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Kat leaned heavily against her mother, pressed firmly at her front. Tucked up small, in the crook of her neck, a tight grip around her shoulders. Rocking gently, Susan Edison held her daughter. Cocooned in her embrace and enveloped in warmth. The same warmth that came after the first steps and dance recitals. College graduation. The first heartbreak. Familiar floral-citrus, comforting and warming like bedtimes and Sunday mornings in mid-winter.

There’s a turning point. When limbs grow long and awkward. When the child once cradled and nursed becomes a person outside of yourself. A woman all on her own. Much too tall now to climb into her lap like she had when she was small. When all of the world’s problems can no longer be fixed with gentle kisses on scraped knees and soft words.

“I am so proud of you.”

Eyes shut tight, holding tears at bay, Kat snuggled in.

“I love you.” She says as they part.

Failure is never comfortable, whether real or perceived. It was unfamiliar and unwelcome. Valedictorian, Senior class president, Scarlets youngest and first black female department head; and the feeling wouldn’t quite settle. It sank down and rattled against her chest. Finding space between her ribs. Tight still, like she was holding in a breath.

“Thanks, mom.”

“You have so much to be proud of honey...” It all fades into the background, set dressing in the theatre of it all. Clichés and platitudes offered with the volume turned all the way down. Lips tight, jaw set until her cheeks ache.

It took too much time to get to everyone. Even with all of the support, it was exhausting. So much so, in fact, she was almost thankful when people began to retire for the night. 

And the Tia of it all. Walking off the stage to where she stood: “It’s super rare to beat the incumbent and honestly with the way the numbers were tracking and all of the work we did. I mean you had a great platform…”. Like white noise, it too fades into the background. And Tia is everything but exactly what she needs.

Too pragmatic. Too logical.

Toned arms bracket her shoulders and Kat exhales, appreciative of the small gesture.

“Thank you.”

She wanted to say more but settled for holding Adena’s waist a little tighter, as much as would be appropriate in the situation. And she forgets for a moment clinging to the shorter woman; Tia standing off towards the stage, looking between the two of them.

They part and the artist nods, smiling sweetly and squeezing Kat’s arms. It is a fleeting moment and Kat is enchanted, eyes trailing behind the artist when she leaves with a promise to call soon.

Concession speech long since finished, Kat hadn’t said much on the ride home. Her head resting against the window, frame sunken and absorbing every bump and crack in the road; chest vibrating with hum of the engine. With a sigh, the widow fogged. Fiercely independent to the point of sometimes seeming closed off, the quiet of the car offered her some semblance of solitude. A small comfort, given the circumstances. Her friends knew not to crowd her 

The streets were mostly empty and black, long after the bars had closed, sidewalks sodden with rain. Lit only by the moon and streetlights spaced along each block, the city passed behind them.

Sutton, unwavering, sat in the middle seat. Squeezing Kat’s hand, and smiling softly when she squeezed back.  

“I just had all these plans, you know.” Sutton and Jane recognise the slur in her words. “All these people that I wanted to work with. I was gonna shut down that fake abortion clinic on Delancey. And then remember Mrs Diaz.?”

“No.” Sutton supplies, busying herself with her tape measure.

“I promised Mrs Diaz I’d help her find a new apartment because her place is about to go co-op and I just feel like I let everyone down. Like Tia and everyone who donated, all of the volunteers, you guys.” Her sentences run on.

“Never. Okay done.”

Jane steps off the stool, the tub of ice-cream changing hands when she takes Kats place on the couch.

Kat shuffles past her coming to stand in front of Sutton, gait unsteady.

The bottle of champagne gifted by her mother was long since emptied. Less of a celebration. The one drink turned into one more drink. Then another. Then another.

“You can have as many as you want after the speech. You’ve definitely earned it.” Tia had quipped. She let the alcohol cloud her vision, blurred and smooth at the edges. She could pretend. Grin and bear it.

