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Hall of Mirrors

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The sun was shining through the small window in her bedroom as Laura’s alarm went off. She whimpered and stretched as she kept her eyes closed. She swiped her phone, killing the annoying song she had set as an alarm tone. She slowly drifted off to sleep as the next alarm started blaring. She huffed again before slowly opening her eyes. She squinted in the sunlight, but pushed herself up into a seating position.

“And another delightful morning,” she whispered to herself outloud.

She shut the alarm off and turned off all the others one she had set, just in case she overslept like she usually did. She slowly got out of bed as she stretched her arms over head. She heard her back pop and made her way to the to the hallway. The distant sound of the shower running clicked in her head and she frowned.

Damn it. Why is it so hard for her to learn my schedule? I get up everyday around this time and she should know that. She probably just doesn’t care, Laura thought as she made her way down the narrow hallway to the kitchen.

She lived in a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. It was a small railroad apartment. When you opened the door to her apartment, you were faced with the long hallway. When you closed the door, their small living room was to your left. Down the hallway on the left were the bathroom, Laura’s room and then Betty’s room. At the end of the long hall, stood the kitchen. It was nice and she loved where she lived, except for her roommate. The only reason she had a roommate was because she couldn’t afford rent otherwise.

Betty was kind of annoying and loud. She never seemed to care about Laura’s schedule. She made noise at all hours of the day and night. Laura was courteous and quiet almost always. Laura has always been a bit of a loner. She doesn’t go out much, even though Betty tries to get her to join her at this bar or that restaurant. Laura would try to be polite, but would always decline. She liked being at home, in her room, by herself.

Laura splashed some water on her face from the kitchen sink, trying to ignore the sound of the water drumming against the basin. The biggest reason she hated it when Betty took showers in the morning is because her bladder was almost always full. She grabbed a paper towel to dry off her face, as she made her way back to her room to get ready for the day.

Laura sat down on her bed and pulled out the minimal makeup she wore everyday. She decided to watch an episode of Buffy while she got ready. A few moments later, she heard the bathroom door open and she practically sprinted out of her bed. Luckily Betty was already in her room, so Laura didn’t have to have an awkward “good morning, you know I get ready at this time five days a week” talk. She quickly relieved herself before brushing her teeth.

Laura quickly finished her makeup and got dressed. She chose a plain t-shirt and jeans. She was self conscious about the small tummy she had, so she made sure to throw on her black sweatshirt. It was baggy and helped her hide the things she didn’t like about herself. Once she was ready to go, she chanced a glance in the mirror. Laura once realized she barely ever looked at herself in the mirror besides her compact. She avoided them like the plague.

I guess this is as good as it’s gonna get, Laura thought before throwing her bookbag strap over her shoulder.

“Morning,” Betty said, loudly as Laura made her way to the apartment door.

“Yeah, Morning,” Laura replied.

“I'm going to that new bar down the street later and I think you should come,” Betty offered.

Laura smiled. “Can I let you know?”

“Can I let you know is Laura Hollis for no. Come on, Laura! It's Wednesday night. That means the work week is almost over! It'll be fun!” Betty seemed to be pleading.

Laura on the other hand was already looking forward to her regular weeknight plan. Come home, eat some Chinese food, followed by some cookies and binge watch something on Netflix.

“I'll let you know,” Laura said again before quickly making her way out the door.

As she walked to the subway, her mind was running a mile a minute. I should go! It would be fun, but I would only know Betty. That usually leads to drunk Laura making a fool of herself or shy Laura who feels uncomfortable and counts every second until she can get out of there. Why can't I just be normal and have a good time? Be care free?

Laura continued to taunt herself as she made her way down the subway stairs. She jumped on the 4 train, taking her uptown to the bookstore. She managed to get a seat when she noticed a girl staring at her.

Why is she staring at me? Is there something on my face? Relax, Laura. She probably just thinks I'm ugly or it's my body. Maybe she's surprised I could fit in this space on the seat.

Laura soon realized today wasn't going to be a good, sunny day like she had hoped. However, most of her mornings started out this way. She tries to ignore her thoughts by reading some Harry Potter fanfic on her phone. It worked for the time being.

Laura was soon off the train and heading in the direction to the bookstore. It's green awning stood out proudly as she saw the familiar “Hemingway and Company” sign written in white. She walked in and felt the quiet store, calm her.

“Hey, Killer,” David said.

“Morning, Boss. How many boxes are we expecting today?”

“Well the semester is starting in a couple weeks so I think you know the drill.”

“I guess, I'll put my stuff down and prepare myself for the madness.”

David smiled at her as she made her way downstairs to basement. She liked David a lot. He was like a brother to her or at least someone she trusted enough to call if she ever needed help. He was in his early 30’s and alway had a friendly smile on his face. He had a shabby beard that was as black as his scruffy hair. He definitely looked like the guy you would expect to own a bookstore. His shirts always seemed to have hole in them somewhere, but he was happy with his life.

Laura threw her stuff by her desk and started up her computer. She was in the back of the basement, which sometimes was the perfect place to be, like during the rush at the start of the semester. However, days like today, where she couldn't shut her mind off, her desk was a personal hell of self deprecation.

Laura knew the boxes wouldn't arrive until around 11 or noon, so she decided to go back upstairs and help David out. She started labeling some of the leftover books from yesterday. The front door chimed and Laura saw the familiar red hair of one of her best friends.

“Hey, Frosh.”

“You know, Laf, after all these years, you think I could get a new nickname?”

“Where would the fun in that be, Laur?” Lafontaine smiled.

“Morning, Lafontaine! Ready for an exciting day of training?” David asked, jumping down from one of the shelves.

“Absolutely! You know I love helping the newbies feel as welcomed as possible.”

“Are the new hires starting today?” Laura asked.

At the start of every new semester, the bookstore hired people, temporarily, to help with the rush. They were hired to get students in and out of the store as quickly as possible. They would work the registers, help with labeling the new books, putting them on the shelves under their assigned classes and assisting in anyway possible. Unlike most college bookstores, Hemingway wouldn’t allow students to get their books. The students would come to the counter, hand off their syllabi and let the bookstore employees grab everything they needed.

“They are. Now, Lafontaine, where is your partner in crime?” David asked, shuffling some papers in his hands.

“Perry is making the coffee/doughnut run this morning. She'll be here soon.”

“Excellent!” David said, sharing a high five with Lafontaine.

“Oh and Laura, we've brought in a new receiver from our Hunter College store.”

“David, I'm capable of doing this on my own.”

“I know that, Killer. But we've had more professors put in orders this semester, so I thought it be best to add another. And the best part is we don't have to train her. She should be here soon and she'll be taking Lafontaine’s spot downstairs.”

“Wait, so Laf won't be helping at all?”

“Nope. David wants me on the floor, monitoring the minions, which I'm fine with. I hated receiving anyway.”

“But it's math. You love math,” Laura countered.

Lafontaine rolled their eyes dramatically. “Yes chemistry involves equations and some math, but I prefer the science part of it rather than the actual math,” Lafontaine argued.

“Anyway, Laura. I've heard she's a good and fast receiver. And I know I don't have to ask you to be nice because you always are.”

Laura gave the best smile she could. She was always nervous around new people. Every thought passed through her mind when she noticed David staring at her.

“Are we good?” David asked.

“Uh, yeah. Perfect.”

“Good. I've got to finish hanging up these class tags on the shelf. We've got time before the delivery truck comes. Care to help?” David asked as Lafontaine made their way to one of the stores computers.

Laura jumped at the opportunity. Behind the counter were three long rows of steel shelves that held 5 to 6 rows each. This was one of her favorite aspects of the bookstore. They didn't use ladders to reach the top of these shelves. They would climb up like monkeys. It was fast, easy and reliable. You had to be in shape for this job.

“Can you start the classics section for me? The tags are on the shelf,” David said, working his way back to the math section.

Laura got to work immediately when she heard the door open.

“Hello, Sweetheart,” Laura heard Lafontaine said. She poked her head around one of the shelves.

“Morning, Perry.”

“Good morning, Laura. I got you a hot chocolate and two Homer Simpson doughnuts.”

“Thanks, Per!”

Laura jumped off the shelves and made her way to the counter. She took a bite of her strawberry frosted doughnut with sprinkles and smiled. She collected the other one along with her hot chocolate and a couple of napkins before making her way back to hanging tags.

A couple hours passed quickly enough when the UPS truck started loading in their shipment of books for the day.

“How many do we have today, Mike?” Perry asked, when he came in with the first load.

“No too many. About 20,” Mike replied.

David walked out of the back with a hand truck to help unload the truck. Laura was relieved at the number of boxes. The rush was coming, but not today. Twenty boxes was a walk in the park for her. When she could consistently work, her mind was too focused to concentrate on the thoughts looming in the back of her head. Once all the boxes were inside, they counted, signed and sent Mike on his way.

Laura grabbed a box and swung it over her shoulder, carrying it downstairs to the counter attached to her desk. She was content with this. She didn’t enjoy exercising so for Laura, going up and down the stairs with boxes on her shoulders and climbing shelves were enough. She liked the people she worked with and the light jazz David played throughout the day helped keep her centered while she worked.

Once all the boxes were downstairs, Laura headed up to finish the last few remaining shelf tags. The little trip up and down the stairs, made Laura warm so she discarded her sweatshirt, pulling her t-shirt away from her stomach. It's too tight. Why did I wear this shirt?

When she reached the top of the stairs, David was standing at the counter, talking on the phone.

“Hey, Bill. Yeah is this girl at your store?... The one you were sending to us to help us receive… She was supposed to be here an hour ago… Well let me know if she comes to your store.”

“So I take it this new girl isn’t coming?” Laura asked, hopeful. The less she had to interact with someone new, the happier she felt.

“I’m not sure. I want you to wait an hour or so before you start receiving, just to see if she gets here.”

“Sure thing. I’ll hang out with Laf and monitor the store.”

“Thanks, Killer.”

“When are the new hires coming?” Lafontaine asked, eager to start their task.

“Later. After lunch,” David replied.

Laura and Lafontaine entertained themselves by watching movie trailers on YouTube. They helped the small amount of customers that came and went, but it was a rather slow morning. They were deeply intrigued by one trailer when someone cleared their voice. Laura looked up to see an extremely attractive girl. She was not much taller than Laura with pale skin and curly black hair. She was in all black. Laura didn’t understand how this girl was not sweating with the summer heat that was in full swing outside.

“Can you help me?” The girl asked, sounding rushed and annoyed.

Laura stuttered. “Uh, certainly. What book are you looking for?”

The girl tapped her fingers against the green counter. “I’m here for David?”

“Oh. Are you the new girl?” Laura asked.

“Why don’t you get David and we’ll figure it out together,” she said with an annoyed tone.

Rude, Laura thought. “Sure, one second,” Laura replied, trying to match this girl’s tone of annoyance.

She walked to the back of the stacks and saw David fiddling away with more tags.

“Uh, David. I think the new girl is here.”

“Ah, perfect.”

David followed Laura out and up to the front. The girl was still standing there. She still had the annoyed expression, almost impatient. She made eye contact with her when she saw the man behind her. She stood up straighter and tried to smile.

“David?” Carmilla asked.

“Yes. You must be Carmilla.”

“Yes, Sir. Sorry I’m late. The 4 train was stop and go all the way from Brooklyn and I might have overslept.”

“No harm done. Next time, just try and call the store or text me saying you’re going to be late. That way we have no miscommunication.”

“Will do. So let’s get down to business, shall we? Where will I be working?” Carmilla asked, getting straight to the task she was sent here to do.

“You’ll be downstairs with Laura,” David replied, gesturing towards Laura.

“Uh, hi. I’m Laura,” Laura said. She stuck out her hand for Carmilla to shake. Carmilla glanced but remained where she was.

“Pleasure,” Carmilla said towards her before turning back to David, ignoring Laura completely. Laura immediately put her hand down, feeling stupid for putting it out there to begin with.

“So did you already get your shipment?” Carmilla asked.

“Yes. Laura, why don’t you show Carmilla where she’ll be working.”

“Uh, sure,” Laura mumbled. She felt like every time Carmilla looked at her she was being studied and judged. Her head was running a mile a minute as she started to compare herself to Carmilla. She is so beautiful. I wish I was that beautiful. She’s confident. I bet she gets all the guys or girls, depending on what she wants. I wonder what that’s like. Laura continued this mantra as they walked down the stairs and to the back of the basement.

“So this is it. This is me,” Laura said, pointing to her left, “And your desk/computer is the one right down there on the other end.”

“Great,” Carmilla said without any enthusiasm. She looked around Laura’s desk, noticing all the weird art and post its on her wall. She looked at Laura with a raised eyebrow.

“Oh, uh, sometimes the rush hires like to draw stuff and put it on my wall. Everyone does. It’s fun. You can do it too if you want.”

Carmilla gave her a light smile before grabbing a yellow post-it pad and a Sharpie from Laura’s desk. She turned her back so Laura couldn’t see what she was drawing. Once she was finished, Laura tried to look.

“Nope. Let it be a surprise, Cupcake,” Carmilla said, with a glint of something in her eye.

Carmilla peeled the post it off and looked at the wall. “Hmm,” she said in a low tone. “Where do I want this post it to go? Can I move stuff?”

Laura was particular about the order her stuff was in. “I rather you not,” Laura said.

“Okay. I’ll just put it here then,” Carmilla said. She put the post it above the rest and managed to keep it hidden the entire time. Laura was too busy checking out Carmilla’s backside to even notice what was on the post-it.

Carmilla turned around quickly and smiled.

“I hope you like it,” Carmilla said, slowly passing Laura to throw her bag on the counter beside her desk.

Laura could feel her face blush, knowing Carmilla had caught her. Whatever. It’s not like that would ever happen anyway, she thought before looking up at the drawing. It was a middle finger sticking up and written in pretty cursive, it said, “fuck this”. She turned around and looked at Carmilla who was chuckling.

“Like it?” Carmilla asked.

“Charming,” Laura muttered. She felt herself deflate a little bit as she made her way over to one of the boxes. “I assume you know how to receive, so you can get started,” Laura said.

Carmilla got up and grabbed a box from the counter that Laura had laid them on. Laura quickly followed suit to distract herself. She noticed the tone muscles in Carmilla’s arm and instantly felt jealous when she looked down at her arm. She had muscle, but didn’t have definition to prove it. Of course she has no fat, that’s why I can see her muscles. I wish I were that skinny. Laura shook her head and opened the box. She pulled out the invoice and started to work. She checked to make sure all the books listed on the invoice were in fact in the box. She exhaled with relief. She wouldn’t have to call the publishers to tell them she was missing books. She hated talking on the phone.

Laura and Carmilla managed to work in silence and Laura was grateful. She felt uneasy next to Carmilla, like she had eyes on her. She turned to see Carmilla staring at her, not doing any work with her feet up on the desk.

“What?” Laura asked, continuing to receive.

“I’m trying to figure you out,” Carmilla said, as if it were simple.

“Trying to figure what out?”

“You’re story. I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“So enlighten me, Cupcake. How old are you?”

“It’s Laura, not Cupcake. And I’m 25.”

Carmilla didn’t say anything as she continued to stare. Laura was starting to get annoyed. She just wanted to get her work done. It was making her feel on edge. Like an animal in a zoo or a freak show at the circus.

“What?” Laura asked, turning in her chair to look at Carmilla again.

“It’s the same thing, Cupcake. I’m trying to figure you out.”

“There’s nothing to figure out. Will you please stop staring at me?”

At that question, Carmilla stood up from her seat and walked towards Laura. Laura sighed as she felt Carmilla stand behind her. Carmilla’s presence was strong and Laura felt herself getting smaller and smaller. She could feel Carmilla’s breath on her neck.

“Maybe I don’t want to,” Carmilla said lowly in Laura’s ear. Laura didn’t move as she felt a chill run down her spine before Carmilla let out another light chuckle.

“You’re so easy to tease,” Carmilla laughed.

Laura rolled her eyes and decided to ignore Carmilla’s laughter. She won’t lie though, she was a tad bit disappointed. It’s not like anyone as hot as she is would ever be attracted to someone like me.

Laura heard Carmilla’s phone ring which seemed to stop the laughter all together. Carmilla tsked at her phone before answering it.

“Hello,” Carmilla said, sternly. “Elsie, I told you to stop calling me.” She paused, and Laura was surprised Carmilla’s eyes weren’t stuck to the back of her head with how much she seemed to be rolling them. Carmilla huffed. “We had fun, but that’s all it was, fun. I told you that to start with and you said you were fine with it.” Carmilla paused again as this Elsie person continued to talk. Laura continued to work as she tried not to act like she was eavesdropping. Then she heard Carmilla’s light chuckle. “Yeah? You like it when I do that?” Carmilla asked with a little hum. Laura suddenly felt uncomfortable. This is not a conversation to have at work. She took a chance and looked at Carmilla, who was biting her lip and staring at Laura. Carmilla was leaning back in her chair and her legs were spread wider than necessary. “How about I do it again tonight? Alright, I’ll be there at 7. See you then.”

Carmilla put her phone down and Laura immediately felt like she needed to leave as Carmilla's gaze fell back on her. Laura looked at the time on her computer and noticed it was 1pm. She decided now would be a good time to go get lunch. She left without saying anything to Carmilla and headed upstairs with her bag.

“David, I’m gonna go to lunch,” she said as she passed by him quickly.

Laura used the back exit to leave the store. She felt a little relief as she stepped outside. It was a warm day, but definitely cooler than it had been for the past couple of days. She took her usual, short walk to the pizza place.

“Hey, Laura. Two cheese slices?”

Laura smiled. “Yes, please.”

Laura never could remember this guy’s name, but they always chatted back and forth while her pizza was being reheated. She paid and thanked him before heading to the deli next door to get a can of Dr. Pepper.

Laura made her way back to the bookstore. The back of the building had a couple stairs where Laura usually sat to eat her lunch on beautiful days like today. She liked watching the people go by, as she got some sun on her skin. She set her pizza box and drink behind her on the landing before taking her bag off her back. She pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights and took the cigarette in between her lips. She knew she shouldn’t be smoking, and swore she was going to quit, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. She knew you had to be fully committed to quit and she wasn’t. She lit her cigarette and leaned back on her elbows, watching the people pass by and wondering where they were headed; what their lives were like.

“You know, I didn’t peg you for a smoker,” the new familiar voice said.

“Yeah, well, most don’t,” Laura replied.

“Can I give you a dollar for one?” Carmilla asked.

“You can just take one,” Laura said, holding out her pack.

Carmilla grabbed the pack and took a zippo lighter from her pocket. “Thanks,” she mumbled, with the cigarette hanging from her mouth. “Mind if I sit next to you?” Carmilla asked.

Yes.

“Not at all,” Laura said, gesturing to the open space on the stairs.

They sat quietly, smoking their cigarettes. It was awkward and forced from Laura’s perspective. She just wanted to Carmilla leave her be in peace. Laura flicked her cigarette into the street before grabbing her pizza box.

“I’m sorry you had to hear my conversation downstairs. I promise that won’t happen again. This girl is just kind of sensitive and doesn’t seem to get the point of what’s actually going on with us,” Carmilla said, out of nowhere.

“It’s whatever,” Laura said.

“Well,” Carmilla stood from the spot. “That pizza looks good. Where did you get it?”

“Right down the block.”

Carmilla nodded and started to walk away. She turned around and smiled at Laura. “Thanks for the smoke, Cupcake. See you in a bit.”

Laura gave a small smile. She waited until Carmilla was further away before taking a bite of her pizza. She suddenly felt subconscious about her body weight as she watched Carmilla’s slim figure walk away. Laura wasn’t large by any means, but she always had a small little gut that hung over her pants and it bothered her. She knew eating pizza wasn’t helping with that, but for some reason she accepted her stomach, even though she wasn’t proud of it and wished she could lose it. She tried to push her uneasiness away when she made eye contact with another girl. She felt like she was being judged by this skinny blond and she could feel herself falling. Feeling down again, she went back inside and down into the basement.

Laura sat downstairs at her desk and ate as quickly as possible, leaving half a slice behind. She dumped her Dr. Pepper out in the sink as she willed her body not to cry. The images of skinny girls played in her head. Her thoughts uncontrollable. They’ll never know what it’s like to worry about their stomachs hanging over their pants. I wonder what that’s like. Laura mindlessly pulled at her t-shirt that seemed to be glued to her stomach. She went back to her desk and put on her baggy sweatshirt. To distract herself, Laura decided to finish up the last few boxes of books. Once they were completed she printed her labels.

As Laura walked to the office to retrieve them, she was stopped by Carmilla.

“Did you finish the boxes?” Carmilla asked.

“Uh, yeah. Sorry.”

“That's okay. Thanks, even. Now I don't have to work.” Carmilla smiled.

“Uh, yeah you do!”

“Well my job is to receive and the receiving is done. So I hand off my labels, put my feet up on my desk, listen to some music and maybe take a nice little nap.”

“Seriously? We don’t do that here. We only hand off our labels when the huge shipments come in from our whole sales. When it comes from the smaller publishers, we do it ourselves,” Laura said, throwing her arms up in the air as if it were obvious. Her nerves were starting to wear and the day was dragging. She just wanted to go home, get into her bed and close the world off.

Carmilla didn't reply. She turned around, went to her desk and did exactly what she said she'd do. Laura frowned, but went about her business. She grabbed her labels and headed back to her stack of books.

“Just so you know, only some of the rush people are starting today and they won't be labeling until tomorrow. So you might want to print and do your job.”

“Or just leave them for some newb to do tomorrow,” Carmilla suggested.

Laura's hand closed in a fist around the labels in her hand. She cracked her neck to relieve some of her annoyance and focused on doing her job, as she stacked the labeled books on a cart.

“Not that it’s any of my business, but aren’t you warm in that sweatshirt?” Carmilla asked.

Laura felt self conscious again. She looked down at her body and frowned.

“I got cold,” Laura lied.

“Are you sure? You seem to have a little sweat collecting,” Carmilla noted.

She knows I’m fat. I’m sweating because I’m too fat and I need to cover myself up so other people can’t see all of me.

“I’m fine,” Laura stated.

Laura felt Carmilla looking at her again, but when she looked back, Carmilla had her eyes closed. She quickly finished labeling her books and loading them onto her cart. Once Laura's cart was full she pushed it to the bottom of the stairs and started to lift it up one stair at a time.

“Let me help you with that, Little Hottie,” she heard a light, male voice say.

“No,” Laura said sternly. “I do this everyday, I've got it.”

“Whoa. Okay. Cool!”

Laura pulled the rest of the cart up the stairs and behind the counter.

“Aw, good! More examples to help you guys learn where the classes are and books go,” Lafontaine gestured.

Laura smiled as she took in the faces of about ten new people.

“Oh and this is Laura,” Lafontaine announced. “She is our full time receiver, so she'll be the person to go to if you can't find a book on the shelf, but says it was received. I'll show you where her desk is later when I give the grand tour.”

“Can I help you with anything, Laf?” Laura asked, hoping she could get a break from Carmilla.

“We're good! Thanks though!”

“Right,” Laura paused. “I have more books to label so I will get on that so you guys have more to shelve.”

Laura exited around the counter and back down the stairs. Before turning the corner, she took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. She knew her emotions were more caused by her thoughts than the people around her. She turned the corner and saw Carmilla and David talking. Instead of interrupting, she decided to go into the office.

“Hey, Per!”

“Oh, hey Laura!”

“How's the ordering going?”

“There's definitely a lot more this semester, but we're getting there. How's the new girl?”

“Um she's okay, but she’s getting under my skin a little bit.”

“Uh oh,” Perry smirked.

“I hate that look. That's your knowing look,” Laura replied.

“You think she's hot.”

“What?! I do not, Perry!”

“And you're blushing.”

Laura crossed her arms.

“Oh come on, Laura. You are always attracted to the girls who get under your skin. We all remember Danny.”

“She got under your skin, not mine.”

“But she did eventually,” Perry added.

“True. But I don't find Carmilla attractive.”

“Sure you don't.”

Perry turned her attention back to her computer.

“Laura sure doesn't what?” David asked, making his way into the office.

“Find Carmilla attractive,” Perry said, sarcastically, before Laura could answer.

“I don’t,” Laura protested. “She's annoying and lazy.”

“Uh huh. Is that wedding bells I hear?” David asked before giving Laura a light punch on her arm. Laura smiled at him. Not for me,Laura thought, trying to keep the smile on her face. David laughed to himself before heading back up stairs with more class labels in his hands.

“Look whether I find her attractive or not, it doesn't matter,” Laura said.

“And why is that?” Perry questioned, turning to look at Laura again.

“I could never get someone that attractive. That's the dream girl of sexiness. She's way to hot for me.”

“That doesn't even make sense, Laura.” Perry said, rolling her eyes. They were used to the way Laura thought, but always tried to make sure Laura understood that what she thought wasn’t true.

“It doesn't matter. It's just me.”

“Stop being so negative. If you want her, go get her.”

“Yeah,” Laura said, lightly as she made her way to her desk. She'd heard that before. She was constantly told to stop being negative, but she wasn't. She was stating the facts she believed to be true. The only way I could get a girl like that is if I was dreaming.

When Laura reached her desk, she saw Carmilla putting labels on her books.

“Get in trouble?” Laura asked, smirking.

“What's it to you, Cupcake?”

“It's nothing to me, Carmilla. Just curious,” she teased.

“Maybe I just didn't want to leave and then you'd end up having to do it. I was being courteous,” Carmilla offered.

Laura eyed her curiously. Carmilla smirked.

“Okay. Maybe David found me leaning back in my chair with eyes closed.”

Laura chuckled.

Carmilla's cart was now full of books as Laura finished up her last stack of freshly labeled books. She could feel Carmilla's eyes on her again.

“Yes?” Laura asked, putting the last book on the cart.

“Now what do I do, Cupcake? New store, remember. I don't know how you guys operate.”

“Oh, right. Sorry. You take the cart upstairs,” Laura said, simply.

“And how do I get the cart upstairs?”

“Follow me,” Laura replied.

“Gladly,” Carmilla smiled.

Laura felt her cheeks blush. As she pushed her cart in front of her, to the bottom of the stairs. Once there, Laura started to pull her cart up yet again. Carmilla watched her curiously.

Once Laura was upstairs, she wheeled it behind the counter and waited for Carmilla. After a few moments, she went back to the stairwell to see Carmilla hadn't moved at all.

“Problem?” Laura asked, smirking.

“Nope,” Carmilla said, dismissing Laura.

Carmilla pulled the cart up with ease and pushed it behind the counter. She looked at Laura, who seemed a little displeased at how easy that was for Carmilla. Most of the new receivers had no strength, so Laura would end up being the one to pull the books up. It made her feel important and strong.

Carmilla passed Laura, wheeling her cart to an opened aisle. “I like a girl with muscles,” Carmilla whispered.

Laura gawked at her before Carmilla turned around and winked. Laura wish that little gesture and comment didn't have an effect on her like it did.

The rest of the day went smoothly and without comments from Carmilla. Laura gave Carmilla and the new rush hires a tour of the store with Lafontaine. They laughed and made fun of each, but Laura started to feel better. It was around 6 o’clock when David decided to close up shop. They didn’t really have store hours when the new semester started.

Laura went outside and was starting to pull down the gates when the beefy guy from earlier popped out.

“Do you need help?” He asked, smiling at her with his blue eyes.

“No, I'm good. Thanks though.”

“You're like, one tough chick-”

“Okay. Okay. My name is Laura. Not hottie, not chick. Just Laura.”

“Oh, sorry, Laura. I'm Kirsch!”

Laura smiled and held out her hand. Kirsch took her hand and shook it.

“It's nice to meet you, Kirsch.”

“You too! My offer still stands to help, if you ever need it.” Kirsch asked, cautiously.

“I'm honestly good. I do this every day.”

Kirsch nodded and went back inside the store. Laura sighed before pulling the first gate all the way down. Once she had it locked, she noticed someone was standing there, watching her. She turned and jumped at how close Carmilla was to her.

“Fuck, Carmilla. Don't do that!”

“Why so jumpy, Cupcake?”

“We live in New York City. If anyone stands that close to me and over my shoulder, I have a right to jump.”

“You should work on that. It makes you look vulnerable. A easier target,” Carmilla stated.

Laura shrugged as she reached for the second gate and pulled it down.

Carmilla smirked at her.

“What?” Laura asked.

“Nothing. Like I said before, I really do like a girl with muscles.”

“Well I hope your girlfriend has them,” Laura muttered, remembering having to listen to their conversation earlier.

Carmilla's smirked faltered, which made Laura feel a little proud. An awkward pause happened between them. After a few moments of silence, Laura started to go inside, happy that she managed to silence Carmilla. Carmilla cleared her throat.

“She's definitely not my girlfriend. We just like to have fun, you know? Don't you like to have fun?”

That made Laura uncomfortable. She knew Carmilla was implying sex as a way of “having fun.” Danny was really the only girl she had been with and they had broken up a couple years ago. She had tried to “have fun”, but sleeping around didn’t do much for Laura. It always made her feel empty afterwards so she decided, rather quickly, that it wasn't for her. Laura looked at Carmilla one more time and tried to stop thinking. She decided it was easier to just ignore the question as she tried to not falter into her thoughts and the sudden ache she felt at her loneliness.

“Uh, goodnight, Carmila.”

“Wait! I hope I didn't offend you,” Carmilla started, reaching out to touch Laura’s arm.

Laura tried her hardest to smile. “Nope. Not at all. I just have to help Laf finish up.” Laura pointed back inside the store and slowly backed her way to the door. Carmilla watched her until she was inside. She saw Carmilla kick a rock before leaving the area in front of the store.

“You develop crushes so easily and obviously,” Laura heard Lafontaine said.

“I don't have a crush on her,” Laura said through gritted teeth.

“Alright. Relax, Frosh.”

“Do you need any help?” Laura asked, avoiding eye contact with Lafontaine.

“Nope. I’m pretty much done here.”

“I'm gonna head out. It’s been a long day.”

Laura ran downstairs and grabbed her stuff. She wanted to take her sweatshirt off because she knew it was warm outside, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. When she came back up, Lafontaine tried to stop her.

“Per and I are going out to dinner. You should come.”

They asked this question almost every day. Laura didn’t mind having dinner with them, but she also didn’t like to interrupt their date night. She felt like they always offered because they felt sorry for her. Tonight was not a night she felt like being the third wheel.

“Thanks but I'm actually going out with Betty tonight,” Laura lied.

“As in your roommate, Betty?” Lafontaine asked.

“Yeah. She invited me out this morning.”

“She invites you out every morning and you always decline. Why tonight?”

“I don’t know. A change of pace. Try something new.”

“Well if you change your mind, you're always welcome!”

“Thanks, Laf. See you tomorrow.”

Laura left in a hurry and rushed towards the subway so she could have a moment of peace to herself. She tried reading, but her brain was wrapped up in Carmilla.

I bet her hair is silky. She's so beautiful. I wonder what it would be like to be with her.

Laura thought of every possible scenario that involved being with Carmilla while she got off the train and walked towards her apartment. She stood outside her apartment building, so she could light another cigarette. She let the nicotine fill her while she continued thinking about Carmilla.

Laura then felt the familiar pain. The pain of reality.

All this is never going to happen. She is just so beautiful. She'd never go for a girl like me.

Laura looked down at her small tummy that she could suck in when needed, but it was still there. She frowned as her thoughts deepened.

I’d squish her. She's so thin, that if I was on top of her, she wouldn’t be able to breath with my body weight. I wish I could be that small. I wish I knew what it was like to be that skinny.

Laura finished her cigarette and flicked it to the street. Just as she was about to go in, she saw a cute lesbian couple walking down the street, hand in hand. She always tried to be happy when she saw lesbian couples, but she always felt a pang of jealousy instead.

“Thanks, Universe,” she mumbled to herself. “Just the icing on the cake after today.”

She took out her keys, unlocked the door and went inside. She felt her eyes start to water at all her faults, as her thoughts became louder and louder. She shook her head and made her way towards her bedroom, relieved that Betty was nowhere to be found. She slipped on some sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt before grabbing her phone. She went to her Seamless app and ordered Chinese food from the local place. She sniffled as she laid down in her bed. She opened her iPad and opened her netflix account.

She started to binge watch Buffy. After consuming her Chinese food and countless hours of watching, she decided to have another cigarette. She reached into her bag, only to realize her pack was empty. She groaned, but put on a pair of old jeans and made her way towards the deli.

The deli was only a block away from her apartment. She liked going there. One time, after having a few drinks, she hung out at the deli until 2am. They taught her some things in Arabic while drinking and smoking. Laura smiled at the memory.

“Hey, Laura.”

“Hey, Ali. Can I get pack of Marlboro’s?”

“Sure thing.”

Laura heard the door open while waiting. She saw the blur of a blonde and brunette walking in together and laughing. Ali handed her, her usual and she paid.

“See you later,” Laura smiled.

Laura put the pack into her pocket when she was stopped by a figure in front of her.

“Hey, Cupcake.”

Crap.

Chapter Text

Why, out of every possible thing that could happen to Laura tonight, did Carmilla have to be standing right in front of her? She was in a black corset with what seemed to be a pair of tight leather pants and black boots. She was wearing red lipstick that complimented her skin tone well. Carmilla's smile was big as she took in Laura.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Carmilla said, holding the hand of the blonde behind her. Their fingers were playing with each other, while the blonde giggled.

“Yeah, well, this is my neighborhood,” Laura admitted.

“Yeah? I'm down on Bergen. What about you?”

“St. Marks.”

“Cool. Cool.”

Why does she seem nervous to talk to me? If anything, I should be the one who's nervous.

“Uh, how's your Wednesday night going?” Carmilla asked.

As if you really care. “Fine.”

Laura watched as the blonde continuously kissed Carmilla's neck and bare shoulders. She was tall, skinny and blonde. She had a nice smile and kept touching Carmilla. Carmilla seemed to ignore the girl, while staring at Laura. Laura felt a pang of jealousy. But what she couldn’t figure out was if she was jealous because she yearned for a girl to touch her like that or if it was because this girl’s lips were on Carmilla, and she wanted to be the girl doing that.

I don't even know the last time I felt someone's lips on my skin. Not that it matters. The last girl who I hooked up with will probably be the last one to ever do that to me. I’m repulsive.

Laura looked down at her feet, struggling to keep her brain quiet as some awkward silence, minus the sound of lips kissing skin lingered. Finally she found her voice. Laura's eyes were tearing up, but she spoke as clearly and as strongly as she could.

“I'll, um, I'll see you tomorrow, Carmilla.”

Laura pushed past Carmilla and this blonde girl who seemed to be attached to Carmilla by the mouth. She thought she heard Carmilla say something as she walked out the door, but it didn't stop her. For a short girl, she could walk fast and cover a lot of distance.

The thoughts of loneliness wouldn't stop. The picture of the blonde’s body and how skinny she was made Laura regret her smoking addiction. If I didn't smoke, I would be asleep. And if I was asleep, I wouldn't have had to witness that.

Laura felt a tug on her shoulder, but shrugged it off. Carmilla ran around her to stand in front of her, stopping her in her tracks.

“Are you okay?” Carmilla asked, sternly.

“I'm fine,” Laura said, trying to hide everything. Laura walked past Carmilla.

“You don't look fine.”

Laura paused, but didn't lift her eyes from her shoes. She just wanted to get back home, smoke her cigarette and go to sleep.

“Look, I'm sorry about Elsie. She has a hard time keeping her hands to herself.”

Laura rolled her eyes. “I noticed that.”

“Can I walk you home?” Carmilla asked.

“Shouldn't you be staying with your girlfriend?”

“Laura, she isn't my girlfriend. She only calls me when she wants to,” Carmilla paused, looking for the right words, scratching the back of her neck. “Uh, when she wants to have a good time. Unfortunately it's been more and more recently, but I don't have any emotional attachment to her other than sex. Let me walk you home.”

“I'm good. Thanks though.”

“I'm good company,” Carmilla smirked. For some reason that made Laura laugh.

“I'm sure. But seriously. I've lived here for 4 years. I can take care of myself.”

“Okay. I mean, of course you can. Well, we were on our way to Franklin Park. You wanna come with us? Get a drink?” Carmilla asked.

Laura looked down at her body before looking at Carmilla's. She could see a little of Carmilla's toned stomach and it made her suck in gut, trying to feel skinny.

“Thanks for the offer, but it's been a long day. I'm going to go smoke a cigarette and then head to bed.”

Carmilla pulled out her phone and looked at the time. “It's only 9:30. The night is young.”

“Again, thanks for the invite, but I have to pass. Have a good time with your girlfriend.”

Laura walked around Carmilla and was grateful that Carmilla wasn't following her. She just wanted to get away.

“I'm still trying to figure you out, Cupcake!” Carmilla yelled.

Laura kept walking, but she turned around to give Carmilla a small smile. Carmilla returned it. She made it back to her apartment. She smoked her cigarette before heading inside to her quiet apartment. Betty was still out and Laura took comfort in the feeling of living alone. She took a shower and was asleep before 10:30.

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

By the time Laura got to work the next morning, she felt drained. All the thoughts and images from last night were flooding her mind. She gave a brief ‘hello’ to Lafontaine before going straight down into the basement. She went to her desk and decided to stay there for as long as she could without being bothered. She took her sweatshirt off, trying to cool down from the humid, morning air outside. She checked her email and tidied around her desk. Being in the basement always caused a lot of dust to fall on her desk. She found some cleaner and started to wipe up as much dust up as she could.

Laura wanted to call in sick this morning because she didn't feel like being around people. Not to mention, sleep sounded better than moving. But she knew she couldn't really afford to do that. They got some paid time off, but she only liked to use those hours when she would go visit her dad. So here she was, at work, avoiding everyone and cleaning her desk. She could hear someone walking down the stairs. As soon the footsteps came closer to her, she knew it was Carmilla and tried to calm herself. She knew she wasn’t in the best of moods and how easily her temper could flare if bothered enough.

“Wanna do mine next?” Carmilla asked, passing Laura to throw her bag down on her desk.

“You have two hands. Do it yourself!” Laura retaliated. Apparently I can’t hide my irritation after all.

Carmilla smirked. “Someone is awfully feisty this morning.”

Carmilla sat down on her desk chair and put her feet up. Her eyes were still glued to Laura and the smirk didn't leave her face.

Laura exhaled, but still didn't look towards Carmilla. “I didn't sleep well,” she said, sadly.

“Maybe someone should have gotten a drink with me. Alcohol always helps me sleep.”

“Actually sleep or sleep around?”

Laura eyes widened at her own question. It wasn’t like her to ask such a blunt question, but she didn't really care at the moment.

Carmilla made a face and shrugged. “If I drink enough, I can go home and pass out. If I drink and then find a girl, I can go to her home and pass out after we have sex. Either way, I'm sleeping.”

Laura didn't say anything. She pulled out one of the brooms from the supply closet and started to sweep around her desk, trying to ignore the feeling of Carmilla’s eyes on her.

“You do look tired though,” Carmilla added.

“Wow. Thank you. I feel so much better now,” Laura replied, sarcastically.

“I didn’t mean it like that. It was just an observation.”

“Telling someone they look tired is another way of saying they look like shit,” Laura huffed. Which I already know I do. I don’t need someone else to point it out to me.

“That’s not what I meant,” Carmilla tried to reconcile.

“Sure,” Laura sneered.

Carmilla stood up and walked over to Laura. She grabbed the broom from Laura's hands and backed Laura up until Laura reached her desk.

What is she doing? Why am I breathing so heavy? Why is she standing so close to me? I need air or something.

Carmilla lifted Laura's chin and stared into her eyes. Is she going to kiss me? No. Bullshit. She's not attracted to someone who looks likes me.

“I don't think you could ever look like shit. And I would never say anything to make you think that you do,” Carmilla said, staring into Laura's eyes.

Laura was tense and just wanted Carmilla to leave her alone. She didn't know why, but she wanted to run to the bathroom and cry. She just needed to get away. She felt smothered. Laura struggled to push Carmilla back, but managed to break free. She grabbed her bag, and ran up the stairs.

Lafontaine eyed her curiously, as she made her way to the back door. Laura always tries to wait until lunch to have her first cigarette of the day, but she needed some form of release. As soon as she stepped outside, she lit her cigarette. She sat down on the steps and brought her knees to her chest. She lowered her head down to her knees and tried her hardest not to cry.

She thinks I'm ugly. I don't blame her. I mean I am ugly and I do look tired, but I look tired every day. I always looks like shit. It’s my everyday look. She would never want to be with someone like me. She's so gorgeous. I would just be the ugly thing standing next to her.

“Hey, Laura.”

Laura jumped at Perry's voice. Lafontaine must have sent her.

“You okay?” Perry asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Laura tried to respond as perky as possible. She kept her eyes on the street in front of her, instead of turning to look at Perry.

“Okay, don’t get upset, but I know you usually don’t have a cigarette before noon and when you do something is not good. Did something bad happen? Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not personally,” Laura replied.

“Okay, well if you want to-”

“I know, Perry. I just want to be alone for a moment.”

“Okay, Laura.”

Perry patted her shoulders before going back inside. Laura took a long drag, feeling the effects of the nicotine in her system. She stayed outside a few moments longer after finishing her cigarette. It was a muggy day, which seemed to fit her mood perfectly. She knew she’d have to go in before too long. She didn’t want to get in trouble with David. Just then she felt a few drops of rain fall and took that as a sign telling her that she needed to head back in. She made her way back to the counter when she witnessed Perry and Lafontaine share a brief kiss. She lingered looking at how they smiled at one another. She felt the familiar pain in her heart. The pain that reminder how sad she was. She tried to sneak past them to go back downstairs.

“You alright, Laur?” Lafontaine asked, their arm around Perry.

“What? No Frosh today?” Laura tried to joke.

Lafontaine smiled, but it faltered quickly. “I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

“I’m fine, Laf. Just a bad morning.”

Lafontaine nodded.

“Well we wanted to invite you to dinner tonight, if you want to come. David and Maggie will be there. Along with Steve and Megan and a few others. You’re more than welcome to come,” Perry offered with a hopeful smile.

The ultimate third wheel. One single with three couples literally sounds like my personal hell. It would be so awkward. Not to mention, everyone would be happy and in love. Laura could see herself pulling away from that group of people: sitting awkwardly on the couch, trying not to speak too much, trying to avoid eye contact or looking at anyone in general.

“I’ll let you know,” Laura said before turning around and going downstairs.

Maggie was David’s girlfriend. She was a petite girl, who was really sweet with strawberry blonde hair and glasses. She definitely belonged in Brooklyn. Steve used to work with them at the bookstore and he got along with Laura really well. Even helped her sometimes on the day she couldn’t escape her thoughts. She also loved Steve’s wife, Megan. They both had a lot of tattoos and were extremely nice, down to earth people. It’s not like any of the three couples would make her purposely feel uncomfortable if she decided to go, but her brain would make it the worst situation for her to be in. Turning a good gathering of friends into a bad one.

When Laura got back downstairs she noticed Carmilla playing Tetris on her computer. She rolled her eyes as she continued to sweep and pick up discarded boxes. She knew if she kept herself occupied, her mind would stay busy. She started to lay the boxes on top of one another, making a stack to be taken outside. That’s when Laura noticed a shift to her right. She saw Carmilla leaning down and tying up some boxes she had previously stacked.

“You don’t have to help. I was just doing it while we wait for today’s shipment,” Laura said, kind of surprised Carmilla got off the computer.

“I don’t mind,” Carmilla stated, wrapping some twine around the stacks of cardboard.

They were silent and Laura continued her sweeping of the large basement floor. After the boxes were tied up, Carmilla looked at Laura.

“I’m sorry for saying you look tired,” Carmilla stated.

“It’s fine. Sorry I was rude to you.”

“You weren’t rude to me, Cupcake. Or at least, I didn’t think you were being rude. I was the one who was rude.”

“Just sometimes I take things too personally. It’s not your fault,” Laura explained.

“I thought about what you said and I shouldn’t make a comment about your appearance, or anyone’s for that matter. So I’m sorry.”

Laura nodded her acceptance. She held Carmilla’s gaze for a moment before she continued to sweep.

“Are you going to Perry’s later?” Carmilla asked.

She invited her? Why? She doesn’t even know her!

“Um, probably not.”

“Why not?” Carmilla asked.

“I’m tired and just don’t feel like being the only single person at what is clearly a couple’s party.”

“But I’ll be there. You won’t be single that way. You should come.”

“I’ll think about it.”

Laura finished sweeping and headed back upstairs. She was actually starting to feel a little better and her mind didn’t seem as clouded. David was pulling boxes off the UPS truck when she got up to the counter. They counted them all before Mike was back out the door and onto his next delivery.

“Still not too many today, Killer. It’s coming, though. I’m gonna call the wholesalers and see where the shipment is. Why don’t you grab Carmilla and start taking these boxes downstairs? And please make sure she labels her own books. Rush hires won’t be here until later,” David informed her.

Laura saluted him. “Will do, Sir.”

David smiled and headed towards the counter. Laura hoisted a box onto her shoulders and made her way downstairs. She made sure she kept her chest up and back straight, so she wasn’t straining. The box was heavier than she expected.

“Shipments here,” Laura announced, placing the box on her desk.

“We carry the boxes downstairs?” Carmilla asked.

“Of course. How else are they going to get them down here?”

“I don’t know. Don’t you guys have a lift upstairs?”

“Yeah, but it hasn’t been installed, so we take the stairs. What’s the matter? I thought you liked a girl with muscles,” Laura teased.

Carmilla smirked and walked up to Laura. She invaded Laura’s personal space again as she felt Carmilla’s finger rub against her stomach. She immediately sucked in and took a step back. She wrapped her arms around her stomach, protecting herself. Carmilla continued to smile at her.

“I do. So maybe I’ll just watch you bring them down. How does that sound?”

David walked by with a box on his shoulder.

“Not a chance, Carmilla,” he said. Carmilla made a disapproving sound.

“David, you’re kind of interrupting my moves here.”

“Do it on your own time. Right now, we need to get these boxes downstairs and received. It turns out, that we will be receiving one of our wholesale shipments later today. I want all of this stuff at least received before we get that shipment in. We all know later today, could mean 6 o’clock tonight. So I just want to make sure we get all of this received, labeled and on the shelf before we start receiving the wholesalers. Laura, I’ve hired SJ again. So she will be able to help you two with the shipment.”

“Oh! Great! Thanks, David.”

“You always said you liked her the best and she was happy to come back. Now we have boxes to bring down.”

Laura followed David with Carmilla behind her. “Got a little crush on this SJ person?” Carmilla asked.

“Jealous?” Laura smirked.

“Not at all, Cupcake.”

“You sure? I don’t know why you would ask otherwise.”

“I was just curious to know your type,” Carmilla said, following up the stairs.

“I don’t have a type.”

Laura walked to the front of the store and grabbed a box, placing it onto her shoulder. They went back and forth a couple of times, taking the boxes downstairs. At one point, Laura passed Carmilla, giving her a smile. Carmilla’s eyes wandered down to see a little bit of Laura’s stomach where her shirt had ridden up from another box being hoisted up on her shoulder. Laura immediately pulled on it before walking past Carmilla as quickly as she could. Once downstairs, she put her sweatshirt back on. She was embarrassed and couldn’t believe Carmilla saw her stomach poking out. Well at least now she knows I’m fat, Laura thought. Carmilla passed her with a box in her arms.

“There is no way you’re cold enough to put on a sweatshirt,” Carmilla said, taking off her flannel to show that Carmilla was wearing a black t-shirt.

“I get cold sometimes,” Laura muttered.

“This store is like 90 degrees and we’re carrying boxes.”

“I’m fine, Carmilla,” Laura said. She pulled her sweatshirt away from her stomach before going back upstairs. She lifted another box up onto her shoulder and tried to reposition herself to pull her sweatshirt down. She was warm and stumbled a little bit. She started to fall backwards when Carmilla grabbed her waist, putting her back on her feet.

“Whoa, Cupcake,” she said, taking the box from Laura’s arms. “Are you okay?”

Laura knew what was about to happen, but she nodded. “I’m okay. Thanks for catching me.”

Carmilla nodded. “Why don’t you go sit downstairs and take that sweatshirt off. It’s too hot in here. I’ll bring down the last few boxes. Okay?”

Laura nodded again, walking slowly. Suddenly the room started to fade to black splotches, before she slowly went down to the ground.

“Laura?” Carmilla asked.

“Is she okay?” Perry asked.

Laura could hear stomping on the floor. “What happened?” David’s voice came from a far.

“She passed out,” Carmilla said. “Help me get this sweatshirt off. She’s sweating really bad.”

As soon as she felt Carmilla’s hand on the edge of her shirt, she opened her eyes and grabbed Carmilla’s hand. She was laying on the ground, her head in Carmilla’s lap.

“Please don’t,” Laura said, her voice small.

“Back up,” Carmilla said to the others. “She needs air. Do we have water?”

“I’ll run to the deli and get some,” Lafontaine said, getting up at once and out the door.

“Let me turn the air conditioning down some more,” David said.

“Okay, Laura. Let’s get this sweatshirt off,” Perry offered, trying to help Laura.

Laura felt like crying. She was so embarrassed not to mention all the eyes the eyes that were bearing into her. She slowly lifted her sweatshirt off and was grateful her t-shirt stayed down. She rested her arms across her stomach. She looked up at Carmilla who was eyeing her curiously.

“I’m okay,” Laura announced. “Just blacked out because I got too hot. I’m okay.”

She started to move to get up and immediately felt a hand grab her arm. “Stay down, Cupcake. Just relax for a minute.”

“I rather relax without people staring at me,” Laura noted, seeing a few different customers eyes on her.

Carmilla turned around to look at them. “Show’s over. Back to your books,” she said, rudely. She turned back to Laura. “Let’s get you downstairs, Cupcake.”

Carmilla helped Laura to her feet that still seemed to be a bit wobbly. “Come on. I’ll walk you downstairs.”

Laura felt Carmilla’s arm wrap around her waist and pull her close. She could feel Carmilla’s hand on her stomach and immediately tried to pull away. Carmilla looked at her and grabbed her arm to wrap around her shoulder. Laura didn’t like this. She didn’t want Carmilla to touch her stomach; to feel the fat that sat above her pants. Carmilla was gentle as she helped Laura get down the stairs and to her desk. Lafontaine came shortly after with a bottle of water and positioned Laura in front of one of the air vents to help her cool down. Laura just sat there, embarrassed, while Carmilla stared at her.

“I’m okay,” Laura announced. “I just got too hot.”

“I told you that you shouldn’t have put on your sweatshirt.”

“I was cold.”

“Laura, there is no way, at all, that you were cold. I was burning up in a t-shirt.”

Laura didn’t say anything. It doesn’t matter. You look good in a t-shirt. You don’t have to worry about hiding anything because you have the body every girl dreams of. If I had a flat stomach, I wouldn’t have to worry about wearing my sweatshirt.

“Laura. Drink your water,” Carmilla said, nodding towards the bottle in her hands.

“Hey, Killer,” David said. “You alright?”

“Yeah. Sorry about that. I just got too warm.”

“Well that’s because you’re the weirdo wearing sweatshirts in the summer.”

Laura knew David was teasing her, but it still hurt. If I was skinny, I wouldn’t have to.

“I always wear sweatshirts in the summer,” Laura protested.

“Yes, I know. That’s why it’s weird.” He laughed which caused Laura to laugh. “Do you wanna go home?” David asked.

“No. I’m seriously okay. Besides we have the shipment coming in later.”

“I’m more worried about you than that shipment.”

“I’m seriously okay, David. I’m going to receive what I have here and then get some food.”

“Okay. Let me know if I can do anything or if you need help.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

David nodded before turning towards Carmilla.

“Keep an eye on her, will you?” He asked.

“Of course.”

David smiled at Carmilla and turned to leave.

“Do you want me to get you some food?” Carmilla asked.

Laura jumped, forgetting for a moment that Carmilla was there.

“I’m fine, Carmilla. I just want to get to work.”

Laura stood from the chair and made her way to her desk. She felt fine now, if not better than she did before. She opened a box and started to pull the books out. Carmilla came and stood beside her and started helping her.

“I blacked out, Carm. I’m not dying. It’s probably from the cigarette I had this morning, lack of breakfast and just being too hot. I don’t need any help.”

Carmilla held up her arms to surrender. “I’m here if you do, though.”

“Thanks,” Laura said, before getting back to work.

They received quietly amongst themselves, as Laura regained her strength. The only sound was the keyboards clicking, papers being ruffled and boxes being taking apart. Laura drank the entire bottle of water Lafontaine had gotten her and felt good as new. She left her sweatshirt off, but kept pulling at her shirt so it wouldn’t touch her stomach. What Laura didn’t notice was that every time she did that, Carmilla would watch her and contemplate why she was doing that. Once she had a few boxes received, Laura started labeling her books. She could hear the weird stomps of someone coming down the stairs and couldn’t place who they belonged to.

“Hey, Laura.”

“Oh, hey Kirsch. What’s up?”

“Lafontaine sent me down here to see if you needed any help.” He smiled at her.

“Have you had the chance to label books yet?”

“I’ve put used stickers on them,” He replied, excitedly.

“Well this is a little different, but if you want to help that would be great!”

“Totally.”

Laura picked up another stack of labels from the printer and turned to Kirsch. “So just make sure the ISBN number on the label matches the number on the back of the book.”

“The what?” Kirsch asked, clearly clueless. Laura could hear Carmilla snicker. She looked over to see Carmilla smiling and shaking her head.

Laura held up the label. “You see this tiny little 13 digit number?” She pointed it out with her finger.

“Oh, yeah!”

“Okay. That is the ISBN number. Make sure that number matches what’s on the back. It’s very important.”

“Cool, Bro. I got you.”

“The labels should be order of the books, but just double check to make sure.”

Kirsch nodded as he grabbed a book. He studied both the book and the label before peeling the sticker and putting it on the book. Better than nothing, Laura thought.

“Oh and just make sure you tell me if something isn’t right,” Laura added.

Kirsch smiled at her and nodded his head again. They worked simultaneously and Laura appreciated how much Kirsch paid attention to detail. Once they were finished they loaded them on carts. Laura started to wheel hers to the stairs with Kirsch behind her.

“So we’ll just pull these upstairs and then they can go on the shelves.”

“Cool.”

Laura started to wheel her cart up when Carmilla appeared around the corner. Kirsch jumped at her sudden presence.

“Geez. You almost gave me a heart attack, Bro. You’re like a ninja or something.”

“Relax, Beefcake,” Carmilla said, patting his muscular arm, before returning her attention to Laura. “Do you want my help with that?”

Laura thought for a moment and didn’t want to embarrass herself again. The cart was rather heavy and even though she knew she could do it, maybe a little extra help wouldn’t be so bad.

“Sure.”

Carmilla pushed passed Kirsch and stood next to Laura.

“Oh, I thought you would just grab the bottom and we’d walk it up together.”

“That’s okay, Creampuff. I got this one,” she smiled.

Laura smiled back and let Carmilla pull the cart up. Carmilla grunted a few times by the heaviness of the cart, which Laura tried to ignore. She didn’t need more visions of Carmilla in her head than the ones she had already concocted.

“Do you need help, Kirsch?” She asked, trying to distract herself.

“I’m good, Laura.”

His arms flexed and he pulled the cart up quickly. He placed it behind the counter. “That was fun, Bro,” he commented.

“And now you get to put them away all by yourself,” Carmilla said.

Once the rest of the books were received and labeled, Carmilla, Kirsch and David took turns taking them upstairs. Laura stood at the top of the stairs, trying to not be in the way. Once everything was in order, she and Carmilla went downstairs. Laura went to get her bag together for lunch. She made sure to grab her sweatshirt.

“Care if I join you for lunch?” Carmilla asked, shyly.

“Do you want to join me?” Laura asked.

Carmilla shrugged. “Could be fun.”

“Let me guess, you don’t really want to join me, you’re just trying to get another cigarette.”

“I mean, if you’re offering, I’m not turning it down. But I figured we could walk somewhere and get some food or something. I want to make sure you’re not going to black out or anything,” Carmilla said, trying to tease Laura.

“Ha ha. You can just ask for a cigarette. You don’t have to get to lunch with me,” Laura commented.

“Maybe I want to get lunch with you.”

Laura was surprised by Carmilla’s honesty. “Okay,” she breathed out.

They walked upstairs together and told David they were going to lunch. She could already see Lafontaine’s knowing face out of the corner of her eye and she was pretty sure David also had a look on his face. She ignored them both as she walked in front of Carmilla down the middle aisle of the shelves and out the door. Laura pulled out her pack of cigarettes and handed them to Carmilla.

“I probably shouldn’t smoke since I passed out,” Laura answered Carmilla’s questioning look.

“Good call, Cupcake.” Carmilla lit the cigarette and took a deep breath in.

“But since they are technically mine, I’m taking a drag,” Laura said, taking the cigarette out of Carmilla’s hand and bringing it to her lips.

She took a long drag before handing it back to Carmilla.

“That’s the only one. I may not be the most responsible person, but I have to put my foot down there,” Carmilla said with a smile on her face.

“Yeah. Yeah,” Laura waved her off, nonchalantly.

“So, where should we go to eat?”

“Sushi?” Laura asked.

“Sounds good. Lead the way.”

Laura had her sweatshirt back on and it made Carmilla nervous. It was warm today and she knew that Laura had to be in hot in it. She tried to ignore it as she kicked a bottle cap down the street.

“Can I ask you a question?” Carmilla asked.

“Sure.”

“Are you seriously not warm in that sweatshirt?”

“I’m okay.”

“So not hot?”

“I’m comfortable.”

“You sure?”

Laura rolled her eyes. “Yes. Besides it’s always cold in the sushi place.”

“But won’t it feel more refreshing against your bare arms than in your sweatshirt?” Carmilla asked.

Laura didn’t say anything. She let the conversation drop. The entered the restaurant and Laura relaxed when she felt how cold the air was. She was cooling down within seconds as the host sat the two of them. Laura looked around as Carmilla studied the menu.

“What are you getting, Cupcake?”

“Oh. I always get an order of California rolls and an order of eel rolls.”

“You never try anything new, do you?” Carmilla asked, closing her menu.

Laura shook her head no.

“You should try new things and broaden your horizons. Food is too delicious to continuously eat the same thing over and over again.”

“Well I don't like to waste money. We don't get paid that much at the bookstore. Why waste money on food I might not like when I can spend money on food I know I do like?”

“Understandable, but what if you're missing out on something fantastic?”

“Then I guess I'm missing out.”

“Okay. What if I bought it?”

“Excuse me?”

“What if I bought you something you've never had? Then you're not wasting your money,” Carmilla started.

“But you could be wasting yours!”

“I'll take the risk,” Carmilla smirked.

“That's nice of you, but not necessary. It would make me feel uncomfortable.”

“Why would that make you feel uncomfortable? It’s literally buying 6 rolls for like $5.00.”

“It’s just… No it’s okay. Truly. Thank you for offering, but I’m okay with my usual order.” Laura looked away. She felt uncomfortable and didn’t really know how to express that. She didn’t like people offering to pay things for her because then she felt like she owed them money.

They sat awkwardly before the waiter came over. Laura ordered her usual when the waiter turned to Carmilla.

“Can I have the salmon avocado roll, spicy tuna roll, and the chicken tempura roll, please. Also can we get an order of edamame, please.”

“And to a drink?”

Carmilla and Laura both gestured to each other. Carmilla smiled.

“Water and a green tea, please,” Carmilla said.

Laura really wanted a Coke, but felt weird ordering for it when Carmilla only got water.

“Creampuff?” Carmilla asked, which made Laura eyes widen. She hadn’t realized she zoned out.

“Uh, water, please.”

The waiter left the two girls to themselves. They looked at each other and smiled as they shared another awkward silence.

“So,” Carmilla started, but her phone rang. “Sorry.”

Carmilla took her phone out and looked at the called ID. Laura couldn’t see who it was, but also knew it wasn’t really of her business. She saw Carmilla roll her eyes and silence her phone.

“Sorry about that,” she said.

“I mean you can answer it. It’s not like we’re on a date or anything.”

Mostly because a girl like you would never actually go on a date with someone like me.

“True, but it’s rude to answer your phone when you’re out with-” Carmilla was cut off by the sound of her phone buzzing. She rolled her eyes again and silenced it. “Again, sorry.”

Her phone lit up again.

“Carmilla just answer it. Seriously it’s not a big deal.”

“No, it’s rude.”

“It’s also distracting.”

Carmilla paused and stared at Laura before nodding her head, slightly.

“I’ll be right back,” Carmilla excused herself and headed outside. Laura could see her through the window. She wasn’t smiling. She actually seemed rather mad and upset. Her arms kept flailing in anger. She was shaking her hand and Laura could tell she was yelling. She couldn’t hear her, but by her manic movements, it seemed the most possible answer. Then Carmilla turned around to look at Laura through the glass. They stared at each other through the window before Carmilla gave her a smile and a small wink.

Is she? Is she flirting with me? Laura smiled at the thought, but it quickly was diminished by the voice in the back of her head. Yeah right. That’s never going to happen Laura. You think anyone you like is flirting with you and they’re not. No one wants to be with you.

“Hey, sorry about that,” Carmilla said, pulling out her chair and sitting down.

“No worries. Is everything alright?”

“Yeah. I just had to deal with an issue.”

“Ah,” Laura said, nodding her head.

The waiter came back with water, Carmilla's hot tea and her edamame. Carmilla took one in her mouth and moved it around to release the peas before putting the shell into the empty bowl. She grabbed another and looked at Laura, doing the same maneuver.

“Have you had edamame before?” Carmilla asked.

“Yes,” Laura stated.

“Do you like it?”

“Yeah, it's good.”

Carmilla pushed the bowl forward.

“Then help yourself, Creampuff. I can't finish this all on my own.”

“Are you sure?” Laura asked, tentatively.

“Absolutely.”

Laura smiled. “Thanks, Carm.”

Laura grabbed one and followed the technique.

“So what do you like to do for fun?” Carmilla asked. Laura hated this question. She never really had a true answer for it.

“Oh you know, hang out with friends, go to the movies on occasion. You?”

“That's it? Hang out and go to the movies? There's got to be more than that.”

Laura glanced around. “Uh, drink?”

“Are you telling me or asking me?” Carmilla smirked.

Laura laughed. “I guess what I do for fun depends on if I'm with people or not and who it is and where we're going. I tend to just go where people want me to.”

“So what do you do when you're by yourself for fun?”

“Usually I binge watch something on Netflix or play my guitar.”

Carmilla's eyes widened.

“You play guitar?” She asked.

“Yeah. Music kind of keeps me sane after a bad day.”

“A smoker and a guitar player. You keep surprising me, Cupcake.”

Laura smiled. “So what do you do for fun?” Laura asked Carmilla.

“Nothing really,” Carmilla replied, shortly.

“You made me spill. It's your turn to spill.”

“I like to go out and be around people, which is ironic because I also hate people. But I like to go to bars, hang out, drink-”

“Hit on girls,” Laura added, taking a sip of her water.

“If I'm in the mood. Besides that usually has a nice bonus of sex that I also enjoy.”

Laura choked on her water and started coughing. She took some deep breaths to calm the the feeling in her throat.

“I bet it does, and I'm sure you do,” Laura snapped. “I mean. I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry. That was uncalled for and-”

“I like it when you're feisty. And for the record, it does come easy for me, and I do it when I want to. I mean, why not? It's hot. It's sexy and it feels good. Giving or receiving, it just feels incredible. Right?”

Laura nodded awkwardly. It had been a couple of years since she had sex. She was grateful the waiter came with their food. It was a distraction and she was hoping she could steer the conversation away from their topic.

She opened her her chopsticks and started rubbing them together. She made eye contact with Carmilla, who was staring at her.

“What?” She asked.

“Did you know it's considered rude to do that?”

“To do what?”

“Rub chopsticks together?”

“No.”

“Oh yes. It's kind of insulting. It's basically saying I don't trust this restaurant to give me decent chopsticks.”

“Oh. Does it really offend?”

“Probably depends on the place.”

“Well, I will take note of that then.”

Carmilla smiled at her before putting a tuna roll in her mouth. Laura followed suit by eating her California rolls. They shared a small bowl of soy sauce and continued to eat.

“Do you want to try one of my rolls?” Carmilla asked, breaking the small silence that had settled over their table.

“I'm okay, thank you,” Laura said before eating another eel roll.

“You sure? You could like it.”

“I'm good. Thanks though.”

Carmilla smiled. “You really don't like trying new things, do you?”

Laura sighed. Carmilla was starting to get on her nerves. “I just know that what I'm eating will fill me up. I don't want to eat more than I need to,” Laura said as calm as possible.

“Well we can’t have that. I've never had eel before. Care to trade?”

Laura stared at her. She didn't want to be rude and tell Carmilla no, but she really didn't like to try new things. What if she didn't like it? She thought for a moment. Just girl the hell up, Hollis.

“Uh, sure. You can have an eel roll.”

“And what would you like?” Carmilla said pointing to her plate.

“I guess the salmon. It's not spicy, right?”

Carmilla picked the roll up with her chopsticks and placed it on Laura's plate. “You're good, creampuff.”

Carmilla grabbed an eel roll from Laura's plate and put it in her mouth promptly. She made a face while chewing before swallowing. She coughed and took a sip of water.

“Well the sauce is good, but the eel is not.”

Carmilla coughed a few more times while sipping on water. Laura rolled her eyes.

“It's not that bad, Carmilla.”

“Suit yourself. I tried something new and now it’s your turn.”

Laura looked at the piece of raw fish on top of the roll. That's the reason she had avoided it all these years. She noticed Carmilla staring at her with encouraging eyes. How is she getting me to do this? Almost no one can get me to do things I don't want to do.

“It's okay if I don't like it right?” She asked Carmilla.

“Perfectly fine. I didn't like mine. But make sure to eat it. Don't taste it and spit it out.”

Laura nodded. She felt pressured, but didn't understand why. It was just a piece of food. She picked up the roll with her chopsticks and put it in her mouth. She chewed and was surprised to find it wasn't that bad. She swallowed and smiled.

“Like it?” Carmilla asked.

Laura nodded. “I mean it's not my favorite, but it was pretty good.”

“Good,” Carmilla smiled. She flagged down the waiter and scribbled with her hand in the air, asking for the check. He came with it and Carmilla handed him her card before Laura even had the chance to get her wallet out.

“How much do I owe? I don't know if I have enough cash.”

“Don't worry about it, Cupcake.”

“No. I can't let you pay for dinner. I have the money.”

“Seriously, Laura. It's okay. I've got this one. You get it next time.”

Laura was hesitant. What if the next time was more expensive? Carmilla seemed to catch on.

“I mean the next time we have sushi. That way it's even.”

Laura exhaled. It didn't really make her feel better, but at least the price would be the same.

“Okay,” Laura said, quietly. Carmilla smiled at her before signing the receipt. They thanked their waiter one more time before getting up and exiting. Laura swore Carmilla walked back to the store closer to her than before. Carmilla held the door open for Laura.

“Thanks,” Laura said shyly.

Carmilla just smiled.

When they got closer to the counter, Laura turned towards Carmilla.

“And thanks for lunch, Carm.” She leaned in and placed a light, but daring kiss to Carmilla’s cheek. Carmilla's smile widened.

“No problem, Cupcake. Anytime.”

Laura turned and made eye contact with Lafontaine, who had a knowing look on their face.

“Shut up,” Laura mumbled as she passed them.

“Uh huh,” Lafontaine replied.

Laura felt lighter than she had in a while. She made her way downstairs and her brain started to turn against her. Why did I kiss her on the cheek. Oh my gosh, that's so embarrassing. She probably just wants to have sex with me. I'm probably a sick joke between her and that girl. Like a dare or a challenge. They probably made fun of me the entire time at the deli. I'm not worthy enough to be in a relationship anyway. She's way too hot for me.

Laura slumped down in her desk chair. She just wanted to have one day where she didn't question everything. But of course, that was always too much to ask when it came to her. She put her head down on her desk.

“Laura?”

Laura lifted her head quickly at the sound of David's voice.

“Hey, Boss!”

“Your lunch was a little long,” he said, crossing his arms.

“I'm so sorry, David. Carmilla and I went to get some sushi and-”

“It's okay,” David interrupted with a smile. “Just remember to watch the time.”

“Right.” Laura nodded.

He winked at her and went back to his desk. Weird.

“Hey, Laura.”

“Oh. Hey, Perry.”

“So we're expecting everyone around 7:30,8. Bring anything you like. I will be making lasagna with salad and garlic bread. I hope that's okay?”

“Sounds great.”

Carmilla passed her a second later. “Oh, Carmilla so tonight-”

“7:30, bring something, lasagna. Sounds good,” She said nonchalantly.

“And let me give you our address so you can-”

“Uh, that's okay, Perry. Laura and I live in the same neighborhood. I'm sure she wouldn't mind showing me, right?” Carmilla asked.

Oh gosh. More time with her? I mean I want more time, but this has to be a game. There's no way she wants to be around me.

“Laura?” Perry asked.

“Oh. I'm. Yes, that's fine. Be at my apartment around 7?”

Carmilla smiled. “Sounds good, Cupcake.”

Chapter Text

After an exhausting day of work, Laura was now standing in her room even more exhausted. Her clothes were thrown everywhere from trying on different things and instantly becoming irritated. She threw off almost everything, slamming the clothing items down to whatever space it landed. She was breathing hard with her hands in her hair.

She had felt confident when she got home and knew exactly what she wanted to wear to Perry’s. She immediately put on the outfit and looked down at herself. She felt comfortable and attractive. She was wearing a pair of dark skinny jeans and a light gray tank top over a pink camisole. It was summer outside, after all. Since Laura had felt so good, she decided to look at herself in the mirror. The smile she had worn was gone in almost an instant as she tried her hardest not to cry.

Is that was I always look like when I wear this? God, I'm so ugly and fat. Why did I ever think this looked good? I'm never wearing this again.

Now Laura was frustrated, trying to feel comfortable in her own skin. It wasn't working. Nothing was working. Perry’s and Lafontaine’s dinner were never extravagant or dressy, but Laura liked to come a little better dressed than she does for work. She knew David and Steve would be in t-shirts, but she felt like that was more acceptable for guys to do than girls.

Laura decided on wearing a button down. It was buttoned from the collar to the bottom. She had a sweater in her hands to throw over it when the doorbell rang. It made Laura jump by how loud it was. Their doorbell sounded more like a fire bell than a doorbell. She opened her apartment door and saw Carmilla standing outside the large front entrance to her apartment. Laura immediately felt envious of Carmilla. She was wearing a pair of black shorts with a gray sweater, that you could see her black bra through. She bit the inside of her cheek to suppress her jealousy. She willed her body to look away and try not to cry.

Laura made her way to the front door and opened it. “Uh, hey,” Laura said.

“Hey, Cupcake.” Carmilla made her way inside and followed Laura into her apartment.

“Uh, you just have to go down the hall a little bit so I can close and lock the door,” Laura informed.

Carmilla shifted and Laura closed the door.

“So this is the living room,” Laura stated.

“It looks nice. I'll just wait here until you're ready.”

“Oh. I am ready.”

“Cupcake, it's so hot outside, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. You'd be way too hot in that.”

Laura exhaled. You wouldn't understand. You can dress like that because you're tiny. If I dressed like that people would laugh at me and openly tell me how ugly I am, instead of just thinking it like they usually do. My fat would be hanging out all over the place and everyone would be disgusted.

“I'm fine, Carmilla.”

“Where's your room?” Carmilla asked, abruptly.

“Excuse me?”

“Your bedroom, Cutie. Where is it?”

“Down the hall, second door on the left.”

“Perfect.”

Carmilla pooped off the couch and headed in that direction. After hearing her door pop open, Laura's snapped back into reality. She ran down the hall to see Carmilla standing there, outside her bedroom door.

“Carm, wait! My room is a mess right now.”

“Trust me. It can't be worse than mine. The only thing that's not on the floor is my clean underwear.”

Laura blushed at the thought of Carmilla's underwear. Get it together, Hollis. You wear underwear! Everyone does! Yeah but you know she looks hot in it. No. No. Stop.

“Why do you want to go in my room, anyway?” Laura questioned, trying to focus on what's happening around her.

“I want to help you find something comfortable to wear, that won't make you pass out from dehydration and heat exhaustion.”

“No, Carmilla. Seriously I'm okay.”

“Laura, we have plenty of time before we need to leave so let's find something better than this,” Carmilla said, entering Laura's room. It was a small bedroom and Laura slept on a twin bed. It's not like she had visitors sharing her bed with her anyway. She had an old wooden desk and a hanging bookshelf, full of books. Laura used to like the way her room looked, but now she felt it looked childish. Her clothes were all over her bed and the floor. She immediately picked those up. They were clean and her floor definitely wasn't.

“So, let's see what kind of outfit I can put together for you,” Carmilla insisted.

Laura didn't like attention drawn to her. She was comfortable in what she had on. It was a little baggy and covered everything. She liked the jeans she was wearing and with the AC unit on, in her window, she was comfortable and cool. Carmilla rummaged around her closet and drawers.

“Jesus, Cupcake! Don't you have a pair of shorts somewhere? And you'd look really cute in this tank top.” Carmilla was bent over, looking at one the of the shelves inside Laura's closet.

Carmilla was holding onto the gray tank top from earlier. Laura looked at the tank top and the image of the way her body looked in it flashed before her mind. She gritted her teeth and turned away, picking up the clothes she had thrown on her bed earlier. She was trying to distract herself and thinking of a way she could get out of this.

“Not really,” she replied.

“You don't have any shorts?” Carmilla asked again, taking a step back from Laura’s closet.

Laura felt like crying. She hated shorts or anything that showed her legs. They made her feel fat and she didn't think the rest of the world needed to see that.

“No. I don't have any shorts.”

Laura put her head down, embarrassed. She hadn't been comfortable in shorts since she was young. Once puberty hit, so did her body issues. She kept herself covered at all times after that even though people teased her about it during the summer. That’s when she started to stay inside more and hung out with her dad. The one person that never judged her.

Carmilla continued to rummage through Laura’s closet before she stood up and turned around to face Laura.

“Liar,” Carmilla smirked, holding up a pair of cut off jean shorts.

“They're not appropriate for Perry's.”

“Well at least try the tank top. It's just really hot outside. I think you'll get too hot in what you’re wearing.”

“I'm fine, Carmilla. I dress like this all the time. Seriously, I'm fine.”

Carmilla nodded and smiled. “Okay, Laura. But don't blame me when you walk a block and start to sweat.”

Laura knew Carmilla was teasing her, but it hurt all the same. She took Carmilla's words as, “Don't blame me when your body overheats from how fat you are.” Laura needed to take a step back. She needed some space. Somewhere alone. Why did I invite her over? Why did I think this was a good idea at all? I should have just declined Perry and stayed home.

“I'm gonna run to the restroom and then we can head out,” Laura said, pointing behind her, towards her bedroom door.

She walked to the bathroom as quickly as she could without looking like she was running away. She put her back to the mirror and took deep breaths. She couldn't cry right now.

You can't cry! Just stop. Stop. Stop. Please! Stop. Just go to this stupid get together, stay for dinner and then leave. You can cry all you want to when you come back later tonight.

Laura turned and looked at herself in the mirror. Thankfully she was short and the mirror was placed high so she could only see herself from her shoulders up. She made sure she didn't look like she was crying or about to. Her eyes were a little red, but luckily she figured she looked like that all the time anyway.

Laura opened the door and found that Carmilla had moved back to the living room. She was sitting there awkwardly and was staring at nothing. She tapped her fingers against her thighs, clearly lost in thought.

“Carm?”

Carmilla broke out of her trance and turned towards Laura.

“We should probably get going,” Laura said.

Carmilla nodded. She got up and moved close to Laura.

“All good?” Laura inquired.

“I think you look really nice. I'm sorry I tried to get you to change. It’s just really hot outside and I thought you would be more comfortable in something else. Unfortunately, sometimes my brain can be intrusive and I don't think about what makes someone comfortable or not. So I'm sorry.”

Why is she apologizing? I'm the one who's fucked up.

“No need to apologize. I just don't like summer or summer clothes is all.”

“Right.”

“It's really hot out there, isn't it?”

“I walked two blocks and was starting to sweat. I guess Mother Nature wants to get in one last heatwave for the summer before Fall comes.” Carmilla laughed, nervously.

“Wanna help me pick out a t-shirt then?”

Carmilla grinned from ear to ear. “Sure, Cupcake.”

After thumbing through Laura's clothes, she helped Laura put together an outfit. She was wearing a red t-shirt, that had a large white skull on it. The skull was made out of different little stick figures doing different things. She put Laura in a pair of dark jeans and a black cardigan. She added some black vans to complete the piece. Laura felt weird. She didn't normally dress this way, but maybe it could work.

Laura went back to the living room when she had changed and noticed Carmilla looked more relaxed than the last time. Laura still felt subconscious about her stomach and crossed her arms. Carmilla looked up at her and smiled.

“Put your arms down,” she suggested.

Laura slowly untangled her arms from one another and looked away from Carmilla. Carmilla smiled.

“It looks good, Cupcake. Really good.”

“It's not really me.”

“But it is more comfortable than that button up, right?”

The shirt was baggy, since it was technically a boys shirt and she could use the cardigan to cover her stomach if need be.

Laura nodded her head.

“Why won't you look at me?” Carmilla asked. She moved to stand in front of Laura.

Because you're gorgeous and I'm not. Because I wish there was hope someone like you would ever be attracted to me. You're so beautiful.

“Hey,” Carmilla whispered. “Look at me.”

Laura slowly turned her head and met Carmilla's gaze. The room suddenly got very warm as they stared at one another. Laura watched as Carmilla licked her lips. That’s when Carmilla started to lean in and Laura felt like she was in a trance as she followed.

The door slammed opened. “I know! She's such a bitch!” Betty exclaimed. Betty ignored them as she walked down the hallway to her room.

Laura noticed Carmilla shift backwards. She felt a very familiar pain within her body. Why are you surprised? She probably realized who you were and thought, ‘oh right! Her. No.’

“So that was my roommate, Betty. We should probably get going,” Laura said, eyeing the clock on the wall above the television.

She walked out into the hall after a small pause and Carmilla followed. She looked a little mad or upset, but Laura couldn’t figure out why. Maybe she’s relieved.

Laura opened the door and let Carmilla exit first. She quickly followed behind, shutting the door as quietly as possible, before locking it. They stepped outside and started to walk towards the 4 train. Carmilla was correct, it was insanely warm out tonight. Laura slipped off the cardigan and held it in her arms, that were still crossed over her stomach. She saw Carmilla grin towards her.

“Told you it was too hot,” Carmilla teased.

Laura rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Yeah. You were right and I was wrong. Blah blah.”

“That's the most sincere apology I've ever received, Cupcake.”

She noticed Carmilla's small smile. “Well then you're very welcome.”

They made their way underground, swiped their metrocards, and headed down to the platform.

“So we'll take the 4 train to Atlantic, and then walk. They're just a little ways down on Lafayette Avenue.”

“Sounds good, Cupcake.”

The train came into the station shortly after. It was surprisingly crowded for 7pm in Brooklyn. Laura and Carmilla stood against one of the doors.

“Carm, can you give me a little space.”

“Yeah! Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I'm fine. I just… Once I blacked out on the train during rush hour because I got too hot and didn't have enough breathing space. So when the train is crowded, I always get a little nervous.”

Carmilla immediately took as big of a step back as she could, to give Laura some space.

“Better?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

“I don't want you to pass out again.”

“My hero,” Laura replied, sarcastically.

Carmilla smirked. Luckily they only had to go one stop, but Laura was still grateful to get off the train when they pulled into Atlantic Avenue. Laura led Carmilla through the Atlantic terminal before they headed outside. Laura slipped her sweater back on to complete the outfit Carmilla had put together for her.

“It might be hot, but it's a pretty night,” Carmilla commented as she followed Laura.

Laura nodded. “At least Perry and Laf have centralized air conditioning and heating.”

“How did they manage to swing that in Fort Greene?”

“New building and Perry has been working at the bookstore for a long time. She is the assistant manager, so she's on salary. I guess between her and Laf, they manage.”

“It must be nice to have money. I live in a 4 story walk up and I'm on the top floor. It gets hot pretty easily and my old AC barely pumps out enough cool air for it to matter.”

“Why not get a new one?”

“Money, Cupcake.”

“Well it wouldn't matter how much it cost, I would buy a new one. I cannot sleep while being hot at all. I hate being hot more than anything.”

“Good point. Your apartment was freezing.”

“Yeah. I accidentally left the living room AC on this morning and my roommate is almost incompetent, so she either didn’t notice or was too lazy to walk the two feet to shut it off.”

“I take it you don't like your roommate.”

“I mean Betty's cool, but she makes a lot of noise and everything revolves around her. Not to mention she has a really hard time washing her dishes. She just leaves them in the sink for days on end until I send her a passive aggressive text about it. So she can be annoying sometimes. Do you have a roommate?”

“Yep. I live with my sister, Mattie.”

“Oh cool. I didn't know you had a sister.”

“Well you just met me, Cupcake.”

“True.”

Carmilla followed Laura down Lafayette Avenue before they turned onto St. Felix Street. They walked a little further down before Laura turned towards a wine and beer store.

“Do you mind if we stop in here? I forgot to bring something so I figured I could buy a six pack.”

“Yeah, sure. I'll get a pack too.”

They walked into the liquor store together and headed straight towards the tall refrigerator collection. Laura picked up some Coney Island Pilsner.

“Is that good?” Carmilla asked, pointing to the 6-pack in Laura’s hand.

“I mean I like it, but I also really like the design on the label.” Laura blushed. That sounds so immature. “I mean, yeah it's good.”

Carmilla smiled. “Do you like Brooklyn Lager?”

“Yeah. That's good too. The only thing I don't like is dark beer. Even though that is David's and Dante’s favorite.”

“Who’s Dante?”

“Oh, that's right. You haven’t met him yet. He's been on vacation visiting a friend in Georgia. He's great. Like my favorite person to work with with. Even though it’s an unofficial title and I think it should be his real title, he is the upstairs manager. He takes care of any problems with staff or customers, while checking the registers and helping students.”

“Oh cool.” Carmilla sounded less than pleased.

“Yeah. He's a huge movie buff and he likes to pick on me a lot, but he's one of my good friends. I mess with him all the time.”

“Cool,” Carmilla repeated, unenthusiastically.

Laura took the moment of silence between them before realizing it was probably getting late.

“Well we should probably pay for these and head on over.”

“Yeah.”

They paid for their beers before heading back out into the heated evening. They walked a couple minutes before Laura turned to a building on her right.

“So this is them,” Laura said, laughing awkwardly. Stupid. Stupid.

“Which apartment?”

“Oh, 2B.”

Carmilla smiled at Laura as she buzzed the door. Laura smiled back before they heard the intercom click.

“What is your name?”They heard Lafontaine laugh.

Laura rolled her eyes. “Come on, Laf! Let us in!”

“Carmilla of Karnstein,” Carmilla replied.

“Ah. What is your favorite color?” Lafontaine asked.

“Black.”

Lafontaine paused.

“You don't have to play this stupid game,” Laura whispered.

“What is your mission?”

“To join you and your wife for dinner,” Carmilla replied.

“She's not my wife, but you passed!”

Laura and Carmilla heard the door buzz open. Carmilla pushed it and held it open for Laura.

“You really didn't have to play that stupid game. Laf does it every time there is a party. Most of the time, Perry just pushes the button.”

They started to make their way up the stairs.

“Come on, Cupcake. A chance to do a scene from the Holy Grail? It's a classic!”

“You like Monty Python?”

“Everyone likes Monty Python,” Carmilla corrected.

Laura knocked on their door as they waited. Perry opened the door with a smile on her face.

“Hey, guys! So sorry about Lafontaine. I was in the restroom. Come on in!”

Carmilla gestured for Laura to enter first and she did.

“Smells delicious, Per!” Laura exclaimed, passing over the threshold.

“Thank you. Hello, Carmilla. Welcome. Just make yourself at home.”

Perry smiled.

“Thanks,” Carmilla said. “Uh, I brought beer. I hope that's okay.”

“That's perfect. Thank you.”

“Oh I did as well,” Laura said, holding up her bag.

“Looks like it's beer night,” Lafontaine said. “Welcome guys!”

They were standing in the living room slash kitchen slash dining area. The kitchen area was to their left, with a small island that divided the kitchen from the living room. There were two couches, that made an L shape, with a large trunk in the middle, they used as a coffee table. To the left was a fold out table with a white tablecloth over it and fold out chairs. Down the small hallway was their room to the right, a bathroom straight ahead and a linen closet to the left.

“Laur!” A familiar voice said.

“Steve!” Laura practically ran to him. They hugged tightly before letting go, both smiling and laughing. Steve was a short, skinny man. He had a lot of tattoos, a shaved head and piercings. He was one of the nicest people in the world.

“Is this a new lady?” Steve whispered.

“No. New hire.” I can't believe anyone would think that she would want to be with me.

“Carmilla,” Laura called. Carmilla walked slowly up to her. “Carmilla, this is Steve. He used to work at the store, but now he's a full time professor of English. Steve, Carmilla.”

“It's nice to meet you,” Steve said, holding his hand out to Carmilla.

“You too,” Carmilla said, shaking his hand. “Nice, tats,” Carmilla commented.

“Oh yeah? Thank you.”

Steve had a full sleeve. The background of the sleeve were colored purple and blue to form the nights sky with a few stars here and there. In the foreground was a woman with a gun to her head. Her hair was fanned out and her eyes were closed, looking peaceful. It was elegant and not dreary or sad. The bullet of the gun wrapped around his arms in different spots. There were a couple of other things on his sleeve, including a salamander. The only place that didn’t hold ink was the girl’s face and arms. Steve decided he wanted his own skin to represent her skin.

“That must have taken hours,” Carmilla commented, while Steve held out his arm.

“Yeah. There were a lot of visits involved and countless hours. We did it piece by piece.”

“Still, it's awesome!”

“Thanks, Bro!” Steve always had the warmest smile.

Laura felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see Megan, Steve’s wife. She was just about as tall as Laura, with short blonde hair. She also had a lot of tattoos and piercings. They were the perfect match.

“Hey, Laura!”

“Hi, Megan!” Laura said. They embraced before pulling away.

“You scored yourself a hottie,” Megan commented, looking at Carmilla.

“Oh. She's not with me. She's just a new hire,” Laura explained again. She was hoping she wouldn't have to explain that anymore tonight.

Carmilla turned to look at the two girls.

“Carmilla, this is my wife, Megan,” Steve said.

“Hey,” Carmilla said, shaking Megan's hand.

“His new wife,” Laura added.

“Yeah we just got married a couple months ago at Bonnaroo.”

“Okay that’s pretty fucking cool. Where did you do it?”

“We gathered a whole mess of close friends and rented a small RV. Then we just got married on the grounds.”

“That’s awesome. Congrats,” Carmilla offered.

“Killer,” Laura heard David call her.

“Hey David! Hey, Maggie!”

“Maggie, this is Carmilla, our new receiver. Carmilla, this is Maggie, my girlfriend,” David stated proudly.

“It’s nice to meet you, Carmilla,” Maggie said, waving. She was always a little awkward, but in a cute, mousey way.

“And this is Dante!” Laura said.

Dante was a medium sized black man, who always dressed to impress. He was a gentle soul that always had a kind look on his face.

“Nice to meet you,” he said.

“Likewise.”

Once the introductions were done, everyone gathered around the living room to chat and catch up. Carmilla sat next to Laura, who had sat down next to Dante on the couch. She heard Laura ask about Dante’s trip.

“Can I get anyone a beer?” Carmilla offered.

Laura raised her hand. “The ones I bought, please.”

“Mind if try one?” Carmilla asked.

“Not at all.”

Carmilla nodded and made her way to the kitchen. Perry was standing in the kitchen, tossing a salad, while Carmilla went to the refrigerator.

“Hello, Carmilla. What can I help you with?” Perry requested, giving a genuine smile.

“Oh I’m just getting a beer for Laura and I.”

Perry nodded. Carmilla grabbed two bottles and closed the refrigerator door. Perry stood there with a bottle opener in her hand.

“Uh, thanks,” Carmilla said, grabbing the opener. She popped the bottle tops off and handed the opener back to Perry. She looked out to see Laura and Dante were deep in conversation before she turned her back to them. “Perry, can I ask you something?” Carmilla asked, quietly.

“Absolutely.”

“Don't you think it's weird that Laura wears sweatshirts in the summer?”

“For as long as I've known her, she's always done that so it's not very strange to me.”

“Oh okay. Just curious is all.”

Carmilla awkwardly left the kitchen. She saw Laura sitting on the couch with her cardigan buttoned up and a pillow over her lap. It was cool in the apartment, but not freezing. She thought it was weird, but Laura looked at her. That seemed to break her from her thoughts. She sat down next to Laura, probably a little too close, and handed Laura her beer.

“Cheers,” Carmilla said, with a shy smile on their face.

“Cheers,” Laura replied, clinking their bottles.

“Looks like I finally got you to come out for that drink, Cupcake.”

