Carmilla strolled down the ramp, studying her rotation. A few days in the air and on the ground, hopping around the country. Nothing unusual. She rolled her eyes at the name of the first officer for the first flight on the itinerary. Lawrence. Wonderful.
She ducked through the door and stepped onto the plane, greeted almost immediately by the head flight attendant. Perry. They’d flown together before. Carmilla checked behind her and… yes, there was LaFontaine. Always together.
Carmilla shook LaFontaine’s hand. “This everyone?”
“One more. She’ll probably be up in a minute.”
“Who is it?”
“Doubt you know her. She’s new-ish. She’s cute though.” LaFontaine elbowed Carmilla in the ribs, but froze as the pilot fixed her with an icy stare.
“Oh, hi!” The trio turned at the voice from down the aisle, the third flight attendant popping into view. She hurried toward them, grinning. “You must be the pilot.”
“Carmilla Karnstein.” The girl took Carmilla’s offered hand.
“Laura Hollis. Nice to meet you.”
LaFontaine snorted. “Cupcake, huh? Nice.”
“Shut it, Tweedledum.”
Laura blinked. “I’m sorry, what?”
Perry sighed. “Carmilla has a habit of nicknaming people. They tend to be permanent, I’m afraid. Though I suppose ‘cupcake’ is better than ‘Tweedledee and Tweedledum.’”
“Yeah,” said LaFontaine. “It must mean she thinks you’re sweet.”
Laura blushed. Carmilla scoffed. “Don’t you have preparations to make?”
Curls bouncing, Perry nodded. “She’s quite right. Shoo, we have work to do!”
“Aw, Perr…” LaFontaine groaned as Perry ushered them further down the plane. Carmilla rolled her eyes and sighed as she watched them go. She was about to head for the cockpit when Laura turned, catching her eye, and offering her a smile.
Carmilla lowered her charts as something cracked against the exterior of the plane.
“Sounds like someone’s too tall to ride this attraction.”
“Oh, har-har.” Danny Lawrence rubbed her forehead as she ducked into the cockpit. “I’ll have you know I can ride every roller coaster in the country. It’s the kiddie rides I have trouble with.”
“I would pay to see that.”
Danny snorted. “I see you’re as pleasant as always.”
“It’s your soothing presence, Xena. Why, I looked at my rotation this morning and felt absolute glee that we’d be flying together today.”
“Well, try to contain your excitement.” Danny set about the process of building her nest in the cockpit, arranging her manuals and checking her gear. “Who’ve we got flying with us?”
“The ginger twins and a new one. Laura Hollis.”
“Oh, Laura!” Danny looked up from puttering around, a smile breaking like the dawn across her face. “I met her on my last rotation. She’s sweet.”
“A little too saccharine for me,” said Carmilla, turning back to her charts and scowling. “Enjoy your tooth decay.”
“I will, thanks.” Danny rose, ducking out of the cockpit, bent nearly double—Carmilla chortled—and vanished into the belly of the plane. Carmilla could hear her laughing as she accosted the flight attendants, heard Laura’s goofy, snorting laughter as Danny told a joke.
She leaned out of her seat and peered back: Danny leaned against the overhead bins and Laura draped over the back of a seat, catching Danny’s eye and looking away with a sheepish grin.
Carmilla scoffed and grabbed her headset. “Enough socializing, people,” she said over the PA. “We’ve got a plane to fly.”
She picked at her concourse-bought meal and thumbed through her book. Ugh, layovers. At least this place had decent food options.
“Hey, can I join you?”
Carmilla glanced up to find Laura Hollis standing beside her, a McDonald’s bag clutched in one hand and a suspiciously-large soda in the other.
“Wow, creampuff. McDonald’s?”
“Don’t judge me.” Laura took the seat beside Carmilla and pulled a burger from her bag.
“I’m not judging.”
Laura paused, halfway through chewing her first bite, and arched an eyebrow. Carmilla smirked.
“Well, maybe I’d judge less if you’d gotten your food literally anywhere else.”
“Excuuuse me for wanting my food to taste good.” Laura slurped her soda. “What are you reading? Is that even in English?”
“German,” said Carmilla.
“Wow. I can barely handle one language.” She chewed in silence for a while, studying the pilot, and Carmilla glued her eyes on the pages but forgot to turn them.
“Where’s home for you?”
Carmilla looked up again, to find Laura balling up the wrapper from her burger. Gone already? “Toronto.”
Laura nodded. “I live in Vancouver,” she said, without prompting. “Though sometimes it feels like home is the inside of every airport, you know?”