“Ugh.”  Kat winced. An action mirrored by her companions. “Oh my god.” The taste was astringent and drying in a way that made her tongue curl up in the roof of her mouth. The liquid burned on the way down, numbing slightly and causing her stomach to lurch. In one gulp she finished the drink and held out the mug for more.

“Inch-laggen.” Sutton read off the label. “Aaand now I understand why it was… twelve dollars.”  

Already more than tired, Kat stewed on the couch.

Sutton poured three fingers more, heavy-handed and generous. Irish whiskey. A generic brand picked up from the corner store two blocks down. It sat open and forgotten on the counter until then. Amber swirling at the bottom of the mug, Kat nursed the drink. 

“You okay?” Janes asked

“No.” Kat huffed. “Are you okay?”


 The loft was silent. As quiet as quiet could be in lower Manhattan. Kat toed off her shoes at the door dropped her bag on the floor, a problem for another day. She trudged through space before flopping, star-fished, all limbs spread out, onto the bed. For a few short moments, Kat found herself simply lying face down, face smooshed against the comforter.

“Fuck.” It comes out muffled but fatigued, nonetheless.

“Hello Kat.”


“Is everything okay?” The voice asked. 

“Nope.” She replied honestly. “Pretty shitty all around actually. And I'm drunk.” There was a lull for a moment and shuffling on the phone. “How come you’re still awake?”

“I was just finishing some editing. And you called so… I had to pick up.”

Kat swallowed. That voice: gravelly and accented. “You probably say that to all of your groupies.”

“Are you a groupie, then?” Adena smirked, the tone evident in her voice even over the phone.

Across the city, Adena paced around the apartment. Barefoot and tracing the pattern of the stone floor with her toes, she smiled. Kat talking slow and sleepy. Without meaning to, all at once, it was as if they had pressed pause. Restarting. They’d been friendly, oddly honest with each other. And despite herself, she relaxed into it.

Kat’s laugh is loud and genuine. “You’d like that wouldn’t you.” Kat teased.  

The sound of puttering can be heard on the line and with a few seconds of dead air, Adena assumes Kat is settling in for the night.

“Can we talk for a little?” Kat raised into the quiet.

A little while became an hour. Then another. Fighting sleep and wholehearted in an effort to stay awake on the phone for every extra minute. Morning would come in light blue and grey, and whatever this was between them would be over. Darkness would surrender to the light and real life would settle in. The rift between them once again widening into a cavern.

1 voicemail: Hey Kat, I just wanted to check in, ask how you are. I know you are busy with work, but it was good to talk to you the other night, to hear your voice. Anyway, I hope you are well. Call me when you can. Goodbye.

The park was mostly empty mid-morning. Quiet, with the rumblings at the tail end of rush-hour even in mid-town. At the peak of spring, the weather proved unpredictable. A bright morning would quickly transform into frigid rain. From her perch on the bench, she waited, surveying joggers and cyclists. Kat adjusted and readjusted her legs over one another and clicked her phone off at the end of the message.

Tia showed up not long after. Sitting there next to her, doe-eyed and earnest Kat could not deny her. Gentle and patient. “I think we have something special even if it's just starting out.” And Tia is good and soft and available. She leaned into her body, smiling into a sweet kiss. Kat kissed back.

When her face shifted. “My head is all over the place. I think, right now, I kinda have a lot of shit to figure out, and… until then I think we should slow things down. At least until we figure where to go from here. I really like you, but I don’t want to rush things between us… you know, not right now.”

It was in her eyes. On the tip of her tongue. At the front of her mind. Adena. But Tia didn't ask.

Kat would recall the conversation. Filtered in her own perspective and condensed.  “I don’t want to hurt anybody. But I feel like no matter what I do, I'm gonna end up hurting someone.”

With a glance at her lips, Kat leaned forward and kissed her square on the mouth. Quickly, then softly again, lips slotting against each other. 

“Are you sure?”

“Come here.”

