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At the Veracity

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After the first time her friend Junie brings her to the Veracity café, May keeps coming back. It’s not exactly on her way home, but it’s worth the detour. There’s rarely a line, always places to sit, they make an excellent cappuccino, and, as Junie said that first day, all of the baristas are cute.

May won’t argue with that, but in the beginning, she’s there for the coffee and the calm, carving out some time to read those classics she’s always meant to.

Great Expectations smells like ink and fresh paper, when she carefully cracks it open and traces the first lines. “So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.” The paper is a little coarse under her fingertips, just right. Naming and becoming yourself, she thinks, not bad. Carry on, mister Dickens.

When she looks up from the page, she catches the dark eyes of the barista behind the espresso machine and smiles instinctively. The words are out of focus when she looks back down, print blurred over with the impression of that dark tousled hair, the tilt of the eyebrows. May shakes herself minutely, taps her fingers on the book cover and returns to so I came to be called Pip.

Spring is in the air, a little tentative still with the sunlight just barely warming the surface of the crispy cold wind. May leaves her jacket at home, wears layers over layers of shirts, a beanie, gets freckles on her nose and starts imagining days warm enough for dresses with wide skirts and bare legs, wonders if that cute tomboy barista likes tattoos.

The next time she wears a sleeveless shirt that shows off the flowers on her upper arm, washing her hands and contemplating the image in the bathroom mirror before she leaves work, having sent home her last student of the day with three new scales to practice until next week. (Maybe it was too much?) The vest does go well with the flowers, soft but not meek, demanding their space. Very femme, she thinks and laughs. May in the mirror laughs back, twinkling.

 

Dani is starting up the espresso machine, wiping down the tables someone forgot yesterday, looking at the slow march of the minute hand on the clock above the door, turning equations over in her head.

She wonders if that red-haired girl will be in today, if she’ll be reading or with friends. If that was flowers on her upper arm, mostly hidden by her shirt.

 

It’s the early days yet, the ones their friends will tease them about later. It’s the time when everything is still shy smiles and glances, a flighty touch of fingers on a coffee cup handed over. Everything a horizon of possibilities, open, far-flung dreams. A barely discernible ship far off in the blue hour.

Their friends will tease them later, but now they pretend not to notice. That first party (after the note in the accidently-on-purpose forgotten book, a phone number slipped in on the return), May is like a beacon when Dani slips into the room, late and self-conscious. The room doesn’t spin and time doesn’t stop, but it buzzes, that line connecting them, their locked gazes. Dani feels fizzy, like her veins are full of pops and sparkles.

 

On the rooftop terrace, friends smiling into their drinks. They are among their people here, safe at bay, bathed in warmth as they lean into one another, into their first kiss.

Fizz pop sparkle, Dani thinks, and then she thinks of how soft May’s lips are, ooh smooth sharp teeth against the tip of her tongue, and then she doesn’t think very much at all for a moment.

That’s a Saturday evening, and they spend the night and the next day all wrapped up in each other. It’s almost frightening how much it feels like home, like pieces falling into place.

 

May keeps coming to the Veracity with a book on the days she finishes early and Dani is still working. She reads in a corner, usually with an extra large cappuccino in her hands, though if the hours get long sometimes Dani brings her a tea instead. And whenever she looks up from her book to find Dani behind the bar, the connecting thread of their gazes buzzes stronger. Veracity is rarely empty, but the one time it’s only the two of them left, May pulls Dani down to sit on her lap. Just for a moment. To make her rest her feet, and for the thrill of stealing time to hug her like this.

Sundays become their days, when neither of them are working – no practice, no reading course books (the pile by the bed gets showed under it after the first time May stubs her toe on it). Slow lazy mornings among wrinkled sheets.

May taps out a rhythm on Dani’s back, her ribs as keys, and she’s enchanted, breathless, until it tickles and she squirms, laughing helplessly as the concentrated moment breaks into giggles floating like bubbles into the air. May’s hair is blinding bright in the sunlight slanting through the windows. Dani turns over to look, to tangle her hands in it to pull her down again and May goes willingly.

Dani’s hands go around May’s face, thumbs tracing the shape of her eyebrows.

“Esse olho vou chamar eternidade,” she says, “E esse por favor não vai”. And May doesn’t know what it means, doesn’t care, loves the way Dani’s voice goes deeper and softer around the edges. So unlike her English, which is the crisp clear sound of hard work, every contraction and informality carefully judged.

Late afternoon, when they have rolled out of bed and maybe gone outside, Dani will sit down with her laptop while May putters around in the background, ironing her dresses for the week. At the other end of a video call her family cluster around the screen, talking loudly over one another, interrupting, laughing at arguments, telling stories and not waiting for answers to questions. Dani’s smile is quiet. When May goes by and waves at the screen she’s greeted with a million kisses. Beijos to all!, she says, and Dani laughs.

 

These are Sundays now. Sometimes, May still wakes early in the morning with the remnants of hellfire dreams, but then Dani’s hand is often already entwined with her own. She’s not crying, but she has to hide her face against Dani’s shoulder blade until the shaking stops, until it feels a little less like she will split at the seams from sheer happiness. This is Sunday; this is Dani in her arms still warm from sleep, hers to have and hold and trust and smile at in secret understanding. She breathes in the morning. This is life now.

Dani comes awake slowly, rolling over face to face, kisses May’s cheek. Eternidade.