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Hall of Mirrors

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Around 3 am, Carmilla shifted before opening her eyes. She felt Laura’s warm body against her and tried to make herself go back to sleep. She had no desire to get up, but unfortunately, her bladder had other plans. She got up as slowly as possible, removing Laura’s hand from her hair, hoping not to disturb Laura. Once she was standing, she took a minute to stretch her back out and look down at the beautiful light brown haired girl sleeping on her couch. Carmilla noticed the hand that had been in her head reached out for her, before Laura turned on her side with a small sigh. Carmilla placed a light kiss on Laura’s cheek before making her way to the bathroom.

After relieving herself, she crept back into the living room. She shook Laura’s shoulder lightly.

“Cupcake,” she whispered.

Laura let out a small whine before she stretched her limbs. She rolled to the original position she was in, on her back and slowly opened her eyes.

“What time is it?” Laura mumbled groggily, closing her eyes again.

“It’s around 3 am,” Carmilla stated looking at the small digital clock on the coffee table.

Laura’s eyes opened wide as she quickly sat up. She pushed the blanket off around her feet, struggling to move in her sleepy state. She managed to get up and started to look around for her stuff.

“What are you doing?” Carmilla asked in a harsh whisper.

“Getting my stuff together to go home.”

Carmilla walked up to Laura and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Come on, Cupcake.” She started to pull Laura towards her room.

“Carm, I live down the street.”

“And we will stop by in the morning so you can brush your teeth and change. I know this neighborhood is up and coming, but it’s still pretty dangerous at three in the morning. I don’t want you out there by yourself, but if I walk you home, I’ll be out there by myself and I don’t want that either. So come on.”

Laura didn’t put up much of a fight following Carmilla into her bedroom. They crossed the threshold and Laura noticed one thing immediately: It was rather warm in Carmilla’s bedroom, which made Laura uncomfortable. She tried not to show it, but it was really difficult for her to sleep warm. Carmilla turned on her pitiful AC, hoping it would accommodate Laura. It barely pumped out any air. She’s tiny so she can sleep in warm conditions. It won’t have an effect on her body.

“I can sleep on the couch, Carm.”

“You don’t have to. It’s not very comfortable and I know it’s hot in here, but I’ll leave my door cracked so the cool air can seep in from the living room. I’ll also plug in my box fan.”

“I can be hot, Carmilla. It’s okay.”

“No. I want you to be comfortable.”

She probably thinks I’ll sweat in her bed because of my body weight, Laura thought. She realized she was becoming more awake than she would like to be. She tried to push the thoughts from her mind. She knew if she didn’t, she would be wide awake until morning.

Carmilla placed the large box fan adjacent to her bed. She turned it on and Laura couldn’t deny that it made the room feel even cooler. She watched as Carmilla cleaned off her bed of the unnecessary clothing items, pushing them to the floor at the end of her bed. Laura turned her back when she noticed Carmilla pulling her pants down.

“It’s too hot for pants,” Carmilla commented after noticing Laura turning away from her. “And no, this isn’t me trying to make a move, I just prefer to not sleep in pants.”

“You do you, Carm,” Laura said as she awkwardly stood next to Carmilla’s bed. She was tired and wanted to lay down, but was worried because of their previous actions. Carmilla seemed to sense her hesitation.

“Don’t worry, Laura. I’m not asking for anything and even though I would like to eventually do something more with you, I'm so tired that I'm surprised I'm even managing to speak at all right now. But my bed is a lot more comfortable than that old couch and I promise to stay on my side of the bed. Okay?” Carmilla asked, holding her hand out to Laura.

Laura took Carmilla’s hand and nodded.

“Let’s go to sleep, Creampuff.”

Laura slowly climbed into Carmilla’s bed, under the sheets and felt her body relax as the smell of Carmilla overpowered her. At first she kept her back to Carmilla, taking in a breath to smell Carmilla’s pillows. She smiled. How can anyone smell as sweet as lavender and as earthy as rain at the same time? That box fan is powerful and I’m actually starting to get cold. I wish she’d put her arm around me or something.

Carmilla laid on her back with hands under her head and arms bent. She stared at the ceiling, her mind to active to fall back asleep. Well at least my therapist will be happy to know I laid in bed with a girl and didn’t even try to touch her. Even though I’m itching to touch her. Not sexually or anything. I just want to hold her, to make her feel safe.

Carmilla’s thoughts were interrupted as she felt Laura’s hand reaching back for her. Once Laura found the correct hand, she pulled on Carmilla’s arm until she felt Carmilla’s body heat filling the space behind her. The tension in the room that had been building since they laid down started to dissipate. Laura felt her mind and body relax as Carmilla pulled her closer. Carmilla placed a light kiss to Laura's shoulder. Laura slowly turned to look at Carmilla before snuggling into Carmilla's body. She lifted her head so Carmilla could extend her arm under her neck before settling her head under Carmilla's chin.

“All good?” Carmilla asked, loosening her grip.

Laura snuggled further into Carmilla. Carmilla took this as a good sign, making sure to hold Laura tighter. “All good,” Laura whispered, as Carmilla’s scent lulled her back to sleep.

