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Come In From the Cold

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Their phone conversation lasts hours. Other students walk up behind her, waiting for their chance to make a call, but Liza is oblivious and clutches the receiver ever more tightly. She adds quarter after quarter to the machine, completely unwilling to break this bond—this web she and Annie are weaving through the phone lines back to each other.

“I want to know everything,” says Annie. “I want to know about everyone you’ve met, everything you’ve done, everything you’ve thought about.”

And Liza tells her. She tells her about friends, classes, professors, the architecture, the department, everything she can call to mind.

“And the campus, Annie…my gosh, the campus in all of this snow. Every time it snows I think of how badly I want to walk with you through it all and share it with you.”

They talk until the sky grows from grey to pink and both Liza and Annie are absolutely out of change. They spend ten minutes saying goodbye, piling each other with “I love you’s” long overdue. The phone clicks and their time has run out. 

She finds herself crying. The thrill of talking to Annie, Annie, again combines with the longing she has felt since they have last spoke and it is almost too much to bear.

--

Waiting at Logan Airport the next weekend, Liza picks imaginary pieces of lint from the sleeves of her sweater and stares at the flight directory. Oakland to Boston: On Time. Five minutes later the flight is still scheduled to arrive on time. Two minutes later. Ten minutes later. Liza cannot tear her eyes away for more than a few moments at a time, anxious as she is for the plane to roll onto the runway and for Annie, her Annie, to walk through the gate.

Liza grows from excited to nervous to anxious to terrified with every minute that passes. What if Annie has changed, she asks herself. They haven’t seen each other in months—in what feels like eternity. So much is still unsaid. Doubt grows in Liza’s mind. At first it’s small, just creeping in the corner of her thoughts, but it grows, crawling to the far reaches of her mind and blocks out the happy memories they once shared. Scenes of meandering through the museum, the park, the city, their city become so distant they feel untouchable.

She tries to reassure herself that there is nothing to fear but cannot help her fingers from trembling. She reads a newspaper while waiting when she can no longer stand looking out the window and willing the plane to appear.

Over the speakers the arrival of Annie’s plane is announced and Liza can feel every nerve in her body rise to the surface. Her fingers tickle and her turtleneck sweater feels too tight and her eyes dart back and forth, scanning for Annie before the plane actually rolls to a stop.

--

The nerves melt the moment Liza catches sight of Annie’s long, dark hair. A slow smile spreads across her face and she walks towards the girl in the oversized jacket. Their eyes meet at the same time and Annie gives a small yelp and throws her arms around Liza.

“Oh Liza!” She exclaims. “I’m so happy to see you.”

Liza is aware, so very aware, of the beating heart against her chest and the smell of her hair and the feeling of pure joy that comes from holding Annie close to her. She buries her face in Annie’s neck to try to stop the tears from welling behind her eyelids. But when she looks up, Annie’s eyes are shining and her cheeks are wet. 

“I’m so happy to see you too, Annie.”

--

They collect Annie’s luggage and walk through the airport hand in hand. Annie is talking a mile a minute about the flight, about the people she met on the airplane, about how strange it feels to come from somewhere so warm to somewhere so cold in only a few hours.

Liza nods along in agreement hearing everything Annie says, but is so distracted by everything about her. The sound of her voice, the gleam in her eyes, the way the winter sun reflects off of her hair—it’s all overwhelmingly beautiful and Liza can only marvel.

“Are you all right?” Annie asks as they board the T. “You’ve barely said a word.”

“You haven’t given me the chance,” Liza jokes.

Annie blushes and gives Liza a playful nudge. The connection is electric. Liza feels a shock run through the length of her body and by the look on Annie’s face, Liza knows she felt it, too.

During the ride to MIT, Liza points out Boston’s landmarks and shows Annie all of the places she promises to take her. Annie’s eyes are wide and Liza remembers how much she loves seeing Annie so enchanted by the world. Everything to Annie, it seems to Liza, is a divine mystery that only Liza can help her decode. Liza loves to fill this role.

--

They lug Annie’s suitcases up the stairs into Liza’s room. Her roommate has gone home already and there is no awkward explaining or tense introduction. Annie says she is disappointed not to meet her, but Liza thinks it’s just as well.

It takes some time to break down the tension in the room. The air is heavy with feeling, with words unspoken, with a strange but silent tug of war to get the other girl to take the lead. 

