Ruby knew it would end eventually. Honestly she was kind of surprised that it had lasted as long as it had. Not that she was complaining. Lacey was a dream girl, hot and assertive, and totally out of her league. That first night they'd eaten too much chocolate and drank too much scotch and then made out until Lacey's pupils were blown and she was gasping, half in Ruby's lap. Ruby slid her hand up her skirt and got her off easily. Lacey slumped onto her, breathing hard into her shoulder. Ruby rubbed her back, murmuring gentle nonsense into her ear, until she felt Lacey's breathing shift and soften. She'd passed out.
Ruby didn't really mind about the lack of reciprocation. Knowing she could get this girl that worked up just by kissing her, that was all the pleasure she needed that night. She thought she might leave, but the girl was like a limpet, and even when she carried her into the bedroom, she wasn't letting go. So she curled up in the pillows, and let herself be snuggled. It was a nice change.
There'd been a six o'clock alarm in the morning, and she'd gotten an arm to the face, as Lacey'd flailed for it, and then a very clear and unhappy, "Oh shit," and Ruby wished she'd just snuck out. Lacey was red-faced and awkward, and definitely hadn't planned on a sleepover, not with a girl at least. She kept touching her mouth, lips still swollen, lipstick worn off, and shutting her eyes.
It was humiliating, and unpleasant, and Ruby had pulled on her boots as quickly as possible. Lacey'd made up some bullshit about meeting a friend for brunch, and Ruby returned a lie about an early shift, and she was out on the sidewalk at six fifteen.
Ruby'd deleted the number from her phone and then stuck her hands in her pockets so she wouldn't have to smell the girl on her. It wasn't worth crying about, she told herself. She'd had a good time, and Killian would tease her about the scene in the restaurant forever.
* * *
"So," came a voice from behind her. "What does a girl have to do to get a second chance with you?"
Ruby turned and stared. The girl standing on the other side of the bar, in tall boots over dark jeans, sunglasses, and a thigh-length overcoat was far too familiar. Ruby winced. It was a big city. She'd thought she wouldn't have to see her again. "Um, hey," she said. "Can I get you something?"
Lacey lifted her sunglasses and glared at her. "Yeah, you can. Is ten minutes in private too much to ask?"
Ruby grimaced. She really didn't want to hash this out. "I'm in the middle of my shift."
"I'm not going to follow you around while you wait tables and talk about sex."
Ruby stared at her. At this point, she really wouldn't put anything past this girl. "You're not?"
Lacey grabbed her arm and pulled her into the coat room. "Okay, two minutes."
When she was let go, Ruby stepped back and crossed her arms. Maybe she was a little bitter, but she'd dealt with it, gotten past it. Girls were trouble, and straight girls were a disaster. She didn't need an apology. She didn't need to be friends.
But Lacey was staring at her feet, chewing on her lower lip, and it was kind of endearing.
"Two minutes," Ruby agreed, and sighed internally. Dammit. She wasn't supposed to feel endeared by this girl.
Lacey looked up from her feet and gave her a wry half smile. "Sooo, I'm not a lesbian."
Ruby nodded. This was not a surprise.
"I'm not even bisexual! At least, if I am, I’ve never done anything about it. And I'm not, you know, looking to date a woman, or marry a woman, or like, commit to well, to anything really. But you're hot and nice and interesting, and I just…" Lacey, pacing in tight circles, waving her hands, was floundering. She looked at Ruby like she needed a lifeline. But the only smart thing to do was get out of this mess.
"Hey." Ruby put her hand out and squeezed Lacey's shoulder. She didn't flinch away, and that was the first positive sign she'd seen since she'd woken up in her bed. "You don't have to explain. We hooked up and it made you uncomfortable. I'm okay. I had a good time. You don't owe me anything."
If anything, Lacey looked more miserable. "So you're good. It was a hookup. Where, if I remember right, you didn't even get off. And then I freak out at you in the morning. You're fine with this?"
Ruby shifted unhappily. It was just an apology. And though the thought was nice, couldn't she have just left a text message? <Thanks for the fuck, sorry it got weird, see you around.> "I'm fine."
Ruby sighed and glanced out. "Look, I've really got to get back to work." She took a step.
"No!" Lacey exclaimed. "Not, it's not okay! I don't want you to be fine with this!"
Ruby was almost out of the closet, and the irony was not lost on her. "Can we not do this now?" she protested. Customers were coming in.
"I want to have sex with you!"
That was a lot louder than probably Lacey had intended. Ruby flushed. The customers looked at her.
"I just don't know how to get someone off if they don't have a dick!"
Ruby covered her eyes, mouthed sorry at the customers, turned and herded Lacey back into the coat closet. "What do you want, Lacey?"
"I thought I said it loudly enough!" Lacey snapped back, pushing her hands away, annoyed at being manhandled. "Or do you not think it's worth it to fuck a straight girl!"
"Lacey," Ruby covered her eyes. "I'm not into being an experience, okay?"
"You already were the experience, and Kate is not letting me live it down. I just… Look, you tick all the boxes, except, you know, the male one. You're nice, and hot, and bring me chocolate and dark beer. I want to– I want to see if I'm missing something I'd like."
Ruby sighed. This was textbook. "You want to experiment."
