On a late summer Saturday afternoon, Hope Mikaelson was in the gardens of the Salvatore School, shaded by a tall oak, watching the flowers. More specifically, she was watching all of the action around the flowers. Before her was a collection of sun-loving flowers: zinnias of many colors, plains coreopsis, scarlet bee balm, orange lantana, black-eyed Susans, orange and red candy lilies, and some orange-and-maroon marigolds, all presenting a canvas of colors. Attracting not just Hope, but wildlife of all types—fritillaries and tiger swallowtails, several varieties of skippers, and even a common buckeye, among the butterflies, and goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, and even ruby-throated hummingbirds jetting in for a quick drink. And Hope, well, she was taking it all in—and painting it.
She’d started the afternoon with watercolors and moved on to oils as the day progressed, capturing the beauty and serenity that unfolded in nature before her. Hope had been painting often this summer, both enjoying the respite from monster attacks and tension among the students, and also distracting herself from the absence of her favorite fellow students. MG and Kaleb were hanging out in Atlanta again, and Lizzie and Josie were in Paris, spending the summer with Caroline. According to Lizzie, they were taking the town by storm; according to Josie, Paris was swallowing them up. Hope fully expected Josie to return speaking yet another foreign language fluently. “That girl—my girl—is amazing,” she mused. She hoped Josie was able to see the artists on the Left Bank—she’d heard the watercolor-and-ink work of those along the Seine, capturing Notre Dame and the famed bridges, was gorgeous. She hoped the siphon was able to spend some days simply sitting in a café, watching people live their lives and reading poetry or feminist literature. Perhaps Josie would be able to wander the Jardin des Tuileries, or climb Montmartre at night, see Sacré-Cœur all lit up and gaze across the City of Light. Whatever it was that Josie was doing, she hoped the girl was having great adventures.
That didn’t mean Hope didn’t miss the brunette who had bewitched her, though. “Wait,” she thought, “the whole purpose of sitting here under this shade oak and painting all this natural beauty was to keep me from thinking about the fact I’m here and Josie is not with me.” As if on cue, a hummingbird flew right over to her and took a drink from a head of bee balm attached to her easel, one that she’d earlier picked to examine closely. He hovered in mid-air, puffing out his brightly-colored throat at her while partaking of the nectar, then did a few acrobatic maneuvers before zooming off. She chuckled. “Sorry, little guy, but I only have eyes for one special lady anymore.” But he had been successful in breaking her mental wanderings, and she refocused on the scene in front of her and returned to her painting. (She did miss Josie, though, no two ways about it. Astral projecting once a week, and the random text or photo, just wasn’t the same. But Hope knew they had to be able to live their own lives, or they’d just be replicating codependency and other poor social adaptations of their prior lives. That still didn’t make her miss Josie any less, though.)
Hope had packed a picnic basket full of bread, cheese, meat, fruit and nuts to keep her nourished through the afternoon and, as it happened, the early evening, as the sun slowly began to recede from the pinnacle of its path across the sky. Her flowers were in the shade now and the fauna that had frequented them all day had vanished, so she knew it was time to call it a day. The auburn-haired girl packed up her paints and her day’s work and headed back to her room, not stopping at the kitchen because she had been eating all day and wasn’t hungry for a meal (maybe some dessert later, she mused).
When Hope made it back to her room, she was greeted by a pair of bananas sitting on the floor against the door jamb. Her face crinkled in confusion at the sight. Unlocking her door, she deposited her basket, easel, paints, and the day’s paintings just inside and turned her attention back to the pair of bananas. This time, Hope noticed the bananas were sitting on a note, so she picked them and it up, flipping it open to find “I’ve been going bananas without you. -J” along with a stick-figure-face featuring long hair and a perfect pout. The auburn-haired girl chuckled before confusion regained its hold, so then she dashed to the twins’ room, knocking while holding out the bananas with a confused expression on her face and a lone eyebrow raised.
The door swung open with such force, Hope half-expected to see Lizzie with a scowl on her face demanding an explanation for the interruption. Instead, after a long summer, she was greeted by long brunette locks, deep chocolate eyes, and a beaming face that broke into a giggle—the world’s cutest giggle, which never failed to melt her heart, Hope remembered—upon taking in the sight. The only scene stranger than the pair of bananas at Hope’s door was Hope at Josie’s door, holding the bananas out in confusion! Still not uttering a word, Josie grabbed Hope by the arm, swinging her door closed before pulling the shorter girl impatiently through the halls of the Salvatore School.
When they reached the kitchen, Hope was still not any less confused. She wasn’t expecting the twins home for another two weeks, for starters. And second, Josie had yet to say a word to her (unless she counted the silly—cute, but still silly—phrase on the note). “Josie…?” the tribrid finally forced out.
“I know your machine has been busy…” was the brunette’s incongruous response, as she grabbed two glasses and a dish from the the various cupboards.
“…You’re back already?” Hope finally completed her thought.
Picking up a knife from the silverware drawer, the brunette answered, “Something came up, and Mom needed to travel to Bulgaria. Lizzie gave a speech about ‘grim, post-Stalinist Eastern Europe…blah, blah…Paris!’ so we” (with air-quotes) “decided to come home early and spend some quality time enjoying” (more air-quotes) “Mystic Falls before school starts again. But there are some perks to an early return,” she concluded, casting an emphatic stare in Hope’s direction. “And I’ve been going bananas without you,” she added, grabbing one of the bananas from the auburn-haired girl’s hand.
