Chapter Ten – Night Blind
She heard the low moan and felt the arching of Sarah’s back and in an instant, something inside Lei snapped. Abruptly, she stood up and backed away from the couch, not being able to look at the dazed model lying on the couch.
“I can’t,” she shook her head and rubbed at her face harshly before settling her gaze on the ground. Lei felt like crying again. “I’m sorry, Sar. I can’t. I’m not going to use you. I’m sorry.”
Sexually frustrated, the model slowly sat up from the couch, picking up the discarded jersey on the floor and wearing it once more. She bit back a groan, now from irritation, and looked at the other girl who so obviously was internally beating herself up for starting something she couldn’t finish. Sarah wanted to beat Lei up too, for making her as turned on as she was at that moment and leaving her just like that, but a look to the heiress and all she could do was sigh.
“Look, Lei, I understand.”
Lei still wasn’t looking at Sarah. “No. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought you into this.”
“I don’t want you to think that I came here to…to… It’s just that, I don’t know where else to go.”
“I should just leave,” and with that, Lei turned to pick up her bag when she felt soft hands on her wrist. The heiress looked up to gaze into calm blue eyes, traces of desire still evident.
“No. Stay here. You’re tired and you’re hurting. Stay.”
The model stood up, lowering her hold to grasp at Lei’s hand and intertwine their fingers.
“I’m not going to let you out of here in that state. And as much as I really, really want to continue what we were doing, I know you can’t.”
Swallowed in guilt, Lei turned her gaze back to the floor. Sarah had never been anything but respectful and the heiress felt like an asshole. She knew the model liked her, was attracted her, and even though she never encouraged anything with Sarah, she never really outrightly rejected the woman’s advances either.
To tell the truth, she even enjoyed mildly flirting with the older woman. Sarah was without a doubt, one hot head turner, which was also the reason why she was chosen the face of the CC fashion label. The heiress wasn’t oblivious to that fact, even if sometimes she pretended to be.
A short visit to her parents a year ago caused their chance meeting which inevitably turned into a playful friendship, one full of flirtations and come ons – mostly initiated by the model. Lei had made it clear to Sarah from the very start however, that she only really had eyes for Audrey and the blonde wholeheartedly accepted that. Despite the innuendos, Sarah never went out of line. She knew her boundaries and even when Lei thought the model was starting to tread on dangerous ground, Sarah never teetered off the edge.
Ironic that it was Lei who eventually broke the unspoken rules.
She felt her hand being released and Lei looked up just as Sarah came closer. The blonde closed her arms around Lei’s waist and the heiress was then enveloped in a warm embrace. Instinctually, Lei embraced back, still feeling the guilt but could do nothing otherwise.
“Stay,” Sarah pulled back to look at the other girl’s face and eventually settled her gaze on Lei’s eyes. She smiled. “Tell me everything. I’m here.”
The model continued smiling, “It’s okay. I understand.”
“You weren’t in school today.”
Kristen was witness to a Lei she had not seen before, all hunched shoulders and messy hair. It wasn’t a pretty sight and she knew it. They both knew it.
“Not really feeling well.”
Kristen nodded, “Yeah, I can see that.”
The brunette gave a small smile. A strained smile, Kristen noticed.
“Can I come in, Lei?”
The door was opened a little wider. “Sure.”
Kristen stepped in and saw how everything was just the way they should be. No misplaced memorabilia. Furniture clean and pristine. It didn’t even look like the place that sponsored a huge high school party just a few days back.
It looked empty.
“I brought ice cream,” Kristen put up the hand that held a plastic bag that contained a gallon of Cookies and Cream ice cream. “Wasn’t sure if you had some so I brought it just to make sure.”
“Look Kristen, I’m not really in the mood to talk…”
“We don’t have to talk. I just want someone to eat ice cream with.”
The blonde was smiling. It wasn’t the cheeky kind nor the sympathetic one. It was just a simple smile. No promises, no hidden meaning.
Just a smile.
And for the first time that day, Lei relaxed.
“Alright,” the brunette turned to move towards the kitchen, but before she left the living room, she stopped to look back. Kristen was looking at Lei and Lei looked back, their gazes meeting.
The heiress smiled.
“Make yourself at home, Krissy.”
“You bet I will.”
She looked at the white-washed ceiling, face as blank as her stare. She wished there was some kind of design, a pattern she could trace with her eyes printed on the ceiling of her room. She wished she could lose herself in the colors or shapes or anything other than the utter nothingness so her mind could be preoccupied with silly thoughts that would give her the escape she needed from reality.
