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Naomi tells her about Riga, properly; it’s different than New Year’s, because the air feels much clearer, for one, and Emily’s feeling all too sober, for another. Naomi thinks it did help that Emily managed to stop them before the night went horribly awry, that moment she leaned in and tried; somehow, she even finds the restraint admirable, if only a bit unfamiliar, since between the two of them, she remembers Emily to be the one with her heart more visible on her sleeve. Naomi takes a moment to wonder what it is that changed all that; reminds herself to ask, later, when it’s her turn to field questions.

Right now though, Emily’s asking, “Were you ever in love with her, then? All that time in between?”

Naomi only says, “It’s just different, I guess,” as she takes a drag so deep the flame nearly reaches the filter; she looks at the butt one last time before flicking it onto the street. Naomi estimates it must be half past three by now, and the streets are empty and quiet. “Though I wouldn’t call it that.”

“Oh,” Emily just manages, her fag dying right between her fingers; the way the ash has built up at its tip gives it all away, how Emily hasn’t moved for a long time, just sitting there and breathing and hanging on to Naomi’s story all the while. “What would you call it then?”

Naomi sighs. “It’s an understanding, Em,” she says, moving in and gently dislodging the cigarette butt from Emily’s fingers. “At some point, I may have misread it, but in the end it was very clear.”

Naomi tells her of the day she said no to Cyprus, how Effy had looked heartbroken but not quite enough. “Though it’s Effy, you know,” she just says after, shrugging. “At some point, I thought I was getting through, but looking back at everything, I have to wonder if I ever really did.”

Emily’s mostly quiet after that, speaking only to ask for a cigarette every now and then; Naomi looks at her and worries that she’s probably said too much. On Emily’s third cigarette, Naomi finally asks, “What about you?” And then, “I mean, this is thoroughly one-sided and unfair.” She rubs at her nose tentatively, waits for a sign.

Emily breathes in, deep; in the distance, Naomi can almost see the faintest trace of light as dawn starts breaking. “There was someone,” Emily begins, and Naomi holds her breath, stares at how Emily’s face is lit up slowly in the sunrise. “She was a lot like you.”

Naomi doesn’t know what to say to that; there’s too many things going there, in only so many words. She. Someone. Was. Was. Naomi sighs as she reaches for Emily’s hand. “Go on,” Naomi says, when she gets enough strength for it. When she sees Emily hesitate a little, she adds, “Come on, we’ve gone this far.”

Emily opens her hand a little before closing in, tighter. Her hands are as soft as Naomi remembers.

*

It feels odd, trying to tell Naomi about Lily, since she’s never really talked about Lily to anyone before, and Emily is realizing only now, how difficult it actually is to assign words to things.

“I’m sorry,” Emily says, sniffing lightly. Slowly, it is getting warm with the approach of morning. “I’ve never had to talk about her before, you know.”

“’S’alright,” Naomi says, smiling lopsidedly even. “You don’t really have to, you know.”

It strikes Emily as awfully familiar, and for the first time, it is Naomi who reminds Emily of Lily, and not the other way around; Emily’s heart constricts at the thought, involuntarily. “That’s exactly what she said,” Emily finds herself saying, rubbing her chest absently. Too many cigarettes, she figures, catching her breath; that and the early morning cold. “I mean. When I first told her about you.”

There’s a slight change of mood that glides over Naomi’s face; a subtle shift into being slightly more involved. “You told her about me?”

Emily has to laugh a little at how she sounds so surprised. “Of course I did,” Emily says, and for a while, Naomi even laughs along, the spell abruptly interrupted only when something gets caught in Emily’s throat and she starts coughing. Naomi’s expression turns immediately to a frown.

“Was there already something going on, before Christmas?” Naomi asks quietly, rubbing Emily’s back absently.

“I wanted to tell you, but—”

“You didn’t have time, I figured out as much,” Naomi just says, though it hits Emily less accusatory than expected.

After a while, Emily says, “I’m sorry.” The sun is up high enough that she has to shield her eyes with a hand.

Naomi looks out in kind, squinting. “We’ve been sorry enough,” she says. “I think it’s time to feel something else.”

