Actions

Work Header

Hall of Mirrors

Chapter Text

“Carm. Wait,” Laura shouted, following after her.

“Carm?!” She yelled again.

She ran to catch up with Carmilla who had taken off down the street. After her couple of months of running, it didn’t take much to catch up to her. She grabbed Carmilla’s arm and pulled on it. Carmilla tried to wiggle her arm out, but Laura’s grip was firm.

“Just stop, please.”

Carmilla didn’t put up much of a fight and stopped in front of Laura. It was clear that she was angry. Laura could tell she was gritting her teeth.

“What you just said… it isn't true. I want you to meet my parents, I do. I really, really do. It's just complicated. They make things complicated. But I really want you to meet them. I'm just scared.”

“Why?” Carmilla barked.

Laura flinched. “I'm scared they're going to compare you to Danny.”

“Why would that be a bad thing?”

“No. I mean they'll do it negatively.”

“So? What could they possibly say? That I’m not good enough for you?”

“Exactly. That is exactly what they will say.”

“Why would that matter? Do you think I'm not good enough for you?”

“What? Of course not! You're perfect for me. I love you. No one has ever treated me with the same tenderness and care that you do. You're the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I'm sorry I lied. It's just I haven't told them about you and-”

“We've been together for almost four months, Laura. How have you not told them about me?”

“I rarely talk to them.”

“Four months! You haven't talked to them in nearly four months? I find that very hard to believe, Laura. If you do things like this, it's hard to believe it's not me. That there's something wrong with me. That I am the problem.”

“No, Carm. It isn't you, I swear. It's me. It's all me.”

“I mean you've met my entire family.”

“I know. I know all of that, but your family is open and accepting. My parents aren't like that. I've always been afraid to talk to them about anything. Telling them I was gay was like a slap in the face. They don't get it and they haven't really said if they approve it or not. I don't want you to have to go through that.”

“But Laura, I'm going to have to go through it. Don’t you realize that? Do you plan on leaving me anytime soon?”

Laura's eyes widened in horror. She couldn't imagine life without Carmilla standing next to her. She knew it was crazy to think this way, but Carmilla was the first person to treat her like an actual human. A human with emotions. The thought of not being with Carmilla terrified Laura more than anything.

Laura stepped forward and cupped Carmilla's cheeks. Carmilla closed her eyes and rested her forehead against Laura's. She was letting her guard down. Too easily, she thought, but Laura had a strong hold on her heart and she couldn’t just walk away. No matter how upset she was.

“I have no plans to leave you, ever,” Laura answered truthfully.

“Good,” Carmilla whispered. “We will have to get this out of the way eventually, so why not do it now? Why prolong the process any longer than necessary?”

“Are you sure you want to meet them?”

“Well they made you into a pretty decent human being so that has to mean something. And remember my mother is the spawn of Satan, so if I can handle her, I can handle anyone.”

“Your mother really isn't that bad. You know I actually like her very much.”

“Well good because she likes you too.”

“Maybe we should just invite her to dinner and watch my parents squirm as she grills them,” Laura laughed, lightly.

“Well, why not?” Carmilla questioned.

“Because we've only been together for four months and parents don't usually meet each other until engagements.”

“Well yeah, but it could be fun.”

“Yeah,” Laura agreed.

They're not sure when, but they both started walking in the direction of the train, mindlessly. Carmilla took Laura's hand and held it dearly. They descended the stairs and luckily jumped onto the 4 train with ease. They found two seats together and sat. Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura's shoulder while placing her right foot on her left knee to cross her legs loosely. After a few minutes, Laura placed her hand on Carmilla's knee.

“Hey,” Laura said.

“Hey,” Carmilla replied.

“I'm meeting my parents for lunch tomorrow and I would like it if you to came with me.”

“Honestly, Laura, at this point, I just feel like I would be intruding.”

“No you wouldn't. Please come with me. You're right. Whether we do this now or in a year, it would happen eventually. Might as well get it done with. I have to be an adult.”

Carmilla chuckled. “An adult, huh?”

“Yes. So will you please come with me?”

“What if they're mean to me? Do I get something in return?” Carmilla questioned with a pout.

“Like dessert?”

“More like a special kind of dessert.” Carmilla smiled and winked at Laura.

“Oh, don't worry, Baby. That can definitely be arranged. As long as that is a yes for tomorrow. So yes?”

“Sure.”

Laura kissed Carmilla's cheek. “Thank you.”

“I'm still down with the Mother plan. She would love to meet them.”

“I'm sure she would. How about we see how well lunch goes and if it sucks, we bring in your Mother for dinner?”

“Fair warning, she doesn't put up with homophobia. And she'll call them out if they do anything she disagrees with.”

“Oh, I know, Carm.”

“So what time is lunch?”

“Noon.”

“And where?”

“Oh, probably The Shakespeare on the east side.”

“What kind of food do they have?”

“It's an English pub so think English food.”

“What do you usually get?”

“Fish and chips.”

“Okay, I can do that. Easily.”

“It's really good, Carm.”

“Cool.”

Neither of them missed the moment of awkward silence between them.

“You're nervous aren't you?” Laura asked, rubbing Carmilla's knee before laying her head down on Carmilla's shoulder.

“A little, but I'm good with parents. They're going to love me.”

“And if they don't, at least I love you.”

“And I wouldn't want it any other way.”

The rest of the train ride was rather quiet. Both of their minds running a mile a minute.

I know she's mad at me for not telling her. I don't blame her. How could I? I’d be pissed too. I have to make it up to her. This IS my fault. I don't know why I couldn't just tell her. Or why I couldn’t just tell my parents that I’m dating someone that I love very much. It's so stupid. I’m so stupid. It's just my parents. What can I do? Food? No. Flowers? Laura looked up from Carmilla’s shoulders.Hm. Maybe. I'll have to ask Mattie what I can do to make it better.

Laura's parents. I'm meeting Laura's parents. Why didn't she just tell me? Is it really going to be that bad? It could be, but I'll do everything in my power to make it right. To make sure it goes well. I love her, but I can't help but feel, I don't know… disappointed? Upset? Nervous? All of that? Alright. Calm down. Breathe. She isn’t Ell. Laura isn’t Ell.

They got off the train at their stop and started walking in the direction of their apartments. Carmilla didn't hesitate when she pulled the pack of cigarettes from her jacket pocket. She had felt them resting against her hand the entire train ride and it was driving her crazy. She put one cigarette against her lips and lit it. She took a deep inhale before using her left hand to carry it while holding Laura's with her right. Laura didn't say anything. After all the stress from tonight, she wish she had the courage to ask Carmilla for one.

After a moment, she took Carmilla's cigarette from her mouth. She rest the cigarette against her lips, took her own tug before handing it back to Carmilla. They continued to share the cigarette as they walked down the street.

“Carm?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we make a pit stop at my apartment? I just need to get some clothes for the weekend.”

“Sure.”

The silence lingered. It bothered Laura to no end. She felt like it was her responsibility to fill the silence.

“Are you mad at me?” Laura asked.

Carmilla shook her head no.

“Are you sure?”

Carmilla nodded.

Okay so now she isn't talking to me which means I fucked up. Damn it, Hollis! Why are you like this? Why can’t you do this right?

They walked up the stairs to Laura's apartment building and made their way inside. Once they entered the apartment, Carmilla made her way to living room while Laura walked down the hall to her bedroom. She grabbed a denim button down that had little red dots on it to wear tomorrow. A pair of black jeans. A white t-shirt and a gray sweater. She opened her underwear drawer to see it completely bare. Shit.

Laura cautiously walked back to the living room. She poked her head through the doorway to see Carmilla laying down on the couch. Her eyes were closed and she had a arm resting across her eyes. Laura felt her heartbeat pick up just from looking at Carmilla. She quietly moved closer to her and laid down on top of her. She felt Carmilla's arms wrap around her waist.

“I'm sorry,” Laura whispered.

“It's okay, Cupcake. I'm just.” Carmilla took a moment. “I'm just a little disappointed is all.”

“I know.”

“I mean I want to meet your parents, but I don't understand why you couldn't just tell me, Cupcake.”

“I honestly don't know why, Carm. I'm sorry.”

“It's fine. Ready to go?” Carmilla shifted, sitting up.

“Um, yeah. I just have a question.”

“What?”