It seemed to convince when Adena slid into Kat’s lap, straddling her, hands soft against her shoulders. “Fuck.” Kat breathed hotly, as her eyes closed. A thumb traced along her jaw, then her mouth, pressing insistently against her bottom lip and dipping in. Adena withdrew and before Kat could open her eyes again, lips found hers. Languid and slow. Pressed up close, unhurried and deep; Palms pressed to her jaw and her neck.

Blanketed by a curtain of brown hair, Kat inhaled the smell of it, feeling strands tickling on the bridge of her nose. Atop the plush couch cushions, she let her hands slide along Adena’s hips, looping at the front around the fastening of her pants. She sank into the feeling of the body moulded against her. Lips on her throat, sucking on her neck. Firm but not hard enough to leave marks.

The hips against hers then went still for a moment, pausing the movement of her hands. “Let me.”

"You are so beautiful.” Whispered against her skin, thick and accented.

Chapter Text

Braced against the shower wall, the warm water ran over her, setting alight skin. Small patches stung and ached, marked in angry lines on her back; the soft flesh of her thighs in patches of mottled purple. In flashes she remembered blunt fingernails drawing tracks into her skin, teeth marking sensitive flesh before being soothed by a warm tongue and coming noiseless and quick.

Kat had returned the favour; kissing over the tight cursive inked on Adena’s thighs, on her rib cage, her wrists - A roadmap of all of the sensitive parts of her.

A Promise came, breathing close and driving deep into Adena, eyes locked.

A tongue caressed at her centre, drawing her in, thighs locked in a tight embrace. Heady, soft and so wet in her mouth. The short staccato of pants replaced by sweet nothings.

In her arms, Adena felt like coming home.

Silence came immediately after, laying on her back with Adena cradled at her middle, tracing planets on her hip. Long fingers combed through thick hair, massaging Adena’s scalp, lulling the woman purring against her, to sleep. Quiet, the room was lit in warm orange from the streetlights below, under a cloudless sky. A shadow cast on the slope of Adena’s nose and her lips. And the guilt set in.

Eyes closed; head tilted toward the spray of water, she let it cleanse her; water running over tired eyes and swirling into the drain. Poetic in a sense. 

Kat set about washing off all evidence of the night before.

From the south facing conference room, Kat looked over the city blocks, stacked high in a grid formation. Long metal frames, panelled in glass, reaching all the way to the horizon. Traffic piled up on the road below, with city dwellers on crosswalks, walking dogs and weaving through side streets. The view wasn’t all that remarkable. Buildings, much like the one she came to routinely at eight every morning. Filled with people, living. Feeling all of the same feelings of shame, disappointment, joy, grief, satisfaction, hope.

She moved slowly around the office on the fourth day. Angie had noticed the shift in mood, unsure of how to proceed.

“Hey, Kat. Patrick scheduled a team meeting, but I’ve got the notes he sent about the content on Instagram. They want like high graphics, edited, thirty-second clips; I have some ideas.”

“Uh yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.” Came over her shoulder.

Work always gave her focus. She had cried silently in the break room, twice, walked back to her desk puffy and red-faced under her makeup. Jane gave a concerned glance from across the bullpen, but a hand raised told her that Kat wanted to be left alone.

This will pass, she reminded herself. Kat could forget and sometimes she did. How disappointed and ashamed she felt.

When she wasn’t spending each second contemplating and avoiding everyone in the office with their pitied looks she was distracted. ‘You were robbed, Kat.’

Adena was a distraction, a beautiful distraction. And Kat was vulnerable.

Letting her in. The very woman who cracked open her chest and left her bleeding on the floor. The same woman who made her feel more awake than she had in a long time. Who gave comfort without asking for anything in return. The Adena who pressed kisses to the bones her sternum and over her heart. Adena always serene and peaceful as slept wrapped around her body.  

