“Don’t forget me,” she says, their foreheads resting against each other’s and a single trail left by the tears that broke the barrier a few seconds before that. She couldn’t stand seeing her leaving, not after all they went through. Laura was leaving and there was nothing Carmilla could do about it or about the tight feeling in her chest, that sting that wouldn’t go away. She felt Laura’s gaze on her, but she didn’t dare look up because she knew that, if she did, she wouldn’t be able to let her go.
“I won’t remember anything else,” her voice came with a rasp, the knot on her throat blocking the way her voice was supposed to pass through. Her heart and her lungs were in a constant battle since the moment they met — for the last time. She hated leaving Carmilla behind and the feeling of hurting the dark-haired girl was the worst.
So, she ran.
The minute their foreheads lost contact, she closed her eyes so she couldn’t see the hurt written all over Carmilla’s face. She closed her eyes and ran away. She thought she heard her calling her name, but she didn’t look back. She couldn’t. She got into the taxi and told the driver to get the fastest route to her address and to, please, hurry.
But she couldn’t help. When the car took the nearest turn, she caught a glimpse of Carmilla, still sitting on their bench, her head on her hands and elbows resting painfully on the edge of her thighs. The small flowerbed seemed to be obscured by dead plants now. She lost sight of Carmilla and all those memories came burning into her mind. She promised herself she wouldn’t cry, not in front of the taxi driver, but it was just too much for her to handle.
I dare you to love me, she heard Carmilla’s voice from that moment, the lily in hand and that beautiful smile she had on, the glow in her eyes wasn’t just because it was shiny outside. Laura knew that now. Carmilla have always loved her. Maybe not from day one or even day thirty, but she did. Even with all the things she caused her. All the pain, the hiding and the questions if the feeling was mutual. Everything. And back then she didn’t know how to feel about it. But now Laura knew one thing for sure: she has always loved Carmilla too.
Ask me to stay, her fingers quickly typed on the screen, beg me to stay.
– I can’t do that, Laura. You need to go and live your life. I will be just fine.
If this was Laura’s chance to have a great career and a great life, then she needed to do it and Carmilla wouldn’t dare to stop her. What popped up on Carmilla’s phone screen broke her heart in a million pieces.
What about me? Will I?
After the taxi parked in front of her house and she waved a sad goodbye and murmured a “thank you” to the driver, she went inside and waited. She waited for eight minutes – the time it took for her to get to her house from the park. Enough time for Carmilla to get there and make her stay, but she wasn’t coming.
Everything around reminded her of Carmilla. The bookshelf with her favorite book and its two copies (where laid three of them before), the one she bought and the one Carmilla gave her with her signature and the little note, the one that still made Laura’s stomach churn, in it. Those little polaroids she had hung on the wall, portraits of them that brought out the best in her. Portraits that were always the solution on her sad days – she would just look up at them and feel the warmth of Carmilla’s body resting against hers, laying on that white couch, that now had a little purple stain from when Carmilla dropped her wine. God, even the center table had been picked with her help.
She thanked all the Gods that she was a desperate person and had left her bags ready in the living room because there was no way in here or Earth that she was coming back to her bedroom because she was sure that her perfume was still lingering in the air and she could not stand that. Everything around smelled like her and more.
She took a last look around, just to make sure everything was in place. Just to memorize the image for the last time, one that had Carmilla in every inch. She felt her heart getting heavy in her chest and not even the deep breaths were helping. She had to go. If she didn’t hurry, she would miss her flight. Suitcase in hand, she closed the door and heard the lock as it turned one last time.
Perry took a deep breath when she heard the loud bang coming from the front door. Carmilla’s heavy steps echoed through the silence that was there before. She knew it would be hard when the time came for Laura to leave and she herself wasn’t sure if she was ready to see Carmilla miserable – more than she already was since she received the call. They’ve known each other for ten years and she had never seen Carmilla love someone the same way she loved Laura. At least not since Ell. The girl that broke Carmilla’s heart so deeply she thought she would never be able to love someone again. Until Laura came.
Another loud bang, this time coming from the door to Carmilla’s bedroom.