“Well remember when I said I needed to do laundry? That wasn't a lie and I need to wash some underwear. It seems I don’t have a clean pair left.”

“So? Just go without it.”

“So you can sit in a restaurant with my parents and thinking about me not wearing underwear? I don't think you'd be able to control yourself,” Laura smiled.

“Oh I think you would be surprised by how much I can contain myself.”

Laura leaned towards her before straddling her lap. “Oh yeah?”

She leaned in and kissed Carmilla's neck. It didn't take long for Laura to realize Carmilla was just sitting there like a stranger. Her arms resting by her sides, only touching Laura where she was sitting on her lap. No movement and no eye contact.

“Color me impressed,” Laura said, placing a kiss against Carmilla's lips, trying to hide her disappointment. The kiss was light and sweet. Laura was trying to keep the mood up, but it clearly wasn’t working. She got off Carmilla's lap and stood.

“So l guess a quick stop at the laundromat and then to your place?” Laura asked.

“Cupcake, just gather what you need washed and bring it to my place. You're never here anyway so you should just keep it there.”

Laura felt her heart swell when Carmilla called her “Cupcake”.

“Sounds good. I'll be ready in like five minutes?”

“Okay.”

Carmilla laid back down on the couch. She isn't Ell. She isn't Ell. She isn't Ell.

Laura made her way back to her room after getting a plastic bag from the kitchen. She filled it with all her dirty underwear, including socks and a few t-shirts she hadn't washed in a gross amount of time. Okay. She called me “Cupcake” so she can't be too mad. Right? Isn't that her letting me know she still loves me? I mean, of course she still loves me, right?

Laura gathered the rest of her stuff and went back to the living room.

“Ready?” She asked, popping her head into the living room.

Carmilla opened her eyes and looked at Laura. She nodded her head and got up.

“Are you sure it's okay I do laundry at your apartment?” Laura asked.

“Positive.”

Carmilla took Laura's book bag and bag of laundry. She slipped the backpack onto her own back. I might be upset, but I can still show her that I care. Ugh, chivalry never looked good on me.

“Need help?” Laura asked.

Carmilla shook her head no.

“You don't have to do that, you know? I can carry it,” Laura stated, locking the door behind them.

“I know,” Carmilla mumbled.

They were back outside before they knew it walking to Carmilla's apartment. Carmilla held out her one open hand to Laura who gladly took it. The walk was silent and not comfortable. Laura felt the need to fill it, but kept biting her tongue. They walked inside Carmilla's warm apartment building and up the stairs. She couldn't read Carmilla. She didn't seem angry or overly upset, but something was off.

They went inside and Laura smiled toward Mattie, who was standing at the kitchen counter. Mattie did not reciprocate. Carmilla, with her head low, walked straight to her bedroom, Mattie’s eyes on her as she walked.

“Uh, hey, Mattie,” Laura said, with an awkward wave.

“Carmilla seems upset,” Mattie noted.

“Did she talk to you about it already?”

“No, but I know when she isn't okay. So care to tell me what's wrong with her?”

Laura exhaled. “My parents are coming tomorrow and I haven't handled any of this well.”

“So Carmilla is just nervous then?”

“Not exactly. She's mad at me. I might not have told my parents about her and-”

“What?” Mattie asked. “You've been together for quite some time to not have brought her up.”

“My parents are difficult.”

“Which is just an excuse.”

“I invited her to lunch tomorrow with them.”

“Before or after she found out? Was it out of love or self pity?”

“After she found out, but if Lafontaine wouldn't have opened their stupid mouth, I was going to tell her after dinner and then invite her.”

“You've made her feel like a burden.”

“She isn't a burden. Look I know what I did was stupid and childish. I regret it and I should have told her immediately, but I'm trying here.”

“Are you ashamed of her?”

“What?! No! I love her!”

“Yes, love. But just remember there was one girl that used to say she loved her deeply, but never told anyone about her. About their relationship.”

Laura's eyes widened in realization. She ignored the rest of Mattie's speech and walked straight to Carmilla's door. She stepped in to see Carmilla laying on her bed, the same way she had found her on her couch. She closed the door.

“I'm not ashamed of you, you know? And honestly, I don't want you to compare me to your ex because I'm not her. I'm not ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone about us! I have no problem going to the roof of this building and screaming to this world how much I love you because I do love you. Being embarrassed or sheepish is not the reason I didn't tell my parents. You are not the reason my parents don't know about us. I am the reason. They make me feel so uncomfortable talking about it that I tend to just ignore that side of my life so we don't have to discuss it. But that doesn't mean I'm ignoring you or that I don't want them to know about you. I just want them to be happy with who I am. But,”

Laura moved to kneel beside the bed. Carmilla's eyes were open now and she turned on her side to make eye contact. Laura threaded her hands with Carmilla’s.

“I don't want you to think that I am ashamed to be with you. Our relationship isn't some light and frothy thing. It is the axis that my world turns on. You have done so much for me Carmilla and I love you more than words. You make me so incredibly happy and I can't imagine life without you now. So please, please don't think I didn't tell them because of you. Please.”

Laura rested her head against the mattress as her eyes welled with tears. She tried to keep her breathing under control. She felt like the lowest person in the world; the biggest piece of shit to ever walk the earth. The feeling of hurting Carmilla was killing her slowly.

“I'm sorry,” she whispered. “I'm so sorry, Carm.”

She felt Carmilla's thumb rub against her hand and she squeezed back in response. Carmilla let go of her hands, but only to pull her up onto the bed. Laura quickly kicked off her boots and laid down next to Carmilla. They both fought to hold one another, and settled with their arms wrapped around each other.

“You're right. Four months is way too long to not have mentioned you to my parents. Trust me when I say, I feel terrible,” Laura said, resting her forehead against Carmilla's shoulders.

“I know you're not her,” Carmilla said, finally speaking. “But I'm not used to being in a healthy relationship. So I guess it is easier for me to return to that mindset when I heard about your parents. I’m just hurt, you know?”

“I know, Baby. I'm so sorry.”

“It's okay. I forgive you,” Carmilla used her index finger to lift Laura's head from her shoulder. She lightly dragged Laura's chin to her and kissed her gently. They stayed close for one moment, breathing each other in before Laura pulled back. She got off the bed and pulled her phone out from her back pocket. Carmilla watched her as she tapped the screen a few times and then brought the phone to her ear. Laura started to pace around as Carmilla watched her.

“Hi, Dad. Did you get in okay?”

Just perfect. We're on our way to the hotel right now. We're at the Hampton on 51st and 8th. I was thinking we could go to that diner across the street tomorrow at Cosmic Diner for breakfast instead of going to Shakespeare for lunch. It’s a little on the pricey side and this is just easier to get to. Then this way we can go to museums or whatever and not worry about finding a lunch spot. Would 10 work for you?

Laura looked at Carmilla. She put her dad on speaker phone.

“My dad wants to get breakfast in the morning at 10, instead of doing lunch at Shakespeare. Does that work for you?” Laura asked.

Carmilla looked at her.

Laura, who are you talking to?

“Does that work for you?” Laura asked again.

Carmilla nodded. “Yeah, that works for me.”

Laura who is that?

“Dad, that is my girlfriend, Carmilla. She's joining us tomorrow for the day. That's okay, right?”

Uh, yes, of course, but you haven't told me anything about a girlfriend. I'm not sure it's appropriate to bring someone that you've just started dating to meet your parents.

“We've been together since the start of the semester. I didn't tell you because it's not like you or mom make this easy, but she's coming tomorrow. Warn mom so she won't have that shocked face she tries to get away with and I want you both to be warm and welcoming. I love her and I don't expect this to be some empty thing. This,” Laura paused and looked at Carmilla. “This is the real thing, Dad. We will see you tomorrow at Cosmic Diner at 10.”

Well okay, Sweetheart.

“Goodnight, Dad.”

With that, Laura hung up her phone. Carmilla smirked at her. She scooched closer to the edge of the bed to place her feet firmly on the ground. “Well he seemed nice.”

“Yeah, yeah. He actually is a nice guy.”

“You didn't have to do that, Laura.”

“Yes I did.”

“I believe you when you say you're not ashamed to be with me.”

“That's not why I did it. I called him because trust me, giving them warning is a lot easier than surprising them.”

“Okay. If you say so.”

“I do say so.”

