Carmilla banged on the door as hard as she could until it flew open and one Sherman Hollis stood tall and stark before realizing who was there and letting himself take a much-needed breath. She could only imagine what she must look like to him- face beading with sweat, hair tousled, and clothes in disarray. Her shirt was half-tucked with the tops unbuttoned, her tie loose around her neck. Her face was flush from the wind whipping past her mercilessly. She looked unlike herself, she knew it. And she knew he knew why. He could see it in the smudged mascara and red tint in her eyes.
“Where is she?” Carmilla breathed in haste.
Sherman’s eyes were sorrowful, angry, a range of emotions nobody but a parent could possibly properly explain. Like his emotional timer went out and every emotion he could feel in that moment collided. In all his pain for his daughter, there was pain for Carmilla as well. If he knew anything about Laura or Carmilla, he knew neither would let the other go through anything alone. One would always show up for the other, regardless of if it were wanted. He need not worry about loneliness. However, never had both girls been in such troubling situations at the same time; so, of course it was a shock to him to see Carmilla at his door. Though, this was the same girl who walked to his house with a sprained ankle at 10 years old with soup for a flu-ridden Laura. He really shouldn’t be surprised.
So, in Sherman Hollis fashion, he let the conversation of emotion remain between the girls and stepped aside so Carmilla could enter. “She’s in her room. I tried consoling her, but she just keeps crying. Should warn you, she may not talk.”
“She’ll talk for me. Thank you, sir.” Carmilla went rushing up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Taking a deep breath, she turned the knob to Laura’s bedroom door and stepped inside.
Laura was still in her dress, corsage and all, lying on the floor staring up at the ceiling. When they were 14, Carmilla spent weeks drawing constellations on the ceiling, a full night’s sky with he stars most prominent, so that when Laura was in a sad mood and Carmilla wasn’t there, they could look up at the same sky and Carmilla could teach Laura about a new star or constellation. It was a nice distraction away from the world past that door. Tonight, though, Laura was peering through to the bare color that was covered those two years ago. She paused to acknowledge Carmilla’s presence after it was clear that it wouldn’t be disappearing anytime soon with a simple glance before returning to her gazing.
“Why are you here?” Laura huffed.
“My best friend needed me.” Carmilla stepped further into the room. “You’re still in your dress.”
“You’re still in your suit.”
Carmilla offered a quick smirk. “I thought snark was my thing…”
“Yeah, well, things change.” Laura’s voice broke on the final word. She whispered an insult to herself, covering her face in her hands. A shuddering sob broke through. “Why did she do this to me?”
Carmilla sat on the floor next to her best friend with her hands in her lap. It broke her heart to see Laura like this. She was usually so strong, resilient; but she resembled a broken woman. She was a broken woman. And she wasn’t the only one.
“Some people just aren’t mature enough to take care of their business face to face. Danny Lawrence is one of those people. She was too scared, or self-centered, to tell you to your face that she chose someone else and allowed you to go to junior prom alone while she waked in two hours later with somebody else. She stood you up. It’s cowardly and selfish and I am so sorry, Laura; but it could be worse.”
“Like being verbally degraded in front of the entire school in the middle of prom?” Laura spoke through her fingers.
Carmilla cleared her throat, emotions returning. She had come over with nothing on her mind but Laura’s well-being. She’d chosen not to bring her own pain into the mix. Lucky for her, Laura could never leave Carmilla’s pain behind.
“Yeah, just like that.” She wiped defiant tears from her eyes before Laura shot up like the Undertaker after a lariat.
“Oh, my goodness! Carm, I’m so sorry! I wasn’t thinking! I didn’t mean that!” The blonde’s eyes were puffy, and her makeup was completely destroyed. Mascara ran down her cheek, lip stain against her chin. But Carmilla never saw a moment where Laura didn’t look beautiful, even in such a physically vulgar situation.
“It’s okay, Laura. Really, you’re right. I’d rather be in your place right now, honestly.” She sat up and moved hair out of Laura’s face. “Even though both of us were publicly embarrassed.”
Laura laughed once, nothing funny about it. “If this is your version of a cheering up speech, it needs a little work.”
“Yeah, well, I was called a ridiculous, unlovable ghost of a girl who lacks the capacity to feel anything for anyone else on the night of my prom; so, give me a break.” She shrugged, holding Laura’s face in her hands, finding more important things to worry about in the loss of gold specks in her eyes. “How about we get you out of this thing and get to bed?”
Laura nodded, letting herself be pulled to her feet before throwing herself into Carmilla’s arms as another wave of tears hit her hard. Carmilla quietly soothed her and stroked her hair as her own tears fell silently into blonde curls. After so long, Laura began to calm down enough to speak.
“Maybe I can blame it on this ridiculous dress. Red is so not my color.” She tried her hand at the self-deprecating joke. She should’ve guessed it would fail against Carmilla.
“Stop it. Of course, it is. You look gorgeous, Cupcake.” She wiped at Laura’s mascara.
“You have to say that. You’re my best friend.” Laura sighed.
“Then it should earn me some brownie points, now, shouldn’t it?” Carmilla grinned, pulling Laura towards the bathroom. “Come on, cutie.”
They worked together to get Laura’s face cleaned and changed into pjs. A few more tears were shed, most from Carmilla’s purposefully awful jokes. She even managed to get Laura to face Sherman and hug him goodnight. He silently thanked her as she followed Laura back to her room.
Laura lay in bed as Carmilla hit the lights and get in next to her. She lay on her back with her arm behind her head staring at the constellations above as Laura curled into her side with her arm across her stomach and her face against her neck. This was a normal thing for them, but it never failed to make Carmilla’s heart speed up. She never expected Laura to notice since the girl was oblivious to the most obvious of things.
“I’m sorry Elle was such a meanie to you.” The blonde muttered, playing with a piece of Carmilla’s hair.
“Eh, she was just a bad luck of the draw. She’s not the most important person in the world, even if her words sucked worse than a kick in the crotch.” Carmilla lay her arm across Laura’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Lawrence turned into such a dick.”
Laura shrugged with a shudder, shoulders tensing at the reaction. “Yeah, me too. She’s a good person. She just…hasn’t finished growing yet.”
Silence took over, both choosing to agree to disagree. Neither wanting to let things go so easily, like these people weren’t the worse things they had gone through on prom night.
“Do you think we’ll ever meet people who will stay?” Laura asked, fingers curling around loose fabric on the brunette’s shirt.
“You met me. I stay.” Carmilla replied.
“Yeah, but I mean people we can marry. People that will still be here when we’re hurt or scared. Someone who can handle us when we hit our 30th birthday and go through the crisis of getting older. Those people.” The blonde frowned to herself, believing everything she’d said to never come true.
“How I stick around with all this quease-inducing mushiness is beyond me,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, stroking Laura’s hair and lulling her into sleep. “I’ll tell you what, we’ll make a deal. If you aren’t dating or married by your 30th birthday, I’ll marry you myself.”
“But you have to do it right! A proposal. A wedding. All of it!”
“Fine. If you’re single at 29, I’ll propose.”
“Mm…make it 26. I don’t want to be 30 getting married and going through a midlife crisis.”
“Alright! Now, sleep.” Carmilla chuckled.
Laura fiddled with a button on Carmilla’s shirt, interested in how many times she could twist it until it broke off. “Carm?”
“Yes, Cupcake?” She sighed.
“Cross my heart.” The brunette yawned silently. “I promise, Laura.”
Content enough with hope, she finally began to drift off to sleep.