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I Am The One Who Waits

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Chapter 1. The Last Leaf


Summer of 1990

It was a humid summer afternoon, two girls sat on a bench under the shadow of a sycamore tree. The sun was still high up and the roads were dry. Gusts of wind would come regularly though, tossing brown fallen leaves and twirling dust at its wake. It was an end of an era, a group of children continue to play softball in the field quite indifferent to the changes that the following days may bring.

“Look how the leaves dance in the wind.” The girl with wavy brown hair pointed out. She had an endearing smile, the type that reached the corners of her eyes.

“Do you think it will hurt itself once it reaches the ground? Leaves don’t have feelings, right?” The other girl with jet black hair inquired nonchalantly, her eyes transfixed into a leaf.

“Well, I think it dances gracefully, so probably, I think it knows how to fall without hurting itself, look how it moves.” The brown haired girl’s attention was now focused on the same leaf.

As the scene unfolded, the other girl with black hair has managed to fix her gaze onto her friend. It was a gaze filled with admiration or probably longing, it was unflinching, and at that very moment it was unafraid.

“Or it probably needs something to break its fall.” The brown haired girl stood up from her seat.

“Wait, Elle, where are you going?” The other girl’s reverie was broken.

Elle ran towards the direction of the falling leaf, she stood still and waited for the leaf to get closer to the ground until she had finally caught it with her tiny palm.

“Look Carm! I caught it!” Elle exclaimed in glee.

The other girl finally got up from the bench and walked slowly towards her friend.

“I think I got the answer to your question. I think if the leaf will never hit the ground, it will never experience pain as long as someone is there to catch it.” Elle flashed another bright smile.

The duo spent the rest of the afternoon under the sycamore tree, attempting to catch leaves until the sun faded into the horizon.

 


Fall Semester 1999

“The Last Leaf

magie/magic

Magic consultations, secret rites, and votive actions are not absent from the amorous subject’s life, whatever culture he belongs to.

Schubert: 1. “Here and there, on the trees, some leaves remain. And I often stand deep in thought before them. I contemplate a leaf and attach my hope to it. When the wind plays with the leaf, I tremble in every limb. And if it should fall, alas, my hope falls with it.

Barthes: In order to be able to question fate, there must be an alternative: she loves me / she loves me not; we require an object capable of a simple variation (will fall / won’t fall) and an external force (divinity, chance, wind) which marks one of the poles of the variation. I always ask the same question (will I be loved?), and this question is an alternative: all or nothing; I do not suppose that things can develop, be exempted from desire’s a propos. I am not dialectical. Dialectic would say: the leaf will not fall, and then it will fall; but meanwhile you will have changed and you will no longer ask yourself the question.”

 


Carmilla reads and rereads a passage from Roland Barthes’ 1978 translated manuscript of “A Lover’s Discourse”. She had found a dilapidated copy of the book in her mother’s library the previous summer. Understanding meant reading and rereading the entries in the book until it finally made some sense to her. The last entry has triggered a long forgotten memory which she kept at the back of her mind. But somehow it has resurfaced in the present and the passage that she just read had started it make sense. Carmilla sat in one of the benches around the Silas University quadrangle, as a sudden gust of wind blows dried leaves from the trees in all directions; Carmilla closes her eyes and ponders on that recollection. The leaves continue to dance, their flow seem to be unending. But as Carmilla opens her eyes, the breeze is lost and the fallen leaves wither onto the pavement.

It was a relatively warm day; wearing a navy blue stripped t-shirt and a denim vest, matched with a pair of dark tattered jeans and a pair of hi-cut black Chuck Taylor’s, Carmilla sat crossed legged in the midst of the bustling crowd. Her chin length straight black hair swayed in the tune of the gentle wind. She left dog ears in the pages of the book; marking the passages that seem to matter more and probably also those she could not understand. Her dark brown eyes darted along the pages of the book from side to side, her thin eyebrows arched signifying that she trying to absorb as much as she can out of the reading.

She sat there observing the plethora of old and new students making their way towards the dormitories. Some students were being led by student volunteers, others were accompanied by their parents and some struggled with their bags and belongings on their own. Carmilla was reminded of her freshman self; it was just last year when she was in the same situation. Her mother was there beside her, the first time she caught glimpse of the brick clad façade of Silas University. She was a sophomore now and she had settled in the dormitory before everyone else. Adjusting to college life was easy for Carmilla; if other people were anxious of the transition to the university, Carmilla couldn’t wait to get out of her small town. High school was tough on Carmilla; all the peer pressure, being confined by stereotypes, she couldn’t wait to be in a new environment. College was a utopia, everyone sort of figured out what they wanted to study, people were less caring of being in pigeonholes. In her first year, Carmilla found her crowd; though belonging to different programs, they all found their links.

As Carmilla tried to get back to her reading, she was distracted by a figure that was rapidly moving towards her. As the figure got closer, Carmilla was starting to realize who it was; she wore a frown on her face. Her paisley printed tunic flowed as it caught wind, she had accessories such as bangles, necklaces with wooden pendants and dangling earrings, and her long red curly hair sparkled under the setting sun. She plopped down beside Carmilla with a huff.

“What has gotten under your skin this time?” Carmilla greeted her friend not taking her attention away from her book this time.

“I got some bad news…” She tried to calm herself down but Carmilla could feel her friend’s rage.

Lola Perry was Carmilla’s first friend in Silas University; though Carmilla was a philosophy major and Lola a film major, they had a freshman class together. After being seatmates in art history for a semester and realizing that they had many things and common, Lola and Carmilla eventually became good friends. Though they were opposites; Carmilla was an introvert but a romantic and she was also awkward but endearing, Lola was outspoken, pragmatic and overbearing at times. However, this friendship was built upon the common liking for literature and musicals, cheeseburgers and alternative music.

“I can’t believe they won’t let me room with you!” Lola who now preferred to be called Perry exclaimed.

“I told you, I already talked to the dorm manager. She told me that we could have applied for it last year and who forgot the drop off the application before vacation?” Deciding to set her book aside, Carmilla made a dog-ear and focused her full attention to Perry.

“I know, I know, I guess we’ll try again next year, Carm. I’m so sorry.” Perry looked defeated.

Before they headed for the break the previous school year, Carmilla and Perry had talked about becoming roommates in their college dorm for the following year. However, for some strange reason, which she won’t reveal, Perry had forgotten to drop off their application as promised. Hence, their profiles were set by default and they were roomed together with complete strangers. Attempting to undo the damage, Carmilla and Perry tried to go back early and push for their plea. However, all the effort was put into vain since the dorm manager refused to be bothered with the system that she has already put into place.

“Its fine, we can still hang out whenever we want, just minus the convenience and all.” Carmilla assured her friend with a side hug. Perry gave her a weak smile.

“Well, has your new roommate arrived yet?” Perry asked with a raised eyebrow.

“The other side was still clear when I left this morning, so I suppose it’s a ‘not yet’. How about yours?” Carmilla inquired.

“Let’s say, it’s going to be an interesting year. She’s a bit of a character.” Perry rolled her eyes.

“This sounds interesting, oh, do tell.” Carmilla probed, making herself more comfortable in her seat.

“She’s a biology major probably pre-med, she’s also a sophomore. She’s a bit perky and eager, she talks a lot.” Perry began to describe her new roommate. “She already has these posters of the skeletal and the muscular system pinned to her side of the room, several hard bounds, and I believe she’s a Star Wars fan based on the bed linen.” Perry continued.

“Hmm, that seems interesting, so not so bad eh?” Carmilla poked Perry with her elbow.

“Hopefully, she won’t be obnoxious. She’s also a ginger you know, but she has this short haircut that’s quite shaved underneath.” Perry tried to explain, as she gestured towards her own hair to emphasize her description.

“Oh, like an undercut, that’s really interesting” Carmilla winked and Perry dismissed her with a sigh.

“Exactly! Well, we only had a brief conversation so far. I didn’t want to invest much into the interaction yet, until I’ve confirmed that I could still room with you but I suppose I should get to know Susan now.” Perry finally puffed, conceding to the probability of being able to switch rooms with Carmilla’s assigned roommate.

“Best of luck in your endeavor.” Carmilla chuckled.

“Shut up! I just came to look for you to confirm the news. I guess I should go unpack my bags.” Perry stood up to leave.

“Holler if you’re ready for dinner!” Carmilla shouted after Perry as she disappeared towards the throng of students.

 


When Carmilla got back to her dorm room, she realized that the other side was no longer empty. Two suitcases were laid on the floor. A powder pink Jansport backpack which was half open dangled from the small desk beside the bed, a Discman was next to it. The bed was already made as well, white flat sheets were over white fitted sheets, and a heavy quilt with country motifs served as a blanket, a small yellow pillow stood out against the other white ones; the desk lamp and the other accessories looked a little shabby chic. It was a stark contrast from Carmilla’s crisp navy blue linen set, her Gin Blossoms and Nirvana posters over her headboard and a lava lamp that glowed on her bedside table. Her new roommate’s belongings looked a little dainty but there was a tinge of a little bit of sportiness given the gray hoodie and the pair of cream low-cut Converse sneakers which were scattered at the foot of the bed.

Carmilla was too busy reading through her roommate’s stuff that she failed to notice the creaking of the bathroom door until someone actually emerged from the threshold and was a little bit caught by surprise. “Motherfucker!” The hard cursing somehow signaled how startled the other person was. “How did you creep in without a sound?”

“Uhm, I entered through the door.” Carmilla was a bit taken aback with the cursing.

“I’m sorry, I just usually get this fidgety when I’m caught unaware. I’m not typically obscene, I just got surprised that’s all.” The stranger started to explain. She talked fast, Carmilla observed. At this point, Carmilla finally had a moment to take in her appearance. She was just a little bit shorter than Carmilla but seemingly more fit or toned. Her salmon colored tank top revealed her strong arm muscles but based on the profile of her face she looked a bit delicate. She had long dirty blond hair which was messily tied up in a ponytail, hazel brown eyes which was somehow concealed behind her thick framed glasses, and Carmilla noted that she had a cute nose. She wore a baggy pair of military green cargo pants and she was already walking around barefoot inside the dorm room. Her eyes were very expressive, it somehow increased in size as she spoke. To say that Carmilla was a little entranced was a bit of an understatement, she was unable to move for a while.

“Are you okay? I’m sorry if I scared you.” She started to move closer towards Carmilla.

“Yeah, I’m fine, just got a bit startled too. I’m sorry if it appears like I sneaked in.” Carmilla started to find her voice, but she seemed a bit croaky, her mouth was dry.

“Yeah, I bet you’re like an elf.” The other girl laughed quietly.

“I beg your pardon?” Carmilla raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t mean the Santa’s little helper kind. I meant the Lord of the Rings kind, those elegant ethereal creatures who glow and are extremely light-footed.” The other girl’s expression changed, she was suddenly alarmed and eventually came up with a lengthy explanation.

“Okay, so you meant the ethereal kind. Don’t worry cupcake, no offense taken.” Based on the other girl’s horrified expression, Carmilla realized that she had the upper hand. But she was surprised at her sudden boost of confidence and smug language.

“Whew! Too much for first impressions. I’m Laura Hollis by the way.” Her roommate finally extended her hand.

“Carmilla Karnstein.” Carmilla shook her hand and this ignited a sudden spark, it was a literal spark, a sudden jolt.

“Ouch! Well, that was some spark.” Laura joked retrieving her hand.

“Sorry, must have been all the friction, I’m not that light footed actually, I usually drag my feet. I get that a lot, especially if I walk beside other people. Sometimes static charge builds up and breaks down into air particles, dry air becomes an insulator. So, by the time I come into contact with someone, the sudden friction between two solid materials causes a spark. Some people always get the wrong idea, it’s not anything poetic or romantic; it’s just a static electricity. ” Carmilla mentally scolded herself for that lengthy description.

“So, I suppose that makes you a physics major then?” Laura inquired with a smirk as she continued to unpack one of her suitcases.

“Philosophy, actually.” Carmilla answered casually.

“Sorry about being a little presumptuous, I’m insufferable when I’m nervous.” Laura apologized as she proceeded with her task.

“Well, I won’t blame you that lengthy explanation must be a bit geeky. So, instead of guessing, I’ll probably straight up ask you about your major then. What’s your major Laura Hollis?” Carmilla moved to sit on her bed as she removed her shoes.

“Journalism, I’m in my sophomore year.” Laura beamed from struggling with her bulky luggage.

“So, how has Silas been treating you so far?” Carmilla decided that probably some small talk with her roommate might not be so bad after all, they’ll be spending some time for a year. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that her roommate is a bit cute and not really as detestable as she feared.

“If you’re asking about freshman year, minus some unexpected detours, I could probably say that I’m thriving at this point. How about you?” Laura answered coolly.

“Well, here’s something from my creative writing course from last year.” Carmilla pulled a neon green post-it from a small white board that hung above her desk.

It read:

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do us show you’ve been to college (Kurt Vonnegut).”

“Hah!” Laura gave out a big hoot after reading the note.

“I’m just here for an education and I think I’m enjoying it so far.” Carmilla sneered as she returned to stick the post-it back on her white board.

“Well, based on first impressions, I think this is going to be an interesting year, Ms. Karnstein!” Laura grinned as she proceeded with her unpacking.

This is going to be an interesting year, indeed. Carmilla thought to herself, realizing that having a new roommate is not so bad after all.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2. I Want to Understand


May 28, 1995


Dear Carmilla,


I’m sorry the way you found out about it; I never realized that my mom would be telling your mom and that you would find out about through your mom. My family has been planning the move to Canada for years and I never gathered to pluck up the courage to tell you. I don’t want to be away from you; I don’t want to be away from our other friends too, especially Charlotte and Emily. But daddy got the job there and mom said that it would be good for us.

It has been months, you never talked to me at school. I wish you would talk to me soon, especially that we’ll be leaving in two weeks. The truth is, I’m terrified, and I don’t know anyone there. You’re my best friend, I don’t want to lose you. I know that hiding the truth from you was wrong, please find it in your heart to forgive me. I need you.

I hope to talk to you before I go.


Always,

Eleanor

 


First Class Day of Fall Semester 1999


“I want to understand

Comprende / to understand

Suddenly perceiving the amorous episode as a knot of inexplicable reasons and impaired solutions, the subject exclaims: “I want to understand (what is happening to me)!”

Symposium 3. Repression: I want to analyze, to know, to express in another language than mine; I want to represent my delirium to myself, I want to “look in the face” what is dividing me, cutting me off. Understand your madness: that was Zeus’ command when he ordered Apollo to turn the faces of the divided Androgynes (like an egg, a berry toward the place where they had been cut apart (the belly) “so that the sight of their division might render them less insolent.” To understand- is that not to divide the image, to undo the I, proud organ of misapprehension?”

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.

 


Carmilla looked at her schedule for the day, she usually had her core courses in the mornings throughout the week and this included her Ancient Philosophy, Modern Philosophy and Epistemology classes. Silas University’s curricula also focused on the liberal arts; hence, students took general education subjects and electives from other departments. This semester, Carmilla took a class on Psychology dedicated to the topic of gender and sexuality. Of course, she had to admit that her reasons were personal and the best way learn about this topic was through a course in the university.

Her professor, Matska Belmonde was one of the pioneer human sexuality psychologists in the university. Prof. Belmonde was known for having her own radio show where she would address issues brought forth by listeners in the district. She had eventually turned the transcripts of her radio show into a series of self-help books. She would simply get about by defining confusing terminology or even attempting to give short lectures on air. This was Carmilla’s last class for the day; she was both excited and extremely nervous at the same time. To some students the course was somewhat of an odd opportunity to learn about oneself while it remains as some sort of a taboo for others. Prof. Belmonde somehow gained notoriety through her unconventional methods and students who accidentally stumbled upon the class found her ways to be a little bit vulgar. But to students like Carmilla, this was an opening, this was one way to understand oneself.

Carmilla was there to look for answers, by the time she graduated high school, she realized that she needed to find out more about herself. Growing up, Carmilla was already labelled as a bit of a tomboy by her cousins, she would join the boys in their basketball games and she would often disappear into the den engrossed in some video game. She never liked wearing frilly skirts, she preferred overalls and baseball caps which she wore backwards. Though she also played with paper dolls and Polly Pockets with her grade school friends. In middle school, she had a crush on a boy; he was a bit wimpy but was extremely artistic. She liked him for his talent and thoughtfulness and not for his appearance but he was generally fair looking. But it was during high school when she got all confused.

Carmilla had a childhood friend named Elle, they were best of friends since first grade. Elle just lived a few houses away from Carmilla, they basically grew up together. If there was one person who knew her the most, aside from her mother, it was Elle. They survived all the trends together, from Barbie to boy bands, from Sonic the Hedgehog to MTV; they shared it all. But it was during 10th grade that they emotionally and physically drifted apart. Elle’s family was immigrating and Carmilla was the last to know. Worst of all, she just learned about it from her mother while having breakfast, just a few months before Elle’s family has scheduled their departure. She never found out why Elle kept it from her for so long, neither did Elle know what made Carmilla so mad when she found out about it. The silence on Carmilla’s part was sudden, she never talked to Elle until the move. But it was just last year when Carmilla finally realized the truth. The deeper she thought about it, the more she gathered why she overreacted at that time. She had just recently admitted that she was probably in love with Elle. And that she loved her more than a friend ever could. She would randomly think about Elle as time went by and she doesn’t know how else she can mend the severed friendship. If Carmilla ever had the chance to talk to her younger self, she would have advised her to probably handle the situation in better a light.

It was around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Carmilla coasted through the halls of the Psychology department towards her assigned classroom with Elle in her mind. She finally reached the conference room seeing a door with a glass insert. Around a dozen of students were already seated around a U-shaped table. As Carmilla entered, she was stunned to see a familiar face.

“Hey Carm, over here!” A male student with a heartthrob haircut greeted her. He had a wavy bob which was pushed back and a fringe hanging down slightly. He wore an Aviator framed glasses, a cream colored crew neck sweater under his jean jumpers and a pair of worn paint stained combat boots. He also had a short stubble and he lazily sat on one of the ergonomic chairs around the conference table.

Soliciting some attention, almost everyone at the table looked at Carmilla’s direction; particularly a tall girl with long wavy red hair and intense green eyes wearing a long sleeve jersey who was previously talking to an equally tall boy with a short textured quiff wearing a graphic t-shirt resembling the outer space. There were only two remaining empty seats, one was between the duo and the other one was beside the person who greeted Carmilla. Of course, it was an obvious choice, Carmilla walked towards her friend’s direction. The girl eyed Carmilla as she stood by the door, she only brought her attention back to the boy she was talking to once Carmilla started to move from the threshold.

“Hey J.P., fancy seeing you here!” Carmilla greeted as she took the empty seat beside her friend.

J.P. Armitage was one of Carmilla’s first friends during her freshman year. It was J.P. who equipped her in physically navigating through the halls of Silas and the cultures of its students. J.P. has already spent an ample amount of time in Silas, to say around six years was an estimate. All throughout his stay, J.P. has changed majors from mechanical engineering to creative writing until he finally landed a spot in the fine arts department majoring in art history. He knew about a lot of things when it comes to classes, professors, students and much of Silas’ history as a campus but he seldom reveals things about himself for the amount of time that Carmilla knows him. All that Carmilla knows is that he has already surpassed the legal drinking age in many states and countries. They had one class together which was in anthropology the previous semester, hence Carmilla was surprised to see him in class again this year.

“This is quite a small class for such an elusive course. There’s only about a dozen of students here.” J.P. smirked from his seat.

“Well, I’ve read it has gained its notoriety.” Carmilla whispered.

“The conservatives think it’s vulgar to talk about sex in this venue, the perverts think watching porn may be a fun assignment and the sexually confused might turn this into a therapy class. So we either get bigots, perverts, or closeted gays and lesbians. You’re either one of those three, yeah?” J.P. scoffed.

“I’m here to learn, not to be judged and I believe you’re just a pervert. Why do you need this class, anyway?” Carmilla answered back in a low voice.

“I’m neither of those things, hence, accusing me makes you the former. I’m simply here as a spectator, a voyeur to other people’s qualms. I simply find this course intriguing to say the least.” J.P. replied with a sardonic smile.

“Well, it’s a relief that you’re here, you and your eloquent self. Notice how Xena over there gives me the crazy eyes, I’m glad that at least I have someone to talk to.” Carmilla whispered to J.P.’s ear, directing J.P.’s attention to the tall auburn haired girl that kept looking towards their direction.

“Making friends already, this is going to be fun.” J.P. sniggered quietly.

As if on cue, Prof. Belmonde entered the room instantaneously, she just simply appeared at the far end of the conference table without anyone actually noticing her point of entry.

“Good afternoon class, welcome to Psychology 106: Introduction to Gender and Sexuality, I am Matska Belmonde, I will be handling the course this semester.” Prof. Belmonde wrote her name on the board. “People close to me call me Mattie but may I remind you that we are not that close yet, so we’ll maintain a professional relationship for now.” As Prof. Belmonde greeted the class, she proceeded with a headcount.

Carmilla and J.P. looked around confirming that there were about 14 students in the room.

“I think we are missing one…” Prof. Belmonde looked into her binder to retrieve a copy of the class record.

Suddenly, the classroom door swung open revealing a panting and disheveled Laura. Laura wore an open red flannel shirt showing a gray tank top underneath. She had her pair of rectangular thick rimmed eyeglasses on, she fixed it as she entered the room. Carmilla’s eyes widened at the sight, she was surprised to see her new roommate, not that they discussed their classes the previous evening.

“I’m so sorry professor, I hope I’m not too late.” Laura proceeded to the only vacant seat in the room and she smiled to the two other students who flanked her seat. It appears that they had been reserving that seat for Laura.

“Apparently not, Miss…?” Prof. Belmonde looked at her class record and then at Laura.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Hollis, Laura Hollis.” Laura replied as she fixed her belongings around her.

As Prof. Belmonde proceeded to take the attendance of the rest of the class, Laura eventually noticed Carmilla from across the room. Her eyes widened when she first caught sight of Carmilla and she eventually smiled her way. Unconsciously, Carmilla responded with a wink. What was she thinking? Carmilla mentally scolded herself, good thing Laura seemed to have grinned wider, acknowledging the non-verbal interaction.

“I’m noticing the subtle eye-fucking, Karnstein.” J.P. whispered under his breath.

Carmilla elbowed him gently to the side of his ribs to motion him to be quiet.

“I know her dum dum, she’s my new roommate.” Carmilla whispered back.

“Interesting.” J.P. hummed.

As the duo continued to banter silently, Prof. Belmonde went to introduce herself and talked about the work that she does and then proceeded to write something on the board.

“So, now that you know stuff about me. It’s time for me to know stuff about you. I typically limit the number of students for this class due to logistical concerns. I know it had gained its popularity or notoriety through the years, so if you are taking this class for the wrong reasons, I suggest you leave now. Also, this is not a therapy class, we are mainly here to talk about theories, to define terminologies, and address topics of concern. You are here to learn, understand, listen, analyze and apply concepts; activities will involve your personal views and experiences from time to time through written and verbal exercises. But if you have specific concerns regarding your own sexuality my door is open during consultation hours. May I also address the class that any personal matters that your classmates will reveal related to course activities will simply remain in this room? So, can I expect your sincerity and agreement in this matter?” As soon as Prof. Belmonde was done addressing the class, the students confirmed their agreement to the terms and policies of the course.

“Okay, so can we give a short background about why we’re here? State your name and why you took this course. Let’s start on this side going around, shall we?” Prof. Belmonde directed.

One girl named Giselle in Gothic looking fashion like the students in the movie, “The Craft” was first to introduce herself. The next one was a boy was named Matthew; he had a bored voice and demeanor, his clothes looked a bit ragged. He proceeded with his brooding conduct after he introduced himself. Up next was the redhead who happened to be Laura’s friend.

“I’m Danny Lawrence, I’m an economics major and I’m in my third year. I took this class simply because I found the topic interesting and it could probably help me in my career in Law in the future.” Danny stated smugly.

“Uh huh, I do hope it does, we do need policy-makers in the future.” Prof. Belmonde wrote something in her notes. “Okay, next.” She motioned towards Laura.

“Oh, alright, as mentioned earlier I’m Laura Hollis.” Laura started with a chirp in her voice. “I’m in journalism, in my sophomore year. Well, I took this class due to personal reasons but since Prof. Belmonde has made it clear that this is not a therapy class; I believe I am here to simply define my tendencies and maybe understand the tendencies of other people as not to remain ignorant in the future. Also, if I do turn out to expect become a good journalist in the future, I will use my position to push forth with this issue in mainstream media so that people would depart from dichotomous thinking.” Laura finally radiated after giving quite a lengthy answer.

Carmilla took note of her new roommate’s sensibilities, the creature that is Laura Hollis has become all the more appealing to her.

“Well said, Ms. Hollis. How about you mister…?” Prof. Belmonde motioned to the boy who was a bit caught dumbfounded beside Laura.

“Call me Kirsch, K-I-R-S-C-H, Wilson Kirsch professor. I’m also in journalism, I always wanted to be a weather reporter. Nope, I didn’t want to be a meteorologist if you guys are wondering. I specifically want to be a weather reporter pointing at all the imaginary graphics behind me on screen. I’m just here because my friends dragged me here but I’m in school because I’m always willing to learn new things and this is new to me.” Kirsch replied casually.

“Quite naïve but very honest, I appreciate that Mr. Kirsch.” Prof. Belmonde smiled to herself. “And how about you?” This time the professor motioned towards J.P.

“Jean Paul Armitage, I would prefer J.P. though. I’m here to probably to learn more about the letters in the L.G.B.T. alphabet. And speaking of rumors, I believe this class can be a good excuse to watch porn. Probably my years in college are off topic at this point.” J.P. sneered at Carmilla’s direction.

“Interesting, Mr. Armitage, maybe after you’re done with your porn viewing, you can write a lengthy reflection paper about it, yeah?” Prof. Belmonde raised an eyebrow at J.P., J.P. simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “And how about you?” She then beckoned Carmilla to proceed.

“I’m Carmilla Karnstein, a sophomore, a philosophy major. I would be quite a hypocrite if I’d deny that I took this class only to get some answers about myself. But I suppose I would like to learn about discourses that take issues beyond personalities and through the lens of various disciplines in finding ways to explain human sexual behavior. It was only in the 70s when psychiatrists started to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. Figuring out what makes me different in the context of the defined norms has always been daunting. I suppose from this point on, there had been significant developments in how we define and understand concepts in gender and sexuality and I would like to learn about that.” Carmilla spoke directly to Prof. Belmonde but it was only at the end of her statement when she noticed how Laura was listening closely to her words.

“Good point Ms. Karnstein, I suppose you have done some research and we will try to address those concerns in this class.” Prof. Belmonde stated before her attention was directed to the next student beside Carmilla.

As Prof. Belmonde continued to move from one student to the next, Carmilla couldn’t help but notice that Laura would periodically look towards her way. She would acknowledge her with a smile or a gaze and realize that the redhead beside her just kept on scowling at them until the end of the period while Kirsch remained oblivious the entire time.

“Well, that has been an enjoyable first class meeting. I’ll see you all next week, make sure you go over all your assigned readings.” Prof. Belmonde declared as she concluded the class.

The students either immediately left or assembled into smaller groups once Prof. Belmonde had left the classroom. Carmilla observed how Laura was suddenly engaged in an animated conversation with Kirsch and Danny as the trio continued to pack their things into their respective backpacks. J.P. and Carmilla remained in their seats; Carmilla was too busy noticing Laura and J.P. was very entertained in witnessing the entire scene happening before him.

“I spy with my little eye, a little lesbian crush being birthed before me.” J.P. carefully whispered into Carmilla’s ear.

“Hell no! What’s wrong with you, dude?” Carmilla’s reverie was suddenly interrupted and she had no other choice but to go back to her former brooding self to stop J.P. from teasing her.

“Well, whatever it is, we have the entire semester to figure this out.” J.P. winked as he continued to tease her while picking up his backpack from the floor.

Carmilla prepared to leave as well, she dumped her notebook into her leather messenger bag and got up following J.P.’s cue to go. But before they reached the door, Carmilla was stopped by someone calling out her name from behind them.

“Hey, Carm!” It was Laura, who was already shuffling to catch up with them.

“Already in friendly terms, I see.” J.P. mumbled to Carmilla out of earshot.

“Hey, Laura!” Carmilla responded with a nod and a wave.

“Smooth, Karnstein, real smooth.” J.P. continued to tease.

With that, Laura had caught up with them trailed by a friendly-looking Kirsch and a seemingly sour-faced Danny.

“I guess we’re not only roommates but classmates as well, I guess I have someone to pester for homework now.” It was already the last period but Laura still emitted some positive glow within her.

“Same.” Carmilla reacted nonchalantly to mask her excitement.

“Though we usually have regular study groups.” Danny interrupted moving closer to Laura’s side. If Carmilla knew any better, she was like a hound marking her territory.

“Oh sorry, I guess introductions were made earlier but these are Danny and Kirsch. We’ve been friends since last year, we agreed on trying to take at least one class together every semester, if possible.” Laura explained. Kirsch seemed to be his normal eager self and Danny simply kept a stern glare.

“And I am J.P., people often mistake us as a couple because we look good together but we are neither each other’s type. Such fallacies in the world that we live in, right?” J.P. tried to slice through the thick air that had somehow shrouded Danny and Carmilla. J.P. enveloped Carmilla with a reassuring arm over her shoulder.

“Yeah, I was about to ask you that, since Laura here…ouch!” Kirsch was interrupted when Laura suddenly smacked his shoulder.

“Anyway, it’s really nice to stand awkwardly in this empty hall this fine evening to chat but Carm and I are already late for a date.” J.P. lifted his right arm to act as if he was looking at his wrist watch when he realized that he doesn’t wear one actually.

“A date? I thought you guys were not together?” Kirsch was suddenly all confused.

“Well, not just the two of us, there’s actually three of us. So, we’re not technically a couple, a threesome maybe?” J.P. continued to joke with air quotes, making the trio all the more confused.

“What he means is, another friend of ours is waiting for us at Bram’s Diner just outside campus.” Carmilla interjected, it’s not every day that people understand J.P.’s humor and sarcasm. “So, I guess we’ll be heading out then. See you later, Laura!” Carmilla bided farewell before any of the others would be able to say anything to make the situation any more awkward.

“Yeah, she’s cuter up close and so is the clueless boy but Xena seems to be like a dementor, she sucks out all the happiness in the world.” J.P. joked out of hearing range as he and Carmilla left into the hallway, earning a playful shove from Carmilla.

As the duo left, Kirsch, Danny and Laura remained where they stood.

“I think a cheeseburger doesn’t sound so bad.” Kirsch mumbled to his grumbling stomach.

“Let’s go to the Burger Shack then, like we always do.” Danny started to drag Kirsch to the opposite direction.

Laura followed them as if it was instinctive but not without taking one last glimpse of Carmilla before she had disappeared into the other direction.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3. The Other’s Body


“The Other’s Body

corps / body

Any thought, any feeling, any interest aroused in the amorous subject by the loved body.

  1. The other’s body was divided: on one side, the body proper- skin, eyes- tender, warm; and on the other side, the voice- abrupt, reserved, subject to fits of remoteness, a voice which did not give what the body gave. Or further: on one side, the soft, warm, downy, adorable body, and on the other, the ringing, well-formed, worldly voice- always the voice.”

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.

 


Two weeks later…

 

It was around 6 o’clock in the evening, Laura had been inside the bathroom for almost thirty minutes. She sat on the water closet thinking about her homework in Prof. Belmonde’s class. After several class meetings, the discussions were profoundly interesting. The first half of the class focused on correcting pre-conceived notions by introducing a vocabulary of terms, which made them comfortable with the language to be used in class. For starters, Prof. Belmonde asked them to write down all the synonyms that they knew referred to vagina and penis, this included foreign terminology and even cuss words. Laura recalled when she quivered at how Carmilla uttered the words pussy, twat and yoni all in one breath. She is still in the process of admitting that she has harbored this slight crush on her new roommate. That deep sultry voice has always brought shivers to her spine. However, she shouldn’t be thinking about Carmilla now, especially if she is about to endure such a formidable exercise for their said class.

The next part of the class had something to do with being comfortable in your own skin. Part of defining femininity and masculinity involved how students viewed themselves when it comes to their physical appearance and whether or not they were at ease with their own anatomy. Hence, Prof. Belmonde sent them into an examination of their own bodies. They were instructed to take a mirror to the bathroom, to take a close examination of their body or even peak of their own sexual organs, especially if they haven’t taken a good look at it yet, and to write about their feelings or thoughts regarding this experience. Growing up without a mother to guide her through puberty, Laura simply depended on medical books and her health class. Her mother died from breast cancer when she was only five years old and her father did his best in supporting Laura. She was homeschooled until 10th grade but Laura did not have problems with socializing with other kids her age. She was taught how to handle her period and about safe sex and contraceptives at school but she has never done this thorough physical inspection of her own vagina and especially being asked to write an essay about the experience right after. At first, she was not so comfortable about the idea, but Prof. Belmonde instructed them to just write about what they were at ease with. There was no need to elaborate on the actual inspection but she simply wanted to figure out if they were comfortable with their own anatomy.

Laura realized that even by just thinking about this exercise, she already had many reflections about herself. So, after taking a deep breath she proceeded to take off her pants and finally started to work on her homework. It took her some ten minutes alone to inspect herself until some noise from outside the bathroom startled her. Too distracted to continue, she knew that she would be writing an essay that will discuss her discomfort or apprehension regarding the activity.

“Laura are you here?” She could her Carmilla’s muffled voice from behind the door.

She fumbled for her pants that originally fell around her knees and she hid the small mirror at the back pocket of her jeans. She managed to flush the toilet regardless of using it to try not to give Carmilla the impression that she had been working on their homework.

“Hey, Carm.” Laura greeted as she exited the toilet.

“Uhm, it’s either you ate a bad burrito at lunch or you had been working on the exercise for Prof. Belmonde’s class.” Carmilla snickered as she examined Laura’s appearance.

Shit! How on earth was Carmilla able to tell what she had been up to?

Laura simply gave Carmilla a confused look. “You’re sweating profusely, Laura. Better tell me which is which because I’m about to go to the toilet. Anything I smell I will take it against you.” Carmilla teased, moving to retrieve Laura’s towel that hung on her footboard. She eventually moved towards Laura and wiped her dripping forehead. Laura was stunned, she didn’t move. “Are you okay?” Carmilla gave her a worried look.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” Laura finally found her voice. “Bathroom is all yours.”

“So which is which?” Carmilla gave her a perfectly raised eyebrow before she moved towards the bathroom.

“I would keep it from you but to save face, I would admit that it was the latter.” Laura gulped, thinking that at this point Carmilla might totally be weirded out with her mischiefs.

“Why do you look so petrified? I’m sure it doesn’t look that bad.” Carmilla whispered as she passed by on her way to the bathroom.

Laura was supposed to retort something to that statement but her brain had already shut down, especially at how suggestive Carmilla’s voice sounded. Wait, was she flirting now?


 “So, what’s the deal with this new roommate, Carm?” Perry asked in between bites of her BLT sandwich.

Carmilla, Perry and J.P. usually spent Friday nights and Sunday brunch at Bram’s Diner just a little outside the campus. The diner had become their usual hangout ever since Perry started to involve J.P. and Carmilla in productions for her film classes. Bram the middle-aged hulk of a man, the owner of the diner was already familiar with the trio who typically sat in the innermost booth for the past year.

Before Carmilla could answer Perry’s question, Bram swooped by in his canvas apron for Perry and Carmilla’s coffee refills. J.P. usually takes earl grey tea with his breakfast. “One word of advice kids, if you get to meet someone interesting in college put a ring on it. It doesn’t get any better when you get into the workforce, the watering holes will be far too limiting.” Bram huffs as he pours more coffee on Carmilla’s mug.

“Speaking from experience, Bram?” Carmilla raises and eyebrow. It was a very laid-back Sunday for the trio; schoolwork was still light on their first few weeks. Carmilla wore a slightly loose top dye grey t-shirt, a pair of stonewashed pants and her favorite combat boots.

“Not really, just some unsolicited advice.” He murmurs as he proceeds to the other tables.

“If Bram were gay, I would like a piece of that.” J.P. mumbled as Bram faded out of earshot. J.P. was in his usual ‘no care in the world’ self. He had his Aviator glasses on, his hair was messy, and he wore a plain white t-shirt with random holes in it, a pair of faded jeans and worn-down flip-flops. He slouched in his side of the booth, Perry and Carmilla sat side by side across him.

“Before you get with him, the question is, are you gay?” Perry asked in his typical inquisitive tone. Perry had her hair up in a messy bun; she wore a flowing maxi dress with paisley prints.

“To answer your question, I’m not really sure if I’m gay, I’ll guess I’ll figure it out soon. All I know is that I like people for their personalities and not what’s in between their legs.” J.P. gave Perry his signature sardonic smile.

Perry was caught a little speechless by J.P.’s answer so she decided to revert to her first question addressed to Carmilla. “Okay, anyway, back to you, Carm.” Perry elbowed her friend lightly.

“Well, all I can say is that it has been nothing but awkward.” Carmilla scoffed. “Laura has been a little bit tense these past couple of days.” Carmilla tried to omit the details about thinking that she caught Laura working on the exercise for Prof. Belmonde’s class.

“Tense, how?” Perry asked with her eyebrows crossed.

“She’s been a bit fidgety lately.” Carmilla supposed.

“I think that’s just sexual tension.” J.P. teased as he sipped his tea.

“Oh c’mon, I don’t think Laura swings that way.” Carmilla knew that she was probably wrong but she always gave people the benefit of the doubt.

“Laura can swing any which way she pleases, especially with you around. Why do you think she took that class in the first place, eh?” J.P. smiled ironically.

“To learn, obviously.” Carmilla mumbled.

“Well, maybe it’s the same thing; she just mentioned certain ‘tendencies’.” J.P. supplied some air quotes.

“J.P., remember how Prof. Belmonde told us to keep things that our classmates share in private?” Carmilla gave J.P. the stink eye.

“I’m not spoiling anything; it’s just for the sake of conversation. Perr-bear here is a bit in the dark.” J.P. clarified.

“If it’s something you guys know that must be in confidence, I really don’t mind, not at all, really, especially if it’s a class policy. Also, stop using that nickname!” Perry gave J.P. a glare.

As soon as the trio were engaged in some friendly banter and Carmilla was laughing her heart out with J.P.’s antics and Perry’s annoyance, the diner’s door suddenly swung open, rattling the bells to indicate a new customer. Lo and behold, an apprehensive Laura Hollis emerged from the threshold. Her presence had suddenly caught the attention of the trio from the far end of the diner. She had a faded band t-shirt under her blue flannel and she wore a pair of dark jeans and Birkenstocks, she also had her thick-rimmed glasses on.

“What can I get you, cabbage patch?” Bram greeted from behind the counter.

“Uhm, do you have a salad and maybe a side of fries?” Laura asked as she sat on one of the stools by the counter.

Bram typically served greasy hangover food such as breakfast burritos and cheeseburgers but since he has this soft heart for petrified tiny young adults who would accidentally stumble upon his diner, he had to give in to such a request. “Hmm, since you look like Smurfette, I’ll probably make this request slide and go make you a salad.” Bram winked, Laura didn’t know if it was an insult or a compliment.

“Hey, Laura Hollis!” J.P. suddenly exclaimed from their booth, catching Laura’s attention.

Carmilla couldn’t help but notice how Laura lit up when she spotted the trio.

“Uhm, excuse me sir, I think I’ll be sitting in that booth over there.” Laura told Bram.

“Oh, so you’re friends with Pinky, Brain and the Madhatter over there, eh. Alright, will bring it right up.” Again, not that Laura doesn’t know any of those characters but she couldn’t really tell which one was which based on Bram’s references.

As Laura proceeded towards their booth, the trio suddenly became more orderly based on Carmilla’s shushing.

“So what brings you at this side of town?” J.P. beams at Laura, motioning her to sit beside him as he adjusted into a more formal posture.

“Well, Carmilla had told me how underrated this place is and I heard about how you guys always seem to spend time here. Now, I see why and Bram’s such a character.” Laura replied as she took her seat beside J.P.

“Yeah, you usually couldn’t tell if he’s insulting you or complimenting you but one thing is for sure, he’ll ignore you if he doesn’t like you. Oh, I’m Perry by the way, since these two brutes don’t have any manners.” Perry extended her arm to Laura.

“I’m sorry too, Laura Hollis, Carmilla’s new roommate.” Laura shook Perry’s hand.

“So, you’re here alone? Expecting someone?” Carmilla tried to look behind Laura’s path, she doesn’t know what the deal is with Danny but she just hopes that girl doesn’t come barging in one of her favorite places.

“I’m just by myself, it’s a Sunday after all. Kirsch usually goes to church and Danny is probably in some study group.” Laura explains.

“How many study groups does Xena have?” J.P. asked casually but he suddenly realized what he let slip when Carmilla kicked him from below the table.

“What’s with you people and name calling? Well I would typically react to that but since it’s such a fitting name, I would let it slide this time.” J.P. was thankful that Laura was not offended, she was actually laughing the entire time. “Well, being pre-law and all, Danny is usually a little bit uptight but she’s a good person, she’s a loyal friend.”

“Yeah, I notice she does follow you around like a puppy, anything going on between you two?” J.P. realized that at this point Laura had probably gotten used to his sarcasm and forwardness.

“No, nothing like that, we’re good friends.” Laura gave a weak smile, Carmilla noted that there was probably something more to that story but decided to probe against it maybe Laura will talk about it in the future.

Before things could get any more awkward, Bram barges in with Laura’s order.

“A salad with a side of fries for Smurfette.” Bram placed Laura’s order in front of her and he immediately faded behind the counter before they could say anything more.

“I see that he has already given you a nickname, it’s not every day that Bram likes the college students who hang out in his diner.” Perry told Laura.

“Oh, so that’s why you guys are Pinky, Brain and Madhatter? So who’s who?” Laura inquired.

“Actually, cupcake, at this point we still don’t know.” Carmilla smirked.

 


 

Laura actually enjoyed the rest of the afternoon with her new friends. After leaving Bram’s diner for brunch, the group went thrift shopping in one of the old streets near campus. The neighborhood was lined with heritage buildings which housed shop houses. Perry got a vintage buckle, J.P. brought a lacquered Japanese tea set and Carmilla found a leather jacket in mint condition. Laura didn’t really find anything to buy but she hoped she could join the group in their regular visits since she took note of a second-hand bookstore in the area. Aside from Bram’s diner, the group also introduced Laura to a Mediterranean place where they had their dinner; Laura had the best hummus there. It was already around 9 o’clock when the group decided to call it a night, Laura, and Carmilla found themselves alone walking back to their dorm. Perry excused herself earlier in the evening to help her roommate with some pest control and J.P. does not stay in the dorms anymore, he had a small studio near campus.

“Thanks for letting me join you guys today, I hope I wasn’t intrusive.” Laura muttered as she walked beside Carmilla.

“Feel free to join us anytime, I sometimes get bored acting as referee between Perry and J.P., a fresh perspective is always welcomed.” Carmilla answered casually.

“I know I already have Kirsch and Danny but talking to you guys just seem so easy.” Laura added.

“Perry is a kindred spirit, she’s like a grandma trapped in a twenty year old’s body, I think I’m the same and then J.P., well, J.P. is just old.” Carmilla joked.

“Ha ha” Laura laughed, she almost snorted, Carmilla found it endearing. “Well, Kirsch might enjoy spending time with you guys, since he’s just a care bear and all, J.P. will just make fun of him all the time.”

“How about Danny?” Carmilla tried to address the elephant in the room.

“Well, Danny, she’s different, people often have their misconceptions.” Laura huffed.

“Tell me about it.” Carmilla stated unconsciously, realizing her slip, she tried to correct herself. “Well, I mean, I won’t typically judge anyone before knowing them. But J.P. said that I always have this inkling if I’ll get along with someone during the first meeting and he senses that I don’t have it with Danny.”

“I know what you mean, well, Danny is a bit possessive, especially around me.” Carmilla noticed that Laura was choosing her words carefully. “Well, she sort of admitted last year that she liked ‘like’ me.” Laura tried to explain it using air quotes.

“You mean like she confessed her attraction to you?” Carmilla clarified. Probably, that explains her territoriality, but hey, Laura is not some object.

“You see, we were roommates last year, I was an unexperienced freshman and she was a lonely sophomore. Gaah, I feel like it’s just been weeks and here I am already pouring my heart out to you.” Laura tried to stop herself from divulging any more information.

“It’s okay if you’re not comfortable about it, I get it. But I believe we’d been a bit intimate already at this point.” Carmilla joked.

“Huh? What do you mean?” Laura was a little bit panicked.

“What I mean is that, we’ve already smelled each other’s farts because we’re roommates and all. What’s more intimate than that? Aside from family members, it’s only probably roommates and close friends who experience that.” Carmilla cleared up.

“You’re actually painfully funny, Ms. Karnstein.” Sensing that she was ready to share some information about her past to Carmilla, Laura motioned Carmilla to sit on one of the benches outside their dormitory building. “Alright then, I think I’ll share some snippets of the past.”

As the duo sat on the wooden bench, Laura began to recall what happened last year. “You see, Danny isn’t comfortable talking about her sexuality and such, I was actually surprised that she got into Prof. Belmonde’s class and even dragged Kirsch with her. I talked about taking the class last year and that probably gave her an idea to take it too. Well, to keep the long story short, she didn’t take my reaction to her confession quite well. I believe that we both realized that we liked each other sometime last year but we reacted differently.” Laura began; Carmilla was simply listening intently at this point. “She told me that she had feelings for me but I never really gave her a firm response to that. I just realized that liking Danny back simply opened me to the possibility of liking boys and maybe also liking girls, this was so confusing for me. When I couldn’t give her a sound reaction, she just told me to forget that she ever said anything and clarified that she doesn’t want to be labelled a lesbian even if she had this tendency to like girls since she was in 6th grade. But her father is a republican and has really expressed his strong disapproval of homosexuality, so whatever she feels, I don’t know if Danny just represses it. I just hope this class will give her a different outlook.” Laura enlightened.

“I do hope it does. So, again, you can’t be with her because?” Carmilla reiterated, now that Carmilla found out that Laura liked Danny, she just needed to put things in proper perspective.

“When Danny got into the Summer Society and she could stay in the sorority house, part of me was a little bit thankful that I won’t be rooming with her anymore. I told her that I liked her before but now I realized that I only liked her as a friend. Honestly, if someone comes up to you and suddenly pours out interest on you, you’ll really act on it as if it’s all there is. Let’s say I suppose we had already outgrew it and we needed some time apart, being around me every second of the day might just be torture for Danny and for me too.” Laura elucidated.

“But isn’t she around you almost every day?” Carmilla is a little bit mixed up with the situation.

“I believe she hasn’t seen it in this light yet. I don’t think I’m the right person for her, I still have my own shit to understand. The possessiveness can just get a little too toxic, I’m just waiting for her to realize that.” Laura kicked a pebble from the ground.

“Hey, don’t be too hard on yourself, cupcake. I think we’ll fuss about all of this now but once we get pass through this and figure our own shit out, we’ll just somehow laugh at our old selves.” Carmilla moved to pat Laura’s back, hoping to comfort her. There was some truth to her advice but she’s not even sure if she was already prudent enough to take her own advice.

“You’re probably right. Well, I sorta messed up high school maybe I can mess up college even more.” Laura beamed.

Carmilla just smiled back, she wasn’t even sure what Laura was talking about at this point.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4. Love Language


“Talking

déclaration / declaration

The amorous subject’s propensity to talk copiously, with repressed feeling, to the loved being, about his love for that being, for himself, for them: the declaration does not bear upon the avowal of love, but upon the endlessly glossed form of the amorous relation.

  1. Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. The emotion derives from a double contact: on the one hand, a whole activity of discourse discreetly, indirectly focuses upon a single signified, which is “I desire you,” and releases, nourishes, ramifies it to the point of explosion (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself); on the other hand, I enwrap the other in my words, I caress, brush against, talk up this contact, I extend myself to make the commentary to which I submit the relation endure.”

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

Four days later…

 

“There is a story, too, that Medea restored Jason’s father to life and made him young again, and that she gave to Jason the secret of perpetual youth. All that she did of evil and of good was done for him alone, and in the end, all the reward she got was that he turned traitor to her.”

Laura read from her copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, she was taking a Classical Mythology class this semester. She remembered being so enchanted with the Greek and Roman stories about gods and the universe that she wanted to take an adulterated version of these myths in college.

“Well, that’s a pretty shitty thing to do.” Laura huffed from her side of the room, she was already in her pajamas, and both the top and bottoms had pale blue vertical stripes. She was seated with her back rested on some pillows held up against the headboard of her bed. She adjusted her eyeglasses and went back to her reading.

It was a Thursday evening, Carmilla was also working on some homework for her Ancient Philosophy class. “Why so sullen, cupcake?” She asked without looking away from her work.

“Remind me to never name my child or a pet, Jason.” Laura cried out.

“Is it about Jason and Medea?” Carmilla asked with a raised eyebrow.

“After everything that she has done for him, he just cheated on her. They have children for crying out loud.” Laura continued with her rant.

“Well, there are really a lot of shitty stories in those pages.” Carmilla suddenly decided to take a break from her work and faced Laura to demonstrate her full attention. She spun around her swivel chair, she wore an oversized black t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants.

“She betrayed the trust of her own family and she killed her own children to spite him. He’s just so full of himself. He promised to worship her for crying out loud.” Laura was just furious waving the pocket book around.

“Well, in essence Hera would be to blame for seeking help from Aphrodite or probably Eros to make Medea fall in love with Jason just so she helps him with the fleece to gain the throne. But who are these gods anyway? Symbols of some unknown force that can make even the most cunning and principled women to fall stupidly in love.” Carmilla explicated her own thoughts on the matter, chewing on the end of her pen in the process.

“That’s what I don’t get, Medea is a powerful enchantress, Jason doesn’t deserve her.” Laura adds.

