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Kat and Adena (dating for 3 years) – 

The studio is set up simply. Two chairs opposite each other, one camera on each side mounted behind each chair to capture the reaction of their counterpart. A small table is laid out between the two chairs; cards in one pile at the center and two water glasses at each opposite corner. There are various lights set overhead, out of view of the camera and microphones strategically placed to pick up the audio. Each person in turn picks up a card from the pile and reads aloud the question for their partner to answer. Their participation in this social experiment, came through Sabrina, a colleague of Adena’s who was developing a video series with aims to explore the ‘human connection’ whilst giving representation to different kinds of relationships; balancing personal identity and interpersonal relationships.

That is how Kat finds herself sat across from Adena, in a large studio space in Greenwich village, absorbing the silence; save for the whirring of the A/C unit in the corner and the noise from the New York street below. 

“Okay so, just spend the next minute or so getting relaxed and try to be in the moment. Kat could you shift the chair slightly” The one woman, camera-woman, director, producer and sound technician states. Sabrina, Kat had met her a few times at various events she and Adena had attended; she was nice, she shared Kat’s love of late 2009/2010 Nicki Minaj and always made an effort with Kat. Kat also remembered the petite woman awkwardly trying to flirt with Jane at Adena’s birthday celebration. Watching Jane trying to politely fumble an apology for being straight had been a highlight. 

Adena looks at Kat, taking in her smile. Adena is always looking at her,‘regarding’ her she says when Kat asks. Kat always has a glow about her, her eyes always letting on more than she cares to. Kat is getting better about it, being looked at like that, like she’s the most important thing in Adena’s life. She’s dressed casually, black jeans, a black top, heeled boots and a black blazer incidentally co-coordinating with Adena’s similar all-black outfit – they had gotten dressed separately that morning, Adena emerging from the bathroom to look up at Kat, smiling as she took note of how they were dressed. Stereotypical as it may be: to date someone and slowly merge into one.

 “okay cool, whenever you’re ready”. There’s a little hesitation between Kat and Adena, looking at each other, pausing, waiting to see who would go first.


Kat takes a breath, picks up a card, taking a moment to look up at Adena who is looking at her so openly and lovingly. “so, do I just read it or...? okay so” she takes a quick pause, re-reading the question

“What do you love about our relationship?” she places the card down next to the pile on the side table. She crosses her leg over the other and looks up to Adena who smiles at her immediately, almost to reassure her.

“What do I love the most about our relationship? Ah, I think, I love that we are so very different.” Adena states with little hesitation. “what physically or?” Kat interjects light heartedly, gesturing between the two of them, their physical differences are quite evident, but Kat feeling challenged emotionally thinks ‘time to make a joke’.

Adena giggles in that way that she does, reciprocating Kat trying to take the tension out of the conversation. “What, do you mean? That we look different? She laughs, “well that’s obvious” she pauses trying to carefully formulate the words and speak with intention. She tilts her head to one side, really making eye contact with Kat. “I think that you need to have balance. In any kind of relationship, romantic or not. I think we have balance. You challenge me, and I’d like to think that I can in some ways challenge you” Kat interjects “yeah totally” she adds nodding in agreement. Kat was funny and silly and confident, all things which Adena was but in such a different way. She was impulsive where Adena preferred a more measured approach. Kat loved to be out in the world, Adena was more of a homebody – something they had worked hard to find a balance between. Adena has this maturity that Kat admired it balanced her out perfectly – she always knew that someone would pack snacks for a road trip and remember send thank you cards after a dinner party.

“We see the world differently, but I think you’re always open to my perspective as much as I try to be open to yours. I also think there’s the understanding of allowing the other person to just be. But yeah all of the things which make us different are…. They serve to make us better I think. Does that make sense?” Adena’s voice tilts at the end of her question, leaving room for Kat’s response. Kat takes a moment to digest what Adena is communicating. The way she is so introspective and has such a deep understanding of herself and reflects and looks at their relationship. “I also love that, that we may have cultural differences, but I think the other is always …. Is always willing to learn, I think. You’re always asking me, sort of wanting to know more which I appreciate” Adena adds.

“well yeah, of course. I want to know everything about you. I want to stick around in your world and I want to know what that is, like what that looks like.” After three years of dating, Kat had become comfortable talking about her and Adena in a future tense. Without the pressures of immigration and the looming potential of deportation. Somehow, they had made it work through all of that. Now Kat wanted to give Adena all of her good mornings, her best days and her worst days. She wanted Adena on their good days and bad days.

 “yes, while I can appreciate that, not everyone is so open. I just want you to know. It’s even in the little things” Adena says.

Adena has a great appreciation for Kat wanting to know more about her world and where she comes from. Asking questions but respecting her boundaries and for Kat, she was gaining an understanding of religion and a new culture through Adena’s perspective (and her cooking which a is always plus). It was a contrast to her own knowledge and upbringing and it was apparent in their conversations initially that the rest of the world knew so much about America but that wasn’t necessarily reciprocated.

 - 

 Persian Cinema was something Kat had really grown to enjoy. They were sat on the couch, Adena nestled in Kats arms, blanket over top their laps. Kat sat with her legs crossed resting on the edge of the futon, Adena next to her with her legs folded underneath her. Kat’s wine glass was half full, left on the coffee table. They had just finished watching a wedding scene in another of Adena’s ‘essentials of Persian cinema’ – this was how she informally referred to their monthly movie screenings which they arranged when Kat mentioned wanting to know a more about Persian films and culture. “How close is that? To a real wedding?”. Kat asked, head nodding toward the screen. Adena reaches her hand out from under the blanket to grab the remote turning down the volume before turning back to Kat. She tilts her head thinking “well it depends. Some people have weddings that are smaller some are bigger. And a lot of it depends on the family”.

“is that something you’ve ever thought about?” Kat snuggles closer, the arm around Adena’s shoulders lowering to rest her hand on Adena’s hip; reaching her hand under Adena’s sleep shirt to trace circles there.

 “What a wedding?”

 “yeah,” Kat replies. Adena pauses for a moment, weighing whether or not she wants to get into it with Kat. She absent-mindedly traces the pattern of the blanket while Kat pretends to look back at the screen; waiting patiently and giving Adena the space to talk. “for the longest time I didn’t think that it would be possible for me. I had always known about myself, but I think it is hard to conceptualize something you have never seen”.

Adena thinks back to being 16, getting dressed for her cousins wedding, going to the ceremony, seeing everyone gathered; seeing the Sofreyé Aghd (her auntie would have spent months gathering everything for the spread, both objects that are near and dear to the hearts of the bride and groom, and elements that contain imagery and symbolism relating to their impending union); everything presented so beautifully, dancing with her mother and in a quiet moment thinking maybe this would never happen for her. Then came what her relationship with her father was like now. She thought of how she would want to get married in a way that honored her parents; honored her father, who she now had very little contact with. “I am my mother’s only daughter, so I would love to share that experience with her.” She thinks of having a henna party, engagement ceremony and eating sweets and drinking tea blessing her future marriage. “So, I don’t know maybe. Was that a proposal Kat Edison?” Adena says turning to Kat who is now smiling.  

  -

Adena had come to understand that if Kat said she was getting her braids done, she would take a minimum of five hours and also that with new hair came a new Kat. Her energy changed, she carried herself a little differently. Always beautiful and confident, but different in some ways. They had long conversations with Kat talking about her hair Adena listening intently and participating where appropriate.  Kat always has a smell of Shea butter and coconut about her, Adena recognized the smell after seeing the array of hair products Kat used. It was familiar now, so distinctly Kat. Her curiosity was born partly out of her imagining their daughter, she wanted to know everything she could to encourage their potential baby to be proud of her curls, encourage her to be as confident as Kat and wanting to how to look after her hair.


Adena takes her turn asking Kat a question. She picks up a card.

Kat takes a deep breath and simultaneously Adena exhales, almost preparing herself for the onslaught of emotions that about are to come to the forefront.

“What is a pain in me that you would like to heal?

 “fuck…. I’m sorry, are we allowed to curse. I didn’t even ask that” Adena laughs at this because Kat knows how to dial down the tension at the right times. Sabrina also lets a laugh at this. She was all but a fly on the wall not making a sound. It would be easy to forget that she was in the room. “I wish I could heal the hurt with like your dad, you know. I think that obviously, you’ve come to this place where you’re whatever about it. But sometimes I pick up on how much it affects you.” 

“right. But that’s out of my ….” Adena is starting to get teary eyed but trying to hold it in. “it out of my control so what am I…”

“no babe I know. I know that. Its just I know it’s something you kind of feel like maybe you’re missing? I don’t know. I mean at dinner with my parents and my dad brought it up; It was just a lot you know. And when you talk to your mom and you know he’s there, but you guys don’t talk” Kat at this point leans forward, lowering herself leaning on her elbows to try and make eye contact with Adena who is looking downcast. “I wish I could make that okay for you.”

Susan and Marcus had invited their daughter and her girlfriend over for the weekend to celebrate Kat’s birthday. The affair was intimate, at their house in the Hamptons, hidden away but not too far from the city. His daughter had a girlfriend, which was fine with him of course. Adena was smart, educated, well-traveled, cultured. Adena was also kind and cared deeply for his daughter, he could tell from the way they interacted, she took care of Kat and Kat took care of her.  On paper she was ideal for Kat, someone from a good background and similar circumstances, Kat would never have to worry with Adena, he knew they would always be secure. But Adena was also very bold, Marcus would say, she lived her life out loud, she was religious and outspoken and so very different from the quiet subdued environment they had raised Kat in. Although to be fair, Kat had herself boldly carved her own path, so maybe they matched in that way.

“so Adena, how are your parents?” Marcus asks.

“My family is well, I keep in contact with them as much as I can”

  Adena goes on to talk about her mother telling her about her plans for the celebration of ‘Nature day’ at the end of the Persian new year. Susan asks more about the holiday to which Adena is very happy to explain how her mother had made all of these plans to go out into the gardens outside of their home.   Kat looks at her with pride in her eyes. They have a discussion of all doing something like that because Susan just wants her daughter’s girlfriend to feel comfortable and welcome.

“And your father?” Marcus chimes in, after taking a bite of Susan’s potato salad; the raisins were an unusual addition. “Dad.” Kat says almost warning her dad. Adena could handle herself but her parents were ‘a lot’, her dad especially. Growing up there wasn’t room for her to just be sad, they always had to unpack why.

"Its okay, I don’t mind.” Adena reassures Kat, putting her fork down, taking then a moment to control her feelings “We don’t speak much,” (or at all) Adena offers, without any intention of giving up more information than that

It took her a while to even open up to Kat about her relationship with her dad. How close they used to be, how her behavior in her ‘rebellious phase’ got her into trouble; he had simply lost his patience with her. The family money could only bail her out for so long, so she left home at seventeen.

“interesting” Marcus says, almost trying to provoke her into saying more than she volunteered. “Dad can we not do this” Kat chimes in, the tension in the room rising “what?” feigning being oblivious, he turns back from Kat to Adena who is sitting next to his daughter on the opposite side of the table.  “I can’t imagine how one would negotiate that”

“negotiate what dad?” Kat is starting to get impatient, her body tensing up bracing herself for whatever psychobabble her dad was about to come out with.

“no, just growing up religious, I could see how a parent would struggle with that” Marcus states matter-of-factly.

“My family isn’t particularly religious. I grew up around religion, but my father and me, that’s just a difference in opinion. We didn’t and don’t really agree on what we want for my life I guess.”

 -

Adena had grown up in a liberal household, her parents were artists who stayed following the revolution when their peers had left. Maybe her parents let her have a bit too much freedom, which Adena then used to her advantage, causing all sorts of mayhem as a teen. The conflict between Adena and her father wasn’t so much because of her sexuality. He didn’t agree with her leaving home so young and she disobeyed him by leaving causing a strain on their relationship. Her mother once quoted him to say ‘if she wants to be an adult and thinks she is a woman now, let her go out into the world and do whatever she wants. She does not care for her father’. Despite that he had still supported her for years after that, financially at least.

“Marcus!”  Susan admonishes “Adena honey” she turns trying to apologize for her husband. “no, it’s okay really” Adena assures her. The mood around the table is very subdued for the rest of their dinner. Kat reaches out to hold Adena hand on the table, she sips her wine and looks at her girlfriend poking at the frosted glass of cucumber and lemon water in quiet contemplation, comforted by Kat’s hand on hers. “Did anyone try the chicken, I thought the chicken was lovely” Susan says breaking the silence.

  Kat’s dad would apologize later that night when he and Adena are outside on the patio alone sharing a drink – his a scotch and hers a cup of tea, a blanket over her shoulders; trying to bond with her girlfriend’s father because maybe he’ll soon be her wife’s father. He’ll reassure her that she will always have a place in their family if she needs something. Kat casually looks over to make sure Adena is okay from her place near the kitchen island. The large kitchen opens out onto the patio. It’s a warmish night so the screen doors are open letting the light from the house onto the patio. Kat will join them, lean down to kiss Adena asking with her eyes, making sure Adena is okay.

-

“I appreciate that love, thank you.” That’s how Kat knows that is the end of it. Adena has acknowledged what she has said and has taken it in but won’t go further because she refuses to speak poorly about her father, regardless of everything Kat understand that’s her dad and their relationship is so much different to her and her dad.

“are you okay baby? Yeah?” after getting the confirmation of a nod from Adena as she wipes away a stray tear and smooths down her blouse and then reaches over to pick up a glass of water to take a quick sip, composing herself. 


“okay next question. Oooh”

What are you hesitant to tell me?

Kat reads from the card before placing it down on the pile designated for the questions they have already read and answered. Adena crosses one leg over the other indicating apprehension and a slight hesitation to answer Kat’s question. “You know I love how supportive you are.”

“where is this going?” Kat says under breath to which Adena smiles trying to soften what she’s about to say.

 “You always support me, but I think I would say I am hesitant…I want to say the right words. Okay. I wish you wouldn’t try to fix everything for me. For instance, when we are out together and someone, a stranger makes a comment. Sometimes people are just going to be terrible and we both know that, but I feel like you feel like you always want to fix it”

“Yes, I want to protect you and I’ll do that”. Kat interjects, balancing being defensive and trying to explain her perspective to her girlfriend.

“I understand that it’s worse I think, when people notice me and how I dress, it’s something that for some people visibly ‘others’ me or they see us together, because I look like this, they put together whatever they want in their heads. You get upset on my behalf, I appreciate that you care so much, but you can’t punch every homophobe and every racist”

“I can try.” Kat says which they both laugh at. “It isn’t fair, and I hate that.” Kat adds.

 “I know you do love. But I move around like this in the world every day. Some battles aren’t worth it. I don’t want you to be in that situation again.” Adena pauses “I also don’t like how you make eggs or coffee. It is not the same when you use the machine”. Adena says scrunching her face. Kat feigns hurt at this statement her brow furrowing “I don’t know what to say, I mean I barely cook, but fine, I’ll take that.”

“I love your cooking, when you actually cook; that is, every fourth month on a Tuesday when there’s a full moon” Adena says bringing the conversation back around, her tone light. “you’re better at it.” Kat finishes

 -

“so you just put the coffee grounds in here, about thirty grams” Adena explains as she adds the freshly ground coffee into the French press. “I don’t know what thirty grams is, babe.” Adena smiles at this. That was one thing that always amused her: the American rejection of the metric system. K at stood behind Adena, chin resting on her shoulder allowing her to look over at Adena’s ministrations, her hands moving carefully preparing their morning coffee.

“this has to be pre-heated a little to bring it up to temperature. You let the extraction happen for about thirty seconds and then you put 400 grams… I mean just put the rest of the water in here.”  Kats hands begin to slide under her shirt, pulling her away from her task momentarily. She tilts her head slightly as Kat begins to kiss along her neck, moving her hair to the side. “keep going, I’m listening.” Kat whispers into her skin, her voice dropping an octave.

 “baby, this is the important part. You put this… mmmm… you put this on top here and you press down.” At that moment Kat’s hand slides down past Adena’s sleep shorts into her underwear. “press down where?” Kat says cheekily, completely distracting Adena from the task at hand, nipping at her earlobe. “Adena, babe the Keurig is right there.”


 

Tell me about a time I disappointed you?

“I think you know.” Kat nods in acknowledgment, the conversation suddenly taking a turn. I wasn’t so much disappointed because in some ways I could understand. It just that I couldn’t, I…. that is one moment in our relationship where I felt the most alone”. Adena’s voice sounded almost uncertain thinking back to the time when they weren’t as strong in their relationship.

