You scraped your knee and you’re bleeding and it’s the worst pain in the world because you’re 5 years old and you have never seen your own blood and now you’re crying in the middle of a playground surrounded by other kids. And you look around for either of your parents but you can’t see them and now you’re even more upset.
And there is this scrawny little kid, all black hair and pale skin and she’s nice and holds your hand and gives you a cupcake.
My dad made these. A cupcake for a cupcake.
You laugh a watery smile.
You think you might have just made your first real friend.
It’s dark and cold. You’ve been in here for what feels like hours. Everyone must be home with their families already. You’ve been crying for a long time.
They’re just jealous because you’re so cool and they’re not, cupcake.
You don’t feel cool right now. You’re just scared. Some kid (you don’t even know his name, just that he apparently hates you) pushed you into this locker and how long has it been now? You stopped counting the minutes a while ago. You think you might be claustrophobic because it feels like the walls are closing in. You start crying again.
You see them step up to your locker through the holes in the door.
Please get me out of here, you whisper. You’re not sure they heard you.
A final bang.
You see light and you see Carmilla and she pulls you out and holds you and wipes your tears away and tells you it’s alright. It’s alright, I got you now, cupcake. You’re safe.
You cry even more. They’re happy tears.
It doesn’t come as a surprise. She’s been sick for a while. You’ve had enough time to get used to the thought of her being gone. But still, it crushes you and her death leaves you an empty vessel. You don’t really feel anything anymore after, although you suppose you should be feeling something.
Loss. Grief. Anger.
Sure, you cry when the machine stops beeping and when they take you out of the room and when you see your dad’s face, stricken with grief and new tears following the tracks of dried ones.
Time passes too quickly after that and next thing you know you’re wearing a black dress and they shake your hand and hug you and tell you how sorry they are for your loss and you could scream but you smile and thank them. The smile never reaches your eyes.
They pity you.
Carmilla finds you at the wake. She’s wearing one of her brother’s dress shirts that’s a little too big and a black blazer and black jeans and she’s holding your mother’s favorite flowers and a cupcake she took from the buffet (you think she might have made them herself because the icing looks terrible and there are way too many chocolate sprinkles on them but you don’t ask her). She hugs you a little longer than everyone else and you feel yourself relax for just a second. You allow yourself to let go just this once. She takes your hand and gives your father a look and he is grieving but he nods and she drags you away. Away from all those people, away from the dark clouds looming over the house.
She takes you to your place at the creek and lays you both down on the grass. The sun is shining and you feel terrible for enjoying it. You’ve had time to familiarize yourself with the feeling now. The emptiness. She doesn’t say anything, just holds your hand while you both watch the clouds pass by. Carmilla has never been much of a talker, you know this, but right now you wish she would fill the silence. Make a dumb joke, talk shit about one of your teachers. But she doesn’t. You know what she’s doing, she wants you to make the first move. She used to make fun of you for talking too much, for being so enthusiastic about everything. You know she misses it now. Perhaps you miss it too.
Something in you shifts and you turn your head to the side to look at her. She stays still until you feel tears rolling down the side of your face and she turns to you and her eyes aren’t filled with pity like everyone else’s. They’re full of sorrow and she’s crying too.
You stay there for hours and grieve together.
You don’t know how long it’s been since you left the wake but the sun is setting now and you’re starting to shiver. Carmilla gets up first, reaches for your hand and pulls you into a hug. She gives you her blazer to wear and it’s so warm and feels so much like her you want to get lost in it.
She walks over to one of the trees that used to be one of the tallest ones around the river but has long since fallen. She takes out a knife (of course she would have a knife on her, you think to yourself) and carefully carves an L into the trunk. She adds an infinity symbol next to it. Then a C next to that. She has a look on her face you can’t quite place when she turns around and takes your hand again.
That night you sleep better than you have in a long time with your body pressed into hers and most of your weight on her. You think she doesn’t seem to mind that much.
It really doesn’t come as a surprise to you when Carmilla tells you she’s gay. You think you have both known it for a long time. You hug her and tell her it’s alright, of course it’s alright.
She’s seeing this girl now, Elle, and you kinda don’t like her because she’s kinda mean and snobbish but you don’t say anything because it’s not your place.
You’re happy for her, you really are and she tells you things won’t change between the two of you but they already have and you’re a little upset but that is what happens when you get older right?
