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and even as i wander (i'm keeping you in sight)

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Noora has been entirely focused on graduating for as long as she can remember. Her parents had given her that, at least. It was, in all honesty, about the only meaningful thing that they ever had. She has this whole stupid plan thanks to them—high school, college, medical school, marriage to a smart boy, happiness, possibly kids, retirement, and, eventually, death—that depends on graduating, on finally jumping that hurdle, so obviously she is dedicated to the cause.

It all sounds very trite and bland, but it’s hers. It’s the only shred of sanity she has left in this godless and forsaken world.

There's only just recently been a small hiccup. Noora is not interested in marrying any of the boys she had thought she would. She's not interested in any boy she’s met or seen or smelt, even though sometimes their cologne is fucking intoxicating.

She is still a little confused on the whole boy part, okay, but she is for sure into girls. She knows this as fact because of her.

Because of the shimmering color of her hair in the sunlight, because of the wrinkles around her smile, because of the scarves and her sneakers and her laugh and her face and her name. Because she's Eva and Noora is Noora and the earth is inarguably round and the grass is green.

There's nothing wrong with a little crush, of course. Noora's had crushes before, had plenty in Madrid, but they didn't feel like this. Like...like waiting at the crest of a roller coaster, the ride paused, stuck just centimeters from tipping forward, inches from going back. Like Noora's constantly waiting for the fall, for the fun to start and the anxiety to stop. For something to finally fucking happen.

They've been friends for years, though, and Noora doesn't want to ruin what they have. Plus, she's pretty sure Eva is straight and strictly into dick.

Sure, she hooks up with Vilde when they're both shit faced, but that surely can't count if neither of them can remember it the next morning.

Especially on nights like tonight where Penetrator Chris is there egging them on, begging for more, probably thinking about how he's going to save this image for his wank bank later. Eva is probably only thinking about impressing him and Vilde only wants to impress William, who lurks several feet away, brooding, so the kissing and the touching goes on and on and on.

Eva looks gorgeous tonight; Noora did her makeup instead of Vilde, so it's gentler. Softer. Makes her eyes more pronounced instead of hiding them under heavy-handed black eyeshadow.

Vilde, in comparison, is trashed out of her mind and her makeup is everywhere, so the juxtaposition between them is too much for Noora to bear. She turns away, shuts her eyes for a second, and sighs. Has to breathe for a while to maintain her resting bitch face.

It has to be time to go, right? It has to be after 3. She checks her phone and is relieved to see that it's half past.

She turns around and, after pushing Penetrator Chris away from Eva and Vilde, drags the two of them through the house.

“Jesus, Noora!” Eva snaps. “You're gonna...gonna break my arm!”

“It's time to go.”

“Slow down!” Vilde slurs.

She's a mess. Noora is sick of her and somehow jealous. It burns in her chest like hot rage and she can't help lashing out at her. She regrets it only after she feels the rush of satisfaction.

“Shut up, Vilde! It's time to go!”

Sana, who noticed the altercation, puts a hand on Noora’s arm. Her reaction is immediate; Noora's rage simmers and cools and she deflates. Drops their arms.

Noora is acting fucking crazy.

“Let's just go home, okay?” Noora wants a hot shower, lavender soap, and her fluffy duvet.

She also wants Eva to not have Vilde’s lipstick smeared all over her mouth.

Noora is so fucked.

“Yeah,” they agree finally, staring at Noora with wide, shocked eyes. “Alright.”

Noora starts toward the door again and hears Eva ask Sana, “What is wrong with her?”

“She's jea-lous,” Vilde singsongs, cackling.

Noora only realizes her mistake after she does it. Hindsight is fucking 20/20.

“I am not!”

She turns, catches a wry, almost flat expression on Sana’s face, and freezes. Sana knows. She has to. That was why Noora had wanted to be friends with her to begin with. She's so clever, so intuitive. She always knows everything before everyone else.

It's now her most terrifying attribute.

Noora turns back around, flushed, and squeezes her hands into fists at her sides.

She really needs to go to bed.


 

“Noora!” Eva shoots down the hallway at school on Monday. “Wait up!”

Noora turns, smiles a little, and waits for Eva to push through the freshmen. She looks great today for someone who downed her bodyweight in tequila only two nights ago. Her hair is half up, flyaways brushing her face as she pants from the running.

