“Leah, where do you want this box?” Fatin placed it down on the bed, noting a blonde who looked like a prime sorority candidate standing across from her with a cross dangling from her neck. “Oh, you are not Leah.”
“Hi there, no I’m not. I mean clearly.” She gestured to herself. “I’m Leah’s roommate, Shelby. Shelby Goodkind.”
The Texan twang and glimmer of pageant trophies had Fatin stilling because she didn’t know if Leah was out to her, let alone if the girl would be accepting.
“I’m Fatin.” She left out the rest, standing awkwardly as she tapped her acrylics against one another.
“You seriously brought three fucking boxes of food,” a shorter brunette girl said, dropping a large box onto her bed filled with what appeared to be pumpkin pies and dinners.
“My momma got carried away with the snacks and baked goods, and no food is as good as Texan food,” Shelby argued.
“Just tell her to send you a Trader Joe’s gift card or some shit next time, that was so many stairs.”
“And that is why I love you.” Shelby grinned. “Oh, Fatin, this is my girlfriend, Toni. Toni, this is Leah’s friend Fatin.”
“I’m sorry you're gay? You?” Fatin asked, shocked. She was not one for stereotypes but still, the shock was there.
“If you’re going to be homophobic, I suggest you find somewhere else to hang out,” Toni said sharply.
In what was perfect timing Leah walked in, pulling her girlfriend in for a kiss. “Hey babe.”
“Hey, do you have any more stuff or am I off free?”
“You carried like two boxes.”
“Yeah, and they fucked with my acrylics,” Fatin groaned.
“Wait you’re gay?” Toni asked.
“Duh.” Fatin grinned. “Obvi not homophobic, just surprised to see Shelby is what with the…”
“I meant more the pageant trophies lining the wall there. Southern pageant girls hardly scream queer.”
“Yeah, I think I was the only one.” Shelby laughed.
“Right, we are off to go to the bookstore.”
“Oh,” Fatin motioned towards the bookshelf. “I left you a few, you should be good for a couple of months.”
Fatin had spent as much time as possible annotating books over the past month, stacking them up one after the other in dated order so that Leah would have something in case her mood got low. It was a mix of all genres, everything from fantasy to non-fiction, many of which Fatin had struggled with yet pushed through on, knowing her girlfriend would love them.
“Are they all annotated?”
“Obvi.” Fatin kissed her briefly, grabbing her purse. “However, I know there’s probably new releases you want so we may as well head down now.” Leah devoured books, even mid-study she was consuming two a week at minimum. Fatin loved it, being able to sit on her bed and scroll through her feed or watch a show as Leah pried through the pages, smiling, laughing, or crying over what lay written between.
“God you really are gay.” Toni grinned.
Her own roommate was incredibly chilled, letting Fatin take whichever bed she pleased with her only dorm stipulation being that on Tuesdays she wanted to watch Survivor reruns undisturbed.
Dorothy -or Dot as her roommate corrected, smacking Fatin playfully whenever she used the full version- was insanely helpful. Always hit Fatin’s cheek with a pillow when she didn’t wake to her alarm, dropped her caffeine in a travel cup on her desk whenever she had an intense study session, and even told guys off for staring at Fatin’s ass whenever they went to parties.
She also got on with Leah and already knew Shelby vaguely from school, the four of them getting on as slowly their group expanded to include others. Martha, Toni’s foster sister, Nora, Leah’s friend from literature class, and Rachel, Nora’s sister who knew Toni from the sports program.
The bookstore here didn’t have the same warmth as Edith’s but a small coffee shop they found above a vinyl store did. Fatin ended up putting in an application and landing a job there that filled her Sundays and left her at least partially self-sufficient. (Not much, but it felt nice to be able to buy Leah a cute ring or meal and know she’d worked for it.)
But most of all, every Saturday at ten AM she would pull out her phone and open FaceTime, her and Leah making it routine to call Edith and update her on the goings on, the pair gave her a smartphone before they left as well as twenty pages of handwritten -very specific- instructions on its use. Though half the time they called her Edith’s camera would be flipped, instead showing them a view of her fluffy slippers and cats.
Fatin falls into a content hum of belonging. Something she rarely felt in high school was now prevalent in her new life. She gets used to being near Leah, often, and Leah does the same with her. Whilst they have their time apart it feels so natural to fall into one another’s space, the two growing closer with each day that passed.
Yet the thing that must still be noted is that Fatin did go on to hold up her end of the bargain with Edith. Every month she picks up a new book, annotates it with many a note, and doodles in the margins before leaving it under Leah’s pillow for her to find.
And every month, Leah thanks her with more love than she thought she ever deserved.
“I wrote you something.”
“Another book?” Leah asked, walking into their apartment as she dropped her bag in its usual place by her beaten-up Doc Martens.
“No.” Fatin took her hand, tugging her to their bedroom before seating her girlfriend on the bed, moving to take her own seat by the cello.
She swallowed thickly, fingers beginning to dance across strings that she hoped would convey what she thought of whilst writing it, Leah.
At the beginning, it’s slow with juxtaposing notes and the mystery of not knowing.
Then it soothes into something more predictable, rhythmic, and flowing but soft and calming.
There are faster notes and uncertainty from when they had fought, sections of which are repeated throughout; relationships were never complete sunshine. They did occasionally come to odds over things they could not control, but always they worked it out.
Her fingers began to move faster now, slipping into something she didn’t write. A section of one of Leana Del Rey’s sultrier songs that had played one evening when they made love more times than either could count after being parted for a month. (Leah had gone away on a long trip with college, prompting one of the aforementioned arguments.)
But then it changed, into something so emotive that tears dripped down Leah’s cheeks.
Fatin slowed to a stop, dragging out the last note as her finger bent the sound of it.
She placed the cello down, dropping to a single knee as she looked at Leah.
“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to spend a lifetime writing in books for you.”