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New Job, New Hope

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She wakes at her usual time for early morning prayers, tapping her phone alarm off with her finger tip. The City is already buzzing outside with car horns and delivery trucks speeding by on their way to whatever destination Monday has assigned for them. Adena has left her big window opened all night long to cool off her new 3rd floor studio apartment in Brooklyn. The studio is small but quaint. It is situated at the east corner of an older building, above a used bookstore. Adena likes the location for the morning sun it receives. The landlords are a sweet, older Australian couple who have already taken Adena under their wing. She bought a new mattress, a used dresser, tall lamp, and pedestal fan. Some of her New York art friends donated needed kitchen items. Her kind friend and studio manager, Firuze, had her husband and adult son bring over a plush, red velvet couch, two book shelves, and a desk from her basement that she didn’t use. A few days ago, Paris friend Odette shipped six boxes from Paris to Adena. Inside are some possessions and clothing Adena left overseas. The rest of Adena’s Paris apartment contents will remain in place, as she has subleased her place to an up and coming Iranian artist named Atefeh. When the boxes arrive, Adena will have the last of her things to make her new pad feel cozy and intimate. Large photo prints from her last gallery showing already hang on the walls. Others are stored in her walk-in closet, for now. Adena peers over to the open window. The street noise fills the small studio with the sounds of life and bustle, and her tall fan whirrs in the corner.

 

She sits up, stretches and pulls the sheets away from her legs, yawning as she steps on the cool wooden floor. After prayers, she prepares coffee in the French Press and pours herself a hefty cup. She’ll need it today more than ever to get through her first morning as a new employee of Scarlet. Being offered the recently vacated position of in-house photographer is a dream come true for Adena, for any photographer. But as she sips the last of the bitter coffee, she can’t help but feel a bit hesitant about taking the position. ‘I can’t jump back into a relationship with you. I have to find myself again.’ Those were some of Kat’s last words to her two weeks ago, and they are still tender and fresh in her mind. Adena probably wouldn’t have taken the job at Scarlet if she had known what was going through Kat’s head. She’s pretty sure she would have just returned to Paris defeated & heartbroken again. But now here she sits, elbows firmly placed in front of her, eyes staring down at her kitchen counter, with both hands in her hair, shaking her head and letting out a slow breathe.

 

Stripping naked, she jumps in a warm shower, letting the soothing water envelop her whole being as she closes her eyes and daydreams about all the magazine issues that will showcase her photography, and of how proud her mother and sister were when she Face Timed two nights ago and told them the news of landing the prestigious position.  But, her eyes quickly shoot open at the thought of bumping into Kat somewhere in the Safford building, and her shoulders slump under the shower stream. Adena really doesn’t know what she’ll exactly say to Kat when that happens, or how they both will react. She plans instead to take it one day at a time and see what happens. The best she can hope for at this point is for their relationship to remain amicable. Although deep down inside, if she’s really honest with herself, Adena really hopes Kat has a change of heart and they are able to date again. But she doesn’t know how long this will take, or even if it will ever come to fruition. If not, will there ever be another woman in Kat’s life or hers? Will she return to Paris and Greta, the musician who tried to steal her love away from Kat? Her heart feels heavy as she whispers aloud in the shower, “You are my one and only true love, Kat. Why can’t you let me in!” She realizes tears begin streaming down her cheeks and intermingle with the shower water. She closes her eyes again and says a quiet prayer for strength, for love, for that beautiful complex soul, Kat Edison, who has her heart clutched in her hands, and for a good first day at Scarlet.

 

Dressed in a burgundy hijab, flowery blazer, black tank top, and black high waisted skinny jeans, Adena walks to the nearest subway station and rides the train headed towards Manhattan. It’s early and there are plenty of open seats. Adena grabs an empty one in the left corner of the last row, closes her eyes, and begins to daydream again. She remembers texting Kat the day after she lost the election. ‘Been thinking of you. Anything I can do to help?’ Kat quickly replied, ‘Are you home right now? Can I come over?’ The last thing Adena expected that late morning was Kat passionately kissing her after entering her pad. The desire was overwhelming. Adena’s brain was in a haze, heart pounding, and she couldn’t stop herself. Next thing she knew, they were both panting and getting naked, Kat pressing her body hard into the glass wall. Greedy hands grabbing at soft skin, exposed breasts, warm lips crashing together. One thing lead to another and Adena had Kat pinned against the kitchen island groping for support, naked and gorgeous. ‘I missed you.’ Adena confessed in the heat of the moment, as she kissed down Kat’s chest. ‘I missed you, too.’ Kat replied in a raspy voice. Adena went down on her knees and Kat came fast, legs shaking, seeing stars behind her closed eyelids, screaming Adena’s name after gasping for air. Kat was the drug Adena needed stat! Both were insatiable and knew what they wanted and needed from each other. Kat was happy to return the favor and pushed Adena against the fridge, stripping her of her underwear. With clenched eyes and mouth agape, Adena clutched at the appliance as Kat showed no mercy. Eventually they ended up in Adena’s bed, both naked, wet, clits throbbing. Kat’s braids were strewn all over the pillow and some of Adena’s hair was stuck to her clammy forehead. The lovers were lazily kissing, tasting themselves on each other’s lips. Both were still in ecstasy. ‘Shit, I have to go to this stupid fashion show! But, can you come over to my place tonight after 10?’ Kat’s invitation was desperate as she begged with those piercing, beautiful eyes.  The carnal desire Adena felt for Kat at that moment was unbearable and uncontrollable. Kat had her in a trance. ‘Yes, yes I’ll be there, Kat!’

 

Adena came back to reality as the train breaks screeched loudly and the subway station came into view. This is the nearest Manhattan subway stop to Scarlet and Adena got off the train, walking the rest of the way to work. She’s early enough that she can stroll at a leisurely pace and enjoy the morning weather. She watches other commuters speed by her as she smells the fresh coffee aroma coming from local diners she passes.

 

Finally reaching her destination, she enters the lobby of the Safford building, walking confidently towards the elevators. Distractedly looking in her purse for a handwritten note with the hiring officer’s name, she doesn’t see Oliver inside the open elevator holding the door for her.

“Well, if it isn’t Ms. El Amin, photographer savant. What a victory for Scarlet. I am especially looking forward to working with you on our upcoming Fall fashion spread.”

“Oh, thank you so much Oliver! The pleasure is also mine.” Adena laughs and rushes into the elevator. “I’m headed to the 48th floor to see Human Resources,” she says as Oliver presses the button for her.

 

“Well then, I’ll have HR contact us when you’re all done filling paperwork so Sutton can escort you to the Scarlet photo studio on the 35th floor.” Oliver grins and nods his head. The elevator dings and stops on the 40th floor and Oliver exits.

 

 “Okay, see you later Oliver.” Adena cheerfully says as the doors close again, continuing on to her destination.

The elevator doors reopen on the 48th floor. As she exits, Adena’s immediately greeted warmly.

 

 “Good morning, welcome to Human Resources. I’m Oshie, and you must be Ms. El Amin, our new photographer!”

 

Adena enters the glamorous lobby area housing H.R. “Yes, how did you know? Good morning, Oshie, I’m Adena here to sign newhire paperwork.”

 

Pointing behind Adena, the young receptionist continues. “Let me introduce you to Ms. Lilly Gomez who is our other newhire for today.”

 

Adena turns and notices an attractive, young woman wearing a gray pantsuit, lime colored blouse, black pumps, and sporting a spiked red hairdo. She’s sitting on a loveseat with her iPad. Lilly looks up at Adena and they both softly smile in greetings.

 

“Theresa Greene, the HR Manager, will be with you both shortly. Would either of you like a cup of coffee, tea, or water while you wait?” Oshie offers kindly.

 

“I’m good, but thank you.” Adena replies, sitting in a big navy chair next to Lilly.

 

“I’m also fine, but thanks.” Lilly states as she lowers her iPad and smiles at both the receptionist and Adena.

 

“Hi, Amena?” Lilly extends her right hand towards the photographer. Earlier, before Adena arrived, Lilly had overheard two HR employees talking about the “Muslim lesbian photographer” starting work at Scarlet. She was happy to see the photographer was very attractive and young.

 “Adena, Adena El Amin.” Adena corrects Lilly.

“Oh, so sorry. I’m a bit nervous this morning. I’m Lilly Gomez.”


 Adena smiles, “Is okay, I know how you feel. Where will you be working at Scarlet, Lilly?”

 

“Oh, I’m actually working in the Legal Department with Richard Hunter and Beth Pomona. I’m the new Contract Attorney the Board hired. Just moved here from D.C. and looking to start anew. Lilly says factually. “And, you?”

“I’m the new Scarlet in-house Photographer. I’ve actually done some ad hoc photo shoots for the magazine in the past, but now they’ve offered me a permanent, full time position.”

Theresa soon comes out and greets both ladies, taking them into a small conference room just beyond the receptionist. The newhires spend the next three hours completing necessary forms and watching a lengthy video on Safford policies, practices, and employee requirements and expectations. Needless to say, both girls are drained after HR is through with them.

They’re asked to wait in the HR lobby to be escorted to their respective departments when Lilly suggests exchanging cellphone numbers and grabbing a coffee later in the week. Adena concedes. Lilly also mentions going to Sammi’s, a newly opened lesbian bar, with her two college friends after work tonight. Adena hums and listens to Lilly tell her about her two New York friends whom she met during her undergrad in Chicago. They are now married to each other and were the ones that encouraged her to move from D.C. to New York City. Lilly also mentions how she just came off of a two year relationship with a woman and was happy to start a new job in a new city, eager to meet new people and see new places.

The elevator door opens and Sutton is there to take Adena down to see Oliver.

 

“Well, I’ll be in touch, Adena. Have a great day!” Lilly waves at Adena.

 

“Okay Lilly, you enjoy your first day, too.”

 

Sutton smiles and looks at each lady as the elevator doors close.

Chapter Text

With a big sincere smile , Sutton gives Adena a hug in the elevator, “Welcome officially. So, how’s it going so far, Adena? Oliver mentioned he saw you on your way to HR this morning.”

“Is good. Yes, I’m happy I finished all those forms and paperwork,” Adena grins. “So happy to have this job opportunity with Scarlet Magazine.” Turning towards Sutton, “Hey, I met Lilly who will be working with Richard. That was her in the HR lobby telling me goodbye.”

“Oh man, that’s so exciting,” Sutton’s says with glee. “I tell ya, we need more females working with that stuffy, ol’ Safford Board. I’m so happy for Richard’s department. Girl power baby, ha!” Sutton holds her left fist high in the air and squeezes her eyes shut. Adena holds her stomach and snickers.

The elevator descends to the 40th floor. She follows Sutton out and through the double doors adjacent to the small empty lobby. Adena doesn’t question the location until she sees a taped sign labeled “Fashion Department” on the next set of doors. Oliver is sitting just beyond the doorway, alone. He is pensively glancing at his computer screen while holding and twirling his glasses in his left hand.

“Well, hello again, Adena,” Oliver cheers.

“Did you relocate your office?” Adena inquires with both brows raised.

Oliver puts his glasses back on and explains, “Oh, it’s a long story...actually, short story.” He leans back in his chair. “During a routine maintenance check, workers found asbestos in our office ceiling pipe insulation, causing panic and concern. The building engineers had the whole 38th floor of Scarlet evacuated and relocated pronto,” Oliver huffed and rolled his eyes. “But apparently this was a blessing, because we could have gotten really sick if the piping was ever disturbed.”

Sutton continued with the explanation from her desk, “Crazy thing is, we got into work two weeks ago and all our desks had been packed up and the furniture was being carted off, without warning! We thought Scarlet Magazine had been shut down for good. Can you believe that?” Sutton opened her eyes in question. “Thankfully it’s only temporary until they clean up the mess. Apparently asbestos can kill you.”

“And, everyone from the 38th floor is now here on this floor?” Adena probed.

“Most of us. The Fashion Department, the print and dot-com writers and editors, like Jane, Alex, Sage, etc., are here. Kat, Patrick and crew are temporarily housed in one half of the 34th floor, along with Jacqueline and her people in the other half. That’s one floor down from where you’ll be working,” Sutton says, glancing at Adena as she said Kat’s name to see her reaction.

Adena was looking down at the floor with an indecipherable expression, but lips parted like she wanted to say something. Sutton knew she’d mostly work out of the photo studio on the 35th floor, but would have occasional meetings with Jacqueline, Oliver, and staff members for assignments and concept ideas in Jacqueline’s large conference room on the 34th floor, near Kat.
_________________________

Adena spent what was left of the morning talking to Oliver. They both then continued to a lunch meeting with the Graphic Design and Print Layout people. Salads, sandwiches, fruit, and pastries were provided by Scarlet. Jacqueline showed up mid-meeting to join the discussion and welcomed Adena to the Scarlet family.

At 3:30 pm Adena was finally taken to the photo studio and to her desk and workspace on the 35th floor. The I.T. staff had already set up her computer and left a sticky note with her password for access to the Scarlet website and all the programs Adena would be using for her job. She was finally left alone to unpack the few personal items she brought for her desk. As all first days of employment can be draining and tense, Adena was mentally exhausted. It didn’t help that she was always looking over her shoulder hoping to bump into Kat. But the day was almost over and no Kat in sight. She exhaled loudly and sank back into her leather desk chair.

Fifteen minutes later she heard a familiar voice. “Knock, knock Adena! Hey you, welcome to Scarlet officially.” It was Jane, walking up to her desk with a small box and a big smile. She placed the box down on her desk and gave her a welcoming hug when Adena stood. “I come bearing office supplies. Here’s a stapler, staple remover, tape dispenser, scissors, post-it notes in four pretty colors, and the best gel pens Scarlet buys. I know the secret stash in case you need more,” Jane confessed.

“Well hello. Thank you so much, Jane. I can’t believe I actually work here permanently now. How are you doing? Oliver and Sutton told me about the asbestos and your temporary move,” Adena said.

“Yeah, how crazy is that? But the bright side is I’m now on a different floor from Patrick. I don’t have to see him all day long. Nor hear him say, Namaste...uuugh!” Jane grabbed her head like it was going to explode and rolled her eyes. She continued speaking, “Hey, Kat wanted me to welcome you too, and tell you she’s bummed she missed your first day. She had to work off-site today for Patrick. He sent her to represent Scarlet at a meeting further uptown.”

“Oh?” Adena questioned.

Jane looked down at her cellphone as it notified her of an incoming text message. “Uh, Kat says she’s actually on her way back to Scarlet now but you may be gone by the time she arrives,” Jane looked up and smiled at Adena.

Adena was actually glad to hear about Kat’s off-site assignment, because she was beginning to wonder if Kat was just avoiding her. “Okay, thank you for telling me, Jane. I’ll hopefully see her sometime this week.”

Jane could see the hope in Adena’s soft, dark eyes. Adena still looked stunning as always. Deep down inside, Jane wished for her and Kat to mend and become a couple again. She saw how much Kat had grown since meeting Adena. And, although their relationship faced a lot of obstacles in the past, Adena working at Scarlet would hopefully allow the two to become good friends and see that they are both meant to be together.

————————————-

Five o’clock came not a moment too soon for Adena. She was tired and ready to end her first day of employment. She packed up her purse and put on her blazer. She was ready to go home when her phone vibrated with a text message.

Lilly:
Hi, headed to Sammi’s, the bar I mentioned b4
Friends will meet me there
Want to join me in the fun?

Adena:
Thank you, Lilly.
I think I’m just going h... (Adena deletes and retypes)
Ok sounds good!

Lilly:
Great meet you in lobby in 15 :)

Adena descends in the elevator to the lobby. As she steps out, she’s almost toppled over by a person who’s obviously not looking and in a hurry to enter the lift. A cellphone hits the floor, “clunk!”

“Dang it! Oh gosh, sorry my bad... A-Adena, hey!” Kat says with nervous eyes, as she bends down to retrieve her phone off the floor. “I was actually rushing upstairs to try and catch you before you left. How was your first day?”

Adena was as surprised to see Kat and felt butterflies in her stomach. She thought of saying, if only you knew what your presence does to my heart, but instead she replied, “Good, busy, tiring, but good. I’m excited to be inspired and be creative. Jacqueline and Oliver have some really great ideas and visions for the Fall Issue. They’ll be keeping me very busy.” Adena smiled and quickly looked down to the shiny tile floor, avoiding Kat’s piercing eyes.

While she spoke, Kat gazed at her and thought about how lovely Adena looked in her burgundy hijab and flowery blazer, with just the right amount of cleavage showing. There was silence for a few seconds and Adena raised her eyes back quickly, catching Kat looking at her chest. Adena let out a small giggle she couldn’t control. Kat looked mortified.

“Great, great!” Kat replied quickly, eyes darting back and forth.

Just then they heard an elevator bing and Kat saw Adena being approached by a tall woman in a gray suit.

“Good timing, Adena. Ready to go?” We can share a cab,” Lilly said joyfully.