Lacey made a face. "I'm twenty-seven, not a stupid co-ed." She cocked her head, forcing a smile that seemed prepared for rejection. "Look. This is my offer. You come over tonight. There will be scotch, and something tasty. And then I'm going to try to get you off, at least twice. And then I will make breakfast. Okay?"
Ruby shook her head. This was a terrible idea. Terrible. "Lace…" She liked this girl. That was the real problem. Someone completely brazen and confident and yet complex and emotional and charming, well, that was someone she could fall for. But being the gay experiment wasn't going to end well in any version of this story. "Fine. Ten-ish?"
Lacey's face lit up. She nodded fiercely. "That's fine." And then she stepped in and pressed a rough kiss against Ruby's mouth. Then she was gone.
Ruby was left alone in the coat room, a little turned on, and resigned to her stupidity. What had she gotten herself into?
* * *
"I'm in deep shit, Emma."
Emma sat on the other side of the bar and frowned at Ruby. "What is it?"
"Straight girls! Why?" Ruby covered her eyes.
Emma laughed. "Because straight girls," she said. "Come on, though. If anyone can turn a girl, it's you, Rubes."
Ruby stuck her tongue out. "Yeah. But turning a girl is not really a long term relationship plan."
Emma cocked her head to the side. "Last thing I heard you weren't into long term relationship plans. You said you were over that after Mary, and just wanted hookups or maybe someone casual."
"I know," Ruby said, staring at her hands. "It's just, she's cute and interesting and wants to get me off. Can I keep her? I want to keep her." Ruby sighed and shook her head. "But she's so straight. And if I get invested at all, it's going to kill me."
"This is the girl that kissed you in the middle of the restaurant?"
Ruby rolled her eyes. "To get out of her bad date."
"Straight and yet… complete lack of identity shame."
Ruby sighed. "I don't know. I think she just makes snap decisions and then goes for it hard. And then… she remembers why it was a terrible decision." She glanced at the clock. "Shit. I'm going to go home and shower before…"
"Before you go and take this girl's lesbian virginity?"
Ruby rolled her eyes. "I already did that. Before I become her lesbian guinea pig."
"You thought you were straight once," Emma said. "So did I."
Ruby went still and looked at her. "Don't give me hope about this." She shut her eyes. "Please don't give me hope."
* * *
There was something about the high color in Lacey's face, the way she smiled and took Ruby's jacket, the way she settled on the back of the chair with a scotch and some clearly too expensive takeout snacks, that made it feel like a date. It wasn't a date, Ruby told herself. It wasn't.
Lacey had opinions about everything, so it was easy to talk to her, press a new topic, counter her fiercely held beliefs, make her laugh. But even through her tirades, Lacey kept on casting looks at her. Intense looks, at her breasts or at her hips, and Ruby knew what she was thinking of.
She was drinking a lot too, and there was no point in this if she didn't remember it. "Hey," Ruby said, and put out her hand as Lacey went to refill her scotch. "Lets go to bed."
Lacey's eyes went wide. "Just… like that?"
"Just like that."
Lacey flushed. Ruby pulled her off her chair and Lacey stumbled forward and into her arms. Ruby wrapped her up, and Lacey tipped her head up to be kissed. Ruby kissed her.
At the very least, Lacey had no problem kissing girls.
They stumbled back onto the bed, Ruby landing with a thump and Lacey climbing on top of her like it was her idea. Then she sat back on her knees.
"I could kiss you forever. You are way too good a kisser." Then she whipped off her shirt. "And honestly, that was another thing that pissed me off. You barely touched me. I am not that easy!"
Ruby laughed. Lacey grinned at her and started unbuttoning her shirt, moving slow and steady, leaning in to breathe on her and touch their noses together, coming so close it was almost a kiss, but pulling away at the last second and moving on to the next button. When she reached the last, she pushed the shirt onto Ruby's shoulders and leaned back, eyes lingering on the curve of Ruby's clavicle and her red bra.
"You're hot," Lacey said.
"So are you." Ruby offered a leer of appreciation.
Lacey grinned. "And looks like you're about a B-cup, so I don't have to be jealous."
"On a girl your size, it's generous."
"You're a charmer." Lacey leaned in and sucked a hickey onto her collarbone. She found the catch on Ruby's bra. Ruby grinned to herself, ready for a long fight, but Lacey, quite sensibly, used both hands and tugged the hooks out one by one.
"Good job," Ruby said.
"Shut up," Lacey said, but grinned and kissed the side of her mouth. Then she settled into her lap and kissed her properly, letting her hands slide up to grope her. Her thumb clipped Ruby's nipple just right and Ruby took in a short breath, stiffening, and Lacey pulled back, noticing the differences. She bit her lip, half grinning. "I know how this works," she said. "I don't understand why dudes don't like foreplay. It's the ultimate power trip."
Ruby laughed. "If you're any good at it."
Lacey narrowed her eyes. "Is that a challenge? Because I never back down from a challenge."
"It's totally a challenge."
Lacey won the challenge. There might have been some begging, but Ruby would never admit it.
"God, your legs go on forever. I want them. If I can't have them, at least I can touch."
And then Ruby was gasping and sweating and coming under her hands, and Lacey was sitting back, watching, and looking flushed and aroused. And then she was going in with her mouth.
