Lena Oxton was ten when she fell in love for the first time.
She’d begged her mother not to stick her with another babysitter – they were old and smelly and wouldn’t ever let her stay up past her bedtime even though she was almost eleven and practically an adult. So what if she was small for her age?
Every babysitter she’d ever had had quit, telling her parents in hushed whispers they thought Lena couldn’t hear that ‘the child is simply too energetic’ and ‘these old bones cannot keep up with her’ and Lena agreed whole-heartedly.
So when her parents had announced that they had found the perfect babysitter for her – ‘she’s not that much older than you, sweetheart, and she’s French, can you believe it?’ – she’d figured it would be another fluke. Some barely-awake lady who would sit on the couch and tell her to watch TV when all she wanted was to go outside and play with her toy planes.
She’d been wrong.
When the entrance door opened and Lena caught her first glimpse of ‘her name is Amélie, dear, please behave’ , her defiantly raised chin fell, along with her lower jaw.
The girl was pretty. Really pretty.
An adult, but not old like her parents or her teachers at school, and with longer hair than Lena had ever seen on anyone else.
Her face looked like one of the doll’s Lena had stashed away in a corner of her toybox along with every other unwanted present she’d ever gotten – princess carriages and plastic ponies – and now she felt like maybe she shouldn’t have dismissed them so easily.
“Lena, say hello to Amélie.”
The woman crouched down to her level and offered her a hand. Her expression was serious, the stretched smile Lena was so used to from her other babysitters absent, but even though her slim palm was cool when Lena reached out to grasp it, something about it felt comforting. And she smelled good, too, not like the heavy and cloying perfume Lena hated.
She tried to greet her, but the words wouldn’t come.
“She’s not usually this shy,” her father declared with a chuckle. “I’m sure she’ll warm up to you right quick.”
Amélie rose and Lena wanted to reach for her hand again. “Of course.”
Her accent was a bit strange, but not unintelligible. Lena found that she liked it.
“Now be good, sweetheart. We’ll be back before you know it.”
They turned to leave and all Lena could do was nod meekly and steal glances at the woman beside her.
When she was twelve, Lena began to understand the difference between friendship and attraction.
Her parents had started going out more and more often ever since the ‘babysitter situation’ had been resolved – ever since they’d found someone who didn’t let themselves get scared away by their only daughter’s boundless energy.
Lena hadn’t protested once.
She had never seen a reason to complain. She liked having Amélie around - a lot - although lately something had…changed.
She couldn't quite put her finger on what it was, but it made her behave strangely whenever she caught sight of her. It made her all but fall down the stairs in her haste to greet her when she heard the lilting French accent Amélie couldn't, or didn't want to, get rid of. It made her eager to follow Amélie's orders when, by all rights, she should have protested.
It made a peculiar sensation brew in the pit of her stomach when Amélie looked at her with cool, hard eyes. Like metal, like gold, honed to a sharp edge.
As odd and new as it all was, Lena didn't mind so much. Because staying still and calm meant that, sometimes, Amélie would talk about herself.
It took hours of prodding and it earned her quite a few glares - they made her shiver, somehow, made her heart pound with something that wasn't quite fear and wasn't quite unpleasant - but Amélie relented.
She lived alone and had just started college, doing some babysitting and tutoring on the side to help with her finances. She thought Brits couldn't cook. Her body temperature was always a bit lower than normal. The only flowers she liked were dark ones.
Lena soaked it all up like a sponge, not quite sure why she wanted, needed, to know so much about her, but eager for more all the same.
Perhaps it was because Amélie always seemed just a bit softer when she was talking, her sharp edges blunted. Perhaps it was because sometimes Amélie drifted off as she told her stories, because whenever Lena started fidgeting, her natural instincts telling her to move, her hand would find the top of Lena's head and smooth over her hair distractedly.
Lena was sure Amélie didn't know she was doing it, but she leaned closer anyway to bask in the rare bit of attention.