“Don't flatter yourself. I like to drink, but I also prefer not to accompany someone who has a girl attached to them by the mouth.”

Carmilla smirked. “Jealous?”

For some reason that question hurt Laura, even though she knew Carmilla was only trying to mess with her.

“Absolutely not.” Laura turned her attention back to the group, taking a sip of her beer.

Of course I am! A girl would never do that to me. People are too repulsed by me to even consider it. I'm so ugly. Anyone would be lucky to look like any of these girls. They're so skinny and fit. I'm just a blob. I'm probably taking up the whole couch and that's why Carmilla is sitting so close. There's no space for her.

A knock on the door pulled Laura from her thoughts. Lafontaine answered it.

“Kirsch!” They said.

“Hey, Laf.”

“I wonder why they invited the puppy,” Carmilla whispered in Laura's ear. She was thinking the exact same thing.

“For those who don't know, this is Kirsch. He's a new rush hire this semester, but he and I actually go all the way back to highschool!” Lafontaine explained.

“Now you know,” Laura whispered back.

“Sweetheart, that means everyone is here so we can start eating!” Perry exclaimed. “Okay everyone, I’ve made placeholders at the table, so just find your name and I’ll start serving.”

“We have assigned seating?” Carmilla questioned.

“Perry likes everything in order. This is very normal part of her dinner parties.”

They gathered around the table and Laura was sitting between Perry and Kirsch. Carmilla was sitting across from Laura and she couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. Everyone started to pass around the lasagna, salad and garlic bread. Carmilla noticed a small dish going around for a few people.

“Uh what's that?”

“Oh, it's vegetarian lasagna. Steve, Megan and Maggie are vegetarians.”

“You managed to make two meals after work?” Carmilla asked, clearly surprised.

“Absolutely. I like to accommodate everyone's preferences.”

“Wow. I can barely make one meal. That's pretty impressive. ”

“Thank you, Carmilla,” Perry said with a nod and a smile.

“Can I top anyone off?” Carmilla pushed her chair back and gesturing to her beer.

“I'll take one,” Kirsch said. “I love a rad Pilsner!”

“Anyone else?”

Laura raised her hand.

“Coming right up, Cupcake. Same thing or a Brooklyn Lager this time?”

“A Brooklyn lager is good,” Laura felt her cheeks blush with Carmilla's eyes on her.

Carmilla left the table. Laura noticed David looking at her and she turned her head to make eye contact.

“Well, Killer,” David whispered, smirking.

“Well what?”

“Seems like little miss sarcasm and broodiness has a crush on you,” Dante said.

“You just met her,” Laura argued.

Dante cleared his throat. “It's obvious.”

Everyone seemed to agree. Laura smiled. Maybe she does like me.

“Here you go, Cupcake,” Carmilla said, holding out the beer.

“Thanks.”

Carmilla winked and Laura lowered her head, taking her first bite of food for the night. “Oh my gosh, Perry! This is delicious as always!”

“Thank you, Laura. Now can we stop the gossiping and get to eating?”

Everyone agreed and started eating or rather stuffing their faces. Perry really was an amazing cook. It never took too much convincing to eat the meals she prepared.

“What gossip?” Carmilla whispered from across the table.

“No gossip,” Laura replied, possibly too quickly and her voice a little higher than it needed to be.

Dinner carried on with conversations about what everyone was up to and Dante’s trip. Laura and Lafontaine helped Perry with the dishes, while everyone else made their way back to the living room. The group was talking and laughing loudly as Laura placed a couple plates in the sink for Perry.

“So?” Lafontaine asked, looking over her shoulder. Carmilla and Steve looked like they were having a conversation about something.

Laura looked around and noticed the attention was her.

“So what?” She questioned.

“Carmilla?”

“Yes, that's her name. What about Carmilla?”

“We know you think she's attractive…”

“So?”

“So, you should totally ask her out.”

Laura laughed. “Yeah, not happening.”

“Why not?” Perry added. “And don't give me the ‘she is too pretty for me stuff again’.” Perry waved her hand.

“Well she is.”

“You do know that doesn’t make any sense and Perry and I have been saying that for over a year now?”

“You make it sound so drastic. So I'm not in a relationship. Big deal!”

“We just worry about you,” Perry said.

Laura tried to keep herself level headed. They were her friends and they did care about her. They love you. They're not trying to hurt you.

“I appreciate that, I do, but I'm really okay. So it's been a few years, it's not the end of the world.”

“So are you gonna give Carmilla a go?” Lafontaine asked, holding Laura's gaze.

“Uh, no. I think she likes to be single and free. That's the vibe I get anyways.”

“I still say go for it.” Perry was being too hopeful, but Laura knew it was from a good place.

“Maybe. Is that good enough?”

“Alright, Frosh. Maybe it is,” Lafontaine paused, “for now.”

Laura smiled and exited the kitchen.

“Hollis! We were wondering what was taking so long. We know you like to help with the dishes, but come on,” Steve said.

“Just a little chat amongst friends, but I'm glad you missed me.”

“Wait. You're Hollis? As in Laura Hollis?” Kirsch questioned, suddenly.

“Uh, yeah?” Laura replied, confused.

“Oh shit, Bro! I knew you looked familiar when I met you. I just couldn't figure out why. I'm really good friends with Danny,” He paused. “Danny Lawrence.”

“Oh,” Laura felt her body stiffen. She did not want to talk about Danny.

“Yeah. Man. She told me what happened between you guys. It sucks that it happened. I mean, to be fair, she is a little overbearing at times, but she has a good heart. It was rough to be around her after that, but she seemed to pull herself together quickly.”

“Yeah. How's she doing?” Laura tried to care.

“She's great! Her and Natalie are engaged now. It's crazy.”

Laura nodded, but remained quiet. Of course they're getting married, she wasn't the problem, I was. There is something wrong with me. No one would want to be with someone as fucked up as me. She made eye contact with Carmilla as she felt her heart rate pick up as she tried to hold back her tears.

“If you'll just excuse me for a moment,” Laura said. She walked towards the apartment door.

“Laura,” Carmilla said, getting off the couch.

The door slammed shut.

“Did I say something wrong?” Kirsch seemed to be genuinely sounding confused. “I didn't mean to.”

“Clearly, you did.” Carmilla sneered. She ran to the door and followed Laura out.

“What's happening?” Lafontaine asked, turning around in the kitchen. They had dirty dishes in their hands, and the water was running from the sink.

“Why didn't you tell me that Laura was Danny's ex.”

“Oh Kirsch, you didn't!” Perry frowned.

“I didn't know!” He protested.

“I'll go talk to her,” Lafontaine started.

“I think she’ll be okay. Carmilla chased after her. I think we should let them be alone. Maybe Laura could use someone who doesn’t know what happened to her,” David added to the conversation.

“I agree,” Steve added.

The room went quiet as all gazes seemed to land on the door.

“Steve, would you mind playing a little music?”

Steve looked at Perry.

“No problem. We’ll get this party started back up so Laura will feel great when she comes back inside.”

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

Meanwhile, Carmilla was in the process of following Laura downstairs.

“Laura! Laura wait!”

Laura went through the apartment building door, grateful she packed her cigarettes in the cardigan’s small pocket. She pulled out a cigarette and quickly lit it. She heard the door open and close.

“Laura? You okay?”

Carmilla's voice seemed gentle, almost caring.

“Does it matter?” Laura’s answered.

“It always matters.”

Laura turned around and held out her pack to Carmilla. Carmilla was hesitant, but took one. Laura lit it for her. They stood on the sidewalk in silence. Laura kept her eyes trained down the street, while Carmilla stared at her.

“I'm most likely going to regret this, but who was Danny?”

Laura didn't say anything.

“Ah, right. Look we don't… I shouldn't have asked-”

“She was my ex,” Laura interrupted.

“Oh. I'm sorry.” Laura could tell Carmilla felt uncomfortable.

“My lying, cheating, manipulative ex.”

“Oh,” Carmilla said more clearly. “She was a bitch, huh?”

“You could say that.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“Not particularly.”

“It could make you feel better,” Carmilla teased with a smile as she walked towards Laura.

“I mean what is there really to know? She was tall and skinny with red hair. She was controlling and didn't care for my opinion on anything. She cheated on me and now apparently is still with the same girl she cheated on me with. I mean, they're engaged. She dumped me and still gets the victory, while I'm miserable and alone.”

“How is that a victory, Cupcake? Her fiancé will always live with the reminder that when their relationship started, this Danny person was a cheater. Besides, who cares about marriage?”

“I do,” Laura whispered.

“Why?” Carmilla’s voice was more gently, tucking some hair behind Laura's ear.

“The thought of forever. Someone loving you for the rest of your life. Someone who wants to be with you and doesn't view you as a nuisance or an annoyance. Someone who doesn't mind being around you. Who understands when you're sad and doesn't push you to be happy or tell you to get over it-”

“Did she do that to you?” Carmilla interrupted.

“Do what?”

“Tell you to get over it when you were upset?”

“No.”

Laura was being defensive. She knew it and Carmilla seemed to realize it as well.

“Okay, I don't know who this Dan person is, but she seems like a huge bitch, who made a huge mistake by letting someone like you go!”

“Not really. I have my problems.”

Carmilla chuckled. “We all have problems and insecurities, Laura. We're all human. I mean if we didn't, the earth would be more boring than it already is.”

Laura shrugged and turned back to look at the street. She wrapped her arms around her body, trying to hide the hatred she had for herself.

“Maybe she had a reason,” Laura said, quietly.

“Did she?” Carmilla asked. “Did you cheat on her or tell her to get over it?”

“No, but I was emotional.”

“So? That's not a reason to cheat on someone. It's not even a good excuse. That's just bull shit.”

Laura sniffled. She hated showing her emotions because she never knew if it would be quiet or an emotional overload. Her back was towards Carmilla. Carmilla bit the inside of her mouth, staring at the back of Laura’s head, when she heard another sniffle.

“Are you crying, Cupcake?” Carmilla spoke with concern and it made Laura feel bad.

She shouldn't have to deal with this. I should just go home and be alone. It's what I'm best at. No one should ever be around this.

Laura felt arms lay on top of hers and then a warm body press against her back, pulling and holding her tightly. It made her want to cry more, but she tried her hardest not to.

“Come here.” She heard Carmilla whisper.

Laura turned around and faced Carmilla, still encircled her arms.

“I have a weakness for when pretty girls cry. I don't like seeing good people hurting.”

Laura took a small step forward and felt Carmilla's warm embrace. She hugged Carmilla and tried her hardest not to cry. She managed okay with only a few tears falling. She could feel Carmilla's hand rubbing up and down her back, comforting her. She couldn't remember the last time she felt this comfortable in someone's arms.

“You wanna get out of here?” Carmilla looked down at Laura, who was still in her arms. She felt Laura nod.

“Did you leave anything upstairs?”

Laura shook her head no. She could feel her phone and wallet in her back pocket. Carmilla took a step back and wrapped her arm around Laura's shoulder. She started walking away.

“We can't just leave, Carm.”

“Sweetheart, your eyes are swollen and red. Your nose is pink and you look sad. We don't have to do anything. I have Perry's number. I'll text her later.”

“Okay,” Laura whispered, feeling comfortable in Carmilla's embrace.

Laura went to take a right at the end of the block, but Carmilla pulled on her shoulder, tugging her to the left.

“Where are we going?” Laura questioned.

“I know a bar a little further up. Figured you could use a drink.”

“I can't really afford a drink.”

“Don't worry about that. It's on me. Now come on.”

She's just trying to get me drunk so she can sleep with me. I wish I could do that, but I can't. I don't want to have sex and feel hollow again. I already feel hollow. I'm empty. The only reason I'm alive is because my heart says I should be. Sometimes I just wish it would stop. Then everything would stop. My pain would be gone. I wouldn't be stressed or tired. I would just be content and happy. Happy. I don’t think I know what that means anymore.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Carmilla asked, pulling Laura back to the earth.

“Oh, it's nothing.”

“Uh huh. Sure.”

“It's really nothing.”

“You don’t have to tell me, but I know something is bothering you. But at least now you can just drink it away because we’re here!”

They were standing outside a small bar where the doors were painted red. The sign said it was called Mullanes Bar & Grill.

“This is a sports bar, Carmilla.”

“I know. Not my typical scene either, but relax, Cupcake. My brother works here.”

“You have a brother?”

“You still have a lot to learn about me.” Carmilla laughed. “Come on.”

Carmilla pulled on her arm and dragged her in. The bar was quiet and there weren’t a lot of people around for a Thursday night. She saw a small, muscular guy with brown hair, standing behind the bar. He was cleaning the bar with a rag, when he looked up at the two of them.

“Carmilla,” he said, sternly.

“William.”

“I see you brought a new play toy.” He smirked at Laura.

“She’s not a play toy. Her name is Laura and we work together. Laura, this is my stupid younger brother, Will.”

“Hi,” Laura said. Will acknowledge her, but kept cleaning the bar. He took the rag and swung it over his shoulder.

“Well, what will it be ladies?”

“Double whiskey neat, as always,” Carmilla ordered. She turned towards Laura. “Cupcake?”

“The same, please.”

Carmilla smirked. “You don’t seem like the whiskey drinking type. I would have expected an Amaretto Sour or Midori Sour.”

“In other words, you expected me to only enjoy girly drinks that don’t taste like actual alcohol because you think I’m too weak to handle them?”

“Exactly.”

“Well when I first moved here and started drinking, I did drink those. And a lot cosmopolitans and apple martinis.”

“Why does that not surprise me?”

“Hey! I’m from a small town and the only culture I knew about NYC was from Sex and the City.”

Carmilla started laughing, hard.

“What?”

“You watched that crap?” Carmilla asked, holding her sides.

“It’s not that bad.”

“Oh, Cupcake. It’s not anywhere near a true reality of what living in New York City is like. I mean maybe if you have a ton of money and could afford the Upper East Side, yes, but Carrie Bradshaw would not have been able to write a little article once a week for the New York Post and be able to afford that apartment.”

“She could if it was a rent stabilized apartment, which it was.”

“Okay, so she could afford the apartment. But there is no way she could live with her wardrobe. It would have been too expensive for the things she bought. Not to mention she tooks cabs everywhere and went out to eat all the time. AND she always bought cosmopolitans, which on the upper east side will run you ten to twelve dollars, easily. Even back in the 90’s.”

“Do you like crushing dreams or do you just have a personal vendetta against Carrie Bradshaw.”

“Definitely a vendetta.”

Will placed the two drinks in front of Carmilla and Laura. He waited and Carmilla knew why.

“Put it on my tab, Will.”

“You tab is overflowing and my boss is going to start noticing.”

“I haven’t been here in like a month.”

“And you think those fees just wash away?”

“Okay, okay. I get the point. I don’t want you to lose your job. Just relax.”

Carmilla reached into her back pocket and pulled out her wallet. She took out a credit card and handed it to Will.

“This better go through,” he said.

“It will. I got some help from you know who.”

Laura remained quiet. She didn’t want to ask questions considering this seemed like they were about to enter a private conversation. She looked around the bar to act like she wasn’t paying attention.

“How did you get her to give you money?” Will asked.

“The same way I always do. I go and visit her for a couple hours. I make her feel bad and then she signs over a nice, lovely check. It’s not like she doesn’t have the money.”

“I know that. I just feel weird taking it from her.”

“Will. We’ve talked about this. We’ve all talked about this. She’s sitting there on a fortune and we’re her children. She should be supporting us. It’s not like she ever did while we were growing up.”

“She paid for us to go to good schools and college out of pocket. We don’t have to deal with debt.”

Carmilla eyed Laura.

“Look. Come to my apartment on Saturday. Let’s talk about it then, in private,” Carmilla sneered.

Will also looked towards Laura who was looking away from them. “Deal,” he said, handing Carmilla her card back.

Carmilla cleared her throat. “Sorry about that, Laura.”

“No worries.”

She could tell Carmilla looked annoyed and nervous. She cleared her throat.

“So what about Monica?”

“What?” Carmilla looked bewildered.

“Monica from Friends. Would she have been able to afford her apartment?”

Carmilla laughed. “Okay. I don’t think so in the first couple of seasons. She didn’t really have a steady job and Rachel was a waitress for a while, and apparently a terrible one.”

“But that apartment was also rent stabilized.”

“Okay, but Joey and Chandler’s apartment wasn’t. So based off the fact that Joey rarely had acting gigs, Chandler probably paid for most of that rent.”

They laughed together, while sipping their drinks. They continued to compare sitcom people living in New York City with who could actually afford to live in their apartments. The night continued on in blurry memories for Laura. Carmilla’s smile. The way her nose crinkled a little when she really laughed. The teasing and constantly being picked on. Will joined in on the conversation a little bit, adding more laughs to their group discussion.

Laura and Carmilla left together, both stumbling a little bit and giggling. Carmilla’s arm was safely around Laura’s shoulders as they walked to the train.

“Where are we going, Cupcake?”

“To the train.”

“No! Fuck that.”

Carmilla walked to the corner and noticed a few open cabs coming. She immediately stuck her arm out, hailing one down. She opened the door and gesture for Laura to get in.

“After you.”

Laura stood still. “I honestly can’t afford it.”

“It’s fine, Cupcake. It’s on me. Now get in before the driver gets mad.”

Laura crawled inside the backseat and Carmilla was quick to follow.

“Where to, ladies?”

Carmilla again gesture for Laura to answer.

“St. Marks between Bedford and Franklin, please.”

The cab started to drive and Laura couldn’t help, but notice how close Carmilla was to her. They looked at each other and she could tell Carmilla was drunk by the blank look in her eyes. Then again, she was definitely wasted. The cab started to make her dizzy. She closed her eyes and rested her head against Carmilla’s shoulder.

“You okay, Cupcake?”

“Just a little dizzy from the world passing by outside.”

Carmilla smiled. She wrapped her arm around Laura and held her close. The smile never left her face as she felt Laura snuggle in closer. Before long, they were pulling up to Laura’s apartment.

“We’re here, Cupcake.”

Laura opened her eyes and started to get out of the cab. Carmilla used her card and swiped the information from the back before thanking the cabbie and getting out.

“I had a good time tonight, Laura.”

“Are you not coming in?” Laura asked, stumbling a little bit on the curb.

“Easy,” Carmilla said, grabbing her to make sure she was on her own two feet.

“I’ll at least make sure you get to your door safely. I can’t have you tripping up those steps.”

Laura nodded and started to walk towards her apartment. She pulled her keys out from her front pocket. Once she reached the top of the stairs, she pulled out her pack of cigarettes.

“Want one?” Laura held her pack towards Carmilla.

“Are you sure?”

Laura nodded, eagerly. Carmilla took one from the pack and lit both of their cigarettes.

“So did you have fun once we dropped the couple’s party?”

“Oh, shit. I need to text them!”

Laura pulled out her phone and tried to find their contact information.

“It’s okay, Laura. I already did. Told them I took you home and put you to bed.”

“But you haven’t. We’re outside.”

“Well good to know you can still reason and are not totally smashed.”

“You lied.”

“Should I have told Perry that we went out drinking and now you’re trashed?”

Laura thought for a moment. “No.”

“Exactly. I figured it would be best to have a night without care. I had a feeling she would have texted you immediately.”

“She would have.”

“So how was the night without care?”

Laura smiled. “It was amazing.”

She moved forward to wrap her arms around Carmilla’s neck. Carmilla practically caught Laura because she tripped over her own foot.

“It was my pleasure, Cupcake.”

Carmilla took a drag from her cigarette. Laura did the same, but stayed in Carmilla’s arm.

“Finished?” Carmilla asked, taking the cigarette from Laura’s fingers. Laura nodded and watched as Carmilla flicked both of their cigarettes to the ground. Carmilla turned back to face Laura and her breath hitched. They were closer than they were a second ago. Laura started to lean forward and Carmilla quickly followed. Their lips brushed together in a brief kiss. Laura smiled before lunging forward.

Their kiss was heated and as they both fought for dominance. Their breathing was picking up and Laura somehow managed to move even closer to Carmilla. After a few moments, of an intense makeout, Carmilla pulled away, but only a little.

“Maybe we should go inside,” she mumbled against Laura’s mouth before biting Laura’s bottom lip. The sensation caused Laura to let out a little moan.

Laura pulled her keys from her pocket and started to open the door, which was difficult considering Carmilla used that moment to kiss Laura’s neck, causing another slight moan. She finally got the front door open and they slowly made their way to Laura’s apartment. They stopped to kiss more along the wall. Laura relished in the feel of Carmilla’s tongue against hers. She had forgotten what it felt like to kiss someone and didn’t want it to stop.

“We have to be quiet. I do have a roommate,” Laura whispered. She managed to escape Carmilla’s embrace, but kept her hand in Carmilla’s.

“Can’t make any promises, Cupcake.”

Laura slowly opened the door and closed it. She made sure to lock the top lock, bottom lock and pull the chain before leading Carmilla down to her room. As soon as she closed her door, she felt Carmilla’s lips on her again. She reciprocated immediately, pushing her tongue into Carmilla’s mouth. It caused Carmilla to moan and Laura thought she had never heard a sound so desirable before.

The last thing Laura remembered was lying down on her bed. Carmilla standing over her, next to her bed, with a devilish grin. Her face was shaded pink and her lips were swollen. Laura could feel her heart beating fast as she stared at Carmilla, waiting and wanting to be touched.

Chapter Text

“Carmilla! Get up!” Carmilla heard for the third time.

She groaned as she slowly sat up with her eyes still closed. Her curly hair managed to cover to her face some. She knew the room would be filled with sunlight. She slowly opened her eyes and closed them quick. She had a terrible headache.

“Here,” she heard Elsie say.

Well my therapist isn’t going to be happy about this. I promised I would stop.

Carmilla opened her eyes enough to grab the two pills from Elsie’s hand and the glass of water. Once she swallowed down the pills, she laid back down with a huff.

“What time is it anyway?” Carmilla asked, keeping her arm draped over her eyes.

“It’s 10.”

“What?” Carmilla asked, quickly getting out of bed. She ignored the words Elsie was saying as she quickly tried to get dressed.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” Elsie asked, grabbing Carmilla’s wrist.

“Because I told you a thousand times. I’m working at a new store today and it’s in Manhattan,” Carmilla said, tugging her arm out of Elsie’s grip.

“But I thought we could, you know? We have time and I already miss your touch.”

Carmilla smirked and bit her lip. “Oh yeah?”

Elsie nodded, sitting down on the bed. She was barely wearing any clothes.

“30 minutes,” Carmilla said, following Elsie’s lead.

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

About 35 minutes later, Carmilla was making her way to Elsie’s door. She paused and turned around.

“I don’t have a toothbrush here, do I?”

Elsie shook her head no. “There’s mouthwash,” she noted.

Carmilla hurtled towards the bathroom and rinsed her mouth out with mouthwash, mad that she hadn’t grabbed her toothbrush before leaving her apartment yesterday. Why haven’t I learned to carry a spare?

Carmilla studied her face in the mirror. Luckily her make-up from the night before was still in good shape and her hair seemed to be even better than it was last night. She reapplied her lipstick that was in her pants pocket before rushing towards the door.

“Don’t I get a goodbye kiss?” Elsie asked, stepping into the door frame in nothing, but a large t-shirt.

“No,” Carmilla said, rolling her eyes. She heard Elsie scoff.

“And why not?”

Carmilla turned around to face Elsie. She let out a deep sigh.

“It’s because we’re just fucking. We’re not in a relationship. Just sex. Remember?”

“I guess,” Elsie replied.

“Good.”

Carmilla turned back and headed for the apartment building door. She practically sprinted to the train and managed to get on one before it pulled out of the station. She was grateful for the powerful AC that helped her cool off from her little jog. She was off the train 20 minutes later, as she made her way to the new store. She was nervous. She hadn’t been there before and was nervous to meet new people. But after a incident with a former coworker, she needed to get out of there.

Carmilla walked up to the door and saw two people behind the register. The girl with honey-brown hair caught her attention. She’s cute. Like really cute. Wait. No. I’m not here to make friends or get involved with someone. I’m here to work.

Carmilla put on her bored expression as she walked up to the counter. The two people in front of her were so involved with the computer screen, that they didn’t noticed her. Okay. Well this is highly unprofessional. I can’t believe their boss lets them get away with this. Surely they can see me. They’re just ignoring me. No wonder this store is in so much trouble. It seems to hire incompetent people. Not to mention, I’m already late!

Just then the honey-blonde girl looked up at Carmilla. Jesus. Finally!

“Can you help me?” Carmilla asked. She didn’t mean to sound as rude as she did, but she needed to find David. David? Or is it James? Oh shit, I don’t remember. Okay. I’m going with David.

The girl gaped at her before stuttering. “Uh, certainly. What book are you looking for?”

Oh.my.gosh. I just need to talk to David? James?

Carmilla hadn’t realized how impatient she was getting. She started tapping her fingers against the top of the counter in a soothing rhythm, to calm herself down.

“I’m here for David?”

Laura’s face seem to register the name. Oh good. It’s David.

“Oh. Are you the new girl?” The girl asked.

Does she honestly have no idea that I need to talk to David before having a heart to heart. Or maybe I’m lucky and they don’t know I’m late.

“Why don’t you get David and we’ll figure it out together,” she replied. She knew she sounded like a bitch, but she was kind of in a hurry to get the boss part over with.

“Sure. One sec,” the honey-blonde girl replied. She disappeared between the shelving units on her far right. Carmilla eyed the other person sitting there, about to speak when she saw the girl come back. A few steps behind her seemed to be the man of the hour. She quickly straightened her back and smiled. Have to make a good impression. Bill says, he’s the best.

“David?” Carmilla asked.

“Yes. You must be Carmilla,” he said with a broad smile.

“Yes, Sir. Sorry I’m late. The 4 train was stop and go all the way from Brooklyn and I might have overslept.” And preoccupied myself with morning activities that are way better and more satisfying than this stupid job.

“No harm done. Next time, just try and call the store or text me saying you’re going to be late. That way we have no miscommunication.”

“Will do. So let’s get down to business, shall we? Where will I be working?”

She just wanted to get the day started so she could get the day over with. She was in desperate need of a shower.

“You’ll be downstairs with Laura,” he said, gesturing towards the girl with honey-blonde hair. Laura.

“Uh, hi. I’m Laura,” Laura said. She held out her hand for Carmilla to shake. Okay. She’s cute, but I’m not going to touch her. I can’t risk anything.

Carmilla looked at Laura’s hand as if it carried every known disease. “Pleasure.” Seriously? What’s with all my rudeness. She distracted herself by turning back to David. She needed to make day one an impressive day and couldn’t let herself get distracted by the cute girl standing next to her.

“So did you already get your shipment?”

“Yes. Laura, why don’t you show Carmilla where she’ll be working,” David said.

“Uh, sure,” Laura mumbled. Carmilla looked at Laura. She decided taking in all of her wouldn’t be a bad idea, as she eyed the girl up and down as nonchalantly as possible. She was cute and had beautiful eyes. Laura started walking towards a doorway, that led to stairs. She has a really nice ass, Carmilla thought as they walked down the stairs and to the back of the basement.

“So this is it. This is me,” Laura said, pointing to her left, “And your desk/computer is the one right down there on the other end.”

“Great,” Carmilla replied without any enthusiasm. The area was dusty and kind of clammy, but what more could she have possibly expected? She felt awkward, now that it was just her and Laura. To be honest, she always was nervous around new people, unless she had a drink in her hand. Then she felt confident enough to take on the world. As she looked around, she noticed that Laura had a bunch of drawings and words on yellow post-its. She thought it was kind of cute, but at the same time a little childish. She glanced at Laura.

“Oh, uh, sometimes the rush hires like to draw stuff and put it on my wall. Everyone does. It’s fun. You can do it too if you want.”

She really is cute especially since I can tell she’s nervous. Carmilla gave her a light smile before grabbing a yellow post-it pad and a Sharpie from Laura’s desk. She moved down the counter a little bit for some privacy. She thought the wall needed a little more angst. She could see Laura trying to sneak a glance of her shoulder and brought the post-it closer to her.

“Nope. Let it be a surprise, Cupcake,” Carmilla said.

She could tell Laura seemed anxious about whatever it was she was working on. Once she finished, Carmilla peeled the post it off and looked at the wall.

“Hmm,” she said in a low tone. “Where do I want this post it to go? Can I move some stuff around?”

“I rather you not,” was Laura’s quick reply.

“Okay. I’ll just put it here then,” Carmilla said. There was a large blank area toward the top of wall. Carmilla had to stand on her tippy toes to reach over all the the other posts. She chanced a look towards Laura, and noticed Laura’s eyesight was further down her body. Well I might as well let her enjoy the view, Carmilla thought before slowing lowering and turning to look at Laura. Laura’s cheeks started to redden with a blush. Caught her. I still got it.

“I hope you like it,” Carmilla said. She passed Laura to the small space that was her desk. Laura was studying the picture she had drawn and noticed her little body tense up. She couldn’t help but chuckle at this girl.

“Like it?” Carmilla asked.

“Charming,” she heard Laura mumble. She watched as Laura walked over to the boxes that were further down on her receiving counter. “I assume you know how to receive, so you can get started,” Laura said.

Carmilla got up and grabbed a box from the counter that Laura had laid them on. She took it back to her desk and let it sit there while she started up her computer. I think I actually managed to piss her off. Carmilla opened up the database before she got to work. After finishing one box, the silence was starting to ware her down. She didn’t like the quiet, but also didn’t want to be rude by playing music of putting in headphones. She took small glances at Laura and studied her.

After a while, she decided a small break was needed. Carmilla leaned back in her computer chair and threw her feet up onto her desk. It was comfortable and she took a deep breath, her eyes falling on Laura. I wonder what she’s like. She seems to fidget a lot, seems to be a little sad or distraught. Of course, that could just be the day or because of me. She is super cute though. I wonder what’s going on in that little head of hers.

Laura turned and made eye contact with Carmilla. Carmilla was never one to back down from a little eye contact.

“What?” Laura asked, seeming irritated.

“I’m trying to figure you out,” Carmilla said.

“Trying to figure what out?”

“You’re story. I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“So enlighten me, Cupcake. How old are you?”

“It’s Laura, not Cupcake. And I’m 25.”

Carmilla acknowledge the words Laura had said, but that didn’t stop her from taking in Laura completed. 25. Only a year younger than me. That’s not bad. Now how to figure out if she is a lesbian or not. I mean she definitely seems to be one, but I’ve seen the straight girl, tom-boy act before. I bet I figure it out before the end of the day.

“What?” She heard Laura ask, breaking her from her thoughts. Carmilla smirked.

“It’s the same thing, Cupcake. I’m trying to figure you out.”

“There’s nothing to figure out. Will you please stop staring at me?”

And now a little fun. Carmilla stood from her chair and walked over to Laura. She stood directly behind her, leaning forward to put her lips as close to Laura’s ear without touching her skin. Apparently I don’t need a drink for this side of me. That should make my therapist get off my back a little.

“Maybe I don’t want to,” Carmilla said, hoping she made her voice sound seductive. She noticed a few goosebumps on Laura’s skin and chuckled. Test completed. “You’re so easy to tease,” Carmilla laughed.

Carmilla’s phone rang and the world stopped around her. Please don’t be my mother. Anyone, but her. She walked over and picked up her phone. Shit. Or her. She tsked before answering.

“Hello,” Carmilla said, sternly.

Hey, Baby. I missed your voice.

“Elsie, I told you to stop calling me.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes. She did not want to deal with Elsie right now.

Look. I know you said we’re just fucking, but don’t you want more than that? We could be great together, you and I. And I know how much you like me, otherwise, why do you keep coming back for more?

Carmilla huffed. “We had fun, but that’s all it was, fun. I told you that to start with and you said you were fine with it.”

I am fine with it. I like having fun with you. Especially when you do that one thing with your tongue in that very certain place.

Carmilla lightly chuckled as she remembered the sound Elsie made when she found out that special little movement. “Yeah? You like it when I do that?” Carmilla asked with a little hum.

Elsie went into full detail about what she liked. Carmilla wish she hadn’t because it was putting her in a mood she did not need to be in. She bit her lip to suppress any sound she could possibly make with the filthy things Elsie was saying to her. She slid down in her chair, spreading her legs a little bit to take the pressure away from the small sensation she was beginning to feel. She made eye contact with Laura, her lip still in between her teeth.

“How about I do it again tonight?”

Sounds good to me. I’ll see you at your place at 7? We go get a drink before, or wait to go afterwards.

“Alright, I’ll be there at 7. See you then.”

Carmilla smiled as she hung up her phone. Her eyes fell back to Laura. Her smiled faltered as Laura ran off towards the stairs.

“Shit,” Carmilla muttered to herself. “What is wrong with me?”

Carmilla stood up and paced the floor a little. Why am I like this? She's right. She's totally right. I'm never going to be able to have a stable relationship if I don't stop this bullshit. No one will ever want to be with me if I keep acting like this. Why did I answer that call? I don't want to be with Elsie and if I don't want to be with her, then I'm wasting both of our times. Just like the doc told me. Love is not something you should never have to fight for.

“Carmilla?”

She stopped her pacing and turned to the voice.

“Shit. Sorry David. You scared me.”

“No worries. Laura went to lunch so if you would like to take it now, it would probably be best.”

“Yeah. Sure thing.”

“If you walk upstairs, there's a door all the way to the back that leads outside. That way you don't have to deal with customers.”

“Thanks again.”

She collected her wallet and headed in the direction David told her. She walked through the door that led to a little foyer with a glass door. She smiled as she saw Laura sitting outside, leaning back and soaking in the sun. Then she saw the small little stick between Laura's fingers.

Well that's surprising and interesting, Carmilla thought, pushing the door open as quietly as possible.

“You know, I didn’t peg you for a smoker.”

“Yeah, well, most don’t,” Laura replied.

Don't ask for one. You're trying to quit. Carmilla thought as her hands started to fidget.

“Can I give you a dollar for one?” Carmilla asked.

“You can just have one,” Laura said, holding out her pack.

Carmilla grabbed the pack and took the familiar zippo from her pocket. She placed the cigarette on her lips. Hello old friend.

“Thanks,” she mumbled, with the cigarette hanging from her mouth. “Mind if I sit next to you?” Carmilla asked.

“Not at all,” Laura said, gesturing to the open space on the stairs.

The silence that lingered was deafening. This is my fault. I wouldn't want to sit next to me either if I heard that conversations. Why do I do this?

“I’m sorry you had to hear my conversation downstairs. I promise that won’t happen again. This girl is just kind of sensitive and doesn’t seem to get the point of what’s actually going on with us,” Carmilla said.

“It’s whatever,” Laura said.

Great you had the chance to make a friend and you blew it by talking to Elsie.

“Well,” Carmilla stood from the spot. “That pizza looks good. Where did you get it?”

“Right down the block.”

Carmilla nodded and started to walk away. She turned around and smiled at Laura. “Thanks for the smoke, Cupcake. See you in a bit.”

She noticed Laura's small smile and it helped her feel a little relief. Okay. Maybe you didn't totally blow this.

Carmilla managed to find the pizza place. Once she was finished, she headed back to the store, feeling a little better than before. It was a nice day outside. She greeted Lafontaine on her way back in and went down into the basement. She noticed there were no boxes left. How long was I gone?

“Did you finish the boxes?” Carmilla asked.

“Uh, yeah. Sorry.”

“That's okay. Thanks, even. Now I don't have to work.” Carmilla smiled.

“Uh, yeah you do!”

Carmilla soon realized she liked the sound of Laura bickering. After explaining how she operates at her old job, she let Laura reply. Carmilla decided to relax and put her feet up on her desk and close her eyes. Peaceful. Laura continued to ramble about labels as Carmilla stared at her. God she's cute and feisty. I like it. That’s when Carmilla noticed Laura was wearing a sweatshirt. It was warm in the basement and Laura had to be uncomfortable.

“Not that it’s any of my business, but aren’t you warm in that sweatshirt?” Carmilla asked. Well that was blunt. Good job, You.

“I got cold.”

“Are you sure? You seem to have a little sweat collecting,” Carmilla noted. What is wrong with you?!

“I’m fine,” Laura stated.

Just close your eyes and shut up! Who the fuck says that? ‘Oh you're collecting sweat’. How can you be so inconsiderate. Why is it so easy for you to get into a girl’s pants but when it comes to basic conversations, you say stuff like that?

“Uh, Carmilla?”

Carmilla immediately opened her eyes to see a not so happy David staring at her.

“Hey, Boss,” she tried.

“Look, I know it's your first day with us and I understand that you might have been able to do this at the Brooklyn store, but not here. I see you have a stack of books with no labels. I suggest you get to work on that.”

“Of course. I'm sorry. I wasn't sleeping, just thinking.”

“With your feet up?” David questioned.

Carmilla had no explanation for that.

“Bill told me one of the reasons he transferred you here. I'm giving you a shot. This isn't a definite alternative for you. I would hate to fire an employee who's been with the company for a few years.”

“I'm sorry, Sir. It won't happen again.”

With another stern look, David left. Carmilla grabbed her labels and started working. I can't lose this job. It's all I've got.

“Get in trouble?” Laura asked, smirking.

“What's it to you, Cupcake?”

“It's nothing to me, Carmilla. Just curious.” Is she teasing me?

“Maybe I just didn't want to leave and then you'd end up having to do it. I was being courteous,” Carmilla offered.

She watched as Laura contemplated what she said. She got a cute little wrinkle in her nose and Carmilla smiled shyly towards her.

“Okay. Maybe David found me leaning back in my chair with my eyes closed.”

Laura chuckled. Carmilla finished loading her cart up completely and waited for Laura to tell her what to do. She got an eye full when Laura looked up at her.

“Yes?”

“Now what do I do, Cupcake? New store, remember. I don't know how you guys operate.”

“Oh, right. Sorry. You take the cart upstairs,” Laura said, simply.

“And how do I get the cart upstairs?”

“Follow me.”

“Gladly,” Carmilla smiled.

Carmilla watched as Laura pushed her cart to the bottom of the stairs and then physically pull it up each step, one by one. She then disappeared around the door frame. They can't be serious.

Laura poked her head down and smiled. She has a really pretty smile.

“Problem?” Laura asked.

“Nope,” Carmilla said, dismissing Laura.

Carmilla followed Laura's steps as she pulled the cart up easily. Once she reached the top, she couldn't help, but not flirt with Laura.

“I like a girl with muscles,” Carmilla whispered.

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

After taking a ridiculous tour with the rush hire staff, meeting people and fooling around a little, she was finally able to head out. Carmilla headed upstairs and shared some jokes with Lafontaine before leaving the store. They managed to bond a little while taking the tour.

Once outside, she saw Laura pulling down the gate. She had taken off her sweatshirt and Carmilla stared at the small muscle tone on her arms. Carmilla decided to help her, ending up a lot closer to Laura than intended.

“Fuck, Carmilla. Don't do that!”

“Why so jumpy, Cupcake?”

“We live in New York City. If anyone stands that close to me and over my shoulder, I have a right to jump.”

“You should work on that. It makes you look vulnerable. An easier target.”

She watched as Laura's arm muscles flexed while she pulled down the second gate.

“What?” Laura asked.

“Nothing. Like I said before, I really do like a girl with muscles.”

“Well I hope your girlfriend has them,” Laura muttered.

Shit. Low blow. I don’t need another person thinking this. Why doesn't anyone just enjoy having sex without the complications of a relationship?!

Carmilla tried to speak, but had to clear her throat, losing some of her aloofness.

“She's definitely not my girlfriend. We just like to have fun, you know? Don't you like to have fun?”

Carmilla watched a range of emotions cross Laura's face and immediately felt guilty. You don't ask people that!

“Uh, goodnight, Carmila.”

“Wait! I hope I didn't offend you.” She reached out to touch Laura’s arms.

“Nope. Not at all. I just have to help Laf finish up.” She saw Laura's small smile, but even after an 8 hour shift with her, she knew it wasn't Laura's true smile.

Carmilla watched as Laura went back inside. She was now angry with herself.

“Whatever,” she mumbled to herself.

When she got home, she was relieved that Mattie wasn't there. The first thing she did was brush her teeth, before hopping into the shower. She felt dusty from the basement and dirty from her previous night's activities.

She was lounging on the couch, mindlessly watching something on the TV, when she got a text from Elsie. She immediately jumped off the couch and opened the door. She grabbed Elsie's wrist and took her to her bedroom. Elsie giggling behind her the whole time.

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

“Can we please go out?” Elsie asked for the tenth time.

“Are you paying?” Carmilla asked, keen on staying in bed.

“I can pay. Let's go to Franklin Park. Please.”

“Sure, Pretty Girl. Whatever you want.” Her words were empty and lacked any form of emotion. She's more fun when she's drunk, anyway.

She threw on something she felt sexy in and went out into the living room to wait for Elsie.

“I thought we were done with this girl,” Mattie stated.

“Don't start, Mattie.”

“Well she makes annoying and loud sounds anytime she's in bed with you and I must say, as your sister, it's disturbing.”

“Yeah, well. I know what I'm doing.”

“In the bedroom, maybe, but in life?”

“Can we not?”

Carmilla walked into the kitchen. She grabbed the bottle of whiskey from the cabinet and a glass. She poured half a glass and started drinking.

“Look, I'm not trying to pry.”

“Yes you are.”

“I just want what's best for you. You're a talented writer Carmilla and I just wish you'd pick it back up again.”

Elsie stepped out of the room and walked over to Carmilla, ignoring Mattie.

“May I have some?”

Carmilla smiled and poured another glass. After they both shared almost the entire bottle, they were out again. Once they got closer to the bar, Carmilla pulled Elsie towards the deli.

“Let me get a pack, Love,” Carmilla explained.

When she walked inside, she noticed the familiar hair color.

“Hey, Cupcake. Fancy seeing you here.”

She could feel Elsie’s hand in hers. She wiggled her fingers trying to get them out of Elsie’s grip. Damn, I forgot she had a strong grip.

“Yeah, well, this is my neighborhood,” Laura said, looking uncomfortable.

“Yeah? I'm down on Bergen. What about you?”

“St. Marks.”

“Cool. Cool.” Cool, cool? What am I, a 14 year old boy? I wish Elsie wasn't here.

“Uh, how's your Wednesday night going?” Carmilla asked.

“Fine,” Laura stated, coldly.

She then felt the familiar lips on her bare shoulder. She had to admit that Elsie was good at turning her on easily, but now was not the time. Laura stared and she started to feel uncomfortable. After what seemed like an eternity of awkward silence, Laura finally spoke.

“I'll, um, I'll see you tomorrow, Carmilla.”

She felt Laura push past her. “Laura,” she said, lightly.

“Shit. Get my cigarettes, Elsie.”

“Who was that?” She heard Elsie ask as she ran outside

She saw Laura and sprinted towards her. She reached for Laura, but felt Laura pull away. She finally managed to stop Laura and apologize for Elsie. She tried to explain again that Elsie was nothing of super importance. She didn’t know why she felt like she had to make it up to Laura, but she did.

“Well, we were on our way to Franklin Park. You wanna come with us? Get a drink?”

Carmilla felt hopeful that Laura would say yes. She hadn’t felt that way towards a girl in a long time.

“Thanks for the offer, but it's been a long day. I'm going to go smoke a cigarette and then head to bed.”

Carmilla felt herself deflate a little, but pulled out her phone and looked at the time.

“It's only 9:30. The night is young.”

“Again, thanks for the invite, but I have to pass. Have a good time with your girlfriend.”

Carmilla felt a little hurt at those words. She’s not my girlfriend. She looked back at Laura and smiled. But maybe you could be.

“I'm still trying to figure you out, Cupcake!” Carmilla yelled.

She noticed people around her smile and giggle towards her, but all she hoped was that Laura would turn around. Her wish came true as she saw Laura turn with a small smile on her face. She returned it and watched Laura for as long as she could. Carmilla slouched and turned around. She headed back towards Elsie who was standing outside the deli.

“What the hell, Carmilla?”

“Did you get my smokes?”

Elsie rolled her eyes, but held out the pack. “Thanks.” She lit one and felt relieved by the nicotine.

“I thought you were quitting.”

“It’s hard to quit,” Carmilla suggested. “Let’s just go.”

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

Carmilla and Elsie were already on their third round of drinks when Elsie started to get needy. Carmilla had became broody while sitting at the bar, keeping her focus on her drink while she thought about Laura. The alcohol only made her feel worse about herself and how she shouldn’t bother trying anything with Laura. She felt Elsie’s lips on her neck, but ignored it, continuing to drink. She finished off her glass and pointed at it once she made eye contact with the bartender. He gave her a refill, saying it was on the house.

“Carmilla, come dance with me,” Elsie whined.

“I’m good,” she said, holding her ground.

“But it’ll make you feel better,” Elsie whispered in her ears as she felt Elsie’s hands rub down the sides of her body. She couldn’t help the way her body responded to that and downed her drink. Carmilla stood up and pointed to Elsie’s drink.

“Finish that,” she said.

“Why?”

“So we can get out of here and I can make you feel good,” she slurred. She leaned forward, wrapping her arms around Elsie before pulling her into a kiss. “Finish.”

Elsie downed her drink as Carmilla pulled her through the crowd and headed towards the gated entrance. I can’t get a girl like Laura. She’s too good for me. She deserves someone who isn’t fucked up. At least this way I can have a fun time.

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

The next morning, Carmilla was relieved to see that Elsie had already left. She left a note on Carmilla’s bedside table. Carmilla crumbled it, without even looking at before heading towards the bathroom. She splashed water on her face and combed her hair the best she could before throwing it up in a bun. She quickly got ready and headed out before Mattie had any comments to make to her.

Once she got to work, she headed straight downstairs. She had a killer headache and knew she drank way too much last night. She watched as Laura cleaned.

“Wanna do mine next?” She asked, hoping this headache would leave soon.

“You have two hands. Do it yourself!”

Whoa. I like this side of her. “Someone is awfully feisty this morning,” Carmilla said, sitting down.

“I didn't sleep well,” she said, sadly.

“Maybe someone should have gotten a drink with me. Alcohol always helps me sleep.”

“Actually sleep or sleep around?”

Good point, Cupcake. “If I drink enough, I can go home and pass out. If I drink and then find a girl, I can go to her home and pass out after we have sex. Either way, I'm sleeping. You do look tired though,” Carmilla’s eyes widen. You really are a piece of shit.

“Wow. Thank you. I feel so much better now,” Laura replied, sarcastically.

“I didn’t mean it like that. It was just an observation,” Carmilla tried to retaliate, wishing she could suck the words back into her mouth.

“Telling someone they look tired is another way of saying they look like shit.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Carmilla tried to reconcile.

“Sure,” Laura sneered.

Why do I bother talking? Make it right. She stood up and walked over to Laura. She slowly walked Laura back towards her desk. She wasn’t sure why she was trying to be Miss Seductress.

Carmilla lifted Laura's chin and stared into her eyes. I would give anything to deserve you.

“I don't think you could ever look like shit. And I would never say anything to make you think that you do.” Carmilla waited while she hoped that helped. But then Laura quickly got out of her embrace and left the basement.

I am the biggest piece of shit that has ever existed. Carmilla went back to sit in front of her desk. She loaded up a Tetris website and started to play. It soothed her and always helped her think better. It’s how she actually managed to finish college. That and putting together Lego sets.

Laura came back downstairs a little later and Carmilla slowly started to notice what was happening around her. She saw Laura stacking boxes and noticed the box of twine under her desk. She decided to close the web browser and help, leaning down, grabbing the twine and tying up boxes.

“You don’t have to help. I was just doing it while we wait for today’s shipment.”

“I don’t mind.” I have to do this right. Make it up to her. Carmilla let the quietness linger for as long as she could stand. She finished tying up with the boxes before looking at Laura. “I’m sorry for saying you look tired.” And I’m sorry for being an asshole and not knowing when not to say things.

“It’s fine. Sorry I was rude to you.” You weren’t.

“You weren’t rude to me, Cupcake. Or at least, I didn’t think you were being rude. I was the one who was rude.”

“Just sometimes I take things too personally. It’s not your fault,” Laura explained.

“I thought about what you said and I shouldn’t make a comment about your appearance, or anyone’s for that matter. So I’m sorry.”

She watched as Laura acknowledge her. There was now only one question on her mind.

“Are you going to Perry’s later?” Carmilla asked.

“Um, probably not.”

“Why not?”

“I’m tired and just don’t feel like being the only single person at what is clearly a couple’s party.”

“But I’ll be there. You won’t be single that way. You should come.”

“I’ll think about it.”

Well I won’t be surprised if she decides she doesn’t want to go because of me.

“I’m going to go check upstairs. Slamming on the floor, usually means boxes,” Laura said, turning and heading upstairs.

Carmilla frowned, but stayed where she was. She’s sure she’d know soon enough whether she had to help or not. After a few moments of more quiet, Laura came back down. Carmilla noticed the box on Laura’s shoulder and was curious to know how they operated at this store. Once she learned that they had to carry the boxes themselves, she was less than pleased. She might be in good shape, but she was lazy.

“What’s the matter? I thought you liked a girl with muscles,” Laura teased.

That made Carmilla smile. So she likes teasing me. Well two can play at that game, Cupcake. She walked up to Laura with a smile on her face, invading as much as Laura’s personal space as possible. She lightly brushed against the top of Laura’s stomach and instantly felt Laura suck in. Why did she do that? She decided to act as if she hadn’t noticed, while she continued to tease Laura as much as possible.

“I do. So maybe I’ll just watch you bring them down. How does that sound?” She asked, in a low, husky voice.

“Not a chance, Carmilla,” David said, coming down with a box on her shoulders. She jumped back a little bit. He had managed to scare her yet again.

“David, you’re kind of interrupting my moves here.”

“Do it on your own time.” Carmilla zoned out as David started to talk to Laura until he mentioned this SJ person and noticed how happy Laura got. Who is SJ? Maybe she likes this SJ person. What if they’re dating? I mean, she’s probably better of a person than I am so Laura probably deserves her, whether they’re dating or not. She followed Laura back up the stairs and decided to ask, her curiosity getting the best of her.

“Got a little crush on this SJ person?” Carmilla was trying to tease, but couldn’t help the fact that she sounded jealous.

“Jealous?” And she caught on to that. Great.

“Not at all, Cupcake.”

“You sure? I don’t know why you would ask otherwise.”

“I was just curious to know your type.”

“I don’t have a type.”

Interesting.

Carmilla, Laura and David started taking the boxes up and down the stairs. Carmilla was starting to get warm after taking another box downstairs, when she saw Laura putting on her sweatshirt. What is she doing? It’s so hot!

“There is no way you’re cold enough to put on a sweatshirt.” She took her flannel off feeling only a little cooler.

“I get cold sometimes,” Laura muttered.

“This store is like 90 degrees and we’re carrying boxes.”

“I’m fine, Carmilla,” Laura said.

Carmilla noticed Laura fidgeting with the front of her sweatshirt, as if she was pulling it away from sticking to her skin. She reluctantly followed Laura back up the stairs for what she hoped was almost the last bit of this exercise. She made her way towards Laura, about to grab another box when she noticed Laura stumble. She pushed the box forward with her hands, out of Laura’s grip, letting it fall to the floor before she caught Laura by the waist.

Laura said she was okay so Carmilla offered to take the rest of the boxes down. Carmilla was about to grab a box when she heard another thump that wasn’t from her. She turned to see Laura laying face down on the crowd.

“Oh shit. Laura?” She called, running over to her. She slowly rolled her over and put Laura’s head into her lap. “Laura?” she asked, again to no response.

“Is she okay?” Perry asked.

“What happened?” David asked, coming around the corner from the stairwell. Some customers started to gather and Carmilla started to worry.

“She passed out. Help me get this sweatshirt off. She’s sweating really bad. It’s super hot in here and I don’t know why she decided to put it on in the first place.”

Carmilla started to reach for the bottom of her sweatshirt, when she felt Laura’s hands on top of hers. Oh, thank god.

“Please don’t.” Laura sounded scared and weak. Fucking customers. She needs breathing space.

“Back up! She needs air. Do we have water?” She asked, looking towards her coworkers.

“I’ll run to the deli and get some,” Lafontaine said.

David offered to turn the air conditioning down to help Laura cool.

Perry came forward and offered to help Laura get her sweatshirt off. Laura allowed her to. Carmilla helped her lean up to get it off and could tell Laura was clearly embarrassed. Carmilla noticed Laura immediately covered her body with her arms and couldn’t understand why. Laura looked up to Carmilla from her lap and tried to smile.

“I’m okay,” she heard Laura say. “Just blacked out because I got too hot. I’m okay.”

Carmilla felt her shift and trying to sit up. She instantly grabbed Laura’s arm, pulling her back down. “Stay down, Cupcake. Just relax for a minute.”

“I rather relax without people staring at me.” Carmilla noticed customers were still staring at Laura and irritated her beyond belief.

“Show’s over. Back to your books.” She looked down at Laura and tried to give a comforting smile. “Let’s get you downstairs, Cupcake.”

Carmilla pulled her up to help walk her downstairs. She wrapped her arm around Laura’s waist, holding her side. She noticed Laura trying to pull away, but held her close as she wrapped Laura’s arm around her shoulder. Light as a feather, Carmilla thought as they took one step at a time, down to Laura’s desk chair. Lafontaine came down a few minutes later handing Laura two bottle of waters. Carmilla was more concerned about Laura and kept her eyes on her, making sure she wouldn’t slump forward.

“I’m okay,” she heard Laura say. “I just got too hot.” Well duh!

“I told you that you shouldn’t have put on your sweatshirt,” Carmilla mumbled, trying to make a point.

“I was cold.”

“Laura, there is no way, at all, that you were cold. I was burning up in a t-shirt.”

Laura went silent as she stared at the floor. She reminded Laura to drink her water when David came to check on her. She heard Laura mentioned food and made a note to herself. She agreed to keep an eye on her before looking at Laura, shyly.

“Do you want me to get you some food?” Carmilla asked, once David was gone.

She noticed Laura jumped a little bit before telling her she was fine. Laura immediately started unpacking some of the boxes, and it made Carmilla nervous. She got up and started to help Laura unpack, hoping Laura would sit down and rest.

“I blacked out, Carm. I’m not dying. It’s probably from the cigarette I had this morning, lack of breakfast and just being too hot. I don’t need any help.” Did she just call me, ‘Carm’. Why doesn’t it annoy me? It always annoys me.

Carmilla held up her arms to surrender. “I’m here if you do, though.”

Carmilla was happy to see Laura constantly drinking from the bottle of water as they continued to receive quietly. Carmilla was more relieved to see that Laura didn’t put that stupid sweatshirt back on. But Carmilla couldn't help, but notice how much Laura was fidgeting. She kept pulling at her shirt around her stomach. Everytime Laura would do this, Carmilla couldn’t help, but see it out of the corner of her eye and look. It’s so weird. Why does she keep doing that?

As she contemplated this, she could hear clunky footsteps coming down the stairs before she saw the big puppy turn the corner, heading their way. She listened as he explained to Laura that Lafontaine sent him down there. Most likely tired of him. She continued to listen as Laura tried to explain how he was supposed to label each book.

“So just make sure the ISBN number on the label matches the number on the back of the book.”

“The what?” Kirsch asked, clearly clueless.

Carmilla chuckled to herself and shook her head in disbelief. Oh the fun this should be.

She managed to receive as Kirsch worked on labeling and Laura talking home through it. Once the carts were full, she noticed that Laura was pushing her’s towards the stairs and immediately went after them. She poked her head around the corner to stop Laura. She noticed Kirsch jump at her sudden presence.

“Geez. You almost gave me a heart attack, Bro. You’re like a ninja or something.”

“Relax, Beefcake.” She patted his arm jokingly before turning towards Laura. “Do you want my help with that?”

She was happy that Laura agreed and pushed passed Kirsch, so she could pull the cart up.

“Oh, I thought you would just grab the bottom and we’d walk it up together,” Laura said, watching Carmilla.

“That’s okay, Creampuff. I got this one.” She chanced another comforting smile at Laura.
Laura smiled back and it made her heart flutter. She started pulling the cart up the stairs and started grunting at how heavy the cart was. Holy shit, this is heavy. I should have let her help me.

She was proud that she actually made it upstairs with straining or pulling a muscle. She told Kirsch the good news of putting the books away before heading back downstairs to Laura. She noticed Laura getting her stuff together, including the sweatshirt.

Carmilla walked up to Laura and put her hands in her pockets. “Care if I join you for lunch?”

“Do you want to join me?” Why would I not want to.

Carmilla shrugged. “Could be fun.”

“Let me guess, you don’t really want to join me, you’re just trying to get another cigarette.”

Is that what she thinks? That all I care about is bumming cigarettes?

“I mean, if you’re offering, I’m not turning it down. But I figured we could walk somewhere and get some food or something. I want to make sure you’re not going to black out or anything.”

“Ha ha. You can just ask for a cigarette. You don’t have to get to lunch with me.” I rather have lunch with you than a smoke a stupid cigarette.

“Maybe I want to get lunch with you.”

She noticed that Laura seemed surprised.

They made their way outside and Carmilla couldn’t keep the small smile off her face. Once outside the door, Laura pulled out her pack of cigarettes and handed them to Carmilla. Carmilla questioned her, hoping this meant they were still getting lunch together.

“I probably shouldn’t smoke since I passed out.”

“Good call, Cupcake.” Carmilla was happy to light the cigarette and feel the nicotine.

“But since they are technically mine, I’m taking a drag.” Laura took the cigarette away from her fingers and took a long inhale. That could be one of the hottest things I have ever witnessed.

“So, where should we go to eat?” Carmilla asked, finishing her cigarette.

“Sushi?” Laura asked.

“Sounds good. Lead the way.”

Carmilla could care less where they ate. She just wanted to be alone with Laura. Carmilla looked at Laura and noticed she had her sweatshirt back on. Is she trying to blackout again? It’s hot out here and she’s walking, in the sun, in a black sweatshirt.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” Laura said, keeping her line of vision straight ahead.

“Are you seriously not warm in that sweatshirt?”

“I’m okay.”

“So not hot?”

“I’m comfortable.”

“You sure?”

Laura rolled her eyes. “Yes. Besides it’s always cold in the sushi place.”

“But won’t it feel more refreshing against your bare arms than in your sweatshirt?”

The conversation seemed to drop after that. Great. I think my worst quality is insulting people without thinking.

They entered the restaurant and Carmilla was instantly freezing. Now I wish I had that sweatshirt. Carmilla and Laura sat down at a table and started looking over the menu. Carmilla tried to convince Laura to try something new, but Laura was not having it. Man she is stubborn, but beautiful. After they ordered their food, their usual silence came. They smiled at each. Carmilla was about to speak when her phone started to ring. She looked at the ID and decided to ignore it. She was just about to speak again when her ringtone went off. She immediately ended the call and put her phone on vibrate.

“Sorry about that,” Carmilla said, not happy with herself for being rude.

“I mean you can answer it. It’s not like we’re on a date or anything.”

Carmilla frowned. She knew it wasn’t a date, but she kind of hoped it was. Or at least the start of asking Laura on a date.

“True, but it’s rude to answer your phone when you’re out with-” Carmilla was cut off by the sound of her phone buzzing. God damn it! She rolled her eyes again and silenced it. “Again, sorry.”

Her phone lit up again.

“Carmilla just answer it. Seriously it’s not a big deal.”

“No, it’s rude.”

“It’s also distracting.”

Carmilla agreed and knew her phone wasn’t going to stop ringing. She had to excuse herself as politely as possible. She made her way outside and hit the talk button.

“What?” She said rudely.

Hey, Baby.

“Elsie, what do you want?”

I’m on break and wanted to talk to you. I miss you.

“No you don’t. Look it’s not a good time right now. I have to go.”

No. Listen. I need to tell you something.

“Is it something we always talk about?”

You and I are great together and I think we should take our relationship to the next level.

Carmilla threw her arms up in the air. “No. There is no next level, Elsie. We’re fucking. You call me when you want to have sex and vise versa. People call it a booty call. That’s all this is. Two girls, who want to get laid, getting together, to take care of that desire. That’s it.”

Oh please. We’re together all the time and we’re practically already a couple.

“We’re together all the time because you keep calling me, telling me to come over and take care of your needs. That’s not a relationship.”

Come on, Carmilla. We would be great together.

Carmilla turned and looked at Laura through the window. Laura looked at her and it made her smile. Elsie was continuously rambling, but Carmilla ignored her. This is crazy. I just met this girl yesterday and yet, I wanna try to be in a relationship with her. Not Elsie. She deserves someone so much better than me though. But she makes me want to try, Carmilla thought. She gave Laura a small wink before turning back around.

“Elsie, it’s not happening. And I’m sorry, but this needs to end. This having sex all the time thing, has to end. It’s the only way I’ll have a chance.”

A chance? A chance with who?

“It doesn’t matter. Go find someone else to get trashed with and have sex with. That’s all this was.”

Wow! Carmilla Karnstein sure is a charmer.

“I told you the first night we had sex that I didn’t want a relationship. I told you every time after that, when we would hook up that I didn’t want a relationship. I told you constantly, this was just about sex and to not develop any emotional attachment. You got your hopes up and I thought you understood where I was coming from. I’m sorry Elsie, but it’s over.”

With that, Carmilla hung up her phone. She turned the vibration off so her phone was completely silent before heading back inside. She smiled as Laura came into view. At least I can try. This is progress. This is good.

“Hey, sorry about that,” Carmilla said, pulling out her chair and sitting down.

"No worries. Is everything alright?” Better than okay.

“Yeah. I just had to deal with an issue.”

“Ah.”

The waiter came back with their drinks and the edamame. Carmilla felt like it took forever to convince Laura that it was okay to eat some of the edamame. I will never be able to compromise with her. She’s so stubborn. Carmilla tried to get to know Laura a little more. She wished she had a drink. She found it easier to talk to a girl with a drink in her hand. Carmilla couldn’t help, but notice that Laura seemed to be a little sad when expressing what she did for fun. Then Laura said something she wasn’t expecting to hear.

“You play guitar?” Carmilla asked.

“Yeah. Music kind of keeps me sane after a bad day.”

“A smoker and a guitar player. You keep surprising me, Cupcake.” I believe she just got even more attractive. I wonder if she plays anywhere. Carmilla was just about to ask when Laura asked her, “So what do you do for fun?”

There is no way of answering this question fairly. She seems down to earth and comfortable by herself. “Nothing really,” was all Carmilla could think to say.

“You made me spill. It's your turn to spill.” Fair enough.

“I like to go out and be around people, which is ironic because I also hate people. But I like to go to bars, hang out, drink-”

“Hit on girls.” Well, well, well. It seems Ms. Sassypants is alive and well.

“If I'm in the mood. Besides that usually has a nice bonus of sex that I also enjoy.”

Carmilla smirked as Laura choked on her water a little bit.

“I bet it does, and I'm sure you do,” Laura snapped. “I mean. I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry. That was uncalled for and-”

“I like it when you're feisty. And for the record, it does come easy for me, and I do it when I want to. I mean, why not? It's hot. It's sexy and it feels good. Giving or receiving, it just feels incredible. Right?”

Laura seemed relieved when their food came. She clearly didn’t want to talk about sex, which is understandable. Some people aren’t as open as Carmilla was. I wonder if she is a virgin and that’s what made her uncomfortable. I don’t know, Carmilla thought while studying her, She’s definitely got a strong vibe coming from her. Carmilla glanced at Laura’s rolls and decided to help Laura expand her horizons.

“Do you want to try one of my rolls?”

“I'm okay, thank you.”

“You sure? You could like it.”

“I'm good. Thanks though.”

Carmilla smiled. “You really don't like trying new things, do you?”

Laura sighed. “I just know that what I'm eating will fill me up. I don't want to eat more than I need to.” I hope she’s not one of those people trying to watch her weight. She’s too beautiful to think that way.

“Well we can’t have that. I've never had eel before. Care to trade?”

“Uh, sure. You can have an eel roll.” She noticed Laura wasn’t too happy about this, but she always seemed to push people a little bit.

“And what would you like?”

“I guess the salmon. It's not spicy, right?”

“You're good, Creampuff,” Carmilla said, putting the roll on Laura's plate.

Carmilla grabbed an eel roll from Laura's plate and started to chew it. Oh my gosh. This is terrible. Abort! I hate this. Oh gosh. Be cool. Almost there. Swallow. And water. She quickly grabbed her water trying not to choke.

“Well the sauce is good, but the eel is not.”

Carmilla coughed a few more times while sipping on water. Laura rolled her eyes.

“It's not that bad, Carmilla.”

“Suit yourself. I tried something new and now it’s your turn.”

Laura seemed cautious. Almost nervous, which Carmilla thought was ridiculous.

“It's okay if I don't like it right?” She asked Carmilla.

“Perfectly fine. I didn't like mine. But make sure to eat it. Don't taste it and spit it out.”

Carmilla watched as Laura chewed the piece of sushi. She was happy that Laura seemed to have good etiquette when it came to eating. Mattie will like that. Laura finished chewing and smiled.

“Like it?” Carmilla asked.

Laura nodded. “I mean it's not my favorite, but it was pretty good.”

“Good.”

Carmilla looked at the time and grabbed her wallet. She pulled out her debit card and flagged down the waiter, asking for the check. She didn’t even look at it as she handed the waiter her credit card. She noticed Laura started to panic and tried to help her relax. She was able to calm Laura down by having Laura pay the next time. I won’t let her pay then either. She should just let this be on me.

As they left the restaurant, Carmilla tried to walk as close to Laura as she could. She was going to try and hold her hand, but thought that it would be too soon, so she kept her hands in her pockets. Not to mention, Laura kept her arms over her stomach the whole time. Once they reached the bookstore, Carmilla held the door open for Laura. She watched as a shy smile crept onto Laura’s features. She followed Laura inside. When they were closer to the counter, Laura stopped and turned towards her.

“And thanks for lunch, Carm.” She felt Laura lean in and place a light kiss to Carmilla’s cheek. Carmilla felt little butterflies of giddiness in her stomach as her smile widened.

“No problem, Cupcake. Anytime.”

Laura left Carmilla, who was rooted to the spot.

“Well, well, well. You made a good impression on her,” Lafontaine said.

“Oh please, Ginger #1.”

Lafontaine rolled her eyes. “Honestly though, if you’re going to try and ask her out, you have my blessing. She needs someone good in her life. But if you upset her or hurt her, I will physically beat the crap out of you.”

Carmilla looked towards the door frame and then back at Lafontaine. “I’ve hurt a lot of girls through the years, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I hurt her.”

“Good because it won’t only be me who goes after you.”

Carmilla nodded and headed downstairs. She heard Perry explaining the party details to Laura as she passed her to walk to her desk.

“Oh, Carmilla so tonight-”

“7:30, bring something, lasagna. Sounds good.” No one ever thinks I listen.

“And let me give you our address so you can-”

“Uh, that's okay, Perry. Laura and I live in the same neighborhood. I'm sure she wouldn't mind showing me, right?” Carmilla asked, glancing at Laura, hoping she would agree.

“Laura?” Perry asked.

“Oh. I'm. Yes, that's fine. Be at my apartment around 7?”

Carmilla physically exhaled and smiled. “Sounds good, Cupcake.” This work day can’t end fast enough.

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

Carmilla left work a little early to go home and prepare for tonight. Okay. I need tonight to go well. I want to impress her.

She got into the shower to wash off the day. Since it was hot outside and in her room, she decided to take a cold shower, helping her body cool down. Even though she was shivering, she was grateful to feel cold. It was better than sweating.

She stepped out of the bathroom and into her room, looking for something to wear. It's hot outside, but I want to look presentable. She laughed at herself. Well, presentable for me. She chose a simple pair of black cutoff shorts and her favorite sweater. It was a little see through, but it will be worth it to see Laura's face.

Carmilla stepped out of her room and it felt a lot cooler. Mattie’s home. She quickly ran to the door, to try and get away unnoticed.

“Aren't we in a rush?”

Carmilla froze and turned to see Mattie coming from her room. “Not now, Mattie.”

“Well I think you should know that Elsie girl came over this afternoon, looking for you. I honestly don't know what you see in her. She's below your level, Carmilla.”

“Then it's a good thing we were just fucking and not dating.”

“I don't think she thinks that.”

“Well, you don't have to worry about her anymore. She called me today and I broke it off.”

“Oh thank God! She was a wretched girl and I was so sick of those sounds she made! You do know we share a wall, right?”

“I'll move my bed if you get me a new AC.”

Mattie laughed. “Clever, clever, Carmilla.”

“Worth a shot, but I'm off.”

“And where are you off to?”

“Girl at work is having a get together-”

“And you're trying to impress some girl to get in her pants, as usual.”

“What? No!” Carmilla protested.

“No? I'll believe that when I see it, you Little Monster.”

“Okay, there is a girl, but I could never have sex with her and dump her. She seems too innocent for that.”

“So, it's the straight girl routine-”

“No!” Carmilla shouted angrily. “She's just a nice girl who I think is really cute and kind. I'm not trying to hook up with her.”

“Does my sister, Carmilla Karnstein, have a crush?”

“Don't make a big deal out of this. I can be friends with a girl and not sleep with her.”

“And when was the last time that happened?”

Carmilla thought for a moment and laughed. “Never, but I don't want to fuck this up.”

“Wow you've got it bad, Kitty Cat.”

“I'll see you later tonight.”

With that Carmilla smiled and back out of the apartment door. She locked the door before quickly making her way outside. Luckily she only lived a few streets down from Laura and would be there in no time.

It was extremely hot outside for a summer evening in the city. As Carmilla approached Laura's apartment, she saw a deli on the corner and rushed in.

“Do you have a paper towel or some napkins I could have?” She asked.

The man eyed her curiously before handing over a couple paper towels. Carmilla smiled at him.

“Thanks!”

She walked outside and to Laura's building, checking the small piece of paper Laura had given her earlier. She has cute handwriting too. Carmilla used the paper towels to wipe the sweat from her back, neck and thighs. She dabbed her face and discarded them in the trash cans beside her. She spritzed some perfume on her neck and wrists before storing the small bottle back in her pocket. She made her way up and rang Laura's doorbell. As she waited, she rechecked her in the glass reflection. Then she saw a nervous Laura coming towards her and she smiled.

Uh, hey,” Laura said.

“Hey, Cupcake.”

Laura didn't say anything else as she held the door open for Carmilla. She stepped inside and headed to the door left opened behind the stairs. Laura followed her as they made their way into the hallway of Laura’s apartment.

“Uh, you just have to go down the hall a little bit so I can close and lock the door.”

Carmilla could tell Laura was a little frazzled. She immediately shifted backwards and watched as Laura closed the door. She followed Laura into the living room as she glanced at what Laura was wearing.

“I'll just wait here until you're ready.”

“Oh. I am ready.”

What? Does she not know it’s a thousand degrees outside?

“Cupcake, it's so hot outside, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. You'd be way too hot in that.”

Carmilla thought for a moment. Maybe she could help Laura with a makeover. That seemed like a good idea to not have Laura pass out.

“Where's your room?” She heard herself ask.

“Excuse me?”

“Your bedroom, Cutie. Where is it?”

As soon as Laura explained where it was, Carmilla took off down the hall. She had just opened the door when Laura came running down the hallway to her, trying to explain to her that her room was a mess. As if a messy room is going to keep me out.

“Why do you want to go in my room, anyway?” Laura asked.

“I want to help you find something comfortable to wear, that won't make you pass out from dehydration and heat exhaustion.”

“No, Carmilla. Seriously I'm okay.”

After explaining they had time, Carmilla intruded Laura’s bedroom. She took in the small space, noticing Laura’s twin bed tucked in the corner. Okay, it’s been awhile since I’ve done anything on a twin, but shouldn’t be too difficult. I mean we’re both small. Wait, stop thinking about getting in bed with her. You’re hear to pick out some clothes!

“So, let's see what kind of outfit I can put together for you,” Carmilla insisted.

Carmilla started to rummage through Laura’s closet for a pair of shorts. She found the stash of jeans, but was surprised when she couldn’t find a pair. She was, however, glad to find a cute tank top that she wouldn’t mind seeing Laura in.

“Jesus, Cupcake! Don't you have a pair of shorts somewhere? And you'd look really cute in this tank top.”

She continued to search in disbelief after hearing Laura say “no”. That’s impossible. Everyone has shorts. After a few more minutes, Carmilla smirked, picking up what seemed to be the only pair of shorts in Laura’s entire wardrobe.

“Liar.”

They're not appropriate for Perry's,” Laura argued. Carmilla took a moment to look down at her own cutoff shorts and see through top. She suddenly felt a little self-conscious. Did I dress too slutty for this? Is that what she’s trying to tell me?

“Well at least try the tank top. It's just really hot outside. I think you'll get too hot in what you’re wearing.”

“I'm fine, Carmilla. I dress like this all the time. Seriously, I'm fine.” There is absolutely no way you are fine. I can see you starting to sweat a little just standing here. Hell I’m sweating.

“Okay, Laura. But don't blame me when you walk a block and start to sweat.”

As soon as the words came out of her mouth, she regretted it. The hurtful look in Laura’s eyes made her feel even worse. She didn’t even have time to think before Laura said something about the bathroom and bolted from the door. Carmilla folded the pair of short and shirt. She laid them on Laura’s bed in a neat pile. She exited Laura’s bedroom and went back to the living room.

You are so fucking stupid. Why would you ever think that was an okay idea. All you do is push, instead of listen. You never listen. I just wanted her to be comfortable and cool, but that’s stupid because she probably was comfortable. Now I’ve made her uncomfortable. Maybe I should just go home. It was ridiculous to think that I could be capable of being in a relationship with someone. I only think about myself. I should go. I should go home, drink the rest of that whiskey and go to bed. Laura deserves someone so much better than me. Hell everyone deserves to be with someone better than me.

“Carm?”

Carmilla’s thoughts were interrupted by Laura’s voice. She shook her head and looked towards Laura. “We should probably get going.”

Carmilla felt numb as she stood from the couch and headed towards the door. I’m an asshole and I don’t even know how to apologize. She probably thinks I’m insane. But to be fair, I am insane.

“All good?” Laura asked her.

Carmilla couldn’t stop herself from explaining what had just happened.

“I think you look really nice. I'm sorry I tried to get you to change. It’s just really hot outside and I thought you would be more comfortable in something else. Unfortunately, sometimes my brain can be intrusive and I don't think about what makes someone comfortable or not. So I'm sorry.”

“No need to apologize. I just don't like summer or summer clothes is all.”

“Right.” And once again, the award for never listening goes to Carmilla.

“It's really hot out there, isn't it?”

"I walked two blocks and was starting to sweat. I guess Mother Nature wants to get in one last heatwave for the summer before Fall comes.” Carmilla laughed, nervously. Not to mention I wiped all the sweat from my body before I got here so you wouldn’t see it.

“Wanna help me pick out a t-shirt then?”

Carmilla grinned from ear to ear. “Sure, Cupcake.” Maybe I didn’t fuck up, but the night is young.

Carmilla went back into her room and opened some drawers. Laura had a lot of t-shirts, mostly graphic t-shirts. Carmilla smiled. She had plenty of options in here.

After finding the shirt, Carmilla decided to move back to the closet. She likes to keep herself covered for whatever reason. So maybe I can find something… A ha! A black cardigan for the Cupcake. Hopefully she likes it.

“How’s this?” Carmilla asked, holding up the cardigan. She could tell Laura was apprehensive. “It’ll look good with the red, I promise.”

“Okay,” Laura said.

“So I’ll just give you some privacy then. Oh also, wear those Vans. I think you’d look really cute in them.”

Carmilla made her way back to the living room. Okay. So I didn’t fuck this up. Maybe I did okay. Laura entered the living room, her arms wrapped tightly around her body. Carmilla smiled.

“Put your arms down.”

Laura put her arms at her side and Carmilla noticed she seemed to be a little uncomfortable. “It looks good, Cupcake. Really good.”

“It's not really me.” What does that mean? She’s rocking this.

“But it is more comfortable than that button up, right?”

Laura nodded her head, but wouldn’t look towards Carmilla. She kept her eyesight on the floor and Carmilla felt like she had, yet again, done something wrong.

“Why won't you look at me?” She moved closer to Laura, hoping it would encourage her to look up. When it didn’t, Carmilla relied on some of her old tricks, stepping even closer to her. “Hey. Look at me.”

Carmilla felt her heart skip a beat as Laura’s hazel eyes made contact with hers. The room suddenly didn’t feel so cold anymore as she stared at Laura. She licked her lips subconsciously and decided to try. She was just starting to lean forward when the door slammed opened. It scared Carmilla out of her mind and she jumped, taking a step back to catch herself from falling or looking obvious.

“So that was my roommate, Betty.” I hate your roommate.

Laura suggested they should head out and Carmilla agreed. She kept up the conversation with Laura as they walked to the train. She was beginning to feel nervous. She liked listening to Laura talk, but also felt like if she attempted to date Laura, she would be the worst thing that could happen to her. They continued chatting once they were off the train before stopping in a liquor store. Laura picked up a 6-pack with Mermaids on it.

“Is that good?”

Laura seemed to babble out an answer which only made Carmilla smile.

“Do you like Brooklyn Lager?”

“Yeah. That's good too. The only thing I don't like is dark beer. Even though that is David's and Dante’s favorite.”

“Who’s Dante?”

Laura’s eyes lit up as she started to talk about Dante. Wait. Is she straight? She seems to like this guy a lot. Maybe she has a crush on him. Carmilla noticed Laura stopped talking and could only think to say, “Oh cool.”

“Yeah. He's a huge movie buff and he likes to pick on me a lot, but he's one of my good friends. I mess with him all the time.”

“Cool.” Good friend? Like hey we go to the movies together good friend or we’re secretly lovers, but doesn’t want to the store to know good friends.

“Well we should probably pay for these and head on over.”

“Yeah.”

Carmilla was lost in own thoughts as they made their way to Perry’s and Lafontaine’s. I could have sworn she was gay. Maybe she’s bisexual? My therapist told me I could date a bisexual as long as they had been with a woman before.

“We’re here,” Laura announced, pulling her from her thoughts.

“Which apartment?”

“Oh, 2B.”

Carmilla hit the small button next to their name and heard it buzz.

“What is your name?”They heard Lafontaine laugh.

Carmilla’s ears perked up almost immediately. Holy shit! I knew I liked them!

“Carmilla of Karnstein.” I am way to excited about this.

“Ah. What is your favorite color?” Lafontaine asked.

“Black.”

Lafontaine paused.

“You don't have to play this stupid game,” Laura whispered.

Carmilla put her fingers to her lips telling Laura to hush.

“What is your mission?”

“To join you and your wife for dinner,” Carmilla replied.

“She's not my wife, but you passed!”

Okay definitely way too excited, but that was kind of awesome!

“You really didn't have to play that stupid game. Laf does it every time there is a party. Most of the time, Perry just pushes the button.”

“Come on, Cupcake. A chance to do a scene from the Holy Grail? It's a classic!”

“You like Monty Python?”

“Everyone likes Monty Python.”

As they reached the door, Carmilla started to feel apprehensive. She knew there would be new faces behind that door. All she was hoping for is that she wouldn’t get drunk and make a fool out of herself in front of anyone.

Once inside, everything seemed to be nice and comfortable. She met a lot of new and interesting people, even the infamous Dante. She was happy to see that there didn’t seem to be any sexual chemistry between the two and kept her original thought that Laura was definitely a lesbian.

Once they made their way to the table to eat, Carmilla was disappointed that she wasn’t sitting next to Laura. She tried not to show it and was thankful that they were at least sitting across from each other. She quickly learned that Perry’s cooking was absolutely amazing and delicious. She was also extremely surprised that Perry had managed to make two meals after dinner. Once everything was consumed, Carmilla made her way back to the living room. Steve sat down beside her.

“So, when are you going to ask her out?” He asked.

“Ask who out?” Carmilla questioned.

“Laura.”

“I don’t want to ask Laura out. She’s my friend.”

“Okay, but she definitely likes you.”

“Likes me?” Carmilla smiled.

“I’ve known Laura for a few years now. Her aura is usually pretty sad and dark, but tonight it seems to be a little lighter. She’s hung out with all of us before and it’s always the same. The only new thing here tonight is you, so I know she has a crush on you.”

Laura made her way back to the couch. Carmilla watched as Laura came back to her and knew she was smiling broadly. Luckily Steve started talking. Carmilla was sure she wasn’t going to be able to form words while watching Laura.

“Wait. You're Hollis? As in Laura Hollis?” The Puppy asked.

“Uh, yeah?” Laura replied, confused.

“Oh shit, Bro! I knew you looked familiar when I met you. I just couldn't figure out why. I'm really good friends with Danny,” He paused. “Danny Lawrence.”

Carmilla watched as Laura’s entire energy deflated. She went from happy to timid. The atmosphere in the room changed and Steve was no longer smiling. Who the fuck is Danny Lawrence. Laura stood stiffly as she listened to the entire exchange. Next thing she knew, Laura was heading towards the door.

“Laura,” Carmilla said, getting off the couch and running after her. The door slammed in front of her and she couldn’t stop herself. She knew she had to follow.

“Did I say something wrong? I didn't mean to.” Fucking idiot.

“Clearly, you did,” Carmilla said, angrily before shutting the door behind her.

“Laura!” she shouted, running down the stairs. She couldn’t figure out how Laura got down the stairs so fast when she was so tiny. “Laura, wait!” She shouted. She continued to run down the stairs and saw Laura standing outside trying to light a cigarette.

“Laura? You okay?” Clearly she’s not. I’m not good in these situations. I never was good at comforting people.

“Does it matter?” She heard Laura ask. Does it matter?

“It always matters.”

Laura faced her, holding out her pack of cigarettes. Does she think I came out here for that? I could care less about cigarettes right now. Would it make her feel better if I took one? Carmilla took one and let Laura light it.

“I'm most likely going to regret this, but who was Danny?”

Laura’s silence didn’t help and Carmilla immediately started to panic. I’m going to regret this? Not a good start, idiot. I already sound like I don’t care. Okay. Okay. Just back track. She clearly doesn’t want to talk about.

“Ah, right. Look we don't… I shouldn't have asked-”

“She was my ex,” Laura interrupted.

“Oh. I'm sorry.” Do I look as uncomfortable as I feel?

“My lying, cheating, manipulative ex.”

“She was a bitch, huh?”

“You could say that.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“Not particularly.”

“It could make you feel better.” Carmilla tried to be gentle, hoping the teasing would make her smile or laugh. It didn’t.

“I mean what is there really to know? She was tall and skinny with red hair. She was controlling and didn't care for my opinion on anything. She cheated on me and now apparently is still with the same girl she cheated on me with. I mean, they're engaged. She dumped me and still gets the victory, while I'm miserable and alone.”

What?

“How is that a victory, Cupcake? Her fiancé will always live with the reminder that when their relationship started, this Danny person was a cheater. Besides, who cares about marriage?”

“I do,” Laura whispered. Carmilla walked closer to Laura. She noticed some hair sticking to Laura’s face, and tucked it behind her ear.

“Why?”

“The thought of forever. Someone loving you for the rest of your life. Someone who wants to be with you and doesn't view you as a nuisance or an annoyance. Someone who doesn't mind being around you. Who understands when you're sad and doesn't push you to be happy or tell you to get over it-”

“Did she do that to you?” Carmilla interrupted.

“Do what?”

“Tell you to get over it when you were upset?”

“No.” That fucking bitch. How could anyone have the courage to hurt you?

“Okay, I don't know who this Dan person is, but she seems like a huge bitch, who made a huge mistake by letting someone like you go!”

“Not really. I have my problems.”

Carmilla chuckled. “We all have problems and insecurities, Laura. We're all human. I mean if we didn't, the earth would be more boring than it already is.”

She watched as Laura turned back around. Laura wrapped her arms around her body again. I wish she’d stop doing that.

“Maybe she had a reason.” Laura’s voice was low and quiet.

“Did she?” Carmilla asked. “Did you cheat on her or tell her to get over it?”

“No, but I was emotional.”

“So? That's not a reason to cheat on someone. It's not even a good excuse. That's just bull shit.”

Carmilla studied Laura. All she wanted was for Laura to turn around. She watched as Laura shifted her body weight to her other side. She heard Laura inhale and it hurt her. No one should ever make someone as beautiful as Laura, cry.

“Are you crying, Cupcake?”

When Laura didn’t answer, Carmilla couldn’t think of anything else to do. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Laura. She used all her might, not to kiss the side of Laura’s head.

“Come here.” She felt Laura shift in her arms. Laura was eyed her curiously as if she couldn’t figure out why Carmilla was being so nice to her. “I have a weakness for when pretty girls cry. I don't like seeing good people hurting.”

As soon as Laura hugged her, Carmilla didn’t want to be anywhere else. Laura was warm and smelled like sweets. She felt a few trembles from Laura’s body and started to rub her back. That’s what Mattie would do to her to calm her down. She hoped it would work. After standing there, Carmilla had no desire to go back upstairs. She deserves fun, not drama.

“You wanna get out of here?” Laura nodded her head against Carmilla’s chest. Carmilla tightened her embrace just a little. She was still trying not to kiss Laura’s head.

“Did you leave anything upstairs?” She asked.

She felt Laura’s head shake no. She didn’t want to let go, but they couldn’t exactly walk in a hug. She kept her arm firmly around Laura’s shoulder as she took a step back and started walking away from the apartment complex. Laura stopped her.

“We can't just leave, Carm.”

“Sweetheart, your eyes are swollen and red. Your nose is pink and you look sad. We don't have to do anything. I have Perry's number. I'll text her later.”

“Okay.”

Carmilla felt comfortable with Laura against her. She hadn’t felt that comfortable with another girl in quite some time. That has to mean something right?

After what felt like an hour of convincing, Laura and Carmilla made their way to the bar. Carmilla thought the night was too young for Laura to go home feeling down. She wanted to make her feel better. She knew Will wasn’t going to be pleased to see her since she technically owed that bar a decent amount of money, but she was working on paying that back. She just hadn’t told Will yet because it involved their mother. They never saw eye to eye on how to handle their mother.

Luckily, Will was able to let go a little bit when Carmilla’s debit card went through. She had fun with Laura and Will. She thought their conversation was a little ridiculous, but couldn’t help notice how beautiful Laura looked when she was carefree and enjoying herself. She didn’t close off her body and laughed openly, slapping her leg on occasion.

They left together in each other’s arm, completely wasted. Carmilla knew what was happening, but also knew she was two drinks away from being gone. Luckily, she chugged some water before leaving and the open night air, helped her sober up a little. Laura on the other hand was stumbling, but at least her words weren’t slurring. When Laura curled up into her in the cab, she got a little nervous.

“You okay, Cupcake?”

“Just a little dizzy from the world passing by outside.”

Adorable, Carmilla thought as she snuggled closer to Laura. They managed to reach Laura’s apartment without trouble. Carmilla had planned on walking home, but it seemed Laura had other ideas as she tripped on the curb and started laughing. Geez, Cupcake.

“Are you not coming in?” Does she want me to come in?

“I’ll at least make sure you get to your door safely. I can’t have you tripping up those steps.”

I shouldn’t go in. I mean I want to go in. I’m definitely at that stage of the night. And if she was any other girl, we would be inside and naked already, but I can’t do that to her.

“Want one?”

Carmilla saw the pack in Laura’s hand. After making sure it was okay, she was glad to have that cigarette. It makes the alcohol even better. After listening to Laura talk about how a night off was fun and her worrying about lying to Perry, Carmilla watched as Laura took a step forward, wrapping her arms around Carmilla’s neck as she almost fell. She’s well past drunk, but she’s fun.

The both smoked their cigarettes, while Laura stayed in Carmilla’s arms. She wasn’t complaining at all. She noticed Laura wasn't really smoking anymore.

“Finished?”

Laura nodded. Carmilla flicked her cigarette before taking Laura’s and doing the same. When she turned around, Laura was closer than she remembered. Is she going to kiss me?

Laura started to lean in and Carmilla followed, closing her eyes. She felt soft, warm lips brush against hers in the most gentle kiss she had ever experienced. She felt Laura smile before leaning in and kissing Carmilla harder. Carmilla wrapped her arms tighter around Laura, pulling her closer as she felt Laura’s tongue enter her mouth. It was getting a little too heated for public eyes.

“Maybe we should go inside,” Carmilla suggested. Laura’s lip was pouted and Carmilla couldn’t help, but bite Laura’s lip, tugging just a little bit. The sound that came out of Laura did something wonderful to Carmilla. They made their way inside and Carmilla was too far gone to care anymore. She wanted Laura and couldn’t keep her hands off of her. Laura’s kiss was magnetic.

“We have to be quiet. I do have a roommate,” Laura whispered. She took a step away from Carmilla to open the door, but left her fingers locked in Carmilla’s.

I won’t be the one making noise.

“Can’t make any promises, Cupcake.”

Once inside, they walked quietly down the hallway to Laura’s room. Laura closed the door and Carmilla lost her last amount of willpower to say no. She wrapped Laura up in her arms and kissed her. She started to pull Laura towards the bed, who seemed eager to lay down. Carmilla watched as Laura slowly sat down on the bed before laying down completely. She smiled at Laura before slowly climbing down on top of her and connecting their mouths again.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Laura winced as her alarm sounded. She had a splitting headache, and everything was too bright all of a sudden. She grabbed her phone, silencing it before she snuggled back into the body that was behind her. She sighed embracing the extra warmth this morning.