“I know what you mean.” Carmilla closed her book completely. “Or in the sky. In the cockpit, staring out at the clouds.”
“I never get tired of that,” said Laura. “Looking out the window as we break through, and then it’s like a whole different world.”
“Yes. And you understand, you truly understand how large the world is. We’re ants in comparison.”
“It makes our real-life problems seem ant-like, too.” Laura smiled, but something beeped; she reached into a pocket and pulled out her phone. “Crap, I’ve got to get going.”
“Shame,” said Carmilla. “I hoped we’d be on the same flight.”
“You know how it is. See you around!” Laura stood, gathering her trash. She started to walk away but paused, then turned and stalked back to the table. “I mean that. We should do this again, you know? It was really nice to talk to you.”
“It wasn’t unpleasant,” said Carmilla.
Laura sighed. “Seriously. If we’re on the same flight or in the same airport again… we should meet up.”
Carmilla’s smile grew full. “I think I’d like that very much.”
Laura’s smile outpaced Carmilla’s, and she stood rooted to the spot until her phone clamored again. “Crap. Crap, I really have to go. Okay, see you, bye!”
She sprinted down the concourse and Carmilla shook her head, lifting her book again. When her own alarm chimed and she headed for her next flight, she had not turned a single page.
A few months and several shared layovers later, Laura sat in the cockpit while Carmilla’s first officer stretched their legs.
“Where to after this?” asked Laura, yawning.
“This is my last flight.” Carmilla glanced at Laura, tiny in the co-pilot’s seat. “We’re landing in Toronto, remember? It's time for me to head home and sleep for days.”
“Really?” Laura grinned. “It’s my last flight, too. Well, until tomorrow. But I can actually join the real world for a few hours.”
Carmilla chewed her lip. “Would you want to meet up after you check in to your hotel? Get dinner?”
“I thought you had to sleep for days.”
“Sleep can wait. I’d much prefer to spend my time with you.”
Laura let out a strangled sort of giggle and dropped her eyes. When she looked to Carmilla again, her smile stretched from ear to ear. “Dinner sounds great.”
They laughed over dinner and drinks, and Carmilla half-carried Laura back to her apartment, insisting she not stumble back to her hotel alone.
“You’re heavier than you look, sundance,” said Carmilla, grunting as she tossed Laura onto her bed.
“Youuuu plied me with food and alcohol,” said Laura, rubbing her eyes. “So the extra weight is your fault.”
Carmilla sighed. She wheedled the time of Laura’s next flight out of her, setting alarms on the other girl’s phone—wake up; rise and shine, cupcake; seriously, get up; get out of my bed—and then set a glass of water and some painkillers on the bedside table.
By then, Laura had fallen fast asleep.
Carmilla pulled the quilt over her and padded from the room, getting herself a much-needed glass of water. She watched the door, fingers drumming against her arm, then grabbed a notepad and a sharpie, and her spare key.
If you’re in Toronto and would prefer not to sleep on the sandpaper your hotel calls sheets, my door is always open.
She set the note and the key by Laura’s purse, then settled onto the couch to sleep.
When she awoke, the key sat on her coffee table. She reached out, frowning, but as she picked it up and drew it close, she realized it wasn’t her key.
She popped upright, grabbed the note—Laura had scribbled on the back of hers—and read:
Your bed is super comfy. I think I’ll take you up on your offer. And here’s my address, so you can do the same. My sheets are just all right, but I have the best pillows.
P.S. Your bed was big enough for two. We could have shared.
You’re disgusting. Do you ever clean? I hate you.
Carmilla laughed. She’d stepped through the door of her apartment to find Laura’s note stuck to her fridge, scrawled in angry red letters. She had, in fact, left Laura’s apartment a bit of a mess the last time she’d used it.
They hadn’t managed to find themselves in the same city overnight again, but had swapped apartments a few times. They texted each other, talked on the phone sometimes, but their passive-aggressive (Carmilla) and aggressive (Laura) notes carried a charm all their own.
Stop clogging my shower drain!
Why would anyone would drink from a square mug? It’s idiotic.
I can’t believe you stole my pillow. How did you fit that in your luggage?
Cupcake, the only green thing in your fridge was your bottle of Sprite. I put some vegetables in there. Eat them.
Did you really need to waste all my toner printing Snape/Ron fanfic ‘for my reading pleasure’? Please, I read Hermione/Ginny.
Carmilla folded the most recent note and stalked to her bedroom. She slipped it into the side drawer with all the others and reclined, letting her head sink into the yellow pillow that she had, in fact, stolen, and that Laura had so far allowed her to keep.
