Allison took her time blinking her eyes and coming back into consciousness. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but the powerful feelings she had experienced with Nicole paired with the last days of writing and worrying had taken a toll on her body.
The first thing she noticed when she was completely awake was that the bed was empty. Where there was supposed to be a beautiful woman, there were only tangled sheets. The smell of shampoo on the pillow next to hers and the languidness of her movements were the only proofs Allison had that what had happened with Nicole hadn’t been a dream.
She sat up and looked around the room. There were no more clothes on the floor, but she found them folded over the dresser. It was a mixture of the clothes she had been wearing and the ones she had removed from Nicole’s body, proof that the other woman was still in the apartment somewhere.
The apartment lights were off, but Allison could still Nicole’s silhouette carved against the living room window. She was just standing there, watching the city below, hugging her body with one of her arms. Her hair had been pulled into a messy bun and Allison recognized the shirt she wore as one that had been lying in her room. As Nicole had a few inches on Allison, the shirt wasn’t long enough to cover more than her stomach and it revealed her black panties and her long legs that still maintained their shape from when she played volleyball.
Nicole heard the bedroom door open and Allison’s footsteps on the ground. She looked over her shoulder and smiled at the singer that walked towards her. Arms wound around her waist and Nicole relaxed her body against the curves of the one behind her. There was no place in the world she would rather be. They remained in silence for a while, watching the city lights.
“I woke up and didn’t find you next to me.” Allison’s whisper tickled the skin of Nicole’s neck. “For a moment a thought I had dreamt what happened.”
“I’m sorry.” She laced her fingers with the ones resting on her stomach. “I just came to get a glass of water and stopped to take a look out the window.”
“Why? There’s nothing but buildings to see.”
“I don’t know. I have always liked the view from your apartment.” Nicole looked to the side to find hazel eyes. “It reminds me of you, I think.”
“I’m hard like concrete?”
Nicole turned around in Allison’s embrace with a fond smile. Normally, she would have laughed at the mixture of silliness and disbelief in the singer’s voice, but her thoughts were far too serious for it.
“No.” She whispered and looped her arms around Allison’s neck, playing with her hair. “From a distance, this city looks perfect, beautiful. But, when you take a closer look, it has its flaws and it’s honest about them. There are no disguises. And it makes it even more beautiful. Like you. You have both battled and suffered and bled out, but you’re still standing.”
Allison could feel tears burning the backs of her eyes when Nicole leaned in to kiss her softly. Being compared to a city wasn’t what most people would call romantic, but in that moment, Allison felt seen. And appreciated. And loved.
The feeling came to her just as easy as breathing. It was like a cool, calm river running inside her body. It filled her every vein and every cell with the sense of being whole.
She opened her mouth and let the river overflow. “I love you.”
Had this been any other couple, had this been any other time and the admission would have probably sounded fake and rushed and out of place. But with them, it came ten years too late. They fell in love a lifetime ago, but they were too young to fully comprehend what it meant to love someone.
“I love you, too. Always have.”
The confession was almost silent, her eyes speaking louder than her voice, but it echoed within Allison. It had been too long since she felt loved like she knew Nicole was capable of loving. Because of her career, she heard ‘I love yous’ on an almost daily basis – and she appreciated all of them and she reciprocated that feeling in a sense. But it felt different hearing that from someone she loved back, from someone who had known her when she had nothing but that tiny apartment and the clothes in her closet.
It felt relieving to know she was loved because of Allison and not Ally Strong.
Allison fell into Nicole’s body, tired and overwhelmed by everything that had happened in the last few hours. Maybe it was her heart that was out of practice. Maybe it was her body that was catching up to her. Whatever it was, she could feel her mind drifting as Nicole scratched blunt nails against her scalp. There was no preventing the tired yawn that escaped her lips.
“Come on. Let’s get you to bed.”
The embrace that started in the living room resumed on the bed. Allison waited until Nicole had taken the place beside her, to nestle into the curves of her body. Their legs tangled, their arms wound around each other and their breaths mixed in the small space between their mouths. They stayed in that silence for a long time, only observing the woman in front of them. Now that everything was still and quiet, all of the questions they had silenced earlier came back, claiming their attention. What had happened had been great, but it didn’t answer any of their fears, there was still so much to talk about. But as they sighed and breathed deeply and let the fatigue catch up to them, they decided to deal with whatever doubts they had in the morning. They didn’t want to break the spell that had fallen over them by being practical and afraid. There would be a tomorrow.
Minutes later – or maybe hours, she couldn’t be sure – Nicole felt the moment Allison fell asleep in her arms again. Her body went slack and her face was void of any worry; she looked a lot like the girl Nicole used to observe sleeping ten years ago.
Nicole pulled the singer tighter to herself and kissed her hairline. “Goodnight, Bluebird.” And in that silence, she promised to be there the next time Allison woke up.
The sun was high in the sky and it invaded Allison’s room when she woke up the following morning. After the storm that had washed the city the previous night, the sky was clear and there was a promise of a beautiful day in the air. Especially to a singer who had just woken up in the arms of the woman she loved, an arm tight around her waist and warm puffs of air tickling her neck.
She managed to slide out of Nicole’s embrace without waking her up. Usually, not an easy feat, but Allison had seen exhaustion written all over her face when she opened the door. And as much as she wanted to wake her up and kiss her and talk and just look at her eyes and make love again, Allison just watched her. The relaxed body, heavy on the mattress; the messy hair; the sliver of skin she could see between the sheets and the shirt she was wearing.