This is nice. It's so warm and comfy. Listen to her heavy breathing. It's so peaceful and-

Laura's eyes opened wide and she tried to shuffle away from the body. Carmilla's arm was wrapped tight around her bare stomach and she pawed at it until Carmilla stirred. She quickly found her t-shirt throwing it over her head before Carmilla opened her eyes.

“Morning, Cupcake.” Carmilla's voice was full of sleep and a little raspy.

What the fuck did we do?!

Laura looked down, grateful to see she was still wearing underwear. Carmilla slowly sat up. The comforter slid down, revealing Carmilla's bare chest. Laura quickly turned around, handing Carmilla her bra that was on the floor, next to her feet.

I can't believe I slept with her. I can't believe I slept with her and don't remember anything about it. Okay. Think. She was looking down at you, laid down on you and started kissing you… And then, you woke up in her arms. Oh gosh! What the fuck! What the fuck! What the fuck!

“Afraid to see me without a shirt on? You didn't seem to mind last night,” Carmilla teased.

Laura walked over to her closet to grab a pair of sweatpants. She threw them on to hide her body from Carmilla. She wanted to cover her body as much as possible. She stood there, facing her closet.

Carmilla sat and stared at Laura. She could care less that she was topless. She acts like she doesn't remember. Suddenly everything seemed to click in Carmilla’s brain. Oh god. She thinks we had sex.

“Laura?”

Laura stayed where she was. She felt like crying. I can't believe I did that. I can't believe I slept with her. It's exactly what she wanted and I just let her have it because I was drunk and wanted it. I wanted to be touched and desired. Ha! Who am I kidding? She was drunk, too. She probably forgot she was with me and pictured someone else.

“Laura?”

When Laura still didn't turn around, Carmilla quickly put on her bra and sweater. “It's okay. I'm decent.”

Carmilla heard Laura exhale as she turned around slowly.

“Laura, I know what you're thinking, but we didn't have sex last night.”

Laura's immediately felt her body relax. “What?”

“We didn't have sex. We only got to like third base.”

“Why did I wake up practically naked then?”

Carmilla smirked. “You don't remember anything about last night, do you?”

“I remember you laying on top of me and kissing me.”

“After you kissed me outside and asked me if I was coming in,” Carmilla argued.

Laura rolled her eyes. “I know! I remember that!”

“Well would you like me to fill you in on the rest?”

Laura sat down on her bed and nodded. Carmilla made sure to keep her distance from Laura, which was difficult on the small twin bed.

“Okay. So we were making out and everything was getting really heated. You took my shirt off first and felt me up before even taking my bra off. Speaking of which, thanks for the hickies.”

Carmilla was trying to make a joke, but Laura didn't seem to find it funny in the moment.

“Summarize, please,” Laura commanded.

“Basically, all that happened was we got topless and we took each other's pants off and right when I was about to,” Carmilla paused, thinking how she should phrase this, “Uh, go lower, you said stop. So I stopped. You apologized immensely. You kept saying you shouldn’t have led me on and just kept saying sorry. I said it was no big deal and suggested we go to sleep. You were out in like 5 minutes.”

“And that's it?”

“Yeah. I rolled over in this tiny little bed and fell asleep.”

Laura was clearly embarrassed. Carmilla started to question herself. She thinks I was just trying to get into her pants. That's the impression I've given of myself and of course that's what she thinks.

“Laura, I'm really-”

“Let's just get ready for work. I'm gonna take a shower. You can borrow something of mine to wear.”

Laura quickly ran down the hall and turned the shower on. She just felt stupid. I shouldn't have gotten that drunk and I definitely shouldn't have let her come inside. Why did I think that was a good idea? Why did I kiss her? Well obviously because I wanted to. But why would she want to kiss me? I'm repugnant.

Carmilla sat in Laura's bed, contemplating everything. I shouldn't have tried anything. I should have just gone home. I guess the things I was feeling wasn't reciprocated, but that's a good thing. She shouldn't be with someone like me. She's an angel and I'm just worthless.

Carmilla slowly got her stuff together. She decided it would be best to leave and let Laura be alone. She opened Laura's bedroom door, once she was fully dressed. She didn't expect Laura to crash right into her.

“Shit. I'm sorry,” Laura said, still wrapped in a towel.

“No, Cupcake. I'm sorry. I didn't see you. Preoccupied by my thoughts and all.”

“Same.”

They both stood in Laura's doorframe for a moment. Why does she look like she's leaving? I don't blame her for wanting to get away for me. She's probably trying not to vomit at the fact she saw me practically naked, Laura thought.

“Are you going somewhere?” She decided to ask.

“I just thought I'd give you some space since I think I've intruded it,” Carmilla answered.

“You're not intruding. I'm the one who invited you in.”

“Yeah, but that was last night and we were drunk.”

“Doesn't mean sober you is intruding, but I understand if you want to leave.”

“I don't… want to, actually.”

“You don't want to leave?” Laura asked. Carmilla noticed Laura seemed surprised by this.

“No, but I should. I mean we don't live that far apart and then this way I can go home and brush my teeth and get ready for work.”

Laura pushed Carmilla back into her room and closed the door. She moved to her desk. Her towel was still wrapped tightly around her. Carmilla watched Laura from behind, biting her lip. Laura rummaged through her dresser drawer.

“This might be weird, but I have a spare toothbrush. It's brand new,” Laura said, turning around holding out a packaged toothbrush for Carmilla. Carmilla squinted her eyes in thought. Trying to figure out why Laura has a prepackaged toothbrush?

“Okay, I don't know what you're thinking, but I got it the last time I went to the dentist. I had just bought a new toothbrush at the time so I didn’t change it. So you're more than welcome to have it.”

Carmilla smiled. “Thanks.”

“And, like I said, you can borrow something of mine. It's really not a problem.”

“Can I, um, can I take a shower?”

“Yeah, absolutely. But hurry before my roommate gets in. She takes ridiculously long showers. Go ahead and get in. I'll bring you a towel.”

Carmilla nodded. “Thanks, Laura.”

Laura smiled at hearing her name. “It's not a problem. Now go.”

“Right.”

Once Carmilla was out of the room, Laura quickly threw on an old black Adidas t-shirt and jeans before collecting a towel for Carmilla.

Carmilla felt a little better as the warm water soothed her, but at the same time she still felt like a creep. She was now worried she had taken advantage of Laura. She did kiss me first and take my shirt off first, but what if she felt pressured to do that? She told me to stop and I did, but what if she wanted me to stop the whole time? What if I went to far? What if I- There was a small knock on the door before she heard shuffling.

“Carm, here's a towel. I'll let you pick something out because I don't know what you would want to wear that's mine.”

“Sure. Thanks again.”

“It's not a problem.”

Laura exited the bathroom trying not to think of Carmilla naked. Which is ridiculous because I’m not going to get the image of her topless out of my mind.

“Who's in the bathroom?” Betty asked, coming down the hallway.

“A friend of mine.”

“Is this the friend that had you moaning last night and banging your bed against the wall?”

Laura flushed. What?! She couldn't think of anything to say.

“Laura Hollis, you dog! Who is she? What's her name? How did you meet?”

Laura heard the shower turn off.

“She's just a coworker. We got drunk.”

“Oh just a coworker, huh? Is she hot? Like better looking than Danny or around the same?”

Carmilla stepped out of the bathroom and Betty stopped talking.

“Damn, Hollis. How did you score that?” Betty whispered.

That hurt Laura's last amount of pride she had for this morning. Of course someone like me could never get someone as hot as Carmilla. I was just a notch in her bedpost. A pity fuck. Well, an almost pity fuck.

“What do you mean, ‘how did you score that’?” She heard Carmilla ask. “Laura's the most beautiful girl in this apartment right now.”

That seemed to shut Betty up.

“That's what I thought. We're friends. I was wasted and stayed the night. I don't think anything else that happened is your business. All I will say is, sorry if we woke you from our good time.”

With that, Carmilla grabbed Laura's hand and went into Laura's bedroom. Laura heard Betty mumble “bitch”, but decided to ignore it.

Laura smiled. It had been a long time since someone stood up for her. That still doesn't matter. She was probably just saying that to shut Betty up. Betty is annoying.

Laura then turned to see a completely naked Carmilla in front of her, digging in her drawers. She quickly turned back around, blushing.

“Cupcake, do you have any dark colors? Like a black t-shirt or anything?”

“There’s a black t-shirt with Mickey Mouse on it.” Laura mentally slapped herself.

“Well as cute as I’m sure that is, any other plain t-shirts?”

Laura thought for a moment. “Oh, there are plain t-shirts on the bottom shelf of my closet. I think there is a black one. I know there is gray and navy.”

“Laura, you can turn around. I’m not naked.”

Laura saw Carmilla thumbing through her closet out of the corner of her eye and saw jeans. She moved to her bed and started making it, trying to ignore Carmilla.

“Okay, how’s this?” Carmilla asked. Laura looked at her and instantly felt jealous. Laura hadn’t felt comfortable in that black t-shirt for a while. It was a Gap crew neck t-shirt, that would cling to her stomach.

“Looks good,” she said, fixing the comforter and plopping her pillows back into place. Carmilla noticed that Laura was ignoring her. She started to feel guilty, again.

“Hey, Laura?”

“Yeah?” Laura said, folding an extra blanket.

“Will you look at me? Please? You’ve been avoiding making eye contact with me all morning and it’s working.”

“What’s working?” Laura asked, finally looking at Carmilla.

“I’m sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have, I don’t know, pushed you? I should have just gone home and respected your boundaries. I knew you were drunk and yet I let you keep going.”

“Carm, you didn’t disrespect my boundaries. Even though I don’t remember much, I told you to stop and you did. So you didn’t push me any further than I was willing to go. If I hadn’t wanted to do any of that, trust me, I wouldn’t have even let you come inside. I’m just embarrassed because I barely remember kissing you.”

That was a lie. Carmilla’s lips and warmth were the only things she remember from last night, but she figured Carmilla could care less.

“You have nothing to be embarrassed about, Laura. We were both drunk and I guess we’re both guilty of acting out our feelings.”

Laura turned away again. We don’t have the same feelings towards each other. Stupid crush.

“Look, we should just head to work. I don’t have anything to eat, but there are plenty of places around here for us to grab some breakfast to go, as you know.”

“Laura-”

“I mean, nothing really happened right? So we should just go. We’re going to be late.”

Laura started to gather the rest of her stuff. Carmilla picked up her wallet, phone and keys. She thinks I just slept with her because I wanted to have sex with someone. How can I make this up to her? How can I prove that I actually care about her and she wasn’t just some random one night stand?

“Ready?” Laura asked, with a small backpack on her back.

“Yeah,” Carmilla said, with a small smile.

She followed Laura out the door. They took a pitstop at the Bagel Pub to grab some bagels. Carmilla went ahead and grabbed some for the full time employees at the store, which Laura thought was very kind. Then they crossed the street to grab some Gatorade and water from the deli before making their way to the subway. They didn’t say much as the awkwardness loomed over them. Carmilla noticed that Laura was once again avoiding eye contact, but she couldn’t think of anything to say to change that.

They waited for the train, causally looking at each other with small smiles or nods, but neither said anything. The train rolled in and Laura immediately walked towards the seat that was available and sat down before looking up at Carmilla.

“Oh sorry, Carm. Do you want to sit?”

“No I’m okay, Cupcake. Can you hold the bagels?” Carmilla asked, holding up the brown paper bag.

“Sure.”

Laura put the bag on her lap, as Carmilla stood over her. Why does this feel so domestic. Almost easy.

At the next stop, the person sitting next to Carmilla stood up, leaving the seat open for her. Carmilla immediately sat down, sitting as close to Laura as possible. Laura didn’t seem to flinch away, as they sat next to each other, almost glued at the side. The ride and the small walk to the store continued to be relatively quiet.

Laura was grateful to see the large shipment of boxes. Now we really don’t have to talk about it and can just work. That way she can forget it happened and I can just live with it being the last time someone will most likely want to touch me.

“Morning, Frosh!” Lafontaine said, excitedly. A little too happy in Laura’s opinion.

“Hey, Laf,” Laura said. Lafontaine eyed them curiously when they noticed Carmilla coming in behind her.

“Carmilla.”

“Lafontaine. I brought bagels,” Carmilla announced.

“Oh sweet! First week and you’re already impressing me. Keep it up, Karnstein.”

“Well I need more of David’s approval, but whatever helps you sleep at night, Laf.”

“Speaking of which, is David here yet?” Laura asked.

Carmilla glanced at Laura. She’s probably going to try and get me transferred out. I can’t say I blame her. It’s happened before because I’m the idiot who keeps making stupid mistakes. I would do the same thing too if someone I had just learned had a lot of sex tried to have sex with me when I was super drunk.

“Nope. Just me and Perry right now.”

“Great!” Laura looked at Carmilla, who was studying her closely. “Carm, it means we don’t have to work yet. We can just eat our bagels and chill out.”

Carmilla felt a small weight lift from her shoulders. “Oh, great!”

Laura patted her arm before heading downstairs to give Perry her bagel. Carmilla looked over to see a broad smile on Lafontaine’s face.

“Don’t start,” Carmilla said.

“Well you came to my apartment with her, you left with her, and now you’ve walked in with her. That has to mean something.”

“We live in the same neighborhood.”

“Doesn’t mean anything. You both look uncomfortable and awkward next to each other. Laura rubbing your arm was the only normal thing. So what happened?”

“Nothing happened. We left your party, grabbed a drink and went home. End of story.”

“You know if Laura is downstairs talking to Perry, telling her what happened, I’ll know what really happened soon enough.”

“Then it’s a good thing that nothing happened.”

“Uh-huh. Sure.” Lafontaine winked at Carmilla.

“Just eat your bagel. I’ve only known you two days and you’re annoying me.”

“Oh please because you’re such a joy to be around.”

“Thank you,” Carmilla smiled.

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

Laura entered the small office to see Perry was already hard at work.

“Good morning, Perry.”

“Morning, Laura.”

“Carmilla bought everyone bagels, so I just wanted to bring yours down.”

“Well that was very nice of her. How did she know what to get?”

“Well I was with her and told her what everyone liked.”

“You were with her?” Perry questioned with a small smirk.

“It’s not what you think. We live in the same neighborhood and bumped into each other.”

“Okay. If that’s what you want me to believe.”

“There’s nothing to believe because nothing happened. I told you, Carmilla is too pretty for me.”

“For the thousandth time, that-”

“Doesn’t make sense. I get it already.”

“Not to mention, you’re a terrible liar,” Perry countered. “So what actually happened?”

“She just came over and hung out for a little bit.”

“And?”

Laura was getting aggravated. She already said too much. “And nothing.”

“Well if you want to talk about it.”

“I know, Perry. But I don't think there is anything to talk about.”

Laura started to fidget. She really wasn't the best liar and she did want to tell Perry, but wasn't sure how she would react. She gave Perry a small smile before heading back upstairs.

Carmilla and Lafontaine were laughing at something which caused Laura to grin.

“Oh, Laura, you missed it,” Carmilla said, clutching her sides.

“What?” Laura said, moving closer to Carmilla.

“This guy was in here and he was just standing looking at books. Browsing or whatever. And, and-” Lafontaine paused to get a little more laughter out. “And he started making all these noises, but we couldn't tell if his stomach was making noises or he was farting-”

“Or both,” Carmilla laughed, reaching an arm out to touch Laura's as she bent over, laughing harder.

“Or both,” Lafontaine agreed, “but after a really loud sound, Carmilla and I just looked at each other and we caught the giggles. He kept asking us for books and we couldn't keep it together. Another customer came in and stood behind him before she heard a sound and immediately back away before leaving. Oh man. You had to be there.”

Carmilla wiped tears from her eyes as she tried to stop laughing. Laura looked down to Carmilla's hand on her arm. Why does her hand feel so comforting when I mean nothing but a girl she's trying to sleep with.

Lafontaine managed to calm down, with little fits of giggles, while they continued to eat their bagels. David came in a little later suggesting, but mostly commanding, Laura and Carmilla get to work on the wholesaler shipment.

“There are one hundred and one boxes to go through. They faxed over another invoice this morning. Carmilla, how did you receive at the old store?” David asked.

“Oh it was mostly just Bill and me, so I would just go box by box. I'd print the labels and lay them in the box, but we always had someone there to label.”

“Okay. Well unfortunately rush hires won't be here until noonish so at least if we get started, it's something for them to do. I don't want you to label any of these since we still have two more shipments coming in next week.”

Carmilla nodded. She noticed Laura was near the boxes in the front, working. She longed to be closer to her, but thought she had no right to be.

“Laura will fill you in on how we do it here, but it's almost the same at your old store. If you have any questions, just come get me. I'll be hanging up new class tags on the shelves.”

“Cool.”

Carmilla walked slowly up to Laura, trying not to study her too hard. Laura's body was still fresh in her mind and she didn't want to objectify her. Laura was struggling with the same images. The night was slowly coming back to her. She remember how soft and warm Carmilla's body was in her hands.

“Hey,” Carmilla said awkwardly with a little a wave. She immediately put her arm down. “Uh, David said you'd tell me how you guys receive.”

“Yeah. Here is your marker and box cutter. Each box has a label on the side with the list of books that's inside them.”

“Right.”

“Well we cut that list off the box and mark the side. I've already started with numbers so you can be the alphabet. Once you cut the label off, write the letter A on the box and the list. Then just continue on that way.”

“Okay. Why?” Carmilla asked.

“Oh, right. We don't label these because we don't have time. So once we receive the box, we print the labels and staple them to the cut out list in your hand. Then we leave those on our desks until a labeling person has been assigned. Make sense?”

Carmilla smiled. “Yep. All good, Cupcake.”

They stared at each other for a moment before Laura pulled away and continue to cut into the sides of the box, peeling the labels off. Once they were finished, they headed downstairs.

The air of awkwardness had returned as the worked in silence. The only sound were labels being printed, the clicking of their keyboards and the shuffling of the invoice. The invoice was about 60 pages large. It was a lot to keep up with.

After a while, rush hires made their way to the basement. Laura explained to them what to do so they were back and forth with things missing from boxes or extra copies. It was a lot, but it was moving.

“Hey, Laura!”

Carmilla looked up to see a brown haired girl, not much taller than Laura walk into the basement.

“SJ! How are you?” Laura said, jumping out of her chair, smiling broadly.

“I'm great! Miss me?”

“Of course I did! How was your summer away from here?”

“You mean how was Florida? Hot and full of old people. Luckily my grandparents lived close to the beach so I just went there everyday.”

“Well you look great!” Laura commented.

Carmilla started to feel something weird. Am I jealous? I don’t get jealous. She watched them closely. She never smiles at me like that. I wish she would. But I pretty much blew that one. She deserves to be with someone who makes her happy and doesn’t have a past like mine.

“How’s it been here?” SJ asked, looking over at Carmilla.

“The same.”

SJ turned towards Carmilla and smiled. “Hey, I’m SJ.”

“Hey. Carmilla.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“You too.” Carmilla tried to sound cordial, but her jealousy was pushing through her. She gave a small smile before turning back to her computer.

“Well do you have labels for me?” SJ asked, changing the subject.

“Let’s go upstairs,” Laura said, wrapping her arm in SJ’s.

Carmilla felt her heart drop. What did you expect? You never had a chance with her anyway. She clearly thinks you just wanted to get into her pants. And even though last night your drunk brain was telling you to do so, you would do anything to take all that back. You’re a fuck up.

“Hey, Carm-sexy.”

Carmilla looked up to see Kirsch looking at her. “Call me that again and I’ll beat the shit out of you.”

Kirsch immediately apologized. “I’m sorry.”

“What do you want?” If you would have just kept your mouth shut, I might have had a chance with Laura. I wouldn’t have gotten drunk and gone home with her.

“Um, Lafontaine said you would need help with labeling.”

Carmilla grabbed the few box lists she had managed to receive and handed them to Kirsch. “Laura’s upstairs explaining I think.”

“Cool.”

Carmilla quickly regretted that decision.

“Wait!” She yelled and Kirsch stopped. He turned around to look at her.

“Stay clear of Laura. After last night, she needs a break from you.”

“Oh. Yeah,” Kirsch scratched the back of his head. “I feel really bad about that. I didn’t know Danny cheated on her. That I learned last night after you guys left. I was introduced to Natalie like a few weeks later after they broke up.”

“You don’t need to explain it to me. Just stay away from Laura.”

Carmilla explained to Kirsch to find the letter on the box and label the books inside, slowly. She informed him if there were any inconsistencies to tell her immediately. Kirsch agreed before heading upstairs.

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

“So who is this Carmilla?” SJ asked, walking up the stairs with Laura.

Laura blushed. “She’s just the new receiver. She’s from another store.”

“Is she permanently here?”

“I think so, but I don’t know. She’s here for now though.”

“Well she’s super attractive!”

“Yeah, she is.”

“Oh, Laura Hollis, do you have a little crush?”

Laura smiled before it faltered. “I could, but it’s not like anything would happen. I mean something sort of did, but-”

“Oh my gosh! Tell me!”

“It was last night, actually.”

Laura walked towards the boxes in the front of the store. Everyone seemed busy with work so it didn’t seem like anyone would be listening.

“We just got super drunk, made out a little and I then I woke up with her topless in my bed.”

“You don’t remember?”

“Parts are coming back to me. You know me. I’m a lightweight.”

“Was it good?”

“We didn’t have sex,” Laura quickly corrected.

“Okay. Was the kissing good?”

Laura smiled and nodded her head.

“You should ask her out. She obviously thinks you’re attractive.”

Laura shook her head. “She was drunk.”

“So?” SJ questioned.

“So, she probably forgot it was me and now regrets her decision.”

SJ frowned. “So we’re still on the self-deprecation train, I see. Why can’t you realize she finds you attractive?”

“Because she doesn’t.”

“Laura, she made out with you.”

“We were drunk. And she seems to be the type who likes to just sleep around with drunk girls.”

“Did she tell you that or are you just finding a reason to ignore yourself.”

“She told me.”

“Oh. What did she say exactly?”

“She just likes to drink. She claims it helps her sleep. But if she goes to a bar, and finds someone, she’ll sleep with them and then sleep. Looks like last night, I was just that drunk girl.”

“You never know. She might actually like you.”

“And how would you know?”

“She practically stared at us the entire time we were downstairs.”

“No she didn’t, SJ.”

“Yes she did. You’re short, remember? I’m taller than you. I could see her over your head, staring at us with puppy dog eyes.”

SJ started to giggle and Laura hit her arm. “Shut up. She did not.”

“Suit yourself, Laura. But just because a girl has slept with other girls before, doesn’t mean you were just another fuck to them.”

Laura contemplated her words. “I guess we’ll see.”

“That’s the small amount of Laura confidence I know!” SJ joked. Luckily, for some reason, it never bothered Laura when SJ joked about her confidence because she knew it was coming from a good-natured place.

Laura laughed. “Just get to labeling. We have plenty to do.”

SJ dramatically exhaled. “Fine.”

Laura laughed again and walked back towards the counter. She saw a quick shift of black hair going down the middle isle before she heard the back door close.

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

Carmilla stepped outside to go to the deli. She walked over there quickly, with her hands in her pocket. She shuffled inside and looked up at the man.

“A pack of Marlboro Lights.”

“13,” he said and Carmilla tsked before handing over a twenty dollar bill. Smoking in this stupid city is so expensive.

He handed her a pack and her change.

“Thanks,” she said before heading back to the store. She peeled the plastic layer to open the pack and pulled at the overlapping paper. She quickly took a cigarette and hung it from her mouth. She patted at her pockets and sighed. Forgot my fucking lighter at home! Luckily there were a couple guys hanging out, talking and smoking cigarettes.

“Uh, hi, can I bum a light?” she asked to the group.

“A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be smoking these things,” one of the men commented.

“Yeah, well. I’m having a shitty day. So got a light?”

Another guy held out the lighter for her. She took it and lit the cigarette quickly before mumbling a thanks and carrying on. They made noises towards her when she left, but she ignored them. Cat calling was the last thing she needed to worry about right now. When she reached the store, she saw a familiar face standing outside.

“Well I think it’s my turn to ask,” Laura said.

“Sure.”

Carmilla held out her pack and Laura took one. Laura took a small lighter from her pocket. Carmilla sat down on the stairs, trying to distance herself from the girl who was currently occupying her thoughts. She felt Laura sit down next to her, but avoided eye contact. She just felt like scum and watching Laura interact with SJ was clear evidence that she would never be good enough to even try having a relationship with Laura.

“SJ and I aren’t a thing. She has just been working rushes while she’s in school, so she was there through the whole Danny thing,” Laura admitted.

“I’m glad you have a friend like that,” Carmilla commented.

“Are we going to talk about it?” Laura wasn’t sure where her confidence was coming from.

“Talk about what?” Carmilla asked, taking another drag from her cigarette.

“Last night.”

“What about it? You said you don’t remember much and I filled you in on what happened.”

“I’m sorry I put you in that place.”

“Laura, you didn’t put me in any place.”

“It’s just been a long time since I’ve been intimate with someone. It had been almost a year since I even kissed anyone.”

“Laura, we don’t have to do this.”

“What? Can’t handle a sex talk with a drunk girl you tried to sleep with? I’d assume you would be used to having these types of of awkward conversations.”

And there it is. Exactly what I was thinking she would believe, Carmilla thought.

“Is that what you think last night was to me? An easy lay?”

“Isn’t that what you do?”

Carmilla laughed, mentally kicking herself, wishing she actually could. “Yeah. I guess it is.”

Carmilla flicked her cigarette and stood up. She headed back for the door to get inside. Laura grabbed her wrist.

“If I’m wrong, tell me,” Laura pleaded.

You deserve someone better than me, Cupcake.

“You’re not wrong. I just wanted to fuck,” Carmilla said. Her voice was monotone as she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. She went back inside. Like you could ever get a girl like Laura Hollis and not taint her. I hope she finds someone amazing to sweep her off her feet.

“Carmilla, wait,” Laura said, coming back into the foyer.

“Laura, there’s nothing to talk about. We made out and I liked it. Okay? I liked it a lot. Then we moved to your bedroom and I wanted you. I thought you wanted me too, so I kept going. I’m sorry I pushed you and made you uncomfortable. I’m sorry I took advantage-”

“Carmilla you didn’t take advantage of me. If anything, I was the one making all the first moves. I took your shirt off and felt you up, remember?”

“It doesn’t matter. You were drunk and definitely not the type of girl I usually go home with. I shouldn’t have assumed.”

“You didn’t assume anything. I let you inside. I let you into my bed. I just like to have more of a connection with someone before I sleep with them. That’s all.”

“And I just get drunk and sleep with people.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Laura said, innocently.

“You don’t know me, Cupcake.”

“Well we could change that you know?”

“Laura, I’m a toxic person with a lot more problems than you should have to deal with.”

“You barely know me, as well, Carm. I could also be toxic. And like you said, we all have problems.”

“Doesn’t mean you should have to deal with them.”

“Can I be the judge of that, please?”

Carmilla looked at Laura, trying to figure out what was going on in her head.

“Look, I don’t know what’s going with that Elsie girl, but-”

“Nothing is going on with her,” Carmilla interrupted. “I broke it all off yesterday. She was stressing me out and looking for something I didn’t want with her.”

“Okay, so,” Laura paused. Do this! Just say the words. The worst she could say is no.

“So?” Carmilla asked.

“Care to make last night up to me? We could get dinner tonight or something.”

She wants to get dinner with me? “You asking me on a date, Cupcake?”

“More like a get to know you outing.”

“I have to do something after work, but we could meet around 7ish. If you like.”

“Sure. Where?”

“Meet at my place?” Carmilla asked.

“Yeah. I’ll meet you at your place at 7ish.”

“And what are we going to do?”

“Not drink,” Laura stated, clearly.

“Fair enough.”

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

Work went by rather well after that. Carmilla got to know SJ a little better and decided she liked her. She noticed quickly that SJ was definitely more into Kirsch than she was into Laura. Laura even managed to work with Kirsch a little bit. Carmilla enjoyed watching him apologize over and over again to the point that Laura had to toughen up and tell him to stop.

“So I’ll see you tonight around 7ish?” Carmilla asked, leaning against Laura’s desk.

“I’ll be there once you give me your address.”

“Right.” Carmilla scribbled it down on a piece of paper.

“I’ll see you soon, Cupcake,” Carmilla said. She leaned in a kissed Laura’s temple. Where did that come from?

Did she just kiss the side of my head?

“Uh, yeah. Tonight.”

Carmilla quickly left and headed towards the train. She had another stop in Brooklyn she had to make before heading home. She waited in the small hallway on an old foldout chair.

“Carmilla.”

“Doc,” Carmilla states.

Her therapist, Jess, was a average sized woman in her early-40’s. She had short light hair, a nice smile and a kind exterior. Carmilla shifted into the small room and took a seat on the couch, as her therapist got comfortable in the seat across from her.

“So, how was your week?” Jess asked.

“Fine. The usual.”

“And how are we about the alcohol, smoking and women?”

“Just getting straight to the point, aren’t you?” Carmilla asked, looking at her shoes.

“Well how else are we going to fix the issues you want to change?”

“Well I’ve bought two pack of cigarettes this week, but I left the ones I bought today at work, so they’ll be living there over the weekend. Unfortunately, I have woken up with too many headaches this week.”

“And did you meet up with Elsie?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“How many weeks have you two been doing this now?”

“Just a couple, but I ended it with her.”

“Why did you end it with her?”

“She was becoming too much and she kept pressuring me to be in a relationship with her. I don’t want to date her. I thought we were just having sex.”

“How many times did you sleep with her?”

“Just twice this week.”

“Well that’s better than your usual streak during the week.”

“Yep.”

As the conversation took a hold, Carmilla looked at her shoes. Sometimes she didn’t want to talk, and she was scared to talk about Laura.

“What are you holding back?” Jess asked.

“Nothing.”

“Carmilla, you’ve been seeing me for a few months now. I know when you’re lying.”

Carmilla sighed.

“I met someone.”

Jess seemed to perk up a little at this information. “Oh?”

“Yeah.”

“And is that why you ended things with Elsie?”

“It’s part of the reason. I just wanted to feel like I had a chance with this girl.”

“And do you?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I ever do. I just feel like she’s worth so much more than me. You know? She’s a good person. Definitely not the type of girl I usually date. And I feel like she deserves to be with someone who is way better than me. Someone who doesn’t have the problems I do.”

“The only thing you struggle with is not seeing your inner worth. This girl could see something in you that you don’t see. She might even help you come to terms with it.”

“There’s more to this story, Doc.”

“And what is that?”

Carmilla recapped the previous night's events. She talked about the small conversations she had with Laura, the party at Lafontaine and Perry’s, the bar, and the night they had afterwards. They discussed Carmilla’s actions at length. She also informed Jess of how she and Laura acted today. Once Jess found out about them going out later that night, she smiled at Carmilla.

“It seems she might be smitten with you.”

“But what I did was stupid,” Carmilla argued.

“You did what you’ve always done. You drank too much and let your hormones take over. You listened to your body’s needs instead of what your heart wanted. But you didn’t technically have sex with her.”

“But I would have.”

“I think anyone would have in that predicament. What’s stopping you from thinking she actually likes you?”

“I mean she saw me with Elsie, who was practically all over me. I’ve mentioned how I like to go to bars and go home with girls. That part of who I am.”

“And why did you think it was necessary to tell her that, when you’ve only known her for a couple days?”

“I don’t know. I just didn’t want her to think I was with Elsie.”

“Carmilla, you’ve never told these flings in the past about your ways. You usually sleep with them a couple times and call it quits without even letting them know you. Right?”

Carmilla nodded.

“Then maybe there is something special about this particular girl.”

“Maybe,” Carmilla whispered.

“You know what my last question is going to be?” Jess asked.

“I have a feeling.”

“Is she straight, bi, gay?”

“I still don’t understand the importance of this question.”

“Carmilla, the last two girls you were fully committed to, claimed to be straight and acted as if you were just the thing they came home to at night. They weren’t out with you and forced you to go back in the closet when around them and their friends. They wouldn’t even accept the possibility of being bi-curious or bi-sexual. They would call you their best friend instead of their girlfriend when asked what was happening between you two. I just think at this point, you need to try and date one girl who is proud to be who they are, whether that is a bi-sexual or lesbian. Granted, it’s your life and you can do as you wish. I just think it would help to date someone who is proud to be seen with you and not hiding from the world because of you.”

“I believe she’s gay.”

“Then I look forward to hearing about your date next week.”

“I’ll see you later, Doc.”

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

Carmilla rushed home after her appointment and went straight for the shower. She decided tonight she would dress a little more reserved. Once she was clean, she went into her room putting on a pair of black jeans and one of her black baggy t-shirts. Luckily, Mattie had gotten an apartment with it’s own washer and dryer. She immediately started washing Laura’s t-shirt to give back to her.

She was getting ready, when she heard Mattie come in.

“Carm?” Mattie yelled.

“In here!” Carmilla shouted back.

Mattie stood in Carmilla’s door frame with her arms crossed.

“I thought you were coming home last night.”

“I thought I was too, but plans change.”

“Elsie?”

“Ugh,” Carmilla said, almost disgusted, “God, no!”

“Then who?”

“The girl I told you about.”

“I thought you weren’t going to go with your old ways.”

“Trust me, I wasn’t planning on it. But we got drunk, she invited me in and the next thing I knew, I woke up in her bed with her in my arms.”

“In your arms? Even Elsie complained about how you wouldn’t cuddle.”

“I didn’t plan for it to happen. I just woke up that way. I fell asleep with my back towards her.”

“So did you two,” Mattie started, gesturing with her hands.

“Almost, but no. She didn’t want it to go further so I suggested we go to sleep. And to think, I thought I was done with my session today.”

“And how was your session today?”

“Fine.”

“Did you tell her all about this?”

“I did.”

Carmilla hated talking about her therapy sessions. She just wanted time to unwind before Laura got there and didn’t need Mattie to ask her a million more questions.

“So what are you getting all dolled up for?”

“I’m actually going out again with Laura tonight and she’ll be here soon. So would you mind if I finished getting ready?”

“Not at all, Darling.”

Mattie left Carmilla's room, while she sat in front of her pitiful air conditioner, hoping it would pump out just a little more air so she wouldn't sweat.

Carmilla was putting together the final touches when her door buzzed.

“I got it,” Mattie yelled.

Carmilla put on a fresh coat of deodorant and sprayed some perfume.

“Uh, hi. I'm Laura.”

“Pleasure. I'm Matska, but most people call me Mattie. Come on in. Carmilla is almost ready, I believe.”

“Thanks. You must be her sister,” Laura said, nervously.

“Half sister, but yes.”

Carmilla left her room and felt her body cool as she entered the living room. She saw Laura and her voice caught in her throat. Laura was wearing a yellow tank top with a black camisole under it and a light pair of jeans with some plain white sneakers.

“Hey, Carm,” Laura smiled.

“Carm, huh?” Mattie asked, smirking at Carmilla.

“Hey, Cupcake,” Carmilla grinned, ignoring Mattie.

“Ready to go?”

“Depends. Where we going?”

“It's called the Smoke Joint. It's near Lafontaine’s and Perry’s, but they have amazing barbecue and mac and cheese.”

“Lead the way,” Carmilla smiled, walking over to Laura, towards the door.

“It was nice meeting you, Mattie,” Laura said.

“You too, Laura.”

Before Carmilla could leave, Mattie pulled her close and whispered. “I like this one. Be good and on your best behavior.”

“Yeah. Okay, Mom,” Carmilla joked, following Laura out the door.

“Have fun, Carm!” Mattie smirked.

“Ha ha.”

Carmilla shut the door. She smiled at Laura. They were still quiet, walking towards the train. Laura looked over at Carmilla.

“So I was thinking, while I was home,” Laura started.

“Yes?”

“I know what we did last night and it's happened. We can't take any of it back.”

“Right.”

“Maybe we could use tonight as a redo of last night. Start almost anew.”

“Like a second chance?”

“Exactly,” Laura agreed.

“I think I might like that very much.”

“Good.”

They walked down the subway stairs and swiped their metrocards.

“So how many stops?” Carmilla asked.

“Just one.”

“Back to Atlantic we go?”

“Like I said. A redo.”

They got on the 5 train, deciding not to sit since they were only going one stop.

“How was that thing after work?” Laura asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.

“Uneventful. Just had to talk about my problems.”

Laura looked confused.

“Therapy, Sweetheart.”

“Oh. Well I've heard that's good.”

“It's not bad. You get to say all those thoughts you have in your head and realize how stupid they can actually sound.”

“I guess that's good.”

“It's actually great. Well sometimes. Other times it's draining and I have a feeling of being hollow. Like I wish I was going home to someone to talk to.”

“Well how are you feeling now?”

Carmilla smiled. “Even if I was feeling hollow before, I'm happy to be here with you now.”

“So no hollow feelings?” Laura asked as they stepped off the train.

Carmilla took Laura's hand. “No hollow feelings at all.”

Laura looked down at their hands as they walked to restaurant hand in hand. This feels right. It feels good. Like my hand was meant for hers, Laura thought.

Carmilla's thoughts on the matter were a little more panicked. I hope it's okay I'm holding her hand. I hope she doesn't think I'm being forward and feels pressured to hold my hand.

“Good evening, ladies. Table for two?” The host asked.

“Yeah. I made a reservation under Hollis. Laura Hollis.”

The host looked at her list and smiled. “Well I can sit you outside now, or it'll be about a ten to fifteen minute wait to sit inside.”

Laura turned towards Carmilla for an opinion.

“Whatever you want to do, Cupcake is fine with me.”

That left Laura to her own devices. Okay. It's not too hot outside and there is a cool breeze.

“Would you mind sitting outside?” Laura asked.

“Sounds good, Laura.”

“Looks like we'll sit outside,” Laura said to the host.

“Perfect! Follow me, please.”

The host led them to a table right in the middle of the outdoor seating area. Carmilla waited for Laura to be seated before taking her own seat. They thanked the host and settled in.

“This must be a good place. It seems pretty busy,” Carmilla noted.

“Yeah. It's one of my favorites even though I've only been here a couple of times.”

“I was a little worried when you said barbecue.”

“Why?”

“NYC. Barbecue. Doesn't add up, Cutie.”

“Well I promise this is amazing.”

They looked over the menu before both ordering the pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac and cheese.

“And to drink?” The waiter asked.

Carmilla looked towards Laura to see what she would order.

“May I have a Coke please?”

“Absolutely and for you?” He turned towards to Carmilla.

“The same, please.”

The waiter left them and it became quiet again. Laura noticed Carmilla seemed nervous. Is she nervous to be seen with me?

“So,” Carmilla started.

“So,” Laura repeated.

They looked at each other and both let out nervous laughter.

“Sorry, Laura. I'm nervous.”

“Why?”

“I guess I'm scared I'm going to fuck this up again. I'm not good at dating.”

“Is this a date?” Laura asked. She knew she had originally said it was an outing, but deep down, really wanted it to be a date.

“You tell me. You're the one who asked me.”

“Do you want it to be?” Laura asked. Probably not.

“I wouldn't be opposed to the idea.”

Laura smiled. “So a date, then?”

Carmilla returned her smile. “A date it is, Laura.”

“Cool.” She wants to be here with you. That must mean something. Right? No. Stop. You're getting ahead of yourself. She could just be nice. Think of something to say. She's staring at you!

“So I never asked. How old are you?” Laura asked, nervously.

“26.”

“So only a year older than me. Not bad.”

“I'll take that as a compliment, Sweetheart.”

“Where did you go to school?”

“Brooklyn College. It was cheap and they have a great English department.”

“Was that your major?”

“Well I majored in creative writing with a focus on fiction. I have a minor in English.”

“That's awesome. Do you write a lot?”

“Not as much as I used to.”

“Why not?”

Carmilla hesitated.

“Oh. I'm sorry, Carm. That's personal,” Laura said, reaching across the table to lightly run her hand on Carmilla's arm.

Carmilla looked at her arm. She reveled in the feeling of Laura's fingers.

“No. That's okay, Cupcake. Just some stuff happened and I haven't found a reason to start writing again.”

“Oh. Well I hope you find it.”

“Thanks.”

The waiter came back with their food. Carmilla was starving and everything looked delicious. The waiter laid down different barbecue sauces and extra napkins. They dug in, instantly.

“Oh my gosh, Laura. This is delicious!”

“I told you. How about that mac and cheese?”

“It's delicious! I've never had it so creamy.”

“Really?” Laura asked.

“Yeah. I'm used to the box stuff.”

“Back home, this is how you eat macaroni and cheese!”

“And where is home?” Carmilla asked, between bites, trying to remember her manners.

“I'm from Virginia, near DC.”

“Oh cool.”

“Are you from New York originally?”

“Yeah. My whole life. Born and raised. I grew up on the Upper East Side.”

“So is that why you hate Carrie Bradshaw?”

“Possibly. The only reason I ever travel up there is for the museums or to visit my mother.”

“Makes sense. Maybe you could take me to a museum sometime?”

“I could do that.”

Laura smiled before taking another bite of her sandwich. The bill came not much later, as they finished up. Carmilla was just about to reach for it for Laura pulled it away from her.

“How much do I owe, Laura?”

“Nothing. We got paid today so this is on me. To make up for the sushi.”

“Are you sure?” Carmilla asked.

“Of course. You can get the next one if you feel the need to.”

“Sounds good.”

They both took turns going to the bathroom to wash their hands. Once the receipt was signed by Laura, they exited.

“So what would you like to do now, Ms. Hollis? Should I take you home?”

“Why? It's only 8:30. The night is young.”

Carmilla smirked. “So where to?”

“A drink?”

“Earlier you said no alcohol.”

“I changed my mind. I mean I won't be mixing and I can control my alcohol. Besides how about we agree that we just have one drink?”

“One drink?” Carmilla questioned. I’ve never had just one drink. It always spirals.

“Just one and then we leave.”

“One drink and we leave,” Carmilla agreed. I’m gonna try this. I’m going to try it for her.

Laura led Carmilla down Fulton street to Der Schwarze Koelner Biergarten. Carmilla had been here before and was relieved that she could easily get a beer and be fine. They sat at a small table inside and both ordered a Pilsner.

“So what about you, Cupcake?” Carmilla asked.

“What about me?”

“Where did you go to school and what did you major in?”

“Oh. I went to NYU.”

“I wanted to go there, but it was too expensive.”

“Yeah. I was very lucky to get a few scholarships. I only have a little debt left behind.”

“That’s not bad. What did you major in?”

“My original major was theater, but I quickly changed to journalism.”

“Journalism. Interesting.”

“You don’t think I could be a journalist?” Even I don’t think I can.

“Oh no, I definitely think you could be, but why are you working at a bookstore?”

“My dad had some medical issues, so I didn’t exactly finish. I only have a couple more credits to complete to graduate.”

“So why don’t you go back?”

“I guess I just lost my drive after that.”

“Makes sense. If you ever want to go back, you’ll have my full support.”

Laura laughed.

“What?” Carmilla asked, smirking.

“You just met me, Carmilla. How do you know you’ll have my full support?”

Carmilla looked at Laura with so much sincerity that she stopped laughing.

“Because you’re good a person. A good person who deserves good things. I will always support that.”

“Thanks, Carm. I hope you can get back to writing.”

“Maybe one day,” Carmilla said.

They slowly sipped their beers, taking in their surroundings. They stuck to their rule and left after only one beer. They walked back to the train, hand in hand, chatting about the neighborhood and the bookstore. Carmilla realized how natural this was starting to feel. She didn’t want to have too much hope in Laura after her mistakes in the past, but couldn’t help feeling that maybe something right would finally happen. Laura didn’t pay attention to her body issues as they continued to walk and talk from the subway station. Carmilla walked Laura to her door.

“So I’ll see you Monday?” Carmilla asked.

Laura nodded. “Monday.”

“I had a really good time tonight, Laura.”

“I did too. Thanks for coming out with me.”

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

They stood awkwardly at the bottom of Laura’s stairs.

“Okay. I’ll see you Monday,” Carmilla mumbled.

“You said that already.”

Carmilla laughed. “Yes. Yes. I did.” Oh god. Do I kiss her? I mean I technically already have, but what if she thinks it’s too forward. I want to kiss her. I’ve never even questioned this move before.

Laura smiled. Is she going to kiss me? Or is this just gonna be an awkward stare down. I would kiss her, but the last time I did that, we ended up in bed together. Of course, I was trashed, but still.

“Monday then,” Carmilla said, backing up.

“Yeah, Monday.”

Carmilla started to mentally kick herself as she let Laura’s hand slide out of hers. She took a few steps away before turning back.

“Laura?”

“Yeah?” She was at the top of the stairs, about to go inside.

Carmilla climbed the stairs and caressed Laura’s cheeks. She leaned in slowly and felt Laura’s soft lips against hers. They kissed for a couple of minutes before Carmilla pulled away. They rested their heads together, both of their eyes closed.

“Monday,” Carmilla whispered.

“Monday,” Laura agreed.

Laura went inside with a smile on her face. Maybe she is attracted to me.

Carmilla walked back to her apartment, with a skip in her step. Maybe I can have a chance with her.

Chapter Text

Laura woke with a jolt that following Monday morning at the sound of her alarm. She was tired and didn't feel very well. Carmilla didn't text or call her all weekend and it had been the only thing to consume her mind since Saturday morning. She stayed in her apartment for the most part, crying and self loathing. Her thoughts were consistent about what was wrong with her and how no one would want to be with her based on her physical appearance.

Now that it was Monday morning, her thoughts from the weekend hadn’t subsided, knowing she would have to face Carmilla at work today. She’ll probably call out sick just so she won't have to see me for one more day. I wouldn't blame her. Laura’s thoughts stayed negative as she tried to find something to wear. Everything seemed too tight this morning and she was getting frustrated with herself. She sat on her floor for a minute and cried as she looked at her bare stomach. She curled in on herself, trying to hide from her own body. You’re so fat, even your clothes don’t fit. You’re never going to look good. You’re always going to be fat and ugly.

She laid on the floor a little longer, trying to compose herself. She managed to find a baggy t-shirt that she felt comfortable enough in to wear before slipping on her big black sweatshirt. She wished she could hide from the world. She even avoided leaving her room this morning. She didn't feel like seeing Betty since all she had done this weekend was ask about Carmilla. It made her feel worse about the whole situation.

She managed to slip out the apartment, unnoticed. She closed her building door when she heard the familiar voice that had been taunting her dreams and memories all weekend.

“Morning, Cupcake.” Shit. She looks mad. Mad and tired.

How can she still call me that? She hates me. “What are you doing here?” Laura asked, standing on her building’s stoop.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine.”

Laura continued to stand there while they both stared at each other.

“Seriously, Carmilla, what are you doing here?”

“Well, you didn't text me all weekend so I figured I would stop by to see what I did wrong before seeing you at work and having to discuss it there.”

I didn't text her?! “Carmilla, I gave you my number to text me. You never sent me a text so I didn't have your number.”

“No, Cutie. I never got your number. I gave you my number so you could text me,” Carmilla corrected.

Laura knew that wasn’t true. The entire weekend, Laura had searched through her contacts to see if Carmilla’s number was programed into her phone. She wanted to make sure she wasn’t the one who had made the mistake. It was searched with a small amount of hope each time, even when she knew she didn’t have Carmilla’s number. Carmilla wasn't going to admit she had done the same thing. She had worried all weekend and talked Mattie’s ear off about what she could have possibly done wrong. Even to the point, she had thought about showing up on Laura's doorstep, more than once, while she stayed in her apartment to resist some old urges and habits.

“No, you didn't,” Laura argued.

“When did you give me your number, Laura?”

“What?”

“If you gave me your number, when did you give it to me?”

Laura thought and recounted their interactions. Carmilla did the same trying to think of a time she would have given Laura her number. That's when she remembered, she rarely gave out her phone number.

Carmilla smirked. “So let me get this straight. We both think we gave each other our numbers, but in reality neither of us did so we had no way to communicate?”

Laura laughed.

“We are one of a kind, Cupcake.”

Laura walked down the front steps, closer to Carmilla. Her body was starting to relax at the thought that maybe Carmilla did like her.

“In that case, good morning, Carm.” Is she really here? Can I kiss her? Is it too soon?

“Good morning, Laura.” Can I kiss her? We kissed good night, but is it too soon to kiss her good morning? I've thought about those lips all weekend.

Laura reached up and kissed Carmilla's cheek. Carmilla smiled before wrapping her arm around Laura's shoulder. She pulled Laura close to her, but it turned into an awkward side hug. Luckily, Laura moved in front of Carmilla to give her a normal hug. Carmilla kissed her temple. Laura started to feel gleeful, wrapped safely in Carmilla's arms.

“Should we go to work?” Laura asked, her head resting on Carmilla's shoulder.

“I guess. Did you eat breakfast?”

“No, but it's Lafontaine's day to bring something.”

They let go of their embrace and started walking towards the train. Carmilla slipped her hand into Laura’s. I hope this is okay. I hope I’m not being too forward.

“Do we bring something every week for breakfast?”

“No, just once a month to show our appreciation for each other. They’ve been doing that forever. Even before I started as a rush employee.”

“Well that’s good to know. I guess I’m off the hook for the bagels.”

Laura nodded her head as they continued to walk.

“So how was your weekend?” Laura asked.

“Oh you know, a little this and a little that,” Carmilla answered. “You?”

Did she go out this weekend? I bet she had fun. She seems like the kind of person who always goes out and parties, knows a lot of people, has a lot friends etcetera.

“I just stayed home,” Laura replied, honestly.

“You didn’t go out at all?” Carmilla asked.

“No. I was kind of,” Laura paused. Do I want to confess this? Laura thought of an easy way to express how she had felt through the weekend. “I was in kind of in a slump all weekend, so I just stayed in and watched Netflix. What about you? Did you go out?”

“Uh, no, actually. I decided I should stay in and avoid the things that usually tempted me on Saturday and Sunday nights.”

“Really?”

They started to descend the stairs to the subway.

“Okay, maybe I was pining over a certain cute girl, wondering what in the world I did wrong, annoying the hell out of my sister about it and moping.”

Laura smiled. “You did not.”

“Ask Mattie.”

“I can’t imagine you pining nor moping,” Laura commented as she swiped her Metrocard.

“Oh it looks a lot like this,” Carmilla said. She pouted her bottom lip and made puppy dog eyes causing Laura to laugh.

“You’re adorable.”

“I am not adorable, Cupcake.”

“Oh no?”

“No. I am the darkness of the night.”

Laura pffted Carmilla before she started to laugh. “Maybe to those girls you seduced Ms. Karnstein, but not to me.”

Once they reached the bottom of the stairs, Carmilla wrapped Laura into an embrace. Laura’s breath caught in throat at how close Carmilla was to her. “Not to you huh?”

Laura shook her head no, unable to speak. Please kiss me, she thought as Carmilla stared into her eyes.

They started to lean in when a woman pushed them. “Take your love session somewhere else! Some people need to get to work,” the woman yelled over her shoulder.

Carmilla stepped back and said “bitch” under her breath, but kept her arm around Laura’s shoulder as they waited for a train that wasn’t packed with people. After two trains passed, Laura was relieved when one pulled in with a little less people. She and Carmilla slowly made their way on.

“There’s a seat there, Cupcake.”

“Do you want to sit?” Laura asked.

“I’m okay. You take it. I’m going to be sitting all day anyway.”

Laura sat down, feeling her usual spiel starting back up again. Maybe I’m fat because I prefer sitting down than standing. Maybe that’s why Carmilla is so thin because she stands more than she sits.

Carmilla was standing over Laura, looking at her. She noticed Laura’s eyes kept traveling from her own torso down to Laura's. I wonder what she’s thinking about? She still looks sad. Why does she keep looking at my stomach?

At the next stop Carmilla was able to sit down next to Laura. They still had about ten more stops to go before they had to get off.

“You okay?” Carmilla asked, looking at Laura.

Laura had to grit her teeth before nodding her head with the best smile she could make.

“You sure?”

Carmilla noticed Laura pull her shirt away from her stomach, but Laura nodded her head again. They sat there silently. Carmilla was enjoying Laura’s company. However, if Laura wasn’t going to talk, Carmilla was going to fall asleep. She reached down to her backpack and pulled out her book.

“Do you mind if I read?” Carmilla asked.

Laura shook her head no.

“Cat got your tongue, Cupcake?”

“No,” Laura said, quietly. Please don’t ask me anything else. If I have to speak any longer, I’ll just start crying. Why can’t I be attractive? Everyone is probably wondering why this super sexy, attractive girl is sitting next to me and talking to me.

Laura looked around and noticed one girl staring at Carmilla and instantly got jealous. She leaned in and kissed Carmilla’s cheek. Carmilla smiled.

“And what was that for?”

“I just felt like it.”

Carmilla kissed the side of Laura’s head before continuing with her book. Laura noticed the girl stopped staring and it made her feel a little better. Or she’s grossed out that Carmilla would even allow my lips against her skin. She mentally exhaled. She took a moment to study Carmilla. The way her lips moved while she soaked up whatever information was on the page in front of her. The glazed over look she had in her eyes from being absorbed into the story. The way she kept taping her fingers against her leg or chin.

Laura slowly started to grow bored and rested her head against Carmilla’s shoulder. She felt Carmilla’s lips brush into her hair, leaving a small kiss behind before continuing her reading. I don’t understand what she could possibly find attractive in me. I mean she’s gorgeous and I’m just this. A blob of nothingness, wrapped in fat. Her legs are so thin. When she sits down, they just stay the way they were. Mine seem to flatten out like pancakes. She probably thinks I have fat thighs. I mean look at hers compared to mine. It’s a wonder she could even sit down with how much room I take up.

“The next stop is 14th Street, Union Square,” the announcer said. Carmilla started to shuffle her book back into her bag. Laura lifted her head until Carmilla had settled. Carmilla rested her hand on Laura’s thigh, but removed it quickly when she felt Laura flinch.

“Sorry. Was that too much?” Carmilla asked, crossing her arms.

“No. I’m sorry. It was fine. I was just surprised is all.”

Carmilla slowly untwisted her arms and rest her hand against the inside of Laura’s knee instead. How is Laura always so warm? It’s kind of comforting.

The train pulled into the station a few moments later. “Hey, Cupcake. It’s time to get off.”

Laura nodded her head as they both started to stand. Why isn’t she talking to me? Better yet why isn’t she talking at all? What is going on in that brain of yours, Laura Hollis?

Carmilla reached down and intertwined her fingers with Laura’s as they got off the train. Carmilla pulled Laura through the crowd as they made their way upstairs and outside. They had about a 10 minute walk ahead of them before they would get to the bookstore.

I hate that I don’t know what to say. I’m holding her hand, but I don’t feel like I know her well enough to ask her what’s wrong, even though something is clearly bothering her, Carmilla thought.

I have to get out of this funk or she’s going to know something is wrong. What is wrong with me?

“Uh, it’s a nice day out,” Laura commented.

“Yeah, definitely. Looks like today was a good day to wear your sweatshirt.”

“Are you cold?”

Carmilla could feel the goosebumps sprouting up on her arms. “A little.”

“Do I need to warm you up?” Laura asked. She was surprised by herself. She almost never spoke so forwardly especially in front of girls she thought were cute.

Carmilla stopped and pulled Laura near an empty store front. “What did you have in mind, Cupcake?”

Laura rubbed up and down Carmilla’s arm. Okay. That’s not exactly what I thought Laura was going to do.

“Better?” That was the most embarrassing thing I have ever done!

“A little,” Carmilla said, invading Laura’s space. Is it weird to ask someone if you can kiss them after you’ve already kissed them?

Damn it, Laura. Just kiss her. You’ve wanted to do it all morning. But what if she actually doesn’t like to kiss me? What if I’m a bad kisser? What if my breath smells? What if she thinks I’m ugly and will get all kinds of germs from kissing me?

“Laura?” Carmilla asked.

“Yeah?”

“Can I kiss you good morning?” Carmilla asked.

Carmilla watched as Laura’s entire demeanor changed. She smiled and it seemed to light the world a little brighter.

“Please,” Laura whispered.

Carmilla cupped Laura’s cheeks and brought their lips together in a gentle, sweet kiss. They shared a few light pecks before they pulled away.

“I’ve wanted to do that all morning,” Carmilla admitted.

“So why didn’t you?” Laura asked, taking Carmilla’s hand.

“I don’t know. You make me nervous. Well that and ever since the incident last week, I’m worried I’m going to push you.”

“Carm, you didn’t push me. Like I said, I was drunk. And I would have stopped you if you had made me uncomfortable in anyway, okay?”

“Okay,” Carmilla whispered. She put her head down to look at her feet. I'm still not worthy of being with her.

“Hey,” Laura said, lifting Carmilla's chin.

“Hey.”

“We both let the incident happen. Like I said, we can’t take it back. That's why we're restarting a new.”

“And what is this?”

“What is what?”

“This,” Carmilla said, gesturing between her and Laura.

“I don't know. Why does it have to be anything?”

Carmilla's heart sank a little. Because I was hoping it meant something. I hoped it meant we had a chance.

“True,” Carmilla said.

“Carm, we just met. Right now I guess we're dating without titles. Does that sound okay?”

Carmilla smiled. “That sounds like a good start.”

“Good. Now let's get to work before you freeze to death.”

Carmilla laughed. “Well let's not be dramatic there, Cutie. I'm not that cold.”

They walked to the bookstore together. Laura let go of Carmilla's hand when they were in front of the store window. Carmilla gave her a questioning look.

“Do you really want to deal with Lafontaine's questions?” Laura asked.

“Ah, no, but are we just going to pretend we're not dating at work?” She's ashamed of my history. She's ashamed to know I've slept with a lot of girls.

“No. No. I just, after Danny, I've liked keeping my relationships or lack there of, private. Can we just go on a couple more dates and figure everything else out before we announce it to the world?” Laura asked. I hope that doesn't sound bitchy or rude.

“How bad can the ginger twins get?”

“Suffocating to the point that I once told Lafontaine if they didn't shut up, I would punch them so hard in the jaw that they wouldn't be able to speak. Granted I was in a bad mood that day.”

Carmilla made a face. “If it that's bad, then we can hide our relationship forever.”

“I just want to get to know you better without all the questions from everyone else.”

“Fair enough. Should I let you enter and then wait a few minutes before coming?”

Laura smiled. “Well I think that's pushing it a little bit. It makes it seem like I’m ashamed to be seen with you or something. Which I’m one hundred percent not. I want to enter with you, questions be damned.”

Carmilla exhaled. “Good.”

They walked in together and Lafontaine's head perked up at the sight of them.

“Well, well, well,” Lafontaine smiled.

“We live in the same neighborhood,” Carmilla defended. She took Laura's bag and made her way downstairs. Lafontaine turned toward Laura.

“What?” Laura asked.

“She took your bag downstairs.”

“And?”

“Isn't that just sweet of her?”

“Stop, Laf. Not today, okay?”

“I'm not doing anything Laura, but this is the second time you two have come in together.”

“So? It's like Carmilla said, we live in the same neighborhood and we have to be at work at the same time.”

“But-”

“So what's for breakfast, Red?” Carmilla asked, coming back up the stairs.

Lafontaine bit their tongue before turning to address Carmilla.

“Perry should be here soon with the homemade goodies.”

“You guys made homemade breakfast for us?” Laura smiled.

“We got a good deal this weekend at the grocery store and took advantage.”

“Do you guys want some cash?” Carmilla asked, pulling out her wallet.

“No! Put your wallet away. This is our treat.”

Carmilla felt uncomfortable about taking free food from coworkers. I'll slip them some money, somehow.

Just then the door banged open and a disgruntled Perry entered the store.

“Sweetheart, when I ask you to bring something, it's really annoying when you don't,” Perry stated. She had two huge bags on her arms. Carmilla ran to her grabbing the two bags.

“Thank you, Carmilla.”

“Thank you for making breakfast.”

Laura grabbed one of the bags in Carmilla's hands and they set them on the counter gently. Perry took off her backpack and placed it next to the bags.

“I'm sorry, Per,” Lafontaine commented.

“You're lucky you're so cute!”

Lafontaine blushed. Perry clapped her hands together.

“Well we have scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and jelly. Laf why don't you run to the deli and get juice for everyone?” Perry suggested.

“I'll do it,” Carmilla offered. “I mean you went through all this trouble, it's the least I can do. Laura, will you come with me?”

“Absolutely.”

Lafontaine and Perry watched as Laura and Carmilla left together, smiling shyly at one another.

“How long until you think they tell us they're together?” Lafontaine asked, while helping Perry unload the bags.

“Why do you think they're together?”

“I saw them kissing across the street this morning when I came in.”

Perry's eyes went wide. “Well I only have one concern. Do you think Carmilla will be good to her?”

“I hope so. Poor Laura needs someone to make her see how great she is.”

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

“What kind of juice you want, Cupcake?” Carmilla asked, looking at all the options.

“Oh, I'll get what everyone wants.”

“There are specific juices?”

“Trust me. Morning Perry is not a person you want to piss off especially when Lafontaine forgets something.”

“Yeah. She looked a little frazzled.”

“It was nice of you to grab the bags for her.”

“Why does it surprise people that I can actually be nice? I am nice.”

Laura grabbed Carmilla's hand. “Other than not texting me all weekend and causing me to worry, I know you're very nice.”

“You didn't text me either, Cutie.”

Laura laughed. “Touché. When we get back to the store, I think we should exchange numbers.”

“Good plan.”

They stared at each other for a moment. “So, juice?” Carmilla questioned.

“Right! Okay Perry will want the triple x Vitamin water with the black label, Lafontaine will want grape juice and I want apple.”

Carmilla grabbed each one. “What do you want, Carm?”

“Oh I'm gonna get some coffee, but I'll take an apple juice for later.”

Laura opened the door and grabbed another apple juice. She also grabbed an orange juice.

“That's for SJ and then David will also want coffee.”

“There's a doughnut place down the street so why don't we get a box of coffee there?” Carmilla suggested.

“Sounds good, Carm.”

They paid for their collective juices and made their way to the doughnut shop. Laura linked her arm with Carmilla's. She’s so cute. I hope I can be good for her. I want to be good for her.

After picking up a box of coffee, they went back to the store. Laura carried the bag of juices while Carmilla carried the coffee with a bag of cups, sugar and napkins. As they entered the store, Laura noticed a few more people had arrived.

“Morning,” SJ smirked.

“Hi SJ. Good weekend?” Laura asked.

Carmilla couldn't help, but notice the smile on Laura's face while talking to SJ. It made her jealous. I know she hasn't known me for very long, but will she ever smile at me like that? I want to be the one who makes her smile like that.

Carmilla fixed a plate of food and noticed everyone was already having conversations with each other. Normally, if she was drinking, this would have had no affect on her, but now, she felt awkward and self conscious. She poured herself a cup of coffee and managed to sneak downstairs without anyone noticing. I guess this is peaceful or at least where I belong.

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

“So?” SJ asked, while fixing a plate for herself.

“So what?” Laura replied, a bright smile on her face.

“You tell me. You're coming in with Carmilla, being all cute and-”

“Hey. We just got juice together.”

“Is that what they're calling it these days?”

Laura made a face. “First of all, gross, and second, we might have gone out on Friday.”

“Ohhhh. Please share.”

Laura explained her date in full detail. She told her about Carmilla attending Brooklyn College and that she was a writer. She explained how she felt throughout their time together and how she was unbelievably nervous. She also explained how she spent her weekend wallowing in sadness. The two girls were hanging out back in the stacks, away from the listening ears of Lafontaine.

“And then she just kept saying she'd see me Monday before leaving.”

“That's it? She just left with ‘see you Monday’?”

Laura smiled. “She did, but then she came back and kissed me.”

“Get it, Hollis. How was it?”

“How was what?”

SJ rolled her eyes. “The weather,” she paused, “the kiss, you idiot!”

Laura started laughing. “It was nice.”

“A kiss from a girl who looks like that is not nice, Laura. Details, please before I die of boredom!”

Laura blushed. “It was gentle and soft.”

“Was it hot?”

“Of course it was, but I don't know. It's like she put all the care for the world in that one kiss to let me know I was protected. That she would give me anything.”

“So why on earth did you lay around your room and cry all weekend.”

“You know my issues, SJ.”

“No one has ever kissed me like that. She clearly likes you.”

“I don't know,” Laura doubted.

“This is the part where I punch you in the arm. She's a smitten kitten.”

“But she's so beautiful.”

“And what are you?”

Laura shrugged. “Nowhere near her level of attractiveness.”

“Do you hear yourself speak? I mean like ever?” SJ questioned.

“I don't expect you to understand.”

“Laura, you're beautiful and that broody, badass wannabee seems to really like you.”

Laura smiled, even though she was embarrassed. She never believed anyone when they would tell her she was beautiful. She looked up from her empty plate, walked back towards everyone who was around the counter and scanned the floor. Everyone was there except for the black haired mystery.

“Hey, have you seen Carm?” Laura asked.

“Oh, it's Carm now, is it?” SJ teased.

“I'm serious.”

SJ joined Laura in looking around. “I don't see her.”

“I'm gonna check downstairs.”

Laura took her empty plate to the trash can and descended the steps. She could see Carmilla from the entrance way. She was sitting at her desk, staring absentmindedly at the computer screen while she rested her cheek against her fist. Laura walked towards her, hoping not to scare her. When she walked closer, she noticed Carmilla was playing a computer game.

“Hey. What are you doing all the way back here?” Laura asked.

Carmilla jumped before pausing her game. “Eating breakfast and playing a game.”

“Wanna come upstairs and hang out with me and SJ?”

“I think I’m okay.” Carmilla turned back to her computer screen and continued to play her game. Laura watched her for a moment.

“Are you okay?” Laura asked.

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

“You don’t seem fine. You seem broody.”

Carmilla paused her game. Do I tell her that I’m jealous of SJ because she can get her to smile like that? Carmilla thought against that.

“I’m fine.”

“You know you’re not a very good liar.” Carmilla sighed and it caused panic inside of Laura. “Did I do something wrong?” She asked.

“No, Laura. This is just me.”

“Can I help?”

“I’m just not good in social situations.”

“But I thought you went to bars like all the time?”

“Yeah, but there I’m drinking and flirting. It’s easier to be social with strangers. You don’t see them everyday or ever again unless they're regulars.”

“But these aren’t strangers. Besides we have all hung out before.”

“I was still drinking, Cupcake.”

“Okay.”

Laura stood there awkwardly for a minute. I’m pretty sure I did something wrong. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe she’s slowly starting to realize how annoying I am. Or maybe she’s actually seeing me for the first time.

“Are you sure I didn’t do anything?” Laura asked again.

“What on earth would you have possibly done wrong?”

“I don’t know, Carm.” Laura scooted up on the counter to sit.

“I promise you didn’t do anything wrong, Laura.”

“So will you come back upstairs with me?”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. To hang out, share glances with each other across the room when Lafontaine does something silly or Perry freaks out about something.”

Carmilla laughed.

“Or to just be with me?”

“Even though we’re not openly dating?”

“Did I offend you when I said that?”

“I just don’t like to hide things that are happening. It shouldn’t matter if we’re dating or not. I like being around you, but now I’m worried I’m going to accidentally touch you for too long or hold your hand or kiss you at an inappropriate time. I’m just,” Carmilla exhaled and pinched her nose. “I’m not good at relationships, Laura. I never have been and I just want to do this right, but I’m so used to being open, that I don’t know how not to be.”

“Wait, Carm. I’m not telling you to hide in the closet. I’m more open about my sexuality than anyone. I just hate when people pry into my relationships especially when they’re just starting. But I’m not ashamed to talk about you. I just told SJ all about Friday.”

“You told her about our date?”

“Yeah. I mean, I hope that’s okay. Because if it’s not, well I can’t really take it back because it’s already been said, but I can promise not to do it again-”

“Laura, I don’t care that you told her about it. I talked to Mattie about our date all day Saturday and Sunday. I’m just surprised you want to tell someone you went on a date with me.”

“What? Why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well what good is a date with someone you like if you can’t tell someone about it?”

“Oh so you do like me?” Carmilla asked, standing up. She placed her hands on the counter, moved her body to be in between Laura’s legs and leaned forward.

“Of course I like you, Carm. Otherwise, I wouldn’t waste my time.”

“Good because I like you too.”

Carmilla leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on Laura’s lips. Laura wrapped her arms around Carmilla’s shoulders and kissed her tenderly. Carmilla’s arms wrapped around Laura’s waist and held her tight as they continued to kiss.

I hope I don’t fuck this up, Carmilla thought. She still worried that once Laura truly learned her past, she would leave. She still felt like Laura deserved someone better than her.

How does her breath taste like mint when she’s been drinking coffee, Laura wondered as she felt Carmilla’s tongue in her mouth. She let out a soft moan. She could tell Carmilla was smiling as she felt one last peck being placed on her lips. They pulled apart and smiled at one another as they caught their breath. They heard someone clear their throat and pushed away from one another.

“Good morning,” David said.

Shit. David knows this is why I got suspended from my other store. Oh crap. He’s going to tell Bill. Shit. Shit. Shit.

“Morning, David. Have a nice a weekend?” Laura asked, pushing Carmilla back so she could get off the counter.

“I have a feeling you two had a better one,” He teased.

Carmilla laughed. Both Laura and David gave her a weird look. Why is she laughing?

“I mean, it was a good weekend. I mean I had a good weekend. Did you have a good weekend, Laura?” Carmilla stuttered.

“Relax, Carmilla. We both had a good weekend,” Laura said, directing her attention back to David.

“Well, there’s a little bit of food left upstairs, but Kirsch is up there. According to Lafontaine, you should hurry if you want more, otherwise he's going to eat it all, apparently. I just wanted to say thank you, Carmilla, for the coffee.”

“Oh. Not a problem.”

“Good. Now we have plenty to do today. We still need to finish up the MBS wholesale. Do you think you two could whip that out today?”

“How many boxes are left?”

“About half.”

“I think Carm and I can handle it. Why don’t you send SJ and Kirsch downstairs to help with labeling. We still have labels here and then we’ll get to working on the rest.”

“That sounds like a plan. The Nebraska and Follett shipments should be coming in later today or tomorrow morning. I think it would be great if we could finish MBS before they get here.”

“Sounds good, David.”

“Carmilla, does that seem reasonable for you?”

 

“Uh, yes sir.”

“Good. I’ll send SJ and Kirsch down in a little bit and take these labels up to them so they can get started.”

“Sounds good.”

“And try to keep this kissing to a minimum. There is a lot of work to do.”

David winked before they heard him exit the basement and make his way back upstairs.

“I think we got caught, Cupcake.”

“Yeah, we definitely did.”

“Is that okay?”

“Yes, Carm. It’s good.”

“You sure?”

“Absolutely.”

Carmilla leaned in, giving Laura another gentle kiss. “Do you want to come over to my place after work?” Carmilla asked. Her eyes widened and just as she was about to explain her train of thought, Laura smiled. It was the smile she had given to SJ and it made Carmilla smile.

“Like dinner and a movie?”

“More like Netflix and dinner?”

“Sounds good.”

Laura kissed Carmilla’s cheek before moving to her desk. They both started working, hoping to fulfil David’s wish of finishing this shipment before the end of the day.

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

After lunch, SJ and Kirsch came back to see Carmilla and Laura working hard with their invoices.

“We finally managed to finish the books upstairs,” SJ said, sitting on Laura’s desk.

“Great. We have more,” Carmilla said, holding up a ton of labels.

“Give us a break, bro. That was a lot of work.”

“Kirsch, I’m going to assume you’ve never worked in a bookstore before. Correct?” Carmilla asked.

“Nah, man. I’m too busy with school. I just needed some extra cash.”

“Well, Bro, it takes a lot of work. We have a lot more boxes to do so I suggest you get to work. The quicker you finish these, the quicker you’ll be done,” Carmilla added. She emphasized the word “bro” as best she could to make sure Kirsch understood she was mocking him.

“Good point, Bro!” Clearly it didn’t register.

“So here take these Kirsch and-”

“Actually Kirsch, I’m going to take Carmilla’s labels. You can take Laura’s.”

“No, Kirsch can have mine. You stick with Laura,” Carmilla corrected. She wasn’t sure how Laura felt about the whole Kirsch thing just yet.

“It’s okay, Carm. Kirsch, here are my labels and let me know if there are any discrepancies.”

“Will do, Laura.”

Kirsch excitedly ran back up the stairs.

“Good. Now that the hunky man has left the basement, I have a few questions for you, Carmilla,” SJ smirked while sitting up on the counter.

“What kind of questions?” Carmilla asked, shuffling the large invoice that was in her hands.

“What are your intentions with Laura?”

“SJ, leave her alone. I’m sorry, Carm. If I would have known she was going to be just as annoying as Laf, I wouldn’t have told her.”

“As one of your best friends and coworkers, I deserve to know the answers. So intentions, Carmilla.”

“I think my intentions with Laura should be between me and Laura.”

“Do you like Laura?”

“Very much.”

“And what is it that you like about her?”

“SJ. Stop. We’re still getting to know each other,” Laura tried.

“Doesn’t mean she doesn’t have an answer,” SJ argued.

“I think Laura is smart and beautiful. I look forward to getting to know her more,” Carmilla answered, truthfully.

“Then you have my approval.”

“I wasn’t looking for it,” Carmilla countered. “I’m going to step outside.” Carmilla grabbed the pack of cigarettes she had hid behind a few books. “Laura, do you want one?”

“I’m okay, right now. Do you want me to come with you?”

“No that’s okay. I just need another break is all. I’ll be back in a few.”

Carmilla went upstairs and out the back exit. She lit the cigarette and took a seat. I don't like that SJ girl. She’s so annoying. What are my intentions? Like it matters. Laura will eventually see the person I really am and she’ll run for the hills. I don’t deserve her. She deserves so much better. I wish I was good enough for her. I want to be good enough for her.

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

“Why did you do that?” Laura asked as soon as Carmilla was upstairs.

“Do what? I was just teasing.”

“We’re not anything serious right now, SJ. We’re just trying to get to know each other better to see if we want to pursue a relationship or not.”

“Laura, I was just messing with her. It’s not a big deal.”

“SJ, you pry into people's lives way too much. Carmilla and I barely know each other and you know how I feel about myself. I’m trying not to show Carmilla that.”

“She’s going to find out eventually, Laura.”

“Well can it be on my terms? Just like when I find out about her past. This is why I shouldn’t have told you. I just don’t want people prying into my life.”

“Laura, I’m not prying. I’m sorry. I’ll leave her alone.”

Laura exhaled and then smiled.

“And I’m so getting you back the next time Kirsch is down here.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’ve been drooling over him all morning. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

SJ blushed. “He’s cute and beefy.”

“Yeah and keep up the shit with Carmilla, and I’ll embarrass you to no end. Got it?”

“Yes, Sir, Hollis, Sir.”

Laura poked SJ’s side. “Now get to work before David kills us both.”

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

Carmilla came back in shortly after SJ went upstairs.

“You okay, Carm? I’m sorry about SJ.”

“Yeah, she’s a little annoying.”

“She just wants what’s best for me. Picture her as my little, annoying sister.”

“I rather not. Is Lafontaine like that?”

Laura laughed. “Worse.”

Carmilla chuckled. She slowly turned back to her computer and started working.

I thought she was okay today. I hope she’s okay. I hope I didn’t do something, Laura thought as she continued to receive.

The day slipped by them both as their world turned into books, labels and invoices. Carmilla finished up her last batch before tapping Laura’s shoulders.

“Almost done, Cupcake?”

“I have a couple more boxes to do.”

“Want my help?”

“No it’s okay. Are you going home?”

“I can wait if you want.”

“No, I don’t want to make you sit here longer than you have to.”

“I don’t mind.”

“No. It’s really okay. I’ll see you later tonight at your place?”

Carmilla smiled. “Seems like a good plan. Anything you want in particular for dinner? Or anything you don’t like?”

“I’m not a huge fan of Thai or Indian. Other than that, I’ll eat almost anything.”

“I could cook something if you prefer.”

“No, I mean unless you want to, but you don’t have to exert yourself. What if we got that burrito place near Eastern Parkway?”

“The one right outside the train?”

“Yeah.”

“That sounds perfect. What would you like?”

“Oh, I can just pick it up on my way there.” When did we start living together and become an old married couple?

“No, no, Cupcake. My treat.”

“You sure?”

“Definitely.”

“Okay. I think it's called the mission bay burrito, but basically I want a bean burrito without sour cream and a side of black beans, please.”

“Chips or salad?”

“Chips.”

“Okay. I'll see you later then. Text me when you're on your way.”

“Okay, Baby. I, I mean-”

Carmilla smirked. “It's okay. I like baby.”

“Wait, Carm. I need your number.”

“We are the worst 20 something years old in modern society.”

Carmilla took out her phone and handed it to Laura before picking Laura's up off her desk. Laura put in her security code and they both entered their numbers. Once both numbers had been entered, they handed each other their phones. Laura titled her head back to rest against the top of her chair. Carmilla leaned down and placed a light peck against her lips.

“Bye, Cupcake.”

“Bye, Carm.”

Laura was at the store for about thirty more minutes after Carmilla left. She still had two boxes left to do, but didn't have the energy or brainpower to deal with it. She said goodnight to Dante, who would be there until 8 and headed towards the train.

As she walked out of the store, two strong arms wrapped around her stomach. She gasped and jumped.

“Carmilla, what the hell?! You scared the shit out me! I thought you went home!”

“Why would I go home when I can just wait for you?”

“Why would you want to wait for me?”

“You make the train less boring,” Carmilla suggested.

“But I'm sleepy,” Laura said as she started walking down the street. Carmilla swung her arm around Laura.

“Then it's a good thing I don't have a boney shoulder.”

“How can I keep you good company if I fall asleep.”

“Your warmth keeps me happy so nap away.”

Laura's smile faltered a little bit. Does she mean warmth because I'm fat? A distant memory of Laura's filled her brain. She was sitting in her childhood bedroom and her friend Quinn was sitting with her. She complained about how warm she was. Her friend, who was naturally tall and skinny commented, “I'm comfortable, but fat people get warmer faster than skinny people. I'm not calling you fat, though.” Laura shook her head.

“Did I say something wrong?” Carmilla asked.

Laura focused on the world around her. “Oh, no. Sorry.”

The train was packed when they entered, but Carmilla gestured to an open seat she spotted. Laura shook her head no. She figured standing would be better.

“You sure?” Carmilla asked.

“Yeah, I'm good.”

Carmilla stood close to Laura and tapped her shoulder. Laura just leaned against Carmilla a little. Carmilla initiated their hand holding as she looked around at the ads. Laura stayed in her thoughts about how fat she was.

Laura and Carmilla remained standing the whole way back to Brooklyn. Once they exited, they headed towards the burrito place. It was a small little space that was painted red. The outside wall had a painting of Frida Kahlo. The inside had the ethnic feel, but they were blasting house music. The space had no tables as it was a take out place only.

“Yeah can I get the mission bay burrito without sour cream?” Carmilla asked, ordering for both of them.

“Sure. Salad or chips.”

“Oh uh, chips.”

“Actually can I get a salad instead,” Laura interrupted.

“You sure?”

Laura looked down at her stomach. “Yeah, I'm sure.”

Carmilla finished their order while Laura made her way to a bench to sit and wait. “Hey, Laur? If I get chips and guacamole, would you split it with me?”

“Uh probably not.” Laura couldn't stop looking at her stomach.

“Would you eat any of it?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Carmilla tried to read Laura, but she seemed distraught.

“Can we also get chips and guacamole as well, please?”

“Sure thing. Can I get a name for the order?”

“It's Carmilla.”

Carmilla paid and sat next to Laura. She tapped Laura's knee a couple times. “You sure you're okay, Sweetheart?”

“Yeah. I'm just tired.”

“Positive?”

Laura nodded and rested her head on Carmilla's shoulder. Carmilla noticed Laura pulling at the front of her sweatshirt again. She didn't say anything, but tried to soothe Laura the best she could by rubbing her thumb up and down against Laura's knee.

“Carmilla?” The woman at the counter asked.

Carmilla and Laura stood up. Carmilla grabbed the bag with a thank you before opening the door for Laura. Laura stepped out, reaching back for Carmilla's hand. Carmilla took it and they walked to Carmilla's apartment.

“Why are there so many bags, Carm?”

“Oh Mattie usually works late so I either make dinner and leave it for her or buy her something she can reheat.”

“That's really nice of you. What does she do?”

“Mattie's a lawyer, who takes her job very seriously. Sometimes I think she lives in the office.”

“That must be exciting. The being the lawyer part, not sleeping in the office thing. That's not exciting.”

“Yeah. She enjoys it.”

They made their way up Carmilla's front steps and inside the building. As they sat the food down on the kitchen island, Carmilla turned to Laura.

“I'm really happy you're here, Laura.”

“Me too, Carm.”

Carmilla took their food out of the bag and placed Mattie's in the fridge. She grabbed the chips and guacamole to take to the coffee table.

“What can I get you to drink? I have water, tea and beer.”

“Waters good.”

“Water it is. Go sit on the couch, Cupcake. I've got this.”

Laura did as she was told and sat down on the couch with her food. She waited for Camilla to sit down next to her before she started eating.

“I'm gonna change into some sweatpants. I'm sick of wearing jeans. Do you want to borrow a pair?”

“Is that okay?” Laura asked. I hope she has a pair that fits.

“Of course.”

They entered Carmilla's bathroom which was the messiest room Laura had ever seen. “Uh, sorry for the mess. Like I said rough weekend.”

“It's okay. Now we're even on the messy rooms.”

Carmilla handed Laura a pair of black sweats. “You can change in here and I'll change in the bathroom. Cool?”

“Sure.” She probably doesn't want to see my fat thighs.

They met back in the living room, which was now a lot cooler. Laura noticed the very nice AC in the window, pumping out cool air. Carmilla was already sitting on the couch.

“So kind of crazy day at work, right?” Carmilla asked, as Laura sat down next to her.

“Definitely and only going to get crazier.”

“Not looking forward to it, but the overtime is always nice.”

“Yeah, it's definitely a perk. I usually stay late during the rush to help Dante with the last rush of people around 8.”

“Maybe I'll help this time?”

“I would like that,” Laura smiled. She pulled at her shirt again.

“Hey, Laura?”

“Yeah.”

“Why do you always pull at the front of your shirt like that?”

Think of a lie. Think of a lie and don't look obvious.

“Uh, old habit.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Carmilla could tell she just made Laura uncomfortable and decided to just avoid the subject all together. Maybe she'll tell me the reason when she wants to.

“So what would you like to watch on Netflix?”

“Anything is fine with me.”

Carmilla started flipping through the movies options. “Are you in the mood for drama or comedy, documentary…?”

“Seriously, anything is fine.”

“Have you ever see Teen Witch?”

“Nope. Is it scary?”

“Oh anything but! It's an awesome, but also low budget 80s film. It's so weird and hilarious. Wanna watch it?”

Laura smiled. “Sounds good, Carm.”

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

Halfway through the movie they were done eating and nibbling on the chips and guacamole. They were sitting close to one another and enjoying each other's company.

“What is happening?” Laura commented.

“Magic, Cupcake!”

“They're having sex in an abandoned house! What is the point of that? Also she's walking around barefoot! She could get splinters in her feet or step on a rusty nail!”

“She'll be fine, Baby.”

“And what was with that, ‘so take that’ rap song.”

“Weirdness and the coolest thing ever!”

“You really like this movie, don't you?”

“Yeah. It's pretty bad, but it's funny and light hearted. We can turn it off if you want.”

“No, no. It's just so weird, but I have to know what happens.”

“Good,” Carmilla said as she snuggled closer to Laura.

Laura kissed Carmilla's cheek as she moved closer. Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura. They both smiled at how comfortable they were together.

As the movie came to a close, Carmilla leaned forward to grab the remote.

“Opinion?” She asked.

“I liked it, but it is definitely weird.”

“That's the reason I like it so much,” Carmilla laughed. “Should we watch another one or do you want to head home?”

“Is it okay if we watch another one?”

Carmilla smiled. “Definitely!”

“Do we need to worry about Mattie?”

“No cupcake, she won't be home for a while. I promise.”

“Okay.”

“Do you want to choose?”

“Not particularly.”

“So you're gonna make me choose again?”

“Absolutely. I should tell you this now, I hate making decisions.”

“I think I already knew that, but noted. How about,” Carmilla paused, running through the movies, “Mean Girls?”

“That sounds great!”

Carmilla started the movie before looking over at Laura.

“What?”

“Nothing. I just want to kiss you.”

“Then kiss me.”

Carmilla smirked before leaning in. Laura was more enthusiastic as she cupped Carmilla's cheeks and brought their lips together. Carmilla moaned as she felt Laura’s tongue against her own. She pulled Laura closer to her and laid down with Laura on top of her. She started to run her hands up and down Laura's back and sides. They were entering their own world as they continued to kiss. Carmilla ran her hands further down and grasped Laura's bottom, pulling her closely. Laura gasped and started to kiss Carmilla's neck. That was Carmilla's weak spot as she let out another moan. The feel of Laura's tongue was driving her crazy. Laura kissed her collarbone before moving back to her lips. Carmilla tried to turn them so she could get on top of Laura. Unfortunately the couch was too small and they only managed to face each other on their sides.

Carmilla clung to Laura. She moved her lips to Laura's neck. The sounds Laura was making started to drive her wild. She took Laura's ear and tugged her lobe. This caused a cry of pleasure from Laura's mouth.

“You like that, Baby?” Carmilla whispered in Laura's ear.

Laura nodded before pulling Carmilla back into a heated kiss. Carmilla's hands started to explore the front of Laura's body. Laura felt Carmilla's hand on her stomach and immediately sucked in. She started giving Carmilla's pecks before pulling away.

“Wait. Wait,” Laura said, trying to catch her breath.

“Did I do something wrong?” Carmilla asked. Why do I always push her? Why can't I control my hormones and emotions?!

“No. You did nothing wrong. I just think we should take a step back is all.”

“Okay. I'm sorry.”

“Why?”

“I don't want to do anything wrong.”

“You didn't, Carm. I just don't want to rush this. I, um, I just really like to know someone before I sleep with them is all. And I know we've seen each other practically naked, but we were drunk. Is it okay if we take this slow?”

“Of course, Laura. Whatever you want.”

Laura smiled and leaned in. They kissed for a few more minutes, light and sweet. Laura laid down on her back. Carmilla stayed where she was.

“Carm, I can't see the TV through your head.”

“Right? Should we sit back up or?”

“Just cuddled with me,” Laura said, holding out her arms.

Carmilla smiled and got comfortable.

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

Mattie got home around 12:30 that night. She was confused to see the television still on until she saw the two bodies on the couch. Laura laid on her back. One hand tangled in Carmilla's hair and the other above her head. She saw her sister like she had never seen her before. For once she was clothed, but her arms were circled around Laura's waist as she slept between Laura's legs. Her face had no sign of disturbance. Mattie smiled. She grabbed a blanket from the small storage closet and laid it over them. Carmilla adjusted a little on her side, wrapping her arms tighter around Laura, burying her face further into Laura's body.

“I hope you stick around, Laura Hollis. Carmilla needs someone like you,” Mattie whispered before retiring to her room.

Chapter Text

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.

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

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.

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

“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.

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

“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.

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

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.

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

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?!”

Chapter Text

“Danny?!”

Laura's heart was pounding as Carmilla held her closer. She’s trying to protect me.

“Hey, Laura,” she said, as if they were old friends. “Why are you soaking wet?”

“It's raining, Sherlock,” Carmilla muttered.

“And you forgot an umbrella. You always forgot the umbrella. Good thing I always kept one in my bag, otherwise we would look like you two.” Danny laughed. She looked towards the girl beside her who was smiling. She turned her attention back to Laura. “You remember Natalie?”

Is this a game? Carmilla thought.

Laura laughed. “How could I forget? You're the one Danny cheated on me with. How nice.”

“Laura,” Danny started, as if saying, don't be jealous.

“Don't Laura me. You have no right to even speak to me.”

“I can do-”

“Hey, Giant. Why don't you fuck off?” Carmilla asked. She slowly loosened her grip of Laura and then let go completely. Laura noticed Carmilla closing her right hand into a fist. Laura quickly placed her hand over it, feeling Carmilla relax.

“Wait. I know you. Oh my gosh, Laura. Seriously? You want to date this slut?” Danny asked.

“Excuse me?!” Carmilla started.

“Danny! Don’t talk about her like that! She’s not a slut!” Laura demanded, angry at Danny’s word usage.

“You're Elsie’s girlfriend, right?” Danny stated.

“We were never girlfriends,” Carmilla corrected.

“Well Elsie sure seemed to think so.”

“That's because Elsie is an idiot and never listened.”

“Don't talk about my friend that way!” Natalie exclaimed.

“Oh look, the cheat-tee has finally found her voice,” Carmilla replied, sarcastically.

Laura bit down on her bottom lip, trying not to smile.

“Don't talk to my fiancée that way,” Danny said, sizing up to Carmilla.