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The week at the bookstore had taken a toll on the girls after that following Monday. Even though they had both enjoyed their unexpected sleepover, the week slowly progressed from quiet to be extremely busy. They agreed to sleep in their respectable beds to make sure they would be rested for the work week ahead and possibly trying to fight the temptation of sleeping together sexually. Laura wished she was ready, but after seeing Carmilla’s naked form that one morning after what they refer to as “the incident”, she couldn’t fathom the idea of being naked in front of Carmilla again. The thought made her depressed beyond belief.

By the time Friday rolled around, Laura and Carmilla couldn’t wait until five so they could finally have a night together. They had taken the train together that morning and grabbed a bite to eat at a diner before heading to the store. They were on their last large shipment and still had about forty boxes to go. David was expecting them to finish it, so that following Monday, when the semester started, no one would have to look in missing boxes for books.

Carmilla and Laura were sitting outside behind the store, on the steps, smoking a cigarette. They were taking a much needed break and both were relieved it was finally a suitable lunchtime.

“How many more boxes, Cupcake?” Carmilla asked, taking a drag from her cigarette.

“I think about half.”

“Ugh! My brain is going to explode and my fingers are numb from the number keypad,” Carmilla continued to complain.

“I know, Baby,” Laura said, blowing the smoke from the corner of her mouth, away from her and Carmilla.

Carmilla leaned against Laura. “Make it better, Cupcake.”

Laura leaned in and kissed Carmilla’s forehead. “Better?”

Carmilla sighed. “I mean a kiss on the lips would have been-.” She felt Laura’s lips against her’s and smiled. “Much better,” Carmilla said.

“Where do you want to get lunch, Carm?”

“I don’t know, Cupcake. Pizza?” Carmilla suggested.

“I thought that’s what we were going to do for dinner before the movie tonight?”

“Shit, you’re right. I forgot. Let’s see,” Carmilla paused, thinking. “Um… Chinese? Sushi?”

“How about Subway?” Laura suggested.

“You’re gonna make me eat a fake sandwich? What about the deli around the corner? They have real meat sandwiches.”

Laura was very particular when it came to sandwiches. She knew Subway was a bust, but was kind of in the mood for it. “What if you went to the deli and I went to Subway?”

Carmilla looked up at her before kissing her cheek. “Come on, Cupcake. Let’s go to Subway.”

Laura smiled as she stood up next to Carmilla. They flicked their cigarettes to the street as they walked with their arms wrapped around one another.

“So how is Will doing?” Laura asked.

“He’s good. I haven’t really heard from him. He’s closer to Mattie, but from what she tells me, he’s doing well.”

“That’s good. And Mattie?”

“She’s doing great. She has a big case coming up, so she’s trying to get everything together. Which pretty much means she’s going to be pulling all nighters at work probably next week.”

“That sounds tough.”

“She has a hard exterior when it comes to work. She’ll be fine. Once she wins, she’ll be asleep for days, unless another case crosses her desk.”

“She really does love being a lawyer, doesn’t she?”

“She’s a partner in her own small firm. She takes what she wants and dismisses the things she can’t handle. But when she takes a case, it becomes the most important thing to her.”

“What kind of cases does she normally take?”

“Usually rape cases and hate crimes. She’s known to win as well.”

“Wow, I don’t know if I could do that.”

“She’s strong and believes in the power of people. My sister is pretty cool and I must admit, I’m so proud of her.”

“I hope I get to know her better,” Laura admired.

Carmilla placed a kiss to the side of Laura's head. “I hope you do as well.” As long as I don't fuck this up and push you away like I usually do.

Carmilla held the door open for Laura before following her inside the cool building. She laced her fingers with Laura’s. Once they had made their way down the line. Laura paid for their lunches and a few of extra cookies.

“For later,” Laura whispered. “A movie snack.”

“Will they still be good by then?”

Laura gasped. “Don’t insult Subway cookies! I swear they make the best cookies I have ever tasted!”

Carmilla put her hands up in a mock surrender. “Sorry, Cupcake. I’m sure they are absolutely delicious.”

As they walked back to the store, Carmilla starting thinking about Mattie and her family. She then realized, she didn’t even know if Laura had any siblings.

“You've never told me about your family,” she commented.

“There really isn't much to tell.” My mother doesn't talk to me and my father just checks in to make sure I'm alive and healthy.

“Well what do your parents do?”

“Hey guys,” SJ said, smirking. Laura had never felt more relieved for an interruption.

Laura felt Carmilla starting to let go of her shoulder, but she quickly wrapped her arm around Carmilla's waist, holding her in place.

“Hey, SJ. Lunch?”

“Definitely. You let Laura take you to Subway?” She asked Carmilla.

“More like Laura clearly wanted it and made me go.”

Laura gaped. “I did not! I told you, you could go to the deli! I wouldn't have cared!”

“Relax, Cupcake,” Carmilla chuckled. “I need to teach you sarcasm.”

“No thank you. I think you cover that enough for the both of us.”

“Wow, you guys are like freaking adorable,” SJ observed.

“Are you making fun of us?” Laura questioned.

“Oh, so it's ‘us’ now? And no I'm not making fun. It's good to see you happy, Laura.”

Laura put her head down and stared at her shoes.

