Lola knew something was wrong the moment she found Jenny dancing on the frat house table beneath the flashing strobe lights.
Sure, the signs had been there for weeks. But for weeks, Lola had prowled the artful halls of denial.
Unfortunately, those halls had suddenly crumbled and fallen in.
Because Jenny Parker, dancing on a table? Jenny Parker, lifting her shirt above her navel? Jenny Parker, drinking?
It didn’t matter that all this was Lola’s fault. That she had pushed Jenny too far out of her safe box and into a world so wild, the girl fell back into her spaces of cardboard.
It didn’t matter that girlfriend had just broken Lola’s heart.
What mattered was that the signs were flashing neon, blinding Lola to any form of ignorance. Her girl was seriously unhinged.
Unhinged and a hip-thump away from becoming frat-boy meal chow.
The boys crowded the table, cheering and catcalling. One moron drooled and licked his lips, closing in on Jenny’s thumping hips. Closing in too close.
So close, Lola really couldn’t help what she did next.
She grabbed his neck, carving her short nails into his flesh. “Excuse me,” she shouted above the music – and above the guy’s girlish shrieks. Really, dudes were too sensitive nowadays. “But that’s my girlfriend you’re drooling over.”
The guy stumbled out of Lola’s gentle embrace. “Really?” He sneered, raking Lola up and down with his bloodshot eyes. “Chick said she was single.”
Lola sighed. “Of course she did.” She crossed her arms and lifted a single eyebrow, taking in the sight of straight-laced Jenny Parker shaking her ass for a group of college idiots.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
It wasn’t supposed to be searching-for-Jenny-in-the-emptiness-of-her-eyes or searching-for-her-at-one-a.m.-college-parties or searching-for-her-in-the-body-of-the-girl-she-forgot-how-to-be.
It wasn’t supposed to be searching at all.
The search was supposed to have ended a year ago.
A year ago, Jenny grabbed Lola by the collar of her shirt and tugged her into a kiss. A kiss that had them toppling over piles of college applications and folders of Lola’s photographs. A kiss that sent them rolling into the legs of Lola’s queen-sized, where they stopped tumbling and Jenny settled on top, her fingers in Lola’s hair, her lips snared by Lola’s kiss.
Jenny’s table-dance song reaches a crescendo, and Lola’s mind spirals backward in time to the moment Jenny devoured her lips that winter of her senior year in high school.
What the hell is happening? Lola thought, even as she tangled her tongue with Jenny’s. Since when does Parker make a move without diagrams and charts?
They broke apart, and Lola brushed strands of gold from Jenny’s eyes, losing herself in a sea of sapphire. “What was that?”
Jenny smiled, her lips a bit chewed up. “It was a kiss. Because, you know, I promised I’d live outside the box.” She swept Lola’s lips with another kiss. “And because I’m beginning to think there isn’t anywhere I want to be without you there, too.”
Oh, Jen. “Parker.” Lola slid her nose along Jenny’s. “All you had to do was ask.” I’d follow you anywhere.
It was a truth confined. Hidden away in the secret places of Lola’s twisted heart, where it existed in the seconds she allowed herself vulnerability.
Vulnerability that sprang up between them last fall, when Jenny waited for her college acceptances and Lola trudged through her own college applications.
Vulnerability that came to life when Lola caressed Jenny’s hand with her fingertips, pretending as though she was searching for a pen. Something to fill out those applications Jenny was so insistent held pieces to Lola’s future.
Vulnerability that continued to grow when Lola looked into Jenny’s eyes, eyes that sparked with their faith, their belief – and for the first time, Lola found sparks of faith, of belief within herself. For the first time, college didn’t seem such a crazy thing – and neither did the future.
A vulnerability that deepened when Jenny fell asleep atop Lola’s half-finished art portfolio at the kitchen table, the peace of angels settled upon her features. And Lola tucked a blanket around Jenny’s shoulders, before pushing her chair next to Jenny’s, bundling under the blanket herself.