“Oh and now the hulk is coming out. Look out everyone! She thinks because she's tall, she can fight me. I'd love to see you try.”

“Carmilla, please. Stop. She isn't worth it,” Laura said.

“Laura, I don't think it would be wise for you to date this girl. Elsie has told us all about her,” Danny stated.

“I don't think you have any right to talk to me about anything! You're the one who lied and cheated through our relationship. I wouldn't be surprised if you are doing that to Natalie as well!”

“Oh please, I would never do that to Natalie!”

“But you'd hurt Laura in a second if you had the chance to do it all over again! You're the kind of girl I loathe,” Carmilla said, her hand balling into a fist again.

“You're one to talk. Elsie told us how many times you cheated on her, sleeping around with different girls every night, getting smashed and even having sex in the bathroom, if you could get through it fast enough.”

“Elsie doesn't know what she's talking about! She doesn't know anything. And let me clarify for you again, Big Red, since you probably can't hear me at your high altitude. Elsie and I were nothing!”

“Seriously, Laura. You sure this is the kind of girl you want to be with? Natalie has some great friends we could hook you up with.”

Is she fucking kidding me right now? Laura felt her past relationship crash down on her. All the lying and the cheating and now Danny was trying to give her advice and hook her up with someone!

“As if I would ever listen to anything that came out of your fucking mouth, Danny! At least Carmilla is honest with me! She already told me about Elsie and I know parts of her past. At least she didn't lie and try to sweep it under the rug like you did with Natalie. Even the time you told me you broke up with her because she couldn't compare to what we had! Because I was way better than she'd ever be! I was cuter and smarter and you had just made a mistake and how sorry you were!”

“What?” She heard Natalie ask towards Danny.

Carmilla snickered. Look at my little Cupcake taking care of herself. She doesn't need me for this. Laura noticed Carmilla backed up against the subway door with a satisfied smirk on her face.

“Natalie, Laura doesn't know what she's talking about!” Danny exclaimed.

“Oh please, Danny! ‘Take me back! I've made a horrible mistake!’ Yeah you did make a horrible mistake. Thinking you could lie and cheat on me without me caring. Thinking that it would just be so easy to continuously lie to me. You're the biggest and by that I mean tallest piece of shit I have ever encountered! You can burn in Hell, Danny Lawrence.”

Carmilla clapped her hands before returning to Laura's side and wrapping her arms around her shoulders.

“I think Carmilla is bad influence on you,” Danny muttered.

“Yeah well, even though you apparently think you can still control me, Danny, you can't. I've tried to explain that to you on numerous occasions, but you always seemed to not care. Yes, Natalie is the reason we broke up, but we would have been well on our way without her. You can't control me anymore. I'm my own person and I'll do as I damn well please-”

“Next stop on this train will be Franklin Avenue. Franklin Avenue is next!” The announcer said.

“You've gotten a little out of control, Laura. I guess you stopped taking your medication.”

“Well considering I only took that medication for you so I could ‘calm down a little’, yeah I'm off it.”

“Look, why don't you take a little trip to that end of the train and we'll stay here. I'm sure you'll want to try and make Laura jealous with your cheat-tee and that's fine. But looking between you and me,” Carmilla stated, eyeing Danny up and down, “I think there is no comparison who she would rather be with.”

Laura slid her arm around Carmilla's waist with a satisfied smile.

“She's a cheater too, Laura.”

“Not to me. You just believe everything people tell you because you think it makes you better than others. Well it doesn’t. You don’t know anything about Carmilla and certainly don’t know anything about me.”

“I still talk to Lafontaine and Perry.”

“Oh and they’re just gushing out information about me? I have a hard time believing that. However, it’s not my fault that you still ask them about me as if you have any right to know!”

Danny’s eyes widened.

“What? Didn’t think they tell me that? They tell me every time they go out with you. Lafontaine always goes into detail and they tell me how many times you ask about me. Do yourself a favor and focus on the girl you cheated on me with, who you’re now marrying. Maybe it’ll help you realize how much of an actual piece of shit you are!”

Carmilla quickly grabbed Laura's hand as the doors opened at their stop.

“Wait, Laura,” Danny said, following them out onto the platform and grabbing Laura's wrist.

Laura tugged, but Danny held tighter. Carmilla grabbed Danny's hand and bent it backwards. Danny tried not to make sound as the pain stung through her arm and she was forced to let go. Carmilla could see the wince of pain on Danny’s face.

“Don't you ever touch her. If you do, I'll have no problem making you bleed!” Carmilla sneered.

“You can't say things like that to me,” Danny protested, surprised someone would even have the nerve to communicate with her like that.

“Stay away from me and stay the hell away from Laura or I'll become a bigger monster than you already are.”

With that Carmilla gestured and Laura started walking. Carmilla followed her up the stairs, checking her back to make sure they weren't being followed. Danny was glaring in their direction until Natalie took her wrist to look it over. Bitch.

They climbed out of the subway station and into the fresh air. The rain had stopped, leaving a light cloudy sky behind.

“How's your wrist, Cupcake?”

Laura held it up and looked at it. She twisted it in a circular motion. “It's okay.”

“I'm sorry I did that, Laura.”

“Did what?”

“Fight your battle.”

Laura smiled. “I wouldn't have been able to do that.”

“Still, it wasn't my place.” I'm just as bad as her. I immediately went to violence. I'm a monster. I would have punched that dumb girl in the face if I would have been given the chance.

“Carm?”

“Yeah?”

“Stop.”

“Stop what?”

“I can hear you thinking from here. You're not Danny.”

“She kind of ruined our night.”

“Well she ruined my life a couple years ago. She’s a ruiner, Carm. That’s all she’ll ever be.”

Carmilla stopped walking and looked at Laura shyly. Laura stopped when she realized Carmilla wasn’t next to her. She turned around and smiled at the look Carmilla was giving her. Carmilla stalked towards her before taking Laura’s hand and wrapping her in an embrace. Laura giggled as she wrapped her arms around Carmilla’s waist. She placed a light kiss on Carmilla’s cheek.

“You okay?” Laura whispered.

“I don’t like her.”

“I don’t like her either, Carm. That’s one of the reasons we broke up.”

They started walking again, towards their apartments. “Wanna talk about it,” Carmilla suggested rather than asked.

“Do you want me to?”

“No. I just thought you wanted to discuss it.”

“How about we get a drink instead?”

“Because you, me and my best friend, Mr. Alcohol, don’t tend to mix well together.” But a drink sounds like the best thing in the world after this evening.

“One drink. Please!” Laura begged. “Please, please, please, Carmilla! I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Oh yeah?” Carmilla whispered in her ear. “How?”

She could feel Laura tremble against her body. “We could have a sleepover?”

“Involving?”

“You and me snuggling up together and sleeping in tomorrow.”

“But no sex?” Laura thought about the way her body looked and then how thin Carmilla was. She shook her head no.

“Well, you drive a hard bargain, Cupcake, but why not.”

“Do you want to go to your apartment first?”

“Do you have a shirt I can sleep in?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Then I don’t need to go home, but let’s go get that drink. After today, that sounds like the remedy I need.”

Laura smiled at Carmilla and they started heading closer in the direction of Laura’s apartment.

“Wanna go to Crown Heights Inn? Bergen? Franklin Park?”

“Anywhere, but Franklin Park.” It’s Friday night, I know Elsie is there.

“Crown Heights Inn?”

She definitely won’t be there. “That sounds good, Cupcake.”

Laura shifted from Carmilla's side and threaded her fingers together with Carmilla's. It made Carmilla smile. Do I deserve happiness? I mean I was about to beat that Danny girl to a pulp! Doesn't Laura deserve to be with someone who is better than that? Who can control her emotions?

Laura led Carmilla inside the small, crowded bar. It was a hole in the wall and very dark. Laura found a space at the bar to order a drink. Carmilla was lost in thoughts as she held onto Laura's hand. She had no problems, no anger. She's almost happy and excited. Even when she's working, she has a smile on her face. She's too good for me. I'm just bad news. Why did I ask her to be my girlfriend? What if I break her heart? I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I broke her heart!

“What do you want to drink, Carm?”

“Oh, can I get a double whiskey neat?” She yelled to the bartender.

He nodded his head.

“Oh make it Bulleit, please! None of that cheap shit!”

He nodded his head again. Carmilla looked at Laura who was much closer to her than expected. That's when she noticed Laura's body was pressed against her in the tight space. She wanted to stay there for as long as she could. She couldn’t help, but love the feeling of Laura against her. The bartender handed them their drinks and Carmilla handed him her card.

“Keep it open,” she said to the bartender. “Let's see if there's a seat outside,” Carmilla said, walking towards the outdoor seating area. Laura sipped on her beer as she followed. They headed outside where it was quieter and few less people. Everything was wet, but Carmilla's and Laura's pants were still sticking to them. Carmilla sat down in a chair, while Laura took a seat in her lap.

“I don't want to get my pants wet,” she explained.

“They're already wet, Creampuff.”

“Then I don't want to get them more wet.”

“Or do you just want to be close to me so you can kiss me?” Carmilla teased.

Laura looked up and bit her lip, as if she was thinking.

“No, not really. Body heat is nice and you know my pants.”

“You're adorable, Cupcake.”

“Cheers,” Laura said, holding out her glass.

“And what are we cheering to?”

“You and me? Officially together?” Laura smiled, brightly.

“I will always cheer to that.”

Laura gave Carmilla a light peck before tagging a swig of her beer. She leaned into Carmilla, as Carmilla snuck her hand around Laura’s waist. She felt Carmilla's lip against her cheek before she saw the whiskey being picked up again. She followed suit, taking another swig of her beer.

“What kind of beer is that?” Carmilla asked, finishing up her drink with an huge breath.

“Blue Moon and take it easy, Carm. I know how you're libido is when you're drunk.”

“Sorry. Do you mind if I get another one?” Carmilla asked, shyly.

“If you want another one, then get it. I don't own you, Sweetcheeks.”

“Did you just call me ‘sweetcheeks’?”

Laura blushed but nodded.

“Are you complimenting my backside?”

“Nope, just wanted to give you a stupid nickname like you give me.”

“Hey, my nicknames are enduring. You're as sweet as a cupcake and I hope one day to make you as creamy as-”

Laura placed her hand on Carmilla's mouth. “Stop and don't ever call me ‘creampuff’ again.”

Carmilla smirked. “Can I get my drink now?”

“I'm not stopping you.”

“You're sitting on me, Cupcake.”

“Oh, right.” Move your fat ass. You're too big for her to pick you up! Not to mention, you’re probably squishing her.

Laura got up shyly and moved to the seat next to her. Her brain making her feel upset and stupid. I'm surprised I did hurt her.

“I'll be right back, Baby,” Carmilla said, giving Laura another kiss.

Laura nodded as she watched Carmilla go back inside. She's probably like half my body. One of my thighs are both of her thighs together. I would squash her if I tried to have sex with her.

Laura took a large sip of her beer and put her head down. She stared at her thighs as she thought about everything that was wrong with her body.

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

Carmilla went back inside and straight to the bar. The bartender came back to her after helping a few other customers first.

“Can I get a shot of whiskey as well as another double?”

He nodded his head, pouring the shot almost immediately.

“Care to buy a girl a shot?” A black haired girl asked, sitting in the seat next to Carmilla at the bar.

“Oh no, sorry. My girlfriend is waiting for me outside.” Carmilla smiled at being able to called Laura her girlfriend before frowning again.

“Well what she won't know, won't hurt her. I'm Tara,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Pleasure,” Carmilla said, throwing back her shot.

“Come on, buy me a shot,” Tara pestered.

“I'm good. Can I close my tab?” Carmilla asked as the bartender placed a second drink in front of her.

“You sure you don’t want to buy me a drink?”

“Yeah. I’m good.”

“You’ve bought me one before.”

“Look, I’m sure you’re nice, but please understand, I have a girlfriend.”

“You had one then too when we made out in a dark corner at Bergen.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes. She was grateful that the bartender laid a receipt and her card in front of her. She quickly signed, grabbed her card and headed towards Laura. Tara tapped her shoulder.

“Come on. Just one little kiss for old times sake? You enjoyed it the last time.”

Tara started to lean in. Carmilla panicked and shoved her as hard as she could. “Back off!” She yelled.

“Carm?” she heard Laura say.

She felt her body relax. “Laura,” she whispered and pushed her way to her.

“Bitch,” she heard Tara say. She turned to face one of her drunken mistakes.

“Yeah I most likely was before, but what you don’t seem to understand is I have a girlfriend and I was pushing you away!”

“Carm? What’s going on?”

“Can we get out of here?” Carmilla asked, turning towards Laura.

“Of course, but you gotta finish that.”

Carmilla swallowed down her drink in two gulp, before grabbing Laura’s hand and pushing Tara out of her way.

“What’s going on, Carm?”

“Do you have a cigarette?” Carmilla asked, as they exited the dark bar.

“Yes, but tell me what’s going on!”

“That girl. I, she and I,” Carmilla paused, trying to get her thoughts together. “Look we made out one time when I was most likely trashed. I don’t remember her, but she kept asking me if I wanted to buy her a shot and I said no. She didn’t seem to understand that I had a girlfriend, claiming I did the last time I talked to her as well. I don’t remember any of it. I’m sorry.”

Laura exhaled. She wasn’t sure how that story made her feel. I should trust her because she’s being honest with me, but how do I know she won’t do that too me if she goes out and gets drunk? Would she tell me? Would she cheat on me? I mean she pushed that girl away, but she’s still sober. Or at least I think she is.

“I think I’m just gonna go home,” Carmilla announced.

“What? Why?”

“It’s clear you don’t want to be around me. Laura, I’m bad news. I shouldn’t have asked you to be my girlfriend. I’m no good for you. I’m sorry.” Carmilla started walking away.

“What? Carm, where are you going?”

“Laura, I’m no good for you. Please accept that.”

“Accept what? Why are you not good for me?” Laura started to follow after her.

“Because you deserve someone better than me.”

“What does that even mean, Carm?”

Carmilla stopped and faced Laura.

“It means you deserve to be with someone who is good and happy. Someone who doesn’t have to go to therapy. Someone who likes themselves and is positive! Someone who doesn’t fight anyone at all. Who can control their emotions.” She turned around and started walking. Laura chased after her and stepped in front of her.

“Please, just stop.”

Carmilla’s eyes were red and her body was starting to shake. Laura wrapped her arms around Carmilla’s shoulders and pulled her in. She held Carmilla as tightly as she could before rubbing her back. Carmilla stood still, her fists by her side. Don’t cry. It’s the stupid alcohol. You’re fine. Stop it. She sniffled. Stop it! She felt a small tear run down her cheek. She felt comforted by Laura and quickly lost her bearings. She wrapped her arms around Laura, pulling her even tighter.

“It’s okay, Carm.”

Carmilla shook her head. “It’s not,” she whispered. “I’m bad news, Laura.”

“Shush. You’re perfect.”

“I’m anything, but, Cupcake.”

“I don’t care. I don’t care that you’re going to therapy if that’s something you need to do for yourself. In reality, I should probably also be in therapy. Emotions are fine to have, and sometimes we just have to let go. And I’m definitely not a positive person, Carm. If I was, I don’t think I would smoke as many cigarettes as I do because it would be so much easier to quit.”

Laura started to pull away from Carmilla, but Carmilla pulled her closer.

“Not yet,” she whispered, nuzzling Laura’s neck.

Laura smiled as she held Carmilla in her arms. They stood there for a few more minutes before Carmilla started to pull away. She wiped her eyes and kept her head down.

“Do you still want to go home?”

“Not at all, Cupcake. Can I stay with you?”

Laura lifted Carmilla’s chin, wiping a few tears away from her cheeks. “Absolutely.”

Carmilla chuckled a little before wiping her eyes a few more times.

“Let’s go, Sweetcheeks.”

“Oh, God. You’re going to keep using that nickname, aren’t you?”

“You know you like it.”

Carmilla would be lying if she said she didn’t. Laura held her hand all the way back to her apartment. The neighborhood was quiet. They entered Laura’s apartment quietly and didn’t speak until Laura shut her bedroom door.

“Do you wanna watch something?” Laura asked.

“Can we just hit the hay?”

“Of course. I’ll get you a shirt. Do you want some pants?”

“How powerful is your AC?”

Laura smiled as she turned it on. It was loud, but definitely blowing out more cold air than Carmilla’s ever could.

“Yeah, some pants would be nice.”

Laura bent down and pulled out the plastic bin where her pajamas were stored. She handed Carmilla a pair of pajama pants before grabbing her own pajamas that rested at the end of her bed.

“I’m just gonna change in the bathroom. You can change in here for privacy,” Laura said, heading towards her bedroom door.

“You can change in here. I’m not modest,” Carmilla said, pulling her t-shirt off of her back. “At least it’s finally dry,” Carmilla joked.

Laura stared at Carmilla’s thin stomach and automatically felt self conscious. My stomach has never looked like that for as long as I have lived. I’ve never and will never be that thin. It must be nice to not have love handles or have fat hanging over you pants.

“I’ll be right back,” Laura said.

She entered the bathroom, avoiding the mirror in front of her. She stepped off in front of the toilet, so she couldn’t even catch a glimpse of herself. She lifted her shirt over her head and debated about taking her bra off. Might as well leave it on. I’m not a big fan of my breasts and would hate for my shirt to ride up in my sleep. A knock on the door, pulled Laura from her thoughts.

“Hey, Cupcake. Can I wash my face?”

“Just a second, Carm.”

Laura quickly changed into her plaid pajama pants before opening the door.

“All yours.”

“Do you still have that toothbrush I used?”

“Oh, uh yeah. It’s in the cabinet.”

“One more question. Do you any face wash?”

Laura pointed towards the bottle in the shower. “That’s mine.”

Carmilla smiled. “We use the same stuff.”

“I guess great minds think alike,” Laura said, awkwardly.

“You okay, Cupcake?”

“Yep. I think I’m gonna go out and have that smoke.”

“You’re already in your pajamas.”

“I’ll put on a pair of sweats.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, Carm. Just that good ole nicotine craving. It enhances when I drink.” Yeah that was believable.

“I don’t believe you.”

“It’s nothing. Please. I’m just gonna go smoke. I’ll be right back.”

Carmilla watched her, but nodded. She’s probably trying to make a decision to see if I’m really worth it. She’s going to realize her mistake. It never takes a girl too long.

Laura ran into her room and tossed her clothes in the closet before grabbing a pair of sweatpants and throwing them on over her pajama pants. She slipped on some old Vans, grabbed her keys and headed outside. She was thankful that Carmilla closed the bathroom door.

As soon as she was outside, she lit her cigarette. She took a seat on the steps and now it was her turn to force herself not to cry. If you cry right now, she’s going to think it’s because of earlier. She’ll think it’s because of her. I won’t let her think that. I can’t! Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.

Laura took slow puffs of her cigarette. She slowly started to calm down. She checked both sides of the sidewalk before flicking her cigarette out onto the sidewalk. It landed on the other side of the small gate in front of her apartment and she felt relieved at knowing her super wouldn’t have to sweep up her trash. She put her key in the door and made her way back in. She noticed Carmilla was out of the bathroom and slipped in quickly. She washed her hands to get rid of the cigarette smell. She then washed her face and brushed her teeth. She avoided the mirror the whole time.

She tiptoed back to her room and noticed Carmilla was already in her small bed.

“Sorry for the tight fit,” she commented, slipping out of her sweatpants.

“I don’t mind. It means I get to snuggle closer to you.”

“Well I am warm.”

“You actually got pretty cold last week. It was weird.”

“What do you mean?”

“I woke up before you, which was weird within itself because I almost always sleep late and through my alarms. But you had almost all the covers around you and then when I snuggled in further, you were ice cold. You don’t remember me rubbing your arms?”

“No. I remember waking up in your arms and smiling.”

“Oh. I said, ‘you’re so cold, Baby’ and you said, “warm me up, please”. Then went back to sleep. But you get pretty cold.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’ll be here to keep you warm. Now will you get into bed?”

Laura smiled before laying down in her small bed. Carmilla opened her arms and Laura settled into them. She listened to the same heartbeat that had lulled her to sleepiness earlier in the night. She was just about to pass out when she heard Carmilla’s soft voice.

“Thanks, Cupcake.”

“For what?”

“For giving me a chance and believing me.”

Laura lifted her head and looked at Carmilla.

“You haven’t given me a reason to not trust you. Just promise me, you won’t break that. I want you to be honest with me, Carmilla. I’ve been deceived before and it’s the worst feeling I have ever felt. So that’s all I ask.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

Laura smiled. She placed a kiss on Carmilla’s lips. Even though Carmilla could feel the whiskey coursing through her body, she finally felt herself calm down and didn’t press the kiss to be anything more than it was. Laura resettled herself and Carmilla felt herself drifting off from the smell of Laura.

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

Laura woke the next morning, feeling fingers lightly against her forehead. She shifted and remember Carmilla was next to her. She hummed before turning towards Carmilla. She felt Carmilla shift before the fingers lightly tucked some hair behind her ear. She smiled as she opened her eyes.

“What time is it?” she mumbled, happy that Carmilla didn’t stop playing with her hair.

“Is that the first question you always ask when you wake up?”

Laura chuckled. “Good morning, Carm.”

“Good morning, Cupcake and it’s still pretty early.”

“I’m surprised you’re awake before me.”

“Well the light kind of comes beaming through your uncurtained window.”

“I guess I should have warned you.”

“No I remember that from our incident. That time I just pulled the blanket over my head and went back to sleep, but I don’t know. You just looked really cute this morning and you’re hair was kind of a mess, so I just thought I would help.”

Laura’s smile widened. “That’s actually really cute, Carm.”

It was Carmilla’s turn to smile, as she looked down at Laura. She leaned down, closing her eyes before Laura pulled the covers over her mouth. Carmilla was surprised when she felt Laura’s comforter against her lips instead of Laura’s mouth.

“What are you doing?” Carmilla asked, wiping her mouth.

“I have morning breath.”

“Yeah. So do I. Kind of the point of a good morning kiss.”

“Usually people don’t like that,” Laura tried to sound like that was everyone’s opinion.

“And by people, do you mean Voldemort?”

“Who?”

“The giant ego.”

“Danny?”

Carmilla groaned slightly. “Yes, Cupcake. I’m just trying to keep that name out of our conversations.”

“Sorry. But yeah, she didn’t like it.”

“Don’t tell me she’s the last person you kissed?”

“No, of course not. But I don’t tend to sleep with people unless I know them,” Laura paused, “minus a couple of incidents.”

“Oh? There’s been a couple incidents? Not just mine?”

“Well you were a coworker so it’s a little bigger of an incident, but yeah. Only a couple, though. Sleeping around isn’t really my thing.”

“I wish I could say the same.” Carmilla turned her eyes away from Laura. Laura shifted up on her elbow to look down at Carmilla.

“You know I don’t care how many girls you’ve been with, right?”

“You say that, but you don’t know all of it.”

“Doesn’t mean I’m bothered by it. The only thing that matters to me, my now girlfriend, is if you cheat on me.”

Carmilla turned her attention away from the ceiling to meet Laura’s gaze. “I would never do that to you, Laura.”

“Good. Now, you sure you want this good morning kiss?”

Carmilla nodded. She cupped Laura’s cheeks and pulled her in. They shared a chaste kiss. Laura started to pull away, but Carmilla shook her head. “Come here, Cupcake.”

Laura laid back down on her back, but Carmilla wasn’t going to let her get away that easy. She leaned down to capture Laura’s lips again. Carmilla felt Laura’s tongue brush against her lips and moaned when she felt it slide against hers. Carmilla shifted and laid her body in between Laura’s legs, kissing Laura deeply. Laura cupped the back of Carmilla’s head, bringing Carmilla closer to her. When Carmilla needed a breath, she pulled away kissing Laura’s cheek before moving her way down to kiss Laura’s neck. Laura’s eyes closed as the feeling of Carmilla against her neck. Carmilla grinned as she bit a small area of Laura’s neck causing her to gasp. She moved her way back up, running her tongue outside of Laura’s ear before biting and pulling on her earlobe. Another gasp came from Laura, who was now running her hands down Carmilla’s back.

Carmilla shifted to capture Laura’s lips again. Laura was eager to comply, kissing Carmilla passionately. Laura felt Carmilla’s hips push down against her before she felt Carmilla rub her hands down the front of her body. She felt Carmilla’s hand on her stomach.

“Wait. Wait. Wait,” Laura whispered.

Carmilla stilled and used her hands to push herself up.

“Did I go too far?” Carmilla asked.

“No, no. I’m just not ready.”

“Oh. Shit, I’m sorry.”

“No. It’s not your fault, Carm. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to be sorry, Cupcake,” Carmilla said, as she moved out of Laura’s space and back onto her back.

Laura turned on her side. “Don’t start thinking, Carm. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I put my hand under your shirt.”

“It’s okay. It’s just my stomach.” Laura immediately sucked in the best she could when Carmilla’s eyes wandered down her body. “Besides,” Laura started, waiting for Carmilla’s eyes to look back at her. When they made eye contact, Laura continued. “I think I like good morning kisses.”

“Oh yeah?”

Laura nodded and leaned in. She kissed Carmilla one more time. Then Laura shifted and sat up. She stretched her arms over her head before returning to her usual slouch.

“I’m gonna hop into the shower,” Laura said.

“I guess this would be a bad time to make a joke about how showers are more fun with two people than by yourself?”

“Probably.” Not to mention you would throw up if you saw me naked sober.

Carmilla noticed Laura’s smile falter at her joke. “Sorry. That was in poor taste.”

“No worries.” Laura half smiled. “I’ll be back in a few. There’s some cereal in the kitchen if you’re hungry or we could go out to brunch, if you want.”

“How about brunch at Chavela’s?”

Laura hummed. “Sounds delicious, Carm. Hopefully we’ll be able to get in with their new expansion.”

“Or if it’s not too cold, we can just sit outside.”

“You can borrow one of my sweatshirts if it’s too cold.”

“Thanks.”

“I’ll be back in a little bit.”

Even though Laura felt subconscious about her body, she tried to push that feeling away. She leaned down to give Carmilla another kiss. Carmilla smiled as she watched Laura walk out of her bedroom. She’s so cute. She say up and checked her phone seeing a few missed texts from Mattie. She quickly replied telling her she was at Laura’s, but informed her that no sexual activity had occurred. Mattie replied with a good and be safe. She fooled around on her phone a little bit when she realized the annoyance she was feeling. I wonder if I could use the bathroom or would that be weird? She got out of bed and starting pacing, hoping it would help. It’s like everything in her body just plummeted to the bottom. She slowly walked to the bathroom door and used her knuckles to knock on the door.

“Yeah?” She heard Laura call out.

“Laur-?”

Laura jumped and tried to cover herself. Pull yourself together. You’re behind a curtain.

“What’s up?”

“I’m really sorry, but I really need to use the restroom. All that whiskey has caught up with me. Do you mind?”

“Um, no worries. I can just step out and-”

Carmilla opened the door. When she spoke, she heard Laura jump.

“Don’t do that, Carmilla.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just I have a weak bladder sometimes and I don’t have time to wait.”

“Of course. Uh, sure. Go ahead.”

Carmilla quickly lifted the toilet seat and sat down. She had one weakness, a shy bladder.

“Um, Laura. Do you think you could hum something?”

“What?”

“I have a shy bladder.”

“Carm, just hand me my towel and I’ll step out.”

“No, that’s ridiculous. I’m an adult. Okay, I’m going to plug my ears and hum something to myself. Okay?”

“Do whatever you have to do, Carm.”

“Okay.”

Carmilla plugged her ears and started humming “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater, loudly.

Seriously? Out of all the songs, Laura thought. She continued to wash her hair as she felt herself humming along. Laura tried to ignore the sound of Carmilla using the restroom as she started humming a little louder.

“Well that was awkward and I’m sorry, but thank you,” Carmilla announced when she was finished.

“You gotta go when you gotta go.”

“Uh, let me make this more awkward. Should I flush or-?”

“Go ahead. It doesn’t affect the shower.”

“Okay. Thanks again, Cupcake. I’ll be in your room.”

Well that couldn’t have been anymore awkward, but I feel so much better, Carmilla thought as she closed the bathroom door. She wasn’t expecting to be greeted by no other than Betty.

“You’re back?” Betty asked.

“Looks that way,” Carmilla said, walking past her.

“I know Laura doesn’t think I care about her, but she is actually one of my best friends. We just don’t see eye to eye on everything.”

“Okay.”

“I just mean, please don’t hurt her. She’s a good person and has had enough heartbreak.”

Carmilla shifted. “I won’t hurt her.”

Betty pointed towards the door, changing the subject. “Is she almost done?”

“Uh, yeah. I think so.”

Betty nodded and walked into the living room.

Carmilla re-entered Laura’s bedroom and laid down on her bed. She closed her eyes and felt herself drifting back to sleep. Laura came in a few minutes later, wrapped in a towel. She saw Carmilla had her eyes closed and felt relieved. Maybe I can change before she opens her eyes. Laura tiptoed to her dresser and opened the drawer as quietly as possible, pulling out a pair of clean underwear. She unwrapped her towel, but bent over to keep the towel on her back. She quickly slipped on a pair. She then reached for a pair of sweatpants, slipping them on.

“I’ve never seen someone put pants on while managing to keep their towel on their back,” Carmilla said.

Laura wrapped the towel back around her. “A little privacy, Carmilla.”

“Oh, of course. Sorry.”

Carmilla turned on her side. Laura looked at her while trying to find her bra, making sure Carmilla didn’t turn over. She quickly put her bra on before turning towards her door to put the towel on her door hook. She walked back to her dresser and pulled out one her graphic shirts.

“All good,” Laura said. “I thought you had gone back to sleep.”

“I did, but I heard you come in.”

“And thought you’d get a free show?”

Carmilla felt a pain in her chest. “No,” she whispered. “Nothing like that.”

Laura smiled. “I’m just teasing you, Carm.”

Carmilla laughed nervously. “Right.”

Laura leaned forward and connected her lips with Carmilla’s. Carmilla kissed her back before pulling away.

“No fair. Your kisses are now minty.”

“Well get ready and brush your teeth. Then we can go get food.”

Carmilla hummed. “To fill our tummies.”

“Uh, yeah.” Laura blushed. Is she pointing out my stomach? Maybe I should just get a salad at brunch.

“I’ll be right back. Just gonna brush my teeth.”

Laura nodded. She used the opportunity of Carmilla being out of the room to put on her jeans. She grabbed one of her baggy hoodies from the closet and pulled it over her head. She immediately felt better as she felt her body being hidden. Carmilla came back in and gave Laura another kiss.

“Now we’re both minty.”

Laura nodded agreement.

“Do you have a sweatshirt?” Carmilla asked, remembering her mustard stained t-shirt.

“Yeah, any in the closet are fine.”

Carmilla pulled a plain black hoodie off a hanger. “Alright, let me just change into my clothes and we’ll be good,” Carmilla said, pulling her shirt over head. Laura stared at Carmilla’s back. She really is thin. I can see her hip bones. You can barely even see mine when I’m on my back. Not to mention my love handles that just flop over my pants. Carmilla pulled the pajama pants down and folded them nicely, laying them on Laura’s bed. She has a thigh gap. Of course, she has a thigh gap. I wonder what it’s like to be able to walk without your thighs rubbing together. Must be nice. I wish I had legs like that. I mean, a lot of mine are muscle, but still, I’ll never have a thigh gap. Laura could feel the tightness in her throat as she forced herself to look away and calm down.

Carmilla slipped into her jeans. She pushed her hands in her pockets to even out her pants before turning around to face Laura. She noticed the solemn look on Laura’s face.

“You okay, Cupcake?”

Laura shook her head and gave a small smile. “Yeah. All good. Ready?”

“Yeah. You sure you’re okay?”

Carmilla watched as Laura pulled at the front of her sweatshirt. “Yep.”

Laura stood from her desk chair and grabbed her keys. Carmilla followed, making sure she didn’t leave anything behind. Laura was fighting the demons in her brain to keep herself level headed. She noticed Betty in the living room.

“See ya later, Bets.”

“Bye, Lovebirds.” Betty smiled.

Laura grinned before opening the door for her and Carmilla.

“Sorry about Betty,” Laura said, once they were outside.

“Don’t be. She’s not terrible.”

“Did she say something to you?”

“Nope, not at all, Cupcake.”

Laura paused. “You’re a terrible liar, Carmilla.”

“She just said something I’ve already heard before.”

“Which is?”

“A promise I plan to keep.”

“Wanna let me know,” Laura suggested.

“Hmm. If it’s a promise I plan to keep, then I don’t think it’s necessary to say.”

Laura frowned. “Fine.”

“Don’t pout, Cupcake,” Carmilla said, taking her hand. “I promise it’s nothing bad.”

“And everyone is just looking out for me?”

Carmilla smiled. “Something like that.”

Carmilla let go of Laura’s hand to wrap her arm around Laura’s shoulders. They got to the corner of Sterling Place to see that Chavela’s was a little packed.

“I know a place in Manhattan that’s good,” Carmilla suggested.

“Do you want to go all the way there?”

“It’s about thirty minutes off the 2,3 on 14th. You’re call, Cupcake.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I’m good with either.”

Laura frowned. She’s going to make me decide.

“I’m okay here. If that’s okay with you.”

Carmilla smiled. “Sounds perfect.”

They only had to wait about ten minutes before being seated. They both ordered the brunch special. Carmilla got a coffee while Laura settled with apple juice.

“So excited for the party tonight?” Carmilla asked, taking a small sip of her coffee.

Laura groaned. “I forgot that was tonight.”

“Don’t wanna go?”

“I mean I do, but at the same time I know that Dan-,” she paused as she saw Carmilla raise her eyebrow. “I mean She Who Must Not Be Named?”

“Thank you.”

“Right. I know she will have already told Laf and Perry about our little confrontation last night and I just don’t feel like dealing with that.”

“Understandable.”

“And she’s probably going to make you sound worse than you are. Just a little heads up.”

“Yeah. I got that opinion after she mentioned Elsie.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Only if I can ask you something in return.”

Laura thought for a moment. “Deal.”

“Then shoot, Laura.”

“Did you date Elsie?”

Carmilla exhaled, knowing this was going to be the question. Well Jess did tell me to open up more.

“No. Elsie thought that us having sex frequently was us dating. She constantly asked me to, but I kept saying no. I continuously reminded her that what we had was just a sexual relationship. To be honest, she annoyed me to no end, but she was, uh… rather good in the bedroom department.”

“So if you didn’t like her, why did you sleep with her?”

Carmilla could feel herself getting defensive. This is why she never liked to open up to people. She hated being judged and was worried this would certainly push Laura away. Be honest. You said you would try. “I’m going to be honest with you, Laura. Okay?”

Laura nodded.

“I like sex. I like it, a lot. I’m not like a nympho or anything, but I enjoy the way it feels and the intimacy of another person. But I don’t have to have feelings for someone to enjoy the way it feels. Elsie was good and kind of easy, so I would call her if I was bored, but we usually liked to be a little drunk before we engaged in sexual activity or at least I did. She wasn’t so keen on that, but would do it anyway because she knew I would sleep with her if I was tipsy or intoxicated. It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth. I’ve been with a handful girls, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been intimate with someone I actually cared about.”

Carmilla looked away. She could feel Laura judging her and it made her want to run for the hills.

“Is that why it was so easy for our incident to happen?”

She looked back at Laura, trying to read her, but unlike most girls, Laura wasn’t an open book. “I was pretty intoxicated and being the beautiful woman that you are, you kissed me. That’s usually how it starts, right? But I don’t want you think you were just going to be some easy lay. When I’m intoxicated, sometimes it’s hard for me to put my libido to rest. However, with you, it was easier. I knew I didn’t want to push you in any way, shape or form. It’s why I felt so bad the next day. It wasn’t because of you, I was mad at myself. I was mad that I couldn’t calm down and control myself. I like you, Laura. I like you a lot. You make me feel things I haven’t felt in a long time and I want to hold those feelings for as long as I can. You mean more to me than any of those girls ever could.”

That made Laura smile. “Really?”

“Of course, Laura.” Carmilla reached out and placed her hand on top of Laura’s. Laura threaded their fingers together.

“I like you too, Carm.”

Carmilla smiled, but she still felt uneasy. Please don’t run away. Please.

The waiter returned, placing their meals in front of them. They thanked him and started eating. Laura was grateful that he refilled their juice and coffee, also bringing a glass bottle of water for them to share.

“So you had a question for me?”

“Uh, yeah, but you don’t have to answer it if it’s too much.”

“Well after you being honest with me, I feel like it’s only fair that I’m honest with you. I trust you.”

She trusts me?

“After that, you still trust me?”

“Of course, Carm. We all have our things. That’s just one of yours.”

“And that doesn’t scare you?”

“Not at all. You like sex. I like sex too, I just like to know the person is all. Not really too much of a difference.”

“Right. Okay. Cool.”

Laura giggled. “Was that your question?”

Carmilla laughed. “No. I was just curious about something Voldemort said last night.”

“Is it about the medication?”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

“I’ve gotten the question before.”

“Well like I said, you don’t have to answer.”

“No. It’s okay. So when I’m not in a depressive state, I can get really hyper. Not crazy or anything, just excited and really happy. Sometimes a little spastic, and a little clumsy. Sometimes I would just be too excited about things that I couldn’t concentrate on anything, but that happiness. She didn’t like that. She wanted me to be as normal as possible.”

“So she put you on meds?”

“No. It wasn’t actually medication. That’s just what we called it. She suggested marijuana and because I was in love with her and knew I embarrassed her sometimes, I agreed to try it. It was something I had wanted to try myself anyway, but she kind of pushed the idea. What I can’t tell you is why I kept doing it for as long as I did.”

“So she didn’t want you to be you?”

“Not really, no.”

“Isn’t that abuse?”

“Probably. I mean I was a lot to handle. My mom struggled with my hyperness too, which is why she absolutely adored Danny. However, my mother didn’t know that I was getting high to calm my hyperactiveness. When I went to my mom about my doubts, she couldn’t understand why I would throw my relationship away.”

“That’s pretty bad, Cupcake. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. My mother and I have never had that great of a relationship. I was always daddy’s little girl. She couldn’t understand our bond. But Danny was toxic, it just took her cheating on me to finally realize all my problems. She constantly told me, anytime I had a bad day, that I was just too negative. She never tried to help me feel better. I probably pushed her to cheat anyways.”

Carmilla gritted her teeth. “Laura, there is never an excuse to cheat on someone. It’s a terrible thing to do to someone. If she really loved you, she would have done everything in her power to make sure that you were happy. I don’t think you’re negative. I think everyone has issues and hope that their partner will help them see the little ball of happiness again so they don’t have to be stuck in their bad thoughts.”

Laura studied Carmilla. “Do you really think that?”

“Of course I do. This world is cold enough. We don’t need our significant other telling us to get over it. We need someone that we can go to with our problems without feeling judged or feeling more alone than we were before.”

“It’s interesting that you say that. There were nights before Danny cheated on me that I would lie awake feeling so alone. She would be right there, and I still felt so alone. It’s like I knew she was going to leave me.”

“I know that feeling quite well. It’s terrible. It’s like you’re laying next to the person you love, but can’t really figure out why they’re there.”

“As if you know you’re going to lose them one day.”

“Exactly.”

“I take it, it happened to you as well?”

“To a point, but if you don’t mind, I’m not ready to open up about that just yet.”

“Of course. You’ll tell me when you’re ready.”

Carmilla squeezed Laura’s hand. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For never prying.”

“Oh well, She Who Must Not Be Named was all about sharing. Sometimes I just didn’t want to talk. I’ve never wanted to pry because if someone isn’t ready to tell you something, they shouldn’t be pushed to tell.”

“I agree.”

They were finishing up their meals when the waiter came with the check.

“Want to split it?” Laura suggested.

“Sure.”

They placed both of their cards on the small tray.

“So I think I’m gonna head home, Cupcake. Take a little nap, shower and get ready for tonight. What time are we supposed to be there?”

“Perry is making something for dinner, so around 7. I’ll text Laf when I get home and let you know what they say.”

“Sounds good. Are you okay with me going home first?”

“I mean, I’ll be lonely and miss your company,” Laura teased, “but I think I can manage.”

Carmilla smiled. They wrote a tip for the waiter on their separate receipts before grabbing their cards and exiting. Carmilla walked Laura to her door. They shared a few brief kisses, wrapped in each other’s arms.

“Thanks for brunch, Carm.”

“Thanks for being with me.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s my cheesy way of saying, thanks for being my girlfriend.”

Laura smiled. “You’re ridiculous, Sweetcheeks.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes. “And here I thought you had forgotten that stupid nickname.”

“Who? Me? Oh no. It’s there for you.”

“How about I come back over around 4 so we can hangout before the party?”

“I’d like that.”

They shared another kiss before Carmilla started to back away. “I’ll see you in a few hours, Cupcake.”

“Bye, Carm.”

Carmilla waited for Laura to go inside before she turned and walked in the direction of her apartment. She had a huge smile on her face. I haven’t felt this happy and free with someone in a long time.

Carmilla opened her apartment door and noticed Mattie was talking to someone.

“And there she is. And here I thought my daughter wasn’t coming home.”

Carmilla heard the familiar voice and her body cringed. She opened the door, to see her mother sitting on the couch.

“Hello, Dear,” Her mother said, with her familiar eerie smirk.

Fuck. “Hello, Mother.”

Chapter Text

“Hello, Dear.”

Carmilla sighed. “Hello, Mother.”

“Nice to see you’re finally home and safe.”

“I’m always safe, Mother. I’m more surprised to see you in Brooklyn.”

“Well I thought I would come down and look at the conditions my daughters were living in. Obviously the apartment is nice, but you two could do better.”

“Mother, this is the perfect place for Carmilla and I. We’re very happy here,” Mattie confirmed.

Carmilla plopped down onto the big comfy chair they had. She stared at Mattie, who was standing in the kitchen that looked over the apartment. Mattie stood there tall and rolled her eyes, shrugging at Carmilla.

“I see you’re still plopping on the furniture, Carmilla.”

“Yes, but it’s my chair, so when it goes out, I’ll be the one responsible to buy a new one.”

“And how on earth are you going to be able to afford one?”

“I have a job,” Carmilla protested.

“A small job at a bookstore is not a real job, Carmilla. Mattie has a real job.”

“Mother, Carmilla is quite happy where she is.”

“Thank you, Mattie,” Carmilla said, giving a satisfied smirk that she knew would annoy her mother.

“No matter how much I loathe the fact that you are lowering your standards to work in some poor bookstore, I'm here to ask a favor. A favor that will most likely help you with your money situation.”

Of course you are.

“Why didn’t you just call me?” Carmilla asked.

“Because when I do, you always wiggle your way out of it and I won’t be having that tonight.”

Carmilla’s stomach sank.

“Tonight?” She asked.

“Yes, tonight.”

“But-”

“No buts Carmilla. You said the next time I needed your help, you would do it. That was our agreement and why I gave you the extra money you needed the last time I saw you.”

“Mother, I can’t tonight.”

Carmilla looked to Mattie with pleading eyes. Trying to say, “help me” without having to say it. Mattie nodded.

“What is tonight, Mother?”

Carmilla didn’t even realize her stomach could sink any lower. Thanks for the help, she thought.

“I’m in charge of a gala and I need Carmilla to sing. The girl I hired got sick and cannot be there.”

Carmilla shook her head. “No way, Mother. You have a ton of Broadway contacts. Talk to them. That time of my life is over!”

“Carmilla, it is Saturday night. My contacts are all performing tonight. You haven’t performed since high school, which is why you’re the one I know is who available.”

“But I’m not available and I know you know understudies. I already have plans and I don’t intend to cancel them.”

“I suggest you do.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes. Here comes the motherly plead as to why I should do it.

“I will pay you seven hundred dollars if you do this, Carmilla.”

Carmilla’s eyes widened. Holy crap, that is a lot of money. That’s more than my weekly paycheck. But I can’t cancel on Laura. But at the same time, I could use that money.

Carmilla exhaled as she stared ahead of her at nothing.

“Carmilla, that’s a little more than your rent,” Mattie added. Carmilla rolled her eyes. Always persuading me to be mommy’s puppet. What do I do? What do I do?

“Carmilla, I don’t have all day. I need you there at 7. You’ll perform at 8 and then be on your way. I’ll have a dress for you there, hoping you haven’t gained any weight since the last time you performed and I will have the song list for you. I expect you to be as warmed up as possible. We can’t have your voice cracking again.”

“Mother, I have plans.”

It was Lilita’s turn to exhale dramatically. “And what are these plans, Dear? Please enlighten me.”

“It’s a work party and-”

Lilita scaffed. “Please, Carmilla. I know you like your pointless job and you want to pursue the magical dream of being a writer and yada, yada, yada, but you’re so much more than a bookstore employee. You are a natural born singer. It’s why I had you train so often. They can have the party without you. I cannot have my gala without a singer. So you will be there.”

“And what if I don’t show up?” Carmilla challenged.

“Then you can kiss that weekly allowance I send to help you, goodbye. For good this time.”

“Mother that isn’t fair.”

“It is fair, Carmilla. You could be on Broadway, living in a studio in the Lower East Side, but instead you chose the life of the poor life. However you haven’t given up your luxurious lifestyle which is why I am still supporting you.”

“Mother, please!” Carmilla tried to plead.

Lilita put her hand up.

“Mother, you know Carmilla enjoys living a more simple life, as do I. I could also afford that apartment, but we chose to live here because we enjoy it.”

“You have no idea how embarrassing it to tell people that I have a daughter who works at a bookstore.”

“I’m sorry I’m the disappointment,” Carmilla noted. “I would like to point out that Will is also a bartender.”

“He makes more money in a night than you do in a week and he is now pursuing a Master’s in business. You stopped at your Bachelors. I always said I would support whatever school you wanted to go to, but honestly, Carmilla. I lie and tell people you went to Tisch just to keep up appearances.”

“Mother, I think that’s a little ridiculous. Brooklyn College did have an amazing English department and Carmilla was in the top ten percent of her graduating class. She is an excellent writer.”

Mattie was trying, but it wasn't doing any good this time. Mattie always protected Carmilla from anyone who tried to hold her back from the things she actually enjoyed.

“And when was the last time you wrote something, my Beautiful Girl?”

“It’s been a while,” Carmilla mumbled.

“Not since that Ell girl, I assume. The one you told me you were going to marry. That you had finally found the perfect girl. You were so much better than her, Carmilla. Not to mention, she didn’t even like you.”

Carmilla’s heart ached at that. “Don’t start, Mother. Please. You never even took the time to get to know her.” Carmilla said through gritted teeth.

“What was there to know? She broke your heart, so obviously she was no good for you.”

“Mother,” Mattie stated, knowing Ell was a trigger for Carmilla.

“Fine.” Lilita stood from the couch. “I expect to see you at 7.”

“I can’t, Mother,” Carmilla said, standing from her chair. “I promised a girl I would be there.”

Mattie smiled. “Is it Laura?”

Carmilla smiled at Laura’s name and nodded her head. Mattie made a sound of joy. She stood up and hugged her sister.

“And who is Laura?”

“Oh, Mother, you’re going to love her,” Mattie said, wrapping her arm around Carmilla’s shoulders.

“You don’t even know her, Mattie.”

“I’ve seen the effect she has had on you. You’re more comfortable around her and that means something. Not to mention, I want to get to know her.”

“Who is this girl?” Lilita interrupted.

“She’s a girl I met at the store,” Carmilla said.

“Yes, I remember her. I thought you were transferred because of her?”

“Not that girl. This is a new girl at the new store.”

“Honestly, Carmilla, I hate how much you sleep around. What I hate even more is that I know about it, but one drunken fight after another, I was bound to find out.”

“I haven’t slept with her, Mother. She actually agreed to be my girlfriend last night and I’m honestly trying to do this one right. Please, Mother. Not tonight. Any other night, but please don’t make me cancel on a girl who finally understands me and doesn’t judge me. Please.”

Lilita thought for a moment. She pinched the bridge of her nose. “How about this. If I can’t find anyone by four, you do it.”

“And you’ll honestly look? Not just pretend to and then make me do it?” Carmilla questioned.

“I swear, I’ll honestly look. I just wish you would sing again.”

“You know how hard it is for me without Father.”

Carmilla looked down at her feet. Mattie’s arm was still wrapped around her. Lilita exhaled.

“I know, Sweetheart. He was a good man and strong father. I know I pushed your buttons about singing and try to push you away from writing, but it’s only because he was never happy as a writer.”

“But he gave me a gift, Mother. A gift I enjoy. Theater was fine when I was a kid, but I just don’t like to do it anymore. I enjoy the simple life of working at a bookstore instead of being Little Orphan Annie.”

“But you were so incredible as Annie!”

Carmilla gave her mother a pointed look. Lilita let out an exaggerated sigh.

“I wish I understood why you felt that way when you have so much talent. Look I’ll make some calls. But is this girl really worth not getting paid that amount of money?”

Carmilla looked at Mattie. Mattie smiled.

“Mother, I think Carmilla might finally have found someone who won’t hurt her. Someone who isn’t destructive.”

“I find that hard to believe. Carmilla is a destructive person. How is your alcoholism?”

“I’m not an alcoholic, Mother. I’m fine. I had two drinks last night.”

“And the night before that?”

“We had dinner and Carmilla didn’t have a drop,” Mattie added.

“Is this also because of this Laura?”

Carmilla nodded. “I really don’t want to mess this one up, Mother. It’s why tonight is important to me.”

Lilita nodded. “Well. If I can’t find someone by 4-”

“I’ll do it, but please try.”

“Fine. If I find someone, I’m cutting this week’s allowance. You still need to learn.”

Carmilla nodded.

“I just need to call Marcus to pick me up.”

Lilita called her driver and said goodbye. Carmilla plopped back down on the couch. “She’s going to make me do it, isn’t she?” Carmilla asked.

“For your sake, I hope not. But you Little Monster. Tell me more about Laura.”

“There’s not much to say, Mattie. I just like her. She’s nice and makes me want to try to be better.”

“And are you officially dating?”

“Yeah.” Carmilla smiled. “I asked her last night.”

“Wait. You didn’t come home last night. Did you get drunk again?”

“We slept together, but not sexually. We just cuddled.”

“I’m sorry. Cuddled? Who are you?”

Carmilla rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Yeah. You should be happy I found someone I’m willing to try and have a normal relationship with instead of just trying to get into their pants.”

“I am, Little Sis. We should all get dinner soon so I can get to know her better.”

“Can I get to know her a little better, first? I’m not ready to introduce her to the family.”

“It’s just me, Carmilla. It’s not like I’d embarrass you,” Mattie teased.

“Oh please. That will be the first thing you do!”

“Well I am your older sister, so it comes with the territory. At least so far, she hasn’t annoyed me. Elsie annoyed me from the moment she entered this apartment.”

“That’s because we were about to have sex when you rudely interrupted.”

“Yes, well I must say, it was rather nice to come home to see you snuggled on the couch fully clothed than half naked with your hand down some girl’s pants.”

“I apologized for that.”

“Yeah, when you sobered up.”

“Literally the next morning.”

“After I slept with a pillow over my head to drown out the terrible noises from our shared wall.”

“Okay, okay. I get it. But I haven’t slept with Laura so you don’t need to worry.”

“What are you going to do about tonight?”

“Beg like I always do. Do you think she’ll really not pay me? I need that money.”

“Well you’ve always managed to sweet talk Mother when she threatens to take it away. You just play the poor, I’m so sorry, Carmilla card. I don’t know why she always falls for it.”

“Because she knows deep down how Father’s death affected me and how she didn’t handle it very well at all.”

“Yeah, well, be careful, Carmilla. It’s also how she gets you to do things you don’t want to do.”

“I know.”

“But hopefully tonight she’ll find someone and you won’t have to worry. Besides, I want you to spend more time with Laura.”

“Why?”

“I have good instincts, Carmilla. It’s my job to read people as fast as I can. She just seems like a good fit. And better than the other girls you’ve brought home over the last couple of months.”

“Yeah. She’s definitely a good one, Mattie. Just pray I don’t fuck it up like I always do.”

“Have a little faith, Carmilla. You’re a good person. You just have to find that person I know you are, within you again.”

Carmilla bit the inside of cheek, trying not to get emotional. “Thanks,” she whispered.

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

Laura cleaned her apartment and watched Netflix as she waited for 4 o’clock to roll around. She didn’t want to believe that she actually did miss Carmilla’s company because she thought that was a little ridiculous, but she couldn’t wait until her broody girlfriend was back at her side.

It was nearing four when Laura got up and started to get ready. She figured it would be better to do it before Carmilla got there. That way she didn’t have to worry about Carmilla seeing her body. She was trying to not let it bother her, but after seeing Carmilla with her shirt off, she assumed Carmilla would be less interested in her.

This is stupid. She’s seen you topless before. But she was drunk. Things are different when you’re drunk. She probably couldn’t see anything or at least, I hope she couldn’t. She didn’t. Otherwise, I don’t think she would still be here. I wish I was that skinny.

Her doorbell went off and she immediately smiled. Her previous thoughts escaped her mind as she saw that beautiful girl smiling at her from the glass door to her apartment. She did a giddy skip, almost gallop to the door. She swung the door open for Carmilla.

“Hey, Cupcake,” Carmilla said in a husky tone.

“Hi, Carm.”

Carmilla smiled as she crossed the threshold. Laura closed the door behind her.

“How are you?” Laura asked, shyly.

“I’m much better now that I’m with you.”

Carmilla followed Laura into her apartment and waited for Laura to lock her front door. Laura gestured towards her room. Carmilla led the way down the hall and sat on Laura’s bed.

“So why are you so much better?”

“Oh just Mother issues. Nothing to worry about. All the issues were taken care of and I’m just glad I’m here.”

Carmilla discarded her shoes next to Laura's bed. She sat down and leaned back against the pillows that were leaning against the headboard. “Wanna watch a movie before we have to leave?”

Laura smiled. “Or we could cuddle and take a nap.”

Carmilla looked over at Laura, grinning. She sat up, sitting next to Laura. She gently kissed her lips, which Laura welcomed. Laura broke the kiss and laid down, placing her head on her pillows. Carmilla watched her before she felt Laura tug on her shirt, pulling Carmilla close to her. Carmilla snickered before climbing on top of Laura.

“Is this okay?” She asked, not wanting to push Laura.

Laura nodded and reconnected her lips to Carmilla’s. Carmilla made sure not to touch Laura, keeping her hands flat against the mattress to hold her up. Laura ran her hands down Carmilla’s back, pulling her closer.

“Why won’t you lay down?” She asked against Carmilla’s lips. She ran her nose against Carmilla’s before giving her another kiss.

“I don’t want to push you.”

“You’re not.”

“But this morning I did.”

“Carm, I want to feel you against me. Please.”

Carmilla lowered herself, still using one hand to hold her up. Laura let her get situated comfortably before connecting their lips again. Carmilla took an audible inhale, trying not to moan as she felt Laura’s tongue slide against hers. Laura pulled away to kiss Carmilla’s neck.

“Mm, Cupcake,” Carmilla whispered, extending her neck up for Laura.

Laura stroked a long line with her tongue before moving back to Carmilla’s lips. Carmilla grasped Laura’s side to get closer. Laura pulled away and smiled. She gave Carmilla a few more pecks before pushing Carmilla up. She started to shift to a seating position herself.

“Don’t go,” Carmilla said, trying to kiss Laura again.

Laura felt Carmilla’s hand still on her side. She’s going to feel my fat.

“What movie do you want to watch, Carm?” Laura asked, opening her iPad.

“I don’t want to watch a movie, now. I want to kiss you.”

Laura smiled. “We can’t just make out the entire time before the party.” Just let go of my waist and we’d be better off completely.

“Why not? It’s better than a movie.”

Laura shifted. Carmilla released her side and Laura exhaled with relief. She opened her Netflix app as she felt Carmilla’s eyes on her.

“Why do you do that?” Carmilla asked.

“Do what?”

“Pull away when I go anywhere near your stomach.”

“I don’t do that.” Laura scrolled through the Netflix selections, hoping it would distract Carmilla.

Carmilla grabbed the iPad from Laura’s hands a few moments later. She knew she was being ignored. “Talk to me, Laura.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Why do you pull away?”

“I don’t.”

“Laura.”

“What?!” Laura asked, hastily. She was getting uncomfortable and knew this was not how she wanted there time together before the party to go.

“I just want to know what I’m doing wrong when I kiss you.”

“You’re not doing anything wrong, Carmilla. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to the restroom.” Laura could feel her throat tightening.

“Why won’t you just tell me?”

“Because there is nothing to tell,” Laura said, getting up from her bed.

“No. Wait. Don’t leave. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to push you. I’m just curious. I want to know if I’m doing something wrong.”

“You’re not. There’s nothing to worry about. I’m just going to the bathroom.”

Laura exited her room and went straight to the bathroom. She knew it wouldn’t be long until she started crying. She turned the knob on the sink, letting the water run, to create some noise only to realize a few seconds later, she was wasting water. She turned it off and tried to control herself. It’s not a big deal. Just stop. She doesn’t know and she doesn’t need to know.

She knew she was sniffling. She blew her nose with some toilet paper and splashed some cold water on her face. She took a deep breath and headed back towards her room. Carmilla was sitting on the edge her bed with a worried expression.

“Did she take advantage of you?” Carmilla asked.

“Who?”

“Did your ex who will not be named take advantage of you? Is that why you don’t like me touching you?”

“What? No, Carm. It’s nothing like that.”

“Then what, Cupcake.”

“It’s not important.”

“It is if you go into the bathroom to cry. I don’t ever want to be the reason you cry.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“It is though. I made you uncomfortable and I’m sorry. But I need to know what I did so I can stop doing it.”

Laura was starting to get warm. She had turned her AC off earlier and was now desperate for the cool air. She could feel her face flushing and her body starting to sweat.

“It’s hot in here,” she said, walking to her small window. She hit the small button a few times, before her AC finally kicked on.

“I’m okay,” Carmilla said.

“That’s because you’re tiny,” Laura commented.

“And what are you?” Carmilla questioned.

Laura shook her head. “I’m just hot.”

“Take that sweatshirt off, Cupcake.”

Laura shook her head no.

“Why?”

“Because it’s fine.”

“It’s the reason you’re warm.”

“No, it’s not, Carmilla,” Laura replied, aggressively.

“What other reason could there possibly be?” Carmilla laughed.

“Isn’t it obvious?”

Carmilla looked around Laura’s room and shrugged. “It’s a little warmer outside than expected?” She asked, clearly confused.

“It’s because I’m obese, Carmilla.”

Carmilla's face scrunched in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Carm, if I laid on top of you, I would squash you. You’re so skinny. I’m not. I’m hot because I’m fat.”

“Laura, seriously? What are you talking about?”

“Look at me!”

“I am looking at you, Sweetheart. I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re not fat, Laura.”

Laura could feel a tear roll down her cheek. “Yes, I am.”

Carmilla pulled on Laura’s arm so she would move closer to her. “No you’re not,” she said in a quieter tone.

Laura looked down and sucked in her gut.

“Is this why you always pull on your shirts?”

Laura sniffled before nodding.

“Oh, Cupcake,” Carmilla said, lifting Laura’s chin so they were looking at each other. “You’re so wrong. You’re perfect. I wouldn’t want you to look any different.”

Laura didn’t say anything as she wiped a few fallen tears from her cheeks. You say that now, but when you actually see me, your thoughts will change.

“You look exactly how I want you to look. You’re so beautiful, Laura.”

Laura gawked at Carmilla.

“What?” Laura asked.

“You’re beautiful.”

That made Laura give a weak smile.

“You’re acting like no one has ever said that to you before,” Carmilla added, studying Laura’s expression.

“No one has.”

Carmilla frowned. What? How is that even possible? “Well I'm telling you, you're beautiful. My opinion is the only one that matters.”

Laura pulled at the front of her shirt. Carmilla tried to stop her hand, but Laura shook her off.

“It's fine. I’m pulling on my shirt because it’s on my mind now,” Laura said, tugging and adjusting her sweatshirt. Laura stood there awkwardly for a minute as Carmilla gazed at her. Laura was staring at the floor, to embarrassed to look at Carmilla. Carmilla could hear her crying. Laura's body started to shake. Carmilla took her hand as she sat Laura down on the bed. Laura still wouldn't look at Carmilla.

“Laura, please look at me.”

Laura shook her head no.

“You held me last night when I broke down. It's my turn to comfort you.”

Laura shook her head no again.

“What can I do to make you smile?” Carmilla asked.

Laura didn't reply. She laid down on the far side of her bed and curled into a ball. Carmilla sat there for a moment. She could still hear the sounds of Laura crying. Her sniffles. Carmilla eyed the box of tissues on Laura’s nightstand. She grabbed the box before placing them in front of Laura.

“Thanks,” Laura said.

“She speaks. I was worried you had forgotten how,” Carmilla teased. Laura smiled, but didn't reply.

“Okay, Cupcake.”

Carmilla shifted and scooped Laura up into her arms. “Come here,” she whispered. Laura shifted and curled into Carmilla.

“When I was a kid, I was constantly told to watch my weight. It was ridiculous because I never could gain weight. I was just one of those scrawny kids. When I hit puberty, that changed quickly. People were constantly poking and pulling my skin to see if it was fat. It was not a fun time, Love,” Carmilla explained.

“I come from a larger family. My dad has a gut that sticks out over his pants and even though my mom has lost a lot of weight through the years, she still has hips. These are the two unfortunate traits I received from them.”

“Laura, you have a great body.”

“No, I don’t, Carm.”

“Why?”

Laura shook her head no and leaned further into Carmilla. Carmilla could feel Laura shaking again and just held her as tightly as she could. “Please don’t cry,” Carmilla whispered. She tried to reassure her by telling her that it was okay and that she thought Laura was gorgeous. After a few minutes, Laura’s breathing regulated and Carmilla pulled back just enough to see Laura’s eyes closed. She kissed Laura’s forehead lightly. She felt Laura scrunch her forehead against her chin. She smiled and adjusted herself to be more comfortable. “You’re so beautiful, Laura,” she whispered one last time before drifting off to sleep.

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

Laura awoke with a jolt. She realized she was still curled into Carmilla. Carmilla’s arms were around Laura protectively and she nuzzled further into Carmilla. Carmilla shifted, making a slight groan. She stretched her arms and legs out before exhaling and wrapping her arms back around Laura.

Laura looked up at her. Does she really think I’m beautiful? No one has ever said that to me before and I definitely don’t believe that. Why does she like me? She could literally have any girl in the whole world. She’s the one that’s beautiful. Not me. I’m nothing.

“What time is it, Cupcake?” Carmilla mumbled into her hairline.

At that moment, Laura realized the sun was beginning to set and it was getting dark outside.

“Shit, Carm. The party!”

She fumbled over Carmilla for her phone. Carmilla barely moved, only leaning back to make it easier for Laura to get her phone. Once she grasped it, Carmilla pushed them back into their original positions.

“Baby, we have to get up,” Laura whispered.

“Five more minutes,” Carmilla grumbled.

“It’s already 7:30. We’ve had enough minutes.”

Carmilla groaned again before glancing at Laura. She noticed Laura still wasn’t beaming with happiness and she wished she could prove to Laura how attractive she actually was. She sat up, sitting next to Laura. She pushed some of her honey-brown hair behind her ear and cupped her face. Laura kept her eyesight down. She was more embarrassed than anything.

“Hey,” Carmilla whispered.

“Hey,” Laura returned, still glancing down, trying to hold in her stomach. “I’m sorry about earlier.”

Carmilla smiled. “We all have insecurities, Laura.”

“How could you? You’re perfect.”

“Do you want my list? Will that make you feel better?”

Laura shook her head no.

“Laura, I think you’re forgetting, I’ve seen topless and I really, really liked what I saw.”

“You were drunk.”

“I wasn’t drunk enough to not have a memory of how sexy you are.”

“I’m not sexy,” Laura stated, flatly. It made her uncomfortable to be described that way.

Carmilla chuckled, lowly. “Oh, Cupcake, you are very sexy.”

Laura shook her head no. Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulder and pulled her close.

“We should get going, Carm.”

Carmilla nodded. She kissed Laura’s cheek before letting Laura go. Laura gathered her keys, wallet and phone before stepping out into the hallway. Carmilla followed behind her all the way outside. She didn’t like Laura being sad especially over her body. She had been there before and knew how horrible it felt to feel that way. She held Laura’s hand and felt Laura tense, but only for a moment.

I forgot she was with me, Laura thought. She was drowning in images of her body. The way she thought it looked. The cellulite on her thighs, the way her gut would stick out over her pants, how her thighs would squish down when she was sitting. She couldn’t get out of this headspace and had no desire to go to this party.

“What can I do to make you smile, Laura?”

“There’s nothing, Carm.”

“There has to be something. I really don’t like seeing you sad.”

For some reason Laura thought of Danny. Danny always told her how much she hated it when Laura was too happy, but when she was sad, Danny always tried to comfort her, but after a while, she would get frustrated and leave Laura to her own devices.

“Is it annoying you?” Laura asked.

“No, Sweetheart. It’s just making me sad.”

“So I’m making you feel bad?”

“No. Nothing like that. It just makes me sad to see you sad. I want you to be happy and giddy.”

“I can’t really control it, Carm.”

“I know, Cupcake. I get this way a lot too so I understand. I just wish I could do something.”

“You understand what this feels like?”

“Of course. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what happens, you just feel sad. It takes a lot to make you not sad and even though I don’t know what that is yet, I’m going to figure it out and then I’ll do it every time you’re feeling sad so I can make you feel better.”

Laura thought for a moment. She had never dated someone who understood what this felt like.

“Why?” She heard herself ask.

“What do you mean why?”

“Isn’t it frustrating to have to deal with this?”

“No. Not at all. If you don’t want to be cheered up, then I’m just going to wrap my arm around your shoulders and hold you.”

Carmilla let go of Laura’s hand to do as she said she would. She kissed Laura’s temple. Laura felt a timid smile creep onto her lips.

“Thanks, Carm.”

Carmilla smiled as they entered the subway.

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

“You guys are late and yet the first ones here,” Lafontaine yelled through the small speaker.

“Laf, let us in,” Laura pleaded. She was feeling better and managed to compose herself so she could enjoy the party better. She was also just ready for a drink.

“I don’t know. Why were you two late?” Lafontaine questioned through the intercom.

“Lafontaine! Let them in so they can help us get everything together,” Perry shouted from behind them.

Carmilla snickered. The door buzzed and they pushed their way inside. Before heading up the stairs, Carmilla paused.

“We’re already late, Carm. We probably shouldn’t make them wait longer.”

“What are we going in as?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are we going in as girlfriends or just co-workers?”

“Does it matter?” Laura asked.

“I don’t want to do anything wrong in case it does.”

Laura grabbed Carmilla’s hand and threaded their fingers together. “What do you want to go in as?”

“Girlfriends,” Carmilla whispered.

Laura smiled. “Then come on, Sweetcheeks. Let’s go make our announcement.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes at the nickname, but smiled. Once upstairs, they knocked only to be greeted by Lafontaine. Carmilla made a whipping sound to express just how whipped Lafontaine was.

“Oh please, I already know,” Lafontaine said.

“Sorry we’re late, Perry,” Laura said, pushing past Lafontaine, heading inside the familiar apartment. So far it really was just Perry and Lafontaine. “We fell asleep and I didn’t think to set an alarm.”

“We fell asleep?” Perry asked.

Laura smiled. “She asked me to be her girlfriend last night.”

“Congratulations, Laura. All I hope is that she treats you right.”

Laura looked at Carmilla who was talking with Lafontaine. “I think she will, Perry.”

“Good. Now since you’re late, but the first to arrive, you get to help me set up the snack table. Lucky for you, almost everyone couldn’t get here until 8 because they were at the store with Dante or had dinner plans.”

“Does that include SJ?”

“Are you annoyed with her?”

“No. I just don’t want her to bother, Carm. She seems to get under Carmilla’s skin quite easily and now that we’re dating, I just want to be cautious.”

Laura grabbed a bowl of chips and the bowl of salsa next to it, carrying it to the table. Perry had made a few items like homemade mozzarella sticks, chicken wings (hot and mild), and different types of vegetables and fruits. She noticed Perry being quiet and knew what was about to come. Perry stilled next to the table.

“In regards, to being cautious,” she started.

“You talked to Danny,” Laura finished.

“I did. She’s very concerned about you being with Carmilla.”

“She doesn’t have a right to be concerned about anything in regards to my personal life, Perry.”

“I know that, Sweetheart, but she said Carmilla punched her.”

Laura rolled her eyes and was about to speak when, “I wanted to. Trust me, I would have had nothing, but great joy at seeing her teeth rattle, but I didn’t,” Carmilla said, standing next to Laura.

Lafontaine joined the conversation. “Honestly, I wish you would have.”

The three of them turned their attention to Lafontaine. “What? What she did to Laura was a terrible, unforgivable thing. The only reason I still talk to her is because Perry is too nice to tell her to leave us alone.”

Perry exhaled. “It’s true. I’m terrible with confrontation.”

“Wait, I thought you guys were friends with her,” Laura interjected.

“Not at all, Laura. We’ve always been on your side especially after how bad she hurt you. I hate getting dinner with her,” Lafontaine explained.

“Why didn’t you tell me this before? You’ve put yourselves in the middle of this and didn’t need to.”

“Honestly, I wanted to make sure she stayed away from you,” Perry said. “I figured if we kept going to dinner with her and telling her you were doing well, she would back off.”

“How are you feeling, by the way? Wasn’t that the first time you saw her since you broke up?” Lafontaine asked.

“It was and I’m fine. I had Carmilla with me and honestly, I felt a lot safer than I ever have when being around Danny.”

Carmilla tensed at the name, but soon relaxed as she felt Laura move closer to her.

“Thank you, Carmilla,” Lafontaine said.

“There is nothing to thank me for. Laura is my girlfriend and I’m not going to let some giant idiot try and hurt her. Not to mention, Laura stood up for herself just fine without me. She didn’t need me there to protect her.”

Lafontaine smirked. “Well, well, well. It seems we have all kinds of news tonight.”

“What?” Carmilla questioned.

“You guys are girlfriends?” Lafontaine asked.

Laura rolled her eyes. “Get ready, Carm.”

“For what?”

“Who asked who? Where did it happen? Carmilla, what do you plan to do to keep Laura safe? Please know if you hurt her, I will kill you. She’s been through enough. Where do you see yourself in five years? Will you be able to take care of her? What did you major in college?”

Carmilla put her hands up. “Slow down there.”

“I told you,” Laura whispered. “They’re worse than anyone.”

“Laf, Sweetheart, let’s not play 20 questions right now with Carmilla. I’m sorry, Carmilla. Lafontaine gets really excited when someone is interested in Laura.”

“And Laf, I’ll give you the basics. Carm asked me out right before Danny ran into us. So the moment was short lived, but that’s all you need to worry about.”

Laura looked towards Carmilla, who smiled. “Wanna get a beer and sit on the couch?”

“And get away from this interrogation? Gladly.”

“This won’t be the last one,” Lafontaine announced.

“Come on, Sweetie. Let’s let the happy couple be happy while we finish getting the food out.”

“Thank you, Perry,” Laura said.

“But-”

“Now, Lafontaine,” Perry said, with a cheery tone.

Laura and Carmilla laughed at each other. They both grabbed a bottle of beer from the fridge, noticing it was a little empty.

“Perry, do you want me to go down the liquor store to get more beer?” Laura asked.

“No, it’s okay. I assume everyone will bring something. I’ll let you two slide this time because I’m sure you had better things to do before you arrived.”

Carmilla and Laura sat on the couch and clinked their beers together. They both took a swig and Carmilla exhaled in delight.

“How big do you think this party is going to be?” Carmilla asked, wrapping her arm around Laura’s shoulder and propping her feet up on the coffee table. Laura smacked her legs.

“Don’t put your feet up unless you want an hour lecture on why you don’t put your shoes on the furniture from Perry. I’ve had it and have had to listen to it. It’s not fun and I don’t want you to be tortured, Baby.”

Carmilla immediately put her feet down and looked up to see Perry looking at her.

“Did you just have your feet up, Carmilla?” Perry questioned.

Carmilla swore she could hear Lafontaine physically gulp before shaking their head no while standing behind Perry.

“Uh, no. I was just fixing my shoelace.”

“Oh. Okay. Just please don’t put your feet on the coffee table.”

“Of course not,” Carmilla agreed.

Perry went back about her business and Lafontaine sighed before giving Perry a loving kiss.

“It’s a good thing she can’t tell you were lying,” Laura whispered in Carmilla’s ear.

“Yeah, well. Anyway. The party?”

Laura smiled and kissed Carmilla’s cheek.

“It’ll probably be a little bigger than normal. They’re always fun with the new people, but we tend to hire more than we need, so we can weed the bad ones out. Sometimes they can get out of control, but they’re mostly college kids so it’s to be expected.”

“Is SJ coming?”

“Most likely. And I’m going to embarrass the crap out of her.”

“How?”

“Well if she annoys you in the slightest, let me know, and I’m going to start giving Kirsch all kinds of information.”

“She likes Kirsch?” Carmilla asked, turning her head to look at Laura. She rubbed her nose lightly against Laura’s cheek before placing a light kiss on it, returning Laura’s kiss from a few minutes earlier.

Laura hummed. “Yeah she does.”

“Oh then two can play at this game.” Carmilla got a wicked gleam in her eye.

“Play nice, Carm.”

“Oh I will. It just might be time for a little taste of her own medicine.”

Laura rolled her eyes and patted Carmilla’s knees.

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

As the night progressed, Carmilla and Laura didn’t seem to care too much about who was in the apartment, other than each other. They managed to mingle away from each other at times and have separate conversations with different people. They met the new rush hires and Carmilla was relieved she didn’t find anyone too annoying. Laura was talking to a girl named Melissa, when she saw Carmilla’s hand gesture. She was holding her fingers to mouth. At first, Laura thought she was making a crude sexual gesture and her eyes went wide. Carmilla laughed and shook her head. She did it again and Laura read her lips as she mouthed, “cigarettes”. Laura heard herself laugh. Melissa eyed her curiously.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing at my girlfriend.” Laura pointed towards Carmilla. Carmilla gave an awkward wave as Melissa looked at her.

“Damn, Laura.”

“What?”

“She’s hot.”

Laura smiled. “I know.”

Carmilla made her way over to the two of them and kissed the side of Laura’s head.

“Hello,” she said, shyly.

“Hey. Carm, this is Melissa, a new rush hire. Melissa, this is Carmilla, the other receiver.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Carmilla said, holding out her hand.

“Likewise,” Melissa agreed.

“Melissa is actually an English major.”

“Oh? I majored in creative writing, but minored in English.”

“That’s cool.”

“What year are you?” Carmilla asked, sliding her hand in Laura’s back pocket. Laura tried to hide the feeling of excitement she felt.

“I’m a freshman.”

“So first big year at college? Are you from New York originally?” Carmilla asked.

“No, I’m actually from Maryland.”

“What part?” Laura asked.

“Bethesda?”

“My mom grew up there! I’m from McLean, Virginia.”

“That’s like right outside DC, right?”

“Close to it. About twenty minutes out.”

“I think I’ve been there before.”

“Cool.”

“Cigarette,” Carmilla whispered in Laura’s ear.

“Wait,” Laura said, trying not to be rude.

Carmilla pouted before remembering where her hand was. She squeezed Laura’s backside and laughed when she heard Laura’s small squeak. Lafontaine was passing by into the kitchen.

“Laf, have you met Melissa?” Laura asked, quickly before swatting Carmilla’s arm.

“I have. I hired her. How are you?”

Lafontaine and Melissa started chatting. Laura excused both herself and Carmilla.

“Shouldn’t we get a key?” Carmilla asked, following Laura to the door.

Laura grabbed Perry’s keys off the hook by the door.

“Are you sure that’s okay?”

“Perry said if I ever needed to go out for a smoke, to grab her keys because she finds the doorbell annoying. Do you have cigarettes?”

Carmilla pulled out a thin metal box from her back pocket. “I brought my case.” Carmilla flipped it open to reveal about eight cigarettes. She followed Laura down the stairs and both sighed as they stepped out into the fresh air. Carmilla pulled two out of the case and lit them both in her mouth before handing Laura the second one. They stood close to one another. The late summer night air was cooler than it had been earlier in the week.

“Are you feeling better, Cupcake?” Carmilla asked, breaking the silence.

“Much better. I’m sorry for earlier.”

“Don’t apologize. It happens to the best of us. Like I said, we all have insecurities.”

“If I’m being honest, I just don’t understand what you could possibly be insecure about.”

“My nose and my hips,” Carmilla stated quickly.

“Why?”

“My nose is kind of pointy and a little big. I wouldn’t get a nose job or anything like that, but when I was a kid, a couple of assholes made fun of me and I guess it stuck in my head. My hips are the widest part of my body. Pants I wore last year, I can no longer fit into, even though I’m not gaining weight anywhere else. So it bothers me.”

“Carm, you have like the perfect body. Like women would kill to have your body.”

“Ah, but you see, Cupcake, that’s the point. Even if you had my body, I guarantee there would be something you would feel insecure about. Just because you look at a girl and think, ‘she has a great body’, doesn’t mean there aren’t things she wishes she could change. Sure there are some girls who love their bodies, but even if they do, they most likely are insecure about something. So you might want to have my body, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it would make you happier.”

Laura looked at Carmilla for a moment. She took a drag of her cigarette as she watched Carmilla do the same. I’ve never thought about it like that before. That’s a really good point. She turned to face Carmilla more and cupped her cheek with her empty hand. She leaned in and placed a light kiss against Carmilla’s lips. Carmilla flicked her cigarette and cupped both of Laura’s cheeks. She pulled her in tighter. Laura soon flicked her cigarette to wrap her arms around Carmilla’s waist. Their breathing was picking up as they clung to one another. Their bodies were glued to each other as they continued to kiss deeply.

Laura moaned slightly at the touch of Carmilla’s tongue. She opened her mouth for Carmilla. They both moaned as they slid their tongues together. Carmilla placed a light kiss on Laura’s lips. Laura wasn’t quite finished and kissed Carmilla again, hard. Just then they heard some guys hoot and holler at what they were doing. They both smiled and laughed. Luckily the group of guys continued to walk down the street and they kissed again, once the group of guys were out of sight.

“You wanna get out of here?” Carmilla whispered. Her face was only a centimeter away from Laura’s.

Laura nodded her head frantically. “I just have to return Perry’s key.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t do an Irish exit tonight.”

Laura shook her head no and kissed Carmilla again. “Come on, Carm. Let’s say our goodbyes and go home.”

“Which home?” Carmilla asked.

“I don’t care. Just take me somewhere.”

Carmilla kissed Laura again. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

The girls walked back up to Perry’s and Lafontiane’s party as quickly as they could. Laura struggled to open the door as Carmilla kissed the side of her neck from behind. Laura laughed, but moved so she could concentrate.

“I want to get out of here just as much as you do, Carm, but if you keep distracting me, it’ll become impossible for us to leave.”

“Good point, Cupcake.”

Carmilla took a step back and Laura managed to unlock the door. Once inside, Laura put Perry’s keys back in it’s original place on the hook. She scanned the crowded space for one of the two people she was looking for. She was grateful that she spotted Perry’s curly hair. This way neither of them would have to deal with Lafontaine’s questions. Otherwise, they would be there for hours.

“Wait here. I’m going to say goodbye to Perry and then we can bolt,” Laura said to Carmilla.

“I’m going to run to the restroom while you do that,” Carmilla said.

“Okay, but try to dodge Laf. They’ll be the reason we get stuck.”

“Way ahead of you. I’ll meet you here.”

Laura shuffled through the crowd. She said “hi” to a few different people who called her out. Some people were from other stores and others were old acquaintances and mutual friends. Tonight is not the night I want to exchange pleasantries, she thought. She managed to reach Perry and tap her shoulder. Perry fixed a few of the items on the table.

“Hey, Laura!” Perry said, turning around with a broad smile.

“Hey. So, Carmilla and I are heading out. She’s not feeling so great, so I want to make sure she gets home safely.”

“Oh that’s a shame. Tell her I hope she’s feels better.”

“I will. Thanks for this awesome party! Wish we could have stayed longer,” Laura lied.

“Oh no worries. Maybe the four of us can get dinner sometime next week?”

“I think I’d like that, as long as you promise to control Laf.”

“I can try my absolute hardest, but you know it’s hard to contain them when they are excited.”

Laura smiled. “I’ll see you later, Perry. And tell Laf goodbye for me?”

“Of course.”

Laura walked back through the crowd of different people and met Carmilla at the door.

“Ready?” She asked, already knowing the answer.

“I was ready downstairs, Cupcake.”

Laura laughed. “Come on, Sweetcheeks.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes, but smiled as they exited the loud apartment, back into the hallway.

“I know you two aren’t leaving already?” SJ asked, coming up the stairs with Kirsch.

“Yep. I’m pretty exhausted,” Laura said.

“And I only stay if Laura stays,” Carmilla added.

“Aw, of course you do!”

Carmilla gritted her teeth. Laura smiled, trying to break the small tension SJ had managed to create in a small amount of time.

“But if you leave, who will I get drunk with?” SJ asked, frowning.

“How about the beefy guy behind you?” Carmilla suggested.

Kirsch was looking at a cheap piece of art that was framed on the wall. He was deep in thought and Carmilla couldn’t help, but laugh. Laura smacked the side of her leg lightly. Carmilla tried to compose herself.

SJ smiled brightly. “I guess he will work, but I want to get to know you better and hang out with Laura!”

“Sorry, SJ. It's just been a long day. We’ll see you Monday though and catch up about what is happening here,” Laura said, gesturing between SJ and Kirsch. Kirsch snapped out of it at Laura’s words and walked over to SJ.

“Bro, we're just hanging out,” Kirsch said, nonchalantly.

“For right now at least,” SJ corrected.

Carmilla noticed the small puppy eyes Kirsch had for SJ as they stared at one another briefly.

“Right. See you guys Monday and have a goodnight,” Laura stated. Carmilla noticed a small grimace on her face, staring at the new possible lovebirds. Hopefully this will take the light away from us and SJ will become wrapped up in Kirsch, Laura thought.

Laura gave SJ a quick hug. She looked at Carmilla and eyed the stairs before heading towards them. Carmilla followed right behind her. They stepped outside, and Carmilla tugged Laura close to her. She kissed her hard.

“Your place or mine?” Carmilla asked, wrapping her arms around Laura.

Laura hummed. “Mine’s closer.”

“Then let’s get a cab and get the hell out of here!”

“Let’s take the train. It’s cheaper and more reliable.”

Carmilla pulled out her phone to check the time. She huffed. “It's after ten, Cupcake. The train is never reliable after ten.”

“Have a little faith, Carm. I promise it won't be that bad,” Laura said, giving Carmilla another kiss. Their kisses were becoming longer and more heated. Laura pulled away with a smile. She started walking towards the direction of the trains. Carmilla groaned.

“You’re seriously gonna make me wait longer?”

Laura stopped, only to be facing Carmilla. She hadn't realized Carmilla followed her.

“I think you can compose yourself long enough for a ten minute walk, a possible five minute wait and then a ten minute train ride.”

“Fair enough, Cupcake. But once we get inside, you’re mine,” Carmilla whispered against her lips before kissing them.

Laura felt a shiver down her spine.

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

When they got down the subway stairs, there was a 15 minute wait for the next train. Carmilla huffed.

“It’s still cheaper and helps build up suspense,” Laura said.

“Yeah, yeah, Cupcake. You’re lucky you’re cute and right about saving money.”

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

Laura's apartment door swung open with a loud bang as Carmilla pushed her against the wall, holding her there. Their lips were locked together in a passionate kiss. Laura playfully tried to fight, but Carmilla’s empowerment over her was turning her on more and more. Carmilla barely had a grip on her as they jokingly fought for dominance. Laura managed to assert her power by turning them around. Carmilla's body was now against the wall and her eyes widened in surprise. Laura took Carmilla’s moment of astonishment as a chance to get them settled into the apartment.

“Let me close the door before we give one of my neighbors a show.”

Carmilla groaned. She stepped out of Laura's light hold. She pulled Laura's keys out of the front lock, shutting the door. She turned the bolt, as she heard the lock click.

“All secured,” Carmilla said, before moving her lips to Laura's neck.

“Carm. Roommate.”

“What?” Carmilla asked, looking down the long, dark hallway. She squinted. “What? She’s not here.”

“We don't know if she is here or not so I would like to continue this in my room, please. You know, where it’s private,” Laura suggested.

Carmilla exhaled. “Right. You're right. Lead the way, Cupcake.”

Laura grabbed Carmilla's hand and led her down the hallway. She opened her door, and pulled Carmilla in, not letting go of her hand. Once the door was shut, Carmilla tried to pounce, but Laura moved. She tugged Carmilla towards the bed and sat her down on the edge. Before Laura did anything, she slipped out of her shoes, before helping Carmilla take hers off as well. She threw them towards her closet.

Once Laura was content, she stood in between Carmilla's legs, brushing some of her dark curls behind her ear. Carmilla felt nervous at Laura’s tender touch. It had been a long time since she had, had sex with someone that mattered to her. She put her head down for a moment, remembering she was with Laura and she was safe.

After a moment, Carmilla looked up at her with shy, but wandering eyes. She was trying to regain her composure. Laura looked away and took a deep breath.

“So you're not drunk, right?” Laura asked.

Carmilla let out a small, low laugh. “No, Cupcake. I had two beers and trust me, it takes a lot more than that to get me drunk. Are you?”

Laura shook her head no. “I had the same amount,” She replied, quietly.

Carmilla nodded. The air felt awkward as the silence lingered.

“We don't have to do anything,” Carmilla suggested. “We can watch a movie or just cuddle. I’m perfectly fine with doing anything as long as I’m with you.”

“I know.”

Laura turned her back to Carmilla and walked towards the door. She was nervous about Carmilla seeing her. After all the nice things Carmilla had said, it didn’t help her shake her thoughts about the way she looked.

“You leaving me already, Cupcake?”

Laura laughed. She didn't reply as she shut the overhead light off.

“Uh, Laura? I can't see anything.”

“That's kinda the point,” Laura said.

Carmilla felt around for Laura's lamp on her night stand. She pulled the metal chain, turning it on. She blinked a view times as the brightness overwhelmed her.

“Laura,” Carmilla started. Laura shook her head, stepping closer to Carmilla. She knelt down between Carmilla's legs, resting on her knees and pulled Carmilla in for a kiss. Carmilla responded immediately, pulling Laura towards her. She cupped Laura's cheek, as their breathing began to pick up. While she distracted Carmilla, Laura leaned over and turned the lamp off. Carmilla pulled away.

“Come on, Cupcake. Let me see you.”

“You're eyes will adjust to the darkness.”

“Baby, please.”

Laura shook her head no. “I can't.”

“Why?”

“What if you ran away?”

“Run away from what?”

Laura gestured towards her body, moving her arms up and down. Carmilla could feel the movement Laura was making, but the lack of light wasn’t helping her decipher what it was.

“I know you moved, but I seriously can't see anything,” Carmilla said.

“What are you, blind?”

“A little in the dark. I usually wear my glasses at night because they help me see better in the dark.”

“You wear glasses?” Why does that turn me on?

“Stop changing the subject, Cupcake. Why won't you leave the light on?”

“Why does it need to be on?”

“So I can see, for one thing,” Carmilla suggested. “And to know what movement you just made. Were you pointing somewhere?”

Laura exhaled. “My body.”

“Laura,” she said, while exhaling. “Like I stated earlier, I've seen most of your body and I really liked it.”

“It was dark then too.”

“No it wasn’t, Love. The table lamp was on. I turned it off after you fell asleep, which wasn’t easy because I didn’t want to disturb your slumber, but I managed.”

Carmilla assumed Laura was eyeing her curiously.

“What? I didn't want to waste the electricity and all that,” she explained.

“Oh. Well thanks for that, but still. The light makes me more comfortable.”

“Am I rushing you?” Carmilla asked. She had done that before and hated herself afterwards.

“No, Baby. Not at all. I just prefer it to be dark.”

“And I prefer to look at your beautiful body.”

“Not tonight.” Laura leaned up and gave a quick peck to Carmilla's lips. “Please?”

Carmilla sighed again. She understood Laura’s insecurities, but she couldn’t understand why Laura didn’t trust her opinion. “Then why are we doing this?”

“Because I haven't stopped thinking about it since you kissed me this morning.”

Carmilla smirked. “Oh really?”

“Mhmm,” Laura muttered, biting her lower lip. She placed her hands on Carmilla's thighs to push herself up. Once she was standing, she pushed Carmilla down against the mattress. Carmilla laughed lowly. There was a little moonlight seeping through the window and Carmilla was happy to finally see Laura’s outline. Laura lifted herself some as she crawled on top of Carmilla.

“You think you’re going to top me, Cupcake?”

Laura pushed her leg in between Carmilla’s thighs and brushed her leg against Carmilla. Carmilla’s hips popped off the bed as a slight moan escaped her lips.