“Oh don't give me that bashful crap, Hollis. You know you deserve happiness after that shit you went through with Danny,” SJ added.

Carmilla noticed how Laura's entire body tensed. “How about we not talk about that giantess, bitch who broke my girlfriend’s heart.”

Laura looked at Carmilla.

“So you're girlfriend and girlfriend?” SJ seemed excited.

“No,” Carmilla quickly corrected. “But we're dating and I want you to respect the girl I'm dating. I wasn't there for that debacle, but at least I have the courtesy to not bring it up when it clearly still hurts Laura!”

That seemed to shut SJ up and Carmilla was relieved. “Come on, Cupcake. Let's go find a quiet place to enjoy our lunch.”

Laura looked at SJ with apologetic eyes. She would never have the nerve to talk to SJ or anyone that way, but she was kind of grateful that Carmilla said something about it. SJ, being who she is, smirked, rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders. That was her way of telling Laura, Carmilla's words had no effect on her or her friendship with Laura. That everything was all good.

“Have a good lunch you two,” SJ smiled before taking off.

“You too,” Laura said.

Carmilla continued walking to the back of the store.

“Carm, will you please try and be nice to her?”

“Why? She's annoying.”

“You don't even know her to make that judgement,” Laura argued.

“I don't have to know her. It's an obvious factor of her being. And to bring up your dumb ex-girlfriend-”

“She wasn't dumb, Carmilla!”

“Laura, anyone who cheats on you is an idiot.”

“Why?”

“Because you're one of the sweetest people in the world. And one of the most beautiful! You didn't deserve that.”

“But it's happened and SJ was really the only friend I had through the whole thing who was on my side. Perry and Lafontaine didn't take sides because they were friends with me and Danny. She was the only one who helped me. She says things like that to help me remember that after Danny, I do deserve something good and better. Sometimes, it's hard for me to remember that.”

“That's ridiculous, Laura. You didn't do anything wrong to need that reminder.”

“You don't know that! Every relationship has problems. Stop being so one sided.”

“I'm on your side.”

“And I appreciate that, but this happened years ago. You weren't there. It's in the past and if we're going to be anything, I would prefer to keep it that way!”

Laura wasn't sure why she was yelling. The subject of Danny always made her mad. She couldn't stand it and didn't know why anyone thought it was their business to even bring her into their conversations.

“Okay, Laura. I'm sorry. I won't say anything about it again.” Once again, I've pushed and pushed. She deserves so much better. I should tell her before it's too late and she thinks dating me is a good idea.

“I'm sorry I yelled, Carm.”

“Don't be. It's none of my business. You're right. It happened in the past.”

Laura stared at Carmilla. “Stop agreeing with me, please! It's annoying.”

Carmilla smirked, which only annoyed Laura further. “What?”

“I just mean I don't have to be right and you don't have to go to places you don't want to eat.”

“Laura I was just teasing you. I like Subway.”

“Well you don't have to agree with me about what's past is in the past.”

This was something Carmilla struggled with. Her past haunted her more than anything. Sometimes it kept her up all night with anguish. Her past was always present and it weighed heavily on her shoulders.

“It's something I'm trying to work on.”

“What is?”

“Letting the past be in the past. I struggle with that.”

“Oh,” Laura paused. “I'm sorry, Carm.”

Carmilla smiled. “It's okay. It's why I'm in therapy.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Come to dinner and a movie with me tonight?”

Laura nudged Carmilla. “I'm already doing that, Silly.”

Carmilla laughed. “Yeah well just don't cancel.”

“I won't. I promise.”

Laura moved closer to Carmilla.

Oh right, I have to remind her that today is the day for my session.

“Uh, just remember I have therapy after work and we're meeting around 7.”

Laura smiled. “I know. It's okay.”

Carmilla exhaled. “Okay.”

I hope one day I won't have to tell her that or tell anyone that. I hope one day I can be good enough for her. She deserves better. She will always deserve better.

Laura tried to read Carmilla while she watched Carmilla pull their chips and sandwiches from their bags. Carmilla turned to hand Laura her sandwich when she noticed Laura looking at her.

“What?”

Laura shrugged. “Just making sure you're okay.”

Carmilla nodded. “I’m okay.”

“Are you embarrassed to tell me you have a session?” Laura questioned. She knew there were parts Carmilla still wasn't ready to tell her and she didn’t blame her. There were definitely things she wasn't ready to express out loud either.

“I just hope one day I don't have to say it is all.”

Laura wrapped her arm around Carmilla's shoulder and rubbed her upper arm. “You'll get there, Carm.”

Carmilla smiled. “Thanks, Cupcake.”

Laura leaned in and gave Carmilla a quick peck before opening the paper around her sandwich. Carmilla just stared at her.

I don't know how I got this lucky, but thank you, universe!

Their lunch was spent on a happier note as they discussed the movie they were going to see and where they would get pizza. They laughed with one another behind the bookstore, enjoying a break from work and being in each other’s company.

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“So guys, Perry and I were thinking of having a pre-rush party tomorrow night at our apartment for everyone. Interested?” Lafontaine asked, as soon as the two girls re-entered the store.

Laura looked up to Carmilla who shrugged. Laura rolled her eyes, pretending to be annoyed.

