They were late.
Though not a surprise to much anybody, Cosima was almost never on time to anything.
With the clatter of her heels echoing through the long corridors, Cosima mentally kicked herself as the intrusive ticking of every clock sounded in her hears, reminding her of her tardiness. She wondered how on earth Kira ever navigated through here, but then realized she was indeed in kindergarten and was more than likely escorted everywhere by an adult.
“Auntie Cosima, wait!” the little tike yelped, her small legs tripping over themselves in a feeble attempt to keep pace with her aunt. At a mere five years old, the tendrils of curls atop of Kira’s head were just passing Cosima’s waist, snuggly covered with a knit beanie to keep her warm from the bitter winter.
Shooting her an apologetic glance, the petite dreadlocked woman scooped the child up into her arms, settling her onto her hip and picking up speed with every step. “Sorry, monkey.” She cooed with a heavy breath, pressing a chaste kiss to the apple of her niece’s cheeks.
The heels of her ankle boots clicked through tiled halls, continuing their obnoxious echoes off the walls and clearly announcing her tardy presence to everybody in neighboring classrooms. Her promise to Cal and Sarah to make it to Kira’s Musical parent meeting was faltering, the sudden notion that Alison should have been put on this job instead making her grumble. They were close to being on time, for what its worth, even leaving Cosima’s apartment early. But an impulsive detour to the ice cream shop for Eskimo pies put a damper on their tight schedule.
She had reasoned with herself that the Kindergarten Christmas Show was still about a month away, and that her niece was the brightest of the whole class and already knew the songs just fine. Although sound of reason wasn’t quite on her side today. She knew she’d hear it from Sarah once she got Kira home later, knowing the mother would be nothing less than pleased with Kira having ice cream on a day that it was snowing.
“Holy watershed, monkey. Where is this place?” she huffed, completely lost. Cosima reasoned that the façade of the brick building illusioned it to be small and quaint, much to her distaste of it actually being a damn cornfield maze of a building.
Kira giggled, pointing straight ahead to the large double doors nestled at the far end of the hallway. “Right there, auntie Cosima.” She said, smiling cheek to cheek.
Cosima rolled her eyes at herself, embarrassment flushing her already frostibitten cheeks. Sharing a quick giggle with her niece, the brunette woman meandered forward towards the doors, silently praying that she wouldn’t fall with her growing speed. Kira was a mess of smiles and flushed cheeks in her arms by the time they got to the grand double oaks, hand clapped over her chest as she gathered her breathing.
On her toes, Cosima peered into the small glass window of the door, seeing a crowd of parents and students already clustered into the stadium seats, looking ahead towards the stage. Cosima gulped, her heart fluttering with nerves embarrassment. Kira and Cosima both looked at each other, nodding with determined eyes.
Cosima adored her niece; Kira was practically the daughter she never had. She never envied Sarah, for her fertility, not once, but when she first held Kira in her arms when she was born, Cosima couldn’t help but feel a pang of emptiness in her heart that she knew would never be filled. Kira equally loved her as well, and that was enough Cosima. She was proud to be the crazy aunt of the bunch, it meant never having to pull a façade in front of her niece. There was no contest that Kira was closest to Cosima out of all her aunts, and she prided herself on that note.
“Sorry, monkey. Ya ready?” she whispered.
Kira nodded, scrunching her face up into determination as Cosima pulled the heavy oak door open as quietly as possible. To her utter dismay, the door made an obnoxiously loud creek, Cosima rolled her eyes in sheer mortification as about forty sets of eyes all turned to her and Kira. She felt the heat rising in her cheeks as she turned a bright red.
“Uh, hi.” She mumbled nervously, her voice echoing in the now-silent auditorium. Her fingers fluttered in a meek wave, her lips pulling to one side in a lopsided grin. As her eyes cast across the sea of unamused parents. “Kinda always late, kinda always sorry.”