Perry’s eyes shot to the shelf on the wall, over the grey couch in the living room, spotting her collection of books and Carmilla’s very own, The Scars She Gave Me. It was Perry’s favorite book and not only just because Carmilla wrote it, no. The story was so deep and personal it was almost painful, but so, so beautiful.
It was the last press session of the day and Carmilla was exhausted. She loved seeing so many familiar faces, all of them excited about her new book, and also the new ones, telling her how good her book was and how they somehow connected to the story and the characters. Carmilla loved the reactions and she did not expect it to this extent at all. Writing was her passion, so she simply put her own story in the paper and people liked it. Don’t get her wrong, she loved that they did, but it was too much. She saw how people got hopeful and invested, waiting for a new book, to give the first one some closure, some hope. Carmilla couldn’t. How could she write about love again when she lost her biggest motivation?
“I’m done, Per.” Carmilla waved goodbye to the last couple who came to the autograph table, keeping that happy smile she had learned to fake so well on her face the entire time.
“Yes, dear, I know. You signed them all.” Perry said, a little confusion in her tone.
“No, I mean writing. I’m done writing about love and happily ever afters. Those things don’t exist. Maybe not even love.”
Perry looked up from the bag in front of her as she finished packing her things, seeing the defeat and the exhaustion in Carmilla’s eyes – the same eyes which had deep, dark circles under them.
“Carmilla—” Perry tried to speak, but was cut off.
“No, Perry. I’m done. I finished the book and I’m happy with that one being the last. I may write again, who knows?” She shrugged, grabbing her own leather backpack forcefully from the couch and throwing it on her shoulder. “Love was the only thing I ever knew how to write about. If I don’t have that, if I’m unable to feel that, then I guess my writing career is coming to an end.”
Perry didn’t argue. It was pointless at this point to do so with Carmilla so sleep deprived from trying to recover from the breakup and also the all the press meetings she was doing. She wasn’t sure if Carmilla meant it, though. Sometimes she could say things she didn’t want to when she was stressed or under a lot of pressure, but seeing Carmilla right now and considering all the latest events, she might have meant it.
“Can we go?” Her voice came out softly, almost like if she was begging to just disappear so she could feel better.
Carmilla was mentally worn out and it showed. Perry hated seeing her best friend like that and she wished she could take it all away with her bare hands because nothing else seemed to work. She nodded gently, wrapping an arm around her neck and leaving a kiss on her forehead.
Carmilla hadn’t written since her last book. A year.
The same girl who couldn’t go a day without writing even the smallest of the notes hadn’t wrote a thing in a year and now that Laura was gone, Perry wasn’t so sure if she’ll see Carmilla writing again any time soon.
Perry opened the door after three knocks. Carmilla didn’t even move, keeping her face buried in her pillow, arms crossed under it and her shaky breathing followed by small hiccups. The ginger sat on the edge of the bed, next to Carmilla, and touched her back gently with her fingertips. The dark-haired girl wasn’t the kind of person who liked physical contact much and Perry was aware of that, but today, especially, she didn’t seem to mind.
“What can I do?” Perry said softly, trying not to alarm the girl. Another hiccup.
“Bring her back. Let me tell her that I love her.” Carmilla’s voice came in a whisper, the huge knot on her throat physically hurting her.
“She knows, Carm.” Perry affirmed and Carmilla’s cry came again with a sob. “She knows.”
Carmilla sat up on her bed, her eyes were swollen and red, just like the tip of her nose. Legs crossed, she found a loose fiber on her blanket and started playing with it, trying to avoid Perry’s gaze.
“Then why did she leave? I know it’s selfish to say that and I really want her to have the greatest of the careers, but it just hurts so much.” She tried so hard not to sob again, but it seemed to be the only way her body knew how to react. She wanted to scream, but she didn’t have the strength to.
“If she could she would’ve stayed, Carm.” Perry said quietly as her hand rubbed Carmilla’s back up and down.
Carmilla nodded. She knew that. She knew that Laura didn’t have a choice. Her job at the Silas News wasn’t great and Laura is a great journalist. Greater than that stupid job that didn’t pay her enough. Greater than the way her boss treated her for years. She had the chance of her life and she took it. It wasn’t selfish. She needed to do it. Carmilla knew it. But, still, watching her leave was as painful as a thousand needles in her heart.