Adena turned towards the red headed woman in the pant suit, “Hi Lilly, yes okay. Uh, this is Kat Edison my...friend from Scarlet,” Adena said, waving her hand between the two women.

Extending her right hand towards Kat to shake, Lilly said, “Hi Kat, I’m Lilly Gomez. I’m also a new employee. I’m working up in Legal.”

“Nice to meet you, Lilly. I work in the Social Media Department,” Kat replied and shook her hand.

Lilly continued, “Yes, Adena and I met this morning during HR’s newhire orientation. We had the pleasure of getting writers cramp together and watched that awful policy and procedures video afterwards. Yawn!” Lilly put her right hand over her mouth. “Could have used some popcorn, right Adena?” Lilly laughed, nudging Adena’s shoulder, then running her fingers through her own spiked hair.

Adena giggle and Kat smiled while looking at both of them standing so close together. She noted Lilly was a slender Latino girl who looked to be no more than 30, with a cute smile. Her fingernails were all painted in two different colors, alternating between nails. She only wore blue eye liner, and no other makeup, and had a small rainbow tattoo on the inside of her right wrist. Kat didn’t like how Lilly touched Adena on the arm or shoulder every time she made her laugh. But Kat shook her head slightly and thought, why am I jealous of Lilly, Adena is free to date anyone now. But Kat WAS jealous.

Kat’s observation of Lilly didn’t go unnoticed by Adena though, who frowned at Kat when their eyes meet. There was now an awkward moment of silence between the three girls.

Lilly broke the silence with, “Hey Kat, Adena and I are headed to a new bar in Brooklyn named Sammi’s. We are meeting my friends there. Want to join us for a drink?”

It leaves Kat’s lips before she can hold it in, “Well that’s funny, cuz Adena doesn’t drink.” It just slips out and Adena gives Kat a dirty look. Kat internally shouts, “Oh fuck, Kat!”

Adena quickly reacts with, “But I would still love to go with you and meet your friends, Lilly. I want to hear about your first day, too.”

“ Okay, great,” Lilly says as she looks down towards Adena and back up to Kat, sensing some tension between the two ladies.

“Imma gonna have to take a rain check. I’m actually meeting some friends after work, too,” Kat points towards Alex and Angie who are standing together by the atrium deep in conversation. It was a lie, but Kat didn’t care. She needed a scapegoat and those two lovebirds didn’t notice Kat pointing their way.

“Okay, next time, I guess. Ready Adena?” Lilly puts her fingertips back on Adena’s forearm and they both turn to walk towards the lobby doors.

However, as Adena pivots to walk away, Kat grabs her by the arm and physically stops her in front of Lilly. Adena glares at her with open mouth and tilted head, questioning Kat with her eyes. Kat quickly lets go and says, “Well, see you later Adena?”

Adena rolls her eyes and just turns away flabbergasted by Kat’s antics. Kat stands still and watches both women as they leave the building for the night. Kat says quietly under her breath, “Dammit, I’m such an asshole sometimes.”

Chapter Text

Sitting in the back seat of the taxi, Adena was abnormally quiet. So, Lilly turned to Adena, “Kat seems cool. How do you guys know each other? “Lilly was astute and knew what transpired between the girls 10 minutes ago meant they were more than acquaintances.

Adena disclosed her past with Scarlet Magazine. She began by telling Lilly how her art and story, The Woman Behind the Lense, was featured in May 2018’s issue. How Kat’s persistence had been a catalyst for her story being published.

“Yes, it was an article based on female Muslim and Islamic culture and the suppression of women in my country of origin.” Lilly was impressed and pulled out her phone to google it. “Firuze, my studio manager initially persuaded me to be interviewed by Scarlet. But, later I reneged on allowing the story to run because I saw one of their issues at my dentist’s office , and I believed Scarlet was an unfeminist magazine. Kat later showed up at my photo studio and convinced me differently. Kat’s very relentless.” Adena turned away from Lilly, looked out the side window, and frowned.

“Wow Adena, these photographs are really powerful,” Lilly said, looking down at her phone and scrolling with her thumb.

Adena continued, “Most recently, I was also commissioned by the magazine to do a couple of different photo shoots. I think I mentioned that to you in HR. That’s how I am acquainted with Jacqueline and different staff members. Is fortunate I was able to secure this permanent job through my past photo work.”

The taxi arrived at Sammi’s and the girls found a comfortable u-shaped booth in the back. The waitress brought their drinks and, Lilly nursed her cold bottle of beer. “I know in HR you also mentioned you were recently living in Paris these last six months. What brought you back to New York, Adena?”

Adena looked down at her Club Soda and took a moment to contemplate if she should mention her complicated relationship with Kat Edison, or even mention they were more than friends. Closing her eyes briefly, she decided it wasn’t a conversation to have with a new acquaintance, and looked back up to Lilly. “Oh, I have always been fond of the City for its culture, diversity, interesting people, and of course art. I have been coming to New York off and on for years. I have had luck in the past with my gallery showings and met very interesting people in and out of art circles.”

Lilly loved Adena’s accent and could listen to her speak all night. As Adena finished her last sentence, a couple holding hands approached their table. They were Lilly’s friends.

“Hi, you made it! Lilly said, standing to exchange hugs with the two ladies. She turned towards Adena and introduced her. “Guys, this is my new friend from work Adena El Amin. Adena this is Jen and Stef Rogers.”

“Nice to meet you both,” Adena replied, and the three women exchanged handshakes and greetings. One woman was a short, stocky blond with long hair pulled into a ponytail and wore round glasses. The other was a slender, curvy African-American woman with naturally curly pixie styled hair. Jen was a Lawyer, like Lilly, and Stef was an Architect and partner in a firm developing low-income housing units in Harlem. Adena found she had a lot in common artistic-wise with the Architect. The girl didn’t drink alcohol either, as she suffers from migraines, so she also shared in her love for Club Soda as drink of choice at a bar.

“How long have you lived in New York,” Stef asked Adena.

Adena explained it was about three years total. But that she had experienced immigration issue in the past and ended up returning to France, on a couple of occasions, throughout that time period. Lilly empathized, explaining she had family members from various Latin countries with similar visa problems in the U.S.

The four women spent the next hour laughing and conversing. Soon Adena found herself very tired and bid farewell for the night. “It was lovely meeting you, Jen and Stef, and thank you for inviting me, Lilly.”

“I’m glad you came. See you tomorrow at work, Adena.” Lilly got up and gave Adena a hug goodbye.

Adena stepped outside, walking past smokers and two women making out on a bench. She caught a taxi back to her apartment. Finally home, she kicked off her shoes and removed her hijab, carefully folding the silky scarf and putting it away in a drawer. She changed out of her work clothes and bra, into a pair of soft cotton sleep shorts and tank top. After washing her face, she heated up some leftovers from her fridge and plopped herself on her lush couch, surrounded by pillows. She was silently savoring the last bit of her meal, when her phone vibrated with a text.

Kat:
Hey, you up?

Adena takes a big cleansing breath and closes her eyes.

Chapter Text

Adena could hear the soft drizzle of the night’s summer rain pitter-patter on her kitchen skylight. She looked back down at her vibrating cellphone that’s now received a second text from Kat.

Kat:
Hope you’re still up???

Adena planned to just disregard Kat’s texts tonight, but then she decides to put her out of her misery and respond.

Adena:
Yes

Immediately, Adena’s phone starts vibrating with an incoming call, and she answered with trepidation. She didn’t speak, only lets out an audible sigh into the receiver.

Kat instantly starts rambling, “Hey, sorry! Sorry for acting like an irrational buffoon earlier with the new girl Lilly...yeah...Lilly, who you left with earlier from work. She must have thought I was rude. I...I just don’t know why I did that...and...yeah.”

Adena fires back, pacing barefoot in her living room, “Look Kat, I just met this girl. It was her first day at Scarlet, too. We were stuck in a room together for THREE hours. I don’t know what to tell you. Why are you calling this late?” She doesn’t know why exactly she’s justifying Lilly to Kat. But she has NO patience for Kat’s insecurities this evening.

“I, I...I don’t know. Uh, just wanted to see if you got home okay. If you need anything. If you needed help with your new place...or...maybe some paperclips for your new work desk?” Kat joked hoping she’d lighten the mood. Kat could hear Adena softly breathing into the phone. After a brief silence, which felt longer than it was, Adena answered her.

“I don’t know what I need, Kat.”

“Oh-kay. Maybe we can grab a cup of coffee or tea at work tomorrow, or some other time?” Kat gently spoke. She could hear Adena’s curt tone over the phone, and it sounded like she wasn’t in the mood for her shit tonight.

Adena replied in a low voice, “Ok, maybe. Maybe some time this week.”

“Oh good! Oh well, I will let you go to sleep. I know you’re early to bed when you’re working. See you around Scarlet, Adena.”

“Okay, see you.”

The call ended and Adena sat back on the couch, with a slumped posture and in a fog. She watched her phone fall from her right hand onto the big colorful cushion below. Sniffling back a tear, she stood up and walked her bowl to her kitchen sink, filling it with water to soak overnight. She ambled barefoot to her open window and stared into the darkness, to the sidewalk and street below. Occasionally a passing car’s headlights would illuminate the damp pavement beneath, revealing the colorful umbrellas of strangers and of lovers holding hands. Weary faces hustling home from a long workday. She turned and headed for the bathroom to brush her teeth and then went to bed.

Sleep blanketed her pretty quickly, as she was exhausted physically and mentally tonight. But then the nightmare came. She dreamt she was married to Kat and Adena was six month pregnant with their baby girl. They were shopping for dinner in Scarlet’s break room. Adena opened the pantry and asked Kat, “Do you want this? “Suddenly Kat turns and grabs her by the lapels of her winter coat, “Nope, I can’t do this, Adena! I’m sorry, I don’t know what I really want. Goodbye!” and exits the room. Adena yells, “What?! You can’t keep doing this to me! To us! Kat! Kat!” She wakes up and jolts up in bed frantic, chest heaving, with tears rolling down her face and trembling hands. She realizes she yelled the last “Kat” out loud to her empty apartment. She sits hugging her knees into her chest, sobbing uncontrollably. Outside, cars are heard honking and speeding by.

Chapter Text

It was finally Friday, the end of a long, first Scarlet work week for Adena. She woke up feeling rested and composed. After prayers, a quick shower, and her morning joe, she was back on the train headed to work. She checked her make-up in her compact mirror and adjusted her light blue hijab. Today was a busy desk day of editing photographs from the last two days of photo shoots. Adena had a strict deadline but she did not mind the challenge. It invigorated her and gave her purpose at Scarlet.

Once settled in at the office, Adena boots up her computer. An hour into her editing, she receives a text message. She looks down at her phone on top of her desk.

Kat:
Hey, good morning...TGIF!
Want to take a break and grab coffee downstairs?

Adena:
Hey, sure. I’ll take the stairs and meet you in front of your elevator

Kat:
No, let me come up to your desk first. I have something for you :)

Adena:
Okay?

In just a few minutes Kat was walking up to Adena’s desk. In her hand she had a potted succulent wrapped with a bow. “This is for you, just a peace offering. I named him Spike. But, you’re free to change his name, Spike won’t mind.”

Adena smiled and touched Kat on the forearm, “Thank you, I love it! Just what was missing to brighten my work space.” Adena placed Spike on her desk and grabbed her wallet. Both ladies walked together to the elevators, taking one down to the lobby.

They ordered their drinks and sat in a couple of upholstered armed chairs near Baristas, the coffee kiosk inside the Safford Building’s attrium.

A few moments later, Jane and Sutton walked by to also get their mid-morning caffeine fixes at Baristas. Adena didn’t see them, as her back was turned towards the coffee stand and girls. But, they both caught direct eye contact with Kat, who peered at them uninviting. Jane smiled and nodded, and Sutton gave her the peace sign reassuring Kat they understood. Both girls knew that Kat wasn’t being unfriendly, just implying she wanted Adena all to herself at the moment. So they didn’t approach them and took their coffees back upstairs.

“Sooo...,” Kat begins. “How’s your TGIF going? You made it to the end of your first Scarlet workweek,” clapping her hands quietly.

Adena smiles and lets out a small chuckle. “Yes, yes I did. Is okay so far. I have a lot of editing to do today.” She takes a small sip of her Frappuccino and asks, “How is your cosmetics campaign? I am so proud of you and your vision. Using cosmetics as a platform to educate the masses on great causes and social issues, affecting women and youth, is brilliant.” Kat beamed with pride.

Adena is genuinely proud of Kat and she shows it in her expression. The two spend the next 20 minutes talking about Kat’s campaign and social media platforms. Then Kat mentions she’s going to The Pub, a popular hangout across town, tonight with Jane, Pinstripe, Sutton, Richard, Alex, Angie, Sage and her fiancée Donald. The Pub is a large bar which serves good food, plus there’s karaoke at 8 and dancing after 9. Kat hesitates, looking a bit nervous. Her eyes always give her anxiety away. But she thinks, “Fuck it!” and asks anyways.

“Would you like to join us, Adena?” It would be fun and that way you wouldn’t have to cook for yourself tonight.” Kat tilts her head and shrugs her shoulders.

To Kat’s surprise and delight, Adena answers, “Okay, that does sound fun. I’d like that.”

Kat smiles and says, “Great, it’s a date!” She quickly corrects, “I...I mean, oh sweet!” And Adena bows her head and smiles.

—————————————-
At 7 PM, the Scarlet gang arrived at the bar and the place was crowded. They secured three small tables near the karaoke stage in the back room. They pushed together all the tables, and the drinks started flowing. It had been a long, busy week at Scarlet and everyone was ready to celebrate. The food came next and everyone ordered different appetizers to share. Kat and Adena sat together on one end and everyone is laughing and yelling. Adena excuses herself to the ladies room and Sutton, who has had a bit too much to drink already, bats her eyes at Kat and yells across the tables, “So, you gonna get lucky with Adena tonight?!”

“What! Sutton, please she’ll hear you! No, I didn’t ask her here for that,” Kat alerts, looking towards Jane for aid.

“Like hell you didn’t. I see the way you both look at each other, I’m not estupido!”

Jane who’s sitting next to Sutton, just buries her head into Pinstripe’s chest and laughs, offering no help to the situation. The others stop talking and quietly listen to Sutton and Kat’s interaction.

“Please Sutton, keep your mouth shut!”

“Why you getting all defensive. You know, if you wait too long a beauty like Adena is gonna get snatched up pronto. Hint, hint Lilly Go-Mez.”

Richard interrupts, “Ah dear, lets go dance some of that alcohol out of your system.” And takes Sutton gently by the hand to the crowded dance floor.

Adena returns and Kat tries to hide her anger towards Sutton’s statement, and everyone else in their group goes about their business. Soon after, Angie yells, “Let’s dance, I love Madonna!” The whole table stands up and joins Suttard, as they are referred to by their friends when they’re together, on the dance floor. Jane and Sage pull Adena by the arms and she’s up dancing, too. At one point Jane bumps Adena’s hip a bit too hard and she stumbles into Kat. Kat catches her and holds her steady by her hips. Adena looks up at Kat and for a brief moment they stare deep into each other’s eyes. But, the DJ breaks in loudly announcing the next song, and Kat lets her go. The group dances the night away. Kat and Adena only sit down when a slow song comes on, catching their breath.

It’s 11:30 PM and everyone except Adena and Donald are tipsy and silly. A few of the friends are definitely more inebriated, including Sutton, Alex, and Kat. The group decides its time to head home, so they break off into pairs and some couples share cabs. Kat complains that the parking lot’s spinning and Adena wants to make sure Kat makes it home in one piece. So, she shares a cab with her, Alex and Angie. The latter two reach their destination first and, saying goodnight, exit the cab together. Kat is next and Adena asks the driver if he can wait while she walks her friend upstairs. He responds he cannot because his shift really ended 30 minutes ago, and his wife’s 9 month pregnant waiting at home. So Adena pays with a twenty and tells him it’s okay, she’ll call for another ride later.

————————————-
Adena watches Kat stagger up the stairs of her building. Outside her apartment door, Kat has trouble finding her key in her purse. Adena reaches in and gets it out for her.

“Sorry Dena, I didn’t mean to leave my key at work,” she says oblivious to the situation.

“Is okay, Kat. I found it for you. Come, let’s get your shoes off, faced washed, and you can lie down for the night.” Adena pushes Kat through the front door, into the foyer, and closes the door behind them. Kat drops her purse and blazer on the floor by the door and proceeds to her bathroom.

Adena hears the toilet flush and Kat soon opens the door drying her face on a washcloth. As Kat walks back towards Adena, she catches her foot on a kitchen chair and goes down, hitting her head on the wooden floor. “Fuck that chair!” She yells, kicking it. Adena covers here own mouth with her hand and tries not to laugh. But, sees Kat has a minor red bump swelling on her forehead. So she helps her stand back up and sits her on the edge of the bed.