Kira caught eye of her teacher down at the very front of the room, standing quietly waiting for them to take their seats. Her stance was poised, rigid but still elegant. The brunette looked down as well, her eyes settling on the gentle-faced, but still irritated blonde woman. Her arms folded politely across her chest, her frame square and unrelenting, but still the smallest hint of welcome.
“Ms. C!” She gasped, smiling wide and waving to her dear teacher, who all but shook her head and smirked, smiling back.
“Thank you for joining us.” The blonde teacher spoke, her voice carrying easily.
Cosima heard that strong French accent flowing through, her breath catching in her throat as she suddenly locked eyes with the teacher.
‘Whoah.’ She thought, a small smile playing on her lips. ‘French’
“If you’d have a seat, we can continue.” She added.
Cosima dropped Kira down, her face a beat red as she pulled the small child into the back row. She looked at her niece, who had both her pudgy hands clasped over her mouth, suppressing a giggle.
“You got in trouble, auntie Cosima.” She whispered, smiling wide. Cosima scrunched up her face, feigning shock as she brought a finger to her lips to silence Kira.
“We gotta pay attention, Monkey.” She whispered.
They both diverted their attention back to Kira’s teacher, who was busying away giving parents an update of their student’s progression with practices so far. Cosima though, didn’t hear a single word for the remainder of the hour that they were sitting there. She had all eyes on the blonde teacher, completely lost in the sight in front of her. She barely noticed the way she tilted her head to the side every time the teacher did, even mimicking the moments she’d lick her lips mid sentence. Cosima’s heart quickened when she put her hand on her hip, accentuating the natural curve of her body and making her mouth go dry.
She was lost, her attention completely fixated on the woman like a magnet. She couldn’t help herself, wanting nothing more than to just run her fingers through every ringlet of golden curls, craving to feel the ivory skin under her fingers. It wasn’t until she felt Kira poking at her ribcage did her mind rattle back to reality.
“Aunti Cosima! Can we leave now?” the tiny girl pleaded, swinging her feet in anticipation.
With a glance around the large space, Cosima noticed families gathering their belongings and filing out of their seats and into the aisle.
‘Shit.’ Cosima grumbled to herself. ‘Really hope Sarah doesn’t plan on asking me if there was anything important.”
“Sure, kiddo.” She smiled. “Let’s go.”
The two filed out of the row, Cosima squatting to Kira’s level and helping her with her coat. Even though it was nearly December, the day was particularly cold, so Cosima bundled her niece up to the nine’s in winter wear- much to her dismay as she waddled around in the mass layers of fabric.
“All ready?” she asked, Kira nodding.
Cosima hoisted herself up from her squatting position with full force, underestimated the strength of her legs as she moved far too quickly and dizzied herself. The dreadlocked woman staggered backwards, preparing for a rough fall but instead feeling a warm hand catch her elbow, steadying her wobbly knees. She leaned into the embrace, gathering her feet under her while feeling a quick gasp and soft hair brush against the neck.
“Faites attention.” A low, gentle voice tickled her ear. Cosima’s eyes went wide, spinning around to be face to face with Kira’s teacher. ‘Definitely French.’ She thought as she gulped.
“Whoah. You’re taller than I thought you’d be.” Cosima sputtered, thinking out loud, sizing up the woman in front of her. Her eyes went wide then, dropping her head to stare at the floor. ‘Idiot’ she cursed to herself. ‘THAT’S the first thing you’re going to stay…stupid stupid stupid.’
The blonde woman shot her an unimpressed glance, folding her arms across her chest and fighting the smirk toying at the corner of her lips.
“I-em… you’re late.” She responded as collectively as possible. Cosima could see through it though, clearly spotting the smile she was desperately trying to bite back.
With a wide grin and an unannounced bravery, she extended her hand towards the French woman.
She watched the teacher stare at her hand for a moment, contemplating whether or not she should accept the gesture. Hesitating, not once- but twice, (much to Cosima’s consternation), she wrapped her hand around Cosima’s, shaking it gingerly. The simple touch send a wave of shocks right down to Cosima’s toes, amazed at how soft she felt.