Ruby had like four orgasms, and managed to give Lacey at least three, and they slept hard, sprawled and tangled into each other.
Ruby woke up to Lacey watching her, sly blue eyes looking a little more unsettled than usual, a little more bemused, but not upset, like they had been the first morning. And when their eyes met, she smiled.
"If I recall, you promised me breakfast," Ruby murmured.
"Yeahhhh," Lacey drawled. "Probably time to come clean about that. I can't cook for shit."
Ruby laughed, and Lacey grinned at her, a flush creeping up her chest and over her cheeks. "I can take you out, though?"
"Need a shower first."
And Lacey's eyes went dark, and her smile went dirty.
They had a shower.
Over bacon and hash browns, Lacey twiddled her fork awkwardly. "Can I take you out?" she asked. "Some night this week? Like… on a date?"
Ruby knew, deep down in her soul, that this was only asking for trouble. "My night off is Thursday."
* * *
"Your girl's here again."
"What?" Ruby looked at Killian, who wiggled his eyebrows.
"Table 4. Better not let her make another scene."
Ruby stuck her tongue out. Not that what he said wasn't true. Lacey and scenes went hand in hand. But this time she was seated near the window across from a quietly nervous looking young woman, papers spread across the table a bright smile on her face as she spoke eagerly and waved her hands. Ruby couldn't help the smile that spread across her face.
"Can I get you two anything?"
Lacey looked up, and brightened even further. "Ruby," she moved slightly, as if wanting to rise up out of her chair and throw her arms around her, but she refrained. "This is one of my favorite authors," she said, pointing to her companion. "Marian Mantle. Didn't I give you one of hers?"
"Yes, the one where the sleuth was a young Latin guy who worked in the kitchen of a resort? That was amazing."
Marian's cheeks darkened in a blush. "Thank you."
"I'm expensing today," Lacey said, flipping out her work credit card, "So pull out all the stops."
Ruby grinned and took the card. "You're on. Any special requests? I've been working on these spicy crab quenelles to add to the menu. Would you like to be my guinea pigs?"
And Lacey came back, crashing in the bar after work with her kindle and a beer, going through manuscripts, bringing other authors, stopping in for drinks with her fellow agents. One date turned into Lacey lingering until after closing, and getting invited upstairs and then Killian coming out into the living area at 3 am to yell at them to stop starting to say their goodbyes and then getting distracted by something else to talk about. "Just go to bed! At least if you're fucking there will be a wall between us!"
Sleepovers were not uncommon. The sex was good. And though Ruby didn't forget that this wasn't made to last, she figured, enjoy it while it happened. Take every ounce of pleasure and happiness, because why not? If you didn't fill yourself up with good things, bad things always topped off the measure. That was what her grandmother said at least.
* * *
Emma wandered into Ruby and Killian's apartment to find a girl in only an oversized t-shirt making coffee.
"Hello," Emma said, questioning.
The girl blinked at her. "Hey," she said. "Um, coffee?"
She had blue eyes and something sharp in her smile. "Lacey," Emma said. 'The straight girl,' she very carefully did not say.
The girl laughed. "Yeah. And you are?"
"Ooooh, the friend."
Ruby stumbled into the room, looking sleepy and kind of hickied out. "Where's my coffee, bitch?" she mumbled and draped herself over Lacey, who handed her a coffee.
Then they bumped noses.
Emma gaped. "Oh fuck," she said. "You're in love with her."
Both girls' eyes went wide.
* * *
Lacey had known the weekend in the Caribbean was a good idea. Once she'd gotten over the training wheel issues, she had no problems putting her hands all over Ruby and getting to know every curve of her body, intimately. Sunscreening her up helped with that. And she looked fucking amazing in a bikini.
Getting back was harder.
Ruby's friends were great. One night getting drunk with Emma and Killian and they had pretty much decided she was okay. But Kate was a horrible person, as usual. Lacey brought Ruby to a stupid New Years party at Kate's apartment, and Kate took one look at Ruby, and grimaced in horror.
"God, Lacey. She's cute, but not cute enough to change teams for."
Lacey turned to Ruby and smiled. "Have I mentioned that all my friends are assholes?"
Ruby chuckled. "Once or twice."
Lacey twisted one of her red streaks around a finger and led her into the party.
"So, you're gay now?"
About the sixteenth time Lacey got asked that, she just sighed. "I'm over this question."
The worried looking guy glanced over to where Ruby was awkwardly trying to escape a conversation about golf with Kate's boyfriend and two of his idiot frat brothers. "You're dating that girl."
"Yes." Lacey sighed.
"But you're so hot."
"She's pretty hot too."
The guy looked at Ruby, and then back to Lacey, and nodded worriedly. "I don't have a girlfriend."
"Oh no," Lacey said flatly. "And now you can't have either of us. But, to be honest, she's a lesbian, and I wouldn't have dated you anyway. So why don't you just watch us make out and go home to jerk off."
"Making the boys cry again?" Ruby sidled up behind her, and Lacey grinned up at her and kissed the edge of her jaw.
"What can I say? I've got a really hot girl. And you have a smoking babe for a girlfriend. They're jealous."
Ruby nuzzled her ear. "So, you're my girlfriend?"