Carmilla smiled. “I love you. You know that right?”

Laura stood in between Carmilla's legs. Carmilla wrapped her arms around Laura's waist and rested her chin against Laura's stomach. For once, Laura didn't flinch or pull away. She just ran her fingers through Carmilla's hair with a loving smile.

“I know and I love you too. And again, I’m sorry.”

“How many times are you going to say you’re sorry?”

“For however long it takes for me to not feel guilty and like an ass hole.”

“Well know, I’ve forgiven you. In fact, I’ve forgiven you so much, I’m going to throw your laundry in the washer.”

“I can do that.”

“No, it’s okay. Stay here.”

Carmilla stood up, kissed Laura momentarily and then grabbed the small plastic bag of dirty clothes. She exited her room and Laura stood in the door frame. She made brief eye contact with Mattie, who hadn’t moved from her spot in the kitchen. Laura could see a few papers scattered on the counter as well as a cup of coffee. Once their eye contact broke, Laura went back into Carmilla’s room, shutting the door. Mattie looked towards Carmilla and studied her. She definitely seemed lighter and not as upset.

“Everything alright, Sis?” Mattie asked.

Carmilla smiled. “All good.”

“You sure?”

Carmilla knew what Mattie’s intention was, but didn’t have the brainpower to deal with it. “She didn’t mean to do that. She literally just called them to tell them about me and that I’m joining their day tomorrow. Everything is fine.”

“I don’t want you to go through that again.”

Carmilla finished loading the washer before adding some soap and hitting the start button. She walked over to her sister. “I know. And I don’t want to go through that either, but Laura isn’t like that. She’s not ashamed to be with me. I think her parents just make her struggle with this. I don’t think she feels comfortable around them so I have to respect that. Yes, I’m disappointed that after almost four months she hadn’t said anything to them, but she has now and I have to respect that. It’s not me, it’s her. She just has a hard time with her parents and her sexuality.”

“I like Laura, but if she hurts you like Ell-”

“Mattie, she isn’t Ell and we have to remember that. We both know my bad side, but she isn’t going to do that.”

“I just want you to be careful.”

“And I am. Laura talks to me. She explains herself to me. Ell never did that. She played mental games with me, but Laura isn’t doing that. I think she just doesn’t think things all the way through sometimes, but she isn’t manipulating me. She loves me and she just made a mistake.”

“Carmilla.”

“What?! Yes she can be naive sometimes, but she has a good heart Mattie!”

“Just promise me, if you start seeing old symptoms, you'll let me know. I can take care of her.”

“Nothing needs to be taken care of. I love her and she loves me. And unlike Ell, we say it frequently to one another and I know she means it. She's different. She's better. Okay? Will you let this go?”

“Fine. I do like the little moppet so as long as she doesn't hurt you-”

“She won't.”

They shared a look that they both knew so well. A look that told them they are in an agreement. Carmilla made her way back to her room. Laura was sitting on her bed, looking at her phone. She immediately set her phone down on the night stand.

“You're jumpy.”

“What? No. Just reading.”

“Your Snape and Ron fic?”

“What? How did you-”

“You always leave it open on your phone. You read it all the time even when I’m gone for literally two minutes, like right now.”

“Well that’s not embarrassing at all.”

Carmilla smirked and laid down next to Laura, wrapping her arm protectively around her stomach, pulling her as close as she could. Laura smiled and got situated before kissing Carmilla’s forehead.

“Sleepy?” Laura asked.

“A little, but not like ready for bed sleepy, just comfortable, I could drift off tired.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

“Maybe, but I’m just content.”

They laid comfortably for a moment.

“So why Snape and Ron?” Carmilla asked.

“What?”

“I mean why not like Hermione and Ginny or something like that?”

“I don’t know. I read a lot of Harry Potter fanfics with a lot of different pairings and story lines.”

“Are they smutty?” Carmilla asked, lifting her head and wiggling her eyebrows.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“All I would have to do is read one,” Carmilla pointed out.

“Well you would have to read the whole fic to know whether it was smutty or not. It’s rare that I read one shots and I haven’t had to read those types of stories since we started dating.”

“And why is that?”

“Because I don’t need certain reading material to help with certain urges anymore. I have you to take care of those needs.”

“So in other words, you don’t masturbate because you have me?”

“Why couldn’t we just leave it with my own words?”

“Because you were beating around the bush,” Carmilla paused, “Pun intended.”

Laura laughed. “You’re ridiculous.”

“I bet you wouldn’t be saying that if my head was between your legs.”

“Well why don’t we finish my laundry so you can put your head between my legs.”

“Why wait? It’s probably got fifteen minutes until it’s finished. Why not take advantage of the time we have left?”

“You don’t want to build up suspense?”

“Well I’ve been laying here thinking about you touching yourself so no. I think my suspense has been building for a few minutes now.”

“You did that to yourself. I didn’t tell you to think of me touching myself,” Laura clarified.

“Yeah, well. It’s even more embedded in my mind now that you said it.” Carmilla started to lift Laura’s shirt and place kisses on her bare stomach.

“You’re still ridiculous.”

Carmilla leaned up and placed her lips against Laura’s. They kissed heatedly as Carmilla ran her hand up Laura’s thigh and in between her legs causing Laura to gasp.

“And you still love me,” Carmilla whispered against Laura’s lip.

“You and no one else.”

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

Carmilla groaned when she heard Laura’s alarm.

“It’s too early, Cupcake. It’s Saturday.”

Laura shifted and turned her alarm off. “I know, Baby. Go back to sleep.”

Their naked bodies were tangled together under Carmilla’s sheets and comforter. Carmilla’s head rest in the crook of Laura’s neck, as Laura held her closer. The warmth they shared under the comforter was slowly slipping away as the cold morning temperature started to settle in. Carmilla grabbed the comforter and pulled it back on top of Laura and herself. She snuggled into Laura further with a huff before slowly drifting back to sleep.

Another alarm went off.

“Seriously, Laura? Why?”

Laura reached over to turn her alarm off. Just then her phone vibrated with a text from her dad saying “Good morning. We’ll see you and your friend at 10.”

“Oh shit, Carm. We have to get up.”

“No, Cupcake. Saturday. Saturday means sleep. Sleep is good.”

“Yes, usually, but we have to go meet my parents.”

“Five more minutes,” Carmilla mumbled, kissing Laura’s bare breast.

“We don’t have five minutes. We’re already fifteen minutes behind the time we should have gotten up. Come on, Grumpy Cat.”

Laura freed herself and sat up. She stretched her arms above her head, quickly realizing how cold it was. She jumped out of the bed and searched around the room for some clothes. She found a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie on the floor. She knew they were probably dirty, but didn’t care. The back of Carmilla’s body was exposed to her now and she couldn’t help but stare. She hovered over Carmilla and kissed down her back. Carmilla hummed her approval until Laura reached her bottom.

“Ow, Cupcake.” Carmilla lazily swatted towards Laura behind her.

“Get up.”

“So because I want to sleep a minute longer, you bite me in ass, may I say rather hard, to get my attention? Did you leave teeth marks?”

“Just little ones. Now get up.”

“Fine. I’m up,” Carmilla huffed, sitting up with her eyes still closed. Laura snickered and then leaned in, placing a kiss against Carmilla’s lips. Carmilla reciprocated, pulling Laura back down on the bed to lay on top of her. They kissed for a few minutes before the next alarm went off.

“How many did you set?” Carmilla asked.

“Well I knew it was Saturday and we struggle getting up on Saturday so a few. But come on, we have to leave in forty-five minutes. My parents hate it when I’m late.”

“Are you sure we’re not getting breakfast with my mother?”

“Your mother isn’t the only one who is punctual. Now, please, Carm. I want you to make a good impression.

“Okay. What should I wear then?”

“Wear whatever you want, Baby.”

“You say that, but I have a feeling you’ll tell me to change, so I rather you just pick something and let that be that.”

“Carm, don’t be ridiculous. Wear whatever you want.”

“So my shirt with the holes in it, my shortest shorts with knee high socks and boots?”

“Okay. I get your point. But please wear that tonight when we get back here.”

“What’s tonight?”

“You and me, back in this bedroom. I want to see that outfit so I can take it off of you.”

“I don’t know. You’ll have to make it worth my while.”

“Can you be quick?”

“What?”

