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These Things We Learn

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"I think you're a hopeless romantic, who's discovered that romance is hopeless."

"Well, what do you think I ought to do?"

Nancy pursed her lips and looked over at Angela, putting one hand on her hip. Robert was good, after all. Robert was sensible. Robert had seemed like a perfectly good boyfriend until this whole incident with that... 'Giselle' this morning. It was so out of nowhere.

Angela sighed and shrugged. "Look, maybe you should talk to him."

"Talk to him? I'd rather talk to her."

"Then talk to her! Just... do something. You're getting all... mopey."

"I am not mopey."

"Yeah, right." Angela rolled her eyes, but playfully, and Nancy allowed herself a smile again.

"All right, all right. I'll... go round to the apartment and talk to them both. How does that sound?"



It was a dumb idea. Frankly, Nancy couldn't think of any other way to describe it, but there it was. But she had knocked on the door now, and she could hear Morgan on her way there. Nancy forced a smile onto her face as the door was opened and the young girl peered through.

"Hey, Morgan."

"Hello, Nancy."

"Wait, is Nancy there?" Robert's voice carried out from further inside the apartment, and Nancy winced as he appeared at the door as well, hauling it further open. "Look, please, I'm so sorry-"

She just smiled, slightly woodenly she knew but still a smile, and he cut himself off for her. "Look, Robert, I'm sorry about storming off like that. We should have just talked about this, like adults."

He stared at her open-mouthed for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, yeah, that's right. Morgan, honey, why don't you and Giselle-"

"I think Giselle should be there too," said Nancy quickly.

"Oh, sure. Er, why don't you go and tidy your room, whilst Daddy and Nancy - and Giselle-" he added carefully "-have a talk. Okay?"

"But Dad-"

"Please, Morgan."

Morgan gave a roll of her eyes that Angela would have been proud of, but went back to her room. There was another awkward second, then Robert opened the door fully and gestured for Nancy to come in. The apartment was still so clean; weird, that, as Morgan had said that they hadn't got a maid. Robert wasn't bad at cleaning, but he was nothing like up to this.

"You... you look nice," said Robert, pulling her back into reality from wondering how the floor in the hallway had been polished.

"Thank you," she replied automatically. She might have told Angela that she was coming here straight from work, but that hadn't stopped her from redoing her makeup in the car, brushing her hair, popping some gum into her mouth to just brighten up her teeth, and getting jewelry out from the box that she kept in the passenger's footwell. Perhaps undoing another button on her shirt had been unnecessary. It was too late to undo that now, as Robert closed the door and they walked back into the front room.

Giselle was on the sofa, her nose in a book. Well, Nancy found herself thinking, at least she can read. And is probably out of high school. The designer in her was also, she realised, looking over the strange dress that the girl was wearing. You didn't even see things like that outside of films!

She looked up as they entered the room, snapped the book shut, and got to her feet. "Oh, Nancy! I'm so sorry about earlier, I-"

"Giselle, let me," said Robert. Nancy looked pointedly at him.

"What, she can't speak for herself?"

Giselle looked from one to the other, then as Robert shrugged and turned his hands palm-up in a defeated gesture, she walked over to Nancy - even that movement had this weird, otherwordly quality to it that was undeniably beautiful - and clasped her hands, looking up with big blue eyes. "I just want you to know," she said, "that Robert and I most certainly did not kiss. I would never do that to anyone."

It was the sincerity in the tone of voice that stopped Nancy from getting offended over again by what sounded like one hell of a lie. She started laughing, then caught herself at the expression on the girl's face. "You're serious? You're actually for real?"

"But of course-!" Giselle started to protest. Robert stepped in again, putting his hand on Nancy's shoulder.

"She's for real. It's complicated. But nothing happened, Nancy, really."

"Robert, I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with this. Really, I-"

"Stay the night, then."

"What?" First there had been a rule on no-one staying the night, and now Robert was offering to have both of them there. Nancy could guess where that was going. She pressed her lips together again and shook his hand off.

"Right, because that's totally going to make me feel better about this."

"Giselle still hasn't found a way to get home, so she'll be staying here, but if you're more comfortable with that then you can stay as well. I'll have the sofa, and you two can have my room. That way, you know nothing's going on."

"Look, Robert, seriously-"

As if one of them having bad ideas for the day was not enough. Clearly it was just plain contagious. Nancy threw up her hands and was about to just back off and say that she believed him when there was a squeal of delight. She looked round, confusion flooding her features, only to actually remember that Giselle was there with them. Who could forget the girl, heaven only knew.

