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Sometimes, when Naomi squints a certain way, she can see more vividly what it is that draws her to Effy; more often than not, she attributes it to a certain calmness about Effy, the way she never seems to be fazed with anything. It’s something Naomi attempts often but never pulls off, or, at least, not quite as well.

The thing is, Naomi studies Effy discreetly during some afternoons after Uni; most times, it’s when they’re sitting out on the steps, sharing a fag. And while Naomi has never doubted, not once, not even before, how Effy is in fact beautiful in ways oftentimes mind-blowing, there’s just something about near-sunset that gives her this sort of golden *glow* that makes Naomi go, “Oh,” but only quietly.

Once, Effy nearly hears it, turns her head with a confused look on her face, her brows knit slightly. “Something the matter, yeah?” she asks, taking a casual drag after.

That time, Naomi just shakes her head, manages a small laugh even. “Nothing,” she says, then she takes a drag herself, long and slow, as she looks away.

*

It’s the longest she hasn’t heard from Emily, but then, Naomi thinks, this isn’t unexpected at all; what else is there to say after all that heartbreak, anyway? And while indeed there are days when she isn’t thinking about what she had just practically thrown out the window – days when Naomi thinks she’s on the verge of accepting how things had gone – still, there are other days when the what-ifs weigh heavily upon her, and they are too much.

On such days, she calls Effy, and sometimes Naomi wonders why Effy does it – let herself be around Naomi on days when Naomi is obviously at her worst; though Naomi never really arrives at an answer that sounds the least bit logical, it does not bother her, or at least, that’s how Naomi settles the thing with herself.

*

Effy comes by bearing ice cream and dancing cheerleaders on DVD on a Saturday; when Naomi comes to the door, she chokes on an interrupted sob and the influx of incoming laughter.

“Shitty weekend?” Effy asks, and Naomi opens the door wider.

“Like you have no idea,” says Naomi, wiping her face with her hands; she manages a laugh, albeit a faint one, and she ushers Effy in. The house is empty since her mum is on a trip, somewhere, and really, there is little Naomi could do to keep the loneliness out.

Perhaps sensing the quiet herself, Effy asks, “How long has your mum been away?”

Naomi sighs and says, “Wednesday,” watches mutely as Effy shakes her head and makes her way into the kitchen. From afar, Naomi hears the freezer door open and then close.

When Effy comes back out, she just says, “You could’ve asked sooner, you know.”

*

They spend the day mostly unmoving on the couch; the movie’s on, and the pints of ice cream are more or less decimated by the time the movie’s over. When the end credits start rolling and Tony Basil comes on, Naomi manages a soft giggle, finally.

“What?” asks Effy, still absently stroking Naomi’s arm on the backrest.

“Nothing, it’s just,” Naomi says, the giggle bubbling bigger from inside, “I don’t know, is this… is this how it is? To have a friend, I meant.”

Effy raises her brow, amused. “Does it bother you?” she asks, the look on her face serious but her eyes somewhat smiling in a way that totally baffles Naomi; how does Effy do that?

“If by that you mean, the ridiculous amounts of ice cream and Bring it On while avoiding the topic of your ex-girlfriend altogether the whole time…” Naomi pauses to breathe in, and by now Effy’s got that inward smile going for her again. “Then it’s not too bad, yeah?” says Naomi. “Makes me wish I had more friends.”

“You had Emily,” Effy says softly, and though Naomi knows it is with the best of intentions, she winces anyway, that Effy has to append, “Sorry,” immediately, off the look on Naomi’s face.

“No, don’t,” says Naomi, shifting her eyes to the window. Slowly, it is getting dark. “I mean. Come to think of it, at the time… she was everything all at once, you know.” And then, “How do you fuck up a thing like that?”

Effy breathes in before saying, “Well, for starters, I think it takes two.” And then, “I’m heading outside for a smoke. Come with?”

Naomi shrugs and says, “Have it here, not like I would mind.”

Effy gets up anyway, stretches in that severely feline manner that reminds Naomi of mornings in Riga, and Naomi tries to look away.“I’m out anyway,” Effy just says, gesturing with her hands the lack of nicotine. “I’ll go rush to the store or something. Anything else I could get you?” she asks. “I mean, aside from ice cream, of course.”