Laura sat Carmilla up on the edge of the bed. She then spread Carmilla’s legs open before running her fingers through Carmilla’s folds. Carmilla moaned and thrusted her hips forward.

“Can you be quick?”

Carmilla nodded. “Be gentle. I’m a little sore from last night.”

“Did I hurt you?”

“No, I just think three fingers is a finger too much for me.”

“Well, how about I just use my tongue instead?”

Laura lurched forward, capturing Carmilla’s center in her mouth. Carmilla gasped and grabbed onto the back of Laura’s head, her fingers clutching in her hair. As Laura’s tongue entered her, she spread her legs more, Laura helping to hold her legs open. She rutted her hips against Laura’s open mouth. They were both frantic, knowing they didn’t have a lot of time.

“Fuck, Laura. Don’t stop. I’m so close,” Carmilla moaned.

Laura moved quicker and harder until she heard the moan of pleasure escape Carmilla’s lips. Carmilla’s body stilled as she laid back down, still holding Laura’s head in her hands. Laura managed to break free and kissed up her body.

“Better?”

“So much better.”

“Then can we get up and get ready?”

“Yeah. I guess after that, I’m ready to take on the day. I’m gonna hop in the shower. You might want to as well, considering what we did last night.”

“It’ll take too long to blow dry my hair.”

“So why don’t you just wash your body.”

Laura’s took a moment to think about their different positions last night. She felt her cheeks flush at the memory of it.

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. Will you promise to keep your hands to yourself?”

“Why don’t I wash my face and brush my teeth while you shower. I assume it won’t take you more than a couple of minutes.”

“Sounds good. Will you grab me a pair of underwear from the dryer while I get in?”

“Sure, Cupcake.”

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

Once they were showered, they got dressed as quickly as they could and headed out the door.

“Are you sure this outfit is okay?” Carmilla asked, while they sat on the 2 train, heading up to the Times Square area.

“Yes, Baby. It’s perfect.”

Carmilla was in her nicest pair of black jeans. She wore a black shirt that was a little see through on the sleeves, a red flannel, a black sweatshirt tied around her waist in case their day got too cold. She had on a clean pair of biker boots and her leather jacket. Laura had made sure to carry Carmilla’s black scarf that had been hanging in her closet, so she had extra warmth if needed. Laura was in her button down with a navy sweater she had borrowed from Carmilla over it. Her peacoat was buttoned around her with jeans and brown boots. Carmilla shook her leg slightly.

“Don’t be nervous, Carm.”

“I just want to get there and meet them. I think I’ll be less nervous once we’ve met, I know what they look like and they know I exist.”

“Well, just remember they’re good people. We just don’t see eye to eye on everything is all.”

“I know. What else are we doing besides breakfast?”

“Who knows. Probably going to the Met because it’s my mom’s favorite thing to do and then maybe a walk through Central Park. I don’t really know though.”

“A walk through Central Park? It’s freezing outside.”

“I brought your scarf and hat with me just in case.”

Carmilla smiled. “You are one of a kind, Cupcake.”

They shared a smile.

“So, what are their names so I don't look like a complete idiot.”

“Well I would recommend saying Mr. Hollis and Mrs. Hollis, but it's Sherman and Karen.”

“Okay.”

“Mom is in real estate and Dad is a stay at home dad after early retirement from the State Department. He does own a small business where he builds buildings for people's train layouts.”

“What do you mean?”

“My dad loves toy trains. Don't worry, he'll talk to you all about it, I promise.”

“Okay.” Carmilla took a deep breath.

“It's okay, Carm. Just relax. If breakfast is a disaster, we'll go home and do what we usually do.”

“Can I like hold your hand and stuff or?”

“Of course you can. Like I said, I’m not trying to hide our relationship from anyone. I want us to be us.”

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

They got off at the Times Square, 42nd Street station to transfer to the 1 train across the platform that took them to 50th street. Once upstairs, Carmilla felt the bite of the frigid air. Laura reached into her backpack and handed Carmilla her black infinity scarf before pulling out her on red scarf and putting it on.

“Thanks, Cupcake.”

“Of course. Do you want your hat?”

“No, I think I'm okay.”

“Well just let me know.”

Laura linked her arm in Carmilla's as they walked towards 8th avenue. Laura could tell Carmilla was nervous and held on tightly. They got to the corner of 50th and 8th Avenue. Laura pulled on Carmilla's arm to have her stop.

Once Carmilla faced her, she wrapped her arms around her shoulders. She leaned in and placed a passionate, warm kiss against Carmilla's lips who smiled into it. They pulled back slowly.

“I love you,” Laura whispered.

“I love you too,” Carmilla answered.

They smiled for a minute before Laura stepped back and linked their arms again.

“Let's get this over with,” Carmilla muttered, trying to calm herself.

As they reached 51st, Laura figured her parents had already gone inside, but there they were standing in the cold, waiting for their daughter. Laura immediately smiled as she saw them looking over a New York City map and clearly arguing about how to get somewhere. It was playful. Laura nudged Carmilla.

“That's them, arguing,” Laura pointed out.

Carmilla looked to where Laura pointed. Laura's father seemed to only be a couple inches taller than Laura. He had a black baseball cap on his head and a big wool sweater. He seemed friendly. Her mother was taller than her father and average size. She had Laura's light brown hair color. She was actually just an older and slightly taller version of Laura.

The light changed and Laura made her way over to them, her arm still linked with Carmilla's.

“There she is,” Sherman said, with a small smile. “Well come on, give your old man hug.”

Laura let go of Carmilla's arm to wrap them around her dad's shoulders. He kissed the side of her head, lovingly. These weren't the people Carmilla was expecting. She had been expecting her Mother, but worse.

“Laura, Honey,” her mother said with a warm smile. Laura gave her mother a hug, but it didn't seem to be as warm as it had been when she hugged her dad.

Carmilla stood there awkwardly, but tried to look as pleasant as possible. Laura looked at her and smiled. She waved Carmilla forward.

“And you must be her friend,” Sherman said, awkwardly, holding out his hand.

“Girlfriend, Dad,” Laura said hesitantly. “This is Carmilla.”

“Uh, right. I'm Sherman.”

Carmilla took his hand in a firm grip. “It's nice to meet you, Mr. Hollis.”

“Karen,” her mother followed suit, holding out her hand.

“Nice to meet you as well, Mrs. Hollis.”

They all stood there awkwardly for a minute, exchanging awkward glances. Sherman clapped his hands together. “Well, let’s go inside. It's very cold.”

“Yeah, where's your coat, Dad?”

“He left it at home. I told him it wasn't a good idea, but you know he never listens.”

“I'll be fine, once we get moving. You know I'll be down to my t-shirt before we leave here.”

“No you will not. Your father decided an almost see through white, raddy shirt was the best option to pack to wear under his sweater.”

“Dad.”

“What? I’m a big boy. It’s fine.”

A man showed them to their table. Laura sat down across from her mother and Sherman sat down next to Laura. Carmilla standing behind him paused with a small amount of panic.

“Uh, Dad?” Laura asked.

He looked at her confused before widening his eyes. “Oh right. I'm very sorry, Carmilla.”

He got up from his seat and scooted next to his wife on the booth.

“That's quite alright, Mr. Hollis.”

Carmilla felt relieved being able to sit next to Laura. She discarded her leather jacket and placed it on the back of her chair. She untied the sweatshirt and rested it there as well. Laura was getting situated in her seat, while taking her coat off. Carmilla reached around to help Laura get it off her shoulders.

“Thanks, Carm.”

“Oh my goodness, Laura. You look wonderful. You’ve lost so much weight.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“Why the change?” Sherman asked.

“I just wanted to feel better about myself and my therapist says it's a great way to keep your endorphins pumping and to keep thoughts positive. So I go to the gym or do yoga every other day.”

“Well you look wonderful. How much weight have you lost?”

“About five pounds.”

“Now, Laura, I don't want you to get too skinny. You need meat on your bones for the winter,” Sherman stated with concern.

“Don't worry, Dad. I still have my Hollis sweet tooth.”

Carmilla didn't contribute to the conversation. She didn't really know what to say and was grateful no one asked. They seemed to look over their menus to fill the silence that had started to grow around the table.

“What are you thinking, Cupcake?”

Laura smiled and took Carmilla's hand. “I'm thinking pancakes and scrambled eggs.”