“We'll be there,” Carmilla said, knowing Laura wanted her to express her own opinion. However, deep down, she knew Laura wanted to go which is the only reason she is agreeing.

“Great! We've hired a couple new rush people so I think I'm going to invite them as well. That way on Monday, we’ll all know each other and work better together.”

“Sounds good, Laf,” Laura said, nodding her head.

Lafontaine pulled a piece of paper out of their back pocket. “Alright, let me just mark down the two new lovebirds and-”

“Laf, we're not together,” Laura stated as if it was something obvious. She felt Carmilla shift beside her. I shouldn't have said that.

“Guys, I've seen you kissing outside the store.”

“Okay,” Laura quickly corrected, “We’ve been going on dates, but there are no official titles yet.” Laura stated proudly.

“I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! I can't wait to tell Per!”

“Like you haven't said something to her already,” Carmilla said under her breath, but loud enough for Lafontaine to hear her.

“I made an assumption and now I'm correct. My lovely partner owes me ten bucks!”

“Why do you always take bets?” Laura asked, running her hand down Carmilla's back to feel her fully relax.

“Because it's fun, Laura.”

“Okay, Laf.”

“So how's the dating going? I mean obviously well considering I've seen you two make out across the street and David informed us he saw you kissing downstairs. Not to mention the long looks you guys will share across the room or the tons of flirting that has happened by the boxes in front of the store and you guys always stand so close together. It's just obvious!”

“Laf!” Laura yelled. “The dating is going well and you know that's all I'm going to say bc I hate it when you pry!”

“I'm getting you drunk tomorrow. Then you'll tell me.”

“Carm won't let me get drunk, will you?”

“Well-” Carmilla started. Laura nudged her. “No, I won't let you get drunk. We don't want you spilling our deepest darkest secrets.”

Laura made a ‘I told you so’ face towards Lafontaine before looking back at Carmilla and smiling.

“What secrets? Are they juicy? You gotta tell me. You know I’m going to find out anyway. Can you give me a hint?” Lafontaine asked.

Laura decided it was best to ignore Lafontaine’s questions. “Come on, Carm. We have a lot of boxes to finish before the day is over. Bye, Laf.”

“See you two lovebirds in a little bit,” Lafontaine joked.

Laura flicked them off before heading back downstairs.

“I told you they were worse,” Laura commented.

Carmilla just chuckled.

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“Alright, Cupcake. I'll see you in an hour. Do you have the address?”

“Yeah, I have it and I'll see you in an hour.”

“You're not gonna run home and change are you?” Carmilla asked, looking down at her dusty pants and mustard stained t-shirt. Her sandwich leaked onto her shirt at lunch and even though Laura laughed so hard she couldn't breathe, Carmilla couldn't and didn't find it as funny as Laura did while she helped Carmilla clean it up.

“I wasn't planning on it unless you want me to go home and get you a shirt?”

“No, it's okay. Unless you're embarrassed to be seen with me in my dirty shirt?”

“Not at all, Baby.”

Carmilla smiled. “I'll see you in a little bit.”

Laura nodded and stood up. She wrapped her arms around Carmilla's neck, placing a light kiss against her lips. Carmilla wrapped her arms tightly around Laura's waist and held her as she kissed Laura deeply followed by a chaste kiss, letting Laura go.

“Have a good session, Carm.”

“Thanks.”

Laura followed Carmilla up the stairs to grab the last remaining box from their last huge order. Carmilla offered to take it downstairs but Laura dismissed her telling her to get going. With one more shared smile, Carmilla was out the door.

“Aw. You guys are just so cute together,” Perry commented.

“Geez, Laf. Couldn't even wait until you two were home to tell Perry?”

“Where's the fun in that?”

“I won't let them bother you about it, Laura.”

“Thanks, Perry.”

“But I think you two are a good match.”

Laura smiled. “Me too.”

Laura exited down the stairs with a smile on her face and a heavy box on her shoulder. I really like her. Maybe everyone is right. Maybe I do deserve something good. Maybe she can actually be attracted to me. Maybe. Laura shook her head before she opened the box, to finish out her work day.

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Carmilla was standing on a crowded rush hour train. She was shaking her leg and couldn't figure out why she felt so nervous and agitated. I wish that asshole would get their bag out of my back! Jesus. Why am I nervous? I've been going to Jess for a couple of months now. There's no reason for this! Carmilla was in a trance as she walked to the large industrial building and up to Jess’s office.

“Welcome, Carmilla.”

“Hey, Doc.”

Carmilla took place on the couch. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to talk about. She just felt lost and confused.

“What's on your mind?”

“Laura,” she answered honestly.

“How are things going with Laura?”

“I think they're going well.”

“You think it's going well or it is going well?”

“It's going great, Doc.”

“Then why are you not showing me excitement? Why is your voice monotoned?”

Carmilla shrugged. She looked down at her hands that she couldn't keep still. She was twisting her fingers around each other and rubbing her hands together. She felt frustrated with herself.

“You don't think you deserve to have this happiness, do you?”

Carmilla shook her head no, gritting her teeth. You don't show emotions! Stop it!

“Why?”

Carmilla shrugged. She really had no idea.

“Do you ever think that maybe the universe forgives you for the past and now is allowing you to finally be at peace with yourself and to forgive yourself?”