Naomi breaks into a smile, despite herself. “God, I’m never having ice cream again, EVER.” And then, pushing herself off the couch, Naomi says, “Of course, I’m coming with you,” off the question on Effy’s look.

“I thought I’d never be able to pry you away from the couch, honestly,” Effy just says. When she ends with a laugh, Naomi hears a somewhat distinct *tinkle* that she wonders if she’s actually on something.

*

There’s a convenience store about three streets away, and throughout the walk Naomi fidgets with the keys in her pocket, looks at Effy for a sign that she minds, at the very least, given that most people do (though mostly, this is Emily she’s thinking about).

When Effy catches her looking, she shrugs, asks casually, “You alright there?” reaching out to touch Naomi’s shoulder briefly; the gesture jolts Naomi that she drops the keys right into her pocket altogether, and the muffled clatter breaks the silence somewhat, anyhow. “Hey,” Effy says, stopping.

Naomi shakes her head, walking on. “I’m fine,” she says. “Just a thought in my head.”

What’s so precious about Effy, Naomi thinks, is her ability to let some things go – to choose, actually, when to prod and when to quit, and the way Effy just smiles as she says nothing else after that is just *golden*.

Effy enters the convenience store first, heads for the counter for the fags, while Naomi lags behind her to look at the shelves, if random spacing out while facing the shelves could actually be classified as looking. It really doesn’t help that she remembers how often she and Emily used to go here for virtually everything, from really cheap vodka to construction paper, that when Effy finally settles beside her with more than enough packs of fags, Naomi doesn’t even see her immediately.

“What do you think about pistachio?” Effy asks, an arm around Naomi’s shoulder casually. Naomi rolls her eyes, tries to begin telling Effy how she would never touch a spoon of ice cream ever again, but then, the look Effy has on tells her resistance will be, inevitably, futile.

*

“It’s okay to think about her, every now and then,” Effy says, on the walk home, pints of ice cream in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Naomi’s walking ahead of her, still trying to preoccupy herself with the sound of her jangling keys, trying to block out the sound of Emily’s voice in her head, the way she tells Naomi to stop doing just that.

“Did you hear me, Nae?” Effy’s saying again, and Naomi looks back, her stomach dropping at how familiar it comes off, this name, and when she bites down on her lip, Effy offers her lit cigarette.

They don’t go back to Naomi’s house, settling instead for some space on a curb. The ice cream has partly melted by now, and Naomi smiles slightly at the sight of Effy trying to negotiate with it, spoonless.

“What?” says Effy, smiling in kind.

Naomi shakes her head. “Nothing,” she says, drawing on her fag before reaching over to offer it Effy’s way; Effy leans over and takes a hit, the cigarette still between Naomi’s fingers, lips barely touching the tips, and if this isn’t making Naomi feel things.

If this isn’t making Naomi *feel*.

Effy exhales to the other side before turning back to her and saying, softly, “Nae,” looking at her as if she just knows, just what it is, and when Naomi draws the cigarette back to her own lips, she remembers Emily, at how Emily used to say she got by in the beginning with sharing cigarettes as some indirect form of kissing Naomi, and then there’s this thing in her chest that’s just taking away all the air.

Promptly, Naomi collapses into herself, covering her face with her hands. She’s saying, “Fuck,” and then, “How the fuck can I be doing this,” more to herself than anyone else, really, and Effy just slides over closer, rubs her back with a hand so light Naomi barely feels it.

*

That night, when they’re curled up into each other on the sofa, Naomi’s head on Effy’s lap, Effy’s fingers in Naomi’s hair, Naomi just has to ask her why she’s here. The living room is dark, save for the light coming from the telly, which they’re barely watching anyway.

“What do you mean,” Effy says, staring blankly at the TV while stroking Naomi’s hair absently, “Why am I here?”

Naomi clears her throat, adjusts her head on Effy’s lap. “Clearly, a girl like you has got some better place to be, yeah? Saturday night like this, and all.”