“Yeah, I think I am,” Laura whispered before connecting her lips to Carmilla’s. Carmilla grabbed Laura’s backside, pulling their bodies closer. She tried not to rut against Laura’s leg, but the temptation was becoming powerful. I’m not a bottom, Carmilla thought. I’ve got to get her to move.

Carmilla tried to push Laura off lightly, by rolling her, but Laura had other plans. She placed one last kiss on Carmilla’s lips before kissing her cheek. She shifted to kiss Carmilla’s neck, listening to Carmilla’s heavy breathing. She pulled a little of Carmilla's skin between her teeth as felt Carmilla’s hips against her thigh. Carmilla moaned quietly. Laura took that as a sign as she continued to kiss Carmilla’s neck, ears and collar bone.

Carmilla moved her hands to rub down Laura's back before grabbing the the end of Laura’s shirt. She grasped and lightly tugged upwards while trying to get Laura to focus on where her hands were. She pulled it up a little further to touch Laura's warm back. She scratched down the length of Laura’s bare back and heard Laura’s moan before reaching for the end of her t-shirt again.

“Is this okay?” She whispered. Laura placed a light peck against Carmilla's collarbone before looking up into Carmilla's eyes.

“I can barely see you so I need to hear your approval,” Carmilla added, not moving an inch.

Laura sat up, moving her legs to straddle Carmilla's lap. This caused Carmilla to let go of her shirt. She laid her hands against Carmilla's flat stomach as she continued to lay. Her jealousy spiked up as she saw her stomach resting over her jeans, poking out from her t-shirt. Carmilla noticed and decided to distract Laura. She sat up and cupped Laura's cheeks. She looked into her eyes and gave her a brief kiss. Laura smiled shyly.

“Yeah. It's okay,” she whispered.

Carmilla paused for a moment, making sure Laura was with her, in the moment and not lost in her thoughts. She placed her hands back on the bottom of Laura's t-shirt.

“You're beautiful, Laura,” she said. “It's just you and me so if you're not comfortable, I won't do anything.”

“It's okay, Carm,” Laura confirmed.

Laura lifted her arms over her head. Carmilla lightly tugged Laura's shirt up and off, throwing it to the floor. Laura immediately crossed her arms over her stomach and tried to suck in, hoping Carmilla wouldn’t see her tummy hanging out over her jeans. Carmilla watched her do this and shook her head a little bit. She lightly ran her fingers over Laura’s arms before pulling them apart, gently. She didn’t want Laura to cover herself. Laura didn’t fight the motion. She expected Carmilla to try and stop her from hiding.

“You're beautiful,” she whispered. She leaned in, kissing Laura's exposed chest before making her way back to Laura's lips. “Absolutely gorgeous,” she whispered. She kissed Laura with all the promises she could express in a single kiss. She could tell Laura was still timid.

“Maybe we should even the field,” Carmilla suggested. She let go of Laura’s arms, to raise her own above her.

Laura pulled Carmilla's shirt up. She noticed Carmilla's small tummy. I wished my stomach looked like that when I was sitting, Laura thought. Carmilla leaned back, holding herself up by placing her hands on the mattress behind her. She studied as much of Laura she could see.

“Don't start doing that, Cupcake.”

“Doing what?”

“Comparing our bodies.”

“It’s kind of a reflex, you know? I just can’t help it.”

“I understand, but there is no reason to think about it.”

Laura hung her head low again. “I'm sorry.”

“Don't be sorry, Baby.” Carmilla sat back up, taking Laura's hands in hers. “Just remember I like you and I like the way you look. What's under your clothes isn't going to change that. I still think you're beautiful and sexy no matter what. We’ve been this far before and I enjoyed what I saw the last time. Drunk or not. Now I can barely see anything, but I still know you’re beautiful. But let me reiterate, we don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to rush into this. We can take our time and stop now if you prefer. Get into some comfy clothes and do something else.”

“I want to keep going. I do, but I guess I'm just a little scared.”

“Scared of what? It’s you and me, Laura. Only us.”

“I know. It's just,” Laura paused, shrugging her shoulders.

“It's just what?”

“It's just been a while, Carm.”

“And that's what you're worried about?”

“I haven’t been naked in front of someone in quite some time. It’s a little nerve wracking.”

“Understandable.”

“It’s also been awhile since I’ve been with someone. I’m a little rusty and I want it to be enjoyable for you.”

“And it will be, Laura because I'm here with you. I don't want to be anywhere else in this world right now, but here with you. Do you trust me?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then trust me to know it doesn't matter what we do. I'm going to like it and I'm going to enjoy it because you’ll be the one doing it. I just want to be with you. Okay?”

Laura nodded. “Okay.”

They continued sitting for a moment. Carmilla let go of Laura's hands to wrap them around her hips. She rubbed her thumbs lightly against Laura’s back.

“I killed the mood, didn't I?” Laura asked.

“Never, Cupcake.”

Laura nodded as they continued to sit there. I totally killed it. She's probably turned off because of my body and my self loathing. Why do I ruin everything? Why can’t I just be skinny and attractive? She should be with someone who doesn’t have fat hanging out all over the place and hips as wide as the ocean. I’m so gross. Why would she ever want to have sex with me?

“You okay?” Carmilla asked.

Laura nodded. She needed a distraction. Otherwise her thoughts were only going to get worse.

“Kiss me, Carm.”

Carmilla bit her lip and hummed. “With pleasure, Cupcake.”

Carmilla leaned in placing the lightest kiss against Laura's mouth. Laura smiled. Carmilla noticed Laura trying to cross her arms again. She wrapped her arms around Laura's waist and pull her close until both of their skin touched. She then pulled Laura down on top of her, never pulling away from their kiss, causing Laura to laugh.

“Better?” Carmilla asked.

Laura didn't reply. She continued to kiss Carmilla passionately instead. Carmilla shifted, rolling Laura onto her back. She laid on top of Laura, and started to kiss her chest. She reached for Laura’s bra and paused. She kissed down the valley between her breasts, skipping over the light fabric of her bra to continue to her stomach. She planted as many kisses around Laura’s stomach as she could, hoping Laura would realize how much she actually did enjoy her body. Laura pulled on Carmilla’s shoulders, pulling her back up, connecting their lips again. She reached around Carmilla’s back, unsnapping her bra. She pushed Carmilla down on her back, pulling her bra off. She took a moment to stare. She even has perfect breasts, Laura thought. She shook her head slightly, clearing her negative thoughts before placing her mouth around one of Carmilla’s perfect nipples.

Carmilla gasped, pulling on the back of Laura’s hair. The pain Laura felt quickly turned into pleasure as she moaned. She pulled Carmilla’s nipple with her teeth before kissing it again.

“Laura,” Carmilla moaned, giving her hair another yank.

Laura let go to look up at Carmilla. Carmilla’s head was thrown back, her back arched and her legs withering, searching for any form of pleasure. Laura took pride in this. She crawled on top of Carmilla to focus in on her other breasts. She gave one a light squeeze before giving the same attention to the other breast. Carmilla scraped her dull nails down Laura’s back. Her fingers getting blocked by Laura’s bra. She took the ends of the snaps in her hands.

“Laura,” she moaned, trying to get Laura’s attention.

Laura moaned in response. Her tongue running lightly against Carmilla’s nipple before taking it fully in her mouth.

“Laur-?” Carmilla tried again with a more authoritative voice.

“Hmm?”

“Can I take your bra off?”

Laura nodded. She pulled away and sat up. Carmilla quickly followed her into a seated position. She loved the way Laura felt on her lap to the point that she couldn’t get enough of it. She quickly unsnapped Laura’s bra, pulling it down. It was Laura’s turn to feel Carmilla’s lips against her breasts. Laura hummed as her back arched giving Carmilla more room. She slowly started to move her hips against Carmilla’s, eliciting a slight moan from the girl working on her chest.

Carmilla paid a lot of attention to Laura’s breasts. She couldn’t get enough of listening to Laura’s moans and gasps. They were different than the first time. Before Laura seemed to enjoy things timidly. This time Laura seemed to find pleasure at all of Carmilla’s touches. Carmilla took the opportunity to scratch down Laura’s back again. Laura moaned loudly. Carmilla made a mental note that Laura seemed to enjoy this motion.

Laura started rutting her hips harder against Carmilla. This time is different. Carmilla isn’t rushing like she was the last time nor as sloppy from alcohol. Almost all our clothes were off within five minutes. Or at least I think they were. Stop. Focus on her.

Carmilla sat up, picking Laura up with her. Laura let out a quick squeal as she wrapped her arms and legs around Carmilla tighter.

“Light as a feather, Cupcake.”

Laura could feel her cheeks blush and was even more grateful she had turned the lights off. Carmilla took a small turn, sitting Laura back on the bed. She looked down at Laura, who was laying down. She watched as Laura’s chest rose and fell quickly, with longing her eyes. Carmilla started to unbutton her own pants.

“What are you doing,” Laura asked?

“Getting out of my pants,” Carmilla stated. “Obviously.”

Laura sat up and smirked. “Shouldn’t I be doing that?”

Carmilla chuckled as she felt Laura’s hands undoing her pants. Laura stood up, facing Carmilla. She lowered her hand down the front of Carmilla’s pants and felt Carmilla through her underwear. She felt a small wet spot and decided she wanted to tease Carmilla.

Laura hummed her approval. “Someone seems excited,” she whispered, leaning in to kiss Carmilla’s mouth.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

Laura kissed her. “I guess I’m not good with sexy talk.”

Carmilla smiled. “Do you like what you feel, Laura?” Carmilla asked.

Laura nodded

“Well then why don’t you give me a hand and help me get out of these terrible jeans?”

Laura smirked. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Laura asked, lowering her hand. She rubbed Carmilla through her underwear. Carmilla moaned, resting her head on Laura’s shoulders, gripping at her arms. Laura continued to lightly rub as Carmilla started to suck, lick and kiss her neck.

“Fuck, Cupcake,” Carmilla moaned in a whisper, when Laura hit a sensitive spot. “Stop teasing and take me already!”

Laura tugged Carmilla’s pants down at a surprising rate. She squated down, keeping eye contact with Carmilla, as she continued to take her jeans off before they were pooling around her ankles. Carmilla stepped out them and kicked them behind her. She followed Laura’s suit and started to unbutton Laura’s jeans.

“Is this-”

“Carmilla, stop asking me if it’s okay. It’s okay. All of it is okay,” Laura protested.

“Good to know. I just wanted permission,” Carmilla said, pulling Laura’s pants down in one swift movement. “How’s that?”

Laura stepped out her pants, kicking them to her side before connecting her lips back to Carmilla’s. She pulled until they both collided back on the bed. Carmilla was on top of Laura, placing her legs in between Laura’s. She used her own thighs to separate Laura’s, opening them wide. She slowly rubbed her hips against Laura. Laura wrapped her now open legs around Carmilla’s waist, longing to feel any friction. Carmilla kissed Laura, biting her bottom lip. Laura moaned, scratching down Carmilla’s back. Carmilla moaned loudly for the first time that night, against Laura’s mouth.

“I guess I’m not the only one who likes that,” Laura teased.

Carmilla cupped Laura through her underwear, before slowly sliding her fingers up in down. Laura gasped at the sensation.

“I guess I’m not the only who likes that,” Carmilla mocked.

“Shut up,” Laura muttered before kissing Carmilla again.

Carmilla smiled against Laura’s lips before kissing back down her body. She sucked and licked Laura’s nipples while her fingers continued to work Laura through her underwear.

“Fuck, Carm.”

She pulled Carmilla’s hair. Carmilla rubbed a little harder at the feeling of Laura’s hands grasping her hair.

“Fuck,” she whispered, leaving Laura’s breasts alone and kissing down her body. She hooked her fingers in Laura’s underwear and started to tug them down. She could tell Laura was a little hesitant, so she paused.

“It’s okay, Carm. Like I said, I just haven’t been naked in front of someone in a very long time.”

“Do you want to wait?”

“What do you think?” Laura smirked.

Carmilla reciprocated her smile. Laura pushed her hips up. Carmilla slowly pulled Laura’s underwear down. She sat up to pull them down her legs and off, discarding them to her side, where their pile of clothes laid on the floor. She stared down briefly, looking at the body she had been longing for.

“Carm, please stop staring.”

“Sorry, Cupcake. I’m transfixed.”

Laura rolled her eyes, but deep down she was smiling at how that made her feel better. Carmilla settled back in between Laura’s leg. She smirked as she saw Laura’s arousal. She made a broad lick through Laura’s wet folds. Within seconds, Laura had her hands in Carmilla’s hair, pulling and moaning. She rutted her hips Carmilla’s mouth before she felt Carmilla holding her down. She spreaded her legs wider for Carmilla. Carmilla moaned as she licked Laura’s clit.

“Fuck, Baby.”

“You like that, Cupcake?”

Laura didn’t respond, getting lost in Carmilla’s movements. Carmilla worked Laura over. Laura pulled her up, kissing her passionately, moaning at her own taste. Carmilla continued to work her hands as she put two fingers inside Laura. Laura moaned against Carmilla’s mouth, not able to manage kissing anymore as Carmilla pumped in and out of her. Carmilla moved to kiss Laura’s neck.

“Harder, Carm.”

Carmilla sped up her movements, Laura meeting her every thrust. Laura started to moan louder, biting her lip. Carmilla continued to pepper Laura’s neck and chest area. She enjoyed every sound that Laura made and didn’t want it to ever stop. She could feel Laura getting closer. Carmilla looked up at her to watch as Laura tumbled over the edge, shaking and moaning.

“Fuck, Baby! Fuck!” Laura said, riding Carmilla’s fingers.

“God, you’re beautiful,” Carmilla said, continuing her ministrations inside Laura as slow as possible, helping her come down.

Laura kissed Carmilla for a few moments, letting her body relax. Carmilla slowly worked her hand up, placing her fingers inside her mouth, moaning at the taste of Laura. Once she was finished putting on a show that turned Laura on even more, she gave Carmilla another kiss before rolling them over. She looked down at Carmilla’s surprised, but smirking face.

“Your turn,” Laura whispered.

Carmilla chuckled. “Is that right?”

“Anything particular you want?”

“Just whatever you feel like doing, Baby. I like everything.”

Laura used her middle finger and slipped it through Carmilla’s folds once before pulling away and holding it up. Carmilla moaned. Laura took her finger and placed it on Carmilla’s lips. Carmilla sucked on Laura’s finger, tasting herself and moaning. She could feel herself becoming more wet, watching Laura assert her dominance. Laura pulled her finger away and lowered herself down Carmilla’s body. She skipped over her breasts to head straight to Carmilla’s center.

Carmilla’s hips jumped off the bed at the feel of Laura’s tongue. She didn’t realize how sensitive she was. Once Laura settled in, she reached up to squeeze Carmilla’s breast. Carmilla laced her fingers with Laura’s, both of them moaning. She used one hand to hold Laura’s head in place. She slowly rutted her hips again, but Laura didn’t seem to mind. She followed Carmilla’s movements with ease.

Laura on the other hand became worried. Carmilla made small sounds and moans, but nothing extravagant. She was worried she wasn’t doing well, but didn’t want to stop. She missed the way another girl felt against her. She missed what it was like being intimate with someone. Just then, Carmilla let out a louder moan and grabbed the back of Laura’s head.

“Laura! Oh fuck, Laura!” Carmilla screamed, as her orgasm came crashing down. Laura continued to lick lightly as Carmilla continued to moan and move her hips. Laura licked slowly a few more times before crawling up and connecting her lips with Carmilla. “Fuck,” Carmilla whispered again into Laura’s mouth.

“That’s was fast,” Laura joked.

“Well had I known how good you were with your mouth, I would have paced myself better.”

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

Laura loved the way Carmilla felt in her hands and against her mouth. Carmilla tumbled over the edge for the third time, panting and moaning. She was biting her finger, trying to suppress as much sound as she could. Laura’s head popped up from in between her legs. She crawled back up, placing a kiss on each breast before kissing Carmilla’s mouth. She felt Carmilla’s tongue, immediately searching to taste herself.

“You taste good, Carm,” Laura said.

Carmilla chuckled. “Do I?”

Laura nodded, laying down next to Carmilla.

“I don’t know about you, Cupcake, but I don’t think I can go again.”

Laura snuggled into Carmilla’s side. “I’m pretty tired myself.”

Carmilla kissed Laura’s forehead. She wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulder, pulling her closer. They laid there for a moment, resting and recovering. They enjoyed the quiet atmosphere as they both started to calm down. Carmilla eyes were starting to flutter closed as she felt Laura shift and then sit up. She got out of bed and opened her drawers. She pulled out a pair of underwear and slipped them on.

“What are you doing?” Carmilla asked.

“Getting dressed.”

“Why, Cupcake?”

“I, uh, just cause.”

“Baby,” Carmilla whined.

“What?”

“I don’t want you to get dressed.”

“I’m more comfortable that way.”

Carmilla shifted and started looking for her t-shirt and underwear while grumbling.

“What are you doing?” Laura asked.

“Well I’m not going to be the only one sleeping naked.”

“But I want you to sleep naked,” Laura protested.

“And I want you to sleep that way as well.”

“But you look good naked.”

“Laura,” Carmilla stated, shaking her head. “Why don’t you think you’re beautiful?”

“Because I’m not.”

Carmilla threw her clothes back on the pile and stood up. Her eyes had finally managed to adjust to the darkness. She took Laura’s hands in hers and pulled her away from her drawers. Laura was standing in her underwear. Carmilla circled her arms around Laura’s waist.

“Please listen to me. You are so beautiful. I like your body and the way you look. You can sleep however you want, but I’ve looked at your body enough to know that I like it. That I think you’re gorgeous.”

“Can I at least sleep in my underwear?”

Carmilla chuckled. “Sure. I’m going to wear mine though as well. That way we’re even.”

“Deal.”

Carmilla slipped back into her underwear and followed Laura under the covers. She held her arms open for Laura, who was grateful to snuggle up. Laura exhaled once they were comfortable.

“Cupcake?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you have any idea why don’t you like your body?”

Carmilla knew this was a sensitive question, but it had boggled her mind for a while. She felt Laura shrug.

“I honestly cannot remember a time when I didn’t worry about my body. I asked my mom about it once and she told me she couldn’t even remember a time where it didn’t bother me.”

“I wish I could help.”

“Staying with me does help, Carm. I like being here with you.”

“Even though you wanted to get dressed?”

“It’s a force of habit. I’ve just never felt comfortable being naked around anyone else. It’s nothing against you, of course. It’s just what I’m accustomed to.”

“Well, I think sleeping naked is the best.”

“Do you do that often?”

“More in summer, but usually yeah. It’s good for you, you know?”

“I’ve read that, but I don’t know.”

“Well maybe one day, we’ll give it a shot.”

“I think this could be the best pillow talk I’ve ever had,” Laura laughed.

“Well, to be honest, I’m not used to pillow talk so I don’t usually know how it goes.”

“I’m not really sure either. Dan,” Laura cleared her throat, “I mean an ex of mine, tended to fall asleep right away as I laid there for hours bored and questioning everything.”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“Well, it wasn’t. That’s another reason why we aren’t together.”

“Well, what are you questioning now?”

“I’m debating between sleep and ice cream.”

Carmilla laughed. “Seriously, Cupcake? It’s like one in the morning.”

“So? Is my grumpy kitty sleepy?” Laura asked.

Carmilla shifted to her side. “What did you just call me?”

“My grumpy kitty.”

“I don’t know which one is worse. That one or ‘Sweetcheeks’.”

“You know you secretly love it when I call you Sweetcheeks.”

I do, Carmilla thought. She smiled. She got out of bed and threw on one Laura’s sweatshirts.

“What are you doing?” Laura questioned.

“Come on, Baby. Let’s get you some ice cream and watch a movie.”

Laura jumped out of the bed and into Carmilla’s arms. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“How hyper is this ice cream going to make you?”

“Not too bad, but if I need to burn some energy, I’m pretty sure you and I can figure out a particular activity to help.” Laura winked naughtily.

“You’re killing me, Hollis.”

“Yeah, but in the best way possible.”

Carmilla swooped her up and hugged her before kissing Laura’s lips. “You want ice cream or do you wanna,” Carmilla paused, “You know…?”

Laura smiled. “I want ice cream.”

Carmilla pouted.

“But who knows, maybe after that I’ll be able to get a second wind,” Laura informed, biting her lip.

Carmilla smirked. “I think we should go and get that ice cream before I lay you back down on this bed.”

Laura hummed and kissed Carmilla, cupping the back of her neck. She stepped back and put her jeans on. “Let’s go get ice cream!”

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

Carmilla and Laura sat on Laura’s bed, watching “The Fifth Element” from Laura’s computer. They had gotten dressed in Laura’s pajamas to enjoy their late movie night. They laughed and giggled with each other while munching away on snacks. They barely paid attention to the movie since they had both seen it multiple times. Carmilla grabbed Laura’s ice cream, taking a large spoonful.

“Hey,” Laura said.

“What?” Carmilla mumbled.

“You said you wanted something salty which is by you bought that big bag of chips.”

“And now I just want something a little sweet. Just one bite, Cupcake. Here.”

Carmilla scooped another portion on the spoon and held it out for Laura. Laura eyed her curiously before leaning forward. Carmilla turned the spoon around and ate it instead. She laughed at Laura’s annoyed face, but was surprised when she felt Laura’s lips against hers. She tried to melt the ice cream as fast as she could until, “Ow! Shit. Shit!”

Laura pulled away and started giggling. Carmilla rubbed at her temples and paused. “Damn it. Brain freeze!”

“Serves you right,” Laura smirked, taking her ice cream back.

“Ha ha, Cupcake. Make it feel better,” Carmilla pouted.

“No way. It’s called karma, Carm. That’s what happens.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes dramatically as she waited for the feeling to pass.

“Okay, I learned my lesson.”

“Good.”

Laura gave Carmilla a chaste kiss before they managed to focus on the movie. Carmilla snaked her arm around Laura’s shoulders and held her close. As the night grew into early morning, the two girls had managed to fall asleep with their snacks emptied and digested, curled together on top of the comforter. Both girls resting on their sides as they laid wrapped in one another, still dressed in their clothes, sleeping peacefully.

Chapter Text

“Cupcake, why does the semester start tomorrow?” Carmilla asked, as her head laid in Laura’s lap.

It was Tuesday night as the girls relaxed in Carmilla’s apartment after another long day at the bookstore. They had managed to receive every book, empty every box and help to get all the publications in their correct locations on the shelves in preparation for tomorrow. After their hectic day, they agreed going to Carmilla’s apartment would be nicer since Carmilla had the bigger bed.

They had digested their Chinese food and were cuddled together, mindlessly talking about little things while light jazz played in the background. Carmilla’s eyes were closed at the feeling of Laura’s fingers in her hair.

“You know how the CUNY system works, Carm. Brooklyn College was apart of it. They start in the middle of the week for whatever reason. Like a tease for students at the start of the semester.”

“Don’t remind me. I found it so annoying when I was a student.”

Carmilla opened her eyes and turned towards Laura, burying her face. She felt Laura suck in and adjusted herself so she wasn’t as close to Laura’s stomach. Even though it had only been a couple days since their first time together, Carmilla decided to respect Laura’s body issues with more caution. She would, however, constantly tell Laura how beautiful she was, even when Laura complained about how annoying it was and told her to stop.

Carmilla took Laura’s hand that was soothing her head and kissed it gently. Laura looked down and smiled.

“And what was that for?”

“Just a reminder that I really like you.”

“You don’t have to remind me, Baby. I know.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Isn’t there a certain someone, perhaps a girl with black, curly hair, in this room that you like?”

Laura looked around and over her shoulder. She shrugged. Carmilla pouted which caused her to chuckle.

“You know I like you, Sweetcheeks.”

Carmilla scowled at the name, but after a moment, she smiled. “Come here,” she said, cupping the back of Laura’s neck.

“I’m not that flexible, Carm. You come up here.”

Carmilla gave Laura a suggestive look. “I don’t know, Baby. You seemed pretty flexible to me last night.”

“Oh yeah?” Laura questioned as she watched Carmilla sit up and straddle her lap.

“Uh huh.”

Carmilla wrapped her arms around Laura’s shoulders and she felt Laura’s arm snake around her waist. Carmilla leaned in before Laura took the initiative, pushing Carmilla back a little. Laura held her safely in arms, not letting her fall backwards. Carmilla would be lying if she said Laura asserting her dominance didn’t turn her on. She moaned against Laura’s mouth. She felt Laura move her arms to be parallel down her back holding her closely. Carmilla moved to cup Laura’s breasts through her shirt as their kiss deepened. Laura moaned against Carmilla’s mouth.

“Let’s go to the bedroom,” Laura suggested in a whisper. She was entranced by Carmilla and couldn’t pull herself away from the magical girl sitting on her lap. She didn’t care if she ran out of breath as long as she was kissing Carmilla.

“No time,” Carmilla mumbled, lifting Laura’s shirt up and over her head, discarding it behind the couch.

Carmilla started planting kisses against Laura’s collarbone and chest.

“Carm,” Laura moaned, putting her hands in Carmilla’s hair, pulling it lightly. She heard Carmilla moan against her chest. Carmilla moved her lips up to Laura’s neck. She felt Laura pull on her shirt before lifting her arms. They broke apart so Laura could get the shirt off. Once thrown to the floor, Carmilla went back to kissing Laura’s neck.

“Carm, seriously! Let’s go to your room.”

“No time,” Carmilla repeated, placing her hand on Laura’s pants, undoing her jeans button. She started to grind herself against Laura, moaning, as she scattered kisses on any available skin.

“What about Mattie?”

“She’s working, Cupcake.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Baby.”

Carmilla looked into Laura’s eyes and smirked before undoing her bra and tossing it to the side. She sucked Laura’s right nipple into her mouth. Laura tilted her head against the the couch, moaning and tugging Carmilla’s hair harder. Her back arched, letting Carmilla take in more of her. She felt Carmilla’s teeth and tongue and couldn’t help the movement her hips started to make. Carmilla pulled away suddenly and got up, out of Laura’s lap.

“Are we finally going to your room?” Laura questioned.

Carmilla smirked before moving Laura to lie down.

“I’m not going to say it again, Laura. There is no time.”

Laura laughed which gave Carmilla the go ahead to continue what she was doing.

Carmilla climbed on top of her and placed her leg in between Laura’s thighs. She went back to Laura’s breasts as Laura took advantage of having Carmilla against her body. She placed her hands on Carmilla’s bottom, bringing them closer together. Carmilla moved back up to kiss Laura’s mouth. Laura got lost in the feeling of Carmilla’s hands. They gave her breasts another squeeze before her left hand made its path down to the inside of her pants. Carmilla unzipped them and slipped her hand under Laura’s underwear to go straight to her center.

Laura moaned loudly against Carmilla’s mouth. Carmilla continued to work her fingers as she placed kisses up and down Laura’s neck and collarbone. As Carmilla hit a sensitive spot, she rolled her head back and closed her eyes. Carmilla moved back to kissing her chest.

“Ah, fuck, Carm,” Laura panted. She was gasping and spread her legs wider trying to encourage Carmilla to enter her. Carmilla inserted one finger, understanding Laura’s hint. She pushed in and out before adding a second finger. Her mouth roamed all over Laura’s body.

“Right there, Carm,” Laura moaned.

Carmilla kissed back up Laura’s body, connecting their lips again. Laura was beside herself. She grabbed the back of the couch with her left hand as she gripped the armrest with her right, moving with Carmilla’s thrusts. Carmilla kept her head next to Laura’s as she listened to Laura’s moans and breathless words. She placed light kisses on her neck and ear as she held herself up by placing her arm on the back of the couch. She looked down to watch her hand, hidden by Laura’s pants. She hated that she couldn’t see all of Laura, but wasn’t going to risk stopping to take the rest of her clothes off.

Carmilla gave all her attention to Laura, as she watched her tumble over the edge. Laura’s legs were shaking and few more gasps came out of her mouth. She slowly opened her eyes and pulled Carmilla towards her. Their mouths connected almost instantly as Laura came down from her orgasm. Carmilla started to pull her hand out, when Laura grabbed her wrist, holding her hand in place. Carmilla could still feel her twitching around her fingers as Laura’s eyes closed again. After a few moments, Laura finally let go of her wrist and Carmilla managed to pull her hand out. She rolled her wrist out in a circular motion to loosen the stiffness she had acquired from her hand not having full range inside Laura’s jeans.

Laura moaned at the loss and slowly caught her breath. She knew Carmilla was looking down at her as she reopened her eyes to kiss the woman who amazed her almost every second. They stared at each other before sharing a quick smile and a small laughter.

“Was that good, Baby?” Carmilla asked, placing a light kiss against Laura’s lips.

“What do you think?” Laura questioned, smiling against her lips.

“And here I thought this misfortune was over,” Mattie announced, slamming the apartment door. Carmilla immediately jumped off of Laura, trying to block Laura’s body the best she could from Mattie.

“Shit,” Laura said, cupping her breasts, trying to figure out where her shirt was. Carmilla found hers on the floor and handed it to Laura.

“Mattie, what are you doing home?” Carmilla asked, trying to distract her so Laura could slip the shirt on. Mattie turned around, to show respect to Laura.

“I live here, you know,” Mattie countered.

Carmilla looked to Laura, who was clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable in her tight t-shirt. Carmilla jumped over the back of the couch to hand Laura her own shirt and bra. “Why don’t you wait in my bedroom, Cupcake?”

Laura nodded, grateful to leave the space and bolted from the living room, closing Carmilla’s bedroom door behind her. Carmilla stood there in her bra staring at Mattie’s back.

“Mattie, I’m sorry.”

Mattie turned around and rolled her eyes. “Can you at least put a shirt on?”

Carmilla’s door cracked opened as her shirt came flying out. She looked to see Laura closing the door. She grabbed the shirt from the floor and slipped it on.

“You know, I wish you would remember that we live together.”

“I do,” Carmilla protested.

“Not enough to walk the three feet from the couch to your bedroom?”

“I didn’t expect you to be home so early. Usually when you’re working, you’re out all night.”

“Carmilla, did you ever consider that maybe you were just never here when I got home or that you were already in bed?”

Carmilla didn’t respond as she stared at her sister.

“I’m always home before eleven, even when I have a huge caseload,” Mattie continued. “You’re just either out or asleep. I usually leave before you get up which is why you assume I’m never home. But tell me, how would you feel if you came home to see your sister having sex continuously on the couch?”

“Oh come on, Mattie. You act like it’s a different girl every week!”

“It used to be,” Mattie muttered.

“So you’re going to throw that in my face?” Carmilla asked.

“I’m not throwing anything in your face, Darling. I’m just trying to get you to see that you don’t live alone and that I’m tired of coming home to this. You have a bed and a door, Carmilla. Use it, please.”

“Fine,” Carmilla said a little more dramatically than she meant to.

“Now tell Laura she can join us. I’m not looking for a fight. I’m too tired for that nonsense.”

Carmilla nodded and walked to her room. Laura bounced back from the door when Carmilla opened it. “I take it you were listening?”

“Journalism major here,” Laura countered.

“Well come on, Cupcake. Your presence was requested.”

“I’m not going out there. You sister saw me post-orgasm. I can’t face her.”

“Why not? It’s not like she watched you come.”

“Carmilla!” Laura shouted, smacking her arm, lightly.

“What?” Carmilla laughed, rubbing her arm.

“It’s not funny.”

“Come on, Cupcake. It’s a little funny.”

“How is that funny? She saw me naked!”

Carmilla smiled. “She saw you topless, Laura. There is a difference.”

Carmilla watched as Laura cross her arms, trying to hide her body.

“Hey. Hey. No, Baby,” Carmilla said. It was at that moment that Carmilla noticed, Laura didn’t see the humor in this situation and the realization made her feel like a piece of garbage for not abiding Laura’s request to go to her bedroom. “I promise she didn’t see anything. She turned around, Cupcake, as soon as she saw you without a shirt on.”

“I can’t go out there, Carm.”

“That’s fine. How about we just go to bed instead?”

Laura nodded and crawled towards Carmilla’s bed. There was knock on Carmilla’s door. Carmilla stared at Laura before shaking her head and exhaling. She opened the door to see Mattie.

“What can I do for you, oh sweet sister of mine?” Carmilla asked.

“I wanted to speak to Laura for a moment.”

“She’s tired, Mattie.”

“Oh, I’m sure,” Mattie said, looking at Laura. They made eye contact and Mattie winked at her. “Listen, Laura, I just wanted you to know that I didn’t see anything and I’m not mad at you. I’m just annoyed with my sister.”

Laura looked towards Mattie and then to Carmilla. “I told you we should have come in here.”

“Carmilla, you picked a wise one. Perhaps you should listen to her a little more often,” Mattie smirked.

“There wasn’t time!” Carmilla protested.

“I suggested it three times, Carm.”

“So both of you are going to gang up on me?” Carmilla asked, looking between her girlfriend and her sister.

“Laura, will you make sure the next time she tries something-”

“Oh that is never happening again, Mattie. I promise.”

“Good. Thank you, Laura.”

Laura smiled, slightly and nodded. “And Carmilla?”

Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“I hope you learned your lesson,” Mattie said.

Carmilla smirked. “I haven’t before, so I think the chances of me learning it now are pretty slim. But we’re going to go to bed, Sis.”

“Okay, you Little Monster. Just please remember, we share a wall.”

Mattie pointed at both at them before smirking. “Ta, ta.”

Carmilla closed the door and exhaled.

“You will now be listening to me every time I suggest something,” Laura said.

“Is that so?” Carmilla countered, taking her jeans off.

“Y-yes,” Laura said with slight hesitation in her voice. Carmilla slipped her shirt off over her head and threw it to a pile of clothes on the floor. She placed her hand behind her back and undid her bra, letting the straps slide down her arms. She smirked at Laura who was staring at her with lustful eyes.

“You sure about that, Cupcake?”

Laura audibly gulped.

“What’s the matter, Laura? Cat got your tongue?” Carmilla smirked.

“She’s about to,” Laura commented.

That seemed to surprise Carmilla. She assumed Laura wouldn’t want to continue their little activity after being caught. She sauntered over to Laura and stood next to her bed. She took her time, slipping out of her underwear, trying to put on a little show for Laura that was clearly working. She held them up on her index finger before tossing them towards her dirty clothes. Laura stared at her pubic mound and licked her lips. Carmilla made a bigger show of getting into her bed, laying on her back and spreading her legs. Laura turned on her side, away from Carmilla.

“What are you doing?” Carmilla asked.

“Going to sleep.”

“Why?”

“So you’ll learn to listen to me.”

“But I thought we were going to finish.”

“I did finish, Sweetcheeks,” Laura corrected. She turned over to smile at Carmilla.

Carmilla exhaled. “Fine,” she sighed and turned on her side away from Laura. She could feel the mattress shifting and heard Laura giggle in her ear.

“What’s wrong, Grumpy Cat?”

She felt Laura’s hand against her stomach. Laura ran her fingers up and down, moving lower and lower, teasing Carmilla. She felt Laura shift again as the comforter slid down her body. Laura rolled Carmilla onto her back and pulled her legs apart. Laura’s mouth was on her not much later after that as she gasped into the quiet Brooklyn night.

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

Carmilla groaned as her alarm went off. She moved her arm to swipe her phone before turning over. She reached out and felt Laura’s naked hip. She pulled on her to hold her.

“Carm?” Laura muttered, sleepily.

“Shh. No talking,” Carmilla replied.

She molded against Laura’s back, holding her close. She felt Laura shift, facing her. Laura nuzzled into Carmilla’s neck as they both silently fell back asleep. A few moments later Carmilla’s second alarm went off and she groaned even louder.

“We have to get up, Carm,” Laura mumbled.

“I don’t want to.”

Laura shifted out of Carmilla’s embrace and sat up. Carmilla looked up to see Laura’s arms above her head and she marveled at Laura’s bare back. She sat up and kissed Laura across her back, from shoulder to shoulder. Laura paused after putting her arms down, enjoying the feel of Carmilla’s mouth and tongue.

“What if we skipped work, stayed in bed and made love all day?” Carmilla asked lowly in Laura’s ear.

“As much as I would love to do that, David would kill us. Now come on. We have to stop by my apartment and then get breakfast for everyone.”

Laura stood up and Carmilla couldn’t help, but stare at Laura’s body. She was becoming more comfortable being nude, Carmilla noticed. She lazily stood from her bed, and wrapped her arms around Laura. Laura rested her head against Carmilla’s shoulder and placed her arms on top of Carmilla’s. They swayed quietly back and forth, both enjoying the feeling of each other’s warm skin. Laura patted Carmilla’s arm, and Carmilla slowly let go, taking a step back. Laura gave her a light peck.

“Can I take a quick shower?” Laura asked.

“Can I join you?”

“So we both end up being an hour late, I don’t think so.”

Carmilla pouted.

“The pout won’t work this morning. You know it’s true.”

“I know. I know. Yes, you may take a shower. I also, um, I bought you a toothbrush so you could have one here.”

Carmilla’s cheeks reddened and Laura thought it was the cutest thing she had ever seen.

“Thanks, Carm.”

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

After Carmilla decided to join Laura in the shower, they quickly made their way from the train to the bookstore. A small line of students had already compiled outside. They were waiting for the store to open so they could get their books first thing. Laura and Carmilla managed to slip in quickly, avoiding the craziness of the line.

“We brought bagels,” Laura announced.

“Sweet,” Lafontaine said, grabbing the bag from Carmilla’s hands.

“Hey,” Carmilla said, snatching the bag back. “These two are for me and Laura. Yours are in the other bag.”

“Sorry, Grumpy,” Lafontaine noted. Carmilla sneered.

“Carm, be nice.”

“Yeah, Carm,” Lafontaine mocked.

“Lafontaine,” Perry said in a strict voice. Lafontaine’s eyes widened and they shut their mouth. Carmilla made another whip sound with a smirk.

“So we got mostly bacon, egg and cheese. Perry I got yours without cheese, since I know that’s how you like it. Lafontaine gets the one with tomatoes. David, no bacon or cheese. And for the rest of you there are some with cheese and without,” Laura said.

“Thanks, Bro,” Kirsch said, grabbing one with cheese.

A few of the rush hires moved forward, thanking Laura. Carmilla came up behind her and handed Laura her breakfast sandwich and juice.

“Thanks, Baby,” Laura said, kissing her cheek.

They all gathered around the counter sharing stories and eating their breakfast. Once everything was consumed and put away, David stood in front of the counter.

“Alright guys, this is day one. For our newbies, it’s going to be a bit rushed and people will be rude. Just take your time looking things up in the system and climbing the shelves. If you don’t see anything, ask Laura, Perry, Lafontaine, Carmilla or I and we will tell you when we should have it by. Don’t let people be rude to you and make sure you explain to any customer that if the book is sealed and/or is a loose binding book, they cannot be returned once opened. Where are my cashiers?”

Anna, an extremely tall girl with pouffy hair, came forward. She was a consistent rush hire they had, had for a few semesters already. A couple of other girls stood around her. “If you guys have questions, ask Anna,” David continued. “She’s been working the rushes for a while. Once again, I want you to also remind them that if it’s sealed they cannot return it. Dante will be coming in around 12 and the rest of us will be upstairs as much as we can. Sound good?”

Everyone nodded or agreed verbally. “Alright guys. Lafontaine will have a few more people coming in around 3, which will also help. Okay. Let’s get this day started.”

David went and unlocked the front doors. A flood of students started to pile in, all looking for books. Laura and Carmilla shared one brief kiss in the back before they started helping people. It was a zoo inside the bookstore with people coming and going, staff climbing up and down shelves and people yelling over top of one another.

It was noon before Carmilla and Laura had a chance to go downstairs and receive. SJ was down there too, helping them label and bring books up. They barely spoke as they tried to get through their shipment of 40 boxes as fast as they could. SJ wrangled Kirsch downstairs to help after receiving approval from Lafontaine. The four of them worked quickly and sufficiently.

The lunch lull started around one and everyone seemed to take the moment to breathe. David ordered pizzas for everyone to enjoy. Laura and Carmilla joined in a little late, but luckily David had another pie waiting.

“How's receiving going,” he asked, taking a bite of pizza.

“Well we split it up the best we could, but I think there is less than half left,” Laura commented, making eye contact with Carmilla who nodded. “Yeah, less than half.”

“That's perfect. You guys are killing it, Killer.”

“We try, David.”

“Well enjoy some slices. Once you’ve digested, I rather you two stay downstairs and finish all the receiving. If it gets too crazy, I'll call down. But I would like it if you two came up around 3 so Lafontaine can deal with the new rush hires. Sound good?”

“Sounds good, Boss,” Carmilla said.

David left them and they both grabbed another piece of pizza before going downstairs so they could sit at their desks. Laura plopped down on her chair, while Carmilla took a seat on her receiving counter.

“It's definitely busier here than it was at my old store,” Carmilla said between bites.

“Yeah, it just continuously gets crazier and crazier every passing year it seems.”

“I guess you guys aren't worrying about closing then.”

“Not to my knowledge. Why? Is the Brooklyn store closing?”

“It's been said, but nothing set in stone as of now.”

“Is that why you transferred here?” Laura asked, innocently.

“Unfortunately, no, but at least I don’t have to worry about being out of a job. That's a nice bonus.”

Carmilla lowered her head and went back to her pizza. Laura noticed she seemed to become smaller and more fragile.

“Can I ask why?”

“Why what, Cupcake?”

“Why did you transfer here?”

“Oh, uh, well,” Carmilla scratched the back of her neck. “I may have had a key to the store and met a girl at a bar near by, taken her back to the store and got caught with her in the store after hours.”

“What do you mean, ‘caught’?”

Carmilla exhaled. “I thought everyone was gone for the night and it turns out my boss was staying late. She was a book lover so I thought it would be something nice to do and show her the store since she had never been before. We were making out a little bit when my boss flicked the lights on and saw us.”

“How did you not get fired?”

“I, uh, I apologized and begged. The owner is an old family friend and he already knew what was going on in my life. My mother, against her will, also called him to see if there was a possibility of forgetting the incident. So I got to keep my job there. I gave him back my keys, and we agreed it was a stupid, drunken mistake that would never happen again.”

“So how did you get transferred here?”

“I was seen being a little too intimate with a rush hire and we decided I should be transferred to stay in the company.”

“Carm,” Laura paused.

“I'm not proud of it, okay? I regret all of it, but I was either drunk or high when it happened. Luckily, he didn't know that I was high. I took a month off from work completely and tried my hardest to get my shit together. When I thought I had it worked out, and I had my shit together, I realized I needed my job. And now you're probably questioning what you are to me and I promise you're more than that and-”

“Stop, Carm. I'm not questioning anything. I know I mean something more to you. I’m just a little surprised is all.”

“Laura, I’ll be honest. I’ve done some pretty stupid stuff that for some reason I didn’t think i would ever get in trouble for.”

“We all do stupid things, Carm.”

“I know, but I've done a lot of them.”

“That doesn't mean anything. A mistake is a mistake. We can't take it back so we move forward.”

Carmilla nodded.

“Hey,” Laura said, getting out of her chair. She stood in front of Camilla and placed her hands on her thighs. She ran her hands up and down.

“I still like you, Carm.”

“Why?”

“Because you make me feel better about myself, even when you don't know it or I tell you to be quiet because you’re annoying me.”

Carmilla smile widened. “I like you too.”

Laura leaned in and gave Carmilla a small kids. Carmilla cupped her cheeks and kissed her harder. Kirsch entered the scene and cleared his throat.

“Sorry, ladies, but I'm looking for a book and Lafontaine said it might be down here.”

Laura pulled away and smiled. “No problem, Kirsch. Which book?”

Carmilla watched as Laura went through the stacks of books on her desk and then invoices to see if they could find it. Laura found the right box and yelled “Ah ha!” as her and Kirsch laughed. Carmilla smiled at her. Why is she still here? Why hasn’t she ran away? Does she actually care about me? Will she accept everything I tell her?

“There you go, Kirsch. Will you take the whole stack and label them upstairs? Just make sure to go ahead and label one for whoever’s syllabus this is and then finish them before helping someone else out.”

“Will do, Bro! Thanks. You’re awesome!”

“I know,” Laura teased.

Carmilla smiled. Laura turned her attention to Carmilla. “We should probably finish the rest of these boxes, Carm. It’s already 2:30 and I’m sure David wants these done and upstairs by 3.”

“Right, Cupcake.”

The two girls worked frantically. Luckily a lot of the boxes were full of new books with only a few copies per class. It made labelling a lot easier and receiving faster. They were down to their last box. Carmilla started labelling her books while Laura finished it. They loaded the small books up on carts and started pulling them upstairs. Once they reached upstairs, the afternoon lull had settled in. Lafontaine was busy showing a few new people the ropes so Laura jumped on one of the upstairs computers. Carmilla stood next to her, picking at her nail polish, looking as bored as possible.

“Hey, Laura.”

A tall girl in a maroon shirt, tight black jeans, knee high platform boots was standing next to them. She had winged eyeliner, black nail polish and red streaks in her black hair. Carmilla had never seen her before.

“Hey, Clarice. How are you? How’s Joey?”

“I’m doing well and Joey is just being Joey.”

“Is he still working at the school?”

“You know it.”

“That’s awesome.”

Clarice turned her attention towards Carmilla and smiled. Carmilla just stared at her.

“Hi. Are you new?”

“She’s a transfer from another store,” Laura interjected. “This is Carmilla.”

“Hey. Clarice.”

Carmilla nodded and felt Laura’s elbow in her back. “Hi. Carmilla. Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise. So how long have you been at the store.”

“About a month now. You?”

“I’ve been working the rushes for about a year and half now, I think. Right, Laura?”

“Something like that, yeah,” Laura agreed.

“Well I’ll get back to the register. I just wanted to say hi.”

“I’ll come over later so we can catch up. Probably during magic hour.”

“Oh please, you know I’ll be back here for magic hour.” Clarice laughed and walked back to other counter. Carmilla watched her walk away and heard Laura cleared her throat.

“So, is that your type?” Laura teased.

“What?” Carmilla asked quickly.

“Is she your type?”

“No, Laura. No.”

“Aw, you think Clarice is hot.”

“I do not,” Carmilla protested.

“It’s okay, Carm. I had a huge crush on her when she first started working here, but then I found out about her boyfriend and that was it for me.”

“She’s alright,” Carmilla tried to lie.

“It’s okay, if you find her attractive, Carm.”

“I don’t, Baby. I find you hot,” Carmilla said, slipping her arms around Laura’s body.

“I know you’re lying, but it’s okay. It’s perfectly fine to find other people attractive, as long as you don’t do anything.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course. I know you won’t do anything.”

“Yo, Lovebirds! I’m happy you’re together, but you’re still working. Even whipped Lafontaine doesn’t do this,” David said.

They smiled and stepped back from each other. “Sorry, David,” Laura said, still looking at Carmilla.

Lafontaine came up with a few of the rush hires as they made their way past the two of them as they headed downstairs. Carmilla caught a glimpse of blonde hair making it’s way with the group. She jumped for a moment, but shook her head. No, it can’t be her.

Just then a new flood of people came into the store. “Last big class of the day just let out,” David announced. They got back to work, helping as many people as they could as the floor became swamped. Lafontaine brought up the new rush hires and put them to work as they all quickly tried to help every person.

“Laura, will you hand off that syllabus to someone and jump on the last register?” David asked.

“Sure, David.”

“I got it,” SJ shouted, handing off another stack of books.

“It belongs to the red hair with curly hair,” Laura said.

“Who?”

Laura looked for her and waved. The girl waved back. “She’s going to help you,” Laura shouted as she pushed and shoved her small body to the last register. Carmilla was climbing up on a shelf, looking out over the crowd. She could see Laura pushing through and then noticed she couldn’t even see the floor. Holy shit.

Carmilla got back to work once she saw that Laura got to the register safely. She climbed back down handing off another person’s books and syllabus. She felt like questions were coming left and right as the rush finally started to slow down. She could feel a slight headache forming.

“Hey, Carmilla.”

Carmilla froze at that voice. Fuck no! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! No!

“What are you doing here, Elsie?”

“Well I needed a job so I got one.”

“You have a job. You’re a bartender and make more cash in a night than I do in a week.”

“So? I picked up this job.”

“Why?”

“Well to show you that you’ve made a terrible mistake letting me go.”

“I’m involved with someone.”

“Is that so?”

“Carm?” Laura asked, coming up behind Elsie. Carmilla watched as her eyes widened in surprise. Laura shook her head and headed downstairs.

“Laura,” Carmilla said, pushing past Elsie and down the stairs. “Laura,” she said again.

Laura sat on top of the counter and put her head down. She swung her legs back and forth as Carmilla approached her.

“Cupcake?”

Laura nodded her presence.

“I didn’t know she was going to be here or get a job here, I swear.”

“I know, Carm.”

“So what’s wrong? Did I do something? Is it because of the stuff I told you earlier? I’m sorry about that. I was in a bad place then, but I’m better now.”

“No, no. It’s not that.”

“So what is it? Why are your eyes tearing up, Baby. Talk to me.”

Laura shook her head and wiped her eyes. “We should get back to work. The 5 o’clock classes will be out soon and it’ll be busy again.”

“Not until you tell me what I did.”

“You didn’t do anything, Carm. I’m sorry. I guess I’m just emotional.”

“I don’t believe that. Just tell me, Baby. Let me fix it.”

“You can’t, Carmilla.” Laura started to curl into herself, pulling at the front of her shirt before folding her arms over her stomach.

“You haven’t pull at the front of you shirt in a long time, Laura. Why now?”

Laura exhaled. Stop comparing yourself to her. You’re better than her. But she’s tiny. She probably didn’t squash Carmilla like I do.

“Laura?”

“She’s so skinny, Carm.”

“Who?”

“You know who?”

“Baby, she barely eats and usually has liquid dinners. She’s an alcoholic.”

“I know that’s the body type you’re attracted to.”

“No, Laura. You are what I am attracted to and have been since I first laid eyes on you. She means nothing to me, Baby. Nothing. Please.”

“It’s just hard, Carmilla.”

“What’s hard?”

“I compared myself to her so much when I first saw her. She’s the reason I thought you just liked to pick on me and that you would never be attracted to someone like me. Why are you attracted to someone like me?”

“Because you are absolutely gorgeous, Laura. You have a strong head on her shoulders. You are the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. I don’t want her to be here and I’m going to talk to Laf and David about it, Baby. Okay?”

“She doesn’t have to go, Carm. This is just my stupid brain trying to convince me that you deserve someone better than me. Someone prettier. Someone who is skinny.”

“You are the only person I want to be with, Laura. You are the prettiest and the smartest and the skinniest.”

“That’s a lie,” Laura whispered, pulling at her shirt.

“It’s not, Baby. I swear it’s not.”

“I know it’s a lie, Carm. I hate my body!”

Laura’s body started to shake as she lowered her head again and crossed her arms. Carmilla embraced Laura, pulling her into her arms. She cupped the back of her head and felt Laura crying against her shoulder.

“I know you do, Baby. I know you do, but I promise I’m going to help you realize how beautiful you are. How much I want to be with you. How important you are to me.”

Laura continued to cry, but sniffled and nodded her head.

“You’re so beautiful, Laura. I don’t want any other girl. I know we’re still getting to know each other, but there is just something about you. Please believe me.”

“I do, Carm. I’m sorry.”

“Shh. Don’t be sorry. I’ve got you, Baby.”

Laura nodded as she tried her hardest to stop crying. She nuzzled into Carmilla’s neck and placed a light kiss there. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, trying to calm herself down.

“Don’t be sorry, Laura. It’s okay. Just know that you are one of the only important things to me. I didn’t think my heart could open again to someone, but you’re here and you’ve opened it.”

Laura pulled away, wiping her nose and eyes. “And I promise, I’m going to make you see how beautiful you actually are. Even if it takes twenty years, I’m never going to stop.”

Laura nodded as Carmilla wiped a few more stray tears. Laura let out a little smile and a laugh. “I’m sorry, Carm.”

“We all have our moments, Cupcake.”

“Yeah.”

Laura wiped at her eyes someone. “I think I’m gonna go splash some water on my face.”

“I’ll wait.”

“It’s okay, Carm. Go up there before David comes down and yells at us.”

“Are you gonna be okay?” Carmilla asked.

Laura smiled at how concerned Carmilla seemed to be.

“Yeah. Just the bathroom.”

“Okay.”

Carmilla placed a light kiss against Laura’s forehead before grabbing her hands. She slowly pulled away and let go before turning around and heading up the stairs.

“Carm?” Laura called out.

“Yeah?”

“Can we just go home after work tonight and make something to eat?”

“Who’s home?”

“Your’s?”

Carmilla smiled. “Sounds good to me.”

Laura smiled and made her way to the basement bathroom. She walked into the one stalled bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. She probably thinks you’re insane. I can’t even control my emotions. What’s wrong with me? She rolled her eyes and splashed a few handfuls of cold water on her face. She wiped her face with a rough paper towel and took a deep breath. She avoided the mirror as she headed back out. She stopped when she saw SJ.

“You okay?” SJ asked.

“Yeah. Just got a little in my head.”

“So the blonde is the ex?”

“I don’t know if ex is the correct term, but maybe former fuck buddy?”

“And you compared yourself to her?”

“Can you blame me?”

“Yes because it’s a stupid thing to do.”

“I know, SJ. I don’t need you tell me that. Why are you down here anyway?”

“Carmilla asked me if I’d check on you. She said you were feeling down and was hoping I could cheer you up since we’re friends.”

“I’m fine.”

“Oh, Sweetheart. I know you better than that. You’re not fine.”

Laura bit her lip as she felt it starting to tremble. She fought back her tears.

“Can I ask you something?” SJ asked.

Laura nodded.

“Do you know how Carmilla looks at you compared to other people?”

Laura shook her head no.

“Well, she seems to practically hate people, but when she looks at you, all that hate vanishes and I know she looks at you like you’re the only person in the world. I think you’re the only person who makes her truly smile.”

“And?”

“What more do you need? I know how you view yourself, Laura. No one sees that shit, but you. All those thoughts in your head force you to see things that don’t exist. It messes with you. It’s like you’re playing a joke on yourself.”

“How do I stop it?”

“I don’t know if you can stop it by yourself, but just remember that Ms. Broody adores you to no end. It’s so clear that you mean a lot to her.”

“I don’t know.”

“How do you not know? Laura, you’re gorgeous and smart. That girl likes you for you, not the demons haunting you in your head, trying to tell you she doesn’t. It’s so obvious. Do you want an example?”

Laura shrugged.

“Earlier, when David told you to go to a register and you gave me that girls syllabus. You remember?”

“Yes.”

“Did you see Carmilla before going to the register?”

“No.”

“Well she was right there on the shelves and she didn’t move until she saw that you were safely on the other side, at the register.”

“How do you know she was even looking at me?”

“Oh my gosh, Laura. She had that dumb, dopey smile on her face and she actually looked happy for a brief moment. As soon as she saw you got through the crowd safely, she watched you for a few seconds before turning back to the shelf and grabbing the books for whoever she was helping. When she got down, I asked her if a certain someone caught her eye. She grimaced before I could clearly tell that an image of you crept into her mind and she smiled saying, ‘can you blame me?’ She likes you a lot, Laura. Open your eyes.”

“I know she does.”

“So are you worried she’s going to cheat on you with this girl?”

Laura shook her head. “Absolutely not.”

“And why is that?”

“Because I trust her.”

“So trust her opinion of you. Not just her actions. You’re a catch Laura Hollis, even if you can’t see it. It doesn’t matter if you can see it or not, because everyone else does. But no one sees it more than the girl who was so worried about you, she came upstairs, spotted me, pulled the syllabus from my hand and told me to come down here and check on you. She’s smitten.”

Laura smiled. “A smitten kitten?”

“I don’t need to know your gross pet names,” SJ said, rolling her eyes.

Laura laughed. She started to feel a little better.

“Ok. So are we all done playing the poor Laura Hollis card when she has an incredibly hot girl upstairs that she’s fucking?”

“What? Did she tell you that?”

“No, but considering you haven’t sex in ages, you have that, I got laid last night glow.”

“I do not.”

“Sure, you don’t, but Carmilla does, which oddly enough makes her hotter.”

“Is there anything that couldn’t make her hotter?”

“Hm. I’m going to say a white summer dress. Wait. No. You’re right. She’ll look hot in anything and she’s yours.”

“That she is.” Laura paused before looking up. “Thanks, SJ.”

“That’s what I’m here for, Pumpkin. Now let’s get upstairs before David has both our heads.”

They made their way upstairs and the first person Laura saw was Carmilla. She looked worried and stressed.

“Are you okay?” Carmilla mouthed as slowly as possible.

Laura smiled and nodded. She noticed the way Carmilla’s eyes lit up and grinned. Maybe SJ is right.

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

“I don’t know about you guys, but I could use some magic right about now,” David said, as the second to last rush came through.

Everyone seemed to nod as Carmilla and the rush hires looked around confused. “Laf, will you come with me?” He asked.

“You got it, Boss.”

Camilla was sitting on the counter, next to Laura. She leaned into Laura’s ear.

“What’s magic, Cupcake?”

“You’ll see.”

Laura couldn’t help, but notice how Elsie was staring daggers at her. She tried to shake it off, but it made her uncomfortable. “Do you think Elsie will stop staring at us?”

“No. She’s a very jealous person. Don’t worry, I already told David. He’ll talk to her and most likely put her on the late shift, which means we’ll only work together for a few hours. If she does bad, she’ll be in the first group to be let go. Are you gonna be okay with her working here?”

“Of course, Carm. As long as she stops staring.”

Carmilla hopped off the counter. “How about I just stand here and block her from your eyesight?”

Laura ran her finger against Carmilla’s jawline and kissed her lips sweetly.

“What was that for?”

“You’re the best, you know that?”

“Oh, please, she’s anything, but,” Elsie added, passing.

Carmilla sneered and started to turn towards her, but Laura cupped her cheek. Carmilla’s look towards Laura softened. “You are, Baby. Don’t let her get to you.”

“I won’t. She’s just jealous that she’ll never be as amazing as you are, Laura.”

Lafontaine and David reentered the store with what looked to be eight 6-pack of beers. “Welcome to Magic Hour,” David announced.

“Is he serious?” Carmilla asked.

“Absolutely. After our rough hours of the day, we always get beer.”

“That’s just awesome.”

“Here’s the rule. No one gets any, if they are under 21. Sorry guys, but I’m not breaking the law for any of you. You can have two, but only after everyone who is eligible has had one. Okay?”

Everyone nodded. “What kind do you want, Cupcake?”

“Anything not dark.”

Carmilla smiled. “I knew that.”

Carmilla walked around to the other side to grab her and Laura a beer.

“It won’t last, you know? She’ll get bored with you, just like all the other girls. That’s what she does and then she comes back to me.”

Laura rolled her eyes. “If that helps you sleep at night, then you can believe that all you like,” Laura said, looking at Elsie.

“Ask her last two girlfriends.”

“I don’t need to. She’s perfect. It’s not my problem you were her toy until I came along.”

“Damn, Hollis,” SJ said, snaking an arm over Laura’s shoulder. “Ta ta, Blondie.”

Carmilla came back with two beers. “What did she say to you?”

“It doesn’t matter because your girlfriend just shot her down,” SJ said.

“You did?”

Laura smiled proudly. “I think I did.”

“Good.”

“Can I have everyone’s attention?” David asked. “I just wanted to say that you guys were incredible today and even though we have our late class rush to go, I just wanted to say you all did a great job and thanks for letting it run smoothly. We’ve got good hires this semester. To us!”

“To us!”

Carmilla clinked the neck of her bottle against Laura’s.

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

Laura and Carmilla arrived at Carmilla’s apartment an hour later. They didn’t have to stay for the late rush and they were both happy to hear that. They were sluggish as they walked in. Laura moved straight to the couch and laid down. Carmilla was soon to follow, laying down on top of her.

“Carm, I’m hungry.”

“What do you want to get?”

“Do you not have food in your fridge?”

“You want a home cooked meal?”

Laura nodded. “I have to stop spending so much money.”

“I could tell Mattie to pick us up something in the city and then you wouldn’t have to pay.”

“No. I would feel like I owe her.”

“Okay. Let me see what we have, but I doubt it’s much.”

Carmilla crawled off of Laura and walked to the fridge. She opened the door and bent over looking at almost nothing. “We have sandwich meat and two pieces of bread.”

“I take it you guys don’t eat at home much.”

“Actually we should be expecting our Fresh Direct delivery sometime soon.”

“You use Fresh Direct?”

“No, Mattie does. I pay the bills and she buys all the things we need.”

“That actually sounds nice.”

“Oh it is and we make it fair. Wait! We have tortellini.”

“Any spices?”

“Uh, Old Bay and Curry powder.”

“Perfect. Just put a pot on the stove with water. Spice up the water and let it boil.”

“I know how to make tortellini, Sweetheart.”

“Right. Sorry.”

“What should we do while it’s boiling?”

“Watch something on TV?”

“Or?” Carmilla questioned, laying back down on top of Laura.

“Do you not remember last night?”

“Oh I remember it quite well.”

Laura laughed. “I’m sure you do, but it’s not happening. At least not on this couch again.”

“Can I at least kiss you?”

“One peck.”

Carmilla placed her lips against Laura’s and kissed her hard, cupping cheeks. They stayed that way for a moment, until she heard Laura take a breath in and then she pulled away.

“So should we watch an episode of Buffy or-?”

“You are so mean,” Laura stated, as Carmilla sat up and got off of Laura.

“I gave you one peck. That’s what you said.”

“Yeah. Yeah.”

Carmilla turned on Netflix and they watched whatever the next episode was in the series. They ate dinner while they watched a few more episodes and then finally made their way to Carmilla’s room. Mattie hadn’t come home yet, but it still seemed relatively early. Laura wore some of Carmilla’s pajamas, while Carmilla chose a pair of underwear.

“That’s all you’re going to sleep in?”

“It’ll get hot in here and I told you, I’m more comfortable sleeping naked.”

“Fair enough.”

Laura took her shirt off and laid it at the foot of the bed.

“What are you doing?” Carmilla asked.

“I like sleeping topless when I feel good.”

“Good to know,” Carmilla said, snuggling into her bed. She laid her arm out as Laura scooted into her embrace.

“Is it okay that I’m staying the night?” Laura asked.

“It’s always okay for you to stay here.”

“I don’t want to overstep my boundaries.”

“You’re not, trust me. I would tell you.”

“Okay.”

The room went quiet as Carmilla started to drift off to sleep. She could feel that Laura seemed restless, but knew Laura would talk if she wanted to.

“Carm?” Laura whispered into the silent room.

Carmilla’s eyes opened and she turned her head towards Carmilla.

“Yeah?” She grunted.

“How did you find your therapist?”

Carmilla turned towards Laura. “Why?”

“I think I’m ready to finally talk to someone about my issues.”

“Well I went through a service.”

“A service?”

“Yeah. You call them and set up an initial meeting with someone. They’ll ask you basic questions like why are you wanting to see a therapist and what qualities you would like your therapist to have. From that, they’ll try and find you your perfect match.”

“Will you help me call that service tomorrow?”

“Absolutely, Cupcake.”

“Thanks, Carm.”

Carmilla kissed Laura lightly. “And I’m always here if you want to talk.”

“I know, but I think I’m ready for the big leagues.”

Carmilla nodded and kissed Laura’s forehead. Laura nuzzled in closer. “Night, Carm.”

“Night, Cupcake.”

Chapter Text

Laura sat in the small room, waiting for her first therapy session. She had managed to get the morning off by promising David she would close the store with Dante. He was nice about it, but Laura could tell he wasn’t too pleased with her not being there when the shipments came in. Luckily, she convinced Carmilla to go instead of coming with her. However, she wished her girlfriend was next to her, holding her hand. She was so nervous. Carmilla explained how today was going to go, but it didn’t make her feel any better while she sat and waited.

“All they’re going to do is ask you simple questions about your parents, your life and the reason you decided to go to therapy. That’s it, Cupcake. Forty-five minutes of one on one talking with a specialist and you’re done.”

She replayed Carmilla’s words over and over as she felt the knot her stomach grow bigger and bigger. She hadn’t been this nervous in a long time. She started to shake her leg up and down as her stomach continued to twist and turn.

Okay. Okay. Just questions. Easy questions. Forty-five minutes, and I’m done. Just a little chat. I can do this. I can do this. I wish Carmilla was here.

She reached into her phone and pulled it out of her bag, and started a text to Carmilla.

“Laura?”

Laura looked up from her phone and turned if off immediately.

“Uh, that’s me.”

The tall woman with light brown curly haired smiled at her. “Come on in,” she said, pointing to the room she had come from. Laura smiled and followed behind her. The woman gestured to the chair and Laura sat. She crossed her legs and smiled. I hope she can’t tell how uncomfortable I am.

“So Laura, I am Dr. Johnston. All I’m going to do today is go through some questions and figure out why you decided to see a therapist. Nothing scary, I promise. I will ask that you answer each question as honestly as possible. That way, we can set you up with the best therapist that matches your needs. I will be taking notes, but for the same reason. We just like to make sure that all our clients meet with the person best suited for them.”

Laura exhaled slowly and rubbed her knee. “Sounds good.”

“It’s okay, Laura. You’re not a trial. This is just a small conversation.”

The woman smiled kindly at her. “So let’s get straight to the point, why have you decided to seek therapy?”

Laura adjusted herself in her seat. “Well, I seem to have really bad body issues that derive from childhood. I can’t remember a time that I actually liked my body and I believe if I don’t start talking about it and figuring it out, it will begin to affect my current relationship.”

“So you’re in a relationship? How is that going?”

Being from Virginia, Laura still had trouble speaking about her sexuality to older adults. She took a moment to breathe. She noticed the small rainbow pendant around the woman’s neck and felt herself slowly ease up to this person.

“It seems to be going well, but it I’m being honest, I have a hard time being naked around her.”

Laura flinched a little at the pronoun, but Dr. Johnston didn’t seem to mind as she carried on with her questions.

“Does she make you uncomfortable?” At that moment, Laura realized her sexuality wasn’t that big of a deal and this doctor didn’t bat an eye at her sexual orientation.

“She never makes me uncomfortable, I make myself uncomfortable. Carmilla is very skinny, like not an amount of fat of her body. She’s beautiful, but I constantly compare myself to her.”

“Outloud?”

“Excuse me?” Laura asked, confused by the question.

“Do you say your comparisons outloud to your girlfriend?”

“No. I say them in my head.”

“Does, I’m sorry, Carmilla?”

Laura nodded her head.

“Does Carmilla know that you do this.”

“I only expressed it to her once and probably at the worst time. It was right before the first time we had sex. We argued over whether the light should be on or off. I wanted it off because I didn’t want her to see my naked body.”

“And how did she react to that?”

“She told me she wanted to see me and that I was beautiful.”

“But you didn’t believe her?”

“No. I still don’t. She says it quite frequently. I think she thinks if she says it enough, I’ll start to believe it.”

“But so far, you haven’t?”

“No. My thoughts deflect it.”

“How long have you two been together?”

“Not too long. I think a couple of months now.”

“And how often does she tell you, you’re beautiful?”

“Multiple times a day. It’s rather annoying, in my opinion.”

“Do you tell her that?”

“I’ve told her numerous times that I wish she would stop.”

“Does she give you a reason to why she does it?”

“Not really. She always says it’s because I am, but I just don’t see it.”

“Well to me, it sounds like it’s coming from a good place in her heart. Maybe just tell her to ease back a little.”

Laura nodded.

“Other than that, is the relationship good?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“What about previous relationships?”

“Well I’ve only been in one serious relationship, and found out that she was cheating on me for a good portion of it.”

“So it wasn’t a good relationship, I take it?”

“Definitely not. Danny was very controlling and didn’t like a lot of things. She also couldn’t handle when I was upset about something.”

“How do you tend to act when you’re upset?”

“Sometimes I get really distant. Other times, I just want comfort while I cry, but sometimes I can’t stop crying, or it comes out in spurts. I’ll be fine one minute and then the next, I’m lost in my head and I can’t get out of it.”

“And what would Danny do in these situations?”

“She would comfort me for a little while, but then would tell me to get over it. She was never in tune with her emotions and could never figure out why I couldn’t just be happy. She always got frustrated.”

“And what does Carmilla do?”

“She just holds me and comforts me. I think she’s slowly learning when I need space and when I don’t. But I haven’t had as many of these episodes with her.”

“That must mean something.”

“I think so. I feel like I deserve some happiness.”

“Everyone does, Laura.”

Laura nodded and bit her cheek. She felt comfortable here, but not comfortable enough to cry. She really didn’t want to cry.

“So let’s move on to family. Tell me a little about your family.”

“Oh, well it’s just me, my dad and my mom.”

“No siblings?”

“Nope.”

“And what was it like growing up?”

“It was good. We always had a lot of fun. There was a lot of laughter in the Hollis household.”

“There was or there still is?”

“Well, my parents live in Virginia, which is where I’m from originally, so I don’t see them as much, but it’s not as warm and welcoming as it used to be.”

“Do you know why?”

“My parents struggle with my sexuality, but when I started seeing Danny they didn’t seem to mind so much. But when we broke up, my mother just couldn’t understand why I would do that. Why I would leave her? Even after I explained that Danny had been cheating on me, my mother still couldn’t grasp the concept of why I would leave it behind. And now it’s gone back to being awkward. My dad checks up on me every week, and we catch up, but my relationship with my mom is very strained.”

“Does that bother you?”

“A little. We were never really that close. She worked and traveled a lot, so I was always daddy’s little girl.”

“When did you mother change towards you?”

“After I came out and then again after Danny.”

“And what about your father?”

“Well when I came out, I got caught with my first girlfriend. My dad wasn’t mad that I was gay, but he was mad that I had lied to him. Our relationship has stayed more or less the same, but we’re definitely not as close as we used to be.”

“And how does that make you feel?”

“It makes me feel sad. I will most likely want to introduce them to Carmilla, but she’s not anything like Danny. Danny always wanted to protect me and didn’t let me do much of anything. Carmilla is just there. She protects me in a way that I feel safe, but knows I can handle myself.”

“It sounds like Carmilla is a good catch to me.”

Laura smiled. “She really is. She’s probably one of the best things that has happened to me since Danny and I broke up.”

“Do you think you’ll introduce Carmilla to your parents, regardless of how they feel about your sexuality?”

“I would like to, one day. But I have a feeling it won’t be anytime soon.”

“Well like you said, this is a new relationship. I understand wanting to wait a while before introducing them. Can you tell me a little more about your childhood? What were your friends like?”

“I didn’t really have a lot of friends. I was the kid that had to make new friends every year in elementary school. I was kind of always a loner and enjoyed being home with my family.”

“Did you ever get homesick or anything like that?”

“Yes, constantly. It got to the point where I wouldn’t go to sleepovers because I knew my dad would have to come get me.”

“Did that bother you?”

“Not really. Like I said, I enjoyed being at home, with my parents. It’s where I felt safe.”

“Did kids ever pick on you as a child?”

“Yeah, sometimes. There was this one girl, Katie, who used to push me into the sand and call me fat and ugly. I think that’s where my body issues come from because it was happening to me at such a young age.”

“Not to mention, you’ve grown up in a world where looks are more important than who you are on the inside.”

“Yeah.”

“And what about friends now?”

“Oh, I’ve made great friends since I’ve moved here. I work with them at the bookstore and that’s how I met them.”

“So you think New York has kind of helped you out of that shell?”

“A little bit, yes, but I still enjoy being home, unless I’m with Carmilla.”

“And how does Carmilla make you feel?”

Laura smiled. “She makes me feel comfortable and happy. I think she’s had a bit of a rough life, but we don’t talk about growing up that much. I think we’re both trying to hide things from our pasts.”

“Does that make you worry?”

“No. Not at all. We’re just very cautious about opening up to the things that we’ve done and have happened to us, but Carmilla has started opening up to me more so I think I’ll start doing the same soon.”

“That sounds like a good plan. It’s better to know the past so you can grow as a couple, in my opinion.” Dr. Johnston checked her watch. “Well I think I have a few notes here that will help. Now what are you looking for in a therapist?”

Laura thought for a moment. “I’m not really sure. I’ve never been to one before.”

“And how old are you?”

“25.”

“That’s a good year to start therapy. It’s when things start changing and we usually try to figure out what we want to do with our lives. So let’s start with some basics: male or female?”

“I think I would prefer a female and someone who is safe with the LGBTQA community.”

“Okay. Would you be paying for this out of pocket?”

“I would, but when I spoke to Dr. Kelley on the phone, we went over how much I would be able to pay week to week.”

“Are there any characteristics you would be looking for in your therapist?”

“I guess someone who is caring and doesn’t push me too hard. When I get pushed too hard, I tend to have an emotional breakdown. I also don’t want someone who would say to stand in front of the mirror and tell myself, ‘I’m beautiful’. That kind of stuff just doesn’t work on me. But I also want a little tough love and someone who won’t put up with my shit every week.”

Laura watched as Dr. Johnston wrote down her notes. “Okay, Laura. That sounds good. I’ll make sure Dr. Kelley gets all this information. You will hear from him sometime this week.”

Laura stood up from her chair and shook the doctor’s hand. “Thank you for time.” She reached into her back pocket and pulled out her wallet. “This is the check I owe you for this.”

“Ah, perfect. Thank you.”

Dr. Johnston walked Laura to the door. “Well it was nice meeting you Laura and I know we will find the therapist that is perfect for you.”

“Thank you.”

As Laura walked down the hallway, she felt a little lighter on her feet.

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

Carmilla was pacing around the basement of the store. She was supposed to be receiving, but those text bubbles made her nervous. Laura had been a complete mess this morning, which didn’t help her emotions. Carmilla had never seen someone so nervous before and it passed on to her, making her just as nervous. She looked down at her watch again.

She should be back by now. What’s taking so long? Okay, just sit down and work. Distract yourself before you go crazy.

Carmilla sat down and stared at her computer. She grabbed a box, but a smaller package caught her attention. She eyed her pack of cigarettes. After a moment, she grabbed it and headed up the stairs from the basement to the back entrance and out. She lit her cigarette as fast as she could, hoping the nicotine would calm her. She continued pacing on the sidewalk. She wasn’t sure why she was so worried for Laura.

She’s a grown up. She can take care of herself. They probably just got a late start, that’s all. She’ll be here soon.

Carmilla took a long drag of her cigarette before sitting down on the steps. She kept her head lowered, taking in deep breaths. Once she was finished, she flicked it to the street and headed back downstairs, hoping no one had noticed she had taken a break. The store had been just as crazy as before, but it was Friday and most students had their books for their classes.

She entered the basement from the back stairwell and felt relief flood her immediately.

“Didn’t think that maybe after my morning I would want a smoke?” Laura asked.

Carmilla looked up. “Sorry, Cupcake.”

“That’s okay. I brought us gross food for lunch.”

Carmilla smiled. “You go to therapy and I get the prize? What did you get?”

“Burger King.” Laura seemed hesitant, but Carmilla smiled.

“So our lunch will be our one fast food meal a week? Sounds good to me.”

Laura smiled. She handed Carmilla her cup of Dr. Pepper, her small chicken nuggets, a single hamburger and fries. Laura could tell Carmilla was happy. For a small girl, she sure can eat a lot of fast food, Laura thought. She pulled out her own food and got situated at her desk. Carmilla wheeled her chair over to eat next to Laura. She placed her hand on Laura's thigh and gave her knee a light squeeze.

“So, how did it go?” Carmilla asked, warily.

Laura exhaled, placing a fry into her mouth. Carmilla backtracked. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me. It’s none of my business, Baby.”

“No, no, Carm. It was good. I feel a little better. Dr. Johnston was very nice and easy to talk to. She made me feel very comfortable.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah, I guess now we just wait.”

“I promise it’ll be worth it.”

“I don't know, it just makes me nervous.”

“What makes you nervous?” Carmilla asked, taking a swig of her soda. She placed her cup down and popped another chicken nugget in her mouth.

“The same thing as before. Talking to someone about my problems. I felt like I was complaining the whole time.”

“Cupcake, that's what therapy is. It's an hour getting stuff off you me mind.”

“Yeah. I guess so. Do you think I need help?”

Carmilla brushed her hands together, trying to get all the crumbs off her fingers. She turned Laura's chair towards her and rested her hands back on Laura's thighs.

“I don't think it's anyone decision, but your own to go to therapy. I think this is an incredibly brave step, Laura. It's one thing to think about it, but it's another to finally face whatever was holding you back before and doing what you think is necessary to be happy. I'm proud of you and I think we all need a little extra help here and there. We all need that one person, who doesn’t know us, to just listen to us. Just don't go in there thinking something is wrong with you because there isn't. That's your brain trying to make a problem out of the situation like your brain has done before regarding your body. Don't let your thoughts win. You're incredible, Laura Hollis and I am a very proud girlfriend.”

Laura shared a small smile. “Thanks, Carm.”

“You're perfect and beautiful.”

Carmilla leaned forward and placed a light kiss against Laura's forehead.

“Uh, Carm?”

“Yeah?”

“Could you cut back on the ‘you're so beautiful thing’?”

“What do you mean?”

“I know you mean well, but sometimes it's just a little too much especially when I'm feeling a little sensitive and vulnerable, like right now.”

Carmilla grinned. “I can do that, Cupcake.”

Laura smiled. She took one of Carmilla's hands in hers. “Thanks.”

“Anything for you, Beaut… I mean, Laura. Okay, it might take some practice.”

Laura laughed lightly. They went back to eating their meals, but Laura wouldn't let go of Carmilla's hand. They both struggled eating before they had to let go to eat properly. They managed to eat quietly while the world slowed around them.

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

Carmilla rubbed her stomach when the two girls got to the top of the stairs.

“That was so gross,” Carmilla said. Laura noticed Carmilla's stomach was a little swollen and she oddly felt comfort in seeing her full tummy.

“But it was delicious,” Laura added, throwing their trash away in the large store trash can.

“Oh it was good, but now I have a stomach ache.”

“You did eat a lot.”

“Maybe I can eat something else later tonight?” Carmilla whisper with an evil smirk.

“Carmilla!” Laura shouted, smacking her arm.

Carmilla laughed while Laura playfully shoved her, rolling her eyes and grinning.

“Who got Burger King?” Lafontaine asked, eying Laura's cup.

“We did because my wonderful girlfriend got us some,” Carmilla said, wrapping her arm around Laura's shoulder.

“And why didn't my best friend bring me some?” Lafontaine questioned.

“Because I'm poor,” Laura stated.

“I would have paid you back.”

“And…”

“Oh, Laura, you've got to stop eating that stuff. It's all processed and so bad for you. Not to mention, the hormones they pack into that so called food. It pretty much isn't even real meat or potatoes. Do I need to make you some food? I can do that,” Perry rambled.

“That's why,” Laura mumbled to Lafontaine. “I'm fine, Perry. Carm and I have decided to have one day for bad food. After my appointment this morning, I thought it would be a nice thing to do.”

“And they didn't bring me any,” Lafontaine muttered.

“Good! I don't want you eating that junk. You need to remain healthy,” Perry stated.

Carmilla laughed to herself before grabbing a stack of books to help the rush hires shelve. She didn’t feel like listening to Lafontaine and Perry picker, even though sometimes she thought it was fun. She turned down the last row, to shelve some math textbooks when she came face to face with Elsie.

“How much have you missed me?” Elsie asked, moving closer to Carmilla.

Carmilla backed up and rolled her eyes. “I haven't even thought about you so needless to say, I don't miss you at all.”

“Oh come on. Laura must be very conservative in the bedroom department.”

“Excuse me? What Laura and I do is none of your business. What I do is none of your business. My life has nothing to do with you.”

“Oh please. Are you trying to tell me she lets you do the things that you did to me? I bet you miss it. Being in total control over my body.”

“Elsie, shut up. I don't want anything to do with you and I would never treat Laura that way. I don't want to do that stuff with her.”

“Because you rather do it with me?”

“Absolutely not. Let me say it again, I don't want anything to do with you.”

“It's okay. You're probably just tense from sleeping with a fat girl.”

Carmilla gritted her teeth. “What the fuck did you just say?”

“Oh come on, Carmilla. She's out of shape with thick thighs and a gut.”

Carmilla pushed her hard. Elsie fell backward, falling on her bottom. “Don't you ever fucking talk about her!”

Carmilla could hear a few footsteps coming towards her.

“Carm?” Laura said from the end of the row. “What happened?”

“Where's David?”

“Calm down, Carm. What's wrong?”

“I want her gone! I want her the fuck out of here.”

Lafontaine pulled Carmilla away. “No, Lafontaine! I want her gone!”

“Whoa. Whoa. Let's calm down,” Lafontaine tried. She held her hands up in a stop motion. Laura rubbed Carmilla's back, trying to soothe her. Elsie came out from the last row with a satisfied smile on her face.

“Let's go downstairs,” Lafontaine said. Elsie started to follow them, but they halted. “You can stay up here. Put the books on the shelves. I'll talk to you after I talk to Carmilla. Perry, do you mind supervising the rush staff?”

“Not at all, Dear.”

Lafontaine nodded and headed down the stairs. Carmilla wasn't too far behind them. Laura turned her attention towards Elsie, who grabbed another stack of books. She certainly looks satisfied. What did she say that pissed Carm off?

Carmilla plopped onto her desk chair. Lafontaine leaned against the counter.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“She needs to be fired. I can't work with her.”

“Okay. What made you get so angry?”

“She thinks I want to have sex with her. That I'm going to dump Laura for her which is just never going to happen.”

“Is that what made you so mad?”

“No.” Carmilla tried to calm down. “Look, you know how Laura feels about her body.”

“Of course I do. She has very low self esteem.”

“So let's say Perry had low self esteem and someone told you that she was fat and out of shape, wouldn't you be mad?”

“Did she say that about Laura?”

“Yeah.”

“I'm gonna talk to David. The last thing I need is someone talking to Laura, saying those things and making her feel bad about herself. She'll never let it go and it will haunt her forever.”

“Do you want me to talk to him? I could explain what Elsie and I were and-”

“No. You told me about your past relationship so I understand the problem with Elsie. But I also know why you were transferred here, and I don’t want that to affect David’s opinion of the situation. Don’t mention your relationship to anyone. I'm going to make sure she'll be in the first group to get fired. It'll be mid next week. Can you handle a few more days?”

Carmilla nodded. “Just keep her busy and away from me. Please.”

“Absolutely. Go ahead and go back upstairs. I'm worried she's saying things to Laura. I'm gonna talk to David and not even take the time to talk to her.”

“Alright. Thanks, Laf.”

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

“I'm surprised the shelves haven't collapsed,” Elsie stated, walking under Laura who was getting books for a student on one of the top shelves.

Laura decided to ignore her and continue about her business. She jumped down off the shelves which caused a loud thump on the ground. Laura processed the words Elsie had just said to her.

Laura handed off the books to the student who was waiting. “Thank you,” the guy said.

“You can pay right over there,” Laura replied, pointing to the register. Elsie began to speak again, but Perry put her hand up.

“I believe you were told to put books on the shelves, not chit chat. Why don't you shut your mouth and continue.” Perry stood tall with an aggravated look on her face. She raised her eyebrows and watched Elsie go back to her work.

Laura on the other hand started to internalize Elsie's words. What did she mean about the shelves collapsing? Wait, I know what she meant and it’s because I’m fat. She’s so skinny and I’m this huge monster. No, no. Stop! STOP! She's a bitch. She's lying. She's trying to get under my skin. Why is it working? Why are my thighs so fat?

She looked down at her thighs. She felt uncomfortable and sad in almost an instant. Carmilla came back up the stairs, looking angry. They made eye contact. Laura held up her fingers to her lips to imitate a cigarette. Carmilla nodded and turned to go back downstairs.

“Perry, I'm going to step outside.”

Perry just nodded, not really paying attention. Laura turned and headed straight for the back door, pushing past Elsie.

“Hey! Just say excuse me! It's not my fault that you can't get through. I didn't tell you to eat that fattening stuff for lunch.”

Laura kept walking and let the door slam behind her. She tried her hardest not to cry. Carmilla was already standing outside. The air was cool and Laura ran into Carmilla's arms. She rested her head against her shoulder and nestled into her neck, as Carmilla wrapped her arms around Laura.

“What's wrong, Baby?” Carmilla asked.

Laura shook her head.

“Tell me. I'm already about to lose my temper anyway.”

“Stop, Carm.”

“What did she say to you?”

Carmilla looked down to Laura. She could see the small tears forming in her eyes and pulled her closely. She held her as tight as she could as she felt Laura's shoulders start to shake. “Tell me, Baby. I’ll make it better.”

Laura shook her head no. Carmilla leaned against the railing, holding Laura to her. She rubbed up and down her back hoping it was doing something to help Laura relax. She felt Laura take a deep breath. Laura slowly pulled away taking the lighter and pack from Carmilla’s hand. She took out a cigarette and lit it before handing the pack back to Carmilla without making eye contact. She sat down on the small step, taking a drag.

Carmilla sit down next to her with a cigarette already in her mouth. She pulled out her lighter, cupped the cigarette with one hand while lighting it with the other. They sat there as if they were strangers. Laura stared at a small bug she saw on the sidewalk. Carmilla placed a hand on Laura’s thigh, but Laura flinched away. It took Carmilla by surprise, and she tried to lay her hand there again only for Laura to shift and move away from her.

“Stop, Carm. Not now.”

Laura didn’t want Carmilla to touch her thighs or any part of her really. I don’t understand why she would want to be with someone like me. Elsie is so skinny. She probably could do all sorts of things I couldn’t do. Why does Carmilla keep trying to touch my thigh anyway? Can’t she tell that it’s huge and it’ll just gross her out.

“Did Elsie say something about your body?”

Laura looked up at Carmilla. “She said she’s surprised the shelves haven’t collapsed, while I was climbing up to get a guy his books.”

Carmilla shook her head and stood up quickly.

“What are you doing?” Laura asked.

“I’m going to teach her lesson,” Carmilla said, heading back towards the store.

Laura reached out and grabbed her hand. “Wait, Carm. She isn’t worth losing your job over. Remember, you’re a transfer for causing problems at your old store. If you want this job, sit down and relax.”

“How can I relax when she’s talking about your body?”

“You just have to. She’s a bitch and is trying to get under my skin. Unfortunately, because of my low self esteem, it’s working.”

“Don’t let it.”

“It’s not that easy. I was picked on as a child about my weight because I’ve always had a tummy and chubby cheeks.”

“You don’t have chubby cheeks.”

“That’s beside the point. What I’m trying to say is, it’s easy for things to irritate me because I believe those words justify what I see. It helps me believe that I am actually fat.”

Carmilla gritted her teeth and balled her hands into fist. “You’re not fat, Laura. You’re not fat at all!”

“Carm, we know that’s lie.”

“No it’s not.” Carmilla’s anger was almost at her peak. “Fine, do you want me to honest? Yes, Laura, you have a small tummy, but that doesn’t make you ugly or fat. You have curves. Curves are a good thing and you shouldn’t be ashamed of them. But there is a huge difference between having hips and being overweight. Please know that.”

“She’s just so skinny.”

“I explained that you! She likes to have booze for dinner almost every night and she barely eats. I’m happy that you like to eat and eat different things. That you don’t worry about diets and all that stuff. Somewhere inside of you, you’re happy with your body. I just want that part to move forward so you can see how beautiful you really are. So you can see how beautiful I think you are. Don’t listen to any word that comes out of her mouth. Only listen to me, please. Don’t let a word from her mouth get to you when she is a borderline alcoholic who wishes she was as great as you so she could have kept me around. She’s saying this stuff because she thinks it’s going to change my mind and go back to her. But that’s never going to happen,” Carmilla explained.

“Why is that never going to happen? Other than me and the fact that I trust you.”

“Laura when I was with her, I was drunk almost every night. I would go home from work, shower, call her, we’d drink til the bar closed, have sex and do it all over again. I was drunk or hungover most of the time at work. I was a mess with her. Since you and I have been officially a couple, I’ve had maybe one or two drinks a week because with you, I don’t need alcohol and sex to fill that void in my heart anymore. Alcohol, sex and drugs were the things that used to make me feel alive and content. Now I have you and I don’t think I have ever been more happy.”

Laura smiled. “Are you sure about that?” She asked.

Carmilla laughed. “I’m sure, Laura. Elsie is a bitch and coward. You are my, Cupcake, my sunshine.”

Laura chuckled. “Sunshine?”

“Laura, when you smile, you could light the darkness, moodiest day. Yes, you are my sunshine.”

“And you’re my Grumpy Cat.”

“I’m not grumpy all the time,” Carmilla countered.

“Fair, but most of the time.”

“Yeah, yeah. Well when assholes mess with my girlfriend, I’m allowed to be. Can I have a kiss now?”

Laura leaned in and pressed her lips against Carmilla’s. After a few moments, Laura pulled back.

“Can I ask you something?” Laura asked.

“Anything.”

“Do my body issues annoy you? Like when I freak out about it, do you find me irritating? Like to the point that you rather not be with me? I know it’s a lot to deal with especially when you’ve got own things going on, but I-”

“No, I don’t find your issues annoying. All I want to do when have an episode is make it better and help you realize your mind is playing a trick on you.”

“But do you ever want to push me away or just leave to let me deal with it?”