"Better be. I don't usually buy random girls tickets to Barbados and then eat them out on the beach."
But Kate would not let it go. "I just don't know how you can be gay now!"
"Look, it's not like this is that shocking. I always looked at girls and was like, she's hot. And I figured if I ever had the chance, I'd go for it. So, I went for it." Lacey flushed slightly. She went, and the going was good.
Kate stared at her. "You're so gay, it's making me uncomfortable."
"Oh, come on. You can't tell me that if a hot girl indicated she was into you you wouldn't at least try it."
"Um, yes, yes I can. Because, guess what, not gay. While you, are really kind of gay."
"Shut up. And the word's bi anyways. Say it after me, Baaaiii."
It was her first time saying it aloud. But it felt right. Men could be gorgeous and women stunning. And good sex came in a lot of different flavors. She was young, attractive, … no longer single. Dating a girl just gave her more credibility in not being old and stodgy and settled. And no one took bisexuality seriously anyway. It either meant you were up for threesomes or were trying to get attention.
The fact that Lacey was neither didn't bother her (well, threesomes were negotiable on a case by case basis). Calling herself bisexual didn't mean she was any different than who she'd always been. She'd always been attracted to girls. And attraction was just that, attraction. It wasn't like she was getting gay married all of a sudden.
Still, there were only so many times she could hear people say, "Oh, you're bi? That's cool. Bi girls have more fun, right? But they always get together with guys in the end," without wanting to smash a beer glass into the speaker's face. What right did he have to tell her what decisions she was going to make, what life she was going to have? Lacey'd never really thought otherwise, kind of expecting this to run its course, and maybe she'd date another woman or a man, but happily ever after needed a guy, didn't it? But she didn't like people telling her what she'd do. She did what she wanted, and fuck them for thinking she was predictable. She wasn't predictable at all.
* * *
"Emma…" Ruby sighed. "I'm sorry." She gave her friend a hug. "He's an ass and doesn't deserve you."
"You're totally right," Emma said. "I need a hot girl like you've got."
Ruby snorted. "No one needs a Lacey. But…" Ruby cocked her head. "Do you want to stay here for a while?"
"On your couch?"
"In my bed." Ruby grinned. "Not like that. I just… I've been staying with Lacey most nights anyway. It won't put me out."
"That would be great, actually."
* * *
Lacey lounged on the living room floor, curled up against Ruby, as the movie played softly in the background, mostly forgotten.
"I used to shoplift a lot when I was in high school. My dad was a florist, is a florist, the dudeliest florist you've ever met, but still, it wasn't like we had a lot of ready cash. So I'd go to the mall and steal sexy bras and books."
Ruby snorted with laughter. "Of course you would. Granny would have tanned my hide if I ever stole anything. But I did have a job. So cash wasn't my problem."
"Kissed my first boy at the mall."
"Kissed a girl at the mall once. It… didn't go well."
Lacey rolled over to look at her. "No?"
Ruby made a slight face. "Didn't really want to be kissed, by me."
* * *
"Emma! I can't find my strappy black boots! Are they here?"
Emma gave her a look. "You don't have any clothes here at all. Or stuff. Honestly, why do you still have a key?"
"I'm living with her, aren't I?" Ruby staggered back and sat down on the bar stool.
"You really are." Emma opened the cupboard. "You took your bundt pan. First of all, why do you have a bundt pan? Second of all, you took your bundt pan to Lacey's."
"I'm living with a straight girl."
Emma gave her a curious look. "Is she really that straight? She introduces herself as bi now."
Ruby shrugged awkwardly. "She's pretty straight. It's not really about sex, is it? She's 100% into the gay sex. Honestly, it's kind of shocking how into it she is. But she still thinks like a straight girl."
"God no, she's a burgers girl."
"Doesn't like Kristen Stewart?"
Ruby laughed. "She has pointed out, completely without prompting, that KStew is hotness personified."
"Wears a push-up bra?"
"More into bustiers."
"Shirtless guy scenes in movies?"
"I didn't say she wasn't bi."
"Honestly, she's ticking all the gay boxes here."
Ruby sighed. "It's more like, how she reacts to the news and stuff. Like when Nevada legalized gay marriage, she was like, 'oh, hmm, now they have gay marriage and prostitution.'"
Emma snorted in amusement.
"And when Georgia rejected it again - she didn't care, you know. She doesn't feel it. Like it's not part of her life. It doesn't mean anything for her."
Emma nodded. "I get you. I sometimes get weirded out by rabid allies who feel so much when things like that happen, like more than me. But it's become part of their identity. And it hasn't with her."
"She has sex with girls. She isn't queer."
"But you like her."
Ruby nodded. "I love her. In spite of it. And it's going to suck when she dumps me. But she's going to dump me."
Emma sighed. "I want to say maybe she'll have a sudden queerification, and realize that she wants to marry you, move to the country, and get a jeep and a couple of dogs. But really…"
Ruby shook her head. "Really. And maybe I'm with her still because it's safe, because I don't have to commit to anything. It's just temporary. I've never been great at commitment. But it’s so easy to want the things you can’t have."
* * *
Lacey was going to be thirty. She was going to turn thirty. Horrified, she stared at the calendar, at the year, and wanted to cry.
"You all right?"