“I just think she deserves better.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think Laura deserves to be with someone who doesn't have my past. She deserves to be with someone amazing.”

“And you don't think you're amazing?”

“With drunk girls? Yes. With Laura? No.”

“Why?”

“I don't know. She scares me. What if she's just another Ell?”

“What if she's not?”

“But what if she is?”

“Well there's already one huge difference between Laura and Ell. Laura isn't trying you on and leading you on the way Ell did. I think Laura most likely respects you and most likely has no doubts that she wants to be with you. Do you think that?”

“I want to think that.”

“So then work on it. Ell is in the past. Don't compare Laura to her. Try not to think so much about what Ell did because Laura will most likely not do that to you.”

Carmilla nodded.

“Now let's talk about Laura and how your actual relationship is going.”

Carmilla smiled. She informed Jess of their date that past Friday and all the worriedness of the weekend. They discussed everything in full detail. Carmilla even expressed how she felt sleeping against Laura.

“I woke up both times feeling peaceful.”

“Well that’s certainly a good thing. Does she make you feel calm?”

“All the time. Even if I feel like I’m about to get mad, she’ll touch me, and I immediately relax.”

“Have you been getting mad recently?”

“Just around this one girl. She’s a coworker and Laura’s friend. I feel like she’s trying to pry into my life and my relationship with Laura. I just don’t like her and her comments make me angry. Like today she mentioned Laura’s ex. We talked about her. Like why would anyone bring that up in front of Laura?”

“Did Laura explain?”

“She said that SJ likes to remind her that she deserves someone good in her life.”

“Maybe you and Laura suffer from the same types of thoughts and feelings. Do you talk about that?”

“No. We haven’t talked about the past much.”

“So she doesn’t know about your mother or how you grew up?”

“No.”

“Does she even know about Ell?”

“I’m not ready to discuss that with her yet. But she has met Will and Mattie. I think Mattie might actually like her.”

“That alone should be a good enough reason to think you deserve to be with Laura.”

“Why?”

“Because Mattie hated Ell and all you other past girlfriends. If she shows any emotion of likeness towards Laura, I think that means something.”

“Maybe it does. But Mattie is also really good at hiding her emotions.”

“Did she act this way in front of the others?”

“No.”

Jess made a gesture. “There ya go.”

“I actually was thinking of asking Laura if she wanted to be my girlfriend tonight.”

“Oh. So you want to officially ask her?”

“I mean, yeah. I really do like her, but I’m scared when I tell her about Ell, my parents and everything else, she’ll change her mind.”

“If she truly cares about you, some problems from the past shouldn’t scare her off. Just like you shouldn’t allow anything that has happened in her past to affect the way you think about her. Remember, everyone does stupid things, everyone dates people we don’t like, everyone has made a mistake, but all those things have molded Laura into the person she is today. The person you are attracted to. Don’t let your jealousy and trust issues get in the way of something that can actually be good for you. That’s what I want you to work on this week. Open up to Laura a little more and see the things she tells you. Don’t let it bother you like it did in the past. Be open and honest.”

“I’ll try.”

“Good.”

Jess looked at her clock and Carmilla knew her time was up.

“Until next week, Doc?”

“I can’t wait to hear how it goes with Laura.”

Carmilla nodded and headed off towards the train to meet the girl that she couldn’t stop talking about. She wasn’t sure how she felt, but knew that the looming feeling of sadness needed to be shaken off before she got to Laura.

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Laura stood next to the street outside of Antonio’s Pizzeria, while smoking a cigarette. She kept checking the time on her phone. She’s late. Oh well probably got held up. I hope I’m not being stood up. No, she wouldn’t do that. Not at this point. I just hope she gets here before I finish this cigarette. I hate waiting awkwardly for someone.

Laura continued to smoke and look nonchalant even though she was getting more and more nervous that Carmilla wasn’t coming.

“Hey, Cupcake. Sorry I’m late,” she heard Carmilla say.

“It’s okay. I was just finishing this off anyway.”

Laura held out the cigarette for Carmilla, but she shook her head. “I’m okay. Thanks though.”

Laura took one more pull before throwing her cigarette on the ground and stubbing it. She noticed Carmilla looked a little solemn, but didn’t want to press the issue. She took Carmilla’s hand and smiled.

“Let’s get some pizza, Baby.”

Carmilla nodded and followed Laura inside. The place was small, but they managed to order two slices each and find a place to sit. Tonight’s conversation was rather quiet compared to their past evenings out. Carmilla didn’t really seem like she wanted to talk, and Laura wanted to respect that, but she felt the lingering silence take a toll on her and per usual, she couldn’t keep her mouth closed.

“The pizza’s really good here, Carm.”

“Yeah. They’ve been here forever.”

Laura nodded. She couldn’t think of anything else to say that wouldn’t be intrusive on Carmilla’s private sessions with her therapist. As if Carmilla knew she was making this more awkward than it needed to be, she cleaned her hand off with a napkin before reaching out and placing a hand on Laura’s thigh. It made Laura relax and feel better.

I guess this is her way of saying she’s here, but needs to figure out what’s going on in her brain.