It took every ounce of will Allison had to turn around and leave the room. She went straight to the kitchen to get a start on breakfast and use those moments of solitude to think about what was going to happen, what she wanted to happen. Because, Nicole was there, but she had a job on the other side of the country. What was going to happen to them when whatever time she had borrowed was over and she had to go back home? Was she there just to give them a proper goodbye?
But they had said ‘I love you’ to each other the night before. And Allison had seen in Nicole’s eyes that the journalist was being honest.
With a long sigh, Allison decided to worry about things that she couldn’t control when Nicole was awake and she could answer all of the questions that were causing havoc in her brain. She turned on the radio she had on the kitchen counter, hoping that music would be enough to calm her thoughts. She let the beat run through her muscles and become a part of her.
Soon, she was dancing and singing and hopping around the kitchen, unaware that Nicole had woken up and was watching her from the bedroom door.
Nicole smiled at this playful side of Allison not many people knew existed. As Ally Strong she was fierce and composed and sexy, there was no space to be a dork. But inside those four walls, away from the public, Allison was free to be anything that she wanted.
“You know,” Nicole started as she snaked her arm around Allison’s waist and rested her head on her shoulder. “A girl could get used to waking up to this kind of show every day.”
“Well, that’s my goal.” She half turned her head with her bottom lip between her teeth. “But this show is just for you.”
An answer that carried more weight than its two words should allow. Allison knew she was promising a lot more than just private shows. She was promising all of her dances and all of her mornings. She was promising herself in that.
But she wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. She didn’t want to break the sanctity of their morning after. So she smiled goofily, as if she hadn’t been talking about something serious, and took their plates to the couch. Nicole followed with their mugs filled with steaming coffee and sat beside her. They ate in silence, their thighs touching and with little smiles on their faces.
Until Allison couldn’t take the silence anymore.
“How long are you staying for, Nic?”
“I asked for a week off. I have to be at the office Monday morning.”
“Oh.” For the first time since Nicole showed up at Allison’s doorstep, the air felt heavy between them. “Okay.”
Allison wanted to be selfish and ask Nicole to quit her job and move to New York to be with her, but she couldn’t. She needed the woman to come to that decision on her own. This wasn’t a small decision and Allison wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she forced Nicole to something and she ended up hating her.
“Why did you come to New York at all?” It was the one question Allison was having trouble filling the blank.
“What do you mean?”
“Why did you ask for a week off? Why did you come here?”
“Because I had to see you. Because I heard your song. Because I… Because I love you.”
“Then what is this, Nic?” Allison motioned to them with her finger, fighting to keep her tears at bay. “Some kind of rerun? You’ll go back to San Francisco and I’ll be nothing but a nice souvenir from the Big Apple?”
“No! Of course not. You mean more to me than that. Allison, you know you mean more than that.”
This conversation was not going how Nicole had planned on her flight. She knew they should’ve talked about things, about the future, the moment she got there. That had been the plan, but then she saw Allison standing in front of her and she forgot about the plan and about the proper way to do things. She could only think about being close to her.
“Then, what is this? What are we doing?” There was a hint hesitation in Allison’s voice, but Nicole understood that. She was afraid too.
“What do you want us to do?”
“I want you, dammit!” Allison abandoned all pretenses and let her tears run down her face. “I want you. With me. Every day.” She smiled sadly and her eyes softened. “I wanna wake up next to you or probably after you. I wanna be the first one to read everything you write. I want you to be the first one to hear my songs. I want a relationship and I wanna take you to award shows and I wanna tell the whole world I’m in love with you. I want you in my life.”
Tears wetted Nicole’s skin as she took Allison’s face in her hands and kissed her lips with an aggressiveness she didn’t know she possessed. She was just too happy to contain herself. Allison had just described how she wanted her next thirty or forty years to go.
“And you have me. Completely.” She whispered, her lips brushing Allison’s.
“Not when you live on the other side of the country.”
One second. That’s all it took for Nicole to decide her entire future.
“What if I moved here?”
“I can’t ask you to do that, Nic.” Allison tried hard to contain her excitement, to be logical and practical. She wasn’t a teenager anymore. “You have a job, a life over there.”
“Al, what you just described? That’s the future that I want.” She laced her fingers with Allison’s hair and rested her forehead on hers. “I want the same thing as you. I wanna build a life with you. And if you’re here, then that’s where I need to be.”
“What about your job?”
“I can be a journalist anywhere I want. I just don’t want to spend another day not being with the woman I love. I think we have wasted enough time already.”
There was nothing more to be said. They could work out the finer details later, they weren’t as important as knowing that they were finally moving forward together. They knew Nicole would have to go back to San Francisco when the week was over, but she would be back. And that was the most important thing.
Their mouths met and their tongues teased and their hands gripped and their limbs tangled. Soon, Allison had Nicole pinned to the couch, the rest of their breakfast long forgotten. The shadows moved around the room as they moved with each other, promising things that words couldn’t achieve. There were none to define what they felt.
Later, when the sounds from the street below became louder and the rays of sun were warmer on their bare skins, Nicole thought of something she had thrown in her purse before she left her apartment. She hadn’t packed anything but that. She got up from the floor, popping the kinks on her back as she walked, and picked up her bag from where it lay forgotten by the front door. She sat beside Allison and handed her the clear case containing the CD she had given Nicole before leaving.
“This should definitely be in your next album.”