The Kanellises had a number of vacation houses—too many, in Thaïs's opinion, surely there were better things to do with that money—but she'd always been particularly fond of the chalet nestled at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. Mountain lodge architecture and decor weren't her style, but it was quiet and had a nice view, and was always cool no matter what time of year they went.
That didn't mean she appreciated Althea suddenly deciding that the two of them should have an impromptu getaway there in the middle of the summer. The theater's new play was opening in two weeks, and she had far too much costuming work left to do before then to afford taking time off, especially with no advance notice. Althea, of course, ignored all of her protests, from the moment she first announced the idea to the moment the car dropped them off in front of the house.
"I had the staff go home for the weekend, so you won't have to worry about them," Althea said as she unlocked the door. "We have the place to ourselves."
"That's not the point, Althea," Thaïs snapped, dragging her wheeled suitcase up the sidewalk. "The point is that—"
"Yeah, yeah, I know." Althea held the door open for her and then shut it behind them once they were both inside. "But wouldn't it be nice to have a break for a few days?"
Thaïs dumped her things in an unceremonious pile in the middle of the foyer; there'd be time enough to deal with them once she was done yelling at her sister. "Who said I wanted a break? And why did you have to drag me all the way out here? You know how much work I have to do right now—"
The sound of the doorbell interrupted her, and she froze, eyes widening. "I thought you said you sent the help away."
Althea flashed her a grin and headed for the door. "I did. This is our other special guest."
"Our what now—"
Althea threw the door open. "Hey Elsa! Glad you could make it!"
Thaïs could feel her ears turning red. "You didn't tell me she was—"
"Of course I didn't, I didn't want you chickening out, now did I."
Elsa frowned slightly and peered over Althea’s shoulder into the house. "Am I interrupting something?"
"Oh no, not at all!" Althea grinned again. "Thaïs was just talking about how nice it would be to see you again before you headed off for the Ivy League, isn't that right, Thaïs?"
Thaïs clamped down on a squeak of indignation. "Right. Exactly."
"I see." Elsa looked dubious, but didn't say anything further on the subject. "Can I come in, then?"
"Yep!" Althea pulled the door open all the way. "Like I was telling Thaïs, I sent all the hired help home for the weekend, so we're on our own. They left us some prepared meals, though, so we should be set for food."
"That's useful." Elsa stepped inside and put her overnight bag down on the floor, glancing around politely at the interior of the house. Thaïs took a few deep breaths and tried to concentrate on not letting her blush spread any further, but she couldn’t help giving the other girl a once-over.
She looked good. Well, she always looked good, in Thaïs's opinion—her fashion sense wasn't particularly exciting even when she wasn't forced into those awful St. Claudine's uniforms, but it suited her. The shell and blazer she wore today were still distressingly white, but the slim pants were black and accentuated her legs, and the low-heeled ankle boots were a dark gray. No gloves, for once. It was probably as close to a casual outfit as she got.
Elsa was saying something to Althea—commenting on the decor, probably—when Thaïs’s eyes finally came to rest on her face. Elsa caught her gaze and gave her a small smile, and Thaïs's heart suddenly started beating faster.
She was supposed to be straight, really she was. It was just that stupid all-girls school making everything confusing. Seriously, a whole scandal because they'd tried on clothes together? Seriously? What kind of female friends didn't try on clothes together sometimes? The place was a pack of absolute wolves.
Althea was saying something else—room arrangements, it sounded like. Elsa was in the guest room down the hall from the room Thaïs normally stayed in, while Althea had claimed a room in the other wing. Fine, that was fine.
The other two girls started to head for the stairs, so Althea could show Elsa the room. Thaïs picked up her bags and followed after them, all of her complaints about the situation draining away.
* * *
"One moment!" she called out, and took a quick glance in the mirror to make sure her hair and clothes hadn't gotten disheveled before she opened the door.
Elsa stood in the hall, as impeccable and straight-faced as ever. Her clothes probably never got disheveled. "Hello," she said.
"Hi," Thaïs replied. "Did you finish unpacking?"
"I did, yes." Elsa adjusted her glasses slightly. "If you're done as well, would you like to come have tea with me? We didn't get to speak much when we arrived."