Lacey looked over at Ruby. Her pretty, sexy fling. She looked back at the calendar. Her fling, who she had been dating for two years. Ruby put her arms around her shoulders and pulled her into her arms, then kissed the side of her head. "Tell me."
"It's nothing. It's just… my birthday in a couple of weeks."
"I hate birthdays too."
"But you're a baby," Lacey protested. "You just turned twenty eight."
"You're two years older than me. You're not decrepit."
"Still," Lacey pouted. Ruby kissed her nose. "Oh fine, I'll let you comfort me. Take me to bed."
* * *
But it wasn't fine. Ruby had been her plus one to Kate's wedding a couple of months ago.
"You're still with her? God, I thought that would have run its course by now. I mean, she's nice and all, and she can cook like hell. But you can't be serious about her. She's a girl."
Lacey had rolled her eyes. "I'm not asking her to marry me or anything. But she's fun and sweet and I like her. I'm not going to throw her over for no reason. And honestly," Lacey wiggled her eyebrows. "The sex is amazing. You have no idea."
"God, you've turned into such a dyke. But seriously. What are you doing with your life? We're not kids anymore. Fucking around is fine, but not if you miss your chance to find a great guy, to have kids, to get your life in gear."
Lacey stared at her. "I'm not… worried about that yet," she said.
"Maybe you should be."
* * *
Lacey lay curled up in Ruby's arms and tried not to think. If she thought too hard she'd never be able to sleep. Her friends were getting married right and left, and she didn't even have a boyfriend.
She had a girlfriend.
Her stomach turned over. God, she liked Ruby. But this wasn't serious. She wasn't going to stay with her, no matter what stupid things Kate said. Because she wasn't a dyke. She. Wasn't. A. Dyke.
Ruby nuzzled into her and Lacey sighed, feeling her breasts against her back.
She was such a dyke.
* * *
"I think we need to break up."
Ruby sat back in the booth and shut her eyes. "Okay."
Lacey sat up stiffly. "Okay? You're just going to say okay?"
Ruby looked at her, and then looked away. "Would saying, no, I don't want to, make a difference?"
Lacey sighed. "It shouldn't."
"I love you."
Lacey looked up, wide eyed and a little hurt.
"I love you. But I always kind of knew that we had an expiration date. If this is it, I'm not going to make a fool of myself by begging you to stay with me."
"But… You don't want to break up?"
Ruby reached out and caught her hand. "I'm always going to be your friend, okay? And I'm not having the freak out that you are, because most of my friends have no competence at life, and so I'm not in the glut of marriages and babies and turning thirty bullshit. But I understand that I'm not long term for you. If you changed your mind about that…" Ruby ducked her head. "Fuck. If you changed your mind about that, I'd reconsider my aversion to commitment and stuff."
"God, you're such a sweetheart." Lacey leaned across the table and brushed a slight kiss over her lips. Ruby smiled.
"But you're still dumping me."
Lacey sighed. "Yeah. Friends?"
"Also…" Ruby made a face. "Um, I don't actually have a place anymore."
Lacey stared at her.
"Emma's taken over my apartment above the restaurant. And, well, I can't really afford to get my own place. I'm sure Emma will move out sooner or later. But just for a couple of weeks?"
"Of course," Lacey said. "As long as you need."
* * *
"It'll be fun, moving you into the office, and stuff."
"I don't want to completely mess up your apartment!"
They shuffled everything around and set up Ruby's bed.
"God, I'm exhausted." They collapsed on top of each other on the bed. Lacey snuggled into Ruby and they slept there.
* * *
"Finally you broke up with that girl!" Kate huffed our a breath. "It took you long enough! Now I can set you up with a real guy."
"Like Steven? Recall that the last guy you set me up with turned me gay."
"Shut up. Lets go to yours and dish."
Lacey checked her watch. "Ruby'll be home soon, so we'd have to be in my room, unless you wanted to tone it down for her consumption."
Kate went still. "I thought you said you two broke up."
"But she's still living there?"
Lacey smiled awkwardly. "Yes?"
Kate shut her eyes. "God, you fucking u-hauling lesbian."
* * *
"You have a date?" Lacey stared at her like this was the most shocking thing she'd ever heard.
Ruby sorted through the huge pile of clothes that had been moved into the ex-office. "Yes. Emma set me up. Is that so surprising?"
"No," Lacey looked away. "No. Just… kind of thought that I'd have a date first."
"It's not a race."
Ruby glanced over her shoulder and smiled at her. "Shouldn't have dumped me then."
* * *
Lacey rolled her eyes. "Another of Kate's picks."
Ruby laughed. "Don't pull the waitstaff this time."
Lacey wiggled her eyebrows. "Dunno. Worked out pretty well for me last time."
Ruby went quiet. "Yeah, well… Do you want me to clear out?"
Lacey stiffened. "I'm not a jerk. I wouldn't bring him back here."
Ruby sighed. "I just need to turn off. You come home and I'll hope. You don't and I'll worry. You bring him home and I'll want to vomit."
Lacey nodded. "I… kind of felt the same way when you went out the first time. I know I'm a possessive asshole though. It's nice to know it's not just me."
* * *
"You have a second date. With the same girl?"
Ruby blinked. "Um, yeah. I like her. She's cute."
"She looks like a dyke!"