“Yeah I was looking at the Lumberjack Special. Pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast.”

“I don't think a small girl like you could eat all that food,” Sherman noted.

“You'd be surprised, Mr. Hollis. I haven't eaten today and I'm pretty hungry.”

He nodded at her.

“Well I think I'm going to get an omelette,” Karen announced.

“I think I'm gonna give Carmilla a run for her money and also order the Lumberjack Special.”

“Good choice, Sir.” Carmilla smiled.

The waiter came and asked for their drinks. Laura's parents and Carmilla asked for coffee, but Laura asked for green tea and apple juice.

“Green tea?” Her mother questioned.

“Yes, it helps with digestion.”

The man came back with their drinks and took their orders quickly. Once he was gone, Carmilla pulled her coffee to her lips and took a small sip.

“You drink it black?” Sherman noticed, pouring what had to be a copious amount of sugar.

“Oh, uh, yes sir.”

“That's very New York,” Karen noted.

Carmilla couldn't help but smile. Laura's parents seemed to be huge dorks that were definitely being tourists for the weekend.

“And where are you from, Carmilla?” Sherman asked.

“Oh I actually grew up in Manhattan on the Upper East Side.”

“Wow. That must have been interesting and dangerous-”

“Dad!”

“What?”

“New York isn't as dangerous as everyone makes it out to be. Please don't start speculating you know anything about this city.”

“I'm not speculating.”

“Actually, Mr. Hollis, I come from a rather respected family. I was never allowed to go outside by myself without my older sister, Matska. If she couldn’t take me, and there was no one there to go, I was stuck inside. My mother had a car that drove me to and from school. I was never alone long enough to be in a dangerous situation without someone with me.”

“Interesting-”

“Dad.”

“What? It's interesting.”

“Carmilla, please forgive my husband. He's very protective of his daughter.”

“No worry, Ma’am.”

“So tell me, where does a name like ‘Carmilla’ come from?” Karen asked.

“Oh it was my great great grandmother’s name on my father’s side. He always loved her name and his great aunt’s name, which was Matska.”

“Yes, Matska is also a very interesting name.” Laura was now slowly realizing what her mother was doing. She could tell Karen was judging Carmilla and taking every word she said to heart.

“It is, but she only uses that professionally. She usually goes by Mattie.”

“Well that's very nice.”

Carmilla nodded. She felt Laura shift closer to her and felt a hand rest on her thigh. She grasped Laura's hand firmly, worried she was doing this all wrong. Oh god, they hate me. This officially sucks. My charm is not working and I'm making this so bad for Laura. Fuck.

“So what do your parents do?” Sherman asked. Carmilla could tell he was trying to sound more pleasant, but it came out bitter and almost uncaring.

“My Mother is a socialite, but has her own business. She runs galas all over the city for art and Broadway. Mostly for the larger museums like the Met. My father was a writer.”

“Was?” Karen asked.

“Mom,” Laura said with a tone that said get the hint.

“Uh, yes. He was a writer. He passed away some time ago.”

“Oh, well I am very sorry to hear that,” Sherman offered.

“Thank you.”

Carmilla squeezed Laura's hand again, but Laura was prepared and squeezed back. Carmilla looked at her with pleading eyes.

“Carm is actually quite the writer,” Laura said, taking the focus off of her father.

“Do writers make money?” Karen asked.

Carmilla laughed. “Not until they're published. But if I’m being honest, I've just recently gotten back into writing. I try to write a little everyday.”

“But this isn't going to lead you to stable job.”

“Mom!”

“It could, Ma’am. It just takes time. But I work with Laura at the bookstore. So it helps me get by.”

“And Laura when are you going to finish your degree and get a real job?”

“Mom. Seriously? You know why I dropped out of school.”

“Sweetheart, your has father been out of the hospital for two years now. I think it's time for you to return. You can’t expect to work retail your entire life. Especially in a dying industry such as books.”

“Karen,” Sherman exhaled.

“What?”

“We have a guest with us,” Sherman nodded his head towards Carmilla.

“Not a guest, Dad. A girlfriend. My girlfriend.”

“Okay. Let me correct myself. Laura's girlfriend is joining us. I want this to be a pleasant visit so let’s try not to argue.”

“I’m not arguing, Sherman. I’m just making it very clear that I think Laura needs to think about her future.”

“I think, Laura is doing quite well. I mean she’s not that far from being manager at the bookstore and I know she loves working there. Besides with our lax schedules, I think, if Laura wants to, she could start auditioning again,” Carmilla stated.

Laura looked at her with a surprised look. “Carm, I’m not planning on auditioning. That ship sailed a long time ago.”

“I know. I’m just saying, if you would want to the bookstore will eventually allow you to do so without any stress.”

“Well Laura knows better than to get involved in theater again,” Karen said.

“She needs a stable job with benefits,” Sherman added.

Laura slumped. Luckily the waiter came with their food and placed their plates in front of them. Laura sat for a minute, her hand still in Carmilla's, who was rubbing her thumb up and down trying to soothe Laura.

“Excuse me for a moment,” Laura said, standing up.

She quickly left the table before Carmilla could even ask if she was okay. Carmilla looked back to Laura’s parents, who had started eating.

“Might as well get a start on your breakfast. Laura can be a little sensitive at times,” Karen said, taking a bite from her omelette.

The comment didn't resonate well with her. This was more than being sensitive. Carmilla stood.

“Excuse me,” she said, following the direction Laura went. She found the small bathroom and entered. She was immediately at a sink with a single stall door to her right. She locked the entire bathroom door so no one could bother them. She knocked on the stall door and heard a quick sniffle and Laura clearing her throat.

“Just a minute,” she said, quietly.

“Laura?”

Laura immediately opened the door and fell into Carmilla's arms. Carmilla held her tightly, rubbing her hands up and down Laura’s back.

“It's okay,” Carmilla said. “I've got you.”

Laura sniffled a few more times. She exhaled sharply and took a step back to lean against the sink. “You should go back out there and eat. Make a good impression.”

“I'm not going out there until you want to go out there.”

“Carm.”

“No. I'm not doing this. I'm not going to sit at that table with your parents who apparently like to go back and forth between hot and cold while the love of my life sits in this gross bathroom and cries. It's not happening. I'm not going back to that table until you're ready. I'm here for you, not for them.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you and I believe in you. Whatever you want to do with your life, I will be there every step of the way no matter what. If you wanna go back to school and finish your degree, I'll be there. If you want to audition for theater again, I'll help you prepare in anyway I can. If you want to work at the bookstore until you die, then I'll die there with you. I just want you.”

Laura's eyes welled with more tears as she looked at Carmilla.

“What?”

“I just love you so much,” Laura said, leaning forward and resting her head on Carmilla's shoulder. Carmilla wrapped her arms around Laura.

“I love you too.” Laura stayed there a few minutes longer until there was a knock on the door. Laura stepped forward to turn the sink water on. Carmilla unlocked the door.

“Sorry,” she said to the woman who entered. “I didn't mean to lock it.”

The stranger just nodded and went into the stall. Laura splashed some water on her face and took a couple breaths. She blew her nose in a paper towel after drying her hands.

“All good?” Carmilla whispered.

Laura nodded.

“Okay, Cupcake. Let's go.”

Carmilla took Laura's hand in hers and guided her back to the table. Both of Laura's parents had finished almost half of their own breakfast dishes. They don't even care that she wasn't here.

“Ladies, is there something wrong with the food?” Their waiter asked when they returned.

“No, not at all,” Carmilla answered.

“Well how about I heat it up for you?” He offered.

“Oh that's okay. You don't have to,” Laura piped up.

“Nonsense. Can't have cold breakfast. Give me a couple minutes.”

He took the plates and left the two of them alone to watch Laura's parents eat.

“All better?” Karen asked, eyeing her daughter.

“Yes,” Laura answered shortly.

“So, Carmilla, tell us about your mother's parties,” Sherman said, taking the attention away from Laura.

“They're usually grand and very popular. She's an event coordinator so it's her job to make everything look gorgeous and beautiful.”

“I assume that pays well?” Karen asked.

“I mean my family comes from old money in Austria so that has helped us through the years and helped my mother start this business of hers.”

“Well at least if you don't become some great writer, you'll have that,” Karen stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Are you making fun of me, Ma’am?” Carmilla's tone was stern.

