I'll Be Right Behind You

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Chapter 16

“You’re going?” Ophelia asked, clearly confused as to why her roommate wanted to go to her mom’s wedding. After Christmas, she thought Nicole didn’t want to see her family for at least a little while.

“I think I should.” Nicole sighed. “I really don’t want to see anyone; I’m really sick of all the not-so-subtle comments about who I’m dating and about having dated a serial killer…but my mom wants me there.”

“I’d want nothing to do with them if I was in your place.”

“I know.” She started. “I don’t either. And my mom’s pretty much the same. Only the comments are a bit more subtle.”

“I really don’t know how you stand them.”

“I don’t either.” Nicole paused. “What about you and Helios? Robin said she’s not coming.”

“If you’re going, I am too. Not so sure about Helios.” Ophelia paused. “I can bring a plus one right?”

“Yeah. Lincoln?” Nicole asked, already knowing the answer.

Ophelia nodded. “What about you?”

Nicole looked at her, confused. “What about me what?”

“Plus one? Alex?”

Nicole smiled. “I didn’t ask her yet. And my mom was pretty clear about wanting my plus one to be a guy.”

“Oh screw that.” Ophelia waved it off. “It’ll just make your family uncomfortable and possibly keep them away from wanting to talk to you.”

“I know. It’d be awesome.” Nicole’s face fell. “But Alex heard my mom that morning. I don’t think she’d want to go.”

“Come on, it’ll be awesome.” Her friend exclaimed, almost bouncing on her seat on Nicole’s bed. “The look on their faces when you walk in holding her hand or something is going to be priceless.”

She smiled at the thought. “Yeah, it would be pretty great, wouldn’t it?”

“YES!” She practically yelled. “And please ask Alex to wear something backless so that her tattoos are visible. It will drive your mom and her family nuts.” Ophelia paused, thinking for a moment. “OR,” Her friend exclaimed, pulling her out of her thoughts. “A suit. I think that’s more Alex’s forte, she’d look great in it. And that would probably piss everyone off instead of just drive them crazy.”

Nicole thought about it for a moment, she was right; it would drive them nuts. More importantly, Alex would look amazing.

Nicole was lying in Alex’s bed after celebrating their one-month anniversary. Alex’s back faced Nicole as her fingers traced the now familiar design of the tattoo on her back. It was pretty late, probably past 2am by now, but neither of them could really fall asleep. Nicole found herself almost smiling, there was something about Alex by her side that just felt…right, it made her feel at ease. She’d thought Alex was asleep, her breathing slow and even, when suddenly, she spoke, “I can hear you thinking.”

“I thought you were asleep.” Nicole muttered.

“Can’t get my brain to quiet down.” Alex replied simply.

“Something bothering you?” Nicole asked.

“Just…background noise.” She shook her head, dismissing it. “What’s keeping you up?”

“My mom’s wedding’s in like a week.” Nicole replied almost mindlessly.

Alex turned on her side to face Nicole. She knew thing’s weren’t really okay between her and her mom and Nicole hadn’t really told her what happened at the Christmas party that made her so upset. “Are you going?” Despite everything, Alex had a feeling Nicole would.

“I think I might.” She nodded. “I don’t even know why.”

Alex gave her a small smile. “Your mom would want you there.”

She would want my relatives to know I could actually be bothered to show up rather than actually want me there.” Nicole shrugged, going silent for a few moments. “Do you wanna be my date?” She asked suddenly, before she could stop herself.

Her eyes slightly widened in surprise. They had decided to take things slow; the two of them still hadn’t even referred to the other as their ’girlfriend’ let alone said that they were dating. They were definitely in a relationship but neither of them seemed to want to say it out loud.

“You don’t have to.” Nicole backtracked. “I know we’re taking things slow and this might be a bit too much. I mean, its not just meet the parents but meet the entire family.”

“No, no, it’s not that.” Alex shook her head, trying to find something to say but in vain. “God,” She sighed. “Yes, I guess that’s a thing. I mean, we haven’t really talked about…us and what this is.”