“Here Kat, let me get you some ice for that bump and a big glass of water and aspirin. Take off your shoes and lie down.” Adena returns from the kitchen with all three things and Kat’s now secure in bed, glancing at her with bloodshot eyes. She’s taken off her shoes, jeans, and top and is lying on top of the duvet in her red lacy bralette and matching panties. Adena eyes her from head to toe and gives her a small nod. She thinks to herself, that even in this state, Kat is so astonishingly breathtaking. She lays the ice bag on her forehead and places the other items close by on her nightstand.

“Ouch, this feels cold and my head hurts!” She says pouting. “Dena, will you stay here tonight?” Kat reaches towards Adena’s leg but Adena quickly moves further back.

“No Kat, that’s not a good idea.”

“Whyyy not?” she whines. “You are sooo beautiful and smell sooo, sooo damn good!”

“Thank you, but that’s why I’m not staying here. I’ve ordered an Uber and she’ll be here in 7 minutes. I’ll see you Monday at work, Okay?”

“K Dena. I’ll dream about you...”

And with that, Kat falls asleep with an ice pack on her brow. Adena smiles and watches her peacefully sleep. She gathers her things and gets herself safely home and happy for the weekend. That night, Adena dreams of Kat in a red lacy bralette and matching panties.

Chapter Text

Adena arrives to work greeting the lobby security guards with a cheerful hello. Things were going well and Adena had fallen comfortably into the daily rhythm of Scarlet’s world. She is early and gets in line at Baristas to buy a hot green tea before heading upstairs. She’s shuffling through her belongings in her handbag looking for her wallet. Suddenly, she feels a light tapping on the left shoulder. She turns and sees Lilly standing directly behind her trying to get her attention.

“Well good morning, Lilly! Were you following me?” Adena replied with a delighted look, and briefly turned her attention back to her purse and found her wallet.

“Ha! Great minds think alike, Adena dear. Can you believe today is our one month work anniversary?” Lilly opened her eyes wide and grinned ear to ear.

“Adena chuckled,, “No, I had not thought about it. But yes wow, time went by so quickly. We should go celebrate together by going to lunch. Are you available?”

“Sure, I’m actually free today at Noon. Is that a good time?” Lilly inquires, while Adena ordered her drink.

Adena answers, “Yes, perfect. Let’s meet in the lobby at Noon. Maybe we can go to that vegan place two blocks away.”

With morning beverages in hand, the girls strolled together to the elevators ready to go upstairs to work. As they waited for an elevator to arrive, Sutton, Richard, and Oliver exited together from the next available elevator.

“Good morning ladies,” Sutton cheered. Everyone exchanged warm greetings and Adena and Lilly hopped in the elevator and disappeared.

As the doors closed, Sutton turned to Richard saying, “Man, I don’t know what Kat is waiting for. If she doesn’t move quickly she’s gonna lose Adena. I know those two dummies are so in love, and Jane and I want them back together.”

Richard replied, “Maybe they’ll find a way to make it work and come back to each other, honey.”

“I hope you’re right, babe.”

Oliver interjected, “if it’s meant to be, it will be. Soulmates always find a way back.

————————————-
Arriving at her work space, Adena immediately smiles. There’s a big banner hanging on the wall adjacent to her desk which reads, “Happy 1 Month Adena!” There are also a small bunch of yellow tulips in a clear blue vase on her desk. Adena knows yellow tulips represent “cheerful thoughts and sunshine,” so it makes her feel touched. She also knows they must be from Kat, since she had explained the flower’s meaning to Kat while traveling in Peru. After that, Kat made it a point to buy her yellow tulips whenever she had a hard day at the studio.

Adena puts her tea and purse down and dials Kat on the work phone.

“Happy one month to you, Adena!” Kat answers her desk phone, seeing it was Adena on the caller ID.

“Thank you, the flowers are lovely. And the banner, too. I’m assuming it’s also from you.”

“Yep, it is. I just wanted to make you aware that we are fortunate and grateful to have such a talented, creative in-house photographer, and friend, here at Scarlet Mag,” Kat bellows in her best announcer’s booming voice. “And also wish you a happy one month work anniversary.” Kat was glad she had the graphics crew print out that banner for her last week. She arrived extra early to work so she could have it hung and prepared over Adena’s desk. She figured she’d score big kudos with the photographer today. “I’d also like to take you to lunch. But it will have to be tomorrow, as Jacqueline and Patrick have us scheduled for a lunch seminar today. Is that good for you?”

“Yes, tomorrow will be great. You pick the time and place, Kat.”

“Cool, let’s say 1 PM and we’ll go to Cucina di Nonna on Lexington and 73rd. You’ll love their vegetarian ravioli, and their cannoli’s are decadent. We’ll celebrate your one month and one day then.”

“That’s perfect, see you then.”

“K, bye!”

“Ciao!”

—————————————-
Adena was organizing photo equipment in the studio closet when she realized it was almost noon. So, she grabbed her purse and texted Lilly that she was on her way to the lobby for lunch.

Adena arrived downstairs and saw Lilly leaning against a column near the escalators. She was happy to see Adena again, and the two hugged and walked out headed towards the vegan place. Unfortunately, the popular eatery had a long wait. So Adena and Lilly decided to just grab fresh salads at the corner deli. They got in line and ordered. Lilly insisted on paying for both lunches, since Adena had bought the popcorn and sodas last time they went to the movies. They got their meals and sat next to each other at the indoors counter facing the street. While Adena and Lilly were deep in conversation, the shopkeeper’s bell rang and a familiar face walked in.

“Adena, hi!” Leila said with surprise.

“Oh wow, Leila how are you? I haven’t seen you in so long.” Adena stood and the two women affectionately embraced.

“No, not since Marie’s birthday party at The Wild Susan. I heard through the art scene grapevine you had returned to Paris. Are you back for good or just visiting?”

“I’m back for a job opportunity and I am living here now. I’ve been back approximately two months and have an apartment in Brooklyn.” Adena realizes she hadn’t introduced Lilly, yet. “Sorry, don’t mean to be rude,” holding Lilly by the arm. “This is my friend Lilly, Leila. We work together at Scarlet Magazine.”

Lilly stands and the two women exchange a smile and shake hands. “Good to meet you, Lilly. Are you a photographer, too?”

“Likewise, Leila. Uh, no. I’m an attorney for the Board of Directors at the publication.”

With eyes narrowed, Leila studied Lilly’s face then turned her head back to Adena. “Scarlet huh, that’s fab!” She scrunched up her face and asked, “Are you and Kat back together? I’d figure you’d be married by now.” Leila let out an annoying giggle and Lilly’s eyes wondered towards Adena’s, waiting to hear her response.

“No, but we are still good friends.” Adena waves her hand as she speaks. “And you, are you still single?”

“Yes, very much so. But you know me, I’m always looking for a good woman to steal my heart away.” Leila winks and snickers at Adena and looks over to Lilly. Lilly’s eyebrows widened and her mouth curved into a smile.

After more small talk, Leila announces she can’t stay long. But she hands both women a flyer to her upcoming dance competition. Leila is a three time Empire Ballroom Dance champion, who also gives private dance lessons out of her home to adults. Lilly jokes she would be interested in lessons, except she’s too clumsy. “I’d probably trip just walking to the dance floor,” Lilly jests. The two women laugh and seem to hit it off. Leila then excuses herself, as she has to run to a lesson. She buys a tuna sandwich from the deli clerk and quickly heads back outside, waving goodbye to both girls.

“She seems really nice and is cute.” Lilly tells Adena, as both women sat back down to finish their salads.

“Leila is a lot of fun to hang out with and very talented. You both should meet up one day, you’d make a cute couple.” Lilly leaned her head towards Adena and blushed.

Adena and Lilly were still getting to know each other as friends. So, Adena asked her more intimate details about her family and background. “Me, I’m born and raised in Chicago...go Cubs!” She swung an imaginary baseball bat in the air and Adena laughed. As I mentioned before, I come from a large family. I’m actually the middle child of five kids. I Went to undergrad at Illinois State U on a soccer scholarship. That was lotta fun, met tons of great people, and the scholarship made my parents elated.” Lilly held two thumps up in agreement. “After undergrad, I decided a career in law was my calling. So three years later, with a J.D. degree in hand, I got a law clerk position in Washington, DC at the Federal Courthouse. I was the Law Clerk to the Chief Judge for a total of four years. Gave me great experience and I loved my job.”

“Oh wow, how fantastic, Lilly. Why did you decide to leave DC?”

Lilly grabbed her bottle of water and took a slow sip, then a deep breath. “First week of work I met a girl, Becky, also a law clerk who was newly hired from California. We hit it off instantly becoming good friends, then eventually lovers. She was...is...beautiful, smart, with a killer dry sense of humor.” Lilly placed the cap back on her water bottle then played with her fork, eyes glancing downward. “After living together for two years, she left me for her hairdresser. I was devastated.”

Adena could see the hurt in Lilly’s eyes and placed her hand on Lilly’s back. “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry.”

Lilly lifted her eyes and glanced at the pedestrians walking outside the deli. “My internship was coming up for renewal once again, and I decided to put in my resignation and pursue other jobs. I wanted to move away from DC, from Becky, as I couldn’t bear to hear about her or see her in the same building at work every day. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or concentrate in my job. So, I contacted my good friends, Jen and Stef, who you met. They had moved to New York from Chicago years earlier. They offered me a room to crash in while I found a job here. So I left DC looking for a fresh start. That’s when I saw this job with Safford and applied.”

“How long ago did you leave DC, Lilly?”

Lilly faced Adena. “That was six months ago. Becky still haunts me in my dreams. She’s always on my mind and I don’t know if I can ever fall in love again.” With tears and a crestfallen face, she asked, “Does it get any easier, Adena?”

Adena turns her head to look out the deli window. Her eyes welled up with tears and answered, “Somedays”.

Chapter Text

Adena was kept so busy at work with photo shoots for Scarlet Magazine’s special Fall Issue and the digital, that October snuck up on her quickly. It wasn’t without notice, though. This was Adena’s favorite time of year in the Big Apple. She loved the Fall colors and cooler temperatures. It was when she could start to wear her favorite sweaters and boots. She referred to it as the season for renewal.

It was late Friday afternoon and Adena wasn’t surprised when she was called down to Jacqueline’s floor for a special team huddle. “People, please gather around and give yourself a big round of applause. The Fall Issue has gone to print!” Jacqueline exclaimed. The whole Scarlet team was exhausted but elated and applauded. Martha and Andrew were walking around the room handing out champagne flutes and filling them up with sparkling cider. Jacqueline continued speaking, “I know everyone has been putting in long hours, working weekends and holidays. And, I’m having Andrew send thank you cards home to your family and significant others for allowing Scarlet to sequester you for so long.” The crowd laughed aloud. “So, as consolation for your hard work, Safford is allowing me to give you Monday off. Go home and kiss your partners, babies, pets, etc. Enjoy the three day weekend on Scarlet and see you all Tuesday.” Everyone cheered loudly and raised their glasses in a toast.

Adena and Kat glanced at each other from across the bullpen and shared a warm smile. Kat was standing between Sutton and Jane and they were all whispering. The crowd soon dispersed to their work stations, gathering their belongings and shutting down electronics to go home. Jane, Sutton, and Kat strolled over to Adena’s side.

Jane spoke for the group first, “Hi, we were just discussing heading to the Hampton’s ‘Edison abode’ for the weekend. Would you like to join us, Adena? It’s a last minute plan now that we heard Jacqueline’s offer.”

Sutton uttered, “Kat suggested it seeing that we have worked our butts off, beaches!” Kat gave Sutton a slap on the ass and giggled.

“Yeah you are more than welcome to join us, Adena. There’s plenty of room for all,” Kat added with a hopeful look in her eyes. Adena knew Kat’s parents owned a small two bedroom cottage near the water. Kat had showed her pictures of it several times while dating, always promising one day to take her there for the weekend. But the trip never came to fruition for reasons out of their control.

Adena chuckled then replied, “It sounds like a wonderful idea, ladies. But I’m actually finishing up editing and printing photos for my upcoming gallery showing in Brooklyn. This extra day off is going to allow me to complete the project without rush. Thank you though for including me. Perhaps next time?” Kat looked a bit sad but nodded her head in acknowledgment.

————————————-

Late Sunday night, Adena was washing her paintbrushes in the small gallery’s utility tub, when she felt her phone vibrate in the back pocket of her jean overalls. She laid down the clean brushes on the counter and dried her hands with a paper towel. Taking out her phone, she saw Kat had texted. Adena went and sat on the floor by the picture windows and read the simple message.

Kat:
Hi :) It me!

Adena:
Hello there

Kat:
Is this a good time to call you?

Adena:
I thought you were going to the Hamptons?

Kat:
I’m here. Wanted to see if you could talk
Jane/Sutton big party-poopers
they went to bed drunk :(
I miss you...

Adena:
Bedtime so early, while at the Edison abode?? :0

Adena made a joke to keep it casual and ignored Kat’s “I miss you” declaration.

Kat:
I’m lonely
WAY too cold to walk to park
Yo, whose great idea was it to come to Hamptons in September... ;)

Adena knew if Jane and Sutton were drunk, Kat would be drunk too. And, with Kat’s current physical state their conversation could lead to arguments or regret, as it had in the past.

Adena:
Kat, we shouldn’t talk when you’re drunk.

Kat:
No, no, no Adena I promise I’m gooods
Just tipsy
Promise...Yeah

Adena took in a deep breath and let out a slow sigh. While she took a moment to think, her eyes glanced out the big window into the alley below. She saw the gallery owner’s tomcat, Romeo, perched high on a brick wall under the security light. He was meowing desperately at the neighbor’s Persian cat, who was sitting with her back to his face looking annoyed. She sighed again and tapped a response to Kat with her fingertips.

Adena:
Okay, call

Kat FaceTimed instead of calling. Adena looked down at the screen and let it ring four times before answering. Kat’s face came immediately into view. Adena could see she had her braids wrapped in a pretty orange scarf, with no makeup, and was wearing glasses. She also was visibly tired.

“Hey, so how’s your night? I see some white paint on your cheek, which means you must be working like mad woman Adena, the Persian artist.” Kat scrunched her nose and mused.

Adena found it amusing and looked away for a second with a slight smile or her face. “Mm-hmm. You are perceptive, Detective Edison. What’s up?”

Kat stared at Adena’s image for a bit and then continued, “Well, uhm, I’ve been seeing a therapist my mom suggested.” Her eyes darted briefly away from Adena’s, then back.

“Okay?” Adena responded, caught off guard by the revelation. It surprised her because in the past Kat wasn’t too fond of consulting therapists for help.

“She’s really cool and at first it was awkward and I felt a lot of anxiet about opening up to her with my private issues. But now it’s been five weeks and 10 sessions and I feel like she’s an old friend. Well, she’s actually a friend of my mom’s, but not as old. Maybe 40? And, she -“

“Kat! That’s good, and...?” Adena interrupted placing her hand on her chin, tilting her head in question.

Kat took a cleansing breath and said, “Well, last session she asked me about you and our relationship now.” Kat saw Adena’s eyes widen a bit.

“Oh, okay.”

Kat continued, “She asked if you would ever consider seeing her, too.”

Adena froze with a questionable look on her face. Her art had always been her escape, her therapy. Getting lost in photography or her paintings had always been her saving grace since she was a teenager. In fact, she created some of her best works when stressed or melancholy.

“No Kat, no. I do not think so. I’m sorry.” Adena looked down at her finger nails.

Kat could see Adena’s discomfort and she stopped looking directly into her eyes when she spoke.

“It’s cool Dena, no pressure at all. I just wanted to put it out there, that’s all. Obviously doc and I have talked a lot about you, a lot about us. Kat raised her eyes back at the screen and Adena’s eyes. “Mainly ‘bout how I fucked it all up last year...how I fucked a good thing up.” Kat’s voice was now cracking from the weight of her emotions.

Adena darted her eyes back up to the screen and met Kat’s, but remained silent.

Kat stared into her eyes. “I just miss you...I miss us, Adena. And I’m so, so, sorry for being such a jerk when we were dating. I should have NEVER gone to that stupid bar to party with Leila. NEVER gotten so drunk and kissed Daniella. Never agreed to an open relationship. I’m REALLY sorry I hurt you!” Kat covered her face with her free hand and began to openly sob.

Adena was compassionate and not cruel. But, she began to lose her patience and opened her mouth to speak. However, she quickly took pity on Kat, seeing how broken and fragile she was at the moment. She decided to let Kat compose herself a bit before speaking to her again. She could hear Kat’s slurred speech and presumed she too had a generous amount of alcohol tonight. It reminded her of French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau’s saying, “A drunk mind speaks a sober heart”.

Kat sniffled and wiped away tears from her face, rubbing her hand on her pant leg to dry.

“Okay, Kat. I think this conversation should just end now. You will feel better in the morning.”

“K- Adena. I wish you were here instead of Sutton and Jane. And, I’m sorry.”

With a sincere look in her eyes Adena answered, “I’m sorry too, Kat.”