Quickly peeling the banana and slicing it nearly in half lengthwise, Josie placed it in the dish. “Make yourself useful,” the brunette continued, punctuating her request with a brief peck on Hope’s lips, “and get out the secret stash from your machine.”
Hope finally wrapped her mind around the whirlwind that had consumed her, and she replaced the confused expression she was still carrying with a giant grin. Josie was back. Josie was back! And she’s making me something in the kitchen! Her mind finally caught up, Hope moved from where she had been standing fixed since Josie let go of her arm on arrival in the kitchen. The tribrid then made her way to the freezer, where she whispered a spell that revealed the “secret stash” from her machine, a tub of freshly-churned homemade vanilla ice cream. Hope brought the tub over to Josie, who was waiting at the island with the ice cream scoop and an array of jars and bottles.
Josie quickly topped the sliced banana with three scoops of ice cream from Hope’s tub. She also added a single scoop to each of the glasses before indicating to Hope that the tribrid could return the tub to its hiding place. While the auburn-haired girl was doing that, Josie drizzled the ice cream and banana halves with chocolate sauce, sprinkled pecan bits on top of that, and finished the treat with a flourish of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. The siphon added a spoon at each end of the dish and then turned her attention back to the pair of glasses, decanting from a bottle of A&W Root Beer until each glass was full of fizzy goodness.
By this time, Hope had returned to the island after hiding her ice cream, and she stared at the taller girl with a bit of disbelief still etched across her face. Disbelief that didn’t fade when Josie excitedly called out, “Surprise! I’m home!”
Hope did chuckle, however, at this wild but endearing display of soda-jerkery Josie had performed, as in front of the brunette was a banana split and two root beer floats, apparently for a welcome home party the siphon was throwing for herself. (That sort of curious logic was more up Lizzie’s alley than Josie’s, the tribrid mused, but who was she to turn down free dessert. After all, she had been thinking about dessert earlier.)
“Split a banana split with me?” Josie interrupted Hope’s musing, bringing the older girl back to reality once again. (How long was it going to take for her to wrap her head around the fact Josie was back already?! She hoped it would be soon, because she was missing out on precious seconds with her girl every time her mind failed to comprehend.)
When Hope didn’t respond, Josie morphed her lips into her trademark pout, and Hope’s eyes finally connected to her brain, breaking yet another mind-wandering moment. The tribrid chuckled again and replied, “That pout’s really not necessary, Jo. When have I ever been known to turn down ice cream treats with you?” She chuckled again, ruefully, “You really have been going bananas without me.”
On hearing the last comment, Josie’s pout intensified, if that were even possible, but the younger girl could not hold it and broke into a broad smile and then laughter. “Hey, I thought bad puns were my department.”
“What can I say, Jo; I’ve missed you this summer and have had to adapt,” Hope chuckled again, closing the distance between herself and the siphon and enveloping the other girl in a giant hug. “I missed you,” the redhead continued softly, placing a gentle kiss to Josie’s cheek, “and I’m so happy you’re back.” Hope squeezed Josie tighter for an instant and then broke the hug, remembering there were ice cream treats to enjoy.
“Let’s go down to the dock; I’ve missed sitting with you and watching the sunset there…” the brunette suggested, whipping out a small cooler to contain their desserts—she’d clearly prepared this whole extravaganza in advance.
“After a summer in the City of Light, with all the amazing views available to you, you miss the sunset over a little lake in middle-of-nowhere Virginia?” Hope replied teasingly yet incredulously.
“Mmm,” the siphon responded as she took the tribrid’s hand, the cooler already in her other hand. “The views were amazing; I’ve never wished I could paint more than this summer,” she continued as they walked. “But the sunsets on the dock have better company,” Josie concluded, giving Hope’s hand a gentle squeeze as the two stared at each other.
The twosome engaged in light conversation the rest of the way to the dock and continued as they sat down and consumed the banana split that sat between them, alternating bites and occasionally switching to their root beer floats. They had removed their shoes and dangled their legs over the dock, their feet rubbing together from time to time as they savored the dessert and the moment together. Hope felt at peace; all the little things that had stressed her in one way or another over the summer seemed to vanish into thin air now that Josie was back, sitting next to her.
When it came down to the last bite of the banana split—the very center, with the cherry—Hope scooped it up in her spoon and had it most of the way into her mouth when she glanced over and noticed the look of disappointment on the brunette’s face—a look which quickly morphed into the girl’s signature pout. Hope had missed that pout; it could make her do anything, give in to anything, or give up anything, no matter how much she wanted otherwise, but she just could not resist Josie when she employed the pout. The cherry caught halfway between her teeth, Hope smirked and then leaned in to Josie, whose eyes first went wide and then filled with glee. Josie met Hope’s lips with her own, pressing them gently together while briefly opening her mouth and catching the exposed half of the cherry between her teeth. As the two completed the kiss, the cherry was rent in half, shared between the siphon and the tribrid. In unison, they both licked their lips, savoring the taste—the long-absent taste of their loves and the unexpected taste of the cherry—and Josie giggled at their synchronicity.
Hope moved the empty dish from between them and scooted over until she pressed against the taller girl; their legs then intertwined and their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders, their glasses held in their free hands. Hope laid her head on Josie’s shoulder, as she had done at so many other sunsets on the dock. Josie was home, so she was at home. Josie tilted her head so it rested atop Hope’s, and they watched the sun fall below the trees and fade from the sky, unleashing waves of color across the sky. After several minutes of sitting in silence, Hope finally spoke again.
“You know what, Jo? I’ve been going bananas without you, too.”