Delphine blanked Mark in the hallway. It wasn't easy trying to avoid his hulking form whenever she saw it moving towards her between class, but it was easier than trying to explain the reason she had stood him up when lies felt like acid on her tongue. Her body still burned with the ghost of Cosima's touch, like there were invisible hand prints left on her arms, and stomach, and thighs. No matter how hard she scrubbed her skin they remained, a taunting of reminder of what she had started.
“Delphine! Hey, Delphine, wait up!” Delphine sighed, passing a hand over her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose. She kept walking, pushing through the group of girls in front of her and ignoring their rude exclamations, but Mark was taller than her, and he easily caught up, grabbing her elbow and whipping her around. Delphine tugged her arm away.
“What happened the other night?” Mark asked. “I didn't pin you as a no show.”
“Something came up,” Delphine said.
“And you didn't think to text me or anything? I looked like a dumbass waiting outside for you.”
“No, I'm sorry.”
“Well, are you going to go out with me again? You kind of owe me.” Delphine frowned.
“Owe you?” she asked. “How do I owe you?”
“Well, it was kind of a dick thing to do,” Mark explained.
“I don't want to go out with you,” Delphine said, the words dropping from her mouth before she could think them through.
“What?” Mark asked. “Why not? We make a good couple.”
“No.” Mark scoffed.
“Skank.” Delphine's brow furrowed in confusion. She opened her mouth to asked what he meant, but another voice cut through the loud hum of voices.
“What did you just call her?”
“Back off, shortie, this isn't any of your business,” Mark said.
“Like hell it isn't,” Cosima replied, placing herself between him and Delphine. Mark rolled his eyes, and tried to push her to the side, but Cosima slapped his hand away. “Don't ever call her that again,” she continued.
“Or what?” Mark asked with a scoff. Delphine couldn't follow what happened, but the next thing she knew was the two of them were tangled on the ground, grappling while the students in the vicinity gathered in a circle around them, chanting.
“Cosima, no!” Delphine shouted, taking a step forward. Cosima's shoulder wrenched out of her grasp as they rolled away, yells of pain mixing with the urging of their peers. “Cosima! Mark! Stop it!” It wasn't long until the closest teachers caught onto the commotion, breaking through the ring and forcibly pulling the two apart. Cosima held her hand over her nose, her glasses crooked, and what Delphine could see of her face a mask of anger.
“Office!” a teacher roared, while someone else yelled at everyone to clear off and go to class. Delphine made to follow Cosima and Mark and their escorts, but the same teacher blocked her path and pointed the other direction. Reluctantly, Delphine went to class. The room was buzzing with speculation. Rumours had already started. People kept giving Delphine funny looks, as if they wanted to ask her what had happened, but thankfully no one did. Perhaps it was her glare that kept them away. Her phone buzzed in her pocket. Delphine almost dropped it trying to retrieve it.
Suspended. See you at home I guess
Cosima was sitting on the couch with her head tipped back when Delphine arrived. She dropped her bag by the door and hurried over. Cosima glanced to the side when she approached, adjusting the makeshift ice pack she had pressed against her cheek and nose.
“Hey,” she greeted, smiling. Delphine sat heavily next to her with a sigh, and ran a hand through her hair.
“Let me see,” she said after a long moment. Cosima slowly pulled the bag from her face.
“It's not bad,” she said. Her eyes drifted shut when Delphine's fingers glanced across the bruise mottling her skin, and the dried blood still crusted around her nose. Cosima lightly knocked her hand away, pressing the ice back to her skin. Delphine sunk her teeth into her lip, holding back another sigh.
“Give me that,” Delphine said softly. Reluctantly, Cosima handed it over, and tossed her glasses onto the coffee table with a soft clack. Delphine emptied the bag into the sink, filled it with fresh ice, and wrapped it in a clean towel. Cosima gratefully accepted it, pushing it against her face with a relieved sigh.
“You know, all he got was a slap on the wrist. Stupid footballer.”
“You started the fight, Cosima,” Delphine pointed out.
“Yeah, so? He called you a skank.” She still didn't know what exactly the word meant, but she didn't need to to understand it wasn't kind.
“Why did you do that? It's just a word.”
“Guess,” Cosima mumbled.
“You shouldn't have. It was a stupid idea. He could have hurt you.” Did hurt you.
“Well, now he's going to get teased because he was beat up by a girl, so I consider it a win/win situation, really.” She shifted, swinging her feet up onto the table. “We need to talk,” she said, “about what happened.”
“Nothing ha-” Delphine began.
“Don't start that again,” Cosima said. “Look, you owe me, okay? You started all this.”
“What do you want, Cosima?” Delphine asked, slouching into the cushions.
“Answers.” She motioned to the empty space between them with her free hand. “I need to know what this is.”
“I don't know what this is, Cosima. It's...” She ran her hands over her face, pushed them through her hair, and dug her fingernails into her scalp, staring up at the ceiling. “It's some... thing that I just... need to get over. That I will get over. I just have to...”
“Like a cold?” Cosima asked monotonously.
“Yes,” Delphine replied, realizing too late what she was implying. “Like a... cold. Then things can go back to normal.” Cosima laughed. Delphine frowned at her. “What is so funny?”
“You're joking, right? Things were never normal between us, Delphine, and they're not ever going to be. Go ahead and pretend as much as you want, it won't ever change what happened. Which, by the way, is your fault.”
“My fault?” Delphine asked. Her scowl deepened.
“Yes, your fault,” Cosima replied. “Whatever this is, you might be able to get over it like it was nothing, but I can't. If you'll excuse me, I need to go think up some excuse so I don't get grounded until I turn eighteen.” Delphine opened her mouth in a wordless reply, reaching out toward the sleeve of Cosima's sweater. Cosima dodged around her fingers, leaving her on the sofa mulling over all the wrong things she had said.