“Well, that just warns the best of us not to make the same mistake, I think.” Carmilla grins at her realization as she moves to prop one leg up her seat. “I think labelling Medea a ‘witch’ can also be symbolic. I think women who simply did not fall into gender stereotypes or heteronormative representations in traditional societies are simply labelled as ‘evil’ and are reviled by men who fear them.” Carmilla continued.

“I think you have a point there.” Laura tries to take note of Carmilla’s opinion.

“It’s just a way to get rid of women who are cunning enough to rule the world in the future. On a lighter note, I don’t think anti-heroes are not necessarily cruel, they just become vindictive because someone has hurt them. All hate steams out from too much love. Maleficent, the Wicked Witch of the West even Ursula had their own reasons.” Carmilla elucidates her idea.

“Exactly! That’s why the more you hate, the more you love.” Laura jumps from her position.

“Yeah, though people were initially deluded that it would simply mean that the more you hate a person, the more you actually love them. It can also mean that if you are able to express much love, you are also capable of articulating as much hate, right?” Carmilla shared.

“Yeah, of course, that analogy makes more sense.” Laura looked at her roommate endearingly. “What else is cooped up in that beautiful brain of yours, Ms. Karnstein?” At this point, Laura was starting to get a little bit enchanted with the notions of her roommate.

“I guess I’ve rambled enough.” Carmilla suddenly snapped out from her own deep-thinking, ordering Laura to get back to her own studying.

“Now that I know your capacity, I will continue to pick on your mind all year!” Laura snickered as she flipped through her reading once again.

 


A week later…

 

“Well, that was some twisted shit we just watched there.” J.P. cursed under his breath. Prof. Belmonde’s class exited the audio-visual room of the Psychology department. The kept on brushing his hair with his fingers, he wore a pair of shabby looking overalls on top of a white cotton ribbed wife beater. The AVR was cold, but J.P. did not seem to care, Carmilla had a black hoodie on, a pair of ripped jeans and her hi-cut Converse.

Prof. Belmonde was away in a conference and she asked the class the watch a film instead, it was the 1997 Kevin Smith film, Chasing Amy.

Carmilla was mum as they exited the AVR, she sat at the back beside J.P. and they exchanged comments out of earshot in their own corner. All the while, Laura was seated with Kirsch and Danny up front. Carmilla and Laura would occasionally exchanged glances after searching for each other in the crowd. Carmilla was anxious to get back to their dorm room and wondered what Laura thought of the film. Carmilla squinted as her vision adjusted to the brightly lit hallway.

“I can’t contain it until next week when Prof. Belmonde returns, let’s head to Bram’s, I need some debriefing on this shit.” J.P. swung an arm around Carmilla’s shoulders.

“Don’t you think we need more than burgers and root beer after what we have seen? It’s a Friday after all.” Carmilla grinned at J.P.

“Hmm, we could head to Retro?” J.P. suggested the college bar just a few blocks from Silas. Retro had this fancy 50’s sports bar vibe going on; it was all diner food but they also serve beer and cocktails.

“Won’t it be too crowded on a Friday?” Carmilla deliberated for a while.

“How about Lustig?” J.P. batted his eyelashes at Carmilla. Lustig was a veiled watering hole at the boundary of the university. Not a lot of college students knew about the place but it was a typical hangout for bohemians in the district. It was housed in an old building which was once a shoe factory, it was somewhat of a speakeasy.

“You had me at beer.” Carmilla gave J.P. a meaningful look. “We should invite Perry as well.”

J.P. fumbled with his Motorola mobile phone for a while to send Perry a text.

As the pair stood by the hallway, Laura adjusted her glasses and she was already caught in an uneasy conversation with Danny and Kirsch. Laura looked nice in her yellow orange knitted sweater and khaki cargo pants. Kirsch was shaking his head, he had a maroon Silas University t-shirt on and a pair of cargo shorts and his cap was snapped back. Danny looked unperturbed, she had her habitual sports tee on and typical jeans. On the contrary, Laura looked upset. J.P. noticed them at the corner of his eye.

“Hey Laura! Carm and I are planning on some sounding out session, would you guys want to join?” J.P. suddenly approached the group before Carmilla could stop him.

“I thought Lustig was one of our sanctuaries?” Carmilla whispered to J.P.’s ear, reminding him that they went to certain obscure places to avoid the mainstream college crowd.

“Well, cupcake is one of us now.” J.P. whispered back.

Shaking her head in disbelief at J.P.’s sudden invitation, Carmilla had no other choice but to follow him.

“What do you have in mind?” Laura all of a sudden beamed after spotting J.P. and Carmilla.

“We’re just planning to have dinner and maybe some beers after.” Carmilla interjected.

“Oh, oh, can I come?” Kirsch after overhearing the conversation eventually approached the group, Danny was close behind him, her face plastered with her usual scowl.

“Sure, the more the merrier!” J.P. exclaimed extending his arms wide.

“How about you Danny, would you want to join us?” Laura inquired.

“Maybe next time, I have a meeting with the debate team.” Danny muttered.

“But Danny-bear, it’s a Friday…” Kirsch tried to protest pouting like a sad puppy.

“Well, we have a lot to do, see you later.” Danny mumbled as she immediately walked pass Carmilla and J.P. without saying a word to them.

“Why do I have a feeling that Xena is not so fond of us?” J.P. asked placing an arm over Carmilla’s shoulder.

“Well she’s actually involved in a lot of extracurricular lately. Anyway, where are we going?” Laura tried to lighten up the mood. Carmilla sensed that maybe Danny probably had issues but she will try to remind herself to ask Laura about it later.

“Oh, Kirsch, do you have a sweater or something?” J.P. observed Kirsch, he wore a t-shirt with a big “Silas University” printed over his chest.

“I do have a hoodie in my bag, why?” A confused Kirsch answered.

“Well, your clothes scream ‘college student’ and you’re not supposed to look like one to where we’re going.” J.P. answered with a mischievous grin.

 


“What the heck was that? A person can just be un-gay in a snap!” J.P. bellowed from his seat.

The group was quietly tucked in one of the booths in the dark corners of Lustig. It was a cozy bar, not a lot of college students from Silas knew about it. All the furniture were mismatched; the booths were upholstered with dark brown tufted leather and the tables were decoupaged with bus tickets, pamphlets and other political paraphernalia. It looked like a hideout for radicals with walls lined with various posters of political figures, bands and almost anything under the sun. The crowd seemed to be clustered in groups; people were either engaged in deep conversation or boisterous laughter. As Laura observed, there were probably some young professionals as others were still in office attire, there was a group of middle-aged men and several other groups that looked like college students as well. Songs from the 70s droned in the background such as Don McLean’s “American Pie” and Jonie Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. After the group arrived and J.P. waving at the server (whom appears to be his friend) for a round of beers and their food orders, Perry arrived shortly mumbling about her roommate Susan’s (who now prefers to be called Laf, her shortened last name) quirkiness and penchant for newts. Laura sat in between Carmilla and Perry, Carmilla was seated in the innermost part of the booth. J.P. sat comfortably, sharing the banquet seating with Kirsch. J.P. was currently yapping about scenes in the movie, which he found absurd after Perry shared that some critics undoubtedly thought of it as one of the worst movies to date.

“Well, you always said that you like people for who they are and not what’s between their legs.” Perry tried to react to J.P.’s rant.

“I was talking about love, Perr-bear, anyway, we can pin it down to physical attraction. I might not probably make any sense if we try to romanticize this.” J.P. exclaimed in displeasure.

“Dudes in my high school thought that girls become lesbians because ‘they haven’t had it with a real guy’ yet.” Kirsch nonchalantly shared as he took a big bite from his burger.

“Did you use to think that too?” J.P. probed as he took a gulp from his beer.

“Well, I don’t even know what ‘a real guy’ means. As a straight person, people see me being friends with Danny and Laura; they often assume I must be involved with at least one of them. But I don’t question who they like, I never even thought of any of them in that way. I’m friends with them because they are polite and don’t boss me around like my other acquaintances do.” Kirsch carefully articulated trying to get visual cues from Laura who was across the table.

“The world needs more guys like Wilson Kirsch! Cheers to that!” J.P. gave Kirsch a side hug and engaged everyone for a toast.

“So, moving on, what do you think of the threesome fiasco?” J.P. continued to occupy his friends in conversation.

“I think I just don’t like the fact that women are often perceived to automatically play the innocent damsel and are subjected to always be less sexually experienced than men, this is not the 17th century anymore. Plus, if women turn out to be more experienced, we are labelled as sluts.” Perry verbalized her thoughts.

“It’s a classic example of female sexual objectification, the attempt to convert her and offer her around like some prized possession. Plus, if she’s pretty, she’s not even allowed to be a lesbian, like people imaging that she’s probably under some brain control or dark magic. Also, lesbians do not essentially want every horny male voyeur to join any of their sexual exploits. It’s also like fantasy fulfilled for these numb nuts.” Carmilla articulated, as Laura focused her attention on her.

“Stereotyping and objectification, those are such good points. I’m making myself the official moderator in this discussion and I’ll be talking notes in my head if you don’t mind.” J.P. joked. “How about you Laura? You seem to be rather quiet.” J.P. directed his attention to Laura.

“I’ve just been thinking, but it’s actually plausible right? The probability of being attracted to both guys and girls? It’s not like being un-lesbian, right?” Laura furrowed her brows.

“Well, that’s called bisexuality and I have a funny anecdote for that actually.” J.P. answered as he eyed Carmilla as if asking permission to continue.

“Sure, whatever, but just to clarify, I was in a very bad place when I said all those things.” Carmilla countered.

Laura and Kirsch were both in the dark. Laura was thankful that J.P. acknowledged the existence of bisexual people as she had been constantly struggling in understanding her own sexuality. Kirsch on the other hand continued to munch on his burger as he pretended to listen.

“Not so long ago, someone in this table claimed that bisexuality is just a myth. She told me that it’s probably some lame excuse that people say when they are undecided or are just too afraid to come out and embrace their homosexuality.” J.P. continued wiggling his eyebrows at Carmilla’s direction.

“I just said that out of spite. That’s why I’m still in school, I’m constantly learning and trying to understand people more.” Carmilla huffed from her seat; Perry gave her a weak smile.

“Wow, who hurt you?” Kirsch teased as he continued eating.

“Of course, it was just in the heat of the moment. You see Carmilla had a glorious first love that she rarely talks of. After all the years they spent together, being all in love in guns a blazing, they broke up and now that girl is with a guy. After that, she was quite obsessed in trying to figure out if she was just some sexual experiment or if bisexuals really did exist.” J.P. concluded as he took another gulp from his beer.

“Correction, she wasn’t my first love.” Carmilla amended J.P.’s claim.

“Ow yeah, your first love was actually your childhood sweetheart. So, anyway, Carm here ‘used to think’ that bisexuality is a crossroad for the confused.” J.P. added with air quotes.

“So, what do you think now?” Laura asked quietly, looking at Carmilla at the corner of the booth. Carmilla was well-aware that Laura wasn’t a fan of dichotomous thinking and she needed to clear her previous misconceptions.

“Hmm, well, after all my arduous desk research. I figured that I was just heartbroken and that people are entitled to whomever they are sexually attracted to or fall in love with.” Carmilla beamed at Laura but she couldn’t really read through the blonde’s expression.

“Good to know.” It took this long into the conversation for Laura to finally take a swig of her beer.

“Well, if this makes any sense, my roommate Laf, who’s a bio major, had told me that some animals are protogynous hermaphrodites. Take frogs for example, they are born female in the beginning and at some point in their life as they age they can turn into males based on internal or external triggers. They can actually activate their testes and deactivate their ovaries. This is an existing phenomenon in nature, but then again what do I know.” Perry articulated.

“That’s some input on survival! Like how the female praying mantis bites off the head and devours the corpse of a male praying mantis after mating. It evens out the odds; after all, he has done his part.” J.P. joked.

“Oh oh, I also read from somewhere that when bees copulate just right after the male inseminates the queen, its testicles would explode killing him in the process.” Carmilla added.

“Well, animal sexuality is just such a wonder!" Perry chimed.

“Guys, stop being so morbid.” Kirsch reacted, losing his appetite.

“What does all this animal planet information have to do with the topic of bisexuality?” Laura snickered.

“Well, Perry started it!” J.P. pointed at the redhead, she just looked daggers at him.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5. The Unknowable

 


“The Unknowable

 

inconnaissable / unknowable

Efforts of the amorous subject to understand and define the loved being “in itself”, by some standard or character type, psychological or neurotic personality, independent of the particular date of the amorous relation.

  1. I am caught in this contradiction: on the one hand, I believe I know the other better than anyone and triumphantly assert my knowledge to the other (“I know you- I’m the only one who really knows you!”); and on the other hand, I am often struck by the obvious fact that the other is impenetrable, intractable, not to be found; I cannot open up the other, trace back other’s origins, solve the riddle. Where does the other come from? Who is the other? I wear myself out, I shall never know.

Reversal: “I can’t get to know you” means “I shall never know what you really think of me”. I cannot decipher you because I do not know how you decipher me.

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


It was another Sunday and the group were at Bram’s again, this time they stayed for coffee after brunch to accommodate Kirsch. They waited for Kirsch to catch up with them after he went to church. After the night at the Lustig, Kirsch has been spending more time with the group recently. Danny was invited but she obviously declined for sorority and debate team reasons. Laura was starting to suspect that she was somehow making excuses to avoid them. She never really approved of the bond that Laura and Kirsch were developing with Carmilla, J.P. and Perry. Laura reminded herself to talk to Danny later during the week.

The group settled in their favorite booth, Bram had already refilled their coffees once. The group was engaged in one of J.P.’s made up games. It was called ‘first impressions’, J.P. would call out a category and each team would guess their partner’s preferences or favorites based on their first impression or reading of them. Of course, those who knew each other least were paired up, J.P. was with Kirsch and Carmilla was with Laura; Perry was the game master. The team with the most number of correct guesses wins and the losing team will buy dinner.

“Okay, first category is color.” Perry called out as she drew from the lots of folded table napkins.

Each player had to write down three of their favorites and they will gain points if their partner gets correct guesses. To avoid cheating, each pair had to sit opposite each other across the booth; Perry sat on an extra stool at the end of the table.

“Alright, your minute is done. Time for the guesses, let’s start with the gentlemen. Okay, J.P., try to guess Kirsch’s favorite colors.” Perry directed towards Kirsch and J.P.

“Okay, I’ll go first, for colors, I think blue, green and red for Kirsch.” J.P. exclaimed, quite confident with his answers.

When Perry looked at Kirsch’s answers, she burst into laughter and read out, “It’s actually cornflower, chartreuse and salmon.” Perry called out.

“Way to be too specific, man. But I kinda got the colors right, cornflower is a type of blue, chartreuse is a green, and salmon belongs to the red family.” J.P. defended.

“I guess I got inspired with the 152-crayon set that I got when I was 7.” Kirsch reasoned, scratching the back of his neck.

“Wrong names, wrong hue, you said that before.” Perry countered. J.P. wigwagged different signs of protests but Perry dismissed his pleas. “Now, for the ladies, guess Carmilla’s top three favorite music artists?”

“So, this includes solo artists and bands?” Laura asked before writing down anything.

“Yup!” Perry confirmed.

Laura looked sternly at Carmilla as she wrote down her guesses, as if searching her face for answers. Carmilla tried to compose herself and stared blankly at Laura while writing, trying to bask much of her blush from the intense gaze.

“All right! Pens down, time is up!” Perry instructed. “Okay Laura, what are your answers?”

In her scribbly handwriting, Laura listed down ‘Alanis Morissette, Nirvana and Gin Blossoms’.

Carmilla revealed her answers in curvy blocky penmanship, she wrote down, ‘Gin Blossoms, Goo Goo Dolls, and Nirvana’.

“Not bad, cupcake, two out of three but I’m also a fan of female artists, Alanis, Sophie B. Hawkins and Meredith Brooks are part of my extensive list.” Carmilla winked quite impressed that Laura had read her.

“I always pegged you as a brooding alternative rock type of girl. Plus, your Nirvana and Gin Blossoms posters are all over your wall at the dorm.” Laura replied without looking up, admiring her answers.

“No fair, they are roommates!” Kirsch protested.

“Yeah, for just like a few weeks, this is assuming that they don’t know each other that well yet.” Perry refuted.

“If her fashion sense doesn’t give it all away, I don’t know what does. Obviously, color is still an ambiguous category.” J.P. huffed in bitterness.

“Actually, Laura is also a bit of an alternative girl herself, The Cranberries, The Cardigans, Garbage; she likes the bands with female hotties…” Kirsch interjected as Laura moved to cover his mouth.

“What? You finally found someone with the same taste. Since I’m more of an MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice type of guy, you and Carm here can exchange mixtapes.” Kirsch uttered in genuine innocence.

Perry and J.P. exchanged looks observing the amused Carmilla.

“Okay, two points for the ladies, now, next category is food. Alright, Kirsch will guess J.P.’s top three favorite food. Since we’ve been recently dining a lot together, you guys might figure this out.” Perry announced.

Kirsch furrowed his brows trying to read J.P.’s glare. As Perry signaled for them to reveal their answers, Carmilla cracked up at Kirsch’s answers. He wrote down ‘pizza, cheeseburgers, and hotdogs’.

J.P. face palmed himself revealing his own answer of ‘pesto pasta, mushroom ravioli and apple pie’.

“What did I do this time? These were safe answers, most dudes dig these foods. Who doesn’t like pizza, cheeseburgers and hotdogs?” Kirsch reasoned.

“And now he decides to be more generic and less specific.” J.P. bangs his head several times but softly on the table.

“Those are your favorite food, Kirsch, not J.P.s” Laura patted her friend’s back, Kirsch just looked confused.

“Okay, still no points for you guys. Let’s proceed with Laura’s…hmm, top three favorite movies of all time.” Perry read the category from the ballot that she just drew.

Carmilla squinted her eyes as she tried to read Laura’s facial expression. Laura wrote down her answers enthusiastically and Carmilla noted down that the titles were a bit longer than expected; she proceeded to write down her guesses, anyway.

“Times up! Raise your answers, Carmilla first.” Perry motioned at the raven-haired girl.

Carmilla revealed her answers that included, ‘Silence of the Lambs, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Faculty’.

“I have a crush on Josh Hartnett but I’m more of ‘The Virgin Suicides’ type of gal.” Laura winked revealing her answers that read, ‘Interview with the Vampire, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Silence of the Lambs’.

“Laura digs vampire movies and all those thriller stuff, it actually gave me the creeps, I was not able to sleep for several nights.” Kirsch shared, still with a bit of horror in his eyes as he recalled his experience.

“C’mon, we just watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV; it’s not even as violent as the others.” Laura quipped.

“Hmm, I always guessed that you were into some horror flicks but a secret mania specifically for sexy vampire movies is notable.” Carmilla slurred, unintentionally licking her lips.

The subtle sexual tension between the two was palpable, making the others feel that they were not in the room. J.P. and Perry gave each other knowing glances, so J.P. tried to cut through the building tension.

“Well, apparently since we suck at this game, why don’t we just concede and stick to the topic of movies? Seems like an interesting way to pass time and know each other more. I’ll take care of dinner.” J.P. planted his palm on the table.

“Woohoo! I was starting to feel queasy from all the pressure, thanks dude.” Kirsch pretended to wipe a drop of sweat from his forehead.

“So, Wilson, in the spirit of getting to know each other; what are your favorite movies?” J.P. asked with a raised eyebrow. “Perry here is a film major, we usually go out to screenings, popular and indie, you two are welcome to join us anytime. So what tickles your fancy?”

“Hmm, I’m actually more of a Jurassic Park, Home Alone, and Back to the Future type of guy. I don’t like stressing myself much in the movie house, I just want to relax and enjoy a popcorn.” Kirsch replied with a dreamy smile.

“But he actually accompanies me to anything, he watched The Matrix with me.” Laura shared.

“Yeah, she had to explain a few things to me, but Keanu Reeves can kick some virtual ass.” Kirsch self-confessed. “How about you, Perr-bear, what do you like?”

J.P. smiled to himself at the mention of nickname, apparently, it has caught up with Kirsch. Though he prefers to have this endearment reserved for his sole use, he realized that Perry simply answered without qualms, not making a big deal out of it like she does with him. 

“American History X (1998), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), A League of Their Own (1992); some Scorsese films, Goodfellas (1990) and Taxi Driver (1976) and of course, Francis Ford Coppola did the Godfather Trilogy and he actually directed Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992, the one that Laura likes.” Perry answered matter of factly.

“Perry here likes a lot of crime, gang violence and stories of redemption but I would say she’s actually a closeted feminist.” J.P. joked.

“I would say I just need to keep an open-mind, simply filtering what’s important and understand why certain people like certain things.” Perry provided and explanation. “J.P. here however, likes a bit of Kubrick like Full Metal Jacket and A Clockwork Orange.”

“Wow, I couldn’t even go through the first few scenes of A Clockwork Orange and I watched it for a class before.” Laura recalled.

“Well, people have different tastes.” J.P. established.

“How about you, Carm? Are you a Scorsese or Kubrick fan as well? Or let me guess a Tarantino, Pulp fiction kind of girl?” Laura tried to speculate.

“Ow, ow, this is an interesting one! You would never guess!” J.P. bounced excitedly.

“Hmm, are you into Asian martial arts films? Jackie Chan? Jet Lee?” Kirsch tried to guess.

J.P. and Perry both replied with overly animated shaking of their heads from side to side. Carmilla just rolled her eyes. Her friends always loved making fun of her idiosyncrasies.

“Sci-fi? Spielberg and Lucas? You’re a geek hottie!” Kirsch tried again.

“Try harder.” J.P. urged Laura to make a guess.

“Uhm, Fincher’s Fight Club?” Laura answered tentatively.

“Nope, give up?” J.P. asked in eagerness.

“Okay, we give up!” Kirsch declared.

“Perr-bear, will you do the honors?” J.P. motioned towards Perry, Carmilla could only cross her arms and give an awkward smile.

“Well, knowing that I’m a film major, she used to be so conscious with her taste in movies around me. She never did force us to watch anything though; she would even sometimes go to the movies all alone.” Perry created more suspense for Kirsch and Laura. “But I told her that I don’t hold any judgment.” Perry smiled at Carmilla.

“Okay, okay!” Carmilla took the hint; she would make the big reveal herself. “I’m a sap for rom-com!” Carmilla eventually admitted.

Laura and Kirsch’s jaws almost dropped; J.P. guffawed noisily and Perry reached out to hold Carmilla’s hand mumbling “it’s okay”.

“They love it!” Carmilla wisecracked at her friends’ exaggerated reactions. “Every time they tell other people it’s as if it’s my coming out party.”

“No way, just when I thought that you were the official alt-girl!” Kirsch was dumbfounded.

“Oh well, I am not perfect, there’s that.” Carmilla frowned good-humoredly.

“She actually keeps an extensive collection of Nora Ephron VCDs, as in from When Harry Met Sally to Sleepless in Seattle to You’ve Got Mail, recently. All ages, all stages, the list goes on: Reality Bites, 10 Things I Hate About You, Notting Hill, Runaway Bride, Never Been Kissed; tales of nerd girl transformations sans the glasses to unrequited love between best friends. Carm, is a sucker for clichés, meet-cutes and meet-uglies alike.” J.P. recited, Kirsch was in disbelief.

As the group went on with the revelations, Carmilla paid attention at Laura’s reaction, as the blonde-haired girl adjusted her thick framed glasses on top of the bridge of her nose at the mention of ‘nerd girl transformations sans the glasses’. Carmilla always thought that Laura had pretty hazel brown eyes, with or without glasses.

 


 

“So there’s this movie, Three to Tango, it’s still on.” Laura muttered as she walked back to the dorms with her roommate.

After the long afternoon of hanging out and the extended food truck dinner willingly paid for by J.P., the group had called an early night to prepare for their Monday classes. Laura and Carmilla were walking side by side towards their dorm.

“Huh? What movie?” Carmilla paused for a while to listen to Laura’s murmuring.

“I just saw a poster at the Causeway Cinema a few days ago, it stars Matthew Perry, Chandler from Friends and Neve Campbell, and I’ve seen her from that movie about witches, the Craft. It’s a rom-com, I suppose.” Laura explained shyly.

“Are you mocking me or asking me out on a movie date?” Carmilla joked, but actually, jokes are half meant anyway.

“Ow, nothing like that just that J.P. mentioned that you would usually go to movies alone. I don’t mind going to the movies with you, I have an all-embracing taste in movies.” Laura started to ramble.

“I kinda enjoy watching movies alone sometimes, J.P. is not there to frown at every cheesy line and Perry is not present to overanalyze stuff. I just want to listen to the dialogue and sit there thinking about how mundane people lives are and how sensational fictional narratives are.” Carmilla was surprised that she came up with a lengthy answer.

“So, that’s a no?” Laura reiterated in confusion. At this point, they have already reached the door of their dorm room.

“Well, if we’re not swamped with school work on Tuesday, why not?” Carmilla said flatly, but she was but her insides were actually ignited. She imagined being alone in a dark movie theater with Laura Hollis, her roommate who seems to be quite straightforward at first but actually holds her own air of mystery, wherein at this point, she’s actually developing a crush on.

“Huh? Why not a Friday?” Laura was baffled.

“Well, it’s just out of practicality. My allowance typically comes in on Mondays, so I’m still loaded at the start of the week. It’s a safe day before the cinemas change movie screenings and it’s the middle of the week, everyone goes out on a Friday. The theaters are typically packed on movie dates at the end of the week; I just hate seating in close proximity with gross couples who just kiss inside the cinema.” Carmilla explained.

“Wow, you’ve worked out some logic there and I probably think some of it is through experience. You never cease to amaze me, Ms. Karnstein.” Laura was just impressed at Carmilla’s strategy.

“Try going solo to watch a movie on Valentines night. The ticket seller asked me several times if I was alone just to rub more salt to the wound.” Carmilla gave an account. “I only did that because it was the last day for that film.”

“You sure have an extensive experience as a rom-com movie buff.” Laura chuckled. 

“So, my class ends at 4:30pm on Tuesday, will I meet you back here or at the cinema?” Carmilla established their plans.

“I have early Tuesdays off, let’s meet back here and leave our bags behind. Let’s take the subway together.” Laura looked happy, settling plans for their non-date.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6. Subtlety


“Love’s Langour

 

langueur / langour

Subtle state of amorous desire, experienced in its dearth, outside of any will-to-possess.

Sappho 3. “…for when I glance at you even an instant, I can no longer utter a word: my tongue thickens to a lump, and beneath my skin breaks out a subtle fire: my eyes are blind, my ears filled with humming, and sweat streams down my body, I am seized by a sudden shuddering; I turn greener than grass, and in a moment more, I feel I shall die.”

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

 Tuesday

 

Causeway Cinema was a small movie theatre located near the Spencer Mart in a strip plaza. It only had three movie theatres that would often show action-adventure movies, thriller films, and romantic comedies. It was a family theatre and was the nearest one outside of the Silas University campus, students needed to take a short subway ride though. The box office was located right at the front door and you can easily walk in and pay right there. It had a low hanging ceiling and neon lights and moving red marquees illuminated signs. The narrow lobby was just equipped with a few rows of metal gang chairs and a small snack bar that only served the basics: pop, candy and popcorn. Carmilla and Laura ordered their snacks from a bored looking teenager who was not too attentive. The duo shared a tub of popcorn and each had large sodas on their hand. Carmilla smirked when Laura purchased an assortment of candies that included Pop Rocks, a packet of Air Heads and Sour Power Belts.

“Sweet tooth, huh?” Carmilla whispered as they entered the dark theater.

“Most of this stuff are sour, just to get rid of the lardy taste of the butter from the popcorn.” Laura answered casually.

Carmilla and Laura sat on one of those squeaky chairs upholstered in a combination of brown and yellow burlap style fabric. The floors were always a bit kinda sticky and a faint scent of mold lingered in the air, but in contrast to other cinemas, the Causeway was a little bit better. The trailers played as the pair settled in their seats. Carmilla always paid attention to trailers and she was pleased that Laura was equally immersed as well. With the periodic, “we should watch that next time” Laura spoke in a low voice as the trailers went on. Carmilla did not actually remember anything because she was too distracted with Laura’s closeness, as she leaned over to whisper something to Carmilla’s ear; her lips almost touched her earlobe.

Carmilla was not familiar to this feeling; she was used to going alone to the cinema, laughing at movies by herself or bawling in the comfort of her seat without anyone else knowing. But somehow Laura’s presence seem to be very comforting, the low whispered commentaries, the subtle stares, and just knowing that someone you know is beside you brings much ease to Carmilla. Repeatedly her insides would churn at Laura’s accidentally touches or funny antics. She wasn’t nauseated, the snacks were fine- she vividly recognized that these were what they call ‘butterflies in the stomach’.

As the movie began to roll, Carmilla tried to concentrate on the screen however, she remained guarded, as her hand would often brush with Laura as they took turns in getting some popcorn. It also did not help that Laura would occasionally react from her seat mumbling a soft, ‘what?’, ‘no way’, or ‘really’ as the plot was slowly revealed. The film ran for a decent 98 minutes; Carmilla understood most of it, such as, the desperate architect involving himself in awkward circumstances like being mistaken as gay by his client, being asked to spy on his mistress, falling in love with her in the process and eventually pretending to be gay just to push his career further. The plot was a bit cliché for Carmilla and she felt a bit off with some of the mean-spirited jokes directed towards gays. Instead, she would steal glances when Laura was not looking only to admire her profile, halfway illuminated by the harsh lighting of the screen.

As the movie was finally over, the duo quietly exited the cinema in uncomfortable silence.

“So, is it just me or was it a poor slapstick representation of homosexuality?” Laura finally broke the quietness.

“Well, maybe that was in a hetero-normative lens. I saw Fools Rush In a few years ago, Matthew Perry was definitely better there.” Carmilla answered, a little bit taken aback when Laura held onto her arm as they stepped outside into the busy streets.

“Yeah, I watched it several times on cable after. Selma Hayek is really beautiful.” Laura commented.

If it was not clear enough, having the experience with Danny and talking about her female crushes on a daily basis, Carmilla could say that Laura was probably more into girls that she is with boys.

The subway station back to Silas was a short walk; the pair was absorbed with their conversation as they strolled. It was a bit chilly outside; Carmilla wore her new leather jacket, the one that she just got from the thrift shop a few weeks ago. She also wore a gray beanie, a faded black band t-shirt under her jacket, slim fitting jeans and her boots. Laura had a dark denim jacket on, a purple hoodie underneath, cargo pants and sneakers. Laura intertwined her forearm to Carmilla’s arm as they walked; Carmilla tried to be blasé about it. Friends can hold each other’s arms, even Perry sometimes holds her hand as they walk and it was purely platonic. Carmilla appreciated that Laura gripped her left arm with both hands thereafter instead because her palms were terribly sweaty now; Carmilla inserted her hands in her pants’ pockets as an alternative. Perhaps Laura was looking for some warmth.

“…why would he just assume that he was gay? Was it because he was babbling a lot? And does it automatically mean that since the other guy is gay then it’s safe to let him watch over your girlfriend?” Laura continued with her barrage of rants as they hopped on the train. However, she spoke in a lower voice once they were in closer proximity to some people.

“Well, cupcake, it is all we got in mainstream now, probably things will get better in the future. We have Rent and Philadelphia to feel a bit better, at least.” Carmilla snorted as she held on to the handrails standing at the middle of the car facing Laura.

“But most of the good stuff are in the drama genre and these always make me cry. I was looking for something sensible and comical in a way.” Laura explained.

“Well, I do hope things will shape up soon. Writers and directors have a lot of studying and appreciating to do once it comes to queer content.” Carmilla assumed.

“Sorry that it wasn’t the greatest movie, I suggested it in the first place.” Laura said in a low voice.

“Don’t worry about it, I’m not that trivial, I actually enjoyed the company more.” Carmilla gave Laura a friendly shove. “Next time, we can go with Perry in some of those film festivals that they organize. Do you mind reading a lot of subtitles off foreign films?”

“Well, I don’t have 20/20 vision but I guess I’ll enjoy the company too.” Laura replied with a wide toothy smile.

 


 

Wednesday

 

Carmilla had a research break from one of classes that afternoon, so she headed to the Silas University library at around mid-afternoon. The library was a little bit empty; there were many vacant desks and carrel tables. The social sciences section was naturally lit; the ambient lighting was adjusted to the minimum since much sunlight seeped through the large Palladian windows of the building. The area was lined with massive wooden tables that could sit ten people at most, but most students busied themselves in isolated in carrels. Carmilla headed to the author card catalog; Silas library already had a newly installed OPAC system in place but Carmilla preferred browsing through the catalogs still. Students would typically line up for the computers to use the internet or to browse through the OPAC, Carmilla took her time with the catalogs since not a lot of people favor this method anymore.

After listing down all the call numbers of the titles that she needed, Carmilla headed towards the stacks. As she took a turn in the direction of one of the tall shelves, she saw familiar faces seated in a table not too far away. Settled in a circular table were Kirsch, Laura and of course, Danny. Danny and Kirsch however, were immersed in some large textbook while taking down notes. Danny was probably tutoring Kirsch for some class. Laura on the other hand, sat by herself at the opposite end.

Laura held up a book in front of her, if Carmilla could deduce properly, it was a copy of the picture book X: A Fabulous Child’s Story. The orange and bright yellow edges of the cover page, the black and white illustration of a baby and a man and a woman in the middle were familiar. Carmilla got hold of the reading the previous week, the story was first published by Lois Gould in 1972 and it inspired an experiment in 1975. It had served as a pioneering work in transgender studies and in giving light to the issue of non-binary gender. It was about a baby who was born with its gender kept to the world. It was an assigned reading in Prof. Belmonde’s class; it tackled the issue of setting aside normative or traditional gender roles when raising a child, while the child remains to be healthy, caring, and respectful. It was indeed a good material; in this case, Laura was doing some advanced reading as well.

Carmilla tried to observe the trio once more, Kirsch and Danny were quietly bickering on their side of the table, Danny explaining something through illustrations and Kirsch just kept massaging his temples. Laura, then again, never looked up from her reading, she had a faint smile on her face, and she lighted up at every turn of the page. Her glasses were slightly falling to the bridge of her nose. She wore a navy blue shirt, which she tucked in, and its sleeves were rolled up to her elbows. Her faded denims were lined with a slim brown leather belt and she wore her loafers today. Carmilla left the dorm before Laura, so she didn’t really see what she wore that morning.

Thinking that she was lingering too much, Carmilla disappeared in between the tall shelves to proceed with her own work. She glumly slumped into the lower shelves, her all black garb making her look like a crouching feline on the floor. She had a plain black t-shirt on, a black denim vest, a pair of black pants and her black hi-cuts, only the white rubber soles of her shoes served contrast to her ensemble. She noted that she would simply greet the trio later or better yet, it was best not to disturb them. Despite exchanging just a few pleasantries, she knew that she was somehow unwelcomed whenever Danny was around. Carmilla noticed that Danny was becoming more and more possessive with her friends; she always greeted J.P. and Carmilla with a scowl whenever they see her in class.

As Carmilla scanned through the pages of the timeworn philosophy books, she couldn’t help but slouch down on the floor and hang on to the scent of the hard bounds. If Carmilla had another odd trait on her list, it was that she loved sniffing old books. Old books smelled like roasted coffee or dark chocolate with a hint of vanilla or almonds for Carmilla. Perry once explained to her that this was due to some of the breakdown of the chemical compounds in paper which is made of organic material and that she should stop this habit because the scent is actually caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being released to the air, which is not very good to one’s health. Carmilla just shrugged this awareness off, simply knowing that this was one of her sinful habits. After all, this is probably much better than smoking cigarettes every day as she points out to J.P.

Scent after all, is pretty much linked to memory. After her grandmother passed away, Carmilla would often go through her wardrobe just to get a waft of the fragrant orchid perfume that her ya-ya used to have. Also, the aroma of freshly baked bread pudding would remind her so much of her childhood wherein her mother would prepare snacks for her every afternoon before she arrives from school. Strong women raised Carmilla; her grandfather passed away due to an accident at work when she was a toddler, she never met her father, she was too young to remember the divorce. Therefore, her grandmother and her mother raised her in a small shop house in one of the coastal towns of the region. She grew up having a simple yet comfortable life. Her grandparents had a poultry and her mother was a grocer. Passing by the local bakery and smelling newly backed bread pudding makes her miss home and her mother. Therefore, whenever she smells the musk of old books, she would simply be reminded of the Silas library and all her memories attached to it.

“Are you reading or are you sucking that book’s soul out of it?” Carmilla jumped at the sudden presence beside her. Armed with a toothy grin was Laura Hollis, who stooped down to meet Carmilla’s gaze who was seated on the floor in between the shelves.

“I’m just trying to digest if this book has contained the spirit of Immanuel Kant.” Carmilla joked back, too aware of the physical nearness that she had with Laura. Laura adjusted herself and sat beside her cross-legged with their backs almost touching the shelf behind them. There was a very narrow clearance in between the shelves and Carmilla could almost feel Laura’s breath next to her neck as they talked.

“So, you’re studying metaphysics?” Laura asked as she scanned the book that Carmilla was holding.

“Kant and his doctrine of transcendental idealism. The man speculated that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; that "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable, that is all I have learned so far and I do not understand most of it yet. You can ask me questions after I actually read this and attend the discussions in class.” Carmilla quipped. “How did you know I was back here, anyway?”

“I saw you come in, in my peripheral vision, and then you disappeared here without word. Don’t pretend you didn’t see us Karnstein.” Laura badgered with a bit of mischief painted on her face. Carmilla’s avoidance was caught red-handed.

“Okay, I’m sorry, just that Danny always glowers at me. I planned to say ‘hi’ after I’m done here.” Carmilla explained, laying down the books between her and Laura to create more space, or else the insides of her stomach will burst anytime soon.

“Don’t worry, I already talked to Danny. She denies being impolite to you and J.P., but I know better. Just give her some time to warm up.” Laura advocates, Carmilla nodded in response. “Okay, don’t forget to drop by our table before you leave, I’ll walk back to the dorm with you, and we can get some dinner together.” Laura held on to Carmilla’s shoulders as she raised herself up from her seated position.

Carmilla took in the familiar scent of her uplifting lush green tea perfume. Carmilla has took a waft of this scent several times, whenever Laura was newly bathed, the time she hugged her for bringing home some cookies and their proximity at the theater and their train ride yesterday. This scent has already triggered recent memories and it was slowly being imbedded into Carmilla’s senses. She remained seated, caught dumbfounded; she buried herself into the smell of the books once more just to shake off certain details of Laura.

 


 

Thursday

 

It was a rather warm day, Carmilla wore a navy muscle sleeved t-shirt tucked in high waisted jeans and a newsboy hat, her red flannel shirt was tied around her waist. Carmilla arrived at Bram’s for dinner and saw J.P. and Perry already preoccupied fiddling with Perry’s new film equipment. As a film major, Perry would often produce short films for her classes, it was nearing the mid-semester and Perry was due to come up with another production by the end of the semester. So, Perry once again assembled all her friends to make an amateur production team. During their freshman year, Perry would implore Carmilla and J.P.’s aid, since they met new friends now, she invited Laura, Kirsch and her new roommate LaFontaine to join them. However, she was a bit early for their 6pm meeting and she arrived to a much earlier Perry and a surprisingly early J.P.

Before Carmilla approached the booth, she observed her friends from a distance for a while. Perry sat there with a denim fisherman’s hat and a maxi dress with daisy prints. J.P. sat beside her with a gray beanie that only revealed parts of his blonde fringes; he wore a pair of distressed denim overalls and an oversized t-shirt with red stripes underneath. Perry has told them that her dad has brought her a new digital camcorder for school, this way she won’t be renting equipment and they would have more time for production work at their own pace.

“…this can record and playback not only digital images but stills as well.” Perry was in the middle of describing things to J.P. “It has an image stabilizer, a nice zoom lens and look here, it has digital audio effects!” Perry sing-songed.

J.P. just sat there looking at Perry enchantingly his right arm was sprawled over the seat behind Perry’s back; Perry was so excited at showing off her new gear that she was oblivious to notice J.P.’s stares. By the end of their freshmen year, Carmilla had noticed certain changes with how J.P. typically treats Perry. In normal occasions, they would just banter, snarl at, or embarrass each other with unusual nicknames and humiliating facts about each other. But despite all these, Carmilla would recognize J.P.’s endearing glances whenever Perry wasn’t looking or his attention to details such as Perry’s favorite food, allergies, and preferences. On the other hand, despite being infuriated with J.P. on a daily basis, Perry always weighed his opinions on important matters especially when he comments on her work. They often find themselves engaged in deep conversation about issues in the film industry and Carmilla would just sit there observing them quietly like she does now. Sometimes she feels like their kid and she is stuck with very odd parents who bicker to show their love for each other.

“If I had known any better, I would say these two are quite a match. They have been here alone, for about an hour now.” Bram whispered as he passed by Carmilla.

“Yeah, I do hope they realize that but they’re still in denial.” Carmilla whispered back.

“I’m sorry but J.P. isn’t gay, right?” Bram queried.

“Funny, he actually thought about the same thing about you! Anyway, J.P. is just who he is, in his words, he doesn’t care what’s in between people’s legs.” Carmilla explained.

“Yeah, you kids are funny, go save the world!” Bram laughed quietly.

Bram just chuckled as he disappeared into the counter. Perry suddenly looked towards Carmilla’s direction and waved enthusiastically, beckoning her to come over. J.P. on the other hand removed his arm from the back of the chair and maintained a casual demeanor, just like nothing happened.

“Hey, check out the new stuff, plus, this one is new.” Perry showed a microphone which may be attached to the camcorder.

“Wow, Perr, your dad has outdone himself this time.” Carmilla nodded heartily.

“Well, what he lacks in emotional quotient he compensates for material things. At least, I’m thankful for his support in my chosen career.” Perry mumbled to herself, J.P. and Carmilla exchanged knowing looks.

As Carmilla proceeded to sit opposite J.P. and Perry, the diner’s door rattled and Laura entered with Kirsch in tow. Laura’s hair was tied up in a messy ponytail; she wore a black crop top that slightly showed her navel but she had denim jacket over it and a pair of baggy military green pants. Kirsch followed wearing a snapback cap, a white polo shirt and khaki shorts. Again, Carmilla left the dorm much earlier than Laura did; hence, she was not aware of the crop top situation. However, Laura seemed to cover most of her skin with her denim jacket. Her glasses were off and it dangled around her shirt collar.

“Hi guys! We tried to invite Danny over but I guess she’s too busy again.” Laura mumbled as she squeezed into the booth beside Carmilla with Kirsch seated at the far end near the aisle.

Laura was so close that her right leg almost overlapped with Carmilla’s left leg. Carmilla moved further into the booth, angling her body with half of her back against the wall. If she had known any better, engaging in close proximity could have been intentional in Laura’s part.

“Ow sorry, should I scoot over?” Laura whispered, their faces almost touching.

“No, it’s fine cupcake, just make sure there’s enough space to accommodate Kirsch’s big butt.” Carmilla mumbled out of earshot, Laura sniggered. It was actually quite cozy, having Laura so near, almost feeling her body heat.

“So, should we start or are we waiting for someone else?” Kirsch tried to break the sudden awkward silence between the two couples who were somehow just gawking at each other.

“Ow, we’re waiting for one more person…” Before Perry could finish her statement, a person with short red hair that was parted to the side entered the diner. “Ow, she’s here…sorry, I mean they’re here!” Perry got up to greet the person.

J.P. and Kirsch exchanged confused stares, Laura just smiled at the interaction and Carmilla focused her attention at Perry and her friend.

“Everyone, this is my roommate, Susan LaFontaine…” but before Perry could finish, the person interrupted with a cough.

“I go by S.LaFontaine, remember Perr? Or you can just call me Laf.” Laf interrupted.

“Ow, I’m really sorry, don’t worry I will get the hang of it, it just needs some getting used to. I hope you are not offended?” Perry apologized.

“It’s okay, Perr, would you mind if I do the introductions, instead?” Laf inquired politely.

“Sure, why not.” Perry moved to sit down again next to J.P.

“Hi, so I’m Laf. I actually identify as non-binary or genderqueer as understood by others, if you are already familiar with the term. I use gender-neutral language for myself, so you may refer to me with third-person pronouns such as they or them, I would really appreciate that.” Laf explained. They grabbed a stool and sat at the end of the table, they wore a multi-colored shirt, a pair of dark plaid pants and black and white oxford shoes.

“Pleased to meet you Laf, I’m J.P.” J.P. stood up to shake Laf’s hand.

“Hey, I’m Carmilla.” Carmilla introduced in a low voice.

“And these are our other friends, Laura and Kirsch.” Laura nodded and Kirsch flashed a toothy smile when Perry made the rest of the introductions.

“Wow! It’s great to finally meet all of you; Perry actually talks non-stop about all of you.” Laf shared.

“Sorry, but pardon my candor, how is it so far? I mean explaining being non-binary to people?” J.P. blurted out of curiosity.

“Well, it’s actually really hard at first, having to explain to people all the time and being addressed in the wrong manner in public. People often think I’m just crazy or something, not a lot of people know gender non-normativity yet. But my parents had been supportive, I was initially being treated for gender dysphoria but when this study from Yale came out, my parents read about it. There are a lot of things to understand such as gender fluidity, I actually came to study at Silas because my doctor, Dr. Cochrane is also doing some research here”. Laf related.

“Oh, Prof. Belmonde’s working with Dr. Cochrane; most of us are actually in Prof. Belmonde’s class this semester.” J.P. realized.

“Wow, Prof. Belmonde has actually invited me to speak to her class as part of a panel. I think it’s a few weeks from now. Such a small world.” Laf shared. “Anyway, we can talk about me later. I think we should start discussing Perry’s project, eh?”

“Thank you, Laf. So I’m making a short film this semester and basically, I’m going to need all your help!” Perry declared blatantly and everyone looked at her with curious eyes.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7. The World Thunderstruck


“The World Thunderstruck

 

déréalité / disreality

Sentiment of absence and withdrawal of reality experienced by the amorous subject, confronting the world.

“In a crowded restaurant, with friends, I am suffering (an incomprehensible word for someone who is not in love). This suffering comes to me from the crowd, from the noise, from the décor (kitsch). A lid of disreality falls over from the lamps, the mirrored ceilings…”

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

INT. TRAIN CAR- DAY

 

This is the seven o’clock train ride that everybody who works at the city takes, the train car is moderately crowded. Some passengers are sleepy, one person talks on the phone, another reads a book, the rest sit down or stand in comfortable silence.

                         

ALEX

(Whispers softly to SAM, 21, attractive, clean-shaven, tall, leans in)

Next time, we should take an earlier train.

 

SAM

Don’t worry we’ll make it just in time.

 

The duo begin to argue inaudibly, AVERY tries to read their lips from afar.

 

CUT TO:

 

EXT. FAÇADE OF MID-RISE BUILDING- DAY

 


 

“So, we’re filming at the subway?” J.P. asked with a raised eyebrow after going through the script.

“Oh don’t worry about the background noise, I would need all that. I’m working on something which will involve all the noises coming from the city, drowning the dialogue a bit, just to give some texture, a feel of how the city is so noisy, yet we manage to hear each other.” Perry explained devotedly.

“Okay, okay, I can do that, I can just hide the camera under my jacket or something.” J.P. imagined. J.P. was also into photography, so he would sometimes stand in as Perry’s camera operator if Perry wasn’t behind the lens.

“Don’t worry about the other locations, Laf and I had already discussed it and they will be helping me with production design. Plus, J.P. is also going to make some drawings that I will use for animation for the internal monologues of the character, Avery.” Perry pronounced eagerly.

“So, what else can we do Perr-bear?” Kirsch asked and J.P. was not fond of how he used the nickname.

“The rest of you would be my actors!” Perry exclaimed.

“An acting gig, yeah!” Kirsch cheered pumping his fist.

“Wait, does that include me?” Carmilla questioned in dread. She had never appeared on Perry’s projects before. In the past, she would either help Perry during screenwriting or simply act as her production assistant; Perry typically looked for actors outside their circle.

Laura remained calm and quiet during the entire discussion; she continued to browse through the script. She tapped her fingers in a rhythmic pattern on top of the table, awaiting for Perry’s instructions.

“Oh dear, I really had you in mind when I wrote Alex.” Perry pleaded with Carmilla.

“Aren’t you going to look for actual actors this time?” Carmilla probed.

“Well, the cast only includes three people and I have you, Kirsch and Laura. Laf and J.P. will help me with the production.” Perry pointed out.

“So, let me get this clear…” Laura interjected as she got to the last page of the script before Carmilla could protest any further. “This is like a love triangle?”

“Actually, not really, the object of affection is quite obscured at the beginning but the ending clears up everything. It’s a story about attraction and breaking gender constructs and misconceptions. Like all the characters, they have unisex names to emphasize ambiguity. These three people would typically share a train ride to the city every day and each day Avery has an internal monologue about her attraction to one of the two others. Most of Avery’s lines don’t use gender specific pronouns; Laf has helped me with the script.” Perry provided a lengthy explanation.

“The thrill of the entire ten minute short film is that the audience will keep on guessing who Avery is attracted to. Initially, they would be very sure that she’s talking about Sam, but then again, the ending is a revelation.” Laf added.

“Hmm, I like it, I’m down with this.” Laura smiled and Kirsch gave her a high-five.

“So, how about you, Carm? Are you down with this?” Perry anticipated her friend’s answer.

“Really, Perr, do I have a choice?” Carmilla conceded. Laura gave her one of her sweetest smiles.

 


 

After an eventful evening with their friends, Laura and Carmilla were already back at their dorm room. Carmilla had already took a shower and she was sprawled over her bed looking at the light bulb from the ceiling. She wore an oversized colorful tie dye t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants. She was still mulling over the fact that Perry had the audacity to cast her in one of her projects without even consulting her first. Perry actually wrote the entire script with LaFontaine. She wasn’t jealous about Perry’s sudden closeness with Laf, it was basically the same thing with Laura minus the crushing on your roommate part, hopefully. She just thought that if Perry had been her roommate, she had probably been more involved when she was writing. Carmilla just hates being put on the spot, especially if she’s acting opposite Laura. What if she fails at this acting thing? What would Laura think? But she needs to do it for Perry, the material is actually good. She should just learn to overcome her awkwardness around Laura.

