It happened again. The dream with the one person of the one secret desire that just continued to make its appearance. It was so cliché.
The kiss would almost occur, but ultimately never come to pass. And why should it? It wasn't as if she was looked at her any different from a friend. Nor was this a normal occurrence for Carla. At least, it wasn't before. Twenty years in existence and not once had she thought of, let alone glanced at, someone the way she did Candice. Her focus had always been simple. School. Family. Work. That was exactly how it should be; ergo, there was no time to even remotely consider a relationship let alone her sexuality.
Yet, there stood Candice. Cocoa shaded skin. Height equivalent to Carla's five foot two. Black locks that fell past her shoulders, often presented as thin and straight despite the natural beauty of her unruly curls. Dark brown eyes resembling that of Carla's favorite chocolate. Beauty that matched her intelligence. A face that could go from focused to intimidating in the blink of an eye. Confidence that radiated from her the moment she walked through a door.
Candice turned away from the copier, causing Carla to snap out of her daydream. It wasn't often she slipped out of reality so easily; if that ever were to happen, it would be courtesy of a book. With her eyes on a page Carla could feel herself transported to another world. Never, however, could she have imagined herself to be distracted by the presence of another person. It was not as if they were very different. Both were intelligent women. Both had a love of reading. Both were feminists. Both were English majors. Both could easily be antisocial. Unless it was because they were so similar? Could it be possible that in meeting someone so like her, Carla found herself developing an attraction?
She shook her head. Carla could not think like that. Not when her focus was needed elsewhere. In this case, the school paper. While most other students left the room ages ago, the two hard working women remained. When she had not been watching Candice her eyes were on her laptop, attempting to gather her thoughts for her own article. A few of Carla's own curls escaped the confinement of her headband, causing her to occasionally stop typing in order to push them back. Candice, meanwhile, walked away from the copy machine. She placed one of the papers on the desk beside Carla's laptop before taking a seat behind her peer.
"Honestly I do not know what is so difficult about typing a simple draft. It's a review of the cookie dough cafe, not of the Titanic," the senior sighed.
Carla picked up the paper and raised an eyebrow at its contents. To say the handwriting alone was rough would be an understatement; it was an insult to the school's writing program. "It looks as though someone was rushing to take notes."
"Which is exactly why I could use assistance in dissecting it," Candice responded. She added under her breath, "God knows the president will do shit about anything."
Carla shook her head. "I still believe you merely being the secretary is a disservice. To you and to the club."
"While the compliment is appreciated, I could only handle directing idiots for so long," she commented. She turned her head towards her comrade, "And that is why, when the time comes, you will unquestionably have my vote for president next year."
Carla hesitated, hoping that her dark complexion covered the blush that was surely rushing to her face. "I joined the paper to write more outside of class, not to take command."
Candice shrugged her shoulders. "It is not a total loss. Without you I am surrounded by these incompetent muggles."
"Is Erin not one of these muggles?" Carla inquired.
Candice shook her head. "She is my roommate and, somehow, my closest friend. She is the one exception to the rule. After all," she allowed the smallest of smirks to come across her face, "I know how you feel about cursing."
Her face was certainly turning red now. Carla faced her laptop once again, praying Candice didn't notice. However, with someone as observant as Candice around, it was difficult to miss anything.
"Don't worry; I won't tell."
Candice's comment should not have come as a surprise. It was one thing to watch people. But to spend time with them? To socialize? To actually want to be around someone? It was a foreign concept to Carla, one that she was still attempting to grasp. How someone as impatient as Candice could remotely tolerate that surely felt like a miracle. Unless….
Unless she was flirting?
No; that could not be right. Someone as bookish as Carla? Who consistently buried herself in her work? Who found herself enjoying the company of animals more than humans? Who would sit off to the side and watch those around her instead of interacting? While everyone else seemed to have a grasp on even the concept of flirting throughout middle and high school, there was hardly if ever any mind on Carla. There was clearly no point in flirting with her, let alone for her to flirt, previously; why should that change now? Carla may have accepted it about herself, but it did not change how awkward she felt about the topic in general. She shook her head, hoping to discuss something else.
