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took my heart (and sunk with it)

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“I’unno,” Vi begins with a small shrug, and takes a moment to unceremoniously slurp from her milkshake, a motion that Caitlyn smiles at, “I think I stopped being able to eat those after I broke up with one of my girlfriends. She practically ruined ‘em for me.”

“Which one was that? Anya? Or was it Nora?”

“Neither. It was Amy.”

“Oh,” says Caitlyn. She considers that with (a much less unceremonious) sip of her own milkshake. And then, “You’ve dated a lot of women.”

Vi laughs, “Not a whole lot more than any man does. Plus, my exes can actually say I was a ‘satisfying experience’,” she emphasizes that with a little wink in Caitlyn’s direction, “so y’know. I’ve got that goin’ for me.”

It seemed to her as though Vi went through someone new every week. Some insidious little story that she’d tell Caitlyn over lunch, or casually as they walked through town, about this girl. “Not that big a deal,” she’d say, arms behind her back, and then they’d break up come the end of the week, and Caitlyn simply listened with a keen sense of awe. Not that it’s surprising, the fact that Vi finds so many women into her. Caitlyn thinks that part rather understandable. Something about her personality, a chivalrous sort. Someone nice who knows how to have fun.

And of course, she’s pretty. Everyone says it.

Caitlyn, on the other hand, hasn’t dated anyone since Jonathan asked her out to prom, heaven knows why, and the only reason she’d accepted was out of a sense of pure pity. She left halfway through the night, and her mom had been furious. She’d had suitors, yes, but none of them had been interesting. And Caitlyn never found herself particularly interesting either—how could a relationship like that ever sustain itself?

“Do you think that sort of thing would be for me?” It’s a question that bursts from her before Caitlyn gives herself the chance to contain it.

Vi practically spits off the straw, eyes wide. “Uh, heh, which part of it?”

“I mean dating women. I don’t know if I could. You just seem to do everything so effortlessly.”

The other woman blinks. “Well, it ain’t like dating other women is hard. They’re pretty, for starters.” Is there a slight flush to the tips of her cheeks? Vi sniffs. “And, uh. Of course, anyone’d be real lucky to have you, Cupcake. S’pose it’s just a matter of whether you like, are… y’know.”

“Into women?” Caitlyn responds.

“Yeah.”

There’s a cherry that stains the whipped cream of her milkshake. Caitlyn notices, and fishes it out with a hooked finger as she thinks. She pops it into her mouth, shaking her head. “And that’s what I find myself unsure of. There must be some way you can tell, isn’t there?” The stem of the cherry is thrown haphazardly onto the sidewalk. “I mean. Obviously, you know.” She smiles. “How did you figure it out?”

“Uh,” Vi mumbles. She gives a distinct look towards the sidewalk, away from Caitlyn. “That’s the sort of thing you gotta figure out for yourself, I think. I just think girls are pretty.”

Caitlyn simply rolls her eyes, “Yes, but doesn’t everyone? Girls are pretty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want shack up with one. You’re pretty, for example. I haven’t done anything about it, though.”

Nervously, Vi laughs. “Ha, uh. Yeah. I guess.”

“When did you figure it out? Was it like a revelation?”

“Grew into it, I guess. Or maybe it was like that. Met a girl and it was pretty much like meeting God.” There’s a trash can on the side of the path, and Vi dunks her plastic cup through the receptacle. And then, she looks at Caitlyn, lips thin. “Real pretty, y’know. Really smart.”

“And I suppose that you dreamt of her.” She watches Vi blink at her, slow, nervous. Caitlyn continues, “I hear love is a lot like that—dreaming and wanting and waiting. Yet for all that want, there’s never much doing.” It’d been some starry-eyed blond kid in a turtleneck working at the college library who’d told Caitlyn that, handing her back a book about neurochemicals. She’d thought the notion silly, but romantic all the same.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Vi mutters, wiping at the corner of her mouth.

Caitlyn laughs, “Does love?”