Sadly, there was nothing but the emptiness. The void.
She closed her eyes.
The darkness was so much worse.
The days were always bright. The sun shone over everything, including her, and even when there were times she felt so alone even in the midst of a crowd, she could always go outside and sit and just bask. And she wouldn’t feel so alone because there was her music, there were her melodies, there was the sun.
And the sun made her think that there could be something more for her than what she had and she held on.
And the sun made her think that there could be someone for her. And that someone could be…
…could be Julia.
With eyes still closed, Sven smiled and sighed.
The nights were always dark. And hard. And there were moments when she felt like breaking down. Always at nights.
So it didn’t come as a surprise that the number of cigarettes she smoked were so much greater at nights than at days. No one knew this. Probably not even Julia noticed.
But Sven did.
She was aware of how dependent she had become on her vice, but that was better than being dependent on something else. Someone else. Because she knew, she just knew that she had to have the walls, the protection. Everyone was going to leave. Everyone was bound to leave one way or another, and she was only human. She couldn’t really fend for herself even if she wanted to, even if she pretended to. So she had to have something.
And the cigarettes gave her something to lean onto.
Especially at nights.
Sven opened her eyes, once again looking at the empty ceiling. She brought an arm up, palm open, fingers stretched out. As if trying to reach for something unknown on the ceiling above her. Then, she closed her fingers and clenched her fist. She gritted her teeth and her hand fell to the side, connecting with the hard bed.
…and I’m just Sven, the chain smoking psycho loser, right?
She sat up in an instant, a hand raking through her hair, messing the tresses more than they already were. Her eyes closed as she sighed, firm and with force, in an attempt to rein in the ache in her chest. She shook her head vehemently and her hands went up to cover her eyes. After a while, she opened her eyes and looked down.
Her palms were wet.
They were sitting beside each other, each holding a spoon and their respective bowls of ice cream. The couch was soft and comfortable but Lei had to admit that the comfort she felt came mostly from the company. True to what she said, Kristen had not even once uttered a word to initiate a conversation ever since they sat together and Lei popped in the adapted movie version of “Rent” on the DVD player. So they had just been there for the past half hour, enjoying each other’s silent company while eating ice cream and watching.
At some moments, and Lei thought of this with a smile, she would catch Kristen surreptitiously stealing glances her way. She had to give the other girl credit though, because with the small distance between them, it was undeniably hard to look without seeming so, and if Lei wasn’t stealing glances herself, she wouldn’t have noticed it.
But she was and she did.
So as it was, they weren’t just watching what was being shown in front of them, but they were also watching each other on the sides.
Somehow, Lei found this amusing and reassuring.
She continued to watch the movie adapted Broadway play and saw Joanne and Mark doing their Tango, being connected because of a commonality that should have typically brought them apart. Mark because of his flirtatious, hot ex-girlfriend and Joanne because of her flirtatious, hot current girlfriend. Both of them because of Maureen.
Lei once again looked to her side in that nonchalant seemingly-not-looking-but-actually-observing kind of way. If Kristen’s technique was to steal glances without being obvious about it, Lei’s was making her glances obvious without coming off as actually looking. Lei wanted it to appear as if she was just letting her gaze travel and if her gaze happened to pass by the other girl, then so be it.
Of course, when she did this, she knew she wasn’t actually looking at anything but the other girl.
Lei wondered what it was that connected her and Kristen at that moment that even through the silence, there was no air of unease. Was it the ice cream? Was it the movie? Was it the shared stolen glances?
Maybe it was just them.
She wanted to think that somehow there was no need for reason. Lei wanted to think that maybe it was possible that their connection wasn’t something that needed explanations or tedious analysis.
That there could be silence or noise, movie night or unashamed dancing, childhood or the inevitable journey to adulthood, and still they would be connected. Lei and Kristen. Krissy and Leila.
That ten years, everything that came in between, wasn’t something that would stop them from being comfortable in each other’s presence. That even though her head was full of jumbled thoughts and emotions surrounding Audrey, she would still be able to relish the feeling of belonging that Kristen could without an ounce of doubt give her.
“Your ice cream is turning into soup.”
This time, Lei looked directly at the girl beside her. Kristen was smiling and pointing to Lei’s bowl of ice cream with her spoon and when the brunette looked down, true enough, more than half of her ice cream had already melted to form some kind of sticky, cold soup.