"Oh, what a wonderful idea! A sleepover! Oh, that would be so lovely!"

And how she had the energy to be that bright, heaven only knew. In the face of that, even Nancy had to relent.

"All right, all right. I'll go home, grab an overnight bag, be back here for dinner."

"That would be great. Thank you," said Robert, and kissed her on the forehead. At the door he stopped again, hand gently on her arm, and this time his voice was softer as he repeated; "Thank you."

It was hard to be angry with him sometimes.




She found out later that he wasn't the only one that it was difficult to be angry with. Dinner turned out to be a lot better than the takeaways that Nancy was used to seeing Robert turn out - he tried, but seemed to be better with the smoke alarm than the cooker - and they managed to hold a good conversation. Mostly about what Morgan was doing at school, with the occasional baffling detour as Giselle asked simple questions. How the school worked. What homework was. Had she been to school?

She was endearing, though, that much soon became apparent. And it was difficult to imagine anyone so innocent having made a move on a man. If Nancy had thought that Robert was the sort to look elsewhere, she would have been furious with him for corrupting Giselle. But no, she grudgingly accepted, it was clear that nothing had happened. It didn't stop it from becoming awkward, though, after Morgan was waved off to her own hastily-organised sleepover with a friend - she had been nagging for one for months, and was surprised to finally get her wish, but there you were - and the three of them were left alone in the house.

Robert volunteered to do the washing up, another surprise, and suggested that the girls get comfortable in his room. Giselle looked confused at that suggestion, her sweet lips curving into a slight frown, until Robert just waved his hand in a manner which suggested he was becoming more used to the confusion. "I'll be on the sofa tonight. Just... take your stuff into the double room."

"All right, Robert," she replied. And where the hell that accent was from, Nancy had no idea.

"I'll be there in a moment to grab some pyjamas," he added as the two women went to leave. Nancy hesitated for a moment, watching him through the doorway to the kitchen and wondering when he had become so domestic, then followed through into Robert's bedroom.

She'd seen it before: it had a slight bachelor-ness about it, the way that only one side of the bed was slept in and all of the furniture was so utilitarian. Plus that faint smell which suggested there were socks that had strayed from the laundry hamper. But it was quite neat and tidy, and really there was nothing at all strange about it.

Save for the enormous white dress that was propped up, apparently under its own support, in the one empty corner of the room.

Nancy lowered her bag to the floor, aware that she was staring at the dress as Giselle fussed around it, straightening bows and ruffles here and there. "Uh," she started, "is that...?"

"It's my wedding dress," sighed Giselle. She clasped her hands together and twirled on the spot. What person in real life acted like that? "I had to clean it after the sub-way, but now it's all ready again for when Edward comes to find me."

"Edward being..."

"My prince. We were supposed to be married, only now I have to get back to Andalasia first." Giselle turned to face Nancy, her smile just as innocent as ever. There was something about her that suggested... sparkles. Hearing anyone else speak like that would have had Nancy dialling the hospital, but from the strange red-haired girl it sounded somehow right. For a moment, though, she actually seemed to grow more serious - or rather, calmer, as she seemed quite serious about everything she said or did. "Robert said to me earlier that he wished to be married to you. Is that... true?"

If the words had been there for an answer, Nancy would have given them. Instead, she offered Giselle a dumb look. She and Robert had discussed the future, of course - he had this thing for discussing the future, as if the future was not merely a breath away from them at all times - but he'd never talked timescales. She was flattered at the thought that he might propose. At last, added part of her mind that Angela seemed more aware of than did she sometimes.

"Erm, yes," she finally managed, not wanting to disappoint that gently, hopefully curious look. "Yes, we've... spoken about it before." Nancy found herself laughing; Giselle looked at her as if she was the mad one at first, then joined in just as the door opened.

Robert looked from one to the other in mild consternation. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing, nothing," said Nancy, already getting the feeling that given half a chance, Giselle would spill the whole story. "Say, what about we watch a film this evening? It isn't that late yet, after all."

"A film?" Giselle looked round to Robert, tilting her head to one side.

"Yeah, a story, in pictures," he said. Nancy suppressed another laugh at the deadpan tone and expression which he used. "Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. I'll grab a bottle of wine, and... why don't you choose, Nancy?"

"No, I think we should let our guest choose..."

"You're a guest as well," he said earnestly. It was meant, she could tell, as nothing more than a justification for letting her choose, but with what Giselle had just said about marriage it stung anyway. Nancy had to force the next smile.

"Sure, I'll do that."