Questions of infidelity and Kat coming to terms with her sexuality separate from just being attracted to Adena. That period had been trying for them, Adena caught between supporting the woman she loves and taking care of herself and her own feelings. “I was disappointed because I’m here for you, I was here just for you. I had chosen you and then all of that happened. I deserved better than that” Adena continues on, barely taking a breath as her residual anger and tears start to show. The conversation at hand brought to surface all of those feelings of uncertainty and insecurity she had felt in those moments, questioning whether she was enough for Kat and whether it was worth it to stay after all of that sacrifice. Loving someone is one thing, but she recalled questioning herself at the time for building a home in someone who didn't share her commitment and really what do you do when love someone and it hurts?

“so when I left, I felt that time for us and for you was what was best. I couldn’t be with you and feel how I felt in those moments. I really hope you understood that”

“Yeah. I think I just expected you to be understanding and you were of course, but like all of a sudden you were gone, and I was dealing with all of this shit by myself, you know. It was like you had been taken from me all over again except this time it was on me”

“if I had stayed, we wouldn’t be together now, you have said that yourself” Adena responds.

“I know, and I think that’s what I needed, and I’ve never thanked you for that. For giving me that space to really get my shit together”. Kat says. “all of that made me realise so much more, that my world didn’t look and feel the same without you in it, that I’d fight for you and I’m still fighting for you, every day.” The sincerity in Kat’s voice resonated with Adena and served to reassure her that yes, Kat was all in and she did fight for her every day. It was in her words and her actions; in the little things she did to show Adena she was first above all else.

-

 Adena had been gone for four weeks at that point. One month since she had moved out and Kat was still adjusting to the emptiness in her home that had once been full of love and warmth. Adena’s absence had made Kat really appreciate all of the things Adena’s presence had added to her space. The prayer rug that sat in rack next to the couch, Adena’s small collection of art pieces that decorated the apartment, the shelf that used to hold her Quran, her laughter; all of that gone. Kat had always independent but there was an intimacy in sharing your space with someone that she missed. Her Saturday mornings which were once spent cuddling, sipping coffee or tangled in one another, were now spent alone and occasionally hungover. The evenings had been worse. The quiet had bothered her initially, not coming home to Adena waiting for her, dinner prepared – the smells of spices and Adena’s lingering scent in the apartment assaulting her. Instead, she came home to an empty apartment which felt much too big now.

“…So there I am, barbeque sauce all over my titties” Sutton had brought Kat out her musings momentarily. She stared in confusion at Sutton smiling at the end of the couch wine glass in hand.

 “Oh, come on, you didn’t even laugh at my Taystee reference. Sutton gripes playfully, however, concerned for her friend not sharing in their private joke.

Kat had come over for their regular Thursday hangout, which was sometimes a Monday – Sunday hangout because for a while Kat couldn’t stand being in her apartment alone. The TV was playing quietly in the background, volume turned down to allow the girls to talk. Kat sat alone on the loveseat while Jane and Sutton sat opposite her, half a bottle of rose, unfinished, on the table between them.

  “Hey, you okay?” Jane gently asks Kat. In some ways Kat was very much like a cat, sometimes it took waiting for her to come to you, trying to get her to talk about things would spook her. “yeah” Kat nods turning her head, eyes opening up a little as she becomes more alert. Sutton and Jane look between themselves, sharing a look that affirms now is the time to have ‘the’ conversation with Kat they had been putting off. Jane unfolded her feet from under her and put her wine glass on the table scooting to the edge of the couch to get closer to Kat. Taking a breath “Kat honey, I think it’s time that…” “Kat you need to go after Adena,” Sutton abruptly interjects. “It’s time dude, just go to her. Worst case scenario she doesn’t talk to you ever again, best case scenario you get married and have 15 kids” Sutton adds.

“I think what Sutton is trying to say is, that we’ve seen you babe, you need to go after what you want. Just talk to her” Jane says gently trying to balance out Sutton. “No, I said what I said.” Sutton finishes with a straight face.

They had agreed to spend time apart, Adena would live elsewhere while they worked through things. Not quite together, not quite apart. Living together only served to complicate things further. Kat took the advice of her friends and went to Adena prepared to make a big declaration only to find out from Adena that she was leaving; not by choice but her immigration status had caught up to her. In that moment, her entire world had come crashing down. They were supposed to have more time, everything was supposed to work out. Things always work out and love has to be enough.


 

When was the last time you surprised me?

“Probably when you came to me, while I was in Paris. At that point, I wasn’t sure where we were going or what was going to happen. But you came after me.” Adena starts.

Another thing Adena had learned that it often took a big catastrophe to kick Kat into gear, on occasion she would come to things in her own time but that was a slow-going process. Adena and any chance their relationship seemingly being snatched from her by forces outside of their control, spurred Kat to act in the only way she knew how; a grand gesture.

“I'm sorry it took me to so long to get it together” Kat interrupts. Adena had become so apart much of Kat, their lives were so intertwined and for a moment Kat had almost lost that. Kat had made a choice soon after that Adena was it for her and she would choose her in the same way Adena had chosen Kat.

“I didn’t know where we stood, but there you were. You do love a dramatic grand gesture” Adena says playfully. “what can I say, you’re worth that and so much more.” Kat shrugs, a small smile coming to her face. 

-

That memory sticks out for Adena, Kat proclaiming her love her, very loudly and very publically. “I choose you, Adena El- Amin, above all else I choose you. And I will do everything I can to prove that to you. I want you, I want us more than that I just want another chance because nothing is the same without you. I miss you accidentally waking me at the ass crack of dawn every day, I miss waking up to you and falling asleep next to you. I miss sharing my life with you, I miss watching Friends with you even though you know I have never laughed at a single episode.” Adena can’t help but let out a giggle at this. There was so much Kat and her shared, but a love of the show Friends was not one of those things, but she watched with Adena anyway because it made her smile, a smile Kat would move heaven and earth to keep on her face. 

“I miss the sound of your voice, the way you smell. I miss you hogging the covers. I miss how I feel seen with you, I miss how much you love me and us. I want all of those things with you. So” She pauses composing herself “Adena El-Amin, will you marry me, so I can continue to date you.”

“oh Kat,” Adena says, emotion spilling over in her voice. “No”.  

“It was important for me that we didn’t rush back into things, that’s why I said no. That was the mistake the first time.” Adena says, nervously wringing her hands, not making eye contact with Kat. She knew why Kat had proposed, she had appreciated the gesture, if they were married seemingly all of her immigration issues may disappear and give her and Kat a real chance. However, it was important for her and Kat to take things slowly, rebuild their foundation and spend some time being friends before committing long term.

-

They had spent months just being friends, staying in contact, doing the long-distance friendship thing. That period for Kat was so much about personal growth and becoming so much more and going outside of herself. After a while, they could no longer handle things being in limbo, unsure of what they were to each other before Adena was able to come back as the political climate had calmed somewhat. Adena looked back up to Kat “I think I’ve always known, it was just nice for you to do that for me.


Are you the best sex I’ve ever had?

“Yeah. By far, for real though” Kat smiles, sincere. Their relationship had many facets but one which both found really worked was their physical attraction and how they expressed that. Adena wasn’t a prude by any means but discussion of their sex life was something she felt was just for them, so it was an adjustment for Adena being with Kat who was much more vocal and open about discussing their sex life. They had come to a place where Kat was definitely more respectful of that boundary Adena had set. It was partly her wanting this intimate part of their relationship to be just theirs and also something had grown up feeling. Sex was something you shared with your partner and not the whole world.

 For Kat being with Adena was just different. “everyone gets to cum, every time” she recalls saying to Sutton and Jane.

“Am I the best you’ve ever had?” Kat asks, eyes squinting at Adena with a look of mirth on her face a small smile creeping from the corner of her mouth. “yes.” Kat knew that was all Adena would say on the matter, but her question did provoke the reaction she was seeking. Adena fanned at her face lightly before reaching forward to pick up her water glass once again, taking a sip to hide her blushing.

Kat had taken a little while to learn what Adena liked, Adena was patient and caring as always. She gave encouragement and direction when she felt Kat needed it. Adena in her daily life was expressive, bold and assertive so it made sense for that to extend into their physical relationship. She matched Kat’s passion and endurance; their relationship involved a lot of give and take in all aspects and how Kat did love to give.

Sex with Kat had been a revelation for Adena, it wasn’t that Kat was extraordinary in bed – obviously, she was talented – but it was that Adena loved her and that connection heightened everything for her.

-

  Kat lounged on the couch, scrolling on her IPad, glasses resting on the bridge of her nose. They had finished cleaning up dinner when Adena had decided to go take a shower before they wound down at the end of their day. Adena walked out of the bathroom, silk robe loosely tied around her waist revealing the black lace bra underneath. She walked into the kitchen area opening the freezer, bending over to look. “baby, do you want dessert?” Adena turned back around waiting for Kat’s response. Kat, in that moment, had taken no notice of her too engrossed in her twitter browsing.

They were different in that way. Kat existed so much in the digital space, Adena more in the physical space; always wanting to be grounded in the world around her – that and she wasn’t very good with her phone. Kat was helping her get better at it, using social media to get her art and ideas out there.   Kat was so engrossed in her reading that she didn’t hear Adena’s feet padding on the floor as she came to stand in front of Kat. Kat’s reading was interrupted as lace suddenly took over her vision; Adena placing her underwear on Kat’s lap. Kat looked up to see her girlfriend smiling, her eyes dark. Putting her IPad on the side table, she unfolded her legs and held out her arms for Adena letting her girlfriend climb onto her lap, straddling her.

“I asked you if you wanted dessert” Adena quips playfully, eyes migrating from Kat’s eyes to her lips.

“yeah?” Kat says smiling, half a question, looking down at Adena’s lips. Adena leans down bringing their lips together, arms moving to wrap around Kat’s shoulders. Kat’s tongue grazes Adena’s lips asking for entrance to which Adena responds, their tongues meeting, moving and fighting for dominance. Kat’s hands move from their place at her sides, up her thighs, sliding under her robe to her ass. Kat nips at girlfriend’s bottom lip while one hand grabs a handful of Adena, causing her to gasp into her mouth.

Adena grinds her hips into Kat, who had moved to kissing across her chest. Adena cradles her head as Kat moves a free hand to move Adena’s robe to pull down the cup of her bra exposing her pebbled nipple to the open air. Kat wraps her lips around her nipple, sucking gently before looking up at Adena, teeth scraping against her as she pulls back slightly; their eyes meeting.  

-

Adena lays spread out for Kat on her back. Hair fanning out behind her head on the pillow, looking up at Kat with hooded eyes. She glances down where Kat’s hands move at her center, preparing to enter her. With one hand Kat grasps the back on Adena’s thigh pushing it in toward her girlfriend’s body opening her up further. “you okay?” Kat asks. Adena nods in confirmation, giving Kat the go-ahead she needs. With her free hand, Kat grabs at the silicone attachment, nudging gently at her entrance before she sinks in slowly. Adena gasps as her muscles flex before relaxing to accommodate Kat. Her hands move to Kat’s hips helping her set a rhythm and she begins stroking in and out.

“kiss me” Adena breathes out. Kat carefully lays down on Adena placing her hands on either side of her body to support her weight, working to maintain her movements before she leans down to bring their lips together. They move together as Adena’s hands move up to claw at Kat’s back as she climbed closer to the edge but the friction from this angle not being quite enough. Kat lifts up, right hand coming up to hold her face under her chin “hey, open your eyes, look at me. Tell me what you need.” Adena opens her eyes glancing up at Kat, her pupils blown with lust, her beautiful girlfriend staring down at her. In these moments Adena felt seen, Kat moving inside her, reaching the deepest parts of her, staring into her eyes. Only in these moments when she was completely exposed did she feel comfortable showing her vulnerability, giving over all of the control to her girlfriend. “I want you… I want you….mmm.. deeper”

“baby, turn over.” Kat rasps as she pulls out hands going to Adena’s hips helping her turn over to rest on her stomach, head in the pillow below her. Kat grasps at Adena, her knee moving between Adena’s legs to separate them. She leans down, re-entering Adena. She moves her hands to Adena’s hips pulling her up and driving deeper into her.

“fuck” Kat smiles. Adena rarely curses, only in those rare pockets where she is very frustrated or like now when in the throes of passion. Adena slides a hand beneath herself to draw rough circles around her bundle of nerves, bringing her even closer to the edge, her moans morphing into her whispering sweet nothings in Farsi to Kat but mostly straight into the pillow. Kat leans in close to her ear “come for me, baby.” That’s all it takes for Adena to go rigid.

  -

Adena has Kat on all fours, as she kneels behind her. One hand on her hip, she pulls her up a little bit the other hand moving to the small of her back, encouraging her girlfriend to arch her back. Sits back on her heels and strokes her back gently. Leaning forward placing kisses on her upper thighs.  Kat tries to push her hips back urging Adena for more contact. Adena reaches over her and presses down in the middle of her back, pushing Kat’s torso back into the mattress while keeping her hips up. “I’m going to take care of you baby. Spread a little bit for me, I want to see you, all of you.” Adena husks out, her voice hoarse from arousal.

She loved Kat like this, spread open for her, arousal dripping all over her fingers. Kat had let her take charge tonight, something she didn’t do often but was more than happy to do when Kat expressed her desire to be taken by Adena. “oh my god, I need more” Kat says her own hand moving down to rub at her clit. Adena reaches her hand around grabbing at Kat’s wrist. “no. tell me who’s in control”

“you are.. fuck."  Adena carefully spreads Kat’s legs a little more and leans in to place a gentle kiss on her folds eliciting a gasp. The evidence of Kats arousal is abundant, and her hands move to spread Kat’s folds. She dives in, tongue stroking gently at first, then deeper still as Kat’s approval becomes louder and louder.

She keeps lapping at her until Kat starts backing up into her mouth searching for something more. Adena leans away, laying kisses to her bottom, hand still stroking where her mouth was. “What do you want?” Adena asks, her hand migrating down to circle her clit. “Fuck” Kat rasps out. Kat turns her head slightly to look back at Adena who is now leaning over her back with her hand between her legs. Kat says everything with a look, a look Adena is very familiar with. She knows what Kat wants by instinct. Her hand moves back up to her entrance as she kisses Kats neck and down her back going to her kneeling position. She enters Kat slowly. “I love you so much” Adena leans down to suck at her clit, licking in rough circles behind her hand as she moves in and out of Kat; her muscles clenching repeatedly around Adena’s fingers. She gathers more of her arousal with her thumb from its source, before she twists her hand to face upward, angling her thumb to allow her to enter Kat’s other entrance. Kat groans in pleasure at the welcome intrusion. Adena’s hand slows to stroke at Kat’s walls whilst she lays kisses around Kat’s upper thighs all the way up to her lower back.

Kats gasps turn into loud moans as Adena’s intensity increases until Kat crashes, her thighs shaking, slumping forward into the bed, Adena following to lie on top of her, pulling out of her slowly.  After what seems like hours basking in the afterglow, Adena moves from her position laying on top of Kat to allow her girlfriend to move to the bathroom to clean up and for herself to get up and wash her hands

Chapter Text

What do you remember about the first time we met?

“You were kind of…” - Kats face scrunches up, trying to find the right word “Intense”

Adena’s eyes narrow at this “Okay?” she responds, half a question – half an affirmation. A moment passes in silence before Kat pushes on. “I don’t know” Kat shrugs. “Not a lot of people can throw me off my game. I walked in and you had these…” Kat leans forward in her chair, spreading her arms out, one hand close to the floor the other pointing toward the ceiling momentarily. “Huge prints of all of these women and they were holding the uh placards in front of them. I remember you called me over, super polite, you shook my hand.” Kat takes a pause, before clearing her throat. “I walked over, confident with my pitch ready. As soon as I told you where I worked, you were like nope.” Kat adds shaking her head dramatically.

“But the lady persisted.” Adena smiles brightly. “True, but the more I talked, it’s like the more you became annoyed with me.” They both laugh at this. “In hindsight, I realize what I actually said was a little presumptuous; I came in with a lot of assumptions, but you quickly shut that down.”

Adena was used to it at this point; people often struggled to reconcile how someone like her could exist. She was complex. To an outsider and the uninformed, she was a walking contradiction, somehow balancing these intersecting identities and ideas people assumed were incongruent with each other.

“I am protective of my work and especially then. The whole series was important to me specifically and I felt that need to protect my subjects… a lot of people will see the veil and not see the person. So that, juxtaposed with the person telling you something intimate about themselves you see.” “The woman behind the veil” Kat finishes as she clicks her tongue nodding at Adena’s explanation.

“But yeah you were intense. One thing about you is that your face says exactly what you’re thinking. So, when you’re pissed, I can usually tell right away… and you just weren’t having it that day.” 

Kat recalls their first meeting.