Lei held out the bowl to the girl beside her, and with a half-playful smile said, “Want it?”
The blonde looked at the treat being offered with suspicion, “Uh, no, thank you.”
“Your loss,” and with a mischievous glimmer in her eyes, Lei scooped out some ice cream (or ice cream soup, however way you look at it) from the bowl and ate it. She turned back her gaze to what they had been watching but her attention wasn’t in it. In fact, her attention was focused somewhere nearer, a little closer.
“Lei, that’s just,” and when the brunette looked back to her side, she saw Kristen smiling her own good-natured smile, mock revulsion painted all over her face, “gross.”
It was a mystery to Lei how such a simple statement as pointing out that her ice cream had turned to soup could make a huge part of her heart stop aching. How a small conversation, barely a few words said to be exact, about the most inane thing could make the painful constriction subside. How a smile, that little playful smile, from the girl beside her could make her get a glimpse again of that light at the end of her proverbial tunnel.
The brunette swallowed the lump that formed in her throat when she realized that the hazy vision came from her now watery eyes.
“Thank you, Kristen.” It was a barely there whisper, but enough that the blonde heard.
There was another moment of silence, until Lei felt the hand on her thigh and that oh so gentle squeeze.
“You know I’ll always be here for you, right?”
And even though unbidden images of previous friends and lovers came to her mind, of betrayal and the loss of trust (or the lack of trust to begin with), Lei didn’t feel that alone anymore.
“You have no idea how much that means to me.”
Sven was an enigma in her own right.
Julia knew that. Knew it from the first time she laid eyes on Sven.
She remembered how enamored she had been that day she saw Sven in the alley, alone except for that death stick loosely held in between fingers. Sven’s hair – dyed a dark copper tone – was a mess. Sven’s fingers were gently shaking, so gentle that she wouldn’t have noticed if she wasn’t paying more attention than she intended to in the first place. Sven’s clothes were rumpled and Julia just knew that the other girl couldn’t give a damn.
At that moment, Julia saw a broken girl.
But at that moment, she saw strength and passion and beauty.
Suffice to say, she was hooked.
Now, years after, she was still hooked.
She lived for moments when she would tease Sven about her numerous one night stands, knowing that she was the only person in the whole world who could get away with calling the other girl a slut in front of her face. She woke up every morning just so she could see that insufferable scowl on her best friend’s face, knowing it was a scowl meant only for her – Sven’s very own scowl of affection, compared to her usual scowl of aggravation.
Julia waded through every single day with the knowledge that no matter how much she rambled, how senseless her rants could sometimes be, how exasperating she could get, Sven always gave her the time of day. That when normally the other girl rolled her eyes and shut the world out, Sven never did that where Julia was concerned. Sven was always interested, was always patient, was still there despite looking like the indifferent girl that her reputation made her out to be.
And Julia, for the life of her, could never figure out how things worked out the way they did. How they both ended up being each other’s rock.
Because that was what Sven was to her.
Before Sven, Julia’s life had no direction. She didn’t know where she was headed, what she was meant to do, and even who she really was. She felt as if she was just standing there while everything moved around her. Sometimes, she felt as if she was drowning and she couldn’t breathe and still no one noticed.
But Sven gave her something she never thought she could get anywhere else, from anyone else.
Sven gave her the reason.
To wake up. To sleep. To walk through the days and stroll through the nights.
And though Julia knew that her best friend would never believe it, would deny it even, Sven gave her the reason to be happy.
So for that, Julia was grateful that she didn’t back down from the promise she made to herself that one day in the alley, even when narrowed eyes turned to gaze at her and then proceed to look through her.
It was a promise worth keeping. And though she doubted she would ever be able to tell Sven directly what it was, Julia was determined to keep the silent promise for as long as it took.
“Okay, girls. That’s it for” and her words faltered when she saw the figure from across the field, walking slowly, shoulders slumped and hoodie up in an inevitable attempt to keep to itself,”…today.”
The figure was far enough to be insignificant, but Diane saw nonetheless and took notice.
She looked back to the rest of the squad, all beautiful in their cheerleading glory, and Diane pasted a smile to her face, despite the fact that her stomach was now churning in indiscernible ways, “Same time tomorrow, everyone?”
With nods and mumbles, the other girls picked up their bags and headed for the shower room. Diane watched them all like the head cheerleader that she was, and when they were all far enough, or preoccupied enough to care about her, Diane headed for the other direction.
