla and my romantic plans and my day went from kissing on the couch to chauffeuring around someone who wouldn’t shut up for one moment. Her husband was an officer which I think gave her the sense of smug entitlement and superiority. I heard A LOT about that and how he was the only officer on our avenue. I think she wanted to be the leader of the wives left at home. It was incredible how one day I hadn’t spoken to her more than a couple times in the months I’d lived there and the next day she was borderline harassing me.

Hopefully it was a one off. Well a two off. That’s not an expression. Well two days in a row and then by next weekend she’d let me be.

I was just nervous around her and questioning. She asked too many questions about Carmilla and what she was doing at my house and why I was friends with a ‘foreigner.’ I didn’t think she was even close to suspecting the truth, or if that had even popped into her head, it was more the fact she wasn’t American and was a bit rude to her which caused the influx of probing questions. Still I didn’t need some unpleasant busybody snooping around my affairs.

If more people on my avenue, if more of their husbands passed away then the more I’d have to be involved with Judy’s meddling. Oh wow. That’s a very nasty and selfish thought. I felt terrible with myself. I didn’t mean it like that. It was more… Well… If… When people did die I didn’t want to… I’m being awful. It’s just how much I’ve developed a dislike for Judy in such a short space of time.

***

I was worn out walking into the town hall basement; the crypt as it was known, I had never met a person who tired me out so much… Oh my mother. Though I had an obligation to see and talk to her, not that I had since I walked out on Sunday lunch over a week ago now. I was really looking forward to seeing Carmilla. It was strange, I had seen her on Saturday morning and Friday night… I paused to smile to myself at the time we had together on those occasions. Still just the nagging and constant self-affirmation that lady needed made time just pass by at half the speed and made me drained like I’d been running a marathon.

“Morning,” Carmilla’s voice came from behind me in the stairwell down and I jumped out of my skin. Was it possible for the two of us to say hello to each other without surprising the other? It seemed to be a regular occurrence.

“Hi!” I beamed over my shoulder at her.

“Did I make you jump?” She teased.

“No… Ok a little.”

“Adorable.”

We walked in silence through the corridor, the distance to the mailroom and once the door was closed behind us I leapt at her pressing my face against her to kiss her quickly and desperately. We broke apart and both took a pause and a breath. I grinned at her as I fixed my hair back into place.

“Hi!” I repeated.

“You’re happy this morning.”

“I wasn’t, not until I saw you,” I told her looking up at her a little bashful at my own honesty. I just needed to kiss her as soon as possible to get rid of the nasty taste in my mouth left by a weekend of an overbearing neighbor.

“Aw,” she mocked. I slapped her arm.

“Hey! I’m being sweet.”

“You’re always sweet,” she stated flatly.

“No, no I’m not,” I mumbled thinking back to my horrible, selfish thought earlier.

“Oh what’s on your mind? Did you fail to save a kitten from a tree? Or is it some of your dreadful cooking?”

“Hey!”

“Or feel bad you didn’t skip enough steps over the weekend?”

“No I had a very self-centred concern.”

“Tell me.”

I paused for a moment wondering whether she would think I was awful and I’d be lowered in her expectations if I did and I REALLY wanted, wanted and needed, her to like me as much as I liked her… Which was a lot.

“Go on,” she encouraged, her voice losing that self-satisfied teasing tone and taking on a sincerity.

“I… You know that awful woman who burst in on Saturday?”

“She seemed like a delight.”

“Really?” I asked stupidly as she just raised an eyebrow, “oh right. Well yeah she bothered me all Sunday, making food and trying to help out the woman who lost her husband… I worried that if other men died from my avenue then I would have to spend more time with that bitch!” I slapped my hands over my mouth for swearing. It just slipped out!

“And that makes you feel guilty?”

“Yeah, people are dying, or potentially dying and I’m more concerned about how it will affect me.”

“Well… Ok, look you don’t have to worry about having selfish thoughts like that… Are you really that sweet and full of sunshine you never thought like that?” She shot me an appraising grin. “It doesn’t make you a terrible person or anything. You’re not any less of a good person just because you worry about how something may affect your life. It doesn’t mean you’re not sad for those who died. Or those who have lost loved ones.”

“I suppose you’re right,” I said slowly weighing her words. I jumped over to her and hugged her around her side trapping her arms by her side. “Thank you,” I mumbled into her ear before moving back awkwardly. Probably shouldn’t be so touchy feely at work, or in public, or any place apart from my place or hers. She really had made me feel better. Hooray. She put things in perspective.

“All better?”

“Uh-huh,” I replied nodding my head enthusiastically and beaming at her, making her crack her smug look to smile and look down to shake her head.

“Ok go get us some coffee then.”

“Okie-dokie!” I sang back and opened the door and skipped off playing up the happy energy I knew she was attracted to.

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So Laura invited me to dinner again on Friday, I wonder if I could politely request we don’t eat anything she cooks, especially that awful meatloaf.

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So she had agreed to come over for a meal where I’d make my move! I’m so not smooth am I? I think I know what to cook her again though! Pat myself on the back.

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It was still Monday, I could get some food and offer to cook for her… That was a romantic thing to do wasn’t it? Make a meal together, it seemed like something nice to do… I could wrap my arms around her waist while she stirred a pot, lay kisses down her neck. It would be nice. I could make Schnitzel… If I knew how to cook. I always had help growing up and my mother never taught me. Plus I wouldn’t be able to get the ingredients on rationing. I fished the booklet out of my pocket and checked what I could get. I needed to go shopping tonight. It was always such a pain.

Laura had skipped away happily and I had to get groceries and get the bus. Things went bleak when she and I parted ways didn’t they?

I walked around the small grocery store with a basket constantly checking my rationing booklet to see what I could even get. I felt a tap on my shoulder as I was browsing bread, I expected it to be Laura just from the fact she was the only person I actually spoke to. It was that redhead girl with short hair who had been with the over friendly other redhead.

“You’re Carmilla right?”

“Yeah,” I replied, that was odd someone who remembered my name, every person I met in this country, not that it was that many, thought I was called ‘Camilla.’ Be polite. What was her name? Oh yeah. “You’re Lafontaine right?”

“That’s right,” came the reply as her face broke into a small grin which she instantly quashed reforming her face back to emotionless. I guess she has the same thing with wanting her name to be remembered. “I saw you shopping and I thought I’d say hello.”

“Hello.”

“Yeah hi, so right. This is awkward.”

“Is it?”

“Look Perry thinks we should hang out with some people from work, broaden our horizons and that and in the politest way of saying this; you two seem like the least awful,” Lafontaine explained.

“Oh thank you so much,” I said holding a hand to my heart sarcastically.

“Sorry, I don’t want to… I didn’t want to be rude then, it’s just, I want to make Perry happy and if it were up to me we wouldn’t socialize but I’ll do it for her.”

“Laura would love that I’m sure.”

“You speak for her?”

“You’re speaking for your partner.”

“What do you mean by partner?!” She asked hurriedly scowling at me. I think I saw a flash of genuine panic behind those eyes. Now that’s an interesting development.

“Nothing. Fine, I’ll ask her.”

“Good thanks, see you later.”

Well that was… Huh.

I suspect it might just annoy me if anything, but the other one of the ginger twins seemed to be all jumpy and energetic, I’m sure she and Laura could babble at each other if this ever materialized. I could zone out imagine I was anywhere else.

Right back to getting food. The fun just never stops does it.

***

“So what did you get up to last night?” Laura asked me as I held my coffee cup for dear life.

“I went shopping.”

“Oh! I need to do that for Friday.”

“I wanted to ask you what were you planning on cooking?”

“What do you think?” She smiled and winked at me. Had she completely misread my reaction? I think so. How to handle this? Sarcasm and cutting down her or diplomacy? Like I really needed to choose.

“Oh great,” I said rolling my eyes. “Do you know how cook anything else? More on the edible side?”

“What do you mean?” She asked her voice wobbling. Oh dammit, if she was all cute and hurt and vulnerable I couldn’t be mean.

“I just want to sample something else you can prepare…”

“Oh ok.”

“Something we can cook together…” I said trying to sound sultry and seductive and hopefully not just raspy. From her blush and small smile I think I got it right.

“Cook together?” She said in a tiny voice looking up at me and back down again.

“Well,” I started hopping down from my perch on the sorting table and walked around behind her, “pretend this is your stove,” I told her wrapping an arm around her and one onto her forearm pushing it forward to playact as if she were stirring a pan. “I’ll stand like this,” I whispered into her ear tightening my fingertips into her stomach, “and encourage you.”

She shuddered, I felt her body tremble against my shoulder and arm and a hard breath racked out of her.

“Ok,” she whispered barely audible. “That sounds fun.” She giggled as moved about as I bite her ear I had been whispering into.

“Carm,” she moaned. I kind of liked that shorten version of my name, not normally, or from anyone else, but in her voice it tickled me in just the right place.

My skin was itching and my stomach was tense and knotting and churning with desire towards her, Friday couldn’t come soon enough. Not that I planned on doing anything, just… Eugh. I had to be patient go at her pace, I really liked her and part of that was being respectful wasn’t it?

“I’ll get some wine,” I told her breaking apart from her as she fixed her hair blowing some loose strands from her face but failing on the first couple attempts and scrunching up her face in adorable frustration. My heart just panged.

“Ok!”

“By the way I ran into Lafontaine in the grocery store and apparently her friend Perry wanted to do something with us.”

“Us?”

“Socializing I think.”

“That’ll be nice!” She beamed. Of course she thought it would be. “Not Friday though!” She added. It was my turn to smile at that. “That’s our night,” she added with a nod as if that made it official.

It was wasn’t it.

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Time did not pass at the speed I would have liked it to. Carmilla didn’t make it any easier with her persistent flirting. It wasn’t unwelcome at all just distracting. I still didn’t know what I was going to cook, I got a load of things from the store I guess I would improvise. Whenever I tried to think of making something my mind drifted to her suggestion of how she would help and my brain went funny.

“So you want a lift?” I offered on Friday afternoon as she finished filing away the last letter of the day. “Or do you need to go home first?”

“No it’s alright,” she replied opening her bag to reveal a bottle of red wine. “I came prepared.”

“Good good, let’s go!” I punched the air and she scoffed.

We got in my car and I felt nervous and giddy.

“So what we having?” She asked me.

“I hadn’t decided.”

“Really? Some date.”

“What?”

“You invite me over for a date night and you can’t be bothered to plan.”

“I could make mea…”

“Nope.”

“Fine,” I huffed. “Baloney sandwiches?”

“I will open this wine in your car and throw it in your face.”

“I don’t even have any baloney so the joke is… Well not on you but… I’ve confused myself.”

“Not an impressive feat.”

“What? Oh. Hey!”

I tried to scramble an idea of dinner as we drove.

***

“If you want dinner any time soon you’ll have to stop,” I giggled as I stirred mushrooms and cream in one pot and pasta in another while she had her arms wrapped around my waist and her chin nuzzled into my neck.

“Don’t wanna,” she mumbled kissing my neck.

She reached past me her front pressed tight to my back, I could feel her form completely as she reached for her wine glass and took a swig right in front of my face, the glass touching my nose.

“Hey!”

“Oh shut up,” she replied putting the glass down on the countertop near the stove still not disentangling herself from me. “You’re a terrible cook,” she laughed, peering over me to look into the pots. “You’re a terrible housewife.”

“Well obviously, if I wasn’t you wouldn’t be here!”

She hummed in agreement and kissed my cheek and let go. I think she was drunk. I hadn’t seen her drunk, or when she was I was far more than her so I didn’t notice in comparison. I hadn’t been able to drink much as I was trying to make a nice meal for us!

“I’ll let you cook in peace then.”

***

“We could ask Perry and her friend to go to the park for a picnic!” I said before pausing as my voice came out much louder than I meant it to. We had finished, well some of it. I had to save most of the food otherwise I’d starve for most of the week. Plus I didn’t want to be all bloated, sleepy and full of pasta.

“That’s a good idea.”

“Really?”

“Yeah get all the bad ideas out first.”

“Hey! You said you’d go with me for one with me!”

“With you yeah.”

“Aw,” I shot her a smile. “Aw and hey. What else is there to do?”

“Drink? It makes social situations bearable, well it breaks down barriers, or at least numbs you to the tedium.”

“Is that why you’re drinking?”

“Now?”

“Yeah.”

“Well it’s fun and it means if I coat my mouth with wine you’re attempt at cooking can be swallowed.”

“Hey!”

She just laughed.

“I’m not that bad,” I whined as she continued to cackle, I slapped her arm but she carried on and I playfully hit her again and again until she grabbed my wrist and stopped me and calmed my arm. I fell and lay my arm on the table and she released her grip to start stroking her thumb back and forth over my skin making the goosebumps rise immediately. I looked down at her hand for a moment before glancing back up at her face, her eyes then her lips, then her eyes but I could see they were focused on my lips. I smiled knowing what was coming and moved in tandem with her leaning forward.

I almost gasped into her mouth as our lips connected, this was what I wanted from this evening and yet I wasn’t prepared for the rush of endorphins that released. I had forgotten just how great this made me feel from last time and I tried to skid around on my chair so we weren’t just trying to get at each other over the dinner table, small as it was. Inside my head I was simply making an ‘eeeeee,’ noise of excitement.

It took a few bangs on the front door to drag me out of this amazing feeling. Oh god who the hell was that?! I felt a wave fury replacing the joy. I already wanted to kill whoever was knocking at my door at whatever time this was on a Friday night!

“Who’s that,” Carmilla whispered as she straightened out her dress, not that it had been touched, I hadn’t had a chance. I pulled my hair into place and stood up.

“I don’t know, wait here,” I told her. I had a sneaking suspicion, sneaking and sinking suspicion who it was. I pulled open my door and… Of course. “Good evening Judy.”

“Laura. Look I was thinking of arranging a Sunday morning coffee meeting for all the ladies of this avenue and, do you have company?” She rattled off in one self-important breath.

“Yes.”

“Sorry for intruding.”

No you’re not.

“Ok.”

“Well I thought it would be best to arrange this coffee morning, wait, is that foreign girl around?” She asked lowering her voice, her beady little eyes darting into my hall.

“She is.”

“Look come here,” she motioned for me to join her outside. I frowned and walked over my own threshold outside. “Look, I know you don’t have many friends around here, too be honest I was surprised you even came to comfort Laurie, but you don’t need to be making friends with foreigners.”

“I…” I started and stopped realizing I just didn’t know how to respond to that. I could punch her in the jaw I guess.

“I’m trying to include you, but you need to make some effort yourself you know,” she told me sternly. “I’ll come back tomorrow I need a lift to the store to get things for the coffee morning.” I don’t think I agreed to go yet. “When you get involved properly you won’t need to scrape the bottom of the social barrell for friends will you now.” She smiled the smuggest smile I’d ever seen before turning on her heel and pacing away over my lawn. Not that I cared but still that was rude. What a terrible person! Is murder actually illegal? Was it a law or more of a suggestion? I needed to wipe that vile taste out of my mouth.

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I couldn’t hear the voices, I could hear mumbling, I think she had stepped outside. I couldn’t believe this, I could hardly show my affection in public and now people were interrupting. I wonder if it was that horrid woman who knocked on the door the other time? I was broken out of my thoughts as the door slammed and I stood up and walked into the hall to see what was happening. She had her little hands balled up in fists by her side and she was facing the closed door her shoulders rising up and down. She was even cute when she was all angry.

“You ok cutie?” I called over to her. She span around and nodded and took one last deep breath before smiling at me and marching over with purpose and putting both her hands on my face to pull me in for a hard, passionate kiss. I almost fell back with the impact of her running into me and had to steady myself against the doorframe to the living room. I then wrapped my arm around her back.

I moved my other hand round her back too. I know I told myself I would go with her but I couldn’t resist lowering my palm to grip her ass under the cheek and she squeaked adorably into my mouth but didn’t stop me and carried on the assault on my mouth. I squeezed and she moved her hands from my face to hold at my waist.

She broke apart from me, breathing hard and grinning. She reached around her back to take my hand from her ass and grasped it so we were holding hands and wordlessly led me towards the back of her house, where I’d never been before. We walked into her bedroom, in was dark but I could make out the outlines of the furniture. I wasn’t expecting this from her… So much for me playing it slow. Though I suppose this was still going at her pace. Maybe I was reading too much into this, maybe she just wanted to show me her bedspread. Or maybe not. She had released my hand and was unzipping and unhooking the back of dress letting it fall into a pool at her feet she was smiling nervously at me as she brushed her hair behind her ear.

“Hey,” she whispered.

“Hey yourself,” I murmured drinking in her body in the low light seeping in from the kitchen and hall. I walked towards her and placed my hands on her bare skin, running them up and down the exposed skin. I kissed her neck and ran the straps of her bra down, moving into a position where she could undo my dress and pull it from my shoulders as I threw her bra away and started pushing her towards her bed, throwing her back so she bounced on the mattress, I cast off my clothing, leaving myself just in my underwear. She was topless on the bed as I crawled on top of her as she raised herself up on her elbows to meet my mouth with her own. I trailed my nails up her stomach from the hem line of her underwear to her breasts, palming at them as she squeaked, moaned and gasped all at once into my mouth.

I had one hand propping myself up the other caressing and massaging at her chest. I broke the kiss to crawl down her body, kissing her neck, then above her breasts and further down to her stomach, pulling her underwear off as I went and kept kissing down until I was placed right between her legs and glanced up at her but her head was back. I bent my head and ran my tongue through her as she moaned and her hand came to rest in my hair.

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“That was amazing,” I said finally finding my voice. I think I had lost it for… I don’t even know how long we had lay down, I was resting my head on her naked chest as she lazily played with my hair, raising strands up and letting them go. This was lovely, I had never ever, ever, ever enjoyed sex before, and on top of that I had never imagined lying there with a sexual partner and being mutually content afterwards.

“Thanks.”

I wasn’t really sure how to even start… Doing what she’d just done for me back… Ah, I’m even awkward in my own head. I just needed to rest and enjoy what had just happened. Was this bliss? Maybe. Close. I didn’t know what else could be if this wasn’t. Wait what was that?

I snatched her arm out of the air and examined it.

“What’s that?” I asked running my fingers of this nasty looking scar. It was a series of numbers.

“Nothing,” she snapped snatching her hand away.

“Come on tell me,” I whined moving up on my elbow so I was on my front looking down at her. “Please.”

“I did it,” she mumbled.

“Why?!”

“I was in a dark place. I wasn’t thinking,” she replied turning her head back so she was looking at me.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what? You didn’t do it. I just felt bad.”

“Well,” I took a small breath to ready myself, “let me make you feel better.” I kissed her and tried to do what she did for me for her.

Chapter Text

I opened my eyes not remembering exactly where I was at first until I saw Laura’s blonde hair spilled out on the pillow we were sharing. Her naked body was pressed back into mine and she was making purring, humming noises in her sleep. Of course even her snoring is adorable. I could feel her naked butt cheeks resting on my hip bone and the rising and falling of her rib cage with each breath through my chest. My arm was lazily rested on her’s, I raised it up to sweep my hair back over my shoulder. Would it be perverted to raise the sheets and look her naked sleeping body? Maybe.

She mumbled something in her sleep and rocked her head around a bit, I tucked my forearm under her chest and pulled her in tight and she calmed down and went back to sleeping peacefully.

I had slept really well. Really well. First night in a long time I hadn’t been racked with horrors and nightmares. That made me smile to myself. Should I feel guilty I was sleeping next to a married woman in her marital bed? I don’t think so. It was hardly like we could be together in any official way and she didn’t have a choice, and even admitted to herself and to me that she hated him… Wait. Stop. Stop doing this right now. You’ve had an amazing night, an amazing experience, and everything had fallen so wonderfully into place and here I was again trying to ruin it for myself.

Just be happy.

I had a bad thought… Not a bad thought as in self-hate, a different kind of bad. I weighed it up in my mind… Ah screw it why not? It had been a long time, I might as well push my luck a little.

I shifted as carefully as I could not to wake her retracting my arm and moving away from her so we were no longer touching. I put my hand on her hip under the blankets and tugged very lightly and gently pulling her very gradually onto her back. She didn’t wake just made more cute little noises. I crawled down the bed next to her, trying my absolute hardest to be silent. I bit down on my bottom lip as I moved her legs apart and snuck over her leg closest to me so I was in between both of her legs. I pushed my hair back again, using one hand to keep it pinned behind my neck as I bent down.

It was dark under the sheets, I could hardly see, so I had to guess a little where to go as I moved slowly forward until I felt her inner thigh against my mouth. I moved to the side and felt my goal. I ran my tongue through her sex, top to bottom then back from the bottom to top. Above me I heard her let out an adorable mix of a moan and a snore. I engulfed her clit in my mouth and sucked in and again she made that noise, I smiled with her in my mouth.

It only took a few moments for her hums and whistles to stop and to wake.

“Carm,” she mumbled sleepily, “Ca…” She stopped to let out a gasp and I sped up with my tongue, alternating between sucking on her clit and running my tongue through her now wet folds. Her legs were twitching more and more, even kicking out as her upper body thrashed a little and her breaths became louder, just raspy exhalations. It didn’t take long for her to shudder and tense then relax as my nose and mouth became even slicker. I pulled myself up, dragging myself up her body still covered by the sheets before emerging out in the low light by her chin then her face. She still looked sleepy and confused, it was delightful.

“Good morning,” I said, my voice was gruff and scratchy. I was resting on my palm over her just a couple of inches from her face, my hair falling either side of her head.

“Morning,” she basically sang out, before looking bashful and going a little red. I chuckled a little at her shy reaction before leaning down to kiss her. She must be able to taste herself on my lips. I kind of wanted to ask her about what she wanted sexually but I feared it would embarrass her so much she’d burrow into the bed and make a warren inside it to avoid it. So I bit my tongue… Not literally as it was in her mouth.

“Sleep well?” I asked as I rolled off to lay by her side resting my head on my hand on my side so I could still look at her as I trailed a finger up stomach and traced circles around her nipples, pinching at one.

“Y-y-yeah,” she managed to get out mid-squeak, “I did. Really well.” She seemed a little awkward, she looked at me smiled, looked away, her eyes darting, clearly not sure where to look. “Did you sleep well?” She asked before frowning. Was self-conscious? Or regretful? No I didn’t think that just self-conscious.

“Uh-huh,” I replied absentmindedly as I left her breasts and moved up to her cheek and ran the back of my nail up her jawline pushing the hair away that had fallen loosely around.

“I h…” She started then stopped, going red.

“What?”

“I,” she stopped again and pulled the sheets over her face. “I liked waking up,” she rambled off both quickly and very quietly before pulling the sheets down and grinning widely at me, I couldn’t help but return it. “Do you want some coffee? Some water?”

“Coffee please.”

“Ok, wait here!” She exclaimed getting up and pulling a robe from a hook on the wall and covering up. She shuffled off into the kitchen. I heard the sound of a cord pulling curtains, I guess she was blacking out the living room. Probably a smart move. Though that meant no one could see in the kitchen either… Huh… That gives me a bad idea again. Just full of them at the moment.

I slid out the bed and looked around the room and found a slightly older looking robe than the one she took and tossed it around my shoulders, pulled my arms through and very loosely tied the tie. I tip toed out of her bedroom and walked into the hall then the kitchen, she was humming really happily to herself by the stove as she was fiddling with something. God I hope she wasn’t going to try to cook me something else. I moved as stealthy as possible behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist and placed my chin over her shoulder tucking it onto her neck. She jumped a little before emitting a dainty giggle.

“Hey,” she hummed, “again,” she added.

“Hey again,” I growled into her ear, biting at the lobe and moving down to pepper her neck with kisses. It was like I was in heat or something but I couldn’t help myself. “Whatchya doing?” I asked innocently as I not so innocently slid my hand in between the gap of her robe over her stomach and lowered my hand down cupping my fingers upwards as I past her pelvis leaving them hovering there. She looked at me twisting her neck, biting the corner of her lip. “What?”

“Nothing,” she smiled, and turned back to the stove pouring coffee beans into a grinder. “I’m just gr-g-gr…” She trailed off as I glided a single digit up and inside her. Her breath racked out hard.

“What’s the matter?” I asked right into her ear, playing things naively. She opened her mouth and tried to talk but failed as I began sliding my finger in and out of her.

She was taking deep steadying breaths, trying not to moan lewdly, I wasn’t helping with her attempt at maintaining her composure. She began cracking the beans, finally getting self-control right as I inserted a second finger and she loudly sighed and moaned leaning her body weight back into me. I pushed my other hand in her robe pulling the tie loose so it fell free and I could use my freed up hand to cup her breast and squeezed lightly at first, starting to make a caressing circular motion.

She had given up trying to prepare coffee as I sped my fingers up into a fast pumping action, going about half as deep as I could manage five or six times in a row before burying them the seventh. It didn’t take long for her to shudder, and cry out slamming her hand down on the counter top and just lying down while standing up against me, letting her head roll back on my chest and shoulder her eyes had rolled back too in her head and completely out of focus. With another deep breath she straightened up and I let go of her, removing my fingers from inside her and walking casually around to the living room and sitting down on the couch.

“How long on that coffee?” I asked, calling out without even turning to look at her.

I didn’t get a reply as I lit up a cigarette and waited, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I guess I was being smug, but hey, whatever, it had been a while, it was nice to know I still had that effect on someone when I wanted.

I heard the machine whirring up and the clink of ceramics as she took two mugs out. After a couple of moments she came over to me with a steaming cup and passed it over wordlessly.

“Thanks,” I said as I blew into the hot liquid.

“Welcome,” she mumbled, picking up and lighting her own cigarette and sitting on the armchair and really relaxing back into it.

“You ok cutie?”

“Yeah,” she nodded, “I,” she paused again as with the most innocent look I could fix my face into I licked my two fingers. She still seemed like she was in a haze. “I just need a second.”

“Take your time,” I replied, I think I would be annoyed at the smugness in my voice if was listening to me.

“Not too long,” she said glancing over at me as she bit down on bottom lip and looking at my bare legs under the hem of the short robe, scanning upwards. My smugness evaporated as my heart just fluttered.

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I don’t think I have had a day like I had yesterday ever… It was amazing. Even amazing was too weak a word for it. It had really opened my eyes to what sex was. It had been an ordeal. Now… Friday night leading into Saturday had changed everything. I kind of wanted to get up and leave this atrocious coffee morning and run to the door, run to my car and speed as fast as the vehicle will go to Carmilla’s apartment and jump on her the second she opens the door. Still the whole elicit, same sex affair should be kept as discreet as possible and I need to try extra hard to be normal.

Still sitting in a coffee morning with my mind a million miles away wasn’t the best start, but I couldn’t help it. I had never thought a sexual partner, even though she was only my second, could be loving and giving and try to make me feel good. It was the polar opposite of Henry. Just thinking about that comparison made me feel even more disdain towards my absentee spouse.

Oh no.

Someone said something to me.

I looked up, we were in a circle of chairs, a mismatch of dining room chairs, lawn chairs and armchairs. There were eight women, whose names I’d already forgotten being in a daydream. They included Judy and Laurie, at least Laurie didn’t look comfortable here too, in Judy’s house of all places.

“Were you not listening Laura?” Judy asked me.

“No.” I said very flatly.

“How rude.”

How ironic.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. I felt my cheeks going red under the gaze of the group.

“You were asked a question,” she said in the most condescending voice a human could muster, as if trying to train a child to behave themselves. I didn’t reply, not giving her the satisfaction of being able to snipe at me. I just waited. “Ok then,” she continued after the pause. “Well you work in the mailroom at the townhall do you not?”

“Yes…”

“It must be hard having to work a job, it’s a shame; though I suppose if your husband is only a private it would become a necessity,” she added giving me a tight lipped smile. Eugh. “So I think it would be best if you took letters addressed to the women of this street and brought them by hand to everyone from your work,” she made the word ‘work,’ sound incredibly dirty. “It’d be fun for you, you can pretend you’re a post lady.”

“Ok. Well no I can’t do that.”

“Excuse me?!”

“I can’t do…”

“I heard you!” She snapped. “Why on Earth wouldn’t you do that for these women,” she asked gesturing around the room like she was holding court.

“I’m not allowed, it isn’t protocol.”

“I don’t think that matters, being a decent human being should take precedent. Oh precedent means…”

“I know what it means,” I snapped back. What the hell was wrong with this woman?

“Leave her be Judy,” some unknown person who I didn’t remember the name of piped up, “if she can’t she can’t.”

Oh thank you strange lady. I pulled a cigarette out of my bag, I really needed to calm down a bit.

“There’s no smoking in my living room,” Judy spat at me. Other people had been smoking before… Eugh. I wonder if I could move in the dead of night.

***

I walked very tentatively through the basement towards the ‘crypt,’ making sure Carmilla wasn’t going to materialize out of the dark and shock me. I hope no one came down and saw me walking like I was traversing a minefield. She wasn’t in the mailroom so I decided to take the chance to do something nice and get us both coffee. I walked so slowly while holding the mugs I’d be impossible to jump out at it! Smart.

I was standing by the machine watching the black liquid pour out of the spout when she turned up and I jumped… Like I promised myself I wouldn’t.

“Morning stupid,” she peeked her head around the break room door frame.

“Ah! Good morning,” I said, shaking my head annoyed at myself. It was painful not being able to kiss her hello. I knew no one was around but the risk was the risk and too risky to risk. Huh a lot of risks.

“Have a good Sunday?” She asked walking in and hopping up on the counter and kicking me lightly with the tip of her toe, just trying to be annoying.

“No!”

“Not much fun at your little coffee club?”

“Nope, wait, did I tell you about that?”

“Yeah on Saturday.”

“Oh it slipped my mind I was thinking of other things…” I said smiling at her, she returned it, her dark eyes becoming smoky not that she had stopped nudging me with her foot.

“You were?”

“Uh-huh,” I nodded as I handed over her mug of coffee. She finally stopped kicking me as she took a sip and made a face. I know she didn’t like it, maybe I should get some nicer coffee from somewhere as a nice treat. I kind of wanted to reach out and play with her raven hair, stretch out the curls straight then watch them bounce back but risk of public exposure and our location aside I was still awkward and shy. That’s strange. I’ve been naked in front of her, and had her touch me everywhere and touched her back. Ok I gave myself a hot flush.

“Are you all shy and awkward?” She asked me as if reading my mind. I don't know why I thought the teasing might stop after what had happened between us. It hadn’t after we kissed.

“A little.”

“Awww.”

“Don’t aw me!” I slapped her arm and she started kicking me again, I decided to just leave the break room and I heard the sound of her feet dropping to the floor and following me. “Don’t you get shy?”

“I suppose but I don’t go red and start squeaking and rocking about like I have some mental deficiencies.”

“Are we… Are… Do we need to like talk about things now?” I asked her as we shut the mailroom door behind us.

“There’s no sack of mail….” She mumbled looking around the room. “What?” She turned her attention back to me, “I guess no work,” she hopped up on the central table. “So you were saying something?”

“Yeah should we have a chat about… Hmm, about us?” I fished around for a delicate way to put it.

“Can you?”

“What?”

“Is it possible for you to do that? Or will you go really red and have to talk to me with a puppet or behind a hedge so you don’t stammer and fluster and flap yourself into a coma of embarrassment?”

“I don’t think so,” I replied not able to look her in the eye.

“Ok, shoot.”

“Well ah, it was nice,” I said my voice going up at the end in a ridiculous pitch.

“What was,” her voice in contrast dropped several octaves, “anything in particular?”

“Everything?” Why did that come out as a question?

“Come on helium lungs,” she laughed at her own joke. “You wanted to talk.”

“It was all nice,” I offered up pathetically. Despite not looking at her I could feel the smirk burning into me.

“You’re an idiot.”

“Hey!”

“A cute idiot.”

“Thanks.” I moved next to her and hopped up on the table next to her dangling my legs over the edge swinging them back and forth rocking my head side to side in rhythm with my legs.

“Are you grinning at your feet?”

“What? No,” I said quickly stopping it. “What happens if no mail shows up?”

“I don’t know it hasn’t happened before… I guess we can leave.”

“Want to go for that picnic?” I asked, “it’s a nice day and we can eat and have some lemonade and…”

“Ok, you don’t have to sell it. You could have just said away from here and I’d agree.”

***

The park was empty! There was a small playground which was empty, I guess the kids were at school. It was barely midday. We waited around for a hour or so to make sure no workload turned up then went to get food, what meagre edibles we could rustle up on rations. Cold cuts and bread!

“What are you laughing at?” I turned to a snickering Carmilla.

“I was just imagining you with a picnic basket looped in you arm skipping along,” she smirked at me.

“I would you know.”

“I know.”

“Where do you want to sit?”

“Out of the sun.”

“Well… right, that doesn’t leave that many options.”

“Under a tree. We also don’t have a blanket or sheet. Your picnic’s suck.”

“We haven’t started yet.”

“No true, but I can just feel it.”

“Give it a chance.”

“No.”

“For me?”

“Fine.”

We made our way to one of the shady trees as she complained at how awful everything was the entire time. We sat on the grass and I pulled some bread out of the brown bag and oh, I don’t have a knife…

“No knife?” She quipped.

“Yeah.”

“I realized at the store.”

“Then why didn’t you say something then?!” I asked exasperated.

“I thought it would be funny.”

“It isn’t!”

“Not for you maybe.”

“Humph! We’re just going to have to eat cold cuts!” I was getting more exasperated, “on their own,” I added as if that would get a reaction. It didn’t.

***

“You know this stinks don’t you?”

“It wouldn’t if you were more… If you participated more,” I pleaded.

“I don’t have the motivation.”

“What do you have the motivation for?”

“You can’t be all snarky when you’re chewing on a slice of ham.”

“It’s yummy.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“An idiot full of ham,” I countered munching away happily making a great show of being really pleased with my food, knowing she liked that silliness.

She just coughed out a half laugh, half snort.

“Sooooo,” I started up again, “still not having fun?”

“No. Believe it or not but having you ask me if we’re having fun over and over while stuffing your face with slices of meat isn’t the best time I’ve had recently,” she said looking out into the empty expanse of the park. “I could think of better things we could be doing together.”

“Like?” I was always receptive to helpful suggestions, she just sighed and a raised a suggestive eyebrow at me, “oh,” it dawned on me. “Oh right. In the park?”

“No not in the park! Maybe your car, but not the park.”

“Should we arrange like a weekly romantic date night then, on Friday?”

“Sure.”

She shifted closer to me and hook her little finger around mine.

“Not sure I could wait that long though,” she whispered.

“Your apartment isn’t far away…” I whispered back, not looking at her. I felt embarrassed for suggesting it but equally her touch and the implication make my stomach churn and I felt... I guess. I don’t know how to describe it, just wanting to be closer to her. Closer than I could in public.

“True.” She stood up and offered her hand to help me to my feet.

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

I tried my best all the time to be reversed and present a calm, if somewhat, condescending, smug, attitude but I had lost of all that in the moment. We were both in my single bed and I had my hands high above my head with my hands wrapped tight on the bars of my headboard, my knuckles white with the strain. Laura was between my legs, she had her tongue running through me, and I was white knuckling the rails as an attempt to tether myself to reality and to prevent myself from thrashing about.

She may have been inexperienced but was eager and I felt like there a slow burn in my stomach that kept burning at a level with eruptions raising it up and burning at a plateau for a moment before erupting ever higher. I wrapped my leg around the back of head, locking her into me, pressing her face as close to me as possible.

She took that as encouragement and sped up, become almost frantic and in one second which lasted both an age and no time at all I came undone, squeezing her head one last time before releasing and letting my legs go. The muscles in my upper thigh was twitching and I was panting a little, a film of sweat had developed over my forehead. I was still in a dreamlike stupor and barely recognized her presence as she moved up the bed and lay next to me.

“Lie on your side,” I mumbled, recovering. She shifted. “No away from me you idiot.” I told her as she turned towards me, she grumbled but rolled over so I could throw a hand over her and pull her in tight as my little spoon.

She didn’t speak.

I didn’t speak.

We just lay there in a blissful silence. That was one of the best work days I had. A close second to that day there was a chocolate cake for someone’s birthday. That was pretty good too.

Chapter Text

"Move over,” I whined at Carmilla, who had fallen asleep with her arms wrapped around me. It wasn’t that comfy in a single bed. She seemed to sleep like the dead. Just out of it completely. I tried to shift her dead weight but I was little and she wasn’t budging. I looked at the time on her bedside clock. It was 5pm. That isn’t good. We must have slept for an hour or so, all tuckered out from having mid-afternoon sex. I felt nice. Nice. Too weak a word perhaps. Though not really. I felt amazing afterwards, now after a rest I just felt nice. The word nice sounded wrong now in my own head from repetition. What she did to me was such a new sensation it blew my mind that I could feel that good. It was equally, weirdly, gratifying to give her pleasure; that I was making someone I really liked feel what they wanted, that I could give her the same thrill she had given me. Not that I was just doing it to repay her or out of obligation, certainly not, I loved the sounds of her moans and encouragement and even wrapping her leg to my head… I was giving myself a hot flush. I was going to count our first time, which was only Friday night, geez few days only, time flies when you’re having fun, as my first time. A new and a true loss of virginity.

Is that an odd thought? Maybe. Still. Nice.

Nice, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice. Ok it isn’t sounding anymore normal.

I wanted to move onto my back but that wasn’t happening, so I slid around so I was face to face with her sleeping form. She was still curled up like she was spooning me. It was cute. Normally she was the one calling me cute. Because I am dammit! With her. No one else.

Carmilla was barely breathing, her chest barely moving, she was like a statue, chiseled out of marble. Marble or ivory. Ivory was more appropriate. I moved the sheet up so I could look down at her naked body. I wonder if she did that when she woke up before me on Saturday? Was I being perverted. No! Definitely not, because she woke me up with her mouth on me so I could hardly be blamed for doing this; having a teeny tiny peek.

It took a lot of willpower not to reach out and touch her. Just to touch and explore her body. Again I reminded myself of how she woke me up. I held my finger out under her chin, I wasn’t touching her, but it felt like I almost was, my fingertip was hovering so close I could feel the heat of her flesh and the subtle, almost imperceptible energy in her tingling into me. I drew a line from her chin down her throat, going left to the end of her clavicle, back to the centre, then to the right, then to the centre. I still hadn’t made physical contact.

Her breasts were moving up and down, not heaving or anything, but I still had to stare. I used my fingertip to draw a circle above both or her nipples and areolas in turn, then finally brushed against her, running my nail under the swell of her breasts, each side, touching the soft skin raised up and the ribcage in turn. She emitted a low noise, barely audible, but noticeable. I lost confidence and got up and out of bed.

There were no robes or anything, I didn’t really want to squeeze into my dress again. It was too much effort, especially if I was going to take it off again… My heart fluttered at the thought.

She was really messy, really, really messy, just clothes and towels strewn everywhere. Under her bed were spare sheets so I pulled one around my shoulders like a cape. I went to the kitchenette area sweeping it behind me like the Phantom of the Opera. I got some water and drained the glass quickly wanting to get back to the warmth and security of her body.

I half-jogged trying to get into a glide like a spooky ghost! Woooooo. I took the sheet off and pushed it under the bed. That was fun. I tucked myself back into Carmilla pulled her arm over me, she groaned slightly pulling me in close even in her sleep. That was a nice feeling.

I shut my eyes and yawned. Sleepy.

***

“Suck in your gut Laura,” my mother snapped at me.

“I don’t have a gut!” I whined as she stood behind me fastening the ties of my white wedding dress.

“Don’t talk back,” she snapped again, slapping the back of my head. Ow. I shut up though. Letting her get back to working the corset piece into place. I couldn’t bear to look up at the mirror in front of me. It was too much. This didn’t yet seem like it was actually happening. I didn’t really know Henry Michaels. Not much at least. Yet here I was.

Here I was.

My stomach had knotted a while ago and it was ever tightening, like a screw already as deep as it will go being turned past the point it should. It wouldn’t let up. I hadn’t eaten in two days, the thought made me gag. I had cried myself out. I just needed to get it out, if I cried at the altar my mother would beat me. Just say I do and don’t weep. Then… Best not to think what happens after that. It would be overwhelming.

Ow! She hit the back of my head again with an open palm.

“Straighten up!” She commanded.

I arched my back and rounded my shoulders. Oh my gosh I can barely breath. I guess it would keep the vomit in if it came up. My head was throbbing a bit from where she had struck me twice, somehow in the exact same place. I knew if I touched the tender, painful area she would probably hit me again for messing up the hair she had almost torn from my head as she pinned it, stabbing me with the metal clips and burning me with curling tongs as they heated up to a searing heat.
“Done.”

I still didn’t look up. I didn’t want to see myself. It would be a true acknowledgement of what was going to happen. What I was about to plunge headfirst into with no escape. I felt guilty. Perhaps these are just the regular jitters everyone gets and everything will just fall into place afterwards. When it’s all said and done. Another smack and I jolted out of daydream.

“Laura! Pay attention!” My mother cried clearly annoyed. “Look at my work! I’ve put a lot of effort into making you look ready.”

“Ok!”

“And don’t talk back.”

I expected the hand to strike me but it didn’t come.

I took as deep breath as I could muster through the tight dress and looked up into the three mirrors which were placed in a half-moon. I looked the best I was ever going to look. The white dress, with the train, the corset making my hips look like they flared way more than they did. Still I wasn’t pleased or anything. It might as well be a black funeral dress, I was about to be buried into a relationship I didn’t want.

Things might be better. Just say I do.

The organ music started with that traditional song I had heard from every wedding before the bride’s entrance. I could feel beads of sweat running down my back.

Here goes nothing.

Actually here goes everything. Think of it this way, I told myself, it’s not like you have anything happy in your life anyway so it can’t be ruined either way.

***

It was late! I had slept most of the day as I blinked my eyes open and raised the corner of my fist to rub the bits of sleep out. Carmilla’s arm was still resting over my shoulder. She was a deep sleeper. I wrapped my fingers around her wrist and pulled her arm as close to me as I could.

“Cutie,” she mumbled.

“You awake?” I whispered.

“If you keep yammering on how can I sleep,” she mumbled into the back of my hair. I could feel the heat of her breath on the back of my head.

“The afternoon is gone!”

“Ok.”

“How can we sleep tonight?”

“Who cares?”

“Work tomorrow?”

“Just be tired.”

“Waah.”

It was kind of strange talking straight ahead and hearing her voice coming from behind me. I had never had pillow talk before!

“Just do something to tired yourself out.”

“Like what?” I asked confused, did she want us to go for a jog?

She just snorted with a laugh. Her hand working its way out of my grip and down my exposed body. Oh. I’m an idiot. I started to moved but she adjusted so her other arm came up under my body and held me tight to her so I couldn’t move an inch. I could feel her chest pressed as tight as tight was possible to my back. Her free hand was already working its way down my body, I went to at least move my legs apart but she splayed her palm out over my upper thigh fixing in place.

