Delphine all but threw herself into her studies. It wasn't difficult to do, and it provided a welcome distraction whenever Cosima looked at her phone and smiled. They could be friends now, she thought, rubbing absently at the faint ache in her chest while Cosima's laugh trailed off and she shook her head, setting her phone down.
“Sorry,” Cosima said, and leaned back over their combined notes. “Where were we?”
“Here,” Delphine replied, indicating the place they'd stopped on the paper in front of her. Cosima tapped her pen against the table, and propped her chin up with her palm, staring.
“Thanks, for this,” she said, glancing at Delphine out of the corner of her eye. “I know you didn't have to. I've been shitty.” Delphine shook her head, and smiled.
“I don't mind,” she replied. “It wouldn't be fair of me to let you fail all your tests.” Cosima laughed.
“Shame you can't help me with the others,” she replied. Her pen flicked out of her grasp. Cosima sighed, watching as it rolled across the table, and reached out at the same time Delphine did. Their fingers brushed. Delphine jerked her hand away, face burning.
“I'm sorry,” she said automatically. Cosima waved her off, but her face was pink as well. She reached for her pen.
“No, it's cool. No apology necessary.” She cleared her throat. “So, uh, I'm gonna take Tesla out for a walk today. Later. Thought we'd go to the park Do you, uh, do you wanna come along?”
“Yes,” Delphine replied. “Of course.”
They took his leash, but Tesla didn't need it. He trotted obediently between them, occasionally pausing to sniff something, but never wandering off. Delphine had a ball stashed away in her bag for Tesla to chase, and Cosima had all the food in a cooler slung over her shoulder. They let Tesla run when they reached the park while they found a place to set up, by a bench under a tree. Delphine fished the ball out of her bag and tossed it lightly in her palm.
“Tesla!” she called. Tesla stopped short, swerved around until he could see them, and bounded over, panting happily. Delphine held the ball in front of him. “Ready? Go fetch!” She lobbed it into the open space ahead of them, grinning as Tesla rushed out of it. He caught it before it hit the ground, and rushed back over to them, dropping it by Delphine's feet. She bent to pick it up, then handed it to Cosima. Her step-sister grinned. Tesla wiggled in front of her, and barked happily.
“Go!” Cosima urged, throwing the ball. When Tesla came back, he paused with the ball in his mouth, and looked between the two of them. “Bring it here, Tes,” Cosima said.
“Non, ici, Tesla,” Delphine countered. Tesla hesitated, then trotted to Cosima. Cosima smiled smugly.
“He loves me more,” she teased, tossing the ball. Delphine rolled her eyes and scoffed. Cosima held her hand out for the ball when Tesla returned, only to have him turn to Delphine instead. She doubled over laughing, and ruffled the fur on Tesla's head.
“Loves you more, hm?” Cosima rolled her eyes.
“Throw the damn ball.” He alternated between the two of them, his tail wagging so hard that his butt wiggled with it.
It felt too easy. Delphine lounged on the bench with her feet resting on Tesla's side, the puppy worn out from his excursions. Cosima was on her phone, tapping away at the screen with her thumbs. Delphine rolled her head to the side to watch with a light frown.
“Who are you talking to?” she asked. Cosima glanced up.
“No one, just a friend. One of the ones from college.” Delphine hummed. Tesla sighed heavily. “Time to go home?” Delphine nodded. It felt too easy, and it felt like nothing had changed. It felt like things were falling back to how they'd been before... She could feel the elephant that filled the space between them whenever they were in the same room, and the underlying tension in each movement and look and spoken word. It would go away, Delphine told herself. The past few months had been stressful for both of them. Of course there would be tension left after all of the fighting and avoiding. Each time Delphine caught a glint of light off the ring in Cosima's nose, she was reminded of the mark on her neck that had accompanied it, and her stomach twisted. It would pass too, she thought. They could be friends. Sisters.
She relaxed after their final exams were over, confident that she'd done well enough to pass and keep her grades good, but she could tell by the tightness around Cosima's eyes that her step-sister hadn't.