“Hey Laura, would you mind if I play some music?” Carmilla tried to get things off her mind; she already reached out for her CD player from her desk.

“Shuuure…” Laura slurred, she was actually brushing her teeth at the bathroom.

Carmilla browsed through a dozen of CDs that she has brought with her. There were albums of her favorite bands and there were a couple of mix CDs too, the ones that she collected during the summer. She reached for a CD with a cut ruled pad cover; all the thirteen tracks of the CD were handwritten.

 

The cover read:

  1. Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover by Sophie B. Hawkins (1992)
  2. Bitch by Meredith Brooks (1997)
  3. Criminal by Fiona Apple (1996)
  4. Buses and Trains by Bachelor Girl (1998)
  5. When You’re Gone by The Cranberries (1996)
  6. Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman (1995)
  7. 32 Flavors by Alana Davis (1997)
  8. Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette (1995)
  9. Luka by Suzanne Vega (1987)
  10. Linger by The Cranberries (1993)
  11. Show Me Love by Robyn (1995)
  12. My Favorite Mistake by Sheryl Crow (1998)
  13. All Apologies by Sinead O’Connor (1994)

 

It was a collection of alternative pop rock songs from her favorite female artists. Just right before going back to the university, Carmilla would just lock herself up in her room, read a book, write something down or list down songs from the radio or MTV and make a mix CD. She would sometimes pick up her mother’s old guitar and try to strum to some of these songs. Sometimes she just missed all those humdrum moments that she just had to herself. She was such an introvert by heart and she knew she was before she even learned what the word meant. She had made several mix CDs during these down times, all of them stacked together on top of her desk.

As Carmilla placed the CD and pushed the play button, she set it in a low ambient volume, Sophie B. Hawkins’ sultry voice started to drone in the room.

 

That old dog has chained you up, alright

Give you everything you need to live inside a twisted cage

Sleep beside an empty rage

I had a dream I was your hero

 

Carmilla closed her eyes and started to take in the lyrics, she laid on her back and her hand were comfortably placed on top of her stomach. Laura exited the bathroom fixing the tangles of her hair; she wore a light blue tank top and checkered wool bottoms. She smiled at the sight; she admired how peaceful Carmilla looked at that moment.

 

Damn, I wish I was your lover

I’d rock you ‘til the daylight comes

Made sure you are smiling and warm

I am everything, tonight, I’ll be your mother

I’ll do such things to ease your pain

Free your mind, and you won’t feel ashamed

 

Carmilla mouthed the lyrics still with her eyes closed, she was lip-synching. Laura beamed, observing how broody and adorable her roommate looked. This was her worst crush ever. She turned on the small night light above her headboard and turned off the ambient light. She plopped down on her own bed, looking at Carmilla’s direction as her eyes adjusted to the absence of light. Her roommate did not move a muscle; she was still absorbed by Sophie B. Hawkins’ purring voice.

 

This monkey can’t stand to see you black and blue

I give you something sweet each time you come inside my jungle book

Or is it just too good?

Don’t say you’ll stay, ‘cause then you go away

 

“Hey, cupcake, wanna know a trivia about this song?” Carmilla was almost incoherent.

“What do you know about Sophie B. Hawkins?” Laura turned towards Carmilla’s direction, hugging a pillow.

“Well, some people speculated that she wrote this for a girl.” Carmilla mumbled.

“Who gave you that idea?” Laura chuckled, she was wondering why Carmilla would share such information when she was already half asleep.

“A friend told me but I just had a feeling; I mean it sounds like it.” Carmilla garbled at her side of the room.

 

Damn, I wish I was your lover

I’d rock you ‘til the daylight comes

Made sure you are smiling and warm

I am everything, tonight, I’ll be your mother

I’ll do such things to ease your pain

Free your mind, and you won’t feel ashamed

Shucks, for me there is no other

You’re the only shoe that fits

I can’t imagine I’ll grow out of it

Damn, I wish I was your lover

 

“Hey Laura, are you still awake?” Carmilla asked almost inaudibly.

“A bit…I think I still am.” Laura answered with a yawn.

“Can we just leave the music on until we fall asleep?” Carmilla requested.

“Of course.” Laura replied softly.

“Goodnight, cupcake.”

“Goodnight, Carm.”

If Laura had known any better, she was not able to sleep right away as she listened intently to the next twelve tracks. She felt like all these songs talked about some moments in Carmilla’s life. Probably, listening to a person’s playlist is one of the best ways to get to know them better. She took in all the songs as if Carmilla was speaking to her, relaying a secret message. She laid there all night thinking that it was not a lullaby but more of a serenade.


 

 

 

 

          

          

Chapter Text

Chapter 8. What’s my type?


 

“Yet I have loved or will love several times in my life. Does this mean, then, that my desire, quite special as it may be, is linked to a type? Does this mean that my desire is classifiable? Is there, among all the beings I have loved, a common characteristic, just one, however tenuous (a nose, a skin, a look), which allows me to say: that’s my type! “Just my type” or “not my type at all” – cruising slogans: then is the lover merely choosier cruiser, who spends his life looking for “his type”? In which corner of the adverse body must I read my truth?”

“Atopos

The loved being is recognized by the amorous subject as “atopos” (a qualification given to Socrates by his interlocutors), i.e., unclassifiable, of a ceaselessly unforeseen originality.”

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

One week later…

 

Carmilla scans through her copy of the book from her mother’s library once again. Oftentimes, she would simply find herself opening a random page, read a passage and ponder on a thought the entire day. Her readings in existentialism has somehow lead her into an agnostic life but if she had performed something likely religious, it was reading. If other people started their day with a Bible passage, Carmilla would sit on her desk to witness the first light of dawn and contemplate over other people’s writing. This semester it was definitely her mother’s copy of A Lover’s Discourse.

It was early in the morning, Carmilla couldn’t sleep much last night, and she tossed and turned while her roommate was sound asleep on the other end of the room. Rays of warm sunlight peaked through the gaps of the wooden venetian blinds in their room. Carmilla curled herself on a leather upholstered wing chair at the far end of the room, she was still in her sleepwear; a loose white t-shirt with cut-off sleeves and a pair of dark blue cotton pajamas. She held the copy of Barthes’ work and pondered on the passage that she just read. Desire is linked to a type? So, what’s my type? Carmilla thought to herself.

Suddenly, her attention was caught by the other person in the room, her long dirty blonde hair draped over her pillow, she wore matching blue plaid pajamas. The figure stirred in her sleep; originally her head was covered by another pillow, she threw that pillow away, it fell on the floor with a thud. A small yawn escaped her and she stretched like a cat, her pajama top had risen revealing her bare abdomen and Carmilla noticed that her pajama bottoms had fallen about a few inches below her navel. The female figure scrunched her nose; Carmilla thought that she always had a cute nose. Then she rubs her eyes and eventually squints, shielding herself from the incoming light rays. Carmilla was suddenly snapped back to reality, she had been staring and she was staring long and hard.

With broken reverie and realizing whether what she did may be classified as perversion, she bounced from her seat and greeted her drowsy roommate. “Rise and shine, cupcake, the bright circle is already in the horizon.” She did her best imitation of the voice of Little Foot’s grandmother from the cartoon “The Land Before Time”.

The figure tossed over her bed and fumbled for a pair of thick-rimmed rectangular eyeglasses from the nightstand. “Did you sleep? Seems like you haven’t moved from that area since last night. I’m starting to think that you are indeed a vampire.” She mumbled with a croaky voice, adjusting her glasses on the bridge of her nose.

“I fell asleep by midnight, for some reason, I was wide awake by five this morning.” Carmilla moved to sit at the foot of her Laura’s bed.

“And you are still reading that book.” The other person eyed what Carmilla held in her hand.

“Well, one thing I regret is that it took me this long to discover this.” Carmilla plopped onto the bed, attempting to browse through the book once more.

Laura had always thought that her roommate, Carmilla was such an enigma. She studied complex philosophies and even ancient art and various languages but she was a sucker for romantic comedies. Her entire wardrobe was mostly black or grey but she was often overly prepared for costume parties. She loved colorful pastries but she also took her scotch straight. She was a woman of many contradictions. Recognizing that they had many things in common like the common dislike for nonsensical social gatherings, the habitual disconnection with the world as they studied, and the mutual liking for the music that Alanis Morissette has produced; Laura and Carmilla warmed up to each other in a couple of months. Now, moving around each other in sync, one could say that their dorm room was a place of harmony.

It was a Friday morning and they still had enough time to get ready, Carmilla stood up to make coffee setting aside her reading for the day. Typically, Laura heads for the bathroom first, spending a good thirty minutes in the toilet, mulling about her life as she conducted her morning rituals. The next thirty minutes was spent taking a bath and getting dressed. Carmilla got used to this routine on Fridays, this allowed her to have enough time to prepare some breakfast and even do some reading. On other days, her classes were earlier than Laura’s, it was during Fridays when they would see each other the most. It only takes her about twenty minutes to look decent in the morning. As Laura disappears into the bathroom with her toiletries caddy, Carmilla prepares two steaming cups of coffee, one long black and another one with milk and two bowls of cereal in the kitchenette. Carmilla goes back to her book as she takes her breakfast. Eventually, after nearly an hour, Laura emerges from the bathroom, dressed in a denim button-down, a pair of dark green jeans and a pair of Birkenstocks; her previously wet hair was tied messily in a bun. Like clockwork, Carmilla heads for the bathroom and Laura eats her breakfast. Both girls take turns in preparing their breakfast sometimes Carmilla takes a shower first. Laura mundanely munches on her food and Carmilla appears from the shower with only a dark blue towel wrapped around her underwear-clad body. Carmilla did not like dressing inside the bathroom, she claims that she doesn’t want her jeans to get wet on the bathroom floor. At first, Laura was a bit awkward at this set-up, especially since she has never seen anyone dress up in front of her before. Since she was homeschooled until 10th grade, college was very alien to her, so concepts on proximity and personal boundaries were very important to her. However, after rooming with Carmilla for a while, she has adjusted to this habit. Though she would mindfully look away whenever Carmilla enters the room as not that imply that she had been gawking. At this point, Carmilla proceeds to put on a pair of ripped jeans, a black AC/DC t-shirt with cut-off sleeves and she wrapped a red flannel around her waist.

“So, do you have any plans for tonight, cupcake?” Carmilla inquired as she struggled putting on her boots.

At this level, Laura was already used to Carmilla using nicknames like cupcake, creampuff, care bear, or whatever fluffy object or gentle creature she might think of. Laura supposes that Carmilla had initially thought of her as very naïve, hence the nicknames, and this has somehow rubbed into their friendship.

“My copy of the Prisoner of Azkaban has just arrived. Dad sent it last Wednesday. You do remember that I’ve been planning about it all week, right? Between participating in Perry’s film and the incoming midterms, I would need to unwind a bit.” Laura smiled, she almost giggled at her excitement. Some people thought that Laura’s dedication to children’s literature was simply childish but this was not just some book, it was Harry Potter. Carmilla read the books herself, but she didn’t mind if she gets to read it after a year after everyone else. 

“Won’t I be able to interest you with poetry reading night at the Retro? It’s a Friday after all.” Carmilla pouted, knowing all too well that her attempt was hopeless.

“You know I’ve been raving about this earlier this week but since I had the radio play project, I had been postponing my reading marathon.” Laura explained, purposely batting her eyelashes towards Carmilla. 

“Hmm, even if I tell you that I’ll be doing some reading tonight?” Carmilla finally clarified her invitation.

“You know hanging out at the Retro would be so cool but…wait…what did you say?” Laura finally was able to digest Carmilla’s words.

“The poetry reading club has asked J.P. if he knew anyone who can fill in for a spot cause apparently someone caught a cold and he volunteered me. I’ll be doing some reading tonight and it really makes me a bit nervous.” Carmilla explained as she looped a light scarf around her neck.

“Why didn’t you say so? Of course, I would love to hear you read! There’s nothing to worry about, you’ll be excellent!” Laura jeered picking up her powder pink Jansport backpack from the floor.

“Really? You’ll be there?” Laura noticed the sudden cheerfulness in Carmilla’s voice.

“I’ll go, but in one condition,” Laura pauses as she holds on to the doorknob as the duo proceeds to exit their dorm room for their first period.

“Well, just make sure that it’s something I can handle.” Carmilla smirks.

“I get to bring my Harry Potter with me.” Laura negotiated as the duo headed into the hallway, shutting the door with a click.

 


That evening…

 

The Retro was brimming with college students that evening, some people were smoking outside and chatting before the event was about to start. The poetry-reading club had invited readers from different groups; therefore, you would see an assortment of individuals. Bohemians of all shapes and sizes were present from theater nerds to film buffs to snarky art criticism majors and literature geeks crowded the space. Participants would either read their own work or read for someone else who may be too shy to come forward. The characteristically harsh bright lighting of the Retro was turned down into a softer mood lighting; the tables had scented candles for centerpieces. The usual rock and roll that boomed from the vintage record player was replaced with soft instrumental guitar music. 

There was a huge sign that read ‘Guilty Pleasures tonight, starting 7pm’ hung from the front window under the Retro neon sign. Carmilla’s friends found themselves a good table in the middle of the space near the small temporary stage. They were just seated behind audiences who sat cross-legged next to the stage. J.P., Perry and Laf were engaged in a deep conversation regarding Perry’s short film. Kirsch was standing behind them engaged in a flirtatious encounter with one of Perry’s classmates named Sarah. Laura was intensely immersed with her Harry Potter book, without a care in the world. She was already halfway through her reading; she strained to read under the low lighting in the area.

Carmilla played with her scarf around her neck; she was getting a bit anxious. She was going to read an original piece. This was something that she wrote a few years ago and it just sat on her desk gathering dust. Though she got good grades in her creative writing class, being in front of a lot of people and reading your own work still gives her the nerves.

The clock struck 7pm and the emcee eventually got to the stage to make introductions. The crowd instantly diverted their attention to the stage and proceeded to their respective spots and seats. Laura carefully placed a laminated bookmark in between the pages of her book and searched the crowd for Carmilla. Carmilla sat on a table next to the other readers; she continued to adjust her scarf. She eventually looked at Laura’s direction and Laura winked and gave her a thumb’s up sign. If anything, it made her more nervous, knowing that Laura was there. At this point, her palms were very sweaty and her mouth went dry.

“…and so, our theme for tonight is guilty pleasures. It’s about the things that you do when you are explicitly told not to. Breaking school rules, being out beyond curfew hours, or gossiping about a secret that someone has entrusted you to keep. You know it’s going to be something that you will regret but you do it anyway. Stories of voyeurism, infatuation, lust and longing, gluttony or constantly pining over some unrequited love, we all have our dirty little secrets. It may turn out to be something shameful, to the point that when people find out about you, lives may be ruined. But we do it for the sake of relishing something, delight, enjoyment or the gratification of our wants. Without further ado, people inside Retro, I present you with Guilty Pleasures.” As the emcee concluded his introduction, the crowd cheered and whistled, and then the first reader was introduced as she approached the stage.

Laura listened to and noted several intriguing pieces, such as that of a voyeur who was eventually turning into a stalker, a girl who worked at a café and collected used napkins of the boy she was infatuated with and a persona who couldn’t stop eating sweet treats. After several remarkable poems, it was finally Carmilla’s turn. After the applause for the last reader had dissipated, Carmilla timidly walked towards the stage. She sat imposingly on the stool and adjusted the microphone to its proper level.

“Sorry for the nerves, but it’s my first time to share something like this.” Carmilla murmured coyly. Her honesty elicited a few claps from the crowd. Laura was just fascinated at her roommate’s stage presence, from being sullen and reluctant to being poised and charismatic. With the soft glint of the spotlight, everyone’s eyes were on Carmilla.

“Actually, this work is untitled and I have written it a few years back. I believe it was Patricia Highsmith in her book The Price of Salt who asked, ‘do people always fall in love with the things they can’t have?’, well ‘always’, I suppose that’s my guilty pleasure. So, here’s my own writing…” Carmilla gulped before she began reading her own words in a soft well-paced deep female voice.

 

Smiling for you seems to be the saddest thing in the world

I want you to see me every day

 

She looked towards her friends’ table, specifically at Laura. In a hitched breath, she continued…

 

Every day of the week

Every week of the month

Every month of the year

Every day

 

Laura and Carmilla locked eyes, Laura’s expression was unreadable; her eyes went wide and suddenly there was an insignificant smile lost in all the tension.

 

Yet you do not see me

It is hard to say I am happy when I am not

You are happiness

I am not

 

Another breath, Carmilla paused before proceeding with the last line…

 

Yet I smile for you each day

 

Loud handclapping enveloped the room, people moved around and some even approached Carmilla, yet she was planted on her seat on the stage, staring at Laura, Laura catching her gaze as she clapped. For a while, the moment simply lingered between these two people.


 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9. In the Rain


 

February 11, 1997

 

Dear Elle,

 

Yes, I have received your last letter, it took me some time to write back because I actually didn’t know what to say. I think it’s too late to greet you Happy New Year now. I am glad that you have decided to take a pre-med and go to medical school in the future. As for me, mom confirmed that she would be able to send me to college. I still have no idea what to take up. I have been reading a lot lately and I suppose I might take up something that demands a lot of reading.

I suppose I should tell you that I really appreciate that you have tried to stay in touch. I was not really happy with how I reacted back then, I know I keep on apologizing but I really do wish that I have spent all those times when you were still here hanging out with you instead of being mad at you and moping around.

Don’t worry so much about getting into medical school, trust in yourself, you are the smartest girl that I know. If you decide to write back, I will definitely try to answer right away. Some of my friends had actually started using e-mails at school, maybe we can write each other from there, I have my own computer now but I still prefer using the typewriter.

P.S.

Write to me here giantblackcat90@hotmail.com

I will be expecting your reply.

 

Love,

Carm

 


 

 

“Do not be angry with the rain, it simply doesn’t know how to fall upwards”. (Vladimir Nabokov)

 


 

Saturday

 

It was raining so hard when Carmilla exited the Silas library that Saturday evening. She was so caught up with her schoolwork that she did not notice that it was already pouring outside. Good thing she was able to stuff an umbrella inside her backpack. She stuffed the books that she had checked-out inside her backpack as well. Carmilla adjusted her puffer vest over her plain black t-shirt; then she began to trudge through the rain with her umbrella and boots.

The dorm was about two kilometers away from the library, it wasn’t a long walk but it won’t be an easy one under this weather. Carmilla walked carefully, calculating her steps to prevent her shoes from getting too wet. The hazy yellow lights from the lampposts provided enough illumination for her path but Carmilla was well aware that getting wet was not her major concern.

Silas University has always prided itself for maintaining a biodiverse ecosystem within the campus. Which means, the grounds were well maintained, the vegetation is lush and it has served as a sanctuary for various birds species such as owls and other creatures such as insects, mice, and squirrels. But during the rainy season, some of Carmilla’s most feared creatures would emerge, the olive green and brownish bloated creatures called the bullfrogs. It was no secret that Carmilla was very much afraid of frogs, much more the muddy and puffy bullfrogs. As a child, a swarm of bullfrogs chased her one rainy afternoon in her grandparents’ poultry. She had never recovered from her trauma after that. As an adult, whenever Carmilla encounters a frog no matter how small or large it is, she runs away in fear or remains pale and petrified until she collapses. Another thing about bullfrogs is how they sound. They do not conform to the normative onomatopoeia sound that goes like a croak such as ribbit, ribbit. They call out to their mates with a loud low-pitched roar that almost sounds like a belching giant.

Carmilla hummed, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” repeatedly, it was actually the only lyrics she knew about the song. She chanted the line to calm her nerves.

Carmilla was praying so hard that she wouldn’t encounter a frog tonight. She had almost covered a kilometer of the pathway with zero incidents until she eventually heard some rustling just a few centimeters away from her. To her horror, a small dark colored creature crossed right in front of her, too frightened to look back to even confirm if it was indeed a frog, Carmilla was already in tramping through the trail like the road runner. She immediately found temporary shelter under the covered driveway of the nearest building. The dorm was almost in plain sight but Carmilla was not confident whether she could take any more surprise interactions with frogs tonight.

In an attempt to compose herself and to catch her breath, she was suddenly surprised to hear a familiar voice calling out behind her, “Hey Carm, are you okay?”

Of all the people, in all the days, it belonged to none other than her roommate and current love interest, Laura Hollis. As Carmilla looked into the lobby of the building, she realized that she was actually at the driveway of the Silas University radio station.

“Are you alright? You’re drenched and why do you look so pale?” Without warning, Laura had already invaded her space and held on to her chin and then her forehead to inspect her. Laura stood in front of her with a gray hoodie up to cover her head and her pink backpack slung only on one shoulder.

Carmilla realized that since she had been running, her boots were already so soaked that she could feel the wetness in her socks. Her short raven hair had also been dripping wet; some tendrils were plastered to her forehead since she flailed around so much when she escaped her tiny tormentor.

“What are you doing here? Are you headed back to the dorm?” Laura continued to bombard her with questions; she still wasn’t able to say a word.

After taking a deep breath, Carmilla finally answered, “I was on my way back from the library and then a frog chased me.”

“What? Are you trying to tell me that my brooding enigmatic roommate is actually afraid of frogs?” Laura chuckled much to Carmilla’s annoyance.

“It wasn’t just a tiny frog Laura, it was a bullfrog, and it looked like a giant warty toad!” Carmilla exclaimed, fear still evident in her eyes. Even though if she was not really able to take a good look at the creature that she was fleeing from.

“Oh shit! You’re serious, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Upon realizing her friend’s actual terror, Laura moved to hold Carmilla.

As Laura rubbed the palm of her hand on to Carmilla’s back while whispering soothing words, Carmilla eventually relaxed into the embrace.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I will never joke about that again. C’mon now, let’s walk home together. I’ll keep you safe.” Laura withdrew from the hug and held on to Carmilla’s right hand with her left hand. Carmilla gave a composed nod. Laura’s hold was stable and assuring, she locked their fingers together for a firmer grip.

As they began to walk, Carmilla held the umbrella for both of them, the rain was starting to thin out now.

“Hey cupcake, can you promise me one thing?” Carmilla whispered as they strode towards the dorm.

“What’s that, Carm?” Laura asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Can you not tell anyone about this minor breakdown?” Carmilla appealed.

“Hmm, let me think about it…” Laura began to tease.

“If J.P. finds out, I will never hear the end of it. You know how much of a bully he is.” Carmilla informed.

“Well, for now, I can keep it in our bank of secrets.” Laura eventually declared.

“What do you need a bank of secrets for?” Carmilla asked deep with interest.

“Just in case you get to have something on me in the future then I have something on you.” Laura grinned.

“So, you’re talking about blackmail, huh?” Carmilla confirmed.

“Maybe, something like that.” Laura considered.

“Alright, that’s a lot of somethings but it’s a deal then.” Carmilla jeered as they arrived at the lobby of the dorm.

“So, how did you pass biology in high school without dissecting a frog?” Laura suddenly asked out of nowhere.

“I did pass biology but I had considerate and helpful groupmates back in the day.” Carmilla recalled as they walked towards their room.

What she failed to notice was that there were several frogs who hopped by their path. But since her full attention was dedicated to Laura, she was not able to notice any of them. Laura was intentionally distracting her for safe passage.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10. Pigeonholed


“Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeonholes.” (Alfred Kinsey)


 

 

“…and so, Alfred Charles Kinsey had published the Kinsey Reports which outlined human sexual behavior in his books Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, which he published in 1948 and 1953 respectively. His methods were quite extensive which overlapped with his personal life. He first started out studying wasp-mating patterns until he delved into human subjects by interviewing them about their sexual histories.” Prof. Belmonde synthesized as the class went through Alfred Kinsey’s work. “Alright, so who can you tell me what the Kinsey scale is all about?” Prof. Belmonde called out.

Laura jolted from her seat; she shuffled through some of her research notes on her desk and immediately raised her hand. Carmilla noted that Laura was very keen in doing desk research; she would really make a good journalist someday. J.P. joked that she was like Hermoine Granger, bookish, articulate and unaware of how eye-catching she is, Carmilla just smiled at his antics.

“Alright, Ms. Hollis.” Prof. Belmode pointed out since no one else raised his or her hand.

“Well, Kinsey actually developed this rating scale which was more of a Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale to describe a person’s sexual orientation. He later on added a grade of “x” in the Kinsey Reports to designate individuals who indicated ‘no social sexual contacts or reactions’.” Laura began to expound. “Uhm, Prof. Belmonde, may I?” Laura borrowed a marker from Prof. Belmonde and headed to the board to illustrate something.

“By all means, Ms. Hollis.” Prof. Belmonde welcomed her attempt.

“So, the scale starts with a rating of ‘0’ which refers to being exclusively heterosexual and on the opposite a rating of ‘6’ as exclusively homosexual, then a rating of ‘x’ was added. For those who indicated ‘incidental’ or ‘occasional’ sexual desires or experiences with the opposite or the same sexes they fell somewhere between the ratings of ‘1-5’.” Laura described as she copied from her notes and continued writing on the board.

Laura’s summary looked something like this:

 

0          Exclusively heterosexual

1          Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual

2          Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual

3          Equally heterosexual and homosexual

4          Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual

5          Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual

6          Exclusively homosexual

X          No socio-sexual contacts or reactions  

 

“Kinsey’s research has paved the way to get rid of dichotomous thinking that only homosexuals and heterosexuals exist. This brought forth ideas on bisexuality and asexuality and even on biological and psychological studies on hermaphrodites, transsexuals and transgenderism.” Laura eventually concluded.

“Well done, Ms. Hollis.” Prof. Belmonde commended Laura as she returned to her seat.

“She’s such a Granger!” J.P. whispered as an inside joke again to Carmilla.

Carmilla only smiled back at Laura as she caught her glancing at her from the opposite end of the room. Danny and Kirsch eventually engaged Laura in an inaudible discussion as she sat down.

“Now that we’ve mentioned the Kinsey Scale, your knowledge on the concept of sexual identity which involves biological sex and gender identity has been expanded. Next meeting, we’ll focus on the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid as defined by Fritz Klein. We’ll be analyzing these two scales in our next discussion since we don’t have enough time for now. This topic will open us to various measures of gender, masculinity, femininity, and transsexualism in this course.” Prof. Belmonde instructed. “For now, I will be assigning some homework.” She took out some handouts from her leather bag.

The class scuffled a bit in anticipation of the assignment.

“Okay, so you’ll be working in pairs for this one. This is actually a list of simplified questions adapted from the various scales and tests on determining a person’s sexual identity. I may not be able to address all your questions right away but looking into your personal history with some objectivity may help. I suggest, you try to be as honest as possible to your partner, if not, then it’s fine with me as long as you get something out of this activity.” Prof. Belmonde announced as she distributed the questionnaires.

The students proceeded to scan the questionnaires upon receiving a copy.

“Alright, so in the most impartial manner, I will be assigning your partners alphabetically.” Prof. Belmonde stated. “Adler you’re with Armitage…” J.P. waved at their bored looking classmate, Matthew.

As Prof. Belmonde went on announcing the other pairs, Laura was silently counting in her head. Then to her horror, she had realized it, the same time Prof. Belmonde called out her name. “…Hollis you’re with Karnstein and Kirsch you’re with Lawrence…” Soon enough she zoned out from the rest of Prof. Belmonde’s announcements.

“Yeah, we’re partnered up, D-bear!” Kirsch exclaimed with a slow clap earning an unapologetic huff off Danny. Laura was oblivious that Danny was giving off a very irritated look.

From across the room, Laura couldn’t read Carmilla’s expression. Was she upset, petrified or just plain unconcerned? Girl the hell up, Hollis! Laura told herself, this is going to be interesting.

 


 

Carmilla drummed the end of her pencil on the arm of the wooden bench; she was seated in one of benches around the university quadrangle. She wore a fitted black t-shirt and her typical ripped jeans and sneakers. It was a partly cloudy Saturday afternoon; most of the students were either studying alone, doing some group work or just hanging out in the university grounds. A group of students was having a jamming session nearby, far from where she sat and another group was engaged in a game of Frisbee from afar. Laura sat beside her chewing at the end of her pen as she read through the questionnaire for their class. She had a gray tank top on, flared jeans, her worn-out Birkenstocks and a red baseball cap. Her thick-rimmed glasses hung low over the bridge of her nose as she read. They had mutually agreed to conduct the interview outside of their dorm room just for a change of scenery. Carmilla was thankful for this; the dorm room seemed too private to learn about your roommate’s sexual history.

“So, should we just take turns answering the questions as the other person takes down notes?” Laura begins.

“Sure, sure, why not.” Carmilla answered nervously.

“Just to clear the air out, we are in a safe space, no judgment here, okay?” Laura gesticulated forming an invisible box between her and Carmilla.

“Same here.” Carmilla answered firmly.

“So, here’s the first question: Who are you attracted to? A. To the people of both sexes, B. The other sex, but recognize when someone of the same sex is attractive, C. To the people who are the same sex as you are, or D. Only people of the other sex from yours.” Laura read out.

“Hmm…my answer is actually not in any of the choices…” Carmilla noted.

“Ow, we can note that down…” Laura began to write on her questionnaire.

“Well, before when I was a kid, I would predominantly have crushes on boys. You know celebrities, like Keanu Reeves in Speed and this geeky boy in middle school. Then when I got older, I realized my attraction to girls. There were more female celebrity crushes, as I was watching Eyes Wide Shut for Nicole Kidman and not Tom Cruise. Then, there was the childhood friend of mine, Elle, whom I later on realized that I was actually maybe in love with. It’s weird that I can say it out loud now, not that I had a chance with her, she actually lives in another country now. So, I guess, you should note, ‘to the people of the same sex as I am but recognize when someone of the opposite sex is attractive.” Carmilla answered.

Laura looked up from her writing and placed her hand on Carmilla’s arm. “So, Elle huh?” Laura smiled playfully but deep inside she wondered who Elle was and what impact did she have on Carmilla’s life.

“That’s all you got from everything that I said?” Carmilla asked in concern with raised an eyebrow. “Never mind, your turn to answer, Hollis. I can tell you about Elle next time.”

“I’ll hold your word to that.” Since Carmilla did not evade the topic, Laura was hoping that she was probably over Elle by now. “Anyway, my answer is ‘to people of both sexes’ I think, I’ve been having male and female crushes at this point. At first, I thought I was just unsure or whatever, especially with what happened with Danny. However, having been brought up by a doting father in a traditional community, a lot of norms have been ingrained in me. But believe it or not, I talked about this stuff with my dad last week over a phone call, it was hard at first but he listened and gave some advice. He told me that all parents who were keen to their child’s development would know from the start. He said that he had some inkling since I was seven. He said that I liked different types of toys, Legos, paper dolls, teddy bears, remote controlled cars and miniature farm animals. He told me that he had friends who were married now but some of them had homosexual relationships at some point, he didn’t mention if they ended up in loving and happy relationships though. He told me that it was all about the personality and not their anatomy. That I should just look for someone who will love me and respect me. I haven’t told him how I identify myself yet, but I guess we should have that talk next, once I figure stuff out.” Laura expounded, she was on the verge of telling Carmilla that she was the one who’s causing her to seriously consider these things now.

“Wow, you actually had that talk with your dad? He sounds kinda cool.” Carmilla stated rather a bit forlornly. Laura noted that probably this was because Carmilla grew up without a dad.

“I’ll introduce you to him when he comes over to take me home during the holidays.” Laura tried to lighten the mood.

“That would be great, he sounds cool.” Carmilla responded bashfully.

“How about you, Carm? Does your mom know?” Laura hoped that Carmilla would answer as she had shared her story.

“Well, when you said that parents actually know when they paid attention, it’s the same way with my mom. She kind of knew when she considered my feelings for Elle but she was in denial at the start, I think she still is at this point. She said she could not imagine how hard my life is going to be especially with what some of her friends had gone through in the 70s and the 80s. When my grandmother was alive she was there to bring a bit of humor to the situation. When I was in high school, she just told me that it was okay because she was some sort of lesbian too back in the day, then she met grandfather after the war. She didn’t disclose anything more, I was too shy to ask about it after, but it had become a running joke between us. She just hopes that I meet someone who would be equally strong enough to help me survive the society that we live in, though it has been much better than before. I mean were taking this class and openly answering these questions.” Carmilla recounted, a bit teary eyed at this point.

“Your grandmother was one wise woman, Carm, and you have her DNA in you. Well, what can I say? We are probably been blessed with such good parents. Though not all people have it this easy.” Laura huffed in appreciation.

Laura and Carmilla shared a meaningful look for a while, a bit overwhelmed with what they just found out about each other. Carmilla was the first to break the moment, her insides were already topsy-turvy and they still had an assignment to finish.

“Okay, next question, with whom do you feel most comfortable socializing? A. I don't get out much, B. Either sex, C. Same sex, D. Other sex. Hmm, this question sounds a bit vague.” Carmilla commented.

“Yeah, I mean ‘socializing’ as in friends or socializing in the context of dating. Hmm, either way my answer would be either sex.” Laura responded definitely.

“I would say that I socialize with either sex but when it comes to flirting or considering dates, at this point, I’m exclusive to women, I haven’t looked at men in that way ever since.” Carmilla undeniably answered.

“Third question, with whom do you form strong emotional bonds? A. With people who are the same sex as me, B. Friends of both sexes, C. Close with members of other sex, D. No strong attachments.” Laura pronounced, as she adjusted to sit casually on the opposite end of the bench facing Carmilla.

“Certainly, friends of both sexes, I have J.P. and Perry…and you and Kirsch included.” Carmilla recounted, Laura smiled when Carmilla mentioned her name.

“Of course, I have the same answer.” She chuckled as she noted something down, evading Carmilla’s gaze.

“Oh, this one’s intriguing…” Carmilla started to tease. “My sexual fantasies are about…A. Only the opposite sex, B. Mainly the opposite sex, sometimes about the same sex, C. Both the same and the opposite sexes, D. Mainly the same sex, sometimes about the opposite sex, E. Only the same sex, F. I don’t have sexual fantasies.” Carmilla concluded.

“My, my, it’s getting a bit hot out here.” Laura pretended to fan her underarm as a gag. “Theoretically, it had been about both sexes if we consider my celebrity crushes. But as of late, I would like to say it had been mainly the same sex.” Laura answered suggestively; she did not know where all the confidence was coming from.

Carmilla tried to focus on the task on hand, not looking up from her notes. “So, it that a ‘B’ or a ‘D’, you have to qualify this, Laura.” She tried to sound unaware but her ears were already burning.

“Just right down ‘C’.” Laura moved to invade Carmilla’s space to write down on her notes. The sudden proximity just caught Carmilla tongue-tied. “Okay, so how about you, Carm?” Laura moved back to her own corner.

“Well, it had only been about the same sex.” Carmilla mumbled.

“Next question!” Laura exclaimed to get rid of the awkwardness between them. “I have had sex with…” suddenly, Laura paused when she realized what the question was about.

“Are you okay, cupcake? We can skip a question if you’re not comfortable with it.” Carmilla interjected, knowing what the question was.

“Nah, it’ll be fine, you’re my friend, I guess it’s fine for you to know.” Laura cleared her throat. “The choices are: A. Only with the opposite sex, B. Mainly the opposite sex, occasionally the same sex, C. Evenly with the same and opposite sex, D. Mainly with the same sex, occasionally with the opposite sex, E. Only with the same sex, F. I’m a virgin.” Laura eventually finished reading from the questionnaire.

“I think you should answer this one first, if it’s okay with you?” Carmilla immediately prodded.

“Seems like you need to mull over your answer?” Laura bantered. Carmilla remained silent furrowing her brows, struggling internally.

Laura decided not to comment on that and proceeded with her answer. The sooner they get this over with the better. “Well, for me, it only happened once with this boy from high school.” Laura decided not to give any more details after that. Carmilla decided not to probe any further, but she speculated in her mind.

“I can feel you judging me, Carm.” Laura speculated. “Will you ask if I loved him?”

“No, nothing like that, it’s just I didn’t expect it.” Carmilla mumbled.

“What did you expect? That I was this naïve small town girl. I mean, I girl can be questioning and act on certain tendencies. How else will we figure out what we like?” Laura explained in one breath. “If you’re concerned, he was polite and it wasn’t that bad, I think. I have no one else to compare it with anyway.” Laura laughed.

“I’m sorry if I’m appearing to have these preconceived notions, that’s like rom-com fever for you.” Carmilla apologized.

“No offense taken, how about you?” Laura countered.

One could slice through the thickness of the silence between them as Laura anticipated Carmilla’s answer.

“Well, the answer’s ‘F’.” Carmilla declared coolly, Laura gave her a small smile. Laura did not want them to find out about it this way but it was part of the questionnaire. She had fantasies that she would tell Carmilla and that Carmilla would tell her in a different setting, but that remained as a daydream for now.

“I don’t believe it, you mean…you’ve never…never mind.” Laura was surprised that she had uttered her own thoughts for Carmilla to hear.

“I’m sorry?” Carmilla gave her a confused look.

“I mean, have you seen yourself? You could have been in the cast of Cruel Intentions.” Laura pointed towards Carmilla.

“Now, you’re the one judging me. I really understand what you’re talking about but I watched the film. I suppose I’m more of a Say Anything type of girl, ‘I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen’”. Carmilla tried to make a Lloyd Dobler impression.

“Shut up, Carm! Honestly speaking, I think you’re a catch.” At this point, Laura thought that she was already openly flirting. “So nothing happened with that first love of yours?”

“Again, she wasn’t my first love, I think it was Elle. Second, J.P. always exaggerates so don’t believe everything he says. Plus, I had some experience with Elsie but nothing below the waist.” Carmilla related. “Well, I’ve been falling and no one has caught me yet.” Carmilla tried to be witty.

I am here, I’ll be there, Laura thought to herself. “Stop selling yourself short.” Was all she could say. “Just make sure you get to recognize it when it’s in front of you.” Laura added.

“You do have your way with words, cupcake. Thank you for the encouragement. But hey like my ya-ya used to say, it’s comes around when it does.” Carmilla shrugged her shoulders.

“So you’re the type who’s essentially waiting for the right person at the right moment?” Laura established, wiggling her eyebrows at Carm.

“Well, it’s romantic if you think about it that way. But I think, I’m just the type who was not ruled by her hormones in high school, I had books to read and movies to watch. Not that I’m saying that other people did it for the wrong reasons, I’m just saying that it wasn’t a priority at that time and I didn’t want to do something that I might regret.” Carmilla clarified.

“I understand, I mean, I did it and I did not regret it. It was an eventful summer; I mean we were both counselors in a youth camp. One evening conversation lead into another and I guess it’s a story to tell. It was a bit elusive, good thing I won’t be seeing him anymore since he moved to a different continent.” Laura recalled. Carmilla did not want to know any further, it appears that Laura Hollis is not as innocent as she looks after all.

Laura just smiled at her, Carmilla searched through the questionnaire, trying to get back to their assignment.

“Belmonde definitely wasn’t joking when she said that these questions should really be taken objectively. Oh, we’re at the last question.” Carmilla remarked, indicating that they had to move on, barring any comments from Laura. “Finally, You identify as: A. Straight, B. Straight but open to new sexual experiences, C. Bisexual, D. Homosexual but open to new sexual experiences, E. Strictly homosexual, F. I don’t know.” Carmilla concluded.

“If you asked me that before I would have said, ‘I don’t know’ but now, I guess I’m at peace with answering, ‘bisexual’.” Laura reacted with a coy smile.

“Still strictly homosexual at this point.” Carmilla answered as she jumped up from the bench. “That was grueling.” She commented as she stretched her back, the hem of her t-shirt riding up to expose a slim portion of her stomach in the process. The scene before her stunned Laura, Carmilla remained unaware at this point. “We can tally the answers later, by now I guess it’s actually obvious which part of the scale we fall into. How about some ice cream?” Carmilla snapped Laura out of her trance.

“Sure, ice cream sounds good.” Laura scrabbled to stuff all of their writing materials into her pink backpack that originally laid on the grass beneath them.

The pair walked calmly towards the nearest ice cream parlor, deciding to talk about everyday topics such as ice cream flavors and celebrity crushes. Realizing that they will not be walking on eggshells around each other anymore with so many revelations that afternoon. Now everything has been laid out on the table, (well, except for their unresolved feelings for each other) thanks to Prof. Belmonde’s assignment.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11. Habitus


“Habit if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.” (Saint Augustine)

 


It was a Sunday morning; Laura lay in her bed as sunlight seeped into the room. She was still scrunched up underneath her blanket and pillows. She looked at the other side of the room; Carmilla’s bed was already neatly made. Carmilla usually slept in during the weekends, Laura doesn’t have a clue where she went. She thought it was probably a good thing; she had the room to herself and had the time to mull over her dream. She pulled at the hem of her taupe racerback tank top; it had probably ridden up to her navel in her sleep. Her silk pajama bottoms were long enough to cover her feet for extra warmth. Carmilla probably left the radio on, Sugar Ray’s Someday was softly droning in low volume.

 

Just close your eyes and I'll take you there

This place is warm and without a care

We'll take a swim in the deep blue sea

I go to leave and you reach for me

 

Laura stretched, trying to feel every muscle that she had. She attempted to get up but just bounced back to her bed. She was quite bothered by the dream that she just had. She tried to shake off her sleep, try to erase her thoughts, be somewhere else. But the memory was so vivid, they were holding hands, sweaty palms, lingering stares. It felt so real, like she was just seated beside her and they had nowhere to go. In her dream, Laura moved to bring their foreheads closer. She could feel her breath hitch, she could sense that she was inching closer and closer…then as her alarm clock rang, she was not actually there.

 

And fade away

And fade away

And fade away

 

Laura’s musing was broken when the voice of the radio jockey reverberated through the room. She should shake this feeling away. Was it all in her head? Please, please don’t try to get into my heart, not my heart, Laura told herself. You’re probably better off in my head. She was drawn away from her internal monologue, due to the sudden knocking at the door. Laura jolted upright from the bed, thinking that Carmilla had probably left her keys.

As she opened the door, she was surprised to see who was at the other side of the threshold.

“Morning.” Danny Lawrence greeted with a meek smile. She was wearing a navy blue Tommy Hilfiger sports shirt with red rims, olive green cargo trousers and sneakers. Her medium length chestnut hair fell to her shoulders.

“Hey” Laura hugged herself, quite conscious of her appearance. “Are we supposed to go somewhere that I’ve forgotten about?” she asked in confusion.

“Uhm, it’s nothing like that. Are you alone? Can I come in?” Danny asked tentatively.

Laura nodded drowsily and made way for Danny.

“Sorry, just give me a second.” Laura rushed to the bathroom sink to wash her face and just gargle some mouthwash, leaving the door ajar for Danny.

“Is this a bad time? Did you just wake up?” Danny inquired as she walked towards Laura’s bed, inspecting the room along the way. It was clear which part of the room Laura’s side was. The other side had a neatly made bed, band posters hung on the wall, and most of the articles were in either black, blue, gray, or white. Laura’s side still had an unmade bed, her pink backpack draped over her chair, and all the familiar office supplies lined up in her desk. Danny reminisced when not too long ago, she was on the other side of all of these.

“Yup, I just woke up, but it’s never a bad time.” Laura replied from the toilet. When Laura returned to the room, her hair was already tied up in a messy ponytail and she was more awake now.

Danny hesitantly sat down at the foot of Laura’s bed.

“So, what’s up?” Laura casually asked.

Danny had her usual scowl and when she looked up to Laura, she looked a bit disenchanted. “I hate it when you do this.” She mumbled.

“I’m sorry? What are we talking about?” Laura was confused.

“This, Laura.” Danny pointed at the space between them. “I thought we were fine.” She muttered.

“We are fine. What’s wrong Danny?” At this point Laura dragged her chair, placed her backpack on the ground and sat right in front of Danny, with the back of the chair at Danny as she sat astride.

“You’ve been distant lately.” Danny accused.

“What do you mean? I’ve always tried to include you, we always invite you wherever we go, Kirsch and I. But you always had something to do.” Laura knew what Danny meant.

“Am I losing you, Laura?” Danny moved to grab both Laura’s hands but Laura fidgeted.

“I don’t understand, Danny. At first, you told me that we should have some boundaries, for your sake. Now, you’re accusing me of drifting away?” Laura was stumped.

“That was when I didn’t know what I wanted. It was a very confusing time for me, Laura.” Danny elucidated.

“Are we still talking about our friendship here? I thought we’ve talked about this?” Laura clarified, standing up from her seat to move further from Danny.

“That’s what I thought too? I thought I could just be your friend, I thought I was fine with it; I thought I would be able to handle it. But then we took this class, I realized things and to make matters worse, you’re brooding-oh-so-cool roommate gets into the picture!” Danny started with a pleading tone but her tone got bitter in the end.

“What does Carmilla have to do with this?” Laura crossed her arms over her chest.

“Ever since she’s been around, we had never gone out together. Even Kirsch has been absorbed into her group’s oh-so-bohemian ways. It has always been Carmilla this and Carmilla that. When was the last time that we had to talk alone, huh?” Danny was getting a bit angsty at this point.

“We have lives to live, Danny. You don’t own your friends, Kirsch has opened his horizons, I have. We don’t run a sorority where there’s absolute exclusivity and lifetime accords to deal with. Can’t you see that I’m a person, not some idea that would fit into your foul-proof schedule?” At the moment, Laura was taken aback by Danny’s attitude. “Again, are you sure that this is still about the friendship? We still hang out, we are still on point with our study groups, and we still go to eat at some trendy place. What’s wrong with having more friends?”

“Why won’t you just choose me?” Danny stood up from Laura’s bed, her knuckles to her sides. She stared intensely at Laura.

There was a tensed silence between them, but before Danny could utter anything more, the door swung open. Carmilla was unknowingly humming a tune to herself as she opened the door, carrying a box of creampuffs and two cups of coffee.

“Great, just great!” Danny exclaimed as she stormed out of the room, leaving a disoriented Carmilla on her trail.

“What did I miss?” Carmilla looked at Laura wide-eyed. Laura only jumped back to her bed and muffled a shriek against a pillow in frustration. 

 


December 1998

 

“Hey Laura, can I talk to you for a second.” Danny muttered as she finished zipping up her suitcase. It was the last day of classes before all the students headed to their respective families for the holidays. Laura and Danny were packing their bags before their departures the following day.

“Sure, what about?” Laura asked as she struggled with fastening the zipper of her overstuffed luggage. Danny went to her aid and held down the top of the bag so that Laura can secure the zipper.

“Uhm, well, I don’t know if this is the right time but I need to get it out of my chest.” Danny mumbled nervously as she sat on Laura’s bed. Laura was dragging her bag near the door.

“Ow, do I need to sit down for this?” Laura tried to humor a tense Danny.

“I think it would help.” Danny replied nervously as Laura sat on a chair opposite her.

“You’re making me a bit nervous but you have my full attention.” Laura smiled amiably.

“Uhm…okay…well, it had been months since we knew each other. I did a lot of thinking before talking to you. I wouldn’t be telling you but this thought or probably feelings had bothered me a lot. I’ve never felt something like this…towards another person…or specifically, towards another girl. What I am trying to say…or maybe I really don’t know what I’m trying to say. I mean, I really enjoy your company, you’re smart, you’re thoughtful, and you have this great sense of humor, I’ve never met someone like you. I like you, Laura.” Danny finally whispered.

Laura was a little taken aback, of course, she was grateful for Danny’s companionship. She could not ask for a better roommate, she was considerate; she was attentive, and caring. However, there were days when she could be a bit overbearing and too protective. Does she mean that she like ‘likes’ Laura?

“You’re not saying anything.” Danny was suddenly very anxious; she wiped her palms on the fabric of her pants that covered her thighs.

“I’m sorry, but what do you mean you like me? I mean I like you too, you’re my first friend here at Silas.” Laura furrowed her brows, unsure of Danny’s intent.

“Yeah, I kind of knew you would say something like that.” Danny suddenly huffed.

Laura moved towards her, she held both of Danny’s hands with her own. Laura had this hunch regarding Danny’s feelings for her. After all, they always had lunch together, though their other friend Kirsch sometimes tags along. Danny being a sophomore student had always gone out of her way to show Laura around campus. They even studied at the library and did errands during the weekend together. Danny was always there for Laura and Laura was grateful for that. But at the back of her mind, Danny always had the monopoly of her time, Danny always wanted to know where she was or what she was doing. Initially, Laura was nothing but appreciative, eventually she feared that the attention she got from Danny might evolve into something more, though one-sided.

“I know what you mean Danny. I understand what you mean, I think. I know telling me was very hard for you, but honestly, I don’t know how to react.” Laura answered trying not to fully hurt Danny.

Laura had her curiosities, she had found several women attractive, Danny included but she could not see past Danny as a friend. She told herself that she was not going to be like the other girls who kept people around just because they enjoyed the attention. Therefore, she needs to be honest with Danny, even if it will mean affecting their friendship.

“Aren’t you mad at me? I hope you won’t think that I took advantage of the situation, I’m not like that Laura.” Danny’s tone suddenly became wary.

“I know you’re not like that Danny. If anything, I hope we still get to keep the friendship, if it’s okay with you?” Laura asked contritely.

“I think I’ll be fine Laura, at least I have the holidays to get over this. Can you promise me one thing though?” Danny bided.

“Anything.” Laura affirmed.

“Please tell me that we can just forget about this and things can get back to normal. I mean, I’m not even sure if I’m you know…maybe it’s just with you. I mean being with you all the time has probably affected my brain.” Danny chuckled uneasily. “I do hope we can pretend that this even happened. I think some space will help me, like setting some boundaries for myself.” Laura noticed the significant change in tone; earlier in the conversation, Danny was a bit nervous, now she was a bit oblique about the entire admission. Danny was trying to control the situation again, trying to remedy her own issues. 