“It’s great you’re so eager cutie, but relax, stay still,” she whispered in a low sultry purr into my ear nipping at the bottom of the lobe. “I know what I’m doing.” She punctuated what she was saying squeezing roughly at my chest with her hand. She pinned my torso to her by playing roughly with my breasts. It almost hurt. Almost. Yet the borderline was pleasure instead and my breathing started getting ragged already. She carried on palming and caressing, going from one breasts to the other in an uneven timing, pinching and rolling my nipples which I could feel stiff against her fingertips.

Her roaming hand moved to my butt, I didn’t know what she was doing but I trusted her, and I was already starting to moan and whimper under her touch and didn’t care what she was going for.

She cupped under my ass, squeezing at the cheek really hard making me squeak, she pressed my legs together. I got the message, she wanted them tight together. I almost screamed and had to bit down into her sheets as she slid a finger inside me from behind as I tried to move my legs apart.

“No no no, stay still,” she whispered. I barely heard her but managed to process it and do what she said and returned to the original position.

It was a bad angle, but with my legs squeezed together it felt unbelievable as she slowly began getting into a rhythm, sliding in and out. I went from holding in screams to just whimpering. Any thought of trying to shift and change position was gone. My skin felt like it was on fire as she sped up, the tingling was becoming overwhelming. I barely could breath and my vision was blurring and I couldn’t focus at all. The noise that came out of my lips I’d never heard before, it was just a shuddering hum. I finished with a mewling sound rocking my head back slightly bumping it onto Carmilla’s forehead. She didn’t stop though, if anything went faster and faster. My feet started twitching and my stomach was boiling over and I couldn’t even prop myself up on my side and I fell forward a bit. She released her hold on my chest. She was able to insert a second finger, but I barely registered, finishing again with a noiseless moan, she didn’t stop.

The third time my body was trembling all over when she rolled off pulling her hands away. I couldn’t see. No that isn’t true. I could see but only stars, spinning around in a blurry haze behind a blurry film that had come over my vision. Things were out of focus. I was vaguely aware of my toes borderline hurting from curling up so hard. Oh my god. It was. It… I just needed to lie in a heap and breathe myself sane again.

“You ok there cutie?” A familiar voice came from the void.

“Mughhnnnerrr,” I slurred.

A couple of moments, maybe minutes, maybe hours passed and I rolled on my back. Looking up at her, still with my mouth a bit agape sucking in air.

“Ok?” She repeated with a satisfied smirk. I went to reply and stammered like an imbecile as she took the two fingers she had just had inside me and sucked on them lewdly taking my power of speech away again. “What?” She asked cocking an eyebrow completely innocently.

“Hey,” I finally managed.

“Tired out now?”

“Not really.”

“Oh?”

“Well a little give me a moment.”
“Are you staying here tonight?”

“Do you want me to?”

“Obviously,” she rolled her eyes as if I had said something stupid.

“I’ll have to wear the same clothes as today…”

“You’ve hardly worn them.”

“True.”

“Plus it’ll be nice to be chauffeured about.”

I pushed her.

“Hey!”

She pushed me back and we started playfully hitting each other, like little girls fighting I thought I had the upper hand pushing her hands down and shoving her until she started tickling my sides, that really sensitive area between the hip bones and ribcage and I caved giggled liking a fool, she kept at it as I rolled onto my back in the free room made on the single bed by her shifting her weight over and sitting up and throwing the sheet off the bed so we were both naked and exposed. With me writhing and barely able breath but still laughing.

She lifted her leg and sat on top of my upper thighs and didn’t stop.

“I…” I couldn’t speak.

“Give up?” she asked superiorly pausing but with her hands ready and poised to reassume her tickle assault.

“Uh-huh,” I nodded weakly.

“I guess I win,” she said smugly. She leant down her hair spilling over me and tickling my neck and shoulders. I moved my head up off the pillow to eagerly receive her mouth. “What does a winner get,” she asked suddenly breaking the kiss as I was still reaching up for her lips, with my eyes closed. “Let me think…” I opened my eyes to see her tapping her index finger to her chin as if considering and weighing up a decision. “Oh!” She exclaimed sticking that same index finger up as if a great idea had just struck her. If it were a cartoon strip a lightbulb would have popped up over her head. She bent over her face less than an inch from mine, I had a hard time keeping eye contact yet I also couldn’t bare to look away. She moved to speak directly into my ear. “You know what?” She murmured in a low, sexy voice.

“What?” I barely managed to get out. Anticipating something amazing to come.

“I could do with a coffee and a cigarette,” she said her voice lightening up as she climbed off me and sat in the bed pushing me out.

“Erm, ok,” I got up and tried to pull the sheet from the bed to cover myself up.

“Nope,” she denied me snatching it back to herself.

“But… I’m naked… Can I use a spare sheet?”

“No.”

“But I’m naked…” I repeated covering my chest by putting my arms over each opposite shoulder.

“I know. I like a view with my coffee.”

“Ah, ok.”

I was really awkward and unsure of myself as I turned and walked to the kitchen. I felt I ought to cover myself up. It was weird that I could be fine, absolutely completely comfortable being nude in bed with her, as she touched me, as I touched her and now a short stroll under her gaze turned me into a prude instantly. I couldn’t even tell if she was watching me walking or not, but I kind of knew she was.

I shuffled like a convict past the barrier of a counter and turned on the coffee machine and it whirred up.

“It would be smart you know,” she piped up from the bed. “To get me a smoke while it warms up. Time management and all that.”

I turned to snap something back but went slack jawed at the sight of her naked sitting up in bed with the sheet barely up to her pelvis.

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing,” I replied looking at the floor picking up her beautiful silver, engraved cigarette case taking two out, lighting one for myself first before tossing the other and the lighter onto her bed.

“Thanks cutie.”

I got the coffee into the cups without humiliating myself and shuffled back to the bed, both trying and failing not to be naked. Yes that is as stupid as it seems and I wanted to not spill the hot liquid on her floor, her bed or on my skin. It would be ouchy.

Oh no. I passed the drink and realized I’d have to turn round to get my cigarette from the ashtray where I’d left it propped up. Oh stop being such a coward.

I finally managed to get back into bed with her sipping next to her in silence. It would have been funny, us slurping down the coffee barely fitting into the single bed.

“Scooch up,” I nudged her to move.

“If you spill coffee on my bed I’ll make you sleep on the floor.”

“Wahh!”

“Aw I’m just teasing you,” she mumbled into her drink throwing her arm around my back and holding me tight.

“I know,” I chirped resting my head on her shoulder, grinning into my mug at tricking her out of her snark by being all adorable and pretending to be vulnerable.

***

It was a nice enough house I suppose… I watched my husband moving boxes from his car. My father was already pulling in his car into the avenue with the rest of my stuff. This was where I lived now… It all felt unreal. Unreality combined with unpleasantness. I knew he’d want to ‘consummate,’ the move as we had a couple of nights ago after our wedding… He had to return to the army base after that, they gave him and his buddies the day off and Henry the morning after off too. The wedding was almost completely his friends. I’d never felt so lonely. I was actually looking forward to being alone in the house when he was in training, I’d be less lonely alone then in a crowd of strangers…

I felt a nasty shudder run up and down my spine as I relived, momentarily inside my head, the memory of lying underneath him as he rocked back and forth on top of me, with no regard for me at all. The blood already drying to my inner thighs as he was snoring and I had to cry silently in front of the bathroom mirror using a wet flannel to clean myself off. I was still sore down there and the thought of having to endure it again was just horrendous.

“Where do you want these boxes dear?” Henry asked me hefting one by the front door.

“Just put them down out of the way and I’ll unpack when you’re back in basic. So I won’t bother you.”

“Good idea.”

He stalked off into the house… I guess it was our house. I wonder how long it’ll take for me to actually think of it as our not his? If it would even happen at all. I suspected not. That may have been negative but I thought the wedding would get better but I had been on the verge of tears all day, it building to a crescendo and finally breaking down right at the end.

My dad pulled up behind Henry’s car… Our car… No his. I hated driving anyway.

“Hey honey.”

“Hi daddy.”

“Where do you want your belongings taking?”

“I’ll show you Mr Hollis,” Henry called peeking his head over the threshold.

“Thanks, after you.”

They began, in unison, to take the stuff in from both cars. I was tempted to join in but it wasn’t really a woman’s job. Besides I didn’t want to speed this inevitable process up. I was in a flux for the minutes it would take where I wasn’t technically locked into this… I strolled to the edge of the lawn by the post box and looked up and down the avenue. Apparently everyone here was in the army, it was depressing; every house looked exactly the same, with the same lawn, cut perfectly, all the same. Just another doll picked up and moved into a dollhouse on a row of dollhouses inhabited by other dolls.

I pulled out a cigarette from my bag and went to light it. My hands were shaking, I didn’t even notice. I just had to shut up and keep everything bottled up and just hope things would improve. I was dragged out my daydream by the clipped noise of heels walking over.

“Hello new neighbor.”

I glanced up to see a woman, who was primped and preened, she looked exactly like any housewife was supposed to. She had a golden retriever on a leash walking with excellent poise next to her. She looked like she had stepped out of a housekeeping magazine’s cover.

“Hi.”

“I’m Judith, everyone calls me Judy, welcome to the avenue.”

“Laura,” I replied sticking out a hand to shake her’s.

 

“I’m just going to walk Rover here, but thought I’d say welcome and hello.”

“Thanks.”

“Have a lovely afternoon!”

“You too.”

She walked off down the street. Well she seemed nice. Maybe I could make a friend or two with the other women here. Maybe it wouldn’t be all bad.

“Laura!”

I turned to see Henry standing by the car looking at me expectantly.

“Yeah?”

“This is thirsty work, get us a couple beers from the fridge.”

“Ok.”

“We’re almost done and you’ll be all moved in.”

It felt like my heart sunk so low it was no longer beating.

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Whatever the reason we didn’t any mail to sort the day before seemed to ramp up the load Tuesday. Laura was almost borderline frantic, trying to work too fast. Slow and steady. Plus I didn’t tend to shirk my work but definitely didn’t try to do way more than was necessary. I was in a bit of a haze from the day and night before. Nearly the whole day was spent in my little single bed and I had post sex-binge glow I didn’t want to waste dedicated to work.

Even though I know she was still weird and awkward being naked around me, actually I didn’t think it was around me, I think she was just uncomfortable being naked full stop. She was too sweet, shy and unconfident a girl. Though it was really endearing seeing her self-confidence grow. Grow or just become unearthed after years of being buried by those around her throwing shovels of dirt onto her spirit.

The annoying, the more annoying, of the redhead girls had been waiting for us when we got into the crypt and invited us both out for drinks with her friend and Laura had agreed on my behalf very readily. Laura was just oblivious to Perry I think her name was, asking if we arrived together and giving a knowing look. I hope I was just being paranoid but you couldn’t be too careful.

“You could help out you know?”

“I could,” I agreed. “In theory.”

“That’s a sarcastic yes isn’t it?”

“It was sarcastic yes, but it wasn’t a yes.”

“Wah!”

“Your ‘wah,’ doesn’t work more than once every couple days.”

“Fine,” she moaned throwing down her handful of mail. “Soooo…” she started in that sing song voice of hers when she about to run off on a tangent. “Looking forward to drinks tonight?”

“No.”

“Ok good.”

“Why is that good?”

“Oh well,” she continued hopping up onto the central table letting her little legs swing, dangling off the edge like a child. “You always say no when you mean yes,” she explained matter-of-factly. “You said no when I asked you if you were looking forward to our date night and my meatloaf and…”

“Fine you got me, but your meatloaf does suck. You Americans have some terrible food.”

She just suck her tongue out at that.

“So drinks. Think it’ll be fun?!”

“Who knows? I don’t know these people. I don’t like making friends or meeting new people.”

“You liked meeting me…” She said in a small hopefully voice.

“It’s different with them though isn’t it?”

“Why?”

“I’m not planning on having sex with either of them,” I said shrugging lighting up a cigarette and smirking at her over the rising vapor of smoke. She went red and just made an ‘eep,’ noise and stared down at her feet.

“You didn’t know you were when we first met,” she finally replied in a smaller voice than before.

“I did, you struck me as a slut,” I told her failing to say it with a straight face but cracking and laughing at myself. She punched me in the arm but I caught her fist the on second attempt at strike and snaked my fingers through hers. “Relax cutie.”

“I know you’re joking,” she said smiling rubbing her thumb down the side of my hand. It was a nice moment but we both realized at the same time where we were and split apart.

***

We were walking with Lafontaine and Perry in pairs, like two couples going on a double date. Except definitely not that. Well maybe that but I didn’t want anyone to think that, not even to the girls we were going out with despite my suspicions of their relationship. I didn’t like to imagine that others were like me… Though I had to told myself that I shouldn’t think that about Laura and that worked out pretty well.

“Have you been here before?” Perry, the chatty one of the two, asked. Also the one I think who was pushing this, especially judging from the reluctant conversation I had with the short haired one in the grocery market.

“Oh yeah,” Laura replied happily, I was glad of her taking up the social slack from me. “Carm and I go there all the time,” she told her. Do we? I thought we’d been twice… Oh right that would be the chit-chat and being a conversationalist I just completely fail at. I wasn’t taking notes or anything, it was more of an observation, because ultimately I didn’t care at all.

“Ok, great, this should be nice, is it clean in there?”

“Uh yeah it is.”

“Great, great.”

***

“I’ll get the first round of drinks,” I offered, I needed alcohol in my system before I could talk to strangers and pretend to care about other’s inane small talk.

“I’ll get a table!” Laura offered. She was so cute and excitable bounding away to get a seat. I got a bottle of wine and carefully linked the four stems of the glasses between my fingers. I was actually quite proud of myself for how I was able to hold onto them, I quickly wiped the self-congratulatory smile from my face and replaced it with the frosty look of disdain which was my go to look.

“Here,” I plonked it down and poured myself a measure first, then the moody girl, Lafontaine, then Perry then just put down the bottle as Laura held hers out expectantly as I slid down next to her in the booth facing them.

“Hey!”

“That wasn’t polite,” Perry said.

“She’s like that,” Laura said dismissively. I started to drink to numb myself.

I zoned out for their dull conversation, I think Laura and Perry knew each other before, I should have paid attention, but I just didn’t care enough to retain such information. I was pretty buzzed by the time I was actually included.

“So Carmilla you’re from Austria?” Lafontaine asked me.

“Yes.”

I got the sense that Perry was encouraging her to speak up from the look they exchanged after my one word answer. I sunk half of my last glass and lit up a cigarette. I may have been coming off cold, and maybe I was, but equally I couldn’t think of casual chat to reciprocate with.

“Right,” Perry said awkwardly, clearly I’d sucked the energy and air out of the table. “I’ll get us more drinks. Come on Laf.” She dragged her friend up by the hand.

Laura slid right up next to me. She moving a little sloppily, she was such a tiny light weight. She gripped my upper thigh and leant in to whisper directly into my ear.

“Please be nice.”

“What did I say?”

“Nothing. Just make an effort please? For me?” She asked kindly. She moved her hand up and inwards to the inside right at the top of leg in a really sensitive area, close to an even more sensitive area. “I’ll make it worth your while,” she whispered directly into my ear and taking a page from my book bite my earlobe.

“Fine, you’ve convinced me,” I mumbled back, turning my face towards her. We were really close. Remember where you are! I could possibly kiss her super speedily and hope for the best. I think she was thinking the same as she hadn’t moved back from what was clearly, to anyone who might be looking if they even were, an intimate distance. Her eyes were locked with mine and darted down to my lips, I did the same and could breathe in to smell her hair, and the smoke and wine and lingering remains of her perfume.

“Here we go,” Perry’s voice broke out moment and her hand shot out from between my legs, making it look like she was probably doing something a lot worse than she was.

I looked up at both of them, Laura must have been doing the same.

My mind raced for lies, and ran through worst case scenarios as we both in our pairs stared at each other, us sitting them standing over us yet to take a seat.

Chapter Text

I’m a drunk idiot, Perry just wanted to try to befriend Carm and I and I couldn’t stop acting like I was on heat. We’d spent pretty much everyday but Sunday, three out of the last four, in bed together and we couldn’t control ourselves from being all soppy. Being sloppy by being soppy. Carmilla was sharp she would think of something.

“What are you two doing?” Perry asked us as the two of them still stood above us holding a bottle of wine in her hand scanning between both of us. I hope Carm wasn’t looking as guilty as I knew I must have done.

“Nothing,” she responded on both of our behalves. Oh not so clever after all. Though actually I would probably just start words and not end them and babble.

“Nothing?” Lafontaine said smirking. It was the first time I think I’d seen her crack a smile. They slid back into the booth almost in slow motion.

“Nothing,” Carmilla repeated rather forcefully. My heart was beating a little faster, uncomfortably so, I felt a warm rash creep up my neck, I really had to hope that I wasn’t going red. I tried to look at my reflection in the wine glass; goldfish face. I jumped back as the empty glass filled with red liquid as Perry poured a measure. Smooth. Real smooth I chastised myself.

“So how’s it down in the crypt?” Perry asked, I glanced up, she was wide eyed and I guess she trying hard to bridge the gap back into normal conversation. Lafontaine was eyeing both Carmilla and I, back and forth suspiciously. What? We didn’t do anything wrong! I screamed internally, we just looked like we were about kiss, two women, one married, the married one had her hand right between her thighs… Ok so maybe we did do something bad. Oh god Carm wasn’t going to answer the question and now we had spent a little too long in the silence, the incriminating silence, growing ever more incriminating the more time I reflected on the incriminating nature of the silence.

“Fine,” I managed to get out. Oh no that isn’t enough. Scramble for more small talk… “Yeah it gets a little dull, it’s just menial work I guess, but it’s better than just sitting at home.”

“I know what you mean, but aren’t you married?”

“Yes…”

“Töte mich jetzt,” Carmilla mumbled under her breath.

“Huh?”

“Nothing,” she mumbled.

“So anyway,” I interrupted, “he’s off at war. So yeah having a job is great.” I wanted to retreat into the gap between the back of the seat and the bottom and just hide there until the painful, palpable awkwardness hanging like a smog over us was dispelled. I quickly looked over my shoulder to sum up the possibility of burrowing down there. “Plus you know…” I left it hanging there out hoping someone would recuse me, no, oh terrific, “it’s more fun down there with Carm.”

“I bet,” Lafontaine snorted.

The smog thickened.

“This is just so much fun,” Carmilla said, I could feel her eyes rolling next to me.

“It still can be… It’s not like…” Perry stopped and I looked up at her but she was glancing at Lafontaine, worrying her lip between her teeth. I think looking for help. What was going on here?! I wanted to ask her what it was though I both did want to know and truly didn’t. If it was some other thing I hadn’t thought of because my paranoid mind had skipped right past it to the worst case scenario that would alleviate the worry I was currently uncomfortably dealing with. Then the other side of that was Perry pointing at me and calling me a lesbian whore…A cheating lesbian whore. Then rushing off to tell everyone in the town door by door.

“It’s not like…” Carmilla stepped up on prompting her to continue.

Now it was their turn to be sheepish, Lafontaine seemed to being urging Perry to do something with her eyes, straining and motioning with them and Perry shaking her head slightly trying to be imperceptible. What was happening here?! I looked over at Carmilla and she was just scowling straight ahead.

I’m just doing a great job of making friends aren’t I? I thought it would be Carm who would screw up socializing and low and behold it was me.

“No nothing nevermind,” Perry said hurriedly fixing her face into a rather disingenuous smile. Lafontaine sighed audibly.

We sat there in silence, my skin was crawling, I lit up a cigarette my hand shaking a little, sucking the smoke deep into my lungs and holding it for a little too long letting the white smoke pour out of my mouth and nose. It was slightly relaxing, it helped a bit. Still no one was saying a thing. I looked at each other person at the booth in turn and everyone had the same furrowed brow, trying to come up with a topic, with anything. Carmilla had a cigarette in her mouth too, looking for a lighter, I went to move mine over the table towards her right at the same moment as she reached out to get it and her hand fell on top of mine and we ripped our hands apart in unison as we had both come into contact with something red hot.

Perry and Lafontaine were both looking up at the spot we had just accidently touched each other, fixated as if some event was going to occur. I chastised myself for acting like that, it was suspicious to act like you were doing something wrong!

“This is so much fun,” Carmilla drawled, sarcasm so thick it was dripping through the cigarette smoke. Why was she rocking the boat?! The atmosphere was so tense and heavy and she just ratcheted it up.

No one replied to that.

A few more moments of agonizing quiet passed on.

“So you guys work on the switchboards right?” I asked, my face contorted with the pain of the lacklustre nature of the question.

“Sure do.”

Eugh.

“Look,” Lafontaine finally addressed the booth. “This is going absolutely nowhere is it? I can’t sit through this, Perry let’s go.”

“That’s rude,” she replied to her friend.

“Better to be rude than this nails running down a chalkboard painful awkwardness of this night.”

Perry looked really torn, biting down on her lip.

“Oh just go,” Carmilla snapped, “you clearly want to, I won’t be heartbroken if you do so don’t worry, I wouldn’t take it as rude, wouldn’t be personally insulted.” She put both her hands over her heart mocking them.

“Alright, well you guys enjoy the wine, my treat,” Perry said picking up her bag and shouldering it and shuffling out of the seat, hovering there waiting for her companion. “Goodnight, see you around. Tonight was fu… Was…. Well goodnight.” She gave a small smile with pursed lips.

“See you around,” Lafontaine added shouldering her satchel and walked to the door.

“Bye,” I called after them.

I waited until the door closed and slumped back in the seat.

“What the fuck,” Carmilla spat out.

“What?” I replied. “It was obvious what happened there right?”

“Not obvious no. Certain things are likely but not obvious.”

“Damn.”

I began shaking the pressure of the situation building up to a crescendo and boiling over me. The cigarette I was holding fell from between my fingers as they began to uncontrollably tremble. I having horrid flashes of what could happen. Perry was up with all the gals on the switchboards where they nattered incessantly with each other, exchanging gossip and tidbits. The gossip that I was touching and almost kissing the foreign girl everyone was suspicious of after a drink was juicy on the gossip scale. Plus speculation and escalations from a gossip formed snowball rolling down the hill this would blow up and it spread like wildfire. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

Carmilla grabbed my wrist. I snapped my head up to look at her.

“Let’s get you home ok?”

I nodded wordlessly.

“Get yourself together you need to drive. I’m going to get the cork to take this with us,” she said. I barely heard her but nodded again, sliding out to let her pass. I slumped back down and with shaking hands picked up my wine glass and drank a few sips, I had to hold it with both hands to avoid dropping and shattering it with my panicked shakes. It didn’t help. I couldn’t feel it.

I had managed to retreat into my own head once again in the time it took for Carmilla to go to the bar get the cork, return, and plug the three-quarters bottle up and take me by the crook of my arm and dragged me to my feet. She didn’t hold me anymore than necessary but the contact helped. I walked forward out of the bar and the fresh air did help, washing over me like a cleansing breath. We walked back to the town hall and the parking lot there, without speaking, as worst case scenario after worst scenario rolled over and over me like a torrent of crashing waves, breaking the last with more impact than the last. I needed to focus to drive. Focus and drive.

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I was a little on edge, but she was freaking out, she looked like she had seen a ghost, she probably didn’t realize but her eyes had been darting too quickly, I was guessing she was thinking there would be a scarlet letter painted on her front door by the time we got there. I was a bit panicked but compared to her but seeing her reaction I knew I had to suppress my concerns to calm her down.

I planned on waiting until we pulled up to her house to talk to her. If she was worried and trying to drive adding conversation to that mix would probably lead to a lovely crashy death. I tried to plan on what I could say, but nothing really came to mind, I think if I just wing it; I’ll work it out as I talk.

I still slightly suspected that the reason that Perry and Lafontaine were so awkward and strange around us after seeing us acting intimately was because they wanted to act like that with each other… If that was the case then we had nothing to worry about. I really got that impression.

On the other hand… Well there were several things that could happen. I had actually calmed myself down. What really could happen? Worst case, absolutely worst case and some rumors spread which we could deny and just had to be careful.

It’ll be fine at the worst. It would be fine. I doubted it would even come to that. It might even work out well if anything. Look at me being the positive one for once.

We pulled up. Well she pulled up, I was sitting in the passenger seat. Still. I repeated to myself over and over not to be sarcastic and tease her no matter how easy she makes it. I would store up the ridicule for later.

She still hadn’t spoken as she got out and walked to her front door, I took the bottle of wine with me following her in through and past the threshold. She just dropped her car keys and house keys on a side table but got the position wrong and they slipped off onto the floor, she didn’t notice, or at least didn’t acknowledge it. I scooped them up and placed them down carefully and shut the door and locked the deadlock. When I walked back she was sitting in the dark of her lounge, just with just the ember of a lit cigarette illuminating her face.

I flicked on the side table light rather than the main one, I didn’t think she needed to be flooded with lights right now. I got a couple glasses from her kitchen cupboard letting her think a little more. We needed to talk properly face to face, not while I was busying myself around. I poured two drinks out and went and sat on the armchair across from her. I opened her clenched up hand and pushed the wine into it. I took a sip of my own and lit a cigarette up. I needed it right now. I’m hardly the supportive type but here goes.

“You holding up cutie?”

“I suppose.”

“Have you worried yourself sick?”

“I guess.”

“It’ll be fine…”

“Will it?” She looked up, there were the hints of tears welling in the bottom of her eyes. It made my heart pang.

“Of course. What could happen?”

“Everyone finds out?”

“Finds out what?”

“Seriously?” She barked a singular bitter laugh.

“Yes seriously.”

“Our affair!” She cried out. “It’s illegal. It’s a sin. It’s adultery!”

“You regret it?”

“Yes!” She cried again. My heart dropped, I was ready to cry now. “If only I was able to just control myself out in public for a couple hours, drag out some small talk until we could get back here, or to your place. Wait until we were in private!”

Oh phew. For a minute I thought… Nevermind.

“So what? You think they’ll go and tell everyone?”

“Yeah why wouldn’t they?”

“Because nothing happened… Because they don’t seem like gossipers. Because it’s easy to deny?”

“Still…” She sniffled, calming down a bit. I pulled my sleeve over the bottom of my hand and wiped the tears which had run down her cheeks. She looked up at me bleary eyed, with red blotchy patches already forming on her forehead with a small sad, reserved smile. Still having her smile was better than crying. It hurt me to see her cry.

“It’ll be fine,” I reiterated moving my hand from her cheek to hold her hand and to squeeze it reassuringly, rubbing my thumb up and down the base of her forearm. She whimpered a few times, her shoulders heaving with the weeping.

“It will?” She asked, her voice desperate and broken.

“I won’t let anything bad happen to you,” I told her as sincerely as I could. “Trust me ok?”

“I trust you.”

Her cigarette had burnt out leaving a long pile of ash coming from the filter and I took it away and placed it in an ashtray and held her hand tight using my other to stroke her forearm gently.

I let her calm down. She took racked breathes and sobbed bodily a few more times. I didn’t speak for a while. I didn’t have, I needed to let her relax and let the panic seep out of her naturally. Her breathing returned to normal eventually and she began taking small nods to steady and ready herself.

“It’ll be ok won’t it?” She asked me again.

“I promise.”

She smiled again at me before looking down at the floor, slumped a little, she straightened up for the first time since she’d got in and had a rather determined look on her face she stood up and snatched up her glass and drained the entire measure. Woah. She walked past me and away into her house. Was she going to the toilet?

A moment or two later I was a little lost wondering where she had gone.

“You coming?” I heard her voice ring out.

What was happening now? I got up and stubbed out my cigarette after one last deep drag and followed the sound of her voice. I went into her bedroom and… Ok. She was lying on top of her sheets, naked with her dress, tights and shoes thrown over the floor. The bedside light was casting an orange glow, pleasantly lighting the room.

I was shocked. I wasn’t expecting that.

“Well?” She asked. Her face, still beautiful obviously, showed the signs of crying. This wasn’t right.

“Cutie…” I said lowly. I didn’t want to turn her down. Not just because I wanted to… Obviously I wanted to. It would be a knock to her self-esteem when she was fragile to turn her down. It just wasn’t right though.

“If we’re caught…”

“We’re not and haven’t.”

She ignored me and stood up, I tried to restrain myself from looking. I failed miserably. She truly was gorgeous from head to toe as well as inside. Still I couldn’t. Not tonight. The alcohol in my system wasn’t helping on top on that, suppressing the urge. My stomach tightened and my skin tingled up and down. While I was processing this she had closed the distance between us and she leaned in to kiss my neck and starting unhooking and zipping down my dress.

“Laura,” I mumbled my feet rooted to the floor, my hands pinned to my side trying very hard to swallow the urges and do the right thing.

“If we’re caught…”

“We…”

“Shush, shush, shush, if we are,” she said kissing over my freshly exposed shoulder. “Then why not?”

“We haven’t been,” I said forcefully grasping at her arms and pulling them down and taking a small step backwards, just enough to be face to face but still close. I tried my hardest to block out her nakedness. “We haven’t been, and you’re in no state right now.”

“You don’t want me anymore?”

“No! I mean yes, I do, no I don’t not,” I shook my head, “I do, just not tonight, it wouldn’t be right. You said you trusted me didn’t you?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Then trust me, you need to rest, wake up in the morning fresh, we’ll go to work together and face whatever we have to face, if there is anything to face. Which there won’t be.” Probably. She hugged me tight around the waist and the tears started again and I could feel her ribcage contracting as she hugged against me. I could feel the small drops of bitter salty water falling down onto my back where she had dragged off some of my clothing. I almost laughed at the image of her naked holding me with half of my dress yanked off but I stifled it. Not the time. Though this was exactly the sort of the thing I’d bank in the old memory bring up when she was in a better mood to ridicule her for.

“Can you at least hold me? As I sleep? If I sleep…” She asked finally letting go. I didn’t notice until she let go how hard her grip was, it was a little uncomfortable.

“Of course. You don’t need to even ask.”

She sniffled and wiped under her nose with her arm looking up at me with those deep brown eyes, looking for support. I hoped I could give her. I would try my best. She shuffled back to bed and snuck under the covers.

I took over my clothes, debating for a second whether to leave on my underwear but if she was naked why not? I slipped everything off and walked around the bed to slip in behind her and wrap an arm around her. She pushed back, fitting her legs into the curve of mine. The warmth of her body spreading into mine. Her heartbeat matching mine. Her breathing falling into rhythm with mine.

She put her arms on top of each other in front of her, in front of her chest and I wrapped my arm over her’s and held her tight. It was the end of May and too hot to be this close but I didn’t mind. The physical discomfort was outweighed by the emotional comfort.

Snuggled together we waited for sleep to come. I stayed awake despite my eyes drooping and the yawns forming as I needed to know that she was sound asleep and safe in her dreams before I could let myself follow suit.

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My head was a little foggy. Just a little. The hangover wasn’t terrible. Carmilla was still snoozing as I showered. Under the warm jet of water I was able to think a bit more clearly than last night. Despite the fog from the alcohol the morning light and the hours of dreamless, deep sleep had defused the overwhelming panic.

I could never understand how a problem which could make me want to tear my hair out and scream and cry and go wild would be put in a calmer perspective in the morning. All the difference a few hours could make I suppose.

There was still a nagging concern deep down inside but it was the bubbling over, fraught dread I had last night.

It was right not to have sex when I was like that, she was right and I did trust her. I really did. The idea of Perry rushing around saying that it looked like I might have kissed Carmilla and that sticking and ending up with governmental officials turning up with a straight jacket or handcuffs was absurd.

At least it seemed less likely in the cleansing disinfectant of the dawn light.

“Your coffee stinks.”

I jumped a little, again, always jumping from shock. I was wrapped up in my own head and forgot she was here. She was wearing my robe and standing in the kitchen fiddling with the machine. I glanced down at her exposed legs first instead of thinking of a clever response.

“Rationing,” I said stupidly.

“Sure, I understand that, I live in the same country, same town and same time as you, and shop under the same restrictions,” she explained smugly.

“Just shut up and make me a coffee.”

She made the noise of a hissing cat, smirked and turned back to tinkering. Before turning to go to the bedroom and change I smiled to myself. This was so sweet, us bickering in the kitchen like a… Well like a couple. I cocked my head to side, grinned to myself and skipped off to change.

***

“Good lord, what is happening?” Carmilla asked, not to me in particular, just out of disbelief at the huge amount of letters which had arrived.

“Something in the war?”

“I guess… I hope the Americans have killed as many of those fuckers as possible.”

“Language!”

“You’re adorable.”

“Manners cost nothing.”

“Awww.”

“Humph!”

“Go get us some coffee then and we can plough ahead.”

“You could say please.”

“Agreed, I could, now go,” she waved me off.

When I returned with the two mugs she was holding a letter in her hand, staring down at it, side face to me. She turned, looking a little grim.

“What is it?” I asked.

“For you,” she replied ominously, handing it off.

I placed the cups down and took the envelope. It had my name and address in army stencil font.

Stop just staring at it and open it. I quickly tore the sealing open.

Dear Laura Michaels,

The following text has been read and censored appropriately by Pvt. Michaels’ CO.

Laura, we’re deploying from England soon. BLACKED OUT TEXT.

BLACKED OUT TEXT.

I didn’t really know what to write to you, but as I have an obligation to you as my wife and I might

Not be around much longer I BLACKED OUT TEXT.

Thinking of you.

Wish me luck and pray for me.

Yours,

Henry.

Right. Well… Nothing. That was nothing and I felt nothing. I crumbled it up and threw it in the trash can. He couldn’t muster up a shred of emotion before he went into combat. Screw him. I had moved on. No that’s not even true. I hadn’t moved on as that would suggest that I had anything with him. As he wrote down it was only an obligation which pushed him to write. Our relationship was naught but an obligation. I had someone I really liked now, for the first time. The absence of guilt was not even a concern anymore. I had expected to feel terrible, that he would write something which tore my heart to shreds for being unfaithful and disinterested in his fate but it was clearly mutual.

“Cutie?”

“What’s next on the docket?” I asked her rubbing my hands together suggesting we get to work.

“Same old, same old.”

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That wasn’t a fun day. I thought she would be all panicked and on edge from the incident at the bar but instead she was quiet and introspective from whatever was in the letter. I considered opening it up when she left but didn’t. It was too much a breach of privacy. I wanted to ask her but it was one of those things where she needed to tell me not have it drawn out of her.

It worried me though. A lot more than what happened at the bar. A lot more. It was really the first communication she received from her husband since we met, yet alone become intimate. That I knew of, she may have others… It might not be from him. I was just presuming out of insecurity. It could have been some army, standard something which wasn’t from him. Though then why would she have chucked it in the bin?

What a terrible day. It started with mutual worry; stronger on one side perhaps but still, it was mutual, a shared concern. Then she was quiet and tense which only bred insecurity and worry in me.

I hadn’t paid too much mind to her husband. I guess he was technically a rival. Or I was the rival. The other woman. I had listened to when she spoke about him at the start. I did dismiss him from my mind though when she said she hated him and he faded into the background of my thoughts. Now what? Had he written some soppy, love letter before he faced the enemy? How could I compete with that?

No, no, no that’s stupid. I’m doing what she does and had to talk her out of. I’m making up worst cases in my head then deciding they are true. Then working off the basis that my paranoia was fact I made myself increasingly troubled.

I let her leave before me. Every woman on her avenue got a letter apparently, so I refused her offer for a lift home and let her slip off early. The letter was still there crumbled up in the bin… It would be so easy… No. Bad idea. I finished up a little late and left. Back to my apartment and solitude. Solitude and stewing in my own self-doubt and fear mongering.

I had completely dismissed the idea that some awful rumor would have spread about Laura and I from the ginger twins. So that’s good I suppose. Replacing a worry with a worst worry is definitely healthy I reflected bitterly as I returned the coffee mugs.

I left the basement and the hall and walked slowly to the bus stop smoking as I trudged off.

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I couldn’t even remember the drive home but I was in my drive, locking the car before I knew what had happened.

“Laura!”

Oh what now?

Judy was walking her stupid dog down the street and had decided to come and bother me.

“What?” I mumbled, barely recognizing her presence as I didn’t even stop walking to my door putting in my key and turning to look at her with the grumpy, tired look she deserved.

“Manners,” she stated sternly. “Anyway I wanted to tell you something.”

“Do you mean ask me something? Because normally when you wish for someone to do something you ask you don’t tell them,” I replied sharply. I wasn’t in the mood for her. I felt too pre-occupied. It was like when I shouted at my mother who I hadn’t seen since I stormed out of dinner a weeks ago and now it was this dreadful woman who inspired that anger.

“Pardon me?” The poison in her tone was on the surface.

“If you are going to ask a favor you ask you don’t tell.”

“Your bad attitude aside, teenagers are temperamental, so I’ll forgive it for now, this once,” she said through gritted teeth. I turned to properly face her realizing she wasn’t taking the hint that I didn’t want to speak to her. I wanted to kick her in shins like an angry child if she was going to treat me as one. “I hear that letters have been sent out by the army for wives and family of the servicemen.”

Was that a question.

“Yeah…”

“Well have you received these?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“I filed them away as I’m suppose to. Wait for the mail.”

“Didn’t I tell you to take the ones meant for women on this avenue?!”

“Didn’t I tell you I couldn’t do that?” I snapped unlocking the door and pushing it open. “Good talk Judy, see you later Rover,” I added waving at the dog. I shut the door before she could re engage. That was grueling. Hey at least it distracted me from my guilt.

I didn’t feel guilt actually. It was something else. Some nebulous sense of fear and discomfort which I couldn’t place but was putting me on edge and giving me an uneasy feeling. My heart didn’t feel right and there was a compression in my head, it wasn’t right.

I poured a glass of wine with what was left from the bottle we had brought back from the bar. It didn’t help but I drank it regardless. I would just have to suffer through the worry until it passed I supposed. Endure it for now with the knowledge that it will be better eventually. I kind of wanted to see Carmilla and have her hold me, soothe away the pain whatever it may be.

Was I crying? I didn’t notice… Why did I feel so bad? It made little sense.

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Screaming voices over a crackling tannoy blared. All around me. I was disorientated and lost. I was nowhere but knew I was trapped, trapped and lost. I couldn’t see anything. Just rising clouds of black smoke with flecks of black ash swirling through the abyss.

I tried to move forward, or back, I had no direction. Just move. My feet wouldn’t move, it was like the ground was made of treacle. Oil which snared me and held me in place.

The crackling cries in German came out of the dark, deafening and indiscernible. I turned around but my stuck feet made me trip and fall down into the dirt trapping my hands so I was on all four like a dog.

The sounds of the loudspeaker began fading, the screeching German propaganda quietening down and replaced in a layer with the noise of marching. Hundreds of boots planting time after time in a methodical rhythm. Orange glowing eyes appeared in the hellish, featureless, smokey landscape.

I jolted up in my bed.

I’m in America. I’m safe. I told myself over and over.

It had been a while since I had those fucking nightmares. The film of sweat over me was horrible and was already cooling in a stain on my sheets making it impossible to comfortably rest once again. It was too early to do anything. I sighed bitterly getting up and going to the shower. I needed Laura. I wanted to have her hold me… Eugh. How things could fluctuate quickly between bliss and misery.

I didn’t even know what had happened really, it was just an aberration. I hoped it was.

***

I felt off and uneasy as I walked across the town hall’s plaza. This really all started after trying to socialize. I knew making friends was a huge mistake, it was just a pain and could be awkward at best and something like could happen at worse.

I was early. The sun was still obscured by the grey light of the dawn, yet to be overtaken by the morning glow. That added to the melancholy I suppose. Not that I liked the sun that much. As I walked down the crypt there was someone in the mailroom already. I could see their outline through the frosted glass. Huh. I swung the door open to see Lafontaine, sitting up on the sorting table.

“Hello?” I said cautiously.

“Morning.”

“Can I help you?”

“I guess. I thought it would be a good idea to have word after our wonderful night out the other day.”

“Wonderful hardly does it justice,” I drawled.

“Want to say anything about it?”

“Not particularly. I don’t really like doing things and I don’t really like other people so combining the two is anti-fun.”

“You don’t like doing things with people huh?”

“That’s right.”

“Apart from a certain tiny blonde girl right?”

“What are you getting at?” I asked my temper starting to rise.

“Maybe nothing, maybe something. If it is something though I just wanted to let you know from both me and Perry that it’s cool.”

“Cool?”

“Fine. Nothing to worry about from our end.”

“Well put, very succinct.”

“Be rude all you like but I thought it I would extend the courtesy.”

“If whatever you think you may be alluding to, is what you’re alluding to,” I paused to frown at whether my own cryptic sentence made sense while not giving away anything concrete. “Then why were you both so painfully awkward around us.”

“Shock… Erm, shock and uncertainty… I don’t know, it was unexpected. If it was what we are both so gracefully hinting at.”

“Right. Well thanks. I don’t think I can manage to maintain this spy code conversation much longer.”

“Ok right, well cool, tell Laura too ok?”

“Sure.”

“Alright see you around.”

Lafontaine hopped from the table and walked around me to leave.

So I was right about that… If that jumble of hints and dancing around the issue meant what I thought it did… Why couldn’t things be easier? Though one weight off my shoulders. Now I just had to worry about Laura and if she had cheered up, which had been my preoccupation last night.

I was early, but I started working a slow, lazily pace. Killing time before she arrived.

The door slammed a bit later and I jumped out of shock. Goddammit every time. Before I could turn and react she had looped her arms around my waist and was kissing me. It was fast and desperate and she broke off and away from me in a moment. Glancing over her shoulder checking for danger immediately.

“Hey,” she breathed bashfully. “Sorry about yesterday.”

“That’s ok.”

“It was just that letter…”

“Want to talk about it?”

“Nothing much to talk about. It was from my husband,” she made the word sound filthy and repulsive. “It said nothing though. Nothing at all. He even used the word obligation.” Her face contorted into anger. “I don’t know why it threw me so much though. It did though, I was racked with self-doubt, but I couldn’t place it at all. I just felt wrong. Plus the bar thing. I had weird anxiety and, and I’m rambling aren’t I?”

I smiled a half cocked grin and held my index finger and thumb up and close to indicate a little bit.

“Well good news,” I told her, “the grumpier of the ginger gals came in here this morning and I think she told me it was all ‘cool.’”

“Really? Wait think?”

“It wasn’t clearly stated but it’s fine.”

“Oh good. Wait! Since when do you say cool?”

“I… Shut up.”

Well I felt better. What was I even panicking myself about? Eugh I’m an idiot sometimes.

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“What you thinking?” Carmilla asked me. We were lying in my bed, naked with my head on her chest as she played with strands of my hair. We had rushed from work back here and we tore each other’s clothes off.

“Nothing really,” I hummed. “I think something big is about to happen in the war…”

“So not nothing really.”