“There's no use worrying over it, Cosima. You're still going to graduate, and we won't know until they send out report cards. Is that correct?”
“Yeah, no, I know, but-” Cosima threw her hands up and sunk onto the sofa. “I just want to know. I'll feel better about having slacked off so much if my efforts paid off.”
“I'm sure you did fine,” Delphine replied.
“You think so?” Delphine smiled, and sat next to her. As always, she made sure to keep some distance between their bodies. Enough to be respectful, but not obvious. She reached for the remote.
Their parents threw them a graduation party, of sorts. It was more just a mash up of them and Scott and his parents, gathered at their house for a barbecue. Delphine and Scott played with Tesla while Cosima watched her father and the grill like a hawk to make sure none of the food burned, especially since John kept getting distracted by their guests. Delphine watched as she gave up, rolling her eyes with a loud huff and swiping the tongs out of John's hands.
“I swear to god,” she mumbled, flipping the burgers.
“Scott,” Delphine said, handing him the ball she'd been tossing for Tesla to catch. “Throw this at Cosima. It'll be funny.”
“I don't know, Delphine...” She nudged his shoulder and smiled.
“Please?” He blushed.
“Okay, okay.” Delphine handed him the ball. He lobbed it lightly. Tesla chased after it, bumping into Cosima's legs on his way past.
“Jesus Christ!” Cosima shouted, stumbling backward. “Tesla, watch it!” Delphine's laughs drew her attention, but Scott's red face gave him away. “Dammit, Scott!”
“Delphine made me do it!” he shouted. Delphine fell back into the grass, the indignant look on Cosima's face too funny to ignore. Tesla barked happily, and bolted after Cosima when she ran for Delphine, skidding along the ground on her knees until her hands found Delphine's sides. Scott yelped and shuffled out of the way. Delphine shoved Cosima away, her lungs aching from lack of air.
“Bitch,” Cosima said affectionately with a final shove at her side. Tesla licked her face until she pushed him off, then followed Cosima back to the grill to sit by her feet and wait for scraps.
“It's nice to see you two getting along again,” Scott said. Delphine stretched out on her back and squinted up into the bright sky.
“Yes,” she said quietly. “It is.”
“Delphine!” John called. Delphine propped herself up. “Go help Cosima with the burgers, then come inside. Your mother and I have something we want to tell the two of you.” Delphine clambered to her feet and fetched a plate for Cosima to pile the burgers on, setting it on the table and out of Tesla's reach.
“What do you think they want?” Delphine asked on their way inside. Cosima shrugged.
“Let's hope they're not expecting another kid, because I have had enough big surprises over the past year. I don't know if my heart can take any more.” Delphine chuckled.
“I don't think I could deal with that either. I like being an only child.” Cosima snorted and opened the door for her.
“Technically, neither of us are only children,” she pointed out, and slid the door shut on the noise from outside. Their parents were waiting for them in the kitchen. Cosima went straight in and sat at the island, but Delphine lingered in the door until Marie beckoned her in. She sat next to Cosima, and directed a questioning look at their parents.
“We know this has been a hard year for both of you,” John started, “and Marie and I wanted to do something special to show how proud we both are of you for doing so well.” He shrugged. “Mostly. And for making it through high school, to. Not an easy thing to do, I know.” He lifted an envelope, and laid it on the island. “So, we booked you two a trip to Paris for three weeks.”
“We found a lovely hotel,” Marie chimed in. “You have been there before, Delphine, but you were very little. It was before your father left.” Cosima leaned forward and pressed her head to the counter.
“What did I say about surprising me, Dad?” she asked. The adults chuckled.
“When do we leave?” Delphine asked, excitement filling her chest.
“After your grad ceremony,” John replied, and flicked the envelope across the counter. It hit the top of Cosima's head. She jerked it up and glared. It wasn't until Delphine realised that it would only be her and Cosima sharing a hotel room in Paris that apprehension won out over eagerness to return home.