Ruby went stiff. "Yeah? I am a dyke. So what?"
Lacey flushed. "I just mean she doesn't look like your type."
"Well, guess what. My type isn't actually restricted to privileged little straight girls, who can't even get that there's more than one way for a girl to be attractive."
"I'm sorry! I just didn't think that was a type you were attracted to!"
"Because she's so different from you?"
"This isn't about me. But… fine. I thought you were into more femmey girls."
Ruby glared. "Because going after girls who look like they like boys has served me so well in the past."
Lacey snarled. "You knew what you were getting into with me! You've said so. You can't blame me for being straight!"
"I'm not blaming you for anything! But guess what, you're not straight. You haven't been straight since you ate me out that second night. You just think like a straight girl. And after a while, it really pissed me off! Who you fuck isn't who you are, but how could you be my steady girlfriend for two years without reconsidering your sexuality at ALL."
"You want me to admit I'm bisexual? I've admitted it a hundred times! It's not a big deal! I like to fuck girls! I like fucking you! But I'm not interested in completely rewriting my sense of self just because you think that putting my head between your legs is in any way relevant to who I am!"
"And that's why we broke up! You can't even think of me as anything more than a friend with benefits, can you? You couldn't even consider making a life with me that was anything more than comfort and casual sex and trips to the Caribbean."
"It't not because you're a girl!"
"I don't know how to think about making a life with anyone. Fine, with a guy there's a script to follow. But every time I go on a date with a guy Kate sets me up with I imagine following the script, and I want to shoot myself. I know I just haven't met the right one yet, but…"
Ruby looked ill. "But it's not me. You know it's not me."
"Fuck it. I have a date! I need to not be all messed up over you, again. I'm pretty sure that will get me kicked to the curb in no time." Ruby jerked open the door. "And thank god she's butch, because at least she doesn't look like you! That would turn my stomach!"
"Well, fuck you too! I hate you, Ruby Lucas! You raging bitch!"
The door slammed. Lacey slumped into the kitchen chair and put her head in her hands. "Fuck."
She was jealous. She'd been an asshole. And Ruby had called her out on it. And they'd gone right back to the whole reason for their break up. She'd known Ruby had been acting far more mature and sensible about the whole thing than was healthy. And now it was clear why.
She'd known, she'd always known, that this wasn't serious for Lacey. Not that Lacey knew how to be serious. But still, she'd signalled it somehow, even while they were together, she'd blared it loud and clear…
Ruby wasn't the one.
The thought made Lacey feel sick, and she grabbed her purse and headed out the door. She needed to not be in their apartment. And she needed a drink.
The beer was shit. Lacey shut her eyes and drank it anyway. It wasn't like she could go to the Red Wolf. Not if she didn't want to think about Ruby.
"Um, hey. Lacey, right?"
Lacey looked up to meet the eyes of a girl, kind of cute, in the black tanktop and muscles way that had turned itself into Lacey's girl-type. Her hair was shaggy, but her eyes were lit with a spark of amusement. She looked familiar too. Probably they’d met at one of those parties that Ruby had dragged her too, full of gay girls and bad acoustic girl covers of hip hop songs.
Lacey made a face. "Not anymore."
"Oh, you broke up? That sucks, you guys were cute together."
Lacey shrugged, uncomfortable. But then the girl put her hand on Lacey's arm. "But maybe it's not such a bad thing for me." She smirked. "If you're up for it ever—" She pulled a pen out of her pocket and wrote a number on the napkin. "Give me a call. I'd love to take you out."
Lacey's mouth dropped open. "Me?"
"Yeah," the girl smirked, and then she bent down and lifted Lacey's chin. Their mouths met in a brief but suggestive kiss, and then the girl let her go. "Call me."
"Okay," Lacey said, a little stunned. When the girl was gone, she stared at the cocktail napkin. Shit. She really was bi, wasn't she?
* * *
"Kate! I got a phone number tonight!"
Kate made annoyed snorts into the phone. "Lacey? Seriously? I'm married now. You can't just call me at two AM."
"You were still up."
"Fine, I was. But it's the principle of the thing."
"Oh, shut up. I got a number!"
"Lacey, what? You got like six numbers a night when we went out before you spent two and a half years being a lesbian."
"I got a girl's number!"
Kate paused. "And are you happy about that?"
"I don't… know. Yes, I think?"
"You're happy that you now ping people's gaydars enough to get hit on by girls?"
Lacey glowered. "Shut up. No. It was someone who knew Ruby, and knew that we'd dated. So I didn't just ping. She knew I had dipped my toe in at least."
"Well, that's a relief."
"And she was hot. And… I think I might call her."
"Ruby's going to kill you."
Lacey bit her lip. "Maybe… maybe that's the point."
"You want to make her jealous?"
"No. We just, we had a fight, about me, well, not being gay enough. And she's kind of right. I don't see myself as gay. I just… had a girlfriend for a while. But, really, being attracted to one girl ever and dating one girl ever, does that really make me bi? So, maybe this girl is a test case, right? Maybe I really do like girls."
"And then what? Get back with Ruby? Buy a van and paint it rainbow? Join a softball league?"
Lacey paused. "I don't know yet."
"God, go be a lesbian slut elsewhere, okay? I'm going to go fuck my husband."
