One Month Later
“Cos?” John called from downstairs. Cosima paused her music, and shouted back,
“Come down here. We need to talk.” Cosima hated that phrase. It didn't matter who said it, or how they said it, or what context it was in, it always made her stomach squirm and her chest tighten with nervousness. She left her laptop and padded softly down the stairs, poking her head around the corner into the living room, where John was sat on the sofa. He pointed to the armchair on the other side of the table. “Sit.” Warily, Cosima stepped into the room and curled up in the chair, wrapping her arms around her knees.
“What's up?” she asked. John sighed, and leaned forward, pressing his fingertips together.
“We need to talk,” he repeated. Oh shit, Cosima thought, trying to look innocent. He found my weed. Oh shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
“Do you remember those women in France?” Cosima let out the breath she was holding in a woosh of air, muffled against the fabric of her jeans.Thank god.
“Yeah,” she replied. “What about them?”
“Well, Marie and I have been keeping in touch since we left... and we've arranged for them to come and stay with us for a while.” Them, he said. Them. That meant Delphine, too. Her heart fluttered with excitement.
“How long is a while?” she asked.
“A few weeks,” John replied. “Maybe a bit longer, depending.”
“Depending on what?” Her father cleared his throat, glancing away. “What aren't you telling me?”
“Nothing. It depends on how long Delphine can be away from school for.”
“Right,” Cosima said. “When are they coming?”
“A week from Monday.”
“What happened to you like, giving me prior warning?” Cosima asked. “First the trip, and then the dinner thing, and now this.”
“I thought you liked surprises,” John said. “I've already talked to school, so you won't have to go while they're here. You can keep Delphine company.”
“While you two go off and like, pretend to not like each other?”
“No, because it'll be better for both of you to hang out with someone your own age.”
“Can you not spring stuff like this on me any more?” Cosima said. “I'm going to have a heart attack.” John laughed and got to his feet.
“Very funny, Cosima.” He patted her shoulder on his way past to the kitchen. “I'll call you when dinner is ready.”
“Where is she going to stay?” Cosima shouted after him.
“Your room,” John replied. “Marie will stay in the guest room. Delphine doesn't want to share.” Shit.
Cosima passed the week in a state of constant anticipation. It left Scott doing even more of their lab work in biology, not that he seemed to care, and even if he did, he'd never been able to say “no” to Cosima, and it was his grade on the line as well. She'd kept the photos she'd taken of Delphine from him, though, not wanting to watch him drool over her like he did a few of their classmates. Her dad had only caught sight of them once, and the speed with which Cosima had hidden them from his gaze had been embarrassing.
The Saturday before they were due to arrive, John went on a cleaning spree so intense that Cosima avoided as much contact with him as she possibly could, lest she get roped into cleaning up her room for the third time in as many days. She'd been doing her best to keep her room from degrading back into its near permanent state of disarray, and aside from the occasional skirt that got thrown onto the floor when she was dressing for school in the morning, she thought she'd been doing a pretty good job. It was hardly going to stay clean anyway with two teenage girls inhabiting it. She was left with the responsibility of blowing up the air mattress for Delphine to sleep on. Cosima stared at it after kicking it into a spot where she wouldn't be tripping over it with every other step, brushing her hair away from her forehead, and wondered how the hell her father expected her to be able to sleep with a girl that attractive sharing the same space.
Cosima's nervousness matched her father's while they waited in the international arrivals lobby for the two women to finish customs. He saw them first, his greater high giving him the advantage of being able to look over the heads of most of the people crowded by the door. Cosima trailed behind in his wake, following closely to the path he cleared, and held back while he greeted Marie with a kiss and a swift hug. They moved out of the way to give the people steadily pouring from the doors room to walk. Cosima leaned to the side, trying to find Delphine.
The blonde looked tired, standing behind her mother with a carry bag slung over her shoulder. She smiled in greeting when she saw Cosima, a small turn of her lips, and raised a hand in hello. Cosima waved back awkwardly, well aware of the fact that she was grinning like a fool. Delphine pushed past her mother when she was given the chance, touching her lips to both Cosima's cheeks.
“Hello,” she said when she pulled away.
“Hello. Hi,” Cosima replied, her skin tingling.
“Ladies,” John said, “let's go find your luggage.”
