She sees her, passing by the small window in the kitchen she spends her mornings in. Like clockwork. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning sometime just after 9. Usually around 9:05, Delphine notices. She once heard the woman tell her mother her first class started at 9:15 and it was a twenty minute walk to campus, but her croissants were “Well worth being late. I'm kinda always late though. My students pretty much expect it at this point, so seriously, no biggie.”
But today is Friday and Delphine knows, from listening in on one of this mystery woman's many conversations with her mother through the kitchen wall, that she ran lab on Fridays that started at 10 so she could take her time and grab a table, her usual croissant-though the flavor varied each time, and a chai tea, that her mother never even carried until this brunette started coming in. The lab went all day, so before she left Cosima always bought another, “For later.”
Maybe it was more than one lab, Delphine didn't know. She didn’t know what running lab meant. Nor did she know what kind of lab this eccentric woman ran. Maybe something with language. Was there such a thing as a language lab? This woman seemed the type to pour over the written word. To delve into it and dissect it with incredible skill, to make it hers. Or maybe Delphine just wanted the woman to delve into her and make her hers...
There was also the occasional Sunday afternoon the woman would come in too. Just before Delphine left for the day, as they closed early on Sundays, but her mother always seemed to know which Sundays the woman would be coming and wouldn't close until she came. On such days, the brunette was noticeably slower. Her hands didn't build the words she spoke like they usually did, or fly through the air as she spoke, as if trying to physically grasp her thoughts. They would be still and, even though Delphine knows little else about the woman other than her morning schedule three days a week, seem so unlike her. Her eyes were heavy, but her smile bright as always.
This woman has been coming in for about a month now. Sounded like she was a professor at the university across the city. Would make sense, since her presence coincided with the new semester and the influx of college students. Also with Delphine's reluctance to leave the kitchen. She found the college population tiresome. They were pretentious and thought they were all God's gifts to the universe. All full of bright-ideas and idealism and untainted by the realities of adult life. They would learn soon enough, she supposed. Let them keep their dreams while they could, but let them dream to someone else.
Delphine does all the baking in the morning, coming in hours before the store opens to make sure things are warm and fresh and stocked for the day. It is in the quiet solitude she feels most at home. Of course she enjoys the company of others occasionally, but only very occasionally then she wants them gone, never to be heard from again. This is especially true in the kitchen. They had a name for her back at culinary school in France, not that it was polite enough to repeat, because she preferred to work alone and, when forced to work with others, it was her way or the highway. Looks were very deceiving. Delphine was tall, willowy and drop-dead gorgeous so people were constantly underestimating her. Big mistake in the kitchen. One wrong move and she would put a slice in you like she did the loaves of bread she baked each morning. The solitude was best for everyone.
“You know she is a lesbian too, Delphine.”
Delphine scoffs at this. Because they are both attracted to the same gender, of course her mother assumes they would be attracted to one another. Only, Delphine is attracted. Not that she would tell her mother. After all, she knows nothing of this dreadlocked, spectacled woman who smiles with her eyes and speaks with her entire body and somehow makes Delphine want to be a part of her world, despite that they have never spoken. Despite that her mother wants to set them up. To fulfill her life's goal as her daughter's matchmaker, because that has worked out so well in the past, which usually would have Delphine digging her heels in or leaving before this mysterious brunette came into the bakery those three or four days a week. “Just because we are both attracted to women does not mean-”
Jacqueline Cormier's face lights up. “That's her!”
Delphine raises an eyebrow at her mother over the dough she is hand kneading in the bowl in front of her. She blows a stray curl from her face, “So?”
“So, you go.”
“Maman I am busy.”
“Delphine, you are always busy.” The older woman chastises, none too gently shoving her daughter out of the way and handing her the basket of still warm, fresh chocolate-filled croissants Delphine pulled from the oven just five minutes earlier. Cosima's favorite.
Delphine rolls her eyes, but wipes her hands on her apron nonetheless and, after a quick check in the mirror beside the door separating the kitchen from the front part of the bakery, makes her way through the swinging door. Cosima is smiling and leaning over the counter, arms braced on either side when she first sees her- aside from tiny glimpses out the kitchen window. Delphine is more than attracted. For such a tiny thing this woman exudes so much. There is an air about her that draws Delphine in. Or maybe it’s her toothy smile. Or her incredibly kissable lips.