Adena had been dressed casually, a blue-green pattern scarf adorning her head. Initially, her eyes had been inquisitive, but warm as she welcomed Kat into her space. The energy in the room changed soon thereafter. In her musings Kat has a realization, it should have been obvious to her by now, but their initial meeting Kat had registered…attraction? There was something in the way Adena challenged the ever-confident Kat Edison, how she took control of the room and her domain. There was something Kat found disarming about her. At the time she had brushed it off, giving Adena an incredulous look before turning to walk out of the room, taking a moment to look at the photographs. ‘You know, there’s more inside of a woman than what you can see on the outside’ Adena had said. Kat had turned to Adena, biting back before she left the room, oddly feeling exposed at Adena’s apparent dismissal of her. However, something else had occurred. It was almost an exchange of energy that left Kat reeling for days after.

Kat smirks. “And uh…. you were kinda sexy, I don’t know. You commanded the room, you were in control. I love seeing you working.”


What do you think I need from you? The second part of it is … And are you providing it?”Kat asks, absently fiddling with the card in her hand, anxious for Adena’s reply.

Adena takes a moment, wetting her lips before she speaks. “Um, I think I do know what you need, from me specifically. I do think that I could do better to give you…” Adena hesitates, waiting for the right words to come to her. “Reassurance that you are enough. As confident as you are, and I love that, I know that is something that you think about. In the beginning, I think you were maybe unsure of yourself and being with me. I was your first woman and we were both new to the relationship.” Kat nods, affirming Adena’s analysis. “I feel it when our communication is not where it needs to be. But you are enough, you are always enough. So yes, I will do a better job to communicate that to you, because I love you and you are that person for me.”

“Thank you, love.”

They had wandered off after a late lunch leaving Jane and Sutton behind at the house; hands entwined, walking along the coastline for what felt like hours.

-

Kat had laid out the blanket Adena had packed, along with the various snacks they had prepared for their impromptu excursion – a mix of meticulously prepared crudité with an assortment of dips, handmade sandwiches, fresh fruits and almost endless bags of chips Kat had insisted she pack. So, here they sat facing out into the ocean; watching the sunset over the water - the Atlantic Ocean stretching out for miles and miles. The temperature had dropped slightly as the day was waning, causing Kat to let out a shiver. Adena had, however, come prepared, unpacking an extra blanket and wrapping it around Kat’s shoulders, pulling her girlfriend's hands under her own sweater to warm against her skin. 

“I’m glad you came out here. It’s been so good for us, for you to be here.” Kat breathes after a quiet moment. Her hands had stilled their movements, just enjoying the warmth of Adena’s skin. 

“No of course. I’m having a wonderful time. It’s been nice for us to reconnect” Adena says, leaning her head in to place a chaste kiss on Kat’s lips before turning back to watch the waves gently crashing against the shore. They had found a small alcove carved out of the cliff side, out of the flow of wind, to watch the sunset. 

“Adena, can I ask you something?”

“Of course, joonam, you can ask me anything.” Adena smiles. Her eyes still cast out on the scenery in front of them. That was another thing that threw Kat off, despite being whatever they were now, Adena was still just as affectionate and loving as she always has been.

“I know that since you’ve been back, we haven’t um really had a chance to talk about things, about us.”

Kat turns toward Adena who audibly sighs “No, before you try and shimmy your way out of this with ‘oh Kat let’s just be in the moment’” Kat gets out, doing her best Adena impression – putting emphasis on the K letter in her own name. “I just need to know what we’re doing. I know we talked and said we would see how things go, but I can’t do it halfway with you.”

“I’m scared. I’ve never felt this way about anyone, this strongly or this quickly.” Adena says into the quiet, adjusting the scarf wrapped loosely around her head and shoulders from where it became dislodged by the wind.

“But you were with Coco, for how long?”

“It is not the same. We had a very different relationship. We would have times where we spent a lot of time together and then we wouldn’t see each other. I was traveling almost constantly. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good. I know that what I felt for her is different.” Adena adds solemnly, her eyes now examining her fingernails. 

“But you did love her, it’s okay. You can say it, I can handle it”

“Yes I did love her, but it didn’t work. It’s different with you.”

“Good different?” Kat questions, her insecurity coming out. It was always in the things Adena didn’t say; it always left room for doubt to creep into her mind.

  “I don’t know.” That doesn’t serve to reassure Kat. For Adena, Coco was in the truly rear-view, a chapter in her life that informed the rest story but was otherwise closed. Coco had been in her life for a season, they had grown together and grown apart.

However, for Kat it was present in her mind how their relationship had started – would it end the same way it started, when Adena again found whoever would take her place?

Their entire ‘situationship’ was in a delicate balance anything minor for Kat, could cause everything to come crashing down just as she was getting things together. “No, love, not like that. What I should have said is that I have never felt about anyone how I feel about you. I’m scared that it’s all too much for you and maybe it might be too much for me.”  

“Again, why wouldn’t you just tell me that then?” All she needed was honesty and reassurance that she wasn’t alone in her feelings.

“I don’t want to push you into something I don’t know if either of us can handle or are even ready for. I don’t know if we can be what the other person needs, or if I’m giving you what you want. After everything, I need to be able to trust…” A heavy pause follows where Adena doesn’t finish her sentence. “I just need time.”


Kat drew in a long breath. What is one sacrifice that you have made, that I haven’t acknowledged?

Adena fiddles with the bracelet on her left hand, avoiding Kat’s gaze. “The fact I don’t live in one place.” There is a moment where there is no response from her counterpart. Adena continues. “I am at a place in my life where I want to have some sort of permanence. I wasn’t really ready before, I don’t think… but more and more I am planning ahead and looking into the future. You know, what will my life look like a year from now or five years from now?”

“Okay, but you still travel.” Kat counters, slightly defensive. Adena had sacrificed a lot for them, at times Kat felt that guilt despite her girlfriend’s assurances that it was a choice she happy to make.

“It is not the same. I don’t always know where I’m going to come home to. I might have 9 months here and 3 months there.”

“I’ve never thought of it that way I guess.” Kat had thought of it but hadn’t known how to bring it up. Her focus was on being present in their relationship with the time they were given.

Adena sighs, her eyes cast off to the side momentarily. “When we were long-distance; I did a lot of the traveling to see you. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. That is just how it is, that is what worked for our circumstances.”

“I don’t have a job where I can just up and decide tomorrow I want to spend a month in Brazil and go.” She was right, she had a staff to manage and an entire department to run. Her whole life was in New York, with Scarlet at the epicenter.

Adena could tell Kat was getting defensive from the apparent tension in her shoulders – the way her eyes showed her irritation, how Kat tugged at her earlobe.

“Part of me does think that it would be easier for you to come to me. A lot of the time I do feel like being here is such an obstacle.” She pushes on.

“What like me move to Europe? I know we haven’t really discussed that.” As much as they didn’t want to admit it, Kat was afforded more freedoms than Adena. She could move across the world with a lot less hindrance.

“I can’t ask you to do that. Your entire life is here.” Adena sighs, becoming more and more exasperated as their discussion of the subject continues.

  “If it’s something you really want to discuss, I would be open to that,” Kats says her face softening. She could see how much this was affecting Adena. This was still an issue for them. As close as they were, Adena at times struggled to open up to Kat; almost as if there was an emotional barrier Adena had put up following Kat betraying her trust. It was something they were working on: trust – but sometimes it was still there in the back of her mind.

  “No, I have thought about it but, I can work anywhere and with the traveling, although it is a lot less now”. Adena reassures Kat, reaching forward in her chair to hold Kat’s hands in her own, needing that connection with her.

“Yeah but I don’t want you to feel like being with me you have to give up so much and sacrifice so much of yourself. That’s not fair.”

“I’m not doing anything I don’t want to do. I want to be with you. I want to build a home with you. I think we do want the same things; I want to be wherever you are.”

“I guess, part of me kind of doesn’t want to think about it. You spent a whole decade out there and a lot of your extended family – like a lot of the friends you made, live in France. Your cousins live in London...” Kat says looking down at where their hands are joined over the table between them, Adena’s thumb gently grazing at her palms.

  “I’m not saying that my life would be so much better anywhere else. I think you have the same challenges. I’m still a Muslim, I’m still a lesbian, but I feel sometimes being here it can be, I don’t know, a little bit alienating. I mean I have friends here.”

“But they’re your ‘work friends’”. The quotation marks around ‘work friends’ were evident in the way her voice rose.

“Mhmm. I have that in the back of my mind, I don’t know”

“And you’d be a little bit closer to your mother.” Another pause. “Okay, well we can talk about it”

“I’m choosing to be here and that is a conscious choice. I choose every day to be with you and make this work the same way you do with me.” Adena leans down, simultaneously bringing Kat’s hands up towards her, kissing them.

“But what can I do, like what can we do to make it a little better for you?”

“I don’t know. There is no easy solution.” Adena says letting go of Kat, leaning back into her chair.

  “Long term, do you see us living together? Say, if things were the way we wanted?”

“Of course, when the time is right. If we’re in the same place, but I can’t do that if you’re here and I’m living in London, or France or if I maybe decide to go to Canada.”

“I mean we’d at least be on the same continent.” Kat interrupts, again trying to bring some levity to the conversation.

“Yes, but I hope we get to a place where can just be together.”

It hadn’t been easy going, not in the slightest. It was work trying to maintain their relationship across continents. It was weekend trips, facetime calls and stolen moments in the middle of their day; trying to arrange things and accounting for their time difference; dealing with Adena being in a new place almost every week as her work picked up once again. There was a lot of frustration and missed connections, a lot of back and forth about boundaries and trust. ‘Adena, do you not trust me?’ – ‘I wouldn’t be with you if I didn’t trust you, Kat’.


Adena’s brow furrows.“What is our biggest challenge as a couple?” 

A moment passes in uncomfortable silence. And then another.

“Time. Definitely. Right now, that is the biggest thing. It was different before, but now that we aren’t living together, it is sometimes hard to make that time for us.” Kat responds, in turn, rubbing the tension from the back of her neck.

Trying to balance work, friends, family and maintaining a relationship that at times was long distance was a challenge; always having to think of the bigger picture, sacrificing time for each other. “I have so much more responsibility at work and I’m always trying to do a million things at once. I’m lucky to have a job that I love but sometimes it’s hard when we’re so busy.”

 As Kat’s role at Scarlet had increased in importance so had the scale of the work she did. Her department had expanded, meaning longer days and consequently, aspects of her personal life sometimes took a back seat. The social media department had expanded into more original content across platforms, it was all in Jaqueline’s effort to help Scarlet reach people in a way it couldn’t previously; for it to become accessible to more than its traditional audience. At times Kat barely had a moment for herself, so little time that she barely had anything left for her girlfriend.

“But we make time. I have more flexibility than you do, so it isn’t always so bad.” It was true, Adena was for the most part self-employed. At times she would have contracted work in the short-term but a lot of the time, it was Adena making the trip across the city to see Kat; both of them trying to work around Kat’s schedule.

“Right, yeah.” Kat nods.

“I think one thing that has helped us is trying to schedule time. It may not be the most romantic thing” Adena adds returning Kat’s smile. “But knowing ‘okay so the weekends are for us’ or when we have something planned at a specific time and place.”

“Yeah,” Kat affirms. “I do also think it’s hard because we don’t always know how much time we have together.” There it is. It was almost a constant shadow hanging over their relationship. “Right now, I know you are here long term, but before you were between here and Paris and that was hard.”

 “But that’s not within our control. Unfortunately for right now, that is something that is always going to be there.” Adena interjects, folding her arms as she leans back further into her chair, finding Kat’s eyes once again. A pause.

 

Kat sat opposite, a bit withdrawn. External pressures on their relationship seemed ever-present, at least with internal conflict, Kat knew that was something they had more control of; they could communicate and work it out together.  It wasn’t lost on her that their relationship was in part dictated by forces outside of their control and would be indefinite.


“Okay so, we’re just going to take a little break, move around stretch your legs. I just need to change the battery here and replace the memory card.” Sabrina’s voice pierces through the quiet tension of the moment, bringing each woman out their thoughts. “Since I’m not paying you in money, I can pay in snacks. Everything is just over there.” She adds, her hand gesturing to the food she had ordered prior to the couple coming into the studio.

“Cool. You good babe?” Kat asks, pulling her phone out of her pocket. Adena nods, watching as her girlfriend moves further into the room to undoubtedly check in at work.

“So how is it looking?” Adena questions, turning in her chair to face Sabrina who is working away, at the camera.

“Uh yeah great. It’s a little weird doing it all myself. I usually have the whole team here, but you guys are doing me a huge favor even coming in. I know how busy you are.” Sabrina moved toward Adena, reaching up behind her to reposition the lights slightly, taking note of how the position of the sun outside of the room had changed, affecting the lighting in the space. “I’m thinking with the edit, I’m aiming for maybe 30 minutes, maybe three videos. But yeah right now it’s looking really good.”


Why do you love me? Adena breathes out, placing the card haphazardly back on the table.

“Why do I love you?” Kat parrots, wringing her hands and flexing her neck in thought. “I can’t ever remember where I heard this, but someone once said, ‘it is one thing to be loved, but its another to be understood’. When I think about why I love you, it’s because I feel understood when I’m with you. When we met, I had that picture that said ‘misunderstood’.” Kat adds, mimicking the same pose she had in that image for dramatic effect.

“And I came to your show and saw it. It’s uh… its really come full circle for me. Most of all, I think you always meet where I’m at. You don’t let me hide. I feel more connected to myself because of you and that makes me feel connected to you. You have shown me that imperfection is what really allows for connection. I think you love me the way I feel like I need to be loved. As selfish as that sounds, I love you because of the way you love me.” At this Adena smiles as she swipes at a stray tear. “What I can be deep too.” Kat jokes amid the silence. “Why do you love me?”

“It is the same thing.” Adena starts as her eyes find Kat’s once again. “For me, it is a lot of what you do for me. You make me feel wanted, needed and desired.” For a long time, favorite Adena has struggled with that; there was a need in her to be desired and needed. Had it been born out her wanting to soothe the pain she felt being disconnected from her home? She had built a home in so many lovers, only for her to leave when it failed to sustain her. She had found validation in her experiences, in the personal growth it had allowed for her. “It’s in the little things too. I remember when I moved into my new apartment.” Kat had made the trip across the city after work to stay with Adena who had expressed not wanting to spend her first night in her new place alone.

-

Kat had shown up at her door late in the evening, with food from her favorite vegetarian spot in one hand, a potted plant in the other. “Hello, Love. Kat, did you bring dessert?” Adena’s eyes had lit up at the prospect

“Of course, my lady,” Kat says, shaking the additional bag of Baklava she had brought with her. The smell of the syrup-soaked pastry pilled the air, scented with rose water. "The guy said it was legit, they use pistachios. I hope that's okay” Kat asks as she crosses the threshold, taking a moment to lean in and kiss Adena on the forehead as she passed her in the doorway.

“I would do anything for you Adena.”


 What are your top three favourite memories of ours?

“Umm…can I go first. I know you’re supposed to have your turn, but I have an answer in mind.” Kat says, giddy, her eyes lighting up. Adena’s expression was one of suspicion, where was Kat taking this conversation? “Yeah, okay. Go ahead.” Adena utters hesitantly.

Knowing her girlfriend, it was straight into the gutter; as much as Kat was romantic and had her moments of being sentimental. In any sense, it did make Adena happy that Kat had grown so comfortable in her sexuality; thinking back to the early days of their relationship where she hadn’t been so sure of herself.

“Honestly, probably the first time we did it after getting back together.” At this Adena coughs aggressively, spluttering before placing the glass of water she had been sipping back on the table. Sabrina too snorts at this. It was Kat’s abrupt delivery that caught the other two women off guard.

“Really?” Adena asks recovering.

“Please pretend I’m not here, I didn’t mean to laugh” Sabrina interjects, composing herself, returning to her role as the consummate professional.

“Well yeah, we both decided we should wait. It wasn’t a huge thing, but I had been anticipating it happening at some point. 4 months is a long time.”

 -

The moment hadn’t been premeditated at all, sat together in Adena’s apartment like they had many nights previously. Adena had her head resting on Kat’s shoulder, as they watched yet another episode of the Atlanta Housewives. Kat had stayed over the night before and nothing had really happened. They had cooked dinner together, caught up with each other after a long work week and then fallen into bed. Kat’s belongings had slowly made their way into Adena’s home. Her sleepwear, her toothbrush and the specific brand of shampoo and hair milk she bought, now on Adena’s shopping list. 

Adena’s hand was absently running up and down Kat’s exposed thigh where her ‘sleep shorts had ridden up. “It’s just not the same you know; the whole point was that all of these women actually knew each other and so the conflict was organic. Now it’s drama for sake of Drama. Just messy” Adena let out a vague vocalization indicating she was sort of listening, although her mind was clearly elsewhere. 