Kat disconnected the call and Adena collected her things, locked the studio door, and walked six blocks home to sleep. That night Adena tossed and turned, getting little rest.

Chapter Text

Things are busy at work. Adena has fallen comfortably into the every day rhythm of Scarlet’s world. Photo shoots go smoothly, with an occasional scheduling glitch or staff member drama. But for the most part, it all is mundane. Adena is a pro at dealing with deadlines and fragile model egos. She has also become more at ease with her work encounters pertaining to Kat. They have gone out to lunch alone twice. And, they even grab coffee a couple of mornings per week, if schedules allow.

The conversations with Greta over text have ceased. But Adena still will peruse her Instagram on occasion to catch up on her latest activities pertaining to her music. Her band, Dame IV, has been playing at more bars throughout Paris and has even expanded to nearby cities. Adena is very proud and wants nothing but the best for Greta.

Lilly and Adena are becoming much closer friends too, having lunch once per week and frequently going out to a play, movie, or cafe together. Adena has introduced Lilly to her art friends and they find her charming. Leila has especially grown fond of Lilly, and Adena thinks they’ve also seen each other outside the art friend circle, or so she’s been told by another artist friend.

“So...Leila and I have gone on a couple of dates, “Lilly turns and confesses to Adena, during intermission at the recital they have attended.

“Oh, that’s good no?” Adena asks with a smile and nod of the head, pretending this was new news to her.

“Yes, I really find her attractive and we have similar interests. I met her mother last night. She makes the best homemade meat empanadas.”

“Sounds delicious. I know now where Leila gets her cooking talent.” Adena quips. “She’s brought some really delectable Argentinian dishes to our potlucks before.”

“Anyhoo, I was wondering how you feel about that, about us dating? Lilly said raising an eyebrow. “I really value your opinion.”

“Well, I think it’s wonderful. I’ve known Leila for many years and she’s a fun, kind person. I know she’s not seeing or in a relationship with anyone currently. I’m happy for you both, Lilly.”

“Thanks pal, I’m enjoying her company. She makes me laugh a lot, like you do, and I think I’m getting some real feels for her. She’s also very romantic and has written me poetry,” Lilly confesses shyly. “And, she’s determined to teach me how to tango, but I’ve told her I pretty much have two left feet.”

Adena shakes her head at Lilly, “No, I don’t believe that.”

“Yes, believe it. I know right, a Cuban American girl who doesn’t know how to groove, unheard of.”

Both girls burst into laughter and Adena pushes Lilly’s shoulder. The house lights flicker and the next performers take center stage.

————————————-
After the show the girls decide to grab dessert and hot chocolates at a French bakery near Lilly’s apartment. They are enjoying their sweets when Lilly tells Adena, “Isn’t it funny, Leila thought you and I were dating after she met me at the deli.”

With a surprised look, Adena responded, “Oh, well that’s just Leila being Leila. She likes to play matchmaker a lot.”

Lilly gave Adena a tight smile and looked straight into her eyes, saying “Leila told me about you and Kat.”

Adena puts down her spoon and looks at Lilly, eyes widened. “Oh?”

“I’m sorry, I hope that was okay for me to mention.” Lilly says, holding her cup of warm cocoa with both hands, brows knitted.

Adena nods in approval, closing her eyes. “Yes, is fine Lilly. What did she say?”

So Lilly continued, “Well, she said you and Kat had been seriously dating and living together, then Kat...cheated on you and you broke up. Then you moved back to Paris.” She paused and put down her empty cup. “Leila also said Kat had a terrible time with the breakup and spent a lot of nights out drinking at a bar Leila used to frequent.” Lilly watched Adena with observant eyes and let the weight of what she was telling her set in.

Adena’s expression was now somber. She pushed her dessert plate forward and crossed her arms on the table. “Kat and I were living together, yes. It was right after I first was deported. I was living in France and tried to return to the U.S. to be with her. But immigration stopped me from entering the country and actually sent me back to Iran. I ended up traveling to Peru, where Kat came to visit me, while I waited for a new Visa. Then with her help, and a good American Immigration Attorney, I was able to secure a 90-day U.S. Visa. So I moved into her place while I looked for work in New York.” Adena paused and turned to look out the window of the pastry shop.

Lilly reached across the table and tenderly placed her hand on Adena’s arm. “You don’t have to tell me anymore if you don’t want to, my friend.”

Adena turned back with tear filled eyes. “Things just happened and we made some big mistakes, had miscommunications.” She shrugs her shoulders. “We both could have done things differently. We didn’t make it easy on each other and, yes, I left her.” Adena wiped a stray tear off her cheek with her napkin. “It was Kat’s first real relationship and I know her heart was broken. But so was mine.” Adena looked away again, biting her bottom lip as her chin quivered.

Lilly squeezed Adena’s arm saying, “I’m so sorry, Adena. I shouldn’t have brought this up. I know this is very hard on you, especially since you guys work together now.

“Is alright. It’s good to talk about it if I’m going to ever heal and possibly move on.” Adena looked back at Lilly and gave her a half-smile, now more composed.

“You can talk to me about it anytime you need to, Adena. I’m a good listener. Are you glad you and Kat are seeing and talking to each other again?” Lilly drew her hand back from Adena.

“Well, it’s still complicated but we’re trying to be friends. I’m glad we have done lunch a couple of times and she calls me for coffee breaks. But it’s still hard and confusing emotionally, you know.” Adena takes a sip from her mug then continues. “Right before I started at Scarlet, Kat and I had intimate relations again, and I thought it meant we were going to try to date once more. But Kat changed her mind two days later, told me she needed more time to herself.” Adena sighed. “That was after Scarlet had called and I accepted this position. So I was kind of stuck in New York, disappointed and about to work five days a week next to my ex.”

“Well, do you think you’ll stay with Scarlet long? And, If you could get back together with Kat, would you?”

“To be honest Lilly, I’m taking it one day at a time. Scarlet is a wonderful job opportunity for me. So, I’m mentally giving myself a year here. Then I’ll re-evaluate whether I want to stay or move back to Paris. Depending on what the new year brings, I’ll reevaluate my life in the early summer.”

“Gosh, I’d hate to see you leave Scarlet, leave New York. We’ve become so close and I really enjoy your company.”

Adena’s eyes soften and she smiled, “I really enjoy your company, too Lilly. Thank you for being my friend and for being such a good listener. You’ve made my time at work special. And, I also love seeing you outside of Scarlet.”

“And...your answer to my other question? If Kat wanted to be girlfriends again, would you say yes?”

Adena glanced over Lilly’s shoulder briefly, then back at Lilly. “Yes, I would say yes. I love her so much.”

————————————-
The girls paid the cafe bill and walked to the nearest metro station. It was a chilly November night and the breeze didn’t make it any better. “Do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?” Lilly asked.

“No, I usually just work in the studio or go visit my cousin who lives in New Jersey. He is married to a Canadian, but they’ve adopted the American Thanksgiving and have invited me to come be with them in the past. I think we mainly celebrate as an excuse to eat.” Adena and Lilly laughed.

“Well, FYI, I think we all pretty much use it as an excuse to over-eat and watch football on T.V.” Lilly beamed. “But seriously, if you’re not busy, Leila and I are going to make a few dishes and go over to Jen and Stef’s November 28th. They said we should bring you along.”

“Oh that is so nice. I really like Jen and Stef. When is Stef due to have her baby?”

“I think she said in late February?”

Okay, well yes I’ll join you guys for Thanksgiving. But only if I can bring Persian dessert. I’ll look at my mother’s recipes to get inspired and surprise you all.”

“Yum, I can’t wait to try it.”

————————————-
As the girls shared a cab home the rest of the way from the subway stop, Adena received a text from Kat. She showed it to Lilly and they both grinned. It was a picture of Kat with a big smile, holding up two tickets.

Kat:
Hey Adena!
Just landed two tickets to MUNA
Concert in 2 wks
Want to go?

Adena looked up at Lilly. “What do you think?”

“Oh sweet, you definitely need to say yes. You’re gonna love Muna, they are a girl pop band. And, look how cute Kat looks in that picture. How can you turn her down.”

Adena giggle, “You’re right, she does look really cute.” She bit her lip and tapped back a response.

Adena:
Yes, okay
Sounds very fun :)

Kat:
:)

Chapter Text

On Tuesday, December 17, while eating lunch in the Scarlet break room, Sutton decided to host a New Year’s Eve party at Richard’s condo. “We need to ring in 2020 with a bang and lotta alcohol!” She told Jane, who wandered in to put the remainder of her lunch away in the fridge.

“That sounds like a great plan,” Jane replied.

Sutton found a blank pad in one of the kitchen drawers and scribbled down some notes and supply list for the party. This included food, drinks, and guest names. Knowing that Richard said he’d pay for it all and didn’t want her to be on her feet cooking all day, Sutton wasn’t holding back and wrote:

#1. Order tons of food from ‘Wok-n-Rolls’ to be delivered by 8 pm.
#2. Buy cheese, chips, crackers, pretzels, nuts, veggie tray, desserts from Trader Joe’s
#3. Have ‘Jim’s Liquor’ deliver champagne, beer, wine, sodas for mixed drinks, ice.
#4 The usual suspects:
Couples = Me/Dick; Jane/Pin; Alex/Angie; Sage/Donald; Andrew/Coleman; Martha/Pablo
Singles = Kat; Adena; Lilly; David; Oshie; Michelle; Carmen...Patrick(?); + dates of the Singles?

“How’s the list look? How many people are you inviting?” Jane sat next to her and asked.

“Well, it’s six couples and eight singles, totaling 20. But if the singles bring a date, then that’s 28 people. A bit crowded for Dickie’s place but we can make it work.”

“Let me see,” Jane grabbed the pad from Sutton’s hands. “Hmm, well I can see four singles that won’t bring an extra person. Kat, Adena, Patrick and David. Uh, do you really need to invite ‘Namaste’ Patrick?” Jane sounded flabbergasted.

“Yes, yeah, Richard wants to. You guys are getting along better since Jacqueline made you her direct report again, so tough-titties.” Sutton ripped the pad back out of Jane’s hands.

Jane rolled her eyes. “Ugh, Okay. I think Patrick and David are secretly dating anyhow. Alex told me last week he thought they had been hugging in the men’s bathroom when he walked in on them. They were apparently acting very suspicious.”

“Ooh, interesting. And, we know Kat is about to jump Adena’s bones next time they are alone and there’s Kat and alcohol involved. Can you believe Kat’s been celibate for like six months? I don’t think she’s hooked up since my fashion show, when Adena rocked her world...twice! Poor baby.” Sutton opened her eyes wide and high-fived Jane.

“You’re so bad, Sutton. But I agree and think Kat’s been taking a lot of cold showers lately. She and Adena have been on more frequent ‘friend dates’, as Kat refers to them, since that Muna concert.” Jane gestured a pair of quotation marks with her fingers in the air. “In fact, last Saturday night, while she was over watching GOT reruns with me, I caught her looking at an old topless photo of Adena on her phone. She pretended it was someone else when I called her on it. She confessed later they haven’t even kissed again, but that she wants to.”

“Man, Kat must have run outta C-cell batteries at home,” Sutton jokes and slaps the table with her hand.

“You know all vibrators are rechargeable now?”

Sutton bumps Jane’s shoulder with hers. “Look at you, Tiny Jane. Vibrator connoisseur!”

Both girls laugh hysterically at their own antics as Kat walks in to refill her Hydro Flask from the filtered water cooler.

“What’s so damn funny, you two?”

“Nothing, right Jane?” Sutton turns and winks at Jane.

“We were actually discussing the soirée Sutton is hosting December 31st. Should be a blast.”

“Yah...Suttard’s Soirée, count Kat Edison there, bay-bee!” Kat giggles and joins the girls. She sits on an empty stool opposite them and unwraps her grilled cheese sandwich. They discuss the guest list, food, decor, and sleeping arrangements. Both Kat and Jane would like to sleep over since Sutton has two spare rooms. That way they can drink and stay up as late as they want that night. They make plans to each bring an overnight bag to the party.

————————————
It’s finally December 31st, New Year’s Eve and party time. Sutton and Richard finished up with the last of the decorating touches, assisted by Kat, Jane and Ryan, who all made it a point to arrive early to help.

The front doorbell chimed and Andrew, Coleman, Oshie, and Patrick strolled in. Adena, Lilly, and Leila were a few seconds behind them. Adena was carrying a tray of homemade baklava and Lilly held two bottles of champagne. The sweet smell of warm honey still emanated from the dessert.

“Hello ladies! I’ll take that tray from your hands and Richard will grab those bottles for the bar. Ooh, you made Kat’s favorite dessert Adena,” Sutton cooed.

Adena felt a slight flush on her face and ears. She responded, “Oh, I doubled my mother’s recipe so everyone could get a piece.”

————————————-
At 9 PM, the soirée was in full throttle and all the guests had arrived and were eating and drinking. Most of the people were inside scattered amongst the lower level of the property where the kitchen, dining, and great rooms are located. A few brave souls were huddled outside on the terrace, with coats on or using the blankets provided by Sutton for extra warmth. They were sitting at the corner patio table under the tall patio heater Richard rented. The inside music was heard outside via the outdoor Bluetooth speakers.

Surprisingly, Kat had only consumed a glass of wine so far tonight. She purposely did not want to over-drink, she had told Jane. Kat took on the task of party DJ, taking requests from guests. She was willing to play anything as long as it wasn’t country music.

“So Kat, you plan to finally kiss Adena at midnight? Jane asked as she saw Adena was distracted talking to Alex.

“Oh Tiny Jane, you’re always such a matchmaker.”

“Answer the question, yes or no?”

Kat responded to get Jane’s goat, “I was actually going to kiss Lilly instead, you know to make Adena jealous.”

“Ah...babe, you’ll have to fight Leila for that. Lilly’s got Leila sitting on her lap at the moment.” Jane pointed to the two lovebirds sitting in the great room, arms around each other.

————————————-
By 11:50, Sutton and Richard began pouring and distributing the plastic champagne flutes. It’s almost midnight and they want to be ready for the final countdown to 2020. Jane and Ryan took trays and helped with champagne delivery. Angie and Martha passed around party hats and noise makers earlier. Sutton hand-delivered a flute with sweet non-alcoholic cider to Adena, who is by the terrace doors waiting for Kat to return from the powder room.

“Thank you so much, Sutton. You’re always so accommodating. Your party is lovely. And, thank you for inviting me.”

“Awww, you know you’re always welcome, Adena. We consider you our good friend, too. We’re almost as glad you could make it as Kat is.” Sutton replied with her eyebrows raised, as Adena shyly smiled at her.

Everyone from the outside came inside when they heard Richard shout, “Two more minutes folks. Gather around and raise your glasses. Here’s to good friends, beautiful ladies...and gents, and to 2020. Cheers!” Kat and Adena stood by the terrace doors clinking their glasses together and smiling.

“10 seconds to go now,” Alex yelled.

The crowd began to toot horns and yell, “...five-four-three-two-one, Happy New Year!!!” Everyone hugged and couples kissed. There were lots of noise makers and poppers bursting loudly.

Kat and Adena looked at each other and embraced warmly for a few seconds, then let go. “Happy 2020, Adena. I’m so glad we have been hanging out more lately. I really enjoy your company and you are the person that truly gets me and my crazy nature.”

“Happy New Year, Kat. I’m glad to hang out, too. And, I’m happy to help your craziness any time.” Adena chuckled and her eyes glinted.

Sutton gave Richard a long hungry kiss, held up her champagne glass and yelled, “Happy New Year, babies!!!” She was definitely feeling a bit intoxicated by now. She quickly spotted Kat and Adena in the back and pulled Jane by the arm straight to them. All four ladies hugged.

“Big hug! This year is gonna be special, I know it girls,” Sutton said looking at Kat then Adena.

Jane wanted to leave the two alone, and pulled Sutton away by the hand to go back to their respective men. This gave Kat the opportunity to have Adena’s full, uninterrupted attention. “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions, Adena?”

Adena smiled and started to speak but between the music and all the people yelling and laughing, Kat could not hear her. She gently grabbed Adena’s hand, turned the terrace door handle, and pulled them both outside to the empty patio. She walked them over to sit under the tall heater. The girls sat close and directly across from each other, knees almost touching. Kat gave Adena one of the wool blankets to throw over her shoulders and legs, and she did the same.

“Sorry Adena, I couldn’t hear you over the noise. What were you saying about your New Year’s resolution?”

“Well, this...” Adena leaned forward in her chair towards Kat, closed her eyes, and kissed her softly on the lips.

It took Kat only a second to register what had happened and it was electrifying. She wrapped her arms gently around Adena’s back and reintroduced their lips. The kiss felt glorious and warm, as it was a pretty cold night. Kat broke the kiss and said, “C’mere,” pulling at Adena’s hips. Adena stood up and took a step towards Kat, and sat on Kat’s lap. She placed her arms around Kat’s neck and Kat held her tightly by her hips as they continued making out. Kat ran her tongue over her lips, and Adena felt herself getting aroused. A red flush soon formed on her face and she let a quiet moan escape her mouth. Kat started to place open mouth kisses along her jaw and down her neck, while Adena stroked the baby curls on her nape.