Annie moves around the room, tracing Liza’s books, her typewriter, a picture frame that sits on her desk.

“How did you get this picture?” Annie asks.

Liza looks over her shoulder and peers at the silver frame.

It’s a picture of Annie just after her recital last spring. Liza had borrowed her father’s camera and snapped the shot while Annie was being congratulated and praised. Her smile is wide and incredibly genuine and her eyes are glittering and Liza is certain there is no more beautiful person in the world.“I took it,” Liza says, and explains how she had covertly captured the moment.

Annie laughs softly.

"What?"

"It's nothing, it's just that...well, I was talking about you when you took this picture."

"I make you look this happy?"

"Yes, but it's nothing compared to the way you make me feel," Annie replies. She sits on Liza's bed and peers out the window at the snow covered grounds. Her hair falls from behind her ear and drapes her face. Liza wants to hold the strands between her fingers and feel them slip silkily across her fingers. She wants to inhale the scent of it; she wants to feel it warm against her face.

Liza takes a step closer.

"How do I make you feel?" She asks. Her hands are sweating and her mind is swimming with possibility.

Annie takes Liza's hand. It's cool and smooth, like glass, and feels welcome against Liza's own warm, tingling ones. Annie slips Liza's hand under the collar of her sweater against her heart and Liza is afraid she might faint.

Annie's heart beats fast against her hand, mimicking the pace of her own.

"This is how you make me feel, Liza," Annie whispers. "This is what you do to me."

Their eyes meet and their gaze is palpable.

Hands trembling Liza weaves her fingers into Annie's hair and lifts the girl's head ever so slightly to her own. Gently, gingerly, cautiously, their lips meet. Annie sighs softly and it's the most welcome sound to Liza's ears. 

The kiss grows deeper as fear and caution melts away. Teeth meet teeth, tongues touch, lips are captured in gentle nips and sucks. Liza positions herself on the bed, her legs straddling Annie's with her hands still in her hair. She's very aware of Annie's hands running up and down the length of her back and knows that under her corduroys and turtleneck she is covered in tiny goose bumps.

Liza surprises herself by whispering "lie back" to Annie and is even more surprised when she does and finds herself hovering above. She stares down, unable to take her gaze off of the beautiful girl below her. She's frozen in both fear and longing.

"Lize?" Annie asks, "are you all right?"

"Yes."

No.

"What's wrong?"

Liza dislodges herself and curls up next to Annie. 

"I'm just remembering the last time. How awful and scary it became, even though it started off so beautifully." A tear rolls down her cheek and she brushes it away in embarrassment. Annie watches her and strokes her face. The love in her eyes strikes Liza to the core and she rests her forehead against Annie's.

"Oh, my love. It's not like that anymore. Everything has changed. We're just us. Just two. No one else can say a word about us anymore." Annie kisses her on the forehead and wraps her arms around Liza's waist. "It's beautiful again now."

Liza allows herself to smile and kisses Annie again and again, quickly at first but growing slower, deeper, more passionate. Her hands roam up and down Annie's sides, toying with the hem of her sweater, toying with the small stripe of skin exposed. Annie shifts onto her back once more and Liza takes her place above her once again. 

Her hands move from face, to neck, to shoulders, and, hesitantly at first, to breasts. She traces the swell of Annie's chest slowly and hears Annie breathe in sharply.

Annie takes Liza's hands in her own and maneuvers them under her sweater. The softness of her skin against her fingertips is almost too much for Liza to bear, but when her hands crawl up to Annie's breasts she thinks she might actually faint. The desire that clouds her brain and pulses between her legs grows as she pulls Annie's sweater over her head and she is lying on her bed with her perfect skin and perfect breasts and perfect heart.

Liza dips her head down and places a kiss over each of Annie's nipples, and distinctly feels Annie's hands creeping up the front of her blouse, unbuttoning it with fumbling fingers. She slips the garment over her shoulders and lets it fall to the floor. Annie holds her breasts in her hands and rolls Liza's nipples between her fingers. Liza moans from the back of her throat at the sensation and presses her lips harder to Annie and draws a hardening nipple into her mouth.