Emily follows Naomi with her eyes as she moves up and dusts herself; Naomi stands between the sun and Emily and the light goes around her in a way that makes her pleasantly glow. “I guess it’s time we go in, yeah?” Naomi says, extending one hand down to Emily, the other picking up the long-forgotten bottles. “I’m bloody exhausted.”

Emily smiles, takes her hand and moves toward the door; she knocks a few times and waits. It’s too early in the morning, and for all they know Katie might not even hear, but Emily really doesn’t care.

Naomi holds on all the while.

*

Katie opens the door after a good round of loud knocking; she looks at them with bleary eyes, which she rubs absently with a hand. She says, “What the fuck?” first, before going for a softer, “What the fuck took you so long?”

“We were right here,” Naomi says, tightening her grip on Emily’s hand.

“I fell asleep on the fucking couch, fucking waiting” Katie says, rubbing her neck and stretching as she steps aside. Emily moves in first, dragging Naomi behind her, hand in hand; this time Katie sees, and when Naomi catches the look on her face, she suddenly looks so awake, her face suddenly full of hastily put-together questions.

Emily heads for the stairs, wordlessly, letting go of Naomi’s hand when she reaches the fourth step, as if suddenly remembering something. Naomi stays behind tentatively, looks back at Katie with her best attempt of an answer.

Katie shrugs, waves a hand dismissively, mouthing, “Whatever,” but even as she rolls her eyes, to Naomi it feels like permission.

Emily’s waiting by the door when Naomi gets to the top of the stairs; her head’s tilted and leaning against the frame. She’s looking at her with tired eyes that Naomi sees only then. “Exhausted?” Naomi asks, settling across her, tilting her head in kind.

“I know we shouldn’t—“ Emily begins, and Naomi cuts her off gently with, “And we won’t.”

They don’t. Emily closes the door softly and Naomi turns away as Emily gets into something more comfortable; it stings, because it reminds her of a certain lake and a horde of things that they can’t go back to, just because there is too much to be undone.

“My body’s fucking crashing,” Emily says behind her; she’s getting into bed, and the sheets rustle in a way so familiar that Naomi has trouble breathing.

Naomi recognizes how this is crucial, this momentary truce, and she’s sitting on the corner of Emily’s bed, trying not to fuck it up.

“You can stay, you know,” Emily says, yawning. And then, “Aren’t you bloody sleepy anyway?”

Naomi wants to say no, wants to insist that she’s well awake, but then Emily’s yawn is as infectious as her laugh, and the way Naomi shakes her head despite already being halfway through one makes Emily giggle sleepily; Naomi closes her eyes briefly, puts a tentative hand lightly on Emily’s thigh.

“Stay,” Emily says again, covering Naomi’s hand with hers. Naomi just looks at her, waits for her breathing to even out, before settling beside her carefully, a calculated space in between, her hands to herself, securely.

*

Of course, Naomi does not sleep, given that all she can think about is how Emily’s leaving again in a few days; she takes her time, looking at Emily’s closed eyes, watching carefully the rise and fall of her chest and timing her own breathing in kind. Somewhere in the middle, Naomi almost forgets where they are and how it’s been, almost reaches out to put a hand on Emily’s cheek as it is touched by a shaft of sunlight from the window, only to pull back the second she catches herself, clasping one hand with the other and keeping them close to her chest.

There used to be a time when touching Emily was one of life’s easier things and Naomi tries not to think of that: how Emily’s skin was always soft, how her laugh sounded like whenever Naomi tucked her hair behind an ear and brushed the space just behind her earlobe, ticklish; Naomi closes her eyes, tells herself, Not now, tries to think instead about the months in between that changed all that.

But then, Emily’s just so near, this mandatory space between notwithstanding, and inside, Naomi feels her heart trying to break through her chest with all its furious heavy pounding. After a while, Emily shifts and turns around, her back to Naomi now, and there’s little Naomi can do to stop herself from crying. God, must it be really this hard, to try to stop herself from making a sound?

Breathing in, she touches Emily’s nape, briefly, fingertips brushing lightly against Emily’s hair; she smells faintly of a long ago memory and the early morning air.