She found herself watching Giselle more than the film. The girl sat on the edge of her seat, both hands curled around the glass of wine that she occasionally, distractedly, drank from, eyes fixed on the television and utterly aglow. That was even after she had clapped her hands and squealed with delight at seeing the DVD in the first place, something which had baffled Nancy but which Robert seemed to shrug off. Was the girl from some sort of Amish community or something? Perhaps that would make more sense, even if she didn't look the part.

But... Giselle lit up. Sitting in front of Some Like It Hot, watching the stars of the monochrome screen, she gasped and laughed and clung to the edge of her seat at all of the appropriate moments with the story reflected in her eyes. And with her lips parted in uncertainty and tension towards the end - tension from this film, of all things - there had been a light around her.

Robert reached across a couple of times, and squeezed Nancy's arm. She would look round, smile back, then turn back to the film for a while before, again, watching Giselle's ingenue responses to the whole spectacle.

The last line, though? That just left her puzzled.

"Well, perhaps we should call it a night," said Robert as the credits rolled. "It's still not that late, but... well, it's been a busy sort of day, I suppose."

"Yes, it has," said Nancy. She got to her feet and finished off the wine in the glass, before setting it down onto the coffee table. "And we ought to sort everything out before Morgan gets back from Emily's tomorrow. Good night, Robert."

He kissed her on the lips, a chaste little peck that made her heart flutter again in a way that she had half forgotten, and she murmured another goodnight then turned to follow Giselle into the bedroom. Odd that the first time she was going to stay in his apartment, it was going to be with another woman.

Even odder, then, that when she did actually get into the room, Giselle was already naked. She'd presumed that the girl would have pyjamas or something, but apparently not; Nancy stopped in the doorway, her mouth an 'O' of surprise, trying not to say anything. Anything at all, really, considering that Giselle was just sitting on the edge of the bed, quite nude, with the ribbons from her hair beside her on the covers and her deft fingers weaving a braid instead.

Giselle smiled, then looked a little confused instead. "Nancy? Are you all right?"

"Oh... yeah, sure. Did you, uh, not bring any night stuff with you?"

"Oh, no, it's really not that cold!"

Thank goodness Robert had found her, then, and not someone else entirely. Nancy just shrugged it off, then let herself into the bathroom to change into her nightgown, brush her teeth and wash her face, then returned to the room to find that Giselle was now snuggled up under the covers, holding them almost up to her chin.

"My, this is going to be so much fun. We can swap stories and-"

"Tell secrets?" Nancy smirked as she walked round to the far side of the bed and climbed in. Well, at least Robert had changed the sheets today, by the feel of things.

"Oh, yes! A real sleepover!"

Nancy couldn't help laughing at that one. "Aren't we a bit old for Truth or Dare?" Before Giselle had a chance to reply, she waved it off and lay back, pulling the covers up around her and watching Giselle snuggle into place. She propped herself up on one elbow and looked down at the redhead. "You meant what you said earlier, right? About not kissing Robert?"

"Of course! Really, I wouldn't do anything like that."

"You've never gotten drunk and hit on someone else's boyfriend? Wow, you've had a good youth."

"'Hit on'?"

"You know, tried to pick up. Flirted with. Hooked up with. 'Kissed'." Nancy spoke teasingly, though she was still smiling. The girl was just too sweet to really say anything mean to, but that didn't mean that she wasn't going to take advantage of the 'sleepover' to learn a bit more about her.

Giselle looked utterly shocked at the suggestion, though. Strange girl. "Oh no. I've never done anything like that."

"Because of your Prince Edward, right?" Well, she supposed that might make sense. "Waiting for marriage and all that?"

"Yes!" Giselle wriggled happily, still smiling, and then turned onto her side as well. "And now I've found my Prince, and soon he'll come for me again, and we'll share... True Love's First Kiss."

There was this weird mysticism in her voice as she said it. But there was a glow on her face as well, and Nancy couldn't help finding it utterly endearing to see the way that she spoke. It was... cute. There were a lot of things about Giselle that counted as cute, actually, when you stopped and thought about it. Like she was something out of a fairytale instead. It didn't make it any weirder to try and picture her in the real world, but it did make it easier to just... put her in a different world altogether. "I remember my first kiss," Nancy mused aloud. "Derek, in seventh grade, at the Winter Ball. Funny how you remember things like that, huh?"

"You kissed a man that wasn't Robert?" Giselle gasped, eyes widening, one hand moving up to her mouth. Nancy quirked an eyebrow in response.