Jenny’s kiss was also a moment of vulnerability. A moment that became several moments, that became a string of kisses, one after the other, linking Lola inextricably with her girl-of-faith-and-never-ending-belief.
“How about a promise?” Lola whispered on that night, stroking the softness of Jenny’s back.
Jenny shivered. “What kind of promise?”
“You continue living outside the box,” Lola said, nipping at Jenny’s lips, “and I’ll finish my college applications. Actually apply to some of those art schools.”
Because if Parker believed in her, then who was Lola not to believe in herself?
Jenny grinned. “Deal,” she said, her breath a ghost’s breeze across Lola’s lips.
So Lola applied to college.
And Jenny stepped with Lola into a world outside her suburban-good-girl box.
Sometimes, Lola texted Jenny in the middle of the night, summoning her to secret places outside the walls of Normal.
Hidden beaches where the surf brushed against their ankles and the sand squished between their toes. Where they walked hand-in-hand beneath the luminous blue moon, speaking through fingertip-touches and caresses-of-hands.
“I’ve never been out this late,” Jenny said once, nuzzled beneath Lola’s arm.
Lola cuddled her closer. “Welcome to the wild, Parker.”
Jenny smiled. “I like it here.”
“This is a good thing.” Lola danced with her through the surf. “Because the wild definitely likes you.”
It became an every-night thing.
Lola would summon Jenny into the wild – to secluded springs, where they tangled together beneath a waterfall, their skin cool from the water, their bodies heated from each other’s kiss; to mountain ridges overlooking dark valleys beneath worlds of stars, where Lola’s out-of-the-box-girl grew daring with her touches, leaving Lola to swear that the stars weren’t in the heavens, but hot beneath her skin.
One night, Lola held Jenny in the back of the jeep, both fully clothed, but completely tangled.
“How’s it feel to break free, Jen?” Lola murmured into her girlfriend’s hair.
Jenny tapped a heartbeat’s rhythm against Lola’s arm. “Kind of like my heart just started beating.”
Lola breathed kisses onto Jenny’s golden silk. “Just keep breathing, girlfriend.”
“Keep holding me like this,” Jenny said, nuzzling Lola’s cheek, “and I think that’s a definite.”
I’ll never let go. It was a thought Lola didn’t realize she’d spoken aloud until Jenny rewarded her with another set of stars-behind-her-eyes kisses.
But Lola kept her promise. She never let go.
She began holding on the first night Jenny kissed her, and the truth Lola kept confined – that she had fallen, fallen hard – burst from the tarnished box locked up inside her heart.
It was okay to take herself – and her feelings – seriously. It was okay to be in love with Jenny.
She held on, too, when Jenny was accepted to college. A school in a small college town of libraries-home-to-ancient-manuscripts and cozy-diners-opened-past-midnight and college-kids-playing-frisbee-and-paint-ball-across-college-lawns.
And she held on when she was accepted to an art school not too far from Jenny’s college. When she moved with Jenny into an apartment close to both their schools.
On their first night in that apartment, Jenny lay with Lola in their queen-sized, tracing Lola’s leg with the tips of her toes. “Knew you could do it,” Jenny whispered.
“Oh, yeah?” Lola slipped her fingers through Jenny’s hair.
“Yeah.” Jenny nodded, kissing Lola’s collarbone. “But then, I knew you could do anything.”
After that, Lola was too busy kissing her out-of-the-box girl for any more talking.
But their out-of-the-box lessons continued.
One night, a few months after they started college, Lola whisked Jenny off to a rave, where they painted each other’s faces with blue, purple and pink glow-in-the-dark paint (“Are you sure this stuff comes off?” Jenny asked, rubbing at her face. Lola caught her hand. “What’s wrong, Parker? Still having trouble trusting me?”). Jenny leveled Lola with a look and pulled her onto the dance floor, where they bumped to the beat of the music, until Jenny, with a spark of fire in her ocean blue, tugged Lola into her arms and, pressing her lips to Lola’s ear, whispered, “In this whole crazy, out-of-the-box world? You’re the one I trust the most.”
They stopped dancing. Once again, they were too busy kissing.