What Delphine would give to take one between her teeth...
Before she can get caught staring, Delphine looks up and locks eyes with the woman, a smirk playing across those lips. Totally caught. “I hear chocolate is your favorite.”
The woman does not hide the fact that she blatantly checks Delphine out as she crosses to the counter and Delphine wishes she had put a little more effort into her appearance this morning.
“If it wasn't, it is now,” she says with an even wider smile.
Delphine sets the pastries in the display case, taking the one from the middle-the warmest, and setting it on a small, teal-colored plate for the woman. “Tea?”
“Please,” she smiles. “You know what I order and I've never seen you here before.”
“I've seen you.” Delphine says before she can censor her mouth. Luckily she has to turn her back to the woman to make her tea and her blush is concealed. For the moment. “I work behind the scenes, I am afraid.”
“Wait, do you make all this stuff?”
Delphine looks over her shoulder and gives the woman a small smile. “Oui.”
“Shit,” she breathes, a hint of awe in her voice. “I was seriously about to write love letters to...your mom I'm guessing? I mean, you guys don't look exactly alike, but I can totally see the resemblance. Not like me and my sisters, that is. We're, like, totally identical. It would be a little weird for a mother and daughter to be totally identical, but you guys look enough alike that I can tell.”
Delphine raises an eyebrow as she places the steaming mug down in front of the woman.
“Totally rambling, aren't I?”
Delphine chuckles. “A bit.”
“Sorry. I just meant that I love your croissants. Seriously, best in the city. And yes, I’ve tried them all.”
“Thank-you.” There was that blush again. “Yes, that is my mother. I prefer the baking to the euh...customer service.”
“Not a people person?”
Delphine bites down on her lower lip, not missing the other woman's eyes darting down to her mouth, as she rests her forearms down on the counter beside the woman. “I am. For the right person.”
The brunette seems to think for a moment, looking down at her croissant before re-engaging eye contact. “I'm Cosima.”
“Delphine,” she introduces, tentatively letting a finger brush over the other woman's hand, which, could be interpreted as merely friendly if you couldn't cut the sexual tension with a knife. “Enchantée.”
Her mother comes out and ushers her and this woman, Cosima, to a more secluded table where they could “talk” wink wink. Cosima told Delphine how she’s new here this semester and that Delphine had been right in her assumptions, she is a professor at the university, but she didn't teach language. Biology. Molecular biochemistry and experimental evolutionary biology specifically. She had her PhD in evolutionary developmental biology and Delphine nearly swooned. This woman is charming and funny and beautiful and brilliant. Delphine discovered that her hands were just an extension of her mind. They never stopped, because her mind didn't. She was constantly processing every and anything around her from the leaves on the trees outside the window to the napkin in her hand to Delphine herself.
Cosima chuckles, looking out the big window taking up most of the wall at the dark and dreary day, as she explains that she moved here to be closer to her sisters. Who are, apparently, quite large in number. And completely identical, though Cosima doesn't really want to talk about that. She wants to talk about Delphine, so talk Delphine does. About France, about her culinary education and how, at one time, she considered a career in the sciences too, but “My father got sick and needed someone to take over the bakery at home. Then he died and my mother needed me full time. Then we moved here and the rest, as they say, is history.”
“I'm very glad you did-Oh, God, I didn't mean that I'm glad your father died! Jesus Cosima, you really know how to charm a girl, don't you? I am so sorry. I totally didn't mean that like it came out. I'm just glad you moved here because, I know I'm an American in Toronto, but English is the predominant language here and not so much in France, so I probably would never have been an American in Paris except for maybe a trip or something. Which, I would love to do. France is hella-”
Delphine laughs, blatantly, at the woman across from her. She is unlike anyone Delphine had ever met before. She is fundamentally just, herself, and makes no apologies for that. Not that she should. Who she is is amazing and unique and filled Delphine with a warmth she never knew she needed. Cosima made Delphine want to be in her company and, as someone who craved her solitude, that was quite the change of pace.
“Shit! Always kinda late, so always kinda sorry.”
She left with a hug that nearly had Delphine running home to change her panties and a number messily written in blue on the palm of Delphine's hand, because, who carries around paper or remembers to grab their cell phone where it was charging on the nightstand? Delphine shrugs. Her own phone was in her purse in the back of the kitchen and this little fireball was really late, “Even for me,” and there wasn't time for her to grab it.