The change had happened gradually, but realization came with a bang.
It came during an evening that should have been like all the others, after dinner and after Lena had had to swear to not break anything while Amélie took a shower to get rid of the day's grime.
Lena hadn't intended to peek. She hadn't.
She'd wanted to bring her fresh clothes, nothing more, and she couldn't have known the door would open just when she stood in front of it. She couldn't have known that Amélie dressed in nothing but a towel and with drops of water running down her pale, doll-like face and down her collarbones to soak into scratchy fabric would throw her world off-kilter and put the warmth in her belly and cheeks into sudden, stark perspective.
Even after Amélie had accepted the folded clothes with a nod and disappeared back into the bathroom, Lena stood there like a statue, her young mind in turmoil.
That night, when her hands delved beneath the covers for the first time, she came with Amélie's name on her lips and the imaginary touch of her fingers in her hair.
At fourteen, Lena got her heart broken.
She didn’t need a babysitter anymore, probably hadn’t needed one in years, and she knew her time with Amélie was rapidly coming to an end. She knew whatever chance she had, whatever chance there was to make the woman – doll-faced and tall and cold, older now but no less harsh and no less beautiful – understand was running through her fingers like sand.
She’d bought flowers. Dark ones, as dark as the clothes Amélie liked to wear or the shade of her lipstick.
Lena didn’t know what she was doing, but she held out the bouquet with trembling fingers anyway. Smoothed down the fabric of her shirt. Tried to stand taller, appear more mature than she was, appear worthy.
“I’m in love with you.” The words themselves came easy, because Lena had practiced saying them for years now, had mouthed them to herself late at night or at the closed door after Amélie had left. Nothing was certain except that she loved her.
In her dreams, she’d imagined Amélie smiling at her confession. Not a big one, but one that fit her – small and distanced, amused but pleased.
But Amélie’s smile was none of those things.
The corners of her mouth stretched wide, her eyes remaining cool and unimpressed and a sheen of cruelty the only spark in her otherwise closed-off impression. It made Lena shiver.
“Foolish girl.” Amélie laughed and the sound cut into her like a knife. “You don’t even know what love is.”
There was something bitter in her tone, but Lena ignored it in favour of stepping closer.
“I do,” she insisted, miffed at having her feelings questioned. “I may be young, but I’ve fancied you for years and if you just give me a chance-“
Slim fingers wrapped harshly around her jaw. “You do not know me, chérie.” Amélie’s piercing gaze flicked down to the flowers clutched in Lena’s hand. “I don’t want your flowers. I don’t want your feelings. I don’t want you.”
The rejection hurt. More than it would have if Amélie had brought up concerns for morality, for Lena’s age, because Lena could have waited. She could have waited a few more years, until she was eighteen or twenty-one or thirty, and perhaps then Amélie might have been willing to give her a shot.
“Whatever feelings you have will fade,” Amélie continued, cruelly dismissive, and robbed Lena even of the touch of her hand on her face as she turned away. “So save your affections for someone who knows what to do with them.”
Amélie left and Lena could only watch helplessly as the door fell shut, the flowers in her hand suddenly feeling cold and heavy. Like lead.
She didn’t expect Amélie to ever come back, and she was right. ‘She’s so busy with college, sweetheart, and I’m afraid she won’t be able to look after you anymore’ was what her parents had said, but Lena knew better.
The dark bouquet wilted away on the kitchen table.
When Lena was sixteen, everything changed.
“Sweetheart, we’re going out. Remember, your tutor is coming over in a few minutes.” Her parents were already dressed up and packed to go and Lena kissed them both on the cheek before bidding them goodbye. “Don’t worry, I’ve got my books all ready.”
She didn’t much care for college. Most of her plans involved going to flight school, but she was determined not to disappoint her parents.