She looks so stunning. Noora can't stop thinking about her. This has to be what hell is like, like being a game paused every time any action occurs, like being restarted every time Noora sees Eva.

“Where were you yesterday?” Eva asks as they start walking again.

They have math in ten minutes in the room at the end of the hall and Noora likes to be early. She prefers a seat in the back and knows she won't get one unless she's there before everyone else.

“I was tired,” she lies, the words bitter in her mouth, “plus I had to finish that essay on Dickens for Jones.”

“Oh,” Eva says softly, smiling only with her mouth, “okay. Well, did you finish it?”

“Yeah.”

“Me, too.”

They walk in silence until they take their seats beside one another in the back of the room. Their teacher isn't there yet, thankfully, so Noora takes out her phone and scrolls on Instagram. Eva coughs as a means of grabbing Noora's attention, sounding awkward and perhaps a little confused.

“Why are you acting like that?” Eva asks, eyeing her phone and her face.

“Like what?” Noora tries not to sound defensive.

This crush or whatever is ruining her life. All she has to do is stop liking Eva. Can't be that hard, right? Then everything will go back to normal. They were friends first and they always will be.

Noora tries again with a defeated sigh, hands knotted together on the desk in front of her.

“I'm sorry. I’m just...embarrassed about the other night. I was irritated and tired and grumpy as hell and I acted like a child.”

“It was sexy,” Eva says thoughtfully, grinning. “If William had seen, he'd have said something edgy and weird like ‘be mean to me like that and I will literally come in my pants’.”

Noora groans, laughing, and rolls her eyes. William has had this thing for her since she told him he exudes small dick energy and that he only picks on girls because he has unresolved mommy issues and childhood traumas. The mean girl thing apparently turns him on and he doesn't want to take her no for an answer, so he stalks her, sulking the entire time. At least he's otherwise pretty harmless (to her).

It's so fucked up. Noora is pretty sure she's a lesbian, but even if she was straight, she could never imagine actually liking someone who probably has a bunch of empty space in his head and in his pants.

That's why Noora has such a problem with Vilde in that way. She's trying to help the girl, but she just doesn't want it. Can't see what William really is.

He's a Dementor who feeds on self-esteem and Vilde isn't Harry Potter.

She doesn't have a Patronus to keep her safe.


 

The second time Noora is accused of being jealous, it's three weeks later and obviously a joke. So painfully obvious that even Isak, who currently is living on the couch in her flat, stares at her like she's gone and said something stupid.

Noora and her friends are scattered about the living room with snacks in hand as a movie plays on the TV. It's something that's likely supposed to be scary but just plain isn't, at least to Noora. Eva sits with her newest fling on one of the couches, cowering in his arms, hiding from the supposed ‘terrifying monsters’ that really are just terrible CGI.

“Jesus,” Eva and the guy are so close that Noora can hear every goddamn word they say to each other. “This is scary.”

“Don't worry,” he says and Noora is glad she hadn't bothered to remember his name because it makes her feel better when she realizes how insignificant he really is. “I've got you.”

What an asshole.

Eva doesn't reply just leans up and kisses him. Noora nearly vomits all over the back of Vilde’s head. She sort of wishes she'd banned all boys from movie night. But at least Isak knows how to be fucking quiet during a movie.

Again, Noora realizes, she's becoming increasingly hostile. She should probably stop.

She tries to change the way she thinks about the boy. As long as he makes Eva happy, she doesn't care. She shouldn't care. As long as they're good for each other, she can't care.

She won't.  

Sana is watching Noora watch Eva and it's unnerving. It's outright unfair that Sana is so observant.

“What's wrong, Noora?” Vilde looks up at her, her neck turned at an awkward angle just to laugh at her. “Jealous?”

“I am not ,” she says too quickly, scowling, arms crossed.

Vilde widens her eyes and whistles. Mumbles Chill.

Noora should've just laughed it off. Why can't she ever just laugh it off? She used to be able to. This fucking crush is ruining her life.

“You are!” Says Chris, being unhelpful and annoying.

“Don’t worry,” Vilde adds after she's turned around. “Eva will be over Tom in a couple days. Then you can have him.”

Noora sighs sadly, a little tiredly. All of the pain in her body leaves her.

Eva never keeps a guy around long, not since Jonas. At least that's the one reprieve Noora gets with this endless rotation of shit.