“What can I do?” Perry asked again and for the first time in a long time she saw in Carmilla’s eyes the need to be comforted.
The tough, rock-n-roll guard was down and she saw nothing but raw, vulnerable Carmilla that so desperately needed her best friend. Without thinking twice, Perry pulled Carmilla in for a hug. When she did so, she felt all of her muscles relaxing as the sobs came harder. She knew it wasn’t her embrace Carmilla needed, but it seemed to do nothing but good.
Carmilla laid her head down on Perry’s lap as she started to calm herself down. The sobs weren’t as strong anymore and the hiccups seemed to have stopped. Perry’s hands were running through her hair, trying to give her some comfort and it was doing its job. Perry doesn’t know exactly how it happened, but Carmilla fell asleep and she thanked all the Gods out there because Carmilla could finally rest, even if it was just for a little bit.
Laura kept staring at the giant digital board in front of her. Her flight was late. She wanted to look around and search for Carmilla so bad, but she couldn’t. She knew it wasn’t just like the movies. Carmilla wouldn’t show up thirty seconds before her flight and tell her she loved her, lift her up in the air and kiss her. She wouldn’t come and beg her to stay with her. Laura wanted Carmilla to do that, but she knew the dark-haired girl wouldn’t do it. She knew she had hurt Carmilla in the process of leaving.
Not only this time.
She lit up her phone screen for the hundredth time, but the name she hoped to see amongst all of the notifications wasn’t there. Her voicemail was filled with messages from Danny and Kirsch and there were, at least, nineteen messages from LaFontaine, but she wasn’t in the mood to talk to any of them.
All Laura could focus on was how she regretted not kissing her one last time. All the handholding. Not saying she loved her. Sometimes she wished she hadn’t taken the job. Of course, being a small local news, the money wasn’t that much and she couldn’t write half of the articles she’d like to, but at least it was there. It was close to her home. To her heart. To Carmilla. Her sadness quickly turned into anger. Anger for hurting Carmilla. For even being capable of such thing.
You’re a fucking joke, Laura. That’s what you are.
Her phone rang and she knew she’d have to take it sooner or later. Laura took a deep breath before she slid her finger on the screen.
“Finally! Are you at the airport yet?” LaFontaine’s voice came with all its force and, odd as it sounded, Laura was so happy to hear them.
“Yes, I am. Just waiting for the lady to call out my flight’s number.” She tried to disguise how she was feeling, but she knew better. LaFontaine was the only person she could not hide from.
“I’ll be okay, LaF.” She bit her bottom lip trying so hard not to cry because she knew if she started again, it’d be hard to stop. “I need to.”
“How did it go? Did you tell her?” There it was. Laura’s breath was shaky and she counted to ten two times before she dared to even open her mouth. Fuck.
“No? What do you mean, no? Laura…”
“I know, LaF, I know. I wanted to. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs how much I fucking love her but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do that to her. I couldn’t say I love her and leave her like that.”
The line went mute for a couple of seconds. LaFontaine’s sigh was perfectly audible and Laura knew she had fucked up. She had fucked up so bad.
“I’m sure she knows, Laur.”
She heard the attendant calling all passengers for flight number 136 to direct themselves to gate 4. That was it. That was her flight and there was no going back now.
“Look, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you when I get to New York. Or text you. Please, tell Danny and Kirsch I’ll get back to them soon.”
“Will do. Safe travel, Frosh. Tell me how’s the big city.”
“Entirely too big.” That she knew beforehand. With a sigh, she finished the call.
Two suitcases in hand, she passed through all the other happy people, trying to avoid all the couples meeting for the first time, or saying goodbye, because, God, that hurt even more. With her head down, she rushed her steps until she was inside the airplane and found her seat. I didn’t think it through when I choose the window one, she thought and cursed mentally.
Fifteen minutes later and the voice of the flight attendant echoing through the low-quality speakers. Phone in hands, earphones plugged in, Frank Sinatra playing at maximum volume and the sight of the city getting smaller and smaller as the plane went up in the air.