In hindsight, choosing French class might have been an unreasonably emotional choice her current grades made her regret. Her parents hadn’t told her who they’d paid to play tutor for her and Lena hadn’t thought to ask – it didn’t matter.
She should have.
Perhaps if she’d known, if she’d had time to prepare, she wouldn’t have felt the floor slide out from beneath her feet when the bell rang and she opened the door to come face to face with the person she’d dreaded and longed to see again for the past two years.
“What are you doing here?” she blurted out, stupidly, and couldn’t bring herself to move aside as Amélie brushed past her.
She was as beautiful as Lena remembered. It had only been two years, two years that had felt like a lifetime to her, but somehow Lena had expected Amélie to look different. She’d expected the gap between them to seem even more unbridgeable than ever – instead it had closed rapidly.
Lena had stopped growing sometime during the summer and she suspected she’d always have to look up at other people, but she’d also lost the softness of childhood and the roundness in her cheeks.
Somewhere along the way, she’d grown into something very close to an adult and a part of her, a tiny part, wondered if Amélie could see it.
"Your parents said you need tutoring in French, no?" Amélie raised a mocking eyebrow as she sat in one of the kitchen chairs, her legs crossed primly and her entire demeanour far too casual for the woman who had crushed Lena's heart beneath her killer heels two years ago. She drew the tip of a finger along the spine of the text book on the table next to her. "So I am here."
Lena shook her head and stepped closer, ignoring how the sight of her former babysitter sitting in front of her as though nothing had happened, as though she wasn't still as cold and gorgeous as she'd always been, made her heart flutter and warmth spread in her limbs.
Two years. Two years in which her feelings had only grown - like a cancerous vine wrapping around her neck to strangle her.
"That's no reason. You shouldn't be here," she hissed, drawing her shoulders up defensively when Amélie stared at her outburst. She'd had a long time to come to terms with herself and what she wanted, so the low throb of arousal in her gut as the other woman glared and shook her head scornfully wasn't surprising.
Unwelcome, but not surprising.
Too many nights had been spent biting her knuckles and convulsing around her own fingers with the imaginary purr of a smoothly accented voice whispering commands and scathing insults into her ear while she pictured a slim, pale hand working harshly between her legs and the cruel glint of teeth in the darkness.
Amélie stood, her long frame towering over Lena easily, and Lena pressed her arms tightly against her sides to stop herself from doing something stupid and embarrassing.
The woman cocked her head, cool golden eyes sweeping over Lena's appearance and full lips pursing as she seemed to think over her next words.
"I do not know what you are talking about."
Lena blinked. "Excuse me?"
Amélie cocked her head, brow furrowed in honest-to-god confusion above otherwise stony features. "Why are you angry?"
Had there been any space for an emotion other than incredulous anger, Lena might have laughed. "Two years ago," she spoke, almost tripping over the words in her haste to choke them out. "You rejected me, remember? And then you went and never bloody showed up again!"
She hadn't just rejected her. She'd made it clear that Lena was no more than a job to her, a boundlessly energetic annoyance whose parents paid good money and whatever sort of connection Lena might have formed, it was ridiculous of her to have thought it was reciprocated.
Amélie chuckled and Lena didn't know whether she wanted to kick her or kiss her.
"You do not really expect me to remember that little detail, do you?" There it was again, the stretched grin that broke her doll-like facade. Two years ago, Lena had simply thought it off-putting and unnatural - now she noticed the stiffness of her lips and brows.
Now it somehow seemed...forced.
"You were fourteen back then, chérie. You should have forgotten as well."
Lena wanted to be angry at her dismissiveness, at having her feelings relegated to 'a little detail', but she couldn't find it in her. She still felt it, that tugging in her chest and limbs that urged her to make Amélie see, to grab her and hold on until the other woman understood that she wasn't going away.
She wasn't going to wake up one day and realize her feelings had been a mistake.
"I haven't," she insisted, back straight and for once feeling like she wasn't just pretending to be an adult. "And I'm not going to."