The waiter came with their food and broke some of the tension that had been growing. Laura was the one to say thanks.

“I am not making fun of you, but at least if your relationship with my daughter is serious, you won't have to worry about not having money.”

“I don't touch my family’s money unless I'm absolutely desperate and it hurts my pride to even ask my mother for a dollar to get something out of a vending machine, let alone twenty dollars for a cab ride somewhere. My siblings and I have agreed to only take our portions after my mother's passing. Considering she is in her fifties, we've got plenty of time. So I live paycheck to paycheck just like Laura and I don't appreciate you insinuating that since I come from money, I have never had a burden in my life.”

Carmilla exhaled and looked towards her plate. She refused to let Laura's parents get to her. She took a bite of bacon and asked for another cup of coffee.

“Do you think it is appropriate to talk to friend’s mother like that?” Karen asked.

“I think it's appropriate to stand up for myself just as much as I think it's appropriate to stand up for Laura. To assume that since I came from money, I'm a security blanket for your daughter. I know Laura doesn’t date me for money. She has been to my mother’s house and has seen the priceless objects she owns, but doesn’t expect me to just pay for everything. Laura understands I prefer to live with the money I make instead of the money I will one day have. Money is not the most important thing to me. That's not how I live my life and I don't like assumptions made about me that are false so I will clarify them when they come up.”

Laura was staring at Carmilla with a surprised expression. Carmilla picked up her bacon, her head down, drowning. I can’t believe I just lost my temper in front of her. There goes any possibility of her parents liking me now. Alright, calm down and chill out. Don’t make this worse.

Sherman started to laugh loudly, causing everyone to look at him. “Well you can’t deny it, Karen. This one has a strong head on her shoulders. I personally think it’s nice that you’re trying to do what you want to do without the influence of money.”

Carmilla still had a strip of bacon hanging out of her mouth in shock. She looked at Laura who was staring out her father with admiration.

“And this is the kind of person you want our daughter to date?”

“First off, Karen, she isn’t a person, she’s a girl. Laura’s girlfriend. Secondly, at least I feel like this girl can honestly take care of her.”

Carmilla finished the bacon that had been in her mouth. “Actually, Mr. Hollis, she’s pretty strong on her own. I don’t think she needs much help in that department.”

“Well still.” He smiled at her.

Sherman Hollis looked nothing like Carmilla’s father, but there was something about the way he smiled at her that warmed her heart. That proud father look. She hadn’t seen it in so long that she had forgotten what it felt like.

“Well, come on, Carmilla. You’ve got a whole Lumberjack breakfast to prove me wrong.”

She looked at Laura whose smile was brighter than she had ever seen it before. Carmilla turned back to Sherman. “You’re on, Mr. Hollis.”

Karen was not impressed, but continued to eat her omelette quietly. Laura could feel her fuming from across the table.

“So what would you like to do today, Mom?” Laura asked.

“Anything is fine with me, Laura.”

“Mom, please don’t be upset.”

“I’m not upset. I just don’t want someone to speak to me like that.”

“Mrs. Hollis, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disrespect you. Honest. I tend to be very defensive especially when someone doesn’t know me. My whole life, I was put on this high pedestal and I don’t appreciate people believing me to be something I’m not. Yes, I was raised with a fair amount of money and one day I will have a substantial amount, but I always assumed I would use that for my children’s future, not mine.”

“You want to have children?” Laura asked.

“Yeah, one day,” Carmilla confessed. “I didn’t think so for a long time, but things change.”

Laura smiled.

“So, Carmilla, how does one get into the writing world?” Sherman asked, changing the subject.

“Well, I guess it’s luck of the draw, but if I’m being honest, Sir, I haven’t really written anything in awhile. I went through a bit of a rough period, but I’m slowly picking it back up.”

“A rough period?” Karen asked.

“Yes, Ma’am, but I am better now. Laura has helped me with that and I’ve started writing a little bit, but more journaling than writing pieces.”

“And what type of writing do you do? You know Laura was a journalism major when she was school,” Karen pointed out.

“I did know that. I have a Bachelor's in creative writing with a minor in English.”

“And what does one do with a Bachelor’s in creative writing?”

“I prefer writing short stories. I actually have a collection that I was going to send in for review to my editors, but when my life took a turn, I had to take a step back. I was having a hard time concentrating and writing just didn’t seem as enjoyable as it was before, but now with Laura, I’m getting into my groove again and hope to get back in the publishing circuit. I’ve had fluff pieces in magazines though that were published when I was in school.”

“Could you work in a publishing office instead of a bookstore?”

Laura was starting to get irritated with her mom. Danny worked for some corporate office making a three figure salary with benefits. Of course, she had made plenty of money to take care of Laura, but it was just another thing added to the list with the problems of their relationship. For Laura’s mom, money was always the most important thing. Even more than happiness. It’s why she hounded Laura so much about going back to school. It’s also the one reason Laura talked to her dad on the phone more than her mom.

“I could go into publishing, but I’m not a nine to five desk job kind of person. I have a desk at the store, but I also can go upstairs and pull books or shelve books. I can receive upstairs while standing. I get to pull carts or arm fulls of books up and downstairs, giving me a nice workout. I don’t think I could stand sitting at a desk and staring at a screen all day. It’s just too boring.”

“Have you had a job like that?”

“No and I honestly don’t think I ever will. I battle with depression so I think that would just be a huge trigger for my creative being.”

“Well I wish you the best of luck with publishing your own works,” Sherman added.

“Thank you, Mr. Hollis.”

“Now, Laura,” he started. “How are your pancakes?”

“Delicious.”

“Good. Carmilla you still have some work to do.”

“I’ve only got these 3 pancakes left, Sir. I think I’ll be able to manage,” Carmilla answered, taking the last bite of her eggs. The bacon currently being digested.

“Okay. We’ll see,” he teased. “So I think your mom would like to go to the Met after this, if that’s alright?”

“Sounds good to me. I haven’t been in a while. It’ll be nice to look at art again. Carm?”

“Yeah, that sounds good to me.”

“Oh you will be coming with us then?” Karen asked.

“If that’s alright. I don’t want to intrude on any plans you have with Laura.”

“Nonsense. We’d love for you to come. Maybe this New Yorker can teach us a few things about art that Laura couldn’t.”

“Hey,” Laura stated. “I know plenty about art.”

“And what about you Carmilla?”

“I definitely know a few things. I took some classes in college and I grew up not too far from the Met as well, so my father used to take me all the time when I was a little. When he had writer’s block, he enjoyed looking at the worlds the artists had created. He used to go there, find one painting, sit in front of it and write a story about it. I have all those stories now.”

They managed to keep light chatter and Sherman laughed as Carmilla finished the last bite of her breakfast and finished off her coffee. She leaned back in her seat a little and rubbed her stomach. She had definitely eaten a little too much and Laura noticed her stomach was a little bloated, but she thought Carmilla looked so cute with her satisfied smirk.

“Well you are definitely little, but you have left me impressed,” Sherman said. “I really didn’t think you would be able to do that.”

“Well I might be little, but I’ve always had the ability to eat a lot. I mean, you should see me at Thanksgiving. I swear I could finish off the entire turkey if my mother would let me.”

Sherman laughed loudly, causing Laura to laugh as well. Laura was surprised by how welcoming her dad was being. She was used to him being a little closed off towards Danny. Welcoming, but not happy. However, with Carmilla he was being his own joking self which Laura was in awe of. She took Carmilla’s hand back in hers as the waiter took their empty plates away. He placed the bill on the table and Carmilla quickly grabbed it. She pulled her wallet out of her back pocket and placed her credit card on the little tray.

“No, no, Carmilla. You don’t need to do that.”

“Oh, it’s not a problem, Mr. Hollis. Just think of it as a welcome to New York gift from me.”

“You really don’t have to do that.”

“I promise it’s okay Mr. Hollis. I’m delighted to pay.”

The waiter took the card and receipt.

“Well thank you, Carmilla. That was very kind of you,” Sherman offered.

“Yes. Thank you. That is very sweet,” Karen said, looking rather surprised.

Laura kissed Carmilla’s cheek. “Thanks, Baby.”

“No problem.”

Once she had signed her receipt, and left a tip that she noticed Karen look out, looking rather impressed, they headed towards the door.