"Please, such a reaction would be more evident reading fluff."
Candice opened an Excel document on her laptop to continue her own work. "Oh, so you have been following me online then."
Carla tapped her fingers lightly. "You and your online friends."
"Of course," she nodded, "there are a few that certainly write more fluff than I do."
"It does not mean I read more of their work than yours."
"You say that as if I am jealous."
"I saw you join a fantasy fluff role-play the other night."
"How do you know I was not merely branching out?"
"You 'branch out' enough in Dillis' class."
"As do you."
"But you can tell when I am online, can you not?"
Candice clicked her tongue. Raising an eyebrow, she turned in her chair back to her peer. "Are you teasing me?"
Carla blinked. Had she? She noticed the slightly playful back and forth between them; she wouldn't go so far as to describe it as teasing. It was…comfortable. Somehow, despite their equally powerful work ethics, there was no need to keep such a strong face around each other. The aura between the two of them was relaxing, almost. As if because they understood each other in such a way that there was no need to be so serious. There was something natural about their interactions. When they were not so focused on their assignments, when they both enjoyed something, when they were around each other, there was almost this sense of belonging. Carla underestimated what a strength that could be. Or, perhaps, the impression it could give off.
"I pushed my luck too far, didn't I?" she realized. "Sorry."
"You did not. Nor do you need to apologize. It was cute," Candice complimented. She glanced back to her screen and let out a sigh. "Unfortunately, cute will not accomplish much here. It is later than I expected."
Carla's gaze lifted to the corner of her laptop. It was just past six. Had it really been just the two of them for the last two and a half hours? "I suppose we should eat. We cannot devote all of our free time to the newsletter."
"I agree. We have our own classes to focus on," Candice nodded. "So, what would you like?"
Carla slowly allowed herself to face Candice. "For…?
Candice shrugged her shoulders. "Dinner. I was under the impression we would brainstorm ideas together for Dillis' class after we eat."
Of course. The assignment for their quirky professor; how could Carla forget? Surely they would need all the help they could get. After all this was not a professor who took kindly to the women's straight forward and detailed stories. He wanted - no, apparently expected - more from them.
"Right. No, um…we should do that," Carla said.
Candice closed her laptop and set it in its holder. She clearly sensed the hesitation. "If you would rather stay in your dorm tonight, that is fine, too. I will see you in class tomorrow."
"It's not that," Carla shook her head. She didn't want Candice to think she was uninterested. Not in that way…no, that made no sense. She enjoyed spending time with Candice. She respected Candice and valued her opinion, not just as a writer but also as a friend. However it did not mean that some instances were difficult. When Carla tried to logically put the pieces together, they did not always fit. At times a friendship to her was as confusing as a crush. "My head is not all here."
"I will mix us drinks," Candice offered. Before Carla could response, Candice held up a hand. Naturally, she knew what her friend was going to say. "I know how you feel about drinking, but you are less than four months away from the legal age. You are in a controlled environment. And I will not put more than a shot's worth of alcohol in your glass. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you know I would not do anything to put you in danger or take your trust for granted."
Carla shook her head. "You are not wrong."
"Then, if you do not want a drink I will not make you one. How about we order pizza and work from there?" she suggested.
It was a difficult offer to pass up. The time with Candice, the right space to focus on their homework, the environment in general…. The only thing that made Carla wary was the alcohol kept in Candice's apartment, as Carla was someone who always went by the rules. However Candice had been nothing short of respectful and understanding of Carla's opinions. There had never been any pressure from her. Erin, on the other hand, was a different story. But even the polar opposite could not deter Carla. Candice was still her friend; Carla had no intention of jeopardizing that. And if one way to ensure nothing happened was to spend time together in her apartment as friends working on assignments together, then that was what Carla would do. It took her this long to finally find someone she could relate to and feel comfortable around; she did not want to lose that now. If that meant continuing to keep her emotions in check and act as if nothing were going on, then so be it.