Amélie's cheek twitched. "You don't-"
"I do know." The glare the other woman directed at her made Lena quake in her shoes, but she'd always been too stubborn and too damn optimistic for her own good. "I've loved you then and I love you now and that's not going to change."
Lena wanted to get closer, but a hand around her throat stopped her mid-step.
"I am not like your friends," Amélie growled and emphasized it with a squeeze of her fingers. "I am not like the innocent boys and girls in your classes. I am not the pure little fantasy you want to imagine."
She wasn't pure, no, and she wasn't like the people Lena called her friends - but she was her fantasy.
Lena pressed against the hand constricting around her neck until her heart pounded, until Amélie's eyes widened almost imperceptibly.
"I know." Her voice was wispy from the lack of air, her thoughts blurring, but it only caused heat to spill in her stomach. It only made her wet. "I want that."
Amélie’s eyes widened - just a fraction, just a hint of uncertainty amidst the icy arrogance, and Lena took the opportunity. She surged forward, past the loosening grip on her throat, and molded her lips tightly against the other woman’s.
It wasn’t harsh or demanding, but a plea. A plea for concession and just a small chink in the armour Lena might be able to squeeze through, a moment of weakness that could give her what she’d been craving since she was old enough to understand the concept of attraction.
“Lena,” Amélie growled against her lips in warning and pulled back. “Stop this.”
If she could, Lena would have reclaimed the softness of her mouth, the touch that made her ribcage thrum with every beat of her heart, but she’d never been able to disobey the authority in her voice. Had never wanted to.
So instead of grabbing her face and claiming her lips until she gave in or forcibly removed her, Lena sank to her knees. The carpet was scratchy underneath her when her knees touched the ground and she didn’t miss how the muscles in Amélie’s legs stiffened in surprise.
“Please.” She pressed her face against the other woman’s thigh, rough fabric brushing against her cheek. It was a humiliating position on too many levels and Lena had imagined herself in exactly this position too many times to feel embarrassed by it. Even if Amélie ridiculed her for it later, even if she shoved her away in disgust, even if she never came back, Lena would always have the memory of her smell and her skin so near to cherish.
She nuzzled the sliver of skin visible in the gap between waistband and turtleneck - both dark and expensive, almost softer than the flesh underneath - carefully, reverently. Desperate and hoping beyond hope to be granted just a couple more moments to sate the never-ending want in her bones.
Amélie’s stomach rose in a startled breath as Lena pressed a kiss to the soft skin, fine, barely visible hairs tickling her nose and lips. She wanted to drag her lips lower, to lick a path down from her stomach to below her waistband and worship every inch of flesh she could find, but her inexperience had her rooted to the spot. She knew what she wanted, but not what would be appropriate.
Experimentally, she brought her hands up to grasp the backs of the other woman’s thighs and pull her closer. The tip of her tongue darted out to trace one subtly protruding hipbone, her fingers twitching and digging into softly rounded flesh.
Amélie sucked in a sharp breath.
It was the first sound she had made, the first sound that signaled that she was aware of her touch, and it slid down Lena’s spine to settle warmly south of her bellybutton. When she looked up shyly, she met heated gold. Gaze still hard, still sharp metal instead of liquid warmth, but focused and here, and Lena was too distracted to notice Amélie’s movement until she’d gripped a fistful of her hair and yanked her up and to her feet mercilessly.
Anger. White-hot anger upon the woman’s delicate face that made Lena press her thighs together to soothe the demanding pulse of arousal.
“You are making a fool of yourself,” Amélie hissed, shoving her away until she bumped painfully into the edge of the table. “Cowering and pleading like a dog begging for a treat.”
Amélie stalked closer. The words were meant to humiliate and agitate her, to make her back away and flee, Lena knew that, but her nipples hardened in response to the tall form towering over her and the casual cruelty hidden beneath a porcelain face.