Some nights, they found secluded places on the college campus. Like in the planetarium, where they lay hand-in-hand on the floor beneath a ceiling of shooting stars, their breaths moving as rapid as the heavens.
Or the lawn, where they sat beneath a thatch of trees and Lola unearthed a bottle of wine along with two plastic wine glasses. “Trust me,” she said, handing Jenny a half-full glass of merlot. “Just a sip.”
And Jenny, who had captured her lip between her teeth at the sight of the wine, released that same lip at the sound of trust me. “Just one sip, then.” She pressed the glass to her mouth. And puckered her face at the taste of the wine. “It’s…” She licked her lips. “Hmm. It’s actually pretty good.”
Lola grinned. “Cheers.” She clinked her glass with Jenny’s and downed her wine in a gulp, then poured and drank another glass as Jenny finished her first.
Later, when the wine was gone and Jenny was giggling from her buzz, Lola curved Jenny into her arms, leaning them both back against a tree. “So how’s college going, girlfriend?” She savored that word. It tasted frothy and full of light.
Jenny toyed with the hairs on Lola’s arm, smoothing them with her palm. “Okay. Decent.”
“Decent?” Lola tented her fingers with Jenny’s. “That doesn’t sound like the glowing recommendation of a girl who’s spent her whole life preparing for this world.”
Jenny’s hand collapsed beneath Lola’s. “I failed a test.”
“What?” Lola’s voice was sharp. “How? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Silence formed between them. Silence so thick, it was almost tangible.
Jenny pressed her fingers into Lola’s arm. “We’ve been going out so much, I really haven’t had a chance to study.” She dug her nails into Lola’s skin, then drew back. “It’s okay. I’ll do better next time.”
Lola’s renegade heart dropped to her toes. “Next time,” she said, nuzzling Jenny’s golden hair, “we stay in so you can study.”
Jenny twisted in Lola’s arms, bringing them face-to-face. “But what about living outside-the-box?”
Lola kissed the tip of her nose. “Plenty of time for that. College first.”
But college exploded.
Jenny, that nose-in-the-books girl who had never gotten a bad grade, that first-in-her-class academic-princess who had never failed, threw herself back inside her box. Night-after-night, she held herself captive in their apartment, flat-lining her texts with a yellow marker she held in her trembling fist.
“C’mon, Jen,” Lola would say, her arms around Jenny’s shoulders, her lips trailing kisses across Jenny’s hair. “Take a break with me.” They’re lighting fireworks in the quad or The planetarium’s open late or Come kiss me beneath the waterfall.
“Want to. Can’t.” Jenny stabbed her textbook with her marker’s yellow tip. “Busy.”
But busy became busier, and busier became impossibly absorbed. And when Jenny received top marks in all her first-quarter classes, but remained lost in her textbooks, her yellow marker permanently attached to her fist, Lola found fun in her art crew – girls she met in art class or while photographing the streets of their small college town.
Together with her friends, she hid away in warehouses with bottles of wine and balloons full of paint. Their bodies shaking with laughter, their lips numb from the drink, they’d burst those balloons and color their faces, shrieking as the paint decorated their skin.
Jenny was always at the kitchen table when Lola came home. “Have fun?” she’d ask, her fingers stained with yellow ink.
“A blast.” Lola kissed her girl on the cheek. “You shoulda been there.”
“Yeah.” Jenny stared down at her text. “I know.”
But the next minute, she’d return to annihilating words with the marker’s yellow blood.
Lola kept going out. To museums and clubs and parties, where she partied and danced with the girls.
One girl, Mercy, even looked a bit like Jenny.
Lola hung with her the most.
She burst balloons with Mercy, and she partied and danced with Mercy, and she twirled with Mercy through the crowds. Once, Mercy accidentally left a lipstick imprint on Lola’s cheek, when they became excited – too excited – about the club’s band.
“Sorry,” Mercy had shouted, rubbing at the imprint.
Lola, warm from liquor, waved her off. “Whatever. Let’s dance.”