 

William has been following Noora around all goddamn day, so her patience is paper thin and nearly nonexistent. He watches her solemnly, like he's lost without a woman to lead him around. Fucking idiot.

He follows her shopping for new sneakers. He followers her to lunch with Chris. He follows her back to her apartment.

One or two places could be coincidence, but back to her house in the bad part of town? William has probably never stepped foot over here before today.

Noora thinks about calling the police, but remembers something Vilde had said a while ago.

“He doesn't get in trouble for his parties because his dad’s a super important politician and the police all love him.”

So they'll be of no help to her. Plus, Noora knows he's not going to hurt her. He just wants her to be mean to him and then jack him off or something equally as weird.

So she goes to Sana’s and, when she's standing safely in the doorway, turns to shout at his stupid, old looking face.

“Leave me alone! Stop fucking following me, you jackass!”

He looks at her and stares. Noora scoffs and slams the door in his face. He is incorrigible. And obnoxious.

“What a dick,” Noora groans as she leans up against the door.

“What does Vilde see in him?” Sana agrees as Noora kicks off her shoes.

There's already a large pile of sneakers there, so she assumes that Elias has his friends over, too. Noora enjoys their company and all, but she was looking for a quiet night doing homework and those boys are not quiet.

“Elias and his dumb friends are here,” Sana says and then grins when she adds, “so we have to be quiet! I don't want them following us around like lost puppies!”

Noora grins back and they both tip-toe into her room. They have a science project to work on. Isak is supposed to show up later to help, but he won't be there for a while. Sana’s room is neat and cute. It looks exactly like Noora expected it to when they first met.

She settles down in her favorite spot on the bean bag chair on the floor and sighs dramatically. Sana lays down on her bed and does the same. This is the kind of solidarity Noora needs in her life honestly. Mutual sighing.

“So…” Sana says, staring upwards at her ceiling and pointedly not looking at Noora. “Eva?”

Noora sighs again. Looks down at her hands. Looks back up at Sana.

“It just sorta...happened.”

“Everyone says that.”

“Yeah.”

“So are you, like, bi? Or pan?”

Noora bites her lip for a second before answering. It's not that big of a deal. She's just gay. It's not like she has a terminal disease or something.

“I think I'm a lesbian,” she admits softly.

She lays down on the bean bag chair and looks up. There are stars up there, glued there from probably when Sana was a kid. Noora stares up at them. Waits for Sana to say something.

“Well,” she says, sounding nonchalant, “I'm pretty sure Eva’s bi or something...so all we gotta do is get her to like you back. Won't be hard at all.”

Noora scoffs because she makes it sound so easy when it isn't. They don't even know for sure if Eva likes girls. Maybe she just likes kissing. Maybe she just likes Vilde.

“You're pretty great, Noora. It'll be easy.”

“What’ll be easy?” Asks Elias, peeking through the door.

Noora can see Mikael and Mutta behind him, waiting. Sana hesitates and Noora says “our science project” as calmly as she can.

“Oh, well, cool, I guess,” Elias smiles. “Isak is here.”

“Send him in,” Sana says flatly. “We have a lot of work to do.”


 

Sana comes up with a plan and she texts it to Noora once she's home and in her bed.

They had successfully finished the project quickly because Isak is apparently a genius when it comes to anatomy. Who'd have thought.

To: noora at 23:29

So heres the plan:

You come out (whenever you're ready)

You get a date with a cute girl

You make Eva jealous

She gets mad

You ask why

She says she's bi and in ♡ with u

You get married and live happily ever after

I am the maid of honor at your wedding

To: sana

Ok sure

That totally sounds like it'll work

Not implausible at all that she reciprocates my feelings no 

To: noora

Dont be negative, noora. That's my job.

To: sana

This is degrading to women.

To: noora

Noora it’s tinder. Most people are only on there for sex anyway.

To: sana

Whatever.

What if it doesnt work or eva says shes straight?

To: noora

Then you have a date with a cute girl and hopefully I still end up the maid of honor

To: sana

Whatever.

Plan is a go. Tomorrow 1200 hours. Our lunch table. Be there or be □


 

Noora is seated apprehensively at their lunch table at approximately quarter to 11. There's a tray in front of her that has a half eaten container of fries and a grilled cheese sandwich; her friends are seated around her, chatting and laughing.

“Guys?” Noora asks, interrupting them. “There's something I have to tell you.”