 Adena reaches up, turning her head and cupping Kat’s face in one hand, turning her face in her hand to look at her. They held eye contact, “Kiss me”. Both of them close their eyes as their lips met. “Again” Adena teased before Kat placed another gentle kiss to her lips trying to not put any pressure on the interaction. Their eyes meet again, Adena’s dark with lust, her intentions clear. “I want you.”

“Are you sure?” Kat manages to stutter, a sudden rush of nerves taking hold. 

They hadn’t slept together since becoming ‘official’ once again, which was something that had amused Sutton. They had spent months ‘hanging out’ – ‘So you’re going on a date… with your girlfriend… who isn’t your girlfriend? And you aren’t sleeping together’ Sutton had once questioned.  They had chosen mutually to take things slowly; rebuild that trust – it would have been too easy for them to get caught in a rush of intense emotions and neglect the work they had to do to get back to a good place with each other. 

"I want to, do you want to?” Adena’s voice takes on a husky tone; her eyes migrate from Kat’s eyes to her lips where her tongue is peeking out. “Yeah, of course. I just wanted to be sure that you’re sure” she rushes out, bringing her lips back to Adena’s. It wasn’t like their first time. No, it was a casual mid-morning in loungewear, reality TV playing in the background.

 -

Adena rose up on her forearms, her eyes landing on the top of her girlfriend’s head situated between her legs. “Did you just?” Adena questions with a look of mild disbelief toward Kat. “Yes?” Kat almost questions, as her head rises to meet Adena’s eyes, pulling her away from her ministrations. “I’m sorry, I just…” Kat’s voice trails off. She can’t really even bring herself to apologise. Maybe it was the intensity of the moment, or how long they had waited – always almost reaching that point but never quite crossing that line. Maybe it was the sounds emanating from Adena above her. Maybe it had been the heady taste of Adena on her tongue as she gave herself away to pleasuring her girlfriend. A loud groan from below her had brought Adena out of her lust filled haze. It was almost abrupt the way Kat’s strokes had suddenly abated, giving way to Kat shuddering suddenly, her head lolling to the side resting at the apex of Adena’s thigh. “I love you so much,” Kat says, leaning into Adena’s palm that had moved to stroke her face.

“Okay, your turn.”

“A top three? Okay. Let me think about this. Adena’s hand taps gently on her knee as she looks up to the ceiling in contemplation. Her eyes narrowing in deep thought. Kat had always loved Adena’s ‘thinking face’; how her lip would pull to one side and her nose would scrunch up.

“Take your time” Kat smiles, looking at Adena with what can only be described as adoration at that moment as she thinks of all of her favorite moments with Adena. All of their firsts’; their routine and rituals as a couple; of all of their experiences together.

Turning her attention back to Kat, she straightens in her seat.

 “It is hard to pick just three things, there are so many that I could say… a top three. I mean the conversations we have every day, definitely. The first time we traveled together, and maybe that trip we took with Sutton and Jane; being out there, getting lost and breaking into the neighbor’s pool at midnight” Kat let out a full-bellied laugh at this, recalling Adena and herself having gotten lost walking back to the Airbnb they were staying at.

“So yes. I think when we were in Peru. It was just the two of us, sharing that intimate space. Nothing else mattered.”

-

The first thing she registers when she wakes up is the sound of children outside playing somewhere in the distance, the second is the feeling of warmth on the side of her face as the sun shines through the window illuminating the room. Her eyes peek open to see Adena looking down at her, her free hand moving to rub gently at Kat’s neck and shoulders as she slowly wakes up. Adena is sitting up, back resting against the headboard; her hair in loose natural curls. “Morning” Kat croaks out. Adena’s face lights up with a smile “What time is it” She adds rubbing the sleep from her eyes and she turns more fully to face Adena”.

“It is 7:30 a.m.”

“Bleh, no. Why are you up so early? How long have you been watching me”? Kat all but groans into the pillow.

“I wake up early most days. I like to get up, pray and just take a moment before my day starts; when I have the opportunity of course. And I’m… regarding you”

It was here in the quiet that Adena really looked at Kat. When her eyes were tired from sleep, her skin sun-kissed form the time they had spent walking the trails earlier the previous day. Kat was beautiful, especially now; when the world seemed so small, almost as if the entire universe started and ended in this room and in this moment.

It was in the way her head tipped back when she laughed, the way her eyes shone when she talked about her friends and her job; oddly enough Adena had noticed Kat’s hands. They were soft and feminine, resting under her chin, but strong and big enough to catch all of the hurt Adena sometimes felt. Maybe. 

Kat and Adena spent that whole morning sharing food, talking about their lives and all of the moments that had led them to this one. “I mean I know I want to travel, but like what was it for you?” Kat says taking a bite of the pineapple Adena held to her. “I don’t know,” Adena responds, finishing off the fruit, licking the juice off of her fingers. “I think I always felt like I wanted to see what else was out there.”. They’re sitting on the covered terrace, Kat’s head in Adena’s lap, watching the rain fall over the landscape –washing everything way. The rain makes everything look new like there’s hope and opportunity after everything is cleansed from the earth. The trees and the grass are greener; the air is fresher. 

“What do you mean?”

“I was very different when I left home. Obviously, everyone grows up, but my mother knew that once I set my mind to something, I would do it - so there was little argument with her. She helped me secure my independence and so now here I am.”

“I really hope I don’t sound like my parents when I say, ‘I think there’s more to unpack there’, no pressure obviously, I’ll get it out of you one day. I want to know about this young rebel Adena.” 


“I think I could stay here forever.” Kat muses from her position on the bed, watching a naked Adena getting dressed. It was in the quiet energy that followed their lovemaking. Adena had risen out of bed to take a shower before they wound down for the day.

“Really?” Her girlfriend replies, her body turning to Kat as she slips a T-shirt over her head before pulling her wet hair into a bun on top of her head.

“Yeah and everything with work, I just want to stay in this feeling forever. I want to wake up every day and just figure it out as I go along.”

“Your work is important”

“But not like yours, you make this art that’s super important and…” 

Adena makes her way over to the bed, sitting at the edge. She picks up her moisturiser from the side table, squeezing a little onto her palm. “The way I see it, it is all about a conversation, no?

“….”

“Okay so, when you see a piece of art, a photo, a film -  part of the point is the conversation. The artist is communicating with the audience, whoever that may be. When I take a picture of anything, I’m telling you what I think, what I see. Or I’m using my art to tell you someone else’s story; their truth. Does that make sense?” She finishes, her hands massaging her face and neck.

“Yeah but”

“You facilitate the conversation, helping people communicate… their desires, their dislikes, their wants. So, it’s a bit similar in that way. It is important” Adena finishes as her hand reaches out to stroke Kat’s thigh comfortingly.

“Well that was deep”

 -

“Yeah, and we’d spend the whole morning just lying in bed, enjoying the quiet. Naked” Kat winks as Adena responds by smiling, her whole face lighting up at Kat’s antics.

Afternoons were spent out, meeting people. Adena took pictures at every turn, of the scenery – of Kat. ‘You learn about a place from its people Kat’. Adena preferred to be immersed among the people, finding the best places for herself.

Language came easily to Adena, the fast comfort she had when speaking Farsi, the gentle lilt of her voice when she spoke French, her accent in the morning when she spoke English. 

Adena also knew conversational Spanish, a fact she had found out when they ventured into the open-air market one afternoon. 

On days when they don’t go out for dinner, they cook – well Adena cooks/ does all of the prep work, while Kat pours the drinks and sorts out the music.

Kat is the queen of mood playlists. She finds out Adena shares her love of new and old school RnB “I do live in the world Kat” Adena laughs.

“No, it’s not that, I just thought you’d be into classical music or deep underground French bands, nobody has ever heard of”. “I do like classical music, but I have varied tastes.” She had later shared her own curated playlist, appropriately titled ‘sounds like home’. It was a mixture of dance beats, instrumentals – a particular song Adena had paused her preparation to sing along to, pulling Kat up to dance with her. Her shoulders and hips moving in tandem as she sang along in Farsi.

 Adena smiles resuming her chopping of fresh vegetables she was prepping for a recipe she had wrestled from a lady who had invited Adena and herself into her home. Adena always made friends with strangers wherever she went. 

It was flavoured with cinnamon, cumin and some dark chocolate which Kat had been sneaking throughout, luxuriating in the rich and bitter taste. 

 -

“What’s wrong?” Adena asks, her arms folding under her head as she lays down next to Kat, looking at her face deep in thought.

“Nothing,” Kat says her face shifting to a more neutral expression as she meets Adena’s eyes. “I just have so many questions, but I’m thinking of how to ask them without sounding ignorant.” Kat finishes her brow furrowing, feeling a bit insecure because Adena was looking at her expectantly.

“Like what?”

“I want to get to know you and everything you like, your art. You speak like 15 different languages, you cook, you can sing apparently. You have been everywhere. I’m a little out of my depth. You’re religious, but like this super feminist…” She trails off.

“Those two things are not mutually exclusive”

“No no no, that’s not what I meant” Kat stutters, her head shaking embarrassed at the implication she had made.”

“I know what you meant, don’t worry about it. I am religious, I have spirituality, but I don’t find that it limits me. It gives me comfort; guidance when I feel like I need it. I don’t pray every day because I have to, I choose to. It helps me feel connected and grounded. It gives me direction.”

“But like with how you were raised and stuff”

“I think you make an assumption about how I was raised.” Adena challenges, taking in Kat’s apologetic expression. “My parents, they were not strict as I guess you would assume. A little overbearing maybe… but for the most part, I could do pretty much whatever I wanted to do. I respect them above anything but at 15, I didn’t really understand their motivations. I feel more understanding for them now.”

“I can imagine little Adena. Oh my god, do you have pictures?”

“Yes somewhere,” Adena says, brushing an errant curl from Kat’s face. “I wasn’t ‘badly behaved’” Adena’s voice tilts up as her two fingers curl making the gesture for quotation marks as she momentarily looks away.

“Sure Jan” Kat quips, smiling broadly.

“Huh?”

“Don’t worry, as you were saying about your angelic past…”

“I was, let’s say: very independent. Regardless I was raised with an immense amount of appreciation for my family and my culture, but I just didn’t fit.”

“That is one thing. I wish I had that. My family is kind of small.” Kat had said offhandedly.

-

So much of who Adena was, was rooted in her culture and in a lot of ways her religion. There were little things Kat had noticed about Adena. She called her mother almost every day, something Kat was taken aback by because one, Adena was a full-grown adult and even she herself didn’t talk to her mother that often. When Kat would visit the artist, Adena would make sure she had prepared something for Kat to eat, she would offer her a drink as soon as she came through the door. The way Adena would take a silent moment before they ate, whispers of thankfulness leaving her mouth.

Kat would find out after meeting a group of Adena’s friends (some from her childhood, some of them she knew through her family, others she collected along the way) that Adena in all her being Persian, was different to the Adena the world saw. She was apparently a little bit crass, much louder in her expression but passionate as always. She was affectionate with her friends – a side Kat was happy to see but couldn’t help but feel jealous at this version of Adena that these other people knew but she would never have the chance to truly experience.

Her upbringing was in stark contrast to Kat’s own upbringing. Adena was constantly surrounded by family, for Kat it was just her and her parents. She would rarely say it aloud, but she had been very lonely as a child. When her parents were busy she would be left to entertain herself, that changed as she went through school and her natural magnetism drew people to her.

“Yes, that is true. But I think, even when we are at home, just lying beside you or waking up to you; that is when I feel closest to you. That’s when I think, this is who I am, I’m vulnerable with you and you are with me. I get to see your most authentic self and I love that”

“aww baby”

“it’s true. But yeah, even when we are with your friends. I remember that night, I was able to see the love you all have for each other. Yes, it was lovely to spend time in good company and be in the moment.’

“Because you hid my phone” Kat quips, feigning offense.

“I think sometimes you need a little bit of a push to just unplug, relax, you know? You work so hard and are always trying to do a million things at once.”

“Yeah, I get that” Kat shrugs, conceding to Adena’s point. Her phone had essentially become an extension of her, in the absence of her phone it was her iPad; but on occasion, Adena would gently take it from Kat’s hands, place it to the side and give Kat something else to do with her hands.

 -

“Okay so let’s play a game. Kat and Adena?” Sutton pipes up requesting their participation.

They were sat outside on the terrace; nestled among the trees. Adena and Kat sat cuddled up together on the hammock – Sutton and Jane sat opposite, both wrapped up in blankets, their faces warmed by the fire pit - colouring their faces orange in the darkness.

Sutton clears her throat, rolling her shoulders. “So, if you lived toooo… let say 90 years old. Would you rather have the body of a thirty-year-old or the mind of a 30-year-old?”

“Oh, easy” Jane says sitting up “Obviously the mind of a thirty-year-old. Being old and not being aware of stuff would get to me too much I think.”. Tiny Jane ever the over-thinker. 

  “The body definitely.” Everyone turns to Adena in surprise. “What? I am thirty and I know I don’t want to stay thirty. No.” She adds her head shaking in dramatic fashion “I’m more interested in all of the women I would become between now and then” 

Adena continued to surprise both Sutton and Jane. Of course, she was kind and had a warm energy, but she was also so funny, with a dry sense of humour and comedic timing that could almost match Sutton. She was hot too, of course. It made sense that Kat was willing to ‘risk it all’ for this woman; Kat loved her and so they loved her too.

“Really? I was going to say the mind because I didn’t want to sound superficial. I hope you can learn to love my 90-year-old body.” Kat interjects. Everyone laughs at this. 

“Right so new question. Describe your best day, a whole day of your choosing. Anything you want.” Sutton says taking a sip of her drink, sitting back further into the couch. 

“I think I just had mine,” Kat says smiling down at Adena. A day filled surrounded by love and friends; spending time with the most important people in her life. Warm, drunk and happy being in this moment.

Kat is brought out her musings when she hears Adena’s phone go off in her pocket signaling the call for prayer. “If you ladies will excuse me,” Adena says apologetically, delicately trying to climb off of Kat, failing entirely. 

“Baby, where did you put my bag”

“It’s under the bed”

“Thank you,” Adena says in gratitude before walking further into their house to find her bag containing her possessions. She lays everything out before going into the bathroom attached to the room she and Kat were staying in, with intent before going through and performing ablution. She later re-emerges from the bathroom, taking a moment to position herself accordingly, using the compass on her phone to arrange herself in the right direction.


 What do you think… is the sexiest part of my body? Kat smirks, placing the note card down with a flourish. “Your hands.” Adena smiles. A moment passes as she watches a shift in Kat’s face. Flirtation. Surprise. Confusion registered, her eyebrows raised and eyes blinking repetitively.

“Yes. You know how beautiful I think you are, absolutely breath-taking, but you have such beautiful hands.” Adena laughs, her expression open and her eyes sincere.

“Is this your way of telling me you have a hand fetish because you have all of those pictures… like did you date a hand model?” Kat jokes, gesticulating with her hands.

“No. And I already explained, People’s hands do tell a story about them.”

“Right…” Kat eyes narrow at this.

“I think that to me, aside from your heart and obviously your mind, I think that is what is sexy to me.”

“I was thinking more along the lines of my thighs because you know she’s looking thicc these days.” Kat’s face takes on a pouting expression as she shrugs her shoulder. Adena chuckles at Kat referring to herself in the third person.

Adena clears her throat. “Yes, but I don’t know. It’s just something. You know when you’re holding me or we’re walking together, and you hold my hand. I just think that they are sexy. They’re feminine but strong. A lot like you.”

“And for other things?” Kat smirks.

“Yes, and other things.”

Kat always held her hand tightly when they walked through crowds, their fingers intertwined as she shoulders her way through the rabble of people, Adena trailing behind. Her hands were always soft, always in reach even they were out with friends. Her palms warming Adena’s frequently cold ones. Comforting when she needed it.

 -

“Kat!” She calls down the hall from her position in front of the bathroom mirror. “Yes, honey,” Kats says as she appears in the doorway, hands fiddling with her earrings, dressed up for their date night. “I need one of your hands please.” Adena’s hands were working at wrapping her scarf, a cobalt blue silk number. Kat walked over the threshold to stand behind Adena in the mirror, their eyes meeting as they looked at the other's reflection. 

“I can’t reach the back.” Adena was referring to the lack of mobility in her shoulder, caused by a minor strain previously that same week. She picks up a bobby pin from the shelf above the sink, placing it in her mouth to hold between her teeth. “I just need you to…” Her hands guide Kat’s as she gives instruction, her speech impeded by the pin she is holding. “What wrap it all the way around? What like this?” Their movements were somewhat coordinated, albeit slow, pausing at moments to adjust Kat’s hand position and she moves the pins in place. 

