A little fall of rain, can hardly hurt me now
You're here. That's all I need to know
The first spring shower comes in the beginning of April. After a rough winter – whose frigid weather extends throughout their reunion – the warm, tamer weather surrounds New York in a much-welcomed embrace. The weeks after they find each other again are filled with much time indoors – talking, reminiscing, truly getting to know one another. They make love beneath the blankets and share each other's sweaters. The weather affords them the privacy they were desperate for months ago. But the walks back and forth in the blistering snow and the cab rides so frequent the drivers begin referring to each of them by their first times grow old fast. There are many times when Carol wants to remind Therese of her offer – that it would make all of this so much simpler. Internally, though, she vows not to bring it up again until the time seems right. She will not put this at risk.
Carol greets the spring with appreciation.
On the morning of the first rainfall of the new season, Carol wakes to glistening sunshine. The sun is deceiving in the winter, but the lack of frost on the window and the absence of the low hum of the boiler signal to her that it is, indeed, warm out for the first time in months. She sips on a cup of coffee and watches out the patio glass. The chirp of birds – something so mundane, background noise in the every day – is like music to her ears.
On her weekday off, in the winter months, Carol read, cooked, cleaned. Occasionally she would venture out to the store – window shop, occasionally find the courage to pick up small trinkets to spoil Therese. More often than not, though, she would stay indoors, avoiding the tourists and the frigid temperatures. The spring, however, beckons her, and on this beautiful day, Carol decides to warm her bones and surprise a certain someone with a visit.
From her closet, she picks a short-sleeved, knee-length white dress with a purple and red floral pattern. She hasn't worn it in years, but it reminds her of younger, carefree days. The makeup she chooses is lighter than normal – the faintest bit of mascara with a pink lip that matches her dress. After a quick brush of her hair, she pins her bangs back. It's a hairstyle that's unusual for her – less polished, impromptu, a bit youthful. Carol smiles at herself in the vanity before returning to the kitchen to prepare.
With a basket in hand, Carol walks down Madison toward Lexington. The trip to West 43rd will take some time, and with spring weather being so unpredictable, she decides to meander for a bit before she hails a cab. The joints in her fingers tingle with the slightest ache, a sign for most of her adult life that rain is not far off. Still, the blue sky with slow-moving white, fluffy clouds shows no sign of storms in the short term, so Carol enjoys her stroll, glancing through the windows of each store she passes.
A flash of yellow catches Carol's eye at the corner of Lexington and East 81st. A middle-aged man stands behind a cart full of freshly bloomed flowers. She approaches, running her fingers over the soft pedals of the various bouquets. “How much?” she asks, pointing at yellow and white daffodils.
“For you? $1 for the bunch.”
She's used to men's flirtations. She no longer wears Harge's ring, and it does not go unnoticed by the crowd. Various times, she's contemplated purchasing a cheap replacement, or perhaps something real to share with Therese in the privacy of their meetings. Barely a month together and she contemplates it. Carol smiles politely and bows her head before pulling a dollar bill from her wallet. She thanks the man, then rests the bouquet inside the basket she carries.
Although she'd opted for modest heels – with a thick black ankle strap for extra measure – after a few more blocks, Carol curses her shoes and finally opts to take a cab. She finds one with ease; the warmer weather seems to dissuade most from taking one.
In the weeks that followed their reunion, Carol learned that Therese had given up her original Manhattan apartment to move closer to the Times. Therese never discusses numbers with Carol, but her modest salary allows her to live comfortably in the city, and it doesn't hurt that they're only a few miles away from each other. In the winter, even those few miles felt like hundreds, but with the warmer weather, Carol surmises there will be more impromptu visits with one another. The cold had forced more rigid plans. The spring, on the other hand, encourages their spontaneity. Carol smiles in the back of the cab at the thought.
When she arrives at Therese's apartment, she pays her driver (plus a generous tip), then greets the doorman with a knowing nod. He's young, tall, good-looking. With the frequency of her visits, he must know the nature of their relationship. Still, he is always kind and welcoming, greeting her with a smile or a “good day, ma'am”. Sometimes, she wonders if they live in similar circles. She never asks, but it always lingers in the back of Carol's mind.