She knows it'll be okay. Noora loves these girls and they love her. Plus, they're cool with Isak and Eskild who are both gay; why wouldn't they be okay with Noora?

“You aren't pregnant, are you?” Asks Vilde, unhelpful as always. “Is it William’s?”

“Oh, my God, Noora!” Chris laughs. “No fucking way!”

And then everyone is talking at once.

“William?!”

“Dear God!”

“No way!”

Noors gets so overwhelmed that she just shouts, “I'm gay!” as loud as she can without interrupting other people’s lunches.

She had this whole speech planned, but Vilde ruined it. Fuck.

“I'm gay,” she says again, this time softer, this time just for herself. “I'm a lesbian.”

Noora expects something unhelpful from Vilde and she gets it, and she smiles on accident anyway when she knows she probably should be exasperated or something.

“I fucking knew it!” Vilde exclaims. “I am a fucking genius.”

“Yes, yes,” Noora snorts, only a little condescendingly “Your gaydar is impeccable .”

Vilde has, on occasion, asked Noora if she were a lesbian. Noora, not sure about herself, had said no. Now, the answer is yes, yes, yes. 

“Good for you, Noora,” Chris says, smiling.

At this point, Sana nods, looking at Noora with a smirk, and Eva still says nothing. Just sort of stares at a space behind Noora’s head.

“Eva?” Noora asks gently.

It would be a bit hypocritical of her to dislike Noora for liking girls, of course, but one can never be sure. Homophobia is never logical. 

“Sorry, Noora,” she smiles, jumping back to reality. “I just have a lot on my mind. But, uh, I'm happy for you.”

“Thank you,” Noora says, feeling a little uncomfortable.

Eva is so usually there for Noora that it's strange to see her disinterested. To see her almost blatantly ignore her.

It makes Noora feel like shit.

“Want to talk about it?”

“Later.”

Noora nods softly and leans back in her seat a little. She can't force Eva to talk just like she couldn't force her parents to love her. She just has to move on as she always has. Only today she actually has a plan. Has a step two.


 

To: noora at 21:19

Step two consists of multiple things. Things that may very well scare you. Are you ready?

To: sana

I'm scared

But yes I guess

To: noora

Go to the app store

Type in ‘Tinder’

Download it

Make an account

Use cute photos of yourself

Make a cute bio

Swipe

To: sana

Tinder? Seriously?

To: noora

Yes. Seriously.

Do it now.

Find a cute girl (one who somewhat maybe resembles Eva??? Though that isnt a mandatory step. Idgaf what she looks like as long as you like her and shes cute) and swipe right.

To: sana

Fucking hell. I have hit Rock Bottom.

Fine.


 

Noora puts it off for the entirety of Saturday. It's already Sunday evening before she can bring herself to search for it in the App Store.

It all looks completely foreign to her, but the instructions aren't too difficult.

She chooses a handful of pictures of herself (and one group shot of her and her friends) and can't decide on a bio.

How is one supposed to sum themselves up in such a few words? Noora can't imagine anyone wants to read a fucking paragraph about someone else.

Obviously I'm living the dream.

Once she's decided that, she links her Spotify so she has something to talk about with the girls, at the very least.

She clicks over to the card stack and takes a deep, embarrassed breath. She can't believe she's actually doing this.

Tinder is for narcissists like William and assholes like P. Chris. Tinder is for people who want to be in a relationship or are looking to have lots of sex and Noora doesn't fit into either of those categories right now, so what is she doing?

How could she let Sana convince her this would work?

Fucking hell.

The first person she sees is apparently actually two people. A couple. Their bio reads Looking for a 3rd. Hot girls only.

Noora rolls her eyes and swipes left. The next person is a cute girl with wide, grey eyes and a bright smile. Her photos are cute enough. Her bio says I sleep with socks on.  Noora, taking the world's deepest fucking breath, swipes right.

Nothing happens. Relief floods Noora's bones, but she isn't sure why.

The third is a girl with green hair and a septum piercing. Not Noora's thing. The fourth wears a MAGA hat in her fourth picture. She swipes left for both of them. What kind of person does shit like wear a Trump hat? Some people are fucking morons.

The fifth is a ginger with eyes the color of dying grass and a name to match. Rose. Her bio says Let's go on an adventure that doesn't involve any uphill hiking. and she, too, likes The Front Bottoms on Spotify. A conversation point.

