"It's just not nice, Emily. You have to understand, yeah," Katie says, turning once she reaches the front door and lowering her voice. Their parents are both heavy sleepers--their dad's always knackered after all his exercise in the day, and their mum wears earplugs because of his awful snoring--but James could wake, and it would take forever to bribe him not to tell their parents how late they were out.
"Sorry," Emily mumbles, even though she's not sure why she's apologising. She ought to be able to kiss whoever she likes without her sister interfering, and she shouldn't have to say sorry, especially when she's not.
Katie's expression softens. "It's not your fault, Em. She jumped you."
"Don't fucking defend her, okay. I know what I saw." She turns the key in the lock and pushes open the door, and that's the signal to shut up and drop the subject. Part of Emily, the reckless part she's so good at suppressing, wants to tell Katie the truth--that she kissed Naomi, not the other way round, and what's more, she fucking enjoyed it. But even if they didn't have to be quiet right now, she knows she'd never actually say anything and risk Katie's wrath. It's not worth it.
Once they're upstairs, Katie sits on the side of her bed, eyeing Emily sympathetically while she undresses. "Look, don't worry, I know you're not like, some fucking dyke. But you have to make sure she doesn't try that again, yeah, 'cause I'm not always going to be there to sort things out."
Emily opens her mouth to say something, but instead she just nods.
"Yeah, so, next time she tries that just fucking shove her off, all right, don't be shy about it. And don't get like, confused and kiss her back, even if you're a bit drunk like tonight. Got it?"
"Yeah." It's barely a whisper, but it seems to satisfy Katie well enough. Emily switches off the light and climbs into bed, not even able to wait until she thinks Katie's asleep before she starts to cry into her pillow. She tries to be quiet, discreet about it, but it's not long before she hears the shuffling of a duvet and the creak of bedsprings and Katie's climbing into bed with her like she used to when they were little and Emily got afraid of the dark. She presses herself to Emily's back, wrapping an arm around her and holding tight.
"Don't cry, Em," Katie murmurs, the words muffled against Emily's back. "It's not your fault, what she did."
"It is," Emily says, somehow finding courage in the cocoon of darkness. "I mean, it was me."
Katie's grip on her doesn't slacken as she says, "Don't be stupid, Em. You're just mixed up because you're pissed."
"Shush," Katie says, kissing the side of Emily's head, then brushes Emily's hair away from her face and kisses her jaw. "No one will ever love you as much as I do, okay." Emily knows it's meant to be comforting, but it fills her with foreboding, like a death sentence.
"Katie." Emily shifts round so she's facing Katie, can see her even in the dark, and she's about to say something else when Katie presses a clumsy kiss to her mouth. Startled into inaction, Emily does nothing, and even when she brain catches up with what's going on she doesn't pull away from the steady press of Katie's lips.
The kiss--ridiculously chaste compared to her kiss with Naomi earlier, yet somehow so much more intimate--ends naturally, and Katie sighs. Emily finally gets it: it's not that Katie hates Naomi, it's just that Naomi's not her.
They fall asleep and, afterwards, they don't talk about it ever.
"I don't get why your sister hates me so much," Naomi says later--years later, once everything's fallen into place and Emily feels like she might have her happy ending after all. The red marks on Naomi's skin, inflicted by Katie that evening, are barely visible in the moonlight. "I mean, doesn't she want you to be happy?"
Emily shrugs and place a soft kiss on Naomi's shoulder, then another. "I'm not sure I could explain."
She thinks of the words that have stuck with her since that night--no one will ever love you as much as I do--and tries not to wonder whether they'll turn out to be true.