So they did. For a few minutes, Lola danced with Jenny’s lookalike, pretending Jenny was there instead.
But the lipstick mark remained.
And when Lola burst into their apartment later that night, Jenny eyed that mark through eyes dulled with shadows. “Who attacked you, Lola?”
“Oh.” Lola’s face grew hot. “Um, no one. One of the girls…” What? Kissed me? Something told her that excuse wasn’t gonna fly with Parker.
Jenny’s gaze dropped to her text. “Are you having fun?”
Lola wound her arms around Jenny’s shoulders. “I’d be having more fun if you came with me.”
“Wish I could.” She sighed and dropped her head back against Lola’s chest.
And they stayed like that for at least a hundred shattered heartbeats, lost in one another’s arms.
But Jenny never did come out with Lola. And the shadow in Jenny’s eyes grew more shaded with each night Lola went out and she stayed in.
Lola tried keeping her distance from Mercy.
Unfortunately, that trick stopped working when Mercy had too much to drink and Lola was forced to bring her home. Forced to hold back her hair as Mercy puked into their toilet bowl.
Lola glanced at the bathroom doorway and found Jenny there.
Jenny narrowed her eyes at Mercy’s golden hair, her Jenny-sized frame. “Would you hold my hair back like that?” she whispered.
“Of course.” Lola claimed her girlfriend’s gaze and held on tight.
But Mercy puked again, and Lola had to break eye contact, no more time for reassurances before Jenny disappeared back in the world of yellow markers and massacred texts, leaving a chasm of silence between them.
Jenny’s questions continued.
“Where do you go?” Jenny asked once, the marker tossed away, leaning haphazardly on the edge of the table.
Lola shrugged. “Out with the girls.”
Jenny snatched the marker back. “Which girls?”
Lola’s chest twisted at the sharpness in her girlfriend’s voice. “You know which girls,” she said, bouncing across the room to Jenny, where she pecked her cheek with a kiss. “The art freaks like me.”
“Right.” Jenny capped-and-uncapped the marker. “Like you.”
The uncapped marker fell atop the table, staining the wood with yellow ink.
And the shadows coalesced in Jenny’s blue eyes, robbing the ocean of its shine.
Lola stopped going out so much. Most nights, she tucked herself into the sheets well before Jenny stopped studying.
One night, when Lola was already tucked into the sheets and Jenny abandoned her yellow marker long enough to join her, Lola found that the shadows in Jenny’s eyes had brightened with a predatory glint.
Lola’s breath caught. “What’s going on, Jen?”
Jenny kissed the sensitive space beneath Lola’s ear. “Just thought I’d take a break and kiss a pretty girl.”
Lola’s boxless heart thrummed. She rolled over atop Jenny, pinning Jenny’s hands above her head. “What’s this about pretty girls?” She mewled, filling her voice with husk.
Jenny gazed up at Lola through unshuttered eyes, her expanse of blue darkened with a dare. Darkened, too, with hints of fear. Almost as if she was daring Lola to touch her, just as much as she was daring her to show her she still cared.
But that wasn’t the only form taken by the fear.
Fuck. Lola’s chest twisted. “Jen…”
Jenny’s fear also took the shape of don’t-hurt-me and I’ll-do-anything-to-keep-you..
They may be sharing an apartment. And a bed. And tangled-up sheets.
But they’d never taken it further than kissing.
Lola refused to push Jenny that far outside her box, for fear the world outside the realms of Safe would prove constructed of cardboard and crumble.
She’s not ready. “It’s okay.” She released Jenny’s hands. “We don’t have to –”
“Wait.” Jenny caught Lola’s fingers, pulling Lola’s hands back above her head. “I – Please. I mean, um…” She gulped, making her throat wobble. “It’s perfectly acceptable for two people who have been dating for a year to – to, uh…”
Always hiding behind logic. Lola freed her hands, placing one on either side of Jenny’s chest. Cradling this girl who had shattered her chains, broken outside her box, learned to love Lola in a way Lola never thought possible.