"Tell Ian hi for me."
* * *
"Are you okay?"
Lacey was at the kitchen table, bent over her iPad, looking miserable. Ruby cracked the top off one of the beers she'd brought home and poured it into a chilled glass. Lacey took it gratefully. "No," she said. "No I'm not okay."
"Did something happen?"
"This book!" Lacey stood up, suddenly angry. "It's a great book! It's got a smart plot, and it's funny and well paced, and it's got the sweetest slow burn attraction in it. And this is the third rejection I've gotten for it because it's too special interest! And I'm pissed!"
Ruby reached out to steady her. "Why's it special interest? Is it about birding, or something?"
"It's too gay for them." Lacey covered her eyes. "They tell me that normal people won't be interested in a mystery where the detective flirts with hot girls instead of hot guys. They're telling me that I'm not normal. That the reading public think I'm a freak."
Ruby went still. "You're not a freak."
Lacey looked up at her. "You've dealt with this your whole life, haven't you? People being like, oh, that's nice, be whoever you are, and then saying, but just not in front of me. Go to the city, go to Frisco, but I don't want to see it. It's nothing to do with me."
Ruby nodded slowly. "I grew up in a small town. I didn't really come out until I hit the city, and my Granny's still a little… well, I think she'd be fine if I had a serious girlfriend, but she's just sharp tongued, and it's a spot where I'm a bit raw."
"I really am bi," Lacey said slowly. "I'm not just a girl who likes to have a good time. Kate's always calling me a dyke or a lesbian, but it never bothered me, because I knew I wasn't. But I'm not just a straight girl who experimented. I don't only look at men anymore. I have you in my life, and your friends. I never really got the coming out thing, because what does it matter who you sleep with? Who cares what thing you fancy between your legs? But it's not about that, is it? It's about saying, I'm one of these people, who exist, and I want you to know, because I don't want you to hurt me on accident."
"Yeah," Ruby said softly. "You've got it."
* * *
"Kate," Lacey said. "I'm bi."
"I know, idiot. Ian wants to get pregnant, but I'm really worried about getting fat, what do you think?"
"No. I'm bi, Kate. I'm not just a straight girl who shacked up with a woman for a while. I'm queer."
Kate went still. "Jesus, fuck, Lacey. I told you to break up with that girl before she ruined you. Now you're coming out to me? You going to come out to your dad next? You're not even dating her anymore!"
"It doesn't matter who I'm dating! It's not about that! It's about who I am. I'm someone who looks at girls as well as boys. I'm someone who cares that people like me are accepted."
"Don't get all preachy on me, Lacey." Kate glared at her. "You can come in here saying you're as queer as a three dollar bill, but I know you. You're a slut. Just go get a fucking by some guy and you'll be over this."
"It's not about sex!"
"Then what is it about? Who you love? Who you'll marry? God, Lacey. If you were actually queer, you'd have proposed to that stupid, beer-obsessed girlfriend of yours long ago. You're not gay. You just like sex. And you liked it with her. But you don't actually want that kind of life. You don't want a woman, and, I dunno, never programming the VCR, or getting lots of DIY projects and never finishing them. You'll want to have your husband's baby someday, not fumble around with donors or adoption. You don't want this!"
"I want to know what it means! I want…" Lacey rubbed her eyes. "I don't know what I want, because no one ever told me what I could have. I don't want a husband and two point five children and a picket fence and a dog. I don't even want competitive kindergartens and tennis bracelets. But I don't know how to visualize my life if I don't choose those things."
"You want Ruby," Kate said.
"No!" Lacey looked away. "Yes. I don't know if want is the right word. I… I need Ruby. When she's gone, I feel empty and lost and confused. I just…"
"God, Lacey. Marry the stupid girl. And write your own story. You can figure it out. You've always been good at going your own way."
* * *
"Dad, I need to talk to you."
"What is it, baby?" He sounded a little distracted, and Lacey imagined him clipping the stems of roses into an even row.
"Um, so, I'm bisexual."
There was a long pause on the other side of the phone. "Huh," her dad said, an odd note of amusement in his voice. "I never thought I'd get this phone call."
"Lacey, baby. This is not you calling from the police station saying you've gotten picked up for shoplifting again. This isn't even the sobbing 'I got knocked up by a loser and he's left me' one that I feared for the past ten years. You're…" he coughed awkwardly. "Bisexual. Does that mean you're actually dating that roommate of yours who you never shut up about?"
Lacey didn't know how he was taking this. She didn't really know what to say. "Um, not actually. We were together, and then we broke up, and… I kind of want to get her back, but I've fucked up so much."
"I think if you like her enough to talk about her like you've been doing for the past couple years, you should make the effort."
"So you don't… care?"
Mo snorted slightly. "Care? Yeah, I care. You're my baby girl. And I'm a little annoyed, because if there was some boy who hurt you, I would beat the shit out of him. But I would feel a little more bad about beating up a girl. I still would, because if someone hurts you, baby, I'm going to commit some retribution, but I would probably feel shittier about it."
Lacey laughed, it was unexpected, and nearly got caught in her throat.