It still smelled like Laura. How long ago had she been here? How long since they had seen each other?
Carmilla checked her schedule. Just a few more days and then… perhaps they might see each other again.
She awoke to her bedroom door swinging open and a body flopping into her bed.
“Hrrmngh?” She lifted her head, peering at the intruder.
“Oh my god, Carm!” Laura sprang from the bed. “You’re here!”
“It is my apartment, cutie.” She sat upright, rubbing her eyes. Light filtered under her blinds but Laura seemed a ghost, a chalk sketch in the dark. “You’re really here, right? This isn’t some cruel trick of my slumbering mind?”
The light flicked on and Carmilla groaned, flopping back down and hauling her blanket over her head. “Are you insane? Turn that off.”
“I can’t believe you’re here!” Laura bounced onto the bed. “Come on. Get up.”
“Fine.” Carmilla crawled out from under the covers. Laura perched next to her, grinning. “How long are you here?”
“A day and a half,” said Laura.
Carmilla shook the sleep from her eyes. “It’s almost like a vacation.”
“When do you leave again?”
“I actually just got back. I’m not going anywhere soon.”
“Good.” Laura leaned closer. “I missed you.”
Carmilla reached out, brushing a wild strand of hair behind Laura’s ear. “I missed you, too.”
Laura bit her lip and Carmilla could see the breath catching in her throat, and she leaned closer, closer…
And Laura pulled away, yammering about plans and sightseeing and breakfast. Carmilla sighed and rolled back onto the bed. “Cupcake,” she said. “I’m excited to spend time together too, but you ought to sleep now. I’ve seen you tired. It isn’t pretty.”
“Not everyone can wake up looking perfect.”
“Sleep.” Carmilla rolled over, dragging the sheets with her.
Laura hopped off the bed and Carmilla did not move, through the sound of clothes being changed for pajamas, through Laura switching the light off and scooting into bed next to her.
“I know you’re awake,” said Laura, tugging at the blankets. “Share.”
Carmilla groaned, but rolled over, releasing her hold on the fabric. Laura gave a pleased little sound and pulled the blankets up to her chin.
“I’m really glad you’re here,” she said. She rolled over and stretched her hand toward Carmilla.
Carmilla threaded their fingers together. “I am too. Goodnight, cupcake.”
“Night, Carm.” Drowsiness had crept into her voice as soon as her head hit the pillow, and now it sounded as though she might drop off to sleep at any second. “Love… you…”
Carmilla’s fingers tightened between Laura’s. She whispered the other girl’s name. Once. Twice.
Carmilla sighed, then leaned over Laura. Her lips brushed Laura’s forehead as she whispered, “I love you, too.”
Laura made breakfast. Carmilla paid for lunch. Laura insisted that they split the check for dinner.
When they left the restaurant, Carmilla led them to a park and they meandered. Night slipped in around them, and Laura’s hand slipped around Carmilla’s.
“This is nice,” she said.
Carmilla pressed her lips together.
“Carm?” Laura stopped. “Are you alright?”
Squeezing Laura’s hand, Carmilla turned to face her. She shook her head.
Laura stepped closer. “What’s wrong?”
“Do you…” Carmilla glanced at the sky and sighed. “Do you really have to leave tomorrow?”
“That’s the glamorous life of a flight attendant.” Laura chuckled, her lips smiling and her eyes breaking Carmilla’s heart in two.
Carmilla tried to smile, but could only manage a grimace. Laura’s smile vanished and she surged forward, wrapping herself around Carmilla.
“We’ll figure it out,” she said, mumbling into Carmilla’s shoulder. “Find ways to see each other. We should Skype! And call more often. I’ll leave more notes. I—“
“Laura, stop.” Carmilla gripped Laura’s shoulders and forced her back, and Laura gasped, and Carmilla took a deep breath and whispered, “oh, screw it.”
Her hands cupped Laura’s cheeks and she dragged her in, and Laura yelped once, and again when Carmilla’s teeth tugged against her lip, and then one hand curled around Carmilla’s neck and the other clutched her waist as though they might fly apart at any second.
They pulled apart and Laura giggled, squealed, and threw herself at Carmilla again, and their lips smiled together until some idiot wolf-whistled and Carmilla snapped away to flip him off.
“Wow,” whispered Laura, gripping the collar of Carmilla’s jacket.
Carmilla smiled, raised a finger to Laura’s lips. “Yeah,” she said.
Laura kissed Carmilla’s finger. Then, hauling herself up by Carmilla’s collar, she pulled their lips together again.
And Carmilla felt like she was flying.