Slowly, almost religiously they trace each other's bodies with eyes, fingertips and tongues. Jeans and corduroys get cast aside. They lie side by side, with only scant pieces of cotton separating the most intimate parts of their bodies. Liza holds Annie in her arms and revels in the sensation of their breasts pressed together, their heartbeats only inches apart now after what seemed like an eternity of separation, of what Liza thought was the end. 

"Liza," Annie whispers breathlessly, "I want you to touch me." 

"Are you sure?" Liza feels stupid even asking the question because she is dying to press her fingers into Annie and feel her at the very core--but there is a part of her that is clinging to some sort of unexplainable fear.

Annie takes her hand once again and slides it past the elastic waistband of her underwear. Liza gasps when she feels the shock of warmth and wetness between Annie's legs. 

"Of course I'm sure."

Liza slowly peels away Annie's underwear and is awed by the sight of her naked beauty. Her fingers, fearful but determined travel between Annie's thin thighs and brush against the coarse patch of hair.

Annie is warm and slick against her finger. She glides gently between Annie's lips and revels in the delicious moan that she releases when Liza's fingers cross over her clitoris. Liza draws light, slow circles with her thumb and sees Annie's eyes close.

"Oh Liza...." Annie shudders. Her hips are pressing against Liza's hand.

Liza guides her finger into Annie slowly, savoring the feeling of her tight wetness clenching around her. Annie's breath comes faster, her moans are higher, and she's pressing herself onto Liza with desperation and Liza has to struggle to keep her ministrations even and steady. When she curls her finger inside Annie and rubs against her walls, Annie cries out and bites her hand to stifle the noise.

 Liza feels Annie's fingers on her head, pushing her down--past her breasts, past her stomach.

"Please," Annie pleads.

"For you, my love, anything," Liza replies. 

This is so new. Before, they never dared; that was the last barrier that stood between them. Liza doesn't know how to start or what to do, but she does her best. She holds Annie's hips in her hands and presses her lips against Annie's thighs, kissing up from the outside until she can feel Annie' hair against her cheek and can smell her desire, heady and sweet. She pokes her tongue out from between her lips and licks curiously, then, after hearing Annie gasp, licks more intently, her tongue flicking over Annie's clit, dipping into her entrance, circling every part of her.

She looks up and sees Annie, head thrown back, eyes closed, moaning and gasping. Liza is shocked that she has this kind of affect on anyone--that she can cause another girl to completely come apart at the seams and lose herself in desire and pleasure. In that moment, Liza wants to be as close to Annie as possible. She slides two fingers inside her and sucks her clit between her lips.

Liza feels it at once: Annie's muscles growing more and more taut, her hips rocking higher, her breath becoming more ragged and Liza knows. She can see, feel, hear, taste Annie spilling over the edge. 

Annie gasps and digs her nails into Liza's scalp, and Liza is so lost in remaining constant and there that she doesn't register the pain. Annie gasps her name and Liza feels her melt. The rocking subsides and her breathing slows. Liza rests her head on Annie's stomach and kisses the skin there. Her mouth is still limed with Annie.

"I love you so much, Eliza Winthrop," Annie sighs.

"I love you too, Annie Kenyon."

--

They spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in Liza’s bed, learning and relearning each curve, each freckle, each reaction to each touch.

When they finally surface the sky is dark and snow is falling gently outside. Annie gets out of the bed and places a record on the record player.

“It’s not classical, but I thought…well I heard it at school and I thought of you.”

“Go ahead and play it,” Liza says, pulling a blanket around her shoulder. Annie places the needle on the record and climbs back into bed to listen.

 

Back in 1957 we had to dance a foot apart.                                                                                          

And they hawk-eyed us from the sidelines                                                                       

Holding their rulers without a heart.                                                                                          

And so with just a touch of our fingers                                                                                 

I could make our circuitry explode.                                                                                            

All we ever wanted                                                                                                                 

Was just to come in from the cold.

--

They listen to the song over and over and know what each other is thinking without saying a word. They hold each other and share stories and laugh and cry until the sky turns pink with daylight. Even then, Liza can’t quiet her mind long enough to catch any sleep.

“Annie,” She whispers, “Are you asleep?”

“No…” Annie says, though Liza can tell she was most certainly asleep.

“I love you. I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Oh Liza, I’m happy to be here, too. So very happy.”

She never wants to let go of this moment, of this feeling, of the complete satisfaction and wholeness she feels with Annie lying in her open arms.