"Oh, sure." A thought occurred to her and she wrinkled her nose. "Is there actually any proper tea here, or do I need to bring my own?"
Elsa shook her head, the corners of her mouth quirked upward in amusement. "Althea said there was definitely black tea, but she wasn't sure about any other kind."
"Ugh, black tea." Thaïs sighed. "Fine, give me a minute to look through what I brought with me and I'll meet you down there."
Elsa nodded. "All right. I'll see you shortly, then."
* * *
Elsa took a careful sip of the hot tea. "That's quite good. What kind is it?"
"Gyokuro. It's a high-end Japanese green tea." Thaïs sipped from her own cup. She’d only tried this particular tea once before, but it was just as strong and distinctive as she remembered, with a slightly sweet flavor. "I ordered a number of Japanese teas a while ago that I'm still working through."
"I see." Elsa raised her cup for another drink, and they sat in silence for a few moments, enjoying the tea.
"How has your summer been so far?" Elsa asked. "Althea said you were helping with costuming at a local theater?"
"Oh, yes." Thaïs set her cup down. "It's just a community theater, but they needed someone to help with designing and sewing the costumes for some of their summer productions, and I thought it would be a good experience."
Elsa nodded. "Have you been enjoying it?"
"Yeah. Well, the play they were working on when I started was a period piece, which isn't really my style, but it was interesting sewing practice, I suppose. Lots of brocade and ruffles, ugh." She waved a hand dismissively. "But the one they're rehearsing for right now is an original script set in the modern day, and I've gotten to help with some of the design work."
"Sounds like it's a good experience, then. Especially if you're getting to do actual designing, not just sewing."
"Exactly." Thaïs picked up another cookie. "I've been very busy the last few weeks getting everything ready, though. There was an issue with the fabric for one of the main designs, so I had to order new fabric and remake the whole thing. And then the writer decided to change one of the characters into a man, so I had to scrap the whole outfit I had planned and design a new one. And then the idiot set designer—" She realized she was rambling and cut herself off, cheeks flushing slightly. "Er. I'm a bit behind schedule, is my point."
Elsa was holding her teacup in front of her mouth, but from the way her eyes were glinting, Thaïs thought she might have been smiling. "I'm sure you'll catch up. I can't see you missing a deadline."
"Of course not," Thaïs said with a sniff. "I'll just have to work harder for a few weeks." She picked up her napkin and patted cookie crumbs away from her mouth, careful not to smudge her lipstick. "What about you? Are you still getting ready to move to the university?"
"You could say that." Elsa set her cup down and folded her hands together. Thaïs wasn’t sure when the last time she’d even seen Elsa’s bare hands was—had she left the gloves off at graduation, maybe? Seeing her without them felt strangely intimate, and Thaïs found her gaze lingering on her soft skin and freshly manicured nails.
"…so much as the paperwork." Right, she was still talking. Snap out of it and pay attention, Thaïs. "There are health forms, housing forms, scholarship forms... I have a mountain of papers to fill out before I actually start."
"Oh, fun." Thaïs wrinkled her nose at the thought. "Wait, housing? Are you going to be stuck in a dorm again? I thought with college you could actually have your own apartment."
"Eventually, yes, but they require freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. A lot of schools have similar requirements."
"Great. And here I was hoping I'd be done with idiot roommates after St. Claudine's." She sighed theatrically. "Is the campus nice, at least? Ivy League schools all have lots of historical buildings, right?"
"It is. I've visited a few times now—the main campus is something like 500 acres, and it's all Gothic architecture and well-kept greenery. There's a few quite nice gardens, as well." Elsa raised her cup again and swallowed what was left of her tea. Thaïs absolutely did not focus on her arching neck. "And unlike many of the other buildings, the dorms are thankfully not from the eighteenth century, and have had their utilities redone recently."
"That's good. One of my parents' other houses was built in the 1800s, and it gets awful in the winter."
Thaïs drained the last of her tea as well, and the two of them sat in silence for another minute or two before an idea occurred to her. "Hey, Elsa—you want to see what I've been working on? I only brought one of the actual costumes with me, but I have my sketchbook with all the designs in it."