“Delphine.” She said sweetly, her tone catching a different string as she finally offered a warm smile to Cosima, her entire body language changing at the subtle touch.
The brunette’s hands were warm, contrasting against the cool metal rings snugged over them. A familiar, yet frighteningly foreign warmth wrapped Delphine’s own fingers, trailing up her arms and across her body- just by the simple embrace. The blonde woman barely noticed Cosima’s eyes fluttering closed, her grip tightening the slightest bit as her own eyes did the same, relishing in the sensations.
“Or just Ms. Cormier to me!” a small voice piped in.
Both women pulled their hands away with a jump, staring down to the tiny girl who was poking her way between their legs. Cosima couldn’t help but gasp when their hands lost contact, the addictive comfort suddenly gone. Delphine laughed, trying to mask her similar feelings and instead crouching down to hug her student who was waiting with open arms. “Bonsoir, Ms. C!” she exclaimed, tossing her arms around her teacher’s neck.
“Bonsoir, Kira. I’m so happy you were able to make it.” She responded, her eyes pointed more towards Cosima than her student, who was blushing.
“Ms. C, this is my auntie Cosima! Mommy said she’s going to drop me off and pick me up from school now!”
“Is that so?” Delphine asked, standing up as Kira retreated back to her aunt’s legs. “I thought you looked familiar.”
“Yeah, ha. We’re identicals.” Cosima laughed, bringing her hand to back of her own neck, rubbing it nervously.
“Ah-ha, that explains it then.” Delphine smiled, poking the brunette lightly in the hip. Cosima sucked in a breath, trying her best to remain composed as Delphine’s fingers lingered a fraction a moment longer than they should have. “I was trying to figure it out since you walked through the door.”
“Can’t stop thinking about me, huh?” Cosima teased, her voice hoarse. Delphine scoffing at the comment, her jaw dropping and throwing her hands to her hips.
“You, Cosima. You…”
Cosima couldn’t help but let out a chuckle at the woman’s loss of words.
“What? Do I take your breath away, too?” she pressed on, trying her luck. Kira was giggling beneath them, used to her aunt’s flirtatious antics- but was more interested in seeing her teacher turn a beet red.
“You are cheeky.” Delphine settled with, eyes narrow and a thin smile pointed in Cosima’s direction.
The smaller woman all but shrugged, maintaining her cool, calm, and collected façade despite her whole insides morphing into butterflies.
Something about this woman had completely knocked her off her feet. It wasn’t any of the obvious; the accent, the hair, the body. Cosima couldn’t figure out what it was, but something was drawing her this Delphine Cormier. Maybe it was the chase, because this woman was clearly unimpressed by her. And what a great impression she had made so far what with being late and interrupting her meeting, bumping into her, making her uncomfortable with her impulsive comments. She’d kick herself for it later, but now- she didn’t really care.
“Auntie Cosima, are you ready?” Kira peered in again, tugging at Cosima’s pant leg. She looked down, breaking her long gaze with Delphine and rubbing Kira’s back.
“Yeah, monkey. Of course.” Cosima said, smiling and taking Kira’s small hand. “Again, really sorry about the whole late thing.” She added, feeling Kira pull her towards the door.
Delphine smiled, shaking her head slowly. “Don’t let it happen again, please. It is vital that Kira attends class on time. Meetings included.”
Cosima nodded, her free hand flying through the air in an assortment of patterns. Kira was tugging her towards the door now, but always like a gravitational pull, Cosima wasn’t ready to leave the blonde just yet. She was desperate to hear more of that accent, to see her face and feel her hands again. It was just something.
“Yeah, ha. Obvs. Let me make it up to you?” She offered, trying to mask the desperation in her voice. Much better than the ‘I need to see you again before I explode’ that she almost went with.
“Make it up to me?”
“Y-yeah!” she huffed, fighting against Kira’s oddly strong pull on her hand. “Just to show you that I’m not a tardy, cheeky American.” She joked, laughing awkwardly.