Her mother is smiling as Delphine makes her way back to the kitchen. She rolls her eyes. Maybe her mother was right, about this girl. Her track record was abysmal, but with those odds, even she had to be right once. Luckily Jacqueline hadn't managed to burn anything down during her little impromptu date. Date. Just thinking about the past hour and a half brought a smile to her face. As soon as she finished up with all the baking she neglected earlier, she would call Cosima and ask her on a real date. Or text. Texting was probably a better idea if she had a lab most of the day.
Which she did, Delphine learned. All day. Except for a little break early afternoon in which she usually, mostly, crashed for an hour at her desk because running the lab all day was “Exhausting! In a super fun, thrilling sort of way. And petrifying. Some of them should switch to another major. Like psychology so they can explore the inner depths of their own minds and figure out why in the hell they thought something with expensive, breakable objects and toxic chemicals was the right path for them.” Cosima wasn't the type to judge anyone, but she had a lab to keep in one piece and students to ensure walked out of the lab alive.
Delphine finally finishes around three. It really wouldn't have taken half that long if she could’ve kept her mind focused on the tasks at hand and not imagining what a certain cheeky brunette’s hands would feel like against her skin, and her mouth, and tongue, God, what I want her tongue to do. It’s as she is digging her cell phone out of her bag that she realizes the number isn't on her hand anymore. Out of habit, the first thing she did when she got back into the kitchen after Cosima left was wash her hands. They had been washed at least five times after that as well. “Merde.”
Cosima doesn't come in that Sunday. Or the next week at all, but she does the following week and the minute Delphine hears her voice she is out of the kitchen like a shot. “Wouldn't be avoiding me, would you?”
Cosima's small smile fades, but she shrugs as nonchalantly as she can, paying Jacqueline for the croissant and pushing away from the counter. “Why would I do a thing like that?”
Delphine catches her arm just outside the door. “Cosima-”
“It's cool, really. Just been busy. One of my sisters, she...” Delphine sees the pain flash across the other woman's face and before Cosima can stop herself, she is crying into the blonde's arms in the middle of the sidewalk. Delphine knows she has a class, but all the same she ushers Cosima to the door a couple paces past the bakery that leads to her apartment.
“Not a bad commute.”
Delphine doesn't ask what happened with Cosima's sister. Doesn't feel right in prying that way, but Cosima feels comfortable enough with her to share without being asked. Or maybe she is just as lonely as Delphine is. Either way Delphine feels horrible for, quite literally, washing the brunette's number down the drain. Cosima could have used someone this past week. Even just for a shoulder to cry on. She should have been there for her, wants to have been there for her.
“I am so sorry Cosima. When you left that day, I went right into the kitchen and washed my hands. It is a habit. I really wanted to call you, but I figured I would see you soon enough and I could get your number again, but then you didn't come in and...”
The smile returns to Cosima's face. The one that lights up her eyes. The one Delphine loves. “Well, now, if you ever are unintentionally ignoring me again, I know where you live.”
Delphine gets her number. Again. Puts it directly into her phone and texts her while the brunette is sitting on her couch, “Just to make sure it goes through.”
“What, you think I'm giving you the number to the rejection hotline or something?”
“It would not be the first time I have gotten a fake number.”
“Shit, for real?” Cosima looked genuinely shocked.
“Why do you look so surprised?”
“Because you would have to be mentally incapacitated to give a gorgeous, French, goddess a fake number. Give me their name. I have a sister who can take care of them for you.”
They meet for dinner the next night. At Delphine's favorite Italian place, because Cosima hasn't been in the city long and still hasn't had the chance to really explore. Not yet at least, but now with Delphine going on about her favorite things to do and places to visit, she thinks she will get to know the area much better.
Dinner is followed by drinks, which is followed by dancing when Cosima brings her, by the hand, to a new club a couple blocks away. The bouncer immediately lets them through and they get in without paying cover, glasses of acceptable red wine appearing in their hands seemingly from nowhere. “My sister owns this place.” Cosima explains. “The wine isn't the best, but I rarely drink anything else and she owes me.”
They see this sister, briefly. “Sarah,” she introduces with a nod and a gaze that makes Delphine's hair stand on end.