“No I suppose not nothing,” I admitted. Then giggled, I didn’t know why, but better to be happy and laughing then making myself depressed without knowing why. “Still.”

“Still?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Still?”

“Look I’m really happy right now, can we just lay here?”

“Of course cutie,” she replied tightening her grip on my shoulder holding me close.

I couldn’t remember exactly why I had tortured myself when I had this.

Chapter Text

Things were going well, really, well. Well they were going average in every aspect of my life but the one I care about; Laura, that was going really well. Better than well. I was happy. I forgot what it meant to be truly happy. I had glimpses of it, mostly with her, but since the panic we shared over a week ago now… Wow, it seemed a lot longer. Things were going so great and the tough time, for all of the two days it lasted, seemed way long ago. A distant memory best forgotten.

Nevermind.

Best not to focus on the negatives when I was finally happy.

Her husband had faded into the background completely, he was just a ghost, there but no solid thought of him, not opaque, a transparent nagging doubt. A doubt which got outweighed easily by the certainty I felt towards my relationship with her. It was that too. A relationship. It wasn’t a fling. It wasn’t a brief, summer romance of a lonely married woman experimenting before returning to normality. It wasn’t just an affair.... Ok actually yes it was that. It was an affair. Luckily I’m pretty sure there is no hell for me to go to, so that didn’t bother me. Still, a relationship was budding, past that even, in bloom. We hadn’t spoken about it. I wanted to. Though every emotional conversation we had had between us was inated by her. I guard my feelings very well. Very closely. It wasn’t necessarily a product of what had happened to me when I had to escape Europe. What happened to my family. What happened with people who I had considered friends and how they turned viciously. That had cemented my disdain for being overly emotive and sharing how I felt. I can’t remember the last time I had tried to share… Perhaps it was time. I couldn’t just react to how Laura acted. I had to at first. When I wasn’t sure how she felt, I wasn’t sure how she was approaching me, I couldn’t be outward then out of self-preservation. Then I just kept that format going. When there really was no need to anymore.

I needed a drink.

Though we hadn’t returned to Charlie’s bar since the incident with Perry and Lafontaine, the incident which turned out to be nothing. The incident was a bad description. The mistaken kerfuffle perhaps.

We hadn’t returned at any rate. Perhaps it was time too. I could ask her out for a cute little date night rather than, once again, letting her take the lead and take her up on her offer to go her place and have her cook. Cook was too strong a word, not poison me, was better.

It was pleasant. It was nice. It was all these sort of words. I wanted to push forward though, make a move to reciprocate. I didn’t want her to think I’m cold. I’m not… Well ok, I am, but not to her, I hoped she could see through the facade I put on to protect myself, but I didn’t want to take that risk. I really cared about her, which was annoying to admit to myself, but she needed to know that.

The best thing I could think of was taking her to a bar though? What else could I do… It was hardly like I could take her out for a candle lit meal or any sort of traditional romantic date. It required some thought.

***

“Good morning Miss Karnstein,” Peggy Smith, the administrator of the town hall rushed over to me as I walked through the plaza to the back entrance. The back entrance I specifically took to ignore and avoid people exactly like her.

“Good morning,” I replied sleepily. I spent a lot of time thinking last night about a certain miniature blonde who took up every process in my brain. She had that annoying clipboard clasped tightly in front of her like a breastplate. I allow petty things to really bother me about other people.

“I need to ask you and Mrs Hollis a favor,” she said through a toothy, fake smile. A favor was never a favor, it was simply a politer way to give an order.

“Go on.”

“We’ve had communications from the Army post service and there will be an overload of very important telegrams and letters coming around 10 o’clock at the end of the week.”

“Ok.”

“10 o’clock pm that is, 2200 hours as they say in the service,” she smiled wider and leaned in. Was that a joke? Eugh. As I didn’t respond she leaned back and carried on, “so you and your partner in crime need to stay late to have them ready for a special pickup on Friday morning.”

“That’s fine. Wait, do you mean we have to work all day and all night?” I didn’t like the sound of that.

“Oh no, no, no, no!” She looked flustered. Not genuinely though. I had really noticed that about a lot of the wife types, like that Trudy, Trudy? Whatever, the awful woman who bothered Laura a lot was called, seemed to be living out a play all the time. Acting out a character instead of being themselves. “You can start later, even come in after work hours, I’ll get someone from the custodial staff to drop off a key so you can get in.”

“It’ll just be us in the town hall?”

“Yeah, maybe a couple operators working the switchboard night shift, but otherwise yeah. That won’t be a problem will it?”

“No just confirming.”

“Thanks sweetheart, you’re a doll,” she grinned and squeezed my arm and walked back in the hall.

“What was that about?”

“Jesus,” I jumped, “where did you come from cutie?” I asked at the sudden appearance of Laura.

“My house…” She said, confused shooting me a wide eyed look and scratching the top of head. I cracked and laughed and she smiled returning her hand to her side. “Made you laugh!” She teased sticking her tongue out.

“Good job.”

“Yay!”

“You’re in a good mood,” I said as we walked towards the crypt.

“I am, even better now I’m with you,” she beamed. She was skipping alternative steps, that was so adorable.

“Well let me ruin it,” I told her as she paused mid-skip rocking on the ball of her foot, coming to a halt looking at me and tilted her head questioningly. “We have to come in Thursday night to work.”

“Night?”

“Yes.”

“Thursday?”

“That’s what I said.”

“That’s a long day…”

“Night,” I corrected, “it should be fun!”

“Really!?”

“Oh god,” I breathed out pinching the bridge of my nose as we descended down to our work post.

***

It was lovely to be able to sleep until midday. I hadn’t done that for months now. I spent my weekends with Laura and it was hard to sleep late when you had that laying naked next to you. Really hard. It was wasting time to be sleeping when there were other things I could be doing with my time. Thursday night would be long so I used all my Thursday morning to rest. I stretched out like a cat and curled up, hugging the sheets around my shoulders trying to squeeze out as much sleep from the morning as possible.

Laura was excited about us having the evening and town hall to ourselves. It was really sweet. She said she’d bring a picnic basket.

Kenopsia aside, I was looking forward to it too. Any sort of aberration from the normality of my routine was worthwhile to seize and make the most of, especially with her.

I went down to the store and got as many cigarettes as I could carry and a couple bottles of red wine to drink at work. Why not use the chance as an opportunity? To have a little date night. Have a talk. Express my undying love.

I paused mid-step in the grocery store.

Where did that come from?!

Perhaps I just meant at as a joke or hyperbole. That was it a hilarious hyperbolic joke, just for me in an off guard piece of my inner monologue. Huh.

I saw Lafontaine wandering around with a basket. She must live near me. Normally, at least ninety-nine percent of the time I wouldn’t have bothered to say hello, but after that little self-revelation. Well not little. More gigantic, Earth-shattering self-revelation. Some distraction was necessary.

“Hi.”

“Oh hello Carmilla.”

Oh terrific I don’t have anything to say.

“Why aren’t you at work?” I asked. Oh good job starting with an accusation.

“I’m only needed when there’s a problem with the electronics, fixing their mistakes.”

“Oh.”

“Oh… Shouldn’t you be too?”

“Laura and I are working the graveyard shift.”

“Date night?”

I narrowed my eyes to appraise what she had said but I saw and heard no judgement.

“If you like.”

“Perry and I are having something similar tonight,” Lafontaine replied hefting the shopping basket to reveal the bottles of alcohol.

“How sweet.”

“You know you don’t have to be so sarcastic, you didn’t need to come and even talk to me,” she retorted.

“Trust me sweetheart this is me being nice.”

“Don’t call me sweetheart,” she snapped back with actual anger in her voice.

“Fine sorry,” I held up my hands in resignation. “Sorry,” I repeated as Lafontaine calmed down and her face returned to normal. “Have fun tonight with your long haired version of you.”

“Have fun with the toddler.”

“Hmm, touche I suppose.”

Well that didn’t go well, didn’t go badly though either. Maybe we could be friends… I laughed out loud and glanced around quickly to make sure no one had heard me, that was a good joke. Well done me.

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I hadn’t mentioned to Carmilla but I was a little on edge. Despite grasping a rare opportunity to have some time together alone which wasn’t in my house or her apartment but on the other hand some huge shipment of letters were coming and maybe I would be a widow… And I truly didn’t care but I needed to know. Maybe I did care… I don’t know I just needed to know.

Still on the other, other hand I had packed a picnic basket with some cheese and some bread and some meat and that was it due to the whole rationing restrictions. It was like a cute little date! I was too excited for the fact we were technically going to work… Still. It was a rarity to get the place to ourselves and it was a fresh setting to know we were alone in.

Plus I had suggested the food and she said she’d bring wine, which was lovely.

I had dressed in standard work clothing, just a beige dress, it wasn’t like I was treating this like some romantic soiree. Well I might be. Just not in an over the top way. It was a little spoilt of me, I reflected, in a time of war to be have my clothing as a chief concern. I shook those thoughts from my head, I wanted to enjoy myself not burden myself. Silly Laura.

***

“All of these things!” I gestured to the contents of the wicket basket I had brought placing it on the mail room sorting table. It was about 7 o’clock and we had arrived at similar times and for once managed for one of us not to sneak up and startle the other.

“So sandwich stuff, without the butter,” she said appraising the food.

“Well… Yeah, pretty much,” I replied a bit put out. “Did you bring any glasses?” I asked looking at the two bottles of wine she proudly placed on the table.

“No.”

“Oh.”

“I’ll cup my hands and you can lap it out like a kitty cat,” she said with a smirk.

“Really?”

“No stupid, we can use mugs from the break room,” she said with a sigh and a roll of her eyes. Yeah that did make sense actually. Knocked a bit off the whole romantic evening together using coffee mugs but I wasn’t particularly fussy. Well that is a lie, but with her I was willing to make so many allowances, I was happy being with her.

“Right so what do we do?”

“Wait.”

“Yeah. I guess. Why did we get here early?”

“I don’t know actually, I’m just doing what I was told by whatsherface. So?”

“So?”

“So get us a couple mugs,” she said shooing me off. “Actually a couple coffees would be great too, so four mugs.”

“Okie dokie.”

***

“When is this stuff coming! I could have slept until six and still been fine,” Carmilla moaned. She had drunk almost half a bottle of wine to herself, I had a cup, a mug full, how classy, but she was really putting it away. I kind of understood, this was tedious, we had filed away the remnants of the post that had arrived for the day we had missed, but it was late and we hadn’t really done much past smoking and drinking.

“When it comes,” I replied flatly.

“Well obviously cutie.”

“You’re drinking pretty quick.”

“I’m building up confidence.”

“For what? Sorting letters?” I asked confused.

“No. Something else.”

“What?!” I asked getting a little panicked. “Something on your mind?” I continued as she just nodded looking up over her mug of wine. “What?!”

“You’re cute when you’re flustered.”

“I’m not flustered,” I replied in a voice that sounded incredibly flustered.

She didn’t reply, just looked up with her mug still glued to her lips, her dark eyes pooling with a smile. She put the mug down and held her hand facing up, it took me a second to realize she wanted me to place my hand in hers. The tingling feeling from her soft palm reached higher than just her touch. It was calming.

“I wanted to talk to you,” she said, looking deep into my eyes, with that hypnotic stare, captivating me into her trance. “I, I… It’s…” She bit down hard on her lip leaving white marks on the pink, plump flesh. “Shit,” she broke her gaze and shook her head, “I’m not good at this!”

“At what?” I asked moving in close and putting my free hand behind her back and ran my thumb in reassuringly circles on the small of her back.

“Being all nice and sweet.”

“Aw!” I got a little excited. “You were going to be sweet and nice with me!”

“Don’t ruin this!”

“Sorry, go on.”

“Nah you ruined the moment,” she said with a small hint of a smile playing in the corner of her lips.

“Come on!” I pushed, getting a little frustrated and pulling her back by her hand as she pulled away.

“Fine,” she breathed out dramatically. “I…” She paused again to bite her lip and looked down at the floor. I moved my hand from her back to under her chin and she moved her head into my palm as I pulled her face up to meet my gaze. “I wanted to tell you… I wanted to say.... Ahhhh!”

“Go on,” I whispered earnestly.

“You make me really happy,” she finally said, looking away unable to meet my eye.

“You make me really happy too!” I chirped, bubbling up with happiness. It wasn’t much. “I think…” She stopped me putting a finger up to my lips.

“Wait, let me finish. It’s difficult for me. To express myself. It’s hard. So once I’ve started. I might as well. Get out what I need to. Instead of repressing it. Then stewing for weeks. Building up confidence to speak up again.” She said in short sharp bursts clearly deliberating about each word, having difficulty deciding to speak each word. “I never really. Look I’ve thought about this a lot. I never thought I would be happy again. Leaving Europe after what happened. I thought that all I would get is a standard life. A life without torment would be enough. And it was. Until you.”

My heart flipped and somersaulted. The bubbling happiness was replaced with a coursing indescribable rush of endorphins. No one had spoken anything like this to me before.

“My life has changed since meeting you. It really has. I have never been this happy. I…”

“What?” I whispered barely audible. She shook her head and looked down. “What? Please?” I repeated in a whisper. She looked up and swallowed hard staring over my shoulder taking small nods.

“Ok. I think…”

There was a loud bang upstairs and we broke apart as we had any time we had been in physical contact in public and someone came into the field of view.

“Fuck sake,” she spat rather angrily turning away from me and kicking the table leg of the sorting table.

I didn’t say anything, letting her stew. Letting her try to unwind from the tight coil she strung herself into.

Moments later an official looking man with a MP tag stitched to his chest knocked on the door which I opened for him, he had a sack of mail over his shoulder.

“Good evening ladies.”

“Evening.”

“Special delivery.”

“Thank you.”

“Have a goodnight,” he tipped his head and left as soon as he had appeared.

“You too.”

“Let’s get to it!” I tried to be upbeat and get Carmilla back from her rage.

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I had been seething with anger all night, not all night since I was trying to get something off my chest and some idiot with the post arrived to break my stream of admissions. I had a huge admission on the tip of my tongue and it was about to topple out and then I was stopped. I was also really angry at myself for choosing a time and a place where I knew such an interruption would occur to speak. It was also freaking me out what I was on the verge of admitting. I had opened the second bottle of wine and had been drinking far too heavily. Drowning my sorrows.

“Almost done!” Laura skipped over to me and nudged me in the ribs playfully. “Come on grumpasaurus rex cheer up.”

I just growled a low growl in the bottom of my throat but she didn’t let up and nudged me again.

“Come on where’s that smile!” She pressed leaning in front of my face and smiling a goofy, wide, toothy smile and I cracked. She was drunk too. She was in her happy, buzzed mood I really enjoyed just watching. Skipping and humming. “Done and done!” She hummed pushing the last couple letters away. “Nothing for me either so no news is good enough. I mean no news is… Wait…” Aw she was all drunk and confused. “It’s good,” she finally decided on with a nod.

All in one ramble she had turned my mood around completely. That was why she was so special. Why I cared so much for her. Why I had confessed most of my inner feelings. Why I was about to confess something big.

“Want to go back my place?” She said raising her eyebrows and wiggling them. I cracked another smile and shook my head. She was even goofy when trying to be seductive. “Or yours? I can probably still drive,” she said looking into her mug.

Something stupid overtook me.

“You know what?”

“What?”

“I don’t want to go either place.”

She looked puzzled for a moment even as I took the mug from her hand and placed it aside. She made an ‘eep,’ noise as I put both her hands around her waist and grabbed her ass, a cheek in each hand and squeezed and pulled her into me capturing her lips our teeth coming close to knocking. I bit on her lip and pulled it back, a little too roughly and she grasped. Before she could complain I was kissing her again and pushing her back to the now empty sorting table. With my hands under her ass cheeks I lifted her up on the table so she was perched on the edge.

“Really?” She managed to get up in a small voice between heavy breaths. “Here?”

“It’s almost 2am, and shut up.”

“Ok!” She nodded as I crouched down and reached up her skirt and started pulling her stockings down, she raised herself up on her hands to give me the angle to pull them down half way up her thighs tearing the netted fabric in my frantic rush. Before she could say anything I had pulled her skirt up and had my head under it. She cried out, her voice reverberating around the small room. I didn’t waste a second to engulf her clit and suck back, pulling my head back with her still in my mouth as far as possible before pressing my face straight back. Licking at the bud and sucking. Alternating as her hand came to rest on the back of my head. Even through the muffle created by the clothing I could hear her noisy moans and gasps.

I reached blind for her legs and pushed them onto my shoulders so she could lie back as far as possible. She crossed her legs behind me locking me under her skirt. I sped up, sucking hard on her clit, as she let go of my head to lean way back and cry out as I felt my face getting wetter than before as she came. I shuffled backwards, ducking my head between the gap between her thighs and her stockings and stood up and grasped her exposed thighs and pushed her back and crawled up over her to meet her mouth kissing her in between her pants trying to regain her composure.

We were way back on the sorting table, a thing that had been a symbol of mundanity was now the most exciting place on Earth for me. The further back we had got on the table the more her stockings had ripped, to shreds, I had my hand back between her legs, sliding my index finger inside her and she gasped into my mouth. I started to begin the motion of sliding in and out. I needed one hand to prop myself up above her, but I didn’t care. She needed one to prop herself up too but her other was fumbling to push her hand in the gap between my black blouse and black skirt, moving past my underwear and even at the terrible angle she managed to slide two fingers into me and it was my turn to moan into her mouth.

We didn’t stop kissing the whole time, except to break to gasp. She finished seconds before me and a second later I did too rocking forward and resting my forehead on hers. Both of us panting before she started giggling and peppering my lips with light, brief kisses. I started laughing to. I was so happy. In bliss.

“I think I love you,” I blurted out. I felt all the blood rush out of my cheeks as I realized I had said the thing I was stopped from saying before, what I thought in an off guard moment earlier while shopping. I couldn’t look at her. I had been overcome by the passion, by the moment. The pure hotness of the situation we were in. Fucking in our workplace drunk after midnight.

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Did she just say that? Did I hear what I wanted to hear because I felt so amazing at the moment. Was I having a post orgasm hallucination? I moved back a little so I could look at her. She was looking away. She did say it! She did!

My heart skipped several beats and pure fire erupted from every pore of my body.

“Hey,” I said, she still wasn’t looking at me, “hey,” she looked up at me then quickly looked away.

I pulled her into a tight embrace, even in the awkward angle and leaned right up to her ear.

“I love you too.”

The air rushed out of the room. The pressure mounted around us, crushing down in the pregnant pause before one of us spoke again. She pulled back making eye contact. She closed her eyes and let out a small breath her shoulders rising and falling as she let out tension and her face broke into the widest smile I had seen her have.

She hopped back off the sorting table and started to fix her clothing and pushed the remains of the wine into my picnic basket and pulled me off the table and wordlessly grasped my hand and moved to the door. I pulled up my ripped up stockings, stumbling, as we left.

“Wait, wait, wait,” I said as she locked up and led me out of the basement and out of the fire door which locked behind us. “Your place or mine?”

“Does it matter?”

“No,” I returned her smile and moved close together to kiss her again. We kissed and paused to giggle and laugh as I ran my hand down the side of her face unable to break away from staring at her. I was seeing her in a different light. She was even more beautiful than before. Even more alluring. I was attracted to even more than before. Saying ‘I love you,’ intensified everything I liked about her. I hadn’t been thinking that but when she said it to me it made something drop like a ten tonne hammer inside my head. The stars aligned and everything made perfect sense to me. I did I loved her. Truly.

***

I had to try real hard not to crash my car on the way back to my house as she kissed my neck and stroked the inside of my thigh as we went, exposed through the tears.

We were kissing and groping at each other again the moment my front door banged closed and I started tearing off her clothes, turnabout is fairplay. I pulled her blouse open, some of the buttons popped off with the force I was taking them off with. She kicked off her heels as I unclipped her bra, she took the lead again from me and unclipped the back of my dress and we tripped back, shuffling towards my bedroom.

By the time we rounded the corner and were there we were both naked, I don’t know how we managed to undress on the move, but it was desperate, us both desperate to touch and feel each other. I didn’t want her to take the lead for once, I wanted to show how much I cared… No loved her too, so I grabbed her hips and turned her around and pushed her back onto my bed. I flickered on the bedside light casting that low orange glow over the room.

I had to pause to drink in her nude form, as she was propped up on her elbows, spread out over my bed. She broke my stare by beckoning me forward.

I crawled over her letting my hair fall over her, blonde mixing in with her raven hair which had pooled over my sheets as I chastely kissed on the lips, then cheek, then jaw, across her jaw from under her ear to under her chin then down her throat to her collarbone. She raked her nails over my back over each side of my ribcage and over the back of my arms. I kissed her breasts, each in turn as I grasped her waist pushing her up towards the pillows as I pushed myself down her body, laying more kisses down her stomach.

I ran the tip nose through her sex to lay a final kiss on her clit as she purred in response.

I pushed my tongue into her folds and ran it through her, holding her inner thigh tight, I could feel her body shiver as I ran my tongue back and forth, lapping at her.

After a moment I shifted my body so I could slid my fingers into her while I also sucked and drew circles with my tongue on her clit clockwise then anticlockwise.

She was thrashing and writhing about, calling my name. I liked it when she used my actual name and it spurred me on and sped up with my mouth and my fingers.

“L-L-L-Laur… Fuck,” she gasped out, squirming one last time before going still and letting out a cute purr. I moved back up her body to kiss her, still able to taste her.

“Hey,” I murmured, her eyes were still closed her head back a bit.

“Hey,” she smiled at me opening her eyes.

“You know what?” I asked.

“What?”

“I love you,” I told her. The words had such power, even a second time, even more a second time, it resonated with the reinforcement. I had no regrets.

“I love you too.”

We kissed softly for an endless amount of time, drowning in each other, our bodies pressed together and our beads of sweat mingling.

Finally I rolled onto my back and started to pull the sheets up but Carmilla snatched at my wrist.

“What do you think you’re doing cutie?”

“Huh?”

“We’re not done yet. Far from it.”

I giggled with the uncontrollable pure joy bursting out of me.

Chapter Text

I wonder what taking drugs is like… I know things like cocaine and heroin had been banned a couple years before I was born. Some time in the 1920s. I didn’t want to try them or anything I just wondered if they made you feel as amazing as I felt since telling Carmilla I loved her too. Every step, every mundane action, I was reminded of how happy I was.

Rapture.

I would burst out laughing just standing in the kitchen making powdered eggs if I hadn’t bitten down on my lip suppressing my smile. What should have been a depressing experience was exciting. My cheekbones were starting to hurt from the constant grin spread from ear to ear. A small chuckle broke free.

“What are you laughing at cutie?” Carmilla came into my kitchen from the bedroom where we had spent the entire night, into the early morning, until the hint of dawn light was peeking through the curtains not sleeping. She was wearing my spare robe, but hadn’t bothered to even do it up. So her bottom was completely naked and it covered her breasts but just looking over my shoulder briefly I could the swell of them where the light silk covered half of each of them. Eep.

“I’m just laughing,” I said turning back to our breakfast as she slid her arms around my waist through the gap of the hem of my robe to touch my bare stomach. I shivered and rocked my shoulders back to lean into her.

“Good mood?”

“Uh-huh,” I nodded eagerly. “You?”

“Of course. I had a great night,” she whispered into my ear. Her hot breath making my shiver intensify. It was past midday, we had slept late. Had I mentioned that? Her hand was snaking down my stomach, curling her fingers as she went, scraping her nails against my skin.

“Carm!” I giggled, “stop!”

“But I don’t wanna!” She sang playfully her fingertips dipping into the band of my underwear which I had to put on to cook. I wasn’t able to be as comfortable as her naked.

“We need to eat!” I said trying and completely failing to be forceful. A small voice in my brain was telling me to leave the pan, let a fire start and go straight back to my bed with her and put out the inferno later.

“Do we?” She whispered in a low sultry voice, brushing, barely touching, the top of me.

“I need to replenish my energy,” I told her, putting my foot down. Taking every part of my fortitude to do so.

“Fair enough,” she laughed, moving back but I trapped her arm with my free hand which was holding the spatula. “What?”

“Hey Carm?” I said turning my head to see her.

“Yeah?”

“Love you!” I squeaked kissing the tip of her nose.

“Love you too.”

My heart skipped and fluttered and somersaulted and everything brilliant that could happen. I smiled at the eggs. I grabbed a couple plates as the bread popped out and placed the egg on top of each slice. It was pleasant bringing breakfast, well lunch, well brunch? A meal. To a table, I never did this for my husband he was usually hungover and wanted to be alone in the morning. Now I really had a loving relationship it was like a proper domestic scene. Except the same gender but hey who cares? Apart from all of society.

“Here you go!” I placed down the plates opposite each other at the two heads of the small kitchen table before quickly fetching a couple cups of coffee placing them down.

“I would say it looks delicious but you know,” she said. I looked up to tell her to be nice but the sight of her sitting there with the open robe made me lose my breath. “You alright there cutie?” She asked innocently while playing with the hem of the robe teasing opening it further but not, stopping short of flashing me. I just nodded and hummed busying myself with eating my egg.

Just eat your powdered egg, drink your coffee I told myself. I just needed to get some energy back. I was in a trance, just blown out from all of our nocturnal activities. I couldn’t really taste the food, nor the coffee.

“You’re happy.”

“Huh?” I looked up from my food again going straight for her eyeline so I didn’t choke on my breakfast.

“You’re smiling like a kid on Christmas morning.”

“Obviously,” I said rolling my eyes at her, she cracked a broad, genuine smile, which I met. We didn’t need to speak the reasons we just shared the moment of glee.

I had somewhat reverted to the housewife role and washing plates and the pan in the sink while she smoked at the breakfast table. I didn’t mind for her though.

“Done and done!” I announced as I put away the dishes and turned to smile at her, my breath hitched again. Would I ever lose the sense of awe I had at just how beautiful she was? I doubted it.

“You’re staring cutie,” she said with a very attractive smirk, standing up, stubbing out her cigarette and walking over to me with her hips swaying, biting her bottom lip and fixing me in place with her dark smoky eyes. I closed my mouth realizing I may have had a slacked jaw. She kept teasing opening up her robe further than the few inch gap already there, revealing her ivory white, muscular stomach. I was rooted to the spot all the time it took for her to reach me, not that it was a long walk but I still was rooted. Hypnotized by her eyes, her movement and her body. I did react on instinct when she reached me as her hands came to my waist mine moved under the hem finally able to push back the clothing she had teased opening all through and before breakfast. Pushing my hands around her bare back. She kissed my neck, sweeping my loose hair back over my shoulder.

“Carm,” I whined as she peppered kisses over my neck and was working the tie from my robe open.

“What?” She asked innocently in between light kisses.

“I need to shower, and let my food, ah,” I stopped as she bit the muscle above my clavicle definitely leaving a mark. “Digest,” I finished. Barely able to hold on to my will.

“Fine,” she sighed letting go of the tie and in motion turning on her heel and strutting back to the table and lighting a second cigarette.

I had to suck it up. I needed to shower as I needed to eat. She would be there afterwards, I couldn’t shirk basic functions and necessities.

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

I really had been worried, wound up tight over saying ‘I love you,’ and she had said it right back and many times over. We had the best sex ever. Better than I could imagine it could ever be. It was like our hearts and bodies and minds synchronized together into perfect harmony together. I couldn’t help but try to be extra seductive in the morning. I had lied and told her we didn’t need to go work last night and admitted today it was a deception to get her to myself for longer and she had just giggled her adorable little laugh and blushed and kissed me. I wasn’t necessarily trying to be seductive because it made her all cute and shy, which I loved, loved I reflected happily on that word, I was just needed to touch her and be as close with her as I could after saying ‘I love you.’

She was right about eating and now washing but I couldn’t help myself.

Actually screw it.

Why not be economical with water?

I stubbed out my cigarette and stood up and walked slowly and carefully towards her bathroom where the sound of running water was emanating from. She wouldn’t have been able to hear me over the jet but I still was stealthy and sneaky. I could see her shadow moving behind the curtain, the perfect shadow outline of her body, I slipped off the borrowed robe I was barely even wearing off and tossed it on top of her discarded robe and underwear and stepped to the back of the bathtub. Up close I could hear her humming happily out of tune, she was so sweet. I slipped in and felt the warm spray of the torrent as I stepped up behind her and grabbed her around the stomach from behind her.

“Eep!” She squeaked, tensing up from shock and calming down and relaxing back into me with the realization immediately. “Caaaarm!”

“What?” I asked her. Playing up the false virtuousness. “We’re at war,” I whispered into her ear, sounding official and sincere, “it’s the patriotic thing to save all resources including water.” I informed her as I used one hand to hold her stomach and keep her in place, so we didn’t slip and you know… Die. The other I raised up her wet body, as I dipped my head over her shoulder to bite her neck and jawline and to wash too… Obviously. I took the soap from her and began to lather up and massage her breasts. She sighed and lay her sopping wet hair back on my shoulder.

“Hold onto the shower thing,” I told her and she complied, so I could free my other hand up. I put the soap up on the little tray and went back to her breasts; caressing, touching and squeezing. My free hand I slid down her stomach and she widened her stance welcoming me. The water had made both of our bodies slick and I slid my index finger inside of her and she gasped in that delightful little voice.

With a crooked hand I got a rhythm going adding my middle finger as she rolled her head into the side of my face, her eyes closed and the warm cascading water splashed her face, her mouth slightly agape, lightly breathing in and little moans and whines coming out. Keeping up the motion I bent my wrist so I could rub her clit with my thumb.

She cried out, her eyes snapping open and jolting forward, holding the pipe next to the shower hose so hard her knuckles turned white.

“Jesus,” she muttered, her body tensing up and relaxing as she finished with a pleasant, contented sigh.

“Holding up alright cutie?”

“Uh-huh,” she nodded weakly as she shuffled around very gingerly so we were face to face our naked, drenched bodies pressing together. We kissed with the droplets of water able to be tasted falling as they were. We broke a short distance apart, resting our foreheads against each other, the top of our heads shielding us from the spray. “You know what?”

“What?”

“Love ya!” She chirped.

“I lo-l… ahhh,” we both jumped as the hot water ran out in a second and we were blasted by icy water.

We got out of the shower, bath tub combination in unison to dodge it. We reunited on the bathroom floor, pressed back together, my hands on her lower back and her ass, her’s resting on my hips as we pressed our foreheads back together and exchanged light kisses in between giggles and laughs.

“That was very selfish of you,” I joked.

“What?!” She asked confused.

“Not inviting me to shower, if I hadn’t taken the initiative there would have been no hot water,” I told her as I squeezed her ass cheek hard, she squealed in response.

“I wouldn’t have taken so long if you didn’t distract me!” She retorted.

“Is that a complaint?”

“What do you think?” She snickered kissing me quickly before pulling back and fetching us each a towel.

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

I think this was the first time I’d gone on the back porch and used the rear garden since I’d moved in. Henry had a barbeque one time and he and his army buddies and work buddies, there was a lot of crossover there, a lot of men joined up together from their place of employment to the same battalion, enjoyed it. Well he had a barbeque and I was on kitchen duty, being a maid bringing beer bottle after beer bottle and cleaning up the empties and washing the grill once they were done. He ignored me until the last man left and then used me in his bed, when I still considered it his, then he slept, drunkenly and I went back to cleaning up the mess from his fun with the animal snore providing my background music.

Now it was a happier time, using the the decking. Rationing meant we could hardly have burgers and steaks sizzling on it… Or even charcoal. Alcohol wasn’t though and neither were cigarettes, and it was a sunny day and Carmilla and I could use the outside table and enjoy the sun. I enjoyed the sun. She positioned her chair in the sliver of shade available.

“You really should get wine glasses cutie.”

“Just be happy.”

“Never.”

I laughed and kicked her leg with the point of my toe sipping white wine from a fruit juice glass.

“Do you have any red wine?”

“I prefer white.”

“Of course you do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“Nothing I’m just being critical.”

“How can I stop you being critical for just a few minutes?”

“Fuck it out of me?” She said matter of factly. I spluttered the mouthful of wine out in shock. “Told you white wine was no good, you can’t even keep it down.”

I didn’t reply with words just made an attempt word sounding noises.

“Aww.”

“Don’t aww me!”

“But you’re so awwable, with your shy, prudishness.”

“I don’t think awwable is a word,” I mumbled kicking absent mindedly at the pebbles on the decking.

“What’s the matter? It’s just you and me here.”

“It’s just. You know?”

“I don’t, hence why I’m asking,” she told me in a very condescending tone. She knew I knew she knew and that she knew that I knew that she knew.

“It’s rude,” I finally said, instantly hating myself for saying something so childish.

“Rude?! Oh my god,” she burst out laughing maniacally. “I, I, I,” She tried to start but kept breaking out into further laughter, “I… I’m speechless. It’s… It’s just…” she paused, “awwable,” she concluded.

“I’m not comfortable with that sort of talk,” I admitted, again becoming embarrassed at my own childishness.

“Yet you’re comfortable with saying ‘I love you,’ to another woman?”

“That’s sweet!”

“It is, ok fine. Then how about the fact you’re comfortable with putting your fin…”

“Stop, stop, stop,” I pre-emptively interrupted.

“Or having me put…”

“La, la, la, la,” I sang putting my fingers in my ears and closing my eyes. I only stopped when she must have stood up and come over and pulled my hands down by the wrist and kissed me softly.

“Relax, I’m only playing with you.”

“I know.”

“You don’t know how adorable you become when you’re being bashful.”

“Humph!”

“Awwable,” she said again with a decisive nod walking inside to fetch something.

***

All of Friday we had spent together and on Saturday morning she went home to change and grab some clothes for Monday morning and work. It was my idea for her to stay all weekend. I didn’t want to spend time apart when there was no need. We have no obligations so why not spend it together, especially after saying those all important, profound words to each other. I gave her a lift back to her apartment but she insisted she would take the bus back and for me to calm down and not be so highly strung. It took every inch of my willpower not to kiss her goodbye, but even if it would have been fine and no one would have seen, but with all the worry that temporarily destroyed my psyche from the scare at the bar with Perry and Lafontaine, the risk wasn’t worth it.

I missed her already. It had been about an hour and I had changed the sheets, for obvious reasons, smoothing out fresh, clean sheets with the intention of re-dirtying them the moment she got back.

My mind drifted back to my husband. With the complete detached, emotionless eyes I now thought of him with. The disdain had gone. The guilt at the absence of guilt had gone. The dislike at his ‘obligation,’ in the letter had gone. He had all but gone.

I smiled to myself.

I had finally said ‘I love you,’ and meant it. Sure I had said it to Henry when he was leaving and said it on reaction. ‘Love you too! Have a good day!’ Eugh. Self-disgust at that. I had said to my parents that I loved them but that was different. It was parental love.

I was surprised she had been the one who had said it. I would never have had the nerve. I hadn’t really thought about it. I had just been happy being here. It was new and right and what my life had missed. A hole in my life I had never really known what it was or if it was even truly there until she fitted into the gap and made me a whole person. We moved fast, real fast, it had felt right and perfect every single step of the way. We had moved at lightening pace.

Happy Laura is happy!

Cigarette in hand I was just sitting on my couch waiting for her to return. I was itchy, needing her back in my arms, not even that, just in my presence.

***

She was sleeping peacefully, Saturday afternoon and most of the evening and night had been spent between the sheets, entangled in each other’s body. Just mounting pleasure, rising and rising never hitting a plateau never petering out never leveling out just a perpetual crescendo. I was sleepy too, but I needed to just look at her sleeping. Drinking in her features and beauty. She might have been the most attractive person, of either sex, I’d ever seen. Maybe I had rose tinted glasses on, but even so I didn’t think so, every part of her was impeccable. I was extremely satisfied and comforted by her and lay my head on her chest to pass out myself.

Even in her sleep she mumbled something, a low indistinguishable jumble of noises and wrapped her arm around me and squeezed me reassuringly, helping lull me off into deep, sweet dreams once more.

I was broken from my deep syrupy tapestry of dreams by an annoying rapping noise. I blinked my eyes open. Carmilla was still snoozing, making small purring noises. It was the door. Eugh. It was Sunday who could that be?

I blinked a few times and glanced at my clock next to the bed. Almost midday. Oh no. Dammit.

I rolled out of the bed and pulled on my robe, which was the only item of clothing I had bothered with for three days. Apart from when I drove Carmilla home but I couldn’t get out of the dress soon enough.

I looked in the mirror and straightened out my hair and got rid of my bed hair. I had a very obvious hickey on my neck and collarbone and I pulled my hair over my shoulders at the front so it fell down my front to hide them.

I walked to the door. The knocking hadn’t stopped. It was rude. A rude knock. Entitled if a knock could be so.

“Hello,” I said opening the door to reveal exactly who I suspected. A very grumpy looking Judy, who had somehow managed to fold her arms disapprovingly from knocking in one swift motion.

“Sleeping late?!”

“Huh?”

“Sleeping late is the reason you missed our Sunday morning coffee morning?!” She asked sounding very offended and indignant.

“Pretty much,” I said flatly. Knowing Carmilla was in my bed and in my vicinity I didn’t feel isolated and weak as I had before in my interactions with her. I was happy and stronger with her and didn’t need to have this perfect weekend sullied by an unnecessary bitch intruding into it.

She scowled. Disarmed completely by my honesty and bluntness.

“That’s very disappointing, and very poor behavior.”

“Is it?” I replied sighing and looking past her into the avenue, grinding my teeth then sighing again. Letting her know in all but plain English that I didn’t care. That I wasn’t going to let her bully me. My joy was a bubble and the film which coated it didn’t need any Judy shaped needles puncturing it and letting out some of my glee.

“Why are you like this?! Is it jealousy?”

“Ha!” I barked an actual laugh out, something I never would have believed this vile woman could elicit from me. “Why the hell would it be that?”

“My husband is an officer and yours is just a private!” She spat.

“My self-worth is my own not tied to someone else.”

She just stared right into me, it was hard to return that stare of pure hatred but I was determined to and did, locking my jaw and gritting my teeth. There was a horrible twitch of pure fury above her eye and without any more words turned on her heel and stalked off.

“Don’t walk on my lawn,” I called after her. I didn’t mean to it just came over me that I had to twist the knife and get one back over her. Oh I felt good as she readjusted her route to that of the path. Finally. Finally I got back at her for being rude and nasty and… Just yuck. In my case it was justified for all the rudeness that came my way. It was time to fire a warning shot back across her bow.

I shut the door and jumped up and down on my heels a bit, really pleased with myself. I listened for a moment to make sure Carmilla wasn't up. When I was sure I jumped in the air and punched upwards. Winner!

I skipped forward, rocking back every other step humming.

I got a quick glass of water, downed it and went back to bed. I slid under the covers.

“Hmm,” she uttered, “sleep.” Before tightening her grip on the sheets and repositioning herself to hug me tight.

***

Walking into work on Monday morning was like a different world. Our beautiful weekend romance closed behind my door had evaporated on contact with a town populated with others. Other people's eyes. We were still together. Still in love. Still having experienced all of our time together but the physicality and openness had become locked away, hidden deep down away from prying eyes. We walked separately, next to each other but not really next to each other. Perry came over the plaza to join our journey to the town hall.

“Hey guys.”

“Hey Perry,” I replied being friendly. Carmilla just grunted in acknowledgement.

“Were you in on Friday?”

“No took it off. We were in super late Thursday,” I explained. Wondering if I was in trouble. I had very easily agreed with Carm we should have the day off. Any excuse to spend alone time with her.

“Ok, yeah, Laf mentioned something about that.”

“How did she know?”

“I met her in the grocery store,” Carmilla piped up. Oh I didn’t know that.

“Ok. Well I ran into Danny yesterday,” Perry continued on to. Oh the Friday question was just to bridge the gap to what she actually wanted to talk about. Phew.

“How is she?”

“Ok. Yeah, a bit off. She really wanted to talk to you.”

“Me?”

“Yeah. Just a head’s up. See you around.”

“Yeah see you.”

“Bye.”

We didn’t speak until we were down in the crypt, sitting on the table which we defiled the last time we were there.

“What do you think that giant wants?” Carmillas asked hopping up to sit. “Grind your bones to make her bread?”

“Probably not.”

“Probably but it is more of a delicacy with all the rationing.”

I laughed at that.

“I have no idea. I’ve realized recently that every time there is any uncertainty and I panic myself and it usually turns out to be nothing.”

“Smart girl, understanding bathos.”

“I’m learning!” I declared pointing a finger to the sky to emphasize that point.

“You haven’t learnt to get us coffee first thing…”

I grumbled and walked off.

***

I had forgotten Danny, during the day. I had ached. Ached all day. Just a deep ache inside. An ache coming from a deep longing to be more intimate than the circumstance permitted. But that was forgotten as the tall redhead was there by my car in the parking lot on the way home. Carmilla had gone off to the bus. We decided one night apart was needed. So she could change and shower alone and keep some space. I almost freaked out about the phrase ‘needing some space,’ but I really trusted her and if she needed time alone I understood that.

“Hi Danny,” I greeted her, a little tentatively. Unsure of what she wanted.

“Hi. Can we talk?”

My heart sunk a little, what the hell was this about?!

“Ok.”

“Somewhere private?”

“Like?”

“Can we drive around the block or something?”

“I guess.”

I was nervous all of a sudden. Perhaps I was too quick to think that everything would be anti-climatic. I opened my car and got in and leaned over to open the passenger side. She got in ducking her head. I started it up and reversed out of the lot and started driving to nowhere in particular.

“So what’s this about?”

“I need a favor.”

“Right.”

“Ok. So you did that shipment of post from the army right?”

“Yeah…”

“Did you get a letter?”

“No…”

“I guess you wouldn’t care anyway…”

What?! I glanced over at her but she was staring ahead with a death stare. I was tempted to ask what that meant but I did not want an answer.

“Anyway,” she picked up and carried on, “I did get one.”

“Is Kirsch alright?” I asked, concerned. I really liked him. He was such a genuine and nice man.

“Yes. Yes and no. He’s alive. The letter was vague. I guess certain deployments can’t be discussed with civilians…” Her voice was on the verge of cracking. “He was injured. I know a few other women were told something similar or worse… A lot worse.”

I knew what that meant. The deaths would come sooner or later. Or both.

“Well that’s good all things considered,” I said weakly. Not really sure how to approach this.

“I suppose,” she conceded. “I need a favor as I said. I need you to take any letters addressed to me and take them aside and give them to me instead of posting them. So I have them when they arrive. I can’t bear waiting.”

“Danny, look, I wish I could, I’ve been asked before but I can’t. I have to follow protocol.”

“Laura please. I don’t want to be nasty but I… Look trust me it’d be in both of our best interests for you to do this.”

“I can’t.”

“I was going ask before you know?” She asked after a long, pregnant pause.

“Yeah Friday, Perry told me.”

“Twice on Friday.”

“I wasn’t in.”

“Not in the day no… I was working really later that night too. I was one of the two night time operators.”