“No. I don’t think you can deal with this on your own. I know sometimes I annoy you with my overload of compliments, but I just keep hoping if you hear it enough, you’ll start to believe me, but I also understand how I can come off as annoying.”

“It just doesn’t work for me, is all. I do appreciate it sometimes, just not all the time.”

“I guess I’ll just have to find other methods.”

“Telling me on occasion isn’t terrible, Carm.”

“I will definitely keep that in mind.”

The back door swung open to an irritated Lafontaine. “Guys, I know you’re love birds and I know that Elsie said some shit, which will be handled, but it is an absolute mess in there with people and I’m gonna need you guys to get back to work.”

“Sorry, Laf,” Laura said, pushing past them to go inside. Once inside, Lafontaine stopped Carmilla.

“She’s going to be gone by the Wednesday of next week,” Lafontaine said, turning their attention to Carmilla.

Carmilla nodded. “Thank you.”

“Did she say something to Laura?”

“A nonchalant comment about how the shelves haven’t collapsed under Laura’s weight.”

“That bitch. At least it’s Friday. You guys can just go home and stay away from here for a couple days and hopefully not see her.”

“That’s the plan.”

“Lafontaine!” Perry yelled from the back door.

“Right. Work time!”

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

Laura stood in her kitchen, making grilled chicken when her phone buzzed. She jumped and ran to the building’s front door. Carmilla didn't look as happy as she had when she left work. She gave Laura a quick peck and then walked forward so the door could shut behind her.

Laura didn't say anything as they entered her apartment. She walked towards the kitchen and noticed Carmilla wasn't behind her. She's probably putting her stuff down. After ten minutes of no Carmilla, Laura started to get worried. She put the chicken on low heat and made her way down the hall. She knocked quietly on the door and slowly pushed it open. Carmilla was spread out on her bed, sound asleep. Laura smiled and made her way back to the kitchen.

She must have had a bad therapy session. I just hope she’ll be hungry. She should be okay. Hopefully a little chicken, mac and cheese and broccoli will make her feel better.

Laura continued to make dinner for the two of them. She steamed the broccoli, adding a little salt to season and then dumped the macaroni into the boiling water. She flipped the chicken over, adding a touch more olive oil so it wouldn't be too dry. Once she had the cheese mixed with the macaroni and the broccoli drained, she turned everything off.

There was a little table with two chairs in the living room. She put out two placemats and set the table. She loaded up a plate for her and then Carmilla. She carried them from the kitchen to the small table, hoping to make as little noise as possible while passing her door. She filled two glasses with water and placed them with silverware on the appropriate area and then walked to her bedroom.

Carmilla laid there with eyes open, lost in thought. She turned her head towards Laura.

“Bad session?” Laura asked.

Carmilla shook her head no. “Just made me think a little more than I was planning to.”

“Is there anything I can do to make it better?”

Carmilla shook her head no again. Laura deflated a little. “Would you rather be left alone? We don't have to hangout tonight if you don't want to.”

“No, Baby. I want to stay, if that’s okay. I'm sorry. It's just one of those moods. I'm sure I'll shake out of it.”

“Are you hungry?”

Carmilla's stomached growled loudly as if on cue. “Starving, actually.”

“Come on, then.” Laura held out her hand. Carmilla lips twitched into a brief smile, as she grabbed Laura's hand. Laura walked her down the small hallway and into the living room.

“I figured a dinner for two would be nice.”

Laura managed to get an actual smile for Carmilla. “You're amazing, do you know that?”

“I mean, I'm pretty awesome,” Laura laughed.

“Thanks, Cupcake. This is exactly what I needed. What are we having?”

“Well we have grilled chicken breast that I hope isn't too dry. Kraft macaroni and cheese.”

“Oh, fancy.”

“Only the fanciest for my Sweetcheeks. And some steamed broccoli.”

“Looks delicious. Thank you.”

“Of course.”

Carmilla walked behind a chair and gestured for Laura to sit. Laura giggled, but sat down as Carmilla pushed her chair in. She moved around the table to her own chair. Carmilla started eating almost immediately as if she had never eaten before.

“Oh my gosh, Laura. This is so good.”

“It's not too dry?” Laura asked, concerned.

“Not at all, Baby. Just perfect.”

Laura's face lit up and she happily started eating.

“I'm sorry about earlier,” Carmilla said after a while.

“Sorry about what?”

“For just coming into your apartment, not saying a word and collapsing on your bed. I just felt really drained and needed to clear my head.”

“No need to apologize, Love. It happens. Will I be experiencing that after my sessions?”

“Not all, but maybe some. I honestly think it's kind of normal to feel that way, but not sure. It's one of those things where you won't know until you start.”

“I'm still kind of nervous about it, Carm.”

“It's okay to be nervous. It's something new. New is always a little scary.”

Laura nodded.

“But I promise it'll be okay and hopefully, it'll help you and make you feel better.”

“I just don't want to be on medication or something.”

“Just tell them that. They can't make you take meds. You have that choice. I, personally, am better on my meds so I'm happy to have them. Sometimes I feel like they're not doing their job, but I think that's just life.”

Laura's eyes widened. “Oh, I don't have a problem with people on meds.”

“I know, Cupcake. It's a personal choice.”

“I'm sorry.”

“It's nothing to be sorry about. Now, how about I was the dishes while you find a movie for us to watch. Sound good?”

Laura smiled. “Sure, Carm. I'll just put the extra food in some Tupperware first.”

Once Carmilla had all the dishes cleaned and put away, they settled in some comfy clothes and laid on Laura's bed.

“What do you want to watch, Cupcake?”

“Hm. Do you have any preferences?”

“Nope. Whatever you want is fine. I’ll probably fall asleep, if I’m being honest.”

“We don’t have to watch a movie.”

“No, no. It’s good, Baby. What do you wanna watch?”

“Okay don’t make fun of me.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes and smirked. “I would never make fun of you.”

“Can we watch the ‘Brave Little Toaster’?”

Carmilla started laughing. “What?”

“You said you wouldn’t make fun of me!” Laura protested.

“I’m not. I’m sorry.” Carmilla tried to catch her breath from laughing. “I’m sorry, but the ‘Brave Little Toaster’?”

“I know it’s weird, but as an adult, it makes no sense and it is kind of trippy.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just something completely different as an adult and I find it freaky. And there is definitely something going on between Toaster and Blanky. There just a little too close.”

“Okay, Cupcake. Enlighten me. Please.”

Laura hopped off her bed and headed towards a bookshelf full of DVD’s. Carmilla started to chuckle again.

“Carmilla!”

“You have it on DVD?”

“My dad got it for me! Look I used to watch it when I was a little kid. It was one of my sick movies that I would watch when I stayed home from school. I love this movie.”

“Okay. Okay.”

Laura lightly smacked Carmilla’s leg as she continued to laugh. “Stop making fun of me, please.”

Carmilla took a big breath. “Okay. I’m sorry. I am. I’m not making fun of you. You’re just super cute is all.”

“Isn’t that another way of saying you’re making fun.”

“No. You’re just so cute, Baby. I’m excited to watch this movie. Okay?”

“You promise?”

“Yes, now please stop hitting my leg. You have a strong arm and it hurts.”

“I’m sorry, Baby.”

Laura leaned forward and placed a few kisses to Carmilla’s thigh. “Is that better?”

“A little.”

“What can I do to make it better?”

Carmilla pointed to her lips. Laura placed a light kiss against her lips. “Better?”

Carmilla nodded. “Let’s watch this movie, Baby.”

Laura pushed the DVD into her laptop. The girls laid back against the pillows and cuddled into each other. Carmilla placed a light kiss against Laura’s forehead as they snuggled closer. They talked throughout the movie about how weird certain things were. Carmilla agreed with Laura about the toaster and the blanket. They definitely had a weird relationship.

Halfway through the movie, Carmilla’s phone rang. She ignored it and let it go to voicemail, only for it to start up again. She picked up her phone as Laura paused the movie.

“Shit, it’s my mother, Cupcake. One minute.”

Carmilla sat up and placed her legs over the side of the bed. “Hello, Mother.”

”Carmilla why didn’t you answer my call?”

“I’m with Laura and we’re watching a movie.”

”Well, that’s exactly what I was calling about.”

“You called me about a movie?”

”Don’t be smart, Carmilla. You know I hate that more than anything.”

“Sorry, Mother. Why are you calling?”

”You sister told me that me that things with Laura seem to have become very serious and that she isn’t just another fling.”

“I told you she was important to me.”

”Exactly, Dear. I think it’s time I meet the girl that you have been canoodling with.”

“No,” Carmilla paused as her eyes widened. “No. No. No. No.”

“What is it, Carm?” Laura asked.

Carmilla shook her head.

”Carmilla, it’s happening. You will be joining me tomorrow night at home, at 7, for dinner.”

“Mother, please. No. It’s too soon.”

”You know I will make Mattie bring you. William will be there too. I’ll send the town car, so you don’t have to worry about the train. The car will be at your apartment at 6:15. That should be enough time to get you here at 7. There is no negotiating. I expect to see you at 7 with this young lady.”

“Mother.”

”7 o’clock, the townhouse. End of discussion. Yes?”

Carmilla exhaled. “Yes, Mother.”

Carmilla ended the call and put her phone down on Laura’s bedside table.

“Is everything okay, Carm?” Laura asked.

“Yeah. I have to ask a favor.”

“Sure.”

“Do you have plans tomorrow night?”

“I assumed I would with you.”

Carmilla nodded. “I’m really sorry, but would you like to have dinner with my mother tomorrow night?”

Chapter Text

“I’m really sorry, but would you like to have dinner with my mother tomorrow night?” Carmilla asked. Please say no. Please, please, say no!

“Dinner with your mother?” Laura questioned.

Carmilla nodded. “I know it’s not exactly what you had planned, but there will be alcohol and good food. I don’t know. You don’t have to-”

“Carm, stop. I would love to.”

Carmilla looked at Laura, almost dumbfounded. Damn it. “Are you sure?”

“Should I not be?”

“It’s just,” Carmilla paused. “My mother is very particular and tends to be very strict.”

“You grew up on the Upper West Side?”

“Upper East.”

“Oh. Ohh.”

“Yeah.” Carmilla shrugged.

“That’s a little different. I’ve heard it’s a little more posh.”

“Oh, Cupcake. It is.”

“Did you like go to art school as a child?”

Carmilla laughed. “More like my life revolved around the theater.”

“What? Carm, why didn’t you tell me? I told you I moved here for theater.”

“I know, Baby, but it was a long time ago. And I thought you majored in journalism in college?”

“I did, but I guess you decided not to pay attention when I clearly stated that I majored in theater first before turning to journalism.”

“Well maybe I was just too busy staring at a beautiful girl.” Carmilla wiggled her eyebrows.

Laura rolled her eyes, but smiled. “Yeah. Okay. I’ll let that be your excuse. What kind of theater did you do?”

“Oh just stuff here and there.”

“You grew up on the Upper East Side, Carm. That’s like culture central.”

“If you like museums, then I guess that is true.”

“Still. I know you did more than little stuff here and there.”

“Okay. You’re right, I did.” Carmilla took a deep breath. “I was on Broadway when I was little.”

Laura’s eyes widened. “What? Seriously?! Musical or play?”

“Musical.”

Carmilla didn’t think Laura’s eyes could get any bigger.

“Which one, Carm?”

Carmilla cleared her throat. “‘Annie’,” she mumbled.

Laura smiled, wide. “Oh my gosh. You were in ‘Annie’? Who did you play? Molly? No, it was Pepper wasn’t it?”

Carmilla mumbled again.

“What?” Laura asked.

Carmilla exhaled and lowered her head. “I played Annie.”

“You played Annie? Seriously?”

“Yes, Cupcake. In the 1997 revival on Broadway.”

“That’s amazing, Carm! Why are you acting like that is no big deal?”

Carmilla tried to not get upset, but she didn't want to have this conversation. She didn’t like talking about her childhood theater career. It was more her Mother’s idea than hers and she mostly got pushed into it. After she lost her father, even stepping in the Theater District made her hyperventilate.

“Look, can we please just stop talking about it? Please,” Carmilla pleaded with an annoyance to her voice.

Laura saw the look of desperation in her eyes. “Yeah,” she said, lightly. “Of course. I’m sorry.”

“Thank you.”

It was quiet for a moment as Carmilla tried her hardest to push the thoughts of her father from her head. Not yet. I can’t tell her yet. I haven’t told anyone about him. Not yet. Oh gosh, please. Stop. Stop. No tears. You’re okay. Think about him later. Focus on Laura. I need to prepare her for tomorrow night. She could feel her eyes watering.

Laura sat there feeling like she had pushed a boundary and was not happy with herself. Why did I push her? She clearly doesn’t want to talk about it, otherwise she would have told me. I’ve made her uncomfortable.

Carmilla cleared her throat, trying to push away the tears. “Can you excuse me for a moment?” Carmilla stood up from Laura’s bed, grabbed her phone and walked out of the room.

“Carm, wait!” She heard Laura say. She went into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. She felt sick as she sat down on the floor. She clutched her phone before turning it on. She typed out a quick text message to her therapist, explaining what she was feeling. Jess quickly responded, telling her to calm down. Her phone started buzzing her hand.

“Hello?” She whispered.

”What’s happening, Carmilla?

She explained that her mother invited Laura for dinner, about her theater career coming up in conversation and her father.

”Do you think you’re ready to talk about your father with someone other than me?”

Carmilla shook her head and muttered out a “no”.

”And why is that?”

“You know why. I can’t talk about my father without getting emotional. I’m not ready for that.”

”Well you know your mother is going to talk about theater tonight with Laura. Will you be able to get through that?”

“I don’t know. I had to ask Laura to stop talking about it.”

”Did ‘Annie’ come up?”

“Yes.”

”That’s what your mother praises you for the most. I would just tell Laura as much as you can without getting emotional. Has she given you a reason to not trust her?”

“Not at all.”

Okay. So do you think you can trust her enough to explain what will most likely happen tonight and to help you if you need a break?”

“I guess that is the better option than my usual go to.”

”Yes. I don’t think your mother wants to you to punch another hole in the wall, right?

Carmilla lightly chuckled. “Yeah.”

”Will you be okay?”

“Yes. Thank you, Jess. Sorry I called you so late.”

”Not a problem. This is why I gave you my number. Thank you for texting me so I could call. Have a good night and try to talk to Laura when you’re ready.

“You got it, Doc.”

Carmilla hung up her phone and took a few deep breaths. She splashed water on her face and left the bathroom. She walked back into Laura’s room. Laura was laying on her bed, trying to wipe her tears off of her cheeks. They made eye contact and Carmilla immediately felt guilty.

“Hey. What’s wrong, Cupcake?”

“I’m sorry, Carm. I didn’t mean to pry.”

Carmilla sat down and pushed some of Laura’s hair behind her ear.

“You didn’t, Baby. Just talking about my childhood makes me a little upset. ‘Annie’ was a difficult time for my family. That’s all. It’s something I’m still working on, but I promise, you didn’t do anything wrong. Okay”?

Laura nodded. “Okay.”

“Come here, Laura.”

Carmilla held her arms open and let Laura fall into her embrace. “Do you just want to go to bed?” Laura asked, her voice muffled against Carmilla's shirt.

“Actually can we talk for a moment?”

“Of course.”

Laura sat up and faced Carmilla. She crossed her legs to be more comfortable as she waited for Carmilla to speak. Carmilla scratched the back of her neck. Her hair was starting to bother her so she put her hair up into a messy bun.

“I don’t talk about my childhood often and there are a lot of reasons for that. Unfortunately, however, my mother is going to talk about it a lot. She always does and it annoys me to the point that I can get very angry and irritated. I might just step out of the room for moments at a time, but you don’t have to go with me. I’ll just need a few moments to collect my thoughts and then I’ll return. Okay?”

“Will you tell me if you need me?”

“Of course. And I promise, one day, I’ll open up about my childhood and you’ll know more, but right now, I only talk about that with my therapist.”

“Carm, you don’t have to tell me anything you’re not ready for. But when you are ready, I’ll be here.”

Carmilla smiled. “Thanks, Cupcake.”

“Bed?” Laura asked. She moved to sit next to Carmilla.

“You want to finish the movie?”

Laura grinned from ear to ear. “Do you actually want to finish ‘The Brave Little Toaster’?”

“Don’t make a big deal out of it, Cupcake. You’re right. It’s totally freaky as an adult and I’m kind of curious to see the rest of it.”

Laura continued to smirk with a knowing look. Carmilla nudged her with her elbow. “Just play the movie, Cupcake!”

Laura smiled before it faltered. She started to think about her family as they continued to watch the movie.

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

Laura awoke in the middle of the night with a jolt. She had been dreaming about her mom, when they were happy and her sexuality was not determined yet. She was a little girl, playing in the park on a sunny day. Her dad filming them with his old video camera, while she finally learned how to pump her legs on the swings. The way she felt when she and her mom went down the big slide together. She sat there, pushing away the thoughts from her mind.

Carmilla stirred and wrapped an arm around Laura’s legs. She wasn’t awake at all, but Laura still found comfort in that skinny arm that snaked around her legs to hold her.

“You okay, Laura?” Carmilla grumbled in her sleep.

Laura nodded her head, which Carmilla didn’t receive. “Laura?” Carmilla asked, squinting her eyes and lifting her head. She noticed Laura was sitting up and slowly pushed herself up.

“Hey,” Carmilla said, wrapping an arm around Laura’s shoulder. She wiped her eyes with her knuckles. “You okay?”

Laura looked towards Carmilla. “Yeah, I’m okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

Carmilla yawned. “That’s alright. Weird dream?”

“Yeah. It must have been the movie.”

“That’s understandable.” Carmilla laid back down. “It was so fucking weird.”

Carmilla held her arms open for Laura. “Come here, Baby. Let’s go back to sleep.”

Laura laid down next to Carmilla, falling into her embrace. She felt Carmilla’s lips against her forehead and gave it a small peck. Laura rested her face in the crook of Carmilla’s neck. She felt Carmila take a huge inhale, followed by an exhale as her body started to relax. She could tell Carmilla was already starting to fall back asleep as the fingers that were rubbing against her shoulder started to slow down. Her breathing started to even out and it helped Laura slowly let her stress level come down.

“It’s okay, Cupcake,” Carmilla mumbled, her voice full of sleep.

Laura smiled to herself at how cute Carmilla acted when she was barely awake before slowly drifting back to sleep in Carmilla’s arms.

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

Carmilla paced around her apartment. She had left Laura’s apartment after Laura and her had a bowl of cereal for breakfast. She helped Laura put together a few different outfit choices that would be good to wear. She told Laura to wait and see what she felt the best in later in the day.

“Carmilla, I need you to stop pacing, please,” Mattie said, getting irritated with her sister.

“Well I wouldn’t be pacing if you would have kept your mouth shut about Laura.”

Mattie rolled her eyes. “I would just like to point out that you were the first one to mention Laura to her.”

“Yes, the one time. I didn’t talk on the phone with her and tell her that we were serious.”

“Who are you kidding, Kitty Cat? Mother has been by the firm several times and since you rarely answer her when she calls you, she has asked me how your new relationship was going. Did you want me to lie and tell her Laura was just another one of your toys?”

Carmilla stopped pacing and exhaled. “No,” she answered truthfully. “If you had, it most likely would have been worse.”

“Exactly. You’re welcome.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes in response.

“Do you think this is okay to wear?” Carmilla asked. She was wearing skinny black jeans, a black tank top and a black blazer.

“I think you look good.”

“Is it too casual for Mother?”

“Not at all. She would have told us if it was going to be formal. But I am proud of you for not wearing your leather pants. I know it took courage.”

“Trust me, I rather wear them.”

“But decided not to piss her off? You’re growing up,” Mattie teased. “What shoes are you wearing?”

“My combat boots.”

“Of course you are. Couldn’t you just dress in something that Mother would like so we don't have to hear her comments about your clothes?”

“Where would the fun in that be?” Carmilla smirked.

Mattie matched her facial expression. “When is Laura coming over?” Carmilla looked at the small clock on the wall that hung above the television.

“It should be anytime now. I gave her several outfit choices, so hopefully she’ll settle with one of them. She will most likely have to borrow a pair of my shoes though.”

“Why is that?”

“It seems all she owns are sneakers.”

“Oh yes. Mother will not like that. Do you have flats she can wear? I can ask James to pick her up a pair.”

“No. I want this to be as normal as possible. I don’t want her to know how we grew up.”

“And you don’t think Mother will point that out? She has an original Degas and Picasso just in the living room. Did you tell Laura that she owns her townhouse on the Upper East Side?”

“I just told her that we grew up there and I didn’t say much else.”

“Oh, Carmilla. She’s going to be in for a huge culture shock.”

“Well, you know girls change when they figure out that I come from money.”

“Not all girls. Just one. You should know better than that by now. Laura is not that Ell girl you dated. I don’t think Laura will care that you come from money. Besides, Mother worked hard for it.”

“Oh yes. Marrying dad was really working hard.”

“Don’t start with that. It’s only going to put us in a dispute and unless you want to continue that spat in front of Mother, then I suggest we drop the conversation.”

“Fine.”

By the grace of God there was a small knock on the door. Saved by my Cupcake. Carmilla stomped towards the door to open it.

“Hey, Kitty,” Will said with a devious smile on his face.

Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“Don’t look so happy to see me.”

“And why would I ever be happy to see a mama’s boy?”

The small tension evaporated when Carmilla walked closer to Will, giving him a hug. They smiled at each other before Will made him way over to Mattie to give her a hug. “Hey, Sis,” he said, whispering in her ear.

“Well are we all ready?” Will asked, clapping his hands together.

“Not quite. We’re still waiting on Laura,” Mattie answered.

“Laura? Wait. You mean that short girl you came to the bar with that one time?”

“You’re barely taller than her, but yes. That Laura.”

“Holy shit, Kitty. I did not think that was going to work out.”

“And why is that?”

“She seemed so pure and innocent.”

“And didn’t have my dark soul?” Carmilla asked.

It was Will’s and Mattie’s turn to roll their eyes. “That’s not what I meant, Kitty. She just didn’t seem like your type of girl is all. I’m glad it’s working out.”

“Thanks. I’m going to give her a call. I don’t think I mentioned how important it is to be prompt and on time with Mother.”

Carmilla excused herself as Will and Mattie started talking amongst themselves. She walked into her bedroom and pulled out her phone. She had two texts from Laura. The first one explained she couldn’t figure out what to wear. The second one was letting Carmilla know she was on her way. I guess I don’t need to call her.

Mattie knocked on her door. “Carmilla, the car is here. Is Laura on her way?”

“Yeah. She should be here any minute.”

“Good. Luckily James is early. Are you going to be okay?” Mattie was concerned.

“Do you think Mother will like her?”

“I think we can chat with Laura explaining things to avoid with Mother. We’ll make her look good considering how particular Mother is.”

“I just really want Mother to like her. I want Mother to know that I am in a much better, more stable place than I was a few months ago and not just because of Laura.”

“Carmilla, she’ll see the good in you. Just don’t let her push you and try not to drink.”

Carmilla scoffed. “Me? Not drink at Mother’s house? Are you kidding me?”

“You know if she sees you drinking too much she’ll be angry and make a comment about it. Don’t have more than two glasses.”

“Can I take your flask?” Carmilla asked.

Mattie gave her a stern look.

“Okay, fine. Two drinks.”

“Guys, Laura is here!” Will shouted from the living room. “And it’s 6:15 so we gotta go!”

“Promise me, it’s going to be okay, Mattie,” Carmilla pleaded.

“She’s going to love her. Now come on, you Little Monster,” Mattie said, pinching Carmilla’s nose.

Carmilla stepped out and the outfit that Laura had chosen took her breath away. She was in dark blue jeans, a white button up and a navy blazer. Carmilla looked down to see Laura in a pair of white Adidas Shell Toes which actually complemented her look. Her hair was down and straightened to rest against her shoulders.

“Wow, Cupcake. You look amazing.”

Laura smiled. “Thanks, Carm. I could say the same about you.”

They shared a brief kiss.

“Laura, you remember Will and Mattie?”

“Of course. It’s nice to see you two again.”

“It’s nice to see you too. Shall we go?” Mattie asked, picking up her purse from the kitchen counter. Will held the door for all three girls and they made their way outside. Laura wasn’t sure how she didn’t notice it before, but there was a large, black SUV sitting outside.

“Hello, Karnstein children and guest,” the man greeted. He was tall and skinny. He had gray hair and was wearing a black suit. He seemed to stand tall and proud, as if driving them was an honor.

“Hey James. This is Laura,” Carmilla said, opening the door for her.

“Please to meet you, James.”

“Pleasure to meet you as well, Laura.”

They all sat in the back as James took off down the street.

“You have a driver?” Laura asked.

Mattie immediately cleared her throat. “Laura, I think there are some things we need to tell you before we reach Mother’s apartment.”

Laura exhaled as Carmilla reached out for her hand.

“Firstly, you should know the three of us grew up with quite a bit of money. Mother’s house will prove that to you, but don’t let it intimidate you. Secondly, Mother is very particular about things. I would say use your best manners and best behavior. Do you know the difference between a salad fork and a dinner fork?”

Laura looked to Carmilla, bewildered. “It's okay, Cupcake. Just follow me. Start in and work your way out.”

Laura nodded.

“Okay. Try not to worry about that too much. I was personally just curious,” Mattie corrected. “She's just particular to manners is all.”

“Okay. Why do I feel like I'm going to be defending for my life?” Laura questioned. She looked towards Carmilla. Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura's shoulders.

“Don't worry about it. Guys, stop trying to scare her,” Carmilla said.

“I want to make a good impression,” Laura whispered in Carmilla's ear.

“All you have to do is be yourself. She's going to love you.”

“Oh, she will, Laura,” Mattie added.

“How should I address her? Should it be Mrs. Karnstein or-”

“No!” They all shouted at her. Laura jumped.

“Sorry, Laura,” Will said, when he noticed they startled her. “Just call her, Ms. Morgan. If she tells you to call her, Lilita, don't. That's a test she likes to do to our dates when any of us bring a person home to meet her.”

Laura looked back towards Carmilla. “It's true. That is how she'll test your manners.”

“Just be yourself and be respectful,” Mattie said. “You'll be just fine.”

Laura already had butterflies in her stomach, but she felt like they had just multiplied at this new information. She nodded her head and leaned into Carmilla.

“Now there is something you should know,” Mattie started. “Mother comes from money and married into money. Don't touch too much of her stuff because most of it is priceless. Carmilla told me she didn't tell you that we came from money, but as I stated earlier, we did.”

Laura nodded. “I mean, I figured as much.”

Mattie smiled and then started to talk to Will. They ignored the two girls in the back.

“I'm sorry, Cupcake.”

“Is she going to hate me?”

“I don't think anyone could hate you, Beautiful.”

“What does she expect of me?”

“I honestly hope nothing, but I don't know. She knows about my downward spirals and what my triggers are. Mattie has restricted me to a two drink minimum tonight, but now that I’m sitting next to you, I kind of don’t really want one. Which is odd because if there is one thing I love to do when I'm home, it's drink. Anyway, don't let what they said bother you. My mother is a socialite and has a high standard when it comes to her children. Since I stopped doing theater, it's important for her to make sure that I'm still doing well. Just remember what I said. She likes to get under my skin so if I step away, it's just me recollecting my thoughts. Okay?”

Laura squeezed Carmilla's hand and kissed her cheeks. “Okay.”

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

James stopped the car in front of a three story townhouse. He opened the door and Laura watched as Mattie and Will stepped out.

“Ready?” Carmilla asked, waiting for Laura to step out. Carmilla was standing on the sidewalk.

“I'm nervous,” she admitted.

Carmilla leaned into the car and placed a light kiss against Laura's lips. “It'll be okay. I promise, Baby.”

Laura stared at Carmilla a minute longer until James cleared his throat. Laura slid out and stepped outside.

“This house is beautiful,” Laura commented, looking up.

“It is a beauty,” James agreed.

Carmilla stepped to the side so James could close the door. She took Laura’s hand. “Thank you, James.”

“Of course, Ms. Carmilla. Have fun,” he said, sarcastically.

“You know I always do,” she replied with a wink. Carmilla started walking and Laura followed.

“James has been the driver since I was a little girl. He knows I'm mischievous,” Carmilla clarified at Laura’s curious gaze.

Mattie and Will were making their way inside. Laura and Carmilla were right behind them. Laura stopped breathing when she entered the Morgan home. Above her hung a huge chandelier, that led to a wrapping staircase that was the entranceway to the upper floors. Straight ahead she could see a large, white living room.

“William, my beautiful son,” she heard Carmilla’s mother say. She sounds nice and looks wonderful. Lilita kissed him on both cheeks before bringing him into a hug.

“Matska, my beautiful girl.” She claimed, giving her eldest daughter a hug. “I love those shoes.”

“Thank you, Mother. They’re Cole Haan.”

“I must find me a pair. You always know how to compliment your dresses with the right pair of shoes.”

Carmilla stood their aloof with her hand in Laura's. Lilita let go of Mattie.

“Come here, my Darling Girl.” Carmilla shared a small smile and let go of Laura's hand to wrap her arms around her mother.

“Hi, Mother,” she whispered.

Lilita glanced at her daughter from head to toe. “You just couldn’t leave the combat boots at home, could you?”

“You know me, Mother. I love my boots.”

“You always did, even though I’ve never liked them. At least you’re not dressed in leather pants. I will be grateful for that.”

Carmilla smiled, clearly pleased with herself.

“And you must be Ms. Hollis,” Lilita said, turning her attention towards Laura. Lilita Morgan was clearly a woman of status. She had grayish, black hair pulled back into a tight bun. She looked as if she didn’t have any makeup on, even though she clearly did. Her outfit looked like it had been put together by a team. She wore a tight pencil skirt, with a navy button down shirt, and tall stiletto heels. She had a friendly smile on her face that calmed Laura a little bit.

“Laura,” she corrected. Laura extended her hand, not sure what was customary.

“Are you afraid of hugs?” Lilita asked with a charming smile.

“Not at all, Ma’am.”

Lilita walked forward, embracing Laura into a strong hold. She stepped back and put her hands on Laura's shoulders. “It's so nice to finally meet you. I've heard you're making my daughter very happy.”

“It's nice to meet you as well, Ms. Morgan.”

“Oh please. Call me Lilita, Laura. Welcome to my home. I just ask that you discard your shoes.”

“Of course, Ma’am,” Laura said, following Carmilla’s lead. Laura thought she seemed very nice and welcoming, but she still felt nervous that she would mess this up in some way or another.

“Well enough chit chat in the foyer. Come my children and Laura into the living room.”

Carmilla grabbed Laura's hand and smiled. Laura was glad to have the stability of Carmilla's hand. She followed Carmilla through the small entrance way into a rather large living space. In the back was a large window that led to a small backyard. In the distant corner there was a grand piano. The living space held two large white couches adjacent to one another, along with two sitting chairs. The entire floor was covered in crisp white carpeting. There was no television that Laura could see. There were lights that looked like candles in many different places on the wall to accentuate the space. There seemed to be a mini bar in front of the large windows and another shelving unit of some kind along the front wall where a television would be. On that table were fresh lilies that stood in the middle of two orchids.

“You have a very lovely home, Ms. Morgan,” Laura said, as she sat down next to Carmilla on one of the white couches. Will and Mattie occupied the other as Lilita sat in one of the sitting chairs.

“Thank you, Laura. I'm a big fan of white, if you can't tell.” Lilita let out a laugh that could only be described as upper class.

Laura continued to look around. She noticed a set of double doors near the grand piano and was curious to see what the led to. She then noticed the two paintings that added a splash of color on the wall.

“Is that an original Picasso?”

“You have a good eye, Laura. That is an original and has been in my family for years. There is a Degas along that wall. I also have a Manet upstairs. Do you enjoy art?”

“Yes. I took a few art history classes in college.”

“Well, remind me to show you a few others I have later on into the evening. Where did you go for school?”

“NYU.”

“Oh, that is a wonderful school.”

Laura nodded her head in agreement, hoping she wouldn’t have to tell this sophisticated woman she didn’t graduate.

“So,” Lilita started. “How is my incredible lawyer of a daughter doing?”

“Just as wonderful as I can be, Mother. Luckily my caseload is a little light right now so I'm able to breathe some.”

“Wonderful. You need a vacation, Matska. I told you I would help you pay for it.”

“That isn't necessary, Mother. I make good money and will take one when I think it is necessary.”

Lilita smiled. “Of course. And how is my wonderful son?”

“Mama’s boy,” Carmilla whispered in Laura's ear. Laura nudged her which caused Carmilla to laugh a little. Laura could see Lilita looking at her curiously. She immediately sat up straight and turned her attention toward Will.”

“I am wonderful as always, Mother.”

“And how is business school at Columbia going? You know I'm so proud of you for following in my footsteps.”

“It's going very well, Mother.”

“Are you still at the top of your class?”

“As if I would be anywhere else,” Will stated with a confident smile.

“As if I'd be anywhere else,” Carmilla mocked. Since she was a little girl, she had always wanted the attention Will got for his efforts.

“Carmilla, leave your brother alone.”

“Sorry, Mother.”

“Now Carmilla. Still at that bookstore?”

“Of course and I love it.”

“When are you going to get a real job?”

“It is a real job, Mother.” Carmilla reached out for Laura’s hand and gave it a strong squeeze. Laura could tell that Lilita didn't approve much about Carmilla's life in that small instance of communication, but she tried to remain indifferent. I have to impress this woman. Hopefully it’ll help Carmilla’s relationship with her mother.

“And Laura, how did you meet Carmilla?”

“Oh. We actually work together, Ma’am. We met at the bookstore.”

Lilita eyed Carmilla curiously and Laura started to backtrack. “Not like that, Ms. Morgan. We just, um-”

“Mother, she isn’t just another girl to me. She is more than that. We actually went out on a couple dates and got to know each other before we agreed to be girlfriends. She’s more than what the other girls were.”

“You mean the one you took into the store and got caught with? And then that other girl that you had gotten into so much trouble with that I had to keep bailing you out or coming to your rescue. That blonde girl that had the audacity to think she would be part of this family-”

“Mother, it’s very rude to do this in front of Laura,” Mattie stated, interrupting her mother. “We want Laura to feel comfortable, remember?”

Lilita cleared her throat and smiled. “Of course. I apologize, Laura. I would love to get to know you better. Are you from New York originally?”

Laura smiled. Carmilla took a deep sigh and stood up. “Excuse me,” she said, before leaving and heading up the stairs. Laura watched her go and felt very uncomfortable without Carmilla by her side. Laura looked towards Mattie, who shook her head no. Laura nodded.

“I’m actually from Virginia,” Laura answered.

“Oh, beautiful. Which part?” She doesn’t seem to care that her daughter just walked out of the room. Wait, keep your head in the game.

“Alexandria.”

“That’s near downtown DC, correct?”

“Yes, Ma’am. About 15 to 20 minutes.”

“And what was it like growing up there?”

“It was very nice. Very quiet.”

“Do you have any siblings?”

“No, Ma’am. Just me.”

“It must have been very lonesome,” Lilita commented.

“Mother, Laura was very close to her family growing up,” Carmilla said, re-entering the room and taking her seat next to Laura. She sat closer and rested her hand on Laura’s thigh. Laura looked over to her and smiled.

“Are you okay?” Laura whispered, rubbing her nose against Carmilla’s cheek. Carmilla smiled.

“I’m better now. Thank you.” Laura could feel Lilita staring at her, but she tried her hardest to ignore it.

“Ah, James. Could you make me a dry martini, please?” Lilita asked as James entered from another room.

“Of course, Madam. Mattie, do you want red or white tonight?” He asked.

“Red, of course,” Mattie teased.

“William, my boy?”

William stood up. “Thank you, James. I’ll make it myself.”

“That’s quite alright, William. What would you like?”

Will stopped where he stood. “Thank you, James. A whiskey neat, please.”

“Johnnie Walker Blue, Sir?”

Will winked. “You know it.”

“Ms. Laura? Can I get you something?”

“Oh. May I have the same as Will, please?”

“Absolutely. Neat or on the rocks.”

“Neat, please.”

“Ms. Hollis, you have very good taste,” Lilita noted.

“Thank you, Ms. Morgan.”

“You’re so small. Can you handle a whiskey neat?”

“Yes, Ma’am. My father enjoyed the occasional drink. Also my grandmother used to put it on my gums when I was teething. I think that is when I grew tolerance for it.” Laura smiled as Lilita continued to eye her curiously before an honest laugh escaped her lips.

“Oh my goodness. No one stopped her?” Lilita asked, laughing.

Laura laughed a little. “I stayed with her when my parents worked, so there was no one there to stop her. I guess she just wanted me to be quiet. However, I don’t believe she used this nice of whiskey.”

“What brand is that, James?”

“Johnnie Walker Blue, Madam,” he replied, handing Will his drink.

Laura paused. “Forgive me, Ms. Morgan, but that is a very expensive bottle of whiskey. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a glass from that.”

“Nonsense, Laura. It is my favorite brand, when I’m in the mood for it. It is also William’s. I keep it here mostly for him or if I need a little night cap.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely, Laura. Have you had it before?”

“No, Ma’am. My grandmother most likely used the cheapest bottle she could find. My father tended to only keep Jack Daniels in the house.”

“Oh well I have had my fair share of Jack through the years, but that story of your grandmother,” Lilita laughed again, “Well that is just marvelous. I assume you do have a tolerance for it then.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” James handed Laura her drink. “Thank you, James.” She grabbed the glass from his hands.

“And Ms. Carmilla? I assume you want the same?”

“Actually, could I just get some water for now?” Carmilla asked.

The entire room gawked at Carmilla except for Laura, even though she was a little surprised. She knew that Mattie had put her on a two drink limit, but after already leaving the room once, she assumed that alcohol would be the first thing she wanted more than anything.

“What? I just rather save my glass of red for dinner, if that is alright with all of you?” Carmilla asked, threading her fingers with Laura’s.

“Then I will let you know when dinner is ready,” James said, leaving the room.

“Is he the butler?” Laura asked quietly so only Carmilla could hear.

“Basically, but Mother pays him very well and he lives on the top floor of an apartment building not far from here with his family that Mother paid for after his long years of service. He only works nights if he is available, and Mother never pushes it if he’s not.”

“That’s very nice.”

“Yeah. He’s like a father to me,” Carmilla said, clearing her throat. “Anyway,” she started, turning towards Lilita, “how are you, Mother?”

“Oh, I’m doing very well. Thank you for asking, Carmilla.”

“What’s in the works now?” Mattie asked.

“Well, I’m working with the Met for a gala in the Temple of Dendur for students of Columbia. That will be happening around Halloween. And then once that is complete, I’ll be working on the annual Christmas festivity with the Frick.”

“You have a full schedule coming up then. Let me know if you need any help,” Mattie offered.

“Of course, Darling. I do have a question for William.”

Laura started to tune out the conversation and turn her attention to Carmilla. Her palm was starting to sweat and she seemed nervous. Laura rubbed her thumb over the back of Carmilla’s hand. She gave it a tug and saw Carmilla look over to her. She couldn’t read her expression. “Do you wanna see my childhood bedroom?” Carmilla whispered.

Laura smiled. “Absolutely.”

Carmilla stood abruptly. “Is there a problem, Carmilla?” Lilita asked.

“Not at all, Mother. I was just going to show Laura my old room.”

“Oh. I think you can wait for that. Dinner will be ready soon.”

“James will come get us,” Carmilla countered. “He’ll use the intercom.”

“Madam, dinner is ready,” James said, stepping out of the double doors Laura had wondered about earlier.

“Ah, perfect! You’ll show her later,” Lilita said, standing from her chair.

Laura smiled shyly towards Carmilla. “After dinner,” she whispered.

Laura soon found out that the double doors led to a large dining room with a table that could easily sit twelve to fifteen people. Only five seats were set and the rest of the table looked cold. “Whoa,” Laura said under her breath.

“Mother has business meetings in here. That’s why the table is so large,” Carmilla explained.

“Laura, will you do the honor of sitting next to me, please,” Lilita asked.

“Of course, Ms. Morgan. Thank you.”

Lilita sat at the head of the table. Mattie sat across from Laura and Will sat to Mattie’s left. Carmilla waited until Laura was seated to take the seat next to her right. She clasped her hand with Laura’s, not wanting to let go. She’s keeping me calm. This might actually turn into a nice evening.

“Laura I hope you don’t mind chicken parmesan,” Lilita said, as James started to pass around salad plates.

“Not at all, Ms. Morgan. I’m sure it will be delicious. It smells incredible.”

“Well I have an old friend who used to run one of the best Italian restaurants in Little Italy. His son runs the business now, but on occasion, he comes and cooks for small parties of mine. It truly will be the best you have ever had.”

James started to fill everyone’s salad plates. Laura noticed the two dinner forks and became rather nervous. She let go of Carmilla’s hand and stuttered when it came to which was which. She looked across the table to see Mattie pointing to the correct fork. She smiled and nodded. I’m going to thank her later for all her help.

“Oh, Laura. You seem to know your salad fork from your dinner fork. How marvelous. Most people don’t know that anymore and I find it quite irritating,” Lilita smiled.

Laura returned her smile and waited for Lilita to start eating before taking a bite. She felt Carmilla’s hand on her thigh, rubbing her thumb up and down.

“Ms. Carmilla. Would you prefer the Shiraz or the Merlot with your dinner?” James asked.

“I’m actually okay with water right now. Thank you, James.”

“Ms. Laura. May I get you refill or perhaps something new?” He asked.

“May I actually have a glass of water, please.”

“Absolutely. Ms. Morgan, refill?”

“Yes, James.”

Mattie and Will also agreed to a new refill. Once their salads were eaten, James brought out a plate for each of them with the chicken parmesan. Each had a piece of garlic bread, except for Carmilla’s, which had a piece of a baguette.

“I’m not a fan of garlic,” Carmilla stated at Laura’s look of curiosity.

“That’s good to know,” Laura stated.

James offered Carmilla another glass of red wine which she refused.

“Carmilla, Darling, tell me. Why have you not had a sip of alcohol tonight?” Lilita asked the question everyone had been wondering.

“I’m trying to watch my alcohol consumption and have actually been doing pretty well.”

“Is there any particular reason why?”

Carmilla smiled. “If I’m being honest, when I’m with Laura, I don’t feel like I need it. She keeps me happy and at peace, which is why I drank so much before. When I felt confused and down on myself, a glass of whiskey made me feel better. But I don’t need that anymore.”

“Well, I never thought I would hear those words out of my daughter’s mouth. I’m very proud of you, Carmilla.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Carmilla said. Laura could tell how much those words meant to Carmilla just by her reaction.

“Laura, I sure hope you stick around. Especially since it seems you’ve been able to change a few things for my daughter. I like that very much.”

“Well, Ms. Morgan, Carmilla has done wonderful things for me as well.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Lilita said with a wink.

Mattie and Will groaned. “So inappropriate,” Will muttered.

“Well it’s not like I didn’t know what my daughter was doing. I had to pay a lot of people off after her drunken mishaps.”

“Mother-” Carmilla started, but Mattie interrupted.

“Mother, tell us more about the Halloween party at the Met.”

Lilita started talking about the party with enthusiasm. Carmilla looked over to Mattie, mouthing “thank you”. Mattie nodded as she continued to listen. The dinner conversation seemed to wrap around Lilita, as she continued to talk about the events she had coming up. Laura was grateful and was happy to just have Carmilla’s hand on her lap.

James collected the empty plates and exited the dining area.

“Shall we retire back to the living area?” Lilita asked.

Her children and Laura agreed as she led the way through the double doors.

“Come on, Cupcake,” Carmilla said.

She took Laura’s hand and headed towards the entrance. “We’ll be right back right, Mother.”

Laura followed behind Carmilla and started to giggle. “Where are we going?”

“My bedroom.”

“Are you sure we shouldn’t stay with your mother? I want to make a good impression.”

“You’re doing wonderfully. I just want you to myself for a minute before she makes me angry.”

“She might not make you angry though.”

“Laura, you don’t know my mother.”

Carmilla led her up the stairs quickly. Once they reached the landing, Laura pulled on Carmilla’s hand.

“Hey,” she said in a quiet toned. She cupped Carmilla’s face in her hands. “What’s really going on here?”

“I can’t want a moment alone with you?”

“You can, Carmilla. But you seem very nervous or scared or I don’t know, runned down. So what is going on?”

“She just really irritates me and I can’t explain why. She knows how to get under my skin and I just want a break. She always has been like this since I lost my father. ”

Laura didn’t know what to say at this news. She knew Carmilla never talked about her father, but didn’t know the reason why. “I’m sorry, Carm.”

“It’s okay. I don’t really want to talk about it right now, but he passed when I was 13. My mother will most likely bring him up in some capacity because she always does. I just want a moment with you to collect my thoughts before that happens. She’s going to bring up my past and I just can’t deal with that. I will most likely make sure to get a drink before that happens just to have something as a clutch.”

“Am I not a good enough clutch for you?” Laura teased.

Carmilla wrapped her arms around Laura’s waist and held her close. “You’re good enough for everything. I just would like a drink.”

“Are you asking for permission?”

A beat passed before Carmilla spoke. “Yes?”

“Carm, you’re a grown woman. You can do whatever you want to do. If you want a drink, have a drink. I don’t make those decisions for you.”

“She’ll make a comment about it.”

“I don’t doubt that, Carm. But you’re still your own person. Now, come on. Show me this amazing childhood bedroom of yours.”

Carmilla smiled. “Follow me.”

Carmilla led Laura down the small hallway. It was white, but dimly lit, by one large chandelier and small wall lights.

“This place is very beautiful, Carm.”

“I don’t know. It’s a little ritzy for me, if I’m being honest. It’s a show for the people who come over. To live up to some unrealistic expectation of how people should be living. It wasn’t like that before. Just something that happened after.”

“You prefer simplicity?”

“Yeah. I was raised in this environment and I never really enjoyed it. Remember, I was the little show pony especially after ‘Annie’. My mother threw all kinds of parties for Broadway social life. It wasn't exactly a fun place to be.”

“Is that why you keep that ratty old chair in your living room?”

Carmilla stopped outside a closed door. “Yes. It may be old and worn down, but it's super comfortable.”

“It's okay, not the most comfortable.”

“I don't know, Cupcake. You seemed to enjoy it that one time.”

“That's because I was on your lap.”

Carmilla hummed and bit her lip at the memory. “We should do that again sometime.”

“We agreed not to do anything in the living room after Mattie caught us.”

“Yeah, but we weren't naked. You just had your hand down my pants and we're doing magical things to me.”

Laura smirked and leaned in closer. “I haven't forgotten.”

“Oh yeah?” Carmilla asked, following Laura’s lead. She leaned in closer and captured Laura's lips in her own. The kiss was heated as they wrapped their arms around one another

“I would suggest you hurry and show Ms. Laura your bedroom. Ms. Morgan seems to be getting impatient.”

Both of the girls jumped apart at the sound of James’s voice.

“Where did that come from?” Laura asked, looking around.

Carmilla shifted and hit a button on a small intercom that was outside the door. “Thanks, James.” She turned her attention back towards the door. “Shall we?”

Carmilla smiled before opening the door to a large and dark bedroom. She switched the light on and Laura realized immediately how much of this room actually screamed Carmilla. The walls were painted a dark navy blue while the white furniture contrasted it with a large dresser, a vanity and a desk, adding some brightness. One of the walls were exposed brick, while another wall seemed to just be held for endless shelves filled with countless amounts of books.

“Wow,” Laura whispered under her breath.

“You haven't seen the reason I love this room so much. Go lay on the bed.”

Laura did as she was told and made her way to the bed. She laid down as Carmilla fiddled around with a small contraption. She placed it on the center of the floor that seemed to have markings already there for it. Carmilla ran the long cord to an electrical outlet and plugged it in. She grabbed a remote that was resting on her desk and turned the light off. She went back and laid down beside Laura. She placed a light kiss against Laura's lips. She smiled at Laura for a moment longer and then clicked the remote in her hand.

The room filled with stars and constellations. Laura looked above and gasped. She had never seen anything like this.

“I don't where my dad bought this, but we always had a strong connection when it came to the stars. He grew up in Missouri on a farm. He told me when he was little, his dad would teach him things about the night sky in case he ever got lost while exploring the fields. Being in the City, he missed those stars. So, he bought this for me and we would sit in here night after night, since we couldn't see the real stars and he taught me about their meanings and how to read them. After he,” Carmilla paused, trying to swallow the sadness that was starting to build. “After he passed, I would lay here night after night, talking to the air, pretending my pillow was my father. I took a few of his old shirts and clung to them and pretended he was still teaching me. When I had time off from school or was on break, since I studied at home, I would read about the stars. I made Mother install blackout curtains so I could look at the night sky whenever I wanted to. Since my mother knew how much his death affected me, she agreed. I would stay in here for hours, researching and talking to my dad. I like to think he heard and watched me learn what he was trying to teach me all those years.”

“He did, Carm. He knows.”

“After a while, James started to bring me books about the stars as well. He would sit with me sometimes and he even helped me learn a few more things. I had become very reclusive after my father died. I barely spoke to anyone other than my family. After a while my mother suggested I get back into theater just so I would socialize with people, but it never felt right without him. That's how my theater career ended and honestly, I was happy about it. Mother would try her hardest to get me to talk to other people, but I usually just became very quiet. Once my dad’s shirts stopped smelling like him, I just lived in my solitary. I wouldn’t speak to anyone except Mattie.”

“Does your Mother resent you because of that?”

“Most likely, but it's okay. This is why Mattie and I live together, even though we could technically have our own apartments. Mattie’s the only one who keeps me talking. Well she was before therapy and before you. As for my mother, she still tries to get me to sing and sometimes I do because she offers me money for it. But I don't mind doing it when my heart is in the right place.”

“Well I think you should do it only if you want to.”

“Thanks, Cupcake.”

Laura nodded and looked up towards the stars that illuminated the dark bedroom. She could see the small smile on Carmilla's face.

“This is beautiful, Carmilla. Thank you for sharing this with me.”

“I've actually never talked about that before with anyone, other than my therapist. You’re the first person, outside of my family, who has seen my constellation machine.”

“Why the sudden change?”

“I guess there is just something about you that makes me feel comfortable.”

“Does it feel good to talk about it?”

“Kinda. Yeah, it does actually.”

“Good.”

They laid together for a few more minutes, enjoying each other's company. Carmilla pointed out a few of her favorite constellations, only to reveal that they were the ones her father had shown her.

“As much as I hate to say it, we should probably head back downstairs, Cupcake.”

“Yeah. I still want to impress your mom.”

“Trust me, you are. She hasn’t yelled about anything and that’s usually a good indication she doesn’t like the company in her house. Stop worrying about it so much.”

Carmilla stood from her bed and shut the machine off. The night sky disappeared and Laura remembered she was in Carmilla's bedroom.

“Shut your eyes, Cupcake.”

Laura did as she was told and jumped a little when the light flicked on. She kept an arm over her eyes. Carmilla walked over and pressed a kiss against Laura's lips. “Come on.”

Laura removed her arm and blinked a few times. She took Carmilla's hand that was held out to her.

“Thanks, Cupcake,” Carmilla said as she closed the door.

“For what?”

“Just being here.”

“I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world, Carm.”

Carmilla smiled and led Laura back downstairs. Lilita and Mattie were discussing something and Will was fiddling around with the piano.

“Ah, nice of you two to join us,” Lilita said, turning her attention the two girls.

“Mother, I just wanted-”

“Actually, Ms. Morgan, I was curious to see Carmilla's childhood bedroom and how she grew up. It's very different from how I grew up.”

“Well that's quite alright, Laura. What did your parents do for a living?”

“Well my father worked for the State Department and my mother is a realtor.”

“And what was your father’s responsibility with the State Department?”

“I actually don't know. He had one of those jobs that we weren't allowed to know exactly what he did. My mother knows a little more than I do, but she can't tell me. After a while, I just stopped asking.”

“Does your mother still sell?”

“Yes. She has had her own company for now for almost twenty years.”

“Well she must be wonderful at her job.

"Oh she is,” Laura smiled. Carmilla could tell her heart wasn't in her words, but decided she would ask about it later.

“Carmilla, what did you show her?”

“Just my old bedroom, Mother.”

“And I assume your constellation machine?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Isn't that an interesting thing, Laura?” Laura nodded. “I don't know where my late husband found that, but it was always Carmilla’s favorite thing long after he passed.”

William started playing a song on the piano that made Carmilla's skin crawl. She would recognize the tune for “Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” anywhere. She hated that song and knew he was just trying to get a reaction out of her. Unfortunately, it seemed to work more on Lilita than Carmilla.

“William! How wonderful. Why don't you sing, Dear? Laura have you heard Carmilla sing? She has such a beautiful voice,” Lilita exclaimed.

“I actually haven't, but I assume she'll let me hear her voice when she wants to.” Laura was trying to help. She was hoping that would convince Lilita to leave Carmilla alone.

“Oh, nonsense. Carmilla?”

Clearly Laura's hope would not come true.

“Mother, I haven't done any warmups. You wouldn't want me to strain my vocal chords would you?”

“You know that excuse won't work on me. Just one song, Carmilla. Please, for your dear old Mother?”

Carmilla exhaled and pinched her nose.

“Mother, perhaps Carmilla's concern is true. She hasn't sung in quite sometime and it wouldn't sound right if she couldn't warm her vocals up. Don't you want Laura to see her best performance?” Mattie tried.

Carmilla was gripping Laura's leg. She really didn't want to do this. She wasn't even sure why this needed to happen every time she came home. She stayed where she was, wishing she had a drink her hand. James soon came out of the dining area.

“Is Ms. Carmilla singing?” James asked, innocently.

“I'm trying, James,” Lilita answered.

“James, could I get a glass of red wine, please?” Carmilla asked.

James smiled and nodded. Lilita’s smiled faltered.

“I thought you weren't drinking tonight, Carmilla.”

“I didn't say that, Mother. I said I wasn't drinking as much.”

“Are you alright with that, Laura?”

She felt like this was a trick question. Does she say she's okay with it to support her girlfriend or say she's not, to have Lilita still like her. She glanced at Mattie and then Will. They both shrugged at her. She took a deep breath. I’ll always stand up for her.

“I'm perfectly fine with Carmilla drinking. She's an adult and can do as she pleases.”

Lilita scoffed. “You have obviously never seen her drunk. She becomes a huge mess to clean up afterwards.”

“Actually I have seen her drunk. Other than maybe a small stumble, she's still the kind and wonderful Carmilla I know.”

Carmilla smiled. Lilita questioned Laura.

“How do you really feel about my daughter, Laura?”

“I like her a lot, Ms. Morgan. She's very kind and generous. She helps me and makes me feel better about myself. She teaches me new things and is just an incredible person to be around. I like her very much.”

William stepped away from the piano to Carmilla's relief. Mattie smiled. Lilita continued to stare at Laura. She looked confused and yet surprised at the same time.

“I told you she was a good one, Mother,” Mattie said.

“Does the fact that Carmilla comes from money have any influence on why you like her so much?” Lilita asked.

Carmilla gripped Laura's thigh again, but Laura pried it off and threaded her fingers with Carmilla's.

“I honestly didn't even know she came from money until tonight. I like Carmilla's simplicity, however. I like that she has her own job and isn't snobbish. She's just a real person who I've connected to.”

“Well that is certainly wonderful to hear, Laura. I have never heard that kind of description about Carmilla from someone who was interested in her before.”

Nailed it! I think she likes me. Laura smiled.

The rest of the evening was spent in light chatter and laughter. It seemed Lilita thoroughly enjoyed her time with Laura. Once Lilita learned that Laura moved there for theater, but gave up on her dream, she managed to get Laura to sing a song. Will accompanied her on the piano as she sang “On my Own” from “Les Miserables”. Carmilla was more than impressed when Laura broke out of her shell to hit the high notes perfectly. It seemed to impress Lilita more than anyone else. Mattie, Lilita, Will, Carmilla and even James clapped for her when she was done.

“I must say, Laura, I am astonished. I didn’t know you had those vocals in you,” Lilita said, continuing to clap her hands together.

“It was always a dream of mine to be a Broadway performer.”

“Did you do theater in school?”

“In high school, yes Ma’am.”

“Well if you ever want to give it a real go, I have plenty of contacts.”

“Thank you, Ms. Morgan. I will definitely let you know.”

The time was starting get late and everyone agreed they wanted to get home before it got too late. Lilita hugged each and everyone of her children goodnight before turning towards Laura.

“It was an absolute pleasure to meet you, Laura.”

“You as well, Ms. Morgan.”

“I hope to see you again.”

“I’m sure you will, Mother,” Carmilla said, wrapping her arm around Laura’s shoulder.

They all said their final farewells before heading down the stairs. James had offered to take them home, but they told him to head home and be with his family. They decided taking the subway would be easiest since they weren’t that far away from the 86th Street station.

“Well, Laura, I must say, you definitely impressed our Mother,” Mattie said, walking in front of the couple.

“I have to agree. I think you pleased her by telling her you weren’t in it for the money,” Will added.

“I actually really liked her. She was very kind.”

“You did very well, Cupcake.”

“Thanks, Carm.”

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

Later that night, Laura was curled up under the covers, sound asleep. After what felt like countless hours, Carmilla hopped out of bed as quietly as possible. She walked out into the living room and scanned her bookshelf. She found her small, leather bound notebook. She opened it to see the two pictures she kept in there. One picture of her dad as a young man, on the farm in Missouri and the other was her favorite picture of them together at Coney Island when Carmilla was around 5. She smiled at the two images for a few moments before turning to a new clean page. Carmilla sat down on the couch, clicked on a small lamp and for the first time in what felt like an eternity, started writing.

Chapter Text

Laura awoke, with the early sunrise coming through Carmilla’s bedroom window. The room was slightly visible by the early morning sky that was still dark with only a hint of orange signifying daybreak. Laura blinked a few times before rolling over to find that Carmilla wasn’t by her side.

“Carm?” she mumbled, sitting up. She stretched her arms over her head. “Carm?” she said, again. She reluctantly pulled the sheets away from her legs and slowly moved herself from Carmilla’s bed. She noticed the bedroom door was open. She grudgingly stood up and walked over to the cracked door frame. She poked her head out of the room, calling for Carmilla again.

She saw Carmilla’s leg dangling over the edge of the couch. She smiled before taking the small steps over to see her girlfriend’s sleeping form. Carmilla was laying on her back, one leg bent over the arm of the couch and the other was bended at the knee with her foot resting on the floor. One arm was across her eyes with a pen in her hand. Laura noticed the other hand was holding a small leather bound book. The small notebook laid opened, with it’s cover up, against Carmilla’s stomach.

Laura tiptoed closer to her and slowly took the book out of her hand. Carmilla’s hand grasped at the notebook before letting it go. Laura smiled as she closed the book, placing it on top of the coffee table. As much as she was curious to read what was inside, she decided to ignore her temptation and respect Carmilla’s privacy. She took the pen out of her other hand and placed it next to the book.

“Hey,” Laura whispered, shaking Carmilla’s leg.

“Carm?”

Carmilla jolted awake, blinking her eyes a few times before sitting up quickly. She rubbed her face and noticed her notebook on the table.

“You okay?” Laura asked.

Carmilla jumped at Laura's voice. “Shit. Sorry, Cupcake.”

“That’s okay. I didn't mean to scare you. You just fell asleep on the couch. Are you okay, Baby??”

“Yeah. I’m okay.”

“Well, let’s go back to bed. It’s still early and it’s Sunday, so we can sleep for as long as we want.”

Carmilla nodded. She grabbed the notebook and walked back towards the bookshelf. Carmilla felt a small amount of dread and knew this wasn't a feeling that she would be able shake away. It's early, but maybe she'll stay up with me and just let me talk.

“Actually, can I show you something?” Carmilla asked.

Laura yawned. “Sure.”

She plopped down on the couch and Carmilla walked back over to her. She sat down next to Laura, with her notebook still in her hand. She clapped the book against her palm a couple of times. Laura laid her head on Carmilla’s shoulder, willing her mind and body to stay awake.

“I’ve never shown this to anyone before,” Carmilla started. “But I think I want to show you.”

Laura lifted her head and looked towards Carmilla. Carmilla laughed a little to herself. “It’s kind of stupid, but this notebook means a lot to me. My dad actually gave this to me when I was a little girl because I started showing an interest in writing. He was a writer himself so I think he took great pride in my wanting to write. He told me that I should write my happiest moments in here, which is why it’s barely full. I’ve had kind of a rough life. I mean I didn’t have issues with money or family, but my mentality always kind of fucked me up especially after my father died, but I’ve already told you about that.”

Laura nodded and kissed Carmilla’s cheek.

“It is a very nice notebook, Carm.”

“It is, but that’s not what I wanted to show you. I wanted to show you what’s was on the inside.” Carmilla opened the notebook to show Laura the two pictures she held closest to her heart.

“Oh my gosh, Carm. Is that you?” Laura asked, smiling down at the pictures.

Carmilla smiled. “Yeah, that’s me and my dad when I was five years old. It was our first time to Coney Island together and it’s my favorite picture of the two of us. Mother had to do something with Mattie that day and I think Will was staying with my grandmother for the weekend or something like that. Anyway, my dad woke me up that morning and asked if I wanted to have some fun. I can still remember the smile on his face. I basically jumped into his arms screaming ‘yes’ and ‘yay’ when he told me we were going to Coney Island! We had a normal day. I got to dress down in jeans and a t-shirt because we weren't there to make an appearance, unlike anytime I went out with my mother. It was the first time I got to ride the train too. Mother always made us travel by town car, but I constantly asked what the Subway was like. So my dad and I took the train. I was actually terrified by the amount of people, but luckily my dad had brought one of my books so he could distract me during the ride. After a while, I even fell asleep, but as we were rolling into Coney Island, he picked me up and showed me things from the train window. I was so excited! He took me to the arcade and we played games before eating hotdogs on the boardwalk. We went to the aquarium and watched the sunset on the beach. It was one of the only times I got to spend with him alone, you know? Just me and him.”

“That's really sweet, Carm. It sounds like a pretty awesome day. Especially for a five year old.”

“Yeah and luckily we managed to get back home before Mother. My dad lied and said that I had done my studies instead of saying we went to Coney Island. That trip was our little secret. He gave me this photo a week later as a reminder to enjoy the little things. It's really the only picture where we both look carefree and happy.”

“You were so adorable.”

“Were?”

“You’re still adorable! And your father was very handsome! You look just like him!”

“I got his nose and his eyes, everything else is my mother.”

“Is this him in the other picture?”

“Yeah. It’s my favorite picture of him. My grandmother gave it to me after his funeral to hold for her. It was my most cherished possession, but it was too hard for me to look at. So I put my two favorite pictures of him in this notebook. That way when something good happened, I knew it wouldn't be as hard to look at him.”

“So does that mean tonight, you were out here writing?” Laura asked.

“I couldn’t sleep and was in better spirits.”

“Did you write about me?” Laura teased, poking Carmilla's side.

Carmilla jumped at the poke to her ribs and smiled with a small laugh. “Maybe.”

“Can I read it?” Laura's curiosity getting the best of her.

Carmilla's smiled faltered and she took a deep breath to calm herself. Carmilla opened her notebook and passed it over to Laura. Laura studied Carmilla's features for a moment and closed the notebook. She could tell Carmilla didn’t really want her to read it and she knew Carmilla had a hard time saying no to her. She placed it back on Carmilla's lap and smiled. Carmilla looked at her curiously.

“I don't need to read your writing, to know how you feel about me,” she said, kissing Carmilla's neck.

Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura's shoulder. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“If you got this notebook when you were a kid, when did you start writing in it? It still seems to be in mint condition.”

“I had written some things before my father’s death. There's only a few happy things that happened before he passed. I only wrote when he did something for me or when he got me a present unexpectedly. For example, when he bought me my constellation machine, I wrote a few pages on how much it meant to me.” Carmilla turned to the next page, where there were a bunch of markings. “I also used to make little tally marks whenever I was called ‘Carmilla’. He seemed to be the one to always call me Carmilla. No nicknames of any kind and for some reason, it meant the world to me.”

“Why is that?”

“I guess because I was the middle child. My Mother always called me ‘Darling’ or ‘Dear’, Mattie always called me ‘Kitty Cat’ or ‘Little Monster’, and Will always called me ‘Kitty’. My mother’s lackies called me ‘Ms. Karnstein’. Everything was either formal or silly, but my dad,” Carmilla paused for a moment and smiled before gritting her teeth and blinking her tears away.

“But my dad always called me Carmilla. It was always a refreshing sound to hear. If my mother called me by name, it would always come out as ‘Mat-Carmilla’ because she always said Mattie’s name first, unless I was in trouble, which happened a lot. That’s why when I heard my full name from my mother’s mouth, I knew I was in big trouble. I would run to my dad’s study. He used to help me hide because he knew whatever I had done, wasn't the worst thing in the world. After he died, I would still hide in there, but it was never jolly or silly anymore.” Carmilla's voice hitched. She took a small breath and tried to swallow the ball forming in her throat. “It was just empty and dark. Sometimes I would take my constellation machine in there, because it was a bigger room than mine and curl up in his desk chair. Mattie found me sleeping in there a lot. She'd wake me up just enough for me move and help me get into bed.”

Carmilla felt Laura's hand against her cheek. She hadn't realize the tears she was trying so hard to hold back, had started to fall. She tried her hardest to compose herself. Laura shifted and laid down on the couch. She held her arms out to Carmilla, who looked smaller than she usually did. Carmilla placed her notebook back on the coffee table before laying down in Laura's arms. Laura held her close as Carmilla shifted her arms around Laura's waist. She clung to Laura, trying to force her emotions away.

“It's okay to let go, Carm. I'll catch you.”

Carmilla moved closer, to rest her head in the crook of Laura's neck. She couldn't stop thinking about her dad’s smile and affectious laugh. Her memories were fading of him and she had written every memory she could remember so she could never truly forget them.

“Laura?” She whispered.

“Yeah?”

“I can't remember his voice anymore. Sometimes I think I hear it, but then I never truly know if that’s actually what he sounded like. He was my best friend. I felt like he was the only person who truly understood me. I could go to him with any problem and he never judged me or scolded me. Why did he leave me?”

“I don’t know, Carm. I guess it was just his time to go. But I'm sure he left loving you and wanting the best for you.”

There was a long pause after that. Laura felt Carmilla's silent tears against her neck. She rubbed Carmilla's back, trying her hardest to comfort her.

“I use my notebook as letters to him. I know he can't read them, but after tonight, after you meeting my mother and not running away, I wanted to tell him about you. I want him to know that I'm finally doing better and that I've found someone who understands me. I just want him to be proud of me.”

Laura moved her hand to play with Carmilla's hair. “He's proud of you, Baby.”

She could feel Carmilla nod against her. She played with her hair a little longer as Carmilla's body started to shake. No words were exchanged as Laura continued to rub Carmilla's back and draw patterns as she let Carmilla cry against her shoulder. Laura wasn't sure what the right thing to do was, to help Carmilla, so she continued to scratch her back. She slowly started to hum a song to herself. It seemed to soothe Carmilla more as Laura felt her relax before deep breaths replaced her small gasps for breath. She knew Carmilla was asleep, but continued to hum. She wanted to comfort her as long as she could.

Laura was about to fall asleep when she heard Mattie's door open. Mattie didn't seem to notice Laura as she walked past the couch, past Carmilla's room and into the bathroom. Either she didn't see me or she's ignoring what's happening. Oh gosh, I hope she doesn't think we had sex. I promised I wouldn't do that ever again!

Laura heard the toilet flush followed by water running from the sink. The bathroom door opened and as Mattie passed the couch, Carmilla jerked in her sleep. Mattie gasped and grabbed her heart.

“Jesus, Laura.”

“Sorry.”

“What are you two doing out here?” Mattie's whisper sounded harsh.

“I woke up and Carmilla wasn't next to me. I came out here and saw she had fallen asleep. We talked for a little bit, but then Carmilla got sad so I laid down to hold her. She passed out.”

Mattie nodded. She came up to them and placed a light hand on Carmilla's back. “Hey, Sis.”

Carmilla stirred. “Mattie?” Carmilla's voice was soft and held a hint of sadness.

“Come on, Kitty Cat. Let's get you into bed, yeah?”

Laura felt Carmilla nod before slowly getting off of her. Mattie placed her hands on her shoulder. Carmilla started walking, but paused.

“Cupcake,” she mumbled.

“What?” Mattie asked.

Laura sat up. “She's asking for me.”

Mattie smirked and then rolled her eyes. “She'll be there in a minute, Sis. I just need to talk to her for a moment.”

The two girls crossed into Carmilla's room. Laura followed, not sure what to do. She saw Mattie help Carmilla lay down. When Carmilla’s head reached her pillow, she immediately curled into a ball.

“Be nice,” she whispered to Mattie before her breath evened out.

Mattie pulled the covers over Carmilla and turned around. Laura and Mattie made eye contact and Mattie pointed towards the living room. Laura obeyed Mattie’s gesture, stepping out of Carmilla's bedroom. Mattie came out a moment later and closed the door.

Laura took her place on the couch as she waited for Mattie to address her. Mattie paced back and forth a little bit before turning towards Laura. She smiled briefly.

“What happened?” Mattie asked.

Laura eyed her, lost by the question.

Mattie exhaled. “Is Carmilla okay?”

“Oh,” Laura nodded. “She's seems to be reminiscing about the past right now. She seemed pretty upset.”

“You mean about our father?”

Laura nodded. Mattie nodded her head in sync with Laura. She noticed the small brown leather book on the coffee table. She glared at Laura.

“Did you read this?!” She demanded in a loud whisper.

Laura's eyes widened. “No! Carm had it in her hands when I came out here to see where she was. She told me about it and showed me the pictures, but that was-”

“She showed you the pictures?!” Mattie interrupted, surprised.

“Yeah. She told me the story about the Coney Island picture. It was really sweet.”

Mattie sat down next to Laura on the couch. “Do you understand what that means, Laura?”

Laura shook her head. Where are we going with this?

“Look my sister has fallen in love with a lot of different people.”

“Love? Nobody said anything about love,” Laura interrupted.

“Regardless. She must really like you.”

“So all of this is good.”

“If Carmilla Karnstein tells you something from her childhood, it's way past good things. It means she trusts you, wholeheartedly.”

Laura smiled. “I trust her too.”

“And I apologize if you found my mother irritating. She can be a little much sometimes which is why Carmilla struggles with her.”

“I honestly didn't find her that bad. I was expecting worse with all the different things you guys kept telling me before we got there.”

“Well you definitely did well.”

“Thanks to you. Thank you for your help with the whole dinner/salad fork thing and telling me not to check on Carmilla.”

“Well, I've lived with Carmilla since she graduated high school and started at Brooklyn college. I hope you know there were a lot of girls passing through this apartment, but you're the first one I have actually enjoyed being around.”

Laura smiled. “Thanks.”

“And I'm also sorry that I didn't warn you about Carmilla and my mother.”

“Oh, she explained that she would have to step away at times so it’s no big deal.”

“I actually meant afterwards. I should have warned you that she tends to get emotional when she goes to our mother’s house. The reason she ignores Mother’s questions and calls is not because she doesn't want to talk to her, it's because she doesn't want to enter the house she grew up in. After our father died, she stayed in her room for days on end. She'd only leave it to go to the bathroom. She didn't go outside for the longest time and I had to bribe her with candy or a toy to get her out of the house. It took a large toll on her and that's because she is our father. Everything she does is just the way he did it. I don't know if it's genetics or muscle memory from trying to be like him when she was a little girl, but this is exactly how he was. We all worried about her for the longest time, but can I be honest with you?”

“Please,” Laura offered.

“I haven't seen my sister smile like this in a very long time. The dopey, lovey smile. It means the world to me to see her this happy. So,” Mattie stood from her seat. “I hope you stick around for the long haul, Laura Hollis.”

Laura smiled and watched Mattie walk back to her bedroom. “And this is the only warning I think I'll have to give you. If you hurt her, you'll have to deal with me and I really don't think you want to do that.”

“You sister means a lot to me, Mattie. I know if I broke her heart, mine would crumble just the same.”

“Good,” Mattie said. “Well I made a deal with Mother so I'm going to get ready. Why don't you go keep her company? She'll need it today. The day after is always a little emotional for her.”

“Duly noted,” Laura said, getting off the couch, heading in the direction of Carmilla’s room.

“And Laura? Hot chocolate.”

Laura stopped. “What?” She asked.

“Helps with Carmilla's mood.”

“Oh,” Laura smiled. “Thank you!”

They both went to their separate bedrooms. Laura saw Carmilla curled into herself in the middle of the bed, sound asleep. Laura walked over to the window as the sun rose higher in the morning sky. She could hear the birds chirping over Carmilla's small air conditioner. She pulled on the string to lower the blinds, making sure to do it slowly so they wouldn't slam against the metal box. She twisted the rod to close them before turning back to Carmilla. She sat down on the edge of the bed and brushed some of Carmilla's hair away from her face. She had a brief thought, smiling down at this beautiful girl, but shook her head. It's too soon.

She curled behind Carmilla who started to release her tension in Laura's embrace. Before long the two girls had fallen into a deep sleep with no sunshine to bother them.

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

“Laura, you really don't have to do that.”

“You have no food in the apartment. Let me run to Bob and Betty’s Grocery to get something to eat.”

Carmilla grumbled, but nodded.

“And while I'm there, I'll pick up some hot chocolate for us to have with dessert.”

“Hot choc-? Someone's been talking to Mattie.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. I'll be back in a half hour.”

Carmilla pouted her bottom lip out. Laura smiled and walked back over to the dark, curly haired girl. Carmilla had a small smirk on her face. Laura leaned in and gave Carmilla a brief kiss. “I'll be back soon, Baby.”

“Hurry,” Carmilla whispered.

Laura nodded and headed out of the apartment. Carmilla sat there, staring at the wall. She really didn't want to be alone right now. It made her feel antsy and she didn't like it. She started to shake her legs and pat her thighs. The television was playing something in the background, but Carmilla could barely focus. She kept seeing her father in his casket. The way she threw the flowers and screamed in the church when the funeral was over. The way James had to grab her from behind and dragged her out of the church. How she fought and kicked, begging for him to let go so she could stay as close to him as possible. She smacked her head once, telling herself to stop. She hated that memory. It was her last memory of her father.

The front door shut and Carmilla turned her attention immediately.

“Laura?” She begged.

“No. Guess again. Try someone who actually lives here.”

Carmilla exhaled. “Sorry, Mattie.”

“That's quite alright. Where is your ‘Cupcake’?”

Carmilla smirked. “You two have been talking, haven't you?”

“Actually, last night when I moved you from the living room to your room, you called out for ‘Cupcake’. Laura told me you were talking about her. My question is, why?”

“She's sweet and little, like a cupcake.”

“Does she even like it?”

“Trust me, Mattie. If Laura Hollis doesn’t like something, she will inform you quickly and you’ll never make the same mistake twice.”

“Yes. Laura does seems to be quite the fighter.”

Carmilla smiled. “She can definitely carry herself better than most.”

“Which is why you better not mess this up, Carmilla.”

“Mattie, I know that you know, out everything that has happened to me, I haven't been this happy in a very long time.”

“Oh I know that. I just don't want you to forget that and mess a perfectly wonderful relationship up.”

Carmilla raised her right hand. “I solemnly swear, Dear Matska, that I will not mess this one up. I will never again fall back on my stupid choices and mistakes.”

“Good. Now, how are you holding up today?”

“I've had little moments.”

“And Laura?”

“She's only left my side to go to the bathroom.”

Mattie smiled. “So what are you two doing this evening?”

“Laura went grocery shopping at Bob and Betty’s. I think she's going to cook us something for dinner and then watch a movie or something.”

“Sounds nice. I'm sure I can find something to do.”

“You don't have to.”

“Oh I know I don't, but I also know how important Laura is to you so I don't mind going out for dinner and a movie.”

“Well you don't have to rush. I've missed my sister,” Carmilla said, patting the couch next to her.

Mattie sat next her and shoved her shoulder. “I don't think you've missed me that much.”

“Okay, but a little bit for sure.”

“You always know how to make me feel so loved,” Mattie replied sarcastically. She fanned her face with her hand and acted like she was going to cry. Carmilla laughed.

“Come on,” Carmilla said, wrapping her arm around Mattie’s shoulder. “You know you'll always be my number one sister!”

“But that's because I am your only sister.”

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

Mattie smiled. They sat there comfortably for a beat. “Thank you, by the way.”

“For what?” Mattie asked.

“Helping me actually get into bed last night.”

“I'll teach Laura how to do it so she knows.”

“I don't think it's something you can teach, Mattie. You were always the only one who could reach me no matter how lost I was in my mind.”

“Yes, but that was before. You have Laura now. Trust me, Carmilla. She'll make you feel ten times better than I can.”

Laura came through the door. Her arms full of grocery bags. Will she take care of me?

“I had to go to the deli, but I managed to find hot chocolate,” she announced, placing the bags on the counter.

Mattie looked towards Carmilla and smirked. Yeah, she'll take care of me.

Laura kept her back to who she assumed was just Carmilla. She continued to ramble as she started putting stuff away in the cabinets that she didn't need at the moment.

“I also bought two packages of cookies so I figured we could have those with the hot chocolate. For dinner I got red potatoes, carrots, and rice. We could pair it with red and black beans for protein so I think we will be all set for whatever movies you want to watch, Baby.”

Laura turned around and noticed a new person in the room.

“Oh, hi Mattie!”

“Hey, Laura. How's it going?”

“Very well and you?”

“Perfect.” Mattie stood up from the couch. “Well I'll leave you two to it then.”

Carmilla looked towards Laura. “Mattie you can totally stay. This is your apartment,” Laura stated, pulling the potatoes out of a bag and cleaning them.

“I know I can, but you're making dinner and-”

“I bought enough for all of us to eat now and have leftovers. I figured you would come home eventually and be hungry, so I decided to just go ahead and make some extra purchases.”

“Well that was very sweet of you, but I actually do have dinner plans, so I will take a rain check,” Mattie lied. She just wanted her sister to not only be depended on her. She wanted Carmilla to realize, she didn't need Mattie when she had someone like Laura.

“Absolutely.”

“You're missing out, Sis. Laura is great cook.”

“I'm sure she is.”

Mattie exited into her bedroom and closed the door. Laura started cutting onions and garlic for the rice while Carmilla sat on the couch, back to staring at the wall. Mattie stepped out a few moments later, in something a little more casual. Carmilla gave her a hopeful look.

“You're going to have to start trusting her with your emotions, Carmilla,” Mattie whispered.

“I do.”

“So trust her to take care of you. Trust me to know I wouldn't leave you alone with her if I thought you were only going to get worse. She's going to take care of you. You can't expect me to be the only one to calm you for the rest of your life.”

“I know.”

“So trust me and trust her. The more you let her in, the less you'll need me.”

“I'll always need by my big sis.”

“Yes, but if you keep your little Cupcake close, you won't need me as much. Trust me, that's a good thing.”

Carmilla nodded and smiled as she heard Laura humming in the kitchen. Mattie squeezed Carmilla's knee.

“You're right,” Carmilla stated, still staring at Laura.

“Of course I'm right! I'm smarter than you.”

Carmilla gasped. “Oh please, I am way smarter than you!”

Mattie laughed. “You wish, you Little Monster.”

Mattie made her way towards the apartment door.

“Are you sure you won't stay?” Laura asked, cutting up the potatoes.

“I'll be back later. Right now I just need you to take care of her.”

“She's in good hands.”

Mattie turned towards Carmilla and smiled at their eye contact. “Alright, I'll see you later. Ciao, Bella.”

Carmilla smiled and watched the only person who seemed to help her the most when she felt numb walk out the door. Her eyes transfixed back to the wall. She shook her legs a little bit, her uneasiness returning. Laura came over a few minutes later with a mug and a cookie.

“I think the best part about being an adult is you can have your dessert before dinner,” Laura said, holding out a mug of hot chocolate to Carmilla.

Carmilla shifted her blank stare to Laura. Her smile returning to her face.

“It is a very nice bonus, at least. Thank you, Cupcake.”

“I just have to cut some carrots and finish the rice. Then put it in the oven for 30 minutes. Sound good?”

“Yeah,” Carmilla whispered, taking a shaking sip of her hot chocolate.

Laura noticed the shaking in Carmilla’s hands and legs. She took the mug away from Carmilla and placed it on the coffee table. She muted the television and turned her attention to Carmilla, who was looking straight ahead.

“Hey,” she smiled.

Carmilla turned her head and looked at Laura. “Hey,” she replied.

“Want to help me cut the carrots?” Laura asked.

“Not particularly.”

“Well… Would you like to come keep me company in the kitchen?”

“Actually, I’m just gonna go lay down in my room for a little bit.” Carmilla was abrupt and stood quickly, throwing Laura off guard.

“Oh. Okay, cool. Call me if you need me?”

“Yeah,” Carmilla mumbled. She walked into her room and closed the door. She laid down on her bed, trying to avoid any emotion or thought. She needed to cleanse her headspace and couldn’t do that with Laura asking her questions.

There was a soft knock on her door, but she ignored it, pretending to be asleep.

“Carm?”

She groaned. “What?”

“I just wanted to bring you your hot chocolate and cookie. Dinner is in the oven and cooking as we speak.”

Laura placed the hot chocolate and a small plate of cookies on the nightstand. Carmilla’s back was to her and it made Laura feel uneasy. Did I do something wrong? Did I bother her? How do I fix this? Maybe I should text Mattie to see what I did. I just want her to be okay and I didn’t mean to be annoying. Why can’t I do this right?

“Laura, please stop thinking so loudly.”

“What?”

Carmilla slowly rolled over onto her back. “I can hear you thinking.”

Laura stood there awkwardly with her hands behind her back. “I just feel like I’ve done something wrong and I want to make it better. I want to take care of you and make you feel happy again. I’m sorry if I irritated you, I really didn’t mean-”

Carmilla sat up and placed her finger against Laura’s mouth to quiet her.

“Will you just lay with me until we have to take dinner out of the oven?” Carmilla asked.

She took her finger off of Laura’s lips. Laura nodded her head. Carmilla shifted over and patted the space next to her where she wanted Laura to be. Laura laid down. She was expecting to hold Carmilla, but it turns out Carmilla wanted to hold her as she wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulders and torso. Luckily Laura had taken her phone with her into the bedroom, which was currently counting down the thirty minutes of baking time. The room was quiet as Laura stared at the ceiling. She couldn’t see Carmilla, whose eyes were wide open, staring ahead of her.

They just laid there, breathing in each other and relaxing. Carmilla was surprised by how relaxed she felt having Laura in her arms. A few moments passed and Laura’s timer went off. She lifted her head to look at Carmilla.

“Are you hungry, Baby?” she asked, in a small whisper.

Carmilla nodded. “Yeah,” she replied.

“Let’s go eat.”

Carmilla nodded again. She followed Laura into the kitchen.

“Why don’t you sit down, Cupcake. I’ll bring you a plate.”

“You don’t have to do that, Carm.”

Carmilla put her head down. “I just wanted to make up for being snippy a little while ago.”

“When were you snippy?”

“After you made me hot chocolate. I didn't even drink it. That was really sweet of you. I'm sorry, Cupcake.”

Laura wrapped her arms around Carmilla's waist, tugging her as close as their bodies could be.

“It's okay. No reason to apologize, Sweetcheeks.”

Laura winked and Carmilla groaned before laughing.

“Go sit down, Carm. I'll bring a plate to you.”

“Okay.”

Carmilla kissed Laura's forehead, but didn't leave the kitchen. She realized she stayed in better spirits when she was near Laura. Laura didn't say anything as she loaded each plate with rice before placing the potatoes, carrots and beans on top of it. She turned and handed Carmilla her plate.

“Thanks, Cupcake. Looks good.”

“Anything for you.”

Carmilla smiled and stared at Laura a moment longer. Man I lov- whoa. No. Too soon. Way too soon.

“Hello… Earth to Carmilla!” Laura teased, snapping her fingers.

“Ha ha, Cupcake.”

“Oh good, you landed. Now-” Carmilla rolled her eyes as Laura asked what she wanted to drink.

“Water is good, Baby,” Carmilla answered, taking Laura's plate as well as hers to the coffee table.

“Carm?” Laura asked, her voice seemed timid.

“Yeah?”

“Would it be fattening if I drank soda? I bought a bottle of Dr. Pepper because I wasn't sure what you would want.”

“No, Laura. It's not fattening.”

“I mean it is, but would you think I was fat if I drank that instead of water.”

“What? Not at all, Baby. You drink whatever you want to drink. Honestly, Dr. Pepper sounds great so I'll take some of that too.”

“Are you sure?”

Carmilla smiled. “Absolutely. I'm just used to only having water in the house.”

Laura nodded. She wiped at her face, hoping her tears wouldn't be noticeable. Carmilla heard her sniffle and got up from the couch.

“You know I don't think you're fat, Laura.”

“I know.”

“And that I love your body just the way it is.”

“I wish I did.”

“One day, Baby. You will one day. I promise.”

Laura nodded.

“Now there is no need to get upset about silly soda. Do you want Dr. Pepper?”

Laura chewed at her bottom lip and nodded.

“Then let's get a glass,” Carmilla said, reaching up at the shelf and pulling down two cups. “Ice?” Laura nodded. Carmilla grabbed a few cubes each and poured the glasses. “Now, we eat, Cupcake!”

“Sorry, Carm,” Laura whispered.

“What for?”

“I should be taking care of you right now, but instead I'm being selfish.”

“Hey, we should be taking care of each other. It's never give and take. We're a team, Laura. Besides, I think my mood today has lasted long enough.”

“You can't help that, Carm.”

“I know, but it's something I should try and work on.”

“Still, I'm sorry.”

“Don't be sorry, Laura. Even if I'm in the worst, most depressed, numb world, I'll always come back to take care of you.”

“And I will take care of you.”

Carmilla smiled. “Come on, let's watch some shitty movie. Okay?”

Laura nodded and pecked Carmilla's kiss lightly. She stepped away, only to be pulled back against Carmilla's lip in a heated kiss. Carmilla smiled.

“I,” she started, only an inch away from Laura's lips. Her eyes widened and she leaned back to create a little more space between them. “I… am very hungry, Cupcake. Let's eat your delicious meal.”

Laura nodded and followed Carmilla, taking her seat on the couch.

“What do you want to watch, Carm?”

Carmilla could still see the small pout on Laura's lips. She wasn't sure if it was a sign of being sad or frustrated with herself. A lightbulb went off in Carmilla's mind. She closed out of Netflix and went into her room.

“Carm?”

“One minute, Cupcake. Just keep eating while I find something.”

Laura did as she was told, but still felt uneasy. She wasn't sure why she was so mad at herself. She wanted to impress Mattie at how well she could cheer up Carmilla and keep her safe. How can I take care of her, if I can't even take care of myself. I wonder if Carmilla would notice if I poured out the Dr. Pepper. I don't want her to think I'm fat. She always drinks water. I should try that more. And here we are again. I'm worried about myself instead of her. I should be thinking about her and making sure she's okay.

“Carmilla?”

“Found it!” She heard Carmilla yell excitedly.

Carmilla emerged from her room with what seemed to be a DVD. She was twiddling with it as she rummaged through the drawers of the stand, under the television. She was muttering to herself which Laura couldn't help, but laugh at.

“Where's that fucking remote,” Carmilla said, getting frustrated.

“Carm, there seems to be two on the corner there,” Laura commented, pointing to the side of the television stand.

“Ah! Thanks, Cupcake.”

Carmilla stood up and grabbed the correct remote. She placed the DVD in the player and smiled towards Laura.

“I have a couple rules before I show you this,” Carmilla demanded.

“Rules?” Laura questioned.

“Yes. Will you accept them?”

“How can I accept these rules if I don't know what they are?”

“Good point. Okay. Rule number one, I have never showed this DVD, to anyone, ever, which means it’s a secret. Rule number two, if you tell anyone about this, including Mattie, you will have to face the consequences.”

“Are they regular consequences or sexual consequences?” Laura teased.

Carmilla smirked. “Well I was going to joke by saying I'd break up with you, but sexual consequences sound more fun.”

Carmilla stalked towards Laura. Laura could see the hunger in Carmilla's eyes as she bit her lip. Luckily, her curiosity got the better of her.

“Keep it in your pants, Carm. You know I'm dying to know what this DVD is.”

Carmilla stopped in her tracks. She exhaled dramatically. “Fine. But do you agree to the rules? I'm serious, if you tell anyone I showed this, including my family, I won't be happy.”

“Are we watching porn?”

“What? No!”

“Then stop making it weird. What is it?”

Carmilla smirked and pushed the DVD door closed. As it started to load, Carmilla took her seat next to Laura and placed the plate of food on her lap, taking a large bite. She moaned in appreciation.

“Will you always cook?” Carmilla asked.

“If it suits you, I will.”

“You're amazing, Laura.”

Carmilla leaned in, trying to kiss Laura passionately. She got away with a chaste kiss before Laura pointed towards the television.

“Movie, Sweetcheeks.”

“You sure you wouldn't rather make out a little more?”