“I know.” Nicole told her. “It is a lot to ask. Especially considering how my mom doesn’t want my date to be anyone unless it’s a guy.” She continued. “But…as far as we go…” Nicole stopped with a frustrated sigh, not knowing what exactly she wants to say, “I really like you, Alex and I really like what we have but I’m just…I’m scared to put a label on it-”

“You don’t want to jinx it.” Alex interrupted, waiting for Nicole to nod before she continued. “Yeah…me too.” She tucked a loose strand of blonde hair, her hand brushing against Nicole’s cheek. “I feel like I can be myself around you without having to worry. It’s just…I don’t know,” She shrugged, trailing off.

“Yeah,” Nicole said in response, her voice barely audible. There was something in the way Alex looked at her that made her breath hitch and unable to speak another word. “We’re dating.” Nicole stated after a few moments of silence. “We’re in a relationship and we’re dating.” She said again, forcing the words out.

“That wasn’t easy for you to say, was it?” Alex asked.

“No,” Nicole shook her head slowly, “Because last time I said it…”

Alex nodded, knowingly, not wanting Nicole to have to say it. “But yes, we are.” It felt a weird hearing that. Her last relationship was very brief and it ended…violently. Relationships before that didn’t end too well either; she was never enough for them…surprisingly, these aren’t even her words. And after a while, Alex was done disappointing people. She already knew she wasn’t good enough but having to hear that from someone made it worse somehow. She didn’t want to disappoint Nicole though, the blonde already knew more about her than a lot of her exes did even by the time their relationship had ended. “Are you sure you want me to go with you?”

A smile broke out on Nicole’s face. “Yes. It will piss off most of my family and that is great on its own.” She told Alex. “And I don’t really want to be alone with them.”

Alex looked at her questioningly. “I thought Robin, Helios and Ophelia are going.”

“Robin doesn’t really want to but O might be able to talk her into it and Helios’s busy so he’s probably not going to make it. Ophelia is but only because I am.” She paused. “And also because she wants to see how everyone reacts to my date.”

“Come on, they can’t possibly take it that bad.” Alex tried.

“You have no idea.” Nicole forced a smile. “Can I…introduce you as my girlfriend or is that too much…?”

“No, no, not too much. I think that’s just right.” Alex smiled, leaning in to kiss her.

“One thing though…” She trailed off. “My entire family is very homophobic…and biphobic. Basically they’re not too happy with anyone who’s not straight.”

“I’ve had my fair share of that.” Alex nodded.

“So you don’t have to come if you’re not comfortable with it.”

“Will you going with me make them uncomfortable?”

“Yes.” Nicole said with a nod. “I’m counting on it.”

“Good.” She smiled.

“Blue is definitely your color.” Ophelia said to Nicole as she walked out of her bathroom wearing her dress. It was a blue, V-neck dress, really simple but according to Robin and Ophelia, it looked better on Nicole than any of her other dresses. “Brings out your eyes.” Nicole’s hair was already taken care off; soft, slightly messy curls, falling almost effortlessly past her shoulders. “Alex is going to flip out.”

“Shut up.” She rolled her eyes with a smile. “You look great.” Her best friend was wearing a dark purple dress. “You think Lincoln can make it though the night?” Nicole said with a smirk.

“Oh he will.” Ophelia replied, looking at the mirror as she fixed her hair.

“He’s picking you up?”

“Yeah,” She turned to look at Nicole again. “He just left work so we might be a little behind you and Alex. She’s picking you up?”

She nodded.

“Oh, what is Alex wearing and will it make your family uncomfortable?”

Nicole smiled. “She’s more comfortable in a suit and tie so I think it will.” She ran her fingers through her hair, still unsure about how it looked; Ophelia had assured her it looked great and that Alex would love it…also her mom probably wouldn’t.

Just then the doorbell rang. “I got it.” Ophelia said with a smile and rushed off to get the door before Nicole could; both knowing very well that it was Alex.

“Hey,” Alex greeted as Ophelia opened the door.

“Hi,” She said in response as her eyes scanned over Alex. “Nice.” She commented.