Having Delphine sleeping in her room was just as distracting as Cosima had imagined it would be. She wasn't loud, or purposefully intrusive, but she was intruding. Cosima's room was her space, tailored to her interests and from what she could tell, Delphine's interests lay more in the direction of boys and pop culture, save for that chance meeting in the museum that neither of them spoke about. On top of it all, John kept acting oddly. Cosima knew her father, and knew something was up, but whenever she tried to breach the subject, he would avoid it, or tell her to go find Delphine and ask her what she wanted for dinner, or tell her to get ready so they could go out.
The end of the week was the worst. She could barely get one word into her father he was so on edge, and Delphine had spent most of the day trying to catch up with her friends, leaving Cosima alone to sulk about the house trying to find a place to sit and read that wasn't full of anxious fathers and teenagers chatting noisily in French while she waited until it was time to get dressed for the night out. That, at least, was something she wouldn't have to do around Delphine. The blonde woke before she did, showering and dressing before Cosima had so much as rolled out of bed.
Something in the atmosphere changed on the drive into the city. Cosima had never been to the restaurant John had chosen for them to eat at, but she knew its reputation, and it sent her mind whirring with curiosity. He had something up his sleeve, and Cosima wanted to know what it was. She knew better than to ask, but made a mental note to remember to scold him for keeping things from her again.
“Dad,” she said when they were talking into the building, tugging on the sleeve of his coat. “Why are we eating here? Isn't this place super expensive? The kind of expensive that's reserved for special occasions? Like, really special occasions?” John grinned and hugged her to his side, rubbing her shoulder.
“You'll see,” he replied. Cosima frowned.
“That is not an answer,” she said. “You're deflecting. Stop doing that and tell me why we're here.”
“You'll see,” John repeated, releasing her from the embrace.
Will you marry me were four words that Cosima had never expected to hear out of her father's mouth. Ever. Yet there he was, on one knee, holding up a rather impressive ring and gazing at Marie with the most hopeful look on his face. Marie had her hands over her mouth, with her eyes shimmering with tears, nodding wordlessly. What? Cosima thought, staring at the two of them. What. Mouth agape, she tore her gaze away and found Delphine, staring at their parents with her eyes wide and her jaw tight. She looked horrified. Cosima dropped her fork to her plate, the dessert she'd ordered suddenly unappetizing. Delphine felt her stare and met it for a brief second before mumbling something that sounded vaguely like needing the restroom, standing and swiftly navigating her way through the tables and waiters and out of sight around the corner.
“Cosima?” John asked. “Are you okay?” Cosima dragged her eyes away from Delphine's empty seat and forced a smile on her face.
“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, this is great, Dad. Congrats.” She wished they were back in France, where having an entire bottle of wine to herself was something perfectly normal and not at all illegal.
“Where is Delphine?” Marie asked, dabbing at her eyes with the corner of her napkin.
“Bathroom,” Cosima mumbled, turning her gaze down to her plate and poking at the ice cream slowly melting on it with her spoon. When Delphine returned several minutes later, her mouth was still pulled taut with tension, and Cosima could see her teeth grinding in the flexing of her jaw beneath her skin, but she put on a smile and kissed her mother on the cheek. Cosima avoided looking at her the rest of the night, nausea swirling threateningly in her stomach.
Delphine was calling her friends on Skype before Cosima had even gotten in the door. She pulled her heels off her feet with a tired sigh. It was several minutes before Delphine's ranting settled, and she realized that she wasn't alone in the room. The glance that she sent Cosima was brief and not quite apologetic. At least she'd had the decency to put headphones in, sparing Cosima from listening to her friend talk back at her through Skype's crackly connection. Cosima stretched out on her bed, knocking her glasses onto her forehead with a sigh and draping her arms over her eyes. Delphine didn't speak to her for several minutes.
“Do you think they planned this?” she asked. Cosima shrugged.
“Dad's been acting weird for a while now.”
“They had to have. There's tons of visa shit to go through. Dad doesn't do things like this without being prepared.” She received a hum in response. A moment later she heard the rustle of clothing and a soft huff of breath, followed by her door opening and closing, leaving her alone to painfully puzzle over how the hell she was supposed to deal with everything building up in her chest.