Laura contemplated for a moment and then smiled.

“As much as I love making out with you, my curiosity is raging through the roof and I want to know what this video is.”

“Can we have our own fun later?”

Laura smiled. “I wouldn't want anything more.”

Carmilla smirked and kissed Laura's cheek. She held up the remote and took a deep breath. Here we go.

Carmilla hit play and the screen went black. An overture started and Laura's eyes widened.

“Are you kidding me?” Laura asked, with a huge smile on her face.

“It’s the only proof I have. We recorded the whole thing for publicity and commercials. We all got the show on VHS which my mom had converted to a DVD later. This is your only shot to see adorable little me.”

“As a ginger,” Laura added.

“Yeah, yeah, Cupcake. I hated that stupid wig.”

“Oh my gosh, Carm. When do you come out?”

“Have you never seen Annie before?”

“No, I have. Can we fast forward through the overture?”

“No, you have to take in the whole thing.”

“Oh my gosh, Carm. I’m so excited.”

Carmilla laughed as Laura sat up with an excited smile on her face. She kissed Laura’s cheek. “You’re so beautiful,” she whispered in Laura’s ear. Laura looked at her for a few seconds with a goofy expression. The overture started to fade away and Laura’s attention immediately snapped back to the television. Carmilla continued to eat her dinner, watching Laura instead of her old production. Laura’s arm wrapped around Carmilla’s shoulder and she pulled Carmilla close to her. Carmilla finished chewing the food in her mouth and placed a light kiss against Laura’s neck. At that moment, Carmilla entered from stage right.

“Oh my gosh, Carm. Look at how cute you are. You’re so little.”

“Yeah. What’s interesting is me and the girl who played Pepper never got along. One time I swear she tried to actually hit me when I was breaking up the fight scene.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, but no one believed me.”

“I believe you, Baby.”

“Yeah, well, you’re about 19 years too late, Cupcake.”

“Shh, Carm. It’s your solo.”

The song “Maybe” started playing and Laura was anxious to hear Carmilla sing, even if it was in Carmilla's childhood voice. Little Carmilla started singing with so much power, hitting every note. For some reason, the amount of happiness of Carmilla sharing this with her, caused her eyes to water. She thought it was the cutest thing she had ever seen.

“You are so adorable, Carm.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Carmilla smiled and pulled Laura closer to her. “I can't wait to hear you sing ‘Tomorrow’!”

“Well it's the big number so that's what everyone waits for.”

“You're so into character! You look like you actually hate Ms. Hannigan. Wait. Holy Hufflepuff, is that Nell Carter?”

“The one and only. I actually really liked her and John Schuck, who played Daddy Warbucks. The adults were fun and treated me professionally. Sutton Foster was also in the show, but this was before her career really took off.”

“That’s just incredible! This is the most amazing thing I think I have ever seen.” Laura sang a little to the song, “It’s a Hard Knock Life” before laughing to herself. “Look at you dancing,” Laura commented.

“Oh I can dance, Cupcake.”

“Is that so?”

Carmilla stood and held out her hand. “Care to join me in a waltz?”

“After this?” Laura asked, giving Carmilla her big dough eyes.

Carmilla deflated. “Fine, but it better be the horizontal tango.”

Laura rolled her eyes.

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

About halfway through the movie, Carmilla grew bored of watching her childhood self. That little girl is not me anymore and hasn’t been me for almost an eternity. She has no idea the storm her life is about to take. She was happy and carefree. I'm happy now, probably as happy as I was then, but I still miss him. Mattie's right though, Laura has made me feel better than I have in a long time.

“Oh my gosh, Carm. I can't handle how cute you were. Look at you in that little dress and that red hair. And your little chicken legs.”

“Hey, it's not my fault I wasn't allowed to eat junk food unless I was with my dad. Besides, I was always a scrawny kid.”

“You were just so cute.”

“I'm beginning to think you don't think I'm cute now.”

Laura took advantage of a lull point in the musical as Daddy Warbucks was singing and straddled Carmilla's lap. “Oh you're still cute.” She leaned in to place a kiss against Carmilla's neck. “And very sexy,” she whispered in Carmilla's ear.

“Am I sexy enough to turn this off and take you to bed?”

Laura kissed Carmilla passionately. She pulled away with a blissful smile.

“No.”

Carmilla groaned as Laura sat back down in her original position.

“Stop teasing me, Laura. You're killing me.”

“I'm not doing anything,” Laura protested. “Now, shush. Movie. You’re about to sing about NYC.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes. She paid attention for a moment to figure out where they were. Not too much more now, Cupcake and then we'll have our fun. But why wait? I can start now.

Carmilla turned her head and started kissing Laura's neck, lightly. Laura ignored her. Her attention was tuned towards watching a young Carmilla sing and dance around. She would laugh and smile whenever Carmilla did something she thought was cute or adorable. Carmilla decided to bite Laura's ear. She could feel Laura's breath picking up, but didn't even flinch. Damn it.

Laura on the other hand was about to call it quits. I'm not giving in. Oh, but I want to. Her mouth feels so good. Is that teeth? Oh geez. No, concentrate. Look at that cute little girl. Carmilla doesn't seem to be that happy anymore, but maybe she’s just acting. I do wonder what it would be like to see her do this with her black hair. I wonder if this is before her dad died. I wonder if that little girl knows what's going to happen to her. I almost lost my dad and I can't even fathom what that it feels like to actually lose him.

Laura turned towards Carmilla who looked at her curiously. Laura smiled at her and held her hand. Carmilla smiled back. Laura could tell Carmilla was getting impatient, but Laura wanted to finish it. She was worried if she didn't, she'd never see this performance again and she was going to hold onto this as long as she could.

They were on the last number and Laura would be lying if she said she wasn't crying. Sometimes it was really easy for her to be emotional. Carmilla wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

“It's okay, Cupcake. I was never an actual orphan,” Carmilla joked.

“I know.”

Carmilla wiped one of Laura's tears.

“So no sad faces, Baby. Happy ending. And soon we can have our own happy endings if we turn this off.”

“Does it show your curtain call?”

“Yes.”

“Then I want to watch that.”

“Why?”

“Because you were nice enough to show me this and I want to watch little Carmilla Karnstein take her bow.”

Carmilla smirked. “I was pretty cute and I loved curtain call.”

They waited through the ensemble as Daddy Warbucks took the stage for his bow. The next thing Laura saw was a little Carmilla with a huge smile on her face run down the Christmas decorated stairs to center stage! She was smiling proudly. She took a small, short bow. They all gestured to the orchestra and Carmilla took one final bow with the entire cast. As the curtain closed she stood there smiling and waving to the audience. The last thing they saw was Little Carmilla blowing a kiss before running off with everyone.

“The first thing I always did after curtain call was run into my dad’s arms and take my wig off. The costume people hated it when I did that, but I knew where the pins were. I just hated it so much that as soon as I could get it off, I wanted it off.”

“You didn't perform every night though, right?”

“Back then there were no child labor laws about how many nights a kid could work on Broadway. Matinees had my understudy, but it was me, six shows a week.”

“So you were the Annie people wanted to see?”

“That's what they told me.”

“Well you were incredible! Thanks for sharing that with me.”

“I want you to know me better. Talking about that show is very difficult for me. I also just wanted to cheer you up so I figured this would be a good way to do that. But it’s easier for me to watch and talk about the show then just sit and talk about it.”

“Well I appreciate it and it definitely cheered me up.”

“And now is it my turn to be cheered up?”

Laura smiled and shifted back to straddling Carmilla's lap. She had an evil smirk on her face as she bit her lip. Carmilla licked her lips, while she studied Laura. She looked down at Laura's body and smirked. Laura leaned forward and Carmilla could feel her breath against her skin.

“Your turn, Baby,” Laura whispered in Carmilla's ear.

Laura pulled back just enough for Carmilla to kiss her passionately. Laura moaned into the kiss, sending a wave of electricity through Carmilla. She didn't plan on waiting. She scooted forward a little, her arms wrapping around Laura. She placed her hands under Laura's bottom and hoisted her up into her arms.

“Carm,” Laura gasped, wiggling in Carmilla's arms.

“Stop moving and let me carry you.”

“Don't drop me.”

“I've got you, Cupcake.”

Laura smiled, bringing her lips together with Carmilla's. Carmilla kissed her sensually, taking small steps towards her bedroom. Instead of entering the doorway, Laura's back met the wall, hard. Carmilla pulled away from the kiss as Laura let out a small moan.

“I'm so sorry! I thought that was my door. Are you okay?”

Laura laughed. “I'm fine, Carm.” Laura's lips hovered above Carmilla's. “It was kind of hot, in my opinion.”

Carmilla pushed forward, closing the small gap between them. Laura took a deep inhale as Carmilla started to kiss and bite her neck. Laura moaned loudly, mad she was trapped against a wall and Carmilla's hips. She couldn’t move and was desperate to feel some form of friction.

“Bed, Carm,” she muttered.

Carmilla licked a spot on Laura's neck that she had just bitten and pulled them away from the wall. She carried Laura into her room, both of them looking at each other. Carmilla shut the door behind her with her foot, before dropping Laura on the bed. Laura stared at Carmilla with seduction and lust in her eyes. She was out of breath and the look in her eye made Carmilla go crazy. She watched as Laura sat up and slowly took her own shirt off over her head. Carmilla followed suit, discarding her own t-shirt. She felt Laura’s hands on her pants as she started to breathe heavier with desire.

Laura unbuttoned them and pulled the zipper down before she caressed Carmilla’s backside over her underwear. She pushed the denim down until it pooled at the bottom of Carmilla’s feet. Carmilla smirked and waited for Laura to do whatever she wanted to do to her. She liked Laura being in control of her. Laura stood and wrapped her arms around Carmilla’s shoulders to kiss her deeply. Carmilla wrapped her arms around Laura’s waist as Laura opened her mouth to feel Carmilla’s tongue against hers. Carmilla removed her arms to undo Laura’s pants and pull them down as quickly as she could. The temperature of the room continued to escalate as both girls became wrapped around each other. Carmilla laid Laura back down on the bed as she crawled on top of her.

“Carm,” Laura gasped as she felt Carmilla’s teeth against her neck, followed by her warm tongue. Carmilla wasted no time in taking Laura’s underwear off, wanting to be closer to Laura’s naked body. Laura leaned up and unsnapped her own bra, slowly becoming impatient.

“Thought I would give you a little help,” she panted.

Carmilla smirked at her. “Thanks for the help, Cupcake.” Carmilla descended Laura’s body, taking her right nipple into her mouth and moaning. Laura scratched her fingernails down Carmilla’s back, earning a hiss from the girl on top of her. Carmilla continued to suck and lick her way down Laura’s body. When she was just about to reach Laura’s pubic mound, Laura spoke.

“Wait. Wait.”

“What’s wrong, Cupcake?”

“This is your turn. I’m supposed to be taking care of you not the other way around.”

“Oh, but Baby you are taking care of me.”

“How? I’m letting you do all the work.”

“As much as I love receiving, I also love going down on you and I get just as much pleasure from that. Besides, you’re so good with your mouth, it never takes me too long to come. I rather start with you. So,” Carmilla made one broad lick between Laura’s folds. “Let me continue.”

Laura laid her head back down as she closed her eyes. She spread her legs wider as Carmilla continued her motion with her tongue. It was in moments like these where Laura didn't care about her body. The way she looked was the farthest thing from her mind and the only thing that mattered was Carmilla's mouth and fingers. She was panting and moaning, her hips jerking as her orgasm came crashing down. She felt Carmilla moan as her body relaxed, but Carmilla didn't stop. She loved the way Laura tasted.

“Carm,” Laura gasped, pulling on Carmilla's hair. Carmilla sounded as if she growled, but Laura pulled harder.

“Carm, come here,” Laura whispered, still trying to catch her breath.

Carmilla placed a few more kisses on her inner thighs before looking up and smiling. “Can I help you, Cupcake?”

Laura nodded, pulling Carmilla's arm until she was hovering over her, a smiled plastered on her face. “Come here,” Laura said, pulling Carmilla down on top of her. They kissed passionately, holding tightly onto one another. Carmilla's emotions were strong in this moment as she felt Laura's lips against her. She pulled back to place light kisses against Laura's lips.

“Laura, I-” she started, whispering, but immediately cutting herself off. “I just really like you.” And now I’m 12 years old and too scared to express my emotions towards this girl who I’m terrified to say, I think I’m falling in love with.

Laura smiled. “I really like you too.”

Carmilla kissed Laura. “I think since I like you so much,” Laura started, placing her hand inside Carmilla's underwear, “that I should show you.”

Carmilla gasped at the sensation of Laura's fingers on her lower body. She put more weight on top of Laura so her legs could spread wider. She kept herself lifted so Laura's arm wouldn't get tired. She moaned as she felt Laura's lips against her neck. It was Laura's turn to bite and suck around Carmilla’s skin as her fingers moved at a rapid pace.

“Oh, Laura,” Carmilla murmured, pushing her hips back and down. “Fuck. Don’t stop, Cupcake.”

“Hold on, we have to shift.”

Carmilla rolled over on the bed and laid on her back. Laura made quick work of Carmilla’s underwear, slipping them off her legs before readjusting on top of her. She kissed Carmilla slowly and longingly as her hand started to move again. Laura noticed Carmilla was louder this time around and couldn’t help, but smile. She had never been this vocal before. Carmilla stayed as close to Laura as she could, trying to kiss her as much as possible. She felt like Laura might float away or leave, but she didn’t know why. She tried to ignore her growing fears as Laura’s hand and mouth continued to work on her body. She scratched down Laura’s back, reveling in the sounds that came out of Laura’s mouth.

“Right there, Laura. Don’t stop, Baby. Please don’t stop,” Carmilla panted in Laura’s ear. She kissed Laura’s cheek while listening to Laura pant in her ear. Don’t leave me, she thought. Stay with me. Please stay with me. Laura heard Carmilla sniffle and became concerned.

“Hey,” Laura said, softly. “Am I hurting you?”

Carmilla opened her eyes for a moment and stared at Laura, still feeling the sensations of Laura’s hand. She shook her head no. She was close as she stared into those light brown eyes. Within a couple minutes, Carmilla tumbled over the edge staring at Laura with a quiet moan. Her eyes closed and head tilted back as her legs shook. Laura laid down next to her and shifted to look at Carmilla’s face. Silent tears caressed her cheeks.

“Hey,” Laura tried again. Carmilla looked towards her, trying to control her breathing.

“Did I hurt you?” Laura asked.

Carmilla shook her head no. She rolled over into Laura’s arms and continued to take deep breaths. Laura held her close.

“I mean I know I’m good, Carm, but I’ve never brought anyone to tears before.”

Carmilla laughed against Laura’s chest. “I’m okay, Cupcake.”

“Are you sure I didn’t hurt you?”

“No, Laura, you didn’t hurt me.”

“Then what’s wrong, Carm.”

It was silent for a few moments as Laura ran her fingers through Carmilla’s hair. “How did I get so lucky?” Carmilla asked, quietly.

“What do you mean?”

“How did I get so lucky after all the drugs, all the sex, all the alcohol to meet you. How did I get so lucky to meet you and have you accept me for who I am?”

“I could ask the same questions.”

“Why me, Laura?”

“Because you are the only person who makes me feel safe. Laying here with you naked no longer bothers me. I dated Danny for three years and never felt comfortable laying naked next to her. You make me feel strong and loved. I haven’t ever felt this way in a relationship. I always hid my body. But not with you. You help me everyday with my body issues. You never run away and you don’t shoot me down. You stay and you love. Why would I want anyone else?”

Carmilla lifted her head to to stare at Laura. “Do you mean that?”

“I have no reason to lie to you about how I feel about you.”

“Please don’t leave, Laura.”

“Like I’ve said before and I’ll say it for however long you need me to: I have no where else to go. When I’m with you, I feel like I’m home.”

Carmilla capture Laura’s lips in a warm, genuine kiss. She pulled away with a small smirk. “I’m falling hard for you, Laura Hollis.”

“I already fell hard for you, Carmilla Karnstein.”

Chapter Text

That following Wednesday, Laura was sitting at her desk, swaying back and forth in her chair. She had just gotten off the phone with the service that was helping her find the right therapist. An older gentleman talked to her on the phone. He had a very kind voice, but he spoke so low that Laura could barely hear him. He explained what she needed to do and how much it would cost. The man told her to call Dr. Harrison to setup an appointment as soon as possible. It made Laura nervous. One, she hated talking on the phone and two, setting up the first appointment in general just spiked her anxiety. After a few moments of collecting her thoughts, she dialed the number for this Dr. Harrison. She was surprised to hear a woman on the other end. This woman sounded stern which didn't help to unnerve Laura. They made an appointment for tomorrow evening, right after work. She hung up and took a deep inhale. She held her breath for a moment before exhaling.

Laura stared at her work computer with a million scenarios running through her mind of what tomorrow would be like. All she really hoped for was someone nice and that she wouldn’t cry. The thought of crying made her feel embarrassed.

“Hey, Cupcake,” she heard Carmilla say in passing.

“Hey, Baby.”

Carmilla threw her bag down on her desk, taking a light jacket off and placing it on the back of her chair. She stretched her arms above her head before turning towards Laura.

“It's getting cold out there,” she mumbled.

“Maybe cooler, but definitely not cold,” Laura corrected. Laura sounded distant and had yet to look away from her computer. Carmilla could tell something was wrong.

“Laura?”

“Yeah?”

“What's wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Something.”

Laura exhaled. Carmilla sat down on Laura's receiving counter. She placed her hands in her lap and swung her legs back and forth. She studied Laura, trying to see if she could figure out what was bothering her. Laura had distinct facial expressions for certain things, like her body issues or when she was deep in thought, but this was a new expression Carmilla hadn't seen. She couldn't figure it out, which bothered her. She was just about to say something when Laura finally spoke.

“I got my first appointment.”

“With a therapist?” Carmilla asked, reaching out for Laura's hand. Laura placed her hand in Carmilla’s and nodded.

“And you're nervous.” Carmilla stated. It wasn't a question because she already knew the answer.

“Yeah and I know it's a stupid thing to be nervous about.”

“It's really not, Cupcake. It's a person you're most likely going to tell your deep dark secrets to.”

“My deep dark secrets? I don't think my body issues are deep dark secrets.”

“Well no, but maybe the reason is and it's buried so deep in there that even you don't remember it.”

“Yeah. Just tell me everything is going to be alright.”

“Laura, everything is going to be great.”

Laura smiled. “How was your session this morning?”

“Good. I think today is going to be a good day.”

“That's good.”

“Oh and thank you for being understanding about not staying over last night. I just had to get up early for it and I didn't want you to have to get up earlier than necessary.”

“It's not a problem, Carm. I completely understood. We can't spend every night together.”

“And why not?”

“Don't we need our personal space sometimes?”

“Do you think we need space?” Carmilla asked.

Laura chuckled. “No.”

“Good because I don't think we do either. What time is your appointment tomorrow?”

“After work.”

“Wanna come over tonight?”

Laura smirked. “Missed me that much last night?”

Carmilla smiled. “I did, actually. I forgot what it was like to sleep alone and I didn't enjoy it.”

Laura stood up and between Carmilla's legs. “I didn't sleep well either. My bed is suddenly way too small.”

Carmilla leaned in a little closer, wrapping her arms around Laura's waist.

“Well then how about tonight we order out and tomorrow night after your very first session, I cook us dinner and we just relax?”

“Carmilla Karnstein is going to make me dinner? How can I turn that down?”

“You really can't.”

Laura laughed and placed a light kiss against Carmilla's lips.

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

The next evening, Carmilla gave Laura a longing kiss before telling her she'd see her later. She reassured her that everything was going to be okay, but Laura was still nervous. She transferred to the F train and started her way to her first appointment. She sat quietly on the train, staring at nothing as she took the train to the first stop in Brooklyn. She had never really explored the neighborhood of Dumbo in all the years she had lived in Brooklyn. The block her therapist’s office was on had a clear view of the Manhattan Bridge. She hated looking like a tourist, but pulled out her phone to snap a picture so she could post it on Instagram later.

She noticed the time and quickly got to her therapist’s office building. It was large and industrious, just like all the other buildings in the area. She waited outside in a small, little waiting area, like the one she had been in previously.

The door popped open and a blonde woman stepped out. She was tall, skinny and most likely in her early 40’s. She made Laura feel uncomfortable as Laura immediately started to compare her body to this woman’s. I’ll never look like that. She’s like super skinny, like Carmilla. No hips and small breasts. I’d kill for that body.

“Laura?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” Laura answered.

Dr. Harrison smiled. “Come on in.”

Laura followed the doctor into the small room. It had one large window that overlooked a few buildings and another part of the Manhattan Bridge. There was a chair to Laura’s left as she walked in and a white bookshelf to her right.

“Have a seat on the couch,” Dr. Harrison suggested.

Under the large window sat a white leather couch. She sat down as Dr. Harrison pulled out a notebook and pen from her bag. Laura wasn’t sure what the protocol was. She decided not to speak and waited patiently. She felt uncomfortable and had butterflies in her stomach.

“So,” Dr. Harrison started, “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

“Okay. Well my name is Laura Hollis. I’m 25. I work at Hemingway and Company, the bookstore, and I’ve been there for about four years now. Um,” She paused, thinking for a moment. “I don’t know what you want me to say, really. I don’t like to talk about myself too much. I’m better at answering questions.”

“Okay. Not a problem. Do you like your job?”

“Yeah. I like it a lot actually. It’s a nice environment and I get along with my coworkers really well. Actually my coworkers are my best friends. My boss, David is also wonderful. He’s always made me feel right at home. He’s kind of like a big brother.”

“Well that’s a good thing. Life is a little easier when you actually enjoy your work. Wouldn't you agree?”

Laura nodded.

“Now, I would like to know why you’re here or why you decided to try therapy?”

“Well I’ve seemed to struggle with body issues my whole life, so I would like to try and get over that.”

“Do you do anything physical to help with your thoughts about that?”

“I used to go to the gym, but I stopped recently. I just can’t get up the energy to go. Sometimes at the end of the day, my mind feels so drained that I just want to go home and sleep.”

“Have you thought about picking that up again?”

“Off and on, but haven’t put too much thought into it.”

“Any idea when you developed these body issues?”

“All I know is that it started when I was a kid. I quit dancing at the age of nine because the outfit my teacher wanted the class to wear showed an inch of our stomachs. Everyone was else was super excited about it. I was so uncomfortable and hated that outfit the minute I saw it. I did the recital in my outfit, but never went back after that.”

“We’re you a chubby kid?”

“I mean, I had a tummy, like I do now. I was a picky eater so I ate a lot of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. The only vegetable I liked was corn so I was eating more fattening things than good. I don’t know. My parents never really forced me to eat anything else because I don’t think they wanted to deal with my complaining or whining.”

“And what about this dance class. Would you say you were chubbier than all the other children?”

“No. There were girls larger than me, but the best dancer in the class was Molly. I was very envious of her. She was super thin and also took gymnastics so she could do things easier.”

“Was she mean to you?”

“No. If I remember correctly, she was actually a really sweet girl. I was just jealous of her body.”

“And what grade was this?”

“This was fourth grade.”

“Do you think this is when your issues started?”

Laura shook her head no. “I think it started somewhere in first or second grade. There were these two girls, both named Katie. I thought they were my friends, and I don’t really remember this, but my mom told me they used to push me down on the playground, and call me fat and ugly. I think the fact that I don’t remember it means I internalized it.”

“But you know kids are jerks, right? That’s what kids do. They're mean.”

“I know, but I guess I always tried to see the good in people so maybe I thought they were just playing around and didn’t mean it? I don’t know.”

“I definitely think it could be a possibility of internalizing what they did to you. Our memories and brain can do wicked things to us without us even realizing it. I'm hoping over time we can figure this out and make it better.”

Laura nodded. She really didn’t want to talk about her body anymore.

“So tell me about growing up. Happy childhood?”

“I think so.”

“And your parents?”

“Good people. We always traveled in the summer and had fun at home playing games or running around.”

“And what did they do?”

“My dad was a stay at home dad and my mom is one of the best realtors in Virginia.”

“Are you close with your parents?”

“I was until I came out.”

“Ah. So what happened when you came out?”

“It just got awkward. They said they supported me fully, but I could tell it’s not what my mother wished for and as for my dad, I think he’s a little more understanding and okay with it. My mother was more on board with my last girlfriend, but when we broke up, she kind of went back to her reserved self. She just couldn't figure out why I ‘would leave someone as good as Danny’,” she quoted.

“And what happened in your last relationship?”

Laura talked about Danny for what felt like hours. She told Dr. Harrison about her relationship. The ups and the downs. The way Danny had cheated on her and treated her towards the end of their relationship. The way Danny didn’t know how to handle her mood swings and would tell her to get over it. How Danny had her smoke marijuana to calm herself when she got too excited. How she felt like nothing by the end of their relationship. She poured her heart out and got as much out as she could. Dr. Harrison listened intently as she scribbled down as many notes as possible.

“Doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship,” Dr. Harrison noted.

“It wasn’t.”

“Any girlfriends since then? Am I right assuming you’re a lesbian?”

“Yes. Is that okay?”

“Absolutely. There is no hate in this office.”

“Good.”

“So any girlfriends since?”

“I’m actually in a relationship right now.”

“Oh wonderful! I hope she treats you better than this Danny person did.”

“Carmilla is amazing. She makes me feel better about myself and I haven’t said it yet, but I think I’m in love with her.”

“Why haven’t you said it yet?”

“We’ve only been dating for about a month now. I feel like it’s a little early in the relationship to express that.”

“Do you think she feels the same way about you?”

Laura smiled. “A part of me does. Sometimes I think she’s going to say it and cross that bridge for the both of us, but then she always says something else.”

“Well it sounds like good things are happening, which is important.”

“Yeah.”

“Tell me about her.”

“Well, she’s the total opposite from Danny, which I think is the best thing. She’s more like me. She has depressive spells and tends to be broody around most people, but not with me.”

“How is she when she’s with you?”

Laura smiled. “She’s caring and loving. Very gentle. She seems to always understand my moods and knows the right way to comfort me.”

“How does she handle you when you’re in a bad mood?”

“She knows when I want to be held and when I want to be alone. She also knows that when I want to be alone, I still want her with me. It usually starts with us being on opposite ends of the couch, while watching something. But then eventually, we end up snuggled together and wrapped in each other’s arms. She just understands me.”

“Has she treated you poorly at any time over the past month?”

“No. Not at all. She doesn’t let me dwell and when I get too lost in my thoughts or worry about my body, she knows exactly what to say to make me feel better.”

“Well she sounds like a good match for you.”

“I think so.”

“I want to go back to your family.”

“Okay.”

“Is that alright?”

“Of course.”

“Do you have any siblings?”

“No. It was just me. My mom miscarried when I was a child. They stopped trying after that.”

“Did that have an effect on you?”

“I was around four years old so I don’t really remember it. I know my mom was devastated.”

“Did she treat you differently because of this tragic event?”

“Not that I remember. I remember her being loving and always there for me. It’s only when I look at pictures from that time where I can see the sadness in her eyes. Sometimes I would ask my dad where she was or what she was doing, but my dad always said she was taking a walk or a nap to clear her head. Oh and there was one time I had a bad dream and went out into the living room to find her. She always stayed up later than my dad did when I was a kid. Anyway, she was crying that night, but still comforted me. I remember wiping her tears when she wiped mine. That’s it though. By the time I was in kindergarten, everything seemed to be back to normal.”

“Did your parents ever talk about the child?”

“No, but she was only in the early stages when they lost the child.”

“Okay. Do you see your parents often?”

“Usually only around Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

“So you’re not that close?”

“I talk to my Dad weekly. He likes to know I’m safe and secure.”

“And your mother?”

“Maybe once a month. I just assume my dad fills her in.”

“What do you and your dad usually talk about?”

“Just the events of the week and anything funny that happened. He fills me in on what’s going on in the community back home and I tell him about my not so crazy adventures in the city. Usually just who I hung out with and if anything happened at work.”

“Has your mom been better to you since you started dating Carmilla?”

“I actually haven’t told them yet.”

“Any particular reason why?”

“I don’t know how they would feel about it so it makes me nervous to talk about her. They’re very particular when it comes to who I date. My mother loved Danny because Danny was in control. My parents always thought I was a little rambunctious so they thought Danny suited me best. Carmilla knows I can take care of myself and lets me fight my own battles. It’s very refreshing.”

“I’m sure it is. I can tell you, your parents will always want what they think is best. You just have to keep proving to them that you know what’s best for you.”

Laura nodded in response.

“Now, can we go back to your body issues? We have about ten minutes left and I want to touch base. What do you think is wrong with your body?”

Laura exhaled and bit her lip. She gritted her teeth. It’s okay. It’s okay. I can handle this. Don’t cry!

“My body is out of shape, like I said. I think I’m fat and I constantly compare myself to other people. All shapes and sizes. Even if someone is bigger than me, they usually are wearing something I wouldn’t be comfortable in, but I think, ‘I’m smaller than them, but they have more confidence than I do’. It’s stupid, but I can’t seem to stop.”

“It’s not stupid, Laura. It’s actually good that you can recognize it. Some people don’t even recognize what they’re doing. What we need to do is find a way to get you comfortable with your body.”

“Carmilla actually helps with that.”

“In what way?”

Laura smiled. “She doesn’t put up with my shit and calls me out when I’m being irrational. I also used to wrap my arms around my body to hide myself when I felt big and I’ve done that for as long as I can remember. She doesn’t let me do that.”

“What does she do to stop that?”

“She pulls my arms apart and pulls me towards her. Then she usually tells me a stupid joke or tells me that I’m beautiful and that she likes the way I look.”

“And how does that make you feel?”

Laura couldn’t stop smiling or grinning. “Loved.”

Dr. Harrison smiled. “It sounds like you got a good thing going with Carmilla. Maybe the next thing will be telling your parents?”

“Maybe,” Laura agreed.

“Maybe and I will find out next week because our time is up. Does this time work for you?”

“Yeah. It’s perfect actually.”

“Wonderful. And do you feel comfortable with me? We want to make sure you’re in a place and seeing someone who doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable.”

“I do. I felt very comfortable.”

“Good.”

Laura paid Dr. Harrison, gave her thanks, shook her hand and headed towards the train to Carmilla’s apartment. She just wanted to be wrapped up in Carmilla’s arms. She wasn’t sure how she felt. Dr. Harrison was definitely nice, but she still felt a little empty. She didn’t really know how to describe the feeling. She hopped on the train and it seemed like in no time she was at her apartment. She wanted to stop by and get a change of clothes before heading to Carmilla’s.

“Well, look who decided to come home,” she heard Betty say as she closed the apartment door.

“Hey, Betts.”

“Don’t ‘Hey, Betts’ me. It’s nice to see you’re still alive.”

“And why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, for starters, you’re never home.”

“I thought you’d like that. Having the whole apartment to yourself.”

“I mean it is nice, but I live with someone for a reason.”

“Fair enough.”

“Are you staying home tonight?”

“Uh, no. I’m actually just stopping by to get a change of clothes for tomorrow. Carmilla is cooking dinner for me.”

“That sounds nice. Is she treating you well.”

“She is, actually. She treats me very well.”

“Better than Danny?”

“One thousand percent.”

“Good. I’ll kill her if she hurts you.”

“You and so many others,” Laura commented.

She walked into her room and gathered the essentials. A t-shirt, a clean pair of underwear, her make-up bag and her hairbrush. She had a toothbrush at Carmilla’s now, along with a couple pairs of sweatpants, baggy t-shirts and pajamas. She stuffed the few items into her bag and headed towards the door.

“Well I guess I’ll see you when I see you?” Betty asked.

“Yep. Bye, Betty,” Laura said, as she closed the door.

She walked as fast as she could to get to Carmilla’s apartment. To be fair, Carmilla lived about a five minute walk away from her apartment, but she was just so ready to have a night in with Carmilla. She hit Carmilla’s apartment buzzer and waited. The buzzer went off and Laura smiled as she walked through the the doors and up the stairs to Carmilla’s apartment. The door was unlocked and Laura walked into an apartment that smelled like it was burning.

“Shit. Fuck!” She heard Carmilla yell.

“Carm?”

Carmilla was fanning a hand towel in front of the oven. “Oh my gosh, Carm! What happened?”

Carmilla exhaled and the fire alarm went off. “Damn it!” Carmilla grabbed a broom and started fanning in front of the fire alarm. Laura grabbed a rag and joined Carmilla. Once the alarm cut off, Carmilla dropped the broom.

“What happened, Carm?”

“I was trying to make a cake for you because I knew today was challenging and wanted to help you feel good. But I got distracted by trying to figure out what to do for dinner and burned it and now I just don’t-”

“Sh. Sh. Carm. You didn’t have to make me a cake.”

“I know, but I wanted to. I haven’t even started on dinner yet because I didn’t know what you would want-”

“Why don’t you order Chinese food and I’ll air out the kitchen?”

“Yeah but we ate out last night. Pun not intended.”

“I know, but it's okay.”

Carmilla pulled her into a hug. “I’m so sorry, Cupcake.”

“It’s okay, Carm, but I’m starving, so you, Chinese food. Me, Kitchen. Yes?”

“Yes.”

Carmilla walked towards her room to get her phone as Laura started to look around the kitchen. There was definitely still some smoke in the air. She grabbed her rag and started fanning the room as best she could. She managed to clear the smoke and threw the extremely burnt cake away. It was a nice thought.

Carmilla came back into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around Laura from behind. She placed a light kiss on her neck. “I’m so sorry, Cupcake.”

“It’s okay, Carm. It makes me happy that you tried.”

“Well, tell me about it. How did the first session go?”

“It was alright. I’m not really sure how I feel, if I’m being honest.”

“That happens, Love. Did you like your therapist at least?”

“Yeah. Dr. Harrison seems very nice. I just don’t know.”

“Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Not really. I mean, we mostly just talked about my family, my body issues and the reason I was there.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I kind of understand where you're coming from now, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“That time you came to my apartment and just fell asleep. I understand that better now.”

“Do you want to do that?”

“Kind of.”

“Okay. Why don't you head into my room. You know it always takes the Chinese food place longer when it delivers so I'll wake you up when it gets here.”

“Actually, can I just lay down on the couch with my head in your lap?”

“So I will scratch your head and play with your hair?”

Laura bit her lip to hide a smile as she nodded. Carmilla let out a chuckle. “Come on, Cupcake.”

Carmilla sat down on the farthest end of the couch so Laura would have room to stretch out. Carmilla grabbed a pillow to support Laura's neck. Laura laid down and got comfortable. She didn't necessarily feel bad. It was kind of hard to figure out what she was feeling. She felt hollow, numb, but not distant. She knew where she was. She knew it was Carmilla’s fingers in her hair. She could hear the news playing in the background as Carmilla caught up on what had happened today.

She shifted to her side, to face Carmilla. She kept her eyes closed however. She was feeling unstable, like she could easily start to cry at any moment. She felt Carmilla's hand massage her neck before going back into her hair. She took a deep breath. She didn't enjoy talking about her body or her family. It was the two problems in her life if she was being honest. Carmilla, on the other hand, was the easiest thing to talk about.

She's home. When I have a shitty day, I don't think of my apartment, I think of her. She's my home. I know I love her, but does she feel the same way? We haven't been together that long, but I know what I want and at the end of the day, it's her. I'll always want to be with her.

“Hey, Laur?”

“Hm?”

“The food is here.”

“Oh,” Laura said, as she sprung up and out of Carmilla's lap. Carmilla gave her a small peck to her lips.

“Thanks,” Carmilla said, grabbing her wallet off the coffee table.

“Do you want me to pay?” Laura asked.

“Nope. Tonight's on me, Beautiful.”

“So was last night,” Laura said, stretching a little.

“Yes, but since I messed up tonight, I think it’s only fair.”

“You didn’t mess up, Carm. Just a small accident.”

Carmilla nodded. She waited until her doorbell rang to open the door. She greeted the delivery person and paid for their food. When she closed the door, Laura started to get up.

“Nope. Stay there. I know how you like your Chinese food so I will make a plate for you.”

“Carm, I just went to therapy. It's not like my leg is in a cast or I had surgery.”

“I know, but I had this big romantic gesture all planned out and I ruined that so let me make it up to you the best I can.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I know I don’t have to, Laura, but I remember my first session. It can be draining so I just want to do something nice. Okay?”

Laura smiled. “Okay, Carm.”

“Thank you.”

Laura laid her head back down on the pillow where Carmilla's lap had been. She closed her eyes and listened to the sounds coming from the kitchen. From the noise, she could tell Carmilla was going all out. She heard footsteps coming closer, causing her to slowly open her eyes, but the footprints disappeared back to the kitchen, so she laid there silently. A few moments later, Laura felt a soft shake to her shoulder.

“Hey, Cupcake.”

“Did I fall asleep?”

“For like ten minutes, but I think so.”

Laura nodded and sat up. She looked at the display in front of her on the coffee table. Carmilla had laid out an old white towel and put their food into serving bowls. There was vegetable Lo Mein, chicken and broccoli, sweet and sour chicken, egg rolls and white rice. Vanilla candles were lit around the room including two being placed on the rectangular table. There were two empty plates, two glasses of water and two glasses of white wine.

“I didn't have a table cloth, so I went with the next best thing and at least if we spill anything on it, it won't matter. The wine probably won't go with the Chinese food, but I figured why not. If the session was rough, a little wine can help soothe it. I think I ordered everything we both like. I left the packets of duck and soy sauce in the kitchen if you want it. I hope this is okay.”

“Carm, this is better than okay. This is wonderful. Thank you!”

“You're welcome, Cupcake. Do you feel any better after your nap?” Carmilla asked, filling up a plate of food for Laura.

“A little. I don't know how to explain how I felt.”

“I know that feeling. It's like kind of a hollow feeling, right?”

“Yeah. Kind of. Did you stay at work or did leave right after me?” Carmilla decided Laura changing the conversation was probably for the best. She put her loaded plate down in front of her and grabbed her fork.

“I stayed for a little bit. I helped Lafontaine with pulling for about an hour longer. The last few rush people we're not very good at it so I decided they could use a hand.”

“That was very nice of you.”

“Definitely. And Perry asked if we wanted to go to dinner with them tomorrow night after work.”

Laura made a face as she shoveled some Lo Mein into her mouth. “What did you say?”

“That I would have to talk to you, but that I didn't think it would be a problem. It's not a problem, right?”

“No. Not at all.”

“You sure? I'm sure Perry will understand.”

“No, no. It's just, I guess now we're that couple who have to go out with their couple friends.”

“Ah. Don't want to be seen in public with me, Cupcake?” Carmilla asked, grasping her heart. Laura laughed.

“Stop! You know I lo-,” She paused and blushed. “Really like you,” she mumbled out. “I just like having you to myself is all.”

“I don't think dinner will be too bad. Besides I like Lafontaine. They're funny.”

Laura put her fork down with a knowing look on her face.

“What?” Carmilla questioned.

“Are you telling me that other than me, your sister and your brother, that you like someone? And not just anyone, science loving, Lafontaine?”

“They're funny in the sense that you could tell them to run down the street naked for science and they'd probably do it. They're my entertainment.”

“Sure, Carmilla.”

“It's the truth.”

“I know you like my friends.”

“For entertainment purposes only.”

“Sure.”

“Stop saying ‘sure’!”

Laura smiled. “Why? What are you going to do to me?”

Carmilla got a wicked look in her eye. She placed her plate on the coffee table, happy to see Laura's already sitting there. She sprang in a moments notice and tackled Laura down to lay on the couch. She kissed her hungrily as Laura laughed.

“Are you going to smother me with kisses?” Laura asked as she felt Carmilla's mouth against her neck.

“Maybe,” Carmilla whispered.

Laura pulled her forward so their lips could connect again. It never mattered to Laura how Carmilla kissed her; it always helped take away her anxiety.

“Carm?” Laura asked against Carmilla's mouth.

“Yeah?”

“Food.”

Carmilla laughed lowly against Laura's mouth, placing a longing kiss against her lips. She pulled away to see how red Laura's lips were.

“Can I eat now?”

“Yes, Cupcake. I'm so sorry my kisses are that bad that you rather eat than make out with me.”

“That's not true. Food gets cold, your lips never do.”

“Wait until winter.”

“Then I'll keep them warm,” Laura winked.

Carmilla leaned forward and placed another kiss against Laura’s lips. “Can’t wait,” she said before pulling back. “What do you want to watch?”

“Anything’s fine,” Laura mumbled with food in her mouth.

“Wanna start a series on Netflix?”

“Sure.”

“You wanna watch something dumb, but amazing that involves lesbians?”

“Are you asking me if I want to watch ‘The L Word’?”

Carmilla laughed, “Yes.”

“Let’s do it!”

They both smiled as Carmilla started up the first episode of the season.

“I hate the first lines exchanged between Bette and Tina in this show!” Laura complained, scraping the last amount of rice into her mouth.

“What lines?”

Laura straightened her back and sat up tall. “Bette! Come here!” she quoted. “‘What? You’re ovulating.’ ‘I’m ovulating. ‘Let’s make a baby.’ ‘Let’s make a baby.’ Kiss. If my wife ever told me she was ovulating and the only thing I said was, ‘Let’s make a baby,’ I would be so disappointed in my myself.”

“How do you even know that?”

“I’ve watched this a lot. I used to stream it online back home when my parents were asleep.”

“Naughty. Naughty girl.”

“Hey! I was in the closet and it was the only time I didn’t have to worry about my parents barging into my room at the slightest sound. It was even better when I realized I could use my headphones.”

“How long did it take you to realize that?”

“Longer than I’m willing to admit.”

Carmilla laughed. There was a small pause in their conversation as they continued to watch the worst lines in history, according to Laura.

“So do you wanna have kids?” Carmilla asked, nonchalantly.

“I don’t know. Maybe one day. You?”

“Yeah I think I would. But I would let them do whatever they wanted instead of letting them do stuff that would make me happy.”

“I mean, isn’t that what all parents are supposed to do?”

“Have you not met my mother?”

“Good point. I think I just want my kids to be happy no matter who they are. That’s the most important thing, but I worry.”

“Worry about what?”

“What if my depression passes down to them? I’d hate for my kid to have go through that. It’s not fair for them to get stuck with this gene or mentality.”

“Well, if it happens, it happens. The best thing you can do is just be there for them, you know? To help reassure them. Besides, every kid goes through that awkward phase where they don’t like their parents. Not to mention, every person on this planet has at least one thing they don’t like about themselves, no matter how old they are or how many times someone tells them they’re wrong.”

“Yeah,” Laura answered.

They chatted and laughed through a couple of episodes before Laura laid back down in Carmilla’s lap. Carmilla played with her hair until she noticed Laura had fallen asleep. She lightly lifted Laura’s head so she could ease out from under her. She stood up and lifted Laura up into her arms.

“You’re gonna drop me one day,” Laura muttered before curling towards Carmilla.

“I’ll never drop you,” Carmilla answered, smiling.

She carried Laura into her room and laid her down on her bed. She hopped back out into the living room to blow out all the candles, put the leftover food away in the refrigerator and turn the lights off. She wasn’t sure when Mattie was going to be home. Once back in her room, Carmilla slipped out of her clothes before slowly undoing Laura’s pants.

“Not tonight, Baby,” Laura said, swatting at Carmilla’s hands. “I’m tired.”

“Do you wanna sleep in your jeans, Laura?”

“No.”

“Then let me help you.”

Carmilla managed to get Laura down to her underwear before slipping her bra off. She adjusted Laura and then laid down beside her. Laura was fast asleep, but Carmilla couldn’t help brushing some of Laura’s stray hairs away from her face. She placed a light kiss on Laura’s forehead. She lingered for a moment before whispering, “I love you, Laura.” Laura shifted and Carmilla jumped, grateful she was only rolling over in her sleep. Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura’s waist and pulled her back to her front, to spoon.

Laura could feel Carmilla’s breath against her neck. She had a dopey smile on her face at the words she had just hear Carmilla spoke. I love you too.

Chapter Text

The leaves were finally changing to yellow and orange as summer shifted into fall. The bookstore had managed to calm down and the majority of the rush employees had been let go. It was quiet again. Kirsch and SJ were the only two people everyone agreed to keep a little longer at the store to help with returns. Carmilla couldn't have been happier when she saw Elsie leave for the last time, hoping to never see her again. It took a weight off her shoulders. Laura was just happy to not to have someone ask her a question every five minutes regarding a book or a label.

Carmilla was pleased with the cooler weather, happy to wear a coat as she settled into October. Laura had continued with therapy, and Carmilla couldn’t help, but notice how much more open Laura had become. She still had her body issues at times, but they weren’t as bad as they were before. However, Laura’s happier attitude only furthered her fear that Laura deserved to be with someone better than her. She was worried that things she did in her past were going to affect Laura’s opinion of her. She was more worried she was going to mess up and hurt Laura. Luckily, her therapist helped keep these thoughts at bay and managed to help her when she was overthinking things.

Carmilla was sitting comfortably in her living room, flipping through the channels when Mattie entered their apartment.

“Hey, Kitty Cat.”

“Hey.”

Mattie looked around the apartment. “No Laura tonight?” She asked, sitting down on the couch next to Carmilla.

Carmilla smiled. “She'll be here later.”

“Do you know what time?”

“No. She's at the gym. Her therapist thought it would be a good idea for her to be more physical and it has been doing wonders for her.”

“Confidence wise?”

“Confidence, anxiety, depression. All of it. She seems to be so much happier now.”

“That’s good. It’s nice when things help people. But all I hope is she doesn't smell when she gets here.”

“Why? You’re not the one she’ll be snuggling up to.”

“We have dinner with Mother tonight, Carmilla. Please don't tell me you forgot.”

Carmilla groaned. “I did.”

“Surprise. Surprise. We're meeting her at 7:30. James is coming with the car around seven. I suggest you call Laura to make sure she is here on time.”

“Was Laura invited?”

“Are you kidding me? She told you that. You know Mother loves her. And if Laura isn't there, Mother will think you did something wrong and broke another girl’s heart.”

Carmilla groaned again. “Fuck, you're right. I just hate to put her through this again.”

“Put her through what? Mother wants her there. I was standing next to you she called and invited her. I assume you just let her ramble on without absorbing the information she was telling you. I’m more surprised you agreed to go to dinner in the first place.”

“Laura distracts me sometimes.”

“She wasn’t here when this happened.”

“I know that, but she’s always on my mind, so even with Mother talking, I was thinking about Laura.”

“Well we’re going. All of us, including Will who asked for the night off.”

“Okay. Okay,” Carmilla answered, still flipping through the channels.

“It's 5:45, Carmilla. Chop, chop! We need to make sure Laura will be here on time.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes causing Mattie to smirk. Carmilla pulled her phone out of her pocket and called Laura.

Laura answered, clearly out of breath.

“Hey, Creampuff. You okay?”

Yeah! Just got off the treadmill.

“How far did you run today?”

Just a mile, but I did it in 13 minutes! Carmilla could tell Laura was excited.

“That's great, Baby! Congrats!”

Thanks, Carm. Alright, I'm gonna head out of here, run home, take a shower and then I should be at your place around 6:30, 6:45ish to have dinner with your family.

“You remembered?”

Mattie texted me earlier to remind me.

Carmilla gawked at Mattie. “Could have texted me,” Carmilla said.

“I figured you would remember or Laura would have reminded you,” Mattie replied.

Carmilla turned her attention back to her phone. “That sounds good, Cupcake. James will be here at 7 o’clock.”

Then I will see you by 6:45. Bye, Carm!

Carmilla smiled. “Bye.”

She hung up her phone with a lovey-dovey smile on her face. Mattie chuckled.

“You two are so sweet that it is enough to give a girl cavities.”

“What are you talking about?” Carmilla questioned, the smile disappearing from her face.

“Have you told that girl you love her yet?”

“Not that it's any of your business, but yes I have.”

“And did she say it back?”

“Well not exactly. She was asleep and I whispered it.”

Mattie laughed again.

“Stop laughing at me! It's too soon,” Carmilla protested.

“Why is it too soon?”

“We've only been seeing each other for a couple of months, Mattie.”

“So? Time is an illusion.”

“It's too soon to know that.”

“But you do know it.”

“You're point?” Carmilla questioned.

“You say it's too soon to know that, but yet you know you love her. I mean she's here all the time. Almost to the point that if she isn't here, you aren't here either. You two are inseparable and I think she loves you too.”

“And what if she doesn't?”

Mattie sighed. “Look, I know that Ell had a big effect on you because you were madly in love with her and she couldn't even admit to people that you were together, let alone tell you she loved you and sound like she meant it. But Laura isn't some shy little girl, she's strong. If you told Laura that you love her, I seriously think the last thing she'll do is leave. Besides, it's so obvious she is head over heels in love with you.”

Carmilla nodded. “Maybe.”

“Well, we don't have time to pout about it now. You need to get changed.”

“Where are we going for dinner?”

“Mother’s favorite restaurant, of course. Also Laura is going to need to borrow a pair of your heels.”

“How do you even know that?”

“She asked earlier in the week and I told her what to wear. Actually I bought her something to wear, but she said buying her heels would be waste of money because she’d never wear them.”

“You bought her clothes?”

“Just one outfit to knock Mother’s socks off. Well Mother’s and yours,” Mattie clarified.

“So are you guys like best friends now?”

“Don't be ridiculous. She wants to impress Mother so I'll do anything I can to help because I like her and I like how she treats you. Now!”

Mattie stood up from the couch and crossed into Carmilla's room. She rummaged around Carmilla’s closet for a few minutes before coming out with a pair of black stilettos. She held them up to show Carmilla.

“Do you honestly think Laura will be able to walk in those? I don’t know if she has ever even worn a pair of heels before.”

“She'll be able to once she holds onto your arm.”

“And what is she wearing, if you don't mind me asking?”

“That is a surprise, but let me know when she is here so I can get a picture of your jaw dropping to the floor.”

“What should I wear?”

“Well you know I love you in that black cocktail dress, but,” she trailed off.

“Do you think if I wore that, that I could make Laura's jaw drop?”

“Oh most definitely, Kitty Cat. But can you stand to even wear a dress for the entire evening?”

Carmilla hummed. “I think I can, but I'm taking a pair of Chucks with me, for my feet.”

“You're going to kill Mother, you know? I don’t think you’ve worn a dress since high school.”

“Once in college for something Mother made me do, but yeah, it’s be a while.”

Carmilla smiled before stepping into her room to get ready for another family dinner. She made sure to put on just the right amount of makeup with black eyeliner and red lipstick. She curled the ends of her hair so that it rested against her bare shoulders. She grabbed a pair of open toed, black heels that had a red insole that was outlined around her toes to add a splash of color to her all black attire. She pulled out a black sweater, that was fitted to her body, to tie it all off. Her dress was simple, black and proofed out just a little from her waist. She was just about to step out of her room when Mattie yelled at her to wait.

“Why?” Carmilla screamed.

“It’s a surprise, Darling,” Mattie answered.

Laura was on the other side door with Mattie helping her get ready. Mattie had chosen a simple red pencil skirt with a black top and a gorgeous, over the top necklace. She was confident and strong. Laura, on the other hand, was nervous. She had managed to lose a couple of pounds from working out four nights out of the week, but she was still timid about her stomach and the pants she was wearing. They were skinny and very tight, showing off her curves which she was never proud of. She stood there in an all black suit. She had a new crisp white shirt on, with a black blazer over it. Mattie had made sure the shirt had been washed and starched to keep the collar up around Laura's neck for the night. A couple buttons were left open and undone to reveal Laura’s neck. Mattie tucked in a small red pocket square and grabbed the heels for Laura.

“Do you think Carm will like this?”

“Is the Pope Catholic?” Mattie asked. Laura bit her lip and Mattie tsked. “Sweetheart, lipstick. Don't bite your lip. We don’t want lipstick on your teeth.”

“Sorry. I'm not used to this much makeup.”

“But you look amazing and I love what you did with your hair.”

“It curls like this after I get out of the shower,” Laura admitted.

“Well I still love it. Now let's get you in these heels so Carmilla can come out.”

Mattie placed them on the floor and helped Laura stand in them. To most people the heels probably weren’t considered to be too high, but to Laura, she felt like a whole building had been placed under her heel. Mattie fixed her hair again.

“Perfect,” She said, smiling at Laura.

“Thanks. And thank you for your help and the suit.”

“Absolutely. It was my pleasure. Now, Carmilla!” She yelled.

Laura watched as Carmilla's bedroom door opened. She felt nervous as Carmilla stepped out of her room.

“Oh my gosh,” she whispered, staring at an equally shocked Carmilla.

“Laura,” Carmilla said, walking over to her. “You look,” she paused. “Damn, Cupcake. You look absolutely beautiful.”

“Not as beautiful as you do and in a dress?”

“You like it?”

Laura looked up and down at Carmilla's body and nodded her head. “Very much.”

Carmilla’s cheeks blushed before leaning forward and capturing Laura's lips in her own. “So beautiful,” she whispered against her lips.

“You too,” Laura agreed.

“Okay you two! Do that later and Carmilla don't smudge Laura's lipstick.”

“Wouldn't dream of it,” Carmilla said. “Shall we wait for James outside? It’s almost 7.”

They agreed and left the apartment. Laura latched her arm to Carmilla's, worried she was going to fall. “You'll get used to it, Cupcake.”

“Mind if I lean on you until I do?”

“Not at all.”

Carmilla and Laura stood on the sidewalk taking in each other while Mattie had a conversation on her phone with a client.

“God, Laura. You look so sexy in this suit,” Carmilla leaned in a placed a heated kiss against Laura’s mouth. Laura reciprocated and wrapped her arms around Carmilla’s waist, pulling her close. They moaned as Carmilla slipped her tongue into Laura’s mouth. The kiss continued becoming more and more heated, their bodies were inseparable, glued to one another. Mattie cleared her throat and the girls separated, smiling.

“And now you both have lipstick all over your face!” Mattie declared.

Carmilla smiled and wiped around Laura’s lips with her thumb before placing another kiss against her lips. Laura did the same as James pulled up. He parked and got out of the car.

“Well, well, well. Look at all these beautiful ladies,” James commented.

“Thank you, James. I have to keep these two apart because they can’t keep their hands off one another.”

Carmilla smirked. “Can you blame me?” She grabbed Laura’s hand and brought her into the car. Mattie followed.

“We just have to pick up William and then we’ll be heading to the city,” James announced, closing the door once everyone was in.

“So where are we going?” Laura asked, whispering into Carmilla’s ear.

“Mother’s favorite restaurant. It’s called ‘Daniel Boulud’. It’s on the Upper East Side. It’s ritzy, beautiful and fancy. Hence why you’re dressed so beautifully.”

“Keep it in your pants, Sis,” Mattie commented, rolling her eyes.

“Like I would do that to her in here in front of you.”

“You have before.”

“Oh and I will tonight when I take this suit off of you,” Carmilla whispered in Laura’s ear.

“Wait until I unzip that dress and run my hands down the front of your body,” Laura answered, in reply.

“And then what are you going to do me?” Carmilla teased.

Laura looked towards Mattie who was back on her phone. She slid up her fingers up Carmilla’s dress and brushed against her center. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Carmilla grabbed Laura’s hand before she could move it away and kissed Laura again, wrapping her arm around Laura’s shoulder, bringing her closer. Laura pulled back and managed to pull her hand away.

“You’re being very naughty, Miss Karnstein.”

“You like it when I’m naughty,” Carmilla smirked against her lips.

Laura hummed and kissed Carmilla’s neck. Carmilla let a moan slip and then felt a slap to her leg.

“Ow! What the-?”

“Stop it! Lipstick!” Mattie reiterated. “Not to mention a disturbing thing to do in front of your sister.”

Carmilla laughed. “Okay. Okay.”

Laura scooted over and smiled. A hint of redness was creeping up her cheeks. She kept her distance between herself and Carmilla, but kept her hand on top of Carmilla’s knee. Carmilla did the same as she smiled out the window. Soon they had a very handsomely dressed Will enter the car. He was wearing a black suit with a burgundy button down, that had black buttons and black tie.

“Looking handsome as always, Bro,” Carmilla said, leaning over the seat to hug him.

“And you’re in a dress,” he commented. “Trying to kill Mother?”

“No. Trying to kill my girlfriend,” Carmilla confirmed.

“And they’re both killing me,” Mattie added.

William laughed. “Can’t keep their hands off each other?”

“Nope and it’s disturbing.”

William laughed. Laura felt her cheeks reddened even more and scooted a little further away from Carmilla to calm herself.

“So should I pay for dinner tonight?” Laura asked, trying to take the focus off her and Carmilla.

Mattie, Will and Carmilla started laughing. “What?” Laura asked, looking around at the three of them.

“No offense, Laura, but you couldn’t afford this place,” Will stated.

“Sweetheart, I can’t even afford this place,” Carmilla added.

“Is it that expensive?”

“Mother will most likely order the tasting dish for everyone with the paired wines.”

“Okay and how much is that?”

“I believe it’s three hundred and fifty dollars per person,” Mattie said.

“Three hundred and fifty dollars?! Carm, I can’t let your Mother pay for that!”

“Cupcake, it’s fine.”

“She wouldn’t have invited you if she didn’t want you there. This is good. Carmilla is the only one out of the three of us who hasn’t had a girl invited to dinner with Mother at her favorite restaurant. Be thankful and don’t forget those manners.”

“I am grateful, but I’m not this fancy of person.”

“Laura, I’ll be there. I’m not this person either and it’s rare for me to dress like this. But you’ll be with me and this is going to be fine. Okay?”

“Okay,” Laura whispered.

They pulled outside a large stone building with an awning that read “Daniel” on it. Will and Mattie exited the car as James held his hand out for Laura. She climbed out and Mattie was there to straighten out her suit.

“Ms. Hollis.”

“Hello, Ms. Morgan.”

“Laura, please call me Lilita.”

Laura smiled. Lilita stepped forward and gave Laura a strong hug. “It’s so good to see you again! You look absolutely gorgeous. I love this suit!”

“It’s good to see you too, Ma’am. And thank you. Mattie actually helped me pick it out.”

“Mattie has always had the eye for fashion unlike my other daughter. Speaking of which. where is she?”

Carmilla had waited in the car, talking to James. He held his hand out for her and she stepped out. Laura smiled at her. She looked absolutely stunning.

“My, Carmilla. What’s the special occasion?”

“My mother wanted to go to her favorite restaurant and invited my beautiful, stunning girlfriend.”

“Well you look radiant,” Lilita said, stepping forward to wrap her daughter in a hug. “Hi, my Glittering Girl.”

“Hi, Mother.”

“You look well.”

“I’m very well. Thank you.”

Lilita stepped backed and shared one last smile with her daughter. “Well, shall we head inside?”

The Karnstein children agreed and started to follow Lilita inside. Laura stood there nervously.

“Come on, Cupcake. I’ve got you,” Carmilla said, holding out her arm.

Laura smiled and placed a light kiss against her cheek. “Thanks, Carm.”

They walked in smiling with linked arms. “There they are,” Lilita announced to the host. They were sat off to the right down a long hallway of tables. The host placed some menus on the table and Lilita immediately asked for a bottle of wine. They sat comfortably looking over the menu. Laura looked at the listing for the tasting and started to feel nervous. She leaned in closer to Carmilla.

“I don’t know if I’ll like all of this,” she whispered, pointing towards her menu.

“It’s okay. That’s the best part about a tasting. You don’t have to eat all of it because we will have seven courses. Just take bites. If you don’t like any of it at all, we’ll order a pizza when we get back home.”

“You’re the best. Do you know that?”

“You’re the only one who I need to hear that from.”

Laura and Carmilla smiled at each other. They shared a quick peck before focusing back to the table.

“Laura, I must give you my thanks,” Lilita stated after watching their interaction.

“Your thanks, Ma’am?”

Laura felt Carmilla’s hand rest on her thigh.

“I don’t believe I have ever seen someone make my daughter this happy. In fact, I don’t think I have seen her this happy in quite some time.”

Laura smiled. “Well, Carmilla makes me very happy as well. I don’t think I’ve been this happy in a long time.” She clasped her hand in Carmilla’s and they smiled at each other.

Their waiter came with the bottle of wine Lilita had ordered. He filled everyone’s glasses while talking about the specials. Lilita cut him off, ordering the tasting for everyone.

“Of course, Ms. Morgan,” the waiter said with a cheesy smile.

Lilita turned while the waiter collected the menus. She held up her glass and the rest of the table joined. “To happiness,” she said, smiling at Laura.

“To happiness,” they agreed.

Carmilla looked towards Laura as Laura turned to look at her. They shared another quick peck before taking a sip of their drinks.

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

Throughout dinner, they were told what they were eating and which wines the food was being paired with. Laura had never been to a restaurant like this before. She wasn’t sure how to address the waiters and was grateful to usually be the last one served. She followed Mattie’s movements and language in regards to everything. Laura had never even had food like this and couldn’t even tell you what most of it was called. They all had French titles. She tried everything and seemed to like each item enough to get in a few bites of each. The conversation was light and generous. Carmilla even seemed to be enjoying herself. She told Lilita that she shared her Annie production video with Laura. Lilita was just surprised as everyone else at the table, but Carmilla didn’t mind listening to Laura talk about it. She actually felt a little pride, listening to Laura talk about how cute she was as a child and her favorite moments of watching Carmilla perform.

“Now, if I could just get her to sing again,” Lilita commented.

Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“Not tonight, Mother. Let’s have a nice night where no one bickers,” Mattie commented.

“You’re right. You’re right. I’m sorry, Carmilla.”

“Whoa! Did my mother just apologize to me?”

“Kitty,” Will started.

“What? It’s a rare thing. I want to enjoy it,” Carmilla stated, smirking. Lilita’s slowly developed a stern exterior.

“Carm,” Laura whispered, harshly. Carmilla understood the face Laura was making. She hated that face because it’s how she knew she was in the wrong and Laura was right.

“Okay. Okay. Thank you, Mother. We’ll talk about me singing some other time when it seems appropriate.”

“Sounds good to me, Dear.”

The rest of the dinner went on flawlessly and Carmilla couldn’t think of the last time she had actually enjoyed a night with her family. She knew it was Laura. It was all Laura. Once dinner was consumed, Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulders and held her close. Laura rested her hand against Carmilla’s bare leg. This felt right. Lilita settled the bill and they exited the restaurant.

“Ms. Morgan, should I give you a lift home?” James asked, greeting them.

“No. That’s quite alright. I’ll take a cab. Make sure my children get home safely. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Of course, Ma’am.”

Lilita hugged and admired her three children equally as Laura stood off near the car.

“Laura.”

“I had a lovely time, Lilita. Thank you for inviting me.”

“It was my absolute pleasure. I’m so glad you were able to come. I hope to see you again soon. Perhaps our next family dinner?”

“I would love to come.”

“Then it’s settled.”

They shared a brief hug. “Take care of my girl. She is truly head over heels for you and it warms my heart to see her this happy.”

“I’m head over heels for her as well.”

“Good. I’ll see you soon.”

Lilita stepped back. James had called an Uber for Lilita.

“Ma’am, your car is here.”

“Thank you, James. Be safe my beautiful children!”

They all said their forms of farewell before getting back in the large SUV. It wasn’t long until James was headed in the direction of Brooklyn.

“Do we wanna go out?” Will asked.

“I could get a drink,” Mattie agreed.

Carmilla looked towards Laura and leaned in. “You wanna get a drink, Cupcake or go home?”

“What do you wanna do?”

“I wanna get out of this dress, but not as much as I’m dying to get you out of this suit.”

“Well first, let’s make this perfectly clear. I will be the one taking you out of that dress and I think we should let Mattie go out with Will so we can get through our fun before she gets home.”

“That sounds good to me,” Carmilla stated. “Guys, we’re gonna go home.”

“Oh thank God,” Mattie groaned.

“At least we won’t have to watch you two eye fuck each other over another drink,” Will added.

“Fuck you,” Carmilla answered.

“I rather fuck you,” Laura whispered, causing Carmilla to smirk.

“James. Please drop the two lovebirds off first,” Mattie suggested.

Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulders and clung closely to her. They managed to contain themselves for the rest of the drive home, goofing off with Will and Mattie. Laura had never seen Carmilla this open and silly. James quickly pulled up to the apartment.

“Have fun you too,” Will smirked.

“Shut up, Will.”

“And please, I’ll be home in an hour or two. Get out all your kinks before then.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Carmilla said, waving her hand, helping Laura out of the car.

“Bye, Will. It was great to see you again.”

“You too, Laura.”

She gave a final wave before she felt Carmilla tug on her arm. She shut the door and threaded her fingers with Carmilla’s. They walked up the stairs and into the apartment. As soon as they were inside, they both kicked off their heels. Carmilla took off her sweater, throwing it on to the couch and walked towards the kitchen. She grabbed a glass.

“Would you like some water?” Carmilla asked.

Laura stepped up behind her and slowly unzipped Carmilla’s dress. She let the back stay open as she unclasped Carmilla’s bra.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Carmilla said, smirking.

Laura didn’t reply as she kissed the expanse of Carmilla’s back. Shoulder to shoulder and down her spine. She moved to Carmilla’s neck as her arms wrapped around Carmilla’s waist. She ran her hands along her bare stomach before cupping Carmilla’s breasts.

“Cupcake,” Carmilla moaned.

She continued to rub her hands along Carmilla’s breasts, pinching her nipples while planting as many kisses as she could around the back of her neck. Carmilla braced herself against the counter as she pushed her hips back into Laura. Her breathing started to become ragged as Laura continuously ran her hands over her body. She tried to turn around, but Laura kept her pinned to the front of her body.

“Let me kiss you, Laura. I need to kiss you.”

Laura smiled and let her turn around. Carmilla planted her lips against Laura’s, moaning instantly. Laura slid Carmilla’s dress down, letting it fall to the floor. She helped Carmilla step out of it before going back to kissing her nipples.

“Ah, fuck, Cupcake.”

Carmilla started to unbutton Laura’s shirt frantically. Once she got it unbuttoned, she pushed it off Laura’s shoulders.

“Wait. Wait. If I let this fall on the floor, your sister will kill me,” Laura said before connecting her mouth back to Carmilla’s. Carmilla giggled as she slid Laura’s shirt and blazer down her arms and collected the items before they fell to the floor. She broke away from the kiss and headed towards her room. Laura was quick to follow. Once inside, she pulled out a hanger from her closet to hang up the two items.

She walked over to Laura and slipped her fingers into the belt loops of her pants, bringing Laura back to her. She unbuttoned Laura’s pants and slid them down her legs. Once Laura had stepped out of them, she picked them up and hung them neatly with her jacket and shirt. When Carmilla turned around, Laura had managed to slip out of her bra and underwear.

“Better?” Carmilla whispered, once she had placed the hanger back into her closet.

“Much,” Laura said, kissing Carmilla.

She pushed Carmilla’s back onto the bed. She grabbed Carmilla’s underwear and brought them down her legs before laying on top of her. They stared at each other for a moment, lovingly. Carmilla pushed Laura’s hair back and smiled.

“You’re so beautiful, Laura.”

Laura traced Carmilla’s lips before placing another kiss against them. “So are you, Baby.”

She kissed down Carmilla’s neck and around her collarbone.

“Hey, Laura.”

Laura popped her head up. “Yeah.”

“I need to tell you something, but I’m worried it’s too soon.”

“You can tell me anything, Love.”

That word made Carmilla’s heart swell. “Laura, I think, I mean, I know this, I don’t think this. I, um. I.”

“I love you, Carmilla,” Laura said, smiling at her. “Is that what you wanted to say?”

Carmilla smiled and nodded. “I love you too,” she whispered back, her heart beating with joyfulness.

They giggled together before Carmilla kissed Laura. “I love you,” she whispered again. Laura felt like she was on cloud nine as a tear slid down her cheek.

“Hey,” Carmilla said, wiping the tears.

“I hope you know how happy I am with you. How much you mean to me.”

“I do, Cupcake. I do.”

Laura smiled and kissed Carmilla. The kiss slowly became more and more heated as Laura’s hand crept down Carmilla’s stomach and into her underwear. They both gasped at the feeling.

“You seem excited, Carm.”

“Well if you remember correctly, you teased me in the car on the way to dinner and I couldn’t stop thinking about your fingers inside of me.”

Laura pushed two fingers into Carmilla, causing her to moan loudly. “Oh fuck, Laura.”

“Like this?”

Carmilla bit her lip and nodded her head. She brought her knees up and spread her legs a little wider to give Laura more room. They were both out of breath as Laura continued to work Carmilla over, pumping in and out of her. She hovered over Carmilla. Her wrist was starting to ache from the angle it was at, but she wouldn’t stop until Carmilla had finished.

“Right there, Laura,” Carmilla moaned, pressing a kiss to her cheek. She moaned and gasped, continuing to talk dirty in Laura's ear.

“Cupcake! Fuck,” Carmilla moaned as she climaxed.

Carmilla gasped as Laura planted kisses along her neck and collarbone. Carmilla’s legs shook and she closed them around Laura's body. She clung to her for a minute before Laura could pull her hand away. She rolled her wrist in a circular motion to get rid of the ache that had developed.

“That was incredible,” Carmilla whispered.

“It was,” Laura said, biting Carmilla's ear lobe. Carmilla shifted, laying Laura on her back. She kissed her heatedly as she placed her thigh in between Laura's legs to brush against her center. Laura gasped, her back arching off the bed before settling back down and relaxing at the feel of Carmilla. Carmilla kissed her neck and quickly made her way down. She let her tongue run down the front of Laura's body. Laura was withering.

“Stop teasing me, Carmilla.”

Carmilla nipped the inside of her thigh. “I'm not teasing you, Cupcake.” She smirked before lightly running her tongue through Laura's core. Laura grabbed and pulled Carmilla's hair so she couldn't move. She felt Carmilla moan against her which only caused her to moan as well. Laura secretly knew Carmilla liked it when she would take charge and get a little rough. Carmilla alternated between her mouth, her fingers and both at the same time. Her hands grasped Laura’s hips to keep her still. Laura was struggling as she grunted and gasped. After a few more minutes, Laura pulled Carmilla’s hair harder as she orgasmed.

“Fuck, Carm,” she said, holding Carmilla in place. She could feel Carmilla’s tongue still moving, but it was soothing her. She let go of her death grip in Carmilla’s hair to pull her up and kiss her deeply. She enjoyed the taste of herself that lingered on Carmilla’s tongue. Carmilla leaned back and smiled down at her.

“What?” Laura asked.

“I think you should wear that suit more often.”

“Oh you do, do you?”

“Uh huh.”

They shared another heated kiss. “I love you,” Laura whispered.

Carmilla brushed some stray hairs away from Laura's forehead and couldn't help the smile that lightened her features. “I love you too.” Carmilla went back to Laura's lips as she settled her body in between Laura's legs. She started to grind against Laura, who was already starting to lose her breath again.

“One time really isn't enough,” Carmilla said.

Laura giggled before moaning, cupping the back of Carmilla's neck and head.

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

Mattie was happy to return to a quiet, dark apartment. “Oh, thank God,” she whispered into the air before leading her very own guest to her bedroom. Both of them laughing.

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

Laura woke up a little later in a huff. She felt hot and knew something was not right. She sat there for a moment. I'm okay. I'm fine. Just a little hot is all. Nothing to worry about. Then she felt her stomach churn. Oh no, she thought. She quickly climbed over Carmilla, stepping on her leg. She tripped, but managed to grab a shirt from the floor before running to the bathroom.

“Jesus, Cupcake. What the hell?” Carmilla grumbled. She reached out for Laura, who wasn't there. She groaned. “Laura. Come back to bed,” she said to the empty room. She opened her eyes and heard a familiar sound from the living room. She got up and grabbed a pair of sweatpants along with some shirt she found on the floor. She headed in the direction of the sound when she saw the light from under the bathroom door. There was water running and she could hear Laura spitting. She knocked lightly on the door.

“Cupcake?” She whispered.

“I'm fine, Carm. Go back to sleep,” she heard Laura say through the closed door before she could hear Laura vomiting. She exhaled and turned the doorknob. Luckily Laura hadn’t locked the door. She saw Laura flush the toilet quickly before adjusting herself back into a comfortable position. She had her arms crossed on the toilet while her head was down. Her forehead resting against her arms. She was holding her hair back in her hand.

“Oh, Cupcake. What happened?” She asked.

“I don't know. I felt fine going to sleep, but I woke up and had to run to the bathroom.”

Carmilla grabbed a hair tie from her wrist and collected Laura's hair, putting it up in a loose bun on top of her head. She sat on the side of the tub and rubbed Laura's back.

“You don't have to stay in here, Carm. I know more is coming.”

“Vomit doesn't bother me, Creampuff. I've seen many people puke.”

Just then Laura leaned over the toilet again, groaning.

“It's okay,” Carmilla whispered, rubbing her back. She knew Laura had tears in her eyes and wanted to do everything she could to make this ordeal as tolerable as possible.

“Carm?” Laura asked, her voice getting raspy.

“Yeah.”

“I'm cold.”

Carmilla then noticed that Laura only had a t-shirt on.

“Hold on. I'll get you some clothes,” Carmilla whispered.

She got up and went back to her room. She grabbed a pair of pajama pants and one of her large hoodies. She made her way back to the bathroom.

“Can you stand up?” Carmilla asked, lightly.

Laura nodded for a moment and slowly rose. Carmilla helped her pull the pajama pants up before slowly helping Laura put the sweatshirt on over her head. Laura sat back down in front of the toilet. Carmilla sat behind her and rubbed her arms. Laura leaned back against Carmilla's body.

“Better?” Carmilla whispered.

Laura nodded. “The hoodie smells like you.”

Carmilla smiled and placed a light kiss against Laura's forehead. “Do you think you got it all out?”

“I think I need to wait a little longer.”

“Then we shall wait.”

Laura curled in towards Carmilla, who wrapped her arms around her, holding her close but not too tight. Carmilla started humming a song as Laura held onto her. Laura didn't recognize it, but it calmed her. Her stomach didn't feel as bad anymore and she actually felt like she was starting to relax. The song came to a close and Laura smiled.

“What song is that?” She asked, quietly.

“Love Will Stand When All Else Falls.”

Laura looked up at her with a questionable expression.

“It's from the musical ‘Memphis’. It was on Broadway for a few years, but I used to sell merch for Broadway shows and that was my main location. It was one of my favorite songs from the show.”

“You sold merch?”

“Yeah. The t-shirts, key chains, etc. It was an okay job and it was a time in my life where I was thinking about getting back into theater. And I got to watch shows for free, but I mostly only worked at Memphis, so it’s what I saw the most.”

“It won the Tony, right? For best musical?”

“It did, but it wasn't on Broadway very long.”

“Well it's sounds beautiful, but maybe that's just because you were singing it.”

Carmilla smiled. “Montego Glover sang it way better than I, Cupcake.”

They sat quietly for a moment. “Think you can get back into bed?”

Laura nodded her head.

“Okay, come on, Cupcake.”

Laura leaned forward a little bit to let Carmilla stand up. She helped Laura up, slowly.

“I'm just gonna brush my teeth really quick,” Laura said, leaning against the counter.

“Sounds good. I'm going to get a trash can and plastic bag to put by the bed just in case.,” Carmilla said, exiting the bathroom.

“Hey, Carm?”

“Yeah?” Carmilla answered, leaning against the door frame.

“Thanks.”

Carmilla smiled and walked back into the bathroom. She kissed Laura's forehead. “Brush your teeth so I can get you back to bed.”

Laura smiled and grabbed her toothbrush. Carmilla headed towards the kitchen to get a plastic bag. She then went to her bedroom and grabbed her trash can. She emptied it before grabbing the clean plastic bag and placing it inside. She took her filled trash to the kitchen garbage. Laura met her on her way back.

“You okay?” She asked Laura with concern.

Laura nodded. “I just feel really cold.”

“Come on, Laura. Let's get you back to bed and warm you up.”

Carmilla grabbed Laura's hand and led her back to the bedroom. She placed the trash can by the head of the bed and laid as far back as possible. Laura climbed in after her and snuggled up to her girlfriend.

Carmilla noticed that Laura seemed to be a little warm, but could feel her shivering. She grabbed another blanket from the end of the bed and laid it on top of Laura before she settled completely under the covers.

“You sure you're okay?” Carmilla asked.

“I mean I don't feel that well, but I think I'm done throwing up. As of right now, I just feel really tired.”

“Okay. Get some sleep, Cupcake.”

Laura curled into Carmilla, wrapping herself around Carmilla's body. Carmilla rubbed up and down her back until Laura had fallen asleep. It didn't take her too long to follow, falling into a deep sleep.

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

The next morning, Laura wasn't feeling much better, and decided to stay home from work. Carmilla decided she wanted to also stay home. Laura was not a fan of this decision.

“Carm, that's ridiculous. I'll go back to my apartment and just take it easy.”

“But I want to take care of you.”

“You are, but I don't want you to get sick.”

“You don’t have to worry about that, Cupcake. I don't get sick.”

Laura had a face that said, “Oh, please”. Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“I think it would be best if I stayed with you. Please. I mean, you have a fever.”

“A small fever, Carmilla. I’m only a little above average.”

“It's still a fever.”

“I'll be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Give me a minute and I’ll get my stuff together to head home.”

Carmilla exhaled. “You should just stay here. We have cable so you can just lay on the couch and watch television all day. Not to mention, if you want to order food, you can buzz the delivery guy into the building to come to our apartment instead of having to walk to the front door. Also Mattie got our grocery shipment so there is plenty of food here and-”

Laura placed her finger on Carmilla's lips to silence her. “If it'll make you feel better, I'll stay here, but please stop talking.”

“Rude,” Carmilla teased.

“I'm getting a small headache is all.”

Carmilla nodded and left the room. Laura started to panic believing she had offended Carmilla in some way. She was relieved when Carmilla came back in with a wet washcloth, a couple Advil and a glass of water. She laid the water and Advil on her night stand. Then she folded the wet material and laid it on Laura's forehead.

“I'm sorry you don't feel good,” Carmilla said, quietly.

“Me too.”

“Is there anything I can do before I leave? Do you want me to make you breakfast?”

“No, Baby. Go to work. I'm just gonna go back to sleep I think.”

Carmilla nodded. “Call me if you need anything. I'll be home around 5:30.”

“Okay.”

“Promise?” Carmilla looked hopeful.

“Promise.”

“I love you, Laura.”

Laura smiled. “I love you too. Now go to work before you're late. I'll be better by the time you get home.”

Carmilla nodded. She lifted the rag off Laura’s head and placed a gentle kiss against her forehead. “I'll see you tonight,” she whispered.

She got up and grabbed her book bag. She closed her bedroom door and turned around. She stopped in her tracks. A large, muscular, black man stood near the apartment door. He was slipping on a t-shirt.

“Who the hell are you?” She asked. “What the hell are you doing my apartment?”

“You must be the sister. I’m a friend of Mattie’s,” the man said.

“Is she in there?” Carmilla gestured towards Mattie’s bedroom.

“Yeah.”

“Still asleep?”

“Yes.”

“So you're just gonna leave? Have sex with sister for your personal needs and then bolt out the door without even saying good morning to her?”

“What? No! I've been seeing Mattie for a few months now. We both know we have very busy schedules and sometimes one of us has to leave early the next morning.”

“What? You’ve been together for a few months?”

“She hasn't told you.” The man shook his head and laughed. “Why was I expecting anything else? I can't believe she hasn't told anyone about us.”

“I'm a very private person. Carmilla knows that,” Mattie said, stepping out into the living room in a silk, black robe. “In fact, I had planned on talking to my family about you last night, but Mother is a very hard person to do that with. It takes time.”

The room was silent. Mattie looked between the two of them. “Anyway, Carmilla. This is Jonathan, my boyfriend. John, this is Carmilla, my pesky, over protective sister.”

“Pleasure and I’m not over protective,” Carmilla said.

“It's nice to finally meet you. Matska talks about you a lot.”

“Well she should. I am probably the best sister you could have,” Carmilla teased.

Mattie rolled her eyes. “Oh please. You're a handful.”

“But you love me.”

“Unfortunately,” Mattie exhaled dramatically. Carmilla smiled.

“Well I am headed out. I have a surgery to attend to this morning.”

“A surgery?” Carmilla asked.

“Yes. John is a surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in the city.”

“Seriously? You’re worried about Mother finding out you’re dating a surgeon? She’ll love that,” Carmilla commented.

Mattie smirked.

“Well I hope to meet her soon then.” He turned his smile towards Mattie. “As for you, my wild tiger, see you tonight if you're not too busy?”

Carmilla had never seen Mattie act this way before. She actually giggled and blushed at this man. “That's the plan,” she whispered against his lips. Carmilla turned away. Ew. I do not need to see this.

“It was nice meeting you, Carmilla.”

“Yeah! You too,” she said, turning around and scratching the back of her neck. She was clearly uncomfortable.

Mattie walked Jonathan to the door. They shared a brief kiss before he left.

“Gross,” Carmilla muttered.

“Oh please. You and Laura are ten times worse than that!”

“Really? Do I blush at a nickname?”

“You blush a lot more than you think you do.”

“Whatever.”

“I thought Laura stayed the night last night?”

“She did. She's asleep. I hope you don't mind, but she got sick last night and called out of work. I told her she should just stay here. Is that okay?”

“Fine with me. I might not have to go to the office today so I'll probably be around.”

“Will you call me if anything happens?” Carmilla asked.

“Look who's nervous about her little ‘Cupcake’.”

“Mattie,” Carmilla warned.

“Of course I will, Baby Sis. You go to work and if anything happens, I'll give you a call.”

“Thank you.”

“Try not to worry too much though. The seasons are changing and she most likely just has a little spell of something.”

“You're right.” Carmilla looked at her watch. “Shit. I gotta go. Call me if anything happens,” she rambled, running towards to the door.

“Oh, Carmilla? Before you go.”

Carmilla halted by the door. “Yeah?”

“Please don't tell Mother about Jonathan. I want to tell her myself.”

Carmilla smiled. “I know you're a private person and will do it on your own time. No worries.”

“Thanks, Baby Sis.”

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

Carmilla was hanging out upstairs at the bookstore, talking to Lafontaine, when her phone started ringing.

“It's Laura,” Carmilla said. Lafontaine registered Carmilla’s words and waved their hand for Carmilla to answer. Carmilla walked into one of the shelving units for privacy. Lafontaine decided to take a break and hopped on a computer.

“Hey, Cupcake.”

Hey. Laura sounded tired and drained.

“You're not sounding so good over there. I take it you're not feeling any better.”

I feel a little better, but I literally just woke up in your bed and got sad that you weren't here with me.

Carmilla smiled. “Well you are the one who made me go to work this morning.”

I know. How is work?

“Pretty boring. I've received all our shipments, labeled them and shelved them. Now, Lafontaine and I are just pulling books for the Follett return, listening to music. Did you know they liked rap music?”

Actually, it's Perry who likes rap music. Is she pulling?

“Off and on.”

That's probably why.

“Well Lafontaine has been rapping along all morning and I must say, I'm finding it very entertaining.”

That's because they're you're friend.

“Whatever, Cupcake. Is there anything I can do for you to help you feel better?”

Nope. I think I'm just going to stay in bed and watch something on your laptop, if that's okay.

“That's fine, Baby. Mattie might be around so if you hear something that's why.”

Okay.

“Do you feel up to eating?”

Not right now. I still feel a little nauseous.

“Well how about I text you before I leave work, just in case there is something you want to eat. That way I can pick it up on the way home.”

Sounds good, Carm.

“Okay. Hang out and get some rest. I'll see you in a little while. I love you.” Carmilla smiled.

I love you too. Bye, Sweetcheeks.

Carmilla laughed. “Bye, Baby.”

Carmilla smiled at her phone for a moment, while she turned the screen off. She walked out of the stacks and saw a shit eating grin on Lafontaine’s face. Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“What?” Carmilla asked.

“I just heard something very interesting, is all.”

“We're you eavesdropping?”

“Surprisingly, no. I could hear through the shelves. They’re not made of stone, you know. They're cheap metal.”

“Uh huh.”

Lafontaine smiled again. “So you love little nerd Hollis?”

Carmilla bit her lip to hide her grin. “I do.”

“And does she love you?”

“I hope so otherwise she's lying to me.”

“Trust me, Laura wouldn't say it unless she meant it. She has a lot of ideas when it comes to romance and love.”

“What do you mean?”

“Laura has always believed in the fairy tale love story. Personally, I think she's read too much fanfiction.”

“What does that mean?”

“You're her knight in shining armor,” Lafontaine stated.

“Is that a bad thing?”

“No. It's probably the best thing in the world because oddly enough, you fit the mold of what Laura has been looking for, for so long.”

Carmilla was still confused.

“You're the girl that Laura has been desperate to search for. Now, after Danny, she didn't date much. To be fair, Laura never wanted to meet someone through Tinder or OkCupid, no matter how much Perry and I tried. She wanted the romantic comedy meeting aka at a bookstore or a coffee shop.”

“She doesn't even drink coffee. She hates it.”

“You don't have to tell me that. I know, which is why it was always a silly ideal to me.”

“I thought she went on a lot of dates.”

“She did, when Perry and I would force her, but then we realized what it was doing to her. She'd get super excited for the date, her expectations would sky rocket, only to crash down on her when the girl wasn't interested in her. We still feel terrible about it because we know we fueled her depression during that time. One day, after her last bad date, she came in and said she was done. She wasn't going to look anymore. She didn't see the point. But we knew deep down, she was hurting and just longing for someone.”

“And that was me?”

“Well the thing is, she'd say she was done looking, but then get lonely and try the dating apps again. It just became a cycle. We just couldn't figure out why no one was interested in her, but I think people today are a little selfish and don't want to take on someone else's baggage.”

“I don't think that's true. I do think people are selfish, yes, but they had other reasons to turn Laura down. I went out with her a couple times before we officially started dating. Granted, I annoyed her to no end, but she was always quiet, standoffish and sometimes a little snippy. Not to mention, very feisty. Some people don't like that attitude, but I thought it was the cutest thing I had ever seen. I liked pushing her buttons, but regretted it when I pushed her too hard or said things that most people would rule as inappropriate.”

“Like what?”

“Well I was honest with her from the start about my sexual history because I've always enjoyed it and have never really had a problem getting it.”

“And that made her uncomfortable because it had been a long time since she had, had sex and made her think about her body being naked with someone else.”

“Bingo,” Carmilla said.

“So how did you actually manage to get her?”

“I don't know really. I think it's because I was there. I annoyed her, but I was there. It took some convincing. She didn't think I could be attracted to her which to me is just crazy because she is so beautiful inside and out.”

“You had to convince her?”

“Yeah well, due to my drunken state early on, I knew she thought that she was just a notch in my bedpost. But she was never that to me. She was always more.”

“And you're head over heels and in love.”

Carmilla laughed. “I am.”

“And whipped.”

Carmilla laughed harder. “Just like you!”

“Hey, I'm not whipped.”

“Oh please. You and I both know we cannot say no to our girls.”

“It's true. Why do you think that is?”

“Oh that's easy. We love them so much that we don't ever want to be the reason they get upset or mad. We want to keep them happy and safe.”

“Yeah.”

Just then Perry came back upstairs with another pile of papers. “More to pull,” she said. Lafontaine got up and grabbed the papers from her hands before placing a kiss on Perry’s lips. Perry blushed.

“My, my, Honey. What was that for?”

Lafontaine smiled. “I just love you, is all.”

“Well I love you too.”

Carmilla cleared her throat before grabbing a piece of paper from the stack.

“Carmilla,” Perry started. Carmilla turned around to acknowledge her.

“Yeah?”

“Will you tell Laura I hope she feels better?”

Carmilla smiled. “Of course I will.”

“What do you think she has?”

“I think it's just a little bug due to the seasons changing and all.”

“We'll make sure to wash your hand thoroughly. We don't want you getting sick too.”

“Will do, Mama Perry.”

“And, once she is feeling better, we want you two to have dinner with us. I'm serious. Don't let Laura weasel you out of this.”

“How did you-”

“She's very protective of the women she dates, but she usually wants them all to herself. Lafontaine and I would still like to get to know you a little better.”

“She's basically going to drag you out of here one day with us to a restaurant,” Lafontaine commented, receiving a slap to their arm.

“Ow!”

“I'll talk to Laura,” Carmilla laughed. “Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to do some work to cure my boredom.”

“Yeah, yeah. You know you love us, Ms. Broody,” Lafontaine commented.

Carmilla would be lying if she said she didn't. Perry turned her attention back to Lafontaine.

“Get back to work, Sweetie.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Lafontaine said, saluting Perry.

As they passed Carmilla, they heard a whipped sound and smiled.

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

Laura was laying in Carmilla’s bed. She looked at the clock to see it was already 4:30 in the afternoon. She still hadn’t found the energy to get up and walk over to Carmilla’s desk to get her laptop. She had slept a few more hours which only resulted her feeling more tired than she already did, but she was happy that Carmilla would be off work and next to her within the hour. Her stomach felt a little better, but she knew if she couldn’t even fathom the idea of getting out of bed for a laptop, there was no way she would make it to the kitchen. She turned onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. She felt a little dizzy and closed her eyes. After a few moments, she grabbed one of Carmilla’s pillows and hugged it tightly. The smell of Carmilla filled her nostrils and it helped her feel better. She laid a little longer until she finally got the energy to move. The energy being her bladder, but she was up none the less.