“So…” My heart was pounding so loudly I could feel the pulse of my blood in my earlobes.

“So… I came to see if you have received a letter for me before I went home… But you didn’t look like you wanted to be disturbed when I poked my head around the door.”

The pulse of the blood turned to ice in my veins and screamed. I pulled over and parked up on the side of the road. I was trembling and in a full fledged frenzied horror. My hands were in a death grip on the wheel and I was staring forward petrified. After what seemed like an age she touched my arm and I jolted in shock.

“Laura. Look at me.”

I couldn’t.

“Laura, it’s fine I won’t say anything, and I wouldn’t…” she sighed deeply. “Let me ask you a question?”

“Ok.”

“Do you love her?”

“Yes,” I breathed out, barely audible.

“Well I love Kirsch and I wouldn’t blackmail you or anything, well I am, but I am for him, I need to know, I need to know every step of the way. Please just do this for me.”

“Fine,” I nodded. Still unable to look at her.

“Thanks Laura. Thank you.” She hugged my stiff rigid, unreceptive body. “I won’t tell anyone I promise. I can walk back to my car from here.”

I barely registered her getting out of the car until the door slammed and I jumped back to reality.

That wasn’t what I expected. Why couldn’t anything be easy? Still could have been worse I suppose.

Chapter Text

My apartment seemed lonely. I hadn’t really felt that before. It was my sanctuary, a place for reflection and solitude to hide away from everyone who annoyed the hell out of me, in the pleasure of my own company. I had thought that I wanted some time alone today, I always had needed a stretch of time alone after doing anything social but something had changed, changed drastically. I was on edge, and felt wrong being alone now. The weekend had been more than I could have hoped it could be, it was beyond hope. Now I missed Laura after a couple hours, even less than that.

I shoved my clothes I’d been wearing since Saturday into the laundry sack. I could tidy… I laughed out loud. It was always funny. I could clean up. A great joke.

When my buzzer went off from the front door I had a heart attack. Who could it be? I doubted it would be Laura, though without either of us owning a phone who knew.

I granted access to whoever it was and waited. When it turned out to be Laura I felt relieved at first then worry as I saw the look on her pale face. The tension in her muscles was clear.

“What’s wrong?”

“Can I come in?” she asked in a small voice, not looking up from the floor.

“Of course.” I moved aside to let her pass and closed the door behind her and locked the deadbolt. She shuffled in and stood in the small area between the bedroom, lounge and kitchen that technically counted as my entrance hall. All half a square metre of it. Trembling and stiff at the same time. I took her hand and unclenched her fingers and held it leading her to my bed and sitting her on the edge, taking a seat next to her and holding her hand in my lap.

“What’s the matter?”

I was on the verge of panicking too. What could have caused this reaction.

“Danny,” she squeaked out sounding like she was about to cry.

“What about her?”

“Sh-sh-she…” She was hyperventilating.

“Deep breaths cutie, deep breaths,” I comforted her, running my thumb up and down the back of her hand.

She paused and breathed in and out several times, the breaths going from ragged to normal soon enough.

“Ok?”

“Yeah ok,” she nodded along.

“So Danny…” I prompted. “Perry mentioned she wanted you.”

“Yeah well she did. She was waiting for me by my car when we left.”

“And here I was thinking you couldn’t bare to be away from me for even a hour!” I attempted levity.

“True but this is serious!”

“Sorry, I was just trying to calm you down, I don’t like seeing you all worked up and unhappy.”

“Well she was by my car and she wanted a favor, she was one of the women who got a letter from that army cache. She found out her husband, Kirsch, nice guy, was injured or wounded, she didn’t specify. But she asked me to take her letters, letters meant for her, anything for her, and put it aside… I told her I can’t,” she rambled off, her breathing increasing and voice cracking. “When I told her I can’t. That I can’t do that. That I already told someone else that I can’t. She told me that I had to otherwise… She would tell… She would tell people.”

“Tell people what?” I whispered.

“About us!” She said, getting louder with clear frustration breaking free.

“Us? You mean…” I trailed off letting the silence speak what we both knew it meant.

“Yeah…” She finished her shoulders heaving, and she coughed. “Do you have any cigarettes? I left mine in my car.”

I got up and fetched my silver case and fetched two and a book of matches.

“How did she know?! Did Perry and Lafontaine say something?” I asked. A little annoyed as well as concerned. Lafontaine came and personally told me that it was fine and there was nothing to worry about on that front.

“She was working late on Thursday night… And she…” Laura paused to strike the match and inhale a lungful of smoke, letting out in a rough, uneven series. “She saw us.”

“Doing what?”

“I don’t know.”

“Laura! Focus! Doing what?”

“She didn’t say. She just said she didn’t care that, wouldn’t tell anyone as long as I got the letters for her.”

“Jesus fuck.”

Sitting in silence for a moment I processed what she had told me. Ok, that’s not so bad. It is. Just not the worst.

“If she doesn’t care,” I began slowly. “Then why would she use it over your head?”

“To get the letters…”

“Yeah ok. Ok right. Right. What happens when she doesn’t need the letters put aside anymore?”

“I don’t know.”

“No. I suppose not. I need to speak to her.”

“Don’t.”

“Why?”

“Not alone. We need to talk to her.”

“Ok.”

“It isn’t the worst thing that could happen…”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “We’re safe for the immediate future.”

She rested her head on my shoulder and I threw my arm around her and squeezed her tight.

***

“Hey you!” I called out as I stalked into work and saw the towering redhead. She turned on her heel to see who I was calling out for. I wasn’t expecting the look she gave me. It was a pained, embarrassed look, rather the brazen one I thought she was going to have.

“Hi it’s Carmilla right?”

“Yes.” Oh, right we had barely spoken ever. “Laura and I want to talk to you.”

“Ok not here. Not now,” she said hurriedly, scanning around, checking for danger. It was disarming. I had prepared myself all Monday night for some terrible confrontation while consoling Laura.

“No. Not here. But we need to talk.”

“Don’t be so angry,” she pleaded.

“Why shouldn’t I?! You threaten to blackmail me and my…” I stopped, I had let my anger overtake my senses.

“Your girlfriend,” she whispered, finishing my thought.

“If you like. Later! After work today,” I demanded taking back the power of the situation.

“Ok. Sure. You know Charlie’s bar?”

“Yeah. Why not the coffee place? It’s closer.”

“It doesn’t serve alcohol.”

“Fine. Meet us there.”

“Ok…” she turned and walked up towards the steps into the town hall. “I’m sorry you know,” she added before rushing off before I could add anything else.

I kicked a rock hard watching it skip off. Fuck sake.

I took a detour around the side of the building so I could avoid everyone and entered the crypt. Laura was already there, I had to pause to smile when I saw she had already brought two cups of coffee in.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” I returned with a small sad smile. “So I spoke to Danny and…”

“What?! I thought you promised you’d wait until we could…”

“Hold up!” I interrupted, “hold on. I didn’t have ‘the talk,’ with her, I told I we wanted to speak to her,” she relaxed a bit at that information. “Just we both wanted to speak and as soon as possible. So tonight we’re meeting her at Charlie’s bar.”

“Why not the cafe?”

“They don’t serve alcohol.”

“Good point.”

“Also, a lot of people from this shit hole go into that place, we don’t need an audience. Don’t need this spreading any further. It’s two people now it’s three, then down the line the villagers are hunting us to the windmill with pitchforks and torches.”

“What?”

“Nevermind, it’ll get worse is my basic point.”

“We’ll have to see.”

“We will.”

***

It was a weird day. Really weird. I didn’t understand how time could pass both slowly and quickly at the same time. Quickly because I didn’t really want to confront Danny and when a deadline is approaching time moves quicker towards the dread goal. Also slowly because I was worried. Yet again. Another period of worry and doubt, one which, again, was shared so made us both quiet and unable to distract the other.

The bright sunny evening contrasting terribly with the mood I was in as we walked the couple blocks to the bar didn’t help my mood and anxiety.

The giant wasn’t there. Even with her massive strides she couldn’t beat us? Was she even going to show up?

“Take a seat I’ll get us something to drink,” Laura offered kindly. “Whatchya want?”

“Vodka tonic.”

“I think I’ll try that too.”

“Get it with lemonade. Trust me, you’ll need the sugary boost so it doesn’t sting your child’s palate.”

“Really now? Even now?”

“Even now,” I replied with a smirk and a wink.

She took my advice and got herself a lemonade instead of tonic. I needed something stronger than wine. My stomach had been churning from concern and uncertainty all day so I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so I had to pace myself but first I wouldn’t to dull the edge.

“Nervous?” She asked.

“Yeah a little I suppose.”

“Please don’t I need you to be my rock here.”

“I will,” I said exchanging a meaningful look with her.

Danny arrived after about a quarter of an hour. A long quarter, we had little say. Needing to get this out of the way, so the time dragged. She said hello, asked what we were drinking and fetched a fresh round. I got up and moved across the booth to slid in next to Laura so we could be a team against her.

“So…” Danny started awkwardly after taking a mammoth swig of the whisky she got for herself.

I lit up a cigarette, waiting for her continue but she didn’t.

“So?” I asked disdainfully.

“So you wanted to talk?” She said, with a bit of an attitude.

“Fine, you think it’s acceptable to blackmail Laura here?”

“No I don’t.”

Oh I wasn’t expecting that.

“Well.. Right… Then why are you doing it?”

“I need those letters…”

“So badly you’ll use blackmail on a friend?” I asked. Now curious more than angry.

“I didn’t want to… I don’t care… I really don’t…” She said as she cradled her tumbler of alcohol in both hands staring deep into it as if searching for something in the dark, amber liquid. She looked tormented. I would have felt bad for her if the situation was any different. And if I had the capacity to feel bad for other people who weren’t the tiny blonde sitting reticently next to me.

“Yet…”

“Did Laura tell you about our full conversation?”

“When you jumped her and menaced her?”

“Yes… If you like… Well did she tell you everything we spoke about?”

“Not a play by play, I don’t think she was really in the mood to take minutes,” I sneered.

“I asked a question. Did she tell you what it was?”

“Nothing springs to mind.”

“I asked her if she loved you…”

“Oh…”

“I said I did,” Laura finally piped up joining the conversation. Not a conversation more of a confrontation at this point.

“Yeah she said she did,” Danny went on, “I guess you feel the same way. Anyway, I told her I love my husband, I really do, more than you can imagine, well,” she glanced up at us both in turn briefly before taking another hefty swig, polishing off the glass, and fixing her gaze on it once more. “Maybe you can maybe you can’t. That isn’t my place. I would do anything to know he’s safe. I’m hopeless and lost without him and if I can get any small thing to ease the process then I’ll do anything to do it, even if it is dirty and underhanded. Even if it is shitty and nasty makes me feel terrible I’ll do it for him. I know you don’t care about your husband Laura but trust me I do about mine!”

“Twist the knife with a dig at the end?” I asked bitterly, my temper flaring.

“It’s true,” Laura said flatly. “I don’t.”

“Ok,” I took control again, “so we’ll give you the fucking letters addressed to you.”

“Thank you. Thank you honestly I appreciate it… Let me get us all more drinks, it’ll make this easier.”

She got up and walked off to the bar.

“I see her point,” I mumbled in a low voice. Hating to admit that.

“Me too.”

“Still don’t like it.”

“Me neither… Quick question are you drunk? I didn’t eat lunch.”

“Yeah I am.”

We both shared a small chuckle, breaking the tension momentarily.

“Here…” She slung the drinks out.

We mumbled our thanks.

“I need to ask a question,” I started, “oh thanks,” I said as I took the offered cigarette, as did Laura and we broke the conversation to light them all up passing the lighter in turn.

“Question?”

“Yeah. What did you see exactly?”

I wanted to know the extent of it. I think I knew without her replying. She developed a pinkish hue.

“Erm… Something I shouldn’t have.”

“Us kissing?” I pressed overcoming the social restriction I normally placed myself under every second of the day I wasn’t behind the safety of a locked door which I had locked.

“Yeah…” She said slowly.

“More than that?” I pressed.

“More than that… I was surprised you didn’t hear me open the door and peek in but you were both distracted…”

“Oh god,” Laura moaned out putting her head in her hands.

“Plus you probably couldn’t hear me ove…”

“Ok we get it!” Laura cried out slapping her hand into the table.

I had to laugh. Now the danger was somewhat clear and the tension diffused.

“To be honest Laur,” Danny was perking up now, having sunk another half a double… A single I guess that would be. “I didn’t expect that of you.”

“Please no…”

“She’s all shy,” I explained.

“Oh really?”

“Yeah I coined the word ‘awwable.’”

“Awwable eh? That fits perfectly.”

“How did this happen?! How has this turned on me?!” Laura asked, consternated. “It isn’t fair.”

“Like I said,” I spoke to Danny directly looking her with a smirk, “awwable.”

“Awwable,” she nodded with agreement as Laura huffed with indignation.

***

The night had turned out pretty well. Considering I was expecting my life to implode and may have already planned on where I would hide Danny Lawrence’s massive frame when I had to kill her and chop her up. I would need several body bags… Not that it had worked out that way.

“So we good?” Danny asked as we stood on the street outside.

“Yeah I guess.”

“Instead of blackmail think of it as favor for a favor.”

“Yeah I guess. So what happens when your husband is safely back and you don’t need a favor from us anymore?”

“We live our lives… I won’t tell anyone.”

“Good. I’ll have to trust you I guess.”

“I guess so. You coming back to the town hall?”

“No I live walking distance.”

“Ok, well I’m going to try to drive, you coming Laura?”

“Erm…” The tiny blonde looked at me and motioned with her eyes down the street in the direction my place was.

“Want to walk me home cutie?”

“Cutie? Aw.”

“Don’t aw me Paulina Bunyan.”

Laura just nodded, going a little red.

“Alright. Well I’m glad we sorted this out. I had fun tonight,” Danny said moving to leave.

“It was alright,” I replied dryly.

“I’m guessing that’s best I can get from you.”

“Trust me,” Laura told her as she walked over to stand next to, very lightly brushing against my shoulder, I didn’t miss Danny’s eyes flitting down to catch that contact. “In her language that means she had an amazing time.”

“Good to know. Night girls, have fun.”

“Night Danny,” Laura chirped out happily. She was hammered. It was delightful to see. She had clearly been worried and wound up until the problem, the dispute was resolved and once the peace negotiation had been settled she let the alcohol take over and her sunny disposition to take over.

We walked away and I waited until we were definitely out of earshot.

“Went ok.”

“Yeah, I did it again you know?” She said as she started her drunken skip, rocking forward and pausing to look down at her foot, before looking back up at me grinning and back to her skip. “I thought worst case and then panicked myself.”

“She did say she told you she wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“Well yeah she did, but still… It could have been terrible.”

“Life ruining,” I agreed. “I mean ideally it would have been kept just between us. We just have to keep it under wraps as much as possible. Rather putting out fire after fire stopping it spreading slowly we just have to keep it smoldering as is it.”

“You lost me.”

“It’s not good anyone knows, but since they do let’s try our hardest to stop more people knowing,” I drawled condescendingly.

“I get it!”

We decided on the remainder of the walk that we shouldn’t worry but just be more careful and then joking plans on how we would murder Danny if it came to that and if Perry and Lafontaine actually knew or we just thought the worst. Of course they did. It was obvious, but it was nice to pretend things were better.

The moment we closed my front door behind us she jumped me. Pressing me back up against the wood, kissing me so fiercely some of my hair was trapped between our lips. I laughed as she gently pulled the strands away, her hands tight to my waist, digging her nails into my skin through my top.

“Eager?” I joked right before she reengaged my lips.

“Uh-huh,” she mumbled into my mouth and she began fumbling with the buttons on my skirt, “if we’re.. Going… To get… Caught… And...Arrested… Might… As… Well make… The most of our freedom,” she said brokenly in between kisses.

“Yeah ‘cause female prisons are…” I started to mock her but stopped to shudder out a heavy breath as she got her hand down into my skirt and past my underwear and gliding a finger inside me. Her body weight leaned into me and kept me pressed against the door as she bit and nibbled and sucked at my neck and any exposed flesh she could get at.

I banged the back of my skull against the door, trying my hardest not to make too much noise to bother my neighbors. She had one hand pressed into my collarbone holding me firmly in place as her other hand worked back and forth. I couldn’t see anything in the pitchblack of my flat, it added to the experience, the alcohol, the surprise and most importantly her taking complete control. I really liked that.

I couldn’t help it, despite my best efforts moans and gasps started escaping me. She pressed her hand over my mouth to stop the noises break free. I leaned my head back hand knocking it on the door as the frame creaked with the rocking of my shoulders.

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

I had to rest her pillow over my face to muffle the screams I was emitting as she had her head nestled between my thighs, her tongue running through me, over me and in me. My hands were tight on her sheets bunching them up under my nails as I clenched down hard. She sped up for a while bringing me close to the point of climax, then slowing all of a sudden the tension and heat in my body boiling to almost to a finale before the heat simmered and spread to each extremity and the ball of tension tightened again.

“Carm,” I mumbled over and over in between just noises of pleasure, uncontrollable and unintelligible.

It felt like a paradox. I finished in what felt like a moment, a moment of pure gratification which rushed over me like a fire burning through my veins followed immediately by a cool relaxing wave following the course taken by the burning, leaving in me in a borderline coma of sweet contentment. While it came all at once it also built perfectly in surges, swells and streams like waves crashing into the beach until I was overcame by the tide.

I was out of it, barely recognizing the outside world, lying in the dark, drunk, happy and trying to focus on reality again. The flash of the match from Carmilla lighting a cigarette and the plume of white smoke highlighted for only a moment in the residue of the phosphorescence brought me closer to the real world.

“Want a cigarette?”

“I want you,” I replied absentmindedly and dreamily, rolling my head side to side still in a daze.

“Aww.”

“I’m being awwable,” I mumbled, I reached up grabbed her wrist and pulled it down to my mouth to take a drag from her cigarette.

“Stealing isn’t awwable. I offered you one of your own, remember that? Way back fifteen seconds ago.”

“I didn’t want one of my own,” I clarified, trying to mimic her sarcastic, smug tone. I reached up and took her hand and another smoke. “The secret ingredient is crime!”

“You’re in a good mood,” she laughed in the darkness. As she stubbed out the cigarette and crawled up the bed over to my side pushing me onto my side and wrapping her arms around me.

“I am. If things turn out badly tomorrow why not enjoy tonight?”

“Things will be fine tomorrow.”

“I know. Especially with you, they’ll be better than fine,” I said smiling as I entwined my arm with hers and held her tight pressing my body back into hers as fit perfectly together like pieces of a puzzle.

***

My head hurt in the morning when the bell on Carmilla’s alarm clock went off. I think I’ll tell her that.

“My head hurts.”

“Nurrghhh,” she grumbled.

“Can I use your shower?”

“Shower? We have to be at work in like 30 minutes,” her voice was alluringly husky first thing in the morning.

“What!” I hopped out of her bed in a hurry and started pulling on my discarded clothes. It was interesting to see where everything ended up in the dark passion of the previous evening. Strewn everywhere. I wondered how my bra managed to get over on to her kitchen counter top. Things were a little fuzzy and not yet coming into focus fast enough. “Why did you set your alarm so late?”

“I like to sleep,” she yawned, as she got dressed lazily kicking away the ones she wore the night before. “You know, you could leave a few clean things here if you like?”

Wow. That was a really nice offer.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I rattled off enthusiastically. “You can do the same!”

“Sure thing cutie. It isn’t that fun is it? Wearing the clothes from the night before.”

“Not really, but it’s worth it.”

We shared a smile across her box apartment before getting back to changing.

“I think I left my bag in the bar!” I exclaimed startled.

“It’s right there.”

“Oh ok. Phew.”

This was really nice, getting really for work together.

I went to wash my face and splash cold water into my eyes to perk myself up a bit and came back to see pushing cigarettes from a soft pack into her silver cigarette case.

“That is a nice case,” I told her. I had never commented on it before. Though I’d never considered the mechanics behind it, I just presumed it was magic and refilled itself.

“It was my father’s,” she said somberly her voice going dark along with her eyes. “I’ll tell you about him some day… Maybe.”

“In your own time.”

***

The bus scared me. Not the bus itself just the ideas of pressing the button for your own stop. I would be too embarrassed to cause a scene. How silly. I wasn’t alone though so I had no need to worry about it.

“What the hell is happening?” Carmilla asked as we hopped off. It wasn’t directed at me. It wasn’t directed at anyone.

The scene unfolding around the town hall plaza was different from every other day. It appeared that all the employees from the place were gathered outside in groups, deep in conversation.

We walked gently forward, it felt like we were trespassing on someone else’s event.

I scanned the groups for someone I recognized.

Danny was easy to spot, standing a bit taller than anyone else. I lead Carmilla over to her. She was with Perry and some other people I didn’t know.

“Laura come over here!” Danny motioned with her hand waving us over.

“What’s happening?” I asked confused.

“This,” she roughly shoved the thin newspaper she was holding into my hands.

I scanned it.

American, British and Canadian troops land in Normandy, France and take the beaches from the Nazis.

“Holy shit!” Carmilla blurted out reading over my shoulder.

“That must be how Kirsch got injured,” some woman I didn’t know said. I noticed the pained grimace on Danny’s face.

“Must be.”

“This is big,” Perry said.

“It is,” Carmilla piped up. “I hope they kill every last fucking one of them,” true fury and hate twisting in her voice.

“Your husband must be fine though if you haven’t heard anything,” the nameless, same woman told me.

“I guess so,” I mumbled disinterestedly.

Soon Peggy Smith came out to get people to funnel into the building and start the day, assuring us there would be plenty of time to discuss this later.

I could sense some grim inner determination coming from Carmilla as we descended into the crypt. We would need to speak about this more later after things quietened down.

Chapter Text

Carmilla was just staring at her silver cigarette case, running a finger over it thoughtfully. The news of the Allied invasion had thrown her into deep thought. She clearly was pleased about it.

I hadn’t thought too much about the war really. It seemed so far away. It was. It was an ocean and continent away. I knew England was getting bombed to bits every night and Europe was torn to shreds by either war or occupation. I had pretty much been unaffected, apart from some limited dining options and a sharp decrease in the male population. She had seen it first hand. I didn’t know to what extent, it was up to her to tell me. She had been really supportive of me when I needed her so I would be in turn.

“You know…” She started to speak, breaking the long silence we had shared during her period of introflection. I steeled myself for the upcoming emotional conversation. “I don’t know why…” Ok here it comes. “You always need to be prompted to get us coffee.”

“What? Oh, right, sure thing…” I had been taken out of my pace by that. “I will go straight away! Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?” I asked very tentatively halting on the threshold of the mailroom door.

“Not until I have some coffee.”

I resisted the urge to huff.

I fetched us a couple cups of coffee.

She didn’t thank me but I didn’t complain as she took the mug and cradled it while staring into the drink deep in thought once more. I wanted to nudge her into speaking but… Actually if we were together she should be able to confide in me. I was able to confide in her, I wanted her to know I would be there for her.

“Anything?”

“Huh?” She looked up a little puzzled, she came out of a trance.

“Want to talk about anything?”

“Not really…”

“Come on!” I whined, “talk to me,” I shuffled over to her and took her hand and squeezed it before taking it away, didn’t want to be caught being close and sweet AGAIN. “Trust me.”

“It’s nothing… Well it is something. I do trust you, you know?” She told me with all sincerity. “It’s just… I’m not having some emotional epiphany or anything.”

“So… What is it?” I asked way too energetically for the tone of the conversation.

“I want every single man wearing Nazi uniform to die,” she spat. “But… But…” she took a deep, steadying breath, “what happens then?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, your husband will return… Then what?”

Oh that… My heart sunk. I hadn’t really thought about it. It was best not to think about, it ruined our perfect time to even consider.

“I don’t know…” I offered up. It wasn’t a good answer but I didn’t have another one.

“We’re living on borrowed time…” She looked like she was on the verge of tears. I had never seen her like this. She was always so strong and collected and together. “He comes back and the men come back and I lose my job and have to do something to survive… Then what we sneak around until you have a child and I fade into the background and then disappear completely!” A solitary tear ran down her cheek. It broke my heart.

“That won’t happen,” I said. I meant it. Determined. My will strengthing.

“Yes it will. What else could happen? Reality will come crashing down.. I’m not doubting you, but what else can we do?!”

“He might not even make it back…”

That was dark. True though.

“So the future of our relationship is down to chance. A very morbid chance.”

“I’ll divorce him.”

“Sure.”

“I will!” I told her, I took her hand and held it, she looked up with tears brimming in the bottom of her eyes, which were going red. “I’ll fucking divorce him.”

She just nodded at me, with grim resolve and conviction.

“You know what?” She said in a low voice.

“What?” I whispered back, with reverence for the moment.

“I’ve never heard you swear before,” she grinned. I smiled back. She pulled her hand out of my grip, “we probably shouldn’t be holding hands in public.”

“Have you really not heard me swear before?”

“Nope.”

“I’m a good girl!”

“Yeah really good,” she said snarkily with a roll of her eyes.

“What’s that’s supposed to mean?”

“You a real good girl,” she said her voice just dripping with sarcasm.

“What?!” I asked stamping my foot like a child.

“You’re offering to leave your war hero husband for the woman you’re having a lesbian affair with… And I heard you swear.”

“Well…”

“Do you really mean it?”

“What?”

“Divorce. Or is it just a spur of a moment thing because I look so pathetic right now?”

“You don’t look pathetic… And yes I mean it.”

“I’m crying…”

“So? That doesn’t make you pathetic. Not in the least. Crying shows your emotions aren’t blunted.” I reassured her. Also it really showed her how much she truly cared for me. For us. Not that I needed a sign like that, and I certainly didn’t want her to cry ever.

“You don’t think that’s pathetic?”

“Do you?” I asked more curious than anything.

“Yes… Obviously,” she said rolling her eyes a couple tears falling as she dabbed at her face with her sleeve.

“I wish I could hug you!” I whined.

“Thanks I wish you could too. Make it up to me later.”

“I’ll do more than hug you.”

“Oh look at you,” she smirked, her teary face turning into a sly grin. “Swearing and being all lewd.”

“Lewd?” I teased.

“What’s happening here?! Have we swapped places? I’m crying and you’re comforting me while mocking me.”

“It’s gentle joshing.”

“That’s my excuse.”

“Anyway back to the point, it isn’t pathetic to cry in the slightest, you don’t need to be so reversed and protective of your emotions around me. You said you trust me, so trust me,” I pleaded.

“I do trust you. It’s just… I don’t like sharing.”

“I just told you I’d leave my husband for you, meet me halfway here.”

“Why I already have you,” she said that attractive smirk upturning the corners of her lips.

“I’ll stop getting you coffee.”

“Now that’s a true motivator.”

“You’re the worst.”

“I know right.”

“So…”

“So…”

“Trusting me, opening up… All that?”

“Maybe not here.”

“But… But, the moment is here,” I pleaded. “If we lose it, we lose it and you might clam up and not want to talk later!”

“I may, I may not, you’ll have to see.”

“Oh!” I whined, unhappily.

She just smirked over the rising steam of the coffee cup held to her mouth.

***

We didn’t get a chance to speak that night. I needed to get home and change and clean the house from the weekend of debauchery. It was tedious but I didn’t mind cleaning up for Carmilla and myself, I finally got to clean up after I had had a good time.

I wasn’t going to let this go, I had made a pretty big gesture towards her.

I had said it in the spur of the moment, I hadn’t really thought about Henry returning, but I wasn’t going back to that misery, I just wasn’t. If I had never met Carmilla I would have spent the war bored, probably being pushed around by my mother and that Judy woman, I would never have found that confidence Carmilla inspired in me to stand up to either of them. He would then return and I would probably have some children and raise them miserably, stuck in a prison of my mind forever. Especially now I had someone I loved being with and loved, deeply loved, now I knew what passion and compassion was. I had a comparison of what misery would be and could be.

Even seeing how Danny cared for her husband, deeply, put my loveless, appalling marriage in stark contrast.

He could have made the smallest effort in the last year, the smallest of effort to reach out and try to relate to his wife. He didn’t care in the slightest. Not even a little.

I walked to the table in the hall which had our photograph from our wedding day still turned over, the frame face down, I had turned the few pictures we had down so I didn’t have to look at his face. I turned it rightside up. His face was a little unfamiliar. I hadn’t thought about him nor looked at him for ages. It was like seeing an acquaintance many years later. Recognizable but not familiar.

I worked the clips on the back which held it in place and began working the photograph out, I held it in front of me and was surprised by my emotional reaction. I didn’t feel nothing. I felt anger. Anger and dislike.

I tried to tear it but the filmy quality of the sheet made it impossible to get purchase.

I took it to the kitchen and placed it on the counter, then went around the house fetching the other photographs I had turned face down and removed them each in turn; stacking them in a pile. I got the scissors out from a draw and cut him out of the pictures, right in half, so I had two sets, those of me and those of him. It felt ritualistic and soothing.

I took the halves of Henry outside with my cigarettes and matches and sat on the lawn furniture Carmilla and I had enjoyed over my perfect weekend and struck a match and lit my cigarette, thumbing through the clippings. I used the lit match to ignite the corner of the stack of cut photographs letting the flames rise until they were uncomfortable to hold. Dropping them on the floor, watching disinterestedly as the corners wilted and burnt, turning to ash. When they were gone completely I kicked the ash away, scattering him to the wind, where he belonged.

I stared long past the time it took for the ash of any remnants of my marriage to blow away.

I felt better. A weight had been lifted from my shoulders, from my spine, my soul and my heart. There was still a depression weighing down from the gravity of the moment, but the sun was peeking up in dazzling rays under the cloud I had been living under.

I had said I would divorce my spouse in the moment but on reflection I meant it.

The future would be uncertain.

It would never be perfect.

I could never marry the woman I loved just for the fact she was a woman.

I could never be truly happy but I could create my own destiny as much as I was able. It’s true and always will be true that restrictions will limit some aspects but the things I could control I should. I had really realized that, I should have done so earlier but what happened happened and now my eyes were open. I didn’t need to burden myself unnecessarily.

Good thing I’m not Catholic.

I could divorce.

It would be better for both of us. He might be able to find someone who he actually liked and related to and wasn’t just a woman. That was the single criteria I met for my husband.

For the first time ever I took off my wedding ring, pulling it off as it pinched the skin.

I bounced it in my palm. Watching it fall and land. It was cheap, but I couldn’t fault him for that. Neither of us came from wealth. There was a tan line around the skin where it used to be, white and rarely exposed to oxygen it looked weird. I placed it on the coffee table in the lounge.

Free at least I wriggled my fingers. Free, free at last. I held my hand up in front of face and splayed my fingers out so I could look through them like bars of a prison cell, a prison cell I no longer was in. I balled my fist up and released it letting any lingering tension free.

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

I really should talk to Laura. If we were serious. If we were and I thought we were then I should trust her and open up and express myself. The whole offer to divorce her husband came out of left field. It had disarmed me. The news of the Allied invasion was a big event and a catalyst for a cascade of dark thoughts to bubble through and up to the surface.

I wanted to believe her. I really did. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her but she threw the offer out in the spur of the moment. I needed to know that she was serious and it wasn’t something she would go back on by the time she had considered it deeply. I didn’t know if she was at home right now thinking ‘what the hell did I say?!’ I won’t know unless I asked and I can’t ask such deep questions unless I was willing to talk in turn with an equal sincerity. Show the trust was there. I said I trusted her and believed she trusted me, but I couldn’t believe she believed me unless my actions spoke too.

I didn’t know if it was cowardice. I wasn’t a coward no. It was just my personality. Reserved and cold but I wasn’t a coward.

I wasn’t a coward. I repeated that to myself over and over… But wait… It shouldn’t be an act of bravery to talk to my partner, my lover about things I wanted to talk about.

I thought about getting a bus over to her place now, but a little space was needed to breath.

I was chain smoking cigarettes and just beating myself up like a fool.

***

I got to work early, like 30 minutes early, I don’t know why, waiting at home or waiting at work was still waiting, but I needed to get something off my chest after deep contemplation. I wasn’t really sure what it was precisely. It wasn’t something particular; still nebulous and unformed. That didn’t mean there was nothing at all. No, there was something, it just wasn’t concrete, more of an outline.

A blurred, unshaped buzz of emotions which were pulling me in a direction which I had to follow. I just had to take that leap.

Goddammit. What am I doing? I’m torturing myself over nothing really. I’ll say whatever comes out and she’ll be the sweet, adorable, amazing, person she is and accept it and soothe away from my fears.

“Morning,” Laura greeted me pushing open the door to the mailroom and closed it behind her. She waved. That was an odd thing to do in a close vicinity. She was holding her hand up in a strange, unnatural manner. Whatever.

“Morning. Sooooo, I wanted to talk, get things off my chest and all that.”

“Oh good. Wait I thought you said not here?”

“Yeah but where? And you were right when you told me that if I don’t just speak I’ll lose the nerve to do so.”

“I said that?”

“Yeah it was pretty insightful.”

“Oh, good for me.”

“Eugh, anyway,” I ploughed ahead before we got bogged down, “I was thinking, you were right, I should trust you and show I do.”

“Ok.”

“You seem distracted, I’m finally planning on opening up and you’re being all flightly and keep touching your face and leaning on things awkwardly…”

“Didn’t you notice?”

“Notice what?” I asked her tiredly as she held up her hand and turned it back and forth showing the palm and back in turn.

“My ring, I took it off,” she beamed at me, after sighing that I hadn’t realized.

“Oh, you know that isn’t how your divorce someone?”

“Yes… I just thought I would get rid of any semblance of him. I destroyed all the photographs of him too.”

“You meant it?”

“Of course I meant it.”

“Ok. Well… Look I know I’m really guarded and can be a little abrasive…”

“A little?”

“Shut up, but I do want to tell you how much I care about you and love you and do trust you, and it’s a… A big step, an honor, I don’t know the word, that you would screw your life up for me, and I’ll do anything and everything I can to be here for you,” I rambled off, my skin crawling as I expressed myself. I looked up, I felt my cheeks burning from shame, but she squeezed my upper arm and the awkward tension left me instantly.

“And I’ll be here for you!”

“It’ll be harder for you… You know everyone but me will hate you?”

“Why?” She asked a little panicked. “People get divorced all the time…”

“Not from soldiers returning from war.”

“I didn’t think about that…”

“Change your mind?”

“NO!” She snapped, “not at all, just I didn’t really think of it.”

“War heroes returning should get a huge welcome, praise and kudos and instead of getting back and fucking his wife and having a welcome home feast prepared he has to go to the courthouse for divorce proceedings.”

“I think it’s probably best to deal with that when it happens.”

“Probably.”

“Should we start working?”

“Yeah we can talk later, I’ll get us some coffee.”

“Off you go.”

I still had to get stuff off my chest but that was enough for now. Plus I had been worried she didn’t really think through her offer but she had gone home and doubled down on it. Taking off a ring was both a small gesture and a huge one at the same time. I smiled broadly to myself. She meant it. I kind of knew she did deep down but confirmation was gratifying.

“You alright?” She asked as she re-entered the room and placed down the mugs of coffee. “You seem tense.”

“I’m not tense, just frustrated a little, of where we are.”

“Why? Oh yeah, me too. Want to come over tonight?”

“Of course.

“I can drive you over to your place first and grab some stuff to keep at my place?”

***

“Hey, a letter from Danny!” Laura said waving the envelope under my nose. She was full of bubbling energy and had been all day, smiling and grinning at me so broadly it made my heart flip around with giddiness.

“From Danny?”

“For Danny.”

I took the letter from her and turned it over to see the official stencil stamp of the US military.

“Could be bad news?”

“Could be…” I agreed. “Bad news for him could be bad news for us. If she no longer needs our help she might sell us out.”

“She promised she wouldn’t.”

“I know that, but she also said that she would do anything, no matter how underhanded for her husband that could include lying about keeping us a secret.”

“I don’t think she will…” Laura replied slowly.

“No I don’t either but you know…”

“I know. We just need to trust her.”

“We don’t need to, we have to.”

“Still…”

“Are you going to cook something for dinner which doesn’t suck?” I asked changing the topic quickly getting off the possibility of our lives getting ruined.

“My cooking doesn’t suck!”

I laughed, she had a good sense of humor.

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

Carmilla had gone home by bus to get a couple items of clothing she could leave at my place while I hunted down Danny to keep up my end of the bargain. Blackmail. Bargain. Whatever.

I waited by her car the way she had waited by mine. I was itching to get in my car, oh I would have to give that up when Henry got back wouldn’t I? I hadn’t thought of that… And find a new place to live… I shook my head, I could think of that later.

Finally Danny arrived when she spotted me she sped up, her long legs pacing over to me at a remarkable speed.

“News?!” she asked.

“Yeah,” I replied taking the letter out of my bag and passing it to her covertly. This was highly illegal, stealing and redirecting official government mail, I probably should have got in the car with her or something like a spy to deliver it. She didn’t seem to even consider that as she tore the sealing frantically to pull out a letter and read it at pace, I could see her eyes darting left to right. I really wanted to ask what was in it but I just hoped she would share.

“Oh god,” she murmured.

“What?” I asked. Thinking Kirsch might have died from his wounds.

“Wilson is injured, restrained to a wheelchair… But, but,” she held up a finger for emphasis, “he’s returning to the States.”

“So… Good news?” I made that sound like a question.

“Good and bad I suppose. I want to see him desperately but…” She just trailed off, clearly distracting herself by rereading the letter, mouthing the words as she went. “He’s coming back,” she mumbled to herself holding the letter to her chest and smiling finally. “He’s coming back, that’s all that matters.”

“I’m glad… Well, not glad, I mean, look it’s, I…” I rambled not wanting to offend someone who had my future in their hands.

“Don’t worry Laura,” she placed a hand on my shoulder. “I know what you mean.”

“Yeah? Good.”

“Any news on your husband?”

“No,” I said a little too quickly. “I…” I started then stopped.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“What go on.”

“I…” Should I tell her? “I… I think I’m going to ask him for a divorce when he returns.”

“Really? Actually I’m not surprised. Look I’m not going to judge you Laura, I want you to be happy and maybe he’ll be happier too.”

“I hope so.” I didn’t actually care.

“I’ll see you later I need to go tell his parents.”

“Ok. I’m going to pick up Carmilla.”

“Have a good one,” she said moving past me into her car and backing out.

***

I pressed Carmilla’s buzzer and went back to my car. I didn’t want to walk up all those stairs only to come back down again.

After a few moments she pulled open my passenger side door and hopped in. I took off heading for mine as she leaned over the seat to put down a small bag.

“Got some clothes?” I asked.

“No, I brought some oven mitts and a face towel, some socks and a pillow case.”

“You could just answer the question straight.”

“I could.”

“So I gave Danny the letter and…”

“What did she say?” She interrupted.

“I was getting to that!” I squeaked indignantly.

“I know,” she chuckled.

“Waah.”

“Awww.”

“Humph! Anyway she, no, not she, he, her husband that is was injured and is returning!”

“So she doesn’t need us anymore.”

“Yeah I said that and…”

“Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. You pointed out she had no reason to keep our secret anymore after you broke official US military protocol?”

“Well yeah…”

“Good job.”

“Anyway,” I ploughed ahead, “I would like to see Wilson Kirsch again. It’s been a long time.”

“Right.”

“He’s a nice guy, and I kind of trust Danny completely on this.”

“Kind of completely?” She asked. I could feel her smirk even while I looked ahead at the road.

“Yup,” I sang happily.

We pulled up to my house and went in, I locked the door behind us. It was a nice little ceremony to know we were safe in our relationship away from prying eyes. I leaned back against the door, feeling relieved to be back here. She was placing her bag in my bedroom. That was nice, it was reassuring and comforting to have a part of her in my place.
I went to the kitchen and put on the coffee machine, it hummed peacefully.

When I turned around to see her she was holding the halves of the photographs I had cut up, flicking through them with a small upturned smile in the corner of her mouth.

“This is so narcissistic. You marrying no one, you dressed up in Sunday best by yourself and you by the beach on your own. You couldn’t find anyone to go to the beach with you?” She asked sarcastically.

“I burnt the other halves.”

“Ok, right but you kept the ones of you?”

“Really? Really? That’s your reaction, I’m leaving my husband for you and you’re more concerned about something silly like that?”

“Yeah,” she shrugged.

“I don’t know, I don’t have many photographs of myself,” I returned the shrug.

“Maybe we should have one taken together,” she suggested as she gave the pictures one last glance before putting them aside.

“I’d like that.”

I returned to the coffee getting two cups filled as she wrapped her arms around my waist from behind and resting her chin on my shoulder. She peppered light kisses against my neck.

“You know what?” She whispered into my ear. “Now your finger is unburdened by that ring…” She left that hanging there, suggestive and enticing.

“Coffee?” I mumbled uselessly.

“Later?”

“Ok,” I nodded, turning around in her arms so we were face to face kissing her slowly at first getting more intense and passionate. The turmolt of the last day and night lifting away, forgotten. She lowered her hands to my waist and started to push me back, shuffling steps back, towards the couch in the living room attached to the kitchen. When my back was resting on the back of the couch I squeaked out with surprise as she pushed me over the top and bounced on top of the cushions shifting back, lying back on the arm rest looking up at her, waiting with baited breath. “Curtains,” I said hurriedly. She went to the window and shut them tight as she kicked off her shoes.

She returned quickly and crawled over me already undoing the zip on the back of her dress and tugging it down. She was in just her underwear by the time she was on top of me, straddling my thighs and leaning over me her hair spilling over the top of my face, running over me as she reengaged the kiss. I had my hands all over her, running them up and down her bare skin, making small red lines with my nails against her pale white body. I hooked my fingers into her underwear and began tugging them down, she raised each leg in turn until they were off completely. I was still clothed but it didn’t matter, I needed her.

I shifted and squirmed backwards under her so I was propped up and pushed the back of her thighs and ass encouraging her to move up my body. She barely needed any encouragement.

She kept moving up until her legs were over my face and she lowered her down on me. I engulfed her with my mouth, running my tongue through her folds once ending at her clit where I focused and ran my tongue back and forth over her as she started to make the noises I was looking for and soon she was bent forward, hunched up and grinding herself down on to my face. Her moans turned into gasps as she rocked more infrequently before coming to halt and letting out a long satisfied breath.

She slid contentedly down my body and lay on me in the space available on the couch cushions, panting a little.

“I’ll take that coffee now,” she mumbled.

I had to smile and shake my head at that as I got up to fetch the now lukewarm drinks.

***

I arched my back with each pump of her fingers in and out of me, she was lying on top of me and we had been kissing but I couldn’t maintain it with the moans and cries I had to make. I shivered and trembled, I would have thrashed if her body weight wasn’t pressed on mine. She nipped at my neck and collarbone, laying kisses and making markings with her teeth.

