Ann paused in front of her apartment, her arms full of brown paper shopping bags, and looked up. She’d forgotten to close the window again. Shit.
It was a Friday, the day in which her later class didn’t meet, and thus she’d gotten off work a little after noon, leaving her the latter part of the day to herself. After finishing reading some essays, most of which had been a pleasure, she’d headed off to the store to get groceries for that night. She’d grabbed all the things for Bolognese, including the pappardelle pasta that Anne for whatever reason seemed resolute was superior to all other forms of noodle. Ann had also splurged on a bottle of Chianti that cost more than €10, which she hoped paired well and wasn’t too sour or full bodied or whatever. The internet had sung its praises, and Anne always claimed to know very little about wine, anyway.
Ann fidgeted with her key, finally unlocking the door to her flat and stepping through. Her arms ached from carrying the two bags of groceries all the way from the supermarket, and she felt her body sag against the door once it was closed. She tucked a hair behind her ear, frowning at her rumpled reflection in the entryway mirror. Ann let out a small huff.
Yes, she was nervous.
Tonight, Anne was coming over for a dinner that Ann was making, hopefully around six o’clock, unless the other woman got caught up at work. Which probably would happen. Well, it might. She was quite busy most of the time, and—Ann bit her lip.
She and Anne had been… hanging out for several weeks now. Ann cringed inwardly. “Handing out” seemed such a juvenile phrase to her, now. And really, it had been just over two months, if their rendezvous at Anne’s lake house counted for anything. Which it did, Ann thought, putting the meat in the refrigerator. It definitely did.
So, they’d been together for almost two months. Or, over two months, rather. They’d been together, in the loose sense, but they’d yet to actually refer to each other as a significant other. Ann wasn’t sure what to tell people when they asked if she was single or not, because, really, it seemed to be all up in the air. Not on her end, of course. She knew how she felt about Anne, but she was ever wary of how Anne felt about her.
Foolishly, she’d mentally given Anne the reigns in terms of defining their relationship. This had seemed like a good way of not overstepping the boundaries of whatever this thing between them was, and Anne was more experienced, anyways. It only made sense to allow her to set the terms and lead the way, to decide what she wanted.
This, however, had the unfortunate effect of driving Ann absolutely insane. Would Anne want something serious, because she was older than her? Was that ageist of her to think that? Would she want something more casual, because Ann was… well, Ann, and Anne Lister surely had more than enough prospects to keep her occupied, so why would she want to settle down?
But, oh, Ann wanted to be her girlfriend. They’d spent weekends together at both their apartments, though most often at Anne’s, as it was significantly nicer. The latter half of the summer was lovely, and even though Anne had been busy, she’d always made time for Ann. When school had started up again, it became only nights and stolen Sundays that they could see each other, but she’d thought… well, it seemed like they were headed into something very serious. She’d thought they might already be there. From all her research, which had been done by proxy of a slew of LGBTQ television shows and films, the women seemed to get together fairly quickly, almost as a rule. She wondered why Anne hadn’t made any sort of definitive move yet—perhaps it was Ann that she was dissatisfied with.
Ann forced herself to quash these feelings. It was her blasted anxiety, overlooking anything in the realm of logic when it came to… well, anything, really. Whenever she was around Anne, she felt loved and confident in herself, like she could take anything on. And she knew she was becoming dependent on Anne, and she tried not to be, but, well… it was difficult not to, when she elicited such wonderful feelings from her.
And elicited… other things.
She sighed. It was no use worrying about those things right then, she knew. She’d just have to talk to Anne when she arrived, hoping she was in a good enough mood for Ann to ask the dreaded, “what are we?” question.
So, she distracted herself for the next three hours. Ann made dough and left it to rise in the refrigerator. She prepped food, dicing and chopping vegetables and mincing fresh garlic, because supposedly it tasted better than the pre-minced stuff. She showered, put on a blue shift dress, let her curls air dry, and put makeup on. Then took it off, and put some on again—what was dress code for asking your partner to be your partner?
It was half past six when Ann finally heard the sound of the keys rustling in the lock, and Ann smiled to herself. She had the water set to boil for the pasta, the sauce simmering on the stove, and the bread in the oven. Her heart began to speed up the way it always did before Ann saw her, and she tried not to wring her hands in nervousness. She busied herself with stirring the sauce while Anne made her way inside, slipping off her shoes in the entryway.
“Hello, darling,” she called, and Ann took a deep breath. She would not be a coward tonight—she would ask her what they were. Even if it burst the domestic bubble she’d been living in. “How was work today?” Anne made her way into the kitchen and kissed Ann’s cheek. Ann hummed in response, turning the burner on for the pasta.
“It was good,” she replied, turning to Anne who was surveying the kitchen with a raised eyebrow. “I had to grade their first essays today, the kids in my upper level class—what are you looking around for?”
“You’ve made quite a mess, haven’t you?” Anne said, a twinkle in her eye. Ann scoffed.
“Well, I’ve been rather busy making dinner, for you, I’ll have you know,” Ann replied in a huff, before she realized Anne had broken into a grin. Anne quirked an eyebrow at Ann playfully and grinned, moving towards her. Ann sighed, feeling her stomach flutter as Anne wrapped her arms around her waist.
“I’ve missed you,” she said softly, and Ann blushed, giggling softly.
“We’ve only just seen each other—what was it, last weekend?”
“Yes,” Anne replied, their noses touching as she leaned in. “But I still miss you.” Ann opened her mouth to respond, but Anne leaned in and captured her lips with her own, stifling any argument Ann might have put up. She sighed against Anne’s lips happily, bringing her hands up to clutch at the arms of the jacket she was wearing. She deepened the kiss, the entire week’s anxiety about missing Anne and not knowing what they were flowed out of her as their tongues brushed.