“If that’s what you want, we can pretend this never happened. I can give you the space that you need from me.” Laura promised, Danny gave her a wry smile.

During the holidays, Laura never heard anything from Danny, not even a phone call during Christmas and during the New Year. When they got back to school after vacation, Danny was her usual self. They were back to sharing meals together, hanging out with Kirsch, and even studying together. Then one afternoon, during one of their study sessions, Danny just informed Laura that she was initiated into the Summer Society and she will be living in the sorority house the following school year.

 


Present time…

 

“I’m not even gonna ask what happened.” Carmilla mumbled as she walked beside an anxious Laura.

They were headed to the supermarket to purchase their week’s supply of breakfast cereals and unhealthy snacks. Laura just donned a maroon Silas University sweater, changed into a pair of rugged jeans and sneakers and asked Carmilla to accompany her for a walk after Danny left their room. Carmilla was still in her leather jacket over a gray hoodie, her distressed black jeans, hi-tops and she had a black baseball cap on. Carmilla just brought the coffee and creampuffs with her when they left the room. They sat at one of the quadrangle benches for a while, consuming their pastry and coffee. Laura was silent at first, she was in deep thought, Carmilla perceived that whatever Danny told her might had been something concerning for her to act this way. Carmilla just sat there, patiently waiting for Laura to speak her mind. Sometimes when we are frustrated, we just need to sit for a while and let the ugly feelings settle down, Carmilla knew that much. On the other hand, Laura was grateful that Carmilla did not pry further. Sometimes you just need someone to sit there with you; just their mere presence can be comforting. Finally, Laura has calmed down and the next thing she thought of was to continue with their mundane Sunday, which includes accomplishing errands. First on their list was accomplishing their grocery shopping. 

“Here you go.” Carmilla handed Laura a packet of strawberry flavored hard candy.

“Huh? What is this for?” Laura furrowed her brows, she checked her breath for halitosis, and maybe this was Carmilla’s way of telling her indirectly. But she did brush her teeth right after Danny barged into their dorm room that morning. 

“I’ve read from Reader’s Digest that if you chew on a gum or eat a hard candy before you go shopping, you will be better at decision making.” Carmilla explained casually.

“Really? I think I could test that theory with all the hard decisions that I need to make this year.” Laura chuckled. 

”It has something to do with sugar intake and hormones I suppose. It’s suggested for impulsive shoppers, though you don’t identify as one but just a thought before you buy tubs of ice cream or over stock our cupboard with chocolate chip cookies.” Carmilla smiled before popping a piece of candy into her mouth.

At this point, Laura started to notice that Carmilla does typically carry a packet of hard candy or mints wherever she goes. She may not be much of a cookie monster like Laura but she definitely has her own way of managing with a dose of sugar.

“I thought this was your way of telling me that I had bad breath.” Laura joked as she took a piece of candy from Carmilla.

“I wouldn’t be this close if you had halitosis.” Carmilla instantly jerked her head forward towards Laura’s, their noses just an inch apart. “Plus, if you did have the case of bad breath, I would tell you, being a great friend and all.” Carmilla winked.

At present, Laura felt a little lighter, given Carmilla’s antics. Carmilla was certainly an introvert and kept to herself most times, but Laura has seen her childlike playfulness and it was indeed charming.

They went from aisle to aisle, filling their shopping cart with essentials such as liquid detergent, toiletries, easy to prepare breakfast food, soy milk, and of course junk food. In the snacks section, Laura was beginning to fill their cart with bags of rice crackers, boxes of cookies and packets of pudding, Carmilla raised her eyebrow at the scene.

“Why do I feel like you’re judging me silently?” Laura remarked when she dropped another box of oatmeal cookies into the cart.

“Oh nothing, I’m just starting to doubt that Reader’s Digest article.” Carmilla mentioned.

“Trust me, the candy worked. I am making a sound decision here. This is less than what I would typically take.” Laura replied wiggling her eyebrows.

Just like that, the rest of the afternoon was brighter. Laura told herself that she would worry about Danny the next day. 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12. The Uncertainty of Signs


signes / signs

 

“Whether he seeks to prove his love, or to discover if the other loves him, the amourous object has no system of sure signs at his disposal.”

Balzac 1. I look for signs, but of what? What is the object of my reading? Is it: am I loved (am I loved no longer, am I still loved?) Is it my future that I am trying to read, deciphering in what is inscribed the announcement of what will happen to me, according to a method which combines paleography and manticism? Isn’t it rather, all things considered, that I remain suspended on this question, whose answer I tirelessly seek in the other’s face: What am I worth?

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


The next weekend…

 

Danny apologized for her actions the next day she saw Laura earlier that week. All Laura could do was to accept her apology and not make such a great fuss about what happened between them. If Danny said to drop it, it was best to drop it; a confrontation was only going to make it worse. Laura was fine with that, but inside her, there was the deep nagging that prompts her to settle things with Danny for the last time. However, knowing Danny, she was most of the time, evasive. Laura told herself that she would let it slide for now, but eventually she would find some resolution to this situation.  

Laura and Carmilla sat at the steps of the dormitory entrance that Saturday morning. It was just 4 o’clock in the morning and the weather had gotten chillier the past few days. They were waiting for J.P. to arrive. After filming at the subway, they were bound to finish all the scenes needed for Perry’s short film. The final scenes included a surrealistic daydream of Laura’s character set in a field of tall grass. Since midterms had just ended, the gang needed some moments to unwind. J.P. volunteered his uncle’s cabin in nearby valley. Just near the hills were grassy plains and a river where people go fishing. It was a two-hour drive off campus and it was a popular camping site among the locals. It was a ‘hitting two birds with one stone’ idea, they get to finish the film and at the same time camp out and unwind for a night.

Carmilla albeit drowsy assisted Laura with their camping equipment and shared food supplies. She eventually sat on one of the steps in her leather jacket with a scarf around her neck, denim pants and hiking boots, a yellow beanie over her head. Laura stood behind her in her mustard colored parka, winter warm tights and combat boots. Perry and LaFontaine were consuming cups of vending machine coffee not far from them. Perry wore a purple quilted jacket over her shirt and jeans, and a pair of uggs. LaFontaine wore a navy fleece jacket, dark jeans and a pair of Doc Martens. Too lethargic to chat, the group waited wordlessly with their bags at their feet.

Eventually, a forest green Toyota Land Cruiser halted before them. “Top of the morning to ya!” J.P. lowered the windows and cheerfully greeted the others from the driver’s seat. He wore his typical t-shirt and overalls ensemble but he had a thick camouflage jacket over it, his hair was messily fixed in a man bun.

“Wow Jeep, I didn’t know you had wheels.” Laf commented cheerfully.

“He always had this car, just too much of a cheapskate to take us anyway.” Carmilla grumbled as she went to retrieve their bags and equipment to place in the cargo box on top of the vehicle.

“Anyway, everything is walking distance; it’s more economical that way.” J.P. winked as he organized the luggage that they handed him at the cargo box.

“Plus, it’s environmentally-friendly to only use a vehicle when in dire need only.” Perry added.

Laura, Carmilla, and Laf exchanged glances, if they knew better; J.P. and Perry were like their pseudo-parents on this trip, planning the logistics and providing the major supplies.

“Hmm, are we missing someone?” Perry noted.

“Oh, here comes Kirsch!” Laf pointed out to the tall figure approaching them but to their surprise, there are actually two figures approaching them. Kirsch wore a light windbreaker, baggy jeans and basketball shoes, with a backpack. Danny followed in her sky blue down jacket, cargo pants and Timberland boots.

“I didn’t know Danny was coming.” Laura mumbled almost inaudibly, among the group only Carmilla was aware of Laura and Danny’s recent debacle and she was not even sure what it was all about.

“Oh, Wilson texted me last night that Xena wanted to join us. We are camping out anyway, we have enough tents, plus, this is not just for work, friends are welcome to join. Is something the matter?” J.P. asked nonchalantly.

“It’s great actually, good for him to remember to ask Danny to join us.” Laura answered, if Carmilla knew any better, this is going to be hell a lot awkward for Laura.

“Hello J.P., Laf, hotties!” Kirsch greeted ecstatically, Danny was trailing behind him with a small grin for a change. “Sorry for being late, I almost overslept; good thing D-bear gave me a wake-up call.”

“Hey” Danny greeted but it was directed towards Laura at first, then she waved at everyone else except for Carmilla.

“Hey” Laura greeted back.

After J.P. with Laf’s help secured the entire luggage at the cargo box. J.P. moved to clear out the seats for everyone else.

“So, I think Perry should take shotgun since she gets nauseous at the backseat. The back bench is available for two more people, hopefully it’s not that cramped.” J.P. instructed.

Carmilla gave J.P. a knowing look, so he continued assigning seats. “Okay since Wilson and Danny have long legs, they can take the middle seats with Laf. You two hobbits can pile yourselves at the back.” J.P. gave Carmilla a wink as he folded one of the middle seats to make way for Laura and Carmilla. She didn’t know if he planned the seating in his head to spite Carmilla or whether he noticed the tension between Laura and Danny. J.P. though typically blasé about many things is the most sensitive person that Carmilla knows; he can read through people and awkward situations.

The two shuffled towards the backbench earning yet another dirty look from Danny. Carmilla was thankful that there was enough room between her and Laura but as they sat down, she noticed that Laura scooted and inch a bit closer towards her. If it’s any comfort, it would be pretty obvious if Danny turned her head to notice what was happening at the back. So, they will a bit tension-free for most of the two hours.

As Kirsch, Laf and Danny settled themselves in this specific order, J.P. turned the radio on and Len’s Steal My Sunshine was playing.

“Woohoo! First road trip!” Kirsch exclaimed and despite all the other nuances, all the others smiled or cheered with him as J.P. drove off into the asphalt driveway.

 


It was barely twenty minutes into the drive and Carmilla noticed that Laura kept on fidgeting in her side of the seat. It was still a bit dark outside; the hi-way lights were still on, illuminating the foggy road ahead. Looking into the other occupants of the vehicle, J.P., Perry and Laf were absorbed in discussing materials about the film and some trivial things that they notice along the way; they were speaking in low voices. The radio was now set to a very low buzzing volume as well. As soon as the car hit the road, Kirsch’s jovial demeanor suddenly died down and he instantly fell asleep. His head was moored on the glass window and his mouth was wide open with a little droll on the side. His head kept on banging lightly on the glass window as the car drove off but he was too out of it to sense anything. Stuck on the other end without anyone else to talk to, Danny affixed her glare towards the seemingly interminable horizon outside her own window. Carmilla tried sleeping, but the restless Laura beside her seem to catch her attention. Laura was now taking out some things from her pink backpack. Eventually, with all the hushed shuffling Laura took out her Discman and earphones from her bag. Laura also took out a CD with a typewritten sheet on its cover; she removed the disc and inserted it into the Discman.

“Would you like to listen too?” Laura lifted the other earbud to Carmilla while inserting the other one into her right ear.

“What do you got there?” Carmilla took the square plastic protective cover from Laura and scanned the list; there was a short list of eight tracks.

 

  1. Crush by Jennifer Paige
  2. Lovefool by The Cardigans
  3. Torn by Natalie Imbruglia
  4. Dreams by The Cranberries
  5. Ready or Not by The Fugees
  6. Killing Me Softly by Lauryn Hill
  7. Waterfalls by TLC
  8. Just a Girl by No Doubt

 

“Hmm, not exactly my jam but it would be nice.” Carmilla took the earbud and placed it in her left ear. She needed to move closer to Laura since the wiring was short; they were shoulder to shoulder at this point.

As Laura pressed play, Jennifer Paige’s voice resonated through the earbuds. Laura blushed a little realizing which song was up first. She was just hoping that Carmilla would not think that it was such a timely song, fit to their situation. She made the mix-CD last year it was unintentional; it was just strangely coincidental.

 

Ah, crush, ah

 

I see ya blowin' me a kiss

It doesn't take a scientist

To understand what's going on, baby

If you see something in my eye

Let's not over analyze

Don't go too deep with it, baby (baby)

 

Carmilla managed a faint smile; her insides were churning at that very moment. Of course, they were not alone but it felt that everything stopped for a split second and all she could feel was Laura beside her and all she could her was her thumping heart.

 

It's just a little crush (crush)

Not like I faint every time we touch

It's just some little thing (crush)

Not like everything I do depends on you

Sha-la-la-la, sha-la-la-la

 

Laura eventually closed her eyes, seeing the words as the song played on. Carmilla laid stiff beside her, her gaze was fixed to the view outside. Getting a bit sleepy, Laura rested her head on the back of the seat but her head bobbed due to the motion of the car.

 

It's raising my adrenaline

You're banging on a heart of tin

Please don't make too much of it, baby (baby)

You say the word "forevermore"

That's not what I'm looking for

All I can commit to is "maybe" (maybe)

 

Carmilla noticed Laura’s head moving up and down, she was a bit charmed by the sight but she recognized her discomfort. She eventually scooted closer, wrapped her left arm over Laura’s shoulder and dipped her head on the side to rest on top of her shoulder. Laura opened her eyes partly, looked at Carmilla and beamed at her. Eventually, she relaxed into her; they spent most of the trip in that position, without much suspicion from the other occupants of the vehicle.

 

It's just a little crush (crush)

Not like I faint every time we touch

It's just some little thing (crush)

Not like everything I do depends on you

Sha-la-la-la, sha-la-la-la

 

Carmilla stayed there, unmoving under Laura’s weight. She knew that she would be having muscle cramps in this position but it didn’t matter, Laura was there beside her. This was a good metaphor, Carmilla told herself. Just to lay there unmoving as she latches on you, even if you are certain that you might get hurt. You pucker up the strength to carry her weight, because for now she is peaceful, beside you, she is still. Is it a metaphor for love? Shit!

 


“We’re here, sunshine.” Carmilla whispered to Laura’s ear in her low sultry voice.

Laura suddenly realized that she has not shifted from her seat the entire two hours. She was hustled to Carmilla’s side all throughout the ride; her arm was draped across Carmilla’s stomach and her head was nuzzled to her shoulder just right above her left breast. The earbuds were long removed from their ears, the Discman lay flat in between them and the cord was winded accordingly.

“I didn’t know you weighed this much, I think I can’t feel my ribs anymore.” Carmilla teased.

“You could have just woke me up and pushed me away.” Laura replied in banter as she eventually lifted herself away from Carmilla.

“I did not have much strength to move, really, I could not feel my muscles.” Carmilla joked but as Laura moved away, she suddenly missed the warmth of the blonde’s body against her.

The vehicle entered a rough undulating road, the tires crunched against the gravel. The sun had already risen, towards the distance was a lake glistening as the sunlight reflected on its surface. The tall slender trees that surrounded hill had already lost their leaves. As the car was brought to a halt, they slowly filed out of the vehicle one by one.

“Welcome friends!” J.P. shut the engine and hopped out of the vehicle to open the doors for the others.

“Let’s have a quick breakfast and then make sure that we finish the shoot while the sun is still up!” Perry exclaimed as she exited the passenger’s seat.

Danny hopped off the vehicle without a word; she went to stretch her long legs.

“Wow! Really nice place, Jeep!” Laf bellowed as they fixed their gaze towards the canopy of branches above them.

Kirsch rubbed his groggy eyes and proceeded to catch the bags and equipment that J.P. tossed towards him from the cargo box.

“This is a great change of scenery.” Laura puffed some fresh air. “So, you guys had been here before?” She addressed the question towards Carmilla who passed by her carrying some camera equipment towards the cabin.

“J.P. had brought us here once, just the three of us, we just hanged out one weekend.” Carmilla slurred as she walked to the small veranda of the log cabin.

The cabin though well-furnished was quite small for the group; hence, J.P. suggested that some of them can camp out in the clearing by the lake. It was a custom built log cabin with a small wood burning fireplace, a great room that had a table for six, a full-size futon and a sleeper sofa. There was a small bathroom and the porch that overlooked the lake had a two-seater swing. There was a picnic table and a charcoal grill, plus a fire pit next to the lake. The lake was amenable for activities such as swimming, boating and fishing given that it had a private dock. The meadows were just a ten-minute hike away from the cabin.

Perry was dragging a cooler, which contained some burger patties, steaks and some marinated chicken for their evening barbecue. She had also prepared sandwiches for their brunch before they headed out for their shoot. She proceeded to the picnic table as if she owned the place, carefully setting it for brunch.

The group just tossed most of their luggage and equipment inside the cabin first. They all headed towards the picnic table for their brunch. After the sumptuous meal that Perry had prepared, including the coffee that J.P. has brought with him in a thermos, the group was ready to discuss their schedule of activities.

“Alright, so maybe we can freshen up a bit and we’ll head on for a short hike towards the fields. Laura and Carmilla can just change into their costumes behind the tall grass, if you guys don’t mind.” Perry instructed.

“Costumes?” Carmilla raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t worry about it Carm, it’s all pretty decent.” Laf smiled. “But it’s a fantasy sequence after all.” They added. Laura kept mum, finishing her coffee.

 


“Well, don’t you look like a virgin sacrifice?” Carmilla smirked at Laura as she approached her. Laura’s hair was fixed into a braid that hung over her shoulder. She donned a dress with lace atop a nude lining. It had a rounded neckline, and fluttering, sheer short sleeves. The bodice was fitted and waist sit above a slightly flaring sheath skirt.

“I could say the same for you.” Laura gave Carmilla a once over, she was wearing a floral crochet black lace dress with black lining. The delicate skirt was just right above her shin and it was fitted to the waist. She wore a straw panama hat above her head. They looked like exact opposites, dressed in black and white, the yin and the yang.

The weather was windy and the air was definitely chilly. For this dream sequence, they would pretend that they were frolicking amidst the tall grass. Then Perry would take medium shots of them running around, colliding, embracing and piggyback riding. Then a close up or intimate shot of them laying down on the field. Eventually, Laura will move in for a kiss but before their lips could even touch, she would wake up from her haze. Kirsch and Laf were helping with production including costumes and they had involved Danny with the props too. The tall redhead would simply frown at the sight before her but she remained silent. J.P. was assisting Perry with all the camera work.

“It’s a bit chilly, so we gotta make sure that we do this fast.” Carmilla whispered to Laura’s ear.

“Yeah, I second that.” Laura agreed.

They spent almost an hour taking tender scenes of the dream sequence. The sudden closeness, the cuddling, the teasing glances seemed second nature to Carmilla. Laura was actually surprised of how her reserved roommate was able to pull off such intimate gestures. Sure, she was aware of Carmilla’s intense stares but all the physical interactions seemed natural to her. When they filmed at the subway, mostly were scenes about Kirsch and Carmilla talking as Sam and Alex. Laura’s scenes usually involved contemplation and awkward glances directed at the duo. This was the closest that they got with each other during the span of taping.

“Alright, this time can you two lie down on the blanket?” Perry directed towards the cream-colored twill blanket that Laf had laid out on the field.

Laura and Carmilla obliged Perry’s request, it was definitely getting colder as they approached the midafternoon.

“Now, lie side by side with your heads opposite each other.” The two followed Perry’s instructions. As Laura positioned herself, all she could she was the tips of the stalks of the tall dry grass that swayed in the chilly wind. Carmilla shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun.

“Now, Laura face Carmilla slowly and try to get rid of your puckered brow Carm.” They could hear Perry’s voice.

“But the sun is hitting my eyes. You know I don’t have resistance with glare.” Carmilla protested.

“Then close your eyes get rid of your furrowed brows. Then just open your eyes slowly once you are facing Laura. Then stare at each for a few seconds, then lean closer, your noses should touch but not too close, okay? Just retain the tension.” Perry directed the duo.

“Got it!” Laura replied. Carmilla already had her eyes closed.

“Scene 5, Take 1, Action!” They heard Laf’s voice with the clapper.

As soon as the scene had started, Carmilla shifted to face Laura, she could feel her breath in her face. As Carmilla opened her eyes slowly, she could see that Laura’s hazel brown eyes are fixed on her. The expression was intense, she felt like Laura was looking right through her. Carmilla parted her lips to some extent to release the breath that she had been holding. Laura stared at her lips and then back to her eyes, Laura had inched closer, the tip of their noses touched. A little nudge was all it would take before Carmilla’s lips would touch Laura’s. Spontaneously, Carmilla licked her bottom lip lightly; Laura did not break the established eye contact. Then, Laura curtly closed her eyes and moved closer towards Carmilla, only a breath was between their lips…

“Cut! Great take!” Perry yelled from afar. And just like that, the duo sprang apart.

Danny saw the entire scenario, she had a glower plastered on her face but no one really knew what she was thinking of.


 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 13. The Uncertainty of Signs II


The group were already preparing for their evening barbecue. With all the filming of scenes being done and over with, Perry’s next problem was for the animation, voice-overs, and the editing but they could worry about that in some other time. Now, the gang is pumped for the evening and an entire day just relaxing and frolicking by the lake.

J.P., Kirsch, Laf, and Carmilla busied themselves with the two dome tents that J.P. had brought with him. Since Perry had a back problem, she would be sharing the futon inside the cabin with Laf. For some reason, Danny volunteered to take the sofa. Therefore, J.P. and Kirsch would be sharing a tent and that left the roommates, Laura and Carmilla to share another tent. They remained unmindful about it at first, but Carmilla was definitely looking forward to the evening festivities.

“Okay, you just have to keep the metal bendy poles linked.” Laf coached a confused Kirsch as they held on to the rigid poles and Kirsch got to work with the bendy poles and the pegs.

Not too far from the duo, Carmilla and J.P. were setting up the other tent like clockwork. They did not speak much but they had an unspoken communication that resulted to smooth tactics that made their task seem easier. It felt like they had been doing this for years.

“So, I noticed that you had been cozier with Cupcake.” J.P. whispered under his breath and he stooped down to affix a peg.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Carmilla replied disinterestedly as she held on to the poles.

“I saw you comfy at the backseat. That’s what the rearview mirror is for.” J.P. winked as he got up to fasten the rope that was tied to the ground and the pole.

“Pfffft! You stuffed us back there, of course it was cozy.” Carmilla tried to deflect.

“Whatever you say, Kitty. But this has become a great weekend, right? Except for Xena tagging along, she just carries that pensive stare with her and here I am thinking that you were the broody one.” J.P. joked as he unfolded the cotton-canvas tent fabric.

“I’m actually surprised that she’s here, I think she’s making up for something.” Carmilla deduced.

“What do you mean?” J.P. wondered.

“Just last weekend, I think they had some sort of fight. I’m not really sure; I didn’t ask Laura about it.” Carmilla shared.

“Hmm, really? Well, next time you should ask about it, especially if the odds are in your favor.” J.P. sniggered.

“I’m not a creep like you!” Carmilla teased back.

At the other side of the clearing, Perry was setting up the charcoal grill. Laura and Danny were seated at the picnic table preparing the meat for the barbecue.

“Ow, we forgot about the firewood for the bonfire! We should gather some firewood before the sun sets.” Perry exclaimed in subdued panic.

“I’ll go get the firewood, Perr!” Laura got up and volunteered, heading back to the cabin to fetch the small firewood hauler and axe.

“I’ll go with you!” Danny jolted up, Laura tried not to object.

“Don’t stray too far away there’s plenty of firewood right around that grove!” Perry pointed out at the nearby group of trees.

 


Away from the group, Laura and Danny had been quietly picking up dried branches and carrying it back to the firewood hauler.

“I get it.” Danny finally broke the silence as she stooped down to gather more dry wood.

“What do you mean?” Laura asked inoffensively.

“I saw the way you looked at her today.” Danny pronounced.

Laura just furrowed her brows and waited for Danny to expound some more.

“The way you looked at her today. In the span of time that I’ve known you, I never saw you look at anyone else in that manner.” Danny clarified, now standing tall to have more eye contact with Laura.

“We were acting, Danny.” Laura tried to refract.

“I’m not just talking about the scene we shot today. I noticed how you looked at her this morning, then at the car, then just moments ago when she was setting up the tent with J.P.” Danny exemplified. “I know that look because I have been looking at you in that way for the longest time. You should have seen the way she looks at you too.”

At this point, Laura was speechless. How many times does Danny need to confess? How many times has she broken her heart in the process?

“Don’t worry, Laura, it just took me some time to see it for myself and to accept it. I can’t change how you feel about her, about me, but one thing that I can change is how I feel about this.” Danny hugged herself; Laura could see that Danny was trying her best not to break down in front of her.

“Danny…” Laura moved to hold Danny but she hesitated for a while.

“Wait; just hear me out first, okay? I might not be able to get this out of my chest.” Danny motioned for her to remain at her place. “I was just so confused; Laura and you were the object of all that confusion. I’m so sorry if I had been directing my frustration at you all this time. It’s just that your mere presence reminds me so much of the person that I want to be, but can’t. Then finally, I was able to reconcile all my feelings but I couldn’t act on it, not with you. I was just so mad at that point. But I’m here now and I am trying and I don’t care what my father will think about me, anymore. I had been holding back for so long that this pent up emotional state had just gotten destructive. I think…no…I don’t think…I recognize myself as a lesbian, Laura...gosh, there, I’ve already said it.” At this instant, Danny’s tears started to trickle down.

Laura launched herself towards Danny and enveloped her in a tight hug. If there was one thing that her vulnerable friend needed at that moment, it was comfort and security.

“You don’t need to apologize for anything.” Laura whispered.

“Still, I’m so so sorry for messing things up, for saying hurtful words. For being mean to Carmilla and all your new friends.” Danny blurted out.

“I bet Carm understands; she’s one of the most understanding people I know. Plus, they are not just my friends or Kirsch’s, but they can be yours too, you know.” Laura continued to comfort Danny.

“I know; I just got so caught up with my own issues. That’s why I came here, I just wanted to clear things up with you. Sorry, it took me this long.” Danny mumbled on Laura’s shoulder.

“So, what do we do now?” Laura broke the hug to wipe a tear from Danny’s cheek.

“Like we had always been, good friends. I have your back Laura and if anything, I think you should do something about Carmilla soon. You should see the tension around you two; it’s palpable even for people who are not involved.” Danny smirked.

“Will you be okay with it?” Laura asked tentatively.

“Like I told you, I need to focus on myself now. I certainly have so many things to discover and to understand. Don’t be so self-assured Hollis, I’m over you remember?” Danny joked, she was chuckling now and was crouched to the ground. “But if Carmilla tries to hurt you or anything, just come to me and I’ll definitely give her a piece of my mind.”

“Oh, shut up!” Laura smacked Danny’s arm, bending down opposite her. “I’m just so happy and proud of you, Lawrence.” Laura beamed and enveloped Danny into another tight hug and kissed her forehead.

The sun was about to set and Perry has sent Carmilla to check on Danny and Laura. Unbeknownst to the duo, Carmilla was standing there behind the row of trees a few meters away out of earshot, witnessing the scene before her, reading the entire sight differently.

 


The group were gathered around the bonfire that evening. Perry took charge of the barbecue and J.P. took out some beers and a bottle of scotch that his uncle had lying around in the cabin. The group talked about many things, some of them were a bit inebriated already. They talked about classes, professors, and embarrassing childhood stories. After her talk with Laura at the woods, Danny was more comfortable with the group now, sharing stories and laughing at jokes. However, Carmilla was suddenly tightlipped again; her cheerful demeanor earlier seemed to have slipped as she took rounds of the scotch, drinking it straight.

“Hey, look what I found!” J.P. carried a timeworn acoustic guitar from the cabin.

He rejoined the group around the bonfire; he sat on a folding camping chair. Perry and Carmilla each sat on shabby Adirondack chairs; Carmilla lounged with a glass of whiskey on top of her stomach, her leg dangled on the arm of the chair. Laura sat opposite Carmilla in another folding chair, she had been gaping at her the entire evening, and she noticed Carmilla’s sudden caginess. Kirsch, Laf and Danny turned a piece of log into a bench. Kirsch and Danny sat on the opposite ends of the log, Laf was at the middle, seated on the ground with a blanket beneath them, and their back was against the log.

“Does it still work?” Perry inquired.

“Give me a minute.” J.P. adjusted the strings of the guitar by strumming as he turned some of the pegs. It took him several minutes to fix it and eventually he was playing it to a proper tune.

“Play something.” Laf urged. The fire crackled and everyone focused their attention towards J.P.

“Okay, but may I warn you, I haven’t played anything in a long time.” J.P. began to strum the guitar without a pick. Then he started with the intro of Good Riddance by Greenday.

With his baritone voice, he began singing…

 

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road

Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go

So make the best of this test and don't ask why

It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

 

He directed his glance towards Carmilla; she straightened up from her reclined position and held the glass of whiskey with both her hands. She slouched on her seat and smiled meekly at J.P.

 

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right

I hope you had the time of your life

 

J.P. closed his eyes to savor the words further. Carmilla continued to beam at him.

 

So take the photographs and still frames in your mind

Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time

Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial

For what it's worth it was worth all the while

 

J.P. suddenly opened his eyes and looked at Perry. He gave her a charming wink, she grinned back at him. If the flame from the bonfire were not bright enough, one could she Perry’s cheeks wash into a faint blush.

 

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right

I hope you had the time of your life

 

Then he smirked towards the direction of the three others before directing his glance at Laura. Laura’s furrowed brows morphed into a grin. As J.P. continued singing, Laura stared at Carmilla who was intently listening to J.P. with her eyes closed.

 

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right

I hope you had the time of your life

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right

I hope you had the time of your life

 

J.P. ended the song with a self-satisfied grin as he eventually wiggled his eyebrows at Perry’s direction. Laf, Kirsch and Danny cheered at the performance. Laura felt the warmth that her friends emitted, Carmilla stayed mum in her own corner still deep in thought.

“Another one! Sing another song!” Kirsch insisted.

“Yeah! What else do you have there? I didn’t know you were musically inclined too.” Laf commended.

“Don’t boost his ego. It’s as good as it gets.” Perry messed around.

“Okay, okay, another song but maybe Carm can help me with this one.” J.P. pressed the previously still Carmilla.

J.P. and Carmilla gave each other endearing looks and J.P. began to strum his guitar again to the intro of Creep by Radiohead

 

With a low husky voice, he started singing…

 

(J.P.)

When you were here before

Couldn't look you in the eye

You're just like an angel

Your skin makes me cry

 

Then he continued as he affixed his eyes onto Perry. Perry held his gaze with an engaging smile; her eyes sparkled from the embers of the flame.

 

You float like a feather

In a beautiful world

And I wish I was special

You're so fuckin' special

 

J.P. looked at Carmilla’s direction, he gave her a nod, he was signaling her to prepare now. She seated a little bit more upright, still holding on to her drink.

 

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo.

What the hell am I doing here?

I don't belong here.

 

J.P. continued to play the guitar, Carmilla primed herself for the next verse. With a rather breathy voice, she began with the words…

 

(Carmilla)

I don't care if it hurts

I want to have control

I want a perfect body

I want a perfect soul

 

The others smiled at themselves, impressed at Carmilla’s sudden show of flair for singing. The only person who did not look so shocked was Perry, she already knew Carmilla’s propensity. Carmilla continued singing with her grating tone, initially; she was just looking at J.P., communicating with him. Then, she shut her eyes and just sang the song from her heart. Laura was mesmerized at the sight; she had never heard Carmilla sing this way.

 

I want you to notice

When I'm not around

You're so fuckin' special

I wish I was special

 

Then as Carmilla opened her eyes, she stared at Laura. Her gloomy brown eyes became darker than ever, her glare bored holes right through her. Then she proceeded with a darker timbre.

 

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo.

What the hell am I doing here?

I don't belong here.

 

Then Carmilla sealed her eyes once more, trying to focus on the tune. Her raspy voice now was now sent on a higher octave, she sang the lines rather eerily. Laura could feel the sting in her voice. Have you ever experienced that? Someone delivers a song with such puncture that you can feel the words eating you up inside.

 

She's running out again,

She's running out

She's run run run run

 

Then as Carmilla settles back into the slow strumming of the guitar, J.P. joins her in singing the next lines. Laura was nothing but enchanted at this point.

 

(J.P. and Carmilla)

Whatever makes you happy

Whatever you want

You're so fuckin' special

I wish I was special

 

Laura has sensed that this song must have meant something to J.P. and Carmilla, they were singing with such deep connection.

 

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo,

What the hell am I doing here?

I don't belong here.

I don't belong here.

 

As the duo ended the song in a slow raspy tone, they shared a tender look and eventually beamed at each other.

Kirsch clapped enthusiastically play-acting a standing ovation. Danny wolf whistled and Laf joined them as they cheered. Perry stood up from her seat and enveloped Carmilla in a tight hug, and then she went to J.P.’s side and gave him a tender hug as well. Carmilla and Laura exchanged meaningful glances but they did not move from their positions. Carmilla took a gulp of her drink and Laura emptied the bottle of beer in her hand; the song seemed to channel many unspoken words.

 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 14. The Uncertainty of Signs III


After all the nostalgic, both somber and jovial singing, the group had retreated to their sleeping areas. Perry had already assisted the plastered Laf back to the cabin. Danny joined them right after, reclining on the sofa as she talked to Perry until she fell asleep. Danny had been cheerier and more open the entire evening. The cinder of the bonfire had gotten low; but the warmth was still existent. Only J.P., Laura and Carmilla were left around the bonfire, Kirsch was snoring softly on the Adirondack chair; Laura shrouded him with a thick blanket.

J.P. tipped the bottle of scotch towards his glass and then to Carmilla’s glass for the remainder of the drink. Laura was nursing an empty bottle of beer, she was quite tipsy at this point, and she did not bother to get up to get another drink. J.P. was nuzzled on the other Adirondack, Carmilla and Laura seated on the folding chairs, who unbeknownst to each other seemed to have scooted closer as the evening drifted off. The conversation was a little bit humdrum at this point.

“You talkin’ to me?” In his inebriated state, J.P. was making his best impression of Robert De Niro.

Taxi Driver!” Laura jolted from her seat; the trio were playing a game now. There was no point system, they were drunk enough to do math. One of them would just blurt out a line from a movie and then the others would guess.

“I’m having an old friend for dinner.” In her croaky voice, Laura made a good impression of Hannibal Lecter.

Silence of the Lambs, too easy Hollis.” Carmilla mumbled. At this point, Laura and Carmilla were already in friendlier terms. Though Laura did not pry what caused Carmilla’s unexpected moodiness earlier.  

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Carmilla said in her best Vivian Leigh enunciation.

“Gaaah, I think I know that one.” Laura was deep in thought.

A Streetcar Named Desire.” J.P. muttered casually. Carmilla affirmed his answer with a high-five.

“Oh here’s a good one.” J.P. gulped to prepare. “You can’t handle the truth!” He exclaimed.

“Uhm, Jack Nicholson...A Few Good Men!” Carmilla immediately answered.

“I think I’ll go get another beer. Can I get you guys anything?” Laura finally decided as she stood up from her seat.

“I’ll have what she’s having.” J.P. answered. Laura just raised her eyebrow in confusion.

When Harry Met Sally, he’s still playing. Don’t mind him.” Carmilla clarified. 

“I’m good, thanks.” J.P. answered, Carmilla just nodded. Laura just shrugged and headed towards the cooler.

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the worlds, she walks into mine.” Carmilla uttered as soon as Laura was of earshot.

Casablanca, of course.” J.P. answered as he took his last shot of scotch. “But this time, I guess you’re referring to a Laura Hollis. So, what’s the deal? Why had you become so sullen and obscure all night?” Carmilla just nodded again.

“If you’re wondering when you should make your move, Karnstein. I think tonight is the night, the stars are out, well, almost all of your friends are out of it. You guys are sharing a tent; it’s a romantic evening if you ask me.” J.P. slurred.

“I don’t think she feels the same way.” Carmilla mumbled.

“What makes you say that? My rearview mirror does not lie.” J.P. teased.

“Well, just that I saw her with Lawrence this afternoon when they were gathering firewood and it looked…different.” Carmilla pouted.

“Tsk, Xena doesn’t stand a chance. Plus, she’s all snuggled up inside the cabin, she’s losing game. Whatever you think you saw, my best guess is that they have finally cleared the air out between them and it’s nothing strangely romantic. Have you seen her the entire evening? She had heart eyes on. I did not bust my ass to orchestrate that musical to make you look good, so you could just sulk here with me and my wretched soul.” J.P. lamented.

“Maybe you’re right.” Carmilla huffed and gulped her drink.

“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!” J.P. exclaimed.

“Is he still playing?” Laura asked as soon as she returned to the duo.

All About Eve. Yup, we’re still playing.” Carmilla played along.

As soon as Laura sat on her chair, J.P. stood up and took his and Carmilla’s empty glasses in one hand, the other hand holding the empty bottle of scotch.

“Are you hitting the sack, already? I just got back.” Laura took a swig of her beer.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.” J.P. blurted out another Casablanca line. He started to walk back towards the cabin.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” Carmilla responded to J.P. with a line from Gone With The Wind.

The duo chuckled at their inside joke. 

As J.P. disappeared into the cabin, Laura and Carmilla exchanged affectionate looks.

“Uhm, would you like to view the stars from the dock?” Carmilla offered.

 


 

“Timon, ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?”

“Pumbaa, I don't wonder; I know.”

“Oh. What are they?”

“They're fireflies. Fireflies that, uh... got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing.”

“Oh, gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.”

“Pumbaa, with you, everything's gas.”

 

The duo erupted into laughter, they were roleplaying their favorite scene from The Lion King. Laura was Timon and Carmilla was Pumba; they took the blanket that Laf left and spread it at the edge of the dock. They were looking at the stars, the sky was clearer in the countryside; they never had this view in the city.

“Hey, Carm…” Laura suddenly uttered, she had both her arms under her head as she looked up the sky. She was lying down on the blanket beside Carmilla.

“Yeah?” Carmilla answered meekly, she was on her back, her head relaxed on one arm and her other arm rested on her stomach.

“You have a nice voice, has anyone ever told you that?” Laura mumbled bashfully.

“Well, only a few people who had the chance of hearing it, cupcake.” Carmilla kidded.

“No, seriously, you should sing more.” Laura mumbled. “So what are your other talents that you’ve been hiding from me?”

“I guess, that’s all there is.” Carmilla answered casually. “But maybe if you include falling for a person who doesn’t feel the same way, then I might have one more.” Carmilla spoke with a sudden spark of boldness.

“Does it happen all the time?” Laura probed.

“Well, probably a few times and more.” Carmilla decided to be ambiguous.

“Has it happened recently?” Laura pried further. Carmilla recognized which direction Laura’s queries were headed. Well, like what J.P. said, she should stop sulking and just talk to Laura.

“Well, this girl I’m into, I just think she’s into someone else.” Carmilla replied coyly.

“Hmm, did you ask her? I mean have you confirmed it?” Laura had an affected tone.

“Well, I’m talking to her now, aren’t I?” Carmilla blurted out.

Suddenly, there was a pregnant pause between them. Carmilla kept still, she was just preparing herself for the tsunami of emotions that might hit her since she had already put it out there. The ball was on Laura’s court now.

“Well, maybe you’re not as talented as you think you are.” Laura moved to face Carmilla; her hazel brown eyes sparkled under the moonlight.

“I always end up broken you know but I always seem to manage to gather the pieces back together. I’m ready for anything.” Carmilla mumbled as she reached out to swipe away a stray lock of hair off Laura’s face.

“I guess we can change that.” Then without any warning, Laura just removed the distance between their bodies, eased into Carmilla’s space and held her chin as she inched closer, their lips almost touching.

Carmilla was winded; she was absorbed into Laura’s glare. As soon as she closed her eyes, she could feel Laura’s breath against hers. The kiss was tentative, it was unnerving, Laura gave her a peck and she kissed back searching for the lips that tasted like the bitterness of beer and the sweetness of strawberry lip balm. She could feel Laura moving on top of her to deepen the kiss. They struggled against each other, pecking and nipping to tease each other’s lips. Then slowly and gently, Laura pressed her tongue against Carmilla’s lips. Carmilla melted into the kiss. The tactile sensation has brought Carmilla into a trance, she could feel everything; she felt Laura’s tongue making slow circling motions against hers, she could hear her subtle gasping, and she could sense the earth and the lake around them.

Eventually, they broke apart, hazel eyes affixed to dark brown orbs. Laura was on top of Carmilla, her arms lifting her weight, both palms fixed to the ground flanking Carmilla’s head. Carmilla just looked up at her; Carmilla’s hands were attached to Laura’s waist.

“Does that answer your question?” Laura mumbled.

“Definitely.” Carmilla responded giving Laura a smack on the lips.

“That does make me feel better.” Laura huffed as she removed herself from Carmilla. Both of them now seated in front of each other with their legs crossed.

“That’s a new reaction.” Carmilla chuckled.

“What do you mean by that? How many people have you actually kissed?” Laura huffed.

“I don’t kiss and tell.” Carmilla slurred. “So you think nobody ever kissed me to make themselves feel better?” Carmilla joked.

“Shut up and kiss me!” Laura pulled at the collar of Carmilla’s jacket and enclosed her into another lip lock.

“Will you remember this in the morning?” Carmilla asked skeptically in between kisses.

“I’m not even drunk to begin with.” Laura snorted as she moved in for another peck.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15. The Truth about Cats and Dogs


Truth

 

vérité / truth

 

Every episode of language refers to the “sensation of truth” the amorous subject experiences in thinking of his love, either because he believes he is the only one to see the loved object “in its truth,” or because he defines the specialty of his own requirement as a truth, concerning which he cannot yield.

(Love is blind: the proverb is false. Love opens his eyes wide, love produces clear-sightedness: “I have, about you, of you, absolute knowledge.” Report of the clerk to the master: You have every mastery of me, but have every knowledge of you.)

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


The following dawn…

 

Lola Perry characteristically wakes up at exactly 5:30am each day. There were days when she had to be early, but no matter what the circumstance, she was out of bed like clockwork. The chilly draft had remained inside the cabin; she added more blankets to LaFontaine’s sleeping form beside her. They had been stuck in a fetal position all night, trying to stay warm. Likewise, she added another blanket on Danny’s sleeping form in the sofa. The blanket was undersized though, Danny’s socked feet were still exposed as they dangled over the sofa’s arms. Perry got up from the futon and rummaged through her bag to get another layer of clothing. She had slept in her jeans the previous night; it was out of character for her but the felt a bit too lethargic to move after the night that they had. She slipped into a cattleman jacket over her quilted jacket; she had felt frosty as the cool wind seeped into the cabin.

She wondered if her friends who camped outside were having a difficult time, she should bring them more blankets. As she peeked into the window that faced the clearing, she noticed that the tents were still closed and there were no signs of movement. Instead, there was this lone figure out in the docks, rigging the small rowboat that was anchored there. Based on the build, it was probably J.P., he still had his camouflage jacket on but he had his gray beanie over his head and he was wearing a pair of rubber boots. The sky was still painted a cloudy blue and streaks of orange; the lake was still covered with a slim slither of fog on its surface. Perry realized that J.P. might had also been checking on the others outside, so there was probably nothing to worry of. Instead, she headed to the compact kitchen to prepare some coffee; as she took out the kettle, she noticed that there was a neon post-it note attached to it.

In haphazard scribbly handwriting, she read…

“Love is blind, friendship closes its eyes” (Though people attribute this to Nietzsche, I could not find it in his works. See me by the docks when you wake up)

The note was unsigned but she recognized the handwriting. Therefore, Perry carefully slid into her boots and walked cautiously towards the berth by the lake.

“Good morning, Perr-bear.” J.P. greeted with an enthusiastic smile. “Wanna go fishing with me?” J.P. asked as he loaded a bucket, a tray box that contained hooks, lines, and sinkers, and a smaller bucket that contained chopped up minnow and live worms for bait. The fishing rod was already attached to the boat.

“Are the others still asleep?” Perry asked in a low voice.

“Kirsch is still snoring inside the tent and I believe Cupcake and Kitty Cat have never been cozier.” J.P. joked as he extended his arm to help Perry descend to the boat.

The couple chuckled as J.P. started to row away from the dock. They sat opposite each other in silence, only exchanging knowing glances as they reached the deeper portion of the lake.

“I found your note.” Perry mumbled lifting the neon post-it that she kept in her pocket.

“It’s actually an anonymous proverb. But some readings led to Plato saying ‘The lover is blinded about the beloved, and prefers his own interests to truth and right’ based on a Jowett translation.” J.P. said casually as he attached the bait to the hook of a seven feet rod and as soon as the lure hit the edge of the weedy water, he adjusted the rod and the reel.

“Do you know how to fish?” Perry asked nonchalantly.

“I suppose, I hope I’m still doing it like how my uncle taught me.” J.P. chortled.

“What type of fish will we be able to catch here?” Perry mumbled as she examined the lake.

“I’m not really so sure, maybe carp or catfish, or a largemouth bass if we’re lucky. Would you know how to prepare bass?” J.P. beamed as he held on to the rod with one hand and wiped his other hand on his trousers.

“Hmm, we could just fry it or grill it like most fish, I suppose.” Perry answered dubiously.

“Did you know that some fish can change their sex from male to female in order to survive?” J.P. just declared out of nowhere.

”I’m aware of that, you told me before.” Perry pointed out.

“Yeah, I guess fish have it easy don’t you think? They don’t overthink, they don’t judge, they just do because they need to survive.” J.P. stated rather forlornly. 

“Yeah, they just eat and swim and as you’ve said reproduce, nothing much on their mind.” Perry noted. 

“Have you ever heard of the term pansexual?” J.P. suddenly blurted out of nowhere.

Perry was a bit taken aback with the sudden change of topic. “Hmm, ‘pan’ as in all like ‘omni’, like omnivore?” Perry thought aloud.

“Yeah, as in ‘all’, inclusive.” J.P. muttered.

“What makes it different from bisexual?” Perry asked with furrowed brows.

“Well, I’ve done some research on it and Freud has attested to it. So, bisexuals have attraction to both sexes, male and female or two genders, yeah?” J.P. started to explain.

“Alright, go on.” Perry urged him to continue.

“In contrast, pansexuals may be attracted to any person or any sex or gender. Say, a pansexual person can fall for someone who is cisgender, transgender, androgynous, intersex, or even someone like Laf who is non-binary. In a way, the technical definition states that it’s more inclusive.” J.P. explained. “But of course, I suppose, it does not include bestiality, pedophilia or necrophilia. Well, I hope not, that’s what I have read about it so far.” J.P. instantly added.

Perry just giggled shortly at J.P.’s antics; he always has this knack of making jokes even if he is already dead serious about something.

“Why are you telling me all this things? In such an ungodly hour?” Perry quipped.

“Remember how I keep on telling you that I’m after people’s personalities and not actually what’s in between their legs?” J.P. asked apprehensively. “I think I found my answer. Plus, you need to know everything about me before I tell you anything more.” He added. 

Perry’s blue eyes widened at the realization. “So, you’re telling me that you have figured that you’re pansexual?”

“I guess, I just did, I mean, my mind hasn’t been the clearest since. But it just dawned at me and I suppose I am pansexual. I suppose if some people are capable of loving a girl or a guy, or either one; I'm just capable of loving someone, that's all.” J.P. muttered.

“So, you’re not gay? Like Carmilla and I initially thought?” Perry snorted.

“I guess, I’m not. Well, I had been attracted to a lot of people but this totally makes more sense to me now.” J.P. beamed, seemingly a little more relieved.

“But what does this mean? I am so confused?” Perry raised the post-it note once again.

“It means what it means, Lola, whatever metaphorical or literal meaning it may contain. I have found my truth now, and a feeling that has confused me for such a long time no longer blinds me. When we start speaking about love, we have all these pretenses, all these fears that often lead to suffering and escape. But when we embrace friendship, we only see our vulnerability and the truth that no one else will be there to accept you and catch you like a friend ever will. You were my friend first, you know.” J.P. finally uncovered his feelings.

“With all the bullshit that dribbles out of your mouth all morning, I had never been so muddled.” Perry shakes her head in confusion.

“What I am trying to say is I am open to love anyone and be with anyone no matter the form, feeling, or fancy. However, despite all these options and oddities, I have stumbled upon you Lola Perry. Yes, I am vulnerable to anyone at this point but my feeble heart has chosen to love you and you alone.” J.P. had now let go of the reel, he had edged closer towards Perry to hold her hands in his.

Perry slapped herself lightly on the cheek; J.P. gave her a bewildered look. “I’m just checking if I’m dreaming. You better not joke around Armitage because I will definitely push you at the bottom of this lake if…” Before Perry could say anything more, J.P. had already moved to capture her lips with his.

The kiss was light, it was nothing more but a sweet peck, but it had caught Perry dumbfounded. “Oh, you really are serious.”

“Never been more serious about anything else.” J.P. brushed his cold lips to Perry’s once more. “I love you, Lola.”

“I felt that for quite a while but maybe I’m just dying to hear it for the longest time.” Perry suddenly hobbled to envelop J.P. into a tight bone-crushing hug. “I love you, too!”

Suddenly the rowboat started to wobble, J.P. held on thinking it was due to Perry’s sudden movement. But as they steadied themselves, the reel started to move and J.P. just caught it in time.

“I think I caught one!” J.P. exclaimed, slowly reeling in the catch, following the direction of the fish as he carefully reeled in the catch.

After a few moments of tackling and winding, J.P. raised the line and on the other end was a medium sized channel catfish.

“Not bad for your first catch.” Perry exclaimed.

“Who says it’s my first catch for the day?” J.P. winked back at her, Perry cracked up at the joke.


Carmilla’s eyes fluttered as the sunlight penetrated through the canvas of the dome tent. The first thing that she noticed was that she could not move. She had changed into her fleece hoodie sometime in the night, she could feel her arms but her lower extremities were wrapped in a sleeping bag. Enfolded against her body in a double-sized sleeping bag was the delicate form of Laura Hollis. She noticed that Laura has also changed into a thermal fleece pullover of her own. Laura had draped her arm across Carmilla and her head was snuggled below her armpit. Sometime throughout the night, Laura had shifted closer to Carmilla to gather much warmth. Carmilla inhaled the familiar green tea perfume that Laura wore; the scent has become extremely wistful for her now, causing her gut to churn. Laura mumbled something in her sleep, something that Carmilla could not discern. If she tries to recall the evening that had passed, it only brings butterflies to her stomach.

