They were already on first name basis and it was only a month after they met. Piper and Amelia would take strolls around Central Park and watch as the lush trees change from eloquent jades into rich shades of gold and red. Or the blonde would ask the girl's opinion on various scents of homemade soap and she would ask for the teacher's feedback on artwork in exchange. They'd dive into discussions about Ernest Hemingway or try to decode the iron gaze that the angry Russian lunch lady would shoot at Piper.
"I think she's apart of the mafia if you're asking my opinion." Amelia would say before taking a long sip of her coffee. (New England Roast, 2%, two sugars.) Piper would laugh in avid agreement before doing the same. (American Roast, skim milk, one sugar.)
Amelia had to fold her lips under to suppress a laugh when Piper couldn't find the right key to her apartment. She was there to help her unpack the rest of the cardboard boxes that still flooded the place from when she first moved in. After trying the fifth key, (how many keys could she possibly need?), they stepped inside and Amelia took in the scent of cardboard and fresh smelling soap that lingered in the air. The place was homey. One bedroom, hardwood floors, wide windows that let the late autumn sun filter in, and an open kitchen that didn't look so open with all the boxes that were still on top of the granite counter.
"You've been here a month and you haven't unpacked everything yet?" Amelia said as she set a large box full of linens down on the floor. Piper sighed as she heaved a different one off the counter and set it beside Amelia's.
"I know I know, I haven't had the time." They dragged the overflowing boxes out into the barren living area where a lonely tan couch sat in front of a faux fireplace. Their first order of business was to get the drab grey curtains the hell out of there and exchange them for Piper's white translucent ones.
Even changing the curtains made the place seem a little more Piper-y.
Amelia sat cross-legged on the floor as she handed picture frames and other miscellaneous homey accents up to a standing Piper, who arranged them to her liking. They had already emptied out and categorized the boxes of her old English books, ranging from Homer to Virginia Woolfe, to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And now she was dusting off the faraway memories she brought back from home. It seemed so far away to Piper. It was as if everything that was once familiar to her would eventually make a home in oblivion, even if they already existed in metal frames on top of her pathetic excuse for a fireplace.
"Is it weird that my only real friend in this city is a 17-year-old?"
"Only if you make it that way. And no offense, but even the start of our friendship or whatever was a little rocky. No wonder you haven't met anyone else. You gotta work on that." Piper shot Amelia a "hey" look from above. She shrugged her honest shoulders in response.
But the blonde already knew she was so bad at first impressions.
Amelia reached down and fished out another picture to hand up to Piper. She had already memorized the faces of her family, childhood pets, and all the other people that resided in the photographs, but this one she hadn't seen. She wiped the off neglect of the unpolished glass with her sleeve and studied it. Piper looked youthful. Not like she didn't already, but her face gave off an almost curious adolescent shine. One that didn't have the finessed undertones of grace and maturity. Her blonde locks waterfalled past her shoulders and stopped just below her chest. She had her sweatered arms wrapped around another woman about her height. Her hair was short, gelled to the side and clean cut. Her face was defined with almost perfect angles sculpting her cheeks. Though she had tattoos patterned up and down her arms, she had every inch of femininity about her and her lips were pressed against Piper's smiling cheek.
"Who's this?" Piper's expression faltered and her smile became frail.
"Oh, it's.. No one." She tried to pull the picture from the girls hands, but she tightened her grip around the iron structure.
"Don't give me that bullshit."
"Language." Amelia scoffed and gave her an "are you fucking kidding me I am your only friend" sort of look. Piper smiled for a moment, but Amelia felt her emotions drop when she took the photo in her hands.
"Stella. She was my girlfriend in college." Amelia's dark eyebrows raised out of reflex, but she gained enough control of her shock to lower them back down.
"She was from Australia. We met at a frat party. Junior year. She took me home, and the rest was history. We ran a business together. We thought we'd go live together and conquer the world. She was a dream. I thought it was love." Piper was running her thumb over the glass barrier between her and the memory. Piper blinked slowly as she mused over her lost love. Amelia was watching the blonde intently and she felt her own heart stop when Piper's thumb stopped moving.
