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It's Been a Long Long Time

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People were still celebrating outside, Carol could hear them through the window. The music and the cheers and the sounds of firecrackers echoed in the evening air. As much as she wanted to join in on the celebrations, Maria and she had decided that it was better for them to celebrate home, just the two of them. Maria would be kicked out of a white soldiers' club faster than she could order a drink, and Carol didn't want people at the black soldiers' club to feel uncomfortable because of her, even if Maria told her it would not be the case. So they celebrated their victory home.


Home was a tiny hole in Greenwich Village, just big enough for one and definitely too small for two. It was all Carol could find with the ridiculous pay the army had given her. Maria had received even less, just enough to feed them for a week. Then, it was up to them to find work, and hope more veteran compensations would come if they ever did. But Carol wanted to forget about all that, even if it was just for an evening. So, she had bought a radio. Not the top of the line, a very old, bulky model that took all the space on the kitchen table, but it was enough for them.


She'd had the idea while she was recovering at the hospital after crashing her damn bird in the north of France. When she had nothing to do but rest, alone in the small women section of the war hospital, she'd decided on it. As soon as they returned back to the US, she would buy them a radio, and they would celebrate. So she did, and here they were.
The song was a jazzy tune, melancholic. They'd been turning in their tiny living room for some time already, thought Carol had no idea how long exactly. Maria had one arm around her waist and the other holding her hand. Carol's free hand was around her lover's neck. They'd started a few inches apart. They were now completely glued to one another, Carol's head resting on Maria's shoulder and Maria's arm protectively wrapped around her lover's frame.


They swayed with the music, slowly. Carol had turned out to be the most clumsy of the two, her sock-clad feet accidentally stepping on Maria's feet often enough for Maria to make fun of her. After a while, the blonde had gotten the hang of it, and now she only stepped on Maria on purpose, to push herself just a few inches up and place a kiss high on Maria's cheek.


The trumpet was replaced by the voice of a singer, and Maria closed her eyes and let the lyrics sink in. Carol watched her do with a smile. She placed a kiss on her neck and closed her eyes as well, sighing happily. Her breath tickled Maria's neck, who couldn't quite hold her smile. They basked in each other's warmth, even if it wasn't a particularly cold night. Maria's fingers moved slightly. She found the edge of Carol's skirt. Her shirt would usually be tugged inside, but after a day of frantically running around looking for a job, the shirt had moved and bundled and turned. Maria barely had to pull on it to find Carol's warm skin underneath, and the scar she had left from that time she'd been shot. Carol shivered when she felt Maria's finger gently caressing her scar. She didn't stop her. She'd come so close to death that time, it was good for Maria to remember that she was still there, in her arms, and she didn't plan on going anywhere else anytime soon.


Behind them, on the couch, Carol's orange tabby cat had fallen asleep a long time ago, stretched on the length of the couch itself as it belonged to her. So they were three then, Carol realized with a smile. Three in a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village that was not even big enough for one.


"We should move out..." Carol breathed out against Maria's neck.


Maria opened her eyes and smiled.


"Where to?" she asked jokingly. "We barely had the money to rent this place for the month."


Carol removed her head from Maria's collarbone to her lover's sadness and looked at Maria's face.


"Well, I have an idea, but you'll have to hear me out."


Maria placed a kiss on Carol's forehead as they continued to sway. The song had stopped and after a brief silence, another song started. It was a French song the soldiers had brought back with them to America. The melody was catchy, calling for an energized dance. Carol and Maria continued to gently sway, their rhythm unchanged by the music. Maria didn't understand the lyrics. Carol understood a little, after all, you didn't spend two months in a French war hospital without picking up a few things. It was a love song, that much she was sure of.


"How about we move to England?" Carol suggested.


Maria chuckled, thinking it was a joke at first. Then, she realized Carol was serious.


"Really?"


Carol nodded.


"Yeah, we could buy a little cottage in the middle of nowhere, grow a little vegetable garden just for us. No one would ever come to bother us."


Maria smiled and leaned forward, her forehead falling against Carol's shoulder.


"You seem to have given it a lot of thoughts."


Carol moved her head to the side just to press a kiss on Maria's cheek.


"I was stuck in a hospital bed for two months. I had a lot of time to think."


After placing a feather-light kiss on Carol's shoulder, making the blonde shiver again, Maria straightened up to look at Carol's brown eyes.


"What did you think about?"


Carol smiled and winked.


"I planned our entire life, of course."


Maria laughed whole-heartedly, her head falling back. She should have known Carol would have put those two months to good use. When she finally stopped laughing, she let go of Carol's hand to encircle her lover with both arms, bringing her even closer to her. Carol didn't complain and instead linked her hands behind Maria's neck, her fingers gently caressing the short dark hair there. Her head came to rest against Maria's shoulder once again.


"So tell me," Maria prompted. "What is our life going to be like?"


Carol smiled.


"Well, step one is right now. You and me in a small apartment, dancing. Granted I never thought the apartment would be so small but we don't need a lot of space to dance, so it's okay."


Maria smiled and nodded.


"And then?"


"Then we're going to find work. You're gonna work at the airport as a mechanic and I'll continue to fly for the army. We'll make enough money to quit everything and move to England."


Maria remained silent for a moment. It was a beautiful dream. No airport would hire a woman to serve as a mechanic, a black woman no less, no matter how many planes she'd fixed on the go with just a roll of tape and scraps of metal during the war. Carol had been relieved from the army almost as soon as the war on Europe had finished. She'd asked to be sent west to the Pacific. They'd refused. As it were, she could get a job of secretary in the air force, and that was it.


"And after that?" Maria asked.


"England, like I said. A little cottage, just you and me and Goose. A little vegetable patch. Maybe a chicken or two."


"Just the two of us in the English countryside, then?"


Carol nodded. She breathed in longly. Any tension in her body left by the day of hardship and doors to the face had disappeared.


"Well, maybe... a kid?"


Maria's breath caught in her throat for a second, as her heart seemed to hit her ribcage. She continued to sway nonetheless. Carol bit her lower lip, waiting anxiously for Maria's response. Those were the kind of things they hadn't talked about much. A future together. During the war, it was mostly about making it through and seeing each other again at the finish line. They'd done it, though not without a few close calls. Now that they were home, they'd postponed the talk. Maria had thought there wasn't much to talk about anyway. No wedding or unexpected pregnancy waiting for them at the corner, that was for sure.


"You imagined us with a kid?" Maria asked with a sad smile.


Carol nodded slowly.


"A little girl. I thought she would look like you. A little rebel with a mischievous glint in her eyes," Carol added with a chuckle.


Maria huffed, faking offense at Carol's words.


"I'm the rebellious one?"


Carol smiled and pressed a kiss against Maria's exposed collarbone.


"You're the one wearing pants right now," Carol reminded her.


"I thought you liked when I wear pants."


"I do."


They were barely swaying anymore, the music had disappeared in the back of their minds. They simply enjoyed each other's closeness. Maria hugged Carol, holding her more strongly for a few seconds before relaxing her arms. If she closed her eyes, she could almost see it. The little stone cottage in England, in the middle of green empty hills. The little vegetable patch on the side of the house, and the chicken coop. And their little girl running after the chickens. The little girl did look like her, but she had Carol's smile and her sense of adventure. She could see the three of them playing outside, taking cardboard boxes and making a plane in which the three of them could fly. She wouldn't be their daughter if she didn't have a passion for planes and birds and anything that could fly.


Maria smiled, her eyes opening again. She looked down at Carol who offered her a smile.


"We're going to have a beautiful life," Maria decided.


She leaned down and kiss Carol, who kissed her back lovingly.