"I'd be very interested in seeing those." Elsa stood up from the table and pushed her chair back in. "Shall we clean up here and then head back to your room?"
Oh. Well then. "Sure, sounds good."
* * *
"Wasn't there a term for this style of clothing?" Elsa's fingers tapped her chin thoughtfully as she examined the dress hanging from the mannequin. "Lolita?"
"Not really." The sketchbook was nestled at the bottom of her suitcase, under her makeup bag and an extra bolt of fabric. "I mean, yes, there's a style called gothic lolita, and it's similar, but this dress would have to have a fuller skirt and a different bodice to really count. It's just regular gothic." She closed the suitcase again and walked back to the bed with her sketchbook. She cast a critical eye over the dress as she sat down—she still had to finish the embroidery on the skirt, and add the rest of the lace trim, and tighten up that one part of the bodice, and—
She suddenly realized the flaw in this whole plan of hers as Elsa sat on the bed next to her, leaving only an inch or two of space between them. Dammit, Thaïs, she just wants to look at the sketchbook. Be normal.
Elsa's eyes were still on the dress. "I'm certainly not an expert, but it looks good to me, and well-constructed. The sort of thing you might wear, perhaps."
"Not with that neckline, I wouldn't," Thaïs said with a slight scoff. "But the rest of it, probably. And thanks; it still needs a lot of work, but it's getting there."
Elsa nodded and glanced at the sketchbook. "What do the rest of them look like?"
"Right." Thaïs flipped the book open. "So, this is the lead character's outfit—"
It was a good thing she could explain these designs in her sleep, because she lost her ability to concentrate about thirty seconds in, when Elsa shifted closer to get a better look at the drawings, and suddenly Thaïs was somehow even more aware of how close she was. Elsa's shoulder pressed lightly against hers, and her knee brushed Thaïs's thigh, and her face was close enough Thaïs could get a whiff of whatever skincare product she'd used this morning—something with vanilla? She turned the pages and kept the explanation going on autopilot, and concentrated on trying to keep her face from flushing.
"Oh, I like that one," Elsa said after a few pages, pointing at a pencil skirt and blouse ensemble Thaïs had drawn for one of the side characters.
"Yeah, I can see you wearing something like that." Thaïs frowned at the page. "It's basically office wear with that styling, though. You should really try wearing something less formal occasionally, you know, I bet you'd look good."
"Oh?" Elsa pushed up on the bridge of her glasses. "What would you suggest?"
"I mean, you could just get something else to wear with this kind of skirt. Like a peplum coat, or a leather jacket—" She said it without thinking, but then the image of Elsa in a leather jacket flashed into her mind, and she was quite sure she was blushing now. "S-Something like that."
Elsa tilted her head to the side. "Is something wrong?"
"No! Everything's fine." She fixed her eyes back on the sketchbook and did not look at Elsa anymore. That would fix it, surely.
"Are you sure? Your face is rather red."
Crap. "No, yeah, I just—"
"Pictured something you weren't planning on?"
Thaïs jerked her head up in surprise and stared at her with wide eyes. Elsa raised one eyebrow, her eyes glinting behind her glasses. "You— Oh my god, Elsa, are you doing this on purpose? Seriously?"
Elsa laughed, a sound Thaïs didn't hear very often and had to admit was rather nice, even in the circumstances. "Sorry. I wasn't planning on it, but you've been a bit of an open book all day, and I couldn't resist."
"Oh my god." Thaïs let out a very undignified noise of exasperation. Maybe she could just crawl under the bed and hide for the rest of the weekend.
She reached out and touched the side of Elsa's face, pulling it closer and pressing their lips together, harder than she had that time at St. Claudine's. Elsa's lips were warm and soft and just slightly wet from gloss, and Thaïs couldn't help digging her fingers into the other girl's skin a little from the sensation.
She still wasn't entirely sure she liked this kissing thing, but she did have to admit touching Elsa like this was nice. Very nice.
She pulled away after a few more seconds to find that Elsa was just openly grinning at her now. She opened her mouth to say something, but Elsa moved first, pulling her hand away from her face and down to her lap, and leaned in to kiss her back.
And oh, that was even nicer than the first one.
* * *
Thaïs threw a pillow at her.