“Umm…” Alex hesitated as she stepped inside. “Thank you… You look great.” She said with a polite smile.

“Thanks.” Ophelia smiled back. “I’ll get Nicole.”

Before she could walk back to her friend’s room, Nicole walked out. If Ophelia didn’t know any better, she’d say that Alex’s jaw momentarily dropped before she did her best to compose herself, taking in a deep breath. She remained frozen on her spot as Nicole walked up to her. “Wow.” Alex managed to breathe out.

“You look amazing.” Nicole told her as she smoothed down the black tie with the back of her fingers. Alex was all sharp edges; the black jacket and trousers suited perfectly to every curve of her. The jacket was fairly simple, with relatively thin lapels and Alex wore it unbuttoned which made her come off as slightly casual but the slim, black tie balanced that out. Her hair was parted on the side, soft curls hung loosely at the bottom, perfectly in place.

“I have nothing on you.” Alex told her, smiling to herself when she noticed Nicole smiling.

“Geez get a room.” Ophelia spoke, rolling her eyes after a second. “You two are going to be late if you don’t stop eye-f-…staring at each other. Well I guess we’re already late considering…”

“Right,” Nicole said, taking a step back.

“Lincoln’s going to be here any minute, I will see you guys later.”

“Yeah,” Alex nodded as they walked to the door.

“You missed the ceremony.” Abby told her daughter as Nicole approached her where she was standing next to her husband, Marcus Kane.

“We were kind of counting on it.” Nicole muttered under her breath, walking up to them, her arm linked with Alex’s.

“Nice to see you, Nicole.” Kane greeted her.

She smiled back.

Abby’s face fell the moment she noticed Alex…more importantly noticed how her and Nicole’s arms were linked. She couldn’t really recall where she’d seen the brunette, but she seemed familiar. “Who’s this?” Nicole noticed the unimpressed look on her mom’s face as she scanned her eyes over Alex, clearly disapproving of her outfit.

“Mom, Marcus,” She started with a smile. “This is my girlfriend, Alex.” Nicole turned to Alex. “Alex, I believe you’ve met my mom.” She nodded. “And this is Marcus,”

Alex gave them both a polite smile and only Marcus returned it.

“Your…what?” Abby asked.

The look on her mom’s face was priceless. Alex did her best to hold back the smile because Nicole was right, her mom definitely didn’t take that well. “Can I talk to you for alone for a moment?” Abby left her husband’s side and walked off a few feet away, Nicole following reluctantly and leaving Alex alone with Marcus.

“Are you serious?” Her mom asked.

“What?” Nicole asked, pretending not to know what she was talking about.

“What did I say about bringing a date? And I thought you told me you and Alex were only friends.”

“We were just friends.” Nicole started. “Past tense. And yeah, I remember pretty clearly what you said about bringing a date.”

“I don’t think you remember.”

“I do,” Nicole replied. “And I’m dating Alex as of last month so I figured, if I was going to bring a date, it should be the person I’m, well, dating.”

“But you know how you’re grandparents are going to react.” She reminded her. “Not to mention anyone else.”

“No worse than you, that’s for one.” Nicole said in response, not missing a beat.

“They don’t need to know who she is.” Her mom started. “If anyone asks, she’s just your friend.”

“No.” Nicole stated, shaking her head lightly. “Mom, you may be ashamed of me for dating a girl, but I’m not. This is the first time in a very long time that I’ve felt comfortable around someone like this and it means a lot to me.”

Abby didn’t bother defending herself; she knew it was no use with Nicole anymore. “And what is she wearing?” Her mom hissed.

“What about it?” Her daughter questioned.

She only glared at her. “The least you could’ve done was make sure she wore a dress. No one would even question who she was; they’d just assume she was a friend.”

“I think she looks great.” With that, Nicole walked away, returning to rescue Alex from Kane.

Nicole was sitting at the bar with Alex standing right behind her, doing her best to minimize the distance between them. Ophelia and Lincoln had shown up only a couple of minutes ago, she was sitting next to Nicole asking how her mom reacted with Lincoln sitting on the stool next to his girlfriend, listening intently.