Noora swipes right.

The screen sort of freezes for a second and then it changes. It says that Noora has got her first match.

Noora isn't quite sure what to do next. Does she message first? Does she wait?

She decides after an embarrassingly large amount of time to wait it out. This is her first match and she has to learn the ropes first before she jumps in head first.

She goes back to the cards and swipes through the next dozen or so girls before she finds another match.

This time it's with a beautiful girl whose name is Annette and who likes shitty french food and cheap wine.

Annette writes Noora almost as soon as Noora gets out of the matches screen. Her phone buzzes with the notification.

To: Noora

Hi, love :) how are you today?


 

Noora talks to Annette for a week and a half before they set up a date. Coffee and bagels on Friday night.

Annette is a beautiful person inside and out, so far as Noora can see. She is introspective and perhaps a little introverted, but she is kind and empathetic and so fucking intelligent. If Noora wasn't in love with her best friend, she's pretty sure she might end up that way with Annette after a while. Hell, maybe she still will, if Eva turns out to not like her back.

Noora comes to the conclusion that including Annette in their little game is unfair and makes the decision to do something about putting her in this situation. She just doesn't want to do it over the phone is all.

On Thursday afternoon when they’re all seated at their lunch table (minus Sana who is home sick), Vilde asks of they want to see a movie Friday night—The Purge prequel—Noora grins to herself.

“I can’t,” she says softly. “I've got a date.”

“A date?!” Vilde screeches, smiling so widely it's a bit much. “With who?”

“With this girl Annette.”

“Can we see a picture?” Chris asks. “I wanna see a picture.”

“I imagine she's pretty,” Vilde says delicately. “Probably red-haired. Probably likes skater-style stuff.”

Noora looks Vilde right in the eyes, away from the screen of her phone. How does she know that Noora is in love with Eva? Was it just a good guess?

“Probably wears Vans. Not too smart with school stuff.”  

Definitely wasn't a good guess. Vilde knows. Vilde knows and now Eva most certainly will.

Vilde is a blabbermouth. She's terrible with secrets!

Fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Noora turns her head and gauges Eva’s reaction. Nothing. She doesn't even look up from her english homework to acknowledge them. Doesn't even recognize they're talking at all. It's so unlike her to be absent from their conversations.

Noora swallows roughly, breathing a little shaky, and goes back to her phone.

If Eva knows, then she knows. What can Noora do about it?

“Here she is,” Noora says finally, pulling up her Instagram.

Annette is laying in the grass, wearing overalls and a striped shirt. She has her arms wrapped around her baby brother and is laughing so hard her eyes are alight with it. She's beautiful and she doesn't deserve to be played like this.

“Holy shit,” Chris says. “She is gorgeous!”

“Isn't she?” Noora smiles a little.

Eva looks when Noora turns the phone to her and she smiles a little. Then it's gone and she looks a little sad, perhaps.

Whatever was bothering her the other day must still be.

“She's pretty,” Eva says, looking pained.

Noora wonders what is worrying her so thoroughly.

She'll definitely have to ask.


 

To: evaa at 19:28

Hey I got a question for u

If you dont want to talk about it, I won't mind.

But you know I'm always here for you, right?

To: noora☆

I know that.

To: evaa

What's been bothering you?  You've been distant

To: noora☆

I'm just tired. I haven't been sleeping well

I didnt sleep at all last night

To: evaa

Oh no. Did u try taking something?

To: noora☆

No but what u got lol

To: evaa

Advil PM?

Nyquil?

To: noora☆

U want me

To drink

Cough syrup

To sleep

To: evaa

To: noora☆

Oh lol I think my mom has those hold on

Yeah she did

Thanks Noora♡

To: evaa

You're welcome:)


 

Noora spends a good portion of her free period deciding what she'll wear inside her head. She wants to make a good impression because everyone judges based upon the first meeting. It's a fact.

She'll have to put on some perfume and then maybe she'll wear a sweater? Or the button-down with stars on it?

She's definitely going to wear her best jeans and then boots, maybe. Who fucking knows.

By lunch, she still hasn't decided. She also has a new worry.

What will she say to Annette? What will they talk about?

Christ, Noora is in way over her head.

By the time school is over and Noora is home in her room, she's having a meltdown.