The fact that Delphine couldn't hear raised voices coming from Cosima's room, even sheltered away in her own, was a good sign. Muffled talking filtered through her wall, but nothing that she could make out, even when she cocked her ear to carefully listen. Delphine tossed the towel she had been using to pat excess moisture from her hair aside, and laid back on her bed when she heard the door to Cosima's room shut behind her father, and the stairs creak softly under his weight. She should have thought more carefully about what she had said. Cosima had fought someone larger and stronger than she was in her defence, without needing to be asked, and in foolishness and fear, Delphine had hurt her. She owed her an apology, even if she didn't know what to make of all the thoughts and feelings floating around in her head.
Her parents were in bed before she worked up the courage to remove herself from her own, and knock softly on Cosima's door. There was a soft bang, and a short series of coughs.
“Yeah?” she heard Cosima call a second later.
“It's me,” Delphine said through the door.
“Oh,” Cosima replied, sounding calmer. “You can come in.” Delphine cracked the door open and peeked inside. Cosima stretched out on her bed, placing her joint back in her mouth. She waved Delphine in the rest of the way, then turned her head to the side to blow smoke towards her open window. Delphine shut the door behind her and leant against it, balancing on her fingertips.
“May I join you?” she asked, biting her lip. Cosima's look of surprise only lasted an instant.
“Yeah,” she said, scooting over to make room for Delphine to lay next to her. She held up her joint in offering. Delphine carefully took it from her fingers, looking at it cautiously before putting it to her lips. Cosima's smile bled onto her face when she handed it back. A few drags later and her head was fuzzy. Delphine rolled onto her side, examining the side of Cosima's face, and raised her hand again to touched the bruises. Cosima moved to mirror her, watching her watching. Delphine felt her face redden under the intensity of her stare.
“Does it still hurt?” Delphine asked. Cosima shrugged.
“Weed,” she replied. “Miracle drug.” She absently twirled one of Delphine's curls around her finger. “You hair is like, really fluffy,” she said. “Like, poof! You know?” She snorted lightly, and dissolved into giggles.
“Cosima, be quiet,” Delphine said, barely managing to contain her own laughter. “You'll wake our parents up.” Cosima turned her face into her pillow, muffling her laughter in the fabric. They slowly dispersed, until Cosima fluffed Delphine's hair and they started louder than before. “Cosima,” Delphine scolded lightly. Her laughter increased. Delphine gripped her jaw, and pulled Cosima's lips to her own. Cosima's giggles subsided immediately. Her kiss was hesitant. Delphine marvelled at the texture and shape of her lips, and the feel of her skin beneath her fingers. She shifted closer, leaving the barest amount of space remaining between their bodies. Cosima's hand slid into her hair, gently pulling at her curls, and scraping across the back of her skull. Delphine shivered.
“Surprisingly effective at shutting me up,” Cosima muttered against her lips. Her hand found the side of Delphine's hip, and squeezed gently.
“I am sorry,” Delphine said. “For earlier. I should have worded it differently. I didn't mean to compare you to a disease. You are not.” A smile twitched Cosima's lips, pulling the corners up. She scrunched Delphine's hair between her fingers and pulled her forward again. Delphine met her kiss eagerly. It felt too good to deny herself its pleasure.
She dreamt she was falling, with the ground rushing up to meet her. Delphine woke with a start before she could hit the ground, sucking in a panicked breath with her heart jolted into her throat. For a moment, she struggled against the warmth that enveloped her, feeling almost suffocated in the aftermath of her nightmare, but when she settled, its comfort seeped into her bones, and she relaxed. But the bed was unfamiliar, and the sheets not her own. Confused, Delphine opened her eyes, and stared into the early morning dim of Cosima's room. If she was in Cosima's room, then that meant that the warmth pressing into her back was Cosima's, and the arms encircling her waist... Delphine carefully rolled over, her hand sliding along Cosima's arm. She splayed her fingers across the side of the brunette's elbow, and softly stroked the inside with her thumb.
“Oh,” she whispered. “Dieu. Qu'est ce que je fous? À quoi je pense?” Cosima mumbled beside her. Her arms tightened around Delphine's waist, pulling her closer against her front.
“Good morning,” she muttered, pressing her face into Delphine's shoulder.
“I need to go,” Delphine said. Cosima shook her head.
“Mmmmno. Stay. Cuddles. Comfy.” Delphine carefully inhaled.
“How would we explain that to our parents?” she whispered. “This is not normal behaviour.”
“We're dressed,” Cosima replied.
“That is your defence?” Delphine said. “We're fully clothed, so it doesn't matter? That's illogical, and you know it.”
“No, it makes perfect sense,” Cosima replied.
“Us being fully clothed does not excuse this, and if I stay here, I have a feeling I won't be fully clothed for much longer, and then what would we do?” Cosima squeezed her side, her hand slipping beneath the hem of her top to stroke along the jut of her hip.
“No?” she asked. Delphine squeezed her eyes shut, and held her breath.
“Cosima,” she whispered warningly. Cosima's fingers stilled, but her hand remained.
“Did you and Claude ever...?” she asked after a moment.
“No,” Delphine replied, feeling her throat tighten.
“Have you, with anyone?” Delphine bit her lip.
“No.” Cosima's exhale was sudden and harsh, her breath hot even through the fabric of Delphine's shirt.
“Okay,” she whispered. Her arms slid from around Delphine's waist, leaving her free to move. Embarrassed, and guilty, Delphine left the room.