This girl who had broken free from Normal and made herself home in Lola’s Land of Wild. Even if Wild came with yellow markers and massacred texts.
This girl who stared at Lola with shadows flickering through her eyes. A darkness marring her once-luminous blue.
“Trying to prove something, Parker?” She slid a strand of gold behind Jenny’s ear.
“I – What?” Jenny seized her lip with her teeth, then let it go. “No. Of course not. I –”
“Shh.” Lola pressed a finger to Jenny’s lips. She stared into that blue – into the world of shadows and light – and smiled. “You don’t have to do that with me. Okay?”
Jenny closed her eyes, hiding her emotions. “So that’s it, then?”
“What’s it then?”
She sighed. And tensed. And pushed Lola off, rolling over onto her side. “I don’t know how to do this, okay? This out-of-the-box thing. It isn’t working.”
Oh, baby. Lola rolled over onto her side, too, pressing herself up against Jenny. “It was working just fine.”
“Yeah.” The word was an explosion of breath. “Until I almost failed a class.”
“But you didn’t.” Lola smoothed her hand through Jenny’s hair. “You’re top-of-your-class.”
Jenny melted into Lola’s touch. For one heartbeat, then two and three.
And then a tremor seemed to pass through her. She shivered from head-to-foot, before going rigid. “This isn’t working.” She pushed away from Lola. “You. Me.”
Lola’s heart cracked. “What?”
Jenny sprang from the bed, one hand on her hip. Her eyes were darker than Lola’d ever seen them. “Why won’t you make love to me, Lola? Why don’t you want me? What’s wrong with me?” With every me, she thumped her thumb against her chest.
“Whoa.” Lola leapt from bed, too, landing beside Jenny. “That’s not what I said. Don’t go putting words into my mouth.”
“You don’t have to say it.” Jenny threw out her arms. “You show it every night. Every time you go out with other girls. With her.”
“Wait.” Lola held up her hand. “Baby, you’ve gotta stop. I only go out with those other girls because you’re busy studying.” She stepped forward and tugged Jenny into her arms. “You’re it for me, okay? The only girl I want or need.”
Jenny melted into her hug. Her head fell onto Lola’s shoulder. Her arms went around Lola’s back. She sighed – she actually fucking sighed.
And then she tensed and pushed at Lola’s chest.
Lola stumbled back. “What the hell?”
The shadows were no longer just in Jenny’s eyes. They pooled across her face, dimming the light. “I’m always going to be me.” Her voice was devoid of light, too. So damn somber. “Inside-the-box Jenny. And you’re always going to be you. Outside-of-the-box Lola.” She dropped her gaze to their grey shag carpet. “We’re never going to work.”
Lola took a step forward. Just one. Just enough to close some of the distance. “So let’s call a do over. Find the middle ground. I won’t go out so much. You won’t spend every hour studying.”
Jenny’s gaze snapped up. For a moment, the shadows faded.
And then they coalesced, turning the blue into darkest navy. “I don’t know how.” Her words were thick with the frustration of a girl who had never failed. She swallowed sharp and then, as Lola took another step forward, she whirled on her heel and stalked toward the door.
“Jenny, wait.” Lola reached out again. “Where are you going?”
Jenny paused, her hand on the doorknob. “To find the middle ground.”
She twisted the knob and disappeared down the hall.
“Let me help you,” Lola whispered, her eyes stinging with renegade tears.
But her words were lost to the silence created when Jenny stepped from the apartment and slammed the door, leaving Lola behind.
But that wasn’t what woke her.
Nope. What woke her was a never-ending repeat of Welcome to the Jungle, blaring from her stupid phone.
Lola punched the sleep from her eyes and grabbed the phone, shoving it to her face. “What?”
The music blared in her ear.
She groaned and pulled the phone back, staring at the flashing screen.
Oh. Right. Gotta turn it on first. She punched the green talk button and pressed the phone back to her face. “What’s up, sleep-snatcher?”
“Hey, is this Lola?” A familiar-not-familiar voice shouted above another stream of song, this music muffled.