The cold breeze came whispering through Carmilla’s window, blowing her white curtains gently. She kept her gaze stuck on the sky, the darkness and immensity of it, along with every tiny white dot, bringing her comfort. It was almost three in the morning and the dark-haired girl couldn’t sleep. She tried humming songs, reading a book and even counting jumping, white sheep in a green field. None of that worked and she was starting to get a little annoyed when she decided to sit on her chair and just watch the night fade away, the same thoughts, the same conversation repeating itself over and over again in her head.
She saw Laura coming with two mugs, steam coming out of them, in her pajamas and the cutest messy bun. Laura had called Carmilla earlier that day and asked her to come to her house to watch a movie and just be together, honestly.
“Carm, I need to talk to you.” Laura sat down next to Carmilla and handed her the blue, ceramic mug. Carmilla moved her leg so Laura could sit more comfortably. “Careful, it’s hot.”
“Thank you, cutie.” Carmilla answered and then took a sip of the sweet hot chocolate. She hummed in pleasure as Laura watched her, taking a sip from her own mug, her heart in her chest heavy knowing what it was to come. “What is it?”
“I got a job offer.” She spilled it out quickly, like a band-aid. She watched Carmilla’s face change completely and it was nothing but happiness and pride. Laura didn’t blink. Even though seeing Carmilla smiling made the corner of her lips pull up involuntarily, she didn’t. She couldn’t.
“Seriously? Where is it?” She was nothing but excited and Laura wanted so desperately to cry. The smile on Carmilla’s face couldn’t lie.
“New York. At The New York Times.”
There it was. The words she knew would break Carmilla’s heart and she could almost hear the shattering sounds. Laura’s heart was beating forcefully against her sternum and it was almost painful. The tip of her fingers was cold and if she wasn’t already sitting down, she’d probably lose the strength on her legs as well.
Carmilla’s face broke in a matter of seconds. She turned from the brightest human being in the room to something so vulnerable and lost that it hurt Laura to see and to be the cause of it. Carmilla hadn’t felt that sting in her chest since her. She had forgotten how was it like to feel every inch of your skin burning and feeling so hopeless that you just don’t know what to do.
The silence that fell between them was extremely uncomfortable. Carmilla had been staring at her own lap, the steam no longer coming out from the cold mug in her hands, holding back those tears she didn’t even know she was capable of shedding again for someone.
“When do you leave?” Carmilla’s voice broke. Laura wiped a tear away.
It was all Carmilla had to say. She didn’t have a choice. She couldn’t ease it for neither of them. It was the fuckingThe New York Times. It was a chance of a lifetime. To go from a little local newspaper that barely paid her enough to work for one of the biggest newspapers in the USA was something you don’t get the chance to have on a daily basis. Carmilla was so proud of Laura because, honestly, she deserved nothing less than that. She was an extraordinary journalist and an even better writer. The local Silas News wasn’t big enough for her.
“In a week. They sent me an e-mail a month ago. I gave them my final answer yesterday.” Laura was devastated. Seeing Carmilla like that shook every emotion she had.
“Okay.” Carmilla answered, her voice coming out clean again.
“Yeah, okay.” Carmilla said again, softly. She didn’t want Laura to see how broken she was inside.
“Are you mad?” Laura asked as she played with her knuckles on her lap, holding ever so tightly on the mug handle. She looked up and met Carmilla’s dark eyes and, for the first time, she couldn’t decipher what they were showing her.
“Laura, of course not. This is huge and I’m so, so proud of you.” Carmilla put her mug on Laura’s brand-new center table before she raised her hand and tucked a strand of hair behind Laura’s ear, stroking her cheek with her thumb gently.
“If you don’t want me to go, I—”
“Laura, stop. You’re not letting this opportunity pass because of me, no matter how much I l-, how much you want me to ask you to stay. I want you to go, Laura. This is huge. This is your career. It’s your future.”
“You don’t want me to stay?” Laura sounded hurt. The pain in her voice as clear as a day. Carmilla sighed and ran her fingers through her own hair.