Laura patted Carmilla’s hand before picking up her second slice and eating it. Carmilla left her hand there to rest on Laura’s thigh. She used her other hand for eating and taking sips of water, not wanting to let go. She calms me. I just need to touch her and I’m fine. I wish I could get out of this funk, but unfortunately therapy always affects me. I wish I could have a drink. If I could just have a shot of whiskey, it would relax me and I could let go. But I don’t want Laura to think I have an alcohol problem and let's be real, if I had one, I’d have 3 more. Maybe I do have a drinking problem. No, no I don’t.

Carmilla felt Laura’s hands against her.

“You okay?” Laura asked. She was done with her pizza and Carmilla had only taken a bite out of her second slice.

“Yeah. Sorry. I should tell you this. Sometimes after therapy I’m really happy and feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Sometimes I leave feeling miserable and the only thing I want to do is go home and cry. And then sometimes, I’m just left with this weird feeling that I can’t really explain. It’s like I want to be alone so I can think, but at the same time I want someone next to me so I can get out of my head. It’s just confusing.”

“Are you in that mood now?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry, Laura.”

“Carm, don’t be sorry. I understand. We can skip the movie if you want.”

Carmilla shook her head and grabbed Laura’s hand. “I don’t want to do that. I feel better when I’m with you, even if I’m not saying anything.”

Laura smiled. “I make you feel better?”

“Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. There’s just something about you that calms me down. Like when SJ makes me angry, you just run your hand over my back or touch me in the most slightest way and I feel at ease.”

Laura’s smiled widened.

Carmilla laughed. “Oh my gosh, that sounds so cheesy, doesn’t it?”

“It does, but it’s cute. I feel the same way actually.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I just feel like I can be myself around you and that’s comforting. I haven’t felt that way around another person before. I mean other than my close friends and my dad.”

“Are you and your dad alike?”

“Pretty much.”

“And what about your mom?”

Carmilla noticed Laura stiffen. “We were always opposites.” That's all Laura has ever managed to say about her mother.

“Ah. I understand that, Cupcake.”

“It’s the same with your mom?”

“Uh, kind of, I guess. I just did a lot of stupid stuff when I was a kid. She kind of held that against me my whole life, but now she doesn’t seem to care as much.” Carmilla shrugged.

“Wanna talk about something else?” Laura suggested, noticing Carmilla starting to slump again.

“Anything else,” Carmilla said, happy the subject was going to be changed.

“What’s your favorite color?”

“Purple, Cutie, and Yours?”

“Light green.”

“Like neon?”

“No more like the first hint of green on a Spring leaf. Almost a yellowish-green.”

“That’s an interesting color.”

“Well isn’t there a specific purple you like or do you like lavender as much as violet?”

“I see your point. I guess I like the hint of purple in the night’s sky during a sunset.”

Laura smiled. “That is a pretty purple.”

“Maybe one night we should go to Coney Island, sit on the boardwalk and watch the sunset.”

“Well aren’t you romantic?”

“Sometimes I can be, but don’t tell anyone.”

Laura laughed. Laura looked down to notice almost a full slice of pizza remained on Carmilla’s plate.

“Are you gonna eat that or do you want to head to the theater?”

“Let’s go be entertained by Hollywood.”

Laura took a bite out of Carmilla’s uneaten pizza before they got up.

“Do you want the rest of it?”

“Nope, just wanted that little bite.”

Carmilla threw away the half slice of pizza and immediately regretted it. I shouldn’t waste food like that.

Laura took Carmilla’s hand and led them back outside. As soon as they stepped on the sidewalk, Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulder, holding her close. Laura wrapped her arm around Carmilla’s waist before reaching up and holding the hand that rest against her shoulder. They walked down Court Street in a comfortable silence. Laura was just content to be next to Carmilla and Carmilla was grateful that Laura understood she didn’t want to talk and wasn't pushing her. Ell would have been all over her, bombarding her with questions. No stop. Don’t think about her. You’re with Laura and Laura is better than Ell ever was. Laura could love you one day, possibly. Who am I kidding? Probably not. Ell claimed to love you, but didn’t. She never loved you. Why would Laura even want to be with me? She’s such a good person and caring and thoughtful. I’m an idiot for thinking I should ask her to be my girlfriend.

They walked up to movies and got their tickets to see The Nice Guys. The guy at the ticket booth ripped their tickets and told them the direction of the theater.

“I hope this is good, Carm.”

“Uh, my brother liked it so maybe.”

Laura stopped and looked at the items at the concession stand. I hope she doesn’t think I’m fat, but who watches a movie without a snack?

“Do you want any snacks?” Laura asked.

“I thought you had Subway cookies.”

Laura’s eyes brightened. “I totally forgot! Thanks for reminding me!”

Laura went through her bag and sure enough there were the four individual bags of chocolate chip cookies. “There’s two for me and two for you.”

Carmilla nodded, but didn’t smile. She deserves better, but I want her with me. Maybe I should just let her go. I should let her find someone who could be good for her.

“Carm?”

“Yeah?”

“Where do you want to sit?”

Carmilla hadn’t realized she followed Laura inside the theater. She knew spending fifteen dollars on this movie was a bad idea. I’m not even going to be able to pay attention.

“Wherever you want, Cupcake.”