Everything changed all at once. Cosima found herself being dragged around looking for a house that could comfortably fit the four of them, and all of their belongings. She'd been right in her assumption that it her father had planned everything. Cosima and Delphine had been sat down in the kitchen the day after the proposal, where John and Marie explained that they had already started submitting the required forms for Delphine and Marie to make the move over to the Sates to live with them. To say Delphine was livid was an understatement. Cosima was more annoyed than she was angry, but she understood. It wasn't her life being completely torn up by its roots, and Delphine was as powerless to stop it as Cosima was. She didn't know what conversations took place between Delphine and her mother, but her own interactions with John were awkward and tense.
He pulled her aside one night before she could escape upstairs. Cosima rolled her eyes, scowling, sure that she was going to be asked again for her opinion on which of the two houses the adults were deciding between Cosima liked more, even though she'd already given an answer several times, and she was sure they'd already picked one. John sat her down on the sofa and sunk down next to her, draping an arm over her shoulders to pull her against his side.
“I'm sorry,” he said. “I should have spoken to you about it first.”
“You think?” Cosima said flatly, staring straight ahead.
“I know she's not a replacement for your mother, and I'm not asking you to think of her as one, but...” John sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Cosima bit her lip, and squeezed her eyes shut for a brief second.
“You're happy, right?” she asked. Her father nodded. “That's all that matters then.” She hit his thigh and wiggled out of his embrace, getting to her feet. “Next time tell me, okay? 'Cos throwing this kind of stuff at me is totally unfair.”
“I will,” John said, smiling at her. “Now, tell me which house you like more.” Cosima groaned and shook her head, hurrying back upstairs with her father's laugher following her.
Sharing a room with Delphine was made all the harder by the now imminent wedding. Cosima was familiar with blurred lines, but she was pretty sure that it was in no way acceptable to find her soon to be step-sister so terribly attractive. It was easier when they finally left, leaving Cosima and her father alone in a house full of boxes. The move consumed most of her time, and what it didn't fill school did. She buried herself in her work. She caught the occasional snippet of phone or Skype conversations, saw all the paperwork spread across the table, and tired to deal with the sense of dread that sat heavily in the pit of her stomach. She couldn't understand anything her father and Marie were saying, but occasionally she caught Delphine's name crackling through the speakers, and very rarely heard the blonde's voice distantly echo in response to something Marie had asked.
Boxes began to show up on their doorstep, only to be shoved away with the rest in the large piles that littered the living room. Most of Cosima's things were packed already, the sea of brown flooding her normally colourful room a constant reminder of everything that was going on, despite Cosima's attempts to bury her head in the sand. The only glimpse of Delphine she saw was when she was wrestled into joining a call between John and Marie so Marie could make her final decision concerning dressed. Delphine was sulky, busy texting on her phone while her mother poked at her dress, letting her go a few minutes later and thanking Cosima for her time.
The move came before Cosima was even remotely ready for it. Most of the boxes from France had arrived, with a few pieces of furniture, with Marie and Delphine on their way over a day later with the rest of their things. Cosima was exhausted by the time the day was over, collapsing back at the old house on her bed in a room devoid of almost everything else. She slept fitfully, unable to help the anticipation she felt at seeing Delphine again in the morning, and her father's snores echoed loudly from down the hall without all of their furniture to block the sound waves before they reached her door.
“How come she gets the bigger room?” Cosima whined, scowling at her father. John rolled his eyes without so much as looking up from the box he was searching through before carrying it down the hall.
“They're the same size, Cosima, you just have more stuff than Delphine does. Stop complaining and go get the last box from by the door, I think it's yours.” Cosima hardly had time to breathe between the unpacking and arranging of furniture, dress rehearsals and dinner rehearsals and parties and celebrations. Delphine seemed to be handling it better than she was, but she didn't have to deal with trying not to stare whenever they were in the same room, and she didn't have school work on top of everything else. She was polite when Cosima spoke to her, but hardly said anything. With nothing besides the move to occupy her time, she would sit and sulk when she thought no one was looking, and spent a lot of her time in her room, saying she still had boxes to unpack. Cosima didn't bother trying to get more from her, as busy as she was with everything else. Occasionally, though, Cosima thought she could hear her crying through the wall their rooms shared.