Delphine shook her head, laughing. Her hands moved from her hips and back to being folded across her chest, her walls rising around her once more. Everything was screaming at Delphine to say yes, to agree to see with woman once more and let her correct her name, her hands still buzzing from their brief encounter. Delphine’s heart was thumping with a speed questionable by normalcy, Cosima’s wide and desperate eyes not helping. But fear overrides temptation for the French woman, who shoo her head and looked away. “Non. I do not think so Cosima.”
“Aww come on-“
“Auntie Cosima, come on!” Kira cried, struggling as hard as she could to get her aunt through the door. Delphine laughed aloud at the sight in front of her.
“Okay, monkey. I’m coming, I’m coming. Just two seconds, Kira.” She debated, a loud groan coming from the child. She smiled, reverting her attention back to the less than impressed teacher staring back at her. Cosima cleared her throat, desperate to make a good impression. “So, you’ll let me make it up to you?”
“Non.” She said flatly, nearly flooring Cosima right then and there. Delphine stifled a laugh at the sudden change in facial expression from the woman. “Cosima! You did not even ask, you did not even say pl-“
“Please?!” she jumped, cutting the woman off. Delphine gawked at the American woman. Cosima chomped down on her own bottom lip, mocking the identical fashion the Frenchwoman was sporting before her. The desperation in her own voice already haunting her conscience.
“See you Monday morning, Kira. Have a good evening.” She settled on, grinning wide at her student and ignoring the comical please of the girl’s aunt.
Cosima pursed her lips, simpering. “Okay, I see what you’re doing.” She said with a tinge of laughter. “See you Monday… Ms. Cormier.” Cosima called as she was hauled through the door by the pint-sized five year old, cutting Delphine off before she had the moment to register Cosima’s insinuation.
“Don’t be late!” she managed to call after the pair. Delphine huffed, bringing the back of her hands to her cheeks, feeling the warmth of her blushing.
The moment Cosima was through the door, she glared at her niece, who was all giggles in response.
“Why so eager, monkey? I was having a conversation!” she whined jokingly, twirling Kira by the hand down the hallway, making the girl erupt in a deep belly laugh that resembled her father’s to a tee.
“Do you like Ms. C?” Kira asked, catching Cosima off-guard by her youthful curiosity and blatant questioning.
“Uh. Do you like her?” she asked.
Kira nodded, throwing her hands in the air as best she good with her large winter coat restricting her range of motion. “Of course! Ms. C is nice, and funny, and smart. And gives the best hugs!” she raved excitedly.
Cosima smirked, her mind wandering again and she swears she could still feel her elbow tingling from Delphine’s gentle grasp. She couldn’t help but feel a minute pang of jealousy towards the five year old for being able to have Delphine’s hugs at her beckon.
“The best hugs, huh?”
“Mhmm! She can be strict sometimes, too. But she tells us all the time that she loves us, and I love her, too. Mom and dad really like her.” Kira added, practically skipping at this point as she led Cosima out of the school building and into the cold, outside air.
Cosima shivered, but couldn’t promise that it was entirely due to the temperature. She peered down at the small child beside her, a goofy smile creeping on her lips as she watched Kira tilt her head back and try to catch snowflakes on her tongue.
“Do uh, do you think she’d like me?” Cosima asked tentatively. She rolled her eyes at herself, unable to believe she was holding onto the ledge of a five year-old’s answer.
Kira shrugged, and Cosima exhaled loudly. She couldn’t seem to get the woman’s face out of her mind, smiling at the face she gave her that clearly read “annoyed”.
“Maybe!” Kira determined. “I like you, auntie Cosima.” She added, surprising her aunt as she wrapped her arms around her waist the best she could. Cosima’s shoulders sunk, her heart fluttering at the spontaneous act of affection.
“Ohh, monkey. You know I love ya, no need to flatter me” She cooed, bending over to hug her quickly. “You’re the only girl I’ll ever need in my life.” Cosima sighed, pouting to nobody in particular.
“Love you too, auntie Cosima.”