She traced the steps that led to a place no one would ever consider a cheerleader to be in, let alone the head cheerleader of Wright-Duncan High.
Diane had heard enough rumors about what happened in the alley. Stoners’ haven, some people even said, and that was enough for her to swear never to even set foot in the area. She was definitely beyond that just because she was Diane Briggs.
She was Diane Briggs, for God’s sake! What the hell was she doing?
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
It wasn’t said in anger or consternation. It wasn’t even accompanied with that pervasive scowl she wanted to damn well forget but just couldn’t.
They were garbled words that came partnered with a tired sigh.
And once again, Diane had no idea.
“I… I just…” she tried, but still nothing. Her mind was a blank but her stomach kept churning and something was pounding really, really loudly.
“Look, Diane, I’m not in the mood for games. Isn’t one encounter enough for today? I just want to be alone.”
There it was again. That exhausted sigh. It would have been so much easier if she was confronted with anything but that. A scowl. A smirk. A smug grin. Diane was ready for a quarrel. She was geared for a lashing, to force Sven to understand that what happened in the bathroom earlier that day was unacceptable. That no one, absolutely no one, was allowed to treat her the way Sven did.
But now, now, she was once again at a loss.
And despite herself, she came a little closer.
So it was just because of that that it became a little easier for the other girl to grab a hold of Diane’s wrist and tug her forcefully. Even closer.
And when Diane felt those lips again on hers, she couldn’t do anything else but close her eyes and give in. With one of her wrists still being held, she used her other hand to tangle fingers in messy, black locks that were surprisingly soft. When she felt that tiny lick of a tongue on her lower lip, she felt knees starting to turn into jell-o, and yet as if on instinct, she opened her mouth a little wider and that intruding tongue, she met with her own.
She couldn’t help it. The sensuous moan slipped out before she was able to stop it, and just like that, the other girl pulled back and the kiss was broken. Diane’s eyes were still closed, but this time, she was well aware of what just happened, what she just did, and with whom. And maybe, just maybe, if she kept her eyes closed, she could pretend that the person in front of her wasn’t who she knew it was, but that suave, new guy from the basketball varsity or her hunky ex from the swimming team.
“What do you really want?”
It was a husky, soft voice, and Diane remembered that night, that song. She remembered the smell of cigarettes and the flare that came from the eyes of the one person who had the guts to call her a bitch in front of everyone, with her inside the room.
Face flushed, and breathing still not quite in control. “I don’t know what I want anymore.”
Diane remembered how she pretended not to notice when they passed each other in the hallways, when in fact, she could see just how short the new haircut was or how dark the new hair color was which she thought complemented the dark eyeliner and the pale skin quite well. But she never said anything.
She remembered how she pretended to blanch that day Kristen told her she was helping establish the school’s GSA and mentioned that that Goth girl with those too dark clothes was along for the ride just because her punk friend was heading the organization. Inside, she was curious to know what the meetings would be like. What that girl – the one who made eye rolling a sport in itself – would be like in those meetings. Would that girl be spontaneous, or quiet, or surprisingly smart? But still, she never said anything.
She remembered how she pretended to only be there because Leila Charles-Carlson was there. To pretend that she wasn’t secretly thrilled that finally, there was a plausible reason for her, the head cheerleader and probably most popular girl in school, to be there.
She remembered how she pretended not to look, not to listen, not to notice, when everyday, it was getting just that much harder.
Diane finally opened her eyes and she was met with dark brown ones not her own, unblinking, unafraid.
And suddenly, she couldn’t pretend anymore.
“I want this.”
She closed her eyes once more as she leaned forward and was met with those searing lips.
Behind her lids was darkness, but not black. Brown. Dark brown.
End of chapter Ten…
Coming Soon on Of Tears and Broken Hearts:
“I am tired, mom, but I’m okay now. I just really needed to get out of there.”
“And you couldn’t decide on somewhere a little nearer, honey?”
Lei let herself smile, barely, but it was there nevertheless. “Far is better, mom.”
“Well, she’s different…and then again, she’s not really that different,” she looked up, thinking. “Like, there was that something when we met again. A familiarity. It was there, but it was confusing ’coz she’s different now.”
“Look, what you’re doing here? It’s ridiculous! You are a senior and soon, you’ll have your pick of any, and I mean ANY university in this country. So, why can’t you just wait a year more before you go off gallivanting to some unknown suburban neighborhood?”