“This is Lola.” Lola stabbed the tip of the marker into Jenny’s open text, bleeding the yellow into the white. “Who’s this?”
Lola blinked. “Oh, right. Mercy. Hey.”
“Hey.” The music faded, as if Mercy was moving into another room. “Listen. You really need to get to Theta house.”
Of course I do. Lola groaned and dropped her head into her hand. Theta house had the best frickin’ parties on campus. But her eyes were blurry, her head full of sharp rocks, her heart battered beyond repair. “Can’t tonight. I’m –”
“Lola, it’s Jenny. She’s drinking too much.” Mercy’s words rushed together, sharp bites of sound. “And I’m pretty sure I just heard her agree to a table dance.”
Fuck. Lola sprang from her chair, her battered heart beating into her ears. “Mercy?”
“Yup?” The girl popped the p.
Lola stuffed her arms into her jacket. “Don’t you dare let her out of your sight.”
“Already on it.” And then, as the music grew louder: “Hey, Lol’?”
Mercy sighed. “You love her, don’t you?”
“More than you’ll ever know,” Lola said, shoving her feet into blue bedroom slippers.
“Yeah.” The girl’s voice was quiet, a deep contrast to the blare of music. “Drive safe, okay?”
“No promises.” Lola punched the red end button and grabbed her keys. She still wore her pajamas, but fuck it. No way was she letting her girlfriend loose in a house full of Theta creeps.
Five minutes later, she was gunning her jeep through the streets, her slippered-feet slippery against the pedals.
A year of out-of-the-box, back-in-the-box, wild-and-normal, and Lola’s cutting through a crowd of Theta creeps, nodding at the Jenny-never-gonna-be-Jenny girl, Mercy, who tips her chin toward a nearby table.
Not that Lola needed Mercy’s help.
It’s not hard to find Jenny.
She’s the girl thumping her hips on top of a table, waving her hands to snatch at the five- and ten-dollar bills being waved around the room.
Lola catches a few herself, shoving them into the pockets of her coat. “Hey, that’s mine,” one of the frat boys slurs, snatching at his ten dollars.
Lola catches the boy by the lips. “And she’s mine.” She points at her girlfriend, who’s doing a shimmy. “So I guess you owe me.” She pushes at the boy’s face, sending him stumbling back into the crowd.
He doesn’t try to take back his money.
Lola weaves through the frat boys, snatching more money. By the time she’s reached the front, she’s fifty-dollars richer.
She’ll spend the money on a date with her girlfriend, once she’s lured her off the table and away from these horny frat bastards.
And once she’s figured out a way to break Jenny free from her newest box.
She has a scuffle with the guy who forces himself much too close to Jenny – the one who gleefully informs her Jenny’s single – and then, her fingernails wet with the idiot’s blood, she pushes herself front and center.
The song reaches its crescendo, and Jenny shimmies low enough that they’re standing eye-to-eye. She blinks and gasps.
“Hey, baby.” Lola circles her hand in a wave. “You done here yet?”
“Lola.” Jenny’s voice is half-cry, half-sob. “You came.” She slips off the table, hurling herself at Lola.
Lola flings up her arms just in time to catch Jenny before she falls. She cradles her girlfriend to her chest, wrinkling her nose at the stench of alcohol. “You agreed to a table dance without me, Parker. Of course I came. I had to catch the action.”
Jenny giggles. And then, as the strobe lights flash red, then yellow, then blue, her features mottle and pale. “Ugh.” She claps her hand to her mouth. “I’mma be sick.”
Lola sighs. “Then let’s get you to the lawn before that happens.”
Carrying Jenny, she elbows past the drunk frat guys, who are too stupid to realize their action is leaving, and are still hooting and hollering and waving money. (She also snatches another tenner.)
Once out of the house, she moves into a shaded patch of yard, hidden by trees from the porch lights.
Jenny slips from Lola’s arms and onto her knees. In seconds, she’s coughing. And then she’s hurling, splashing the ground with sick.
Lola bends to hold back Jenny’s hair. See? I’d hold your hair in a heartbeat. “Get it all out, Jen.”