Every afternoon, Therese walks home to enjoy lunch in peace. She'd explained to Carol that, for awhile, she'd stayed in the office to save face, but over time, she'd found more comfort in her own living room than the loud, crowded kitchen-space, or alone in the communal work area. She'd mentioned it as a throw-away comment, but Carol never forgets. She logs every preference, every story, and every dream of Therese's in her memory. Perhaps one day she will use it all to impress. For now, she bides her time.
Using the key Therese had given her, she quietly enters the younger woman's apartment to not be seen by watchful eyes. It's only 11:30 in the morning, and Carol doubts Therese would be home, but she calls the girl's name anyway to be sure. When there is no response, she shuffles inside and begins carrying out her plans. She effortlessly finds lunch plates and two wine glasses. Despite having only been to Therese's apartment a handful of times, Carol feels surprisingly at home there.
The patio attached to Therese's apartment is barely large enough for the two of them, but Carol manages anyway. She pulls a large, black and red checkered blanket from her basket and throws it across the floor, smoothing out the wrinkles and creases; Therese will not notice such details, Carol knows, but still, she can't resist. She's just finished plating Therese's lunch when the door opens. Trying not to startle her, Carol greets Therese with a pet name.
Therese gasps. “Carol?”
Carol peeks her head around the patio doorframe. “Join me for lunch?”
When Therese fully sees the picnic display, she sighs contentedly. “Oh, Carol. You did all of this for me?”
“For us. I think I will enjoy it as well,” Carol teases. She sinks to the floor, sitting angled to retain her modesty in a dress. The way Therese eyes her, though. She bites her lower lip. Carol's cheeks grow the slightest bit red. Only Therese can make her blush with the simplest gaze. “Sit with me?” she asks, reaching out for the young woman's hand.
Without hesitation, Therese takes it, settling beside Carol. “Your hair,” she compliments, running her fingers over the light curls at the bottom and the bangs pinned away from Carol's face.
She feels self conscious for only a second before Therese adds, “Carol, you look stunning.” Although it fills her with warmth, Carol doesn't respond to it directly, instead grabbing the bottle of wine she's brought along from her basket and offering it forward.
“Would you like a glass?”
“I do have to return to work after this,” Therese teases.
Carol raises an eyebrow.
The pair descends into a series of giggles.
Carol removes the cork from the wine and pours each of them a small glass of white. She also hands Therese the plate she's put together of various fruits, cheeses, crackers and smoked meats. “You need brain food, miss photographer.” Carol winks.
Therese eats without argument. Carol simply sips her wine, adoring the woman beside her. The sun feels delightful against her bare arms. Somehow she manages to tear her eyes away from Therese long enough to look up at the sky, watching for a minute as the clouds settle above them. The fluffy whites she'd admired before are now off-grey. They signal rain, although the more prominent soreness in her knuckles already tells her that. But Therese looks so angelic before her, caught in-between the shadow of the clouds and the beams of sun that fight their way through them. Carol leans over and kisses behind Therese's ear; despite the warmth around them, she feels Therese's shiver against her lips.
Reaching behind her into the basket she's brought, Carol hands over the daffodils. She tries to think of something playful to say, but the words fail her. “They made me think of you,” Carol eventually offers with a shy smile.
Harge had never bought her flowers. On occasion, she'd purchased some for herself to arrange on their dining room table. Red roses and white magnolias had always been two of her favorites. Abby had gifted a bouquet one depressing birthday. Until today, though, Carol had never bought flowers for someone else – especially not someone like Therese. But the way Therese gasps excitedly and smiles with shining dimples makes Carol want to buy the entire shop's worth if only to see Therese light up so brightly.
When the first raindrops fall, only Carol seems to notice. They come infrequently and with no discernible pattern. She feels a faint wetness on her forearm, then her hand. It smells so fresh, rejuvenating to her lungs. She nuzzles her nose against the spot where Therese's shoulder and neck meet, which elicits a soft whimper beside her. Carol tilts her head up to the sky and sighs as the rain picks up at a more steady speed.
Therese finally notices. “I believe it's raining.”
“So it is.”