In her attempt to break away from her dazed stupor, she realized that there was already some movement outside the tent.

“Hey, sunshine, time to get up now.” Carmilla whispered as she slowly played with Laura’s hair.

Laura continued to gabble something as she released Carmilla from her grip. With closed eyes, she turned to the other side, grappling at the corners of the tent trying to find the pair of glasses that she had stowed away the previous night.

“I think the cavalry is up now.” Carmilla stretched her arms above her head as she jolted her upper torso upright.

“Gah, I feel like a truck hit my head.” Laura muttered as she adjusted her glasses on the bridge of her nose. She kicked herself off the sleeping bag and tied her hair into a messy ponytail as she got up.

“Hey, hey, slow down.” Carmilla tapped Laura’s shoulder as she removed herself from the sleeping bag. “I thought you said you weren’t drunk last night?”

“If you’re asking if I remember anything, I think I do remember everything despite this headache.” Laura beamed at Carmilla, suddenly straddling her seated form.

Carmilla moved in for a kiss but Laura suddenly stopped her with her forefinger to her lips. “I haven’t brushed my teeth yet, my mouth feels like a septic tank.” Instead, she kissed her on the forehead.

“Well, thank you for being considerate.” Carmilla motioned Laura to get up. “Let’s check what Perry has prepared for breakfast, let’s get some water and grease in your system.”

As the couple exited the tent holding hands, a grinning Laf greeted them. “Well, I think I really did miss a lot last night!”

“Oh, you mean this?” Laura lifted their intertwined fingers towards Laf’s range of sight.

“What the heck!” Laf covered her mouth in eagerness. “Congratulations, Hollis.”

“Why are you just congratulating her?” Carmilla asked in confusion.

“It’s because Hollis looks more like a reacher and you a settler.” LaFontaine joked, Carmilla laughed at the idea.

“You know, for a very open-minded, queer person, you can be such a bully at times.” Laura snapped.

“What? Look at Carm, look at you!” Laf continued to put-on.

“Seriously? You’re impossible.” Laura rolled her eyes.

“She has a point, little nerd hottie; Carm-sexy really does look like a settler.” A rather drowsy Kirsch butted in, a blanket over his shoulder.

“But then maybe you can remove your glasses for that ‘She’s All That’ effect.” To Laura’s surprise, Danny joined in, confiscating her glasses. “There, Freddie Prinze, Jr. might actually look twice!”

“That would be nice, if I could actually see where I’m walking.” Laura grabbed her glasses back from Danny.

“It’s okay, cupcake, I actually feel like a reacher my whole life, and maybe we both are.” Carmilla whispered to Laura’s ear. Laura smiled at Carmilla’s attempt to comfort her, though she did not take Laf’s antics seriously to begin with.

As Laf continued to probe Laura and Carmilla about the happenings the previous night, Kirsch suddenly noticed something from afar. “What about that? How did that happen?” He naïvely questioned pointing at J.P. and Perry.

From where the group stood, they could observe a very blissful J.P. and Perry. They were standing next to the charcoal grill, cooking some fish. However, the duo seemed to be too immersed in their own saccharine-induced interaction that they failed to notice the gaping jaws of their friends.

“Beats me, all I know is that I’m hungry.” Carmilla smirked and urged the group to approach the couple.

“I guess mom and pops had a great early morning. I should definitely learn to sing and play the guitar.” Kirsch mumbled.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 16. I Am Engulfed


I Am Engulfed, I Succumb

 

s’abîmer / to be engulfed

 

Outburst of annihilation which affects the amorous subject in despair or fulfillment.

Sartre: Is the abyss no more than an expedient annihilation? It would not be difficult for me to read the abyss, not as a repose, but as an emotion. I mask my mourning by an evasion; I dilute myself, I swoon in order to escape that density, that clogging which makes me into a responsible subject: I come out: it is ecstasy.

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

“So, the behavior or physiology of a certain animal may be triggered when a certain chemical substance is produced and released by its same species into the environment are called pheromones. These behavior-altering ingredients trigger other behaviors other than sexual behaviors in animals. However, an article from Psychology Today in 1996 titled “The Smell of Love” by F. Bryant Furlow, discussed certain studies that explored the idea of human pheromones.” Prof. Belmonde articulated.

After an eventful weekend, the most of the group were now back in Prof. Belmonde’s classroom. Some of their classmates observed a noticeable change with the seating arrangements. Carmilla normally sat beside J.P. but she was flanked between him and Laura now, Danny sat beside Laura and Kirsch was at the opposite end next to Danny. J.P. kept giving Carmilla the goo goo eyes, as Prof. Belmonde continued with her lecture.

“In the 1930s, it was considered as scientific taboo to consider human beings to be like primates who socialized and attracted their mates through urine-washing…” Prof. Belmonde went on.

“I couldn’t imagine another person having to urinate in front of another as something sexy.” J.P. whispered to Carmilla, Carmilla just swatted him lightly on the shoulder and held her laughter.

“…it was believed that human beings did not have pheromone receptors or those two little pits in each nostril called the VNO or vomeronasal organ. Also, at the same time, it was concluded that human beings lacked the brain capacity to process such signals. Moreover, aromatherapy argues that certain scents have certain effects on people, such as the scent of lavender and eucalyptus to increase cognition or the scent of phenethyl alcohol to reduce blood pressure.” Prof. Belmonde conferred.   

“I bet koalas are very perceptive creatures, since they inhale a lot of eucalyptus.” Laura whispered to Carmilla’s other ear. Carmilla just gave her a stern look.

“…perfumes had become integral in the way we perceive people. That’s why in the 1980s scientists discovered VNO receptor cells using high-tech microscopes. What the scientists of the 1930s failed to unveil re-emerged in the 80s through olfactory bulbs that when presented with a certain smell were reported to create a warm and vague feeling to a human being.” Prof. Belmonde continued.

“…an experiment was conducted among men and women. The males sniffed the used t-shirts of women, which contained their natural body odor, and they ranked these samples based on their preference. It was found out that the male respondents preferred the natural odor of females who had compatible DNA with them or which least likely to overlap with their own. Therefore, it is safe to say that genetic compatibility may be assessed through scent to avoid genetic disorders in the future. That’s why for the women in this room, you would often find your younger brother’s natural body odor as repulsive, and that’s nature’s way of telling you that he is your brother.” Prof. Belmonde concluded with a joke.

“Well, Luke and Leia could have saved us a lot of time if they did that experiment.” J.P. added rather loud this time.

“That’s if they could smell something in outer space!” Kirsch was quick to respond from the other end. “Oh, does space smell like anything though?” He second-guessed himself.

As the duo continued to joke, Laura was patiently raising her hand, waiting for her turn to speak.

“Yes, Ms. Hollis?” Prof. Belmonde called out.

“Uhm, there were several experiments mentioned in this article but were they able to conduct research on let’s say, men and men or women and women?” Laura inquired, chewing on the tip of her pen.

“That’s a good question, Ms. Hollis. Sad to say but I haven’t read of anything yet, I think that may be pretty interesting.” Prof. Belmonde answered.

“I just thought about it, like for example, what about lesbians? Are they only repulsed by the natural scent of their male kin or all males in general? In that case, how will they find other women’s natural body odor? Will they be attracted to the female scent?” Laura outlined, Carmilla looked at her intently, and she was always mesmerized whenever Laura was in her element.

“Good questions, Ms. Hollis, and that my dear might pave the way for new researches in the future.” Prof. Belmonde smiled back at Laura. “But sadly, I don’t have the information to answer your questions yet. But those are good recommendations for prospective studies.”

 


As soon as they got back to their dorm room, Laura dropped her backpack on the ground and straightaway headed towards Carmilla’s bed.

“Cupcake, what kind of weirdness is this?” Carmilla queried as she shut the door behind her.

Laura was sniffing her pillow trying to gather as much of Carmilla’s scent. Unsatisfied with her assessment, she made a beeline towards Carmilla’s hamper.

“Oh no you don’t!” Carmilla intercepted as Laura took out a used sleeping shirt. “Even for you, this is borderline creepy!”

“I’m just trying to find a solution to my own inquiries.” Laura beamed back at Carmilla rummaging through her hamper to look for another shirt.

“Alright, then if you are so creeped out, let me smell you then.” Laura challenged Carmilla.

“Okay, okay, just leave my hamper alone.” Carmilla returned her used articles of clothing and pushed her hamper away.

She stood stiffly in front of Laura; Laura hovered over her like a dog.

“If you are wondering where the sebaceous glands are, they are most common on the face and forehead but occur around all of the body's openings, including eyelids, ears, nostrils…lips, and nipples.” Carmilla paused before saying the last two areas.

“Stop making fun of me, I’m serious.” Laura countered as she poked Carmilla to her side trying to tickle her.

“I’m not joking, I read the article. Plus, I don’t know if it will work, I put on some perfume today.” Carmilla snorted, holding a giggle.

As Laura lingered over Carmilla’s neck, all she could smell was a faint floral musk of cedar or sandalwood combined with a faint waft of something citrusy like orange blossom.

“All I can smell is your perfume.” Laura declared, fixing her glasses over the bridge of her nose.

“Well, the article did say that you can only profile the scent if you won’t use deodorant, cologne or perfumed soap, and to avoid smoking, drinking, and sex in the span of two days.” Carmilla pointed out.

“You’re right! How about you start doing that tomorrow and the day after!” Laura proposed.

“What? No, deodorant and perfume for two days? You must be kidding me, cupcake.” Carmilla shook her head as she crossed her arms over her chest.

“Yeah, because I shouldn’t worry about the other stuff anyway.” Laura messed around.

“I don’t smoke, I drink occasionally and as for the latter, you know my status. But then again, I’m not comfortable without putting any deodorant.” Carmilla remarked.

“It’s just a small experiment, c’mon, Carm! Plus, no one else will actually be able to smell you except for me. The weather’s chilly anyway, you won’t be sweating much.” Laura advised.

“For your information, I also have seatmates in my other classes, plus, I don’t want people to look weirdly at me as I walk down the hall.” Carmilla opposed.

“If it’s any consolation, other people might find your natural scent appealing. You don’t have any relatives around campus anyway.” Laura projected.

“Why are you so obsessed with this experiment, anyway?” Carmilla griped.

“Don’t you want to find out if we’re compatible?” Laura asked dreamily.

“It’s not like we need to figure out our genetic compatibility, no known science will allow us to have biological children anytime soon.” Carmilla disputed.

“Don’t you want to find out if we’re soulmates?” Laura beamed at Carmilla, trying to look more convincing.

“For the record, I do believe in soulmates but this isn’t what they say in books. Your strange obsession with body odor is not the way I would want to find out about it.” Carmilla elucidated.

“Alright, I’ll drop it then. Some girlfriend you are!” Laura blurted out in defeat.

“What did you just say?” Carmilla caught Laura’s words.

“I said, I’ll stop it.” Laura mumbled but suddenly her eyes grew wide when she realized what she just said.

“Did you just drop the girlfriend label unconsciously?” Carmilla looked a bit disappointed.

“Oh my, did I?” Laura was thunderstruck. Carmilla still looked upset. “I mean, I think I just did. Are you mad? If it makes you feel any better, now that’s it’s out there, I’m not taking it back.” Laura continued to blabber.

“Shut up, Hollis!” Carmilla pulled her shirt collar and tangled her in a kiss.

The kiss was affectionate, hurried but expressive. Laura smiled as soon as Carmilla released her lips.

“So, you’re my girlfriend then?” Laura established with a raised eyebrow.

“Whatever you say, sunshine. As long as you lay off my dirty laundry.” In that note, Carmilla dived in for another kiss.

 


“Well, do you really believe that you can find the answers to your question in one sniff test?” J.P. cajoled Laura as they sat opposite each other in their usual booth at Bram’s.

The group were having their customary Sunday brunch. The exceptional happening this time around was that Danny was there to join them. After the weekend at the cabin, the group had noticed a change in Danny. She had been less hostile towards Carmilla and the others and she had been more comfortable in her own skin now. She even did not bat an eye when she found out that Laura and Carmilla were finally together. Laf was also there seated beside Carmilla and Laura on the opposite side of the booth. Kirsch was not around this time because he needed to sign up for remedial classes to pass his geography class.

“So, let me get this straight, you and Carmilla have not used deodorant or perfume or scented soaps for the past two days?” Perry clarified with a puckered brow.

“Yeah, I think nothing is ‘straight’ with what’s going on here.” Laf joked pointing at the duo beside them.

“Well, if she’s making me do this, hell, I’m not doing it alone. She should suffer like I’m suffering.” Carmilla muttered playing with her plate of fries.

“I bet you’re not the only ones suffering here.” Danny scrunched up her nose.

“When people ask what sort of ‘experimentation’ you did at college, this is it, ladies.” J.P. sniggered.

“Just until we get enough stink in these shirts, then we’ll find out.” Laura was determined to test her theory on Carmilla’s expense.

“I just think Hollis over here has a smell kink.” Laf teased, earning a glare from Laura.

“One great thing I grasped with all of these, I’m just so happy that I’m not in Carmilla’s shoes. Honestly, this sort of weirdness was not initially part of the package. Kudos to you for signing up!” Danny joked. Laura just leered at her; it was a good thing that Danny could casually joke about these things now. 

“Based of the past days that I’ve gone through, I’m actually starting to have second thoughts, Xena.” Carmilla bantered back.

“Hey! I’m not that bad! At least I don’t hide anything from you, eccentricities and all. Take it or leave it, baby!” Laura playfully gestured to her body.

“But creepiness aside, I think Laura does have a point. I mean, I have read that scent is in fact very much linked to memory. For example, there are some perfumes that I find to be too strong or nauseating when I’m around men. J.P. on the other hand, uses perfume occasionally but unbelievably even if his clothes look a bit untidy, he always smells like fresh laundry. So, whenever I pass by the laundromat, I am reminded of him. I just think the scent though natural or artificial, we relate it with a person and it grows in our memory.” Perry described.

“I don’t know if I should be flattered or offended.” J.P. just shook his head in skepticism.

“You should be flattered, it just means you wash your clothes and you buy good quality cotton ware.” Carmilla chuckled.

“What I’m trying to say is that smell impacts us psychologically and it does toy around with our emotion.” Perry enlightened. “We familiarize with scents and it grows on us.” Perry held J.P.’s hand, which previously laid unperturbed on the tabletop.

“Like the Eskimo kiss, which is pretty much like a nose rub. It actually has something to do with being acquainted to another person’s scent. Hence, it’s more of a greeting or a gesture of affection than denoting something sexual.” Laf shared.

“So, what does this imply? Should I start being attracted primarily to people because of their smell and not based on how they look? I’d say our society is still pretty much into the visual sense rather than the olfactory sense.” Danny established.

“Yeah, you should start sniffing around.” Laf joked earning an eruption of laughter from the group gathered around the table.

“Or start getting nosey!” Laura added, soon a series of idioms and puns were being thrown around. It was a good Sunday, indeed.

 


“So, cupcake, did you enjoy this little experiment of yours.” Carmilla exited the bathroom drying her wet hair with a towel. She was already in her sleep ware, a black tank top and animal print tights.

After they left Bram’s and two days of showering with unscented soap sans perfume and deodorant, Carmilla was finally permitted to take a regular shower.

“What are you writing down?” Carmilla approached Laura’s desk, looking over her shoulder to observe what she was doing.

“I’m listing down words to describe how you smell.” Laura pointed out.

Carmilla took the list from Laura and read aloud, “So, I smell like stale coconut and uncapped Sharpies…also, like rainfall with a wisp of leather…and acrid Sangria with a hint of burnt bacon? Wow, this sounds so gratifying.” Carmilla teased.

“I’m just trying to qualify my observations, trying to ID your scent.” Laura reclined further into her chair.

“Rainfall and leather? Really?” Carmilla raised an eyebrow.

“You’re not even bothered with uncapped Sharpies and burnt bacon?” Laura chortled.

“The only thing that bothers me is how you smell right now.” Carmilla retorted.

“Okay, how about me? How do I smell?” Laura raised her hands to show her armpits to taunt Carmilla.

Carmilla approached her to hug her from behind and to smell her neck. “Uhm let me see…I’m sensing grass after its mowed combined with a baby’s butt cheek…”

“What? Babies smell like sour milk!” Laura protested.

“Babies actually smell nice!” Carmilla opposed. “Hold still.” Carmilla took another puff. “…or maybe you smell like cinnamon and balsamic mayo…”

“But frankly my dear…you just smell, period!” Carmilla jostled Laura from her seat, tickling her in the process. “Go take a shower now.”

As Laura paraded towards the bathroom, she lingered at the threshold earning Carmilla’s attention once more. “Honestly, I like how you smell…what do you think I really smell like?”

“Like warm seawater and sunshine!” Carmilla answered back, playfully throwing Laura’s towel at her.

Laura went into the bathroom without a word, just being too pleased of herself as she closed the door behind her. Home, you actually smell like home, was what Carmilla thought of telling her, but she deduced that it was too early to say in their relationship and she didn’t want to scare Laura away.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 17. Events, Setbacks, Annoyances


 

Contingencies

"Trivialities, incidents, setbacks, pettinesses, irritations, the vexations of amorous existence; any factual nucleus whose consequences intersect the amorous subject’s will to happiness, as if chance conspired against him."

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.

 


 

Loud electronic music was blasting off the Summer Society house. Silas University students got together for the annual Summer Society Halloween bash. The sorority house was a New Orleans style two-story dwelling with wrought iron trimming. The façade was ornamented with pumpkin patches, skeletons, and twinkling lights. The interiors however, did not look preppy as most sorority houses do. Most of the furniture were in leather and the tables were of heavy dark wood. The interiors looked like a hunting lodge with the entire animal such as elk, deer, and antler or game decoration.

“Come in guys!” Danny greeted her friends by the entryway; Eiffel 65’s Blue was playing deafeningly in the background.

“Wow Lawrence! You finally embraced your double life!” J.P. whistled under his breath noticing that Danny had a gladiator warrior princess costume on plus a fake sword.

“Well, who do you think gave me this idea?” Danny chuckled though a little bit reluctant of showing a bit of skin.

“Hey! Jack and Rose!” Kirsch passed by behind Danny, he was already at the party channeling his inner Marky Mark, his white Calvin Klein underwear was exposed beneath his pair of baggy denim jeans. He wore a black snapback cap and he was bare chested with a bottle of beer in hand.

“Isn’t it a bit chilly, Marky Mark?” J.P. joked back. J.P. wore a white button-down, khaki slacks, suspenders, and leather boots. Beside him, Perry wore a pale gown, a lace shawl and a faux blue stone heart necklace.

“Excuse me, excuse me…” LaFontaine cut through the couple to get inside. They wore a pink sweater and pink sweat pants and had a pink cardboard oversized Tamagotchi costume. J.P. and Perry scooted to either sides to give them space through the door.

“Yeah! Cool costume Laf! Do the buttons work?” Kirsch kidded.

“Show me where the snacks are and I’ll tell you.” Laf prompted Kirsch and they both disappeared into the kitchen with Laf bumping on people along the way.

“And who are you guys supposed to be?” Danny eyed Carmilla and Laura as they emerged into view.

Carmilla wore her leather jacket over a red cotton dress. She had knee-high socks of red and yellow stripes. She wore her combat boots and a yellow beanie over her head, her hair was in pigtails. Laura on the other hand had an olive green bomber jacket over a white shirt, a baggy pair of jeans, and sneakers. She had her hair tied up to a bun concealed underneath a red snapback cap.

“In what decade had you been living in, Xena? I’m Spinelli, she’s T.J. Detweiler.” Carmilla answered.

“We’re Disney characters! The ones on afternoon TV.” Laura just patted Danny’s back and she stepped aside to let them in.

“You sure had been living up to your character!” J.P. remarked at Carmilla as he led Perry towards the living room.

Suddenly, a girl wearing a light blue cotton sleeveless vest with scooped neck, khaki shorts rolled to the top of her thigh, a leather belt with holsters, leather gloves and boots, and a small brown leather backpack approached Danny. She had a slender stature; her dark hair was braided with just a fringe sticking out.

“Is that gun real?” Carmilla whispered to Laura.

“She can definitely pull off a Lara Croft.” Laura hummed back to Carmilla.

“Hey.” Carmilla suddenly noticed Laura’s gazing.

“Hey yourself, we are both ogling.” Laura hit Carmilla’s shoulder lightly.

Danny talked to the girl in a rather shy manner. Carmilla and Laura noticed the awkward stares and the tentative touches on the arm. Danny was unmindful that Carmilla and Laura were still standing at the corner observing her and her companion.

“Ehem…” Laura cleared her throat to get Danny’s attention.

“Oh, so you guys are still here.” Danny acknowledged their presence uneasily. The girl suddenly lit up upon noticing the couple. “Emily these are my friends Laura and Carmilla. Emily is a new transfer here just this semester, she came from another chapter but we welcomed her as she when she moved to Silas.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Emily.” Laura extended her hand, Emily shook it delightedly.

When Carmilla approached her for a handshake, Emily was stunned. “Carmilla, Carmilla Karnstein!” Emily blurted out.

“You know each other?” Laura and Danny asked at the same time.

“Emily? Emily Brontë?” Carmilla suddenly had a flash of recognition. Both girls immediately enveloped each other into a hug, acting like old friends. “Oh my, I almost did not recognize you!” Carmilla exclaimed giving her friend a once over.

“How had you been? I haven’t heard from you in such a long time! I just received my scholarship in literature here so I needed to transfer to Silas after a year. It’s so great to see you again!” Emily enveloped Carmilla in another bone-crushing hug.

Laura just stared at her girlfriend and probably, Danny’s current love interest rekindle their bond in front of her. If she could have known any better her green-eyed monster was eating her up inside. At this point, she didn’t know much of Carmilla’s past but she sensed that this girl might had been a big part of it, she hasn’t seen Carmilla act so giddy around anyone else in such a long time.

“My, my, you turned out okay. I swear I didn’t recognize you right away.” Carmilla commented.

“Right back at you! I never thought I’m in front of my moody friend. Funny how I just lost my braces and you didn’t recognize me!” Emily teased back.

“Ehem…” It was Danny’s turn to break the oblivious reconnection this time.

“Oh, right! I’m sorry. Carm and I go way way back, actually in grade school. There were a bunch of us girls, including my elder sister Charlotte and our other friend Elle. Four of us were tied to the hip as the old saying goes!” Emily explained enthusiastically.

“We were neighbors actually; we walked to school together most of the time.” Carmilla added.

“Yeah, but we had a bit of falling out did we, just right after Elle left?” Emily murmured rather gloomily.

Laura has heard about Elle before from Carmilla and from J.P.’s teasing. She knew that Elle played a significant role in Carmilla’s life. Elle was an important part of Carmilla’s past, Laura knew that but to actually meet someone from Carmilla’s past has brought new meaning to that knowledge.

“Have you heard from her recently?” Emily probed.

“We’ve exchanged emails a couple of times but honestly, I haven’t heard from her since early this year.” Carmilla replied.

“Are you going home for the holidays?” Emily asked eagerly.

“I suppose so or else mother would be alone this Christmas.” Carmilla answered.

“Well, then, you’re in for a surprise!” Emily pronounced. “Anyway, we should catch up soon; I bet we are already boring the wits out of Danny and Laura.”

“Definitely, maybe over coffee next time.” Carmilla smiled, quite intrigued of the surprise that Emily mentioned.

“I’ll take you up to that!” Emily settled. “For now, why don’t we go dancing?” Emily tugged on Danny’s arm and led her to the parlor that served as their dance floor for that evening; Better Off Alone by Alice DeeJay was blasting in the other room.

Carmilla and Laura followed; Laura just gave Carmilla a meaningful glare as she pulled her to the dance floor.

 


Laura sat on the porch steps alone, it was late into the party and she just wanted to get some fresh air after all the dancing with her friends. Honestly, Carmilla and Emily were caught up in another episode of reminiscing their epic childhood when Laura quietly slipped away from the group. She doesn’t know what had been eating her up the entire evening but she just didn’t like the way Carmilla and Emily chattered about their childhood like it was only yesterday. She suddenly felt like an outsider, there was so much about Carmilla that other people knew of. She was so in the dark with so many things that she felt like she was watching her girlfriend from a TV screen. She was there but for a while, it seemed like she had a different life way before Laura and this was something that Laura couldn’t tap. Was she jealous of other people’s closeness with Carmilla? Is this how a girlfriend should act? Laura had so many questions, if only Carmilla could just sit down with her one afternoon and just reveal it all already. Laura always loved a little air of mystery but if it had something to do with her reserved girlfriend, she just felt like she had to know.

“There you are!” A familiar sultry voice came up behind her.

Laura looked up as Carmilla positioned herself to sit beside her and drape an arm over her shoulder.

“Why did you disappear?” Carmilla asked innocently.

“I just needed some fresh air.” Laura wasn’t lying, the air inside was starting to get stuffy with all the sweaty people.

“You’ve been strangely quiet all evening.” Carmilla commented as she played with the collar of Laura’s jacket.

“Would you hate me if I became insecure all of the sudden?” Laura blurted out; she decided that it was best to just get it out of her chest.

“Insecure? In what way? I’m not following, cupcake.” Carmilla wondered.

“Are all your past friends that slender and good-looking?” Laura probed without looking at Carmilla.

“Is this about Emily? Are you jealous?” Carmilla chuckled, bumping the side of her head on Laura’s.

“I’m not jealous! I don’t know…maybe I’m just curious.” Laura griped.

“Emily and I knew each other when we still had snotty noses and couldn’t even tie our shoelaces.” Carmilla chuckled.

“Is Elle as gorgeous as she is?” Laura delved further.

“To be honest, I think we were all beautiful in our own way. I also think that we don’t look so bad as adolescents but I don’t really know, I haven’t seen them for a long time. I bet the memories are still there but a lot of things had changed, somehow.” Carmilla spoke kind-heartedly. “Is that all you’re worried about? Though we are of the same age, Emily is like a little sister to me. That’s because her older sister, Charlotte always looked out for us. Also, I think Emily is into Danny. Did you notice the flirting? Plus, it’s all about me and you now, cupcake. This is my first actual relationship, what makes you think I want to screw up?” Carmilla teased to ease Laura.

“Shut up!” Laura covered Carmilla’s blabbering mouth. “I’m just a bit bothered that you grew up surrounded by beautiful people who I don’t really know anything about and they’re about to return to your life now.”

“What do you want to know?” Carmilla looked at Laura affectionately.

“Everything, I want to know all about you and I want you to know all about me.” Laura mumbled grabbing Carmilla’s hand to intertwine it with her own.

“Well, there’s a lot to know, it might take us some time since I’m a good story-teller.” Carmilla beamed. “I can recall stuff way when I was in kindergarten.”

“Then let’s start from there.” Laura chuckled.

 


 

December 19, 1997

 

Dear Carm,

 

I hope you are having a great vacation, Happy Christmas. School has been great so far, I made new friends, and I hope you did too. Dad talks about visiting my grandparents for the holidays, maybe we’ll get the chance in the coming years.

I got the present that you sent me, I loved it! I hadn’t found the thrift stores here yet but this is a lovely brooch. I’m also enclosing something in this letter as well, I hope you’ll like it.

There are great days but there had been unhappy days. Sometimes I just remember home, you, Emily and Charlotte. After all this time, this place has not felt like home yet. I just miss the times when I don’t need to explain jokes or stuff to people because they already know me. I miss all of you terribly, I miss you so much.

Well, enough about the sad part; I just hope I get to visit soon.

 

Love,

Elle


 

Laura read the letter that Elle has sent to Carmilla a few years ago. It was the last letter that Elle has has written to Carmilla after they started exchanging emails the following year. But due to certain developments in their lives, they have not talked to each other much recently.

They were back in their dorm room, Laura and Carmilla spent the rest of the evening talking about Carmilla’s childhood and all her friends. They were seated on Carmilla’s bed, talking about some things in her past. Laura realized that though Carmilla did not have many friends, most of them were very valued and played significant roles in her life.

Laura returned the piece of scented stationery back to its envelope and handed it to Carmilla. Carmilla was actually quite sentimental, she kept letters and greeting cards that she received from her friends including concert and movie tickets, notes, and even pressed flowers as memorabilia. The sturdy craft box that held all these things was carefully tucked inside her closet.

 “So, what did Elle give you at that time?” Laura asked coolly. Though it had deeply bothered her to find out that there was someone else whom Carmilla felt strongly and so attached to before she came to her life, she tried to be levelheaded.

“Oh, she gave me this.” Carmilla took out a small keychain resembling a small hoop containing a string mesh, decorated with feathers and beads.

“What is that?” Laura inspected the object.

“It’s a dream catcher. Well, it is believed to protect its owner from nightmares and provide good dreams instead. It was thought that North American Indians used this as a talisman to protect children and also adults from evil spirits that cause bad dreams.” Carmilla explained.

“Have you ever wondered if Elle felt the same for you?” Laura speculated as she held the small dream catcher in her hand.

“Honestly, I never told Elle how I think I felt about her at that time. Then, I don’t know if it would change anything. She saw me as a very good friend, we we’re best of friends.” Carmilla replied.

“So, you don’t think things would change between you two if you had told her that you had feelings for her?” Laura probed.

Carmilla caught her glare; it felt strange why Laura was probing her with these type of questions. What she felt for Elle was already in the past, Laura was her present now and she needed to convince her.

Carmilla scooted closer to Laura. “Times had changed, things had changed.” Carmilla held Laura’s hands in her own.

“That poem that you read that night at Retro, was it for her?” Laura questioned.

“That was the old me speaking. I think whoever is in front of you right now; we owe it to that old Carmilla, to the naïve, masochistic, and guarded Carmilla.” Carmilla enlightened.

“You’re right, I’m sorry about dwelling so much in your past. I just want to know everything, anything, that’s just how I’m wired.” Laura apologized genuinely.

“You don’t need to apologize for anything. Just ask me and I’ll tell you, I don’t really know how this relationship thing works exactly. But I know that I spent a lot of my teenage years fantasizing about how to be a good girlfriend when I get the chance.”  Carmilla expounded.

“Is this based in your wide repertoire of romantic comedies?” Laura joked.

“Yes, everything I learned from Nora Ephron!” Carmilla giggled.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18. Waking


 

réveil / waking

 

“Various modes by which the amorous subject finds upon waking that he is once again besieged by the anxieties of his passion.”

Stendhal: Modes of waking: sad, wracked (with tenderness), affectless, innocent, panic-stricken (Octave comes to, after fainting: “All of a sudden his miseries were clear in his mind: one does not die of pain, or he was a dead man at that moment”).

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

Laura was gasping, she was almost out of breath, and sweat trickled down from her forehead. Her skin felt sticky, her muscles were sore; she was lasting on adrenalin. She had been at it for hours now; she was so near. She released a groan; her body quaked and she was suddenly brought to a halt. She breathe through her mouth, she was puffing for more air. Her leg muscles gave in and she staggered on the ground.

She had been running laps around the elliptical course at the Silas grounds. It was the crack of dawn and the sky was starting to clear. Laura stretched her leg muscles, she held on to the tip of her running shoes, flexing through her toes. She wore a loose sport shirt and a pair of sweat pants, her hair was tied in a loose ponytail. She had resorted to running for almost a week now, she needed some release of her pent up energy. Laura liked running, as much as she liked walking, and she liked doing this alone, especially if she needed some time to think.

She had been with Carmilla for almost a month now and the relationship was nothing but great. Carmilla is thoughtful, sympathetic, and most of all, she was brutally honest. However, if there’s one thing that remains clandestine between them, it was the growing sexual tension. Despite her air of innocence and naïveté, Laura was always a sensual person. Even though she had a careful upbringing, she had outgrown her peers by being sexually candid and explorative. Her past relationships had abetted her coverage of all the implied ‘bases’ in the heteronormative way. However, she was not utterly clueless when it came to pleasing the female anatomy; having the outlook that whatever may work for her may work for her partner as well.

Hence, she found herself a bit exasperated with the rate that she’s going with Carmilla. To add insult to injury, Carmilla had been very blunt in throwing sexual innuendos towards Laura these past few days. Carmilla had been walking around their room either half-naked with just an oversized t-shirt on or a silk robe that Laura never noticed before. It also doesn’t help that her tank top would typically show off her clavicle or Laura would catch a glimpse of the small of her back whenever she bends over to pick something up. Of course, they had been engaged in several make-out sessions and had even explored each other’s bodies with some under the shirt action but Carmilla would always be the first one to pause and hold back and prevent them from going any further. Laura had never obligated Carmilla for anything more; neither had she questioned her actions. Probably, Carmilla was not yet ready and Laura could wait. However, the waiting had been excruciating on her part. Carmilla would often capture Laura’s attention whenever she was in the room, it was impossible not to be physically attracted to Carmilla Karnstein. Just thinking about her girlfriend made Laura long for the softness of her skin or the plumpness of her lips against hers, Laura was hopeless. Laura craved for something she dare not satiate; hence, she was stuck in this limbo, drifting around the moats of a castle she could not enter. Therefore, on one gloomy morning, she had just decided to release all her pent up physical frustration through some agonizing exercise and she had been at it for days.

Laura had two more hours before her first class for the day. She continued to cool down near one of the benches around the rubberized track. Except for a few lone joggers and the track team, no other students were that early in the field. Laura sat down on the bench, still preoccupied with her current predicament. Suddenly, she noticed a familiar figure moving towards her. She wore her usual yellow beanie, and notably Laura’s black hoodie with her typical jeans and sneakers. Usually, Carmilla would only get up by the time Laura returns from her run. What was she doing out in the field this early?

“You left your glasses, cupcake.” Carmilla greeted with a smirk, taking out Laura’s glasses from the pocket of her hoodie (or rather Laura’s hoodie) and sitting beside her girlfriend. Laura reached out for her glasses from Carmilla and Carmilla gave her a peck on her sweaty cheek.

“Did you just follow me here for my glasses? I could still see a bit without it you know, it just fogs up when I run so I always leave it behind.” Laura articulated as she put on her eyeglasses.

“I just want to make sure you see where you’re going and you don’t step on any animal manure when you run.” Carmilla joked.

“Really, is that it?” Laura quipped.

“Also, I’m just here to make sure that you’re not here to rendezvous with a jock while I sleep soundly and unaware back in our dorm room.” Carmilla chuckled.

“Do you see anyone else?” Laura reacted at the silly accusation.

“How should I know? Maybe you have sent him or her running when you sensed my pheromones nearby.” Carmilla continued to put-on.

“Great instincts but sadly, my dear, I’m just out here in my lonesome, worn-out, smelly self.” Laura placed an arm over Carmilla’s shoulder. “Really, why are you up this early?”

“Well, I have to say, I’m actually snooping. You’re not an exercise fiend, what’s with all the early morning runs lately?” Carmilla finally asked. “I’ve never noticed you exercise this religiously.”

“Would you believe me if I tell you that I’m just trying to burn my entire cookie intake and trying to develop abdominal muscles for your viewing pleasure?” Laura wiggled her eyebrows, too wary to admit the real reason for her work out to her girlfriend.                                                                                

“Well, I would believe half of it but you’re keeping something from me, cupcake.” Carmilla pried further.

Laura tried to weigh things in her mind; she decided that it was best to be candid with Carmilla. After all, good communication has always been key to a healthy relationship.

“You really want to know the truth?” Laura furrowed her brows.

“Nothing but the truth.” Carmilla answered right away.

“I’ve been thinking about it…” Laura implied with a nervous smile.

“About what?” Carmilla pretended that she didn’t know what Laura meant, though she was also deeply perturbed about the same thing for weeks if she was right.

“Do I need to spell it out, Carm?” Laura asked with an exasperated sigh. Carmilla just nodded, prompting her to speak her mind.

“S-E-X, I mean not just that basic thought of it.” Laura whispered. “Oh, how should I say this? I mean eventually taking our relationship to the next level.” She finally blurted out.

Carmilla just stared at her without a specific reaction. Laura was panicking inside, was she too forward? What would Carmilla think of her now?

“You’re so funny, Hollis! You’re like a prepubescent horny teenager!” Carmilla sniggered.

Laura just blushed silently in her seat; she didn’t know what to say next.

“Sorry, you’re just so cute.” Carmilla continued wiping a tear from her eye. “So, on a serious note, are you propositioning me for sex?” Carmilla’s tone suddenly turned suggestive.

“Well, it’s not just sex, not that I’m new to this. It’s about making love?” Laura was faltering; she was dumbfounded. Get a grip, Hollis, why are you so awkward around your girlfriend? She berated herself.

“No need to be too romantic about it, Laura. I thought about it for weeks too.” Carmilla self-confessed, reaching out to hold Laura’s hand in hers.

“So, what do you think?” Laura instigated.

“Hmm, I think we should get some coffee first!” Carmilla replied with a pleased smile.

 


To say that Carmilla was nervous was an understatement. She was terrified to her guts, it felt like her skin was being peeled off her and her insides were being tossed in a food processor. She was just so muddled inside. She finally had that talk with Laura, about taking their relationship to the next level, she was nothing but ecstatic at first. However, the thought of doing it the first time was suddenly eating her up. Of course, she was the one to blame for being more allusive inside the dorm room but Laura just has that effect on her, she makes her more confident in her own skin. The way that Laura looks at her just makes her feel like she’s some enthralling temptress. But in reality, Carmilla just has her qualms, what if she doesn’t rise up to the challenge? What if she has definitely bitten off more than she can chew?

Carmilla was at the library, after her talk with Laura that morning; she has just resorted into hiding. Well, she wasn’t really hiding from Laura and their friends. She just simply needs to be alone for a while, to think. Fairly, all of Carmilla’s knowledge when it comes to human sexuality and sexual intercourse are based on her health class, medical books, and of course, her psychology class. Probably, the zealous side of it came from her exposure to a repertoire or romantic comedies and romance novels. However, much of that material if not all where all about “shafts” and “orifices”; too heteronormative for her taste. She could not even ask any of her friends about it because none of them is in the same situation. Not even Laura, since she was clear about charting her own experiences. Of course, she had a relationship before, but she never did anything that she hasn’t done with Laura. Realizing that she doesn’t really know anything decent about lesbian sex, Carmilla fumbled into the library. Yes, the library might hold all the answers to her questions.

Indeed, she wanted her first time to be good, probably a little less planned out though. Plus, this was with Laura, someone whom she actually has genuine feelings for. She didn’t want it to be perfect, she didn’t believe in perfect but she just wants it to turn out well. Of course, love is important in every relationship but it goes hand in hand with sexual compatibility as well. She can’t just play it by ear or go with the flow. She has seen Laura, bent over the fact that they should be compatible physically through that arduous sniff test. Hence, Laura should also be satisfied with Carmilla sexually, she can’t gamble on that. She should know what’s she’s doing, when she’s doing it, Carmilla chided herself. They had been learning about gender and sexuality in the classroom, there is an art as well as a science in how things are done; she might as well learn it. 

In her rush, Carmilla just grabbed a medical book from the stacks and a couple of other books that may contain information on lesbian sex. She bunched herself in one of the corner carrel tables hiding herself out of view from someone who might happen to walk by. She searched the ‘table of contents’ of the medical book, she arrived into the chapter of ‘the female sexual anatomy’. She was confronted with an illustration of the female external sexual anatomy:

“While vaginas are just one part of the vulva, many people say ‘vagina’ when they really mean the vulva…no two vulvas look exactly the same, but they are made up of the same basic parts…” Carmilla read on:

“The labia (lips) are folds of skin around your vaginal opening.”

She then read about the labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), the urethra, the opening of the vagina, anus, the mons pubis or the fleshy mound above the vulva and finally, the most important of all, the clitoris.

“The clitoris is made of spongy tissue that becomes swollen when you are aroused. It has thousands of nerve endings, more than any other part of the human body…”

Carmilla took note of that, it’s not as if she hasn’t masturbated before, she knows the function of her clitoris, she just needed more information.

Then Carmilla flipped towards the next page that outlined the female internal sexual anatomy. The illustration showed the vagina, the cervix, the uterus, the fallopian tubes, fimbriae, and most of the things that she has understood when their health teacher showed them a video of a woman giving birth and when her middle school teacher discussed how babies were made in the most theoretical and non-sexual manner. 

But of course, there were details that were left out in her sex education classes. Carmilla glossed over the last four items in the list, it read:

“The Bartholin’s glands are near your vaginal opening. These glands release fluids that lubricates the vagina.” So this is what makes women wet when they are turned on, Carmilla thought to herself.

“Skene’s glands are on either side of the urethral opening. They release fluid during female ejaculation.” Interesting, Carmilla noted.

“The hymen is the thin, fleshy tissue that stretches across part of the opening to the vagina. Hymens vary a lot in how much of your vaginal opening they cover, and they can sometimes (but not always) tear and cause bleeding the first few times you put something in your vagina.” Carmilla encountered the notion of the hymen in many of the romantic novels that she has read in high school. Bleeding, it was often reflected as an indicator of a woman’s virginity, the blood in the sheets, the breaking of the hymen; that was all she knew.

“G-spot, or Gräfenberg spot, is located on the front of the vagina. The G-spot swells when the person is stimulated. Some people like the feeling of having their G-spot touched.” The G-spot, Carmilla noted; that is what she should look for.

The clitoris and the G-spot, Carmilla took note of these parts. Then she went through some of the other books that she had on hand. She read on some of the terminology in the books:

“Frottage

Sexual body rubbing. Also called “dry humping.” Well, that’s actually something that she and Laura had done before. To the expense of ruined underwear and rough denim pants that caused her tingles.

“Cunnilingus

Oral sex using the mouth to stimulate the clitoris, vulva, and vagina.” It’s something that she has thought of but should ask Laura about it.

“Multiple orgasms

The occurrence of more than one orgasm within one sexual experience.” This she believes is more common and achievable among women.

Eventually, Carmilla encountered an article outlining the use of strap-ons and vibrators. She had been so absorbed in her reading that she jolted upright as she felt a light tap on her shoulder. To her horror, she haphazardly shut the book and looked up at her intruder, praying that whoever that was did not just catch a glimpse of the titles of her reading materials. Carmilla was just not comfortable in sharing her current ‘research work’ with a stranger or even with any of her friends at the moment. To her surprise, her intruder was no other than her inquisitive girlfriend.

“I was looking for you, I had a feeling that I’d find you here.” Laura whispered in a low voice. “What’s that?” She snatched the book from Carmilla, browsing through the page that her girlfriend was reading.

Carmilla just sat there wide-eyed, anticipating Laura’s reaction.

“Well, I see that you’ve been doing some research. Why don’t we head back to the dorm and test your knowledge, dear?” Laura slurred in Carmilla’s ear. 

“Maybe if you take me out to dinner first and come up with a big romantic gesture…” Carmilla mumbled as they exited the library.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 19. Y2K

 


 

“Then, slowly, like the sunrise peeking

over the horizon, she smiled.

She snapped the box closed.

She didn’t scream. She didn’t run. She didn’t faint.

There might have been a little crying.

But mostly…she danced.”

 

Cora Carmack, Losing It


 

“So, you guys never wondered what would happen after 1999?” Laf bellowed as they took a sip of coffee. “I mean, we have lived to witness the new millennium!” They exclaimed.

Laura and Carmilla had just arrived at Bram’s for Sunday brunch. Laf was seated on the booth on the same side with Perry and J.P. Danny was seated on the other side, she scooted to give space for Laura and Carmilla, Kirsch had not arrived yet. Carmilla wore a vintage white t-shirt under her leather jacket; she put on the first pair of black denims from her closet and then her boots. Laura wore a loose knitted orange sweater in her typical comfortable casual wear ensemble.

“What are they talking about?” Laura asked with a raised eyebrow, fixing her glasses on the bridge of her nose.

“Oh nothing much, just some end of the world predictions and Y2K theories.” J.P. said nonchalantly.

“Well, there’s this article about a computer virus that will cause all the computer systems to crash. On December 31, 1999 when the clock strikes to midnight the world turns to January 1, 2000, all systems will be down.” Laf emphasized taking a bite of apple pie. “Power plants will shut down, planes will drop from the sky, and society would seize to function.” Laf expounded with a dramatic voice.

“You know, for a scientist, you are full of superstitions.” Perry derided beside Laf.

“It’s not a superstition, it’s a prediction based on certain probabilities.” Laf countered.

“Well, I stumbled upon this book “5/5/2000: Ice, The Ultimate Disaster” by Richard W. Noone. He predicted that the end of days would be on May 5, 2000. He projected the planetary system would take up an unusual alignment than happens only every six thousand years. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn would align and this will cause massive natural disasters like the melting of the polar ice caps.” J.P. conferred.

“Are you bluffing or is this an actual book?” Perry scoffed.

“Look it up, it’s in the public library.” J.P. laughed scornfully.

“Well, in my high school social science class, we learned that the Mayan calendar has predicted the apocalypse just a few days before Christmas in 2012.” Danny shared coolly.

“So, does this mean we should start building a Noah’s ark?” Laura teased, arching her lips in a satirical smile, elbowing Carmilla in the process. “What do you think, Carm? You’ve been awfully quiet.”

Carmilla was snapped from her reverie, seems like her thoughts had already drifted elsewhere thinking about the possibility of the end of the world on New Year’s Eve.

“Uhm, I was just thinking. What do you think would be last thing that you’d be caught doing when the world does end?” Carmilla asked, breaking away from her trance.

“I would probably just order all the food that I can eat and wait for my final hours.” Kirsch finally arrived, answering Carmilla’s question straightaway as he pulled a chair towards the booth.

“That’s a very Wilson Kirsch thing to do, hmm, I would probably think of the best way to store data. I would write down or record everything I know of this world, so that the survivors of the future generation might find out about us. Though I don’t have stone tablets with me, perhaps all the computers will be fried and all the books might burn or get drenched based on whatever circumstance.” Laf thought intently.

“Yeah, imagine people of the future trying to figure out what a toaster or a basketball is for. That would be crazy! Like how we realize the use of ancient jars and enamel ware.” J.P. chortled excitedly.

“Yeah! That would just be so weird.” Laf gave J.P. a high-five. “What would you do, Jeep?” Laf asked.

“I would probably just sit down; pretend like it’s a normal day. Drink some coffee, read a book, and just wait for it to happen. What else can I do?” J.P. imagined in his mind.

“And I’ll just probably be there with you.” Perry tittered timidly.

The occupants of the booth just heaved heartfelt smiles at J.P. and Perry.

“Well, these suckers will definitely melt away together, that’s a sure thing. And you Danny, how about you?” Laf raised the question to Danny.

“I’ll just probably find my way home, be with family.” Danny replied coyly.

“That’s noble, how about you, Laur, can you be any sappier than Lawrence?”  Laf beamed.

“I think I would just probably take the entire day letting all my loved ones know how much I love them.” Laura directed her glare at Carmilla. “How about you, Carm?”

I think I know what I should consider before the end of the world strikes, Carmilla thought to herself. But she decided to come up with a safer answer, “Well, since cupcake just stole my answer telepathically. I think I would just store all the music that I have CDs and players and even books and poetry in an indestructible case and make sure all of those things survive, so that people of the future knew how we all felt and thought about each other.” Carmilla remarked.

“As lovely as this conversation is, I think all the Johnny-come-latelies should start ordering before the world ends.” Bram just popped at their table tapping a pen impatiently on his notepad.

 


“Carm?” Laura asked in a soft voice. They lay in stillness on her bed. A bunch of pillows propped up Carmilla’s back; she was reading a paperback. Laura lay on her side, her arm and leg was spread over Carmilla’s stiff form. Laura was drawing invisible circles with her forefinger on Carmilla’s flat stomach. Carmilla savored the tranquility of this moment, it was just her and Laura and they were in their own safe space.

“Hmm?” Carmilla hummed trying to focus on her reading. Laura’s head was buttressed on her shoulder. Carmilla’s free hand played with Laura’s soft tresses.

“What do you think?” Laura paused. “What if the world does end at New Year’s?” Laura contemplated. They had spent the entire afternoon discussing conspiracy theories and end of the world predictions with their friends.

“You believe that, cupcake?” Carmilla suddenly focused her attention to her girlfriend, putting the paperback on the side table in the process.

“I don’t know, I mean, I’m just thinking about it. If the world does melt away as the clock turns to midnight, would that be okay with you?” Laura just muttered, almost snuggling into Carmilla’s armpit.

“Well, firstly, if it does end, then we really have no choice. However, I think I’ll be fine with it.” Carmilla answered as she continued to play with Laura’s hair.

“Really? You will just be okay with it. I mean just like that, no unfinished business or no questions asked.” Laura jolted upright to face Carmilla.

“I guess so; I mean I think I’m quite contented with my life now. My mom has gotten me this far single-handedly. Plus, I’ve already found you.” Carmilla spoke with sincerity.

“You know what? You’re sweet!” Laura pinched Carmilla’s nose. “But really, you have no what ifs?” She scrunched her face.

“Well, I used to think what it would feel like to be with someone you love who most probably must love you back…” Carmilla uttered and then she paused, realizing what she just said.

“You’re not talking about your mom are you?” Laura was quick to pull back, making the situation a little less awkward.

“No, not my mom, of course, I know she loves me. I’m talking about…well…I’m talking about J.P.” Carmilla pretended.

“Ha…ha…very funny Ms. Karnstein, does Perry know about this?” Laura played along.

“Well, kidding aside…” Carmilla finally bolted upright, she took Laura’s hands in hers, trying to capture her stare. “Maybe, if the world does end, you should know how I really feel about you…”

“I love you too!” Laura immediately blurted out.

“…you know I was going to say something else but…” Carmilla was suddenly disrupted when Laura latched herself on her and engaged her in a deep kiss.

“You were saying?” Laura asked with a raised eyebrow, she still cupped Carmilla’s face with her hands.

“Yeah, I love you.” Carmilla muttered under her breath trying to recover from the intensity of Laura’s kiss.

“So, are we good to go if the world does end this year?” Laura probed.

“Well, there’s one more thing…” Carmilla engaged Laura in another lip lock. The kiss was not rushed, they took their time, as Carmilla’s tongue brushed on Laura’s lower lip she opened her mouth to grant Carmilla permission. Suddenly, Carmilla started to have a feeling. Is this it? Is this the right moment? Should I go for it?