The restaurant was her daughter’s choosing. Eccentric and small, tucked in a side street a few blocks from her office. Candles illuminated the otherwise dimly lit space. The walls exposed brick was adorned by a collection of abstract art. She had smiled being led to a corner table in a row by the window. Time was spent watching people. And she watched all day. That was her job, to watch and listen. The other patrons in the restaurant; the young couple holding hands across the table; the singleton checking their phone between bites of food; the servers; noise coming from behind the pass where tickets were exchanged for food. Her musings were interrupted by Kat walking in greeting the front of house staff before pointing to where she sat.

The mother pushed out her chair and met her daughter for a hug.

“Hi, sweetie.”

“Hey, mom.” Kat hugged her back tightly.

Susan signalled to the server as they both took their seats. “Do you want a drink, honey?”

“Yes. Please.”

Beautiful and tender-hearted, Kat shifted in her seat as she flipped through the menu. Susan worried. She saw her daughter folded in her seat, tired and slumped; all her energy expended on holding herself together. Susan looked at her, suddenly too small in the chair, baby faced, with wet cheeks and missing teeth afraid to meet her eyes. Afraid to see disappointment reflected in them.

The return of their server with their drinks and the collection of their orders offered some distraction. Ordering food was very much without incident and conversation ceased momentarily.

“How is work?

“Work is good. Fine actually. Is dad at the office still?”

An exchange about busy schedules, work meetings and a planned long-weekend in Palm Springs was interrupted by the arrival of food; piping hot and haphazardly plated. Buttery vegetables and a thick sauce requiring measured and strategic use of utensils.  

“Is everything okay. How are you feeling?” Her mother asked with a smile as she decanted more water into her glass.

“Yup. I’m okay.”

“I saw Adena the other night.” Her daughter paused mid-chew. “She came over at the party. I didn’t know she was in New York again, she said something about a showing?”

The mother watched her daughter’s brow dip into a deep furrow. “Are the two of you…?.”

“We uh, had a moment. Like a small moment the other night.”

Across the table, Susan kept her face neutral, well-practised. “And Tia?” Kats life was told in little snippets and sometimes her daughter moved so fast it was a struggle it became hard to tell current information from that of 2 weeks ago. “She seems lovely.” She tried. “Very sweet and polite. You seem happier.”

“She is.”

“And now?”

Kat shrugged and looked away, suddenly overly concerned with the foot traffic on the street just beyond the window and one little dog prancing beside it’s human.

“No Dr Edison, okay. Just Dr Mom.” The quip earned a small smile. “You can talk to me sweetie; you know there is no judgment. This is a safe space.”

Kat smiled again, her mother slipping into a mock doctor voice.

“Now that everything with the campaign is done, I don’t know. Everything was going so well, with Tia and everything and now I don’t know. I was finally feeling like, okay, I’m moving on. I was okay, and she comes back and all of a sudden I'm fucking spiralling and…”

“Language honey. Continue.”

“Sorry.” She said after a moment. “Adena and I have this thing, whatever it is and I can’t put it down. I keep going back there but now I'm scared that it’s because she was unavailable and now here she is, telling me everything I want to hear. When I’m with her, it doesn’t feel so hard. She doesn’t look at me like I failed her somehow and with everything going on.”

“…And with everything going on you feel like you need that.“ Susan finished. “Oh, honey.” Susan gripped her daughters’ hand at the centre of the table.  

“I don’t know.”

“Do you remember Mr Cuddlesworth? You named him that because you said he was ‘distinguished’. He had a bowtie and a tiny blue waistcoat; it was the first thing we bought for you and when you were little you dragged him everywhere with you. I remember at one point his ear was worn and fraying and one of his eyes had come loose. And one day you lost him and it seemed like the end of the world. You wouldn’t sleep in your room. I remember you cried until you tired yourself out.”


“You have to decide for yourself what it that you want sweetie but this… this feeling won’t last forever. And you can run from being in pain and from being disappointed or you can face it. The point is, sometimes the things that we hold the closest, that bring us comfort are always the hardest to let go of, and the letting go part is the hardest thing. But you have to choose, to let it go.”

Brightness slipped in through a small gap in the curtains, drawn over large windows.