They heard the patio door open and Adena pushed her neck away from Kat. It was Patrick and David, both wearing coats, who stepped to the opposite end of the patio and also began kissing.

Both girls snickered quietly and Adena whispered, “Popular spot for midnight necking.”

“Yes it is. I really like 2020 a lot, so far.”

“Me too, Kat.”

Looking into Adena’s beautiful dark eyes, Kat said, “Dena, I’m ready to try again if you still want to.”

Adena gazed at Kat, and her eyes glowed with the reflection from the hot coils of the outdoor heater. She placed both hands on Kat’s cheeks and pulled their foreheads together. She responded, “Me too, baby.”

————————————
Inside the condo, the crowd was starting to mellow. Richard turned down the music so people could have civilized conversations instead of yelling. A group found Richard’s old Pictionary boardgame and started playing in a corner of the great room. Sutton started clearing the dining room table of food and Jane stepped in to help her.

Looking around the rooms, Jane inquired, “Where’s Kat?”

“Hmm, I don’t see her or Adena,” Sutton replied. “Do you think they went upstairs or are in one of the bedrooms...ahhh!”

Just then they turned and saw Kat and Adena entering from the terrace, holding hands.

“Ooh-la-la, look at them, Jane,” Sutton pointed with her nose.

Adena released Kat’s hand and went to use the bathroom. Kat came over to the girls and announced they were leaving. Jane gave her a coy look with a big smile and said, “Oh?”

“Oh no, no, no. I won’t have it.” Sutton declared. “You guys are all set up in one of the two guest bedrooms upstairs. There’s a comfy King sized bed in one room with your name on it. Plus there’s a big bathroom right outside the door. No one will disturb you. And Richard and I can’t hear anything from our downstairs Master. You’ll thank me in the morning...’er, afternoon-nish.”

“Are you sure you won’t hear me moan from upstairs? I can be pretty loud, Sutton,” Kat teased.

Adena had walked back and heard what had transpired. She quickly pulled Kat away to the walk-in kitchen pantry to talk.

“Kat, I don’t want to have sex.”

“Oh? Oh, sure okay. No worries.”

Adena waved her right hand by her face. “Let me rephrase that. I do want to have sex with you. Just not tonight. I think we should take it slow this time and be in the moment.”

Kat pulled Adena into her body by her waist and looked softly into her eyes, “Ok baby, I will respect that. As long as I can be with you, I’m content.” She looked up to the ceiling briefly smirking, “Well...we could go home and make out like a couple of horny teenagers. That would be very nice, too.”

Adena chuckled and hugged Kat tightly, kissing her gently. “But let’s still leave and go back to my place. I want you all to myself, okay?”

Kat grabbed their coats, purses, and her overnight bag out of the hall closet. Then, she went to talk to Jane and Sutton alone. They waved goodnight to the other guests, and soon Adena and Kat we’re headed home in an Uber.

————————————
They sat in the back seat holding hands and stealing quiet kisses every so often. Kat felt intoxicated with the feel of Adena’s body so close and the floral fragrance of her perfume. They were interrupted when Adena felt her phone vibrate in her purse and fished it out to read a text massage.

Lilly:
Happy New Year, Adena dear ;)

Adena:
Happy New Year, Lilly ;)

Chapter Text

Whomever said, “April showers brings May flowers,” was not lying. It had been pouring since the middle of the night. Streets we’re flooded and umbrellas hardly stood up to the pelting of the deluge that was currently happening. It wouldn’t have been a problem if staying in bed all day, avoiding the torrential showers as it was Saturday after all, was an option. But there was an 11 AM wedding to get to.

Last night Kat didn’t stay over because she worked really late on her latest social awareness project, and she had a pounding headache by the time she finished at the office. Although Adena and Kat respected each other’s private space when necessary, they both admitted to not being fond of sleeping alone. They had been officially dating again for three months and things were really great between them. They were taking things slower this time, and it was really paying off emotionally. Though they had not consummated their new union, choosing to wait and make it really special, they came close every time they were alone in the apartment. Kat joked about having to do complex math equations in her head to distract her wanton desires, as she held a topless Adena tightly against her own chest. And, Adena always swore the next time they were going to keep their tops and bras on to facilitate with that matter.

Today Sage and Donald were tying the knot in a blissful ceremony in Queens. Jane was a bridesmaid, Sutton had designed the wedding gown, and Adena offered to take candid photographs at the reception. Sage was using her cousin Belkis as the official photographer, but was happy to have Adena also capture informal moments.

Adena got up out of bed to use the bathroom and then said her morning prayers. She added an extra prayer for the bride and groom, for happiness, health, and a long union. When she finished, she was ready for her coffee and a quick perusal through her Instagram page. Now that she had various gallery showings coming up, she was advised by Firuze to post regular updates and return follower comments. Adena wasn’t much of a social media fan but she understood its power when it came to the masses in the art world. Plus, dating Scarlet’s Social Media Director had definitely influenced her into toning up her technology skills.

After washing her coffee mug, Adena packed up her camera and lenses and finished wrapping the gift she was taking to the nuptials. She looked at the clock above her stove and decided to jump in the shower.

It was a quick shower, makeup, and she was dressed, putting on the final touches on her navy hijab. She wore a flowing navy blue floral print dress that showed a bit more leg than she liked, but it also showed off her new suede ankle strap heels. Looking in the full length mirror one last time, she got a call from Kat.

“Bonjour,” Adena answers sweetly.

“Hey D, I’m five minutes away. ”

“Hey back. I’m ready and will see you soon.”

“Can’t wait to see how pretty you must look, ma’ lady. Stay inside your lobby and I’ll run up to the door for you with my big golf umbrella. Man, it’s raining cats and dogs out here!”

Adena chuckled and hung up.

Kat swung by in a Lyft and picked her up on the way to Queens. In the car, Adena couldn’t help but stare at Kat as they shared the back seat. She was looking rather dapper in a two piece sleeveless, yellow pantsuit. Her hair was out of braids now and she had it in a soft bun, showing off her flawless neck. From close proximity, Adena could also smell the sweet cocoa butter lotion she was wearing. Adena couldn’t help herself and leaned in closer, resting her forehead in the side of her neck and whispered in a low sultry voice, “During the reception I’m going to pull you into a dark corner and kiss your neck.”

Looking straight ahead, Kat swallowed and whispered back, “I’d like that very much. Would you like to know what I’m going to do to you later at home?”

Adena turned her head forward and ran her tongue over her lips, remaining quiet. She grasped Kat’s left hand from her lap and laced their fingers together for the rest of the ride.

————————————-
The bride was waiting in an alcove near the hallway of the main room where the ceremony was taking place. Kat pecked Adena on the lips and went to gather seats next to Sutton and Richard, while Adena went to see Sage. Adena wanted to snap a few photos of the bride and her court before the service began.

“Hello ladies! Sage, you look beautiful. Your dress is simple but elegant,” Adena declared.

“Thank you, my dear. I am sooo nervous right now, I think I may puke! But at least I have my six bridemaids here to distract me. Poor Donald must be a shit mess, too.”

Adena and the rest of the girls laughed while she took some informal photos of Sage and the group. She even got a couple of Sage and her cousin Belkis, who was there to work the event and wouldn’t be in many pictures.

The ceremony went on without a hitch and the guests were moved into a larger room with tables and an open bar. Kat went with Jane and Sutton to the bar and brought Adena back a fancy fruity treat.

“Yum, what did you bring me?”

“A virgin Piña Colada. And, I got a frozen Strawberry Daiquiri. Figure we should celebrate Sage and Donald’s fun nature with fun drinks, no?”

Soon the DJ made an announcement and played a love song for the new married couple’s first dance. The attendees cheered when Sage and Donald finished their dance with a kiss. Lunch was served promptly after. Then, as empty plates were being cleared off the tables, the DJ invited everyone to crowd the dance floor. Kat encouraged Adena to put down her camera and slow dance with her.

“D, you look absolutely gorgeous tonight,” Kat murmured in Adena’s ear as she held her by the hips.

“Hmm, you’ve already mentioned it a time or two. So do you, beautiful.”

“I can see a lot of people staring at you, jealous that you are my hot girlfriend.”

“You always know how to charm a girl, Kat.”

Kat pointed to Adena’s chest with her right index finger, “Only this girl. I only have eyes and heart for you, Adena.”

As Adena heard Kat’s words, time suddenly seemed to slow down and she felt delirious, barely hearing the music or voices around her. Kat pulled her in closer and both girls peered deep into each other’s souls, as their bodies swayed slowly in a dream-like state. Kat pressed their foreheads together and whispered close to Adena’s lips, “I love you so much. I too have never stopped loving you.”

Adena’s breath hitched and she teared up with emotions. Then she pressed her lips softly to Kat’s and they kissed slowly. The kiss was delicate and sweet and their chemistry was undeniable. They only broke their kiss when the DJ came back on the mic and announced,

“At ease, at ease. Sorry to interrupt all of you lovers on the dance floor. But, at this time we need everyone to join our splendid Bride and Groom by the wedding cake.

Kat and Adena joined hands and walked with the crowd to the corner of the room. Kat caught Sutton and Jane watching them from afar. Sutton blew a kiss at them while Jane gave a discrete thumbs up. Kat smiled and nodded back to both.

The rest of the afternoon went by nicely and the party ended. The couple got a ride back to Adena’s place from Richard and Sutton. It was close to 5 o’clock in late afternoon and the rain had finally ceased, making everything glisten and anew.

“Farewell, lovely ladies. Enjoy your weekend as much as we are going to enjoy ours!” Sutton yelled out the open window while holding her hand up high to the sky. As Richard drove off, he honked once.

Kat yelled back, “Bye Sutton and thank you for the ride, Richard!” Adena just waved.

————————————-
Once inside the apartment, Adena removed her hijab and both girls changed into sleep shorts and soft t-shirts, also washing all their heavy makeup off their faces. By now, Kat had a shelf in Adena’s walk-in closet where she kept her pajamas and other supplies, and some extra work outfits on hangers.

Ready to relax, they snuggled into the couch and Kat asked if Adena wanted to watch a movie or something. Adena replied, “Or...something,” and straddled Kat’s lap, pushing her back into the large Persian cushions.

Stroking Kat’s face with soft hands, Adena planted a good French kiss on those luscious lips. It was deep and emotional, searching, and inferred there was more to come. She then took off her t-shirt and Kat’s and discarded both on the floor, exposing their bare chests. Kat gently caressed Adena’s breasts and rubbed her nipples with her thumbs, as they looked deep into each other’s eyes.

Adena had so much passion in her eyes, it made Kat blush and look down. Adena used her fingertips to raise Kat’s chin and gaze back up at her. Adena peered further into her eyes, questioning. Kat kissed her forehead and rubbed noses together, then whispered, “Trust me baby, I want this. I love you Adena with all my heart and being. I want to hold you and never let you go.” A tear rolled out of Kat’s eye as she uttered those words. Adena wiped the teardrop with her thumb and kissed her forehead, then down her jaw, to her collarbone. Kat flipped them and laid Adena back on the couch, crawling on top of her and staring intimately into her eyes. Both girls were overwhelmed with emotion.

Adena then replied, “I trust you too and this is all I ever wanted from you.”

Kat stood up and gently pulled her by the hand to the bedroom with nothing but fire in her eyes.

————————————-
It was just past seven when Kat blinked her eyes open the next morning. Adena was spooning her from behind, both naked and warm under the sheets. Adena let out a sigh on Kat’s shoulder and Kat smiled, untangling their legs and sneaking off to use the bathroom without waking her lover. On the way, Kat picked up the strap-on off the floor and proceeded to close the bathroom door. After a few minutes she returned with a clean toy, storing it back in the black wooden box under the bed. She climbed back onto the mattress and under covers, placing her forehead on Adena’s. Immediately Adena wrapped her soft hands around her waist, eyes still closed, and rubbed their feet together.

“Mmmm, good morning my love. You smell and feel so good. What time is it?” Adena spoke in a raspy, sleepy voice, as her hands wondered over Kat’s soft skin.

“It’s kiss-Adena’s-lips-some-more o’clock,” Kat responded with a snicker.

Adena chuckled and took in a deep, long breath. Then opening and re-closing her eyes, she gave Kat an open mouth, deep kiss. “Mmmm,” Adena moaned. “Sunday mornings are my new favorite thing. I love you so much, Kat.”

“I love you so much, baby.”

As the kiss continued, Kat thought about how her love had been right in front of her this whole time. She broke the kiss and began kissing down Adena’s neck, stopping at her chest. “Uh Dena, your breasts are covered with hickeys. I suggest not going to a topless beach anytime soon.” This caused Adena to squint open her eyes and tickle Kat’s sides, eliciting loud laughter from both of them. Yeah, Kat agreed too, Sunday mornings were pretty awesome.

Chapter Text

The month of August had just begun when Kat suggested a trip to her parents’ house in the Hamptons. Adena had yet to use any of her earned vacation at work and Kat always had ‘use-or-lose’ days to burn. They had been dating officially eight months now and things were great.

“So you’re finally going to take me to the Edison abode, I’m honored,” Adena teased with a coy smile and wink.

“Yes babe, as promised a long time ago in a galaxy far far away! But seriously, we should take Thursday and Friday off next week and have a four day weekend, just the two of us all alone in the Hamptons. It’ll be our lazy days. My parents said they absolutely love the new hot tub they had installed in May, so I think we will be using it mucho,” Kat wiggled her brows and smiled, as she stood in front of Adena’s desk.

“That sounds just divine, my love. You’ve been working really long hours and weekends, so you deserve this trip.”

“And, you have too. Print and the dot-com have you pretty tied up these days with photo shoots.” Kat walked around Adena’s desk to her side. “Here, let me show you how to request time off on the computer.”

Kat sat on Adena’s desk and helped her navigate Scarlet’s Work Staff Scheduling tab. As they were finishing, Kat got a text from Andrew that Jacqueline needed to see her downstairs.

“Oh, I have to go see Mama Jacqueline, so I’ll see you. I’ll check with you later to see if you’re free for lunch. Bye Dena.” Kat quickly pecked Adena’s lips and was out the office door headed to the elevator.

The relocation for the asbestos scare was long forgotten and the 38th floor was back to being occupied with the same staff members and Jacqueline. Kat arrived at Andrews desk, as he had summoned her. “I’m here to see Jacq-“

Jacqueline quickly interrupted and signaled with her hand, “Kat!” Andrew gave a half-smile and waved Kat in.

“Hi, you needed to see me?”

“Yes, just wanted to congratulate you on such a great ‘Dress You Up’ campaign. You worked really hard putting that Corporate clothing drive together. I’m sure a lot of underprivileged women will now be able to return to the workforce with gently used business attire. The Board wanted me to pass on their praise for a job well done, as well.

“Thank you very much. I’m happy to be so involved in social issues that will truly make an impact in someone’s life. Oh and I was just about to request a couple of days off next week, if...if that’s okay with you. I’m going to take Adena to the Hamptons.”

“I don’t see a problem with the request. Is this a special occasion for you two? I know she’s been with us a year, now. I just signed the paperwork for her one-year evaluation and pay raise.”

“Well, I’ve been meaning to take her to my parents’ place since we met two years ago. But it just never happened. And, yes, she just celebrated her one-year at Scarlet, so it’s a great time to get away.”

“Very well, then. Enjoy!”

————————————-
Back at her desk, Kat typed in her request for the two vacation days. Sutton walked by and stopped to look over her shoulder.

“What ya doing?” Sutton said curiously.

“Oh hey, I’m asking for two days off next week. I’m taking Adena to the Hamptons.”

“ Ooh, good thinking, miss Lincoln. Perhaps Jane and I should join you guys? Girls’ trip, yeah!” Sutton sang out.

“Ahh, nope. I don’t think so. This one is for just us two alone. There will be other opportunities for a girls’ trip in the future. Just my woman and me for now.”

“You’re such a party pooper since you are in L...O...V...E, Katherine. But I get it, you want to have loud, wild sex with Adena. No hard feelings, you have my approval.”

Thanks Sutton, I always appreciate your approval,” Kat said sarcastically.

Kat shot Adena a quick text informing her she also requested the vacation, and Jacqueline said she’d approve it. Adena responded quickly that hers was just approved, so they were good to go.

————————————-
Kat decided to rent a Jeep and drive the two hours to the Hamptons. It was a beautiful August morning and the vehicle allowed them to make a stop on the way to the cottage to stock up on groceries. Kat promised to cook Adena her famous homemade baked macaroni casserole, and Adena bought ingredients to make hummus.

They arrived in one piece and unloaded their bags and groceries. Adena noticed how quaint the place was and fell in love with it instantly. “Which room are we using?” She asked Kat.