Shes throwing things around her room, trying desperately to find something to wear, but it isn't even her biggest worry. How will Noora talk? What words will she say? What topics will they discuss?

Finally, in a fit of frustration, Noora flings a pair of mom jeans at the wall and then, without knocking, Eskild enters and they smack him right in the face.

“I know I've joked about getting in your pants before,” he says glumly, “but this was not what I meant.”

Noora just gives him a look that means “go away"; he doesn't.

“Where you goin’?”

“Nowhere.”

“Is it...a date? A little blonde birdie told me it was a date. He wiggles his eyebrows. “My little Noora is all grown up! Who is it? It's not that shithead who follows you around, is it? God, I hope not.”

Noora sighs, a little annoyed, but mostly fond, and answers, “It's with this...uh...girl I met at school.”

“Is she cute?”

Noora smiles a little, holding a black high-waisted skirt, and nods.

“Need help?” He asks, nodding toward her dresser. “I can be objective.”

“Objective? About what?”

“About you in a skirt,” he says and then breaks out laughing.

Eskild’s newest line of jokes involves him suggesting he's straight and then dying with laughter immediately afterward. Sometimes it's funny, but not right now. Noora rolls her eyes.

“I like the skirt,” Eskild says once he's finished. “Maybe with that cream colored sweater you wore to my birthday party?”

“How do you remember that?”

“I was thinking about stealing it to be honest with you.”

Noora glares at him and he just laughs gleefully.

Noora is in hell.


 

Noora is dressed and wearing her favorite red lipstick when she gets a text from Annette. Attached is a picture of her wearing a black sweater and a high waisted suede skirt. She looks fucking stunning.

From: annette

Hope this will help you recognize me in that crowded café ;)

 

Noora is a bit awed and doesn't know how to reply. She sits there on her bed for a couple minutes just stunned.

Finally she thinks about sending one back. Then she does it.

And if she hikes her skirt up just a little higher than she would normally wear it, that's her business.


 

Noora is sitting anxiously in a chair outside Café du Noir and waiting for Annette. Noora is always early for everything as it gives her some semblance of control over situations in which she knows she has none, so Annette isn't there yet.  

She's studying the menu and trying to keep her leg from shaking.

“Noora?” says a small voice behind her.

Noora looks up, already smiling, and falters. It's not Annette. It's not even the fucking waitress.

It's Eva fucking Mohn. And she looks fucking stunning.

How is one person so flawless? Christ. She's even put on makeup with a light hand like Noora taught her and has bright red lips. Beautiful.

“What are you doing here?” Noora blurts out instead of saying any of that, a little rudely.

“Getting dinner with Bryan,” she says a little snippely. “You?”

“Waiting for someone.”

“Oh,” Eva says suddenly, dramatically. “Your date!”

“Yes.”

How does Noora get rid of Eva politely? Fuck. She begs her internally to go the fuck away.

“Is she here?”

“No, but I'm early.”

“You're always early,” Eva says softly, looking around. “Where the fuck is Bryan?”

“Why don't you go look for him?”

“I'm sure he'll find me,” she says nonchalantly. “He's pretty good at finding things.”

She winks and Noora gags. She can't even help it.

“Eva,” Noora says calmly, a little sarcastically, a lot irritated, “I am on a date and I normally would love to talk about how ugly boys are great at finding your clitoris, but I would like to wait. Alone.”

Eva stands up straighter, affronted, and scoffs. Turns on her heel and stalks off. Noora sighs at her back.

Why can't she do anything right?

Noora sighs again and rests her head on the table. She only sits up when the chair across from her slides out.

Annette is even more beautiful in person. Her hair is gold and her eyes are green and her smile is shy and amazing. Noora is stunned with a stupid, happy grin on her face.

“Annette,” Noora says happily, “hi.”

“Hi,” she says back, smiling softly. “You order yet?”

“No, no. Wanted to wait for you.”

“I’m glad you did,” she's still smiling.

They're both still smiling. Noora already sort of wants to kiss this girl.


 

Coffee and bagels turns into tea and a pizza and then cookies.

They're somehow both starving. They eat the entire thing.

Noora isn't even embarrassed. She's too busy laughing and smiling at how clever Annette is. Almost too clever.

Every once in a while, Noora catches glances of Eva over Annette’s shoulder and she's usually staring at her.

It's both weird and cool that she wants Noora's date to go so well that she's keeping an eye on them. How sweet.