My shoulder rocked up balling the sheets up beneath me. I tensed up for one last moment before bliss pure bliss poured over me.

I lay back taking small measured breaths.

I let her push my limp body onto my side as she rolled over and tucked her body behind me holding me close as she pulled the blanket over us.

I was still a bit out of it and barely registered her entwining her fingers with mine over my chest.

I had made the right decision, I thought sleepily and happily as I closed my eyes.

“Are you sleeping cutie?” She said into my ear. “Already?”

“It’s a school night!”

“You’re so lame.”

“A proper sleep schedule isn’t lame.”

She snorted with laughter snuggling in behind me.

***

My mother was standing in front of me blocking a door. I didn’t know what was through the door but I knew I wanted to get through it. She had her arms folded over her chest and the scowl was petrifying. It cut me to the core. I tried to move to her left but she moved to block that way, then right, but I was blocked once again.

“Laura!” She snapped. The voice, that tone, my name in that angry voice reminded me of when I was misbehaving as a child.

Nothing else was said. She just stared at me, not even at me just through me.

The walls of the room began closing in, all four of them in unison. I pushed past her as they came close to crushing us both, shoving my own mother away ripping open the door only to be in the same room again with her in the same place.

“Laura!” She cried out, it was a blood curdling shriek. Her arms reached out like Nosferatu and moved towards me, shrieking my name over and over again.

I opened my eyes with a jolt and cry, it was dark, I felt Carmilla’s arm around me. She made a low guttural noise and pulled me tighter to her, mumbling unintelligible, sleepy words. The shock from my nightmare was soothing away as I closed my eyes and snuggled backwards into her as she nuzzled me.

***

She was still sleeping when I took her empty bag she had brought clothes over in and put a few of my own things in it. Just a spare dress, a skirt and a blouse to keep at her place.

I made some coffee and had a cigarette waiting for her to wake up.

I thought back to my nightmare about my mother. I hadn’t even considered her. In a long time actually. I just guessed she was still mad at me for running out on her at Sunday lunch weeks and weeks ago now. She hadn’t reached out and I had no desire to reach out back. I would have to tell her that she wasn’t going to get the grandchildren she so desperately craved.

That wouldn’t be fun. I think I’d rather be with my husband rushing the beaches of France… Well maybe not, but only slightly less so.

I needed to think about a place to live, money, my mother, a career, my mother and my mother. I still had a little breathing room, well an indeterminate amount of time. The end of the war was a bad thing for me. How selfish. True, but selfish.

“Whatchya thinking about?” Carmilla asked as she strode completely naked into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee.

I didn’t answer, was unable to. I took a gulp and shook my head clear.

“My mother.”

“Oh, I’m standing here like this,” she gestured over her body “and you’re thinking of your mother?! I knew a nice, sweet girl like you would have some weird fetish hidden deep down in a dark place.”

“What?! No I was thinking of her, I wasn’t now, it, I, I, ahh,” I stammered.

“I’ll get something on, so you can speak” she strutted out and came back within a moment wearing my good robe. “So go ahead,” she said as she began drinking her coffee as she joined me at the kitchen table.

“Just wondering how awful she’ll be when I tell her.”

“Yeah, I can imagine.”

“Can you?”

“Nope, I’m just being my usual supportive self.”

“Oh shut up.”

“Why not shout it out the window of your car as you drive by?” She suggested in between sips of coffee.

“It isn’t my car.”

“You’re a lot less attractive as a package without a vehicle.”

“We could get a tandem bicycle?”

She shot me a grin at that.

“As I long as I sit at the back so I can only pretend to peddle.”

“Typical.”

“Look,” she dropped her snarky tone and reached over the table to take my hand in hers. “We’ll get through this. I’ll be here for you, we’ll get through the tough times together.”

“Ok,” I nodded, it was reassuring, as she always was when I panicked myself or worried about what might happen.

“Worst comes to worst there’s my place,” she told me, that was such a nice offer, truly being there for me, “and I can make like a cat bed at the foot of my actual one.”

Oh goddammit. She tricked me again! Though I wouldn’t have it any other way, I ran my thumb over the back of her hand enjoying the shared moment.

“Come on time to get ready for work.”

Chapter Text

There was a lot weighing on my mind at the moment, mostly money and planning, I needed to prepare for a future as a social outcast, a divorcee who needed to provide for herself. I had saved most of my money from my job, it was a pittance, but it all saved up and added up. I had been using my husband’s army wage for food but I stopped out of guilt. It was meant for spouses and if I no longer considered myself that it would be morally wrong to use it. I didn’t want to be a bad person. Or a worse person than I was being.

The bank was basically never open anymore so I couldn’t check my account with ease. Like most official buildings and workplaces either women had taken the jobs and weren’t trusted to do important tasks like banking, or older people, too old for war were there. Those people didn’t have full schedules. Plus I was putting it off. Knowing the answer could be disastrous, if I had a couple hundred dollars I could hardly find a place to live.

I would put it off for a while.

I had spent the last couple of weeks either thinking about my future all flustered, or suppressing my fears or frolicking with Carmilla. It was a weird mix and split of joy and apprehension.

Today would be big a day though, Kirsch had returned yesterday or the day before yesterday and Danny had invited Carmilla and I and Perry and Lafontaine over for dinner. It seemed like we were being invited as couples. Which was both nice and terrifyingly real.

I may have been way off base on that, she may have just been inviting friends, Perry and I knew her from high school… Though on the other hand I don’t think she knew Lafontaine that well. Though I didn’t know if they worked together. I was oblivious to all the goings on at the town hall outside of the crypt. However she certainly wasn’t friends with Carmilla. We had socialized together one time. It wasn’t arranged for larks either it was a standoff which had happened to have turned out well. I guess I should just learn to play things by ear and see how they pan out but I was more of a planner and it made me itch with anxiety having to face to the unknown.

“Stop daydreaming!” Carmilla snapped at me.

“I wasn’t dreaming, day nightmaring, it wasn’t that bad, what’s in between a dream and a nightmare?”

“A dream…”

“Dreams are good!”

“No that would be a good dream, hence why people refer to them as good or sweet dreams stupid.”

“Good point.”

“I said it.”

“I know you did,” I said pretending to be naive shooting her a grin as I got back to work. I made a couple humming noises and clearing of my throat.

“Ok,” she sighed, I’ll take the bait, “what?”

“Huh?”

“What is it you’re not so subtly hinting that I should ask you about?”

“Dinner tonight…”

“Oh right, yeah.”

“You forgot?!”

“No I was just busy, you know working…”

“Alright!”

“So what you thinking about?”

“You know…”

“What? It’ll be painfully awkward? I shouldn’t be there… Or we’re supposed to go as a couple when that isn’t acceptable?”

“Right, well yeah that one.”

“She knows, Perry knows, the other grumpier one knows,” she shrugged.

“You’re calling someone grumpy?!”

“I’m sarcastic and biting.”

“Whatever you want to tell yourself.”

“It’s my wit, I’m stingingly quick.”

I giggled momentarily before recomposing myself and getting back on track.

“But Kirsch is there!”

“Isn’t Danny a Kirsch?”

“He prefers his last name… Still missing the point here, it’s weird isn’t it?”

“I suppose. Let’s just see what happens.”

“I hate doing that!”

“What other choice is there? Do you want to turn this room into a war office? I could get a map on the sorting table, keep it unfurled by stabbing bowie knives through it and we can strategize from there?”

“Ok.”

“What?”

“Calling your bluff. I want to do that.”

“Eugh.”

“I win!” I beamed at her punching the air like a cartoon.

“For once,” she mumbled.

“So you should get us coffee,” I teased. She scowled and walked out of the room. She had distracted me from my uneasiness once again.

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

Laura dropped me off home so I could shower and change for this unwanted dinner party. I didn’t know this guy! Plus I didn’t really know and or like Danny, our singular social occasion we shared wasn’t done out of a desire to be buddies. I had the quickest shower possible, I had no hot water, it was shared with the other residents, who I hadn’t spoken to once since moving in. I got ready in what could be considered a nice dress. The nicest one I owned. Which I owned now, all my lovely, expensive clothes had either been burned down, or stolen and was now in the wardrobe of whatever Nazi officer now occupied my family’s old manor.

I slapped the side of my head, knocking the bad thoughts out.

Bad.

In America. Safe in America.

I opened my refrigerator and surveyed the contents, it was rather meagre but there were a couple bottles of white wine. I didn’t like white that much so I was planning on taking that. I liked to keep myself to myself, or with my girlfriend not having to meet other people. I rolled the words ‘other people,’ around in my head with a sour twinge. Still Laura would be there and if she was picking me up we would most likely end up in bed together so I just had to last out the pain that would small talking and pretending I cared about other people to get to that silver lining.

The buzzer went off signalling Laura’s arrival so I stuffed my cigarette case into my bag and grabbed the wine and set off. Hopefully Danny could cook, normally Friday nights were spent at Laura’s place enjoying her appalling attempt at preparing food. She must be able to cook. How else would she have been able to grow so tall if she didn’t eat well?

She looked nice, I thought, looking through the passenger side window as I walked around and got in. Wearing a beige dress, the yang to my yin, I was wearing black.

“Oh you brought wine!” She chirped, before quickly glancing in every angle and kissing me super fast on the lips and giggling. “Hey by the way.”

“Hey.”

“Ready?”

“Are we going to yours after this?”

“If you want.”

“Do you?”

“Yes obviously.”

“Okie dokie!”

“I brought a bottle of wine,” I told her lifting the bottle up, “I hope that’s alright.”

“I’m sure it is. I did too. Wait is that white wine? I thought you didn’t like white? Is this some sort of thinly veiled insult?”

“I wouldn’t say it was veiled… How would they know? I’m hardly going to say ‘here, some shit I hate for you.’”

“You’re the worst.”

“Damn right.”

***

“Welcome, welcome!” Danny exclaimed throwing open the door to her house. A much nicer house than I expected her to have, a two storey detached, town house on the outskirts of the town. “Oh thanks, that’s really kind of you,” she said taking the bottle of wine from me.

“You have a lovely house,” Laura said, being all sweet and friendly. It smelt good too, probably dinner.

“Why thank you!”

We were ushered into the living room with Perry and Lafontaine who were already there with drinks.

Danny seemed far happier than I had seen her in our limited number of interactions. It was nice to see her happy having her partner back, well I guess it was nice, I didn’t really care deep down. Plus this was also the woman who could potentially destroy my life, so I couldn’t really like her or on the flip side want to piss her off.

We said hello to the other guests and sat next to each other.

“Laura!” A tall man with a goofy smile limped into the room with a walking cane. Those two would have some giant children. Laura squeaked and leapt to her feet and rushed over to him and hugged him around his waist. It was kind of funny seeing the height difference. “Ow, be careful with me.”

“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” she rambled going pink from embarrassment. I really was an outsider here. I felt a bit isolated with Laura leaving me even for a moment though I resisted the urge to get up and snatch her arm and yank her down next to me. “This is Carmilla by the way,” she gestured towards me. For some reason my temper flared a bit at the ‘by the way.’

I got up and shook the man’s hand.

“Nice to meet you,” he beamed wide with a goofy, puppy dog grin.

“Nice to meet you,” I parroted back.

“Woah cool accent, where you from?”

I tried to detect sarcasm but I couldn’t find a hint there. Hmmm, genuine people made me suspicious of some nefarious hidden purpose. I had developed that in Austria before I had to flee.

“Austria.”

“Oh shit, wow, we’re fighting them you know?”

“You’re right you know.”

“She’s Jewish,” Laura said. Again making me flash a sliver of anger towards her. Though it did cut through a lot of dancing around the issue of why a foreigner from an enemy state was residing here.

“Ohhhh, right, well,” he glanced around nervously. “Can I get you girls a drink?”

“Yes please,” Laura said, she was really energetic and happy. I guess seeing an old friend would a be nice thing, I wouldn’t know. I just nodded.

“We have loads of stuff,” he gestured towards a cabinet with a selection of bottles.

“Vodka tonic,” I requested.

“Same!”

We sat back down and Kirsch limped around getting us drinks and bringing the glasses over one by one. It felt a bit wrong to let an injured man serve us.

“So how you holding up Kirsch?” Perry asked as he slid down into an armchair holding a tumbler topped up with scotch to the brim.

“Better every day,” he said after a large swig which even hurt my throat. “I was out of the wheelchair after a couple weeks and I should be able to walk without help soon enough.”

“Sooner or later I’m just glad you’re back,” Danny announced entering the room with an apron on, kissing him on the cheek.

“Me too.”

“What happened?” Lafontaine asked.

“Laf!” Perry exclaimed horrified.

“What? We’re all wondering.”

“Don’t sweat it,” he waved off the concern, “it was at Normandy, we were landing in small vessels, hundreds of them, we got off at beach under heavy machine gun fire and mortars. The bullets were raining down thick. There were all these blockades all over the sand to stop our armor landing. I was huddling for cover behind one. A lot of guys didn’t make it out of the landing vessels they got gunned down the second the doors opened. I don’t really remember what happened after that really. It isn’t a great story, but I was told later that I was hit in the back by shrapnel and it missed my spine by a little bit.”

“Thank god,” Danny said crossing herself.

“Yeah thank god,” Kirsch agreed. “Thank god I made it out alive, when those machine guns whirred up and the planes went over head, and the bombs and the screams I didn’t think I would make it out… And… Oh listen to me, shit. We’re having a nice dinner, or will be, and I’m telling you about all this.”
“I asked,” Lafontaine mumbled looking down.

“Sorry that happened to you Kirsch,” Perry said.

“Hey it’s alright,” he smiled a goofy smile. “Plus I have some attractive, manly scars now. Right honey?” He winked at his wife.

“Sure do,” she returned his smile. “Right,” she got up and rubbed her hands together and went out of the room. “Dinner will be ready soon, it’s special.”

“Yeah I got some nice stuff from the army supplies from being sent back. I don’t have rations right now,” he announced.

That was actually a great thing, I really wanted to eat something that wasn’t either powdered or portioned into miniscule amounts. This dinner party or get together or whatever this was looked up.

***

“That was amazing Danny,” Laura said as she was the last person to finish. It was harder for her with her little mouth and her little stomach. We had polished off three bottles of wine and eaten a whole roast chicken with roasted vegetables. It was so nice. Just a regular meal was a real treat. Though that was pretty selfish of me when one of our hosts was full of German metal shards preventing him from walking properly. Everyone thanked Danny for cooking in turn, even me.

We had mostly spoken about the war, getting back to normal life, rationing and work at the town hall. The boring, mundane stuff. Which was also safe stuff.

“Thanks, I’ll clean up, you guys go to the living room have some drinks and I’ll start on desert.”

“Desert?!”

“Yeah Kirsch got sugar!”

I looked at Laura next to me and saw her pupils dilate at the prospect of a sweet treat. Eugh, I scolded myself for rhyming.

“I’ll help you wash up,” Laura offered.

“Me too,” Perry joined in.

Lafontaine and I remained silent. I wasn’t ungrateful or anything, actually grateful but I had my limits and cleaning was a threshold I wouldn’t cross for love nor money. Kirsch leaned against the door frame to let us pass. Despite my best efforts to dislike him, as I tried to dislike everyone I met, it was impossible. He was so happy and upbeat and positive. He weirdly reminded me of Laura. Without the wit or intelligence and depth buried behind the positivity, but just so without malice that he was impossible to dislike. Eugh. I’m becoming soft.

“So Carmilla, Laf can I tempt you with a brandy or… A brandy?” He asked standing by his drinks cabinet. He was leaning a little wobbly on his cane. Every was really drunk by the looks of it. Apart Danny who was hosting and keeping everything running smoothly.

We all sat down with overly full tumblers of dark amber liquid… and the awkward silence punctuated by sips began.

“Do you have an ashtray?” I asked breaking the quiet.

“Erm, I don’t smoke but Danny does…” He looked around like a dog chasing his tail.

I got out and found one and sat back down and lit up a cigarette and was swallowed back up in the staggering stiffness of the situation.

“So… You work with Laura right?”

“Yeah,” I replied.

“And you work with Danny and Perry?”

“Yeah,” Lafontaine replied.

“I knew Laura’s husband a bit, from training, I was his NCO…” He trailed out.

“You were friends?” Laf pushed. Forcing conversation I didn’t want to hear. We desperately needed our other halves to rejoin us.

“No, not really…” He spoke carefully looking into his drink, swirling it around. “I was always surprised he married Laura Hollis of all people.”

“Why?” I asked, really interested now.

“I shouldn’t say.”

“Just say,” Laf encouraged.

“She’s super nice and he really wasn’t.”

“Wasn’t?”

“Isn’t. He was a jerk and in England… On leave… Well nevermind it isn’t my place.”

“Just tell us!”

“No,” he shook his head looking pained. “No it isn’t my place.”

Silence swallowed us up again. A grueling silence. I wanted to know what he knew. If I just bided my time I would probably find out. People rarely almost revealed a secret but give a clue and then keep it secret forever. More brandy, some needling I could probably get it tonight.

The silence dragged on and on, I could hear the sound of the embers burning the tobacco it was so quiet.

Finally the others joined us from the kitchen.

“Danny made an apple pie!” Laura chirped happily plopping herself down next to me.

“How American,” I drawled as I eyed Kirsch wondering what he knew.

“Laura,” Danny sighed, “you still have the washing up gloves on,” she said with a roll of her eyes, like a mother would with a silly child.

Drunk Laura just held her hands up for Danny to pull them off for her, and proceeded to giggle like an infant as she took them off.

“Thanks!”

“Idiot,” I mumbled.

“Oh Laura where’s your wedding ring,” Danny asked. Oh no. “Did you take it off to wash up? I can get it for you?”

“No…” She replied, I shot her a quick glance, she looked panicked. “No I… Erm…”

“Oh!” Danny exclaimed slapping her hand over her mouth. “Is it about the thing?”

“The thing?” Kirsch asked.

“Nothing,” Danny dismissed him, “nevermind.”

“It clearly isn’t nothing,” Perry piped up.

“Yeah is anyone going to talk tonight or are they just going to hint at something interesting and then back away from it right before it gets interesting,” Lafontaine added. As much as she annoyed me I really like her ability to just say what needed to be said. It was a brutal honesty nearly everyone else lacked.

“Carm,” Laura nudged me and raised her eyebrows.

“I have nothing,” I said uselessly.

“What’s going on?”

“I took it off…” Laura admitted. She was clawing with her hand in the space on the couch between us, I could feel she wanted to hold my hand, and her discomfort and pain made me want to reach out and hold her back and reassure her.

“Why?”

“I wanted to…”

“Why?”

“I’m going to…” She took a deep gulp, and took the tumbler of brandy from my hand her fingers lingering a moment longer than necessary. “Ask for a divorce when he returns.”

The air felt like it was sucked out of the room.

“So you heard?” Kirsch asked, sounding deeply concerned. “How did you?”

“What?” Laura looked up after taking a sizeable swig from my drink. “Hear what?”

“Oh… Oh nevermind…”

“What?” Laura pressed her voice regaining strength.

“Is the thing you almost said but didn’t when they were washing up?” Lafontaine asked. She had turned me around big time.

“Just say honey,” Danny told me, “why not? If it’s something Laura needs to know…”

“But in front of others?”

“We’ll find out in the end,” Laf said. That was true, I wanted to smile to myself at her tenacity but I held it back.

“Well… Oh boy,” Kirsch ran a hand through his short, cropped hair, we sat in silence, yet again, as he pondered over what to say, or whether to speak or not. “I suppose if you’re going to ask for a divorce… So when we were in England and we went on leave, we did some last minute training over there, Henry Michaels was known to be one of the… Erm.. Lads the British called them.”

“Meaning?” Laura asked in a small voice.

“I don’t think,” Kirsch spoke even slower, choosing each word carefully, “he honored his wedding… I don’t think that he was… I don’t… Let’s just say…”

“Oh spit it out!” Lafontaine interrupted again. I wanted to hug her right now.

“He may or may not… Well he did… Didn’t,” he still hummed and hahed, I wanted to bite his face. “Let’s put it this way, he wasn’t as committed to his marital vows as say I always would be.”

“So he cheated on me?” Laura asked bluntly.

“Pretty much.”

“Oh Laura honey I’m so sorry,” Danny said, she was perched on the armrest of her tongue tied husband’s chair. Perry mumbled something similar. I didn’t really want to join in now. She had cheated too and as the other party in that I probably should pipe up even if five, sixths of the room were aware of that.

“It’s fine,” Laura said. She was dispassionate and detached.

“If you were going to divorce him anyway,” Kirsch said, “now you have a reason, I was saying before I can’t believe you were the one who married him. He’s the exact opposite of you, mean spirited and selfish. I probably shouldn’t insult the man…”

“Why not?” I finally spoke up. “If he’s an asshole who cares?”

“Carmilla!” Perry scolded.

“We all know why she wants some justification,” Lafontaine laughed. Oh and I was back to disliking her again.

“What does that mean?” Kirsch asked, he scratched the side his head. “Actually I don’t care, I’d rather be back in France than have you wrap my head around you girls.”

“You’re so adorable sweetie,” Danny kissed him on the temple. “You alright Laur?”

“Yeah I’m fine, could I have another glass of wine please?”

“Sure thing.”

After fetching it I yanked my drink back.

“Honey,” Danny held Kirsch’s hand, “can you help me in the kitchen with the apple pie?”

“Erm, yeah I might not be that much help but I’ll try my best.”

He got up and limped off after her.

The moment he was out of the room Laura shifted up close to me and rested her head on my shoulder and held my hand.

“You alright?” Perry asked her as I stroked her hand with one of my free fingers.

“I guess.”

“You have cheated on him,” Lafontaine said being blunt again. “He cheated on you, you’re splitting up? It’s win, win. What?!” She exclaimed as Perry elbowed her really hard in the ribs.

“You’re being insensitive!”

“No I’m not I’m being honest!”

“Those things aren’t mutually exclusive! I apologize on her behalf.”

“It’s ok, it really is,” Laura said, sounding despondent. “I always knew he was an asshole. Besides even if I did have an affair he’s just having sex for the sake of it with anyone who will by the sounds of it.”

“There’s a difference?”

“Yeah! He would presume I would be faithful and it wasn’t like I cheated for the sake of it! He did, with some floozy! I… I… I don’t really want to talk about it, it doesn’t bother me that much, and as Kirsch said,” she paused to hiccup, “it no longer makes me the bad guy.”

“Desert!” Danny called and we all went to the dining room.

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I actually felt bad when I found out about Henry being the prick I always knew he had the capacity and potential to be. I had shaken it off. It was illogical. Really illogical. Also selfish, one rule for me but not for him.

I had drunk way too much to drive but I was planning on giving it a go.

We had said goodbye and thank you.

“You cutie there ok?”

“What?” I giggled.

“Wait. What did I say?” Carmilla slurred.

“You’re drunk!”

“So are you!”

“I know! But so are you!”

We both just laughed at nothing in particular. I missed the slot of the car keys several times.

“Don’t blame me if we die,” I told her. I was talking very loudly.

“I’ll be dead so I can’t. I will blame you if I’m paralyzed.”

“Fair enough.”

“I was planning on sticking my hand down and or up your dress while you drive but I guess that would be a bad idea.”

I paused weighing up her offer. It was really tempting. My drunk, horny part of my brain was screaming to take the risk. The self-preservation streak however outweighed that urge. Just.

“Best not.”

She laughed.

I managed to get the key in and the engine going. I backed up really slowly and drove away.

“Are we going to mine or yours?” I asked.

“You have a double bed.”

“Good point.”

Driving at night was probably safer, I could see headlights a mile away.

***

We pulled up into my drive. We lived! Lived! Hooray.

I pushed open my car door and had to put a hand on the floor and walk along the ground to get my feet out and stand up straight, well semi-straight. We giggled and shushed each other in turn as we stumbled towards the front door and like the car I had trouble getting the keys into the lock but Carmilla put her hand over mine and as a combined effort managed to get it open.

“I know it’s a pick up line or a hint or a… Wait what am I saying?”

“I don’t know,” I laughed again.

“Oh right! I remember now,” her face lit up like a happy child. “I know people use a request for coffee as an innuendo but I’d really like some.”

“Okie dokie!”

She plonked herself down on couch. When I got back with the mugs she was asleep, her case of cigarettes open on her lap and her head tilted to the side.

I sat down next to her and put my head on her shoulder. I would rest my eyes for one moment too.

***

Jesus my head. It was pounding. My neck ached. I looked around not sure where I was for a moment before it all flooded back.

It was still dark outside. It was still night. I got up everything a chore and I felt the worst I think I’d ever felt. I dragged Carmilla who came back to the waking world with a moan and a grumble. I dragged to the bedroom and pushed her in the bed, I considered taking my clothes off but it was too much effort. I kicked off my shoes, pulled off hers and face planted the mattress next to her as she was already back asleep.

Chapter Text

Ow.

My head was about twice weight it should be.

My brain twice the size it needed to be to be inside my skull.

Laura was curled up in a ball, breathing through her mouth.

I couldn’t remember getting back to her place. I can’t remember going to bed. I don’t know if we had sex. From the fact we were both wearing our clothes from the night before I doubted it. I licked my lips but there was no moisture there. I weighed up whether it worth getting water or staying in bed and trying to sleep some more. The dryness of my mouth outweighed the tiredness and I rolled out of her bed and padded, softly so I didn’t wake Laura.

I got to the kitchen and poured and drank a glass of water when there was a knock at the door.

I went to the bedroom and looked back down at Laura who had now wrapped a pillow around her head to block out the noise.

I wanted to ignore the knocking but it was getting worse. It did not help with the pounding in my head.

Oh screw it.

I walked to the door pulling my fingers through my hair trying to look like I hadn’t just slept like a homeless drunk mess. I looked in the mirror on the wall by the door in the entrance way. I wasn’t looking my best. Well here goes nothing. This wasn’t going to be good, I already wanted to physically harm whoever it was for the arrogance of the persistent knocking. If it were me I would have presumed the person wasn’t it or didn’t want to speak to me.

I pulled the door open, timing right in between knocks so whoever it was would miss their next rap and swing at the air. Petty yes, but also so, so gratifying.

“Oh, you’re not Laura,” a sour faced woman said. I recognized her. She was that Trudy women who Laura hated so much.

“Good observation.”

“Is she in?” She raised her eyebrows and looked over my shoulder and through me.

“Yeah.”

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“Are you going to get her?”

“Do you mean ‘could you please see if she wants to speak?’”

“Oh I see,” she narrowed her squinty little eyes at me. “You’re the one who inspired Laura to be so rude.”

“Are you serious?” I laughed but stopped after the racking motion made me queasy. “You don’t realize it do you?”

“Realize what?” She spat out.

“You’re rude, you’re incredibly rude. Demanding everyone does what you want while insulting them and being snarky and pompous?”

“How dare you! I am very well respected and I knew you foreigners weren’t to be trusted. Here’s my advice, keep to yourself let a proper country like this one win the war and stop corrupting nice American girls like Laura!” She said in a low voice seething with rage. There was a vein pulsing in her forehead and her neck.

“Here’s some advice. Why don’t you fuck off Trudy?”

“It’s Judy!”

“No one cares,” I shrugged, keeping calmer than I felt inside knowing it would irritate her that much more. “Anything else?”

She didn’t reply she opened her mouth to reply but closed it. Her eye twitched with fury.

“Have yourself a lovely day Trudy,” I said with a smile and a wave as I closed the door.

That made me feel pretty good about myself. Oh and there it was gone again. Replaced with pain and sickness. I stumbled, bleary eyed back into the kitchen drank more water and back into bed and pulled the sheets over me after getting my clothes off. The cool sheets felt great against my burning hot skin.

“Where’d you?” Laura mumbled, her eyes closed as she reached out for me.

“Answer your door.”

“Who was there.”

“Some bitch I told them to fuck off.”

“Ok good,” she yawned as she threw an arm lazily over me. “I have ouchy heady brain badness.”

I snorted with laughter.

“Sleep?” I suggested.

“Sleep,” she agreed.

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I felt appalling. Appalling and far too hot. I was still wearing my dress, Carmilla had managed to take hers off. I can’t remember that happening. I can’t remember much happening. My dreams and deep sleep had blended into my memories and I wasn’t quite sure what had happened.

Did Carmilla get me to bed? Or was it me? Wait!

I sat bolt upright as she mumbled something angrily from the disturbance of my movement.

That was a bad idea. My poor head.

Did she tell me that someone was at the door? That she told them to ‘f off?’ Was that a joke? I hope it wasn’t my mother. I think I heard knocking through my deep, drunken sleep. If it was Judy then I didn’t really care… Well maybe I did.

I would sleep more and then worry about it.

***

I could smell cooking. That wasn’t right. I was home. Was I having a stroke? Oh no. I reached out in my headache riddled barely waking mist for Carmilla but she wasn’t there. I yawned deeply and stretched out under the sheets with my eyes still shut tight letting the tension ease out my joints and extremities before getting very carefully out of bed not wanting to trouble my terrible headache.

I must have been hallucinating.

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes.

No I was seeing what I was seeing.

Carmilla in her bra and underwear was cooking, she was actually cooking.

“Morning,” I said, my voice cracked as it came out. I had no moisture left in my entire body.

“It’s afternoon,” she replied.

“Are you cooking me breakfast?” I asked excitedly, as I poured a glass of water and drank it greedily.

“I’m cooking me breakfast.”

“Come on,” I teased nudging her side.

“Maybe you could persuade me to cook for you,” she said smiling at the pan.

I smiled, through the cloud of hangover discomfort. I slid behind and her and wrapped my arms around her bare stomach. Deja vu. She had done this to me when I cooked for her. I didn’t have much confidence though, in my current state.

“Can you just make me food to make my stomach and head and body and… And pain go away,” I sang lowly into her ear, as I ran my nails up and down her exposed skin.

“Well said,” she mumbled, I went to move away but she didn’t let me, grabbing my hand and placing it on the flat of her stomach and then my other hand on top of it. Swaying back and forth against me, rubbing her ass lightly against the front of my underwear.

“Carm…” I murmured, zoning out to enjoy the sensation of her body against mine. “I’m SO hungover.”

“Same, and I’m making you breakfast, I need some distraction.”

“Fair enough,” I giggled before having to scrunch my eyes tight to get rid of the pounding pain which erupted behind my eyes. “Ow. It really hurts.”

“Drink it off.”

“Does that work?”

“Hair of the dog.”

“What?!”

“You’re so innocent and naive, it’s adorable.”

“I have got a lot of alcohol. I stocked up since I met you.”

“I appreciate that, it numbs me to your annoying energy.”

“Humph,” I huffed before lightly tickling her sides, she just didn’t react. That was creepy.

“Unlucky. I’m not ticklish.”

“I’m going to get something to drink then.”

“Get me something too. Also add water.”

“Why?”

“It weakens it. We do it in Europe. When children drink, you lessen the amount of water the older the child gets.”

“Really?”

“Fun fact,” she nodded.

I kissed her neck before moving off.

“What are we eating?” I asked.

“Bread with egg. I cut a hole in the bread and fry the egg in the hole. I’ve never tried this before, but I saw my cook doing it when I was a child.”

“Your cook?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Rich girl,” I whistled.

“Not anymore.”

“No I guess not… Don’t be such a buzzkill.”

“Meh.”

“Is this a problem? Drinking in the morning? Before eating?”

“Depends how regularly you do it. Besides it isn’t morning.”

“Right,” I paused holding a bottle in one hand and a bottle opener in the other. Debating whether this was a good idea. “It’ll make the ouchies go away?”

She snorted a derisive laugh before speaking, “yes it will make the ouchies go away. It was a stupid mistake to drink gin, wine and brandy last night.”

“It was a fun night.”

“Was it? I can’t remember getting back here, I can’t remember getting to bed… I can’t remember much. I remember being rude to your nasty neighbor but barely.”

“That happened?” I asked. I knew I didn’t dream that. I definitely needed a drink now and she made a very good point; it was afternoon now.

“I told you.”

“I thought it was a lovely dream,” I said in a sing song voice.

“So it was a good thing?”

“Well dreams don’t have consequences.”

“Or reward.”

“I don’t know,” I said wistfully as I turned on the faucet and let water weakened the wine and taking a sip, “sometimes they can give you a warm fuzzy feeling for the day. It’s not too bad you know. The water and wine.”

“Takes the sting out.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Ok I’m done, pass me that.”

I passed her, her glass and we clinked them and she took a massive drink.

“I’m not feeling much better…” I said, my head was foggy and I was uncomfortable.

“It takes a while for it work and a lot more, do you have any plates?”

***

“You know you can cook!” I said happily, as I polished off the last mouthful and washed it down with the rest of my glass of watery wine. It had helped a bit. The second glass that was.

“No I can’t. You’re just so terrible in comparison it makes me look good,” she smirked at me. “I cooked you clean.”

“Humph.”

I dumped the plates in the sink, I would worry about those later.

“And I thought I was the messy one.”

“I will clean this up you will literally never ever ever never ever clean your place,” I countered motioning wildly with the glass spilling wine over my hand and floor. Carmilla laughed at me as I sulked. Well mocked sulked.

***

I was drunk again. Though I felt like I needed to be, I had been worried and anxious but now I felt safe for the mean time at the very least. I was drinking more and more recently, just to alleviate my crippling anxiety. My parents finding out I was looking for a divorce, the idea of divorcing my husband, supporting myself and then more short sightedly Judy coming back and yelingl at me for Carmilla's rudeness. She would presumably gossip behind my back as well. I did not like being stared at and judged and whispered about by my neighbors.

Carmilla seemed to not care about such things, and I envied that, but couldn't replicate it. She was in the shower, while I was still drinking more and more in the lounge. Far more than I should be. I lit up a cigarette and held onto the coffee table’s edge as my vision went blurry and things were on the verge of spinning.

Just keep drinking until the worry goes away.

I must have been lost in my own thoughts, so much so that I didn't hear Carmilla padding softly behind me and wrapped her arms around my neck. She was dry but still warm from the shower, she smelt like soap. She took the cigarette from between my fingers and placed it into her own mouth. I rolled my head back to rest on her chest. She put the cigarette to my lips then her own taking turns in smoking it. There was something intimate about it.

I made a humming noise just from the light contact. That hum turned into more of a moan as her free hand slipped inside of my top and roughly grasped at my breasts. She began peppering kisses up and down the exposed sensitive skin of the side of my neck.

“Whatchya doing?” I murmured, smiling as she caressed at my chest and continued laying soft, sweet kiss after kiss.

“Making up for last night,” she whispered, low and sultry, breaking in between each word to lay a kiss on my neck.

“Oh, ok,” I murmured again.

I was relaxing into her touch and her kisses and her caress when she pinched my nipple hard.

“Ow!”

“Whoops,” she said sarcastically letting go of me and moving away from the chair. I looked back over my shoulder and saw her disappearing around the corner into my bedroom, the towel she was wearing falling to the floor right on the threshold. She had timed it perfectly so I didn't see her naked just the last of her shadow passing out of sight. I gulped and stood up finishing off the wine and following the trail left by Carmilla's warm, damp footsteps, there was something alluring about feeling her body heat in my feet.

She wasn't in the bed, I put my hands on the doorframe and leaned in with my body and peeked around. Had she disappeared? I took a couple paces in and cried out as she appeared from behind the wall and wrapped her arms around my back, one hand on the middle of my back and one cupping my asscheek and walked me backwards to the side of the bed and pushed me down. I bounced on the mattress and before I could sweep the hair from my face she was on top of me pulling off my clothes.

Her fingernails scraped, light red marks down my stomach as she ridded me of my clothing, I just placed my hands on her waist and just held her. I was far too drunk to do anything but let her go ahead and take control. I wriggled my arms free and shifted up the bed. She didn't lose a second, no wasted motion, she held my hips up, both of her hands under my ass keeping my pelvis aloft as she moved her head between my legs. I squeaked out with both pain and pleasure as she bit into the soft, tender flesh of my inner thigh before immediately licking over the bite. I whimpered and let my neck turn to jello as she ran her tongue through me. Engulfing me with her mouth. My head was limp as I let it fall over the back of the other side, lolling in empty space.

I arched my back as high as I could manage as she held my legs up and apart her head buried in between. She was running her tongue through me and stopping at my clit to engulf it and suck before starting the pattern again. I wasn't even able to moan or scream out I was just breathing raggedly my hair was pooling on the hard floor below me and my eyelids flickered as my grip on reality was replaced with a loss of my senses, I let myself be completely overcome with the pleasure.

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

It was adorable watching Laura being all drunk and fumbling. If this was our first time together I would have stopped her, for worry I was taking advantage. I tried not to totally ruin the moment by laughing by the face she was making, she was scowling with concentration and biting her lip as she positioned herself over me as I lay back on the bed.

The hilarity of her drunkenness was soon forgotten as we were kissing and her hands were roaming over my body. It was my turn to hold my hands on her sides and letting her take the lead. Our naked bodies were pressed together, our sweat mingling as her one hand was on my upper arm, squeezing tight, her other trapped between us she worked it down my body. She was far more confident now than she had ever been before. She rotated her hand and slid a finger inside me just as she bit into my bottom lip and pulled it hard, stretching the skin as far as it would stretch. I heard her growl. It was cute. It was so out of character.

Her tongue was moving around inside my mouth, hot and heavy, her hand synchronized with her tongue, sliding in and out of me, her mouth not giving me the chance to let out the noises she was eliciting from me. She finally broke the passionate, almost desperate kiss.

“You like that baby?” She whispered into my ear, biting the tip of my earlobe before recapturing my mouth with hers. Even in the throes of the moment it felt out of place coming from her. I had to break the kiss myself to finally let out the built up tension, it was a borderline guttural scream I let out. “Come on baby, finish for me,” Laura purred into my ear. Hearing her voice through the cloudy fog I was in pushed me over the edge. I finished with a shudder and weak moan my body going limp as she collapsed on top of me.

She rolled off me and lay on her side propping her head up a hand and using the other to run light patterns over my stomach waiting for me to catch my breath and come fully back to reality. Her hand came to a rest on the top of my stomach just lying there. I leaned over the side of the bed and picked up one of the many packs of cigarettes I had left all around the house. I pulled out a stick and lit it up. The smoke was just what I needed in the moment. I went to offer to share it with Laura but looking over I saw she was sleeping. I couldn't help but smile to myself at the sight, her mouth open, a peaceful and docile expression and humming light, cute snores. She truly was adorable… One of the many reasons I did love her.

I stubbed out the cigarette and lay on my side and pulled her arm over me so I could tuck myself into her body. Normally it was me who was the big spoon holding her close and tight, so this was a nice change. I closed my eyes, I could easily sleep too.

***

I declined Laura's offer for a lift home on Sunday afternoon. I could have stayed easily, I had things at her place but two days of heavy, heavy drinking didn't put you in the mood for conversation. It put you in the mood for time by yourself to rest and try to piece your mind back together. Laura had more water and wine to kick off her morning. I tried to warn her that hair of the dog wasn't a magical cure to all hangover woes but she waved me off. It probably wasn't something to worry about she would learn that lesson tomorrow morning when she woke up with a car crash pile up of a hangover. Though I did worry about her a lot. She was going through a lot. It wasn't just coming to terms with the fact she was in love with another woman, that was hard enough I knew that first hand. She had a husband, a commitment, a legal one at that and her family was still alive. She didn't have her own accommodation. It was a lot.

Certainly it was true that I had worst situations to deal with in my life but not only is misery relative but fleeing over countries, continents and oceans didn't impart life skills which would be helpful in her problems. I didn't have any helpful words of wisdom and I hadn't really thought of anything helpful which didn't grate in my head and sound like annoying, hollow platitudes. ‘You’ll be ok,’ or ‘everything will work out in the end,’ was exactly the sort of bullshit you didn’t want to hear when you were depressed or having a hard time. I remember vividly being told ‘you’ll be fine soon enough,’ by an English officer and wanting to bite his face despite how kind he was to me, just in that moment, by how empty the encouragement was. It was a tough spot. I would just have to be there for her in any way I could while she figured stuff out. She hadn’t had to really do anything without the assistance of a parent or spouse. I had to stop thinking about it. The mere flicker of recognition of the existence of her husband made my heart sink and my nerves fray.

My small apartment was my sanctuary and I needed to keep it that way by not panicking. I panicked far enough in my dreams to ruin the small amount of alone time I had.

***

I was in a poor mood when I was sitting on the bus to get to work Monday morning. I smoked on the bus, despite a lot of people hating me for it, I could feel eyes of disapproval boring into me. I couldn’t be sure what they said but someone muttered something unpleasant about me as I alighted by the town hall. Laura wasn’t there when I got down to the crypt. I needed coffee but usually I liked to get her to get it. It was a nice little ritual we had fallen into. After so much tumult and chaos in my life the regularity of a schedule was comforting and safe.

Time ticked away, slowly but surely, and no Laura. I kept glancing up at the clock and straining my ears to try to hear any footsteps in the basement level outside of the mail room door. Nothing. Finally I got my own coffee, which annoyed me, and still no Laura. Maybe she was feeling the pain of a three day hangover. Huh… If she didn’t turn up then this would be my first day since she started alone in this dingy little place. Great, now I felt sad. I had depressed myself. Terrific.

***

Nothing. All day, no one came in or out of the crypt level. I couldn’t believe that I’d forgotten how boring, utterly mind numbingly tedious it was sorting mail away. It took ages for lunch to roll around and the end of the day took eternity. I considered getting the bus to her house to check up on her, but I didn’t want to seem like a creepy, overbearing partner, she might need a day, I could appreciate that… If she wasn’t in tomorrow then I would go over and make sure she was ok… Maybe she had cooked for herself and finally received the inevitable poisoning that was coming her way.

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My head was pounding, like a balloon being blown up over capacity and released then blown up over capacity once again. I had missed work. There was no way in hell I was going, no way in hell I was getting out of bed. I was just lying in my underwear face down with no sheets my head to side shifting slightly, periodically when the sickness inside became too much. I had drank myself stupid Sunday. Just sitting in the living room, drinking and smoking and feeling sad. The worry I had been suppressing was bubbling ever closer to the surface, becoming harder and harder to bury away.

Now in this dilapidated state it was impossible to keep it away.

My future was an unknown path, it was dark and scary and though I didn’t know what was going to happen I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Far from it. At first I had latched onto the fact Henry had cheated on me as I had on him as an easy excuse and escape but the more I thought about it the less and less likely it seemed that would carry much weight. A man cheating is far different, they get a lot of leeway, and he was a soldier. I could just imagine my mother’s dismissive tone and aloof face as she told me he thought he might die and he was doing his part and I should be the one who was understanding and not so petty…

The worry bubbled up and I shifted across my mattress so I was leaning my head just over the edge of the bed so I could vomit directly onto the floor. That was disgusting. I just didn’t have the energy nor the motivation to get up and go to the bathroom. Far too much effort. I shifted back away from the smell already emanating from the puke.

Eugh.