"But then I found out she was stealing the money we had made for whatever she was doing outside of the relationship. I tried talking to her about it, but then she started getting angry and she turned into this monster I didn't know. She'd yell all the time and she'd never come home and whenever she did she was drunk off her ass." Piper laughed, but her diamond eyes betrayed her. "I was so scared. Of who she had become. Of who I swore I loved. The trust was gone. The love was gone. Everything was gone. All I knew was that she wasn't the person I made her out to be. So I left. And she went back to wherever. And I haven't seen her since."
Piper's voice didn't break the entire time during the story. It maintained its even level and her words didn't splinter. But her face did. Her face divulged everything her voice was trying so hard to hide. The corner of her lip would pull downward every so often and her eyebrows would curl into each other, wrinkling her forehead and painting her face a dismal shade of blue. Amelia reached up and took the woman's hand in her own, stroking her thumb over the side of the blonde's. Piper shifted her downcast gaze to the girl who kept her hand and she bit the inside of her lip.
"You know if you ever need anything, come to me right? I know you're like thirty something and that's a pretty big stretch, but I'm here." Amelia's thumb was still murmuring against Piper's hand and her dimples deepened slightly when she pressed her lips together.
"Thanks," Piper squeezed their hands but didn't let go after. She kept them linked together as she felt tears spring behind her eyes. She curved her lips into a tired smile to suppress them. Amelia let go first.
"I think I still have this picture because I'm still partially convinced that this shit relationship affected who I am in some way. Which is silly on my part." Piper forced a laugh. Which Amelia reciprocated.
" I don't think it's silly. Because it's true." The girl began collapsing the box, as if what she said wasn't prudent. As if she didn't realize how perfect her words were.
But Piper hung on to the phrases for a just moment longer.
"So are you still gay or," Piper felt her cheeks rush red. She broke her gaze and her eyes searched for a random spot on the wall to avoid the question. Amelia just laughed.
It only took the first catcall for Piper to feel uneasy. The second provoked a sinking sensation in her depths of her stomach and the third just made her downright upset. She was alone, walking down the near barren proximity of Grand Central Station. Her family had begged for her to come home. They begged and pleaded even though she had barely settled into her's. But she went anyway, taking a piece of Connecticut with her.
Grand Central in the dead of night seemed a lot more glamorous and picturesque on the silver screen. She imagined more lovers running into each other's arms, more twinkling lights, and definitely more golden clocks. But all there was before her was a middle-aged janitor who mumbled inaudibly to himself, a band of homeless people, and the crew men that whistled at her earlier.
She made it out into the brisk air that nipped her exposed neck and the tip of her nose. She shoved her hands deep into her fur-lined pockets and looked around with wide eyes. It was late. Her blonde hair and chic coat stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the gangs and other seedy-looking people about her. She began to walk again in doubtful steps, keeping her blonde head down and not daring to make eye contact with those who roamed the streets. She was gnawing on her bottom lip as she let her heavy feet take the lead. Several more people whistled and made vulgar commentary, which she did her very best to ignore. She focused on the moving sidewalk beneath her and the promise of a warm bed that beckoned to her a few blocks away.
She picked up her head and assessed her surroundings again. Her brow bent at the sight of the new setting. The familiar Jewish deli wasn't in the same place as it was before. The laundry mat wasn't on its corner.
"Wait, 42nd street to-"
She swallowed a dense lump that formed in her throat as the realization hit her.
She was lost. Of course she was lost in New York at 11:30 some at night, alone, and of course Piper Chapman knew that she was dead. She felt panic come over her like an opaque shroud and her palms grew sweaty within a matter of seconds. Her heartbeat was escalating at unhealthy rates and her breaths felt labored and fast all at once. The alleyways around her were pitch dark and she could barely see the lingering shadows that danced on the walls. She heard morphed voices echo all around her and she felt invisible pairs of eyes all over her body. She felt as if she was living her childhood nightmare of standing stark naked in front of her class. But somehow it was worse. She was fully clothed. The jeering voices of her third-grade peers were nowhere to be heard. She was alone. And Piper felt more stripped and afraid than her eight-year-old self could possibly fathom.
She thought of how the fuck she could've gotten in this mess. And after toiling with the question and reprimanding herself for being so foolish, she turned her panic towards a more important question.
"How the fuck am I gonna get out of this mess."
She rummaged through her purse (which she was surprised hadn't been stolen yet) for her phone. It was close to dead, but she fumbled with it for a while anyway. Eventually, she landed on a contact that had a chance of answering her.