“The Master in the back of the house. It has the $8,000 King size bed and best views. Plus we can exit to the deck and hot tub directly from that room. Speaking of which, let’s go see the new hot tub.”

“Okay, but make it quick, we have all these groceries to unpack and store in the fridge and cabinets. Oh, and, hey did you inform your parents we were coming today?”

“Yes’m, I don’t want them accidentally walking in on me ravaging your naked body in the hot tub.”

“Oh my, is that what’s going to happen later?” Adena giggled, wrapping her arms around Kat’s neck.

“Oh, that’s one of many activities I have planned for us. But my parents are in Florida, anyways, for a shrink convention. So there won’t be any surprises.” Kat pulled Adena close, grabbing her ass, and nibbling on her neck.

“Kat, Kat, the groceries need to be refrigerated!”

————————————-
With the food safely stored and the suitcases unpacked, Kat decide it was a great morning to show Adena their surroundings. So the girls took the bicycles from the shed and went for a bike ride to explore the neighborhood and nearby park. Two hours later they returned home famished and ready to try the hot tub. They made a nice salad and some paninis using the electric sandwich maker Kat’s mom had left behind. After cleaning up the dishes they sat and watched a movie, allowing their big lunch to digest a bit before changing for the hot tub. However, their eyes grew heavy and they first opted for a quick nap.

In the early evening, Kat invited Adena to the jacuzzi. “Let’s get naked and go relax in the hot tub,” Kat said with a sparkle in her eye.

“Okay, sounds like a good idea. We can test it to see if we agree with your parents’ review.”

Both women stripped naked in the bedroom and dawned on white bathrobes that hung on the bathroom hooks.

Outside was cool, a perfect night for a dip in the hot tub. Kat turned on the old radio, which her dad kept inside a storage bench on the porch, to a jazz station. Adena went ahead and slipped out of her robe and sat inside the tub, watching Kat on the deck. Kat hit the whirlpool power switch on and then proceeded to disrobe. She entered the water and sat right next to Adena. The two immediately felt the hot water wrap around their bodies like a hot soothing blanket, and began kissing.

Kat separated their lips and said, “I’ll be right back, baby,” and she quickly stepped out and put on her robe to go inside the house. She returned a few minutes later and stopped to turn up the radio’s volume louder. Looking straight into Adena’s eyes, Kat disrobed again. But this time, Adena noticed something new. Kat was wearing their strap-on from home and holding a bottle of lube.

“Oh my,” Adena said, eyes wide in astonishment.

Kat giggled and squeezed a generous amount of lubricant onto her hand, rubbing it on the toy. “Yes, I thought it’d be fun to try this out in the water.”

“When did you pack that?”

“Oh I can’t disclose my secrets, miss. But this is what is prescribed for your...condition.”

“And, what condition might that be, Doctor Katherine?”

“You know, the ‘I-can’t-get-enough-of-my-girlfriend’s-body’ condition.”

“Hmmm? And here I thought you were the only one who suffered from that addiction.”

Kat placed the bottle down and wiped her hand on her thigh, stepping half way into the jacuzzi and sitting outside on the edge. The blue dildo protruded upwards and laid against her pubes.

“C’mere, come sit on me.” Kat signaled with her arms outstretched and eyes full of desire.

Adena was happy to oblige and stepped partially out of the water, grasping onto Kat’s shoulders and straddling her hips. Kat held the dildo with her fingers as she slid down on top of it, allowing the appendage to enter her slowly. Kat wrapped her arms tightly around her lower back and laced her fingers together to keep them both steady.

“I’m so cold Kat, let’s go back inside the water.”

Kat stood up carrying Adena and stepped inside until she was neck deep in water, then sat down on the bench. She began to kiss Adena with an open mouth and rotated her hips slowly in a circular motion. Adena started to move her hips up and down and moaned quietly in Kat’s mouth. But soon she felt the hot water removing some of the lubricant, making the friction too rough. So she stopped and grimaced.

“Are you okay, does it not feel good?” Kat asked concerned.

“Yes, let’s just keep rolling our hips together. I like that better. It feels so good.”

Kat slowly rotated her hips again and began attacking Adena’s neck and breasts with an open mouth and tongue. She also grazed her teeth along her lover’s skin and hard nipples. Adena panted with eyes closed, lost in the sensations. Kat reached down between their stomachs, past their pubic hair, and began circling Adena’s erect clitoris with two firm fingers.

Hearing Adena’s suppressed groans, Kat said, “I want to hear you moan and scream loudly, baby.”

Adena opened her eyes and looked into Kat’s with so much lust and desire, saying, “The neighbors, Kat?”

“Why do you think I turned up the radio so loud. They won’t be able to hear us, Dena.”

Adena shut her eyes tight and threw back her head, exposing her neck more to Kat. Kat kissed it from base up to her jaw, and up her face. Stopping to suck on her right earlobe. Adena was now moaning loudly, rhythmically grinding her hips into Kat’s. It was all so erotic and she was so turned on. Kat could feel her own clit growing more sensitive from the friction of the strap-on.

“Oh Kat...oh...oh! Please...please don’t stop! Oh, it feels so good baby...oh...oh!

Kat pulled her in closer and nipped at her shoulder, encouraging her with, “That’s it, that’s it! You are so fucking sexy. Come for me baby!”

Suddenly, Adena took a deep breath and froze her movements, with jaw dropped and eyes rolled back into her head, as she reached orgasm. She could feel herself contracting rhythmically on the inserted dildo. She dug her nails into Kat’s shoulders and let out a loud gasp for air, collapsing her body into Kat’s hold, and laying her head on Kat’s shoulder.

Kat held Adena while she panted, groaned, and rode out her orgasm. She felt like if she died right now, holding Adena this way, she wouldn’t mind. She loved giving Adena pleasure, and watching her in ecstasy was like going to the moon and back. They sat still for a few minutes until Adena sighed, opened her eyes, and kissed Kat lazily.

“Mmmm, that was incredible. I climaxed so hard, saw stars. Good thing you turned up the jazz,” Adena said chuckling.

Kat smiled and bit her lip, gazing into Adena’s hooded eyes. “Yeah, I’m glad you feel good after your treatment. You are a good patient, Ms. El-Amin. Imma gonna have to take you inside and prep you for part two.”

Adena rubbed their noses together. “But first, I have to pay my bill before you continue, doctor.”

Adena gently pushed up on her knees and released the dildo. She held Kat by the hand and walked them both out of the hot tub and through the bedroom door. Inside, Kat removed the strap-on and they both jumped into the shower stall ready to continue their night.

—————————————-
The next morning, Kat woke to the smell of coffee, pancakes, and turkey bacon. She got up and slipped on fresh panties and an oversized t-shirt. She found Adena in the kitchen preparing them both breakfast.

“Well, good morning my lover. How did you sleep?” She placed the plates on the table and kissed Kat.

Kat quickly grabbed her by the robe and kissed her neck, whispering into her ear, “Well, I slept with the most gorgeous, beautiful, hot woman on earth. So, I slept pretty damn well I’d say.”

“Wow, I need to meet her. I didn’t know there was a second woman on earth with that description.” Adena pretended to be shocked and placed her hand over her heart. “Sit down baby, let’s eat while it’s still warm.

Kat grabbed two mugs from the cabinet and poured them both coffee. They sat and ate the delicious meal and made plans for the day. They decided to take the bicycles from the shed and ride to the park to go paddle boarding. Kat explained how they would rent the equipment at the park kiosk, and afterwards they could grab a late lunch at one of the hip restaurants in the downtown area.

The girls finished cleaning up the dishes and got ready for the day’s new adventure.

————————————-
On Saturday morning, Kat made breakfast in bed for Adena. When they were finished, Adena called her Maman to catch up and see how her family back home was doing. Kat took advantage of the moment and answered a couple of work emails on pending questions that Angie had sent her. She also texted her mom to touch base and tell her she and Adena were enjoying the cottage and the jacuzzi.

Later on the girls took the bikes again, but this time to the beach for a picnic. They packed sandwiches, fruit, chips, almond pastries and beverages, and placed them in a backpack Kat wore. Adena wore a similar backpack but hers carried sunscreen, a small blanket, a frisbee, their beach towels, and her camera. They wore their bikinis underneath their shorts and tank tops, so they were prepared for the surf.

Lying on the beach blanket, Adena turned her head to watch the osprey and other shorebirds on the beach. “Kat, I could live here the rest of my life. This is a photographer’s dream.”

Kat smiled watching her snap more photos of the birds and shoreline. She reached for her water bottle and took a generous sip. “Yeah babe, me too. Perhaps when we retire and we inherit my parents’ place. We’ll also build you a photo studio in the back garage.”

Adena put her camera down and glanced over at Kat. She gave her a fond look, reflecting on what Kat had said.”

Kat realized what she just insinuated, but she didn’t care. She stretched her arm towards Adena’s hand and linked their fingers together. Her gaze drifted from their hands to her eyes.

“I love you, Adena.”

“I love you too, Kat.”

The women agreed they were both pretty pooped, following a full day of exercise and sun, so they rode their bikes back to the cottage. After showers and a pizza they ordered, they watched a movie on Netflix while snuggled under the bedroom sheets.

———————————————
Late Sunday morning, their last day before returning to the big city, Kat and Adena strolled hand-in-hand through the downtown streets filled with bookstores, jewelry boutiques, and mom-and-pop eateries. They came upon one of their particular favorite stores.

“Let’s get something here, love. I’m in the mood for dessert,” Adena announced to Kat.

“I’m always happy to appease your sweet tooth, baby,” Kat replied, holding the door open to the small shop for Adena.

It was another warm summer’s day and Adena was wearing a yellow sundress, a hijab in Kat’s favorite shade of blue, and strappy criss cross sandals. Kat sported a white tank top, striped black and white capris, and her new Nike’s. Adena’s pretty pink lipstick made Kat’s heart skip a beat when she looked at her.

The familiar bell over the door rang and a young girl standing behind the counter, with shaved head and five piercings, greeted them. “Welcome to Frosty’s, what can I get for you?”

Kat was standing directly in front of the salesgirl and knew exactly what she wanted. “Ooh, I’ll have two scoops of Coconut Colada in a waffle cone, please.”

Adena had walked to the other side of the wrap around freezer display cabinet, furthest from the clerk. She was looking at the selection marked ‘Summer 2020’. It was all the new flavors of gelato for sale.

The server handed Kat her cone and asked Adena what she fancied. But, Adena was too deep in thought contemplating her order and didn’t respond.

Kat smiled up to the young clerk and then turned her head towards Adena. “You hear that babe, what do you fancy?”

“Oh, uhm I’ll have two scoops of the Mucho Mango gelato, please. In a cup.” Adena answered gleefully.

“Aah, excellent choice!” Kat replied, knowing she’d be fed a few teaspoons of the sweet mango gelato.”

————————————-
The drive back to Brooklyn was uneventful. They returned their vehicle to the rental facility in Chelsea and caught a cab home. Both girls felt relaxed and were happy they went away together for some needed rest. Once they dragged their suitcases inside Adena’s apartment, Kat saw the comfy bed and did a face plant on it. Adena chuckled and followed her lead, then put her arms around Kat and they embraced.

“I don’t feel like unpacking nor doing laundry tonight.”

“Me neither, Dena. Let’s just stay like this and not move until tomorrow morning.”

Adena giggled. “Thank you for taking me to the Hamptons. I really enjoyed it and our lazy days together.”

“I really enjoyed it, too. And, I really adored being with you.

Chapter Text

It was Monday morning and back to the work grind at Scarlet. Kat left her desk to go put her lunch away and bumped into Sutton and Jane.

“Hi, how was the lover’s retreat?” Sutton asked in the break room with a wicket look on her face. “Are you ready to make an honest woman out of Adena, yet?”

Jane stood up and poured herself a cup of coffee. “Hello. What Sutton really wants to know is, did you guys ever leave the bed or the cottage?”

Kat got an apple from the fruit bowl, took a bite, and shrugged her shoulders. “It was wonderful. Yes, we did a lot of...activities. Some of which involved wearing clothes and leaving the house. Adena really loved the Hamptons and my parents’ place.”

“Well, we’re very happy for you, babe.” Someday maybe we four girls can go together, or maybe we can all go with our partners. If it’s still hot and the boys come, perhaps we can rent a large house with a pool and all stay together. Doesn’t that sound good?”

“Yes, it does, Tiny Jane. A pool would be awesome. Adena and I really enjoyed the hot tub this time. Especially in the cool night.”

“Oooh, and I bet you hot tubbed in that sexy bikini you bought with me at the ‘Rag Outlet’ last month,” Sutton teased, licking peanut butter off a spoon.

“No, actually we always skinny dipped. But, wore it to the beach instead.” Kat paused for a moment and sat down. “And...yes...I’m thinking...” Kat stopped talking and looked around to make sure they were all alone in the room.

“Huh? Sutton questioned and Jane stopped stirring her coffee, looking up.

“I’m answering your previous question, Sutton. Yes, I’m...I’m thinking of proposing to Adena.” Kat’s eyes darted back and forth between the two girls, while the statement sank in.

“O-M-G, Kat!” Jane delighted.

“What the frick?!” Sutton yelled, clenching her fists.

“Shhhhhh! You guys, I don’t want anyone else to hear or it getting back to Adena.” Kat stood up and glanced back out the door of the room. Sutton and Jane both stood up too and hugged Kat, then sat back down.

“I’m ecstatic for you. But you guys don’t even live together, yet.”

“But they practically do, Sutton. When was the last time you slept alone in your loft, Kat?”

“Uhh, I think it was the night before Sage and Donald’s wedding when I had a bad headache. Yeah...and when Patrick made me go to that stupid social media training in Delaware.”

“Business trips don’t count. But you see Sutton, they are basically living together between apartments. They have each other’s house key and keep clothes in both places. And, you guys have been seriously dating now for eight months.”

“Plus, all that time before you went to Paris, when you lived together. And, you both do tend to finish each other’s sentences a lot. So yeah, I agree with you Jane, you are ready. When are you going to pop the big question? Oh my god, have you looked at rings? Do you think Adena will say yes?”

“Sutton!” Jane snapped with wide opened eyes and her hand on her forehead. “Well of course she’ll say yes. You guys are so in love. I can’t see either of you ever wanting to dissolve your relationship again.”

Kat was amused by her friends’ chatter. “No, me neither guys. Adena is it for me, she’s my soulmate. And, I was stupid and scared for not realizing it from the beginning. I’m not making the same mistakes I made in the past. I’m not losing her ever again, if I can help it. I want to propose soon, when the moment is right. She’s going away overnight next Monday and Tuesday for a photo shoot in upstate New York. So I’m going ring shopping that Monday at lunchtime. Can you guys go with me?

“Yes!” Jane and Sutton answered simultaneously.

————————————-
The rest of the workweek was hectic and seemed to move at a snail’s pace. But before Kat knew it, Sunday night came and she laid on the bed watching Adena pack for her short work trip.

“I’m sorry I have to go away for this, Kat. But it’s only a couple of nights. There are lots of leftovers and I just went to the grocery store and bought more coffee, bread, and fresh fruit. It’s all in the fridge for you. There’s also that coconut ice cream you like in the ice box.” Adena was sitting at the foot of her bed folding scarves, then pointed towards the window. “And, please don’t forget to water my fern. Remember, she likes it moist.”

“Okay, babe. Don’t worry about me, I’ll survive on cereal if I have to. And....you can always send me nudes to keep me happy?” Kat gave a mischievous smile and Adena rolled her eyes, smiling.

“Oh we wouldn’t want you to be unhappy, now would we?” Adena crawled up the bed and planted a kiss on Kat’s lips, then quickly jumped off before Kat could hold her and distract her from her packing.

“Hey, want to join me in the bathtub? Jane’s trainer really kicked our butts this afternoon and I’m so sore I could cry.”

“Well okay, crybaby, let’s go soak those achy muscles. Start the water and let me know when you’re inside the tub. Afterwards, I’ll give you a full body massage in bed.”

“Ooh-la-la, me like full body massages!” Kat said wiggling her eyebrows at Adena as she stiffly got up from bed.

Adena gave Kat’s ass a swat as she moved past her and instructed her to, “March!”

————————————-
Mid-Monday morning, Adena texted Kat that she made it safely to Syracuse and would FaceTime at night. Kat took a selfie pouting and holding her right hand over her heart, typing, “I’ll miss you!” and sent it. She then sent Sutton and Jane a text reminding them they promised to go with her to the jewelry store at noon. They both replied quickly.

Sutton:
Wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Jane:
I’ve cleared my whole calendar for you, babe!

At lunchtime, the three friends took a cab to several jewelry stores until Kat found the right ring. The one she settled on was a 14kt rose gold ring with a one karate heart shaped diamond, flanked by six smaller sapphires. It was absolutely stunning and, “So Adena,” as Kat put it. Kat also asked for it to be engraved. The jeweler promised she would have it ready for Kat late Tuesday afternoon, and Kat said she’d pick it up on her way home from work.