Jenny pukes so long, she fertilizes the plants with the contents of her stomach.
“If this is your way of living outside the box,” Lola says, palming circles onto Jenny’s back, “then clearly, I still have a lot to teach you.”
Jenny groans and hangs her head. “Seriously?”
She stumbles to her feet, rubbing spittle from her lips. “Seriously, you’re staying? You’re not going to run?” She turns and blinks at Lola, her blue eyes gleaming with tears. “Even after all that?”
Lola’s heart shatters. She covers it with a roll of her eyes. “Sorry, girlfriend. You’re stuck with me.” She steps forward to cup her girl’s cheek. “Always. So you’d better get used to it.”
The tears in Jenny’s eyes slip onto her cheeks. A half-sob escapes her lips, and then she’s toppling into Lola’s arms, holding her close. “I already am.”
“This is a good thing.” Lola kisses her hair. “Because there’s nowhere I want to be without you there, too.”
Jenny laughs and sobs.
And Lola holds her girl as the weight of the world falls from Jenny’s eyes, absorbing itself in her tears.
Jenny studies. But she studies on the couch beside Lola.
Sometimes, she rests her head in Lola’s lap, reading her texts marker-free, while Lola smooths her fingers through Jenny’s hair.
Sometimes, Lola reads the texts for Jenny, murmuring her approval when Jenny closes her eyes and just listens.
At other times, Jenny takes breaks to gaze at Lola’s photographs, offering praise and opinions on Lola’s shots. “You’re so talented, Lol’,” she says, raising Lola’s hand to her lips and kissing her palm.
Lola breathes in deep. Breathes in Jenny. “It’s easy when I have you for inspiration.”
They exchange a smile that turns itself into several rounds of kisses.
A few weeks later, they thank Mercy by cooking her and the girls dinner.
Jenny burns the chicken, but it doesn’t really matter.
Throughout the meal, Jenny gets to know Lola’s friends – and Lola gazes into her girlfriend’s clear blue eyes, memorizing the sapphire-without-shadow.
When she heads from their apartment later that night, Mercy stops to wink at Lola. “If she were my girl,” she says, nodding at Jenny, “I’d fight to keep her, too.”
Lola grins and pulls Jenny into a hug, melting when Jenny hugs her back.
“She has it wrong,” Jenny whispers into Lola’s ear, after the girls have disappeared from the apartment and it’s just the two of them.
“Oh?” Lola shivers at the feel of Jenny’s heated breath, caressing her skin.
“Definitely.” Jenny nods. “You’re the girl worth fighting for.”
“Mmm.” Lola unwinds from Jenny’s arms to cling to Jenny’s hand. “Let’s just fight for each other, okay?”
“Deal.” Jenny grins. And allows Lola to lead her back to the bedroom.
They don’t have sex, but they do kiss. And touch. And whisper promises of forever.
Lola knows she’ll bend soon. That her touches will become more fervent, her kisses more feverish. That she’ll take things further, catapulting them both into some star-crossed heaven.
She knows, too, that when that happens, it’ll be right. And that’s enough to keep her waiting. It’s enough for them both.
One night, a few months after Jenny’s table dance, a day after Jenny receives high marks on all her midterms, Lola drives them both to a secluded beach.
The waves dance upon the shore, washing across the moon-stained sand.
Lola steps hand-in-hand with Jenny, with her girlfriend, to the edge of the surf. “What do you say, Jen?” She raises a brow. “You ready to consecrate this do over?”
Jenny gazes into Lola’s eyes with her bright blue – blue as deep and rich as the ocean lapping at their toes – and then she gazes out at the ocean, its inky waves shining bright with moonlight. “Let’s do it,” she whispers, squeezing Lola’s hand.
Lola grins. “One.”
“Two,” Jenny says, taking a step closer. A smile curves the corners of her lips.
“Three,” they say in unison.
And then, laughing and fingers linked, they rush into the ocean, ready to begin again. Together, and outside-of-the-box.
An ocean-and-moon-marked do over.