“How about middle of the back row?”

“Sounds good.”

Carmilla followed Laura up the stairs and settled down next to her. Laura handed her the two chocolate chip cookies, but Carmilla shook her head.

“The pizza filled me up. I’m not hungry.”

“Oh. Okay.” I’m huge. I ate two and a half slices, and still could eat these cookies. She had one slice and is full. Not to mention, she had water. I had a soda. She’s probably acting this way because she’s embarrassed to be seen with me. She’s probably surprised I can sit in this chair without my fat hanging over the armrests.

Laura shifted away from Carmilla, but Carmilla pulled her closer. Don’t leave. I wish I could give you the world you deserve to have, but all I can give is me. Fucked up, little ole me.

“Laura?”

“Yeah?” Laura asked. She was about to pull at the front of her shirt when Carmilla took her hand and threaded their fingers together.

“You don’t need to do that,” Carmilla stated.

“It’s just uncomfortable,” Laura said, using her other hand to pull her t-shirt off her stomach. She let go of Carmilla’s hand to pull the sweatshirt out of her book bag. She put it on. Carmilla thought she was cold, but she was really doing it to hide her stomach. Laura looked up at Carmilla with a shy expression before taking Carmilla’s hand again.

“Cold?” Carmilla asked.

“A little.”

Carmilla lifted the armrest that sat between them. “Can I help?”

Laura smiled and snuggled into Carmilla’s side, without being the obnoxious couple cuddled up like they were watching a movie at home. She felt the familiarity of Carmilla’s arm wrapping around her as she placed her hand on the inside of Carmilla’s thigh, resting her hand against Carmilla’s knee. They shared a brief kiss as the movie started.

----------------------------------

Throughout the movie, Carmilla would stare at Laura to see her reactions. The way she laughed and jumped at certain parts. The way she would roll her eyes when she didn’t agree with a statement being said. Sometimes Carmilla couldn’t help herself, but place a kiss on Laura’s cheek and when she did, Laura’s face would blush with a bashful smile. It gave Carmilla butterflies in her stomach. Sometimes Laura would catch her staring and nod her head towards the screen whispering things along the lines of, “stop staring at me”, “the movie is that way”, or “the movie is a lot more entertaining than me”. Carmilla begged to differ. She could care less about the movie that was happening on the big screen. Laura was the only entertainment she wanted to watch.

----------------------------------

Once the movie was over, Carmilla was still staring at Laura.

“Did you like it?” Laura asked, adjusting to stand up.

“Yeah, it was funny.”

“Are you sure? You seemed to be entertained more by me than the movie.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

“Have you ever watched a movie with someone staring at you? It’s a little unnerving.”

“Sorry, Cutie. I guess I just found you more entertaining.”

Laura smiled and leaned down. She gave Carmilla a quick kiss before holding out her hand.

“You didn’t eat your cookies though,” Carmilla commented.

“Oh, I wasn’t hungry.”

“You know, just because I didn’t feel well, didn’t mean you couldn’t eat your cookies.”

“Didn’t feel well? You said you weren’t hungry.”

“I mean I was full, but it’s because I was nervous.”

“Why were you nervous? We’ve watched movies together before.”

“I know. I don’t know why. I guess it’s from therapy.”

“Well don’t be nervous, Silly. Do you want a cookie now?”

The thought of eating made Carmilla’s stomach turn. “No thank you. But please eat one if you want to.”

“I’m okay.” I’ll eat like a pig when I get home. She doesn’t need to see me eat my slop.

Carmilla took Laura’s hand as they exited the building. They weren’t expecting it to be pouring down rain.

“I had no idea it was supposed to rain,” Carmilla commented, looking more grouchy than before.

“I didn’t either. Did you bring an umbrella?”

“Nope. You?”

“Nope. What should we do?”

“Well we have one of two options. Stay here until it calms down or run the four blocks to the train. Up to you.”

Laura got a wicked look in her eye. She turned and kissed Carmilla passionately before turning away and whispering in her ear. “Race you.”

Carmilla smiled as Laura took off down the street, laughing. Carmilla was quick to catch up to her, laughing alongside her.

“I hate exercise, Cupcake!” She yelled.

“So do I, but might as well get there as fast as we can,” Laura stated, running faster.

“Oh come on!” Carmilla yelled, trying to keep up with her. For those short little legs, man can she run fast.

Laura ran down the subway stairs as fast as she could, wishing she could take two at a time without killing herself. She was majorly out of breath while she swiped her Metrocard and stood next to the tracks. It was late and the next 4 train wasn’t coming for 15 minutes. She was leaning over, trying to catch it when she saw a very wet Carmilla join her.

“What took you so long?” Laura huffed with a smile.

“Ha ha. Very funny, Cupcake. Now I’m soaking wet.”

“So am I, Carm. Admit it, though. You just had some fun with my challenge that I totally won.”

Carmilla’s mood of uncertainty started to shift into what she always felt around Laura: happiness. She wrapped her arms around Laura’s waist and kissed her. Laura reciprocated, cupping Carmilla’s face in her hands. Carmilla pulled away to see a blissful expression on Laura’s face.

“Laura?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m not really the best person in the world and I have a lot of baggage and have done a lot of fucked up stuff, but I wanted to ask you something.”