The girls exited the establishment and stopped at a hotdog stand outside the store for a quick bite.

“So why the sapphires?” Jane asked curiously.

“That’s both of our birthstone. Thought that would make the meaning of the engagement ring extra special.”

“I didn’t know she was also born in September. Good choice, Kat. You are becoming so sentimental in your union with Adena.”

“Well, now that you have the ring, how and when do you plan to propose?” Jane questioned with mustard on her cheek.

“Maybe you should do it in bed, like right after you make steamy love,” Sutton suggested, wiping Jane’s face.

“I want to do it soon. But, I think I’m going to take her to dinner and then suggest a walk along the water’s edge, in the park where our violinist plays.” Kat threw away her napkin and got out hand sanitizer for the group. “Should I get down on one knee, guys?”

“Definitely! Adena seems very romantic and she’d probably expect that.”

“Yeah, I agree with Sutton. And you should probably have a special speech written out and memorized. Something that’s about your special bond and relationship. Maybe quote from her favorite poet?” Jane said with jazz hands. “Let me know if you need a writer’s creative mind for assistance.”

“Okay, okay. I better get busy planning this. Sooo much to think about.” Kat sighed anxiously. Thanks for the advice, ladies. This is why I love you both so much.”

The three friends hugged and then hailed a cab back to work.

———————-
Adena was back at Scarlet Wednesday afternoon feeling very tired. But she had to hit the ground running on editing the photos she just took to prepare for the next dot-com posting. Unfortunately, by Friday she was very sick with a cold she caught in Syracuse from one of the models. So, Kat had to postpone her plans of proposing on the weekend.

“Kat, I feel so lousy. My head is pounding and I have cold sweats. I’m sorry, Joon. I’m going to stay at my place alone to sleep all weekend. Plus, I don’t want you to also catch this.”

“Okay Dena, but it might already be incubating inside me since we kissed a lot before we knew you were Typhoid Mary. Regardless, I’ll stop by with orange juice and make you tea.” Kat felt Adena’s forehead with her palm, “And, you may also have a low-grade fever. I’ll take your temperature when we get you home.”

By Monday, Adena was feeling a bit better, still a bit pale but able to stand without feeling faint or breaking out into a sweat. But, Kat had come down with the same cold and went home sick after her 2 PM staff meeting. She spent the rest of the workweek in bed feeling like a semi-truck ran her over. Adena came by with her humidifier, tissues, and homemade chicken soup. Kat was a pitiful sight and Adena made sure she also hydrated enough.

Kat had the engagement ring hidden in the bottom of her underwear drawer for three weeks before both her and Adena were completely over their colds. The following Wednesday, Kat finally made reservations at a very fancy Persian restaurant in Lower Manhattan, for Saturday night. She knew the violinist was at the riverfront park until 9 PM on Saturdays, so she made the dinner reservations for 6:30. Her plan was to tell Adena she needed to go back home to change, getting the ring and returning later to pick Adena up. They’d go eat, then head over to the park, strolling around until they came upon the musician. Once the man finished playing at nine, Kat hoped to take Adena closer to the water and propose.

————————————-
At Kat’s place Thursday night, after all the dinner dishes and pots were washed and stored away, Kat went to sit next to Adena on the couch and tell her about Saturday.

“So babe, I made 6:30 dinner reservations at ‘The Persian Princess’ for Saturday night.”

“That sounds lovely. So, what’s the occasion?” Adena said, closing her laptop.

“Can’t I just decide I want to take my beautiful girl to dinner some place special?”

“Yes, I guess. Do I know this girl?” Adena teased with her forehead puckered, then grinned and softly rubbed Kat’s cheek with her hand.

Kat quickly turned her head into Adena’s palm and kissed it. “You might know her. She’s this very sexy Muslim photographer.” Kat winked. “I thought we’d dress up fancy for the dinner then take a stroll through the riverfront park.”

“Oooh, and maybe we can go see our violinist, Kat. We haven’t stopped by in so long and I love his music.” Adena said cheerfully.

“Yes, yes, what a great idea. Then it’s a date?”

“It’s a date!” Adena pinched both Kat’s cheeks.

————————————-
Kat’s plan was a go and she was excited. But by Saturday morning she woke up feeling really nervous. While Adena slept by her side, she picked up her phone and sent a group-text to her friends.

OT3 (Kat):
Hey guys, you up?

. . .

Jane:
Yes @ gym
Tony’s kicking my ass!
What up?

Kat:
Tonight is proposal night.
Really nervous!

Jane:
You got this babe!
Just don’t forget ring & speech!
Sutton???!!!

Kat:
I think Sutton’s still sleeping
It’s only 7:20

Jane:
Yeah probs
Why u up so early?

Kat:
Nervous wreck - can’t sleep
Feels like there’s a butterflies garden fluttering in my belly!

Jane:
Where’s your woman now?

Kat:
She’s next to me asleep.
She’s so beautiful when she sleeps...

Jane:
It’ll be great, babe
Butterflies are good.
She’s going to say YES!
OMG KAT, she’s going to say YES!!!

Kat:
What if I puke?

Jane:
You won’t.
Just take deep breaths and have a glass of wine with dinner.

Kat:
Don’t know if I’ll be able to eat.
Too many butterflies.

Jane:
Butterflies are good, means you are very excited.
I wish I could be fly on the wall!

Kat:
Oh, oh she’s stirring!
I better go.
I want to make her breakfast in bed.

Jane:
Goals...goals...u guys are goals!

Kat:
Okay, bye :3
Luv u

Jane:
Love u 2!
Oh, don’t forget game night Sunday
You and your fiancée...Wow!!!
You promised you’d both come.
Don’t break your promise.

Kat:
Yes, we’ll be there
unless she says NO...
...then find me jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge?

Jane:
Kat, NOT funny. :(
She’s gonna say YES!
You got this, babe.

Kat:
*sigh*
Ok bye

Kat locked her phone and placed it back on the nightstand. She laid on her back looking up at the ceiling trying to picture the night’s upcoming scenario, how she wanted it all to turn out. She did a mental walkthrough a couple more times and took a few more deep breaths. She had her speech typed out and printed on a piece of paper she hid deep in her purse, just in case she needed to see it in the restaurant bathroom one more time. The ring was back at her loft still in the panty drawer. Her plan was to go back there in the early afternoon, alone, to get dressed up. On the way back to Adena’s she’d buy her a bunch of yellow tulips and bring them with her.

Rolling back on her side again, Kat faced a sleeping Adena. She thought she looked so angelic and breathtakingly beautiful, even with her hair all in a tangle. Kat didn’t care if she snored, or didn’t eat bread crust, or was terribly afraid of spiders. She was the love of her life, the person who completed and understood her, who loved her unconditionally back. Kat admired the curves of her face, her long luscious eyelashes, and her slightly chapped full lips. She took her index finger and lightly traced down her nose, across her lips, to her dimpled chin. Adena shifted a bit and opened her eyes, turning her head to face Kat.

In a raspy, soft voice, Adena said, “Hey.”

“Hey babe.” Kat whispered back.

Adena smiled and turned over towards her bedmate, wrapping her leg around Kat’s. Both girls gazed intimately at each other in silence.

“Mmmm, what’s up, aziz-am?”

“Just thinking how lucky I am today. How before I met you I was such a different person.”

Adena studied Kat’s face as she spoke, circling Kat’s hip with her finger tips.

Kat continued, “Do you believe in fate, Adena? Because I do now.”

Adena moistened her lips with her tongue before speaking. “Well, I believe a higher being has plans for all of us here on earth. And, we as humans decide which particular road we take in that plan. We meet people and have experiences along the way based on the choices we make, but the events are completely out of our control. So, I guess that could be fate.”

“What about soulmates, do you believe in soulmates?”

Adena took her time answering Kat’s next question. Turning her head and gaze up to the ceiling, then back towards Kat. “Yes. There are people you can't shake free from no matter how hard you tried. It’s a connection so powerful, physically and emotionally, that the fire doesn’t get extinguished. So yes, I do believe in soulmates.”

Kat nodded in agreement. “Yeah, me too. A kindred spirit. Someone that just gets you.” Kat tucked some of Adena’s hair behind her ear then pulled her body closer by her hips, slowly peppering her face with kisses.

Suddenly Kat’s stomach growled loudly and both girls giggled. Adena rubbed Kat’s middle and said, “I think your tummy needs some breakfast. I’m going to make us both something to eat, okay?” And, pressing noses together, added, “I like having these deep conversations in bed. Even if some of them scare me a bit.”

“They scare me a bit too, Deena. But I’ve always loved that I can be totally open with you, and you never judge me.”

Adena kissed Kat’s nose and got up, picking up her silk robe from the floor and slipping it on, headed towards the kitchen.

————————————-

As Adena finished making scrambled eggs, Kat came in the kitchen area kissing her cheek and dropping off her phone on the counter, heading to the bathroom and shutting the door. A moment later, Kat’s phone vibrated with incoming text messages from Sutton.

Sutton:
Sorry I’m late to this party!
Why you guys up so early? Girl needs her beauty sleep!
Don’t fret Kat, you got this babe

Sutton:
Jane, did I leave my pink halter top there?
Check ur closet and let me know
Kat u bettr text us later!!!

Adena read the messages as they showed up and wondered what it all meant. But she pretended not to see them when Kat returned to the kitchen.

Kat sat on a stool and opened up her texts. Adena watched her face as she read the messages, but Kat remained expressionless.

“Everything okay?” Adena asked, dishing out breakfast on plates.

“Oh yeah, everything’s great. Uh, just Angie with a work reminder.” Kat purposely didn’t look Adena in the eye when she replied, and quickly locked her phone. “Mmmm, that smells goods! Thank you, baby.”

Adena let Kat’s lie go because she didn’t want to admit she had read the messages from Sutton. So she asked, “Is everything good at work and with your family?”

“Everything’s great. Just same old, same old.” Kat held Adena’s hand while they ate. “Hey, I’m going to head home after two o’clock to go dress up for you. I don’t want to just wear torn jeans to dinner. And, you can dress up too and surprise me with your outfit. I’ll swing back here at 5:45 and pick you up. Sound okay?”

“Yeah, of course is good.” Adena wondered what was up and hoped later tonight to get Kat to open up to her and explain. She was baffled why Kat would lie about the person texting.

————————————-
At 3 o’clock, Kat left Adena’s and headed to her loft to go shower, change, and get the engagement ring. She had preselected her dinner ensemble three weeks ago with the help of Sutton and Jane, the Tuesday night prior to Adena’s return from Syracuse. On her way back to Adena’s place, she picked up a bunch of yellow tulips and a box of chocolate eclairs from the ‘French Patisserie’ in SoHo.

Arriving at Adena’s building, Kat felt very anxious and inhaled deeply to try and relax. She soon felt better when Adena opened her apartment door.

“Hi baby, oh you got me tulips! Thank they’re lovely.”

“Lovely like you! And I bought eclairs for later tonight, if you’re in the mood. We can also save them for breakfast tomorrow.”

Adena noticed Kat was fidgeting with her purse straps like she was very nervous. She pecked her lips and went to put the eclairs away and the flowers in a vase with water. After, Adena grabbed her purse and they headed outside, taking a cab to the restaurant.

————————————-
The dinner at the Persian restaurant was perfect and everything went without a hitch. There was candlelight, traditional music, and a tasty meal that made Adena think of her childhood.

“I love their food here, reminds me so much of my mother’s and grandmother’s cooking. Makes me long for my time back home when we were children and didn’t have a care in the world.” Adena sighed.

“Yeah, I know what you mean. Adulthood is so, so overrated, Adena.” Kat shook her head and grinned.

Both girls laughed a lot while they finished their meals and told each other childhood stories. Finally, Kat reached in her handbag to pay the check and felt for the small box. She knew the moment to propose to Adena was close and she was double checking she had the engagement ring.

Outside again, they held hands and headed on foot to the park two blocks down the street. Once at the park, they soon bumped into their violinist who had a small crowd of onlookers surrounding him. Kat and Adena stood holding each other by the waist as they joined the group of people listening to the melodies play.

When the musician concluded his performance, the crowd clapped and dispersed, and Adena and Kat headed for a stroll along the river. Not long after, Adena stopped and peered out over the water to the city skyline. “Is a beautiful night. A little humid but the light breeze helps make it comfortable, no?”

Trying to control her breathing and with butterflies in her stomach, Kat glanced at Adena with penetrating eyes, “Yes, it is very beautiful.” Kat felt that this was the time for the big moment to happen, so she wiped her clammy hands on her skirt and took ahold of one of Adena’s hands.

Adena glanced at Kat and smiled shyly, “What are you thinking about, Joon? You seem very pensive tonight.”

Kat was glad she was hiding her jitters from Adena. She cleared her throat and began speaking, “You know Adena, when I was growing up my parents didn’t really watch too much television. But rather, they liked to listen to LP’s some nights, after dinner, to unwind from a long day of work. Dad called it his personal therapy. I guess after listening to so many clients with challenging issues, he needed an avenue to release his own stress. My dad would play this one song from his childhood every night, for my mother. He said that grandpa would always listen to it when he worked on his car in their garage, and dad helped out by handing him tools. The chorus of the song goes, ‘Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breath and to love you’. As a kid I thought the lyrics were dumb. This guy was saying he didn’t need food, sleep, or anything else, but just air and to love this person.”

“Um?” Adena looked at Kat then towards the water.

Kat inhaled deeply, shuffled her feet and continued, “Two weeks before we went to the Hamptons, there was a night I stayed until almost 11 o’clock at Scarlet, helping Sutton organize and steam dresses for Oliver’s Los Angeles trip. That night I heard that song again. The janitor mopping the lobby floor had a radio on his cart and that song was playing. I immediately had déjà vu of my childhood. But as I rode home to you, I finally got it. I got what the artist meant.” Kat pulled Adena closer to her by their joined hand. “When you have someone so very special in your life you are content just being alive and in love, everything else is minor.”

Adena turned and looked back at Kat, who had a very serious expression on her face. “That’s so lovely, Kat,” Adena said in a voice so low it was almost a whisper.

Kat now became quiet, reached in her purse, and with trembling hands grasped Adena’s other hand. She was holding a small box as she knelt down on one knee. Adena’s eyes widened and she stood stunned by what was happening.

“Adena El-Amin, you are the air that I breath and the love of my life. You complete me in every way and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. So, will you marry me?”

Adena gaped at her for a moment, then her eyes welled up with tears as she realized what Kat just said. “Oh Kat, yes, yes, I’d love to marry you!”

Kat stood back up and the two hugged tightly. Adena could feel Kat’s racing pulse and hear her shallowed breathing. So to try and calm her down, she loosened the hold and held her face with her hands, kissing her deeply. When their kiss broke, she pushed their foreheads together murmuring, “You are the air that I breath too, my love.”

Kat felt so moved and relieved, her eyes flooded with tears. And said, realizing Adena hadn’t seen the ring yet, “Oh hey, let me put the ring on you.” Kat opened up the box and placed the ring on Adena’s finger.

“Oh wow, it is so dazzling. I love it, Kat!”

“I’m happy you’re happy, D. Let’s go home.”

As they started walking away, a young couple stopped them on the sidewalk. The young man explained how when his girlfriend saw Kat on her knee proposing, she videotaped it on her iPhone. The girl then asked if it was okay to airdrop the video on their phones so they’d have the recorded memory. Kat and Adena were elated and thanked them. The video was a bit dark and didn’t have sound but it was good to have. The guy said, “Witnessing your engagement just made our romantic night out complete.” The couples said their goodbyes and walked away in different directions.

The ladies strolled back to the entrance of the park and hailed a cab home. In the back seat, the two lovers stole glances at each other and quietly kissed all the way home.

————————————-
Once home, Adena couldn’t stop gawking at her ring. She had a sparkle in her eyes when she declared, “I love my ring, baby. I can’t stop looking at it.”

Kat wrapped her arms around Adena’s waist and pulled her real close. “I’m so happy you love it. I knew it was going to be to your liking. We can get it resized at lunchtime next week. The jeweler is close to Scarlet.” Then, with eyelids drooped Kat asked, “Hey, can we just wash up and go to bed? I’m extremely drained.”

“Sure baby, you had a lot of excitement and stress today.” Adena held Kat’s neck and smiled. She pressed their lips together and gave Kat a gentle kiss. “Let’s get ready and snuggle under the covers.”

They both washed up quickly and changed into pajamas, crawling under the cool sheets. As they held and kissed, Kat felt her eyelids getting heavy as she was exhausted from the adrenaline rush of the night’s events.

But before drifting to sleep, Kat sent a quick text, as promised, to her buddies.

Kat/Jane/Sutton (Kat):
#SheSaidYes

Then Kat set her phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ and effortlessly drifted off to sleep in Adena’s arms. Adena fought sleep as long as possible, wanting to enjoy holding her new, gorgeous fiancé. But soon her vision grew dim and sleep overcame her, too.