Once she had relieved herself, she realized It didn’t seem like Mattie was home so Laura quietly walked to the kitchen to see the different food items. She felt relief at seeing that there were a box of saltine crackers. She was however confused to see a note on a pink post-it.

“Carmilla told me you weren’t feeling well, so I went out and bought you the box. There is soup as well, if you can stomach it and juice in the fridge. Hope you feel better. Mattie.”

Laura smiled. That was super sweet of her to do. She opened the refrigerator to see juice boxes of apple juice. It made Laura chuckle, but she took two with her.

Laura walked back into Carmilla’s room and cracked her window opened. The cool fall air was refreshing and helped cool the room down. She grabbed Carmilla’s laptop and laid down on her bed once again. She opened it up to see a picture of herself, smiling broadly and Carmilla, who was looking at her with lovey-dovey eyes as Carmilla’s computer background. She smiled immediately and would tease Carmilla about it later, knowing she had gotten it from her Twitter account. She looked around at the different documents on Carmilla’s desktop. She opened up her Picture Folder and found one that said, “Laura”. Her curiosity getting the best of her, she opened it. She felt her eyes water up as she saw several candid photos of her that Carmilla had clearly taken when she wasn’t paying attention. There weren’t too many, but she thought it was the cutest thing she had ever scene. The last picture was of Carmilla, holding her. Laura was sound asleep, but curled into Carmilla’s body. Carmilla was kissing her forehead, with a small smile on her face. She opened up the web browser and emailed herself that picture immediately. The rest of the pictures were just pictures of Laura at work or from times they went out together. One is from the night she met Carmilla’s mother. Laura smiled a little longer at how adorable her girlfriend was.

She backed out of her folder and clicked on another one that caught her attention. The folder was untitled. This folder led to another folder. When she clicked on it, she felt her stomach drop. There were tons of pictures of Carmilla and this blonde girl. The blonde was very skinny, great skin with glowing blue eyes. There were pictures of them dancing together, pictures of them at bars, and around the city. Laura continued to scroll as she reached an image of Carmilla smiling at this girl in bed, both naked and their legs intertwined. There were more pictures of them kissing and Laura closed the laptop shut. She wasn’t sure what she felt.

Is she cheating on me? She just told me she loves me, how could she be cheating on me? What did I do wrong? Clearly that girl makes her happier than I ever could. Oh god. She’s going to leave me. I should have expected this. Nothing good ever happens to me. I only get glimpses of it before it’s taken away. Like a tease to something good, just so when it’s bad again, I can have a terrible memory of what it was like to be happy. Oh gosh. She doesn’t love me. There is no way she could love me. She clearly loves that girl. She has never taken photos like that with me. Probably because she doesn’t want to see my fat naked body more than she has to. I’m so disgusting. Why did I ever think I would have a chance with someone as beautiful as she is?

Laura started crying, trying her hardest to be quiet, just in case Mattie was there and she didn’t know. She couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down her face. She felt sick. More sick than she already was. Her stomach started to hurt as she curled into a ball in Carmilla’s sheets. Her phone started ringing and she ignored it, letting it go to voicemail. Her phone started ringing again and she rolled over to look at the screen. It was Carmilla calling her. She didn’t want to, but she hit the big green button to accept the call.

Hey, Cupcake. I’m headed home. Do you want me to pick up food for you somewhere?

Laura let out a shaky breath. “No thanks. I’m okay.”

You sure? You don’t sound like you’re okay. You sound like you’re crying. Are you crying?

“No,” Laura replied shortly.

Baby, what’s wrong? What happened? Do you feel really sick again?

Laura gritted her teeth. “Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine. I’ll see you soon.”

Laura heard Carmilla call her name as she hung up the phone. She was starting to get angry, but still felt the impending doom of sadness take over. She laid back down and cried into Carmilla’s pillow. This will be the last time I can smell her. I was such an idiot to think she actually loved me.

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

Laura felt something shaking her shoulder.

“Cupcake. You okay?” She heard Carmilla ask. “Laura? Wake up, Baby. Come on.”

Laura opened her eyes and looked towards Carmilla. Carmilla noticed Laura’s eyes were red and she seemed distance. Laura looked at the alarm clock to see it was 6:30. She went to that girl’s apartment before coming here to me.

“You’re late,” Laura noted.

“Well, I wasn’t sure if you were feeling better or not, so I decided that I would run to Shake Shack, just in case, but of course it was dinner time and completely slammed. But if you’re up to it, I brought you a cheeseburger and some fries. And if you can’t eat it, that’s okay, we both know I can,” Carmilla laughed.

“I don’t feel good. Thank you though.”

Carmilla eyed her curiously. Why is she being so short with me. “Still not feeling well? Can I get you anything?”

Laura shook her head no. Carmilla sat down on the edge of the bed and played with Laura’s hair for a minute. Laura wanted to cry. She was going to miss this.

“Laura, what’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Laura lied.

“Oh really? You’re being quiet and distant. I know you don’t feel good, but that is clearly not what is bothering you so just tell me.”

Laura didn’t say anything. She grabbed Carmilla’s laptop and opened it up. She made a face at Carmilla before turning back to look at the screen. Carmilla’s heart dropped.

“Who is this girl?” Laura asked. She started crying, knowing she was about to lose the only person that had mattered to her in a long time.

Chapter Text

The room stopped as the silence between the two girls became deafening. They gazed at each other for a moment before Laura forced herself to look away. Her eyes were starting to water as she tried her hardest not cry, but her vision became blurry as she blinked her tears away. Carmilla's heart rate picked up as she stared at the image on her laptop. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Laura exhaled and quickly pulled the comforter away from her legs. She got out of Carmilla’s bed, looking for a pair of sweatpants that actually belonged to her. She managed to rummage out a pair from Carmilla's dresser and slip them on.

“What are you doing, Laura? You need your rest.”

Laura ignored her. She searched for one of her t-shirts as well, and pulled one from the dirty clothes hamper. She tried to ignore how much it smelled like Carmilla as she tossed it over head. Laura looked around the room and tried to figure out where her clothes were from the previous night. Her head was a little blurry and she was starting to feel weaker from doing more movement than she had since waking up last night. She couldn’t figure out why she didn’t have a pair of jeans on the floor. That is when she walked towards the closet. She spotted her suit from the night before.

“Tell Mattie, thank you for the suit. Hopefully she can return it.”

Carmilla huffed. “What are you talking about?”

Laura headed towards the bedroom door, but Carmilla got there first and shut it. She held her ground and stood in front of Laura with her hand on the doorknob.

“Where are you going?” Carmilla asked.

“Home.”

“Why?”

“Because I get the feeling, from your lack of response, you rather be hanging out with that girl in the photograph. You look much happier with her than you do with me so.”

“Oh, come on! That's ridiculous, Laura.”

Laura tried to push past Carmilla, but Carmilla put her body against the door.

“You're not leaving.”

“I can do whatever I want, Carmilla.”

“No. You're sick and you need to stay in bed. Besides we need to talk about this. It isn't what you think. I just needed a moment to gather my thoughts. Let’s talk. Please.”

“Fuck that. I rather be left alone. I knew this was too good to be true.”

“Knew what was too good to be true?”

“Us.”

“What are you even talking about?”

Laura’s posture straightened out and Carmilla knew that meant Laura was beyond angry.. “Who the hell is that, Carmilla? And why do you have naked pictures of her?” Laura yelled.

Carmilla was shocked by the tone of Laura’s voice. She didn’t answer right away which only provided more reason to the thoughts in Laura’s head. Laura started to cry.

“That's what I thought!” Laura said through gritted teeth. She managed to pry Carmilla away from the door and open it.

“Laura. Laura, stop!”

“Why?!”

“Because… because it’s Ell,” Camilla stated, calmly.

“Who?”

“The girl in the photos. Her name is Ell.”

“And how long have you've been seeing her?”

“We dated for nearly two years.”

Laura chuckled to herself. “Wow. Amazing. So not only have you been lying to me, but you've been cheating on a girl you've been dating for two years?”

“What? No. I'm not dating her. We dated. Past tense. It was in the past.”

“Then why are there pictures of her on your computer, Carmilla?!”

“It doesn't seem to matter what the answer is. It doesn’t matter what I tell you. You clearly won't believe me if you think that I would ever have the audacity to cheat on you!”

“But you are!”

“No I'm not!” Carmilla voice raised. “I would never cheat on you! I love you!”

“You love me? Are you serious? How can you possibly say that?!”

“Because after Ell, I didn't think my damaged heart and fucked up brain could ever love someone again. And then I met you, Laura. I met you and everything changed.”

“That doesn't explain why you have naked pictures of her on your computer.”

“I know!” Carmilla shouted. She paused and took a breath to calm herself. “I know. Okay? You're right, but if you would just stay and let me explain. Please! Besides, you look so pale, I don't think you'd even make it down the stairs without passing out. You’re weak, Laura.”

“Stop acting like you care about me,” Laura argued.

“Are you kidding me? You are the most important thing to me in this world. More than my family! You know that! Now if you would just sit down and let me explain, please.”

Laura didn't move. She couldn't. She didn't want Carmilla to touch her and the thought of being beside her made her feel more sick than she already did. But her adrenaline was slowly running out and all she wanted to do was lay back down. She was feeling more and more weak as time went on. She slowly walked past Carmilla, into the bedroom. She felt lightheaded and knew she needed to calm down. Carmilla followed and closed the door behind herself. She tried to help Laura back into bed, but Laura slapped her hand away.

“Let me help you,” Carmilla stated with annoyance.

“I don't need your help. I just need to lay down.”

Once Laura was comfortable, she threw the comforter back over her body. The chilly evening air, creeping in from the window, was not helping her. Carmilla grabbed her laptop. She sat to where Laura could see the screen and deleted the folder.

“It's too late, Carmilla. I've already seen all I need to see,” Laura said, rolling over onto her other side so she wouldn’t have to look at Carmilla.

“And you keep jumping to conclusions even though I'm trying to open up to you about a part of my life that only Mattie and my therapist know the true story about. It takes a lot for me to talk about it. I deleted that folder because I don't need it and I don't want it. I don't need those memories anymore.”

Laura didn't say anything. She kept her back to Carmilla, trying her hardest not to cry.

“Will you look at me? Please,” Carmilla pleaded.

Laura didn't move. She closed her eyes instead. “Cupcake,” she whispered. “Please.”

Laura wanted to ignore her, but she couldn't. She rolled over onto her back to look at Carmilla. Carmilla's eyes were starting to water and she bit the inside of her cheek.

“I can't lose you,” Carmilla whispered.

Laura rolled her eyes. “I'm not going to sit here and let you have a pity party for yourself because you cheated.”

Carmilla clenched her jaw. She tried to calm down, but that struck a nerve. “Stop saying that,” she shouted. “I have not once cheated on you! I would never cheat on you! If you think I would do that, then you wouldn't be here. You know I would never do that!”

Deep down Laura did know that, but she couldn't handle the thought of the possibility that Carmilla had. After all, hearing about Carmilla's stories and openness about her sexual experiences, it was one of Laura's biggest fears when it came to their relationship.

“Did you notice the last time I even looked at those pictures? Did you even think to look for that specific information?!” Carmilla questioned.

“Why would that matter?”

“Because you would notice that I haven't looked at those pictures since we started dating.”

“Then why are they there?”

“Laura, the past few years of my life have been bad. I've done some shit that I'm not proud of. I told you, I drank almost every night, sleeping with different girls. Sometimes I would go to a bar, sleep with one girl, leave her apartment to go back to the bar and sleep with someone else. I poured my soul and emotions into alcohol, drugs and sex. Nothing mattered to me anymore. Until you. You made my life matter again. You made me feel important and you gave me the ability to love again. But not to love just anyone, to love you. Before you, I thought my life would just be a huge mess of shit and that I would be lost in alcohol and drugs for the rest of my life. Hoping I would just die so it would stop. I just wanted everything to stop.”

Carmilla wiped her eyes. Laura was slowly internalizing everything that had just happened, becoming more and more frustrated with herself. Why didn’t I check the timestamp? Why am I having a hard time believing her? Because you’re worthless. That girl is so skinny and so beautiful. Of course, she rather be with her. She tried to rationalize her negative thoughts, but they wouldn’t stop attacking her. Laura sat up and rested her hand on Carmilla's thigh. It was the only sympathy she could muster at the moment. She didn't say anything and still refused to make eye contact with Carmilla.

“Ell was the first girl I fell in love with. And I mean head over heels in love with. She was everything I had been looking for in a girlfriend. She fit all the categories. She was smart, from a good family, kind, gentle, and the type of girl I knew I could take home to meet my mother. She was from Texas and up to that point had only dated men. She identified as straight, but I knew there was something about her that was different and I knew she was attracted to me. After a couple months of flirting, we made out on my birthday. She lived in Manhattan and since we both had to work together the next morning, she agreed that I could stay with her. I had been dying to kiss her for so long that I decided to just do it. That kiss led to making out every once in awhile which then eventually led to sex. Our first time together was amazing and we just kind of never stopped after that. We were inseparable and I just kept falling for her more and more with each passing day.”

Carmilla took a chance to look at Laura. Laura could see Carmilla looking at her from her peripheral, but couldn't make eye contact with her. Carmilla stared for a moment before wiping the tear that fell down Laura's cheek. Laura flinched and laid back down. Carmilla shifted her seated position to face Laura. One leg was hanging off the bed while the other rested in the small space left for her.

“The only problem with Ell was, she didn't want anyone to know that we were together. Being the naive person that I was, I told everyone because it was so obvious that we were a couple. We would leave work together almost every evening, eat together at lunch, and come in late together. We were just so blatantly together, but I could never get her to break down her walls to admit it to people. I talked to Mattie about it a lot. She kept telling me how toxic this was for me and my mental health, but I just couldn't stop loving her. I couldn't let her go. She was the first person to make me feel alive again after my father died. It took someone ten years to get me to open up and laugh again.

Laura didn’t say anything as she continued to listen.

“Mother figured it out pretty quickly that we were an item and demanded to meet her. She liked Ell enough, but not anywhere near as much as she enjoys your company. I know my mother seems very conservative, but she did not like the idea of her openly gay daughter being shoved back into the closet. She always told me I was too good for her because I was proud of who I was and I shouldn’t be hiding that from the world because some girl wouldn’t even admit to being in a relationship with me. I never pressured Ell to come out her closet though. I always said ‘when you're ready, we'll tell people’.”

“Even though you already had.”

“Well, yes. What can I say? I was an asshole. I told the people that I trusted and asked them not to say anything. I was just so happy and excited to be with her. I wanted to shout it from the roof tops, you know? Turns out they never did say anything to her about it. I did get her to tell one person, though. She was a co-worker and mutual friend of ours. Maria. But Ell only told Maria because she had asked us one night at dinner. It was an awesome feeling because I figured this meant we were getting somewhere. That she was finally opening up to the idea of telling people we were together. Our relationship was weird though. When we would go out on dates and be surrounded by strangers, she had no problem being my girlfriend or being open about us. She would hug on me, kiss me, hold my hand. It's only when we were around people we knew, she would back off and act like we were nothing. I kept telling her over and over that this is New York City and no one cares who you’re sleeping with.”

“Well that's mostly true.”

“Yeah,” Carmilla greed.

“So what happened?”

“I got a new job. My job at the bookstore. We kept seeing each other, but things were slowly starting to change with her. I found out she had a crush on this guy, but she didn't tell me. We were with a group of old coworkers/friends and it was said to the group. It hurt. It really hurt. I argued with her later and she assured me it was just a silly crush. I was jealous and scared of losing her. I knew she was lying about the crush being nothing, but I forced myself not to believe it. I just wanted to keep her as long as I could, no matter how much it was affecting me mentally.”

“Didn't people ask her if you two were dating?”

“Yeah.”

“What would she say to them?”

“She told them we were best friends. Sometimes she would even explain to me that she only found me to be a friend with benefits instead of a girlfriend. I explained to her constantly that I wasn't her booty call. We practically lived together. I was always at her apartment. I mean, we were together for almost two years for Christ’s sake.”

Carmilla paused. Laura stared at her for a moment. She started to feel guilty. She shouldn't have jumped to conclusions, but she always does. She just latches herself to her most negative thoughts instead of the rational ones. Laura reached her hand out to Carmilla's. She felt relief when Carmilla threaded their fingers together and gave her hand a gentle squeeze. Carmilla just felt better because Laura reached out to her. She took a big inhale followed by a long exhale.

“So I got a new job and everything was still good. However, as you know, I'm not good around new people. I never have been. So even though I was happy to have a new job,where I made more money and had benefits, I was very depressed. She was a very positive person and just couldn't understand why I was so ungrateful. I wasn’t though. I just missed my friends and was struggling to make a friendly connection with anyone. She just didn't get that. She always made friends easily. Then, after being at my new job for officially two weeks, she texted me asking how she could be my number one sexual partner. She had asked me about my previous partners a few nights earlier. I didn't want to play this game with her, but she begged me to so I put her at number three on my top sex list. She wanted to be the best I had ever had.”

“That's kind of weird thing to ask and want considering every person we sleep with is different.”

“You're telling me, Cupcake. I didn't give her an answer on how to be better because I liked how she made love to me. I shouldn't have said anything to begin with. Then two days later, while I'm sitting at my desk, she texted me saying she couldn't do this anymore. I asked her what she was talking about and she said she couldn't do us anymore. I was shocked and tried to talk to her, but she just shut me out. I saw her one more time when I got my stuff, and then that was it.”

“She just shut you out?”

“Cold turkey. I found out about a month later from Maria, her now best friend, that she was cheating on me with that guy she had, had a crush on. I asked Ell about it, but she never said anything. My heart was broken. I wish she would have told me she wasn’t interested in me sexually or just given me some sort of sign. I would have much rather hear her say that she was straight, then be shut out her life. And I know I should have respected her wishes a little more and been a little more understanding about her not wanting to come out to everyone, but I was young. I wanted the world to know that she was mine. It was naive and stupid, but when she didn’t want anyone to know, I felt like she was ashamed to be with me. That she was embarrassed to be dating me. I was so happy to have her as my girlfriend and just couldn't keep my mouth shut about it. I wanted to be apart of her life, just as much as she was apart of mine. I was selfish and not understanding. I regret that, but at the same time I don’t. It’s complicated and something my therapist and I have been trying to figure out. All I know is, once she dumped me, I just… I lost it. I went a little a crazy.”

“Crazy?”

“Laura, I thought she was the one. You know ‘the one’ everyone talks about finding? She broke my heart. I was devastated so I went on a destructive war path. I went to Franklin Park the night after she dumped me and the next thing I knew, I had become a regular. Sometimes I would leave trashed, other times they would throw me out and sometimes I would find a girl and go home with her. Luckily I was smart enough to get tested every time I didn't know the girl. Then I met, Elsie. And Elsie introduced me to coke, acid, and all kinds of downers and uppers to numb my pain. I went to work high, all the time. Sometimes I would even smoke pot outside if my boss wasn't there. I kept getting into fights with random people. Constantly had black eyes or bruised knuckles. I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. Mattie came home one night to see me passed out on the couch with my hand so bloody, she was terrified I had done something worse. She woke me up, but my head hurt so bad, I couldn't even talk. She realized I broke the bathroom mirror and the mirror in my room. I was just so angry. I hated Ell for what she did, but I hated myself more. I figured Ell left me because I fucked it all up. Because I wasn’t patient. Because I was jealous.”

“It sounds like she strung you along until she found someone else.”

“Regardless, I did some bad things. I even slept with Maria. The only person she told about us being together. Maria and I had planned the whole thing out for New Year’s Eve. I went over there, we drank three bottles of champagne and it happened. I still don't really regret that, but at that time I did it out of vengeance. Now, sometimes, I wonder if they set that whole thing up, but I'll never know.”

“Does it really matter?”

“No. I guess not. After all that, Mattie got me into therapy. After one particularly bad bender, I was hospitalized. Had to have my stomach pumped and everything. Mattie still doesn’t like to talk about it since she is the one who had to call the ambulance. After one of my bad bar fights, and being caught with a rather large pill collection in my pocket, I had court assigned AA meetings and a huge fine. That led to anytime I came home, Mattie would search me to make sure I wasn't holding. I should say, I never was. I loved doing drugs, but they would make me so paranoid. I was way too nervous to carry after having to go to jail for a night because of the one time I was holding for Elsie. AA never really helped me with my alcohol consumption other than helping me control it. I did learn not to drink my pain, though. My first therapist helped me with my drug issues and other than marijuana on very rare occasions, I don't touch any of that stuff.”

Laura looked horrified, which only made Carmilla panic on the inside.

“I told you, I’ve done some pretty bad shit, Laura. I always thought you deserved better than me. But when I met you, you helped me realize I don't need that stuff. You did better than most of my therapy sessions. You made me want to be a better person for you. I wanted to be the girl you wanted to be with.”

“Is all of this part of the reason why that night we went to Will’s bar, he was cautious of you drinking?”

“Yes. My drinking problem led me to not having any money. I owe Will’s bar a lot of money which is why I only go there when I know the manager isn't there. I always pay extra if I go now, but I still try to stay away from it.”

“And that night at Crown Heights Inn with that other girl? The one you tried to push away, but she wouldn’t leave you alone.”

“I had slept with her multiple times. I freaked out that she was there and wouldn’t leave me alone. I was worried that she would try something because she was always handsy. I had to leave which is why I made us leave in such a rush.”

Laura nodded. It was silent again, but Laura held onto Carmilla’s hand, firmly.

“Now why did I still have photos of Ell on my computer? And why was it in two folders and look like I was hiding them? I have an explanation for that. When I would get trashed and not go home with some girl, that meant I had to come home. And when I would come home, I would look through those pictures and just cry. I would drink, smoke pot or both, look at those pictures and drown in my sorrows until I couldn't feel anything anymore. That’s what happened that night when Mattie had to call an ambulance. It was in two folders because sometimes I was so fucked up by the time I got home, that it was too much brain concentration to open up multiple folders. I would fall asleep with my laptop on my chest because I couldn’t figure it out. My eyes would be heavy and blurry from the mix of drugs and alcohol. So yes, I had those photos for that purpose, but Laura, I swear, as soon as I started working at the store with you, I stopped looking at them and when we finally started dating, I forgot about them. I didn’t need them nor want them anymore. We’re together all the time that I didn’t even have to worry about them being there. When I’m with you, I’m happy. When I’m with you, I’m clean. You’re the reason for my happiness.”

Laura squeezed her hand and pulled on her arm. Carmilla laid down next to Laura, on her side so she could look Laura in the eyes. Laura pushed some hair away from Carmilla’s face.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about her or any of this stuff,” Carmilla stated, grabbing Laura’s hand and kissing it. “It’s just really hard for me to talk about. I don’t like to remember that time in my life.”

“No, I'm sorry. I overreacted and didn't stop to even give you a chance to explain. I’m just not used to a lot of good things happening in my life. I always expect the negative thing to happen. I also think my sickness and tired brain didn’t help. I just wasn't thinking clearly.”

“It’s okay. Had I just been open with you, this wouldn’t have been a problem.”

“It’s not your fault, Carm. I shouldn’t have been snooping.”

“Well that's true. You definitely shouldn't have been snooping, but I should have gotten rid of those pictures months, even years ago. And in all honesty, it’s not a big deal, Cupcake. I still love you.”

Laura smiled shyly. “I love you too. Even though I feel like an idiot.”

“It’s like you said. You’re sorry and you're not feeling well. You probably just weren’t thinking clearly. However, I don't think you overreacted.”

“Carm, we know that's a lie.”

“Maybe to you, but I'm a very jealous girlfriend. If I found pictures of the Giant on your computer, I would have been upset too.”

“Well then it's a good thing I deleted all of them after she broke my heart.”

“Still, I understand.”

“And I still feel bad.”

“Don't, Cupcake. It was a mistake. We all make them.”

“Do you make them this dramatically?”

Carmilla smiled. “It was a small overreaction that got me to tell you my darkest past. It’s a good thing. Now, I want to know, how you’re feeling?”

“You mean other than an overzealous, jealous, asshole?”

Carmilla smiled and nodded.

“I still feel nauseous.”

“Have you eaten anything?”

“No. I basically slept all day. I’ve only been up for about an hour.”

“And you managed to cause yourself that much stress within an hour? Damn, Cupcake.”

Laura lightly hit Carmilla's arm. Carmilla laughed.

“I'm kidding, Cupcake. I'm kidding. Maybe we should try and get these crackers in you,” Carmilla said, holding up the box of saltines.

“Not right now. I kind of just want to lay here again. I feel a little lightheaded.”

Carmilla nodded. They looked at each other. Carmilla noticed Laura get a cute little wrinkle in her nose before Laura sneezed. She sneezed a few more times, before groaning. Carmilla smiled. She got out of bed.

“No, Carm. Please just stay here.”

“I’m just getting you a tissue,” Carmilla said, grabbing the box on top of her dresser. She handed it out to Laura, who gladly accepted it. Carmilla laid back down and tucked Laura’s hair over her ear.

“Hey, Laura?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you,” Carmilla paused, making sure this is what she wanted to ask. “Do you honestly think I would cheat on you?”

“Deep down, no. I just got scared, Carmilla. I guess it’s more drama and paranoia from my last relationship. I wish Danny wouldn’t have this effect on me. After I found out and dumped her, I was so lost. I tried so hard to just quit dating all together. I didn’t think I was worthy of love. I dated a couple girls, but I always got my hopes up, wishing and wanting. I felt so alone all the time and my negative thoughts just took over. I felt like every time I hung out with a new person or went out on a date, they could just feel the negativity radiating off my body. When I saw those pictures, I went to my initial thoughts based off of Danny.”

“You know I’m not Xena though, right?”

“Of course I do. I’m sorry it’s the conclusion that I jumped to. It’s just, she is beautiful, Carm.”

“She was alright.”

Laura made a face. “Are you kidding me?”

“No. She’s alright. She’s no Laura Hollis.”

Laura rolled her eyes. “She’s half of me.”

Carmilla groaned. “I love you, Cupcake. I really, really do, but you have to stop with this body thing in regards to me. You’re going to the gym now and you’re working hard to keep this happy mentality up and being healthy. Don’t compare yourself to her. Ell was not a good person. I feel like she used me for her own experimentation without telling me. She cheated on me so I know how it feels, but please, don’t compare yourself to her because she doesn’t have your heart, she never had your kindness towards me, she never had your courage nor your strength. You accepted me for me and you’re proud to be with me even after knowing all of this crazy shit I’ve done. I couldn’t ask for anything else, but to keep you by my side. If not forever, then for at least as long as possible.”

“Do you worry that I’m going to leave you?”

“All the time,” Carmilla answered, honestly.

“Why?”

“Because no one ever stays. Ell didn’t, and then girl after girl after girl. I kept hoping that one of these girls actually wanted to be with me, but once we were done with our affairs, they left or I did. And then there's my father,” Carmilla choked out. “He just locked himself up in a hotel room and shot himself without even thinking about how it would effect me for the rest of my life. He didn’t say anything. I didn’t know he was struggling. I was a child. My father left because he couldn’t handle life, but he left me to try and figure it out for myself. No one ever stayed except for you.”

Carmilla sniffled and Laura wiped her tears. “I stayed because I know you’re better than your sex, drug, and rock and roll attitude. I knew there were more things going on inside of you. You remember when you first met me and you kept saying, ‘I’m trying to figure you out’?”

Carmilla nodded.

“Well I guess I was trying to do the same thing. I was trying to figure out why this beautiful woman even wanted to talk to me. I thought you were way too attractive and sexy to even want to be seen with me.”

“Do you still think that?”

“Sometimes. I used to think people stared at us because they couldn’t figure out why someone like you would be with someone like me.”

“What do you mean someone like you?”

“You know what I mean, Carm. My body, the way I look. The way I think about myself.”

Laura looked at Carmilla. Carmilla rolled her eyes. “Well I think you are the most beautiful girl in the entire world. I could care less about anyone else. I only want you.”

Carmilla leaned in, but Laura held up her hand for Carmilla to stop. “I’m sick. We can’t have you getting sick as well.”

Carmilla smirked. “I’ll take my chances.” She leaned in a placed a light kiss against Laura’s lips. It was simple and light, but she kept her forehead connected to Laura’s.

“You’re still seem warm, Cupcake.”

“I’m really sorry, Carm.” They spoke at the same time. It took a minute for Carmilla to register what Laura had said.

“Stop saying you're sorry. You’re forgiven. It’s not a big deal. What’s done is done and like always, you keep getting more and more information out of me about my past. I’m about to lose my air of mystery.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

“Yeah. I mean I guess it’s better this way. I’m not exactly an open book.”

“Good thing I’ve always enjoyed a challenge.”

“Oh, really, Cupcake?”

Laura nodded. Carmilla hummed.

“You’re forehead is still pretty warm. Have you taken your temperature recently?” Carmilla asked.

“No. I only left this bed to get these crackers, juice boxes and to go to the bathroom.”

“Did you throw up again?”

“No. Just had to go, you know?”

“Alright. I’m gonna get the thermometer.”

“Carm, please don't baby me. That’s what my dad used to do and it drove me crazy.”

“I’m not babying you. I’m taking care of you. So how about we check your temperature to make sure it’s not worse for my own sanity and because you love me.”

“Fine,” Laura exhaled.

“Good,” Carmilla said, hopping out of bed. She walked out into the living room to see Mattie in the kitchen, eating her Shake Shack burger.

“Thanks for the food, Sis.”

“Please tell me, you didn’t eat both burgers.”

“We both know I couldn't do that, but it was getting cold.”

“You know, I bought one of those for Laura and the other for me.”

“I don’t think Laura should be eating burgers and fries, Carmilla. Maybe you should make her some soup and you know, non-greasy food.”

“I thought she might feel better by the time I got home.”

“And you wanted Shake Shack?”

Carmilla smiled. “Guilty.”

“How is Laura?” Mattie asked, eating a fry.

“She’s still warm. I’m just grabbing the thermometer for her.”

“Well I bought her some saltines and juice this morning.”

“You did, did you? I guess it turns out you like Laura.”

“Excuse you. Rude. I have always like Laura. Hints why I keep looking out and making sure you don’t hurt that girl. I might even kill you, if you hurt her.”

“You know I wouldn’t do that,” Carmilla said, quietly with the situation that just occurred still fresh in her mind.

“Oh, Little Monster, I do know that. If it’s one thing I won’t let you do, it’s fall back on that terrible, destructive path you were on.”

“I guess that’s why you’re the better sister.”

“Well yeah, but isn't that obvious?” Mattie smirked.

Carmilla laughed and walked towards the bathroom. She grabbed the thermometer and headed back to her room. “Take care of your ‘Cupcake’, Carmilla. It’s nice to see you happy and actually concerned for someone.”

“Yeah, well. I love her so. It’s kind of scary how much I love her.”

“Have you said it to her yet or are you still waiting?”

“I have.”

“And?” Mattie questioned, hating it when Carmilla just wouldn’t answer her fully.

“And, she loves me too.”

“What did I say?”

“Yeah, yeah, Mattie. Try not to toot your own horn too much. Are you off to see Jonathan?”

“I might be. Well after I shower and make myself look presentable.”

“And what are you two doing tonight?”

Mattie winked.

“Well then, have fun. And don’t forget to use protection.”

“Okay, Mother. I can’t believe she said that every time one of us went out on a date.”

“It’s one of the reason I was happy to be a lesbian. I didn’t have to be embarrassed as much.”

“Lucky you.” Mattie smiled and walked to her room. Carmilla did the same.

“Is Mattie home?” Laura asked.

“She is, but she’s heading out soon. Believe it or not, she actually has a boyfriend that she was hiding from us.”

“What? When did this happen?”

“I met him this morning, but apparently it has been going on for months.”

“Well that explains the certain sounds I heard last night when I got up to get some water.”

“For once, I’m glad to be a heavy sleeper. And when did you get up for water?”

“I don’t know. Sometime after I got sick.”

“Why didn’t you wake me? I would have gotten it for you.”

“I know, but like I said, I like to do things for myself. I just went to the bathroom and filled your drinking cup? Also what are you 80? Why do you have a drinking cup?”

“I like to rinse with water when I’m done brushing my teeth.”

“You’re adorable.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Can I just check your temperature now?”

Laura rolled her eyes, but nodded. She opened her mouth and closed it around the thermometer. She was less than happy about it. Laura was still a little above average and Carmilla tried not to worry. She did try her hardest to persuade Laura to go to the doctor, but she knew she wasn’t going to win that argument.

“Do you want me to make you some soup?” Carmilla asked.

“Can you do it without setting the kitchen on fire?”

“Oh, well it seems as if someone got their sense of humor back.”

“I just don’t have the strength to fan a fire alarm.”

“I think I can handle it, Cupcake.”

Carmilla heated up her burger and fries, while she made laura some chicken noodle soup. She grabbed two new juice boxes from the fridge before returning to her room. Laura had loaded Carmilla’s Netflix account and they decided to carry on with their “L Word” binge. Before they started, Carmilla threw on some ratty clothes so she could be more comfortable. Once they were finished eating, Laura tried to get up to take her bowl and Carmilla’s trash to the kitchen.

“Carm, please. I’m not five years old. I’m a grown up with a head cold.”

“Head colds don’t make you throw up,” Carmilla argued.

“I’m pretty sure it was the food that made me throw up.”

“Don’t say that to Mother. She’ll argue with you until she dies.”

“Not all the meat was cooked.”

“It was cooked enough to not make you sick, Cupcake.”

“You and your bourgeoisie excuses.”

“Whoa. Now you’re just being mean and grumpy. And we know out of everyone in my family, I am not a bougie person.”

“I know,” Laura pouted, giving Carmilla puppy eyes. “I’m just sleepy.”

“And cranky, but if it will make you happy, I’ll let you take the dishes and trash to the kitchen.”

“How chivalrous of you,” Laura replied, sarcastically.

“I’m not liking this new attitude,” Carmilla yelled after Laura left the room. She smiled to herself.

Laura came back in a couple minutes later with a tub of ice cream.

“It’s almost empty, but I figured a little ice cream on my throat wouldn’t be so bad,” Laura commented, climbing over Carmilla and getting back under the covers.

“Does your throat hurt?”

“No, but it could. Might as well get the good stuff down first.”

“You’re a little ridiculous. Do you know that?”

“Hmm… maybe, but you love me.”

Carmilla smirked. “That I do, Cupcake. Where’s my spoon?”

“In the kitchen,” Laura teased.

“Mean.”

Laura pulled a spoon out of nowhere according to Carmilla and it handed over.

“Where did you?”

“That’s my air of mystery.”

“Are you making fun of me? First you call me a member of the bourgeoisie, which is bull shit, and now you’re making fun of my could care less facade. Sick Laura is mean Laura.”

“Yeah. That’s not even a lie. My mom always said that she hated it when I was sick because I would act like a spoiled brat until I got what I wanted.”

“Yes, I would agree with that.”

“Again you love me.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

They shared the last little bit of vanilla ice cream while continuing on with “The L Word”. Once the carton was empty, Carmilla placed it on her bed side table, before getting comfortable under the covers with Laura. It didn’t take long for Laura to fall asleep, cuddled up to Carmilla. Carmilla grabbed her laptop and stopped the episode. She then opened her trash folder to the untitled document staring at her. She right clicked on the little trash can and emptied it.

She went back to her picture folder and looked at the pictures she had taken of Laura. She smiled widely as she stared at the girl she had fallen so madly in love with for a few moments, clicking through every picture multiple times, before shutting down and heading off to bed. She laid there for a while, staring at the ceiling. She thought about her past, but it didn’t seem to hurt as much as it had before. It had been a long time since she mentioned Ell. Her family was tired of hearing about her so she didn’t really have a lot of people to talk to it about. But now, she didn’t want to talk about it. That driving force that had pushed her so many times before was gone. Laura shifted in her arms and laid her head on Carmilla’s chest. Carmilla placed a light kiss against her forehead and ran her fingers through Laura’s hair. This is all I need. She is all I will ever need.

Chapter Text

It was finally the weekend and Carmilla was happy to just stay at home, wrapped up in her comforter, with her arm tightly around Laura’s shoulders. She was warm, in the early afternoon sunlight. She shifted a little in her sleep, her eyes still closed as she kissed Laura’s forehead. She loved the way Laura fit perfectly against her body. She felt refreshed every morning waking up next to her. Laura was wrapped around Carmilla. Her head laying comfortably on Carmilla’s bare chest while Carmilla lightly ran her fingers against Laura’s shoulders before slowly drifting back to sleep. She felt Laura’s shoulders begin to rise before-

“Ah choo!” Carmilla heard, followed by a low groan. Laura moved slowly and reached over Carmilla for a tissue on the nightstand. She blew her nose and crumbled the tissue in her hand before laying her head back down with a few sniffles.

“Cupcake?” Carmilla asked.

“Yeah?” Laura answered, groggily.

“I know you’re sick, but could you try and cover your mouth?”

Laura laughed and looked up towards Carmilla. Her eyes were a little watery and her nose was already pink. “Sorry. Did I get you?”

“I hope it’s just spit and not snot,” Carmilla complained.

Laura shifted and pulled herself up again on her forearm. She grabbed a new tissue and wiped Carmilla’s side. “Sorry,” she mumbled before blowing her nose again. “But it’s not my fault you decided to sleep naked.”

“It’s how you should sleep. You gotta let everything breath once in awhile,” Carmilla commented.

“Yeah, well. Girl who wakes up sick girlfriend in the middle of the night to take her clothes off and then sleep naked next to said sick girlfriend does not get to whine about her girlfriend sneezing in her sleep.”

“Oh, is that so?”

“Yes. It is a very well known fact that I just made up right now.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes.”

Carmilla smirked. “So you just make up all the rules now?”

“Yes. That’s what happens when you don’t listen to me and tease me with your naked body when all I wanted to do was sleep.”

“I did not tease you, Cupcake.”

“Oh please. You took your shirt off as slow as possible, while staring at me with that signature smirk. Then you turned around and bent over from the waist to take your pants and underwear off.”

Carmilla laughed. “Your eyes were closed, Sweetheart. It’s not my fault you were peeking.”

“My eyes were not closed and you totally did that on purpose.”

“And what if I did?” Carmilla asked, adjusting herself so she was straddling Laura. Laura's shirt had risen up in her sleep, leaving her bare stomach exposed. “You didn’t and couldn’t do anything to stop it.”

“So now you tease your sick girlfriend more? That’s very rude, Carmilla.”

“How am I teasing you?”

“You have just placed a very wet area on my stomach. You tell me?”

“I just sat down. It’s not like I’m moving my hips or anything,” Carmilla paused with a naughty look in her eyes. She moved her hips a couple of times. “Unless you want me to.”

“Carm,” Laura whined. “I wish I could, but I don’t feel good. I don’t have the energy to get you off.”

“Who said I needed more than this to get off?”

Carmilla continued to thrust her hips, but lowered herself so she was closer to Laura. She kissed Laura’s neck before licking a small line up to her ear. She tugged Laura’s earlobe with her teeth as Laura wrapped her arms around Carmilla’s waist, trying to help in anyway she could. Carmilla moaned lightly in Laura’s ear as her hips thrusted harder against Laura’s stomach. Laura moved her hands down to cup Carmilla’s backside, holding her to her body. Carmilla gasped and moaned in Laura’s ear, as she peppered kisses anywhere that she could reach.

Laura suddenly had a burst of energy. She moved her right hand from Carmilla's bottom and placed it in between Carmilla’s legs. She started rubbing Carmilla’s core before entering her.

“Oh fuck, Laura,” Carmilla whined, loudly.

After a few moments, Carmilla gasped loudly before her body stilled. Her full bodyweight now on top of Laura. Laura kissed Carmilla’s neck and cheek as she calmed down and relaxed. She moved her helping hand back to Carmilla's backside.

“Better?” Laura whispered. Carmilla laughed lowly.

“Much better. How about I return the favor?”

“Not to be rude, but did you have a sex dream or something? I mean, I love having sex with you, but you're not the easiest person to get going in the morning.”

“I might have, but I don’t need a dream to want you in the morning.”

“Just your limbido?” Laura replied, sarcastically.

Carmilla eyed her for a moment. “Are you mad at me for doing that?”

Laura smiled. “Yes, so so mad. I can’t believe my incredibly sexy girlfriend used my stomach to get off while I can barely breathe out of my nose.”

“You really are the queen of sarcasm when you’re sick.”

Laura laughed. Carmilla, on the other hand, did not look convinced.

“Hey,” Laura said. “I’m not mad. I promise. It was kind of hot.”

“Oh yeah?”

Laura nodded. Carmilla pushed Laura’s t-shirt up and started to lay kisses around her breasts.

“Cause you know, I can make whatever you’re feeling all better.”

“You mean my stopped up nose and sore throat?”

“Uh huh.”

“How?”

Carmilla placed one long kiss under Laura’s right breast before sitting up. She climbed off of Laura and put some sweatpants on. “How about some soup, Cupcake?”

Laura looked at her with a shocked expression.

“What?” Carmilla questioned. “You seem to have forgotten you’re sick.”

“Are you serious? You can’t just use my stomach for sexual exploration, turn me on and then walk away.”

“Is this your second rule?”

“You bet your sweet little butt, it is.”

“And what is a girl like to me supposed to do about it?” Carmilla smiled.

Laura pulled on Carmilla’s arm. “I have a few ideas.”

Carmilla smiled before lowering herself on top of Laura. Mattie rolled her eyes as she passed Carmilla's bedroom, hearing the two girls giggling together.

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

“Your fever still hasn't come down.”

“Carm, it's barely a fever. I’m like two degrees above normal and honestly that could be my normal temperature.”

“A fever is a fever. Please let me take you to the doctor.”

“No. I'm fine. It's just a cold. I need Vitamin C and liquids. That's it.”

“That's not it. Please, Cupcake.”

“Why do you want me to go to the doctors so bad?”

“Because I want to make sure you're okay.”

“Carm, I'm fine. I promise.” Carmilla groaned. “Besides, I can't really afford that right now.”

“Don't you have health insurance?”

“Not really-”

“What?!”

“I'm on my parents plan, but the last time I went to the doctor here they had some kind of ludicrously expensive medical bill because it was used out of state. I can't make them pay another bill like that. With therapy and a gym membership, I don't have a lot of money leftover to use on a doctor.”

“Okay. Understandable.”

Laura sighed, relieved Carmilla was letting this go.

“But-”

Laura exhaled sharply. “No buts. Can’t I just drink some juice and then take a nap?”

“You could or we could go to my mother's doctor. She won't make you pay, I promise and then we could make sure that this isn't anything bad.”

“I already know it's not bad.”

“Please?” Carmilla begged with puppy dog eyes.

“Why is this so important to you if I go to a doctor or not? I'm telling you. I'm fine, Baby.”

“It would just make me feel better.”

Laura studied Carmilla's features. She looked tired and nervous. Under her eyes, Laura could see dark circles form. Her face was scrunched with worriedness. Laura tucked some hair behind her ear and kissed her cheek.

“Okay, Carm. If it means that much to you, I'll go to the doctor.”

Carmilla smiled widely. “I'll give her a call right now.”

Laura rolled her eyes and exhaled as Carmilla grabbed her phone. She laid back down against the mattress and pulled the covers to be as tightly around her body as possible. She listened as Carmilla talked to the doctor and heard her give her symptoms over the phone. Carmilla listened very carefully to everything she was being told through the phone, nodding and pacing a little bit. Laura couldn't help but think how cute she looked. Carmilla hung up her phone with a sigh.

“What did she say?” Laura mumbled.

Carmilla had a straight face. “I'm not gonna lie, Laura. It's not good.”

Laura started to believe Carmilla after her tone of voice. Her face was solemn and serious.

“The doctor said there's no reason to come in. It's already too late,” Carmilla continued. “She said,” Carmilla paused for dramatics, biting her knuckle to look like she was struggling with the words. “She said you have a cold.”

Carmilla started to pretend cry. Laura grabbed a pillow and smacked her with it.

“Don't do that! I believed you for a minute.”

Carmilla laughed, grabbing the pillow from Laura's hands. “She said what you said.”

“Which is?”

“You have a cold, take Vitamin C, to drink plenty of liquids and that I'm overreacting.”

“See? I told you.”

“Yeah, yeah. How about I make you some lunch and if you feel better afterwards, we can take a little walk. Get you out into some open air for a change.”

“That would be nice.”

“And what can I make you for lunch?”

“Can I have tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich?”

“You can have anything you want.”

“Then can I have it from the diner?” Laura teased.

“Hey! I make the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the Tristate area.”

“Oh yeah? I find that hard to believe, but if you must, then prove it to me, Sweetcheeks.”

Carmilla kissed Laura’s forehead. Laura sat up and got out of bed. She grabbed Carmilla's hoodie and slipped it over her head before following Carmilla out of the bedroom. She had already put Carmilla's pajama pants back on after their morning activities. They were a size too big, but thermal and very comfy as they dragged under her feet as she walked.

“She lives,” Mattie joked from the couch.

“Well with the way Carmilla is making this cold out to be, you should be surprised.”

“Aw, Sis. You do have a heart.”

Carmilla laughed. She tried to make it sound like she was annoyed, but the sincere smile on Mattie's face was making that difficult.

“What are you watching?” Laura asked.

“Well there is simply nothing on, so I settled for one of my guilty pleasures.”

“Which is?”

“A good Lifetime movie.”

“Really? A Lifetime movie? You don't seem like the type.”

“What? I can't enjoy trash TV like the rest of the world?” Mattie questioned.

Laura's eyes widened. “No, no, no, no, no. That's not what I meant.”

“Then what do you mean?”

“You just seem like the intellectual type with being a lawyer and all. I just thought you would be watching a documentary or something on the History channel.”

Mattie laughed, lowly. “Carmilla was right. It is fun to watch you get all squirmy.”

“I never said that!” Carmilla prostrated from the kitchen.

“She's lying,” Mattie added towards Laura with a wink.

Laura soon realized Mattie was playing a game. Laura decided to jump on Mattie’s little plan and pretended to be mad. She huffed and crossed her arms. She even pushed a little more to make her eyes water, which wasn't too difficult with her cold.

Carmilla turned around in the kitchen and watched as Laura huffed and wiped her eyes.

“Hey,” Carmilla's voice was soft and she made her way quickly toward the couch, throwing her kitchen utensils on the counter. She squated down in front of Laura. “I never said that. I don't like to make you nervous. I would never say that.”

Laura smiled. “You're so easy.”

Mattie laughed and Carmilla frowned. “You know, I could just not make you anything and let you suffer through this cold all by yourself. To think I was about to bring you juice.”

Laura smiled. “Will you please bring me juice?”

“Not now.”

“Aw, Mattie, you made my girlfriend mad at me.”

“I did no such thing, Laura.”

“Please, Carm. Please.”

Laura clasped her hands together in front of her heart. Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“You're lucky you're cute, Cupcake.”

Laura smiled and pressed a light kiss to Carmilla's cheek. “I love you.”

Carmilla's cheeks reddened as she felt Mattie's eyes on her with a devilish smirk. Carmilla didn’t even have to look at her sister to see the knowing face Mattie had. She cleared her throat and stood up.

“Ah, Carmilla? I think you forgot something,” Mattie mocked. Carmilla ignored her and leaned over Laura's shoulder from the back of the couch. She placed a kiss to the side of her head.

“I love you too, Laura,” she whispered.

It was Laura's turn to be embarrassed. Mattie, however, was enjoying both of their reactions probably a little too much.

“Ah,” she gasped. “You two are just so in love! My heart can't handle it!”

“Thank you,” Laura said.

“Laur, she's being highly sarcastic.”

Mattie laughed and winked again at Laura.

“Well we are,” Laura said, her eyes locking with Carmilla's over Mattie's head.

“Damn right,” Carmilla agreed from the kitchen.

“So, what are you making, Carm?” Mattie put emphasis on her sister's name to mock the way Laura said it.

“Well, Mattie. I'm making a lovely bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese for my beautiful girlfriend and myself.”

“And me?”

“Oh let me think. Hmm. What am I making my beautiful sister? Oh yes... that’s right. Nothing. Laura doesn't make fun of me as much as you do.”

“If I promise to sit here quietly and leave you two alone?”

“Deal.”

Mattie smirked at Laura. They settled back into the couch as Carmilla made them lunch. Once Carmilla was finished, she brought a tray to Laura. It had two bowls of soup, two sandwiches, two glasses of water and one glass of juice. She sat it down neatly on Laura's lap before heading back to the kitchen to grab Mattie's.

“Thank you,” Mattie stated, taking a bite instantaneously.

“You're welcome.”

Carmilla got situated next to Laura, holding more of the tray weight on her lap than Laura's.

“Thanks, Baby,” Laura whispered, dipping her sandwich in the tomato soup.

“Anything for you, Cupcake.”

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

It took Laura the rest of the weekend and Monday to finally feel one hundred percent better. After a weekend of lounging and snuggling with Carmilla, she was happy to wake up Tuesday morning and feel able to go to work with her girlfriend. She was more grateful that the train was rather empty as she stood next to Carmilla on it. She rested her head against Carmilla’s chest, as Carmilla wrapped an arm around Laura’s back to keep her secure. This was one of Laura’s favorite traits about Carmilla. Whenever they were in close proximity and Laura would get closer, Carmilla never pulled away. She just held Laura as tightly as she could.

She slowly felt herself drifting asleep until she heard Carmilla clear her throat. She picked her head up and took Carmilla's hand as they exited the train. They walked in a comfortable silence to the bookstore, never letting go of each other's hands.

“It's about time you showed up! I thought we were going to have to fire you,” Lafontaine said as the entered.

“Very funny, Laf.”

“Feeling better, Laura?” Perry asked, popping up from behind the counter.

“Much better. Carmilla took good care of me and I can finally breathe again.”

“That's wonderful.”

Laura noticed Perry had her yellow gloves on her hands. She had a sponge in one hand and a rag in the other. She had a face mask around her neck. That's when Laura saw the pile of books at the end of the counter.

“Um, whatcha doing, Per?”

“Ugh. This outta be good,” Carmilla whispered in Laura's ear before walking around to the side of the counter. Laura followed.

“Well, we were pulling books and I noticed a stack were particularly dusty so I looked under the counter and was appalled by the amount of dust down here. I couldn't just leave it like that. It’s filthy. So then I figured we should do some fall cleaning today. Clear out all this dust.” Perry said, while nodding her and approving her own suggestion.

“As much as I would love to, Perry, I don't think dust is the right option for me right now. I'm still a little stuffy.”

“Oh, of course, Laura. I figured this task would be better suited for Lafontaine and Carmilla.”

“How about no? I don't want to deal with dust and dirt,” Carmilla protested. “Besides we have plenty of books to pull before we should worry about cleaning.”

“Yes we do, but Laura can deal with that while we dust.”

“No. I don't want Laura to be near any of that.”

“Carm, it's okay. I'm not dead. I'll avoid the dusty areas and I'll just receive the books when they come in.”

“Okay, fine.” Carmilla turned towards Perry and Lafontaine. “But I still didn't sign up for dust duty.”

“Oh relax. You can wear one of the store’s t-shirts so you don't get gross and dirty. We only have extra, extra large which will practically be a dress on you so it should cover almost all of your clothes. Besides, it will get done a lot quicker with three people doing it instead of two. Well, one right now since Lafontaine hasn’t moved from the computer.”

“So basically you want me to be Cinderella? Keep dreaming, Red.”

“Carm, just do it. She's only going to pester you more if you ignore her.”

Carmilla exhaled. “Fine, but I'm not happy about it and I get to pick the music!”

“Excellent!” Perry said, handing off a pair of gloves and a t-shirt she had already prepared earlier for Carmilla to wear.

Carmilla took the items as David came up the stairs.

“Hey, Killer! Feeling better?” He asked.

“Still a little stuffy, but definitely a lot better than a few days ago. I finally have energy which is a wonderful thing to feel.”

“I'm happy to hear that. Well we're still in the middle of pulling. We've put SJ and Kirsch on the later shift to help Dante with closing so it's just the five of us until noon. We have a few books coming in for the front of the store later. I figured you should take care of that considering your current situation. We're also getting in a couple of boxes from Nebraska. Last minute orders from professors. Would you mind receiving those? You can leave the labeling for later if you want to. Does that sound okay?”

“Sounds perfect, David,” Laura agreed. She headed downstairs while Carmilla stood at the edge of the counter, still holding the gloves and the t-shirt, silently wallowing.

“Thanks for helping us clean, Carmilla,” David said with a genuine smile.

“I get the feeling I didn't really have much of a choice.”

David laughed before heading back downstairs, deciding not to reply to her comment.

“Well, don't you have some shelves that need to be cleaned?” Perry asked from near her feet behind the counter.

Carmilla snarled, but headed downstairs to drop her stuff off on her desk. She kissed Laura's head while passing her.

“Happy to be back, Cupcake?”

Laura nodded. “I'm just happy to be moving and out of your apartment.”

“Was it that bad?”

“No, Baby. I'm just happy to not be bed ridden is all.”

“Good. Now I get to wear this shirt and clean while you receive.”

Carmilla slipped the shirt over her head. It immediately went passed her knees in length.

“Well, this is fabulous,” Carmilla said through gritted teeth.

Laura tried her absolute hardest not to laugh, but she was struggling.

“I assume you find this amusing?” Carmilla asked.

Laura shook her head no while biting her tongue. She took a couple of deep breaths before looking over at Carmilla.

“It's just… you like a child who only sleeps in big t-shirts. It's actually really cute and I can't wait for our sleepover tonight. What time should I be there?” Laura joked.

Carmilla pouted. “I'll remember you teasing me, you know.”

“Yes because you have never once teased me,” Laura said as she got out of her chair and made her way to stand in front of Carmilla.

They stared at each other for a moment. “Fair enough,” Carmilla stated. Laura kissed her cheek and took both of Carmilla’s hands in her own. They stood there looking at each other before Laura wrapped her arms around Carmilla's waist. She rested her head against Carmilla's shoulder as they both stood there with their eyes closed.

“I should get upstairs,” Carmilla muttered, “before Susie Homemaker loses her mind.”

Laura giggled. Carmilla kissed the side of her head before heading upstairs. Laura went back to her computer to take care of a few emails from professors she had missed while being sick.

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

Around noon, their daily shipment came in. The three boxes that David had mentioned earlier were there as well as a few others. Laura was feeling a lot better as the day progressed, but that didn't stop Carmilla from getting on her nerves. Laura knew that Carmilla was just trying to be kind and helpful, but Laura felt herself getting more and more frustrated.

“Please, Carm. I can carry the box.”

“You just haven’t been active for the past five days and I want you to take it easy.”

Laura huffed. She took a couple breaths before smiling. “Carmilla, let me do this. I can do this. It’s twenty pounds.”

“Are you sure?”

“I had a cold, not pneumonia.”

“I know that, but you don't have to exert yourself for a couple of boxes.”

“Carm,” Laura replied, clearing irritated.

“What?” She asked, picking up another box.

“I love you and don't take this the wrong way, but I kind of want to strangle you right now. I need you to stop trying to take care of me. It was just a cold. Other than a few sniffles, I'm fine. I'm strong and I don't need help. Okay?”

“You’re right. You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“You’re going to follow me downstairs, aren’t you?”

Carmilla smiled.

“Oh, come on, Sweetcheeks.”

Carmilla grabbed a couple of light boxes and carried them behind Laura downstairs. Laura placed her box on top of her counter and leaned over. Carmilla threw her boxes down and went straight to Laura.

“Oh god, Laura. I told you that was too much! Are you okay?”

Laura smiled at how worried Carmilla was and looked up towards her. “Gotcha.”

Laura started running towards the stairs and Carmilla chased after her. “Oh you are so going to get it, Cupcake.”

“Guys,” David yelled from his office by the stairs as the two girls passed him. Both of them stopped immediately and looked sheepishly towards David from the stairwell entrance. “I hope this new relationship of yours won’t interfere with your work.”

“No, David,” Laura said.

“Of course not. Sorry, Boss.”

“I know I'm pretty lax when it comes to working here, but this is still a business. We need to keep some level of professionalism. Yes?”

“Yes,” they both answered before turning to go upstairs. The small stairwell held their laughter as Carmilla lightly tickled Laura's side.

They brought the remaining couple of boxes downstairs so Laura could receive them.

“Where are you going?” Laura whined.

“Upstairs.”

“Why?”

“To pull. David wants to get the rest of the returns out by the end of the week if we can.”

“But I wanted you to keep me company.”

“You literally found me annoying five minutes ago.”

“Yes, but that was five minutes ago.”

“Sorry, Cupcake. But if you need help pulling the carts up, I'll come down and help you. Okay?”

Laura nodded. When Carmilla passed Laura, she felt Laura tug on her arm. She looked towards Laura who tapped her finger against her lips. Carmilla chuckled before laying a gentle kiss against them.

“How about we go to lunch in an hour? My treat.”

“Sounds good, Cupcake.”

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

An hour passed and Carmilla was taking a break. She had pulled what felt like a thousand books. Her arms were sore from having to scrub every surface of the shelves this morning and then climb every shelf to pull books for the returns. She was exhausted.

“I hope someone didn't get Laura's cold,” Lafontaine said, dropping more books on the counter.

“No. I don't get sick. My arms just hurt from Betty Crocker making me clean like crazy this morning.”

“Oh it's not so bad.”

“You have to say that.”

Lafontaine stopped and thought for a moment. Their eyes widen in realization. “You're right. I do have to say that.”

“The one small curse of a relationship,” Carmilla noted.

“Yeah, well. You know what? No more.” Lafontaine turned to the phone on their left and hit the intercom button.

“Yes, Weirdo?” Perry's voice called through the speaker.

“Per, can you come upstairs for a minute?”

”Sure thing.”

They heard the click on the intercom. Carmilla chuckled lowly. “Oh man, you're so gonna get it. This is the worst place to bring this up.”

Perry came up the stairs with a big smile on her face. Lafontaine didn’t even wait for Perry to be beside them before they started speaking.

“Perry, something's been brought to my attention and I'm not doing it anymore.”

Perry stopped right beside the counter with a genuine smile on her face. “And what's that, Dear?”

“I hate cleaning and the only reason I do it is for you, but I don't like it. Enough is enough. I don't want to clean anymore. Here or at home.”

Carmilla laughed to herself. What an idiot.

“Lafontaine, I hope you're not being serious. First of all, the only thing you clean at home are the dishes and maybe the bathroom once in a blue moon to be nice and surprise me. Secondly, I've never even seen you use a broom or a mop so I'm not exactly sure what you're complaining about.”

Lafontaine exhaled. They were defeated in a matter of seconds. “I should help you clean more, shouldn't I?”

“I hate doing the dishes. It's the only thing I can't stand doing. That's why I make you do them. Just keep doing that for me and we'll be fine.”

“Deal, Per.”

Laura popped up out of the stairwell and walked towards Carmilla. She wrapped her arms around Carmilla's waist.

“Hungry,” she mumbled.

“Has it been an hour?” Carmilla asked.

“Yes and I'm hungry.”

“What do you want to eat, Cupcake?”

Laura shrugged.

“Speaking of eating,” Perry interrupted.

Carmilla and Laura turned their attention towards Perry.

“As you know, Lafontaine and I would like to take you two to dinner. Laura, I know you like to keep your girlfriends to yourself, but it is clearly going very well with the two of you and the two of us want to celebrate that. So dinner, Friday, 6pm, Five Napkin Burger. Be there.”

“Or apparently we will be very, very square,” Carmilla stated.

“We don't have a choice do we?” Laura asked.

“I know Lafontaine can be a bit much when it comes to your girlfriends, but I promise to control them,” Perry smiled.

“I don't need control.”

“You once took a syringe to dinner to prove to Laura's date that you were a bio major in college when she was just kidding and then talked about taking samples with excessive probing,” Perry added.

Carmilla immediately started laughing loudly at this new information. “What?” She asked through her giggles. “That's insane.” Laura shoved her arm as she tried to control herself.

“What? Who does that?”

Laura soon caught up in the laughter. She had never seen Carmilla laugh so hard. Lafontaine and Perry also started laughing.

“I guess it was pretty weird, but if I'm being honest I just did it because I knew it would freak that girl out,” Lafontaine laughed.

Laura gasped. “Laf?!”

Everyone started laughing again, but not as hard as Carmilla. She was holding her sides, taking deep breaths, trying to calm herself down. She stood up straight and wiped her eyes.

“I don't know why I found that so funny,” she said with labored breath. “Wooo,” she exhaled.

Laura was taken back by how open Carmilla looked. She had never seen her look this happy and carefree. Granted, they'd only known each other for more than a few months now, but she seemed calmer and more open. She liked it.

“Okay, okay,” Carmilla said, still gasping for air as Lafontaine laughed harder, leaning forward in the chair. “Seriously? Why would you do that?” Carmilla's asked.

Lafontaine a voice was a little higher than usual due to them laughing. “She annoyed me. I didn't like her at all and knew Laura didn't really like her either so I, I,” they took another breath, “so I took the needle with me to shut her up. God, she was annoying.”

“Still, Dear. It was a lot,” Perry added.

“It worked though. Laura never heard from her again.”

“Which I was grateful for. I couldn't get rid of her and she was just awful in the b… Uh yeah,” Laura laughed nervously towards Carmilla.

“In the what, Cupcake?” Carmilla teased.

“Okay. So, Friday, 6, which Five Napkin?” Laura asked quickly, hearing Carmilla snicker behind her.

“The one on 14th and 3rd?”

“We'll be there,” Laura said, rubbing Carmilla's back as she caught her breath. Still healing a little from her laughing fit.

“Good. Then we can all just leave together after work.” Laura and Lafontaine knew it was the end of the conversation. The answer being more obvious when Perry turned to go down the stairs.

“But,” Carmilla started.

“Oh, it’s done. You’ll have to work with us all day, walk with us to the restaurant and enjoy every second of it,” Lafontaine said.

Carmilla looked towards Laura who shrugged. “Perry’s finalized it. She’s probably making a reservation right now.”

“Why doesn't that surprise me?” Carmilla asked.

“Well, we can worry about that on Friday. Right now, I want you to take me to get sushi.”

“Sushi, huh?”

“I- I mean only if you want sushi. We can totally get something else or-”

“Sushi is good, Cupcake.”

“Good.”

They stood close to each other, smiling.

“Aren't you two just the cutest?” Lafontaine mocked.

“Yeah, yeah. Come on, Carm.”

Laura pulled Carmilla down the aisle and out the back door. Carmilla reached into her pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

“Smoke?” She asked, handing out the pack to Laura.

Laura contemplated for a moment before taking one, hesitantly.

“Laura, you don't have to take one if you don't want one.”

“It's just, I'm secretly trying to quit.”

“Why secretly?”

“Well I wasn't sure how you would feel about it and sometimes I really do want one, but I know I shouldn't, but do it anyway. I don't know.”

“Laura, I'm not going to be offended if you want to quit smoking. I know you're trying to do better by going to the gym and eating healthier. If you want to quit, then just tell me. It's your body and I want you to do what you need to do to feel good. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Carmilla held the pack out and Laura slipped in the unsmoked cigarette. Carmilla placed hers back in as well. She slipped the pack back into her pocket, took Laura's hand and started walking towards the restaurant.

“You can smoke if you want to, Carm.”

“Nah. I don't need it.”

“See, this is why I didn't want to tell you. I don't want you to feel like you have to quit because I'm trying to quit.”

“Laura, I've been trying to quit for ages. Maybe this is the final push I need. Or maybe I just don't want you to be tempted so when we get back to the store, I'll wait for you to go inside before I light one up. Less temptation for you that way.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

Laura kissed the back of Carmilla's hand with a warm smile. She would now just focus on trying to push off her worriedness about their dinner with Lafontaine and Perry until Friday. She was sure Lafontaine had a notebook of questions to ask Carmilla.

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

After work, Carmilla headed out for her therapy session while Laura made her way to the gym. They agreed to meet up afterwards at the gym, since they were in the same general location. Laura was about to walk in, when her phone rang. She had a shy smile on her face.

“Hi, Dad.”

“Hey, Princess. How's the big city?”

“Pretty boring and chill as usual.”

“Keeping safe and everything?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Any big plans tonight?”

“No, I'm just going to the gym and then going home.”

“Ah, okay. How's Betty?”

Laura thought for minute. She actually hadn't seen Betty for what felt like months now. She was never home. Carmilla had the bigger bed so they always ended up at her place.

“She’s good. Keeping busy,” Laura lied.

“Well that's good to hear. Anyway the reason I called is because your mom and I are coming up this weekend.”

“You're coming to the city this weekend?”

“Yeah, we'll come up Friday night and stay through Sunday evening.”

“Why didn't you tell me earlier?”

“Well, it was a last minute decision. We haven't seen you since the spring and we miss you. So we decided to come up and surprise you. Just wanted to make sure you didn't have any plans before we buy the train tickets.”

“Well I do have plans Friday night with Lafontaine, Perry and, and… Well yeah Laf and Perry.”

She squinted her face, mad at herself. Just tell him about Carmilla. They're going to hate it either way so might as well tell them you have a girlfriend. Laura wasn't sure why she struggled with telling her parents about her current relationship so much. She wasn't sure if they would be open and accepting or if they would just play nice because that's what they always did about Laura's “special friend”.

”Well that's okay, Sweetheart. We'll be getting in late Friday, anyway so we'll probably just check into the hotel for our slumber and then meet up with you for breakfast or lunch somewhere. Sound good?”

Laura nodded her head. “Sounds good, Pops.”

“Excellent. We will see you in a couple of days then. Once everything is settled and we know all the details, I'll give you another call.”

“Sounds perfect.”

Laura heard her dad hang up and she felt herself deflate. She couldn't figure out the reason she hadn't told her parents about Carmilla. Sometimes it would be on the tip of her tongue, ready to be shouted, but something held her back from actually saying it. Her parents made her nervous. She wanted to tell them about Carmilla more than anything, but was sure her mother would instantly compare her to Danny. She wasn't sure what her dad would do because she never really knew how he felt about the whole thing. He said he accepted her, but never really showed any interests in her affairs. She wasn't sure if she was grateful or saddened by it.

Laura decided to put her focus on her workout. She'd talk to Perry about it tomorrow. Hopefully, that would help. Her therapist couldn't have picked a better time to be out of town for a week.

Laura ran for a mile and a half and made sure to lift as many weights as she could. She used all the energy she had left and was pretty worn out by the end of it. She had outdone herself and realized she still wasn't back up to her normal health. She was ready to go home. When she stepped outside, she felt the familiar arms circle around her waist.

“Hey, Sweetcheeks.”

“Hello, gorgeous. You're very sweaty.”

“Well that is what a gym does to you.”

“Right. How'd you do today?” Carmilla asked, wrapping her arm around Laura's shoulder as they walked to the train.

“Mile and a half in about 35 minutes.”

“Damn, Cupcake. That's great! Soon you'll be doing marathons.”

“Nah, that's too much running for me.”

Carmilla laughed. “Well how about we go home and I make you something for dinner?”

“Sounds good to me, but I need to stop by my apartment to get some clothes.”

Carmilla leaned in and sniffed Laura's shirt. “Yes, yes you do. You smell terrible.”

Laura elbowed Carmilla in the ribs who only laughed. “What are you making me for dinner?”

“Whatever you want, Cupcake.”

“Doesn’t really matter to me, just something healthy.”

“Well we’ll need to stop by the grocery store on the way home, but I think I can figure something out.”

Laura had an impending doom as she felt the butterflies in her stomach. I need to tell her they're coming, but would she even want to meet them? Does it even matter to her? She looks like the type that wouldn't want to meet anyone’s parents. Do I really want to put her through that? Oh geez, I don't know. Is it bad I wish my parents weren't coming? If they weren't coming, I wouldn't have to worry about this.

“Laur?”

“Yeah,” Laura answered quickly.

“Is taco salad okay?”

“Yep. Sounds perfect, Carm!”

Carmilla looked at Laura for a moment before heading down the stairs to the train station.

“You sure you're okay?”

“Just as peachy as ever,” Laura laughed. What do I do?!

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

The week had flown by quicker than Laura would have liked. She still hadn't told Carmilla about her parents coming to visit. Just as much as she hadn't told her parents that Carmilla even existed. She tried to hide her nervousness, but knew Carmilla wasn't buying it. However, Carmilla agreed a long time ago that she wouldn't pry.

“So what are we going to do this weekend, Cupcake?” Carmilla asked, packing up her bag to leave work.

“Having dinner with Laf and Perry.”

“Ha ha, Cupcake. I mean after we ditch the Ginger Twins.”

“Oh, I don't know. I might be busy this weekend.”

“Busy?” Carmilla questioned. “Busy with what?”

“Well I mean, I should stay at my apartment for the weekend. You know? I haven't seen Betty in a long time and I'm sure the apartment needs to be cleaned. Not to mention I need to do laundry and what not. I can't expect Betty to just clean the whole apartment. It's not fair as far as roommates go and-”

“Okay, okay. Shh. It's okay if you don't want to hang out.”

“I do though,” Laura protested.

“So which is it? Hang out with me or go chill with Betty for a weekend and do laundry.”

“I just feel like I should really clean my apartment.”

“And that'll take all weekend?”

“Well no, but with Betty and laundry.”

“One, you hate Betty-”

“I don't hate Bet-”

“And two,” Carmilla interrupted, “You can do laundry at my place for free! Why waste your money when you can use ours?”

“Because that'll make your water bill skyrocket!”

“It's included in our rent, Cupcake. But it seems pretty clear you don't want to be around me so I'll take the hint.”

“What?” Laura stood from her desk and moved over to Carmilla. She took her hands before rubbing her arms a little. “That's not what I mean, Carm. I want to be around you all the time.”

“So still not tired of me yet?”

“Of course not. It's just, my reasoning is complicated.”

“Well you know you can talk to me right? Maybe I can help.”

“It's more difficult than that. I just… I need to stay home this weekend, okay?”

“Okay. But promise, if you get done cleaning, doing laundry and hanging out with Betty that if you get bored, you'll call me.”

“I won't call you.”

Carmilla's eyes widened. Before Carmilla could speak, Laura placed her finger against Carmilla's lips. “I won't call you because I'll already be outside your door, waiting for you to answer so you can hold me in those strong, secure arms of yours.”

Carmilla smiled. “Nice save.”

“Hey, are you guys ready to go?” Perry asked.

Carmilla placed a light kiss against Laura's lips. “All ready,” she said, stepping away from Laura to grab her bag. They both slipped on their coats. Carmilla was in her signature all black with a leather jacket, while Laura slipped her peacoat over her blue button down.

Perry watched the interaction before making eye contact with Carmilla. She put on the best smile she could before leading them upstairs. Lafontaine and Dante were watching a movie trailer on the computer.

“Ready to go, Sweetie?” Perry asked.

“One second-”

“Now, Laf!”

Lafontaine smiled at Dante before they followed Perry.

“Bye, Dante,” Laura said with a little wave.

“Yep. Have fun,” Dante said with a comical tone.

“Save me, Dante,” Carmilla pleaded.

Dante laughed. “Yeah, good luck,” he replied, sarcastically.

Laura placed her hand in Carmilla's and started to drag her towards the door. Carmilla wrapped her arm around Laura's shoulders, feeling Laura's arm snake around her waist. They giggled and chatted amongst themselves as they took a ten minute walk to the restaurant. Perry and Lafontaine were in front of them, having their own after work conversation. When they got to the restaurant, it was fairly crowded, but they managed to get a table next to the window thanks to Perry’s reservation.

The restaurant had a dark atmosphere with small light bulbs littered around and hanging from the ceiling. The inside had tiled walls and looked like the inside of a meat locker. They thanked the host for the menus which Carmilla quickly scanned.

“So what's good here, Cupcake?”

“I always just get a cheeseburger and fries. It's delicious.”

“Dude, just get the Five Napkin Burger,” Lafontaine suggested.

“Done,” Carmilla said, placing her menu down on the table.

Laura looked at her with adoring eyes and a bright smile. Carmilla rested her hand on the inside of Laura's thigh. Laura wrapped her arm around Carmilla's and held on to it. She was happy that Carmilla was wearing a t-shirt under her jacket. Her skin was always so smoothe and Laura loved running her fingers against it. They smiled at each other for a moment before Lafontaine cleared their throat.

“So, I take it things are going very well between you two?” They asked.

“Yep! Everything is perfect,” Laura stated, still looking at Carmilla.

“Well, Guys, care to look towards us and actually have a conversation? We weren't expecting to be your third wheel here,” Perry suggested.

Laura smiled one more time at Carmilla before turning her head towards the other two.

“Oh good, your neck does work,” Lafontaine exclaimed.

“Sorry, Ginger Science. We just love each other.”

“Perry and I love each other.”

“Of course you two do and that is a beautiful thing,” Laura added. She rested her hand on the inside on Carmilla's knee, rubbing her thumb up and down slowly. “So, how was your week?” Laura offered, changing the subject.

“Frosh, we all work at the same place. You know how our week was.”

“Well I was sick, and then stuck in the basement receiving.”

“Well I think I had a particularly good week! I managed to get as many pull lists printed as possible, I even got to help because I was on top on it, and then David offered me a promotion this week.”

“A promotion?” Laura asked excitingly.

“Yes. He has finally put me fully in charge of the trade book section. It will now be my responsibility to choose the books we sell that aren't textbooks! I'm so excited. I've already started doing research for new books coming out and making lists for each genre.”

“That's fantastic, Perry! Congratulations!” Laura said.

She tapped Carmilla's knee. “Oh, right. Congrats, Perry! I know you'll pick some awesome stuff for the front of the store.”

“Thank you, Carmilla. That's very sweet of you to say.”

“And more good news,” Lafontaine added.

“David has actually given you the floor manager position and the money to go with it?” Laura asked, hopefully.

“Well, no. But I'm getting closer to having the courage to talk to him about it.”

“You really should, Laf. You deserve that title,” Carmilla stated.

Everyone looked at her a little shocked.

“What?” She asked. “They do deserve it. They do more than I do. They literally trained every rush employee and stayed on top of them and their work. Laf truly deserves that title.”

Laura kissed Carmilla's cheek.

“Thank you, Carmilla,” Lafontaine said, sincerely.

“Of course.”

They all sat there quietly for a minute. The waitress came and took their order, breaking their silence. They all ordered burgers. Carmilla, Laura and Lafontaine ordered their own type of beer from the beer list, while Perry was satisfied with sparkling water.

“So you had good news, Laf?” Laura asked.

“Right. So David said he's cool with us starting up another round of D&D, now that the semester has quieted down.”

“Really?! Oh my gosh, that's so exciting!” Laura proclaimed.

“Uh, D&D?” Carmilla questioned.

“Dungeons and Dragons,” Lafontaine stated.

Carmilla smiled. “Of course you nerds would enjoy Dungeons and Dragons.”

“Haven't you ever played before?” Perry asked.

“God no.”

“It's only because she has to keep up with her cool, non-caring persona,” Laura said, rolling her eyes. “You should play with us! It's so much fun.”

“What could possibly be fun about Dungeons and Dragons?”

They all gawked at Carmilla. Lafontaine bit the inside of their cheek. “Dude, Dungeons and Dragons-”

“Carmilla, Lafontaine has been playing D&D since they were a kid. They played it with their parents followed by a few friends in high school. It holds a very special place in their heart. And if you were ever going to play with someone, Lafontaine is the best Dungeon Master. They create the most wonderful games,” Perry gloated.

“Please, Carm! We'll have so much fun!”

Carmilla groaned. “Ugh, fine, but I won't be happy about it.”

“You say that now, but just you wait,” Lafontaine smirked.

“Yeah, yeah, Ginger 1.”

The waitress came back with their beverages. They toasted to Perry’s new position before each taking a sip.

“So any good news from you two?” Perry asked.

Carmilla and Laura looked at each other and just smiled. “Not really. Just enjoying each other's company,” Laura answered.

“That's good.”

“And Carmilla you must be excited?” Perry said.

“Excited about what?”

Laura caught on to what Perry was suggesting and quickly raised her hand to her throat with wide eyes as she made a “cut it” gesture. Perry looked at her questioningly. She mouthed “she doesn't know”.

“Oh,” Perry said out loud.

“What am I excited about?” Carmilla asked again.

“Oh, uh, learning how to play D&D, of course.”

Laura felt Carmilla relax. “Oh yes, thrilled,” she said with a bored expression.

“I'm going to run to the restroom to wash my hands,” Perry said. She made a face towards Laura, saying she should do the same.

“Uh, me too,” Laura stated.

Carmilla and Lafontaine both scooted out of the way, so Perry and Laura could get up. They walked quietly towards to bathroom. Once inside, Perry stood still while Laura leaned against a sink.

“You didn't tell her your parents were coming?” Perry asked.

“Um, no?”

“Why?”

“You know how my parents are. They worshipped Danny and I can just see them now comparing Carmilla to her and I don't want Carm to go through that. She deserves more than that.”

“Why didn't you just tell her they were coming, but you weren't ready for her to meet them yet?”

“Because I've already met her entire family. It would be rude to say that.”

“But lying about it is better?”

“I know, Per. I know. I just can't tell her. It's one weekend.”

“Yes and we're getting brunch with you and your parents on Sunday. I think your girlfriend should be there because you know Lafontaine will bring her up.”

“I know. I know.”

“So what's stopping you?”

“I don't know. I've wanted to tell them about Carmilla since we started dating, but it’s like the words won’t form. I just can't.”

“Are you worried they're not going to accept her?”

“I already know they won't.”

“Why?”

“Because she has that cool, aloof attitude that my mother certainly hates and my dad isn't comfortable with any of my girlfriends. It's just drama and anxiety I would like to avoid.”

“Yes, but Laura, you'll never avoid it. Whether you introduce her now or in a year, they're going to act the same way towards her because that's just who your parents are. Why not just get it done with?”

“Ugh,” Laura groaned. “You’re right. Okay. I’ll tell them about her tomorrow and then invite her to brunch with us. But at brunch, will you promise to make her look good?”

“She knows how to carry herself, Laura. She’s a big girl. I have a feeling she’ll be very respectful especially since you’ve told her how they were with Danny. I mean, who knows, she might not be ready to meet your parents either. But it will be better to tell her the truth instead of lying all weekend about where you are. Besides, can you even stay away from her for a whole weekend? When was the last time you guys spent more than a night apart from each other?”

“I don’t even know the last time I slept in a bed alone. And you’re right, going the whole weekend without her would be absolute torture for me. Especially since my parents will most likely make me angry at some point, leaving me to go to her and not be able to explain why I’m upset.”

“Exactly and the most important thing about maintaining a good relationship is open communication. You have to be honest with her.”

The door popped open, causing them both to jump. Carmilla stepped inside. “It sure takes you guys a long time wash your hands. Dinner’s on the table,” she said, walking past them into a stall.

“Remember, communication,” Perry whispered, walking out of the restroom.

Laura turned toward the mirror and looked at herself. It was a rare thing, but sometimes it helped her stay grounded. She took a deep breath and exhaled rather loudly.

“Uh, Laura? Are you still in here?” Carmilla asked from the stall.

“Yes, Carm.”

“Can you turn the sink on or something? Shy bladder, remember?”

“I could just leave.”

“But then I couldn’t kiss you.”

Laura laughed and turned the sink on. She took advantage of the water and actually washed her hands. She was more surprised Perry didn’t wash her hands before leaving. Laura heard the toilet flush and turned off the sink. Carmilla stepped out, walking immediately to the sink to wash her hands. Laura stared at her while she did so.

“What?” Carmilla asked.

“Nothing. You’re just beautiful.”

Carmilla turned the sink off and grabbed a few paper towels to dry her hands. She discarded them to the trash when she was finished and brought Laura into an embrace.

“I could say the same thing about you, Cupcake.”

Carmilla leant down with a small smirk before connecting her lips to Laura’s. They kissed for a moment before Carmilla pulled away.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Well you and Betty Homemaker were in here for an awful long time.”

“Oh, we were just talking about things.”

“Anything important?”

“No,” Laura lied. “Not really. Just gossip.” What is wrong with me?!

“Just gossip, huh?”

Laura nodded her head.

“You do know, I can tell when you’re lying, right? But when you want to talk to me, I’ll be here for you.”

“I know. I just have to tell you something.”

“What is it, Laura? You can tell me.”

“How about we discuss it after dinner?”

“Okay. Is it bad?”

“No,” Laura responded immediately. “No, not at all.”

“Okay,” Carmilla exhaled. “Good. I was nervous.”

Laura gave Carmilla another quick kiss before they made their way back to the table, hand in hand. Perry looked up to Laura with hopefulness. Laura shook her head no causing Perry to slump a little bit in her seat.

“Took you guys long enough. If I knew you were still in the honeymoon phase and having sex in the bathroom-”

“Whoa, we did not have sex in the bathroom,” Laura interrupted. “I was in there longer with Perry than I was with Carmilla.”

“That’s true, Sweetie.”

“Well, I was worried,” Lafontaine said, smiling at Perry.

“Just a small chat between friends while we washed our hands.”

Carmilla started eating her burger, ignoring the people around her and moaned. “Holy shit, this is delicious,” she said between bites, wiping her mouth. Laura smiled before taking a bite of her burger. They ate rather quietly, all enjoying their meals. Carmilla licked her fingers once she had eaten every last bite.

“I’m so full, but I could totally order more fries.”

“You can have some of mine, Carmilla,” Perry offered.

“Oh no. I’m okay. I still have to finish this beer.”

“I take it the Five Napkin burger was a success,” the waitress asked Carmilla before taking her plate.

“That was absolutely delicious.”

“Can I get you anything else?”

It became very clear that the waitress was only addressing Carmilla at this point. Laura was only a little more than halfway through her meal before she put down her burger. She saw her small stomach sitting over the waistline of her pants. The waitress was short and thin with blonde hair. She looked a little like Elsie which made Laura feel worse about herself. She felt Carmilla’s arm circle around her shoulders, pulling her tightly to her side.

“I think we’re good. Do you guys need anything?” Carmilla asked Lafontaine and Perry.

“Could I get more water please?” Perry asked.

“Certainly,” the waitress said. She clearly had forgotten that other people were at the table, causing her to leave quickly.

Carmilla looked towards Laura. “Don’t tell me you’re done, Cupcake.”

“Uh, yeah. I’m good.”

“Laura, don’t start doing that,” Carmilla whispered in her ear.

“It’s hard.”

“It shouldn’t be because you know I love you and I only want you. Was I flirting with her?” Carmilla asked as they had a private conversation.

“No.”

“Isn’t that enough to not compare yourself to her? Please remember you’re the girl that I want. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have picked on you so much.”

“That’s flattering, and I know you love me. It’s just, I’m trying to change the whole structure of my brain is all.”

“I know, but don’t worry about her. I love you. I don’t even know what that girl’s name is, nor do I want to know. Okay?”

Laura nodded.

“Good. Now eat, Cupcake. I know you’re still hungry.”

“And how do you know that?”

“I’ve never seen you leave a burger and fries purposely on a plate. And if you don’t eat it, I’m going to.”

Laura was still hesitant so Carmilla picked up her burger and took a bite.

“Hey,” Laura protested.

“I told you,” Carmilla laughed between bites.

Laura took her burger back and took a bite, grateful for Carmilla.

“I just think you two are the cutest couple,” Perry said with her hand on her heart.

“I mean you’re not as cute as Per and I, but you’re close.”

Laura laughed, followed by Carmilla. The waitress came back with a new sparkling water for Perry. “Could I interest anyone in dessert?”

She was back to looking at Carmilla only. “Well why don’t you let my friends and my girlfriend here finish their actual meals. Then we’ll think about dessert.”

“Right. Silly me. Of course.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes, moving closer to Laura and further away from the waitress. “Do you want some of my fries, Carm?” Laura asked.

“Are you going to eat them?”

“I mean maybe a couple, but if you want some, they’re all yours.”

Carmilla smiled. “Thanks, Cupcake.”

They finished their meals with light banter about some of the rush employees, laughing with one another about some silly thing Kirsch did or the reasons they had to let so many people go after the first week of the semester. Carmilla noticed they seemed to talk about work a lot, but was grateful to keep the discussion focus on that instead of on her and Laura. They looked over the dessert menu together. Most of them were full, but Laura insisted on having something sweet. Carmilla was not going to deny her girlfriend her sweet tooth fix. Just then the waitress popped up.

“Any dessert?” She asked as a busboy cleared their table.

“Yes, my girlfriend and I want to split the,” Carmilla paused looking at the menu in Laura’s hand, “the 7 Layer Blackout Cake.”

“Wonderful.”

“And my partner and I will be sharing the cheesecake, please,” Perry added.

“Certainly. I’ll have those to you shortly.”

“So, Carmilla.”

“Oh geez,” Laura whispered.

“I hope you’re still treating Laura right.”

“Laf,” Laura started.

“And why wouldn’t I be?”

“I don’t know. I’m just checking in. She’s my best friend, so I need to make sure she’s in good hands and being treated right.”

“Lafontaine. We’ve been together for four months now. I need you to zip it!” Laura huffed.

“Alright, Frosh. I just like to give the continued warning of, if you hurt her, I hurt you.”

“You couldn’t take me.”

“It’s true, Laf. Carm is really strong.”

“I could so take you.”

“Could you even kill a bug if it was in front of your face?” Carmilla asked.

“Why would I kill a bug? They haven’t done anything to me. We need them to keep the environment going, you know.”

“So what do you do when there is a bug in your apartment?”

“Oh Carmilla. It is a long and boring process,” Perry stated.

“No it’s not. First I figure out what kind of bug it is to make sure I put it back in it’s right habitat.”

“It’s New York City. It’s habitat is the toilet,” Carmilla said.

“No. I put them where they should go. Then I grab a jar, along with a piece of paper to slide it into the jar. Sometimes I keep them in the jar over night, just to see the different kinds of things they eat or when Perry yells at me that enough is enough, I set them outside for them to be free.”

“So just to be clear, no killing bugs?”

“Again, why would I kill them? Bugs are great!”

“You were one of those kids who had an ant farm, weren’t you?” Carmilla asked.

“I had the biggest and best ant farm. I also had a pet frog, who I would do fly studies with and a bird to do worm studies with.”

“How very Harry Potter of you,” Carmilla stated. She lifted her leg over Laura’s to get more comfortable as Lafontaine rambled more on their bug studies. Something no one really wanted to listen to, but at least Carmilla had managed to distract them long enough to stop asking questions about her and Laura. She could see why Laura was hesitant to get dinner with them, but Carmilla looked to Laura. The look in her eyes was something new. She was happier and content, with a fleck of gold that seemed to light up anytime they looked at one another. Laura placed her hand on Carmilla’s leg that now rested on top of hers. Shortly after, their waitress came with their dessert and four glasses of champagne on the house. They said their thanks and clinked their glasses together.

“Well, she might not have a chance with you, but at least we got free champagne out of it,” Lafontaine said.

“Yeah, well, I’m not complaining. Laura?”

“I never complain when it comes to free alcohol. I wish we would have played that card a little better. Had I known that her flirting with you was going to get us free stuff, I would have let you do it a little more.”

“Why?”

“Uh, free meal, Carm? Duh.”

“Well, be happy with the champagne. The thought of flirting with someone other than you makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Once dessert had been consumed and their bill was paid, they stood from the table to make their exit.

“Miss,” the host said as they passed him. Laura and Carmilla stopped to look back at the host stand. He pointed towards Carmilla who walked forward, Laura stepping up right behind her. Their hands were linked together.

“This is from your waitress,” he said, handing her a piece of paper.

She opened to see a phone number with hearts written around it. Carmilla folded it back up and ripped it in half. “Tell her, thanks for the champagne, but I’m not anywhere near being interested. Have a good night.”

She turned and wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulder. The doors were already open and they stepped through the exit with ease.

“Well this was really fun, but Lafontaine and I have some errands to run before heading home,” Perry stated.

She stepped forward to give both Carmilla and Laura separate hugs. “We had a great time, Perry,” Laura offered, taking Carmilla’s hands back into hers.

Lafontaine and Carmilla shook hands, whereas Laura gave Lafontaine a huge hug.

“We’ll see you next week guys,” Carmilla said.

“Yep and Laura we’ll see you Sunday for brunch with your parents,” Lafontaine said.

Perry hit Lafontaine in the back of the head. “Hey. What was that for?”

“Brunch with your parents? I thought you had to clean your apartment and hang out with Betty?” Carmilla asked.

“I mean yeah there’s that and my parents are coming into town.”

“Well this is none of our business so we’ll be on our way. See you two later,” Perry said, dragging a struggling Lafontaine behind them.

“So your parents are coming and you just, what, forgot to tell me?”

“No, it’s not that Carmilla. It’s more complicated than that.”

“How is complicated to say my parents are coming this weekend so I can’t hang out?”

“It’s just my parents are difficult and-”

“No, I get it Laura. Had you have just said, I’m not ready for you to meet them, that would have been one thing, but it’s pretty clear you just don’t want them to meet me. I mean why else would you lie about it?”

With that, Carmilla walked in the direction towards the train.

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