-

Even when they were intimate, there was a way Kat held her, firm but gentle. The way her hands pushed down at her hips when they rose off the bed; the gentle caresses in her most sensitive areas; the feeling of her long fingers driving into her in as Adena lay prone beneath her.

 

Chapter Text

It’s 01:47 when Kat stumbles into her apartment. In between leaning her head on the door frame and clumsily trying to fit the key into the lock, she had managed to push open her front door. The door shuts loudly behind as Kat puts a lot of force behind her - neighbours be damned. She turns the latch locking herself in the confines of her apartment; taking a moment to adjust to the transition between the well-lit hallway and her dark apartment. One hand comes down to work at unzipping the heeled boot at her ankle. Kat soon, however, loses her balance momentarily rocking to the side before her free hand quickly catches, bracing herself on the wall. She manages to free her sock-clad foot before angrily tossing the offending item to her side; wincing as the heel crashes against the wood flooring. Kat manages to remove its counterpart in much less dramatic fashion. She considers switching on the lights but decides against it assuming she knows the general layout of her apartment. There is also a little light lifting up to the windows from the street lights outside. She ambles unsteadily towards her bed, leaving a trail of clothes in her wake where she had haphazardly disrobed. On her way, she barely grazes against the coffee table, only narrowly missing crashing into it completely. With a huff, she falls face first onto the bed, letting out a groan as her heated skin makes contact with the cool sheets.

Memories of the night come to her in flashes. Meeting Sutton and Jane for dinner after work. Friday night dinner turning into Friday night drinks. The 15-minute cab ride – the driver proposing marriage to a tipsy Sutton. Very loud music. The cute girl she had met whilst waiting at the bar. Being led by her hand down the steps to the dance floor. The feel of smaller hands gripping her hips as they moved together in rhythm with the loud bass. The same hands moving lower as Kat's body was pulled closer, not noticing as she was still lost in the music. The strong floral scent of the girl's perfume mingling with sweat as they invaded each other's space. The sensation of their lips barely ghosting against each other before she pulled away, smiling apologetically, quickly turning and going in search of her friends. The empty feeling she had as Jane and Sutton gently loaded her into a Lyft. The silent ride home, head against the window.

She turns over in bed, eyes staring at the ceiling, slow blinking in the darkness. Moments pass before she closes her eyes, willing sleep to come. She doesn't even think to get under the covers, still feeling overheated and almost as if there is a film on the night before still on her skin. The persistent hum of the fridge seems louder than usual. She can hear the sounds of party goers in the street below, the sound of her heart beating loudly in her ears (part of the shock of having left the loud club and entering the relative silence of her apartment). A wave of frustration has Kat shuffling her body to the edge of the bed, reaching over for the phone in the pocket of her jeans she had tossed near the foot of the bed.

Her eyes squint as the screen lights up in the darkness. It takes a moment of hesitation before Kat is opening her Instagram app; taking a moment to turn down the brightness on her screen in the darkness of her room. Her thumb moves quickly, screening through images before she pauses on an image posted by Adena. Adena that she hadn’t seen in 4 months. Adena, who she was still undoubtedly in love with despite everything. Adena who entered her mind as soon as she even thought of even getting close to anyone else.

Posted 9 hours ago. It was an image of a woman Kat didn’t recognize, tangled in sheets; her long hair draped over her back. Kat hovers above the picture, seeing the woman’s name tagged in the photo. She was gorgeous that was patently obvious, her honey coloured eyes, full lips and the bronze glow she had about her. {@SaharH} The link takes her to a new page; the first thing she sees is that very same picture and further perusing takes her to more images in a photoset. There’s one of her laid out on her back her chest covered by the bedsheets, her arm over her eyes in a bashful manner shielding herself from the camera, sunlight bathing her in a warm glow; another, head thrown back with her eyes shut in a moment of laughter; the last one is of this woman looking blissfully right into the camera – a look you would give a lover. Kats tired eyes narrow reading the caption: ‘You reflect me, I love that about you’ and an emoji giving Adena the photo credit. The geolocation showed the picture had been taken somewhere in London. Adena was in London? Kat thought to herself.

It struck Kat that there were still so many things she didn't know about Adena, their relationship having been cut off before she had the chance to learn a lot about them. For one who was this woman, Adena was familiar enough with to be taking such intimate photographs of. Another thing that enters Kat's mind despite her efforts to push those thoughts out of her head, is the number of relationships Adena had before her. She had been with a lot more people than Kat, lived and travelled to so many places so it wasn't completely outside of the realm of possibility that this could be another in a long line of women Adena had been with.

Adena's face takes a second to appear on her screen. Her hair is in loose curls, common when Adena woke up having washed her hair the night before. Adena had incredibly thick hair, it had a tendency to remain in whatever position she slept in long after getting up. It was a little below shoulder length with the curls flicking out at the ends of her hair.  “Kat?” Adena questions, her eyes adjusting in the low light. “Is something wrong?” Her face folds in concern – concern one would have when an ex-calls them at… 7:53 a.m., Adena notes as she looks at the time displayed at the top of her screen.

Kat hesitates momentarily, almost losing her nerve looking at Adena; beautiful as ever; her sleepy eyes illuminated by the bright light on her screen. “Are you sleeping with her?” She blurts out. It sounds like more of an accusation than a question; almost as if she had come to that conclusion before having asked the question. Adena blinks, taken aback by the abruptness of the statement. It shouldn’t have surprised her: when Kat felt like she was backed into a corner and she suppressed her feelings, they tended to manifest in other ways.

“Am I sleeping with who?” Adena asks, her response incredulous, annoyance now colouring her face. Her eyebrows knit tightly together as her mouth curls at the accusation.

“Don’t do that, don’t pretend like you don’t know. Fuck Adena. You’re just throwing it in my face like…” Kat is slurring her words. Adena thinks ‘of course, she’s drunk, why else would she be calling’.

“Are you serious right now. Is this the reason you called me?” Adena counters her voice rising.

A beat passes where neither of them dares speak. “I’m sorry,” Kat whispers shyly. She knew she had no right to be jealous, after all, they weren’t together. They were both free to do whatever they wanted, she was taking advantage of that, so why couldn’t Adena do the same. “I just… I don’t know I haven’t been feeling like myself.” Kat waits for a response from Adena that never comes. “I miss you.”

Adena sighs. “Okay.” Part of her didn’t want to give validation to Kat’s behaviour by admitting that she missed her too. The other part of her could see and feel how broken Kat was; in her words, in the defeated look she had in her tired bloodshot eyes.

Adena had slowly begun to distance herself from Kat. The lines of their tentative friendship had somewhat been blurred: Kat would still call her if she was having a rough day at work; she would send her pictures of things she was doing during her day; send her articles she thought Adena would enjoy – much like she had done during their relationship. A boundary had been crossed for Adena once Kat had let it slip that she had started seeing other people – Adena knew it was inevitable, but she hadn’t expected it to be so soon. It had dredged up a lot of uncomfortable feelings she wasn’t ready to face. ‘How much could she have meant to Kat for her to seemingly move on so quickly?’ It was one thing to know that Kat had been seeing other people so soon after their separation but having to see her posts on social media was a whole other thing she hadn’t felt remotely ready for. Kat hadn't intended to upset the other woman, but she was in front of the one person she wanted to share everything with and had almost forgotten where they were with each other. "I love you Adena." It comes out as more of a whisper.

Kat seemed to contradict herself, in one moment posting a picture of the table at a restaurant she had gone to with someone else, but in the same period posting: “I look for you in everyone I meet”, almost immediately after.

Adena had taken a lot of time to herself, uncharacteristic for her, choosing not to pursue anything with anyone else; truly dealing with her heartbreak. Kat was different, it had been different; different from Monica, Coco...

Adena paused, seeing Kat so vulnerable. “I love you too, Kat.” It was true but being in love wasn’t the problem. All of the reasons that they weren’t together were still reasons.

“I should try and get some sleep. Goodnight Adena.” The line had gone quiet, each of them looking into the screen before Kat clicked away closing the video call.


What insecurity of mine drives you crazy? 

Adena removes the card, holding it with both hands bringing it to her chest as she looks up at Kat. Kat was one of a few people she was comfortable enough to give voice to her shortcomings, her desires, and her insecurities. “It doesn’t drive me crazy, I just… I want you to know you have nothing to worry about, you know that.”

“Okay.” Adena whispers, her hands were still fiddling with the card now in her lap. Adena, for the most part, was very sure of herself. She made no apologies for who she was, she lived her life out loud and in full colour; it was a far cry from the lost girl she had been in her first years away from home, trying to find a place where she fit. She didn't compromise on her principles or beliefs, but when it came to relationships she faltered. There were parts of her where she felt the emptiness and overwhelming desire to belong to someone. The parts of her that stood unsure of her position in someone's life, wanting to be needed. She wanted to so much to be everything to the person she had chosen.

“You haven’t said it or been explicit about it. But like from things here and there I know it bothers you that there’s... I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like there’s a gap between where I was and then who I was when we kind of found our way back.” Adena had only known Kat's life through flashes during their contact while they tried to make the transition to just being friends.

What had she been like at her lowest? Kat could have been happy, and she wouldn’t have known: her biggest achievements, milestones she had reached and even her failures. All of it. All of the things she hadn’t said and questions she would want to ask hanging in the air. ‘Does she know where your lips begin?’ ‘Does his love make your head spin?’ ‘Have you found someone who loves you the way you need to be loved?

Kat had made so many friends and she had become even more comfortable and vocal in her sexuality. It was almost as if these people had found her as she found herself; gravitating towards her. For Adena there was this whole new side to Kat that she was learning, a side of her she really liked but still felt distant from because she hadn't been there and everyone else in Kat's life had.

“Yeah and I know we were still talking and trying to be friends… but... okay so it’s like coming home from a vacation and someone has moved all of the furniture in your house. “

“I had to get to know you all over again,” Adena confirms, following along with Kat’s analogy.

“Yeah…we didn’t talk about it a lot, but you know I was with other people… and.” Her voice trails off as she tries to discern the unreadable expression on Adena's face.

“If I am being honest with myself, it doesn’t upset me, but at that time it did hurt. It happened so soon after. A part of me wondered how you really felt about me.”

Adena had remained in France for a while, struggling to find her footing in a city she had once felt closest to being a permanent home. Coco and she had shared a postal address for two and a half years and that had really been the only time where she felt rooted, having somewhere to return to after her travels.

She later travelled to London to see some of her extended family – an Aunt on her mother’s side and her cousins. They had helped her to feel more at home than she had in a while. There was a familiarity being surrounded by people who spoke her language, sharing in family gossip. She felt she belonged in a way she had only really felt with Kat but nowhere else when she was in America. There was something in the way her aunt took care of her that reminded her of how much she missed home and her mother – how she missed so many important things, putting her family and her needs to the side. Adena would never admit it, but she enjoyed being fussed over. It reminded her of being small, feeling the safest wrapped in her mother's arms. Her Aunt had much the same disposition she was used to so it was like coming home after being away for a long time. Her aunt watched Persian soap operas while she cooked, much like her sister. Everything had an air of familiarity about it; the smells, the sounds in the house; there were memories of visiting in her childhood soon after her Aunt had settled in London, having moved from Iran and then to Canada before she herself had been born.

Her uncle was a stoic man, he was quiet, only opening up around his wife and children. He had been just as happy to see Adena. Their relationship had been close as he had stepped up (at the request of Adena's father) to look out for her being her oldest male relative living on the same continent. He had been there in the early days of Adena navigating living away from home; he was only a short flight away from her whereas her father was much further. 

In London, she had stayed for 2 weeks with Sahar, a close friend, confidant, and one-time muse. She was tall, beautiful, an angular jaw, full lips. (So maybe Adena has a type). Their relationship was intimate but had always remained on the side of platonic. At some point, their contact had broken down as distance had separated them. Sahar had moved to London soon after Adena had left to chase after what she wanted in New York. Sahar was ruled more by logic and practically whereas Adena lived by her emotions, so they balanced each other out. She was a bit of a hothead and at times could be temperamental; she loved messily but she was one of a few people who really knew Adena – Kat being the other.

They understood each other, so their friendship had picked up as soon as they reconnected. Everything had come together seamlessly as if no time had passed at all.  They had met through a mutual friend who had connected them and had been friends ever since. Sahar did love Adena, deeply, just not in the same way Adena had loved her once. They had come to a comfortable place with that, their friendship mending quickly.

“So you took a leap and you fell flat on your face. That’s okay.” They had sat up all night in her bed, Adena’s body wracked with sobs, her breath catching when she spoke. It was early in the morning, or late at night, depending on how you saw it. Adena had called two days prior asking if she could come and stay, just to get away from things; Adena didn't mention Kat or why she had left New York. Sahar didn't hesitate at all, quickly arranging to meet Adena at the airport after she landed. What she hadn’t expected however was for Adena to glance up at her as they pulled away from their hug looking so… broken. Part of their evening had been spent catching up until it all came to a head and Adena had broken down as everything she was holding had become too heavy, spilling out.

“How does that help me at this moment.” Adena deadpans, taking a moment from her sobbing to look at her friend. Sahar had this manner about her, she could shift the conversation from serious to light at the drop of a hat. 

“Let’s talk about it then, what do you want to do?”. That was one thing about their relationship, as much as she could give Adena comfort when she felt like she needed it, she knew she needed to push Adena into solving the problem. She was sympathetic of course but crying would only do so much. “I don’t know.” Adena wipes furiously at her tears. 

“Just because it won’t come easily, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try” Sahar trills out – switching to English from Farsi, her talent as a singer coming out. 

“What song is that?” Adena manages to get out in between her tears, an almost smile pulling at the side of her mouth. There's the humour Adena thought to herself. It was one of the reasons they got along so well. Sahar had been there for a lot Adena's lowest moments, like when her grandmother had fallen ill. She had somehow managed to keep Adena's spirits high in a time where she felt helpless knowing she couldn't travel back to see her.

“That’s not important right now. Adena, if you want my advice, really want my advice. I’d say to give yourself a little distance from the situation. I know you really wanted this to work out, that you wanted something real with her – I mean she isn’t me, but she has to be special right? Why else would you be here, staining my expensive sheets with your tears” 

“I’m sorry” Adena laughs gently lifting her head off of the pillow to sit up, sniffling.  “I don’t know what to say to her. She asked me to marry her and now…?”... Well, she had proposed as a way to circumvent immigration separating the two of you but that's beside the point.

“Well as your future second wife, I ask myself ‘why would she do that if she wasn’t completely ready to make it work with you’?” Adena was hurting and she needed comfort, but not from her.

“I don’t know, I don’t know anything. I really thought…” She shakes her head.

“Thought what?”

“I wanted to tell her things, everything. I just thought she could be the one I could let it all go for. I don’t know what it is about her, even with Coco, I felt like I was still hiding” Her relationship with Coco had obviously had its problems. One of which was that Adena had kept part of herself hidden. She had been in a very different place in her life when they had met, Coco was a little bit older than her so she had cultivated this image of herself - choosing to hide the most vulnerable parts of her to keep the older woman interested. That evidently hadn't worked as they both began to outgrow their relationship. 

“Come here” She whispers, bringing in Adena to lay on her chest, stroking gently at her hair. Sahar places a kiss to the top of her head as she whispers assurances into her hair. “It’s okay. Loving someone is never a waste. You put yourself out there. Everything will work out, or it won’t but you will find a way."

“Thank you” Adena whispers.

“You can stay as long as you want. Stay forever if you want to” Sahar adds in jest.


 “I get that. But it took me a lot to even get to that place, where I could even think about that. There was this part of me that was curious, you know. Why else would I do what I did?”

The distance between them when they had separated had taken a lot of joy from Kat, a lot of the security she felt. Having someone to open up to completely, someone who was always on her side, who shared in her achievements and excitement; the person who commiserated in her failures; who comforted her in her lowest moments. But it had also given something else, perspective. She had found her community, it had filled a place in her that she hadn’t known was there. She had learned so much about herself, more about the kind of woman she was. What she liked, who she liked, but most importantly what she wanted. Adena.

-

Kat was out again, with Craig from accounting. His office was four floors above hers and so a number of ‘chance’ encounters during elevator rides and coffee runs had led to Kat (with the encouragement of Jane and Sutton) to boldly ask him on a date. Firuze had come over a few weeks ago to collect the last of Adena's things so she took that as an impetus to try and move forward; to see what was out there. 