Vi snorts, and gives a little smile of her own, far more relaxed than she’s been since they started this conversation. “Look at you, all poetic n’smart and shit.”

It’s quiet, after that. Caitlyn watches Vi out of the corner of her eye as they walk, and she’s almost certain Vi looks at her in the same way. Neither of them talk, as there’s nothing real to say, and the sounds of the neighbourhood by Caitlyn’s house would drown out the words, the wind in the leaves, the chirping of the birds. They pass a small white dog on their way, and it yips, pleased. Vi bends over to extend her hand, which it sniffs earnestly, its tail a flurry of white. “Bet he’s only that happy ‘cause he can smell the fact I had chicken strips,” she laughs to Caitlyn, and touches her finger to its leathery nose, “Sorry, bud. Gonna have to go beggin’ elsewhere, but you are really cute.”

There’s a bag of beef jerky somewhere in her bag that they’d bought earlier in the day, and Vi rips it open, tosses the dog a chunk of meat anyways.

There’s a certain warmth in her chest at the entire exchange, the breadth of Caitlyn’s sudden fondness almost impossibly wide. She blinks once, twice, and adjusts her shirt absentmindedly. It’s a feeling that stays with Caitlyn until they stand in front of her house, a feeling that manifests itself in impulse. “Thank you for walking me home,” Caitlyn smiles warmly. “And I suppose I may as well thank you for being engaging as well. I’ve a lot to think about. Questioning, if you will.”

Vi rubs the back of her neck, “Aw, thanks yourself, Cupcake. Same, to the—to the thinking thing. Not so much the questioning thing. Of course.”

The impulse grows stronger. “Vi, look at me? I want to try something.”

“Uh, I’m lookin’—”

Caitlyn had heard of moments like these explored through the slowing of time. Like a cold stream nearly dried up, trickling down at it’s own pace, numb to everything save itself. It sounded strange, that the important moments in ones life would be slowed to a crawl, deafeningly so. Yet as she takes Vi’s hand in hers and tugs her down, it’s the only thing she can think of. How conscious her movements are when she raises herself so that she’s level with Vi, when she hovers for just a moment but never hesitates, when they kiss.

It only lasts for a second or two, but to Caitlyn, it feels as though it’s been a lifetime coming.

Neither of them speak. Caitlyn simply stays like that for a moment, and wonders if that feeling of sweetness that tinges her mouth lies in the chapstick she’d gifted Vi. It’d tasted like strawberries when she’d kissed Vi.

When she kissed Vi.

When she kissed Vi.

“Oh!” Caitlyn exclaims, taking two steps back. Vi takes a half-second longer to react in the same, jittery way. “Oh my God. Wow, er, wow.” She’d done that. And Caitlyn had not even the slightest clue as to why she’d done it at all. For the sake of… what? Experimentation? Simply because Caitlyn could? Not that she could, she tells herself indignantly, like that would be any sort of fair to her friend. She digs for her key and looks down as she does, for if she looks at Vi now she may die on the spot. “Your lips are very soft, and I do suppose I should get going. Thank you, again, Vi.”

It’s all Caitlyn can do not to trip up the front of her steps and get the key jammed as she hurriedly tries to open her door, if only so that she may lock herself inside, never to see the light of day again.

Caitlyn sucks in a deep breath the moment she turns the lock, and feels her face with the pads of her fingers. Warm, too warm. And she finds herself far too frazzled to hold a coherent thought, much less coherent thoughts involving Vi. Oh, god , Vi probably thought her some sort of… Gah. Just because Vi liked women didn’t give Caitlyn the right to do such a thing. Speaking of rights, that kiss, short as it was… No, that thought is wrong as well. Maybe.

Caitlyn looks up at the ceiling, closes her eyes, and thinks. No, the self-exploration thing will come later. What matters, first and foremost, is making sure that Vi doesn’t think that she’s an idiot, or weird, or—whatever else . Everything after that will come later. First things first. She’ll apologize to Vi when they next meet, Caitlyn thinks.

She bites her lower lip, and finds it to be strawberry-tipped.