She's alone now, though. Noora supposes Bryan left a while ago. After all, it's been like 3 hours since they got there.

“Oh, my God,” Annette says suddenly, eyes wide as she looks up from her watch. “I didn't realize it was so late!”

Nora checks hers and makes the same face. It's almost 11 at night!

“Oh, wow!” Noora says back.

She feels like saying something cheesy, but refrains. Smiles instead.

“I really have to run,” she says softly, like she's embarrassed or something. “I have work at 6.”

“Oh!” Noora says simply and then nods. “I don't blame you!”

She stands and Noora does, too, and then they both hesitate. Noora stumbles out some words half a second after Annette does.

“Can I—”

“Should we—”

They laugh together and then grin. Noora steps forward and realizes how tall Annette is. She's wearing heeled boots and she is still several inches taller than Noora. What a fucking walking wet dream this girl is!

“Let’s,” Noora says finally and then they kiss.

It's Noora's first ever with a girl and it feels right. Like this is where she is supposed to be right now. Like this is who she is supposed to be.

Annette smells like Daisy by Marc Jacobs which is not Noora's favorite, but it smells lovely on her. She's lovely, but she isn't Eva.

No matter how beautiful or how smart or how clever, Annette is not Eva. She doesn't have red hair and she isn't short and Noora isn’t in love with her, which is so sad, because Annette is so great.

“Good night,” Noora whispers, pulling away because they're in a fucking café.

“Good night,” she says lingeringly.

And then she's gone and the bell above the door is jingling and Noora is alone, still standing where she stood, still just as flabbergasted as before.

A beautiful girl is interested in her and Noora can't even even make herself not want Eva long enough to kiss her.

It's fucking sad, is what it is.

She can't woman up and tell the girl she does love the truth and she also can't get over her and find someone else and be have either. This purgatory is too much for her.

She needs to evaluate her life choices and go on from there.

Noora takes her seat and blows out a harsh breath. She has to come clean to Eva. No matter what the consequences, Noora cannot live stuck in this in between place. Eva has to know so Noora can date her or other girls.

Then she can move on and get over her and maybe find someone else. Maybe find her happiness somewhere else.

So Noora stands, grab a her purse, and settles down across from Eva, who is sulking in her seat. Noora wonders briefly why, but can't be bothered to think too deeply into it.

“Come with me,” she says urgently. “Now.”

She doesn't want to do this in here, surrounded by the Café du Noir staff and patrons, so she grabs Eva’s hand and leads her out of the restaurant quickly, only stopping to tip their waitress on her way out.

Once they're outside, Noora leads Eva around the corner so they have a little privacy. A little quiet. A little space.

“I have something to tell you,” Noora says softly, losing her nerve.

“I figured that,” Eva snaps, yanking her hand away.

Noora hadn't realized she was still holding it.

“This might...it might ruin everything, okay? But I'm gonna say it anyway because I don't have any other choice and I swear I'm not drunk or high. I'm just tired and confused and I fucking love you, Eva, okay? I do. I have for a long time.”

“I love you, too, Noora,” Eva says worriedly, reaching out to touch Noora’s arm comfortingly.

“Thanks,” she says, but shakes her head, “but not like that. Like I am in fucking love with you, Eva Mohn. That's what I mean.”

Eva's jaw drops. She doesn't move. Her hand is still on Noora’s arm.

“Since when?”

“I have been for a while. Probably since damn near the beginning.”

“Why didn't you say something?” Her hand is still there.

Noora is going to combust with anxiety.

“I was scared. I was young. I was in the closet.”

Eva nods and then doesn't stop nodding. Noora still doesn't know what to do.

They're inches apart in a dark alleyway, Noora half-leaned against the bricks, and they're staring at each other. The only light is shadowy at best, coming from the street light across the road. Noora is frozen in place, staring at Eva and then at Eva’s mouth and then at her fingers on Noora’s arm.

“Cool,” is what Eva decides to say, not looking at Noora. “That's cool.”

Cool? Cool? Cool!? What the fuck does that mean? Cool?

“You know why it's cool?” Noora has no words, so she keeps her mouth shut. “Because I’m bi and I've got a big gay crush on you.”

Noora just stares at her, the slowest smile overtaking her face, and then she lets out a lungful of nervous laughter. She can't stop fucking laughing in relief.