*

On her way out, Naomi spies Katie in the kitchen, drinking coffee; she looks up from her cup as Naomi stands by the doorway. Katie asks, “So how was it?” Naomi shifts her eyes to the floor, crossing her arms as she says, “It was fine.”

Katie scoffs, a little, and after a while she says, “She’s flying out Wednesday.” And then, “I saw her ticket; she could be so careless, you know.” Naomi sighs as she runs a hand into her hair, stepping into the kitchen and settling across Katie. Katie rolls her eyes, fully awake as she adds, “And what the fuck is up with all that vodka, jesus.”

When Naomi turns her head, the bottles she and Emily had bought are there, standing side by side; Naomi tries to swallow her laugh. “I thought you wanted to party,” she just says, trying to sound amused despite her exhaustion.

“I thought Emily was staying longer,” Katie just says, in a way that makes Naomi turn her head sharply; all those days, Naomi hasn’t quite heard yet the sort of heartbroken tone Katie just used on her and Naomi thinks about that, how Katie’s been outdoing herself in the emotions department consistently, since Emily left.

Naomi looks at her, hesitates a little before reaching out and touching Katie’s hand on the table. Katie flinches but she does not pull away, only looks away instead. “When are your parents getting back?”

“Tomorrow afternoon,” says Katie.

Naomi sighs. “Tonight then? I’ll call Cook, or whatever. See if Panda’s around, even.” When Katie looks up, there’s actually a faint smile. “Like good old times, yeah?” she appends, and Katie just nods.

*

Emily wakes that afternoon with her head pounding. “Fucking hangover,” she murmurs, opening one eye ahead of the other, reaching out tentatively to scan the bed until her eyesight focuses. There’s no one there, and for a moment Emily’s heart stills.

Certainly this has happened before; truth is, Emily has long resigned herself to the fact that it just does. She tries to remind herself how long she’s come from that girl whose heart got broken over such small things, though the fact that she’s been here before doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any less jarring.

“So, are you going to be asleep till tomorrow then?”

Emily blinks twice at the voice and pushes herself off the bed. “It’s called jet lag, Katie, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“Sure,” Katie says, rolling her eyes, sitting on her bed across Emily. “Fucking amazing feeling, jet lag, isn’t it? Can’t go without it for more than a week, yeah?”

Emily takes a moment to figure out what Katie’s on about; groans inwardly when she realizes, a bit later. “Katie,” she just sighs, rubbing her forehead. “Come on.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Katie says, waving a hand dismissively as she stands. Emily just looks at her helplessly. “Just, fucking get up, yeah? Naomi’s cooking up something before Mum and Dad get back.”

The door’s shut even before Emily can get a question out.

*

Emily remembers how she barely made it through that other time Katie threw a party; half the time she was here alone, and half the time she was running in circles with Naomi. Frankly, granted a choice, Emily wishes to avoid another night like that, though remembering how Katie said “jet lag” with such contempt leaves Emily with no other choice.

Naomi says, “I warned you,” coming into their bedroom after knocking twice at a door half ajar anyway; she momentarily left Katie to deal with the steady influx of guests.

“A party on a Sunday night,” Emily just says, and Naomi snickers, a little.

“Well, someone’s got to get it done before your parents arrive tomorrow, yeah?” Naomi says, settling on the far end of the bed carefully. “Katie’s getting better at dealing with this sort of heartache. I’m glad.”

“Since when did you become such an expert?” Emily asks, eyeing Naomi and the distance she’s imposed between them, consciously. “I mean, with Katie and her feelings.”

Naomi laughs a little. “Oh, you know,” she just says. “The perks of waiting for the same person to come around. Together.”

“Sorry,” Emily says, automatically. In the living room, someone has turned the music on, and there’s a round of laughter of mostly male voices. Furrowing her brow, Emily asks, “Is that…”

“I think,” Naomi says, rolling her eyes, and Emily laughs a little, finally.

“Wow,” Emily breathes, moving closer. “I mean, it’s been only, what, a year?”

“More or less,” says Naomi, biting her lip slightly, her eyes shifting warily over the truncated space between the two of them. “I mean, since college, a year, but about half since the last party.”