“What an interesting start to your question, but ask away,” Laura teased.

Carmilla sighed with a smile on her face. “Well I think it’s an important thing to say since we’re still learning things about each other. I just don’t want your opinion of me to change.”

“Have you murdered someone in the past and you’re scared I’ll find out?”

“No. Murdering someone was never on my to do list, but I have been known to get in some pretty nasty bar fights.”

“Like verbal fights?”

“More like once I punched a guy so hard in the face repeatedly that I broke his nose and my right hand. Not to mention the two black eyes I gave him.”

Laura’s eyes widened. “Seriously?”

“Unfortunately. But he deserved it and I was pretty wasted.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, uh. He was making derogatory comments in regards to my sexuality and then he got mad that I got the girl he had been hitting on for an hour. He just wouldn’t shut up. I was so drunk that I just got really mad and punched him square in the face. And for some reason, I couldn’t stop.”

“Did you get arrested?”

“Unfortunately.”

“So you have a record?”

“No. Mattie was able to settle with the guy. His friends informed the judge of the things he had said to me, and that he deserved what he got. Even he agreed he deserved some of it. He didn’t make me pay for his hospital bills, which I was grateful for.”

“But he pressed charges?”

“Yeah. Mattie was able to get those knocked down to misdemeanors and I had to go to AA and take an anger management course. I started therapy after that too.”

“Do you still get that angry?”

“I mean that was more of mix of alcohol and anger, but I’m better at controlling it. I probably shouldn’t have told you that. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. It’s part of who you are. You can’t change it. I’ve never been in a fight like that, but one time in second grade, a girl called me fat and pushed me in the sand. I got in trouble for pulling her hair and putting a small frog in her overalls.”

Carmilla busted out laughing, which caused Laura to laugh too.

“They couldn’t technically prove the frog was my fault. I was just holding it in my hands, she got to close and down it went. She screamed and ran to the teacher who had to check her, but it wasn’t there anymore. I still got in trouble for it.”

“From your parents or your teacher?”

“Both.”

“That’s probably one the best stories I have ever heard.”

“Glad you liked it. I enjoyed doing it.”

Carmilla turned her attention to the electronic sign to see the train was about 7 minutes away. She sighed before trying to get some of the moisture out of her clothes.

“Guess I didn’t need to worry about my mustard stain,” She commented, shaking the shirt from skin.

Laura pulled on the front of her shirt. “Maybe the rain helped to get the stain out.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Carmilla fiddled with the stain on her shirt.

“So you had a question for me?” Laura asked.

“Oh, right.” Carmilla started fidgeting with her hands again. Laura grabbed both of them and leaned against one of the subway pillars.

“And that question is?”

“I’m kind of nervous to ask it, if I’m being honest.”

“Why?”

“What if you say no?”

“Why don’t you ask me so I can let you know what my answer will actually be?”

Carmilla swinged her and Laura’s arm around, trying to gather her bearings. Look, she says no, she says no. Sure you’ll be devastated and push her away almost immediately and probably make some excuse to go back upstairs to get a drink, but you don’t know until you ask her. She should say no. I can’t believe she was just so whatever about that story.

“Carm?”

“Uh, right. Yeah. I do have a question. I have a lot of questions,” Carmilla laughed nervously. It came out more as “ha, ha, ha” than a real laugh.

“Carm, if you’re about to ask me what I think you’re about to ask me, then I can guarantee my answer will most likely be yes. And then I’ll call you Silly and give you a k-.”

“Will you be my girlfriend?”

Laura smiled and pulled Carmilla closer to her. They made eye contact and for the life of her, Laura couldn’t figure out why Carmilla seemed so nervous.

“Yes.”

“Yes?” Carmilla whispered, resting her forehead against Laura’s.

“Yes, Silly.”

Carmilla laughed before feeling Laura’s lips brush against hers in a gentle kiss.

“I’m surprised you were that nervous to ask me. Why didn't you just write me a letter at work today that said, ‘Will you be my girlfriend? Check yes or no’ on it,” Laura joked.

“I just wanted to make sure because my feelings for you seem to grow stronger every time I see you and if I’m being honest, I don’t want to lose the feeling I have around you.”

“And what feeling is that?”

“Happy. You make me feel happy, Laura.”

That caused Laura to smile. “You make me happy too, Carm.”

They shared a few more kisses as the train rolled into the station. They held hands and walked into the freezing cold subway car together. They agreed to stand, since their clothes were soaking wet. Carmilla leaned against the door, and held Laura close to her. They used their body heat to stay as warm as possible. Laura rested her head against Carmilla’s chest, listening to her heartbeat. She felt Carmilla kiss the top of her head and smiled. Maybe this will be okay. I can’t believe she beat some guy up though. Is it weird that I find that kind of hot?

The train rolled into the next station and the doors opened. Laura didn’t move from her spot, nestled against Carmilla. She was just slowly falling asleep to Carmilla’s soft heartbeat when she heard her name being called. She noticed Carmilla’s body tensed and her heart rate picked up, making Laura feel uneasy. She first noticed the small girl standing next to the body she used to know so well. She looked up to see the familiar red head looking down at her.

“Danny?!”