“That’s not what I’m saying, at all.” Carmilla stared deeply into Laura’s eyes. You could see the barrier of unshed tears just waiting to break the surface and roll down her cheeks, but she was trying hard to not do it. Nothing that Carmilla could say at that moment would be enough. It was so fucking hard for her, but Laura was the one hurting the most.
“I hurt you once and I don’t want to do it again.” Her voice came in a whisper and Carmilla’s heart fell. She pulled Laura in for a hug, where Laura allowed herself to feel all of those messy feelings, all knotted together in a ball deep inside of her.
You could never, Laura Hollis. You could never, Carmilla thought as Laura sunk in further on her chest, the sound of Carmilla’s beating heart calming the hazel-haired girl as Carmilla tried to keep it together.
That night, she cried herself to sleep.
That night, ten days ago, she tried to keep Laura away from her thoughts. She tried not to think much about her leaving, otherwise she wouldn’t be able to get through the week. She promised herself she wouldn’t go with Laura to the airport because she wouldn’t be able to handle all the pain, if she was alone or not. To see Laura walking through that gate, all her clothes divided in suitcases, all of her just going away. Her perfume lingering just the slightest in the air before disappearing completely, just like her as soon as those gates close and she flies away to conquer her biggest dream. Laura didn’t seem to mind because she didn’t ask for it either. Maybe the thought of having to make Carmilla watch her go was too much, even for her. Especially for her.
Quickly and not even bothering if her blood pressure would drop or not, Carmilla stood up and walked to her window seat, the cushions under the open window too cold to the touch now. Notepad and black pen in hands, Carmilla started tracing lines to the letters on the paper, her shaky hands not sure where they were going and the words just slipping through her fingers. She promised herself she would never write about love ever again. At that time in her life, she didn’t have a reason to do so. Now she did. Used to.
Carmilla didn’t notice, her attention fully and completely on the blank pages in front of her, but Perry’s silhouette popped up, even in the dark, resting against the doorframe with half a smile on her face, slightly lit up by the moonlight. After a few seconds, she left. She knew better than to bother Carmilla when she was writing and, oh, my God, how she missed it.
Laura couldn’t help the small smile that insisted to grow when she stepped out of the airplane, feeling the cold breeze hitting her cheeks. It was just an airport that looked like every other airport in Canada, but this one was one step closer to her biggest dream coming true. Two hours of flying above the clouds weren’t quite enough for her to rest properly or to give her heart a break from the thought of leaving Carmilla, hurting, behind, but enough to ease the psychological exhaustion she was feeling.
As soon as she crossed the exit door, she flagged down to a taxi that was, luckily, just passing by. When it pulled over, Laura felt a cold sensation at the tip of the stomach. The driver helped her with her luggage as she got into the car, taking out from her carry-on a folded piece of paper.
“I would like to go to this address, please.” She handed him the paper with her new address because she couldn’t memorize it even if her life depended on it. Maybe it was the fact that she was paying 3k a month for a one-bedroom apartment, which she thought was crazy. But now the damage was done and she could handle the paper just fine for the first couple of weeks.
As it showed on the driver’s GPS, they still had some miles to run, so she decided to call LaFontaine and let them know she had gotten there alive and well. Her first instinct was to stop searching for “L” in her contacts and stop at “C”. Something inside her begged her not to do it, to just give her some time. At least for now.
“Frosh!” Laura heard them saying and they seemed to be super excited about getting her call.
“I swear to God if you start singing any song that has ‘New York’ in the lyrics I’m going to hang up on you.” Laura warned, muffling a giggle after. If she knew her friend, they already had at least five songs ready up their sleeve.
“You’re no fun.” They complained. “I even got Danny to play the piano in the background.”
“The. Piano!” Laura heard Danny screaming from a distance, her voice muffled and almost unclear.
“Oh, no. The piano. The nerve.” She mocked, hearing a heavy, forced sigh coming from Danny.
“Are you home yet? How is it? Is it big with annoying neighbors? Or famous neighbors? Oh, my God, you could be living next door to Sarah Jessica Parker.”