Effy shifts her eyes from the TV to where Naomi’s settled so comfortably near, and Naomi has to close her eyes for a moment. “Better place,” Effy just repeats, in that standard amused tone of hers; when Naomi opens her eyes a little, she sees how Effy does that nonchalant shrug that, frankly, Naomi has never seen anybody else apart from her do as convincingly well, and then, turning her eyes to the telly again, Effy just says, “No, really. I couldn’t think of anything else, other than this.”

Naomi doesn’t say anything and shifts closer, thinks about how it could be an equally nice place, this.

*

The following morning, Naomi wakes ahead, rubbing slightly at the junction of her neck on which she slept rather uncomfortably. Obviously, the couch isn’t the most ideal place to sleep in, though it totally caught her by surprise, how Effy can be so *small*.

Naomi pushes herself off the sofa slowly, and Effy shifts slightly to her side, the space beside her still somewhat Naomi-shaped. Naomi closes her eyes, thinking about how lovely this can be, one day.

At some point, Naomi contemplates actually kissing her, waking her with her lips hovering close; actually gets about halfway into it, but then, when the familiarity of the gesture strikes Naomi, it makes her recoil, altogether.

*

When Naomi looks over at Effy, now awake on the sofa and tinkering with the remote, she can't help but ask herself, if it ever will stop being improperly familiar, and if ever it will, if it will be any soon.

*

Over breakfast, Effy says something about the telly being boring on Sundays in general anyway and asks Naomi if there’s anything else she’d like to do.

“Anything else?” Naomi repeats, in between bites of toast. “I dunno, I’m all for just sitting in the couch until we run out of fags to smoke, honestly.”

Effy looks at her from over the rim of her coffee cup, says, “Sure, sounds good to me,” and mentions none of it in the next few hours, wherein they do as Naomi wants, just sitting there, with Naomi settled on the other side of the couch, her foot on Effy’s lap, the table in front of them littered with empty pints of ice cream from the day before and discarded cigarette packs.

Throughout, the telly’s off and Effy’s just plain looking at her, in a way that Naomi finds only a bit disconcerting at the beginning – a particular spell broken when Effy reaches over to light a cigarette, and then suddenly everything seems all right, again. As Naomi slides out a fag herself, Effy starts rubbing Naomi’s shin with a free hand.

After a while, Naomi says, settling into the heat of Effy’s hands, “Do we actually have a fucking idea at all, what we’re doing?”

To which Effy just smiles, “I don’t know about you,” she says, “But to me, we seem to be doing just fine.”

*

They wake after a brief nap, just around lunch time; the sun looks positively scorching outside, when Naomi opens her eyes to Effy, who has by then already managed to sit on the space on the edge of the sofa conjured by Naomi’s body curled around it.

The first thing Naomi asks about is, predictably, the time. Effy says, “I’m starving,” And then, “It’s my turn now, yeah?”

Naomi pushes herself up on an elbow, rubs one eye with a hand, sleepily. “Turn?”

“To suggest something to do. I’ve had it with your couch, honestly,” Effy says, and before Naomi could even muster a smile, she’s already being pulled up and hauled out; and then, the harsh light of a somewhat quiet midday.

Standing on the front steps still in the clothes she slept in, Naomi just says, “Fine then, since you’ve got it all figured out, haven’t you,” shielding her eyes with a hand on her brow, and Effy only laughs. “Please, don’t laugh,” Naomi says, though by now she’s laughing herself. “It worries me.”

“Must you distrust me now,” Effy just says, taking Naomi’s hand, casually, as if it’s reflex, as if she were the one who has been doing this for the past couple of years, and Naomi holds her breath for a moment. Whether it has slipped her attention or not, Effy just grips her hand tighter, anyway. “Come on, I promise not to poison you,” she says, and when she turns to face her, Naomi can see how she is trying.

*

Effy takes her to a small restaurant that serves pasta, orders hers with red sauce, mushrooms and basil leaves. “Obviously, not that kind of mushroom,” Effy says, grinning after. When Naomi consults with her on her own order, Effy suggests the red sauce with eggplants, and off Naomi’s raised brow, immediately appends, “It’s a favorite, honestly.”