He was handsome enough, polite, he spoke to her like she was an actual person and he seemed to be understanding of where she was in her life. She notices the way he holds the door and holds her hand, but it doesn’t ‘feel’ quite right. They spend the evening laughing at the other people in the restaurant across from them. He talks a lot, but not too much, but doesn’t sound like… she can’t bear to think it aloud even in the recesses of her own mind. Everything in her wants to everything to fit, she wants to be in a place where she doesn’t see her face in strangers in the street.

Kat had experienced a near miss, half walking and half texting in the Safford lobby when a scent that was all too familiar had stopped her where she was walking. She had turned around, searching for the source. Her rational brain had interfered questioning why Adena would be at her place of work after she had received a message just this morning that Adena was definitely not anywhere in New York, but on the other side of the world. 

-

“Angie,” Kat calls out. Angie responds by dramatically swivelling in her chair, turning to look up at her boss. “Yes?” She smiles.

“I just spoke to Jaqueline and they’re looking for a big push from digital for this year’s valentine’s day issue. So that means more work for us, but on this occasion, I will be letting you take the reins.” Kat adds. Kat had never been too cynical, not about love at least. She had seen it with her parents, had watched her friends experience it but for a while until she met Adena she hadn't thought of it as a possibility for her; she had been contented with the connections she made with the people she met, if love was meant for her it would find her at the right time. But now as quickly as Adena had come and left, she was back in a place of wondering if love was for her because evidently it wasn't forever and it wasn't enough.

“Really, I mean that’s huge… are you sure…?” 

“Yes, I am sure. You are more than capable, I trust you completely.” That and also I can’t bear the thought of having to spend the two weeks leading up to it posting about love when I’m not sure I even believe in it anymore – she doesn’t say the latter part aloud, but Angie picks up from the way Kat had all of sudden become very interested in the potted succulent that sits next to Angie’s computer. It would have been their first valentines day together, her mind wanders to what they could have been doing for the occasion. She hadn't even asked if Adena was a fan of the holiday. The last Valentine she can recall was Elliot in 8th grade; he was a nice boy as she remembers. They had reconnected on facebook a few years ago, Kat had left a nice comment under his wedding pictures to his husband Michael.

“Well thank you for the opportunity, Kat”

 -

Kat sat at dinner with Sutton and Jane, less so dinner and more of a pity party she was throwing herself before the girls had decided she needed company. Sutton clearing her throat takes her out of her Instagram spiral. “Kat honey, what are you doing.” Jane questions, careful in her words. Kat doesn’t have it in her to even be bashful, she wasn’t even hiding it at this point, her frown said it all. “Kat, if you go looking for something, you’re going to find it, babe.” She wasn't actively searching for anything, but Adena was only sporadically active and they were talking less now, so this was her only way in. It was kind of like a hole she knew was there, but somehow she couldn't help but keep falling in.

“Yeah, and what about that girl… uh, what’s her name.” Sutton's fingers click as she tries to come up with the name. Kat didn’t talk about her often, so it’s no surprise that she struggles to find the girls name in the list of various people Kat has hooked up with recently. It wasn't a lot of people, just a few transients, here for the moment and gone soon after. 

“Erin.” Jane supplies. The girl had seemed nice, very excitable at the prospect of meeting Kat's friends because up until that point she hadn't known much of the rest of Kat; perhaps it would signal them moving forward to something more. They had greeted her politely, Sutton's eyes had trailed down to where the two women held hands and Erin's free hand had come to grasp Kat's upper arm holding her close to her side. Their interactions seemed a lot more familiar than Kat had divulged about the girl she was 'just seeing'.

“Right Erin, she’s the poet or writer or something right.” Sutton continues quickly, trying to bring Kat into the conversation. Erin was a new ‘friend’ of Kat’s; that was how she had introduced her to the girls when they had run into the ‘couple’ out together one night. “Her and I are seeing how things go I guess.” Her tone was intended to sound optimistic but came out dejected. Erin was great, she was smart, considerate; she wrote beautiful feminist poetry about her life experiences growing up in the diaspora, her roots in being in West Africa, her travels, her loves, and losses. Kat was having fun, she was truly, but part of her was left wanting. Wanting for more than this, but not being able to find what she wanted in any of the people she met; so, for now, it was just fun even if Erin had let slip one night that she wanted more.

At about 1 a.m. for her, so 6.a.m for Adena, Kat, texts ‘I’m too busy being yours to fall for somebody new’ before sleep enters at the edges of her mind.

 


 When was the last time I made you feel secure as a woman?

“I don’t have a particular moment in mind. I do feel secure as a woman knowing how much you support me, always. Our experiences are in no way the same, but I feel like you get it, you know.” Kat takes a moment to stretch out her limbs, feeling restless in the chair. She sighs in satisfaction, hearing her neck and shoulders click, something that always makes Adena cringe. “So, when I decided that I wanted to meet the rest of my family on my dad’s side. That whole experience kind of had me like questioning a lot; that is a part of myself I think I felt a little disconnected from. I think everyone kind of knows or at least wants to know where they come from. So, yeah, Ummm I think I don’t even realize sometimes; but you were supportive and part of me does take for granted what you do for me. You were kind of there to be like… ‘yeah,  I’m right behind you’.”

“Really? In what way, do you take that for granted, I wouldn’t agree that you do.” Adena interjects.

“As much as I love my friends, there are just some things I know they won’t get. They can be sympathetic, but there are certain things I only come to you with. Not to say that you understand everything.” It was true, the innermost details about herself, her family, were only shared with Adena.

Adena had met Kat’s extended family on her mother’s side specifically. The couple had been invited to Thanksgiving at her grandparents'. It was their second Thanksgiving spent together but Adena’s first surrounded by Kat’s family. Kat’s family had been pleasant enough, but Adena had felt some... she wouldn't call it hostility, but it wasn't something that hadn’t gone un-noticed by Kat. Kat had made sure to pull Adena into her side, reassuring her that they could leave if she felt uncomfortable.

For Adena is wasn’t anything she wasn’t used to, regardless of how open and accepting people would claim to be, regardless of their political alignment, they still had their assumptions; they still ‘othered’ her regardless of whether they were aware of it or not. But in the back of Adena’s mind, she had wondered how Kat had navigated growing up in this environment, being that outside of her father there wasn’t another person who looked like her. Of course, she was loved by her family, but it didn’t escape her how there was potential for a young Kat to feel alienated in her own family. What kinds of things had Kat heard spoken around her as a child? How much of that had she potentially internalized?

Adena related in a way, because even she can recall being very young and her grandmother praising her about what a good wife she would be and how happy she would one day make her husband. Even at 7 years old, it had filled her with mild discomfort she wouldn't really be able to rationalize until she grew up and discovered herself. The elders in her family had a more traditional viewpoint and so for a lot of Adena's formative years she had felt uncomfortable being told 'this is how girls behave'. She had wanted to be out playing with the boys. She was loud and boisterous, which her parents had encouraged for the most part - seeing in their child with this need for independence. Regardless, she would be at times reprimanded; reprimands that as she got even older into her teenage years had led her to lash out in an act of defiance against the circumstances.

Kat had only made off-handed comments about the small private school she had attended growing up and how she hadn't been exposed to a lot of things until she went off to college. As progressive as her parents were they still had their shortcomings and Kat was a product of her environment.

 

“Right, I can only speak to my experience. It is not the same, but of course, I would support you in any decision you feel like you need to make. I’ve seen that change in you, getting to know your family, it is beautiful.” Adena adds, smiling at her girlfriend.

Kat had found out that she looked a lot like her aunts’ children, her aunt herself looked so much like her and Marcus. Kat had learned where she got her rhythm from, she connected with her younger cousin about being bi and biracial in today’s America. She was surprised to hear stories about how her father had grown up and lost touch with his family; part of her had felt slighted that her father had deprived her of knowing the people in her life she could have learned so much more about herself from. She had aunts who could have helped her in ways her mother – try as she might – couldn’t necessarily. In other ways though, she came to a better understanding of her father, seeing where he came from to where he was in his life now.

“But when we weren’t together…part of me had kind of… I was used to having you there to open up to completely. I love my friends, I do, but I missed you being there. My parents, with them…” her voice trails off.

“You’ve never felt like you could go to them?”

“Sometimes you want them to tell you ‘no Kat it’s going to be fine’ and that’s just not what I get from them.” – Kat loves her parents and doesn’t have a lot of issues with them, but she balances being an only child with wanting space from her parents trying to pathologize her every emotion – its only ever with a push that they put that to the side and consider that she needs her parents and not her ‘therapist parents’. Part of their profession is giving people tools to sort out their problems, not so much offering sympathy.

That was another thing, whenever Kat spoke of her parents, it made her very aware of how different they were in how they related to their parents. As close as Adena was with her mother, their relationship was so different. Kat would almost say Adena had a more ‘traditional’ mother-daughter relationship; they communicated but there was a boundary of things they didn’t say to each other. Kat sometimes felt like she overshared with her mother, their relationship was one where Kat felt like she could divulge every embarrassing detail about her life; telling her mother things most people wouldn’t dare share with their parents.

There was even a difference in the way their parents showed their love. Adena has expressed being physically close to her mother and her mother showing her love in acts of service. When Adena was growing up her mother had worked very hard to find a balance between spending time with Adena and her work life. Invariably she had Adena a bit later than what was expected and as the only daughter, her mother had spent of time cooking with Adena, encouraging her musical talents and when Adena had left home she made sure that her husband was cooperative in them taking care of their daughter financially.  Kat and her mother, even by extension her father, were very physically close but because of how she had grown up there sometimes was a bit of emotional distance.

More to the point, there was an understanding between them. It was when they shared a look when well-meaning strangers would approach them in public and commend them on how ‘diverse’ their relationship was – almost meaning their relationship less so them as people. Or when on a double date with Sutton and Richard, it was almost telepathic in the way they communicated, Adena passing Kat the salt on auto-pilot; somehow both knowing that although beautifully presented, the meal Richard had prepared would be under seasoned. Kat had grown to tolerate Richard. Whereas, Adena had found that she quite enjoyed his company, finding a varying number of things they both shared an interest in. While Kat and Sutton would branch off to the bar at scarlet functions, Richard would be left to entertain Adena at their table.


Kat sat on the edge of the tub, one knee drawn close to her body, one of her feet balanced precariously as she watched Adena finish up with her routine. Kat was already dressed: her oversized t-shirt, sleep shorts and silk bandana wrapped around her head, glasses balanced on the bridge of her nose. “I just… it's bullshit. Everyone knows it is.” Kat mutters, eyes cast down, all too focused on the bathroom mat Adena is standing atop. At this Adena continues, decanting a small droplet onto the cotton pad before spreading the exfoliant over her face, careful to avoid her eyes. What Kat needed was space to get everything on her mind out into the open.

“It’s not fair that someone can say or do some shit like that to me, but if I get mad or I speak out, I become the problem. Even if I tell Jaqueline, it becomes more of an HR issue and then I’m the one who is difficult.” Kat's voice rose as she became more and more agitated. “Yeah” Adena hums cooperatively, indicating to Kat that she was listening.

Kat was speaking in reference to a staffer she had confronted earlier that week about a comment she had overheard her make in the breakroom, a comment that by any standards would be deemed as inappropriate if not outright bigoted. It had evidently come from a place of grave ignorance and Kat being Kat wasn’t going to let it slide. ‘look I don’t know why you would boldly just say the things that came out of your mouth, but if that’s how you feel, you keep that to yourself’.

She had obviously had walked into the tail end of their conversation, but the way the girl had said ‘those people’ had Kat’s ears perk up. The girl had her back to Kat as she entered the room walking to the coffee machine; her companion’s expression had changed seeing the director walk in but for whatever reason, she had ploughed on. What had started out as a calm reprimand had been sensationalized; the narrative shifting the more times the story was retold with Kat being painted as the aggressor. It all came out when Jaqueline had called Kat into her office, Linda from HR was sat down looking at Kat expectantly as she walked in.“Kat, as you can imagine, this issue with Heather is starting to become… a distraction.”

Adena finishes up, lifting off the pedal of the small waste bin at her foot as the lid closes shut. She turns back to look at the mirror, her hand going to grab for the moisturiser she had laid out on the shelf mounted under the mirror. She notices in the corner, the reflection of Kat looking downcast. “I’m sorry, baby. You know, and I know you haven’t done anything wrong. You are good at your job and you did the right thing. Your abilities as a boss shouldn't be called into question, but we both know how this looks, and it is unfair.” Adena turns her body around, moving closer to Kat before she reaches out to hug Kat close to her body. Delicate hands come up to cradle Kat’s head as she nods into her abdomen. She stands there for a moment massaging lightly at the nape of her neck.

It was unsaid but understood that there was more underlying what Kat had said. As progressive as Scarlet was, it didn’t exist in a vacuum and for Kat being in charge meant being conscientious about workplace politics. Everything she did was scrutinized; she could be outspoken, but not too outspoken. She could be ambitious but not too ambitious; all of these limitations that had been placed on her because of who she was.

Kat remembers talking to Adena and the comfort she felt from her girlfriend giving her room to find her own way and the absence of judgment in the decisions she made. Kat was proud of being the first black female department head at Scarlet, but with that came everything involved with being the first BLACK female department head at Scarlet. “I know it’s not easy. You are never too much.” Adena was speaking in reference to a comment Kat had made about how she was being referred to in whispers around the office. “But I’m here, okay.” That’s all she could do, it wasn’t something she could fix for Kat, it wasn’t something she would ever completely understand but she did get it; people treating you in a certain way because of preconceived notions. With a breath, she lifts Kats head to look more fully at her, placing a kiss on her forehead. “Let’s go to bed.” She says as Kat lifts up following her to their bedroom after flicking off the light in the bathroom. 

 

“I’m proud of you,” Adena whispers into Kat’s hair where her head is tucked into the crook of her neck. They’re lying in bed together, Kat’s tall frame practically draped over Adena who has one arm wrapped around Kat stroking at her back and a book in the other hand. Kat lets out a contented sigh at this, burrowing further into Adena’s side.

Chapter Text

Kat and Adena: Married 3 years.

It all begins familiarly. Two chairs again placed opposite one another. Sit down, Take a breath. Take a minute to look at each other.

The question cards are laid in a neat pile at the centre of the table; a water jug positioned at one corner of the table with two glasses on either side; the cool temperature of the water causing water droplets to form on the side of the glassware. Equipment of all sorts clutters the rented space. The bright ring lights cast a bright glow, clearing all shadows. Sabrina sits in the director’s chair to the immediate right of the camera operator, foot bouncing rhythmically – something Kat mirrors, unaware. Every once in a while, her eyes flit to the sound mixer standing tall slightly out of view of the camera, operating the boom. Her two production assistants, new hires, quietly observe their mentor at work.

There is a moment of dead air in which the buzz of people moving in the tiny space had given way to quiet once the camera had started rolling at the directors’ cue. ‘Okay, ladies whenever you’re ready’.


Kat fiddles with the simple platinum band on her left hand, her thumb and forefinger working in a well-practised pattern turning the ring on the axis of her finger. She takes a moment admiring the round cut diamonds set into the ring, the brushed metal, the symbolism of it all. ‘There is no beginning or end. It is eternal as your love is.’The inscription on the interior a secret between the two of them.

The cue comes from beside them, bringing her out of her head.

Kat wouldn’t say she was reluctant. Cautious. The tension in her body is evident. The tightness in her shoulders and deep furrow in her brow a stark contrast to Adena’s relaxed almost serene body language. There was an immense vulnerability in showing yourself to the world. A nakedness. Confronting the scrutiny; their relationship being picked apart by the masses.

Perspective was everything, she had soon realised. In a way that only Adena could, she had reminded her in a quiet moment the importance of being visible. Of living authentically. For all of the people who needed to see that: The little girl, growing up in a conservative religious community seeing a woman like Adena successful, happy, loved and very much strong in her faith. The young person somewhere in the world feeling isolated and contemplating if love was something they would ever experience. The sweet girl who had taken a glance at Kat and Adena’s joined hands one afternoon and had smiled when Kat complimented the intricate design of her braids.


How has our relationship changed since we last sat down? Kat read from the small notecard before leaning close to the table, her hand outstretched making a new pile for the cards already read.

Nothing in this life was permanent, everything was in a state of flux and the same was true of their relationship. “I think the experience allowed us to be more open with each other and a lot more honest. I know I speak for myself, but I think we are in a better place now. Definitely a stronger place. With everything that we have gone through, I mean I know that I feel so secure in us and what we have.” Adena says.

“I think that um, I’m a little more cautious when one of our friends asks for a ‘favour’ and I end up telling my entire life story for the world to see”. Kat counters after a moment.

Each person in the room smiles at this. Kat notices how the fine lines deepen near the corner of her wife’s eyes. They were both a little older now; something Adena had embraced but Kat not so much. Her 20’s had come and gone into a new decade of life, full of growth.