The other woman’s eyes flicked down, to her chest, where the outlines of her hard nipples were visible to anyone who cared to look. As rapidly as her breasts had been growing over the years, Lena still only rarely bothered with a bra - a habit she’d been told to shuck but one which now made Amélie’s features freeze for the shortest of moments and her throat move in a hard swallow.
“What did you expect?” Amélie’s question threw her, confused her far more than the weight of a body suddenly pressing down on her and keeping her trapped against the flat surface of the table. The corner of a text book dug into one of her shoulder blades.
She hovered above her, body pushing into the space between her thighs, and Lena could barely choke out the word, much less think clearly when the edge of a hip bone ground hard against the seam of her pants. She groaned, back arching even as Amélie settled more firmly against her - stomachs and chests molded together, heat and friction sending a delicious shiver of pleasure along her spine.
“I said,” the older woman snarled and burrowed her nails into Lena’s cheeks, keeping her focused. “What did you expect? When you saw me here tonight, what did you think would happen? What were you thinking two years ago?”
There was no opportunity to answer, not when Amélie's hand suddenly slipped between their bodies and popped open the button on Lena's jeans, the zipper following her fingers' descent into her underwear and the heat between her thighs.
She dipped carelessly between the folds, giving a harsh swipe through the overabundant wetness she found, and Lena bit her lip to stop a moan from escaping.
“Did you think I would give in just because you want it? Because you are wet for me?”
Lena couldn’t remember what she had thought, or what she was thinking now, because Amélie was mean and insulting, but she was touching her, dragging a long finger up her center and around her clit in a tight circle. Her legs spread wider on instinct.
“Answer me, chérie.” The older woman glare down at her, at the pleading roll of her hips, and scoffed. “Did you expect me to swoon and play house with you?”
When the tip of her finger slid down to stroke her entrance - feather-light and maddening - Lena whimpered. She’d dreamed of this so many times, had pictured vividly what it would be like to have those long, slender fingers take her, and the table underneath her creaked as she chased the sensation she craved with an insistent jerk of her lower body.
Amélie bared her teeth, too raw to be called a grin. “Or is this what you wanted all along?” She pushed in, just an inch, but Lena’s muscles clamped down on the intrusion. Whether to pull her in further or due to the unfamiliar feeling of it, Lena couldn’t tell, and she didn’t care when Amélie continued to speak. “A quick fuck on the kitchen table with an older woman?”
Age had never entered Lena’s mind as anything but an obstacle. She had never considered Amélie’s experience as something to covet, had only ever thought of sex with her because she was Amélie, because she liked her and wanted her - her, not just anyone with years far ahead of her own.
“No,” Lena finally managed to choke out, breathless from the pumping of her heart and the throb of arousal between her legs, underneath the other woman’s palm. “I just-”
Amélie shut her up with another inch of her finger. “You just what? Thought flowers and childish confessions would be enough to seduce me?”
Her laugh caused goosebumps to rise along Lena’s arms. The finger sunk deeper, up to the second knuckle, until Amélie had found what she was searching for. A thin barrier Lena had never quite had the nerve to break herself.
“Did you expect me to be gentle?” Amélie grimaced, like the very thought made her nauseous. “Did you say you love me because you thought I would be good to you?”
Her hand twitched, jerking, grinding deliciously, but she did not take the last step even as Lena’s hips trembled and her wetness coated Amélie’s palm - running, dripping down her wrist.
Lena licked her lips, her grip on the edges of the table leaving her knuckles white and aching, and she didn’t know how to respond beyond panting harder, beyond tensing her muscles in anticipation of whatever the other woman was willing to give her.
“Are you disappointed? Angry?” Too many questions, none of which made sense to Lena’s addled brain and none of which seemed relevant when Amélie was atop her, in her. “Do you wish you could take back your words?”