Actually who cares? I’m basically living in this house on borrowed time, it wasn’t my place and I was willingly giving it up. So screw him and his sick covered floor. Finally after some deep breaths and wiping of the sweat that kept forming over my forehead I lazily plonked my feet on the clean side of the bed and sat up on the edge and ran my hand through my hair trying to get a small degree of pain free consciousness. After a bit more time of steadying myself I got up and very slowly lumbered out of my bedroom. I went around the house closing all the blinds and shutting out all light. I needed my world to be very small and restrictive at the time, I needed to block out all the panic inducing horror that waited past the safety of my front door… Well not my front door but you know…

I shuffled to the fridge and pulled it open, blinded by the weak light inside, my headache intensifying. There was nothing but cold cuts of meat and powdered versions of normal food… And alcohol. Well… It had helped to drink yesterday, and the day before to get rid of the hangover and it diluted the worry and anxiety that was the verge of crippling me as a person. Fuck it. I pulled out a bottle of wine and slammed shut the fridge door, having to pause to hold a hand to my head as the shaking and rattling it made just aggravated the agony. I ripped open the cupboard door, to see there were no clean glasses. Whatever. I dragged one out of the full sink and rinsed it out and poured wine into it and topped it up with water. I looked down into the swirling, diluted white wine and took another steadying breath and took a sip, then another.

***

Things seemed better. Maybe not better but not as bad. I guess that would be better. I giggled a little at the mistake I’d made. I had gotten to the stage where I no longer needed the water to make the wine go down. I had been sick a couple of times admittedly but I felt fine so it was probably nothing to worry about. Plus I managed to get in the toilet so things were improving, I laughed at that. It was funny.

When there was a knock at the door I was at the height of my confidence and good mood, having expelled all the pukey badness out and quashed my impending sense of dread. I wonder if it’s Carmilla? I certainly wanted to see her in the mood I was in… Though the bedroom was probably off limits until I washed the floor… There’s always the sofa, or the floor, or the shower… I skipped to the door and wrenched it open. Oh. No such luck.

“What do you want Judy?” I asked, the disappointment obvious in my tone.

“Oh how friendly!”

“What do you want Judy?” I repeated slowly and tired already of her stupid face.

“I want an apology. For the rude, unbelievably rude at that, behavior of your foreign friend!” She snapped indignantly. She had already folded her arms over her chest, in judgement, it was infuriating, her face even more judgemental.

“Well she’s not here,” I told her, looking over her shoulder into the street trying to indicate I didn’t care about this conversation, I also started moving the door back and forth a little to show I wanted to close it as soon as possible.

“I don’t expect manners from a foreigner I want it from you.”

“Tough.”

“Excuse me?!”

“Are you deaf as well as a bitch?” I asked her.

“Excuse me?! You really are a low class woman aren’t you?”

“Then why do you bother me? Why?” I asked her truly frustrated, all the annoyances I had suffered in her company boiling over. “We’re clearly not friends, you clearly don’t like me, and I don’t like you, so why, why waste your time?”

“How dare you!”

“Why?” I pressed.

“You’ll regret this Laura Michaels, you’ll regret this! I’ll let everyone know what sort of stock you are,” she turned and paced off angrily.

“Hollis,” I corrected her, but she was already out of earshot.

That was pretty gratifying, and the alcohol had numbed me to the worry of standing up to her. Good for me. I poured the rest of the wine I had left on the coffee table in living down for celebration. I could probably use a nap.

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Still no Laura… Monday was one thing but now Tuesday had come and she was still absent from work I was beginning to get concerned. It was time to go check on her after work. I missed her too, I thought yesterday was slow and boring but a second day in a row was horrendous. It was quite a big revelation to myself, that for once in my life I wanted some company. Well not company, a particular person’s company. I had said I loved and I meant it, but it was things like this which truly hammered home that point. That my heart ached when I was away from her and I was missing her desperately. Eugh. I considered stubbing my cigarette out on my own arm for being so mushy.

I waited out in the baking heat for the bus going in the direction of Laura’s house, trying my hardest to keep any exposed skin out of the sun. It was so hot on the bus. I must really care to subject myself to this sweaty misery. It was strange walking down her street. I felt like a true outsider. This was a place for proper American families, with children and a dog and a picket fences and everything which I wasn’t. Approaching the one house I knew, my concern deepened as I could see already the blinds and curtains were yanked shut, in stark contrast to all the other houses on the street.

I knocked and waited, I could hear shuffling and hurried movement behind the door for a couple moments before it swung open and a lop sided Laura was there.

“Carm!” She shouted excitedly and grabbed me by my lapels and pulled me across the threshold, kicking the door shut, hard, much harder than was necessary. Before I could respond she had pushed me back against the door and was kissing me hard, our teeth clicking uncomfortably. I could taste the wine on her tongue as it entered my mouth.

“Cutie, cutie, cutie,” I stammered pushing her back a little.

“Hey,” she beamed widely at me, breathing hard, before leaning back in to kiss me again.

“Wait hold on there,” I stopped her. “Are you ok?” I asked holding her still in front of me by both of her shoulders.

“Sure,” she looked quizzical.

“You’ve missed two days of work…”

“Oh right… Yeah I guess I have,” she shuffled back from my grasp and put a hand behind my back and encouraged me to walk into her living room. “Want a drink?”

“Coffee.”

“Not that sort of drink,” she whined.

“Fine.”

“Yay!” She skipped off happily almost slipping. “Careful!” She called out, talking to herself I suppose. Her good mood was incredibly infectious but I knew this wasn’t a time for such behavior, she was missing work and clearly hammered in the afternoon. I sat down on the sofa, I could smell bleach, so at least she had been cleaning. I pulled out a cigarette and lit it up to ready myself for whatever drunk Laura was going to do. I debated quickly whether just not to say anything and enjoy her perky mood for now, but that would be the easy and selfish thing to do… “Here!” She said in a sing song voice pushing a water glass full of red wine into my hand.

“Thanks,” I murmured taking a sip.

“I stocked up on red and on white,” she told me, she was separating each word to not slur them.

“Why did you miss work?” I asked.

“Oh, I felt ill. I feel better now, I’ll be there tomorrow, definitely,” she nodded. “I’ve actually packed some of my things in boxes… You know to move out, you never know when the war is going to end after all,” she explained drinking merrily away.

“Well I suppose so,” I started tentatively, she was in a strange place, it seemed like a lot had changed since I saw her only Sunday morning. “Well, no, I guess, but,” I was stumbling around on my words, “it’s been going on since 1939 so it might take awhile longer…”

“Oh well, who cares?! It’s great you’re here! I really missed you,” she said her face going from excited to serious in a flash, she then transitioned into biting down on her bottom lip and looking me up and down. The voice inside me telling me to just indulge her mood grew ever stronger. Especially when she got out of the armchair and sat down next to me on the sofa and edged closer, making a humming noise each time she made a deliberate movement until she was close enough to put her hand on my leg, resting it on the inside of my thigh and resting her head against my shoulder.

“I missed you too,” I said honestly, “work stinks without you, I don’t know how I coped all those months before you started.”

“Uh-huh,” she murmured, barely listening to me obviously. She had raised her head from my shoulder so she could whisper into my ear and lay a light kiss on the start of my jawline, and then another slightly further down her free hand coming to rest on the other side of my face. Oh fuck it. I would talk about whatever it was I going to at a later date. I put down my barely touched glass of wine and turned my face to meet her mouth. She took the receptive kiss as a signal and she leaped on top of me straddling my legs, her hands roaming over my body.

***

“Are you sure you’re ok cutie?” I asked much later as we lay in bed together, our clothes had been lost somewhere on the path from the living room to her bedroom. Which reeked of bleach also. I didn’t want to ask why.

“With you I am,” she replied her hand trailing over my body, resting on my breasts and cupping them each in turn.

I trembled a bit under her touch. It was a sweet answer but an evasive one… I shouldn’t ruin this sweet moment

“You too,” I smiled at her turning to face her. I bent over to kiss her on the tip of her nose.

“Eep!” She squealed, smiling as wide as possible and closing her eyes and rocking her head to side in response.

“You’re such an idiot.”

“Humph!”

“A cute one though,” I conceded.

The smile came back and she kissed the tip of my nose back, gave one last eye shut grin and turned to put her back to me and shuffled into me hugging the arm I put over her around her tight as I shifted to fit our forms together perfectly. Things were probably fine I would worry about her if things deteriorated, but I couldn’t find a single wrong at the moment. I would drag her ass to work tomorrow and get back into her schedule and everything would be fine.

Chapter Text

I didn’t understand why Laura was struggling to get up in the morning. It took me a moment to remember how much she had presumably drunk before I got to her place. She didn’t look her best, pale and moving groggily. She burst into movement to shove past me and rush out of the room. I could hear the disgusting sound of vomit striking the back of the ceramic. Right. That wasn’t good was it? If I dragged her to work, and made sure she didn’t drink today then it’d be fine. I had to hope that I wasn’t making things better in my head than it was in reality; looking at the situation with my rose tinted view. However a few days of drunkenness could just be a learning curve.

Could be.

The coffee machine whirred up as I stood over it. I had changed into my spare clothes I had left here. I wasn’t feeling my freshest but I wasn’t too sure I wanted to shower with the smell of vomit in the background. I poured out two measures of coffee and blow on my cup cooling it down. It was mid summer but I needed caffeine and the tiny blonde mess in the bathroom certainly needed some too.

She came into the kitchen dressed for work, if it wasn’t for her pale, colorless face I wouldn’t know she wasn’t feeling her best. She shuffled, a little pathetically over to me, took the spare cup of coffee, smiled weakly in thanks, kissed me lightly on the cheek and shuffled away to sit down. It took rather a lot to not move away from her kiss, knowing what had just exited her mouth.

“Are you feeling ok?” I asked her trying to sound light and airy. Not concerned and overbearing. I was the cool one out of the two of us afterall.

“Uh-huh,” she nodded very carefully, clearly not wanting to move her head too fast. If she didn’t tell me then I would seem like an asshole to press her. Hungover in the morning I knew first hand you would lash out if annoyed. The physical discomfort was twice as bad when combined with mental pressure.

“I could give driving a go?” I offered, jokingly.

“Thanks but I don’t want to die,” she smiled back before frowning clearly in further pain.

“Oh so you’ve given up cooking?”

“Shut up!”

I waited for her by the door as she came into the hall and chucked me the car keys.

“Can you open the windows and doors and let it cool down?” She asked. “I need to grab my bag.”

“Sure thing.”

That was a good idea, she was thinking, I was being paranoid, a couple of bad days and she was back to normal. Right? I’m sure it’s right. I opened all the doors and looked around the avenue while I waited for her. I got a dirty look from a lady walking a dog that I had never seen before. I suppose apart from Trudy or Judy or whatever I hadn’t seen anyone on this avenue. Also I had just left the weird blacked out house with all the blinds shut closed in mid-summer. Laura came out with her bag, a larger one than normal. Maybe she couldn’t find her regular one in her current state. She took a step forward then stopped and rocked backwards after being blinded by the sun.

She placed her bag very carefully on the backseat behind the driver’s seat, moving even more gingerly she got behind the wheel. Well here goes nothing. Please don’t crash. I think that I had worried about crashing and dying far too frequently recently.

***

Laura was sluggish for most of the morning and kept going to the bathroom for long periods of time. She didn’t let her large bag out of her sight. I guess she was going to be sick. She steadily improved, I guessed she was vomiting the illness out. She really perked up by lunch. We had nothing for lunch, even though we came from her place and could have easily prepared something. She didn’t want to eat… I guess she had a really upset stomach, though was no longer showing the signs of her hangover. Quite the opposite actually. She was full of energy once again. If I didn’t know better I would have suspected she was drunk again… She kept chain smoking, more than I was so I wouldn’t be able to smell it, plus it was also a little suspicious to go up to her and take a weird sniff.

“Work is slow today,” she commented when she returned from the small kitchenette with more coffee.

“I know it is, I got a lot done the last two days. Strangely I seem to do more work without you here,” I teased.

“Well if you don’t want to work…” She said looking at me and grinning, “I could think of better ways to spend our time…” She opened the mail room door and checked left and right and closed it behind us. “If you catch my drift?”

“It’s too risky here…”

“What’s life without a little risk?” She asked closing the distance between us and wrapping her arms around my waist, dropping immediately squeeze my ass.

“Our relationship is a risk… Being caught....” I had to pause to concentrate and focus away from her pleasantly distracting touch. “Again…” I had to pause a second time as she kissed the side of my jaw. “By someone else…”

“Come on! Don’t be boring!” She whined kissing right by my ear and jaw.

I was rooted to the ground, really debating whether to give in to her whim… I wanted to obviously. It was just too much of a risk. It was different before, when he had sex in this room, it was after midnight and even then we were found out. Before I could deny her she turned me around, and wrapped her arms from my back to my front and walked me backwards so she was leaning against the frosted glass of the mailroom door.

“No one can get in if I’m blocking the door,” she said matter of factly.

That was true, I was thinking this through as her hand was already working its way through the top of my waistband of my skirt making a gap to slide down into my underwear. She ran the tip of her finger in a light circular motion over my clit and down. She couldn’t get the angle so just returned to the circular massaging of the top of my clit working her fingers over me. I closed my eyes and forgot where we were. After some noises I tried to suppress involuntarily escaped my lips Laura clamped a hand over my mouth.

I did the only thing I could and lean my head back against her shoulder as she worked her fingers, getting faster and faster, my breathing getting heavier, moaning into her palm. She laid kisses against my neck and the side of my cheek and forehead. I was on the verge of finishing when she slowed down, teasing me, keeping on the edge, letting the crescendoing pressure plateau before speeding up again. She kept doing this, I was going crazy, rolling my head side to side on her shoulder. She held me in place with her hands. My shoulders seized up and my head lolled uselessly against her body. After a moment of two she let me go turning me around and pulling me into a kiss. I think I could taste wine on her breath, but I just didn’t care in the slightest in the moment.

“Wanna cut out early?” She asked, breathing hard too resting her forehead against mine her hands balled up in the front of my blouse. “Go back to mine?”

“We have to work,” I said through gritted teeth. I couldn’t believe it was me saying that, after it was her who suggested we shirk our responsibilities. “We have to,” I reaffirmed.

“Waaah,” she whined. She kissed me one last time before releasing her hold of me, “fine, ok, fine.”

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I felt like I wanted to crawl the walls. I was tense and on edge and the day wouldn’t end. I wanted to get out of this depressing little room and take my girlfriend back to mine and have wild, animalistic sex until we collapsed. The little office in which we worked had never felt more like its namesake, the crypt, than it did today. I had snuck off to the bathroom to sneak wine from the bottle I very cleverly snuck into work today. Apart from a bit of sickness in the morning it was like having a superpower. I don’t know why more people didn’t drink everyday, it made me feel bubbly and happy and most importantly it silenced the voices of worry and panic from rising up inside me and crippling me. Things seemed ok. When sober everything seemed like the worst not only might happen but was an inevitability rolling around to crush me, whereas in my current mood the future was easy to cope with.

My eyes didn’t stray off Carmilla much either, waiting to drag her back to my place and tear off her clothes. She was gorgeous as it was, but the more I drank she became a goddess. Aphrodite in the flesh. It made it almost impossible not to lunge at her. Well it was impossible I had already needed to give in to my urges and touch her and please her the way she deserved. I felt a bit emotional all of a sudden, weird and unable to put my finger on why my mood had shifted so quickly. I just stared at her from the side as she worked away. She was so beautiful and amazing, I was so lucky to have her.

“Yes?”

“What? Huh?” I spluttered knocked out of my daydream.

“You’re staring.”

“Can’t I appreciate your beauty?” I said with a purposefully cheesy grin.

“Not when I’m doing all the work.”

“There’s barely any work to do…”

“Well you’re the one who wanted to cut out early, so if you want to then help me finish so we can leave,” she countered.

“Fair point,” I nodded with agreement, reluctantly getting back to the task at hand, fixating on getting back to my place after this boredom was completed and using that as a motivating factor.

***

My front door knocked the wall I shoved it open so hard, so eager was I to get in. I left closing it to Carmilla as I rushed off to my bedroom to hide my bag I had hidden my secret wine in. Secret wine, that was a clever way of thinking of it! I tittered a little to myself at that. I pushed the bag into the wardrobe. I rushed back to grab her and kiss her.

“I’ve waited to do that all day!” I told her breathlessly.

“You didn’t really wait,” she reminded me.

“Oh yeah, that was fun.”

“It was stupid.”

“Part of the fun,” I pressed breaking apart from her to go to the fridge and pull out a bottle of red wine.

“It’s a Wednesday night,” Carmilla said, there was an air of judgement to her voice which irked me a bit.

“So? We’ve drunk on a Wednesday before,” I told her searching around for where ever I had tossed the bottle opener from my last use of it. I had a spare one in my bag but I didn’t want to give that fact away.

“Yeah but weren’t you ill the last couple days?” She said hesitantly.

“I’m not now… Don’t be boring!”

I was getting aggravated at her now. I had wanted to get home and drink and fool around with her all day, especially the morning when I felt terrible and rough, now she was holding out on me.

“Besides if we get drunk tonight…”

“Not drunk,” I interrupted, “just a bit buzzed.”

“A bit buzzed…” She repeated quietly looking down at the floor. “Then what do we do at the weekend?”

“I don’t care what as long as I’m spending it with you,” I replied in a small voice glancing up at her shyly and away.

“Catch,” she said. I looked up to see her underhand throw the bottle opener at me, I didn’t catch it.

***

The world had been spinning just a tad but it was centred again as I’d gotten my own way and had Carmilla naked, in my bed. Her head nestled on my chest taking a small break from our debaucherous evening.

“You know,” she broke the peaceful silence. “If you want to talk I’m here to talk to.”

“About what?”

“Life, love whatever.”

“Not really…” I certainly didn’t want to ruin my cheery disposition with some ‘deep’ talk about my problems. They seemed rather miniscule at the moment.

“It’s just…” She started and stopped, sighing. “It’s just that you do have a lot on your plate at the moment, you do… Do… Look,” she turned on her side and faced me. “You’re drinking a lot more than when I first met you… That isn’t the solution you know, you have me to lean against you don’t need to drink away problems because… You know it doesn’t work.”

“Excuse me?” I asked offended. It was true but… I didn’t want to really hear it.

“You were hungover and missed work… You were drinking at work an…”

“No I wasn’t!” I lied. Even though she was correct I was indignant because she couldn’t know for sure so was making an assumption. A very negative assumption at that.

“Laura… Come on.”

“On what? I said I wasn’t!”

“I could taste it in your mouth, plus the way you were acting…”

“How was I acting?”

“You know, wanting to fuck at work is a little out of character…”

“It’s me being spontaneous, sorry for trying to sweep you off your feet. You seemed to enjoy it.”

“I did… That’s not the point.”

“What is the point?”

“You know the point I’m making…” She sighed again, deeply, running a hand through her hair. “I’m trying to help there’s no need to be obtuse about it… Remember I’m on your side. Totally and one hundred percent on your side.”

I knew that was true, logically, but emotionally I was rejecting it. I was angry now, really angry at her, I was fine, so I had a few drinks in the last couple days to steady myself and fortify myself against all the problems I would inevitably go through. It had helped if anything, the headaches and stomach pain in the morning were the only noticeable side effect. The only noticeable downside. Also! Also if she was trying to be supportive and not nag me, nag me and tell what she thinks is best for me rather than letting me make my own decisions then she would support me and not lecture me. Yeah… Yeah! That made sense actually, I wasn’t going to let her bully me.

“I don’t want to talk about this,” I said turning my back to her and pulling the sheets up with my feet and catching them and pulling them tight over me.

“I know you don’t, but we should…”

“No we shouldn’t,” I said with finality.

I could feel her sit up next me and could hear her sigh of distress and getting out of my bed. I didn’t move to acknowledge her until I could hear items of clothing being picked up from the floor and her getting dressed.

“Where you going?” I asked.

“Home.”

“Why?” I whined, I certainly didn’t want her to leave, I didn’t want to be alone.

“If we can’t talk honestly why should I be here? If you don’t trust me?”

“I do… It’s just… Well… Look there are no buses this late,” I flailed at.

“Then I’ll walk.”

“It’s like six miles…”

“Nearer seven,” she corrected.

“Please stay.”

“Can we talk seriously?”

The pause stretched out painfully as I contemplated whether I really wanted to have her speak down to me about what she thought I ought to do. It was painful, the long silence, I couldn’t look up at her, my body was burning with shame already.

“Fine,” she huffed, “I’ll see you later, when you’re more reasonable.” She walked past me into the hall and I could hear her rustling around for her things.

I was rooted to the spot in the bed, hot and uncomfortable but still drunk and angry and sad, I couldn’t move. I didn’t want her to leave but I didn’t want her to stay in her current state. I closed my eyelids tight and willed her to come back in, remove her clothing and get back into the bed with me and forgot all this nonsense. It didn’t come I heard the door open and then close with a light click… It would have been easier if she just slammed the door and stormed out. Then I could be angry back and we would both be in the wrong and could reconcile evenly. Whereas now I felt she was disappointed in me, which just flat out hurt from someone you truly loved.

Why would she try to hurt me when she knows I’m in such a sensitive state? She knows that, even made reference to it and still choose to abandon me after upsetting me… Maybe she did have a point, it wasn’t a good thing to drink in the morning, day after day. Actually no she didn’t because it wasn’t day after day it was just a few days in a row, it was atypical. I rolled out of bed and stalked to the fridge to pull out another bottle of wine.

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Jesus Christ my feet ached. Walking home wasn’t a good idea. It was the only option though. I couldn’t stay if she wouldn’t talk, otherwise I was just being an enabler, if I didn’t follow through by leaving then I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if we… Well not if… When we spoke about it again. If she knew I would give in then how could I try to help? It still broke my heart to leave. She needed me there, but how could I be there for her if she wasn’t honest. What could I provide?

***

Dead. Dead was a good word to describe how I felt the next morning walking into work. The only thing that made me know I was alive was agony coming from my feet. Blistered feet at that. I walked a lot yesterday. When Laura no showed work again I was angry. She had a car and had slept before midnight and hadn’t walked 7 fucking miles. It was hard to be supportive when the person you were trying to support was so unreasonable. The thing was it wasn’t that bad, a few days in a row of fucking up, and drinking all day wasn’t the end of the world, but it was the start of a dark path which didn’t have a happy ending.

I wouldn’t go today. I wouldn’t go to Laura’s place and see if she was ok… I wanted to, but I was annoyed and my feet needed a rest. That wouldn’t be a combination to try to help. I knew I would snap and I definitely didn’t want to come across overbearing and bossy. No. One more day. Friday. Would be a good time to try again. I didn’t expect to see her in work tomorrow.

***

It was as expected. No Laura on Friday. My blood screamed with worry for her as I tried to concentrate on working. I would go tonight and talk to her. Snap her out of this bullshit phrase before a dreadful habit was created.

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Waking up in the early hours of the morning things weren’t quite right. I didn’t feel hungover, I didn’t feel sober either, somewhere in between. Clarity maybe? Carmilla’s words about my drinking really were sinking in as I stood by the sink and poured each bottle of wine down the plug hole. I hope wouldn’t regret this, but I’d missed work again. Yet again… No. Bad idea. I watched the red and white liquid pour away. It was a waste of money, but if I was tempted to drink and miss work I’d be fired when someone actually came down to the crypt and checked and fired me for absences, then I’d lose more money. Who knows if this is even a problem? However it was best to nip it in the bud. Get back to work on Monday, stop messing around and avoiding my problems and get on with things.

Monday was the best day to go back, I knew I would feel like shit when all the stuff I drank before I went to sleep… Not even went to sleep just collapsed and passed out. When all the alcohol finally worked itself out of my system. I would use the time in between to clean the house, wash my clothes get myself in order. Stop messing around.

Still I felt the overwhelming sadness and anxiety just bubbling under my flesh, a pressure screaming through my veins pressing up against my skin. It felt like I was a boiling pot on a stove with a lid, but the water inside had no way of getting out. Just rattling away wanting to burst but unable to do so. Was I crying? I touched my face. I was. I didn’t realize I had started to but I was, just tears rolling freely down my cheeks. I screamed, screamed out loud as hard as I could press my lungs until my chest and throat burned with pain.

***

I knew what I was doing wasn’t rational. I could recognize that. I was sitting in the back of my closest with the door slid shut hugging my knees. I really wanted Carmilla to come over. So I could apologize for being thick headed and have her hug me. I hoped I hadn’t blown it. Pushed her away by being an idiot, a self-indulgent idiot at that. My head felt appalling. My stomach was twisted up in knots, I felt both hungry and sick. I don’t think I’d eaten food in several days, I couldn’t remember. My stomach was ruined. My eyes were stinging from the inexplicable tears.

My mind wouldn’t do what I wanted. I wanted to think about positives… Or at least anything but the fear and paranoia I was conjuring up. The war would probably stretch on longer, the latest news was there was fighting in France not Germany and Japanese islands… Yet my mind was screaming it’ll end tomorrow, Henry will come back and kick me out. There were cheap, small, affordable apartments which I could rent all over town… Yet my mind told me no one would want to rent to a harlot who abandoned a husband returning from Europe…

I slapped the side of my face, hard, harder than I should, I expected pain to come but it was nothing but numbness and emptiness. What I kept thinking of was a nasty pressure underneath the skin I couldn’t release.

Finally there was a knock at the front door. I had no idea what time it was. I spent too long sitting in my hiding place. The feeling of needing to close out the outside world started with all the curtains being shut tight, but that was no longer enough, I could still hear the cars coming up and down the street so I needed to be more secluded. It was again an internal conflict, where I could recognize that it was the behavior of a crazy person but it felt right and necessary. More importantly necessary.

Leaving my cubby hole I walked slowly and carefully, feeling very fragile indeed, to the entrance of my house and peered through the small, frosted windows to the side of the door. I couldn’t see clearly but I could see dark hair. I opened the door a crack and peeked out.

“Hey,” I mumbled. My voice came out raspy and sore, I hadn’t spoken out loud since I last saw her apart from screaming out in pained frustration.

“Hey,” she said stoically. Appraising me with an unreadable expression. It wasn’t quite cold but it wasn’t pleasant either. I opened the door only a crack biggest enough to let her in but not to expose more of the terrible world past her. She frowned at that and turned side face and slid in through the offered gap. “How you feeling today?”

“Fine… No… Not great,” I admitted.

“You look like you’ve been crying.”

“I have been.”

“Want to talk now?”

“Yeah… I really do…”

We paused in the hallway for a moment, I sniffled a couple times fighting back tears. I knew what would make me feel better, I basically jumped her and hugged her so fiercely around the waist, trapping her arms to her side. Just clinging to her for life itself. I felt better. A lot so. She wriggled her arms up and free from my death grip and placed them round me back, squeezing reassuringly. I made a low, long wail from my throat without opening my mouth. We stood like that for ages.

Finally I carefully let her go. I might have been hurting her from how hard I was crushing her. I was crying again, I didn’t know why, but it helped to sniffle and sniff. I didn’t wipe my eyes anymore. The skin was too sensitive and sore now. I turned round and shuffled into the living room.

“Sit down I’ll make us some coffee,” she told me, reaching out squeezing my arm. I did as I was told, somewhat trance like. I slumped down onto the sofa and put my feet on the cushion and wrapped my arms around my knees, like I’d sat in closest. It felt like safety. The machine whirring up to make the coffee made me jump a little, I had adapted to my self-created silent bubble. Time was passing at a very strange pace, I was aware of it ticking away but felt detached from its passage. I jumped once again when she gently placed the steaming mug in my hands, I held it, cradled between both palms, probably burning myself, I didn’t really feel it. I did feel it but couldn’t acknowledge the discomfort from the heat.

“Drink,” she encouraged. “Drink you’ll feel better…”

It did help.

I tried to explain myself, but it was difficult, my worries came out stupid, and nowhere near as stressful as they were in my head. She was understanding though, I don’t know why in hindsight why I was so against talking to her about it in the first place. Why I had thought she should let me stew in a drunken depression.

“What happened to your stock of wine?” She asked finally when some of my worst fears were soothed by her cold logic and perspective.

“I poured it down the sink.”

“Good… It’s not like you had a problem cutie,” she told me. “It’s just… If you were beginning to slide into using alcohol as a crutch when you were just thinking how you might tackle your problems in the future I hate to think how you would cope when you actually have to go through them.”

“True,” I mumbled, unable to look at her. It was embarrassing. I felt like a fool and it was humiliating. “I still don’t feel that much better…” I admitted after another of the long pauses which punctuated our conversation.

“You need the booze to fully leave your system… Also when did you eat last?”

“I can’t remember,” I said truthfully, “it’s been a while.”

“Let me cook you something.”

“No… No thanks, I couldn’t eat today.”

“Well I’ll make you breakfast and make sure you eat it.”

“Fine. Thanks.”

I pulled a cigarette out and lit it up, needing it, taking a long drag. Exhaustion was taking me over and I yawned the smoke out. I had no idea when I woke up, nor how long I had spent in the closest. Wordlessly she dragged me to my feet and pushed me towards my bedroom and helped me into my underwear then under the sheets. The panic rose a little from deep inside when she left the room to use the bathroom. When she returned she cuddled up to me and stroked my hair as I fell easily into sleep.

***

It was dark, pitch black, I had no idea what time it was but after midnight. Carmilla was snoozing peacefully next to me, we had split apart in our sleep. It was mid summer and hot. I was sweating a lot, my hair was sticking to my scalp. That horrid disconcerting pressure was back under my skin. I tossed and turned restlessly but couldn’t drift back off into a peaceful rest. I rolled out of bed, deciding to shower in cold water and try again when I was fresher.

Standing under the jet of cool water I felt a bit better, but still off. Distressed was a good way of describing it, some odd uncertainty and apprehension wouldn’t go away. I wanted to cry out in frustration again, to expel some sort of energy but knew my partner was sleeping not too far away. I slammed my hand into the wall instead, over and over. The emotional pain was translated into the physical pain. The soap and other toiletries fell from the dishes into the tub around my feet. Carefully picked them up and placed them back. Pausing with one item.

I turned the razor over and over in my hand. If hurting my hand made the crushing emotional angst temporarily evaporate… I unclicked the blade from the handle and placed the handle back on one of the dishes. I placed the bitter edge of it to my skin, halfway up my outer thigh and pressed it in and let it bite the skin pulling the blade up towards my hip. A crimson streak ran out and mingled with the water. It didn’t feel real or look real. Yet I felt its effect, not just a distant sting but calmer. Hypnotized by the swirling blush of color circling the drain. One more gash next to the first made me even calmer… Mesmerized by the whirling mix of water and blood.

I almost tripped over my own feet and fell when I heard a noise outside the bathroom. I quickly fixed the blade I was gripping into the handle and put it under the stream of water to cleanse it of what I’d done. I wasn’t sure why I had done that… What captivated and motivated me to do it, but it had really helped, the pressure, boiling away inside of me was released through the laceration finally finding the escape from my body it needed to find.

Towelling myself off I was extra careful to pat away any residue blood. I looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror through the steam coat and after a moment I was able to wipe away the condensation and look myself in the eye for the first time in a week, giving myself a small, sad smile. I put my underwear and bra back on and slipped back into bed lying on the cut up leg.

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She was still sleeping when I got up. I promised to make breakfast and I intended to do so. I was glad she had thrown away her wine, the temptation. I shouldn’t have mentioned hair of the dog to her in the first place, I felt a bit guilty. Still it was simply a small wobble and we could get things back on track together. I also felt guilty that I hadn’t realized that she was heading towards a huge upheaval and would be struggling. I should have stepped in sooner, I was just glad I caught… No… We caught it early and stopped her developing a problem.

She came out to join me in the kitchen when I was making fried bread and egg. Whereas I had just slipped on one of her robes she had actually got dressed.

“Why are you dressed?” I asked looking over my shoulder as she came over to kiss me on the cheek and say good morning.

“Erm… I thought if I was going to be productive after wasting a week I should get up and get dressed and get… Well those two things,” she explained sitting down at the table.

“Fair enough.”

I was very glad she had that attitude, it was just a wobble and things weren’t as bad as I thought it might be. She was a strong girl. We’d be fine.

Chapter Text

I had collected several clippings from the town's monthly newspaper for local listings of apartments for Laura. They were dirt cheap… I think. I had no comparison, my place was subsidized heavily by the government for my refugee status. Still if she was making what I was making, a pittance as it might be, they were definitely affordable. I thought that would be the best step to take for her. If she was in some horrid panic worried about what the future might entail and terror caused by the darkness of uncertainty down those paths then finding some way to defog that future then I had to try to do that.

It made more sense in my head.

On top of that it was really the only thing I could help with, finding a place could be shared. Whereas how she would deal with her mother and father, her husband (thinking of him still made me uneasy) depended on them and all I could do was be there in the most supportive form I could be. That, I was not looking forward to. Being mushy and sweet wasn’t really me, but I knew I would have to. That bridge would be crossed when I came to it. Just have to bite my tongue and say nice things and all that stuff.

My heart was in my throat as I walked into the town hall’s side entrance and into the mail room. Just praying that Laura would have turned up Monday morning. I know she said she would. That she’d ridden herself of the alcohol, that it was just a silly flutter of recklessness. Yet the proof was in the pudding. My heart dropped with relief as I saw her sitting up on the sorting table as I pushed open the door.

“Morning,” I greeted her and she jumped a little at the sound of my voice.

“Oh hey.”

“You showed up.”

“I certainly did.”

“Feeling better?”

“Yeah. Embarrassed but yeah, better.”

“Well I have brought this,” I told her throwing down my bag and pulled out all the clippings I’d collected. She picked some up and checked them, I saw the scowl.

“Thanks,” she mumbled. “I’ll get us coffee.”

“Thanks,” I replied organizing the clippings in some sort of order, stacking them up. I waited for the coffee before I started working and lit up a cigarette. “Why are you wearing stockings?” I asked her on her return, “it’s over 90 degrees today.”

“I don’t feel the heat I guess,” she murmured as she adjusted her tights and skirt awkwardly.

“Ok… No need to be weird about it I was just asking.”

“I don’t comment on your strange desire to wear nothing but black.”

“Fine.”

***

She had a bit short with me all day but it was likely just a hangover lingering from last week… It is possible I guess, or it will make you feel off… At least she was working and had said we should go to the cafe after work to browse the rental possibilities I’d collected. She got us some cheese sandwiches and coffee while I laid out the papers.

“See it isn’t so bad,” I told her as she down with the drinks and she lit up a cigarette.

“I’ve never done this stuff before… Never paid a bill, never had a responsibility… I don’t even know how much we get paid,” she said in a small voice, childlike almost. “You don’t understand…”

“Don’t I? I lived in a mansion up until 5 years ago when I had sneak across Europe, across two bodies of water and had to find a place to live, a job… I had never worried about spending money then all of a sudden I had to pay for electricity and my own food,” I informed her. “I do know. That’s why I’m here to help.”

“I didn’t mean that… I just... It’s new for me.”

“It was new to me but I managed to cope and things are alright now.”

“I guess…” She mumbled as she played with the servette on the table, pushing it around. “So what to do with these?” She finally settled and pointed to the listings without looking at them.

“Nothing really, just look,” I replied picking one up and reading off the details. “It just puts stuff in perspective for you doesn’t it? You were worried about where you would live? Well there are places here which are easy to afford and you can move into on short notice so I thought it would lift the weight a bit from your shoulders.”

“Sure… Sure…”

“I thought you were going to try to take this head on?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Laura!” I snapped.

“Ok, fuck, ok fine,” she snapped right back and making a dramatic effort to pick up each of the listings and sighing loudly as she made an effort to read in a purposefully strained way. “Looks aaaamazing,” she drawled flicking the paper away lazily letting it spin to the table.

“Shit,” I mumbled. I couldn’t pick a fight in a public place. It wasn’t proper, but we couldn’t have a couple’s spat somewhere where people could observe it. The whole pitchfork wielding villagers and burning windmill reason I kept worrying about. The server brought our sandwiches and we chewed away slowly and in painful silence. “Well this is fun.”

“Humph.”

That was a bit upsetting to hear. Normally her ‘humphs,’ were directed playfully and in good spirits when she wanted me to stop mocking her. Now she was moody. I was the one who was supposed to be moody! She was the happy one, I’m not sure I could take up that slack; skipping around and squeaking and being all cute. Didn’t seem like me.

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Still felt pretty rough. Just depressed and like I was grinding out the time in between sleeping and sleeping again. Part of me couldn’t really understand why. Was it just worry about what the uncertain future held? I was worried about talking to Carm about all the anxiety I was having and it was fine when she came over and we spoke. I built up some worst case in my head and it was silly and facetious. So that was probably it. The two biggest worries were confronting Henry with divorce and breaking it to my parents, especially my mother. He was in Europe, so a spectre of a fear floating nebulously out of my reach. Whereas my mother, well, my mother I hadn’t spoken to her since I stormed out of a Sunday lunch weeks ago. Months ago. She was another worry which had a ghostly outline, unformed and unable to know what it was but enough of an outline to panic at.

Baby steps I suppose. I felt appalling last week, what I remember of it that is, it was probably overly optimistic to presume everything would be rainbows this week. It was naive. That’s my problem, naive little girl who has had everything done for her all her life who is falling apart when some responsibility falls on my shoulders. Eugh. Fuck. I could just never talk to my mother again… Run and hide. That was an option right? It’s not like we had the best relationship. It’s not like a future relationship would improve. I’d done everything she wanted of me and she wasn’t happy. I got married against my best judgement to the first guy who asked me out with her pressuring me every step of the way. I’d stayed home as a housewife with her criticizing me every step of the way. The only thing I hadn’t done was have a child and that was as much Henry’s fault as mine. In her eyes it was like I was concentrating on not getting pregnant, willing my womb not to work.

That was a disgusting thought.

My home was ever becoming a place I didn’t feel at home in. I knew my tenure here was limited and that hung heavy on my head. If I thought about these things too much I got that horrid pressure building up, screaming through my veins looking for a way out. Whereas if I didn’t think on it and force myself to empty and clear my brain just a nasty malaise set in. The only good thing was the fact I’d stopped drinking alcohol for a while, the mornings of headaches and stomach cramp made everything that much worse.

I was never hungry anymore, it was all just worried knots in my gut making it impossible to force food down my throat, especially disgusting rationed meals at that. If Carmilla hadn’t bothered me into having a cafe sandwich I doubt I would have eaten at all today. Cigarettes and coffee were the two staples of my diet. I guess I could look at the listings for the apartments, it was just such a big step that looking meant I was moving into that step rather than hovering around at the bottom holding off from making the ascent into the unknown.

I would need to do something… I had Carm… Well at least for now… I hated myself for how I had treated her today. Short and rude and unable to reply in anything but cutting answers. I couldn’t help it, it was just the mood I was in. I didn’t sit in the cafe thinking ‘oh screw you,’ but I couldn’t muster any energy or even courtesy. Argh.

***

Didn’t really know how I ended up back in the shower under boiling hot water, far too hot, my skin going red. It didn’t hurt though. My mind detached from my flesh. The heat helped though, helped knock me from my weird daze. Again I didn’t know why the razor taken from the handle ended up in my hand or why I was pulling it up my upper, outer thigh letting it bite the flesh and release some of the terrible pressure built up inside me and poisoning my mind and body. The red streak was just a side product, a necessary evil to get rid of the contamination coursing through me. One more. Just one more gash and I would be done.

It looked like the red wine when I had poured that down the sink. It was similar I guess. Getting rid of something to fix my emotional… Not problems. Temporary worries. I shut off the shower and dried the blood from my wounds and examined the angry red marks next to healed scars of the previous marks. Easy to hide. Nothing to worry about.

I went through the clippings of rentals. Finally. I was ready for it. I had coped with my overwhelming distraction in my own way and was ready to face the world. Not completely. I wasn’t planning on opening up my curtains any time soon, but baby steps. The listings were calming. I could easily afford the $30 to $40 a month all these places cost. Sure, it would be a step down to live in a small apartment from a pretty bungalow but it would be fine. I sank back into my sofa. I felt a lot calmer. The self-destructive pressure had died down and I could breathe normally again, instead of in nervous gasps.

***

“Morning,” I greeted Carmilla. Determined this morning not to a grump and closed off. I may have used the razor blade again this morning, in the shower before work, but I had woken up in the early hours full of anxiety and unable to get back to sleep until I had done so. Still if it was helping me function… “I looked at those listings.”

“And?”

“Well yeah… You were right.”

“I know I was.”

I think I preferred her in her cocky mood rather than trying to be overly sensitive, it suited her a lot more and felt a lot more honest.

“Right, well yeah, they’re pretty affordable… I can work that out.”

“I’ll go with you. To look. When the time comes.”

“How will I know when the time comes?”

“Well I doubt the war will end and no one will be told.”

“Fair point.”

“So yeah, we’ll go around, I’ll stop you getting the place with the yellow wallpaper and it’ll work out.”

“Ok… I’ll get us some coffee.”

Felt more positive.

“What about your parents?” Carmilla asked after happily accepting the steaming mug. “Given that any thought?”

“Not really…”

“Not really?” She probed.

“Well… Yeah, I have, but nothing really.”

“What? Come on.”

“Well I haven’t seen my mother since I stormed out of dinner… So she probably is ignoring me until I grovel and apologize on my knees. She’s stubborn. My father I haven’t seen since the day after when he told me not to worry too much.”

“Glad to see you took that advice to heart.”

“What? Oh whatever. So my plan is to… Well basically ignore the problem and hope it goes away.”

“Smart.”

“As opposed to? ‘Hey mother dearest, sorry to bother you, but you know we haven’t spoken in ages and ages and ages but guess what? You’re not having grandchildren, see you at Christmas!”

“Perfect.”

“Humph!”

“Just needs a little finessing,” she said with a smirk. “Just a little,” she held her forefinger and thumb a quarter of an inch apart to emphasis the point. Despite myself I cracked a smile.

“Thanks.”

“For what?”

“Making me smile.”

“It’s a shame I don’t have any keys to jangle.”

“Humph!”

***

“Hey guys!” Danny came striding over as we left work together from the town hall.

“Hi Danny,” we said in odd unison.

“Aww. Synchronized!”

“What’s up?” I asked as I heard Carmilla sigh. I could feel her eyes rolling even standing next to her.

“Nothing much,” she beamed. I guessed it was just having her husband back making her so cheerful. “Just haven’t spoken to you since our little dinner party.”

“It was a good night,” I told her.

“From what I remember,” Carmilla added.

“Yeah, we all drunk a lot. We should do it again soon.”

“I’m not drinking for a while,” I said, “you know the hangover,” I added, lying.

“Well we can still hangout.”

“Sure thing.”

“Friday?”

Oh I didn’t realize she was actually suggesting a date.