“Delphine, are you okay?”
“Yes,” Delphine replied, but the tension in her voice and the straining of her knuckles against her skin where she gripped the arms of her seat spoke differently.
“Relax,” Cosima said, and briefly touched her hand. It didn't help. “You'll be fine when we're in the air and they let us turn our stuff back on. You can sleep?”
“I will not sleep,” Delphine replied. “I couldn't on the trip over, and I won't now.”
“You don't know that for sure,” Cosima said.
“Yes, I do.” Cosima sighed.
“Suit yourself,” she said, and handed over her tablet. “I loaded tons of books on the other day. Have fun. I plan on sleeping the entire flight.”
“No!” Delphine said too loudly. Cosima frowned at her. “Please. If you...” She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I do not like flying.”
“Why didn't you say so to start?”
“Because it's silly.”
“Delphine, it's me,” Cosima said. Exactly, Delphine thought, biting her lip. “You don't have to be worried about telling me that kind of stuff.” She smiled, and Delphine's heart skipped a beat. Would it ever stop? “I'll stay awake as long as I can.” The engines rumbled to life. Delphine grasped Cosima's hand. She heard the sharp intake of breath next to her as her nails bit into Cosima's palm. The other girl squeezed her fingers.
“I'm sorry,” Delphine hissed.
“Don't, it's okay. Relax, though, we haven't even taken off yet.” Delphine nodded, and purposefully breathed in through her nose. “I'm not going anywhere.” Delphine squeezed her eyes shut when the plane began to move, taxiing slowly towards the runway. Cosima tweaked her fingers reassuringly.
“I'm fine,” Delphine said.
“I know,” Cosima replied. She didn't let go of Cosima's hand until they were well in the air, and the seatbelt light dinged off. “Delphine, it's a smooth ride. Statistically, flying is the safest way to travel.”
“I know,” Delphine said, ruffling her free hand through her hair and finally untangling her fingers from Cosima's.
She was close to falling asleep, feeling the heaviness of it weighing down on her chest and shoulders as her body relaxed, heart rate slowing and breathing evening out. The warmth of Cosima's hand, sitting next to hers on the arm rest, seeped into the side of her palm. Then the plane rumbled, and shook, and Delphine jolted with it, her heart suddenly in her throat. Automatically, she reached for Cosima, and buried her fingers in her shirt.
“Mmm, Delphine,” Cosima mumbled sleepily, slowly stirring in her grasp. “Delphine?” Delphine whimpered, and hid her face in the crook of Cosima's neck. “Hey, calm down. It's just a bit of turbulence, it's totally normal.”
“We're going to crash,” Delphine mumbled.
“No way, seriously. I told you, the chance of us dying in a plane crash is like, really small. You're more likely to get hit by a car.”
“That is not helping.” Cosima sighed, and pulled away from her. Delphine followed, but Cosima's hands on her shoulders pushed her away.
“Hey, look at me. Delphine, look at me.” Slowly, Delphine raised her head, and locked eyes with Cosima. “Everything's okay. I'm right here, and we're going to be fine. We're going to get to France, and drink too much and have a lot of fun. We're going to be fine. Say it.”
“We're going to be fine,” Delphine echoed in a low whisper.
“Good. Feel better?” Delphine nodded weakly, but didn't withdraw the vice-like grip she had on Cosima's hand. Her step-sister cleared her throat and glanced around.
“So, uh, when's dinner?” she asked.
“You slept through it.”
“What? Oh, god dammit.” Cosima scowled and looked down at her stomach. Her free hand moved to cover it. “Maybe I can still get some peanuts or something. Why didn't you wake me up?” Because you looked so beautiful sleeping, Delphine thought before she could help herself, and immediately blushed. She turned her head away.
“You were asleep,” she said instead. “It would have been rude to wake you.”
“Eh,” Cosima replied, and sharply exhaled. “Can you snag some snacks for me? I'm starving.”