She pressed her palm down to grind against Lena’s clit, hips rolling against the back of her own hand to put more strength into it, and Lena gave a startled groan, the sudden stimulation almost enough to make her miss the tone in Amélie’s voice. Not questioning, but demanding, challenging her to say she’d been wrong, to prove that she hadn’t know what she was getting into when she’d confessed her feelings two years ago.
It took all her strength to pry one hand away from the table, but she reached out to work it between their bodies and cover Amélie’s in a trembling grip.
“Please,” she whimpered and pushed, bucked, rubbed herself harder against suddenly stiff finger inside her. “Please, Amélie. I want it.”
She wanted the insults and the cruelty as much as she wanted the touch of her hand in her hair, wanted her glares just as much as the hints of a smile resting in the corners of her full lips.
She wanted her.
The other woman flinched and growled, frustration or anger or both, a spark in her eyes Lena fervently wanted to be arousal. Something almost like confusion as Lena tightened around her in response.
“Why...” Amélie hissed, an unfinished question muttered under her breath and doomed to remain unanswered when she groaned through gritted teeth and plunged inside her in a single thrust.
Lena cried out sharply. The sting was barely noticeable, soothed by arousal and wetness and the feeling of Amélie buried in her up to the knuckle, but the sudden pressure of teeth digging into her neck broke through the haze. Whether punishment or not, Lena’s inner muscles clenched as a pulse of arousal shot straight to her groin.
Amélie moved. First in slow pumps, in and out and threatening to drive Lena mad, then in faster thrusts and with her finger curled to hit a spot that made Lena’s vision turn momentarily white.
Lena wasn’t aware what kind of noises left her mouth - please and bloody hell and Amélie - and she didn’t care. Both of her hands found the other woman’s sides, her back and then her shoulder blades, nails digging into the soft fabric of her sweater.
“What do you want from me?” Amélie breathed against her neck, puffs of warm air brushing against her skin. The words sounded strained, tense, but also heated. “I cannot give you nice.”
She lifted her head and stared down at her flushed face and bleary eyes, gaze calculating. Lena shook her head, even as the heat in her stomach spiked.
“I don’t- I don’t need you to.” Knowing it was one thing, admitting it out loud another, but the palm rubbing her clit made it laughably easy to spit out the words. “I like it when you’re mean.”
There was no discernable change of expression, but Lena recognized the quick intake of breath. The quick flick of a tongue over dry lips.
And when her head was wrenched back and brutal fingers pulled at her hair, she moaned - just a little wetter now, her legs spreading a little wider.
The second finger came without a warning - sudden pressure against her entrance, thickness sinking into her with an obscene sound - and there was no discomfort in the flinch of her body as Lena reared up to meet the thrusts.
"What a filthy girl," Amélie muttered, almost to herself. "Getting off on being pushed around."
There was no sense in denying it, not when the words alone made Lena clench tightly around her. Not when the other woman could feel the increase of her pulse thrumming against the inside of her palm.
“Do you think about this when you touch yourself?” Soft lips brushed against the shell of Lena’s ear, a stark contrast to the rough jerk of fingers against her inner muscles. “Do you think about me being ‘mean’?”
Lena’s face burned, embarrassment and arousal in equal measures driving the blood into her cheeks, but she managed a near-delirious chant of ‘yes, yes, yes-’.
The sudden switch of Amélie’s movements drew a high-pitched whine out of her throat. Slim fingers, curled, pressing hard against the sensitive front wall at the apex of every thrust, stimulating a spot that sent zings of electricity up her spine.
Lena’s legs trembled as she wrapped them around the older woman’s hips. Her every nerve ending was tingling, reaching for that last push, and she didn’t notice the tears gathering at the corners of her eyes until a cool tongue caught them on her cheeks.
There was only a single string of words breaking through the pleasure, only a single sentiment Lena was still capable of formulating.