“Sarah does not like me.”
Cosima laughs and tightens her arms around Delphine's waist, pulling her impossibly closer, their shared body heat making all the points their bodies connect impossibly hot. Or maybe it was just them. Cosima trails a hand up her arm and that same heat springs up in its wake. Definitely just them. “Sarah doesn't like anybody. Don't take it personally. All that matters . . . is that I like you.”
Delphine's cheeks redden and she tries to hide a smile. Tries. Does not succeed. Her heart speeds up and her mouth goes dry. “You like me?”
Cosima nods with a seductive smile. “A lot.”
Gun to her head, Delphine couldn't tell you who leans in first, but the next thing she knows they're kissing until neither of them can breathe. Then they pull away to breathe and kiss again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Until Sarah comes back and tells Cosima to “Take that shit elsewhere. We have a reputation here.”
Cosima scoffs at that, but with amusement and a twinkle in her eye. Delphine briefly hears Cosima tell her sister she's just jealous, but honestly she can't focus on anything other than the slamming of her heart in her chest and the throbbing a bit uh...below her chest.
They go back to Cosima's place and clothes start shedding before the door is even closed behind them. They barely make it to the bedroom, but when they do Delphine immediately takes the lead. With a single hand she pushes Cosima to the bed and begins to mark her body like it's a piece of canvas. Her bare thigh makes contact with Cosima's center and Cosima starts grinding down as she takes a nipple into her mouth.
She works Cosima up slowly, expertly. Almost as if she knows what the brunette under her needs and wants before she does. Her fingers pump in and out, almost to the point of pulling out fully before slamming into the woman again, while her tongue lavishly attacks that super sensitive bundle of nerves and it’s no time at all until Cosima is begging her to bring her to her release. Which she does like she was born to do it. Like it is the only thing she has ever known how to do. Watching Cosima come is nearly enough to make Delphine follow suit. Her skin flushed, a fine sheen of sweat glistening in the moonlight filtering in through the window, her nipples tight and hardened under Delphine's hand. She laps up everything the other woman offers her as she rides out wave after wave of her orgasm.
And then, without a minute to catch her breath, and still shaking, Cosima flips them over so that Delphine is at her mercy. And Delphine likes it. She actually begs, which Delphine Cormier did not do. She begged for nothing from anybody, but Cosima is hitting exactly the right places with exactly the right touch. “You know, I always thought the croissant was my favorite thing to come out of France, but this,” Cosima smirks, with a slow slice of her tongue through slick folds, making Delphine gasp beneath her. “Is so much better than croissants.”
There was no sleep to be had that night. Hour after hour they stayed up, worshipping one another to the fullest of their abilities. It is only when the sun starts to rise and her alarm goes off that, with a smirk, Delphine calls her mother and fakes illness so she can throw her arm around Cosima and pull her close.
There was much to be said about solitude. But a few months later, long after Cosima had officially asked Delphine to be her girlfriend, Delphine did something she never did before. Not once. She opens up her world to another human being. It isn’t done unwillingly or even hesitantly as she opens the door to the bakery and ushers her brunette girlfriend into the kitchen. It was done...wantingly. This bakery, baking, is who she is. It was usually a part of herself she kept hidden, preferring not to open herself up in that way to anyone else. This is her space, her escape, but with Cosima, solitude was the last thing on her mind. Delphine would take even sullen Cosima pouting in a corner because Delphine wouldn't let her have the last eskimo pie before dinner, over solitude anyday.
Solitude is overrated. She had over thirty years of solitude. But now, watching Cosima spill batter all over the once pristine steel table, she could only imagine what they looked like, if someone bothered to look in through the little window on the wall. In a bakery kitchen, making such a mess. Surely no one would trust their food and bother coming in, but luckily no one looks. They never did. She was always looking out, yearning for something. Her solitude was more of a protection than anything else. Everyone in her life had disappointed her. Why would she open herself up to more of that willingly? Something was missing from her life, but she could lock herself away in here and pretend it wasn’t. Even though she knew whatever was missing was out there, because it sure as hell wasn’t in here.
And she was right. Partly. It had been out there, but now, now...it was in here.
“Does this mean I’m the right person?”
Delphine slides up behind Cosima, wrapping her arms around her slender waist and resting her chin on her shoulder. “It most certainly does.”