Of course, Naomi tries not to think of it as a date, even when she’s actually sitting across a rather attractive girl inside a fucking Italian restaurant for lunch, and practically just staring at her wordlessly. It’s a quaint little place, this, and Naomi’s actually never been here before that she actually missed out on the name totally, and she finds it curiouser, even, how they can be the only people here on a Sunday, and at lunch time at that.

At some point, Effy finally asks, “Why are you looking at me like that?” though at the end, there’s an almost self-deprecating smile, as if Effy were actually embarrassed with the attention.

“Effy,” Naomi begins, sighing.

“Have you ever been here with Emily before?”

The question jars Naomi, though the way with which Effy asked it looked like she knew exactly how this would hit Naomi, even before she came up with it, anyhow. “No,” Naomi manages, after a moment. And then, “Why did you want to know?” It comes off rather cold, but then, Naomi figures it’s too late to take it back.

“As I’ve said,” Effy says, coolly, “It’s okay to think about her every now and then.”

“I am,” says Naomi, biting her lip and looking away. Out on the street, a girl on a bicycle passes by and it makes Naomi wince. “Every fucking day, Eff, when you’re not around.”

Effy takes a moment to just look at her, her head tilted as if in intent examination. Somewhere in the middle, the waiter arrives with their orders and sets the plates down between them. He’s saying something about wine, hands menus over and leaves. Naomi doesn’t even want to look, but then the first thing her eyes land on in the list starts with ‘Pinot,’ and she immediately looks away.

“She’s fucking everywhere,” Naomi says, tucking the menu to the side. “That’s not ‘every now and then’, really, if you would be technical about it. It’s every fucking time.”

After a while, Effy says, “I’m sorry,” reaching out to touch the corner of the table nearest Naomi’s elbow without touching her altogether. “Just that, I don’t think it’s a good idea, to be not thinking of Emily now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Naomi asks, though really, she’s not looking for an answer at all; but then, when Effy looks at her with this somewhat placid almost heartbreak on her face, the gravity of the situation dawns on Naomi anyway, with the brightness of a thousand suns.

*

“You should go out and see her,” Effy suggests on the walk home. By then, night has already started falling, and Naomi feels the air get colder. “Like, come visit. That sort.”

“Effy,” Naomi says, unable to disguise how she is really tired. “I’m not even sure if she wants to see me again.”

“Is that a fact?”

“The fact is we haven’t even talked since the airport – there’s a fact for you.”

“But you don’t know for sure,” Effy says, and when Naomi dares to steal a sideways glance, she sees Effy looking right up at the sky; the sight makes her wish they didn’t run out of fags hours ago. “You don’t know for a fact that she isn’t in love with you anymore.”

“For all I know,” Naomi begins, negotiating with a looming lump in her throat, “There might be someone else altogether. It’s a big place, you know? God knows how many gorgeous platinum blondes are out there, for fuck’s sake,” she says. For the most part, she’s trying to be funny and light, really, but somehow she doesn’t manage to pull it off at all, her voice breaking at the end of that instead.

“But you don’t know that for a fact,” says Effy, again.

“Fucking hell, Eff. Why are you obsessed with facts, anyway?” asks Naomi, incensed and afraid and on the verge of tears. “I mean, come on, really, at this point? There’s not a fucking thing I know.”

“Except the way you feel, I suppose,” says Effy.

There’s a silence before Naomi comes around to saying, “No, not even that.”

When it becomes evident that there is nothing more to say after, Effy just says, “Why don’t we get a couple of fags and go home, yeah?”

*

When Effy kisses her right on the steps of the Stonem house before going in, Naomi feels a certain sadness she has only come to associate with Emily, lately, that she cannot help but wonder when exactly it started happening, this feeling that she is saying goodbye to this as well?

As the kiss ends, Naomi asks, “Am I seeing you tomorrow?”

The way Effy pauses for a moment, the way she looks at Naomi before she says, “Let’s see,” just breaks Naomi’s heart indescribably, these tiny pieces scattered all over the pavement around them, all of which have fallen without so much of a sound.#