Chapter Text

Kat was awakened close to eight o’clock by the sound of songbirds outside Adena’s apartment window. She thought it seemed appropriate for what had just happened the night before. She was spooning a sleeping Adena and had her face buried in her sweet smelling hair. Kat slid her hand slowly under Adena’s tank top and began caressing her breast.

“Mmmm...good morning to you too, fiancé.” Adena said in a breathy voice.

Kat replied, “Good morning fiancé,” and gently pulled at Adena to turn and face her. “You know what we should have for breakfast?”

“Uhm...Why don’t you show me, instead.” Adena said in a sultry tone, opening her eyes full of desire for Kat.

Kat gulped, and with firey eyes, commanded, “Ok...turn over on your stomach for me.”

Adena complied and Kat pushed the sheets away, getting up on her knees. She pulled Adena’s pajama shorts and panties off together and tossed them aside. Kat took a few seconds to admire the sight before her. She then began caressing and kissing Adena’s feet and moving slowly up her legs, then thighs, to her buttocks. There, she rubbed her face and nipped at Adena’s soft ass. Adena could hear Kat’s labored breathing as she dragged her tongue on her skin. She groaned into her pillow and clutched desperately at the fitted sheet, feeling herself getting wet with anticipation of the next move. Kat used her thumbs to part Adena’s butt cheeks close to her thighs exposing her genitals. Kat then slid her warm tongue inside Adena’s moist center from behind. Adena let out a loud gasp and squeezed Kat’s tongue with her muscles.

Kat was enjoying the taste of her lover, but decided it was time to continue her journey upward and retracted her tongue. She pushed Adena’s tank top up as far as possible, exposing her perfect back and shoulders, and kissed hoer neck. Adena was still lost in the euphoria and continued to moan and pant helplessly. “Turn over on your back,” Kat whispered with warm breath on Adena’s neck. She quickly complied, sitting up briefly to shed her shirt.

Kat began descending now down Adena’s body. Starting with opened mouth kisses on her face, neck, and sternum, she stopped to feast on her plump breasts. She circled her tongue over erect nipples before continuing south. Kat licked a trail down to Adena’s lap, then held her firmly by both hips. Adena spread her legs open and Kat laid between them. She paused briefly and lifted her head to look up at Adena with a devilish grin. They locked eyes, Adena nodded, and Kat dropped her head.

- - - - — - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Kat waited until Adena’s orgasm faded and gave her center one last soft kiss. She then wiped her mouth and chin on the sheets and ascended Adena’s body. She left kisses along the way until she reached her mouth and they locked in a kiss.

“Mmmm, so, so good!” Adena breathed in Kat’s mouth. Then, flipped Kat onto her back. “Your turn.”

Kat sat up and Adena relieved her of her pajamas. She was so aroused that she knew she wouldn’t be able to last long. With the first swipe of Adena’s tongue between her legs, Kat yelled, “Oh god!” and almost came. So Adena decided to slow things up and take her time kissing her and enjoying their closeness. Eventually, Kat’s desire was too much and she begged Adena to return to her center. A few minutes later Kat grunted and tipped her head back, “Adena...I’m gonna come baby...fuck!”

As Kat’s breathing’s and heart rate subsided, she felt blissfully satisfied and eventually opened her eyes, pulling Adena up. “C’mere sexy.” Adena wiped her chin on Kat’s thigh, then laid on top of Kat with her face buried in her neck. Kat enjoyed the intimacy of the moment and rubbed Adena’s scalp gently with her hand.

A few minutes later Kat spoke. “Okay Dena, let me rephrase my original question. Do you know what we should eat for breakfast? The Eclairs in the fridge!”

————————————-
After a decadent breakfast of chocolate eclairs and coffee were consumed in bed, the girls finished washing up and brushing their teeth. Kat grabbed her phone and threw herself on the living room couch. Adena came over with her laptop and sat close to her, resting her elbow on Kat’s thigh.

“Oh boy, I already have 29 text notifications. Mostly from Jane and Sutton answering my #SheSaidYes text from last night.”

Adena chuckled, as she perused her emails. “Oh, those two must be very happy for you.”

“For us, baby. Believe me, they are both very ‘Team Adena’ since I met you. Who do you think pushed me to invite you to the Muna concert back in November.”

“Oh, so you had someone else in mind to ask?” Adena pretended to be hurt.

“No, I just wanted to go with you. But I was so scared you’d say no to me, I was taking too long to make my move. So, Sutton swiped my phone out of my hands and typed the message out to you. Jane stopped her and checked with me before sending it. She was the one that snapped the photo of me holding the tickets.”

“Awww, they are so sweet. I’m so glad you have such good friends, Kat. I know they’ve always been there for you.”

“Yes, they are heaven sent. Even if we get on each other’s nerves some days. Here, let me read you some of their funny dialogue.”

Kat put her arm around Adena’s shoulder and read her texts from Jane and Sutton aloud. The girls were so very happy to hear about the previous night’s engagement and that Adena said yes. They were also writing to remind them of tonight’s game-night at Jane’s place.

“Listen to this one, babe. Sutton was so anxiously awaiting our news, that she spent the night at Jane’s. They ate so much popcorn and cookie dough ice cream, Sutton ended up with a stomach ache and Jane felt nauseous. Needless to say, Jane has banned cookie dough from her freezer!”

Adena laughed as she rested her head on Kat’s shoulder.

“Ah, they crack me up. Here’s another, they both are fighting to be my Maid of Honor. Sutton says, ‘If I’m not the main bitch, then you’ll have to name your firstborn after me.’ Says she’ll provide us with a lifetime of free baby-sitting services in payment.”

Kat stopped and got quiet, thinking about what that implied. Adena realized Kat felt uncomfortable and thought for a few seconds, darting her eyes around the apartment.

“Oh, that’s so kind. But maybe she’ll change her mind if the baby has colic.” Adena looked up at Kat and snickered, lightening the mood.

Kat smiled wide and shook her head in agreement. “Hey, should I make up an excuse, like we are too exhausted from lovemaking, and tell them we’re not coming to game-night? Then we can just veg at home with a good movie.”

“No, no Kat. They are so good to you. We have to go and not disappoint them.”

Kat paused then asked, “When should we tell our families?”

“Let’s wait a couple of nights and then we’ll FaceTime Maman and Zareen together. Do you want to tell your parents in person?”

“They’ll be in the City next weekend, so let’s get together for brunch and announce it then, sound good?”

“Yes, a great idea. I hope they’re really happy for us. I feel like your father isn’t my biggest fan.”

“Babe, mom and dad love you. From that first time they met you in my loft, they really liked us together. And after mom saw you at my election party, she asked a lot about you and where we stood. She pushed me to talk to a colleague of hers when she saw me struggling about us. And you know how much I detest therapy.

“But your farther...I can’t read him.”

“Dad’s just dad. And, I’m not making excuses for him. But he’s always been like that, tough on the outside. He chased off every guy friend or date I ever had in high school, just with that vibe he gives off.”

“Well then, perhaps I should thank him for chasing boys away from you, huh?” Adena pokes Kat’s side and they both giggled.

Kat’s face softened. “This is why I admire you so much, you always make me laugh.”

“Uh huh.”

“What about your family, will most of them be happy for us?”

“Hmm, you know Maman and Zareen already are very fond of you. We’ve FaceTimed enough and I’ve been telling them about you, us, since the beginning of our friendship. You are Maman’s hero for helping me with that dildo contraband mess at the Tehran Airport, you know that. So, yes I expect them to be very supportive and happy. The rest of my family will have no choice with the situation. And I do not care what they think of it. It will be okay, aziz-am.” Adena placed her laptop on the couch next to her and wrapped her arms around Kat.

“I think I’m going to jump in the shower and then head over to the farmers market. I want to buy a couple of pounds of the roasted peanuts to take to Jane’s tonight. Wanna come?”

“Sure, Okay. Do you want to bring something more? Did Jane say it was a potluck or something?”

“No, she just said bring an appetite.”

————————————-
Game night at Jane’s was actually a planned surprise engagement party for Kat and Adena. It was Jane and Sutton’s collaborated idea. But, they had lots of help planning the event from Angie, Sage, and Lilly. The apartment was decorated in gold streamers and blue balloons, to match Adena’s engagement ring. The guests were told no presents but the girls took up a collection to buy a few gag gifts.

Everyone invited was present by 5:15 PM. Sutton brought confetti to throw, which Jane said she’d have to vacuum up after the party people were all gone. There was Olive Garden meat and vegetable lasagnas, salad, and bread sticks delivered, chocolate cupcakes with heart sprinkles, and lots of wine, beer, sodas, and champagne for toasting. All that was missing was the lovebirds, who were told game night started at six.

“Man, the suspense is gonna kill me!” Sutton communicated bouncing up and down, as Richard rubbed her shoulders.

Jane reminded the crowd, “Ok guys, we all know the drill. As soon as they knock, everyone goes and hides and I go open the door by myself. Once you hear me say, ‘Let me see that ring,’ then you all jump out and yell. Capeesh?”

“Kat’s gonna shit. I hope she’s ok with us all knowing her news so quickly,” Angie said.

“Oh well if she’s not, she’ll get over it.” Sage exclaimed with a roll of her eyes.

Lilly added, “I think Adena’s going to be so happy, we’re going to make her cry.”

————————————-
Jane kept checking the time on her Fitbit nervously. Until, at 6:07, there was a knock on the front door. “It’s showtime, Jane whispered.” Everyone scrambled to hide and Jane turned off the overhead light. The living room was now lit by only three small candles on the coffee table.

Moving quickly to the door, Jane turned the knob. “Well hello ladies, you guys made it!” Jane greeted cheerfully and hugged each girl. “Oh my god, I cannot believe you are engaged! Come, hang up your purses and jackets on the hooks and follow me. Let me see that ring!”

Kat turns her eyes inward and asked, “Why’s the apartment so dark? Did you forget to pay the electric-“

“Congratulations!” The crowd yelled and threw confetti, as Kat and Adena walked through the threshold of the entry hall. Jane hit the light switch to reveal everyone inside. The startled couple were a bit shocked for a second, looking around the room with amazement. They saw Lilly, Leila, Sutton, Richard, Alex, Angie, Sage, Donald, Firuze and her husband, and Martha.

“Oh gosh, you guys!” Kat exclaimed holding her chest. Then she and Adena went around the room hugging everyone.

“Where’s Pinstripe, Jane?

“Remember, he’s in Miami on round two of his book promotion? Martha’s husband is at the fire station saving lives, so she’s my date for tonight.”

————————————-
At 6:30 one of the hostesses shouted, “Let’s eat!” And, Richard and Alex carried out the lasagna trays hot from the oven. The other items were already set on the kitchen counter for the guests to help themselves. Once everyone ate, Jane and Sutton left and came back into the room holding two gifts. “We now have preset time! Just a few gag gifts we all thought you needed.” Jane announced.

“Adena you open the first gift.” Jane handed it to her. It was a medium size wrapped box with a big bow. Inside was a wooden rolling pin. “Read the note attached to it for us.”

“Let’s see... ‘This is for you to use on Kat’s head after she’s drank too much and staggers home late’. Oh, I would never use that on Kat’s sweet head,” Adena proclaimed, gently patting the top of Kat’s crown.

“Awww, how cute.” The girls in the room cooed. “You can use it to make pies together, instead.” Firuze added.

“Oh, we can think of a few occasions Kat needed to get the rolling pin from Adena!” Sutton yelled, with her hand next to her mouth. Both Jane and Kat gave her a dirty look from across the room. Adena knowingly turned to Kat with eyes narrowed and a half-smile.

Kat looked down. “Y-Yeah, Dena’s not mean like that,” she stuttered. “If that were to happen, she’d just hold my hair back as I puked in the toilet. Oh!...and make me ginger tea!” Kat faced Adena and quickly pecked her lips.

The second present was a small black gift bag with hot pink tissue paper. Sutton handed that to Kat, who looked inside and found a pair of metal handcuffs in furry leopard print and a can of cool whip. The note said, to use these when they needed an extra spicy pick-me-up in the bedroom. “Ooh, maybe I’ll use these later tonight?” Kat wiggled her eyebrows at Adena, who ducked her head and buried her face in the nape of her neck.

The third, and final gift, was a large box that Richard carried out of Jane’s bedroom.

“You got us a microwave? Kat huffed.” And the group cackled.

“Open it up together and find out,” Jane said.

Inside was a framed 20x24 black and white photograph of Kat on one knee proposing to Adena by the river.

Both girls loved the gift. “Oh my, how did you guys get this? Kat asked. Adena sat holding the frame and wiping her eyes.

“We hired Sage’s cousin Belkis to follow you in the park last night and take it.” Sutton disclosed.

“Actually Belkis owed me and Donald for watching her two toddlers over a resent weekend, and did it for free. She just hid behind some bushes and snapped the photo with an ultra-zoom lense, without you guys even knowing.”

“She also went into her photo shop early this morning to print and frame it for us. We just paid for the materials when we picked it up. Sage, you have to thank her profusely for us all,” Jane said.

“Well, it is lovely. Kat and I will hang it on our wall forever. Thank you, thank you all for your thoughtfulness and this wonderful get together. It means a lot to us.” Adena sniffed and Kat rubbed her back.

The friends all clapped, then Sutton and Jane looked at each other and simultaneously yelled, “Game time!”

—————————————
The drinks were plenty and Kat was playing songs on the Bluetooth speaker. For games, there was couple’s Engagement Charades, with wedding themed songs and movies; Lover’s Bingo; Two Truths and a Lie; and The (Almost) Newlywed Game. No doubt everyone was having a lot of fun finding out new, and sometimes embarrassing, information about each other.

In between games, Kat went to the kitchen to get herself and Adena a refill on their drinks, and Sutton followed. “This is so much couple’s fun. Too bad Pinstripe’s not here for Jane.”

“Yeah Kat, Jane didn’t want you to know right now, but they broke up.”

“What?! When and why?”

“Apparently three nights ago at dinner out. Jane brought up Ryan kissing that girl, again, and they got into a huge fight at the restaurant. Ryan got up and stormed out. Jane hasn’t seen him since. He only sent her a text from Miami saying it was best if they broke up.”

“Oh gosh, I’m sorry to hear that. Well, you know I’m not a big fan of Pinstripe, but poor Jane. I can’t believe she kept it from me.”

“Since it happened so close to your big moment, she didn’t want to bring you negative news, babe.”

“Ok, I’ll let her know I’m here for her next week at work.”

Kat returned with Adena’s drink as Sage was asking Adena if they had announced their engagement to their parents, yet.

“No, we are going to do that next week,” Adena replied.

“Are your parents okay with you and Kat?”

Adena inhaled and paused. “My father passed away five years ago. But my mother really likes Kat and wants me to be happy.”

Kat intervened, “Yeah, you know, no one can resist my charm,” and squeezed Adena’s side.

Jane cried out, “Ok, on to the next game guys!”

The party continued until 11 o’clock when there was a mass exodus of tired guests. Sutton and Richard stayed behind to help Jane clean up and put leftovers away. Kat and Adena soon said their goodbyes and headed home.

—————————————
Once back home, the girls changed to go to bed. Kat set her alarm clock for Monday morning’s wake up jolt. She had an early meeting with Jacqueline and two board members to go over some advertisements. She wanted to give herself enough time to get ready for work and make Adena breakfast, so she set the alarm for an extra thirty minutes ahead of her usual time.

Adena took off her engagement ring to store in her ornate tanned leather box. She ran her finger softly over the side of the ring and smiled reading the engraving inside, ~My heart, my soul mate~, before placing it away for the night. Then, got into bed after she applied moisturizer and lathered lotion on her face and body. The scent of her lotion hung in the room as she dove under the duvet and hugged Kat. Kat ran her fingers lightly through her hair.

“It was a fun party. I absolutely love the framed photograph they made us.”

Kat lifted her head up, looking at the picture frame on the floor that leaned against the wall. “Yes, me too. That’s the best gift they could ever give us.”

“I still can’t believe Jane and Ryan broke up.”

“Me neither, D. I feel so bad for Tiny Jane. But maybe it’s for the best. Who knows what destiny has in store for Jane.”

The girls peered quietly into each other’s eyes. Adena asked, “Do you want a big wedding?”

“Well, we probably will have a decent amount of guests. Our parents are going to want to have a big wedding. Both sides like celebrations and therefore we’re kinda forced to have a big event, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I agree. It’ll be alright, we can plan it together and our mothers can share traditions and ideas. I’ll help Maman convey that to your mother.”

“Okay, sounds good.” Kat’s mouth curved into a smile and her eyes twinkled from the moonlight coming inside the apartment’s window. The look warmed Adena’s soul. “Do you want to have kids?”

Adena moved her head closer to Kat’s and the depth in her eyes seemed more serious. “Uh huh. I’d like to have a baby with you.”

“Yeah, me too. I’d like to be a mom and share all those neat experiences with you. I can’t wait to some day hold my beautiful mini-Adena.”