“Sounds good,” Carmilla agreed on our behalf, surprising me. Danny went off and I shot Carm a curious glance. “Well you need distraction. It’s no good being cooped up in your dark house being a grumpy guts.”

“I am not a GRUM…” I took a deep breath. “Fine, yeah sounds good.”

I was giving her a lift home and we made our way to the car, it was sweltering inside.

“You know,” Carmilla started after a couple of moments. My heart sunk, I didn’t want another conversation and I could just hear the seriousness weighing in her voice. “If you want to go speak to your parents I’ll come with you.”

“I’m not sure that’s the best idea.”

“Why?”

“Well the whole not having grandchildren point with and I’m leaving the husband you like more than me mommy and I’m leaving him for her,” I explained with a jerk of my thumb at her.

“Wasn’t really suggesting that.”

“Then?”

“Just emotional support, you know, I could even wait in the car so you have someone to talk to on the journey back.”

She really did care, it made me feel safer, it was one of the few bright sparks in my currently dark life.

“I’ll think on it.”

“All I’m asking.”

When we pulled up outside her apartment block she only cracked the passenger side door and paused.

“Wanna come up? Distract ourselves?” She said with a look that I knew what she meant. That spooked me a bit, my immediate reaction was to go with her, before I remembered the sore red scars forming on the side of my thigh. That would be hard to explain away and it wouldn’t be dark for several hours so I couldn’t hide it in the darkness.

“Can’t.”

“You sure?”

“In a couple days…”

“What? Oh. Right, no problem,” she nodded with acceptance catching my drift. She looked over her shoulder out of the back window and the then sides and then the front then when she thought the coast was clear she quickly darted over to kiss me chastely on the lips before finally opening the door fully and getting out. “Thanks for the lift see you tomorrow.”

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I had been worried about Laura. Now I’d worried myself, I couldn’t imagine a worse thing to do with myself than go meet Laura’s terrifying mother. Yet this woman who put the fear of god in her had no power over me, it was a bit like that Trudy woman, or Judy? No I always thought it was Judy and it was Trudy… Who cares? She might snap and be rude but ultimately it would be nothing but bluster.

It was nice to see her functioning. That was a low bar. Still had to climb back up.

I had also considered offering moving out of my place and finding a place together, the bigger apartments were easily affordable with our combined salaries even though we both made next to nothing. That might look suspicious though… It was just something to consider. An idea I was warming to.

***

“Right so I’ve been thinking,” Laura said to me the next morning as she brought me a cup of coffee.

“Don’t strain yourself.”

“Haha, anyway I’ve been thinking, I think I’m going to talk to my mother right before going over to Danny and Kirsch’s dinner party or whatever it is,” she said with a scowl. “The whole not hiding thing probably won’t work… Plus the war could end any moment so…”

“So…”

“So if I’m struggling with the idea of asking for a divorce while telling my parents while moving… Then doing it all at one time my husband returns then… I’m not sure how I can cope. So I might as well… You know?”

“Get it out of the way,” I finished for her.

“Precisely. Give my mother and father time to deal with it.”

“Smart move.”

“I thought so.”

“Good for you cutie, I’m proud of you. Do you want me to come with you?”

“Yeah… I do. I think it’s best to wait in the car though. Maybe break me out if they lock me in for reeducation.”

“Should I bring a fire axe?”

“Or a flamethrower.”

“Taped to a fire axe?” I offered up. She just smiled and almost giggled. Almost. I just wanted to see her be happy once and again.

***

As the week progressed Laura’s mood which clearly rested on a knife’s edge seemed to be tipping towards falling into depression. I don’t know why she had suddenly turned on a dime and decided to go talk to her parents but I didn’t want to press the issue and tip her over the edge. If I intended to support her then I really shouldn’t, it was just difficult to find the balance between hectoring her and not letting her mope around and just wallow in her own misery.

I however was pretty nervous on her behalf now when we were sitting in the car at the top of a driveway I didn’t recognize. I’d never been to this part of the town. It wasn’t far enough to be the big, big houses where the richest people lived, it was more the lower-middle-middle class in the middle. Huh. They were nice enough houses, two storeys with gardens. What a boring place Laura grew up in. Though she now lived on a similar street with identical houses with identical fences and identical cars and identical gardens, just a downgraded lesser version. It was very gloomy to think a young couple moved into a small avenue then just moved up to slightly bigger versions of their original house. It was perpetual arrested development.

“Are we here?” I asked after the silence had dragged just a little too long. I glanced over at her and noticed her knuckles were white gripping the steering wheel.

“Down the street a bit…”

“Ok…”

“Maybe this isn’t the best idea. We should go to Danny’s.”

“I thought her place was the cleanser from this.”

“Yeah well. This may just ruin the night if it goes badly.”

“It may not. We’re here.”

“Yeah.”

Her mouth twitched side to side and I could see her teeth clenched in the back of her jaw.

“Ok,” she said after another long pause. “Ok. Ok. Ok. Let’s go.” She started the car up again, stalling it, then stalling it again. She took a deep breathe and let it out slowly and started the car properly and turned into the avenue. We stopped outside of one of the houses after she went to the end and turned around. I guess she wanted to face the exit so we could escape quickly.

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My heart was almost bursting out of my ears it was pounding so hard, I was breathing out of my mouth because I couldn’t quite get enough oxygen from my nose. Aside from the tremors of nerves and skittishness the gashes I had made in my upper thigh was pulsating, feeling as if the freshly healed skin would burst and leak blood down my leg. I knocked lightly on the door. My hand was shaking as I withdrew it. Really shaking. This wasn’t healthy to be this panicked just to talk to my mommy and daddy.

The door swung open and I saw my father for the first time in ages, he had his pipe in his mouth and had a checkered suit on.

“Laura! My word, what a pleasant surprise,” he beamed patting me hello on the shoulder. That was pretty intimate for him. “What a pleasant surprise,” he repeated pushing me into the house. “It’s been so long. So long indeed.”

“Yeah I know. Sorry about that,” I muttered.

“Your mother is out in the garden, pruning the flowerbeds.”

“Right.”

“Come sit down,” he took me into the living room and waited until I sat down in an armchair. “I’ll go get your mother. She’ll be delighted to see you.”

I doubted that. Even if she was happy to see me now she certainly wouldn’t be soon. Provided my nerve held that is. Carmilla was in the car and I was going to a party with friends. Accepting friends at that. However this goes Laura, stay strong and remember that.

“She’ll just be a moment,” my father peeked his head into the living room from the kitchen. “Coffee?”

“Thanks.”

“One second.”

I took the cup and placed it on the small table beside my chair. I was too nervous to drink, my throat felt closed.

“Well, well, well,” my mother entered the room. My veins were screaming with pressure. “Look who it is.” Her voice was toxic, boiling with venom. Clipped and nasty. “What have we done to deserve the presence of her royal highness herself.”

“Come now,” my father interjected.

“Come now? Don’t be stupid she has ignored her parents for who knows how long now and wants to waltz in and act like nothing has happened?” Her voice was becoming shrill.

“You don’t know what she wants you haven’t given her the chance.”

“Fine, go ahead your royal highness.”

“Mom…”

“Don’t mom me!”

“Mother…”

“You can drop that tone as well.”

The nerves were getting replaced with anger now. She was awful. She truly was and always had been, why did I deserve to be treated like this by one half of the two people who should be able to offer me unrequited love.

“I guess I can’t talk to you then,” I said getting up. “Everything I say is going to cause you to snap at me.”

“You better sit back down.”

“Or what? You’ll not talk to me for a month? Oh no.”

“You really need your husband back young lady, to keep you in line.”

“Yeah right,” I muttered.

“What? Pardon me? Speak up!”

“Keep me in line?” I asked my own voice rising and becoming annoyed. “Docile and agreeable to what you want?”

“That’s a husband's role!”

“Then why are you talking and not dad?” I asked with a small smirk which was wiped off my face instantly as an open hand slapped me hard in the cheek.

“How dare you!”

My cheek was stinging as I placed a hand on the impact zone and rubbed it lightly.

“Maybe if Henry did that a bit more often you wouldn’t be so uppity.”

“Well he won’t have the chance!”

“What is that supposed to mean?!” My mother was spitting with rage now.

She had thrown her best shot at me and the stinging pain was already fading. She wasn’t as scary as all that. As I’d built up in my head. Screw her.

“I’m asking for a divorce the second he gets back. Then he can find a nice pliable new wife who can beat and discipline and have children with and we’ll all be happy.”

She looked like a tower of fury her shoulders were beginning to rise up and down and her face went red. It would have been comical if she hadn’t just hit me.

“You!” She spluttered out, red and furious not able to find anymore words yet, just panted. She then lunged at me again, I moved back but wasn’t able to block the first couple strikes which hit me in the side of my head each side before my father grabbed my mother by the waist and lifted her up and pulled her back. “Get out! Get out! Get out!” She screamed over and over until her voice got hoarse. My dad didn’t look at me he was concentrating on holding her back.

I left slamming the door as hard as I could.

***

We were speeding down the road in silence for I don’t know how long. I thought that I should have some form of emotion but I just felt blank. My mother hadn’t hit me since I was a child. It wasn’t quite what I expected but I had no expectations walking in. It wasn’t too bad. My mother had never brought me any happiness in my life and if she didn’t want to see me what was I really losing? My father on the other hand… If she hadn’t turned into a violent lunatic I might have been able to gauge his reaction. Because of her volatility his reaction now had a giant question mark over it. He had always been nice and had always been supportive. As supportive as one could be in the shadow of the overbearing presence of my mother.

“So I’m guessing it went well?” Carmilla finally broke the tension.

I laughed and could taste the salty water of my tears. I didn’t realize I had been crying until then.

“It could have gone worse,” I said with a laugh. “She only hit me… Well three times.”

“She hit you?”

“Three times.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s ok. If she wasn’t angry I probably wouldn’t have told her.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Divorce.”

“That’s it?”

“I didn’t get to say much more.”

“Ok… Ok.”

“I didn’t mention us or anything,” I told her.

“Thank god, wait what am I’m doing? I’m supposed to here for your moral support not the otherway round.”

“It’s fine,” I glanced away from the road for a second to smile at her which she returned. I didn’t feel that bad actually. The pain in my cheek was fading, almost gone. It was borderline funny. Not the situation, maybe funny wasn’t the word, just… I felt happy. I don’t know. Just a weight had lifted from my shoulder. Sure it wasn’t the greatest of outcomes but what had I expected really? My mother to pat me on the shoulder and tell it was all alright and that there was nothing to worry about and it was fine and if I liked girls then that was my decision and everything was terrific. No. So all things considered it was pretty good.

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“When are you going to stop using that cane?” Laf asked Kirsch as he hobbled from the dining room after dinner to the living room.

“Maybe never,” he said, there was no sadness to his voice. He was a weird guy. “But I’m alive so can’t complain!”

“I’m sure you will,” Danny said lovingly as she help lower him into a chair. “Right drinks. Still can’t tempt you Laur?”

“No I almost crashed last time,” she said. “Best not too.”

Good for her. Out of solidarity I wasn’t getting hammered. Still drinking just not getting hammered. I was feeling a bit better with what were essentially Laura’s friends.

“So have you heard?” Kirsch asked.

No one replied not knowing what he was referring to.

“Apparently our guys aren’t making much progress in France… I thought the landings would be the beginning of the end but looks like the war might go on and on, there’s no end in sight,” he told us, looking crestfallen.

“I’m sure we’ll win,” Perry added.

“I just thought it’d be quicker, I didn’t think I’d be left out.”

“Left out?! Honey you’ve done your part,” Danny blurted out and rushed over to him to stroke his arm.

***

“Can you imagine wanting to go back to war?” Laura asked me in the car driving back to her place.

“I’m not a man… But no I can’t imagine ever wanting to go back to Europe full stop.”

“Really? Not in 20 years? You can’t imagine us having a vacation in Rome?”

“That’s optimistic. I know I shouldn’t really ask this…”

“But you’re going to anyway.”

“I certainly am. What happened to your mood? You were so shitty all week and last week… Now you’re all happy. Should I slap you?”

“Depends what part of me you slap.”

“Jesus,” I coughed not expecting that from her.

“What?” She asked with mock innocence. “It’s been awhile,” she muttered. I couldn’t quite see in the dark but I think I saw her blush.

“You’re so cute.”

She just made an adorable humming squeak proving the point.

***

“Are you drunk?” She asked me as I stumbled over my feet getting my shoes off.

“A bit.”

“Coffee?”

“Sure.”

I kicked my shoes across the floor not bothering with any organization. I flopped down on the couch and relaxed. It was nice to drive home from an evening out without having to worry about a totalled Laura possibly totalling the car. I pulled out a cigarette and enjoyed lighting it, after a stressful couple of weeks things were seeming a bit better, Laura wasn’t panicked over merely speaking to her parents and she had finally saw that apartment hunting was fine, completely manageable. Plus she had knocked the drinking every day on the head pretty speedily. Things were good again! Not bad again!

Just her husband to worry about, but I didn’t like thinking about him. It upset me and in all honesty made me jealous. I couldn’t really put my finger on why after all I knew about their relationship. I just was. Probably because in the eye’s of the law she was his…

“You ok?”

“Huh?” I looked up at her as she handed me the coffee. “Oh nothing.”

She sat down sideways on the couch so her legs were resting over mine as I instinctively rested my hands on her thighs.

“Why on Earth are you still wearing tights? It was near 100 degrees today!”

“I thought we covered this.”

“It’s just weird.”

“Leave it! Don’t ruin the evening! Besides why are you being off? I got slapped by my mom earlier!”

“True enough, I forgot about that.”

“Thanks for coming with me by the way,” she said leaning up to kiss me before I could respond. “Things aren’t as dark with you here for me,” she kissed me again and again, before I had to stop her to readjust position. I parted her legs and placed myself between them. I had to sweep my hair back over my shoulder as I leaned down to kiss her properly. My hands roaming down to grip her hips. I couldn’t wait, I had to start unbuttoning her blouse, her hand clamped on my wrist to stop me. I looked up at her confused.

“Bedroom,” she said through a heavy breath. I just nodded equally breathless. I moved back letting her up as she grabbed my hand which had been trying to undress her and lead me to the door then the next door and into the bedroom. I flicked on the lights and she instantly flickered them off. “It’s hot, you know in the dark.” I guess she was right.

She robbed me of the pleasure of taking her clothes off, I think, it was impossible to see, but I heard the rustling and the sound of the material hitting the floor in a pile. As I tried to start taking my own clothes off I was snatched in the dark by Laura as she pulled me into her, I could feel her naked body brushing and pressing against me, driving me to tear at my own clothes. She helped with that. Lifting the hem of my top, I raised my arms above my head and felt the coolness of her skin against my newly exposed stomach. She almost ripped the wiring out of my bra taking that off.

We stood kissing in the dark, pushed together as she hooked her fingertips into my skirt and started yanking it down as I swayed my hips left to right helping her take it down. Wriggling out of the skirt as her hands began roaming over me. I thought I was the drunk one. She edged slowly backwards while guiding me with her hands to follow her. She squeaked out as she took the risk of falling back in the dark aiming for the bed.

She pulled me over her, so my legs were either side of her’s. I straddled her and reached out in the dark to push her shoulders back but she didn’t let me. Staying sitting with me on her. Our foreheads bumped lightly in the dark as we tried to find each other. Kissing as she held onto me her hands moving, wandering and caressing all over me as I just left mine in a loop behind her neck.

Her hand worked its way inside my underwear, yanking them down as much as possible in our close embrace. I shifted around on her lap making it as easy as possible for her.

She ran two fingers of her open palm over me and through me before quickly sliding one digit inside me as she bit into my neck. That would leave a mark. I didn’t care though, as I started to grind back and forth on her hand, letting myself go slumping my body against hers, propping myself up as we got into a rhythm together. Her hand moving in unison with my hips grinding.

I finished with a shudder and half a heavy exhalation and half a moan.

I rested for a moment, just leaning on her as our beads of sweat mingled, I gained my composure and kissed her briefly before getting up and wriggling out of my askew underwear and went to push her back on the bed. She grabbed my shoulders and flipped me onto my back and started kissing a trail down my chest and stomach.

“Hold on cutie, it’s my turn,” I managed to get out between breaths.

“No, no, no,” she said stopping to rest her chin on the flat of my stomach, “tonight,” she laid a kiss on me, “is for,” another kiss, “you.” I thought about arguing but lost the will to do so as she carried on her path down my body, soft kiss after soft kiss.

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Carmilla was snoozing peacefully, her chest rising and falling. I was restless. Nervous. Something was off. Something was always off recently. Despite having that confrontation with my mother and getting a degree of resolution there. Tying off that loose thread. It probably was the fact I didn’t want Carmilla to see me naked because of the scars I’d inflicted on myself. Even in the dark I was unsure whether she would just feel the raised bumps of the scars.

I rolled out of bed and padded quietly to the shower. Just one cut. One release and the tension would flow out of me and I could sleep happily next to my loving partner who I loved.

Under the cool jet of water I got my hair back out of the stream letting the water gently heat up. Without looking I worked the blade free from the razor handle and moved the icy metal around between my fingertips before dipping it down the same area of my upper thigh where it had been used every time before.

The stinging sensation was becoming increasingly pleasurable as I sighed letting my head lull back enjoying the trickle seep from me. Red and water mixed into the now familiar diluted scarlet blend draining down the plug hole. I just stood there with my head back letting the all the stress leak out of me.

I fixed everything back in place and patted down and slipped the pajama bottoms I’d brought with me to cover up and a loose shirt and slipped back into bed. Carmilla was none the wiser.

Chapter Text

20

I think I had managed to hide the self inflicted scars from Carmilla pretty well. Still hadn’t addressed the fact I had cut myself but that was something to work on. Otherwise things were ok in life. Work was getting depressing as more and more official letters in US Army stencil in those yellow, rough envelopes came. The message was clear. The death toll was rising. Rising more and more day by day. It still felt far away and disconnected from me.

My house was becoming increasingly a place I occupied but didn’t live in really. I had boxes ready and things stacked up in case I needed to move on short notice. The colder weather was setting in as the Summer ended and the Fall was rolling around; the evenings were brisk and grey. Not cold enough to light a toasty fire but not warm enough to enjoy the sun after about 7pm. My misery was reflected by not only the weather but the townsfolk who had either personally got bad news or knew someone who had. I only knew two guys who were at war; one, Kirsch, was back, the other, Henry, I didn’t really care about.

Not even not really care about, just didn’t care at all.

My parents still hadn’t bothered to come talk to me, well that’s not true. My father had slipped a small note in through the letterbox when I was at work. He wanted to talk, just me and him. I could face that. My mother… Well fuck her. I was almost tempted to tell her I’d fallen in love with a woman just to turn the screws, and that I kissed her and had sex with her in my marital bed. Though the whole worry of being grassed up to the law, that I was a sexual deviant to the authorities, that quashed that urge. It was just a nice fantasy to escape within. Seeing her scream and cry. Plus in my escapism I couldn’t be struck repeatedly in the face.

The town hall was freezing. I was sorting letters with cold, stiff fingers when Carmilla walked in muttering under her breath. I would presume it was about the temperature. The basement had no heating, not that we were allowed to use radiators, whatever powered them was rationed. Was it gas? I had no idea.

“Cold?” I asked handing her a cup of coffee I had brought in for both of us.

“It is.”

“Not the coffee.”

“Yeah, I don’t mind the cold that much, just… Other people.”

“What has humanity done now?”

“Apparently I’ve earned a nickname for being the one who posts off the death notes. One of your many ginger friends, not sure which, informed that I’m now ‘The Angel of Death,’ it’s pathetic,” she shook her head, before grimacing at the taste of her coffee. It may have cooled a bit.

“Why would that happen?” I asked with mock sincerity. “Why would the antisocial foreign girl who always wears black and works underground get a nickname like that?”

“Precisely, why? It’s bullshit.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

“I know I was ignoring it. I liked you better when you were all rainbows and sunshine,” she smirked at me.

“The summer is over!” I said flatly before grinning at her widely with closed eyes. “No more sunshine until March. Apart from during the daytime… But still you take my point.”

She just at look me blinking slowly and blank, stoney faced.

We got down to work. Life was becoming tedious. The same routine, the same thing over and over. All things considered I liked to work, that I would admit, it was better than trying to be a housewife. That I loathed. However it felt tedious now, and I think it was the war, it was this uncertain black cloud over us, making my future uncertain. Making any plan pointless in the face of an unknown conclusion to this nation altering state we currently occupied. Carmilla and I couldn’t really move on with life, with our relationship, or just friendship if anyone else asked, until the war was over.

Until I had moved out. Until I had a new place and a new future to pursue. I wouldn’t be able to keep sorting the mail when all the postmen who joined up and shipped off returned. The idea of moving on was exciting but it was stalled at the moment.

I suppose I could just move out now and leave the house empty… Maybe that was it. Maybe that was the spark I needed. If I had a place I knew was my place and would be my place, which I owned (rented) then I could be more grounded and defog the cloud which encapsulated my path at the moment. Is was an idea. A good idea at that. I looked up at the light bulb swinging slightly above my head. It was a good idea I could move and cast off the shackles. Was it worth saving a bit of money just to stay as an alien in my old home?

Probably not. Smart idea is smart, I would tell Carmilla and ask her to visit the places after I used her selection of clippings to call up landlords. I would need to do that from work and it was one step forward! Lift my feet from the stagnating pool I was occupying. If I surrounded by rot how could I rot from my roots too?

Leaving work and saying goodbye to Carm, and sneakily kissing her in the basement stairwell I was in a good mood. A genuine one at that. Had my depression really been that simply fixed? Was it my house which cocooned me in a bad state? Knowing every night was a borrowed night. Cooking in what was now, to me, someone else’s kitchen. I think it was. It could be… But I think it was. If I just moved on, I could move on out of this state.

Also that bitch Judy could become a lovely distant memory. Ahhhh. Distant and forgotten.

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“Mother?”

“Yes darling?” She replied with that awful false smile plastered on her face. It had become a regular expression. The false trick of trying to convince me everything was ok. It had started when our family was forced to stitch purple stars onto the arm of our clothing. To identify what we were. Something dirty and wrong.

“What’s happening? Where’s father?”

“He will be home soon, I’m sure he’s just a little late,” she said with a fake calmness. Her eyes betrayed the worry hidden deep down.

Lateness was a worry. A real worry. People had been disappearing. A lot of them. All Jewish. There were horror stories of what became of them. Unsubstantiated but still the hatred of Jewish people had been just a nasty rumor to begin with. The guards and soldiers who wore the red, black and white armbands of the Nazi party already treated us like rodents the next step was unlikely to be an improvement.

Austria shouldn’t even be allied with Germany, it was illegal. The British and French said it was wrong and it happened anyway. So if international law was breached so willingly and without repercussions, citizens of the countries involved, like my family, could hardly think the law would protect us. My parents kept assuring me it would be fine. There would be nothing to worry about. Though they told me that in an actor’s voice. A pretence. I had no idea what they actually thought.

Though to keep me in the dark they can’t think it was serious enough to do anything drastic.

***

Father hadn’t come home. It was late and still nothing. My mother insisted I and my younger brother went to bed but I doubted either of us were sleeping. My father used to work late all the time. That was before.

The servants we had all left not wanting to associated with ‘juden’. So the house was dark and cold.

My heart wouldn’t stop. It was beating so fast I thought I might bruise the inside of my ribcage. The sheets were wrapped tightly over me. I didn’t want to sleep. Ha! Want to sleep. Couldn’t possibly sleep. I was still dressed. I just knew something was coming. Something bad was coming. I had snuck my steak knife from dinner, a dinner I didn’t touch, and had it under my pillow. It was a joke. If someone came in and grabbed me I would hardly overpower him and then what stab him to death? Unlikely. If I could even bring myself to do that.

Focus was hard. I kept sliding out of it and my mind just left me in moments. Like a needle on a gramophone losing its groove and just becoming a static mess of nothing. Panic made it impossible. Made… Ahhhh. Something was coming, rumbling towards me, towards us. Unseen in the dark. Whispers becoming voices becoming screams. Screams which would rattle and shatter everything which I had left.

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Despite burying it deep inside and not really addressing it I had noticed in a small part of my conscious that I had refrained from my razor blade shower. Instead I’d busied myself. I busied myself with boxes and packing what was mine. I thought it would be a good motivator. If I made it uncomfortable and a hassle to dress and get my things necessary for day to day life then I would surely get my butt into gear and leave this house. There were other considerations. Sure. I wouldn’t have a car anymore, but that was a small price to pay. Well a price I would have to pay.

There was no turning back now. I had decided I was definitely leaving him, that had been a just a fact. It wasn’t even a shadow of a consideration to go back on that.

Leaving several dresses and shoes I would need for work in the wardrobe I finished putting everything else I had, little as it was, in boxes. I was ready to move! Now I just needed to a place to move it into… Step by step I suppose.

***

Carmilla was oddly quiet and reserved at work. Not unpleasant or anything just off. She looked tired and reflective. I thought today wasn’t the day to tell her the big news! Well not big news. More that I was going to act on the big news which we had already discussed at length.

I left her to brood. I know how much she enjoyed brooding. It was her favorite thing afterall.

My good mood was ruined getting home as my dad’s car was already in my drive. He was sitting in the front seat clearly waiting. I considered driving off. No. Bad idea. New fresh start. I was confronting problem. I made sure my mother was definitely not in the passenger side before parking up next to him. Sure I was being brave and meeting challenges head on, but I wasn’t that brave.

I got out and went to rap lightly on his window. He looked up at me and smiled a weak, unenthusiastic smile. Moving aside to let him out I went straight for the door. This wasn’t right. I shouldn’t have my heart beating in my ear drums to have a talk with my father.

“Hello Laura,” he said. There was something grim and hard to his tone.

“Father,” I replied equally formal.

We entered the house without another word, like we were walking into some painful ceremony with a weight over each of us. I waited awkwardly in the living room as my dad took in the sight of the packed boxes that littered the hall in between the bedroom and kitchen.

“Going somewhere?”

“At some point.”

I sat down in the armchair and gripped the armrests rather hard, digging my nails almost painfully into the upholstery. Finally my father took a seat. I should have offered him a coffee or some water or something but my heart was in my throat and I couldn’t swallow any liquid.

“So…”

“So…”

I really didn’t want to start this conversation, he had come over here! He should talk and I should react and hope for the best!

“Your mother isn’t too happy with you.”

“I guessed that when she struck me over and over.”

“Yes… Well you were provocative.”

“That’s pretty rich!”

“You know how your mother is.”

“Overbearing and unpleasant.”

“Come on Laura,” he pleaded. “Look, look… Ok, look, you shouldn’t be so rash and… Henry has been away a long time, I understand your marriage wasn’t that happy but you should wait until he returns and you fall into a routine again and… And then you’ll realize it isn’t so bad.”

“Is that what you want for your daughter? A life that isn’t so bad?”

He sighed and dragged his hands slowly over his face in frustration before pulling his pipe from his jacket pocket and lighting it up.

“What do you want from life then?” He asked.

“To live it myself.”

“That is hard Laura, life isn’t like that, you don’t want to be a divorcee, society won’t trust a divorced woman. If you think Henry is a poor match you’ll realize how bad it can be when trying to remarry.”

Could I tell him the truth? Admit to perversion and unlawful relations to my father? If I could admit it to anyone it should be him.

“What if I don’t want to remarry…” I said quietly dipping a toe in to test those waters.

“Laura!”

“What? I don’t. I definitely don’t!” I said a bit more forcefully, losing some of my nerves at the thought of being pushed into some worse second marriage.

“You’re young and in… This is a strange situation, the war, having to work as a woman, it must be confusing and mess with your head. I just need to stress the need for not being rash. I mean have you thought any of this stuff through? Where will you live? How will you survive? What will you do in 10, 20, 30 years? If you don’t keep this relationship, if you don’t remarry and have no children, what is there?”

“Making my own decisions.”

“So nothing. You have no plans,” he continued his attack. “Look Laura, I’m not your mother, I’m not here to yell at you and tell you that you must do what I say or else. I’m just trying to get you to think about your actions.”

“I do nothing but think about them, nothing but,” I paused to fish my cigarettes from my bag and struck a match and sucked the smoke in deep. It did help marginally. “I think about things, it took a lot for me to come and tell you and mom… That wasn’t some snap decision.”

“Right… Right… Well what are you thinking? What have you been thinking you’ll do?”

“Get a cheap apartment an…”

“With what money?”

“I get paid you know!” I said indignantly.

“Will you when the men return?”

“I will yes,” I told my dad determinedly.

“And you’ll be alone? Or just go from man to man like a…”

“Like a what?” I pressed.

“Harlot.”

“Definitely not.”

“Then what? You’ll just be alone? Your friends will get married and will have children if they haven’t already and they’ll leave you behind.”

“I…” I stopped. My heartbeat started up again drumming a tattoo into my ribcage. The scars in my upper thigh pulsed painfully, as if they were a bit to burst from anxiety.

“Go on. I’m here for you.”

“Yeah seems like it.”

“Don’t be like that Laura, you’re my daughter and I love you, I’ll love you no matter what, I’m just trying to get you weigh up your options and truly consider what you do before you potentially ruin your life.”

“I… I’m not going to ruin my life. I’m happy, I actually am, the only part I’m unhappy with is my marriage and what you and mom would say to me.”

“What makes you happy?”

“Working, having something to do with my days, getting out of a marriage I hated, truly hated…” I paused again. It there on the tip of my tongue just unable to pull the trigger and spit it out.

“And Henry? Returning from war?”

“I don’t care.”

“Laura!”

“I know what he’s been up to in England before shipping out.”

“How?”

“Remember Kirsch?” I asked, he nodded, “he returned injured from Normandy and told me about Henry’s opinion on our wedding vows. Breaking them at every chance.”

“Oh… I’m sorry to hear that… Is that why you want to divorce him then?”

“No… No… It isn’t… I decided way before finding that out…”

I finished and stubbed out my cigarette letting the pressure build. Screw it. Just tell him… He’s your father.

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My finger was bleeding from the pressure I was putting on it from biting down so hard to keep myself quiet. To stop any noise escaping me. I could hear plenty of noise, the stamping of jackbooted feet crashing around my house. The screams of mother pleading to let my little brother go. I was covered in soot, having cut and scraped myself sneaking into the fireplace over the iron grate and unlit logs in my bedroom and propping myself up in chimney with my back against one side and my legs and feet the other. One hand holding tight in a crack in the brick, I could feel my fingernails beginning to tear. One hand lodged in between my teeth.

The tears were rolling down my face and my body tried to rack with unwilling sobs. The boots were marching around my room. There was a horrendous crash which must have been my bed being flipped. I just closed my eyes and let the tears fall and mingle with the coppery blood filling my mouth.

There were curses of annoyance and fury as the men invading my house stomped their way out onto the landing. The screams of my mother stopped abruptly.

***

It was hours of silence before I let myself slip down onto my ass. That hurt a lot. I was bleeding from several places. My arms, my back and my fingernails were ripped open, hanging high off my fingertips.

I crawled back over the logs and stinging iron points of the grate, the soot clouding up and staining and sealing the blood in my open cuts. The floorboards creaked under foot and I winched and shuddered at the noise. It sounded like a thunderclap to my ears.

My bedroom was a total mess. Mess was the wrong word. I was messy. It was ransacked, destroyed. Turned up and down searching for me… My blood froze; the violence committed to find me… What violence would have been inflicted on me if found. I snatched up a canvas satchel and tossed what clothes I could find from the carnage left and stuffed them inside and made my way cautiously into my cold, dark house. It was empty… Obviously, but still I was on guard. Life and death was at stake here.

The scene became more and more horrifying. Everything was destroyed. In the grand hallway there were signs of a massive struggle. Blood and my…

Falling to my knees I found my mother’s pearl necklace, torn to pieces, rolling and stuck in a sticky drying pool of red. This was no time to mourn. No time to do anything but flee. Ell… She’ll help me. She must help me, after what we had gone through together… Been together. She’d help. I needed what supplies I could find in haste and then help.

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“Come on honey, I see you opening your mouth and closing it, biting your lip, there is something you want to say, obviously, you can tell me.”

“I can’t,” I shook my head, I felt like a child as my hair fell over my face from the shake.

“You can.”

“I can’t.”

“Laura, I’m trying to be supportive, I am, most fathers wouldn’t; they would tell you to suck it up and tell you that you aren’t getting divorced and do your duty as a woman.”

“I can’t,” I whimpered. I couldn’t.

“Have you done something?”

I just nodded letting my hair obscure my face so I didn’t have to deal with the shame of looking at him. The cuts on leg were burning.

“Unless you’ve killed someone you can tell me.”

I didn’t think I could. I was so tempted, to let that weight come off my shoulders and release the built up pressure which was crushing me. It was just… Even with the cavort he provided about anything but a murder I don’t think what I wanted to tell him was even within the realms of possibility in his mind.

“Have you… Have you… Have you met someone else then?”

I jolted upright at that.

“So yes?” He asked tentatively. Just nodded a simple, small, singular nod. “Right…” He sighed deeply. I couldn’t bear looking at him. This was it. “After you found out about Henry’s infidelities?” I shook my head still staring down at my lap where my hands were now clasped painfully together. “Do I know him?” Was the final question after a huge sigh.

“No.”

“Who is he?”

“She.”

There it was. She. The admission. Probably the biggest risk I’d taken. A secret relationship was one thing, being caught by some friends was another and a mistake. Now this was me admitting to something, illegal and morally repugnant to my father.

“Sorry?”

Oh don’t me say it again. Please. I said it.

“She?!”

I just nodded again, most of this conversation was just me moving my head in fearful reply.

“A woman… You’ve… A woman?” He sounded flabbergasted. “Laura… Where do I… Ok.”

Long pause again stretching painfully between us.

“Daddy?” I barely spoke, my voice little above a whisper as I finally looked up to see his reaction, he was now the one with his hands resting on his legs, his pipe hanging limply from his mouth.

“I wasn’t expecting that… I wasn’t… Out of everything I feared… It’s worse than it could ever be…”

“Daddy!” I started crying and fell onto my knees, kneeling next to him on the carpet and held his hand, they were unresponsive and limp. “Talk to me.”

“I have nothing to say,” he said blankly, he staring with dead, absent eyes looking ahead. “I never… In a million years… Imagine… It would be that terrible.”

“Terrible? It isn’t terrible.”

“How isn’t it terrible?! ‘'You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.’ It is a sin.”

“You think I’m abominable?” I asked, my voice cracking and the tears streaming now. I think anger would have been better than the disappointment and disgust radiating out of him.

“I… I don’t know… But this Laura?”

“I love her daddy, I love her and I’m happy with her! Isn’t that enough? That your daughter is happy?!” I pleaded desperately.

“No…” He shook my hand off and stood up inadvertently knocking me to the floor. “Love?! Oh my good lord.” He went to the door.

“Dad wait!” I cried. He paused at the door as he reached for the handle. “Please, please don’t tell anyone. Please.”

“You’re my daughter and I love you, I won’t… I won’t tell anyone, I don’t want to see in prison for your perversion…”

“Perversion…” I mouthed distraughtly.

“But… No I can’t accept this. I won’t tell a soul, that is the last thing I’ll do for you.”

He opened the door, then stopped on the threshold, “and for myself so no one will know my shame that I’ve failed as a parent and raised a debauched freak,” and with that walked out slamming it hard behind him. I slumped to the floor on my knees and sobbed and moaned and cried out loud.

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Standing outside of Ell’s house I did what I always did late at night when I had visited her for sex in the past and picked up some of the gravel from the garden path. I threw a stone at her window, it gently clinking and falling back. Several attempts and the light came out on and the curtains opened. She was there and I smiled for the first time in a long time. I didn’t care about my wounds and cuts, I had a sliver of something comforting. She looked down at me, illuminated by the light behind her, I could see her clearly. Her features were hard and closed. She shook her head at me and closed the blinds…

That was it. Even her. I was truly alone wasn’t I.

***

My feet were on fire. I couldn’t stop moving. Couldn’t sleep. Had to reach Switzerland. I must have been nearing it. I had been walking for a week. Maybe more. I had run out of the food I took from my family home before abandoning it. Step after step that’s all that mattered.

***

The one thing I did have was money, my father’s stash of Schilling, which I was able to buy passage from Switzerland into France, into Britain. The British didn’t treat me nicely. Though they did feed me and in return for some of my mother’s jewelry, diamonds and gold in a diadem, I got grotty passage on a ship to America.

***

Safe in America. I’m safe in America. I’m safe here.

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The tears just stopped coming. They were done. Nothing left in me. My eyes were red and sore and tired. My shoulders were even sore from shaking. I was cold inside now, the sorrow of my father’s words had stung as much as they could. The light at the end of the darkness was beginning to glow. I had chosen her, chosen Carmilla, that was the right choice. I picked myself from the floor, from the misery and walked in my trance into the shower, breaking the razor blade I’d used to hurt myself and throwing it behind the toilet.

The hot wash cleaned away the gloom.

I needed to go see Carmilla, to hold her and kiss her and tell her everything she meant to me. If I had chosen her and I definitely had, I needed to show her how much I loved her. I hadn’t been myself recently. Moping around and being all wrapped up in myself, when I knew what was the right path I needed to act on that. Be happy with what made me happy rather than being wrapped up in what made me unhappy. I dressed quickly and tore out of the house into my car and took off at pace.

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This happens every year; I told myself. Every year on the anniversary of the day when the stormtroopers came for my family I forced myself to reflect on the harrowing incident. It was stupid, I shouldn’t forget, I was lucky, but I shouldn’t torture myself. No good could come from it.

I stared down at the number I had cut into my wrist, right where the concentration camp number would have been. I don’t know how long I stared but time had disappeared in the length I had spent fixated. My body almost collapsed from shock when there was a heavy knocking on my door. Frantic and loud.

I pulled it open only to be almost toppled by a streak of blonde hair and arms as Laura rush hugged me and was kissing me before the door even closed. Unable to react I was being pushed back to the bed and we flopped down entwined.

“Hey,” she breathed, smiling widely at me.

“Hey,” I smiled back.

Chapter Text

I was getting used to the small apartment. It took some time before it felt like home, but it did feel like home. It was mine. I paid for it with my work and chose how it looked. It was just two rooms. A bedroom/kitchen/living room and a tiny bathroom. Still it was bittersweet. The war was done. It was over. Finally. Soon the soldiers, those who survived would be returning home. Henry would be back, he had survived because of course he out of all those who died had to survive. He’d be back any day now, if he wasn’t back already. Opening the door and expecting to see his wife and wanting use her (my) body for his needs then to cook for him and all the other horrible obligations I had jettisoned.

The town was poisonous. My parents lived here, my former neighbors with their prim and proper lives within Americana lived here. Now Henry was back or soon to be. If I tried to conjure what his face looked like I found it hard. I had subverted it and twisted it with bitter memories and dislike into a cartoon of a villain but sooner or later I would have to see him. In a shop. In a cafe. On the street. The final, worst of all those options would be him finding out where his absentee wife was and kicking in my door.

Divorce itself seemed unnecessary. I wasn’t planning on getting married again. I doubted two women would ever be allowed to get married ever so what did it matter that I was technically a wedded woman? It didn’t. Perhaps that was cowardice. I think it was self-preservation.

Though perhaps I needed to hammer down that last nail into the casket of my past life. Lest Henry kicked in my door like some corrupted prince coming to kidnap rather than rescue his princess. If he did that while Carmilla and I were in bed together… Well that would be awful. There would be no way his ego would allow him to let that go. He would destroy me. Whether it was a physical beating or just telling everyone he could what a sick freak his ex-wife was.

***

“You looked distracted,” I said to Carmilla as we sat around in the mail room having nothing to do.

“I am.”

“Why?”

“What happens now?”

“With?”

“Life… You know nearly everyone here hates both of us?”

“Not everyone…” I said slowly.

“Well nearly everyone, when… Whathisface comes back,” she chose her words carefully. She was always awkward and uncomfortable with Henry’s name. I could understand that. If I hated the thought of him I could understand how my lover felt weird about him in a different but equally distasteful way. “When this divorce goes through you’ll be even more toxic than me… What is there for us here?”

“Huh…” I was disarmed by that. I hadn’t really considered the future after dealing with the returning spectre of my husband.

“Any suggestions?”

“Not really… No. I hadn’t considered it.”

“San Francisco…”

“What?”

“We should ditch this town.”

“Why… What? San Francisco?” I was wrong footed completely by that. It had come right out of left field.

“Accepting place…” She shrugged. “I mean we couldn’t walk down the street hand in hand, but if we lived together, people turn a blind eye to that sort of relationship over there… I’ve heard.”

“Wow… I… I guess… Could we? I mean… This is one of those things… This is very sudden,” I decided on after a loss for words.

“I’ve been thinking about it… It’ll be appalling living here.”

“It will,” I agreed. It wasn’t the worst idea. It was just. Yeah. Sudden. What would I do? What would we do? Was there a mail room available over there to pay us enough to live with a roof over her head. “So are you asking me to move in with you?” I asked with a sweet smile. Subverting the conversation so I could think on it a bit.

“No. Two separate places.”

“Oh.”

“Of course I am.”

“I can’t drive us there or anything.”

“You could steal the car? Though I can’t imagine you would be able to outdrive the police, you can barely see over the steering wheel. So Greyhound bus?”

“You sound like you’ve made up your mind!”

“I have, and you’re coming.”

“Oh ok then,” I said sarcastically. “Oh, you’re serious. I don’t know! This is really sudden, really, really sudden!”

She grabbed my hands and held them together like I was praying and squeezed them. “Come on, why not? Why not just take the leap?”

“I… Because…” I struggled and I didn’t have a reason to say no. What was there here? I could be a coward and start fresh. With my girlfriend, with no judgement and potential for something to happen with my life. It was just she had sprung this on me and I liked to plan and prepare and know what I was doing and what was happening. I could not just get a bus and hope things would pan out.

“Say yes!”

“Erm…”

“Say yes!”

“Yes!” I cried out mirroring her enthusiasm. It was infectious. The way her deep pools of brown that were her eyes calmed those fears shouting inside me, quashing them. I would follow her. I trusted her. She grinned so widely and let go of my hands to kiss me hard, it was clumsy and uncoordinated but she squeaked with happiness. That never happened!

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

I hadn’t expected that. I really hadn’t. That she would say yes. I hadn’t given it much thought myself to be honest. It was just many panicked sleepless nights with my heart in my throat thinking of the hell which could become living in a town where everyone hated us both. Laura’s dad knew. That was one too many people. One was too many people and too many people knew as it was.

If that slipped out we would be arrested and chemically castrated. That was… Unthinkable.

It was also my own neurosis. The nasty and suspicious looks I was getting made me despise living here. It was reminiscent of a past life that I didn’t want to think of. Feeling ganged up on and like an alien by your neighbors, that was enough for me. I wasn’t crazy or anything. Nope. Not at all. Just feeling like there was notion of dislike was enough. Also what was there here for us?