“Nicole?” She heard someone behind her. The voice was familiar but she couldn’t quite tell who it was.

Mustering a smile, she turned around, it was one of her cousins and his wife. Great. “Hi.”

“Hi,” He greeted. “I didn’t see you at the Christmas party, I heard you were there but I didn’t see you.”

“I left early.” Nicole replied.

“Who’s this?” He asked, motioning towards Alex, eyeing her uncomfortably; it seemed to Nicole that almost everyone was put off by her outfit. HONESTLY, WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL? She wanted to ask.

“This is Alex,” She smiled. “Alex, this is Max, my really annoying younger cousin.” Nicole joked.

“Wait, Max?” Ophelia interrupted. “The chubby, eight year old who broke his arm jumping off Nicole’s tree house pretending to be Superman?”

He laughed at the memory and Nicole suppressed a laugh, it was a good call bringing Ophelia. “Yep that’s me and I can’t believe that someone actually remembers that.”

“Ophelia, I don’t know if you remember.” She reintroduced herself.

“Nicoley’s best friend for as long as I can tell? How can I forget?” He smiled.

“Nicoley?” Alex asked with an amused smile, looking at Nicole.

“No.” She stated simply, looking at Alex. “Don’t even.”

“So how do you two know each other?” Max’s wife asked.

“We met through Ophelia’s boyfriend, Lincoln,” Nicole started, motioning towards Lincoln with a nod who smiled and gave them a small ’hi’. “She’s my girlfriend.”

The two of them laughed. “Funny, so…friend?” He said.

“Umm no…” She shook her head slightly. “We’re kinda together.” Alex slung her around Nicole’s shoulder and gave them a small smile.

“Okay…” Max muttered, clearly uncomfortable. “I’ll see you guys around.” He told them as he walked away.

The moment he was out of earshot, Ophelia burst out laughing and Alex couldn’t stop herself from smiling, Lincoln joined his girlfriend and Nicole only rolled her eyes, “See, what I mean?” She looked at Alex. “And this wasn’t even that bad.”

“Your grandparents are here right?” Ophelia asked and Nicole nodded in response. She turned to look at Alex. “Just you wait till they see you.”

“Should I be…worried?” Alex asked the two of them.

“Just be yourself.” Ophelia told her.

And Ophelia was right. Nicole’s grandparents started off as nice but they changed the moment they caught a glimpse of Alex. She was getting a drink for Nicole when they’d walked up to the blonde and by the time Alex came back, she didn’t sound too happy. Once Nicole introduced her, they literally stopped talking for a few moments and then walked away without another word, only disapproving looks. Ophelia was enjoying this way too much and Nicole was more than just a little done with everything. “I really should’ve just stayed home.” She said to the others. “I’d rather be on the couch with you watching whatever’s on TV.” Nicole looked at Alex. “I’m sorry I dragged you into this.”

“No, its fine.” Alex reassured her. “It doesn’t really bother me anymore.”

“And the look on everyone’s faces when Nicole tells them you’re dating is just priceless.” Ophelia added, Lincoln nodding in agreement.

“But it bothers you…” Alex looked back at Nicole.

“It really shouldn’t…” Nicole sighed. “It’s just…” She sighed. “Nope, I’d rather not go down that road.” She stood up from her seat and held out her hand for Alex. “Dance with me.” Only then did Alex realize the soft music playing in the background. Lincoln followed Nicole’s lead as Alex took her hand and stood up.

“Is your mom going to be okay with this?” Alex asked they moved slowly to the music, her hands resting on Nicole’s waist and Nicole’s arm around Alex’s neck.

“Probably not.” She replied. “But I don’t want to think about that now.” Nicole rested her head Alex’s shoulder. “I don’t want to think about anything else right now.” And she didn’t. Even if it was for just a few brief minutes she didn’t think of anything else; not about what her mom thought about her and Alex, not about all the eyes she could feel staring at the two of them. Just Alex and how peaceful she felt in that moment.

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