“So we can either take the C train up and M79 bus to get across the park to get to the Met or walk to the east side and take 4, 5, or 6 train to 86th street,” Laura offered. “What do you think is best, Carm?”

“Uh, I think the C to the bus would be better, but I’m probably saying that because I’m cold and don’t want to walk to the east side when we can just take a bus.”

Laura laughed. “Okay, so we’ll do that then.”

“Lead the way,” Sherman said. He held his arm out for his wife, who gladly took it as the two girls in front of them, with their arms also linked, took off towards the train.

“Well I don’t know what you said or did, but my dad loves you,” Laura said.

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. I’ve never seen him this open or happy with one of my girlfriends before. I don’t know what it is you are doing, but keep it up.”

“Does that mean eating more food?” Carmilla asked, wrapping her arm around Laura.

“Aw. Does my baby have a full tummy?” Laura asked, hugging to Carmilla’s side.

“Yes. It was more food than I was expecting and the pancakes were huge.”

“That’s because they’re lumberjack pancakes.”

“Does that mean larger than average size?”

“Yes, Carm.”

“Well whatever, I’ll just die then.”

“Please don’t die. Who would fuck me if you died?”

“Laura?”

“What?”

“Your parents are like two steps behind us.”

“They can't hear me, Carm.”

“Okay. Well then I’ll stay here on earth for our sexy times, but only for that.”

Laura laughed. “You're so sweet.”

Carmilla chuckled.

“Seriously though, I’m glad at least one of my parents like you.”

“Give it time, Cupcake. I told you I’m good with parents. You’re mom will come around. Just give me a little more time and some credit. I did get her to say thank you so one step at a time. Baby steps.”

“Let’s hope so. I feel like she’s got some trick up her sleeve and it’s all going to come crashing down.”

“Well try not to worry too much about it. Let’s just enjoy the day with your parents no matter what happens. And if you start to feel sad, will you tell me? I don’t want you crying again. You know my heart is too weak for that.”

“Too weak?”

“It breaks a little every time you cry.”

“Aw, you’re such a sap.”

“A sap who loves you.”

“Aw. A bigger sap than before.”

“Ugh. Fine,” Carmilla pulled away from Laura. Laura laughed and could see the small smile creeping up on Carmilla’s lips. Laura tried to grab her hand, but Carmilla lightly smacked her hand away causing Laura to laugh a little more. After a minute, Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulders again. She kissed the side of her head.

“I love you, Cupcake.”

“I love you too, Sweetcheeks.”

Sherman looked at the smile on his daughter’s face and couldn’t help but giggle.

“Well she might not be your favorite person, Karen, but you have to admit Laura is very happy.”

“She is the happiest I’ve seen her, but I don’t know. This girl for our daughter?”

“Carmilla looks like she cares for Laura very much.”

“It’s not the type of girl I would expect our daughter to like. Maybe if she were a man-”

“No, we promised each other that we were going to do everything in our power to accept this. I told you, she’s stubborn and she isn’t going to change. We have to be okay with this and I don’t know. I like Carmilla. I think she’s kind of funny.”

“Funny? She’s rude.”

“She’s a New Yorker, Kar.”

“And New Yorkers are rude people.”

“She just paid for our entire meal and didn’t even bat an eye at the decision.”

“I don’t know. There is still something off about her.”

“Well can you at least try and play nice? For your daughter’s sake?”

Karen sighed. “Fine.”

They followed the two girls down the stairwell into the subway. Laura and Carmilla helped the Hollis’s load up an MTA fare card before being able to hop right onto the train. The managed to find four seats together. Laura next to Carmilla, Sherman next to his wife. Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulders. Laura looked towards her with a loving smile before turning back to her parents. Carmilla zoned out while Laura talked to her parents. She was just enjoying being next to Laura, with her parents. Being there felt right, like they had all been together a dozen times before.

After a moment of silence, Carmilla decided she should try and talk a little bit.

“So how was the train down?” Carmilla asked earning a smile from Laura. She knew it meant “good job”.

“It wasn't so bad,” Sherman said.

“Did you come from the DC station?”

“Yeah! We had a neighbor of ours, Mrs. Kransky, drive us to the station.”

“Who also says hello,” Karen told Laura.

“Tell her I said hello the next time you see her.”

“And is that a long trip?” Carmilla asked.

“It's about three and a half hours, but it's not too bad. It's a straight shot from DC to here on Amtrak.”

“Doesn't seem too bad. What's it like traveling by train? I've never done it.”

“Really, Carm?”

“Nope. Planes mostly.”

“Oh, well it's really nice. A major step up from the Megabus, but a little more expensive. That's how I go home almost always,” Laura explained.

“Well maybe I'll just have to come down and visit you guys sometime.”

“We would love that, right Honey?” Sherman asked.

“Yes, absolutely.” Karen seemed less than excited about it.

The station pulled into 81st street and they all got off, Carmilla being the last as she gestured for Sherman and Karen to get off before her. Once on the platform, she and Laura were hand in hand as they walked up the stairs, leading the way.

“Can I have my hat, Baby?” Carmilla asked.

Laura opened up her backpack and pulled out a black beanie. She handed it to Carmilla with a smile.

“Thanks, Cutie.”

“Laura what museum is this?” Sherman asked.

“That’s the Natural History Museum.”

“They have like dinosaurs and stuff?”

“Yeah. Why? Do you want to go there instead?”

“Is it pay what you want?” Karen asked.

“I actually don’t-”

“It is,” Carmilla answered. “My dad used to bring all of us here. It’s possible that it’s changed, but I can look it up.”

“I don’t know, Sherman. I really wanted to go to the Met.”

“We always go to the Met. Why not do something new, Karen?”

“Dad, if mom wants to go to the Met, maybe we should go to the Met. I mean we only go to the Cosmic Diner because it’s your favorite. This is mom’s favorite.”

Sherman looked at his daughter, then towards his wife before landing on Carmilla. Carmilla just shrugged. “We live here so we can go to any museum we want, any time we want.”

“Alright, let’s go to the Met.”

“Thanks, Honey.”

Carmilla felt relief. Good. I still have time to impress her mother. I don’t know shit about dinosaurs, but I know enough about art to sound like I know everything about art.

“Well should we walk the park then?” Sherman asked.

“Dad, it’s freezing outside.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re always fine when you get moving. Mom and I are cold blooded. We can’t handle that.”

“You used to be like me,” Sherman said. “You always warmed up when you walked.”

“Yeah, but it’s a rare thing now. And in cold weather like this, no one stays warm for long. Well except for you apparently,” she teased.

“I’m not going to get my way about anything today, am I?”

“Well what would you like to see at the Met, Mr. Hollis?” Carmilla asked.

“I prefer Medieval.”

“So then we will make that our first stop at the Met. Sound good?”

“That’s me getting my way?” He joked.

“I guess so,” Carmilla laughed.

They waited outside the bus stop under the small waiting area. Laura was hugging Carmilla for a little warmth while still managing to have a conversation with her mother. It felt a little weird to be this affection in front of her parents, but Carmilla was just so warm and inviting that she just didn’t feel like she could pull away. Her mother watched her curiously, but Laura just couldn’t stop. This was just making her happy. She was finally standing with her parents, openly out with a girl she loved deeply. She honestly couldn’t have asked for more.

The bus pulled in a little later and they hopped on with a large group of people. Laura pointed to a seat for her mother, who gladly took it. They all hovered around, Laura’s hand now in Carmilla’s. The bus ride was short across the park, but since it was so packed, it was refreshing to step back out into the cool air. They were on the south end of the museum and Carmilla started to lead the way. She really had been here so many times she never got lost, learning the map as a young child. Her father had known the museum like the back of his hand. He would even help other customers who felt lost in the museum. The maps were never that helpful. Carmilla thought it was the coolest thing that her dad knew where everything was, and decided she wanted to know that too.

They walked up the large stairs outside the building and made their way into the Great Hall. Carmilla had forgotten how big it was. The information desk’s center piece was a large pumpkin with smaller pumpkins all around. There were people everywhere and the noise echoed through the marble structure. Luckily, the room was warm.

“We should probably check our coats,” Laura suggested. They agreed.

“Can I check my sweater?” Sherman asked.

“God, no,” Karen answered remembering the almost see through white shirt he had on under it.