“Ok, calm down. First of all, I wouldn’t call it home.” Home is where your heart is at and this is definitely not where it is. “Secondly, I’m on my way. Thirdly and, thankfully, last, no, I’m pretty sure I’m not neighbors with Sarah Jessica Parker.”
“But if I happen to be, I’ll text you the pictures.”
The line went mute for a second.
“You think I should call her?”
“Just to let her know I’m okay.”
“But are you, though?” The line fell flat. LaFontaine was right. It was stupid of her to call Carmilla and say hey, I just landed and the city is beautiful and I’m totally okay, don’t worry about that when she knew that a) it was a lie; she wasn’t okay and the city wasn’t that beautiful anyways, not without her and b) Carmilla was suffering enough. “That’s what I thought. Look, Laur, go home, take a shower and rest for today. You deserve it. And if you think you should call her, do it. But you’re not the only one that’s hurting in this process. I think she deserves a break, too.”
She does. She deserves a break to recover from all the damage Hurricane Laura caused her.
“I know, LaF. You’re right. Maybe tomorrow.”
Laura recognized the neighborhood and saw her newest place right around the corner.
“LaF, I just got to the place. We’ll talk later, okay?”
“Sure, Frosh. Take care, you hear me?”
“Ay, ay, captain. Thank you.”
After paying the taxi driver for the ride and getting her suitcases from the car’s trunk, she stood in front of the building like a lost child.
This is it, Laura. You just girl the here up and get into that building.
So, she did.
Brand-new keys in hands, she twisted the key in the lock and unlocked the door open. Everything looking just like when she first went to New York to sign the contract on the house and do a check-up on its condition. She came in, put her luggage in a corner, turned on the light. She knew it was her place, but something was missing. Even though it was all decorated with the things she’d bought to the new place, something wasn’t right.
And as soon as she sat on the couch she knew. The smell of wooden furniture was the one that hit her nostrils. Wooden furniture.
The smell of freshly baked banana muffins hit Carmilla’s nostrils as she walked out of her bedroom. One of Carmilla’s favorite things about sharing an apartment with Perry was definitely the fairy hands she had when it came to cooking. Leather jacket on, black backpack hanging on her shoulder, she entered the kitchen and smiled softly to Perry, the dark circles under her eyes were a little more noticeable now, since she’d had only four hours of sleep last night
“It’s 9AM.” She said, a little confused to see Carmilla when she stepped into the kitchen, the creature of the night, up so early.
“I know.” Carmilla chuckled.
“It’s nine in the morning. On a Wednesday.” Perry repeated, joking. Carmilla hit her arm playfully before she grabbed a muffin from the counter.
“I need to go downtown and it has to be now. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Are you okay?” Perry asked as gently as she could. No, I’m not and I’m not sure when I’m going to be, is what Carmilla wanted to answer, but she just smiled softly at her and nodded.
“Yeah, a little bit.”
“Good.” Perry smiled back and waved Carmilla goodbye as she watched the dark-haired girl closing the door behind her.
Each step made Carmilla’s heart race like crazy inside her chest Her mind was constantly trying to convince her that that was not a good idea, but she didn’t seem to care. It was a minute of courage and it was all she needed.
This is stupid. Why am I doing this in the first place? This. Is. Stupid. God, just go back home, Carmilla.
“Hello, how can I help you today?”
“Hi, I’d like to mail this.” Carmilla handed the woman at the mail office a folded piece of paper inside a homemade envelope. After some typing and mouse clicks, the lady took the paper and inserted it in another envelope and stuck a stamp on it.
Stop this madness, Carmilla. Get your shirt together.
“And to which address is this being mailed?”
“This one, please.” Carmilla slid her a folded piece of paper.
After the proper info was added to the envelope, the lady gave Carmilla back the piece of paper. Carmilla paid for the service and smiled gently at her.
“Thank you.” She thanked her before she left.
And now that it was done Carmilla wished she hadn’t done it. She stared at the paper in her hands, that said Confirmation: mail delivery to Laura Hollis.
Laura was in New York. What was the point of mailing her a letter to her, now, empty house? What was the point of writing it to her if she wasn’t going to read it anyways? She shall wait and see. Whatever happens, happens.