Emily says, “Of course,” though it feels much longer than that; being in a place other than here does have its way of warping time. She moves to stand, rubbing her hands together. “So, we’re really doing this, yeah?”

Naomi shrugs. “Can’t see why not,” she says, standing in kind, brushing against Emily’s shoulder in the process; Emily holds her breath briefly, holds Naomi’s gaze a moment too long. “Emily,” she says softly as she looks away.

Emily blinks. “Sorry,” she just says, moving quickly toward the door; she doesn’t look back until she’s four steps down the staircase, and when she does, Naomi still hasn’t followed.

*

Emily sees JJ first, as she turns toward the living room; he looks positively thrown the moment he realizes it’s her, shifts his eyes nervously around before Emily wraps an arm around his forearm and says hello properly, her smile wide. Emily does miss Bristol, truth be told; after all, once upon a time, it stood for so many things.

She sees Freddie next, holding a can of beer in one hand; he’s talking to Cook in the living room, and Cook waves in kind. Emily knows how hard she’s missed this place when even someone like Cook elicits a form of fond feeling, despite that nefarious grin.

When she looks around for Katie, she finds her by the stereo, fiddling with the controls. “Hi,” says Emily, tentatively, sliding alongside Katie casually. “Nice party,” she offers.

Katie smiles, tightlipped. “Fuck off,” she says, but it feels less aggressive than expected, coming from Katie, who even adds, softly, “There’s still vodka in the kitchen, better get a head start on that, as well.” And then, “You and Naomi fucking bought an entire shelf of it, and there’s only so much Cook can drink on his own without dying.”

Emily has to laugh; admittedly, she and Naomi may have been a bit overeager in buying supplies. Emily toys with the word, overcompensation. “Best not to be short of anything,” she just says, touching Katie’s arm briefly before moving into the kitchen.

On her way she passes Naomi ushering in Thomas and Panda from the door, and expectedly, Panda’s beside herself, as she always is. “So glad to see you finally again,” she says. “It’s so good, seeing you and Naomi together. So good.”

There’s really no implication anywhere that Panda meant they were back together, but the air she leaves behind as she moves on into the living room is just as awkward. When Emily catches Naomi’s eyes, she just says, “Vodka in the kitchen?”

To which Naomi just nods, emphatically. “Yes, please.”

They settle across each other on the counter, passing a bottle of vodka to and fro, listening to Katie’s music and the incessant round of laughter wafting in from the living room. They talk sparingly; once, Naomi mentions how Effy is not around, and Emily tries to come up with a diplomatic answer.

“When’s she going to be back?” Emily asks, a long while after.

“What?” Naomi blinks, straightens her face after her nth shot from the bottle.

“I mean, Effy,” Emily says by way of clarification, and Naomi passes her the bottle in kind.

“Not sure,” says Naomi, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “In a couple of weeks, perhaps?”

Emily shrugs. “Too bad I’m totally going to miss her, then,” she says, and Naomi snickers lightly. “What? I can’t say that anymore?”

“Odd, is all,” Naomi just says.

Somewhere between the twelfth and thirteenth round, Emily puts the bottle on the table, still a quarter of liquor left. Naomi rubs her eyes a little before asking, “What?”

“Wanna smoke,” Emily slurs. “Garden?”

Naomi just says, “Yeah,” gets up unsteadily from her stool. Emily grips the edge of the table in kind. In the living room, they’re still laughing, unmindful of their absence.

Out in the garden, Emily stumbles onto the grass, shakily, and Naomi falls after her in kind. With the volume of vodka wrapped around their brains, their skins seem to be quite numb enough to be unmindful of how close they are sitting alongside each other. At some point, Naomi even reaches out and holds Emily’s hand, and Emily lets her.

“You reckon we should just get back together?” Naomi asks out of the blue, watching Emily light a fag.

Emily takes a deep drag before answering, “I don’t think I’m in the best mind to say something.” Naomi smiles at that, leans in to take a hit at Emily’s fag. When Emily sees the pleased look on her face, she just has to ask, “What are you so happy about?”