Three years of happy marriage had not been a cakewalk by any means. It was a lot of compromises. It was waking up every day next to the same person and choosing love. It was heated arguments about priorities and finances. It was quiet nights talking about their fears for their future. Three years in and they were still going strong if the light marks on Kat’s wedding band were anything to go by. She rarely took the ring off, her hand now feeling naked in its absence. Adena’s hand mirrored hers, the band would leave a ring of lighter skin, the rest of her hand around it tanned lightly by the sun.

Kat gives nod in an affirmation, agreeing with her wife.

“I also think being married has changed a lot of things for us.”

“Yeah I mean everything is kind of locked in.” Kat makes a gesture interlocking her fingers. “… and we are in it together. So overall, I think like a lot of positive things have come out of it. I think we understand each other even more now. I feel more Intune with you and your needs. But yeah, I am a lot more conscious of where I let you take me now, but we’re back here so it’s all good”


 Gentle rays filter in from the in-between spaces in the blinds. Sleep at one point had been a commodity in short supply. An hour here or there. Sleeping on a mattress of the floor in her first few months living alone. The cold discomfort of sleeping in a tent in the Amazon. Laying her body across a window bench in a small city airport, trying to get a few hours during a layover.

A deep sense of comfort settles against her chest, inhaling deeply at the fresh scent of detergent and something so very Kat. It wasn’t uncommon for her to migrate to Kat’s side of the bed as they slept, wanting to be close to her. There’s a safety felt here, the warmth in the room, the natural light; the high thread-count cotton sheets felt against her skin.

Those extra few hours she sometimes takes after attending to prayers are always enjoyed that much more. Especially on days like today.

“Wake up, sunshine. The earth says hello” A very chipper Kat shuffles into the bedroom, their bedroom Adena muses, managing to push the door open without the use of her hands. She smiles, her face against the plush pillow, as she watches Kat make a feat of balancing a cup of coffee in one hand and what she hopes is a pastry and tea for her if she knows her wife well, in the other.  Kat looks quite pleased with herself as she toes the door closed having avoided any major spillages in the time it took her to walk upstairs.

Adena moves to sit up in bed, up against the headboard, duvet falling to her waist as she stretches her body out. “Morning baby. Did you answer the door like that?” She asks eyebrow quirked nodding her head to Kat’s bare legs.

“Yup.” Kat quips. She takes a moment smiling at Adena looking at her before making her way across the room toward their bed. Kat unceremoniously tosses the small package on the bed, freeing up her hand to extend the paper cup to Adena. “Green tea, no sugar for you.” Her own cup is placed on the side table momentarily as she draws the sheets back, looking pointedly at Adena as she waits for her to shuffle over from her side of the bed before settling in next to her wife. Wife. The word sounded… right. Wife came with a sense of permeance.

Adena responds to Kat’s puckered lips, meeting in a quick peck.

  Kat picks up the treat in the little package at the edge of the bed. There’s ruffling of the paper before she notices Adena looking pointedly at her. Breaking off a little of the pastry, she takes a piece into her mouth, luxuriating in the rich buttery taste. Mid-chew, she glances to her wife once again, fingers dusting off the crumbs on her fingertips.

Being married is comfortable, Adena has found. But inversely there are moments like this where Adena is giving Kat ‘that’ look. Bewildered at Kat spreading crumbs on the bed.

‘For better or for worse’  

“Do you want some?” Kat questions, voice muffled around her food.  

“No, thank you.” Kat just has this innocent look on her face that makes her melt. It's just in her nature to be earnest and open. Her nose scrunches as it does her glasses slide down a little on her face. A battle for another day maybe, she thinks.

Kat just shrugs in response, settling back into the small mountain of pillows tucked in the space behind her.

It's ‘their space’. Having moved into their current place a month or so after the wedding made it real. And with that, it was no longer staying at Kat’s or Adena’s; it was theirs. It was home. Trinkets, art and furnishings they had picked out together decorated the place. Some items collected on afternoons antiquing in the city, other items custom made by a carpenter friend of Adena’s. Ours.

Part of it truly is about compromise, so, for now, Adena files this away for another day because it's such a beautiful morning and Kat looks cute bathed in the morning light.

“Thank you for my tea, wife” Adena says instead, taking her first sip, quickly followed by another as she lets the drink warm her from the inside.

“You’re welcome, wife”

 

 

They mostly sit there in comfortable silence. Kat sips at her coffee every once in a while, having long since finished her croissant. Kat sends a reply into her group chat with Sutton and Jane, aptly named __. Sutton in true fashion makes mention of how Kat is now saved in her contacts as Kat ‘I love my wife’ Edison. Kat usually the night owl, last one to leave, the life of the party, had stood from their table where her new little group of friends and Jane – Sutton having sat this one out, announced she was turning in early at 21:40. As sacred the ritual of after work drinks on a Friday was, the pull of wanting to be at home with her person was just that much stronger. Being busy at work had kept them both away from home much more than she would have liked.

Everyone had questioned and with a shrug, she had offered ‘I miss my wife’ as an explanation. A little cajoling and a round of goodbyes and Kat had returned home to a warm house to find Adena passed out on the couch in their living room. Kat had been cute and squatted next to her, stroking her hair and waking her up gently so they could get ready for bed together.

Kat walked through the door, quickly locking it behind her before depositing her keys in a little bowl placed on a hallway table in the entrance way. “Baby” She hollers, seeing most of the lights switched off beyond the main entrance area. “Honey, I’m home.” She calls out into their space once again, moving into the living room. There’s a distant humming of the dishwasher which lets her know Adena is likely somewhere close by.

Adena lays spread across the large couch, feet propped up one of the arms. Kat approaches quietly, squatting down to level with her wife.

Sensing her presence, Adena’s eyes flutter open to see a slightly tipsy Kat smiling down at her.

“hey.”

Their routine happens much the same as it always does, each of them taking turns to wash their face and brush their teeth. Kat walks into their bedroom to find a tall pint glass of water on her bedside left by Adena. Adena cuddled into her back as they share the events of the day.

Kat being herself gets bored and decides now is pertinent to distract Adena. She scoots over and nestles in the crook of Adena’s neck, nuzzling there for a second. Adena sighs contentedly, a smile creeping on her face feeling Kats eyelashes tickling at her. “yes, Kat”

“nothing “ 

Kat sits there a bit longer, just enjoying being close to Adena. Adena continues to type away, kat looking at work from her shoulder.

A flutter of kisses on her neck brings Adena back out of replying to the email on the screen, something about a proposal or the other. “Kat?” her voice is playful, admonishing but not serious at all.

A wandering hand sneaks under the soft cotton of Adena’s t-shirt, caressing around her middle before pulling her close into Kat’s body.

“Baby, I have to, hmmm” she loses track of what she was saying at feeling Kat nibble her ear lobe, “you have to what?”. Kat breathes right next into her ear.

The hand under her shirt moves out and Adena almost feels a loss at the contact, but Kat is closing the computer quickly while Adena’s attention is elsewhere. In a fluid and sneaky maneuverer, Kat places the device on the side table next to Adena.

She straddles Adena, knees slotting next to her wife’s hips.  Adena’s hands come up to hold Kat by her hips and she leans further back into the pillows. Those same hands slide down Kat’s naked thighs to grip her there as Kat returns to the cleft of her neck.

“You are distracting me”

“But I'm so cute.” Kat quips.

When did you know you wanted to marry me? 

“I don’t know.” The words come out easily. The honesty is striking, not quite the answer expected when followed by “I don’t think there was a moment when I knew.” Kat begins.

“I think for me it was more... I knew I wanted us… you know long term. Marriage for me wasn’t a huge priority.”

“Right?” there’s a pause for more explanation.

“I don’t know if I'm articulating or explaining well enough. If I am being honest with myself, I didn’t think I would ever get married, like not even just to you, but like at all. I wasn’t against the idea, but I never thought that it was for me, you know? But then being with you opened me up to it. I knew that was something you wanted, we had talked a little about it, but I wasn’t there yet.”

“Okay.”

“A lot of things factored into it I think, and I was in a place where, I knew and it was like, you’re it for me. What is 5 years going to look like or 10 years, and I wanted you right beside me? There was a moment, where I felt it was time. I felt like it was a good next step for us. And I knew you that you weren’t going to propose.”

“I could have proposed.” Adena quips in mock offence.

“No, babe.” Kat smiles. “And another part of it was when your mom came to visit. I don’t know if it's just me but having middle eastern in-laws, it's kind of like… what’s going on here, where is this going? Your mom is super cool and so so supportive, but you’re her baby you know… ‘take care of my baby’ kind of thing.” Kat adds. They both chuckle. “But even getting to know your family, it's more of a family thing, that kind of respect element.”

 - 

Months where spent ruminating on the decision.

Adena would catch her staring at her in their moments together, always with a look of love. She would smile sweetly at Kat, questioning whether everything was okay, somehow sensing that something was up. Reassurances were met with scepticism until the issue was dropped altogether. She had made the effort to consult with Farhad, Adena’s cousin who was more like a brother and Sahar; who she too had taken to referring to as ‘Adena’s second wife’, partaking in the private joke. That had come with some adjustment, sharing Adena. Sahar was to Adena, what Sutton and Jane were to her. Her ‘person’.  Her main questions were about what would be most appropriate in her plans and both were happy to be of help. ‘I want to do things right’she had explained. The gesture was more symbolic than anything, a lot of it would need to be adjusted to their context but she could only hope Adena’s family would be on board.

“Okay so, I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re all here. Obviously, it’s important to Adena and me that the families get to know each other” Kat stuttered nervously, her usually confident nature folding with the pressure of the situation. “I wasn’t sure how exactly I was supposed to do this but since we are all here…” Her attention turned to Adena’s parents who sat opposite. Adena’s sat on her mother side, Farhad’s wife to her left. Her cousin sat close to her father. “I want to marry your daughter and I want to ask for your blessing.”

The concept of marriage hadn’t been something Kat had given much thought to other than in an abstract sense. Her attitude towards the institution had been one of indifference. She had seen her parent’s marriage, witnessed Sutton come close to marriage at one point (an ill-advised girls’ trip to Vegas had her accepting a marriage proposal from a handsome Dutch tourist she had met in their hotel lobby). A sober mind had quickly nullified the verbal agreement. Until Adena.

Adena who had described marriage as ‘cementing a union of two people in the eyes of God’. It was something sacred to her. And so, she had set out to give Adena the perfect proposal; one that honoured the culture she held so dear and her family.

There was a security to it, it was more than getting the certificate, it was what it symbolised.

Farhad had been helpful in walking her through their family’s way of doing things, drawing from his experience of proposing to his wife Nasim. He had detailed each ceremony and its significance, knowing Kat’s point of reference was mostly cinema which tended to lend itself to the dramatic. Sahar had divulged sparse details about the things Adena had expressed a desire for when she got married.

Up until that point, Kat had yet to meet Adena’s father; having met Adena’s mother months prior on a short visit. Adena had revealed slowly to Kat that she and her father had been communicating, rarely but it was a start. It had come following a lengthy lecture from his wife ‘She has a whole life, one you are choosing not to be a part of’. As far as Kat knew, Adena initially hadn’t been receptive but she knew he was trying, not knowing where to start an apology to his daughter.

Adena’s mother had been warm toward Kat, if not a little bit awkward initially as she adjusted to seeing Adena being so intimate with another woman. She had grown to accept this part of her daughter’s life and thusly adjusted her expectations of what Adena’s life would look like. It had been a slow adjustment, she had no point of reference for this sort of thing and so relied on her daughter to communicate to her the things she didn’t understand. A give and take.

She had been right in her assessment of Kat as a kind and loving person and with that, she had started to develop a warm relationship with the young woman her daughter had chosen.  

Kat had decided to extend an invitation to Adena’s mother, her intention to ask for her blessing to marry her daughter. She had been surprised, whilst looking through the sea of travellers to see a short, portly man trailing behind Adena’s mother their luggage in tow.

For a moment she hadn’t registered Adena’s father as the couple made quite the picture. In every way that Adena’s mother was graceful and elegant with long lines and arresting features, her father was not. He stood a few inches shorter than his wife. His greying beard was trimmed neatly, framing his face. Kat could tell he had been quite handsome in his day, but age and his wife’s cooking had given rise to his round frame and face

Adena’s mother had embraced her in a hug before pulling away to allow her husband to introduce himself. He had smiled warmly at her, hand outstretched to her. She could feel his reluctance in the handshake, unsure of what to do with himself, but with enough sense to behave himself.

The drive back, he had sat quietly in the passenger seat adjacent to the driver she had arranged to come to pick them up from the airport. At a red light, he turned to Kat and his wife, hesitating before asking ‘Does Ada know that I am here too’. At that moment it dawned on Kat that what she had intended to be a surprise for Adena would now seem like an ambush with her father's unexpected presence. The look on Kat’s face answered his question before he turned back to looking out at the city through the side window. Adena’s mother had brought her out of her spiral, asking her questions about work and Adena.

The proclamation had been a shock to Adena. First, there was her father showing up unannounced in her home. Kat’s parents and her cousin’s family had shown up soon after. After long introductions, they had sat down to dinner.

Susan sat at her daughters’ side, rubbing gentle circles on her back as she could sense the tension in her daughters’ body.

Adena’s father was the first to speak “Adena, is this something that you want.” His gruff voice cut through the silence. His presence seemed out of place. Adena’s father was unfamiliar even to her, she had seen him on her visits home to her mother, but their interactions had been very tense and brief. For a while, he had treated her like a stranger in his house.

Adena turned toward the sound of her father’s voice, still not comprehending what was happening. Her parents were here, Kat was proposing, her niece (cousin’s daughter to be more accurate) was at her feet, the baby clumsily shaking her teething ring before putting the object to her mouth. “I uh….” A little screech from baby Yara brought her back into the room. Her eyes move down to her little face, a gummy smile in place.

Images of what she and Kat’s children would look like flashed in her mind. A little person of their own, with Kat’s eyes.

She had prepared a fresh pot of tea, thinking they were sitting down to bond after the dinner they had shared, but the smile on her cousin’s face was telling. Kat had placed a small ring box on the table between them as she waited with bated breath for a response.  She had chosen her own way of first presenting the ring before going through the subsequent informal conversations Farhad had explained would happen if Adena’s parents were receptive.

Persian culture emphasised politeness, she could tell, Adena treated her parents and herself with so much love; always wanting to be warm and of service to those she cared about. It was reflected in the way her mother and now father very much concerned themselves with being open to Kat and her parents sat across the table.

Marriage. Kat wanted to marry her. She had gone to the trouble of having her parents fly in for the specific purpose of proposing.

“Yes, yes I do want that.” At that, Kat had left out the breath she was holding, relief washing over her.

Adena had lain in bed that night, next to a sleeping Kat, rolling through the thoughts in her head. Kat was the first woman she had thought to introduce her mother to and now her parents were across the city. To discuss her potential marriage. To a woman. It was something she hadn’t dare even fantasize about, knowing her own family and background. Even in their discomfort at the situation, her parents were trying. The small child in her seeking their approval came to the surface. The same child who feared their love being conditional once she spoke aloud the things she had been feeling. And maybe they would never approve or understand her, but they had reached a point of acceptance. This is who she was and always would be.

Her father’s family, in particular, had been critical of their continued support of Adena, especially after her notoriety and visibility had increased and she was more public about her sexuality. The proverbial wall had come down. Cousins she had played with when she was small, aunties and uncle who had been to all of her birthdays, had shut her out, her name now said almost like a bad secret. It had been something she saw as a potential eventuality, but it didn’t hurt any less.

The unconventional nature of their union raised questions as to how they would proceed from that moment on. The discussions were more informal than Kat had anticipated. Farhad had taken on the role of mediator explaining to Kat and her parents what role she would be assuming in these talks and what sort of things Adena’s parents might ask her. Adena had appreciated the gesture of Kat trying to honour something that was so important to her.

An exchange of gifts was customary in showing intention when wanting to marry someone’s daughter, Kat had come prepared presenting small gifts she had handmade, knowing Adena’s appreciation more for craftsmanship rather than monetary value.

The mild discomfort in his demeanour and expression aside, Adena’s father had been supportive. In a time where he could have turned his back on his only child, he had chosen to try. When choosing to support Adena meant strained relationships with his own family members who were more vocal about their disapproval.  

  It was an extravagant affair befitting of such an occasion. From the small (in Adena’s words as they had only invited 100 people) engagement party, to the lively reception following the intimate wedding ceremony, surrounded by close friends and family; the private gardens  they had chosen, the opulence afforded by the decorations, to the meticulously beaded gowns they had both worn; Kat choosing later on in the evening to change into an ivory jumpsuit.  