They laughed as they got in line for the security check. They managed to get their coats on two tags. Laura also checked her bag, not wanting to lug it around the museum with them. Once they were finished with that, they noticed there were large lines everywhere. Carmilla led them towards the large staircase in the center of the building where the lines were shorter.

“These two are the hidden registers that no one seems to know about, but New Yorkers. I think tourists just see the long lines and join them, missing these that never take too long,” Carmilla said to the group.

They got up to the register to see a shorter man, with buzzed hair standing there.

“Hello. How many people do we have?”

“Four adults,” Carmilla answered.

“Four adults comes to a suggested total of one hundred dollars, however the price is recommended so you can play any amount you like for your tickets.”

“Can we do fifty?” Sherman asked.

“Certainly,” the smaller man answered.

He hit a few buttons on his keyboard before the number changed in front of them to fifty dollars.

“Mr. Hollis, you don’t have to pay for me,” Carmilla offered.

“Technically I’m just paying for me and my wife, so it’s not a problem at all.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“You’re very welcome,Carmilla.”

Sherman handed over his card. After a few moments, the guy behind the counter handed them four tickets.

“We, unfortunately, do not have the buttons anymore. These are stickers. You’re just going to peel them off and wear them on your shirts like this,” He instructed, pointing to own sticker.

“Thank you very much,” Sherman said.

He handed a ticket to Laura, Carmilla and Karen. They all put on their own sticker. And made their way to the entrance at the large staircase. Sherman paused and walked back to the counter. He was about to grab a map from the corner of the desk when he looked at Carmilla.

“Do we need a map?” He asked.

“Wouldn’t hurt, but I’m pretty sure I know where we’re going.”

Sherman left the map in the box and gestured for her to lead the way. They headed straight up the large stairway, straight through the doors in front of them. The noise for the Great Hall disappeared behind the glass door as it closed. Light whispers and creaky floors were the sounds that filled the space. They looked at the entry portrait before walking to the galleries to their left. Carmilla was quickly ahead of them and stopped in front one of her favorite pieces.

“What is this, Carm?” Laura asked, clearly intrigued by what Carmilla had been staring at so adamantly.

“Oh it’s the Crucifixion and the Last Judgement by Jan van Eyck. He’s one of my favorite northern Renaissance painters.”

“Tell me more about him,” Karen suggested, coming up to her left.

“Well he was a Flemish painter from the late 1300s, early 1400s. He’s known for his rich colors and use of symbolism. This is one of my favorite diptychs by him, but it is the only one in New York City so anytime I come here, I have to look at it. My favorite piece by him is his Annunciation piece, but that is actually at the National Gallery in DC. But look at the rich color he uses. Look at the way Mary’s face is hidden by her robes after passing out from watching Jesus die. It’s dramatic and daring. The emptiness of Hell and watching the dying truly suffer. It’s just fascinating. The transition from Heaven to Hell used by this large, outstretched skeleton. In its time, it would have been graphic and a terrifying image of Hell. I just find it fascinating.”

“And who is this angel above the Hell scene?”

“That would be Saint Michael, the Archangel.”

“And are these words I’m seeing?”

“Yes, Ma’am. The inscriptions are in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. There are spelling mistakes according to art historians, but they have said that around the frames are verses from the books of Isaiah, Revelations and Deuteronomy. However, here around Saint Michael are two Latin phrases Choas Manvm and Umbra Mortis meaning great chaos and shadow of death. There’s also a verse from Matthew around death and inside the Hell section.”

“You speak Latin?” Laura asked, clearly more impressed and surprised than Karen.

“Yeah. For whatever reason, Mother wanted me to learn it as a kid. I think Mattie is the only one who really cared for it.”

“Why would she have you learn a dead language?”

Carmilla smiled. “I don’t know, Cupcake. I just did what I was told.”

Laura smiled back and took Carmilla’s hand as they walked around the museum. Karen seemed to be more and more impressed as they walked through the museum. Laura commented about the modern and contemporary art while Carmilla seemed to impress Karen more with her knowledge of Impressionism.

“I just love Van Gogh’s color scheme. It's so vibrant and amazing,” Karen had said, looking his “Cypresses” piece. She looked towards Carmilla, as if looking for information.

“You know they actually said he suffered from schizophrenia which is why his color schemes are the way they are.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Unfortunately, during that time, schizophrenia wasn't a known illness yet, but they believe it is what led him to cutting off his ear off and what not. People thought he was crazy, but he wasn't. He was a genius. He just suffered from disease.”

“What a shame,” Karen noted.

“I agree.”

“And what can you tell me about Degas?” Karen asked, walking into the next gallery.

Carmilla felt like she was being tested for an art history exam, but decided this might be a way to get Karen to like her.

“Degas was actually a perfectionist. When he would visit friends or family who owned his art work, they would hide his creations from him because it seemed when he saw them, he would ask for them back. He would claim that he could make it better if he could just fix certain parts of the portrait.”

“And Monet?”

Carmilla thought for a moment. Her college art history classes catching up to her. “He tended to paint with Renoir. There is a particular image of theirs where you can see the difference between their focuses. Forgive me, I can't remember what the images are called, but they both painted images of a lake party. When studying them, you can see Renoir’s focus is more on the people at the party, with the background being more blurry. But as we know, Monet is known for his landscapes. So in Monet’s portrayal, the people are blurred and barely figures, as where the landscape is vibrant and beautiful.”

Laura stared at Carmilla as she expressed all this knowledge she had. It brought her joy that she was dating a well round individual with more knowledge than she had. She could see the excitement in Carmilla's eyes as she talked about these paintings.

Laura noticed that Karen was about to ask another question.

“Mom, why don't we let Carmilla enjoy the museum as well? Her brain probably needs a little break.”

Karen nodded. Carmilla was grateful.

“Thanks, Cupcake,” she whispered into Laura's hairline.

“Of course.” They shared a chaste kiss before continuing to walk around. They went everywhere and Laura was enjoying the fact that Sherman and Carmilla were sharing small stories and conversing throughout the day. Karen talked to Carmilla, but only a little bit and only about the artwork that was around them.

They had been there for a few hours when they were finally exiting. Their food from that morning had been digested and Carmilla was feeling dehydrated.

“I’m going to get a water from that hotdog stand. Would anyone else like one?”

They all declined as she stepped away from the group feeling good. She felt like she was getting along with Laura’s father perfectly and could tell Karen was warming up to her. She paid for her bottle of water and took a large swig from the bottle. Laura held out her hand for the bottle which Carmilla high fived.

“May I have some?” Laura asked.

“No. I asked if anyone wanted one and you said no.”

“Please.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes dramatically, but grinned while she handed the water bottle over. Laura took a small sip before handing it back to Carmilla.

“So we were just talking about dinner and my mom wanted to go to this sushi place on 45th. Does that sound okay?”

“Yeah, Cupcake. Whatever you guys want to do, I’m good.”

“Let’s take a cab, Laura. I’m too tired to walk through the park,” Karen said.

“No worries, Mom.” She turned towards Carmilla. “Bad knees,” she whispered.

“Ah,” Carmilla acknowledged.

They hailed a cab and jumped in. “45th and 8th please,” Laura told the cab driver. They were all squished together into the backseat with Laura sitting half on Carmilla, not that she was complaining. The ride was long and a little cramped, but they made it there okay. It was quiet as Laura continued to play with Carmilla’s hand that was resting against her thigh. As they were finally getting out of the cab, Carmilla and Laura didn’t realize people were waiting outside the restaurant. They were in the Times Square area and it was rather crazy on 8th avenue.

“Oh and Laura, I thought it would be fun to invite someone to dinner with us. I also invited her fiance,” Karen announced.

Laura turned towards Carmilla. “Did she say fiance?”

“Oh you have got to be kidding me,” Carmilla groaned.

Laura looked at Carmilla with apprehension. Carmilla had daggers in her eyes. She had spent all day trying to impress this Karen Hollis, only to handed this bull shit. She gritted her teeth, but held Laura close to her.

Laura looked like she was on the edge of tears. “You're stronger than this, Cupcake. I'm here with you every step of the way. Okay?”

Laura nodded. She leaned in and placed a kiss against Carmilla's lips.

“I'm here,” Carmilla reassured.

Laura nodded as she looked towards the tall redhead.

“Hey… guys,” Danny said with an all knowing smirk.

What the actual fuck, Mom, Laura thought.