Likewise, thoughts were running inside Laura’s mind as she moved against Carmilla. So, this is it? Would Carmilla be fine with this? I don’t want to appear too eager.

The kiss got heated; Carmilla inserted her hand under Laura’s shirt. Her right hand exploring Laura’s back and then her thumb brushing on Laura’s bra clad breast. Carmilla’s other hand squeezed Laura’s bum. Laura let out a throaty moan, their kiss deepened. Laura eventually straddled Carmilla in the process, her hands explored Carmilla’s upper torso. Carmilla struggled to lift Laura’s shirt up, exposing her bare flat stomach. She abruptly paused to relish the view before her. There with a leg on each side of her body was a disheveled Laura, staring back at her with intense eyes. Both Carmilla and Laura were panting now, quite enthralled by the sudden urge of emotions. Carmilla felt a new-fangled sensation in the pit of her stomach, and then the feeling traveled towards her thighs and then her core.

“Should we stop?” Laura asked in a husky tone. Laura started to get a little bit apprehensive now. What if Carmilla thinks she’s too excited? What if Carmilla is not ready yet?

Carmilla just shook her head in reply. She can’t back down now. What was she waiting for? There’s actually nothing else to worry about and if she’s giving away her virginity, it has to be with Laura.

“Are you sure? Cause I will not be able to contain myself if we advance from this. Are you sure you want to take this further?” Laura breathed to Carmilla’s ear, lowering her body towards Carmilla’s.

“I’m sure.” Carmilla replied in a hoarse voice. This is it, no turning back now.

“I really wanted it to be special.” Laura hesitated for a while, lifting her body off Carmilla’s. Carmilla held on to her hands and placed it on her chest.

“We just revealed how deeply we feel for each other, this moment is special.” Carmilla professed in a breathy tone.

With that knowledge, Laura bent down to kiss Carmilla once more. Her lips brushed Carmilla’s carefully, she pressed further enough to inhale her breath. Carmilla felt her body tingle, it was a new sensation, and she felt her lower extremities shake. Laura withdrew from the kiss, then without looking away from Carmilla, she took off her shirt and tossed it on the floor. Carmilla looked up at Laura’s frenzied form, her hair was tousled, her pupils dilated and her lips were partly open, almost winded on top of Carmilla. Her firm arms flanked Carmilla’s head; she was so close could see the freckles that spread throughout Laura’s upper chest and cheeks. Laura moved to do away with Carmilla’s t-shirt; she pulled off the disrupting fabric and lifted it off Carmilla’s arms and head. They were back to their previous position, Laura now observed Carmilla’s heaving chest. She focused on peppering Carmilla’s chest with small sensual kisses, dragging the tip of her tongue on Carmilla’s skin. Then Laura accurately unhooked Carmilla’s bra and pulled it away in a flick, exposing Carmilla’s breasts.

Carmilla chuckled at the swiftness of Laura’s movements. “I thought you haven’t done this before.” Carmilla jested.

“I’m just skilled whichever way, plus, I definitely know how bras work.” Laura replied with a wink as she latched onto Carmilla’s left breast. She didn’t know why she got so confident all of the sudden but in reality she was petrified. But she just moved based on instinct, Carmilla’s body felt familiar, it was like an instrument that she knew how to play. Laura was pleased with this realization. So, this is how it feels to make love to a woman, you both have the same anatomy, you both know which buttons to push. She gently sucked on Carmilla’s nipple and then brushed her tongue on its tip as she moved to the other breast to give it the same treatment. Whichever boob her mouth wasn’t latched on to, she kneaded with her free hand.

Carmilla shut her eyes and let out a loud gasp in the process. She felt like she was going to come with that sensation alone. As Laura continued to suck on her right nipple, Carmilla had managed to unclasp Laura’s bra, immediately pulling the hindering garment away. Carmilla had now moved to squeeze both of Laura’s breasts in her hands, eliciting breathy whimpers from Laura. The more Carmilla touched Laura, the more she quivered to her core. She could feel certain a dampness in her underwear.

Laura skidded down towards Carmilla’s lower trunk. She peppered Carmilla’s stomach with soft kisses, then biting and licking along the way. Her hands suddenly reached Carmilla’s waist, she fumbled with the button of her jeans, pried it open and dragged her pants to her ankles, removing it in the process. Laura noticed the dampness on the center of Carmilla’s black tanga underwear. She slowly brushed a finger on Carmilla’s swelling nub below the fabric. Carmilla reacted with a hiss; she maintained eye contact with Laura. She nodded, urging Laura to go on. “Just keep doing that, it feels so good.” Carmilla directed. Laura shimmied her own pants of; she was now left with her navy blue boy shorts.

Straddling Carmilla once more, Laura kissed her feverishly balancing her weight in one hand as her other hand lithered down towards Carmilla’s core. Laura eventually slithered through Carmilla’s lower lips with her index and middle finger. She rubbed her fingers slowly on Carmilla’s outer lips, relishing the wetness. Anticipation was building in Carmilla; she was releasing breathy moans. At that point, Carmilla had already submitted to Laura.

Then without warning, Carmilla just took off her own underwear, making more room for Laura. She was stark naked before her and Laura could do practically anything to her body. Before, she still felt so insecure about her physique but the way Laura was looking at her now with widened eyes and hunger, she had never felt so desired. She never felt this limitless before, there was no turning back. She spread her legs wider, allowing Laura to position herself in between her legs. When Laura found Carmilla’s clit with her thumb, she began to rub gently as Carmilla continued with her ministrations. Laura could sense that Carmilla wanted more friction; she then enveloped Laura in a tight hug as Laura continued to brush her thumb on her contracting knob. Eventually, Carmilla started to jerk forward and began her rapid rocking against Laura. Laura could feel that she was close; her fingernails dig into Laura’s back.

“Yeah, there, there, yeah…” With an inaudible whimper of ecstasy and an open-mouthed gasp, Carmilla’s body lifted involuntarily from the bed and she went down shaking never freeing Laura from her tight embrace. She had tried masturbating before, but the high that shook her body now was otherworldly.

Before Carmilla could react and come down from her high, she was surprised when Laura continued with her movements. Laura cupped her mound and then she parted her labia with her index and ring fingers, gilding with the wetness of Carmilla’s recent release.

“I’m gonna try one more thing.” Laura whispered softly to Carmilla’s ear, nibbling on her ear lobe in the process. Carmilla just consented with a nod. She’s not sure if she could take anymore but she knew that whatever Laura was doing has brought her to greater heights.

Laura continued to rub her outer lips slowly eliciting another moan from Carmilla. Then carefully, Laura slowly circled the edges of Carmilla’s inner lips with her middle finger. “I’m going in okay?” Laura said, Carmilla did not understand the question entirely, she was too focused on the sensation but she just nodded her head again.

With her affirmation, Laura slowly entered her with her middle finger. As she penetrated gradually, Carmilla let out a soft groan, adjusting to the sensation. It was unfamiliar, at first, she grappled with the discomfort but as Laura lanced inside of her, there was an unexplainable sensation in her gut.

“Does it hurt?” Laura examined her reaction in worry. It was Carmilla’s first time; Laura wanted to make it extraordinary.

“I’m fine, just keep on moving, please.” Carmilla urged Laura to move. She tried to decipher that immediate reaction of her body.

Laura began to slot in her finger and then withdrew it slowly several times. As Carmilla started to respond positively with her whimpers, Laura began to build up speed. Soon enough, Carmilla was moaning uncontrollably beneath her. Then Laura added her index finger, realizing that Carmilla did not show any discomfort, she started working with the same pace. Her ring finger now stabilized her other fingers and her thumb kept on brushing on Carmilla’s clit. Carmilla was already on the edge, and then as Laura felt the spongy bit inside of Carmilla, she hooked her fingers and worked at a grueling pace. Carmilla felt her core stretch, it stung but the sensation was so good.

“Fuck!” Carmilla was not the one to curse but after prompting this reaction from her, Laura knew that she was close. Laura was totally sheathed into Carmilla, as Laura entered deeper, the more the channel clenched around her fingers. Then suddenly, Carmilla jolted upright, released a inaudible yelp, her mouth slightly open in stupor and she shook in Laura’s arm and finally Laura felt her squirt, releasing fluid as she reached her second orgasm. This was it; Carmilla thought she almost blacked out. With all the books she read and all the metaphors on sexual arousal, she finally experienced what an incredible orgasm was.

Laura continued her penetration to extend Carmilla’s orgasm until she withdrew her fingers slowly as Carmilla came down from her ecstasy.

“Well, that was insightful.” Laura slowly extracted her fingers from Carmilla, cupping her mound in the process. Then Laura examined her drenched fingers, licking then dry.

“Are you sure you haven’t done this before?” Carmilla inquired breathless beneath her.

“I just acted out of instinct.” Laura replied smugly. They were still enfolded together, their sweaty bodies tangled in a mess.

“Well, what works for you probably also works for me.” Carmilla chuckled, wiping away some perspiration from her forehead.

“I also think I found your G-spot.” Laura teased, giving Carmilla a peck on her clammy temple.

“Don’t be too conceited about it, Hollis. My turn now.” Carmilla immediately flipped their position. Laura wondered where Carmilla got the strength after what just happened.

Carmilla moved quickly, she immediately removed Laura’s soaked underwear. Grinning, she parted Laura’s legs and instantly hovered over her glistening folds. “I guess you’re too worked up already, cupcake.” She muttered. Her breath glossing over Laura’s sex, the sensation sent tingles to Laura’s spine.

Without warning, Carmilla started to tease Laura. With what she just had experienced with Laura, Carmilla felt a little self-possessed. She wanted Laura to delight in what she was about to do. Of course, this was her first time, but she had to return the favor somehow. Should I take the plunge? Carmilla thought to herself. Well, I think we passed that point already. She breathed into Laura’s gleaming core once more; Laura shuddered at the warmth. She was glad she did that sniff test with Laura before because Laura actually smells familiar and enticing. The peculiar musky scent suddenly shrouded her senses; it was a little sweet smelling but partly tangy. Then without warning, she started flicking the tip of her tongue over Laura’s mound, barely tickling her clit. Laura shuddered as she felt Carmilla’s warm tongue. Carmilla then moved to trace both sides of Laura’s vulva with her tongue.

“Shit!” Laura let out a breathy squeak. Then Carmilla flattened her tongue licking Laura’s inner lips and clitoris. Initially, Carmilla had no clue in what she was doing but as long as Laura was reacting positively, she kept on going.

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Laura continued to curse under her breath; her fingers were digging holes on Carmilla’s scalp. Carmilla continued to lick her like ice cream, and then she began to suck on Laura’s hood while flicking her tongue against her clit. She started tenderly sucking on the reddening nub and Laura’s other hand thrashed on the bed on her side. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” She drew more cussing from Laura.

“Aaah aaaaah!” Laura yelped as Carmilla continued moving her tongue in circles and eventually she dipped her tongue all the way in. As Laura began jerking her knees, Carmilla knew that she was already done for. She felt something rapture from inside of Laura.

Warm liquid began to gush out of Laura, Carmilla continued licking greedily, and Laura was right about the sniff test. She just loved how Laura tasted and smelled right now. She held Laura’s thighs in position, preventing Laura from closing her legs. Laura held on to the tangles of her hair; as her grip loosened, Carmilla knew that she had calmed down now.

“So, how was it?” Carmilla asked as she hovered above Laura, wiping her chin in the process.

“Should you dare ask?” Laura teased in delight. “Are you also sure that this is your first time?”

“Let’s just say that I had done some research.” Carmilla chuckled. “But I don’t know if I can kiss you now?” Carmilla hesitated, unsure if Laura wanted to taste herself from her mouth.

“Shut up and kiss me!” Laura pulled her in for a kiss, their bodies tangled in a sweaty mess.

“I love you.” Carmilla whispered softly to Laura’s ear.

“I love you too, Carm.” Laura replied as Carmilla descended to her side.

They both stared at the ceiling for a while, too drained out to say anything more. They both laid on their backs, positioning themselves to fit in Laura’s twin-size bed. They were breathing normally now, they held hands, Carmilla moving her thumb in circles over Laura’s hand.

“Well, I think the world can end tomorrow for all I care.” Carmilla stated, eliciting a vibrant giggle from Laura.

The rest of the evening was more eventful, making Carmilla walk funny the following Monday and Laura falling asleep during the lecture in her first period.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 20. To Burn or Not

 


“You do not need to leave the room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

 

Franz Kafka


 

The afterglow of their passionate week had rather been a bit taxing for Carmilla. The succeeding days had been quite surreal for her. She walked without feeling her feet touch the ground and she smiled as if her lips were an extension of her body that she could not control. It also did not help that J.P. kept on pestering her to spill the prodigious details of losing her virginity. However, to his dismay, Carmilla was not the type to kiss and tell, she valued their privacy and she would only throw thoughtless idioms towards J.P.’s way. J.P. and Carmilla’s relationship had always been multifaceted; J.P. was one of her best friends but he was also like a brother than she never had, interchanging from being an intellectual and protective older brother and a frisky and gross younger brother. In addition, with his bourgeoning relationship with Perry, he had learned to become more tactful around Carmilla, shutting up once Perry gives him a death glare. Perry, on the other hand, was nothing but jubilant with Carmilla’s new status. She had been focusing all her energy in editing her short film. All the film students will be sponsoring a short film festival by the end of the term before they all head out for the holidays.

The past few days had been bizarre for Carmilla, she was drifting from class to class as if there was a soundtrack playing in a loop in her head, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. Carmilla was skipping and hopping in the halls, despite the absence of any tune around her. She was uncharacteristically happy, not to mention that she was a bit out of it throughout the day, in a cloud of stupor. She had caught a few bumps and bruises, hitting lampposts and table corners as she maneuvered around campus. She recognized that she was finally in a blissful state, so this is how it feels. The feeling was consuming, the feeling was sweltering, and she felt like she would combust at any moment. She was done pining senselessly, she was done second-guessing herself, she wanted Laura and Laura wanted her back. Finally, there was someone at the other end waiting for her, catching her fall.

However, there was this abysmal nagging feeling inside of her. She wanted to hold on to this idyllic feeling, to never loosen her grip. Is she strong enough? Maybe she should try to tame her heart a bit, she told herself. You can only hope for the best, making this last as long as it possibly can. There is this tremor deep inside of her telling her that when things go so well, there is certainly a catch. She was used to no-win situations in the past, she could only anticipate for something to go wrong. She was shedding her skin, opening up to Laura, and Laura was doing the same. They were vulnerable now; all defenses are down.

On the other hand, when you finally find someone equal to your own stream of consciousness, you just lay there and count the days. Carmilla scolded herself for overthinking once more; she should stop, she owed that to Laura. After all, soul mates do not always have to fit the gaps in your hand, they just grab your hand no matter how clammy it might get. For whatever unknown fear she is trying to escape, she knows that she should just need to be open to Laura and they will overcome it together.

Carmilla sat patiently on the steps of the Silas University radio station building. She wore a vintage band t-shirt, a dark denim jacket, dark pants and her combat boots. She remembered that faithful night when a swarm of frogs attacked her and Laura came to her rescue. Well, she was definitely exaggerating, there was no swarm of frogs, there was a frog, but she was not even sure of its existence. Looking back on that memory, she had a profound appreciation of her relationship with Laura now. Nobody was stereotypically the knight and shining armor and nobody played the damsel in distress. If children knew the truth about knights in medieval Europe, their stomachs would just recoil at the fact that most knights were not really charming and valiant. Many of them were hired cutthroats of wealthy lords and were not very keen with the chivalric code. Moreover, most noble women were either manipulative or were ensnared by the wretchedness of their status. Therefore, Carmilla would rather think that their relationship was something unromantic in the romantic sense but probably something that would endure time due to their mutual appreciation of each other’s burdens and constancy.

Carmilla read a paperback as she waited for Laura; it was starting to drizzle now, much like the evening when Laura came to her rescue. Carmilla marveled at the rain, how the droplets undeviatingly fell into the asphalt ground, changing the lighter gray into a darker tinge. Perhaps their feelings for each other was like the rain on the ground, it was inevitable, brushing a different hue as soon as the droplets burst open onto the surface.

“You’ve been daydreaming a lot lately.” A familiar voice resounded behind her.

“Hey, cupcake…nothing that doesn’t involve you.” Carmilla slurred as Laura sat beside her on the steps. She moved to give Laura a quick peck on the cheek.

Laura looked a bit tired, not to mention their upcoming final examinations and requirements, she and Laura had been a little bit regular on the physical aspect of their relationship, wearing themselves out to relive some stress and losing on some much needed sleep. Despite her rugged exterior, Carmilla knew that Laura was always sunshiny inside. Laura had Carmilla’s yellow beanie on; she wore a maroon Silas University sweater, a dark pair of pants and sneakers. She rubbed her eyes behind her glasses and stifled a yawn. Laura looked adorable when she was tired, Carmilla wanted to do nothing else but to just scoop her up and envelop her in an embrace.

“How about we get some take-away and take a nap before we get back to any school work?” Carmilla suggested as they got up from the steps.

“When you say nap, do you mean actual nap? Also, when you say school work, do you mean actual school work?” Laura was a little bit awake at this point, trying to sound suggestive but Carmilla knew that she was just physically exhausted.

“Yes, cupcake, I mean actual nap and actual school work. Plus, you look like you’re going to drop dead at any moment, not in the gorgeous sense.” Carmilla chuckled as she fumbled with an umbrella and held Laura close as they began to head out of the building.

“Well, I’m not complaining from all the body pain that I have suffered lately, these were all caused by some carnal friendly-fire.” Laura joked alluringly.

“As much as I would want to kill you with affection, we still have a couple of weeks to go before the term ends.” Carmilla quipped as they walked slowly on the damp pavement.

“How come you don’t look so bad?” Laura lifted her gaze to examine her girlfriend. She had a smirk that had evolved into a faint smile across her face and her skin still looked healthy, almost glowing.

“That’s because I’m a vampire and vampires don’t age.” Carmilla teased. “Also, the sexual afterglow looks good on me; I’ve been living on adrenaline rushes and happy hormones for the past few days.”

“Ha ha, very funny, spare me from all that supernatural crap and virginal glories.” Laura spat back rather begrudgingly.  

“Let’s just go get you some Chinese takeout and perhaps some cookies and a cup of cocoa. You’ll feel better, I promise.” Carmilla tightened her grip around Laura’s shoulder.

“I already feel better, I actually feel great, it’s just my mortal body won’t cooperate with all these stocked up energy.” Laura huffed.

“Keep telling yourself that, cupcake. You need a nap.” Carmilla mumbled as they continued to thread on the misty path.


 

 

It was a melancholic Saturday morning; Laura was working on her term paper for her ancient mythology class all daybreak. Carmilla went out to have coffee with Emily as expected; the latter had been pestering Carmilla for their anticipated get-together. Despite the intensity of their schedules, Carmilla had arranged to meet her old friend. Laura knew that they went back as childhood friends; she was in no way jealous of Emily or distrustful of Carmilla, she had old friends and she understood the dynamics of such friendships. These were the people that in spite of not seeing them for years or even decades, you could easily bounce back on the friendship as if it was only yesterday. With the promise of chocolate chip cookies and a dark chocolate latté, Laura let Carmilla see her friend even if the weather perfectly orchestrated the best time for some indoor cuddling. Laura had not changed out of her thermal animal print pajamas; instead, she put on a pair of wool socks for added warmth. She figured that it was also the best time to finish her essay. The weather was starting to get colder and winter was settling in.

After another grueling hour of intensive writing, Laura finally finished her two thousand-word paper. As soon as she has plopped back on her bed to rest her back, she finally heard a set of keys jingle at the door. The familiar sound of the doorknob being unlocked and the creaking of the door has already caused Laura’s heart to jolt. From now on, she would always associate this sound with Carmilla coming back. As Carmilla entered the threshold, Laura noticed the faint sign of snow on her boots. She took off her bucket hat and shook the light ice crystals that fell on her shoulder. Carmilla wore a layer of black thermal long-sleeved shirt and a black Sherpa-lined weathered duck vest with a hood.

“Has it already started snowing outside?” Laura jumped from the bed to the window to marvel at the outdoor scene.

“Yup, first snowfall this winter.” Carmilla entered carrying a bag of cookies and a cup of still warm cocoa drink in her hands.

Laura rushed to greet her, kissing her icy lips in the process. “Thank you!” she removed the drink and cookies from Carmilla’s grasp, Carmilla felt a sudden rush of warmth with Laura’s actions.

“Seems like you have done some work this morning.” Carmilla eyed Laura’s messy desk.

“Yup! Just finished the mythology paper!” Laura beamed shuffling through the bag of cookies.

Carmilla hurriedly took off her boots and her vest and changed into a fleece sweater. She noticed that the room was already a bit toasty and that Laura had probably already adjusted the heating. Laura lay silent as she munched on her food, she sat there observing Carmilla, and there was something unnerving with her movements. Since Carmilla had arrived, she still has not looked at Laura in the eye.

“Is there something wrong? Something you want to tell me?” Laura asked cautiously.

Laura sat on their small breakfast nook in their dorm room. Carmilla let out a sigh and sat on the chair opposite her.

“Well, I just went out to catch up with Emily.” Carmilla huffed.

“And?” Laura knew that, so she probed some more.

“We’re planning a small reunion during the holidays.” Carmilla continued in a faint tone.

“So? Why do you sound so bothered?” Laura prodded.

“Well…news is…that Elle will be there.” Carmilla finally whispered. This time she looked into Laura’s eyes, anticipating her reaction.

Laura knew that at some point, Carmilla’s thoughts or probably her feelings about Elle would surface, especially with her sudden reconnection with Emily. Laura knew that Elle had played a significant part in Carmilla’s life, not to mention that Carmilla had been secretly pining on this girl for almost all her existence before Laura appeared. To say that Laura was insecure was an understatement; how can you compete with your girlfriend’s first love? Especially if you are aware that there may be some unresolved issues and clandestine unrequited feelings lingering on the surface. Their relationship was still very young; they are together for barely a month. To say that Laura hovered on unperturbed waters was too early; Carmilla’s disclosure might still shake things up a bit.

However, Laura knew that she should act otherwise; she knew that she promised herself to be more self-assured this time. “Oh, so you’ll get to see her finally, after all these years.” Laura muttered trying to mask her alarm.

“Yeah…but what do you think? Should I go and see her?” Carmilla tripped over her tongue, she still could not tell how Laura would react to the idea.

“I mean, she’s one of your old friends, aren’t you happy to see her.” Laura declared. At this point, Carmilla realized that her girlfriend was right. She was with Laura now and Elle was her best friend before. Though they may not know a lot about each other now and perhaps they had already changed through time, it was thrilling to see Elle again. She might not even be the same person that Carmilla fell in love with before; she might even just remain as some lingering idea in Carmilla’s mind. Plus, all the feelings that she had for Elle in the past were nothing but a part of her growth as a devoted and proper young adult. She should not worry about anything actually, especially when Elle never found out about what she really felt in the past. It was indeed time to move on and facing Elle was part of it. This ghost of her past probably is not as terrifying anymore, she needed to prove that, she needed closure.

In her sudden realization, Carmilla simply moved towards Laura’s side and gave her a soft kiss on the lips, her mouth tasting like chocolate chip cookies. “What did I do to deserve you?” She beamed at Laura.

“What did I do?” Laura tried to act innocent at this point.

“Are you sure about this though?” Carmilla asked with a raised eyebrow.

“About what?” Laura asked.

“You know how I felt about Elle.” Carmilla reproached playfully.

“Exactly, how you felt.” Laura emphasized the last word. “I think I have nothing to worry about, this was bound to happen at one point. Along the line, I might be invited for a high school reunion and I might encounter my ex and that is least likely, since he moved to another country. However, having said that, we will all reach this point. I’m cool with it, what matters is what we have now.” Laura expressed in one bated breath.

Carmilla wanted to say something in the line of, you trust me so much even if I know that I could not fully trust myself, but she thought against it, it was not a kind thing to say to Laura. She could not break Laura’s confidence now, especially when she had been having qualms about herself the moment Emily broke the news to her that morning. At least, she knew how Laura felt and she knew that Laura trusted her. She held that in the palm of her hand, all she needed to do was to figure things out and eventually hope for the best. After all, based on what Laura has articulated until that moment, she knew that hurting her would be the last thing she will ever do.

“I love you, Laura Hollis.” Carmilla uttered as she moved to kiss Laura, reminding herself that she had always waited for her all this time and nothing will change that.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 21. Object of Affection


 

objets / objects

 

“Every object touched by the loved being’s body becomes part of that body, and the subject eagerly attaches himself to it.”

Haiku: “Aside from these fetishes, there is no other object in the amorous world. It is a world sensuously impoverished, abstract, erased, canceled out; my gaze passes through things without acknowledging their seduction; I am dead to all sensuality except that of the ‘charming body’.”

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

 

The semester had gone by like a blur; they had barely a couple of days left before the winter break. Coincidentally, Laura, Carmilla, and Danny ended up as groupmates for their end-term requirement in their gender and sexuality class with Prof. Belmonde. The groups were tasked to select a topic for research; they needed to gather data and write a term paper about their issue. Danny suggested that they work on ‘male sexual objectification’. Since most of print media has focused on objectifying women, the group looked into this opposition.

They had a rather imaginative way in conducting their survey. They bought several magazines targeted for the female audience. These ranged from college magazines to erotic or adult magazines that featured male models. From the fully clad fashionable cuties to the butt-naked hunks, the group cutout varying images and arranged these in sequence. Then, they would show this material to their respondents that they would approach randomly in the university grounds, handout a questionnaire and then proceed with their analysis and writing. The three of them surprisingly did not have any clashes, Carmilla and Danny remarkably got along, given their history. They realized that actually had certain things in common, they were both determined, they were both insightful, and they both listened to Laura.

They worked at Danny’s room in the Summer Society house. Since Laura and Carmilla had already taken their relationship to the next level, let us just say that their room was out of commission as of the moment. Plus, it could get distracting for both of them, imagining the misadventures of the past few days in every nook and cranny of that room. However, they could not divulge the actual reason with Danny. Laura was hunched on the desk in front of Danny’s computer; she was tabulating and interpreting the results of their survey. She wore a red flannel over a gray tank top, flared jeans and Birkenstocks, her glasses hung low on top of her nose. Danny was reading printouts of articles that they could use for their analysis. Danny wore a long-sleeved jersey, baggy pants, and she just had socks on, she was arched on the floor over the area rug, highlighting notes. Carmilla was scrunched on Danny’s lounge chair, she was skimming over the pictures that they had collected, trying to reconcile the data with the images. Carmilla wore a black sweater, ripped jeans and her Ugg boots.

“Well, guess who won the competition?” Laura finally exclaimed from her corner. They asked all the women that they approached to select which fella they were physical attracted to and which one they were sexually attracted to. The group was trying to define and differentiate sexual objectification and sexual desire based on the preferences of their female respondents.

“So, which one?” Carmilla jolted from her seat, hopping towards Laura to view the data from the computer, Danny followed.

“Well, looks like the Cosmopolitan hottie wins by landslide.” Laura huffed. 

The group used five prints for their study. The first one was a fully clothed, charming twenty-something from the cover of Seventeen Magazine. The second one was a half-naked Cosmopolitan Magazine hunk showing off his six-pack who only wore a pair of distressed jeans. The third one was from an edition of Playgirl Magazine who only wore a bikini brief. The fourth one was the brawny centerfold of Playgirl Magazine who was stark naked but had a hard hat to cover his private parts. Lastly, was another centerfold but from Blueboy Magazine, the beefy male model only crossed his leg over his other leg just to cover his genitals from view, he was in the nude.

“Why so?” Carmilla was intrigued; they read the various responses from the survey. As it appears, most of the women that they talked to were basically physically attracted with the face of the male model and not with his body. The level of nakedness was not the main precursor for female sexual attraction; it was mostly the eyes, the lips, and the face. Comments such as ‘he’s handsome, his eyes look sincere, or that he looks authentic’ defined their physical attraction and they were equally sexually attracted to the same traits. Only a few preferred the beefy bodies and the naked builds.

‘Well, this just shows that most of them are physically attracted to this fellow but they still connect his physical appearance with traits such as ‘sensitive, good-natured, and likeable’. Does this mean that women typically do not indulge in objectifying men?” Carmilla qualified.

“Well, that answers one issue but we just have a small sample, let’s try to make recommendations then. But I guess, it’s also important that we qualify the magazine were we got these images from, not all of these are targeted towards heterosexual women, some of these magazines are targeted towards homosexual and bisexual men.” Danny added.

“How about you, Laura. You’re bisexual! Which one would you date and which one would you hook up with?” Danny waved their sample prints in front of Laura and she laid out all the images on the floor for Laura to handpick her preference.

Laura suddenly realized that she was the only person in the room who was sexually attracted to both men and women. “Well, let’s see, out of fear for their bulkiness, I’m not inclined towards the last three models. I’d probably date the Cosmopolitan guy but I might hook up with the Seventeen Mag guy though.” Laura snickered.

“Really? You’d date this dude?” Carmilla raised an eyebrow at Laura’s choice.

“Well, these are my only options but if you probably add a photo of Kate Moss or Winona Ryder then I might have more alternatives.” Laura chuckled trying to comfort her girlfriend.

“Hmm, that’s interesting, cupcake. Winona did caught my eye in Girl Interrupted, not bad.” Carmilla hummed.

“How about you Lawrence, honestly speaking, before I came into your life, who made you, realize that you like girls?” Laura was casually joking about their past now, they were all over it.

“Well, it was confusing for me when I saw Michelle Pfeiffer in one of that Batman movie.” Danny admitted.

“You do have a thing for blondes, Lawrence.” Carmilla teased.

“How about you, Carm?” Laura directed the question at her girlfriend this time.

“Well, I had always been Nicole Kidman from Far and Away or even Eyes Wide Shut and of course, Meg Ryan is the reason why I watch Nora Ephron movies.” Carmilla answered in a heartbeat.

“Hmm, so who else is into blondes?” Laura gave Carmilla a knowing look. “All I can I say is that I had a hard time choosing between Carrie Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves when I watched the Matrix…”

Before Laura could finish her statement, there was soft knocking at Danny’s door and eventually Emily peered through the opening.

“Sorry, am I interrupting something?” Emily finally emerged from the threshold, eyeing the prints of the various images of male models on Danny’s floor.

“Oh, hey Em, we’re just working on our piece for our psychology class, the one on gender and sexuality.” Danny explained, gathering the cutouts from the ground.

“That seems to be a very interesting class.” Emily muttered quite shocked of the materials that she just saw.

“We’re studying the male body as a sex object!” Carmilla exclaimed to add more humor to the scene.

Carmilla noticed that their friend could not contain her blush. She knew that Emily wasn’t always privy of her sexuality but she was somewhat quite modest at some point. “That explains all those…uh…stuff.” Emily muttered. “Anyway, I was just sent to remind you that it’s going to be curfew soon, visitors should start heading out.” Emily tried to compose herself.

Danny just looked at her digital alarm clock on top of her desk, it was indeed 11:45 PM. On regular days, guests were only allowed until 10:00PM but towards the end of the semester, the Summer Society house allowed guests until 12:00MN for study groups, group projects, and tutorials.

“Yeah right! I almost forgot! Thanks for the reminder, Em” Danny tried to gather all their materials from the floor. Carmilla noticed the obvious natural rouge that crept over Emily’s face as she established eye contact with Danny.

Laura and Carmilla started to pack up their things, they still had a few days before their presentation, and they were scheduled to work as a group again in the incoming nights.

“Sorry for overstaying our welcome, we almost forgot the time!” Laura exclaimed as she saved their latest revision on Danny’s computer.

“No problem.” Emily muttered timidly. “Oh Carm, when are you scheduled to go home for the winter break?”

“When all the requirements are done, I’ll be catching the first bus on the 21st.” Carmilla acknowledged.

“Well, dad is going to send a car for me, you can hitch a ride with me that day.” Emily offered.

“That’s great…are you sure it’s okay?” Carmilla dithered.

“Actually, you’re doing me a favor; I would love to have someone to chat with on several grueling hours on the road.” Emily appealed.

“I just typically sleep in the bus but that would be fun. Thanks, Em.” Carmilla beamed.

“No biggie, plus, I’m already very excited this year! We need to prepare for our big reunion.” Emily seemed too thrilled for the winter break; Carmilla just gave a faint smile and a nod. Laura took note of the nuance. “Anyway, see you guys around, I still need to call out curfew for the others.” Emily finally left the room.

“I’ll catch up with you, Em.” Danny called behind her.

“So, how are things with you and Emily?” Carmilla asked in a low voice as the trio exited the room.

“She seem to be quite nervous around you.” Laura teased giving Danny a playful shove.

“Well, we’ve been in mutual terms, I think, I don’t want to preempt something, let’s leave it at that.” Danny puffed.

Carmilla went ahead as they descended the staircase, heading towards the coat closet to retrieve their jackets. Laura delayed her steps to walk side by side with Danny.

“Hey, don’t be too hard on yourself okay; just see where this takes you. I’m really happy for you.” Laura murmured.

“Thanks, Laur.” Danny leered at her friend.


 

The group exited the film center with much glee after watching Perry’s short film. Congratulations were in order; Perry was thankful to all her friends and recognized Laf and J.P. for all their production work. Perry had received commendations from her professors and some alumni who went and watched her film. They had been done with their exams and their presentations in Prof. Belmonde’s class the day prior, the class ended in a jovial note. Everyone showed appreciation to Prof. Belmonde for such an insightful and life-changing semester.

To cap things off, they all went to see Perry’s class screening. The following day they would all be headed to their respective homes for the winter break. Carmilla was seated beside Laura during the screening and they held hands all throughout the film. Carmilla recalled the times when they were still apprehensive towards each other; she really did owe Perry and J.P. for pushing her towards Laura. If not for the circumstances that her friends had orchestrated, they might still be walking around in circles at this point. Laura went with Danny and Laf to the comfort room, Kirsch stumbled upon someone familiar and was suddenly engaged in conversation. Perry was still talking to her mentor inside the theater. They were waiting for everyone else to rejoin them before they headed out to Bram’s for their end-term celebration. J.P. leaned on the brick cladded wall of the theater façade, Carmilla soon followed. Since their group had expanded and they had spent much time with their significant others, this was a rare occasion, being alone together.

“Seems like an eternity since I last hated the world with you.” J.P. chuckled, rubbing his hands together to generate more heat. He wore a military jacket over a flannel shirt, dark wash jeans, and boots. He had tattered open-fingered gloves on.

“I guess we don’t hate the world anymore, do we?” Carmilla chuckled joining J.P. in the corner. She hid her gloved hands inside her leather jacket; she had a scarf around her neck and black thermal t-shirt underneath.

“How are things in paradise?” J.P. probed with a raised eyebrow.

“I would like to say it’s all good but honestly, I’m terrified of the unknown.” Carmilla mumbled.

“What’s wrong? The cupcake not treating you well?” J.P. asked.

“No, it’s not that, Laura’s nothing but great actually.” Carmilla paused. “Elle is coming home for the holidays.” She continued.

“When it rains it does pour!” J.P. chuckled to himself. “I wish you well, Karnstein.” J.P. elbowed Carmilla playfully.

“What should I do? I feel so guilty thinking about it.” Carmilla sighed in a more serious note.

“Then, stop thinking about it. Does Laura know? What did she say?” J.P. stretched his arm to capture Carmilla in a side hug.

“She trusts me, she thinks I’ll be able to figure it out and deal with it.” Carmilla quipped.

“Is it that bad?” J.P. searched Carmilla’s eyes for a sincere answer.

“I don’t trust myself, Jeep. I don’t even know what to say to Elle.” Carmilla blurted out.

“Then don’t say anything, you guys are friends. She does not even know how much she has affected you in the past. Plus, you have Laura now, what are you worried of?” J.P. advised.

“That I might not react the way I am supposed to.” Carmilla admitted.

“Don’t get this the wrong way but the Elle in your mind, is a figment of your imagination. Whatever she has said to you before and any of your past correspondence, you were putting meaning into those words. They might not even mean the same way that you understood them. On the other hand, Laura, she’s real and she’s here beside you. Think about that, Carm.” J.P. counselled. If there is one person who is not afraid to come up to Carmilla with the truth and to snap her out of her anxiety, it was J.P. and he did make a lot of sense. “You’re no longer a hopeless teenager pining on a ‘what had been’ or ‘a lost love’, you are here, existing, in love with someone who loves you back.” J.P. continued.

“I always knew being friends with someone who’s ancient does have its benefits!” Carmilla messed around but in reality, J.P.’s words did make much sense.

“I know you, Karnstein. Just stop fidgeting around and being such a worrywart!” J.P. shoved Carmilla good-humoredly.

“Thank you, Jeep! Thanks for always talking some sense to me.” Carmilla gave him an affectionate hug, leaning her head on J.P.’s shoulder longer than usual.

“Just don’t forget about my Christmas present, these advises don’t come cheap, I now have a family to feed.” J.P. murmured under the hug, Carmilla pushing him spiritedly in the process.


 

Laf had exited the theater’s public restroom ahead of Danny and Laura and they had drifted and disappeared somewhere within the crowd outside. Laura took the opportunity to talk to Danny, she had to admit to she was deeply bothered about Carmilla’s recent anxiety about Elle. If there was one person who could be honest with her, it was Danny, they had gone through so much already to walk around eggshells on each other.

“Hey, can I ask you something?” Laura mumbled under her breath as she caught Danny’s attention.

“What about? Is Karnstein causing you trouble already?” Danny asked in arms akimbo.

“Nothing like that, I’m not even sure if I should be bothered.” Laura murmured.

“If you’re acting this way then it’s probably something that's already bothering you.” Danny wisecracked.

“Well, I’m not even sure if I should be asking you this.” Laura began. “You see, Carmilla’s old friend, Elle is going home this Christmas and Emily is planning some sort of a reunion.” Laura continued.

“Yeah, she has mentioned something like that. Emily’s actually quite excited about having everyone else back, her sister, Carm, and yeah, Elle. She mentioned something about not seeing all of them in the longest time. That’s actually quite charming if you ask me.” Danny provided.

“Well, only glitch is that…Carmilla was once in love with Elle.” Laura revealed.

“Did she tell you that or did you just found out on your own? I heard Emily talk about how close they were.” Danny established.

“Carmilla has been very honest about everything, she told me about Elle. She had been pining on the girl for most of her life. How can I compete with that? Plus, she’s going to see her after such a long time. Don’t you think Elle might realize something or that Carm might change her mind and gather that it was Elle all along? A lot of feelings might be uncovered in a short time…” Laura went on with her word vomit. At this point, Danny had sensed that she probably had all these reservations cooped up for some time.

Danny placed both her hands on Laura’s shoulders and tried to calm the stuttering girl down. “Hey Laura, breathe, one thing at a time, take it easy.”

“I’m so sorry; I’m sorry I should not be pouring out all these stuff on you.” Laura apologized profusely.

“When I said that I has ready to be your friend, I meant it Laura. I think I have been in Carm’s shoes for quite a while and I understand why she’s nervous about this. But you of all people should trust her and you should also trust yourself, more than anything.” Danny cautioned. “Carm just needs to get through this and realize this for herself. It’s inevitable that she’ll stumble upon Elle, if not now and probably in the near future. But one thing is certain, she needs to figure this shit out herself. You do have a reason to be nervous about this but you should also learn to give her the benefit of the doubt.”

“But what if things don’t take a good turn? What if she realizes that she doesn’t really love me and she just misdirected her unreciprocated feelings for Elle? What if Elle has feelings for her now?” Laura was starting to tear up, her actual fears unfolding.

“Then that’s that, you’ll accept it and move on. It’s hard, but if I can do it then you can. It has to happen eventually. When we fall in love, we are willing to take risks, especially if we’re not sure if someone is there to catch us or not.” Danny made sure that Laura was listening; she stared deeply into her eyes. Laura knew what Danny was talking about, she hurt Danny once and they had moved past it eventually.

“Thank you, Danny.” Laura looked up to avert her tears from falling.

“That’s what I have always admired about you, Laura. You are smart and at the same time, you are strong. But don’t let your misgivings drag you down; it’s okay to feel vulnerable at times.” Danny rubbed Laura’s back with the palm of her hand. “Plus, if Karnstein does something stupid, aside from yours, she has my wrath to deal with.” Danny joked.

The two shared some unnerving laughter. Laura took Danny’s advice; she should just learn trust Carmilla and not worry about what’s not yet there. She just hopes that nothing bad is going to happen out of this.


 

 

“Hey, Carm.” Laura sat on settee at the dorm lobby with Carmilla; she wore her mustard parka and Carmilla’s yellow beanie. Their luggage were at their feet, Carmilla was nervously rubbing her hands on her thighs, and she wore her leather jacket over her black AC/DC t-shirt, stonewashed jeans and boots.

“Yes, cupcake?” Carmilla asked anxiously, she fixed Laura’s eyeglasses on the bridge of her nose.

After the celebration with their friends, they returned to the dorm in relative silence. They did not get enough sleep, Laura’s dad was coming in early to pick her up and Emily told Carmilla that their car would arrive at almost the same time. Carmilla would be heading to the Summer Society house once her dad picks up Laura. They used up the evening just curled up in Laura’s bed; they did not talk much. Just after an eventful semester, it was quite anti-climactic that they would be spending the next few weeks apart. Carmilla lived in small town two-hours away from Silas and Laura lived in a suburban community in the outskirts of Silas.

“I’m going to miss you.” Laura muttered, quite unsure what would happen after they part ways.

“I’ll miss you too, I’ll call or text you every day.” Carmilla promised. She then moved to take out a small gift-wrapped item from her bag. “I just got you something; don’t open it until Christmas morning.” Carmilla warned, tapping a finger on Laura’s nose.

Laura chuckled at the thought. “Actually, I got you something you, I hid it somewhere in your luggage.” Laura pointed at Carmilla’s small overnight case.

“You’re really sneaky, Hollis.” Carmilla laughed at her girlfriend’s antics.

“Merry Christmas, Carm. I love you.” Laura held Carmilla’s chin in her hand and gave her a soft kiss.

“Happy Christmas, I love you too, Laura.” Carmilla encased her girlfriend in a bone-crushing hug and leaving a tender kiss on her forehead, Laura closed her eyes, savoring the gesture.

Suddenly, Laura’s flip phone beeped, it was her dad texting, saying that he was already at the driveway. The two broke apart and headed out of the building with their bags in tow. Carmilla spotted a red Ford F-150 in the driveway. A balding broad-shouldered man got off the truck; he was wearing a brown vest over his flannel shirt. He had a limp in his walk but he walked towards them beaming with cheerfulness.

“Come meet my dad.” Laura grabbed Carmilla’s hand towards her father’s direction.

“Hey, care bear!” Mr. Hollis greeted and Laura ran towards him giving him a tight squeeze.

“I missed you!” Laura eventually broke away from the hug. Carmilla just stood there witnessing the tender moment between father and daughter. Suddenly, Laura was reminded of her presence.

“Oh, meet Carmilla Karnstein, the girl I was telling you about.” Laura gave her father a knowing look. “Carm, my dad, Sherman Hollis.” Laura turned towards her girlfriend.

“Pleased to finally meet you, sir, Mr. Hollis, sir.” Carmilla stuttered as she gave Sherman a firm handshake. “I heard so much about you.” She smiled nervously. It was suddenly sinking in that there she was meeting her girlfriend’s father for the first time.

“All good things I suppose. Also, no need for the ‘sir’ or ‘Mr. Holiis’, you can call me Sherman.” He smiled back. “I’ve heard things about you, too.” He gave Laura a knowing look.

“Actually, it’s my girlfriend, Carmilla, dad.” Laura added uneasily, she knew that she could not hide things from her father.

“Wow, I did not know that my daughter moved fast. One day she was just talking about a crush, now, I’m meeting her girlfriend.” Sherman joked to lighten the mood. Carmilla knew that Laura and her dad were close, but she never imagined that they were close enough for Laura to share her crushes and romantic interests. What else did Sherman know about her?

“Okay dad, I think we better get going or else we’ll get stuck in traffic and Carmilla might miss her ride too.” Laura interjected.

“Well, then, Merry Christmas to you and your family Carmilla. I wish we met in better circumstances like dinner or something but I suppose you might even spend the next Christmases with us.” Sherman smiled with a wink as he went to grab Laura’s other bag.

“Stop scaring Carm, dad.” Laura cut in giving Carmilla an apologetic look.

“Merry Christmas too Mr. Hol…I mean Sherman. Looking forward to it.” Carmilla fumbled with her words.

As Sherman loaded Laura’s belongings to the back seat of the truck, Laura was on her way to hop on the passenger seat but Sherman gave her a meaningful look. Carmilla just stood in her place motionless, waiting for them to drive off.

“Aren’t you going to say goodbye to Carmilla? I know better, care bear.” Sherman gave her daughter a playful wink.

With that, Laura hopped off from the truck and ran towards Carmilla’s direction, inclosing her in an earnest hug. She then moved to give Carmilla a quick but intense kiss. Carmilla was speechless for a while, too surprised by her girlfriend’s sudden show of affection in front of her father.

“I love you, call me.” Laura whispered and then she leaped back to the truck.

Carmilla just stayed there, waving goodbye at the amusing duo. That moment was enough for Carmilla to understand Laura’s relationship with her dad. The blush on Laura’s cheeks was evident as she put on her seatbelt. They waved goodbye at Carmilla as they drove off, Sherman smirking on the driver’s seat and Laura red-faced beside him.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 22. Jealousy


 

Jalousie / jealousy

 

“A sentiment which is born in love and which is produced by the fear that the loved person prefers someone else.” (Littré)

“As a jealous man, I suffer four times over: because I am jealous, because I blame myself for being so, because I fear that my jealousy will wound the other, because I allow myself to be subject to a banality: I suffer from being excluded, from being aggressive, from being crazy, and from being common.”

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

 

December 22, 1999; 7:37 PM

Laura: Dad is so funny. We just went grocery shopping and I think he plans to cook so much just for the two of us.

Carmilla: We have so much food as well, but my cousins are coming over and we are going caroling.

Laura: Wow! You could have told me that your entire family was musical. Does you mom sing as well?

Carmilla: She does, but she always tells me that not as well as my ya-ya.

Laura: Maybe you got it from her, singing so well.

Carmilla: Thank you, cupcake but you haven’t heard my mom yet, she’s just humble.

Laura: You’re humble too.

Carmilla: Well, I have to go, my cousins just arrived.

Laura: I need to help dad with some sorting too, I love you!

Carmilla: I love you too.

 

December 23, 1999; 9:22 AM

Carmilla: Emily, Charlotte and I just built a snowman. I wish you could see how awful he looks.

Laura: Maybe take a picture then?
Carmilla: Okay, we used a carrot for his nose.

Laura: Is Elle there yet?

Carmilla: Not yet, Emily says tonight.

Laura: OK

 

December 23, 1999; 6:24 PM

Laura: Sorry, got a little preoccupied. We’re joining the community potluck and bingo tonight.

Carmilla: That sounds great!

Laura: What are your plans for tonight?

Carmilla: We’re having dinner at the Brontë’s.

Laura: Tonight’s the reunion?

Carmilla: Not yet, just dinner with parents and siblings.

Laura: Enjoy!

Carmilla: Have fun at the bingo, say hi to Sherman for me.

 

December 23, 1999: 11:31 PM

Carmilla: How was bingo?

Laura: Dad won an umbrella.

Laura: How was dinner?

Carmilla: Lively…

Laura: Goodnight, Carm.

Carmilla: Goodnight, cupcake, I love you.

 

 

December 24, 1999; 8:45 AM

Laura: Hey, Carm

 

December 24, 1999; 10:12 AM

Laura: Carm?

 

December 24, 1999; 1:36 PM

Laura: Are you busy?

 

December 24, 1999; 6:43 PM

Carmilla: Shit, sorry, cupcake, I left my phone at home

Laura: Where did you go?

Carmilla: Just some last minute shopping with my mom

Laura: You got me worried

Carmilla: Sorry, I’m not really used to using my phone as much

Laura: I know

Carmilla: I will call later

 


 

December 24, 1999; 10:45 PM

Laura’s phone buzzed from the side table, she was watching Jingle All the Way with her dad on VCD, and he loved Arnold Schwarzenegger. It helped get rid of Carmilla from her mind off a bit, ever since she had found out that Elle had already came home, her emotions just went haywire. Part of her wanted to know what Carmilla was doing all the time but part of her wanted to become a good and trusting girlfriend. She also wanted to focus on her time with her dad, just doing family Christmas traditions such as the bingo potluck, the Christmas charity drive, and their customary Christmas movie night. Since her mom died, the Christmas movie night was how Laura and her dad had managed to cope.  The tradition started with the 1951 A Christmas Carol and now they had been at it ever since. Laura was debating against answering the call; she respected her time with her father. After all, Carmilla was the one ignoring her texts all morning. For a second, she even doubted if Carmilla was in fact away from her phone all day. The distance was eating Laura up; after waking up next to Carmilla almost every day, she was having withdrawal symptoms. She wasn’t reasonable the past few days, doubts and suspicions would cloud her judgment. Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, Laura’s phone continued to buzz on the table.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Sherman prodded his daughter. He was seated on his overstuffed recliner in a red knitted sweater similar to Laura’s. Laura was lounged on their three-seater sofa next to him. The glare of the television reflected on their faces in a dimly lit living room. Emptied mugs of hot cocoa were scattered on the coffee table.

“But it’s movie night.” Laura disputed. Focusing on the scene before her where a couple of toy store clerks were hysterically laughing at a baffled Arnold Schwarzenegger who was desperately looking for a Turbo man toy on Christmas eve.

“It’s Christmas eve, sweetheart. Trust me, answer the phone.” Sherman knew better, he had been observing Laura since she came home. On her spare time, her daughter was glued to her phone. Which he assumed was talking to Carmilla. Laura was in high-spirits the past few days but her mood turned sour when she came down for breakfast the earlier morning. He could only guess Laura’s issues; she always came to him. However, this time, she was mum, Sherman was clueless but he knew something was wrong. However, if there is one thing that he wants to teach his daughter that is to live without regrets.