Their wedding had been a blend of cultures. Adena’s family, mostly on her mother side had shown up in with gifts and well wishes. Kat had witnessed first-hand the organized chaos that ensued once all of Adena’s family gathered in one place. It took a while to learn everyone’s names and which family members were embroiled in a bitter silent feud, which in-law had tried to sabotage another cousins wedding and who really owned the land left behind by one of the elders.  

They had danced at the reception, Kat had drunk a lot revelling in the merriment of the occasion. Kat had taken delight in seeing her wife contented as she shared in a part of her life with her family, even the reluctant members of her family. They had spent time going around the room, greeting every guest individually, something Kat realised was expected of her (maybe) two glasses of champagne in.

Kat had invited her family on both sides and it was really the first time the Pierce’s and Edison’s would be gathered in one place. It had gone off well, each side focused on celebrating Kat on her big day. She had invited her aunts and cousin to be there when she got ready on the morning of the wedding, a small step in bridging the gap between the families. Her family had shown up, all taking in the extravagance of their ‘East meets West’ wedding. Even her uncle Isaac, a man Adena had referred to on occasion as ‘stiff’ had been up and dancing, poorly following along to the music when her father’s sister invited him to the dance floor.

“I knew, when you spent $11,000, to spend 10 hours with me”. Without context, the proclamation would sound bizarre, but to those who knew it all made sense. Her musings take her back to their airport date. The quiet. Consummating their relationship. Waking up wrapped up in each other as the sun came up. “In the airport, I saw what you were willing to do, and I remember thinking: this woman is special.”

“Money well spent baby.” Kat quips.

“At that point, we were not really even an ‘us’ so to speak. But it was this situation where I personally felt the care that you have for me. You were so willing and giving.


 “When do you worry the most for me?”Adena asks evenly before placing the card face down.  

Kat sits there a moment, contemplative.

“I think that I worry most for you when you’re caught up questioning yourself. That is one thing I have noticed; you have this perfectionism maybe. The standard you hold yourself to, with your work, with us. It affects you so much that I think you get lost in that sometimes.

Adena nods curtly. Agreeing wholly with Kat’s assessment of things.

“I think you put yourself under a lot of pressure, to like do everything and be everything to everyone. I just want you to be happy and healthy. I think a lot of it is things that maybe I don’t quite understand but I worry… because I see how much it hurts you and you’re hurting. I don’t know. I worry because I feel like you don’t feel like you can come to me and what am I doing as your wife, to not give you what you need.” Kat finishes.

“It… it is hard to explain. I understand what you mean, but for me maybe I have just been a little scared. There is so much going on constantly, that it can be overwhelming, I know that. 

“You shouldn’t have to feel like that” Kat interject quickly.

“But I do.” Adena shrugs. “It's easy to feel confident in your decisions when they are only affecting you. I think before I felt empowered to just live my life, exactly the way that I wanted to live it, but now there are all of these other things.”

Adena takes a breath, moving in her seat.

Kat mirrors her, her face cast with concern.

There was a saying that having children shows you who you really area. Every doubt, insecurity and bubbles to the surface. The things we keep hidden and push down. All of the things we would have hoped to have already processed are still there lingering somewhere. Quiet. Dormant.

“When we got married, there was so much of it that was us, we made that decision. Anybody could say what they wanted to say or thought about it, but it would not bother me, I could not care less. But now there is this whole other person affected by our decisions.”

“Right, but is there more to it. I hate feeling like you don’t think I’ll understand so you just don’t tell me. Baby whatever is… it's fine honestly.” Kat says leaning her body forward, closer to Adena.

Adena takes a moment. “it is a lot of things with my family. It has been hard for me. We have talked about it. it is just hard not having them close to me even as we build our own family. There’s the expectation now on how I should be, what a wife or a mother is supposed to be.”

“Expectation from who? What other people think doesn’t even matter, Adena. You don’t have to justify yourself to anybody.” 

“it’s different. I guess part of me still feels like by trying to live my life and be happy, I am doing something wrong. It is different for me. There are people in my family who were praying that we don’t have children.” It's a sore spot because of how long a process it had been. “And at a time where it just would not take, I felt like my body was failing me, and you really… and everything that happened after that.”

- 

A few rings saw Adena’s fathers face appear on the small screen propped on the desk in her home office. For a moment she can only see the top of his head, grey hair thinning at the temple. Shifting behind the camera can be heard as he tries to figure out how to situate the phone and get himself in the frame.

“Allo, Baba.” She greets him familiarly.

His face finally comes into full view, the angle quite strange as he peers down at the phone. She can tell it's late evening by the way the lights are turned down low in the background. She assumes her father is sitting in his chair in the great room of her parents’ house form what she can make out in the background.

“Hello Adena, Hello little one. Your mother is sleeping at the moment, I can wake her if you would like.” He greets the two in English, his accent thick but clear. Her call had been to her mother’s phone, but her father had answered in her place.

Noa sat alert on her mother’s lap, little head moving towards the source of his voice.

“No it’s okay, I just… I wanted to talk to her but it’s not a problem, I can call tomorrow.” She responds falling into the comfort of her mother tongue, more out of comfort than anything. Adena shifts, not sure whether to close the call and bid him goodnight before he speaks.  

“Adena, you know that you can talk to me.” Her father says, a forlorn look on his face. There was a time when Adena felt comfortable coming to him. He had been her Superman at one point, a rock she could cling onto when the seas were rough.

Adena adjusted Noa to sit more centrally on her lap, a free hand pushing her laptop toward the centre of the table, away from curious little fingers.

“Is everything okay? Don’t forget that I know you well Ada.”

Where would she even start? ‘I have a baby, who doesn’t let me sleep’ or ‘Even then I can’t sleep because I spend every second worrying’ or ‘I am tired in a way that sleep cannot fix’. She doesn’t say any of that, but she wants to.

“I’m okay. We’re okay, aren’t we? Look at grandpa.” Adena's voice rose in pitch, in a way it only did when she spoke to her daughter. Taking Noa’s hand into hers she made a waving motion towards the man on the screen. She hopes she sounds at least a little convincing, but his face tells her otherwise.  

He can see the sadness behind her eyes. A hollowness with how she carries herself even when her voice brightens speaking to her child. A face she wears, one he knows well, when she feels defeated but ever in defiance of that, lest people see her at her most vulnerable.  

There’s the little girl he had known, older now but still as beautiful and strong-willed. Her eyes always searching for approval in his own.

“How is Katherine.” Kat had a low tolerance for people calling her by her full name, but her in-laws were insistent, arguing that it was a beautiful name, one she should be proud of.  

“She’s okay. She is back at work now full-time. Yeah, she’s really enjoying it.”

“And you’re okay at home with the baby?”  

“Yes, baba.” Adena sighs

“You know it’s okay to struggle… to ask for help. Your mother mentioned…” He doesn’t finish his utterance, both of them know what he is speaking in reference to.

The symptoms had manifested slowly. She felt irritable and all together anxious. Her mother had assured her it was normal and would pass with time, but it persisted. Kat had begun to notice. A referral to a colleague of Susan’s at Kat’s concerned insistence later and she was feeling a little better. Slowly.  

“I know… it’s just hard. And to be completely dependent on someone else. I have not been working, she deserves better than that. I want everything for her.”

Their conversation continued a while longer. Her father listened quietly from the other end; letting his daughter off-load all of the things she had been feeling, her anxieties of being an adequate parent, her insecurity about what kind of life she would be able to provide for her daughter; would she grow up to resent her?

“Ada there is no blueprint, no map that they give when you have a child. You are doing enough. She is beautiful and happy. You are allowed to be happy.”


What are your favourite qualities about me as a parent? Kat takes her turn reading quickly from her card. The game now flowing smoothly.

“Oh, so many things.” Adena all but proclaims in quite dramatic fashion. “I have always seen how loving you are, but now I get to watch you fall in love… if that makes sense. I get to see what the love you have given to me, actually looks like. I think that having a child is truly like having your heart live outside of your body.” Love that was unwavering and unconditional. Love was reflected back in their little babies’ face when she smiled up at them. “I think even as much as we have struggled, it's worth seeing how protective and caring you are, of our daughter and of our family. You do so much and you do it so well.” She adds.

Almost a month from her due date, at 37 weeks, Kat had woken to Adena nudging at her side at 3.34 a.m. After coming to, she quickly took stock of Adena standing 2 feet away, doubled over in pain at the edge of the bed; barefoot with her once oversized sleep shirt pulled taught over her round belly. Adjacent to her, in the entryway to their bedroom, was a little collection of water, pooled on the floor. From what she could ascertain, Adena had been on her way back from the bathroom when her waters had broken.

Prior experience of Braxton Hicks contractions made it evidently clear that this was not that. These were more prolonged, almost stealing the air from Adena’s lungs with every wave. After sitting Adena down at the edge of the bed, Kat had crouched in front of Adena, a hand reaching to rub soothing circles at her hip. All of the baby books couldn’t have prepared her for seeing her otherwise very strong wife; who had not wavered at the sign of pregnancy symptoms: the swelling, bouts of morning sickness that lasted almost throughout her pregnancy, contending with months on bedrest - completely wrought with pain.  

Her words were of no comfort to her wife, silent tears streaming at each sharp exhale. ‘Kat, It's too early’. Her voice had come out in panic. Kat was quick to reassure her, clasping Adena’s shaking hands in her own, nudging her to look at her from her position crouched on the floor. ‘Hey, hey... look at me. Baby look at me. Come on, look at me okay’ Kat’s voice was calm despite her inner turmoil. ‘Adena 37 weeks is okay, baby, it's okay, we’re all going to be okay.

There was a sensitivity in the way she spoke. The worry of not being able to control every single variable. There had been a point where there was doubt as to whether Adena would be able to carry to full-term. 4 rounds of artificial insemination, 3 rounds of IVF; each with its own sets of setbacks had left them at an impasse. Fertility treatments had taken a toll both emotionally and physically. To say this was their miracle child was an understatement. At the three months mark they had begun with cautious optimism; still not quite relaxing at the thought of their baby coming. Even at the baby shower, there had been a tension there. Quiet.

The hospital bag, packed on a late afternoon last week ‘just in case’ Adena had said, was parked in the downstairs cloakroom. A quick call to her parents, had her loading a slightly calmer Adena into a car, bags in tow.  

27 hours in total were spent in labour. Noa Sayeh El-Amin came into the world on the 11thof November 2022, weighing 5 pounds 8 ounces; her tiny body curling at the sudden cold, tiny fights clenched tightly as strong little lungs wailed at her first breath.  

The struggles of the last year and a half had all but faded when the nurse returned, strong practised hands placing the little one on her chest. The crying almost immediately abated as she felt the warmth of her mother’s skin. Bright eyes met with hers briefly, wet and unfocused as they adjusted to the light. It had all been worth it, Kat had mused standing over the edge of the hospital bed - the picture of her entire universe; pointer finger grasped in the tight grip of an impossibly tiny hand.

-

Kat responds to these little noises reflexively. Deep sleep evades her now where she used to be able to sleep through most anything. The little noises and the movement beside her turn into little complaints from her little person almost as if to say, ‘look I'm about to start crying’. Theirs is a well-rehearsed dance. The three-month-old will wake up around the same time and voice her displeasure at not having her parents attention until one of the ladies she recognises as her mothers offer her comfort in the way of food and cuddles.

Kat sits up promptly, not one to keep her waiting. She looks over into the bassinet attached to Adena’s side of the bed; the baby sleeps closest to Adena while she is still breastfeeding. The previous day was a particularly rough day for her wife and she could at the very least try and let her sleep a little longer.

Adena stirs much in the same way as Kat, instincts alerting her that their infant is discontented. Adena makes a move to get up, half opening her eyes to see their baby rubbing at her face with her little fists.

Kat gently places a hand on her shoulder, silently saying she will take this one, and let Adena go back to sleep. Kat rolls up out of bed, noticing the time is 5;35, not long before her alarm would be going off anyway. She takes a moment to stretch out her torso whilst sat on the edge of the bed after pushing the covers away from her body. It's only a bit lighter than usual now with the springtime in full swing. The sun doesn’t quite peek over the horizon, so their bedroom is still dark for the most part.  

She pads over to the bassinet, noticing Noa squirming in her little bed. Kat picks her up gently, shushing and rocking her as she holds her close to her chest. The little one is still making her thoughts known but soon calms down, letting Kat comfort her.

‘Yes, I know, I know” Kat will swear up and down she doesn’t have a baby voice, but her own voice is always more animated; lighter. “How did you sleep? Good??” she waits for a little while where a reply would be as she continues to rock her little one. “Yeah?” Kat replies entirely to herself. “Why don’t we let mama continue sleeping, that sounds like a good idea doesn’t it.” She says aloud mostly for her benefit as they make their way out of the room.

Mornings are their thing while the little family settles into a routine. Kat walks down the long hall, baby in arm turning on the lights as she goes. She takes special care walking down the staircase into the open plan living area on the lower level of the apartment.

Adena had loved the high vaulted ceilings, Kat the industrial elements of it all, the large floor to ceilings windows, the view of the city. Cool concrete gave way to softness and colour. Plush textiles, soft corners on the edge of the furniture. Colourful toys could be seen poking out of the top of three organised baskets next to the couch. There was artwork collected from friends and those admired on the walls. A home.  

Kat pads to the fridge, picking out a prepared bottled, meticulously labelled Thurs. a.m. because Adena is just like that about these things. One-handed she sets the bottle in the warmer and switches it on waiting for the warming action to take place. “Okay, we’re gonna eat first and then we’ll see if you need changing”. In any other context, she would feel silly talking aloud to herself, but every book argued it was beneficial to do so and sometimes Kat could swear the babies coos were clear responses.

She grabs the now warm bottle and walks them over to the couch, yawning herself, as they settle into the couch.  Kat tests out the temperature on her skin a moment while the Noa starts to shift closer to her chest searching for milk, where she lays in the crook of her arm. “Nope, that’s for mama. It's just the bottle today.” She chimes, adjusting a little.

The baby latches onto the little nipple of the bottle very quickly and starts chugging. Kat helps her take little breaks from drinking while sat in the crook of her arm. Kat can’t help but yawn looking outside and seeing the city slowly start to wake up. They both settle down a little bit once she finishes drinking and Kat gently pats her back. This goes on for a while, both of them more alert as a little belch erupts out of the tiny body and Kat can relax at a job well done.  

Everyone who saw Kat with her baby knew she was a natural, but there were always doubts in her. Her job keeps her away from home more than she would like, but it was in sacrifice. Making the decision to leave the security of Scarlet to start her own consultancy firm had been a hard one, but necessary. Their lives were changing and her priorities had shifted.  

Mornings are theirs and as early as it is there is nothing Kat would rather be doing. After a quick diaper check, Kat spends some time staring at this baby. Tracing her features gently. The slope of her nose, her brow that is so reminiscent of Adena. Her little tiny lips, the curve of her cheeks. The soft little curls of her hair. To have someone so small, life in her hands makes Kat feel mortal if she's honest with herself. The love she feels is on a different level, protective and nurturing. She didn’t know love like that until she met her.

While she is settled in her little seat where Kat can see her perfectly. Kat begins to straighten up the living room, putting the magazines on the table into a neat pile, straightening out the couch cushions, setting the Roomba to move around the floor space. She puts dishes away and starts a pot of water for when Adena wakes up. She manages all of this before Noa starts fussing.

Kat puts her down on her playmat and lays next to her as she tries to encourage to play and reach for the toys suspended on the arch above the mat.


How do the differences in our upbringing affect our relationship? “Does it affect our relationship, what do you think?” Kat tacks on her own question.

“I think it does, pretty much in every way. But I do think it is different when you have children.” Adena starts.

“Right.” Kat supplies.

“We are so very different. I am Muslim, you grew up in a non-religious environment. Our relationships with our parents are different, and by proxy with the other person’s parents as well. It has for us, been a lot of figuring things out together… it helps when it is coming from a place of wanting to understand or relate better to each other. We communicate differently.”

“Yeah completely, and I think it's just being conscious of where the other person is at. You have a way you want me to approach you and the same for me.”

“One thing that has been very important a least in our relationship is putting our family first, the family we are starting. It’s a lot when you have things coming from two different sides, but just me and you, we can do what we want to do.”

“Yeah, I agree completely.” Kat takes pause before her next thought. “I always keep in my mind though that our daughter’s experience of life isn’t going to mirror either of ours. Growing up, I don’t know how she might identify or which parts of herself she feels the most strongly connected to, you know.” 

“I think it is up to us… to make sure that she feels like she can own and be comfortable in everything that she is.”