Naomi exhales to the side before smiling again at her. “The answer is not no,” she just says. “In the meantime, that’s enough.”

In a split-second, Emily feels like she’s sobering up – like her brain’s making a conscious effort to right itself and even her eyes are coming to focus, as if something internal were twisting itself for the sake of it. “You’re serious,” she just says, her mouth dry.

Naomi looks at her, shrugs and rolls her eyes for effect. “Sorry,” she says, reaching over for a fag of her own to light. “Forget it, it’s the vodka talking.”

Just like that, Naomi reverts to who she is – the girl who breaks Emily’s heart easily – and Emily has to look away, finishing her cigarette in one drag before flicking it off. “Right,” she says along with the smoke, after. “If that’s what you want.”

There’s a long gap of silence that hangs above them heavily, and Emily thinks about how foolish she’s been to think this is going to be as easy as simply falling back into old habits that die hard, because really, Emily’s still feeling so much, and really, nothing can make that any easier.

They reach over for another cigarette and Emily brushes against Naomi’s hand on the way; she pulls back but Naomi’s quick to hold. “Emily,” she says. “Sorry, all right? It’s a stupid thing to suggest; it completely disregards your plans for Lily, or whatever, when you get back to uni after this brief bout with, I don’t know, tying up loose ends or something—”

“Nae,” Emily interrupts, laughing lightly at the mention of Lily, because if Emily’s sure of something, it’s that this isn’t about Lily at the slightest. “I have no intentions of getting back with Lily.”

“Oh,” Naomi just says, laughing a little in kind, though it’s a bit too tight to be comfortable. “There again with being presumptuous, I--”

“If there’s a girl, really,” Emily interrupts again, clearing her throat and it shuts Naomi up proper. “That I’d like to get back with, it’s you.” And then, “Just. In due time, I guess? We have it, yeah?”

“Time,” Naomi says, her face pale and soft and when Emily looks, she sees she’s too close to crying that she has to bite down on her lip. “Do we, really?” Naomi asks, in that heavy voice; Emily’s heart starts twitching a little, and a pit in her stomach starts to pulse.

“It doesn’t have to end on Wednesday, Nae,” she just says. “We can’t be together right now, but we can be, you know,” Emily threads her fingers into Naomi’s and grips, softly. “When we can.” Naomi grips back in kind, sighs heavily, and Emily has to think whether she’s just issued a promise just then.

They’re quiet for a long while, until Emily breaks the air with, “I bet your degree would look sexy on you.”

Naomi laughs out loud at that, swats Emily’s arm playfully, and Emily has no words for the degree of her relief. “’Course it would,” Naomi says, looking Emily over with heavy half-lidded eyes that does something positively warm to Emily’s belly. “I bet you’d look fantastic in work clothes.”

Emily blushes, deep. “Shut up,” she says. She grins at Naomi, that silly schoolgirl grin she hasn’t had on for so long, and the way it feels like it’s distorting her face is everything she’s been hoping to find again in Bristol, all this time.

*

Emily spends the early morning of Monday cleaning the house with Naomi and Katie; it’s easier this time around, and with a smaller crowd there is considerably less garbage to deal with, though with more alcohol volume per capita, the amount of broken glass to deal with somewhat tripled.

“This is your fault,” Katie sighs, shifting her eyes from Emily to Naomi and back; Emily giggles, slightly. “Whoever told you it was fucking necessary to bring home an entire shelf anyway?”

“Again, I think the word was overcompensation,” Naomi says, rolling her eyes but laughing anyway. She’s holding a garbage bag up for Katie, who is shoving dustpan after dustpan of broken glass into it. “Though I think that went well, don’t you, Kay?”

Katie looks up, the scowl on her face softening. “Well, yeah. Whatever.”

Emily raises a brow at that; Katie conceding, much less to Naomi - it takes loads of getting used to, and she’s certain this will never grow old, or at the very least, not for a long time.

At the end of the effort, they lug two big bags of refuse to the dumpster by the curb. Emily claps her hands together as if dusting them, and Katie breathes out audibly. “Well,” Katie says, “Safe to say we won’t be having another one of those for a long while.”