Due to her father’s prompting, Laura picked up her phone and headed to the kitchen, where she was out of earshot but still in the close vicinity to her father. She nervously answered the call, not knowing what to say to Carmilla. She couldn’t even explain what she was feeling at that moment, was it possessiveness? She just couldn’t deal thinking about the unknown.

“Hello…” Laura answered tentatively.

“Cupcake, hey…” Carmilla’s voice sounded cracked, she didn’t know if it was the reception or something else.

“Sorry, I didn’t pick up right away. I was watching a Christmas movie with dad.” Laura explained in a casual tone.

“Ow, I’m sorry to interrupt; maybe you should go back then. I can call later.” Carmilla apologized.

“No, no, it’s okay, dad understands.” Laura enlightened.

“Okay, what are you watching?” God, it was good to hear Carmilla’s voice. It only dawned to Laura how much she had missed her.

“Jingle All the Way.” Laura mumbled shyly.

“I don’t really know your dad yet but I think that’s a very Sherman Hollis movie.” Carmilla chuckled.

“What gives?” Laura asked.

“You haven’t seen it fully yet, have you?” Carmilla quipped.

“I’m watching it now, until you interrupted.” Laura noted her tone; she was back with her casual banter with Carmilla. It was a good sign.

“Well, go back and watch the rest of it. I just wanted to greet you a Merry Christmas.” Carmilla mumbled.

“Merry Christmas too, Carm.” Laura replied. “What are you doing now? I mean aside from calling me?” Laura added.

“I’m watching a movie with my mom, too. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s some sort of a tradition too, but mom fell asleep a few minutes into the film, she doesn’t do well with musicals.” Carmilla muttered, the voice of Jack Skellington echoes in the background as he sings “What’s This?” Carmilla loved the irony of Halloween characters trying to figure out Christmas.

“Merry Christmas to your mom, Carm.” Laura whispered.

“And to your dad, too. I’ll call again tomorrow, when we open our presents.” Carmilla reminded.

“Of course.” Laura wanted to hang on to Carmilla, to keep hearing her voice but she was running out of things to say. Actually, her confounded feelings had messed her up; she was on the edge.

“Hey, Laura…I love you.” Carmilla articulated.

“I love you, too.” Laura dropped the call before Carmilla could say anything more.

When Laura finished watching the movie with her dad, she finally realized what Carmilla meant. Schwarzenegger’s character, Howard Langston was in fact very similar to Sherman Hollis. He wasn’t as workaholic but he would fight tooth and nail just to get the best for his child. Then, it dawned at Laura; Carmilla grew up without a father. She knew their similarities, they were both raised well by very strong-willed people but as family holidays draw in, sometimes having an atypical family can rather be a little discouraging. They had their good times and they had their down times. They had their own ways of coping but she just wished she was a little more aware and showed her girlfriend a little more affection in the span of that phone call. It was always the little nuances that matter or hurt the most. Laura told herself that she would set her bitter doubts aside and try empathizing in a healthier note with Carmilla the next day.

 


Christmas morning…

 

“We should open it together.” Laura prompted her girlfriend who was on the other end of the line.

Laura examined Carmilla’s gift; it was a relatively small box, gift-wrapped in elegant silver wrapping paper and a twine ribbon.

“Alright, I found what you left in my bag.” Carmilla chuckled, it was a medium sized box covered in wrapping paper with reindeer prints and a red ribbon. “How come I have missed you tucking this inside my bag?” Carmilla measured the size of the carton with her hand.

“Ready?” Laura asked. Carmilla could hear shuffling from Laura’s end.

“Ready.” Carmilla established.

As Laura unwrapped the box, she saw a black floppy disk and then another smaller box inside. She set aside the floppy disk and opened the tiny box. She beamed as she saw a silver plated pendant necklace with the Hufflepuff crest.

Carmilla tore the wrapper apart and pried the medium-sized box open. At first, it was full of scraps of colored paper and newspaper, practically rubbish. What a very Laura thing to do, create suspense. Then at the tucked with tape at the bottom of the box was the latest Foo Fighters studio album, There is Nothing Left to Lose. Carmilla smirked at her girlfriend’s gesture. Zoning out from her musing, she remembered that Laura was still on the line.

“Do you like your present, cupcake?” Carmilla asked in a trimmed tone. “I thought you were a Gryffindor but I figured that Hufflepuff suits you better.”

“I love it! I love you!” Laura said enthusiastically. “I thought these things sold out months ago.”

“Well, I have my ways.” Carmilla snorted. “Thank you for this CD by the way.”

“Did I get it right?” Laura inquired apprehensively.

“Of course, you always get it right.” Carmilla smiled to herself as she opened the CD case. “Ow, by the way, did you find the floppy disk?” Carmilla suddenly remembered.

“Yeah, I found it.” Laura confirmed, examining the object.

“Oh, don’t put it inside the computer, okay? Just open it.” Carmilla directed.

“As in, just open it, literally?” Laura pried the floppy disk case open, taking off the shutter. Lo and behold, inside, the liners of the magnetic disk were replaced with paper cut to match the shape of the disk. Carmilla’s cursive handwriting went around from the edges of the magnetic disk to the hub in circles. Laura was amused with her girlfriend’s ingenuity. “Wow, very creative, Karnstein.”

“Oh, don’t read it yet, read it later after the call.” Carmilla scrambled with her words.

“Alright, fine.” Laura obeyed. “Well, Merry Christmas then.” She added.

“Are you trying to end this call, so you can read my letter?” Carmilla inquired humorously.

“Yeah! Go away now.” Laura huffed.

“That’s reasonable.” Carmilla noted. “Well, Merry Christmas then, I love you!” Carmilla baded.

“I love you, too.” Laura responded ending the call and moving on to the rest of her present.

Laura took the disk and spun it around, deciphering Carmilla’s handwriting, line by line.

 

Laura,

 

I wake up and think of you, I dream about you every time, laying here beside me all the time. I think of a nice sunny holiday, of going somewhere so far away, with you, away from all this chaos. I’ll have someone sitting beside me in that cold steel airport bench, someone holding my hand before the plane takes off, now that's an airport scene! We'll go somewhere, like to an island and build a villa there, where we can grow old and laugh with our wrinkly faces. That would be nice, a warm cup of coffee and sandwiches with the afternoon radio, which would be nice, a cozy afternoon. We can go fishing perhaps or just walk by the beach or I could sit down and write a song for you, trying to capture that sparkle in your eyes as the sea sparkles beneath the moon with words enchanted that would be nice. Perhaps even if it rains, everything will be all right, we'll be warm. There would be no dull moments; we'll talk about anything, everything, forever. Then if we get too tired about staying in one place, we'll go away again, drive somewhere, fly away somewhere or perhaps catch a movie, watch a play. You can teach me how to ride a bike and I'll teach you how to cook, you can teach me how to drive and I’ll teach you how to play the guitar, you can show me how to live and I'll show you how to love. We can be like this forever, reading books, snuggling in a soft sofa, smiling at each other as we take turns brushing our teeth. Well that's what I was thinking about, the moment I woke up, because I dreamt about you. No other gift would be greater than your company. Happy Christmas, I love you!

 

Carmilla

 

Carmilla’s words brought unversed tears to Laura. She couldn’t explain why she was crying. Was it out of glee or panic? She couldn’t really place it. She had something beautiful with Carmilla, something that Carmilla had even made more beautiful at this point. Laura’s heart was enveloped with dread, she could not fathom losing what she has with Carmilla and this fear keeps on tearing her apart.

 


 

December 25, 1999; 1:12 PM

Laura: I love your gift, every part of it

Carmilla: And I love you, too

 

 

December 26, 1999; 3:31 PM

Carmilla: We’re having the reunion at Emily’s later

Laura: With all your friends and Elle?

Carmilla: Yeah, the sisters…and Elle

Laura: Well, have fun

 

December 26, 1999; 8:21 PM

Laura: How was it?

 

December 26, 1999; 9:10 PM

Laura: Carm?

 

December 26, 1999; 10:23 PM

Laura: Let me know when you get home

 

 

December 27, 1999; 11:54 AM

Carmilla: Sorry about yesterday, I talked to Elle

Laura: I hate it when you don’t reply right away

Carmilla: I’m sorry…

Laura: So what happened?

Carmilla: Can I call you?

Laura: I’m at the charity drive now with my dad

 

December 27, 1999; 5:28 PM

Laura: Carm?

Laura: You may call now

 

December 27, 1999; 10:33 PM

Laura: Are you there? What happened?

 


 

December 27, 1999; 11:54 AM

 

Laura’s phone buzzed from the nightstand, she was about to sleep when Carmilla called, she answered it right away.

“I could not lie to you, Laura.” Carmilla’s voice sounded cracked.

“What do you mean?” Laura tried to shake off her distress.

“We talked and she said things…I never expected it…I never meant to hear those things…” Carmilla was fumbling for words.

“Tell me.” Laura’s tone was imposing.

“All these years, she felt the same way…” Carmilla finally blurted out.

Laura was silent for a while, she checked if this was a nightmare. She felt her skin and the sudden chill in her room. She was in fact very much awake and Carmilla was on the other end of the line, telling her things that she dreaded ever since they left for the holidays.

“Why are you telling me this?” Laura’s voice was broken now.

“Because…because I want to be honest with you…” Carmilla reasoned.

“Is that all?” Laura mumbled.

“I’m so confused, Laura…I should not be having these feelings anymore…” Carmilla continued to hesitate.

“What else?” Laura’s tone turned cold now, she was trying to protect herself from the worst.

“She kissed me…but I just lay there…I didn’t do anything…” Carmilla was starting to become less coherent.

“I don’t know what to say…” Laura’s was deeply wrecked at this point. She knew that there were reasons behind everything; she knew that Carmilla was trying to come clean. But she had felt this moment all along and she was miles away, helpless and muddled.

“I’m sorry, Laura…” Carmilla repeated.

“Why do you keep saying that?” Laura puffed. “I saw this coming and I didn’t do anything.” Laura mumbled.

“What do you mean?” Carmilla distinguished.

“Seeing Elle again…all your unresolved feelings…you should have seen yourself when you first found out she was coming home.” At this point, Laura was aware that anger and jealousy had already overtaken her but there was no point of holding back now, she also had to be honest with Carmilla. “My physical absence and Elle’s presence, you should think about it, Carm. There’s a reason why you are so confused, go figure!”

“Laura, don’t do this to me…” Carmilla had a pleading tone.

“Several times when you just spun radio silence at me, I suppose you had better things to do at that time. I’m not the one confused, you are. Until you are sure of what you want, then we can talk!” Laura ended the call before she could say anything more wounding. Carmilla tried calling her repeatedly but Laura did not answer. She just curled into the fetal position clutching her pillow and muffled wails so that her dad wouldn’t hear.

Laura knew that she was harsh. Carmilla might have a proper explanation, maybe she can find out what actually transpired. However, bottom line is, Carmilla is confused and on Laura’s end, she can only do so much being away from Carmilla. They both had some thinking to do; the distance may have been a good test of their relationship. She just hopes that after all the possible hurting that she’s about to go through, things would pan out in her favor.

They did not talk for the succeeding days.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 23. Relative Calm

 


 

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here forever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.”

 

Virginia Woolf, The Waves


December 30, 1999; 7:35 AM

 

Carmilla was looking out her bedroom window, the sun was up now but the streets were still covered with thick snow. Some of their neighbors were busy shoveling and clearing out their driveways. Most of the children were still making most of the holidays playing outside. She was due to go back to Silas in a few days but all she wanted was to remain cooped up in her room and avoid everything that transpired the day prior. How could she do that? Especially to Laura, Carmilla scolded herself. She wore an oversized black graphic t-shirt, blue flannel pajama pants and thick wool socks; she had spent the past couple of days indoors. Everything around her felt so deafening, yet she wouldn’t talk to Elle and Laura wouldn’t talk to her. It was just white noise.

Sometimes fear gets to Carmilla, before something good happens, she always manages to chicken out. Is it what she was doing to her relationship with Laura? She was used to things falling apart, things being ruined when something works out, losing her balance. There’s just this fear of having something so good, sometimes she’s just afraid when the time to let go comes. Attachments- have always pulled her down. She could not let go of her torn feelings for Ell; she lets Laura suffer. She has become hell bent in being self-destructive now, pushing people away. Why couldn’t she make Laura feel safe? Why was she so confused in the first place? She couldn’t even talk to her mom about it. What would she say?

She coiled herself in her bed again, she took a paperback from the nightstand and started reading. It was a Christmas gift from her mom, a copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. When she was in high school, her mom took note of how worn-out her copy of The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger was. Carmilla learned a lot from that book, probably, that is where she got most of her brooding demeanor and constant imaginings. The bookstore clerk just recommended the book to her mom; it was all Carmilla did the past few days, reading the book.

Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.

She made a dog-ear in another page, trying to take note of that line from the book. She had been reflecting on her reactions towards Elle. Was she stuck in a dream-state? She was in fact used to pining over Elle most of her life. She was used to getting hurt and being ignored. However, that was not the case with Laura. Laura was there for her, Laura was tangible, and Laura loved her back.

Carmilla put the pocket book away and plopped down on her messy bed staring at the ceiling for several minutes. Suddenly, at the corner of her room, she spotted her old guitar. It was an old Fender that belonged to her mother in the 80s. Carmilla dusted off the guitar a bit then she started plucking and tuning it for a while, she was seated on her bed. She loved pouring out her feelings through music, she could sing but she was never confident about being a good singer. Then she began moving her wrist and gently strummed the guitar in a soft tune.

 

Must be your skin that I'm sinking in

Must be for real 'cause now I can feel

And I didn't mind

It's not my kind

It's not my time to wonder why

Everything's gone white

And everything's grey

Now you're here now you're away

I don't want this

Remember that

I'll never forget where you're at

 

Carmilla closed her eyes as she sang; she wanted to savor every word. The heartache was familiar, the pain was familiar; she was absorbed.

 

Don't let the days go by

Glycerin

Glycerin

 

She could feel her soul torn asunder as she resonated every line.

 

I'm never alone

I'm alone all the time

Are you at one

Or do you lie

We live in a wheel

Where everyone steals

But when we rise it's like strawberry fields

If I treated you bad

You bruise my face

Couldn't love you more

You got a beautiful taste

 

At this point, Carmilla was on the verge on tears. She could hear still hear the pain the Laura’s voice, I’m not the one confused, you are.

 

Don't let the days go by

Could have been easier on you

I couldn't change though I wanted to

Should I have been easier by three

Our old friend fear and you and me

 

Suddenly, Carmilla’s musical contemplation was broken when she felt her bedroom door open.

“I’m sorry; your mom let me in. Can we talk?” It was Elle.

 


 

December 23, 1999; 5:30 PM

 

“Hey Carm, can you pick up the pies from the counter.” Lilita yelled from the staircase, running back to her room to retrieve something.

“I got it, mom.” Carmilla balanced two pieces of cranberry-apple pies with pecan on each of her arms. It was still warm but she had high tolerance for warmness, she handled a pizza oven a few summers ago when she worked part-time at a diner.

Cranberry-apple pies were Lilita’s specialty; she would always serve it during Christmas potlucks with the Brontës. This pre-Christmas dinner was special; after several years in Canada, the Sheridans were visiting. The Brontës and the Sheridans were old family friends, when Lilita, her mother, and Carmilla arrived at the small town; they were one of their first friends. Their daughters also went to school together from grade school until high school, that’s why Carmilla, Emily, Charlotte, and Elle were so close.

Carmilla wore a black turtleneck sweater, dark pants, and her Ugg boots. Lilita had a cream sweater dress on, a camel coat, and over the knee boots. Lilita just looked like an older version of her daughter; they had the same structured jawline, short jet-black hair, and the thin eyebrows.

The drive to the Brontë residence was uneventful. Lilita just kept on pestering Carmilla if she was excited to see all her friends again. Well, Carmilla told her that since Emily had transferred to Silas, they had been seeing each other a lot. She has also heard a lot about Charlotte from Emily; Charlotte was now in law school following her father’s footsteps. However, Carmilla could not hide her uneasiness, after so many years, Elle still had that effect on her. Her quietness during the drive had caught on with her mother. She had not told Lilita about Laura yet, after all, she was just home for two days. If there was a problem with Carmilla’s communication with Lilita that is she would not tell unless she was asked.

“You have not seen Elle for several years. Are you gonna be alright?” Lilita parked their midnight blue Toyota Camry in front of the Brontë residence. The house had a white picket fence and was in colonial style; it was lined with twinkling lights from the roof beams to the front pillars.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” Carmilla flashed a tentative smile.

As they entered the front door, Mrs. Brontë greeted them with warm hugs and led them to the dining room. The room already had a festive atmosphere, the food smelled great. Mr. Brontë and Mr. Sheridan were already drinking whiskey at the parlor. Carmilla approached Charlotte giving her an earnest hug, they discussed about school for a while. Then suddenly, together with Emily, Elle emerged from the kitchen with their mothers. She looked the same, her green eyes, her wavy brown hair, and her endearing smile. She wore a sweater that could pass up as ugly, but actually, she could pull off the knitted gingerbread man sweater.

Suddenly, Carmilla’s phone buzzed from her pocket, it was Laura.

 

Laura: Sorry, got a little preoccupied. We’re joining the community potluck and bingo tonight.

Carmilla: That sounds great!

Laura: What are your plans for tonight?

Carmilla: We’re having dinner at the Brontë’s.

Laura: Tonight’s the reunion?

Carmilla: Not yet, just dinner with parents and siblings.

Laura: Enjoy!

Carmilla: Have fun at the bingo, say hi to Sherman for me.

 

Carmilla was reminded of Laura; she shouldn’t be feeling this way. Why was she so worried about Elle?

“Hey!” Elle greeted Carmilla and she immediately enveloped her in a tight embrace. “I missed you.” She breathed deeply.

“I missed you too.” Carmilla released the breath she didn’t know she was holding.

Then just like that, it felt like nothing ever happened. Why she felt her stomach churning? She couldn’t really tell.

 


 

December 24, 1999; 7:15 AM

 

Carmilla was not an early riser but when she was at home, breakfast was always served at 7:30AM, Lilita was keen about that. Despite her groggy appearance, she managed to get ready for breakfast. How she wish she did not take that scotch that Mr. Brontë offered last night, she did not have a hangover but she wasn’t feeling great either. The dinner was in fact lively, as she had told Laura; much of it was spent recalling stories about the past when they were still grade-schoolers. Carmilla can’t deny that she missed that warm camaraderie with their family friends, though she also enjoyed most of her cloistered time with her mother. She didn’t have the chance to interact with Elle that much, they were never left alone to her benefit. Most of the conversation revolved around the dinner table with their parents. Though she could not negate the fact that eye kept glancing her way and beaming at her the entire evening.

“Carm, time for breakfast, sweetie!” Her mother called out from the staircase.

“Be right there.” Carmilla mumbled as she trudged through the hallway of the upper floor of their house, still in her pajamas.

“Actually, someone’s here to join us.” Lilita intercepted before Carmilla could enter the breakfast nook.

Right there wearing an oversized beige sweater, in her usual amiable self was Elle. “Hey, surprise! I wanted to invite you to grab breakfast at the café to catch up but Lilita asked me to join you guys instead.”

“Ow, hey” Carmilla stood awkwardly, her mind debating whether she sit down at the breakfast nook of run back to her room to change in more presentable clothing.

“Well, maybe you should take breakfast first and they you guys can take a stroll to catch up. I’ll be leaving for some errands anyway.” Lilita initiated in behalf of her daughter as she placed steaming cups of coffee and a serving of fruit and breakfast omelet in front of the duo.

The trio ate in relative silence with the exception of Lilita asking Elle about school and her plans after college. Through her mother’s probing, Carmilla found out that Elle pursued pre-med and she had spent a lot of time mountain climbing in Canada.

After breakfast, Carmilla uneasily excused herself, to change into a more presentable outfit of a shirt, a flannel and a parka, dark denims and boots. Considering Lilita’s suggestion, the duo asked to be dropped off at the park before Lilita went for her errands.

It stopped snowing, the sun was up but there were only a few people at the park. Some folks were ice-skating on the frozen lake. Carmilla and Elle kept on wandering around, watching passers-by as they pursued their strolls.

“How had you been, Carm? You’re emails stopped.” Elle finally blurted out.

“Been a bit busy with school.” Carmilla answered casually.

“You met someone haven’t you?” Elle pried in a playful tone.

Just right before the semester started, Carmilla and Elle had actually sent a few emails to each other, detailing their latest undertakings. Then after a few weeks, the correspondence just stopped. Since Carmilla was always the first to send an email, Elle never bothered to communicate after that, she just thought she would surprise Carmilla when their family went for vacation.

“Did Emily tell you?” Carmilla huffed in amusement.

“Well, she might have told me that there was this girl at school. I was meaning to surprise you but I believe I was the one who got surprised instead.” Elle grinned.

It was always this way with Elle, the constant push and pull but it was always a gray area. Carmilla was always unsure about what Elle meant with every word, in her letters, in her emails.

“Laura’s great, we’ve been together for more than a month now.” Carmilla confirmed.

“So, she’s your girlfriend then.” Carmilla could catch the animosity in Elle’s tone. “I guess I was too late after all.”

“What are you trying to say Elle?” Carmilla was suddenly confused, Elle had never hinted on anything. All Carmilla understood from her letters was that she had a hard time adjusting to her new environment, she had a hard time meeting good people, she never mentioned anything like this, nothing like this.

“I thought hard about the last thing you said to me, about being true to yourself and fitting in. About how everything will start to make sense once, you see things in a better light. Well, I did realize something, Carm but I guess I’m too late now.” Elle was still talking in riddles.

“You’re not supposed to say things like that, not now Elle. After all these years…” Carmilla understood, she knew what Elle was trying to say.

“Yeah, I took me some time, Carm. But yeah, after all these years…” Elle muttered as she walked away leaving Carmilla motionless in her spot.

When she got home, Carmilla read the numerous texts from Laura:

 

December 24, 1999; 8:45 AM

Laura: Hey, Carm

 

December 24, 1999; 10:12 AM

Laura: Carm?

 

December 24, 1999; 1:36 PM

Laura: Are you busy?

 

December 24, 1999; 6:43 PM

Carmilla: Shit, sorry, cupcake, I left my phone at home

Laura: Where did you go?

Carmilla: Just some last minute shopping with my mom

Laura: You got me worried

Carmilla: Sorry, I’m not really used to using my phone as much

Laura: I know

Carmilla: I will call later

 


 

December 26, 1999; 4:25 PM

 

The girls had the place to themselves; Mr. and Mrs. Brontë were out to visit their other friends. Emily and Charlotte had set up a backyard barbecue. Charlotte was working the grill with Elle and Emily and Carmilla were busy trying to figure out how to make drinks. After what happened several days ago, Carmilla and Elle had been walking around eggshells. Elle would casually direct a timid and hesitant smile towards Carmilla and Carmilla would simply acknowledge her with a nod. They left matters in an uncertain note, though Carmilla has decided to clear things up with Elle, for her and Laura’s sakes. After Elle’s confession, all her bottled-up feelings came crashing down. She thought she was over all those memories, all those feelings. How can Elle just come back and out of nowhere dig up all these subdued feelings? Carmilla should not succumb to this state; she kept on telling herself. You have Laura now; stop thinking about Elle.

“Hey earth to Carm!” Emily was snapping her fingers in front of her friend. “Are you okay? Seems like you’re someplace else?” She mumbled as she poured more white rum into her mixture.

Carmilla was back from her stupor, focusing her attention on Emily. “You should be measuring that.”

“Nah, it’s like cooking, I can play it by ear.” Emily grinned as she added limejuice, liquid sugar, and soda water without measuring.

“I don’t think that’s how mojitos are made.” Carmilla commented.

“Watch and learn, this is what those Summer Society parties are for.” Emily added a wedge of lime and a few mint leaves. “Smells fair.” She handed the cocktail for Carmilla to taste.

Carmilla seemed diffident but she had to taste it to prove her point. She took a small sip and cleared her throat in repugnance as the strong alcohol hit her. “Blech, that’s too strong, too strong.” She grimaced, sticking her tongue out.

“That bad huh, so maybe I should start measuring after all.” Emily took a sip and shook her head in disappointment. “But seriously Carm, are you okay? You seem to look troubled.” Emily observed as she measured shots of white rum carefully.

“Has Elle said anything to you lately?” Carmilla tried to figure out what Emily knew.

“Well, aside from she misses us and she hasn’t found sensible friends yet, she hasn’t told me anything. Why?” Emily raised an eyebrow.

“It’s nothing, never mind.” Carmilla dropped the subject, thinking that she might make matters worse if she involved other people.

“Hey!” Charlotte called out from the grill. “The burgers are ready!”

The rest of the night was spent recalling amusing and heartwarming stories about their childhood. It was clear that Emily and Charlotte had no clue what was going on between Carmilla and Elle. Elle acted coolly, so Carmilla thought she should simply enjoy the rest of the night with her old friends and not overthink about what Elle had said. After all, the night was not just about her and Elle; she missed Emily and Charlotte too.

As the night drew to a close, Emily offered some tea before Carmilla and Elle went home. Even if Carmilla only had two mojitos, Emily wanted to make sure that she was clear-headed enough to drive. Carmilla borrowed her mother’s car for the evening. As they headed to the coat closet, the group exchanged hugs. Elle gave Charlotte and Emily tight hugs; though they could still see each other the incoming days until New Year’s Day, this was the only time that they had alone, only the four of them.

When Elle turned to give Carmilla a hug, Carmilla stopped her by asking a question. “How are you going home?”

Elle was caught stunned by Carmilla’s unusual reaction. “Uhm, my dad is supposed to pick me up but he hasn’t replied to any of my messages yet.”

“Oh, maybe I can drop you off instead.” Carmilla offered, she wanted to have some alone time with Elle and clarify things for the last time.

“Oh, alright then.” Elle grinned as she put on her coat. “I’ll tell him that I’m catching a ride with you instead.” Elle thought as she fiddled with her cellular phone.

“Okay, that’s settled then, it was a fun night, ladies. Let us know when you get home safely.” Charlotte stood by the door with her sister as Elle and Carmilla headed out towards the sedan parked at the Brontë’s driveway.

As soon as Carmilla and Elle got inside the car, Carmilla turned on the engine to rev the heater. The stereo was also activated, Grown-up Christmas List by Amy Grant played softly in the background.

The duo drove out of the Brontë property in silence. Carmilla stared straight into the road, gripping the steering wheel tightly and Elle kept quiet as she amused herself with the façades of well-lit houses along the way.

“I was meaning to talk to you.” Carmilla finally broke the silence.

“About what?” Elle acted innocent.

“About what you told me earlier.” Carmilla’s tone was flat.

“About that? As if I could change things if I said more.” Elle’s expression seemed dismissive.

Without warning, Carmilla just stopped the car. She was clear-headed, in fact, everything seemed clear. She just couldn’t talk to Elle and struggle with her feelings at the same time. She moved the car to the side of the road and flicked the hazard lights on. There were only a few cars on the road, these few cars went past them.  

“Of course, I’m with Laura now.” Carmilla spoke in a low voice.

“She’s one lucky girl.” Elle mumbled under her breath.

“I think, I’m the lucky one.” Carmilla chuckled softly to herself.

“I wish I had told you sooner.” Elle had her head bowed down; soon enough, Carmilla noticed a lone tear plop on Elle’s lap.

“I not really sure if things had been different. I’m not even sure if it will work, you’re miles away Elle.” Carmilla realized. “How did you find out...I mean…how did you find out about yourself?” Carmilla asked tentatively.

“You were my best friend at grade school, you knew me best, I never thought about you this way until recently. Just that I anticipated your letters and I got so excited when dad told me we were visiting. I wanted to tell you right away when I realized, but I thought, an email won’t suffice, I had to tell you in person.” Elle re-counted, her eyes were a little bit red now, trying to suppress her tears. “But I guess, I’m too late…” Elle’s voice broke.

“Are you sure about what you feel, Elle?” Carmilla knew she had no right to doubt Elle’s feelings. She just wanted a way out of her confusion, she had been pining over Elle more than half of her life, and these were the words that she longed to hear. However, she knew she loves Laura and nothing is supposed to change that.

“It took me some time but I’m sure more than anything.” Without warning Elle removed her seat belt and suddenly she had launched herself over the console and gathered Carmilla’s cheeks in both her hands. Before she could even react, Carmilla felt Elle’s soft icy lips on hers. It was what she wanted for the longest time, but she knew it was wrong. The kiss tasted bittersweet, it was a huge mistake.

“No, Elle stop…” Carmilla shook Elle by her shoulders. Elle stared at her teary eyed and at that point, Carmilla knew she felt nothing. Her stomach churned once more, but it was not of love and longing anymore, it was of regret and probably pity.

Elle understood the look in Carmilla’s eyes. She wiped her lips and sank back into her seat. Carmilla did not kiss her back. “Are you in love with her?” Elle asked without looking at Carmilla, she fixed her seatbelt instead.

“Yes.” Carmilla answered right away.

“Please take me home, I have embarrassed myself enough already.” Elle muttered.

The rest of the ride brewed in awkward silence once more. Carmilla did not know what else to say. As they arrived at Elle’s grandmother’s house, Elle thanked her casually and headed straight inside. She did not bother to look back, but Carmilla lingered there for a while before she drove home.

When Carmilla got home, she saw Laura’s messages but she was too exhausted to say anything.

 

December 26, 1999; 8:21 PM

Laura: How was it?

 

December 26, 1999; 9:10 PM

Laura: Carm?

 

December 26, 1999; 10:23 PM

Laura: Let me know when you get home

 


 

December 30, 1999; 8:45 AM

 

“I’m sorry; your mom let me in. Can we talk?” It was Elle.

“Hey” Carmilla sat up straighter on her bed. There was no use tidying anything up now. She put the guitar aside and motioned for Elle to sit beside her.

Elle look pleasant; she had a yellow knitted sweater on and her hair was tied in a braid. However, if you looked closely, her eye bags were somehow concealed under heavy natural colored make-up.

“You look like a wreck.” Elle commented with a sly grin.

“Can’t tell you that it’s not your fault.” Carmilla huffed. She was not mad at Elle anymore, if she was mad at someone, she was mad at herself for acting so poorly.

“How’s Laura?” Elle inquired sincerely.

“I’m not sure if we broke up but it seemed like it.” Carmilla replied as she lifted her arms to hug herself. She felt the pang of reality, her heart felt crushed, saying it out loud.

“I’m sorry, Carm.” Elle gave her a crestfallen look. “It’s my entire fault isn’t it?”

“Not you directly, I’m the one confused. Actually, I think I’m not confused anymore but I don’t know how to tell her.” Carmilla sniffled.

“It’s good to hear that you’re not confused, anymore. I’m so sorry in putting you into this mess.” Elle apologized, Carmilla wanted to say something but Elle held a finger to her mouth to silence her. “Hear me out first, okay?” Carmilla simply nodded in agreement.

“You see, it really took me some time, to realize this. You know how hard I tried to adjust in my new environment, especially when we were actually not in great terms when I left. You see, I went on dates with a couple of guys, made some friends, but no one really compared to how special you made me feel. All those letters, all those words, seemed like they were only for me and me alone, you really made we feel exceptional, so wanted. That’s when I started thinking of you as more than a friend, you were my anchor in this world. I wanted to keep you close, even when in fact I was so far away. I knew you kept your life on hold for me, living in the past as if I was on a pedestal. But when Em mentioned about you and Laura and how the emails stopped, I felt like you were slipping away from me, I was losing my anchor. I know it’s unfair, I know I can’t just keep you hanging, you can’t just stop your life for me. Also, we’re living in Canada for good; I don’t expect you to give up anything for me that’s why I held back for so long.” Elle took a breath. “That kiss, I apologize for that, I guess it was my last great effort to hold you back. I know I was selfish; I was scared of losing you. I love you Carm and it hurts so much. I’m not expecting anything else, all I know is that I love you and I don’t want to lose you in my life. I’m so sorry…I’m so so sorry…” Elle was sobbing on Carmilla’s shoulder now, Carmilla held her.

“You’re my best friend, Elle, I love you too, and I still want you in my life. It’s just that I’m in love with Laura now.” Carmilla struggled to speak in between tears.

“I know what you mean, Carm. I so sorry for ruining things for you and Laura.” Elle looked up to Carmilla breaking the hug. “If things get worse between you guys, I won’t be able to forgive myself.”

“Stop blaming yourself, if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s all mine. I brought this upon myself; I was the one confused. Honestly, I thought I moved on but when you came back, all the memories came rushing in. Laura was right; I should sort my feelings out by myself first.” Carmilla grasped.

“Have you done any progress?” Elle grimaced over her teary eyes, looking around Carmilla’s messy bedroom.

“Well, for starters I know a way you can help me out. After all, you created this mess!” Carmilla joked and the duo were now laughing heartily.

Soon enough, the duo were engrossed in a vicious pillow fight. Once they were worn out and settled, Elle helped Carmilla tidy up her room, they went out to the diner after. It was the diner that they went to as kids; they missed the chili fries at that place. Carmilla was happy that she was able to sort things out with Elle. She understood Elle’s place in her heart, Elle would remain in her life but she was not hung up on her now. The constant pining was no longer that of unrequited love, the love was there, but it was not anything romantic. What she has with Elle is that kind of love that lasts beyond distance and time; it was a deep friendship.

Carmilla thought of Laura while she and Elle where having burgers and fries at the diner. They talked about their lives when Elle moved. Carmilla talked about her other friends and Laura, she talked about Laura a lot. This brought a pang to her heart; Elle noticed and comforted her several times. Carmilla knew that she had to fix things with Laura as soon as possible. However, she was emotionally exhausted the entire day, she decided that she would simply appreciate the last few days that Elle was around, focusing her attention on her best friend. However, when she got home, all she could think of was Laura, who never answered any of her calls or messages.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 24. Disenchantment


 

“Waiting is an enchantment: I have received orders not to move. Waiting for a telephone call is thereby woven out of tiny unavowable interdictions to infinity: I forbid myself to leave the room, to go to the toilet, even to telephone (to keep the line from being busy); I suffer torments if someone else telephones me (for the same reason); I madden myself by the thought that at a certain (imminent) hour I shall have to leave, thereby running the risk of missing the healing call, the return of the Mother. All these diversions, which solicit me, are so many wasted moments for waiting, so many impurities of anxiety. For the anxiety of waiting, in its pure state, requires that I be sitting in a chair within reach of the telephone, without doing anything.”

 

Winnicott, Playing and Reality


 

December 31, 1999; 10:10 PM

 

It was a gloomy evening, Carmilla was rolling all over the floor, and the wooden floor actually felt warm though the surface was expected to be kind of cold. Carmilla wanted to take a walk but it was New Year’s Eve. The radio was blasting in her room it played the previous year’s top 100 hits. Carmilla thought about the songs in the radio and how these songs spoke of other people’s stories and their stories about other people. She wonders if she’ll ever get the chance to tell her own story someday. It’s probably not worth a damn to anyone but it might mean a thing or two to someone. She listened to other people’s love songs, songs that make them feel warm all over and songs that they probably wouldn’t want to hear. Joey McIntyre’s Stay the Same was playing in the background.

 

I think that you could be

Whatever you wanted to be

If you could realize

All the dreams you have inside

Don’t be afraid

If you got something to say

Just open up your heart

And let it show you the way

 

Carmilla laid on the floor, her back on the area rug, and her arms tucked under her head. She wore a worn Metallica t-shirt, had her wool pajamas on. She stared at the ceiling; she used to have the entire solar system of glow in the dark stickers on her ceiling. Now, most of it has peeled off and only the sun and a few planets were left. Carmilla noticed the light bulb flicker. I probably need to change that bulb soon. Is anyone wondering about the same thing? Laura was still not responding to any of her calls.

“This is a rather melancholic mood to welcome the New Year.” Lilita stood by the door garbed in a turtleneck sweater, loose pants and warm socks. “Shouldn’t you be in a party somewhere?”

“I’d rather be home and spend the New Year with you.” Carmilla mumbled without taking her attention off the ceiling.

“Well, I really appreciate the company but as far as I’m concerned, it totally sucks. You’ve been sulking ever since you got home from the party at the Brontës.” Lilita pronounced as she sat down beside her daughter, her back against the footboard of Carmilla’s bed.

“Wow, I must really suck coming from you.” Carmilla chuckled at her mother’s antics.

“What’s wrong, baby girl?” Lilita poked her daughter’s side softly. Carmilla was never straightforward with her mother; she mostly kept things to herself, especially things that hurt. Carmilla saw her mother in so much pain in the past; she thought that carrying her burdens by herself would lighten the load for her mom. However, Lilita always felt if something was bothering her daughter, she always knew. “Is this about Elle?”

“Well, she’s involved but not really.” Carmilla got up from being sprawled over the floor; she hugged her knees.

“Is there something you’re not telling me?” Lilita raised an eyebrow.

“Well, remember I called you before the holidays and told you about a girl.” Carmilla cleared her throat.

“Oh yeah, you told me about Luna or Lara…what was her name?” Lilita was trying to recall the conversation she had with her daughter.

“Laura, her name’s Laura.” Carmilla corrected.

“Yes, Laura, I’m sorry my memory hasn’t been the best recently, you know, your mom is not getting any younger.” Lilita scolded herself.

“It’s okay, mom. Well, it’s actually my fault I haven’t told you the entire story since I arrived. Well, just right before winter break, Laura and I started dating.” Carmilla mumbled.

“Oh, that’s great, Kitty! You should have told me sooner.” Lilita beamed, Carmilla was flushed at the mention of her childhood nickname.

“Well, I guess there’s no point to telling you anything more because I think we no longer are.” Carmilla muttered.

“What do you mean, Kitty?” Lilita was confused.

“Well, I always told Laura about everything, my past and present. The feelings that I used to have for Elle. When she found out that Elle was coming home to visit and that I saw Elle, things just went out of order.” Carmilla gulped a sob.

“Oh dear, I always knew it, I knew you have deeper feelings for Elle.” Lilita established.

“You knew?” Carmilla was baffled at her mother’s revelation.

“Mother’s always know, you should have seen yourself when I broke the news to you about the Sheridans leaving.” Lilita explained.

“Am I that transparent?” Carmilla asked.

“Yes dear, you wear your heart on your sleeve. That’s why I was always protective of you.” Lilita brushed her daughter’s hair to the side to comfort her.

“Thank you, mom.” Carmilla sniffed.

“Did something happen with Elle?” Lilita continued to probe to see the bigger picture.

“Let’s say, she finally told me she felt the same way, after all these years.” Carmilla declared.

“How about you? Do you still feel the same way for Elle?” Lilita searched her daughter’s appearance for confirmation. Carmilla shook her head from side to side.

“No, not anymore…not the same way I feel about Laura.” Carmilla sniffled, tears falling from her eyes.

“Does Elle know?” Lilita asked in concern. Carmilla took deep breaths and nodded. “Does Laura know?”

“I tried to tell her but I don’t think she believes me.” Carmilla explained between sobs. “I don’t think she trusts me anymore, I think I broke her trust. She said something about Elle being here and that she’s away. I admitted I was confused before but now that I’m sure of it, she won’t talk to me anymore.” Carmilla re-counted.

“Oh dear, Kitty.” Lilita held her daughter, rocking her gently to comfort her.

“She hasn’t been answering any of my calls.” Carmilla wept on her mother’s shoulder.

“Oh Kitty, I saw your heart broken before, but never this way.” Lilita whispered to her daughter’s ear.

“It’s all my fault, I got confused, I shouldn’t have admitted that to Laura until I figured things out.” Carmilla cried.

“Stop blaming yourself, Kitty, this is part of the process. You see, before we get into a relationship, we always have our expectations, right?” Lilita now held her daughter’s hands, Carmilla nodded in affirmation. “We expect that each of us is a whole person, fully realized, ready to take on what the future holds. But in fact, we don’t really acknowledge all the missing pieces of ourselves. When we enter in the relationship, we become one with another person, in the process we build ourselves whole. Our partner fills the gaps, shows us what’s missing, someone brave enough to point out the flaws. By putting together our missing parts, we become whole.” Lilita explains. “A long time ago, your dad showed me that, we thought we were invincible. But he was unhappy, he was depressed, by the time you came to our lives, matters got worse, he only flaked out on me and disappeared. I learned about this the hard way, but despite his absence, he had already helped build me up. I could say that I wasn’t the strong woman who raised you with the help of your ya-ya of course, if that didn’t happen. Even if he was gone, I was still whole. Not all relationships withstand time and challenges; others fall apart. But once half of us leaves, it doesn’t mean that the relationship which made two people one would be broken into two halved individuals. We initially think we are broken, but even if you enter the relationship as a whole person or not, you have the chance to leave it as a whole person. Simply because you were built up in the process. Whatever your initial confusion was, I think you have figured that out now, so no matter what happens, at least you’ve realized something about yourself and what you are capable of. Does that make sense?” Lilita concluded.

“Wow mom, did you take up philosophy before?” Carmilla sniggered.

“No, Kitty, I just spent more years in this earth than you.” Lilita scooped her daughter up for another hug.

“Do you honestly think things will get better for Laura and me?” Carmilla delved.

“If she’s the one, you’ll work it out. If you both want to fix it, it will. I think she just needs time for now.” Lilita thought. “Plus, it’s the New Year, plot new beginnings.”

Carmilla looked at her watch; they had about forty minutes before the clock strikes twelve.

“Mom, I guess it’s not too late for us to drive to the town square and see the fireworks, right?” Carmilla asked.

“Go get dressed, I’ll start the car.” Lilita told her daughter.

 


 

December 31, 1999; 11:32 PM

 

Sherman and Laura were seated on bentwood lounge chairs in their front porch. Children on their block were running around with sparklers on the streets. The duo were sharing a bottle of wine and chunks of ham and cheese. They were waiting for the clock to strike twelve to witness the town sponsored fireworks display.

“You seem rather quiet and detached from your phone lately.” Sherman commented as he took a sip of his wine.

“I was never glued to my phone.” Laura answered indifferently. She sat there with a blanket over her shoulders covering her sweater-clad body; she folded her legs, tucking her feet underneath it.

Sherman wore a flannel shirt and had a down sweater vest on, denim pants and hiking boots. He sat comfortably on his chair. “How’s Carmilla?” Sherman asked meaningfully.

“Good…I think.” Laura replied coldly.

“What’s wrong, care bear? Don’t meet the New Year with such a forlorn mood.” Sherman stated.

“I think we broke up…” Laura sniffed. “I refuse to talk to her until she makes up her mind.”

“I’m a bit lost here, kindly explain.” Sherman admitted in confusion.

“Well, there’s this girl, Elle. Carmilla had been in love with her since they were in high school, I think. They saw each other again, she kissed Carm, admitted her feelings and everything is just so messed up.” Laura spilled in rapid succession.

Laura expected her dad to be in rage, he had always been protective of her. Therefore, maybe learning that Carmilla hurt her daughter would drive him up to the roof.

Instead, Laura was surprised with his calmness. “What did Carmilla say about it exactly?”

“She just told me she didn’t kiss her back but she was confused. It was everything she had ever wanted for years, dad. How could I compete with that?” Laura was more emotional now.

“And what did you tell her?” Sherman prodded.

“Until she figures out what she wants then we can talk.” Laura recounted.

“Well, then, have you talked to her already? Even if you mute your phone, I can see it lighting up when she calls.” Sherman gave his daughter a knowing look.

“I don’t feel like talking to her…maybe not yet.” Laura mumbled. “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be mad?”

“Why should I be mad?” Sherman raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t know, maybe to be protective, Carmilla did hurt me.” Laura was unsure at this point.

Sherman chuckled, taking another sip of his wine.

“What’s so funny, dad?” Laura inquired.

“Well, care bear, in an ideal world, I should be mad at Carmilla but actually, I think you should learn something from this.” Sherman declared.

“Now, you’re confusing me.” Laura gave her father a worried look.

“Well, let’s just say that I was in Carmilla’s shoes before.” Laura batted her eyelids rapidly, Sherman just continued. “You see, mom wasn’t the first. Before I met your mom, I was pining on someone else. Her name was Beth, she was my best friend in college; we got through most stuff together, before mom was even in the picture. I fell miserably in love with Beth, but she only saw me as a friend. I stuck around though; I still wanted her to be in my life. So, I suffered in silence as I saw her date guy after guy. I saw her got hurt, I wanted to show her that I could do better than any of those guys if she only gave me the chance but she never did. Then, when we were in our senior year, I met mom; we had a class together. At that time, Beth had another boyfriend, so I started spending less time with her and started spending more time with mom. Mom and I grew close, until we realized our feelings for each other and we started dating. Just when things were starting to get better for me, Beth had a change of heart. She broke up with her boyfriend and told me that she couldn’t bear seeing me with someone else. That broke me, I was in love with mom but at that point, I was just so overwhelmed that finally Beth made a grand gesture and chose me. Your mom was upset when she found out that after all that time; I was still mixed up inside. I was like a child, you know that feeling that you have been saving up for this toy that you wanted. Then by the time you had enough money and bought the toy, you realized that it’s not all that awesome and you wish that you could have brought something more useful like new shoes or a pint of ice cream. My metaphor sucks I know, seems like I’m objectifying people but do you get the point?” Sherman narrated.

Laura gave him a puzzled look.

“Anyway, mom and I took a break; she left me to figure things out. I was only fair at that time, I didn’t want to drag her in all my crap. I didn’t start a relationship with Beth though, I figured that she just wanted me back because she craved the attention. I recalled the times she hurt me and the times she said ‘no’. At that point, I wasn’t in love with Beth anymore, I only thought about mom and hurting her in the process. How can I end up with someone who has hurt my feelings for the past few years? Long story short, I made the right decision, I married the woman I love and I had a beautiful family. So, I laughed because I understood Carmilla’s predicament and I think history has a way of repeating itself.” Sherman concluded.

“What should I do, dad?” Laura inquired.

“Honestly, working it out was hard. But mom gave me a chance, she did not forgive me immediately, I needed to work for it. But she gave me a chance, nonetheless. So, when Carmilla calls, maybe you should hear her out.” Sherman advised.

“What if she’s calling just to tell me that she has made her decision and she wants to be with Elle?” Laura admitted. That was the very reason why she wasn’t answering, she was afraid to hear Carmilla’s resolution.

“But what if she’s calling because she chose you? You’ll never know if you don’t find out.” Sherman settled. “Have courage to face the truth, care bear. If the news is good, then we’ll celebrate. If it doesn’t turn out well, then I’ll give Carmilla a piece of my mind.” He joked.

“Thanks, dad.” Laura got up to give Sherman a hug.

Suddenly, the fireworks illuminated the sky, Laura and Sherman were caught up in conversation that they did not notice the clock.

“Happy New Year, care bear.” Sherman hugged his daughter.

“Happy New Year, dad.” Laura whispered back.

 


 

January 1, 2000; 1:02 AM

Laura: I guess the world did not end as expected, Happy New Year, Carm.

 

January 1, 2000; 1:04 AM

Carmilla: Yeah, I’m still alive. Happy New Year, Cupcake.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 25. Unconditional


 

“Waiting

 

Tumult of anxiety provoked by waiting for the loved being, subject to trivial delays (rendezvous, letters, telephone calls, returns).

The being I am waiting for is not real. Like the mother’s breast for the infant, “I create and re-create it over and over, starting from my capacity to love, starting from my need for it”: the other comes here where I am waiting, here where I have already created him/her. And if the other does not come, I hallucinate the other: waiting is a delirium.

The telephone again: each time it rings, I snatch up the receiver, I think it will be the loved being who is calling me (since that being should call me); a little more effort and I “recognize” the other’s voice, I engage in the dialogue, to the point where I lash out furiously against the importunate outsider who wakens me from my delirium. In the café, anyone who comes in, bearing the faintest resemblance is thereupon in a first impulse, recognized.

And, long after the amorous relation is allayed, I keep the habit of hallucinating the being I have loved: sometimes I am still in anxiety over a telephone call that is late, and no matter who is on the line, I imagine I recognize the voice I once loved: I am an amputee who still feels pain in his missing leg.

(In transference, one always waits- at the doctor’s, the professor’s, the analyst’s. Further, if I am waiting at a bank window, an airport ticket counter, I immediately establish an aggressive link with the teller, the stewardess, whose indifference unmasks and irritates my subjection; so that one might say that wherever there is waiting there is transference: I depend on a presence which is shared and requires time to be bestowed- as if it were a question of lowering my desire, lessening my need. To make someone wait: the constant prerogative of all power, “age-old pastime of humanity.”)

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

Carmilla dipped her finger on the specks of sugar that fell on the table. An almost empty cup of now cold coffee laid in front of her, it was her second cup. The afternoon was motionless; the streets were almost empty apart from a few people going on with their daily errands. She had decided to go back to Silas a couple of days earlier before everyone else did, she was restless at home. Apart from the New Year’s greetings that she had exchanged with Laura, there was white noise between them. She acknowledged that Laura was the one who texted her first, therefore, ‘the ball was already on her court now’.

However, this was Carmilla’s predicament, with so much that she had wanted to say to Laura, she somehow had ran out of words. She thought of coming up of romantic gestures, asking for Laura’s forgiveness but after watching every move from the playbook of the romance movies genre, she realized that she had to come up with something original. John Cusack’s Lloyd with his boom box in Say Anything had declared his love through music; she could just be plain and candid like Julia Robert’s Anna Scott in Notting Hill admitting ‘I’m just a girl tagline’; or perhaps read poetry in public like Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You but she has already done that before. Carmilla banged her head softly on the tabletop at their usual booth at Bram’s. The diner was more or less empty except for her and a few regulars at the bar. A notebook with torn pages laid in front of Carmilla, she tapped her pen anxiously on the table.

“Why are you back so early, Mad Hatter?” A deep low voice suddenly blurted out, even without looking up Carmilla knew whom it belonged to. She suddenly felt the seat opposite her creak softly as her companion sat down.