"Lacey," his voice turned more serious. "I care. But, I'm not actually surprised. I was kind of ball-shocked when I got on your Facebook page and saw those seriously coupley pictures of you and that girl who all of a sudden became your roommate without any indication that you needed a roommate to make rent. But that was like two or three years ago now. You never needed my approval for anything you did, so to be honest, the most shocking part is that you called to tell me."
"Yeah," Lacey said softly. "I'm… I'm trying to sort myself out. Everyone, from the outside, saw me and Ruby and just figured me out. They we're like, oh, evidence shows, kinda gay. But I didn't really make that leap. It's harder to make about yourself, I think."
"I figured it was a blip, a fling, an experience to gossip about with my friends later on. I didn't think I'd fall for her. I'd didn't think I'd end up feeling like… like a wreck when I didn't have her. But I couldn't figure it out. Like, what do I do? I want her. I want to be with her. But what does that mean for my life? Everyone's like 'oh, how do you see yourself in ten years,' and I'm like, I dunno, I'll be old then! Maybe I won't be married. Maybe I won't have kids. Maybe I'll just be sad and alone and miserable."
Mo started to laugh. "Lacey, baby. Do you want kids?"
"No," Lacey ground out. "Filthy little monsters."
"Do you think that all of your married friends are going to last?"
Lacey snorted. "They wish."
"Do you think you can actually choose where you'll be in ten years? Do you think you have that kind of control over your life?"
"I…" Lacey paused. "I see what you're getting at. But, my choices matter. I chose to try things out with Ruby, and that changed things. That was two years of my life. That made me call you to come out of the fucking closet. If I choose to turn away from that, to look for a guy…"
"Choose what you want!" Mo told her vehemently. "The best way to make yourself unhappy is to ignore what you have and keep looking for something better. We don't know where we'll be in ten years. Isn't it better to actually be happy for those ten years, than be miserable while trying to figure out how to be happy in the future."
Lacey was silent for a moment. "I love you, Dad," she said.
"I love you too, Lacey. No matter what."
* * *
Lacey stumbled into her apartment, late from work, and found Ruby and her dad on the couch watching rugby. "Lacey, babe!" Her dad stumbled up from his seat and he wandered over to give her a beery hug. "I like this girl. She's a charmer," he muttered in her ear.
Lacey blinked and looked at Ruby who was gathering up the empty bottles, and offered her an easy smile. "That's great, Dad. Um, I thought you weren't getting in until tomorrow."
"Eh, stuff got shifted around and I needed to be here for a morning meeting. I figured I'd entertain myself until you got off of work, but Ruby was here, so we had a beer." He smiled. "It was a delicious beer."
Lacey nodded. "Yeah, she makes really delicious beer."
"I know you're a grown up, Lacey dear, but--" He gave her a wry smile. "--how would you feel about a stepmother?"
Lacey smacked his shoulder. "No! Hands off! She's mine, okay? I've got dibs."
Mo laughed and crashed back on the couch. "Fine, fine. But make that move soon, honey, or I will."
Lacey found Ruby in the kitchen, tidying up things and checking on something in the oven. "Did he drink all the beer?"
Ruby grinned at her and cracked the top off an ice cold Ruad Fael. "Saved one for you."
Lacey took it and sighed at the coolness. "Thanks for looking after my dad."
"Not a problem."
"You charmed the pants off of him," Lacey smiled. "He proposed yet?"
Ruby laughed. "He's easy. Same weakness as you."
"Too right," Lacey stepped into her and rested her head on her shoulder. "Good beer, good food and hot girls. God, I've become him, haven't I?"
"You're still cuter."
"Well that's a mercy at least!" Lacey looked away. "I ran into Emma on the way home. She said… she said she's getting married."
Ruby nodded slowly. "Yeah, back in Stonybrook, our hometown. She hasn't sent out invites yet."
"She asked me if she should send us one or two."
Ruby blinked. "And… what did you tell her?"
"I said I'd ask you." Lacey looked up, an awkward smile on her face. "You want to go to Emma's wedding with me? As my date?"
Ruby's mouth opened slightly. "Seriously?"
"My Granny's going to be there. Do you actually want to meet her for the first time as my date?"
Lacey stared at her, blue eyes unsettlingly intense. "I'd really like to meet her as your fiancee. Serious girlfriend would be fine too. But I will accept date."
Lacey turned back to the beer and took a long sip. "I'm in love with you, Ruby. And I know I've fucked up righteously, but I am so over pretending I'm not. Be my girl again? I want you to be mine for as long as you want to stay."
There was dead silence. Lacey tried not to puke. Very slowly she turned around.
Ruby was just standing there, mouth open, eyes wet, holding still. She looked like she was just barely not crying.
Lacey hesitated, hands balling into restrained fists. She had nothing more to say. She had said everything. And then, two steps, and Ruby's arms were around her. She was being squeezed, as tightly as possible, into her arms, not even kissed, just hugged, desperately. "I never thought you'd say that to me."
"What? I love you?" Lacey laughed weakly, with relief. "I love you. I want you. I don't give a fuck about anybody else. Just you."
"I'm not… I'm not letting you break up with me again. Not without a fight," Ruby said. "I'm going to keep you, okay? So you'd better get used to it."
"All right," Lacey said. "All right."
Mo wandered into the kitchen while they were kissing. He gave them a thumbs up, then picked up another beer and wandered back out again.