The kiss became a little more hurried, a little hotter, and Ann found herself, as she so often did, pressed up against the kitchen counter. Anne squeezed at her waist, biting a little at her lips, and Ann let out a small keening whine at the feeling of it. Somehow, Anne always managed to make their kisses feel like their first had. In her kitchen, all those weeks ago. It seemed imminently far away, yet also as if it had just recently occurred.
Ann was the one to break the kiss, pulling her head back even as Anne chased her lips. The pot of water on the stove had begun to bubble and was close to boiling—giving Anne one more peck on the lips, she slid around her to measure out the pasta. Anne sighed and leaned against the counter and watched Ann.
“So,” Ann said slowly, pouring in half the package of pappardelle. “How was your day at work?” Anne grimaced and rolled her eyes, her fingers reaching up to trace a delicate line over her eyebrows.
“Worse than usual, somehow,” she replied, and Ann checked the bread. “The goddamn Rawson’s are driving me mad.” Anne huffed, and Ann tried to keep a small smile off her face as she turned to pour the pasta in. “They’re trying to take over one of our old hotspots, but are trying to guilt me into selling it to them at a loss for me, and—well, I won’t bore you with the details, but—” Anne continued talking, and in her attempt not to, as she so put it, ‘bore her with the details,’ she used an overabundance of flowery language that had, instead of boring Ann, deafened her with scientific words about Anne’s business that confused her to no end. This happened weekly, at least, and Ann dutifully listened every time. This particular time, though, Anne seemed somehow more agitated than normal.
“—and he knows that if he drags this out,” she said, and by now, Anne was pacing around the kitchen angrily. Ann checked on the bread again. “That he’s only making me lose money the longer he waits, because he’s trying to stall out all my other options! I swear to God, if he schedules another blasted meeting this late again, I’ll kill him.” Ann balked, and Anne rolled her eyes and corrected herself. “No, no, I’m not actually going to kill him, obviously. But do you know what he said to me tonight?”
“No, I don’t—”
“He asked to go over the terms of releasing the property at nine o’clock tonight. He says, ‘I do hope you’ll still be in the office’—what an arrogant bastard!” Ann reached inside the oven and took the steaming bread out, inhaling its smell. At this rate, Ann herself might kill Christopher Rawson if she didn’t have to hear his name ever again. “I mean, is it too much to ask to leave before eight on a Friday night to have dinner with my girlfriend?” Anne was still talking, but Ann’s hearing blanked out. She nearly dropped the bread. What?
“Anne,” she said, softly, and then again, a bit louder, as she was still talking. And she continued to talk. “ANNE!” she yelled, causing Anne to stop in what might have been her fifth journey around the kitchen table. Anne paused, looking at her in mild confusion.
“Yes, darling,” she said, her voice dropping several decibels. Ann couldn’t help a small smile at the tenderness. “I’m sorry, what—why are you smiling at me?”
“Are you—am I…” Ann let out a small laugh and looked to the bewildered woman across the table from her. Weeks of this stupid anxiety, and for what? “Are we… together?”
“Ann, what the hell are you talking about? Of course we are—”
“No, I mean like… are we…” Ann hesitated, not knowing exactly how to put it. “Are we partners?” Anne stared at her, her high-set eyebrows furrowed, her lips parted in confusion.
“Ann,” she said slowly, walking towards her. “Darling, you can’t be serious.”
“Well, I just—”
“We’ve spent nearly every moment together since July,” she said slowly, grabbing Ann’s hands in her own. Her thumbs smoothed over Ann’s as Ann’s heart beat hard in her chest. “Marian, just the other day asked why I hadn’t been over to the house in so long—darling, we have each other’s keys. I’m sorry if I gave you the impression that this wasn’t serious, that’s not what I meant to do at all.” Anne paused, leaning in and bringing a hand to cradle her face. Ann leaned into it, the relief washing down here body like water in an overfilled cup. “In fact, I’m shocked that you could even have that impression at all, but Ann, I care about you, and of course I want this to be more formal between us, I just thought that—” Ann cut her off by grabbing her face and bringing her mouth down to her own, prompting a startled gasp from Anne. Of course, in true Anne Lister fashion, she recovered quickly, wrapping her arm around Ann and brushing her cheek with the hand that had been holding her earlier.
Ann smiled into the kiss, and suddenly she felt lighter than air—in the arms of the woman she loved, with Anne’s hand lovingly rubbing at her back and a palpable release or her silly anxiety and stress rushing through her veins.
How could she have been so foolish? Her anxiety—which was getting marginally better, thank you very much—was a force to be reckoned with, and overlooking logic seemed to be a bit of a forte. She basked in the feeling of warmth that Anne’s hands brought as the caressed her body, finally feeling full for the first time all day.
Ann pulled away first, still smiling at her irrationality and the pure tenderness of it all and looked into Anne’s eyes. “I… I feel a bit foolish, now.” Anne laughed in response, still stroking her thumb against Ann’s cheek.
“You’re anything but,” Anne said with a grin. She bit her lip once, turning her head to look at Ann, her smile never fading. “I’m sorry I haven’t been clearer with you.” Anne leaned down and kissed her forehead, before drawing back. “You know…” she began, a glint in her eye. “It would make me the happiest woman on earth,” she said slowly, her smiling spreading again, and color rushed to Ann’s cheeks. “If you were my girlfriend.” Ann laughed, turning her head away in embarrassment, but Anne drew it back. Ann’s insides still felt fluttery as she smiled at the woman in front of her.
“Yes,” she said, drawing a toothy grin from Anne. “I would like that very much.”
They ate Ann’s carefully prepared Bolognese, but it was two hours later than planned, and their meal was met with a distinct lack of clothes from the both of them.