“Why am I Mad Hatter?” Carmilla noted that Bram would typically call them by their nicknames ‘Pinky, Brain, and Mad Hatter’ but he finally revealed who was who to Carmilla.

“I assumed you always knew that, well, simply because the redhead is Brain, usually she can be harmless but a little self-absorbed and obsessive with her work. Your imbecile of a friend is Pinky, since he’s so whipped, typically good-natured but can be feebleminded around the redhead. I knew those two belonged together from the start.” Bram answered nonchalantly. “But you, you belong in a different universe, you’re the Mad Hatter, you have that air in you.”

“What air?” Carmilla furrowed her brows, trying to understand Bram’s words.

Bram gave her a meaningful smile. He sat comfortably across her, removing his canvas apron and just wearing his typical white t-shirt and jeans ensemble. “Well, you remind me like the Aerosmith song, the one from the Bruce Willis movie last year.” Bram scratched his chin.

“You mean, “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” Carmilla supplied.

“Yeah, yeah, that one.” Bram confirmed.

“Whatever does that mean?” Carmilla chuckled in amusement.

“You’re a strong girl with strong emotions; you have this spirit in you, the tendency to fall crazy in love. You’re like the Aerosmith song, you’re like Mad Hatter.” Bram grinned, hoping that Carmilla wasn’t offended by what he said.

“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or what.” Carmilla huffed.

“Ow, in my context, of course it is!” Bram tapped his large hands on the table, Carmilla was startled a bit. “But you do have to be careful young lady because if you have too much love in you, don’t expect that everyone else will be able to throw you back a piece with the same intensity. You might not get the full value for your money.”

Carmilla was more puzzled now; she just gave Bram a confused look.

“What I’m saying is, just choose wisely. Make sure whoever it is, they will be capable of loving you back if not the same way then maybe in a way that you deserve.” Bram counseled sincerely.

“I always knew you were some sort of a sage.” Carmilla gave a small smile.

“Let’s just say I do speak from experience.” Bram started to stand up from the booth. “Also, you didn’t hear it from me.” He winked.

“Thanks, Bram.” Carmilla mumbled a heartfelt appreciation.

“Plus, I do hope this is Smurfette we are talking about. I do think you both deserve each other, she’s such a tiny ball of energy and you’re just like a speck in the universe.” Bram muttered as he started to walk away.

“That just doesn’t make sense but thank you, really!” Carmilla grinned.

“It’s a metaphor, Mad Hatters should get that.” Bram snickered as he headed back to the kitchen.

Carmilla still had no clue what she wanted to do but after her talk with Bram, she somehow figured out what to say to Laura.

 


 

Carmilla stood awoke in a sudden jolt, today was the day, everyone else was due to arrive back since registration and classes would be starting the next day. Her best guess was that Laura would be back in their dorm sometime in the afternoon. She hasn’t contacted Laura yet, not since New Year’s Day. She didn’t want to preempt what she was up to, so she decided that she’ll leave it at that. She had quickly tidied up her side of the room, Laura’s stuff were still tucked away, and her school materials were left in proper order on her desk and her shelf before they headed out for the winter break. Since she did not know exactly what time Laura would be returning, Carmilla made sure that she had to leave the dorm room early for her plan to work. Carmilla took a quick shower, put on a black t-shirt with a Keith Haring artwork, her leather jacket, a pair of dark pants and her boots.

Looking intently at the room, she had made sure that Laura would notice the tiny details right away. Knowing that Laura was naturally curious and she loved to follow trails, she spread out notes in their dorm room that would eventually lead Laura to her location. It was like a mini-scavenger hunt, one note would lead Laura to another; directing her to go to certain memorable locations such us the wooden bench at the quadrangle where they did the Kinsey scale test, the lobby of Silas University radio station where she found shelter and Laura rescuing her from a swarm of bullfrogs, their classroom for Prof. Belmonde’s class and eventually they would end up at Bram’s where Carmilla would be waiting for her. Carmilla spent the entire day yesterday preparing for this and this entire scheme relied on the fact if whether or not Laura would notice the first neon post-it note on her desk upon her arrival. Confident that her plan would work out, Carmilla locked their dorm room and headed out to Bram’s hoping that Laura would be compassionate enough to consider her plea and play along with her plan. If by nightfall, Carmilla is stood up at Bram’s, it could mean several things; either Laura saw the note and was not ready to forgive her yet, or Laura probably wanted to move on and had decided to ignore Carmilla and move to a different dorm room, or that for some reason, she was not yet back at Silas. The latter was probably less worse of all the reasons but one thing is for sure, today, Carmilla was determined to wait.

 


It was three o’clock in the afternoon, Carmilla fidgeted in their usual booth. None of her other friends knew what she was up to since most of them were still probably busy getting settled in after the winter break. The only person who knew about her plan was Bram, since she didn’t want him to be curious as to why she was spending almost the entire day in his diner. Carmilla had brunch there, quite tense at first but after her meal, she had calmed down a bit. Bram came around bringing her decaffeinated coffee since any more dose of caffeine and sugar might only make her twitchier. Bram simply smiled meekly and winked at her, giving her a boost of confidence. Carmilla continued to look at the diner’s door each time the small bells above the doors rattled to signal an incoming customer. Most of the university students had already returned and dropped by to purchase some food to-go since they were busy settling in. Each time the bells resonated Carmilla jerked from her seat but still there was no sign of Laura.

 


At five o’clock, Carmilla was slumped on the table, she had every urge to go back to their dorm room and check if Laura had arrived already. However, if she left what if Laura was already on her way to the diner, then she’ll spoil the entire scenario. She also thought of texting Laura several times to make sure, if she was indeed back, but she also needed to go back to the dorm and retrieve her cellphone. In her hurry to head out that morning, she inattentively left her phone on top of her bed. Bram gave her pitiful glances as he continued to serve customers; he seemed worried as well.

Carmilla held the last note that she had in her hand; she had lifted this from Roland Barthes:

“Am I in love? - yes, since I’m waiting.” The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely: I am the one who waits.”

She was reminded of what Barthes had distinguished, she was indeed physically waiting for Laura and all she wanted to tell her was that she was willing to work for it, to build their relationship, to gain Laura’s trust again, and basically, if not now, then to wait for Laura until she was ready again. So she just sat there and waited some more.

 


 

Her wrist watch read 7:35 PM, Carmilla already felt hopeless. Logic would tell her that she needed to give up, go back to the dorm, and confront Laura. Maybe she was not up for her silly games; maybe she indeed wanted a break from Carmilla. Should she call her? Realistically, Carmilla was afraid to get Laura’s reaction at this point. What if she did not notice the first note? That was a possibility but after seeing that all her stuff were there already, so, why has Laura not looked for her yet? Carmilla was already in the verge of tears, not knowing what to do exactly until the bells on the diner’s door reverberated and got her out of her contemplation.

Carmilla lifted her head instantly and she was surprised to see no other than Danny Lawrence looking frantic with Kirsch and LaFontaine in tow. Danny’s eyes widened as she caught glimpse of Carmilla. Before Carmilla could even say anything, Danny had already ran towards her.

“Where the hell have you been? We’ve been looking all over the campus for you? The dorm manager told us that you already checked-in.” Danny shrieked. “We had been banging at your dorm room the entire afternoon!”

This meant that Laura wasn’t back yet, but the expression in Danny’s eyes made Carmilla uneasy.

“I told you we should have checked here earlier.” Kirsch mumbled, almost out of breath.

“We kept on calling you.” Laf added.

“I left my phone at the dorm room.” Carmilla explained.

“Ow, tell J.P. we found her.” Kirsch directed Laf as they texted J.P.

“What’s wrong? Can you tell me already?” Carmila was fretfully curious now.

“It’s about Laura.” Danny eventually blurted out.

Suddenly, the group heard a loud crash from the counter. Bram overheard them and he accidently swiped a saucer from the counter causing it to smash onto the ground. He gave the group a worried look.

“There was an accident, we have to go.” Danny exclaimed.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 26. Loquela


 

“Loquela

This word, borrowed from Ignatius of Loyola, designates the flux of language through which the subject tirelessly rehashes the effects of a wound or the consequences of an action: an emphatic form of the lover’s discourse.

Trop penser me font amours- love makes me think too much. At times, result of some infinitesimal stimulus, a fever of language overcomes me, a parade of reasons, interpretations, and pronouncements. I am aware of nothing but a machine running all by itself, a hurdy-gurdy whose crank is turned by a staggering but anonymous by-stander, and which is never silent. In the loquela, nothing ever manages to prevent these repetitions.”

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

Laura squinted as a sliver of harsh light entered the room through the slits of the window blinds. She was in an unfamiliar room, it smelled like antiseptic, the temperature was a little bit chilly, and she could hear a faint beeping sound. She tried to feel her limbs, possibly to wiggle her toes but it felt like boulders were pinning her down. Her throat felt dry and her lips were cracked, she felt untethered from the rest of her body. Was it a dream? Was she having an out of body experience? As her eyes adjusted to her surroundings, she realized that she wasn’t in her own bed. The first thing she saw was the circular fluorescent lighting fixture attached to the ceiling. Then she gathered that her left wrist actually felt a bit numb, she tried it to move it but then she realized that she was attached to an I.V. The next thing she noticed was that her right arm felt heavy. As she directed her stare towards it, she grasped that it was in a heavy cast. At the same time, her right leg was also in a cast as well and it was suspended on a pole near the foot of her bed. Laura’s mind was suddenly caught in panic when she finally realized where she was.

The last thing she remembered was being in their truck with her dad, they were having a talk. She told him that she was quite eager to be back and finally be able to sort things out with Carmilla. The last thing she remembered was the look of terror in her father’s eyes before everything eventually went black. Were they in an accident? Where was her dad? Before Laura could even scream in fright, she suddenly heard a familiar voice call out to her.

“Hey Laura, I’m here, you’re safe, you’re safe now.” The female voice gave her a sense of calm. As Laura looked towards the direction of her voice, she was faced with the familiar light brown eyes and dark brown hair of her Aunt Sheryl, her father’s younger cousin. She lived in Graz, about two hours away from Silas. She wasn’t married yet but she lived with her boyfriend and had a hectic life as a nurse and only had little time to visit Sherman. Perhaps the hospital called her since she was their closest relative and was listed down as their emergency contact.

“Where am I? Where’s dad? Is he okay?” Laura bombarded her aunt with questions.

“Hush now, you’re safe now, you’re dad’s safe too, nothing to worry about, he’s in the other room. He’s out of harm’s way and so are you.” Her aunt said in a soothing voice.

“What happened? All I remember is that we were driving back to school and then I blacked out.” Laura mumbled.

“It was an accident, a side impact collision. A SUV lost its brakes and control in the freeway, your dad tried to turn sharply but the other car was too fast, it hit you on your side.” Sheryl explained. “You have fractures on your right side where the other car hit, your humerus and your fibula are broken. The doctor said it might take around six months. If it all heals well, you will be able to use your limbs again after some therapy. Your fibula on your leg is a smaller non weight-bearing bone that may heal faster. But your humerus extends to your shoulder and your elbow, it might take more time to heal but good thing that your case doesn’t need surgery. However, you’re in for a lot of pain though.” Sheryl enlightened her niece. “You’re in some pain meds now, that’s why you just probably feel numb.”

“How about dad? How is he?” It took Laura some time to digest all that information but it didn’t stop her from worrying about her dad.

“Aside from a few bumps and bruises, he’s recovering. He suffered from whiplash; he’s wearing a neck brace. Both of you won’t be able to move from your beds for some time. He’s impatient to see you since he keeps on blaming himself for your injuries. But he is less frantic now, I asked him to calm down, worrying would only cause him more damage.” Sheryl answered.

“Well, you know how protective he is.” Laura slurred.

“I already called your school by the way; the dean said you’ll be allowed for late registration as soon as you’re discharged. However, they might not allow you to take up a full load this semester, given your condition, but we’ll worry about that later.” Sheryl shared.

“Do my friends know?” Laura enquired tentatively, now she was worried about how they would react, especially Carmilla.

“Well, your dorm manager informed them, they were actually here last night but hospital policies didn’t allow them to stay. Some of them said they’ll be back later. However, I made an exception for this one.” Sheryl eventually pointed at a laying figure on the hospital settee next to Laura’s bed. Since she couldn’t move much earlier, she did not notice the figure all clad in black, sleeping on the couch covered in a thin white blanket. “Since I’m not able to monitor two rooms at a time for two patients, I requested the hospital to allow Carmilla to stay. She’s been up all night, she just fell asleep a few minutes ago. Sherman told me she’s your girlfriend?” Sheryl raised an eyebrow at her niece.

Laura gave out a faint smile; she was glad that Carmilla was there. “Well, she was, but we had a bit of a misunderstanding, I don’t know if she still is.” Laura replied meekly.

“Well, based on the looks of it, I guess she still is. We had a talk last night, this one’s a keeper.” Sheryl winked.

“I know.” Laura looked towards Carmilla’s sleeping form. Her eyebrows were furrowed, she looked distressed; who wouldn’t be?

“Well, get some more rest, you need it. I’ll just go to the other room and tell your dad that you were awake.” Sheryl lightly kissed her niece’s forehead and soon enough Laura was lulled back to sleep. 

 


The next time Laura woke up, Carmilla was seated on an armchair next to her bed. Carmilla looked paler than ever, the fluorescent lighting inside the room making her look whitish. She licked her finger as she flipped a page; she was reading a book. It was a small leather bound pocket book, probably for one of her philosophy classes. This time Carmilla wore a gray sweater and dark pants, her hair was already quite long enough to be tied in a loose ponytail but the fringes hung loose on the sides of her face.

“Hey” Laura managed to whisper. Carmilla suddenly jolted from her seat, closing her book and directing her full attention at Laura. She flashed her an endearing smile, tears forming on the sides of her eyes.

“Hey, Cupcake. How are you feeling?” Carmilla whispered back as she scooted closer to Laura’s side.

“Pretentiously, better than anticipated but honestly, like shit!” Laura blurted out causing Carmilla to chuckle softly.

“The doctor said you might be released in a couple of days but you’ll be required for a bi-weekly X-ray afterwards. Good thing the one on your arm is just a hairline crack. But of course, it’s never good since you’ll have a hard time moving around.” Carmilla enlightened.

“I’m sorry you had to see me this way.” Laura mumbled, aside from her casts, her face and arm were covered with a few gnashes and bruises; the most prominent one was the purple bruise right below her right eye where her eyeglasses shattered from the impact, good thing there were no glass bits that entered her eye.

“Well, if you ask me, you look really badass right now. Like you survived war and you have all these battle scars, it’s actually kinda sexy if you ask me.” Carmilla joked to lighten the mood but she was already a bit teary eyed at this point.

“Shut up!” Laura laughed quietly, she was glad that they were back to their usual bantering but she felt like they have not addressed the elephant in the room yet.

“Hey, Carm. I’m really sorry for overreacting; I wanted to tell you that as soon as I got back.” Laura mumbled; it was in fact the first thing that she wanted to do once she found Carmilla in their dorm room.

“No, don’t worry about it; the good thing now is that you’re safe.” Carmilla reached for Laura’s left hand but because it was attached to the I.V., all she could do was to hold on to the tip of her fingers. She wanted to hug her close, she wanted to kiss her but she felt so fragile at that moment. On the other hand, since she felt so numb with all the medication, Laura felt like it was the most intimate touch that they shared in months.

“If I could just move from this bed, I would be kissing you right now.” Laura announced. As if on cue, Carmilla stood up from her seat and gently balanced her weight with her arms on the side of Laura’s bed. Then she approached Laura leaving a soft tender kiss on her cracked lips.

For a moment, they stared at each other. It seemed that time had stopped and they were looking deep, communicating without words. At that time, they knew that whatever misunderstanding they previously had, everything else was forgiven.

“Would you like some water?” Carmilla eventually blurted out. Laura nodded and Carmilla went to open a bottle of water placing a plastic straw. She helped Laura move and to eventually take a sip, at this point; Laura had an unexplainable feeling. Having Carmilla there beside her, in her most vulnerable felt like the most intimate moment in their lives. She was exposed, willing to submit her fears and weaknesses and she was present, willing to care for her and hold on. Whatever trust was broken, was now regained. She wasn’t afraid of relying on her, she was willing to let her guard down, she was willing to let her pride down.

“What do you have there?” Laura pointed out to the book that Carmilla was previously reading.

“Ow, it’s Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley, I’m doing some advanced reading for one of my classes.” Carmilla explicated.

“Can you read me something?” Laura asked timidly.

“Of course.” Carmilla replied with a meagre but earnest smile.

Carmilla started to flip through the pocketbook and she suddenly cleared her throat when she found the page she was looking for.

 

“To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;

To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;

To defy power which seems omnipotent;

To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates

From its own wreck the thing it contemplates

 

Life may change, but it may fly not;

Hope may vanish, but can die not;

Truth be veiled, but still it burneth;

Love repulsed-but it returneth.”

 

When Carmilla finished reading the passage, she noticed that Laura was lulled into sleep once again. She closed the book and tucked it under her arm, and then she moved to place a gentle kiss on Laura’s forehead.

“I still love you…very much.” She whispered.

Unbeknownst to Carmilla, Laura had heard her but her drugged induced self was too out of it to reply.

 


 

After several days, Laura and Sherman were released from the hospital. Sherman went home with the assurance that his cousin and some family friends back home will monitor him. He was also to visit his doctor at their town for some follow-up check-ups in the succeeding months. On the other hand, Laura was permitted to go back to school but an arduous system was laid out. However, most of her dear friends had committed to help her out just to prevent her from taking a leave for the semester. Laura’s spirit was up for the challenge but it was her body that needed much assistance. To gain Sherman’s confidence, Carmilla had personally committed in taking care of Laura. Since Laura was wheelchair bound and she needed much assistance to get to places, they needed the commitment of an entire village to help her in her mobility.

Carmilla was dedicated to being Laura’s primary caretaker, as her roommate, it was her responsibility to help Laura around the dorm, making sure she eats, bathes, and takes care of most of her personal undertakings. They were moved to a room in the ground floor for accessibility. J.P. volunteered to drive them to the hospital during Laura’s bi-weekly check-ups and physical therapy. If he wasn’t available, he was simply willing to lend his car to Carmilla. Since they were taking the same majors, Kirsch volunteered to assist Laura in going to her journalism classes. Danny, Laf, and Perry on the other hand, took turns in taking Laura to her other classes. With clearance from some of her professors, Laura was permitted to bring a voice recorder with her, since she was still not able to take down notes until she learns to legibly write with her left hand.

Each day Laura was nothing but apologetic to her friends knowing that she was some sort of a burden to them but each time they were nothing but gracious towards her. They would even skip some parties and school events for Laura. Then would simply go to Bram’s or come up with their own parties at J.P.’s. Each of them assured Laura that this adjustment was not going to be forever, especially since after three months, her scans had showed signs of a speedy recovery. However, as much as they guaranteed her, the weight of her condition was emotionally taking a toll on Laura.

Typically, some patients who were immobile would sometimes suffer from blows in their pride. Not being able to do simple physical things like walking, getting up, or the very act of wiping your ass had really made Laura realize many things. However, she was certain of one thing, that Carmilla above all her friends loved her dearly.

 

Exhibit A

“Since you can only eat with one hand, I suppose your soft or liquid diet does in fact make sense.” Carmilla told Laura.

“I don’t want to be much of a burden, Carm. I can eat cereals or I can still eat cookies with one hand.” Laura muttered.

“You still need your protein and vegetables. Don’t worry; we can just have the refrigerator stocked with fruit and vegetable juices and stuff.” Carmilla scratched her chin studying their grocery list.

“I can still eat fruits with one hand you know.” Laura was trying to convince Carmilla.

“Yeah, I know that, but you shouldn’t put on much pressure on your other hand either, remember, your condition can last up to six months.” Carmilla warned.

Laura just gave her a warm smile, Carmilla was so determined to fix things for Laura; she didn’t find her being an overprotective like her father because she always defended her actions with practical reason, not making Laura feel that she was totally useless.

 

Exhibit B

On the second week that Laura got back to the dorm, the itchiness under the casts seemed unbearable. Laura knew that it was part of her healing process but she could no longer fathom how she could ignore the discomfort as she tried to read some articles for her journalism class.

Therefore, Carmilla came home to a very cranky Laura. Laura’s brows were furrowed under her eye glasses as she read one of the articles required for her class.

“What’s gotten under your skin, Cupcake?” Carmilla asked as she entered the threshold.

“Seriously, I don’t have patience for idiomatic expressions right now. I’m trying to transport my consciousness to another dimension.” Laura huffed.

“Your skin is starting to itch under your cast, isn’t it?” Carmilla asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Unless you have any cure for this itch…” Laura murmured but suddenly Carmilla walked passed her took an extension cord and went to the bathroom to retrieve the hairdryer.

“Is it the one on your leg or your arm?” Carmilla went on one knee in front of Laura. She plugged the hair dryer in and set it on a cool setting.

“Both.” Laura answered.

“Laf told me that this was bound to happen. They said this could help with the itchiness. I’ll work on your arm first.” Carmilla aimed the hair dryer under Laura’s cast.

The cool breeze was actually quite soothing; Laura appreciated how Carmilla had went ahead to research on how to help her, she really was a keeper.

 

Exhibit C

It was their first night back in the dorm, Laura’s arm and leg always needed to be propped up on a pillow, Carmilla took note of these details, and she even had a small notebook with her where she scribbled Laura’s schedule, recovery exercises, and doctor’s instructions.

They were both resting in their respective beds when Laura suddenly felt the urge to go to the bathroom. She was a bit reluctant to tell Carmilla but it is either that or she poops in her underwear. She was advised to wear oversized t-shirts for sleepwear and loose dresses to accommodate her casts.

“Uhm, Carm” Laura cleared her throat.

“Yes, Cupcake?” Carmilla pushed herself up from her bed.

“I need to go to the toilet, can you help me?” Laura asked hesitantly.

“Of course, come on now.” Carmilla knew that Laura was still too weak to use a cane, so she assisted her in getting up with Laura’s good arm over her shoulder and her arms lifted Laura by the hips.

Laura felt her whole body weight on Carmilla, with half her body on a cast, she could only control so much of her frame. “I’m so sorry, Carm.” She mumbled an apology.

“Don’t worry, you’re not that heavy, you’ve been on a diet ever since.” Carmilla teased to lighten the mood.

Carmilla assisted Laura as they carefully threaded towards the toilet. Carmilla cautiously supported Laura as she sat on the toilet.

“I’m going to help you with your underwear now.” Carmilla waited for Laura’s consent.

“Sure, yeah, sure.” Laura was self-conscious at this point, but she knew that she had no choice since she was physically challenged.

“This brings back a lot of memories but in different circumstances.” Carmilla muttered wittily as she moved to kneel before Laura, Laura lifted her oversized shirt up.

After Carmilla had pulled Laura’s underwear down to her legs, she just stood there presumably waiting for Laura to finish.

“Uhm, Carm, I don’t think it’s safe for you to stand there, I’m not just going to pee…I’m going to, you know.” Laura murmured shyly.

“Oh, yeah, sure, I’m sorry.” Carmilla went out of the toilet and closed the door. “Just call me if you need any help.” She added once she was outside.

Laura was able to continue with her business, however, she was suddenly overwhelmed with her next predicament. How was she going to clean herself? Her fractured arm needed to stay still; she could only do so much with her other arm. She didn’t notice that she was already there thinking for almost ten minutes.

“Are you done? Laura? Do you need any help?” Carmilla called out.

She laid silent, she didn’t know what else to do, it was the most embarrassing moment in her life. Even if she looked forward to possibly spending the rest of her life with Carmilla, this type of thing was too early in their relationship to ask for.

“You’re not answering, I’m going in.” Carmilla entered the toilet and she did not even flinch. She gave Laura a knowing look. “You need me to help you clean up, do you?”

“I know it’s a lot to ask for…but you can just hand me the bidet spray and the toilet paper and stuff…” Laura was rambling.

“Hey, Laura, it’s okay. I’m here to help you, okay? Don’t overthink; I’m here to help.” Carmilla looked at her in all sincerity. “Plus, there’s nothing I haven’t seen and touched…well in that vicinity…under different circumstances though.” She winked at Laura.

In that moment, Laura realized that she indeed had possibly crossed all boundaries with Carmilla and that she was indeed very lucky.

 


 

It was one Saturday evening when Danny was helping Carmilla wheel Laura inside their dorm room. They spent their usual Saturday night at Bram’s; everything went fine but Carmilla noticed that Laura was silent during their entire trip back to the dorm.

“Alright, will you guys be okay?” Danny wheeled Laura into their room oblivious to Laura’s silence, Carmilla followed carrying booth their backpacks.

“Sure, we’ll be fine, thanks Danny.” With a wave from Carmilla and a nod from Laura, Danny left the room shutting the door behind her.

“Something on your mind, Cupcake?” Carmilla finally asked.

Laura remained silent; a sole tear plopped on her thigh.

“Hey hey, Cupcake, what’s wrong?” Carmilla stooped down to meet Laura’s gaze.

“I’m sorry, it’s just I don’t know how to feel right now.” Laura mumbled in a broken tone, fixing her glasses over the bridge of her nose.

“You know your condition is just temporary right? You’ll heal and we all get back to regular programming, you looked great in your last check-up.” Carmilla tried to comfort Laura.

“I know…I know…it’s not why I’m crying, really. I’m just thankful…” Laura was sobbing at this point. “I mean, last year, things were just normal. I had a new roommate, I met new people, I had you…” At the moment, they really haven’t talked about their relationship yet. Carmilla wasn’t sure if they were back together, Laura never confirmed anything. However, they just felt more comfortable around each other. Carmilla would constantly call Sherman to update him regarding Laura’s condition. He was a bit traumatized by the accident and Sheryl can only drive him to visit Laura at least once a month. They were like an old couple; on the first few weeks, Carmilla would help Laura eat, she would even accompany her to the toilet and give her baths. They did the most intimate of things without really being physically intimate. “I’m just so grateful to you, Carm…to all our friends. I don’t think I’ll survive my condition without you guys.” Laura admitted.

“Of course, I’m here for you…we’re here for you.” Carmilla cupped her chin.

“I know and you’ve been doing all of these for me without even knowing where we stand.” Laura made clear.

“Honestly, I think we’re beyond all of that. All I know is that I’m still hopelessly in love with you and I won’t be looking at anyone else or thinking about anything else. My main priority now is surviving this semester with you. I almost lost you…do not think that I’m expecting anything in return or I’ll be using any of this to emotionally blackmail you in the future. I just want you to recover fast, so we could just go on with the rest of our mundane lives together. You can take all the time you need, Cupcake, I’ll just be here whether you like it or not. ” Carmilla articulated sincerely.

“Near death experiences really change us right?” Laura chuckled wiping her tears away.

Carmilla shook her head. “Nothing had really changed my mind; I was always waiting for you to begin with.”

“I still love you too, Carm.” Laura uttered under her breath and with that, Carmilla closed their gap to give her a warm affectionate overdue kiss. Laura knew she was about three months too late with this declaration. 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 27. Fragments


 

“I love you

 

The figure refers not to the declaration of love, to the avowal, but to the repeated utterance of the love cry.

I love you. --- So do I.”

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

After two years…

 

Someone once told me that things don’t always change, sometimes it’s still the same even if you get older. It has been two years, two amazing years and somehow, even if I was a bit older things seemed to pan out my way. I sat there observing a leaf as it fell; it signaled the start of summer. I stood up to catch it, to break its fall; it fell directly on my palm.

In one of my classes last semester, I encountered a thought: “Our lives are shaped by those who love us and by those who refuse to love us.” (John Powell) Such a beautiful thought, love doesn't destroy us; it molds us into a new form. However, it doesn't mean that we should stop loving those who can't love us back. Unconditional love may be so ideal, yet so difficult to achieve. But as you can see, the heart never stops beating, it if does, what will happen? The heart never grows tired, yet it never complains, it just has to keep on pumping, that's unconditional love.

Certain realities teach us to accept things as they are. My life has been a constant scuffle; I was trying to look for something way ahead of myself. Never realizing that I shouldn’t look that far away. Being happy doesn't simply mean having things that cause you happiness; it is about being happy about the things that you already have. I am. My friends, my mom, Laura’s dad, Laura- we all have gotten this far, on and off course.

There are really reasons why you meet certain people; it is like they were really told to be there at that exact moment. I just glad that I met them, they may cause you happiness, a sense of place or even sorrow, but I know that they should simply play the parts that they are playing. However, in order for you to find the answers for your own questions, you should simply learn take a big step, the great leap and wait until someone catches you or breaks your fall.

 

“What are you doing?” A pair of wet arms suddenly plopped down on Carmilla’s lap.

“Careful, Cupcake, you’re getting my journal wet.” Carmilla raised her leather-bound journal away from Laura’s dripping form.

“I think it should not be the only thing that’s getting wet.” Carmilla read a tone of insinuation from Laura’s voice.

“Ruin my journal and nothing is getting wet at all.” Carmilla threatened.

“C’mon, let’s go swimming; mom and dad can take care of lunch.” Laura prodded pointing at Perry and J.P. who were busy at the grill.

“Okay, okay…” Carmilla placed her journal and pen on the table beside her chair.

They were back at J.P.’s cabin by the lake; it was a day after their graduation and they decided to take one last trip to where it had all began. Though the friendships that they formed had certain memories bound on Silas grounds and at Bram’s, the group always treated their camping trip as the most notable one. It was where Danny eventually warmed up to the group and it was where J.P. and Perry, and Carmilla and Laura, the respective couples all got together. Sheryl Crow’s Soak Up the Sun was blasting from the radio as J.P. operated the grill. It was a bit warmer at the lake during this time, he wore a loose button down printed shirt and a pair of cargo shorts. He graduated a year ahead together with Danny but he took a gap year to travel, periodically returning to Silas to see Perry. Perry was setting the table for their meal; J.P. invited her to a trip to Europe, they were leaving the following month. Perry wore a printed maxi skirt, an olive spaghetti strapped top, and wooden bangles adorned her wrist. All the others were already in their swimwear. Kirsch, Danny, and Laf we all still swimming at the lake. Danny was already at law school, Laf was preparing for med school, and Kirsch is in no hurry to settle for a job yet but he still looks forward to being a weatherman.

Carmilla stayed seated at the Adirondack, she had a black two-piece on, she had a pair of dark sunglasses over her head, and she still had a pair of acid wash denim shorts over her bikini bottoms. Laura rested her dripping form over Carmilla’s lap, with her head over her arms, crossed over Carmilla’s thighs. She had an orange bikini top on and a pair of boy shorts of the same color. After her accident, Laura continued with her physical therapy and became more bodily conscious. She got into yoga and became leaner. Carmilla would tease her about developing abdominal muscles, not that she did not appreciate it.

“Can you stop being so boring and join us already?” Laura pleaded and the three others waved at them from the lake.

“Lead the way.” Carmilla swatted Laura’s arms off her and she suddenly got up from the Adirondack shimmying her denim shorts off to reveal her black bikini bottoms.

Laura’s eyes just drifted over her girlfriend’s slender form. Carmilla’s black swimwear just highlighted how pale her skin was, the contrast was evident.

“Close your mouth, Cupcake, a fly might get in.” Carmilla tapped on her girlfriend’s chin.

“Whatever.” Laura soon dragged Carmilla towards the others.

To be able to graduate on time, Laura needed to take a summer semester as soon as she had recovered from her fractures. Laura was now looking into applying to one of the big networks in Silas. Since Laura was staying in Silas, Carmilla had decided to pursue graduate school and take up a teaching position at their university.

“Uhm, Jeep, where did you set-up Laura and Carmilla’s tent?” Perry asked her boyfriend as she observed the couple frolic by the lake.

“Uhm, I haven’t set up the tents yet.” J.P. answered without looking up from the grill.

“Make sure it’s away from ours, you can set it up to the woods for all I care. I think we’re up for a loud night.” Perry chuckled as she continued to witness the couple flirt despite the presence of their other friends.

 


 

“That’s it…yeah…there…right there…” Laura whimpered breathily as she tried to stifle her moans as not to wake the entire camp.

Laura’s forehead was sweaty and both her eyes were shut, she was enveloped with ecstasy as Carmilla continued to move beneath her. Perry and J.P.’s tent where a few good meters away from theirs, Laf, Danny, and Kirsch stayed inside the cabin. But even at safe distance, she just didn’t want to give their friends the satisfaction of proving that they were doing what their friends presumed that she and Carmilla would be busy with that evening. Carmilla continued to lap at her as if she was eating ice cream. She licked up and round her clit and then back down to the other side. Then, just when she was on the edge, Carmilla would change her pace and then alternatively suck at her clitoral hood in repeated intervals. Laura flinched at the change of sensation; she almost trapped Carmilla in a headlock with her thighs as she recoiled.

“No…no…don’t stop.” She whispered.

Carmilla immediately grabbed both her thighs and spread her legs wider, making more room for Carmilla. She then placed Laura’s trim legs over her shoulders. Carmilla maintained a tight grip on both of Laura’s legs preventing her to cause another headlock. Carmilla then started to nibble lightly on Laura’s puffy clit; she then caused some variation by sucking it. This caused Laura to arch her back and to move closer towards Carmilla, holding her head in place. Realizing that Laura’s clit was already too sensitive, Carmilla held back by flattening her tongue and lapping at the whole area. She then twisted her tongue and teased Laura’s vaginal opening, she could feel some of Laura’s fluids spurt on her chin. Then without warning, Carmilla dipped her tongue all the way in, eliciting an inaudible breathy moan from Laura causing her knees to jerk and her back to arch once more.

“Fuck…” Laura breathed out in a hushed yelp, she bit the palm of her hand to prevent her from screaming, her other hand held on to the back of Carmilla’s head directing her back towards her clit.

If there was one thing that Carmilla appreciated from their relationship, it was that Laura was not afraid to communicate with her. Carmilla took this as a cue towards Laura’s orgasm, and then Carmilla sped up licking and sucking on Laura’s clit in quick intervals. Then just like that, Laura came undone, her body shook, she continued to arch her back, and released a winded whimper that she had been holding. As she shuddered in satisfaction, she eventually dropped back unto the ground.

Pleased with Laura’s reaction, Carmilla slowly slithered on top of her, wiping her chin with the back of her hand in the process, her other hand balanced her body on top of Laura. Carmilla was still clad in her underwear, while Laura was spread out in her full naked glory beneath her with layers of sleeping bags and their blankets below her form.

“I think all the yoga is paying off.” Carmilla joked as she placed a chaste kiss on Laura’s dry lips.

“You’ve seen nothing yet.” Laura eventually flipped their positions over; she was now on top of Carmilla.

Laura unexpectedly descended further down towards Carmilla’s lower body; she then elevated her upper torso and went for a kneeling position.

“I’m gonna try something, I know it’s a cliché but there’s always a first time for everything.” Laura hovered over Carmilla and whispered these words softly.

Carmilla just nodded in reply, fully trusting Laura with what she was about to do. Laura went back to her kneeling position and removed Carmilla’s underwear, sliding it slowly from her legs. She then lifted Carmilla’s right leg over her shoulder and peppered it with kisses going down to her thigh. She breathed into Carmilla’s core, causing the other girl to get goosebumps. Holding on to Carmilla’s right leg over her left shoulder, Laura then rubbed her core unto Carmilla’s left thigh maintaining her kneeling position. Feeling Laura’s still wet center, Carmilla soon felt Laura’s right hand linger and cup her sensitive core. Laura soon began to rub her delicate bud gently causing her to get wetter and wetter by the second. Carmilla bit on her lower lip trying to strangle her moans.

Gathering that a stream had started to coat Carmilla’s center, Laura spread out the fluids further with her thumb, moving back and forth from Carmilla’s clit down to her vulva. Then, when she was fully glazed, Laura started to glide towards Carmilla. Carmilla’s eyes widened as she realized that Laura had just interlocked their limbs in this new position. Fully realizing what Laura was up to, they both began to swivel and grind, rubbing their pelvic bones together. A strange sensation hit Carmilla as their clits slid and sprung in their coordinated rhythm. It wasn’t long until they began to move together, slowly at first until their movements became frantic, both of them where already at the edge of stupor.

Carmilla fixed her eyes directly at Laura, both their mouths were partly open eliciting soft moans. The momentum was building as they continued to grind against each other. Then Carmilla saw Laura’s pupils begin to dilate, the inside of their tent was almost pitch black but somehow their eyes had already adjusted to the darkness. Then Laura began to rock frenziedly above her, she knew she was close. Then Laura just froze for a split second, arched her back and craned her neck in ecstasy, it was one of the most beautiful scenes that Carmilla witnessed it her life; it was comparable to a sunset or the motion of waves crashing on sculptured rocks near an open sea. Laura sustained her ministrations and Carmilla came soon after, spellbound by the sudden gush of frenzy as she reached her high.

Laura fell limply on Carmilla’s laying form. She snuggled unto Carmilla’s chest; Carmilla could feel Laura’s heartbeat wildly. Laura could hear Carmilla’s frantic heart beat as well.

“Well, that was something.” Laura murmured to Carmilla’s breast.

“Yeah, maybe I should try some stretching exercises too.” Carmilla chuckled as she played with Laura’s tresses.

“Hey, Carm.” Laura whispered.

“Hmm…” Carmilla answered.

“I love you.” Laura mumbled snuggling further into Carmilla.

“I love you, too.” Carmilla held her tighter.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 28. Epilogue


 

Tenderness

tendresse / tenderness

 

“Bliss, but also a disturbing evaluation of the loved object’s tender gestures, insofar as the subject realizes that he is not their privileged recipient.”

Musil: There is not only need for tenderness, there is also need to be tender for the other: we shut ourselves up in a mutual kindness, we mother each other reciprocally; we return to the root of all relations, where need and desire join. The tender gesture says: ask me anything that can put your body to sleep, but also do not forget that I desire you- a little, lightly, without trying to seize anything right away.”

 

Roland Barthes (1978). A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments.


 

Year 2007

 

The years that passed went by like a blur. Things around here are commonplace, the most lackluster if I say so. I have been sitting on the same messy desk, giving the same tedious lectures, reading the same philosophical stuff and talking to the same mind-numbing people. I pitied myself for being quite pathetic sometimes, like humming and whistling the same song for seven days. I tried to learn to snap my fingers, it drove people mad, and it drove Laura mad. If there was one thing less dull in this dreary life, it was Laura. Dinner conversations about the remarkable stuff at work, my receptive students, and my amusing colleagues with Laura just made things less mundane, it was a routine but it was our routine and somehow it all made sense.

Some people allow us not to think of what to say. Some people allow us to be ourselves. No questions asked, no bragging of whom you are, no comparing, no pretending you're okay despite the fact that you're pissed off. You just take that walk and talk. You shed your skin as if you would peel a banana, no other instruments needed, no knives needed. Life with Laura had been that way; things had just been in sink.

Carmilla put down her fountain pen and closed her new leather-bound journal. She had been keeping a journal just to write about anything; feelings, thoughts, and ideas were all jotted down. Carmilla’s wide hardwood desk was a mess; her laptop laid immobile on one side, a half-finished glass cup of black coffee laid cold on the side, and books which included Descartes’ “The Discourse on Method”, Nietzche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”, Sartre’s “Existentialism and Humanism”, and Camus’ “The Fall” were haphazardly piled one on top of the other at the center of the table. Carmilla needed to finish finalizing the reading list for the class that she was teaching that semester. As she pursued graduate school, Carmilla was offered a teaching position at the university. She never saw herself in a professor’s shoes at the beginning but as time went by she was slowly adjusting into the mold, perhaps it was a job that she could do for a while or perhaps it might be even something that she could do for a long time. She had never admitted that she enjoyed teaching, she basically ranted about her students on a daily basis but as Laura states it, her “unusual enthusiasm” for the job spells it out for her. Carmilla had decided to put her journal away; she needed to finish her work before Laura got home.

After living together at the dorms for three years, it was a no brainer that they simply just needed to move in together after university. Their lives pretty much fell into place at Silas. Carmilla stayed at the university and Laura started with as a correspondent for a lifestyle magazine, then she moved on to public relations and now she is in between jobs as she transitions to work for a non-profit. As for their friends, most of them had been around but some of them were only somehow technologically adjacent. Perry and J.P. needed to move further into the cosmopolitan center of Graz about three hours away from Silas. They would just often call or send each other emails.  J.P. had discovered the moneybags in producing infomercials for the online platform, while Perry kept working on independent films. Perry pursued creating films for their outlandish ideas while J.P. made sure that they were financially comfortable especially since they had “a bun in the oven” though there were no signs of wedding bells yet. After all, the couple remained committed to each other but non-conformist to the heteronormative society. Danny was in deep preparing for her upcoming bar examinations. She typically visits Laura and Carmilla to unwind a bit sometimes dragging her girlfriend, Stella along. Danny and Emily started dating rather briefly during Danny’s final semester at Silas. But they eventually realized that some of their core values didn’t match, they decided that they were better off as friends. On the other hand, Danny met her current girlfriend Stella when Laura dragged her into a performance art exhibition when she used to work for a lifestyle magazine. Danny was a spectator, Stella was part of the artwork; they had been together eversince. Laf on the other hand was unrelenting in becoming a neurosurgeon, though they were a little out of touch due to their punishing work schedule.

Carmilla stood up from her leather swivel chair to close the series of windows that lined their living room; it was about to rain. Massive droplets started to knock on the windowpanes. They were renting a loft apartment near the university; the space was a retrofitted upper floor of an old commercial building. It had a steam punk charm with all the wrought iron framed openings, high exposed ceilings, brick cladded walls and polished cement flooring. Their bedroom was located at the loft that measly contained a massive California king-sized platform bed, a floor lamp, a shaggy rug and a huge art print of a Jean Michel Basquiat’s Philistines painting. The ground floor studio however looked more habited lined with tall metal shelves that contained Carmilla’s academic, art, and coffee table books and Laura’s reference and leisure books. A chesterfield sofa and an ottoman were fixed around a glass coffee table that faced a flat screen TV. Near the windows was Carmilla’s massive desk and the four-seater dining set that also doubled as Laura’s workspace. They were slowly accumulating things that included various board games, unhung artwork that they got cheap from street artists and thrift shops, and a collection of art objects that they got from their travels that included indigenous fabric, woodcarving, and pottery.

“Silas is bracing for impact from a massive typhoon that could be packing winds of 105 miles per hour by Thursday, when it’s expected to make a landfall…”

Carmilla left the television open; she always wanted to work with some background noise. She smirked as she listened to the broadcast on TV. Wilson Kirsch wore a black windbreaker over his navy shirt; he was being interviewed for the incoming storm, his quiff was still on point. Carmilla smirked at the fact that their once naïve friend had eventually achieved his dream job and he has actually accomplished more than that.

Disparately, Wilson Kirsch did not only realize his dream to be a weatherman but he became a broadcast meteorologist. The Department of Geosciences and Meteorology at Silas always had a problem in disseminating information; they sent out either boring mustached seasoned meteorologists or panicky neophytes for weather broadcasting. Eventually, Wilson Kirsch volunteered himself and became the poster boy of the department. After earning his certification as a broadcast meteorologist, he had become the face of disaster risk reduction management programs and calamity news. He was rumored to have been dating a noontime soap opera actress but he never admitted to that in any of their get-togethers.

Carmilla headed back to her desk to put her journal away. As she opened the center drawer, she stumbled upon the familiar pocket book, her tattered copy of Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse. Carmilla took the book out and flipped a random page.

It was Roland Barthes’ personal notes:

“What comes from books and from friends occasionally appears in the margin of the text, in the form of names (for the books) and initials (for the friends). The references supplied in this fashion are not invoking guarantees, merely recalling, by a kind of salute given in passing, what has seduced, convinced, or what has momentarily given the delight of understanding (of being understood?). Therefore, these reminders of reading, of listening, have been left in the frequently uncertain, incompleted state suitable to a discourse whose occasion is indeed the memory of the sites (books, encounters) where such and such a thing has been read, spoken, heard. For if the author here lends his ‘culture’ to the amorous subject, in exchange the amorous subject affords him the innocence of his image-repertoire, indifferent to the proprieties of knowledge.

So it is a lover who speaks and who says:

‘I am engulfed, I succumb…’”

Carmilla laughed at the thought, indeed several years had passed when she first stumbled upon Laura at their dorm room, in Prof. Belmonde’s classroom, in a hospital room, and eventually in their home, in her heart. Needless to say, she has never imagined that that pink backpack owner, cookie monster, and awkward Hufflepuff cum Gryffindor would be the person she has planned to spend the rest of her life with. Someone who she precisely wakes up to in the morning and strictly sleeps with at night. Someone who’s accustomed to her natural scent, could read her like a book, and knows every curve and blemish of her form.

Carmilla’s heart suddenly jolted as she heared the familiar jingling of keys at their door. Even if Carmilla was around, Laura had never buzzed herself in; she had always used her own keys. Carmilla tucked everything she was holding indiscriminately into the drawer and turned towards the door. She realized that she had never bothered to change her clothes when she woke up after Laura left that morning. She still wore her shabby black Gin Blossoms t-shirt and a pair of light gray sweatpants; she walked around barefoot despite the coolness of the floor. She had grew her hair longer now; she fixed it into a messy ponytail using a pencil to hold her hair together. She bounded towards the threshold to greet Laura.

“Someone’s rather chipper albeit gray skies…” Laura greeted as she emerged from the threshold. Laura had cut her hair to chin length now, her honey blonde hair turned a bit darker as she matured. Her thick-rimmed eyeglasses had water droplets on the lenses. She wore an electric blue rain jacket over her pinstriped shirt, her dress pants were a bit soaked at the ankles, and her shoes had splotches of mud. She had a dark brown leather messenger bag draped on her shoulder and she cradled a small cardboard box on her other arm.

“Just happy to see you!” Carmilla cupped her chin and immediately pecked her icy lips.

“I guess, I’m happy to see you too, then.” Laura chuckled as she withdrew from Carmilla to place the small box on the console table by the door. She immediately took off her muddy shoes before she went inside. Carmilla grabbed her bag from her and carefully draped it over a chair by the dining table.

“Seems like the storm is gonna hit tomorrow. Were you able to grab everything from your office?” Carmilla asked from the dining room indicating towards the box, since Laura had left her previous job to move on to the next, she had been clearing out her desk and locker.

“Actually, I just plan to pick everything up on Friday.” Laura muttered under her breath.

“Oh, I see. What’s in the box then?” Carmilla eyed Laura suspiciously. Noticing the cardboard box, it actually looked a little bit scruffy and wet from the rain.

Laura flashed Carmilla as toothy grin as she took off her jacket. She then headed towards the box moving to protect it from Carmilla’s prying.

“Before you react and say anything, promise me you’ll hear me out first.” Laura warned, shielding the box from Carmilla.

“What do you have up your sleeve this time, Hollis?” Carmilla raised one sculpted eyebrow. “This better be good…” Carmilla crossed her arms but before she could finish her sentence, a faint sound came from the box.

 

Mrrrrrooooow.

 

“What the heck?” Carmilla exclaimed.

 

Meow.

Meow.

Meow.

 

Carmilla gestured Laura to move and as she came nearer, two tiny black ears had started to emerge behind the flaps of the cardboard box. As she came closer, a small hairy paw started to scrape for an escape.

“You brought home a kitten?” Carmilla finally opened the box revealing a thin frightened black kitten seemingly shivering from the cold.

“It was raining and I saw it on the street. I just gave it one look and then it started following me. It followed me for a block…it almost fell on a puddle, I just couldn’t ignore it. There was no sign of its mother. I picked it up thinking that a car or something might hit it. It’s just, look at it…” Laura started to babble nervously.

They never discussed pets before; they didn’t even thought of keeping a fish in a bowl. Carmilla stared at the kitten, based on its size, it was probably about two or three months old, it was so tiny. It was black all over, with a very thin white spot below its chin. Its eyes were big and watery, it looked scared, and it looked hungry.

 

Meow.

 

Its tone was almost pleading; secretly, Carmilla wanted a pet. Initially, Carmilla thought of a small dog but their drastic schedules may not be able to cope with the dog’s needs for walk and play. Maybe an indoor cat might work; after all, cats were somehow independent and required less attention. She had even read of cats ignoring their humans completely, so maybe, just maybe, a cat might work.

“Say something, Carm. Are you mad? Is it okay? Can we keep it? Look at its eyes, it somehow reminds me of you actually, all intimidating but cute.” Laura probed.

Carmilla was still in deep thought. Were they in the level of their relationship that they could already handle another living thing? Will they be responsible enough for a pet? So many things crept up her mind. But “What do you think we should name it?” was the first thought that Carmilla blurted out.

Laura’s anxious demeanor was gone, instead her face lighted up. “I’m not even sure if it’s a boy or a girl.”

Carmilla took courage to carefully lift the uneasy kitten, whispering to it to calm it down. With some light rubbing of its neck, the kitten started to emit a soft purr. Then Carmilla was able to lift it with one hand to inspect it. She wasn’t really sure what she was looking for but she could probably make a guess, then a trip to the veterinarian can confirm it later.

“I think it’s a girl.” Carmilla mumbled.

 

Meow.

 

Carmilla continue to pat the kitten lightly in slow strokes.

 

Mrrrroooow.

 

“It looks like a Wednesday.” Laura beamed.

“Well, today’s indeed a Wednesday, Cupcake.” Carmilla chuckled.

“No, I mean we can name it after Wednesday Addams, like the Addams family. Plus, today’s a Wednesday too.” Laura explained.

“Yeah, I got the reference, of course.” Carmilla lifted the kitten with both her hands and it just blinked its back at her with its black orbs.

“Even if he turns out as a boy, he can still be Mr. Wednesday.” Laura moved to put an arm around Carmilla.

 

Mrrrrrrrroooooooooow.

 

“She’s hungry, what should we feed her?” Laura asked in concern. “Ow, kitty, you will be so loved and well feed that you will be round like a fluff ball in no time.” Laura jeered.

“We got some milk for now.” Carmilla handed Wenesday to Laura as she walked towards the fridge.

Just like that, from that day on, they spent most days together if not every day with Wednesday added into their now typical lesbian family.