You spend more time with Susan, Perry and Kirsch and he makes Danny join you at your table. They bicker a lot and at first you wonder if they’re even friends the way they bully each other and you think he might have a crush on her so you ask him when you’re alone together studying for your history exam. He stutters and doesn’t really say anything but you see the glint in his eyes and you promise him to help with asking Danny out.
Their first date is a little unconventional because Susan somehow got wind of it and she makes you all go as a group thing. Carmilla doesn’t want to go. You know she finds your friends annoying most of the time but you promise her a milkshake and she has a bet going on with Susan anyways.
20 bucks say they kiss after.
20 bucks say they have already and are just keeping it secret from you all, Lafrankenstein.
You’re on, Fangface.
You know she likes Susan the most. She would never admit it though. These days Carmilla likes to be all cool and broody. Except with you of course. You know she’s a dork at heart. She loves watching hockey with your dad and their favorite teams are rivals so they bicker a lot about it and you know she’s a Ravenclaw and loves Harry Potter (she’s read the books 12 times) and you’ve made her watch some Doctor Who with you and she fell asleep a couple of times but you also caught her looking up articles about it just so she could understand you when you’re rambling on.
It has always been how Carmilla shows affection. By small acts of kindness, not big words. She’s said she wants to study philosophy in university and you think it fits her. She’s a big thinker. Broody. You know her mother wants her to take over the business one day and you have overheard many arguments between the two but Carmilla never talks about it so you never ask.
Danny and you have gotten closer now and she tells you that they kissed after Kirsch drove her home. She also says she didn’t mind too much but she prefers kissing girls. You know what lesbians are, it’s not like you live under a rock, and again, Carmilla came out to you just a couple of months ago, but you have never heard of this. Danny tells you she might be bi, bisexual and you nod and promise her it’s ok and you’ll keep this secret for her until she’s ready. You look up the definition of bisexual later and you read all these other things about pansexuality and asexuality and as it turns out there’s a whole spectrum of sexuality and gender identity?
You spend all night reading about identities and you feel dizzy with all this new information so you decide to talk to Carmilla about it. She’s been attending GSA meetings (my mother is making me do it, she says and you know it’s true but you also know she needs a queer space to fully be herself) and she already knows about most of the things you tell her.
Neither of you are actually surprised when Sus- (Lafontaine, you correct yourself) comes out as nonbinary. They cut their hair off a couple of weeks ago and have since been living at Perry’s house and you made your dad promise to invite them over for dinner on Saturday and he’s a little confused but he loves your friends and Lafontaine’s banter so he says yes. The night turns into a game night and you’re sure Carmilla cheated at monopoly and she’s sure you cheated and you guys argue about it and you haven’t felt this light in a while. You glance at your dad making brownies with Perry in the kitchen and he’s laughing at something she said and you wish the night would never end because you haven’t felt this happy in a while.
Carmilla apologizes for being so distant and you’re too happy to care and riding a sugar high and you love her anyways so you forgive her because why wouldn’t you? You hug her and she kisses your cheek and you feel like you’re 5 years old again. You both giggle and admit that you cheated. You all fall asleep in a big pile of pillows and blankets and it’s awkward because Kirsch and Danny are basically all limbs at this point but Carmilla is holding your hand and you fall asleep easily.
Prom season rolls around and you’re not really sure why you even have it because you’re in Canada and Canadian schools don’t do prom? But a guy asks you out and you wouldn’t exactly call him a friend but you’ve studied together a bunch of times and no one else has shown interest so you say yes. Laf is going with Perry (you think they might be dating. A part of you had always known they belonged together) and Danny has gracefully accepted Kirsch’s invite and you think they might just check out girls together that night and be each other’s wing person. Carmilla is of course taking Elle and you’ve warmed up to Elle now but you still feel a pang of sadness at the thought.
You talk to the guy a couple more times and he’s kinda dull but he’s kind and you invite him over to formally introduce him to your dad and he seems kinda suspicious but they like the same hockey team so they bond over that. He stays for dinner and when he leaves he quickly kisses you on the cheek and mumbles a goodnight. It doesn’t feel as nice as when Carmilla does it, you think it might be because his beard stubble is so scratchy.
So that Shane kid seems nice, your dad says and you nod because you really don’t have anything else to say so you just say your goodnight and go upstairs. You message Carmilla about it though and she calls you because she’s too lazy to text and I miss your face, cupcake and you giggle at her silliness because you just saw each other at school that morning but you both fall asleep facetiming each other.