The monotone line hummed in her ear and she tapped her heel against the cracked pavement. She filled her body with a breath that didn't do much calming as the tone repeated itself.
"Hello?" Piper let out a cold exhale as she thanked whatever angels were watching over her.
"Alex, I need you." Alex's sultry chuckle travelled through the line.
"Mmm late night hotel room? I like your taste." Piper felt a hot blush creep across her cheeks.
"No I- Well yeah- But-" Alex laughed again.
"I'm kidding with you, what do you need?"
"I got lost and I don't have any money on me and my phone's dying I have no clue where I am and it's late and I don't know where to go." Her voice was climbing as she rambled. More anxiety caught up in her throat and she felt her breaths quicken again.
"Okay, hey, hey, it's fine. I'm right here." Her voice was smooth over the phone. Piper let the calming words massage her. "You're alone?"
"Yeah. Everything's closed too." She swept her eyes over the area once more in case she missed any glimmers of hope. The place was just as sterile as it was before.
"Tell me the address. I'll be right there." Piper couldn't let her go out. It wasn't a good impression on anyone, let alone her fuckbuddy. She combed a hand through her blonde hair before she started to stop her.
"Alex, just tell me where to go and talk to me I can find my-"
"No, you're gonna get eaten alive out there. Just tell me." Only their breaths filled the empty suspense between them.
"I'll be right there, okay? I'm gonna get you out. It's gonna be okay. It's gonna be fine." Alex hung up and Piper stowed her now dead phone in her purse after telling her the address.
"It's going to be okay," she thought. "It's gonna be fine." She leaned her tense back against a wall as she tried to regulate her breathing.
She closed her eyes as she let her head fall back against the wall behind her. She invited serenity into her body, just enough to hold out until Alex came to save her ass. She listened to the faraway music of the streets and she filed her edge down.
"Hey, baby girl." Piper jolted awake as she met eyes with a man twice her size. He looked hungry as he licked his lips and took another step towards her. "What brings a pretty thing like yourself out here so late?" Her head began to reel and that thick cloud of panic began to surround her again.
"T-that's none of your business thank you," Piper stammered. The man laughed, sending a painful chill down her spine.
"Well, it is now," he snarled before snaking an arm around her waist. Piper tried to run and fight back with her entire life. But her feet became one with the cement and her arms were repelled against the air. She threatened to contact authorities, using the firmest tone her body could permit, but he proceeded to rove his calloused hands over the most sacred parts of her body and walk his fingers under the hem of her shirt.
"Babe! God, I was looking all over for you. You had me worried sick!"
Holy fucking god.
Alex was trotting in from around the corner and the hands over Piper's breasts retreated. Before the blonde could formulate a sentence or begin to think any rational thoughts, Alex's pillowy lips were plush against her own and she cupped a hand against Piper's pale cheek. She let herself melt into Alex as she let every flavor of safety envelop her. She felt all the juvenile butterflies flutter in her stomach and she felt her face bubble up in a blush. It seemed to last forever. She sure as hell wanted it to. But Alex pulled away and twisted a strand of blonde hair between her fingers, smiling in warmth and relief.
Piper felt Alex's voice fall cold as she pulled the blonde in closer, intertwining their fingers at the same time.
"Who the fuck are you?" She barked at the man.
"I wasn't starting nothin'." He threw his filthy hands up in defense. A growl was simmering low in the brunette's throat and Piper made herself small under her guard.
"You better not have been. Get the fuck out of here." Her voice was assertive and her glare was more than intense. Piper saw him flinch, even if it was just a from Alex's laser green eyes.
"Fuckin' dykes." Alex gritted her jaw as he turned away. Piper realized that she was holding onto the brunette's hand a little too tightly as she let go and that she missed the feeling of her jacket grasped in the other.
"Yeah. I'm okay. Thanks." The blonde was still shaking from the trauma.
"No problem. Glad you’re okay." Alex rubbed Piper's shoulder, who blinked slowly in return. Piper wasn’t exactly dapper. Her knees were still wobbly and her unfocused eyes still looked like a doe’s caught on headlights. Her stomach was still making whirlpools and tidal waves inside and her heart was still caught in the back of her throat. Alex knew though. She knew the feeling all too well.“I'll walk you home." She motioned Piper to follow her down the pavement, aimlessly braiding their fingers together again when they met.