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The Soldier's Wife

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“Luisa! There’s a very fine lady in your section, don’t you keep her waiting.” Her boss winks. If he weren’t her little brother, she’d be alright with admitting that it was a sleazy, slimy wink, and it made her skin crawl a little bit. “Actually, keep her waitin’ just long enough for me to come over and charm her, will ya?”
“She’s probably married, Raf,” she sighs, trying not to let her voice leak with displeasure.
“I don’t see a man by her side. Choice woman like that, though… maybe she’s a soldier’s wife, poor woman. Someone oughta support her while her husband’s out there fighting for our freedom.”
“I’m sure she would love you.”

The woman definitely looks like a soldier’s wife– pouting red lips, red hair styled in a chic chin-length bob, a dress patterned with polka dots that drew attention to her chest. Not that Luisa’s attention was drawn to her chest, of course not. She just… wanted to be pretty like her.
She pours her a cup of coffee to start, offers her a slight smile.
“Thank you,” the woman replies, cupping the mug and feeling its warmth. “Could I get a milkshake, actually?”
“Of course,” Luisa nods, passing her a menu.
“Could I also get your name?”
She can’t help but giggle, it comes out involuntarily. What was that? “It’s Luisa.”
“Rose,” the lady introduces herself with a polite, yet almost devilish grin. “Is it nice, working?” she asks. “I should get a job. I don’t know what to do with my time.”
“We’re hiring,” Luisa blabbers. They aren’t really hiring, that’s a lie, why did she say that? They weren’t even hiring when she started working here, she got the job cause she was the boss’ sister.
A grim chuckle escapes Rose’s lips. “No offence, my family would never let work in a place like this. The Ruvelles are above that sort of work.” She sounds pretentious, when she says it like that. Probably intentionally.
“It’s an honest living,” is all Luisa can reply. It wouldn’t be her first choice for a career, but it produced a pay check and she got to be around people, so it was good enough for her. She’s aware that she’s lingering, she’s sending too long at this table, she should be moving on, which she can’t seem to do.

She’s interrupted by Raf strolling on over. “Hello,” he grins. “Luisa, have you taken this pretty lady’s drink order yet?”
“She has me taken care of,” Rose replies curtly. “She’s a very good conversationalist as well. She’s a good one.”
“Yeah, she helps us stay afloat,” Raf agrees coolly. “She, uh, has also got other customers to deal with.” He directs the statement at his sister, a way of getting rid of her so he can have a moment’s time with Rose.
She nods. “I’ll be back to take your order.” And with that, she skates away.

She returns a few minutes later with Rose’s milkshake, and her brother’s already lost interest in Rose’s polite, poised responses– she wasn’t falling over him like he’s used to women doing. Rose smiles, looking up at her.
“You’re staring,” Rose mentions. Luisa likes the way her voice sounds, she was caught up in that before she realized what Rose said. Her response is delayed.
“I– You’re so pretty, I was just… I want to tell you that, without it sounding weird.”
“Why would it be weird? Women can’t compliment each other nowadays?” Her lips stretch into a smile, an overconfident, overzealous smile. “You’re pretty too, you know. And you seem smart, brains are a very attractive and very rare thing to come by.” After a moment, she adds, “What? You’re afraid your husband will be jealous?”
“I don’t have a husband.”
There’s that grin again. “Well you’ll make a man very lucky one day, Luisa. Now, could I get a grilled cheese sandwich with onion rings, please?”
“That’ll be right out,” Luisa answers.

And this time, instead of gracefully gliding away on her skates, a skill she truly has come to master in her time here… she falls. And it is far from graceful. It’s messy and embarrassing and she was so glad she fell before she had a tray of food in her hands. She pulls herself up and scuttles away, before Rose can ask if she’s okay or give her a hand.

Raf brings Rose’s food out to her. She asks if Luisa’s okay. He answers that she’s fine, nursing nothing but a skinned knee and a bruised sense of pride.

Oh, she had a bruised sense of pride alright. She couldn’t even admit to herself that she had a crush on a woman. It was 1961, it was less dangerous to be a lesbian now than ever– not that she would ever come out publicly. Even if they were family, Raf would probably fire her, at the very least. Their father would probably disown her. Maybe he’d actually commit her to an asylum this time, like he’d considered before. Maybe she’d end up lobotomized like her mother, or labelled a sociopath and put in that treatment where they shocked your brain in an attempt to straighten you out. She didn’t want that. So she could handle hiding her thoughts that the soldier’s wife was pretty and she didn’t just want to be pretty like her, she wanted her.

She hid until Rose paid her bill and left, and for some reason expected never to see her again. Her husband would come home from the war– she still wasn’t even sure he was a soldier, she was still just assuming– and she’d be busy with that, or maybe she’d get a job somewhere like she said she wanted to. She wouldn’t come here and deal with a clumsy waitress and order a soggy grilled cheese, she’d find a better diner, closer to home or closer to work. But one week later to the day, there she was, sitting at the same table. Her dress was green with red flowers on it today. Roses, heh.

“It’s you again,” Luisa starts lamely, approaching the table.
“It’s you again,” Rose replies. “You cut your hair,” she immediately notices. “It’s short. It’s cute.”
And she’s back to blushing, twenty seconds into their interaction. Her fingers reach for her ponytail, barely half the length it was just a few days ago. She isn’t quite used to it yet. “Thank you. I– this sounds dumb– I thought it’d make me look like a grown woman or something. On trend, I don’t know.”
“I just thought you were an off-duty flower child with your long hair. You always looked like a woman to me.” And then she continues on like she wasn’t just causing Luisa’s heart rate to skyrocket. “Can I have the same as last week? A milkshake, grilled cheese–”
“And onion rings,” Luisa finishes. “Of course. Would you like anything else?”
“Would you like to go out with me tonight?” Rose asks. “I’m… direly in need of company, I’ve been horrible at socializing without my husband around, it’s starting to get lonely. We could go to the movies, perhaps? Or dancing, we could go dancing.”
“I-I don’t know how to dance, I’ve never really been,” Luisa admits. “I would love to hang out, though, that sounds like fun.”
“I’ll teach you to dance.” She winks. She winks. “What time does your shift end?”
“F-five. It ends at five.” Luisa wasn’t over that wink.
“So we could meet at six?”
“She can meet earlier, I’ll let her leave early for you,” Raf calls from the counter. He gives them a thumbs up, and turns back to his till.
“How about five, then?” Rose asks.
“I would like that,” Luisa nods. “Thanks.”
“Oh, of course.”

As she brings the order to the kitchen, Raf moseys on over, a grin on his face. “You should go for it.”
“What?” Luisa asks, too busy and frazzled to deal with him right now.
“If she were into men I would go for her, but she doesn’t appear to be. She appears to be into you. And it’s plain to see you’re digging her too.”
A jolt goes through her, it must be written on her face. He’s quick to calm her down. “I’ve known, Luisa. And it’s alright, I still love you and I just want you to be happy. Dress up, let your hair down, and have a ball tonight. You deserve the most, Lu.”
She smiles, and prepares to say something nice and prolong their moment, and she misses it. Raf starts talking again. “You guys should go to a lesbian bar, I heard those exist.”
“Where did you hear that?”