You’re really nervous and sweating entirely too much for how expensive your dress was but Carmilla helped you pick it out and told you it looks beautiful on you and you trust her unconditionally so you bought it.
You’re standing at the top of the stairs and you’re fidgeting with your mom’s bracelet and your dad gives you a look so you stop and he looks like he wants to say something but you both get startled by a car honking outside and he scratches his head in confusion because who would pick up their prom date like that? But you shrug and tell him it’s ok and kiss him on the cheek and almost run out the door because Shane is honking impatiently and you climb into his passenger seat and you drive off to school. The ride is awkward and kinda long because you live on the outskirts of town and the silence is deafening so you turn on his radio to some Top 40 station. You mumble the song lyrics under your breath until he sighs so you stop.
You get to the school and it’s the classic high school prom complete with teacher/parent chaperones, photo box, and punch bowl. You get your picture taken and it’s awkward because the photographer wants you to do that weird cliché prom pose but you smile through it. Shane gets you some punch and you kinda hope someone has spiked it already but it just tastes like fruit. He says he’s not much of a dancer so you sit at a table and small talk for a bit but he looks bored so you take a minute to check your phone. When you look back up he’s talking to some friends and he’s laughing with them and he doesn’t look at you when he tells you I’ll be right back and you have yet to find your friends so you nod and go back to your phone.
Right back turns into minutes turns into half an hour and you’ve read too much fanfic and your phone is dead now because you never charge it when you need to so you just sit and people watch. You think he’s not coming back and you know you should be more upset but you kinda saw it coming.
You’re not someone people fall for.
You’re wandering the hallways, past couples that are making out and the hockey team passing around a hip flask. You think you’d rather be home right now but Shane was your ride so you’re stuck until he decides to come looking for you.
Carmilla finds you crying in the Chemistry Lab and she doesn’t really say anything, just sits next to you and holds your hand. She’s picking at the linoleum where one of Lafontaine’s unsanctioned experiments has burned a hole in the ground and you manage a sniffle that’s almost a laugh because they really are a crazy scientist. Carmilla hands you a hip flask and you don’t ask her what’s in it. It tastes like fire on your tongue and it makes you cough so she tells you one sip is enough and takes it back. It doesn’t make her cough.
You put your head on her shoulder and you tell her how much you hate boys and how dumb they are and she kisses the top of your head and hums in agreement. You can both hear the faint pop music and you know Kirsch and Danny are probably having a dance off somewhere and having fun but right now all that matters to you is Carmilla’s hand in your hand and your head on her shoulder.
She tells you that her and Elle broke up because she found out that Elle has been cheating on her for a couple of months now, with a girl called Elsie who you think is in your English Lit class. You’re angry that someone would hurt your best friend like that and you want to go find Elle and beat her up because you know Krav Maga and she doesn’t and it’s what she deserves, Carm.
You might also want to punch Shane in the face. Hard.
But Carmilla’s grip is tight on your wrist and she tells you it’s for the best and that she was never really in love with Elle anyways. It was just a distraction. You’re wondering who she needed distraction from and you ask her as much and she just gives you a look you can’t exactly place.
You, she says and it’s so quiet you almost didn’t hear it. But you’re so close, you’ve always been so close and you smile and laugh at her joke because haha, very funny, Carmilla. Like anyone has ever shown actual interest in me.
She doesn’t respond and you stop yourself because wait, you’re serious? and now she’s the one laughing because how can you be so oblivious, cupcake? I think I have always loved you since the day we met. And at that moment you realize that maybe you have always loved her too. Maybe we were made to love each other, you think to yourself but you don’t have time to think about the implications of that because Carmilla is pulling you in and she’s kissing you and you thought the alcohol burned but it’s nothing compared to her mouth on yours and her tongue begging for entrance and you deepen the kiss and it’s not just your mouth, your entire body is on fire and you feel like you’ve been under water this whole time and you’re only now coming up for air and you take her in, you take her all in and it feels like hours and years pass by when you finally part to breathe actual air.
You can’t believe it took you this long to figure it out and you apologize to her but Carmilla just shakes her head and kisses you again, and again, and again until you lose count and you think she doesn’t seem to mind that much.
You never sleep alone again after that.
She doesn’t seem to mind that either.