Naomi just laughs, “Feels nice, to be young, yeah?”

“You say it like we’re terribly old, or something,” says Katie, though the way she’s looking at Naomi tells anyone that for the most part she agrees anyhow.

“Feels nice to be young together, then,” Naomi amends, and Emily is hit with a burst of warmth; it’s strange and unexpected but not unwelcome.

Not unwelcome at all.

*

Naomi finds Emily standing there, upon opening their door; it’s the night before her flight, and she’s not holding a bottle of liquor at all. Admittedly, it worries Naomi, a little, because whatever this is, it means they’re going at it sober. (Not that this is a bad thing, Naomi tells herself immediately as she catches the thought.)

“Emily,” she says, straightening the shirt she has on, suddenly self-conscious.

“I know it’s late, but--”

“You know it’s not too late,” Naomi says, opening the door wider. From the kitchen, her mother asks who it is, and Naomi says, “It’s Emily.” The kitchen goes quiet, running faucet included, and in a bit Gina slides in beside her, wiping her hands on her shirt as she says an all too bright “Hello.”

“Hi Gina,” Emily says, and Naomi recognizes Emily’s smile from much early on, and for a moment Naomi can’t decide whether it’s fondness or sadness she’s feeling; she settles for halfway through nostalgia. “Sorry. This won’t take long.”

“Come on in,” Gina says. “I was just making tea.”

Emily steps in gingerly, and Naomi feels 17 all over again. “Mum really liked you,” she says quietly, closing the door. “I think she was more heartbroken than I was when she heard you were moving away.”

For a moment, Emily frowns slightly, before recovering with, “Well, I don’t know how to take this news.” She narrows her eyes in mock disappointment for effect, but then her lips curve slowly into a smile anyhow. She gestures with her empty hands helplessly. “I knew I should’ve taken something with me.”

“Please, I think there’s still alcohol in my veins right now,” says Naomi, laughing. “Besides, we can take a sober conversation, can’t we? We’re two consenting adults.”

“Yeah,” Emily nods, her tongue darting out quickly to wet her lip. Naomi looks away upon catching it and they’re silent for a bit; Emily shifts unsteadily from one leg to the other.

“I meant it, you know,” Emily says, after a long while.

Naomi settles against a nearby table for support. “Meant what?” she asks, and the way her throat is dry is almost painful. In the kitchen, the kettle is hissing its way to a slow boil.

“What I said the other night.”

Something stops in the middle of Naomi’s chest. It’s not that she does not want it, because god knows nothing’s ever felt quite as right; it’s that she’s not sure what exactly Emily means, what exactly she expects. She swallows heavily before asking an utterly unnecessary, “Which part?”

“The one where I say we have time beyond tomorrow,” Emily says.

It’s not that Naomi didn’t see it coming; it’s that she hasn’t quite come up with the right answer to this just yet. In the absence of a better thing to say, Naomi blinks instead. “Aren’t we too old for these kinds of impossible romances,” she says, trying to be all stern and adult, but her voice breaks at the end of it anyway, and Emily wraps a hand around her shaky wrist.

“Or maybe, old enough,” Emily counters, her thumb brushing lightly over and over the same spot, on the skin just above Naomi’s pulse. “Old enough for impossible romances.”

In the kitchen, the kettle is whistling. Naomi moves back a little, dabs at the tears in her eyes with the hand that Emily is not holding. She’s feeling too much, it’s ridiculous, and her heart’s almost ready to fall out. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” she says, sniffling.

At that moment, Gina calls for tea in the kitchen, and Emily says, “Let’s go sit for a while.”

*

They end up taking their tea outside, as Naomi begs for a cigarette. Gina leaves them alone, heads to bed after kissing Naomi on the forehead and touching Emily’s cheek. “Come visit more often, yeah? Always welcome here,” she says to her, before getting back in.

Emily lights the first fag, a considerable while after Gina leaves. “I’ve only realized, I actually missed your mum more than I missed mine,” she says.

Naomi laughs a little, leans in to touch the tip of her fag to Emily’s. “Really?” she asks, brow raised. “She was quite fond of you, really. I mean, in ways your mum clearly wasn’t fond of me.”