"Sometimes a kiss is... just a kiss. You know, like not all kisses are going to be True Love's First. I mean, wow, kisses were the least of my worries. What, you've never kissed before?"

Green-blue eyes went wide as the girl shook her head. Nancy reached over and tugged down the blanket slightly to reveal all of her face.

"I mean, if True Love's First Kiss is the important one, then the others don't necessarily matter so much, do they?"

There was a pause, as if Giselle was thinking about it. And then Nancy found herself doing something that even she had not expected, as she reached across the bed to initiate a kiss. She heard a surprised little gasp as their lips met, then as she pressed them closer together there was a flicker of movement in return. She slid closer across the bed, sliding her hand up to brush against Giselle's hair; she smelt so sweet, Nancy realised, almost flowery.

It had been quite a while since she'd kissed another girl. Of course, it had been in college that she'd realised that she was bi, when what had meant to be experimenting had gotten a little more serious than she had expected. And she'd been okay with that. I mean, Prince or Princess, she supposed that either could come and sweep you off your feet. Metaphorically, at least. But as she'd gotten older, the liaisons with women had just gotten further and further between, and it had been a few years before even Robert that she had last kissed another. She'd almost forgotten how different and soft a woman's lips felt.

She drew away, only to find Giselle looking at her with wide, uncertain eyes. Not upset, though, and not exactly frightened... just a little, yeah, uncertain. "What?" said Nancy, finding herself a little breathless. "You never realise that you could kiss another girl?"

Come on, even pop culture had gotten hold of that one. But Giselle shook her head, once again, then bit her lip just gently and leant back in to offer another kiss herself. Nancy accepted the offer, willingly, slipping closer across the sheets and reaching to twine their arms together, closing her eyes and wondering whether this cliche of a sleepover was anything like what Robert had expected when he had suggested that they stay.




Giselle was a quick learner, she had to give the girl that. From kisses to caresses to little nips of the teeth, and her hands had this exploratory delicacy about them. The most innocent sex that Nancy had ever experienced, but that didn't stop it from making her head rush as she pinned Giselle to the bed, kissing her over and over again, slipping one hand down between her thighs. Because she made this delightful little whimper when Nancy touched just there, and-

The door opened. "Are you girls all-" Robert didn't get any further into the sentance as he walked in, frowning slightly, only to look beyond shocked even though Nancy was pulling away again and Giselle was pulling up the covers to hide her breasts. No, clearly he hadn't been expecting that. "I, er..."

"Oh! Robert! I..." Giselle seemed to be about to say something, then stopped and bit her lip instead. Nancy couldn't tell if she was blushing or still just flush-cheeked from their previous activities.

"Isn't it a guy's dream to find two women in their bed?" she asked instead.

Robert looked from one to the other, and then back again. Oh lord, what was she even doing? "I... I think dreaming would be the best reasoning for this right now."

"If it's a dream then you might as well come join us," added Nancy. This evening felt like a dream already; what was the point in pretending that it wasn't anything else? She got out of bed, crossed the room and closed the door behind Robert. "Come on, then. I told you before that I was bi, didn't I?"

"Well, yes, er... well..." Robert trailed off into silence, so Nancy kissed him on the mouth instead. "You're serious."

"Of course," she replied firmly. Playing the damsel in distress was all very well, but sometimes it worked better to take charge of the situation. She slipped the straps off her nightgown off her shoulders and let it slide to the floor, then looked over her shoulder to Giselle. "You okay with this?"

"I didn't know it could be done with three people."

"Oh, it can." Ah, college. That font of learning experiences. "Come on, Robert. I think we've all got a lot to learn tonight."

She coaxed him out of his clothes, led him back to the bed. He kissed her shoulders as she returned her attention to Giselle, reaching round to fondle her breasts. Giselle gasped when Robert kissed her as well, then Nancy shifted round so that the girl was in the middle, the centre of both their attention. She stroked smooth flesh, took hold of firm, small nipples, then when Giselle was facing her she started to slide her mouth down the girl's body, sucking and kissing at her chest, her belly, down to the core of her body. Giselle gasped as fingers slipped between the curls of hair and spread her lips, then moaned and shuddered as Nancy applied her tongue, slow strokes exploring the sweet-salt taste.

Robert's hands were making their moves as well, of course, and then when he entered Giselle she gave a soft cry, bucking her hips, and Nancy slid up to kiss her on the mouth again and to guide her hand down. Even without a lot of experience, she had a suspicion that Giselle would learn this fast enough as well.

Oh yes, she had a suspicion that Giselle was going to turn out to be an awfully fast learner.