It took a few long moments for consciousness to settle in and the very thought of having to face the world kept her eyes closed a little longer. Her muscles ached, with the bones beneath her skin feeling stiff with every small movement. Kat stifled a groan reaching up to rub the sleep from her eyes.

The relative quiet of the morning was disturbed only by the sound of sizzling and the whir of the extractor fan across the room. In the small kitchen, Adena stood over the stove; Kat noticed, wearing her t-shirt.

It almost seemed normal. Watching Adena, comfortable, moving around her space. Familiar in a way that left Kat feeling unsettled. Irrationally. Like breaking an unspoken rule. She knew where Kat kept the good knives gifted by her mother, rarely used. Where the glasses were kept. She knew to put the plates away in size order, to appease Kat. She floated, graceful as she finished making breakfast, chewing morsels as she plated the food. Because Adena is thoughtful and knows exactly how she likes her eggs.

“Morning.” Kat rasped, sitting up in bed.

“Good Morning. I made food because I know you do not give yourself enough time in the morning. Oh, and there’s coffee if you want some. I made eggs.” She finished, pouring a glass of water and placing it next to the plate.

“Yeah I’ve been meaning to go to the store, but everything was kind of hectic.” Kat stretched, pushing out of bed. “It smells great. I'm just going to wash up, give me a sec.” It did smell great, aromatic and savoury, wafting up to hit every corner of the room.

Moving to walk away she was halted by arms around her waist from behind. Adena hugged her close for a minute, kissing her neck, then her shoulder. “I have to go. I have a couple of meetings before lunch and I still have to go back and change, and I left all of my things at the apartment .” Adena explained.


Kat turned in her arms, peering down at the other woman.

They fit. Domestic even with the lines blurred. Her sleepy brain moved her hands to the other woman’s hips, not quite coherent or clear headed. A more rational Kat, her inner voice perhaps, would remind her this definitely was not allowed. Not after declarations said in the wee small hours of the morning. “I never stopped loving you.” “I don’t want to do it halfway.”

“We can talk later?”

“Sure.” Kat smiled.

Adena kissed her. Stood against the dining table, she kissed back.

“I love you.”

“I know.”

Sitting alone in her apartment, breakfast filling and rich, Kat had a realisation. Playing too close to the fire, because it feels deliciously warm up close. That’s what this feels like.

The light dipped below tall buildings with the upper limb of the sun falling below the horizon. Refractory rays coloured the sky in deep red hues and intense amber. The first flickering of street lights to soon follow. The large windows welcomed a soft breeze, the sounds of the street below filtering in behind it: the roar of car tires, of heels, clicking against the pavement and every so often,  the very tail end of a conversation had by passers-by.

Long after the dishes were washed and put carefully away and the bottle of wine between them, sat unfished on the table, two bodies curled together on the couch. Tia’s space was small but well lived in. The walls were light in colour and mostly bare but for a few books balanced on mounted shelves. The well-worn furniture came with all of the comfort one would expect, a deep sunken-in couch and an upcycled coffee table.

“You’re kinda quiet tonight, everything okay?” Tia murmured.

Kat’s eyes flickered monetarily towards Tia and then back to the computer balanced on her lap. “Yeah, everything is fine,”

“Uh, you know before when I said that I didn’t want to talk about Adena… all I wanted to do was talk about it.”

Righting herself on the couch, Kat took a shaky breath, quickly steeling herself and closing the computer. “Okay.” Came as an offering.

“I know you said you were figuring stuff out or whatever and I totally get that but she’s your ex, who you still have feelings for, I guess I'm wondering…”

Confident if not sometimes very forward, from their first meeting Kat had been charmed by Tia; her easy-going manner and passion for her work. Hoping to get involved in some community organising a friendship developed, one marked by easy banter and late nights in her apartment talking too long. And then it was something more. Made all the more heavy conversations about self-acceptance and hesitant touches.

“If she hadn’t come back, would that have changed things between us?

“I don’t know.”

Things changed then. All at once.