She didn't ruin anything. Everything is fine. It is great. It is even better!

Nothing has ever felt as good as the sweet relief in Noora’s chest, in addition to Eva’s hands on her arms, steadying her.

“Oh, my God,” Noora wheezes. “Thank God. Thank Christ. Thank everyone.”

Eva laughs a little at that, pushes her upright, and hugs her so tightly that Noora can feel the buttons on her jacket digging into her ribs. God. Eva should never let go.

Then Noora draws back, grinning wickedly.

“‘Big gay crush’?!”


 

Noora takes Eva home with her. She knows Eskild was probably expecting a whole nother girl, but Eva is truly the only girl for Noora.

She reminds herself to tell Annette later about the whole thing and apologize profusely.

Eskild just smiles when he sees them and it makes Noora feel uncomfortably vulnerable, like everyone has been seeing right through her this entire time. She passes Isak who just looks on, clueless, as Noora holds Eva’s hand and leads her into her room, which makes her feel a little better.

She pushes open her door and they walk inside. For some reason, even though everything about this is new and exciting, it feels the same. It feels like Noora has been doing this for decades. Feels like she's been kissing Eva for forever.

Feels like Eva’s skin is as familiar to her as her own.

Judging by how Eva clutches her, whispers to her, Noora can only assume she feels the same way.

It’s like they are both relearning how to be with each other, like a lesson they were once taught but had long since forgotten.

Everything sort of clicks back into place after a little...reminding.


 

To: annette at 12:21

Hey :)

To: noora

Hi :) how are you?

To: annette

I have something to tell you.

It's sort of fucked up

And I seriously want you to know that this whole thing started two years ago, okay, so it had nothing to do with you. In fact, you were one of the best parts of the entire thing.

To: noora

Okay…?

To: annette

Shit that's vague.

Im sorta in love with my best friend right and I thought she was straight and so I wa staying to move on by going on dates with truly beautiful and intelligent girls (aka you) and it worked, but then she was there at the café and she confronted me afterwards and I knew I couldn't move on until she knew how I felt so I confronted her, knowing that she was straight and it would be weird

But then she said she had a crush on me and it sorta spiralled. I'm sorry I got you wrapped up this. I know you deserved better, but I really would like to get to know you as a friend.

If you want that, I'm obviously super excited for us to be great friends. If not, then, once again, im sorry.

To: noora

Oh shit that's a lot huh

But I completely understand how complicated things get when unrequited love is thrown into the mix of a great friendship. There's no need to apologize, Noora. We’re good.

And I would like that :) being friends would be awesome.


 

Everything is falling into place. Everything except a label. Noora doesn't know if Eva is comfortable being out or if she wants to keep this low key or if she wants to scream it from the rooftops and she's sort of afraid to ask.

They spend all weekend at Noora’s, sharing each other’s space and kissing like there’s no tomorrow. And maybe there isn't.

Maybe Eva only wants this in the shadows behind a closed door. Maybe she only wants Noora’s mouth when there's no one around to hear the noises she makes in return.

Noora has no fucking clue.

They talk about lots of things, just not that. They talk about how they both realized they liked girls and how long they've known and everything else.

Everything but if Eva wants to be out. Everything but if Eva wants Noora to be her girlfriend.

On Monday morning, Noora lends Eva some clothes that make her look unimaginably sexy.

Noora’s mom jeans are a little too tight in all the right places and her sweater is just the proper amount of cozy. She wears her own shoes and coat.

They leave the house with a foot of space between them, which drives Noora crazy after getting to hold her for so long.

“So…” she says, attempting to start a conversation she wishes she could be absent from.

“So.”

“Are we...are you…?”

“Yes,” she says brightly. “We are. I am. I've practically had sex with Vilde at parties in front of a 100 people, Noora. I've been out.”

“I hadn't...thought of it like that.”

“That's how it is.”

Noora sighs, content and relieved, and leans into Eva’s side. Her arm comes around her and squeezes her shoulder.

Noora feels at home.


 

When Noora sits down for breakfast that morning and Eva has to run to her 8am class, they kiss goodbye. It's another new thing that feels familiar; they can't help being affectionate now.

The girls just stare at them, eyes wide, as Noora returns to her oatmeal. When she looks back up, they're still staring; Sana is smirking.

“What?” Noora asks, feeling cocky. “Are you guys jealous or something?”