“My mum’s a bit of a cunt,” Emily says, and Naomi laughs a little harder. “In ways your mum obviously isn’t.”

Naomi just says, “Right,” taking a sip from her mug of tea and taking a drag from the cigarette in her other hand. She hesitates briefly before going ahead with, “I used to run into your mum often, at the store.”

“Oh?” Emily says, moving in to sip, cradling her mug with both hands. She looks into it wanly as she adds, “Did she say anything?”

Naomi sighs. “Oh, volumes,” she says, rolling her eyes and taking a drag. “I mean, with all the raised brows and eye rolls.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“No, don’t be,” says Naomi. “It’s fine now, I guess; for some reason, hanging out with Katie inches me closer to your mum’s good side.”

“I’ll remember to thank Katie,” Emily says. And then, “So that’s a good sign then? For us, I meant.”

Naomi finishes her tea. “Emily,” she sighs after. “I know I started it, but do you really think—”

“How about we don’t think too much,” Emily interrupts, finishing her tea in kind. “I mean, it’s not like we’ve got anything under control in the first place, yeah?”

Naomi considers that for a while. It’s a nice perspective, admittedly. “Good point,” she concedes, nodding. “What does it mean, though?”

“What do you mean, what does it mean?” Emily asks, laughing a little at the confusion.

Naomi laughs along in kind. “I mean, what do we do next? In the meantime.”

Emily looks at her, lets her laugh soften until it dies down. She lights another fag before speaking. “I don’t know,” Emily says, shrugging. “I plan to enjoy being alone, for a while.”

“Come on, Em,” Naomi says, a frown crossing her face. “University’s a big place, surely there must be…”

Emily shakes her head, waves her cigarette-holding hand a little. “It’s pointless, anyway,” she says. “I’ll always come back to you.”

Naomi’s quiet for a while as she absorbs the gravity of Emily’s words. “You don’t know that,” Naomi says, when she gets to it; she looks away, fixes her gaze at some faraway point, distracting herself into seeing something through the darkness, straining her eyes until they water from all that exertion.

When she looks back, Emily’s looking at her intently. “I’ll always come back to you,” Emily just says again. “Time and again, I just know.”

For a moment, Naomi has no words, her mouth half-open and empty. After a while, she only says, “Oh,” And then, “Well, you know very well where to find me, yeah?”

Emily laughs a little but says nothing, lights a fag instead. Naomi lights another in kind, if only to keep this feeling of want at bay; she’s been good at this for days, a few hours more can’t hurt.

After a while, Emily says, “Do me a favor, Nae?”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s not part at the airport this time?” Naomi furrows her brows at that, thoroughly confused. “I mean,” Emily continues. “I don’t want to remember you as the girl I leave in the airport, okay? Not this time.”

“What do you want then?” asks Naomi. “To remember, I meant?”

“Any other thing,” Emily only says. She stubs out her cigarette, reaching for Naomi’s hand. They hold on for a very long time.

*

Katie drops by the following night, after they’ve taken Emily to the airport. “I honestly thought you’d be getting back together,” she says at the door, and it takes Naomi a couple of seconds to actually process what she’s saying. “I mean, you looked positively disgusting, but nevertheless in love, I mean—”

“Katie…”

“What? Can’t you keep it together for four days, for fuck’s sake? You looked fucking normal on Sunday, what the fuck happened?”

“Emily did not want me to see her to the airport,” says Naomi, matter-of-factly.

“What did you fucking do this time?”

“I didn’t do anything!” Naomi says, suddenly defensive, though she breaks into laughter the minute she hears herself. “Sorry, but you’re reading it wrong, Kay. We had a nice time chatting the night before. That’s when she asked me not to go today.”

For a moment, Katie’s speechless. “Now that’s just grand,” she says later, after recovering. She clears her throat before, “So, we’re back to waiting, yeah?”

“Well, we could hang minus the waiting, actually,” Naomi suggests. She slips a cigarette pack from her back pocket and thrusts it toward Katie.

Katie smiles as she slides a stick out. “Yeah, maybe,” she just says, dangling the cigarette from her lips and lighting up.