If we moved in together, the divorced girl and the weird foreigner, the jew, who a handful of people knew were in a relationship… There was just no happy ending there. None. I couldn’t see anything good happening. The war had restricted us. I was over the moon it was over. I was glad to know those who took my family and made me flee my home were dead and gone. Hopefully in the most unpleasant way possible. It was over now, and time to move on.

***

“$1054.”

“That’s pretty good.”

“It… I suppose. I don’t know what I expected,” I told her. “I thought I’d saved more than a few hundred bucks.”

“We get paid next to nothing, I think it’s good.”

I had to grin to myself, she was so positively upbeat. I envied that trait. It was me who had sprung it on her that I wanted out of this town and yet she was now taking it all in stride. Bouncing around, helping me pack, getting me down to the bank with her to withdraw all of our monies together. This was actually going down. Was I sure? It was my idea! Besides I had nothing but her so where ever she was was home for me.

“You will get more in the suitcase if you fold your clothes you know?”

“I’m not.”

“Waaah, just do it! We’re going to have to leave a lot of our stuff behind and you’re going to waste the room you can have with messiness!”

“You’re such an idiot.”

“An idiot with a superiorly packed suitcase.”

“Humph!” I mimicked her signature huff of giving in and acceptance.

“Yay. Make us some coffee and I’ll redo this,” she pointed to my giant suitcase, her eyes twinkling with the possibility of organizing my things properly.

This was happening. Fuck sake. I chastised myself. Stop saying that and do. Just do it.

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“Laura?! You can’t be serious!” Danny said looking at me agape.

“I am.”

“L? Really? I mean… Really? What are you going to do?” Laf asked.

“Find something to do together.”

“It seems rash,” Perry agreed.

“It is,” I agreed.

“Wait, what’s going on?” Kirsch asked, despite being present for the whole conversation missed the point.

“Laura is going to galavant away to California!” Danny said dismissively.

“It isn’t galavanting! It’s starting a new life together.”

“So you’re going with your friend to Miami?” Kirsch was still confused. He still hadn’t worked out the true nature of my relationship.

“No San Fran sweetie,” Danny corrected nicely. “Miami is in Florida. Anyway,” she turned her attention back to me. “That is mental Laur, mental! What are you going to do? You have no life over there you know no one, have nowhere to live and no job to go to!”

“I know all those things,” I said weakly. “That’s why its an adventure!”

“An adventure?” She replied disdainfully. “That is a terrible life choice.”

“Staying here is too,” I stressed. “Look this is happening, I could have just disappeared in the middle of the night… Well no I couldn’t because the buses don’t travel at night… Well they do but they don’t depart at night. I’m getting distracted, I know the risks, but do I really want to live in a town with my parents who hate me, an ex-husband who will hate me and all his friends who he will tell to hate me as well. Then word will spread and everyone will hate me and I’ll be like… Like Frankenstein! Hated by the village folk.”

“The village folk?” Laf laughed.

“Also Frankenstein was the doctor not the monster,” Perry corrected me.

“Did people like him?”

“Not really no.”

“So my point still stands!” I reasoned. “Look guys, I’m going, I have to go, I just have to, we’ve planned on it, handed in our notice for our respective apartments. I’m here to tell you and I wanted your blessing. I can write.”

“I’ll miss you Laura,” Kirsch interjected. He was so nice. “Will you visit?”

“No… Probably not. My dad has disowned me, as has my mother. I could have just said parents I suppose.”

The room went a bit quiet at that. I didn’t want to be depressing… Besides after all it was me who ought to be depressed I’m the one fleeing town to hide from my supposed loved ones to be with my actual loved one who I wasn’t allowed to love!

“The weather is nicer out there,” Kirsch picked up the conversation not letting it flail and fail.

“How do you know?” Danny asked with a laugh, “you confused it with Florida.”

“Is it snowy?”

“No.”

“So yeah the weather is nicer.”

“Good point darling,” Danny said a little patronizingly but lovingly. “So… Is this your big goodbye? You’re springing it on us like this? No dinner party or farewell thing?”

“No, no, no,” I reassured her. “It was kind of sprung on me so I thought I’d tell you.”

“So when you off?” Laf asked. She was always the reasonable one. I couldn’t help but notice she had shaved the sides of her head like man might do in the military. Good for her, looking and acting as she wanted to, society be damned. It took me such a long time to come to terms with who I was.

“Erm…” I offered up palms to show I had no idea.

“Really well thought out there Laura,” Perry piped up. “I couldn’t imagine that. I couldn’t imagine the idea of uprooting myself on a whim and moving away and all that it’s…” She shuddered.

“Well yeah, I couldn’t imagine it before either, though I couldn’t imagine I’d leave my husband, I couldn’t imagine I’d fall in love with another woman.”

“Fair enough,” Danny nodded.

“Wait, wait, wait, hold on a second,” Kirsch held up his hands to slow the conversation to a halt. “You’re in love with her? Like a. Like a love love? Or a love of two…”

“Breathe honey you’re tying yourself up in knots,” Danny placed a placating hand on his arm.

“Didn’t you realize that Kirsch?” Laf asked her mouth half a gape.

“No…”

“Really?”

“No.”

“Really?”

“No.”

“Honestly though… Really?”

“Well this could go on and on,” I interrupted. Everyone was seated in silence for a couple of long beats staring at me before I just nervously smiled widely at them all and waved. Like a weirdo. They cracked smiles back.

“Honestly Laur, it’s good to see you like this, it is,” Danny said. “You’re happy. It just doesn’t seem like you. Doing a big thing like this.”

“I am happy, I’m so happy, all the things which make me nervous and upset. They’re here! In this town, and wait,” I held up a hand to stop any interruptions. “Before you say ‘what about us!’ Obviously not you guys. I need to leave though, but I’m happy. I worry about a new life, then I think about Carm and I don’t. I worry about money, then I think about Carm and I don’t. I worry about my future but I know Carm is in it and I don’t. You have to take a leap sometimes and I’ll hope I learn to fly before I crash into the floor.”

“Not the most poetic way of saying that but sure I get you Laur.”

“I’m happy for,” Perry nodded.

“Me too.”

“It’s unusual…” Kirsch stroked his chin. “I don’t know. I’m not one to judge. Not at all. I’m never going to walk properly again. Others… Well much worse than that. It was all for defeating the Nazis right? They were all about hating people for being different. Hating and hate. I’ve seen what hate can make people do in the worst excesses. So while… Look I can’t say I approve. I’m a christian after all… I just won’t judge or begrudge you a happy life. So best of luck little bro.”

Kirsch pushed himself up on the arms of his couch, straining and made his way over to me. I stood up too, barely reaching his chest as he pulled me in for a hug. I think I was crying. Not out of any misery just emotion. Waves and crashing waves of it. Why couldn’t I bottle them up? All of them and take the slivers of this town with me?

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Supplies were needed for a long greyhound bus trip. Supplies meant cigarettes. There would be stops. Smokes and water would sustain me until a stop. The town had changed almost overnight. Men were back. It was strange. I had arrived in America right before the outset of the war. Got to this town right before the first wave shipped out.

Now it was alien.

Though it reinforced the fact I was the alien in this town. This was normalcy and I was the intruder. The outsider. Strolling into the grocery store I quicken my pace. I had no connection to this place. I wanted out. Sooner than later. It was my suggestion to go. However it was still a jumpstart to a new unknown future.

“Sorry,” I bumped into a guy not looking where I was going.

“No problem honey.”

Yuck. That’s another reason I didn’t miss the young men. Back from the war wanting to fuck some girls. I know that’s what rolled through their minds constantly.

“I ain’t seen you around here before,” he carried on speaking. I looked up at him. He looked like what I guess girls want in a fella. He was tall and broad and had chiseled good looks that I could notice without appreciating or being attracted to. “Just got back from Berlin.”

“Good for you,” I said cuttingly trying to push past him to the till. He blocked my way. Another problem with the young men was they often confused rejection with a challenge. “Excuse me.”

“Wait a second, I’m just being friendly doll, I’m Henry.”

“Henry?” I repeated incredulously. Of all the people to bump into. It wasn’t the biggest town to be fair so everyone bumped into everyone. Though what a scumbag. His wife had left him! Admittedly for me. Still he should be hurt not trying to pick up the first girl he saw while out shopping for groceries.

“Henry Michaels.”

“Right. Good for you,” I repeated being rude. Pushing past. He let me past but followed catching up to me and walking with me as if invited.

“What’s the hurry? Come on, if you’re not from here why wouldn’t you wanna chat?” He asked. He was being nice enough but there was something unpleasant underneath his tone.

“Is that a ring?” I asked not looking knowing he ought to have one. I thought that a better line than ‘I’m screwing your ex-wife so please go away you dickhead.’

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve been meaning to get rid of it. My whore wife left me a fuckin’ note in the kitchen, saying she’d moved out,” Henry told me. Him calling Laura a whore made me ball my fists up in rage. Asshole. “I mean I just went through Normandy. Through winter in the fuckin’ Arden you know?”

“Not really,” I said trying to sound neutral and not snippy.

“You expect a bit more you know?”

“Again not really.”

“That those who stayed at home should have some you know? Like some gratitude you know?”

You mean you want me to have sex with you because your wife left you? I just shrugged instead of saying that.

I ordered 100 cigarettes and he offered to pay but I waved him off. Oh you got me cigarettes and you’re a soldier, swoon… Idiot. It had been a while since a man had tried to pick me up so I had forgotten how annoying it was, especially from this particular man. He didn’t buy anything just followed me out. Jesus Christ!

“Look pal!” I rounded on him only for my heart to drop to the floor as I saw Laura walking to the grocery store. She was coming up behind Henry. I tried to catch her eye without making him look over his shoulder but she was reading a shopping list up and down. Why had said she could get the proper supplies and I would get the cigarettes. I was just winding her up like I did.

“What?” He asked still smiling confidently as if I weren’t rejecting him. I needed to draw this out so Laura could look up and see what was happening before he saw her. So I stood still outside facing him as if I intended to talk to him and took out a cigarette and lit one. “Can I have one?” He asked me reaching out as if I had already said yes.

“Nope.”

“You’re a cold one, I like that.”

“How wonderful for you. If your wife has just left you shouldn’t you be grieving?”

He just shrugged like an asshole. How had I ever worried about this guy? Ever thought he might return back and sweep Laura off her feet in my more insecure moments. Thought she might go back to him and I was just some experiment for a confused, bored housewife. What a joke. This prick was hardly my competition.

“Well you’re really selling yourself to me you know?” I said. I said ‘you know,’ patronizingly the way he had several times in the grocery store.

“I am?”

“Oh yeah,” I drawled. “Constantly ignoring me when I try to get away from you, continuing to offer to pay for my stuff then following me after I refuse. Then be blase about losing your last woman. Great job!” I actually shot him a thumbs up. He looked confused for a moment. Was he stupid? This stupid to be so immune to sarcasm?

“I like the ones who are hard to get.”

“A lot of experience?” I asked nastily knowing he got married almost right out of school.

“Not in this country in Europe,” he said smugly. There we go I thought why not add to my negative list by bragging about cheating on your wife with women who were terrified and emotionally damaged by living in war stricken countries. “You’re not from this country are you? You’re from Europe right?”

“Oh,” I put my free hand to my chest being emotively sarcastic now, “so you fucked a lot of European girls?! How impressive and world travelled!”

“I know right, got a bit of a mouth on you eh? I like that you know?”

I looked over his shoulder having kept that to a minimum despite the voice screaming in the back of my head to check to see if Laura had noticed she still hadn’t! What the hell cutie. I quickly looked back at him so he didn’t get the inclination to see what I was looking at. I probably should have saved the insults for later… Now I was out of conversation and still had to distract this idiot.

“Oh my god!”

My heart just dropped into the sole of my shoe. Why Laura? Why would you call out? As much as I loved her I wanted to strangle her in that moment.

“You!” Henry rounded on her. “There you are,” all of his attempted suave charm which in reality was dickhead brusqueness. “You bitch!”

“Woah,” Laura held up her hands dropping her shopping list.

“The hell is this?” He snatched it up and read through it. I was already aim my leg up for a swift kick between his thighs in case he lunged at Laura. “Buying things for some guy are you?” Henry was shaking with anger.

“No, not some new guy…” Laura squeaked. All the confidence I saw develop in her since we’d first met was gone and the shy, broken woman I met was drawn out.

“You have some nerve showing your face in this town! This is my town! Mine,” he was shouting now. I didn’t know what to do. Move around to Laura’s side and show up a united front or stay behind him where I could potentially kick him in the balls if I needed to. If he wanted to get violent then there was nothing we could do. Not even together.

“Yours?” Laura whimpered. She looked so scared.

“I will take and drag your name through the mud, everyone will know that you; Laura Hollis are a no good cheating whore and slut who hates the war heroes.”

“I don’t… I don’t hate…” She could barely talk. I had to suppress my urge to walk to her side. To hold her publically and try to soothe her. “I only hate you,” Laura rounded her shoulders and looked up at him defiantly. There she was. The woman the girl had become as we developed together and grew closer.

“I don’t give a fuck if you hate me, everyone here,” Henry gestured to the town with both arms, he looked liked a lunatic, “will know what you’re like and I cheated on with every woman who wanted me in Europe. Which was everyone I met,” he taunted her in the most infuriating and provocative tone I’d heard in my life and I’d heard Nazi propaganda first hand.

“Well…” Laura started I saw the fire in her brown eyes sparkling but she paused. I was pretty sure she was about to point to me and say I cheated on you with her. Just let him have his ‘win.’ “Good for you Henry. Have a good life and thank you for your service to this country,” she concluded through clenched teeth.

“Regret this,” Henry walked off mumbling seemingly forgetting that he wanted to have sex with me. He was walking in direction of the bar Laura and I went to. Well that place was ruined. Not that it mattered.

“That could have gone worse,” she looked up at me with her unsure smile.

“I spoke to that asshole for far longer than I should be expected to while you walked down that road,” I told her walking up to her finally. “And you had to not notice and go hide instead you had to saunter up and get in a fight. Causing a scene!” I teased her. She just stuck her tongue out at me.

“Gives another reason to go though right?”

“Why? My name is still in good standing in this…” She cocked an eyebrow at me, “well better standing than yours is soon to be.”

“If we’re half a country away who cares?”

“You?”

“A little,” she admitted as we walked into the grocery store. So I was doing the shopping for actual things after all. That was a real reason to hate Henry.

***

“Admit you enjoyed that!” Laura sang at me.

“Why?” I asked her. I did enjoy the goodbye meal Danny threw us. It was good fun and they were supportive. It was liberating for a change to be there as a couple. Everyone knew we were. Maybe not that Kirsch fellow but he was like a giant puppy; nice enough but empty headed.

“Oh you did,” she told me. Oh I guess she knew then. I smiled to myself that was nice and there was no plea from her friends for her to stay as I feared before hand. A clean cut was what was needed. Plus they all wrote down their addresses in a notepad for Laura to take.

It was pleasant having one shared apartment in town now, I’d moved my stuff into hers and handed my immediate notice to my landlord. Small and dingy as it was. No matter how temporary it was. Which was… Very temporary. It meant that getting back didn’t require Laura drunk driving us home for half an hour of nerve fraying panic.

No one was really around and very tentatively I reached out with my hand and snaked my little finger around her little finger.

We walked in quiet, pleasant unison joined by our little fingers. I was letting her look around the town. This was her home town after all and was more a big deal to depart than it was for me. We unlinked our fingers when voices drifted across the night air.

Men drinking and shouting at each other. We had to walk past. Not that was a problem this was sleepy small town America not the streets of Chicago after hours. It was just annoying to have to unlink our fingers. We both as if thinking as one lit up a cigarette.

We passed through the centre of town back to her small apartment which was our base of operation before we shipped out. I had the bus tickets under the mattress of the single bed we shared along with our combined money we had taken from the bank.

“Hollis! Oi Henry! That’s Hollis ain’t it?” A voice cut through the general noise of an evening of drinking and revelry. Even apart in darkened streets I could feel my lover tense up. I snatched her hand and got her to walk quickly.

We both started walking as fast as it were possible to walk before breaking out into a jog.

“Hey you fuckin’ dykes where you going?” Another voice called after us. All I could hear was the clip clop of Laura and my shoes on the sidewalk and the nasty, lingering, minor echo of the threat bouncing off the buildings.

“Should we run?” Laura whispered.

“I don’t think so…”

The sounds of several sets of shoes pacing back from where the shouting came from broke our paces.

“I think so,” I corrected and we broke into a run, making a sharp turn around the corner, sprinting the next short street until we were by Laura’s apartment. “Quick, quick, quick,” I instructed Laura. I could hear the whoops and movements of a yet unidentified mob of followers rolling towards us. I didn’t want them knowing where we were.

“Come on,” she whispered and I rushed in and we locked the door. Peeking through the small windows either side of the door we could look out into the street. Within mere moments six men, some holding beer bottles came into our street, they just pushed forward and turned the next corner. “Asshole,” Laura breathed.

“I thought you really fell for me, head over heels and all that romantic stuff. Like those English books about a servant girl and the Lord of a manor. It turns out I was just the first person to show an interest who wasn’t a complete bastard,” I teased her now we were safe again.

“You’re right… You’re not a complete bastard… Wow, my heart feels like it is about to explode.”

We waited until we were inside the shoebox apartment with the door closed and bolted to continue the conversation. It was just after 11, an hour past the quiet time for the building.

“What do you think he would do?” Laura asked me as she poured herself a glass of water then a second after draining it to pass to me.

“Best not to think about it.”

“He wouldn’t have attacked us in the street would he?”

“Best not to think about it.”

“Would he have… You’re right,” she nodded finally before shuffling over to me and wrapping her arms behind my back and squeezing light which I returned resting my head on her’s as she rested her head on my chest. “Let’s just go. Tomorrow morning.”

“Ok.”

“We are really doing this aren’t we? I’m not going to wake up tomorrow morning and find this and you were some lovely dream and I’ll be back in the hellish mediocrity of my previous life?”

“I can’t promise that, but if you do wake and this is really real then we’ll be gone and it’ll just be us.”

She slowly raised her head from my chest and we exchanged a long look before she nodded and smiled before leaning up to kiss me lightly. I kissed her back before placing one hand on her lower back and one on the upper and dipping her like we were ballroom dancing to kiss her mid dip.

We’d be alright.

Chapter Text

“Was it?”

 

“Was what?” I asked blinking my eyes open, I had slept poorly but must have squeezed a couple of hours of rest in the early hours out of the night. Carmilla was watching me slowly blinking, patiently waiting for an answer. “Oh dream? No it wasn’t all a dream. Unless my mind is being particular cruel and I’m dreaming this right before the dawn and I wake in my old life.”

 

“That wasn’t as poetic as you think it was,” Carmilla smirked at me, before reaching out and then pinching my arm.

 

“Ow! What the heck was that for?” I asked offended rubbing the red half crescent mark she left. “Ow!” I stressed again looking at her with puppy dog eyes, it did actually hurt.

 

“Now you know, that you aren’t dreaming, so you’re welcome.”

 

“Welcome?! I knew I wasn’t dreaming! I was just using it as nice way of saying I couldn’t believe how happy I was with you and how I worry about it not being real! And it ends up with you pinching me.”

 

“It certainly has.”

 

“You’re not going to start bullying me are you? When we’re alone on a grey bus.”

 

“No more than normal. Right should we go?”

 

“Good. Wait what? Now? This second?”

 

“Yeah, we said today.”

 

“Not first thing in a morning. Let’s have coffee and a meal which is warm and what about this apartment?” I asked quickly. “We have to return the key.”

 

“Go on then,” she pushed me to get up. “I’ll sleep some more.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Black coffee too.”

 

***

 

The landlord was happy to let us go. There were some people who had come to town now the industry was returning and the apartment I was in could be rented out for far more than the wartime rate I paid. Stopping at the cafe where Carmilla and I had our first… Well not first date but ate lunch there on our first day of work all those months ago. It held a pretty large significance to me. As did the mail room in the town hall. The crypt. Even my marital home. Where Carmilla and I had shared our first dinner. Our first kiss. Our first time together. Even our first fight, small as it had been.

 

It was bittersweet.

 

“Laura?”

 

I looked over to see Henry AGAIN. In the corner of the cafe, hunched over clutching at a cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. He looked sick. Probably as hungover as hungover could be. Should I just ignore him and leave? Ah. No time to decide, no time to decide oh goddammit, I’m going to talk to him aren’t I?

 

“Henry,” I said sitting opposite him keeping a good distance. “Nice seeing last night.”

 

“Right. I can’t really remember much of last night you know? I had a lot to drink.”

 

“I noticed when you and your friends were screaming abuse at me in the street.”

 

“I don’t remember,” He said. I think that might be a lie. “Can you blame me? I come back from the war and find you gone.”

 

“So you act like a madman?”

 

“Life has been a bit mad the last few months, last year or so,” he mumbled rubbing his head. “Do you want a cigarette?” He offered stubbing out his and immediately going for another.

 

“I have my own,” I told him taking one of my own and not using his lighter even. I didn’t need a thing from this man. Having got really drunk in the time since he left I know those mornings of painful, headache riddled reflection and introspection. Which could be gone by that evening. “What do you want then?” I asked pointedly.

 

“To talk… To talk with my wife.”

 

“I’m… I’m not your wife Henry.”

 

“In the eyes of the law we are.”

 

“Not if I had my way,” I told him, he looked hurt. It wasn’t pleasant hurting him but he was willing to shout at me in the street then later shout at me and pursue me in the street. “Again what do you want?”

 

“To talk.”

 

“I don’t want to. I have nothing to say to you. Have a good life,” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster and got up to leave. Only pausing at the door when he called for me to stop a little pathetically but only pausing not stopping. No. It wasn’t worth it. I was planning on leaving the town I had spent my whole life today why would I have some unnecessary talk which could only lead to hurt.

 

***

 

“You should have talked to him,” Carm told me as we stood at the bus stop which would take us to the bus depot where the national buses departed from. “It would have made some interesting conversation. Now I’m just going to have to sit on a bus next to you for days while you point at the shiniest things you see out of the window.”

 

“I hope there are a lot,” I nodded. “I think I can predict what he would have said. That we could build things back up and all these hollow words which are triggered by regret and headaches.”

 

“Entertaining stuff. Though you would probably make it dull somehow.”

 

“If he cheated on me and yelled about it in front of the grocery store and then clearly told his friends what a… What a…”

 

“Horrible whore?” Carmilla offered up.

 

“If you like, what a horrible whore I am, then I don’t see why he would want to talk me into anything.”

 

“You’re pretty cute. I can see what he sees in that aspect.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“Shut up, not done, but he may have said something else.”

 

“Clean break.”

 

“Fair enough. Here’s the bus.”

 

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“How did this country beat Germany and Austria?” I asked Laura quietly as I carefully shifted around on the newspaper I had placed on my seat. “This is how you travel cross country?”

 

“I don’t know. You’ve travelled more than me.”

 

“Well it’s better than how I got here. Luxury if anything.”

 

“So stop complaining.”

 

“Never ever ever.”

 

“This doesn’t seem enough,” she stared off wistfully into the town. “I don’t know what I was expecting. Like a band and farewell banner and people cheering ‘go for it!’”

 

“Did you expect that?” I asked smirking at her. Smoking what had to be my twentieth cigarette of the day.

 

“No… Just nothing, we’re talking about dull things waiting for a bus. It seems anti-climatic doesn’t it? My life happened there,” she pointed into the town, “I’ve left a handful of times to go on vacation. Nothing more. Now it’s over and I know it is. It doesn’t feel like… Anything,” she held up her palms.

 

“This is just the journey,” I tried to soothe her. “It’s not supposed to be the part when you can’t believe what is happening. We’re lining up to take a several day bus ride not fly on the back a unicorn along a rainbow bridge in the sky.”’

 

“That'd be awesome.”

 

“No, no it wouldn’t be, it’s what’s at the end of the journey. I would be a little worried if you were head over heels for a bus trip.”

 

“I’m head over heels for you,” she whispered in a small voice poking me lightly in the chest. It was heart meltingly sweet. I wanted to grab her and kiss her right there and then. It was infuriating. There were enough people just at the bus station working that physical affection wasn’t a good idea.

 

***

 

The bus was hot and unpleasant. It waited for ages in the depot. We managed to get the back seat. There was what was definitely a male prostitute and a definite drug dealer and some old woman who looked like a retired school teacher or something already on the bus. What a terrible place this was. Home for the next three days. At least I was travelling with Laura this time, this wouldn’t be an ordeal alone.

 

She stared out of the window, as if looking for someone right up until the bus pulled away and I realized she had been holding her breath.

 

“So we’re off…”

 

“Good observation.”

 

“Are we there yet?”

 

“I swear to god!”

 

She smiled and rested her head on my shoulder. “No one can see right?”

 

“Nope. You’re too small to see behind the seat.”

 

“Damn right.”

 

That was it. We rolled out of my adopted town, the place I found sanctuary in. Out of Laura’s birthplace and home for her entire life up until this very moment. She just rested her head on my shoulder and I suspect pretended to be asleep. Did she expect her parents to show up and apologize for being so awful to her? Or something more. It was just nothing. They rolled out of town as nobodies who nobody cared about or knew of.

 

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“That looks pathetic.”

 

“It does not! It’s nice, it’s making this a home!” I whined. I was placing some flowers I picked from the park in an used soda bottle. “It’s cute and whimsical! You know we’re like the flowers and the bottle is a our current surroundings,” I explained.

 

“I understand the very basic symbolism but I don’t get the point.”

 

“It’s happening anyway, so get used to it.”

 

“Fine just don’t start cutting yourself again.”

 

I stopped in my tracks to shoot her a nasty look but she just smirked and shrugged. I couldn’t be annoyed at her. I was an idiot. Still who didn’t like flowers! No one that’s who. Our place was tiny. Teeny-tiny. A bedsit at best. It was one room and we shared the bathroom and shower with another bedsit. Weirdly I had slowly moved down in the world of real estate. Grow up in a two storey family house. Moved into a nice bungalow then a small apartment now a rooming house squat.

 

Still it was our place! Our place. That was what mattered. The kitchen was one hob and a fridge that could keep two days of food in it. Provided we didn’t want to both eat. We slept on a mattress on the floor and overlooked a back alley.

 

Yet I was happier here than I had been anywhere else. A shared place. It was always sunny which Carmilla did not like but hey ho it was her suggestion to come here.

 

“Home sweet home!” I declared as I placed the flowers and coke bottle perfectly on the table in the dead centre. “Now don’t use it as an ashtray. I got this for that,” I held up a broken half bottle. “Bottles can be use for everything!”

 

“Or an ashtray,” she drawled pulling one from her pocket.

 

“Where did you get that?”

 

“Stole it from a cafe.”

 

“Well… Fine. Try not to steal anymore.”

 

“No.”

 

“Well.. Whatever. I have to go to work.”

 

***

 

Being a server was scary. I did not like carrying cups of coffee to people. I was convinced I would drop them at any moment. Still it was a job. Carmilla got a job at a corner store, probably because the manager liked her. Which bothered me but whatever, just had to pretend it didn’t and serve coffee and put any little money I made away. Though who wouldn’t like her? That was just going to be something I would have to get used to now in a city with a hundred times the population of home.

 

There was a certain satisfaction to it. Doing something I did not like. However at least in the mailroom back at home, not home anymore, anyway, back there I had Carm to talk to now it was other people who were a clique and not rude but not inclusive. It was better to be almost invisible rather than ignored. There is a difference.

 

The jump from a small town girl to living in a big city like San Francisco was a shock. I did try the whole; “Hi! I’m Laura!” shtick but it wasn’t taken too well. Carmilla thought it might be my over friendly wave and borderline half shout half squeak way of talking which scared people off. When I said it didn’t scare her off she said my fellow employees at the coffee shop didn’t want to fuck me and I went red and had to hide for a while. Waiting for the blood to drain from my cheeks.

 

Another big change of actually working in a job job instead of a job in a small town where they just needed someone to do the men’s work was how tiring it was. I was falling asleep by the time I got in and ate either wafer thin ham sandwiches or rice. Being poor sucks.

 

***

 

Have you ever woken up and not being quite sure where you are? Like if you crash at a friend’s or if you’re on vacation? I get that a lot in this new place. This time I woke and instead of that strange feeling of uneasiness I felt really relaxed and excited at the same time. It kind of felt like.

 

“Carm?” I managed to moan out as I placed myself back awake and in the room. She was between my legs. Her mouth connected to me; engulfing me. Before asking what she was doing a gasp escaped. A gasp turned into a moan. Still half awake it was like riding on a wave of gooey and soft pleasure; part reality, part dreamscape.

 

The sheets on the floor mattress felt amazing and cool against the bottom of my thighs as I slowly and deliberately stretched them out either side of Carmilla’s head. Still drowsy and not quite in the room I felt amazing, finishing with a low whimper and going limp. Carmilla climbed up my body as I tried my hardest not to fall back into a perfect sleep.

 

“Hey,” she mumbled into my ear before softly and tenderly kissing my cheek.

 

“Hey, I’m sleep sleep sleep.”

 

“Can’t tempt you to wake up?” she purred kissing me, my mouth responded but my eyes remained tightly shut.

 

“Ahhhh, come on! Sleep.”

 

Carmilla sighed into my neck her hot breath tickling the skin right before she started laying soft, sweet kisses on the sensitive skin. Oh… Ok. I did kind of really desperately want to… I opened my eyes and reached under her torso and grasped her ass pulling her on top of me. She laughed a self-satisfied laugh, before catching my mouth again.

 

“I’m not moving,” I mumbled in between kisses.

 

“That’s fine,” she whispered in a low sultry voice into my mouth before sitting up draping her hair over my face. She adjusted herself, straddling my stomach, picking up each leg in turn to pull down her underwear and tossing them away.

 

Her hair spilled over me again as she shuffled up my body, I put my hands under her thighs and ass and pulled her over my face. She lowered herself tentatively onto my mouth. I was so tired but she was already wet over my lips. She helped, grinding herself slowly down and back and forth. Carmilla basically finished by herself, using me until she became even slicker and trembled and shuddered and lifted herself up and down, until she was lying on top of me.

 

“Still tired?” She whispered into my ear, biting the lobe.

 

“Sleepy,” I mumbled, pulling her back into my shoulder and placing my hand on the side of her head trapping her to my chest.

 

“Fine,” she gave me one last peck and cuddled up into my shoulder, her arm coming to rest over my stomach squeezing me tight.”Night.”

 

“Sleep,” I repeated barely even conscious.

 

***

 

The door?! Who the heck could that be?! What time was it?! Carmilla was gone. I probably should be gone. Was that my boss coming to yell at me?! Tell me I’m fired. My heart was racing in panic when I got to the door and opened it a crack. A man with cropped black hair, which was going grey around the temples in an expensive suit was there. A suit which did not fit this neighborhood. Very nervous now.

 

“Hello?” My voice came out pathetically weak.

 

“Sorry I must have the wrong address,” he bowed apologetically. His accent was familiar. Really familiar. It definitely wasn’t American and was very strong.

 

“Oh phew… I mean sorry about that… Who were you looking for?” I asked trying to be helpful now I was relieved this man wasn’t here to kill me or evict me or something horrible. Not that I could be helpful I didn’t know anyone in this building.

 

“She maybe using a different name I don’t know,” he said, “Carmilla Karnstein.”

 

“Carm… Yeah I know her!” I nodded eagerly.

 

“Where does she live?” He asked looking anxiously at the doors to tiny apartments either side of us.

 

“Well… Here.”

 

“Here? With you?”

 

“Uh-huh,” I shifted awkwardly under his questioning gaze. He peeked as far inside the tiny room as it was possible too without crossing threshold.

 

“Here?” he repeated.

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Are you sure?!”

 

“Yes! Who are you?”

 

“Her father.”

 

“...” Nothing to say to that. Ah. Um. What? He waited patiently for me to take that in. “Want to come in?” That sounded like I was unsure of my own question. In my head this man had been dead since I first met Carmilla. I was pretty sure that she thought the same.

 

“Thank you Miss…”

 

“Hollis, Laura, I’m Laura… Laura Hollis.” Wow really spat that out eloquently. The bed was a mess, the pillows dragged around my head from… Best not to think about that in front of her father. “Would you like… erm water?” Didn’t have anything else.

 

“Yes thank you.”

 

Awkward silence. He was just taking in the living conditions. This did look like a couples’ squat. Like two young kids out of school, living in sin. A lot of sin. Carmilla’s father looked like he was no nonsense, probably not going to accept this lifestyle.

 

“How did you find us?” I finally asked after we had stood in silence sipping water. “Her. Not us.”

 

“The government were very helpful.”

 

“Right… Good.”

 

“When will she be back?”

 

“Late afternoon I think. Not for a while. Long time. Few hours… Late afternoon.”

 

“Are you friends?”

 

“Yes… You could say that.”

 

“You share that?” He pointed to the mattress still messed up from our late night escapades. I just nodded shyly. “Times are tough I suppose.”

 

“Yeah that’s it.”

 

“Well I’ll be back at say 6 then.”

 

“Ok… I have to get to work… I’m late.”

 

“Very well, thank you for your time Miss Hollis was it?”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“Thank you and thank you for the water.”

 

He nodded curtly and left in short order… Right. That was… Did that happen? Did I dream that? Didn’t feel like a dream. Though nothing felt that real since the outbreak and end of the war. I needed to find Carm. Give her a head’s up.

 

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Laura was always late back. Pretty sure her good nature was being exploited at that coffee shop. I was in a very good mood today. We had been a little lacking in the bedroom since moving. Trying to set up a new life and everything. Especially for Laura, who wanted to make our slum nice and homely. I pretended to be cynical but it was really sweet. One of the reasons I loved her. The burning optimism which may falter but never burnt out.

 

“Can I knock off?”

 

“Sure, sure Nick should be here soon to take over anyway.”

 

“See you.”

 

My boss was creepy. The way he stared at me was gross. Already hated having to work in a store. Serving people and pretending to care about stupid people and their stupid purchases. The next person who brought in a coupon was getting stabbed with a pen.

 

It was too hot here. Why had I suggested San Francisco?! Of all places. Tolerance was worth jettisoning for not tanning. Alaska. Could have gone there. Lived in a wooden hut and chop wood. Though would have to do manual labor… Maybe the sun wasn’t so bad.

 

“HeyCarmgladIcaughtyouweneedtotalknow,” Laura jumped out of nowhere near the back steps which led to our apartment if you could call it that. She was out of breath and looked a bit crazed.

 

“Calm down cutie,” I laughed. She was all hyper. “You haven’t drank too much coffee have?” I walked up the stairs and she tried to catch up but tripped. “Come on.”

 

I pushed the key in the door but it was already open. Laura hurried up the steps next to me.

 

“Wait, wait, wait…”

 

“Shut up! Calm down, breathe, we need to pick up where we left off last night,” I teased wrapping my arm around her waist and pulling her into the apartment and trying to kiss her only for her to block me “What? I promise I’ll be gentle,” I murmured kicking the door shut.

 

“Carmilla?”

 

“Fuck!” I cried out turning to face the strange male voice in our place. “What the hell?”

 

“Carmilla.”

 

“Dad?” I went numb immediately. Just all feeling and normalcy draining in one swoop from my body. This wasn’t real. He wasn’t real… I stumbled forward, just to touch him, put my hands on him. So I knew this wasn’t my imagination. He was real.

 

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Really shouldn’t be here for this.

 

“I’ll leave you guys to it then…” I said very awkwardly and weirdly cheerily. I got no response which was hardly surprising. Leave quicker, close the door without it slamming, oops slammed it, no need to back down the stairs that’s just strange. Leave, leave, leave, hooray left. Have nothing to do however. I left my money in the apartment. Could go back… No should definitely not.

 

Did have cigarettes.

 

So my plan was to walk in a big circle and chain smoke. How long does a reunion take? Because I did need to sleep at some point. He wasn’t going to try to stay with us will he? That could be uncomfortable. Though if he had a nice suit… Actually should probably be more concerned with my partner’s life changing experience than sleeping arrangements. Though I did need sleep.

 

***

 

It was getting dark, though night did seem to appear almost immediately here. I had to get home and eat. I had had no water or food having no money.

 

Knock, knock. No answer. Well I didn’t take a key so that’s just amazing if they’ve gone out for a long dinner or if her father took her back to Austria. The door opened. Oh so she was still in the country!

 

“Hey,” I said unsure of how I should be gauging my tone. Somewhere in the broad spectrum of ‘hey buddy and hey!’

 

Carmilla was standing next to the cracked window smoking, the ashtray on the window cill. She was alone? Yes. She had walked back there quickly.

 

“Hey,” she looked up and smiled at me. She had been crying but her smile wasn’t sad. That was a good sign. She stubbed out the cigarette and rushed towards me, tackle hugging me onto our floor mattress.”Hey,” she kissed me, “hey,” kiss, “hey,” kiss again. So good news I guess. This would be a very peculiar reaction for bad news.

 

“Hey. How’d it go?”

 

***

 

I was still a little blurry on the details. Carmilla explained at a very hurried length. Very excitedly too. Jumping between parts and back when she remembered something new. Her father survived was the part I definitely understood and had some suspicious of before their long conversation. He was coming back tomorrow to talk as he had to meet someone from the US government.

 

Tomorrow was good. I needed to sleep.

 

Carmilla pawed at me and I just caught the hand and wrapped it around my side. She just grumbled and pressed up close to me.

 

“Did I tell you about how he found me here after a move!”

 

“Yup.”

 

“Ok, ok.”

 

A few more moments of trying to sleep she exploded with energy again.

 

“He’s getting his own business going and…”

 

“Yes, yes.”

 

“Ok sorry.”

 

Eyes shut. Sleeping time.

 

“He’ll accept us Laura, he will.”

 

“Ok,” I opened my eyes and shuffled around until we were face to face. She was beaming. I thought I was supposed to be the overly optimistic happy one.

 

“Then when we…” I interrupted her by kissing her hard and pushing her shoulder so she was lying on her back rolling over with her and straddling her waist and tugging up at her shirt.

 

“Just shut up please,” I said pausing a half inch away from her face. She nodded and leaned up to meet me.

Chapter Text

Carmilla’s father seemed to work magic. He set up a jewelry store and employed us both. It was as if chance had finally decided to smile upon us. Finally. We lived in the small apartment above the store. He got a separate place. Our relationship was never discussed, however it was acknowledged silently in the background… I think.

 

Things were going well.

 

No.

 

Things were going great. They were actually…

 

No!

 

Things were going AMAZING. Life was as good as it could be.

 

Every part of my body was constantly tingling from just joy. How could things have worked out so well? It was beyond belief.

 

Beyond belief.

 

I, at one point had to pinch myself over and over. I had for a long time thought that I would wake up in my bed back in my hometown and that it was all a dream. I didn’t need to. Anymore.

 

The dream was a reality.

 

Not a dream within a dream.

 

Reality. I even thought for a short while I didn’t know how to cope with life being so good. So right. Now. Now I accepted it. Woke up smiling in Carmilla’s arm and went to bed grinning in her arms.

 

***

 

The first letter came back from Danny. She and Kirsch wrote separate letters, which was really sweet. His had more spelling mistakes. I sent one back and then the next time three came with the addition of one from Perry and Laf. It was nice to have that link to my past.

 

Did scribble something to my parents but threw it away. They didn’t want me. There was no need.

 

Life without parents might seem like a horrible thing to subject yourself to voluntarily. However when any semblance of reconnecting a relationship with them was weighed against my loving one with Carmilla. Then it was not even a consideration.

 

***

 

“Can I have a word with you Laura, please?”

 

“Of course Mr Karnstein…” I replied nervously. I was supposed to go out for a walk with Carmilla and enjoy the Fall weather before it slipped into Winter. I had never really spoken to him one on one. Oh no. Nervous. Sweaty palms. Don’t be nervous. This man has rescued me from mediocrity.

 

“I just want to let you know… This is going be awkward so… Ok. I don’t like the nature of your relationship with my daughter if I’m honest. I don’t,” he said with a long face. Oh no. “However. However. People didn’t like the nature of my religion. I’ve learned many things. Many painful things. I’ve lost my wife. I’ve lost my son. I thought I lost my daughter too. So despite what my head tells me. What my religion, my faith and my values tell me. I’m very glad Carmilla found you. I’m very glad you have each other and have brought light into the darkness of her life.”

 

“Erm, thank you sir.”

 

“You’re a good girl. With a good heart.”

 

He stood awkwardly. Then walked awkwardly over to me. Then awkwardly hugged me tight. The awkwardness evaporated after a moment and I hugged him back. He kissed the top of my head before letting go.

 

“Here take a few dollars have a nice date night.”

 

“Thank you very much sir.”

 

“Of course.”

 

***

 

The trees were turning orange, gold and began falling in the park. Carmilla and I had our winter coats on but despite the chill in the air there was still the bright Californian sun burning bright in the sky. The park had other people there but it was empty enough to feel like we had our own space and time together. We walked as deep into the park as possible to no longer feel like we were in a city. It was a haven of zen within a jungle of noise and concrete. Allowing the release of stress and pressure that city life brought on back into nature.

 

“Wanna sit by the water?”

 

I just nodded and followed her lead over to the pond which took up the centre of the park and sat down on an old wooden bench. It had a tribute plaque which was too old to read.

 

Our overcoats overlapped on the bench seat. Able to secretly work my hand underneath them both and unseen to anyone who might pass link my fingers with Carmilla’s.

 

Staring out into the body of water, littered with the fallen leaves of the lost summer. Floating back and forth on the ripples created by the ducks and swans who were moving with no particular direction. Just enjoying the last platinum shards of light piercing their water, just like us.

 

One of the ducks we both had just focused on by coincidence was trying to lead a gaggle of ducklings through the peaceful, scarlet water. The smallest of the ducks was struggling. Not able to follow the others with such ease and natural grace. For every push forward, the ripples from the stream created by its brothers and sisters knocked it back. Pushed backwards into the shade of the water but striding forward undeterred back into the golden light and pushing forward regardless. Carmilla’s fingers wrapped a little bit tighter and I squeezed back. The fallen leaves provided further obstacles for the smallest of the ducklings but still it ploughed on.I readjusted my hand to hold Carmilla’s tight and glanced around. No one was really looking. Everyone else in the park was milling around unconcerned about us. Concerned with themselves. Throwing caution to the wind I leaned down and rested my head on Carmilla’s shoulder. Her arm snaked out under our coats and wrapped around my waist pulling me closer.

 

“You should wash your hair.”

 

“Well that ruined that lovely moment of introspection I was having.”

 

“Shut up.” She kissed the top of my head and squeezed me tight.

 

Looking back at the water and searching out the duckling; it kept pushing forward finally falling into the wake and rhythm its own away from the others. Happily moving along at its own pace.