“I love you,” she groaned, husky and raw. “I love you, I love you, I-”
Amélie’s fingers dug harshly (deliciously, maddeningly, so good) into her. She never stopped her ministrations, but angled the inside of her palm away from her clit and if Lena wasn’t worried her voice might give out, she would have screamed.
“But I lo-”
The rest of the sentence was lost beneath the press of a palm across Lena’s lips and the icy glare sweeping over her flushed features.
“You are not behaving,” Amélie snarled, every word punctuated by a particularly hard pump that threatened to make Lena’s eyes roll into the back of her head.
Whatever muffled words she tried to make known, whatever defiance she might have felt, was cut off when the other woman suddenly rested her entire weight against her own hand, the full length of her far heavier than her frame made it seem - and then she bucked her hips.
Not rolling, thrusting, but pushing inside her brutally, like she was fucking her with far more than just her hand and the quiet grunts of exertion zinged through Lena like lightening.
“Be a good girl and come for me.”
It took no more than the simple command and the sight of Amélie above her - moving, panting, a drop of sweat dripping down her usually so collected face - to push Lena over the edge. The hard grinding against her clit was almost too intense, half pain and half pleasure, but she arched her back and obeyed.
She came with a muffled scream
The waves of release crashed into her like an earthquake, mind blanking out as the pleasure in her throbbing center unfurled and consumed her from the tips of her curled toes to her hands fisting into the other woman’s sweater so tightly it threatened to rip apart in her grasp.
Her universe was empty except for the pulsing energy in her veins and Amélie’s body molded to hers.
The fall back to earth was a languid one. Gradual lessening of the pressure inside her as Amélie slowed down, caressing rather than pumping, and eventually stopping completely.
Her harsh breathing sounded far too loud in the otherwise quiet room.
“Satisfied?” Amélie straightened and pulled out with a last curl of her fingers that made Lena flinch and gasp. “You got what you wanted, no?”
Through heavy eyelids, Lena watched the other woman step back and put her clothes in order. Like her palm and wrist wasn’t still glistening with Lena’s wetness.
Lena grinned. “Almost. You’re still dressed.”
When Amélie simply stared at her, passively, cold, her smile faltered. She didn’t stop her when she turned around and left without another word. Had planned to let her, to accept it, and found herself opening her mouth anyway.
“I do love you, you know?”
Amélie stopped in the doorway. Her shoulders seemed heavier now, her hand around the doorknob stiff and white-knuckled.
And then she was gone.
When her heart broke for the second time, Lena was 18.
"Pumpkin, did you hear?"
Lena blinked down at the newspaper in her mother's hand, at the small notice tucked into a corner amongst the others of its kind. Amélie LaCroix and Gerard Dubious, set to be married later this year in June.
It was traditional. Romantic.
Amélie probably hated it.
"I know it's been a few years, but you remember her, don't you? You were always so happy to have her around."
"Yes," Lena muttered numbly, the words blurring in front of her eyes. "I remember her."
"What an extraordinary fellow this Gerard must be, to be able to convince her to marry him. She didn't seem the type."
Lena took the newspaper. Perhaps there was a mistake, something she had missed. Perhaps she wouldn't have to face the bitter truth that hers was the only heart still clinging to a single evening years ago.
"She must really be in love with him."
The paper crinkled in Lena's suddenly tight grip, the edges bending and tearing underneath her fingers.
"Yes. She must be."
The sun was high in the sky when Lena walked out of the large double doors.
First college, then flight school, her parents had said, and Lena saw no reason to complain after they'd assured her they were willing to pay for both - provided her grades stayed decent.
Her wristwatch blinked insistently, as it had periodically done all day.
First at 6 am, when Amélie would get out of bed to prepare herself for the day ahead.
At 10 am, when she'd arrive at the hairdresser. (Would it be pinned-up and curled? Falling straight down her back? The vision changed everytime Lena imagined it.)
At 12am, for a quick lunch. (Lena couldn't be there, but it was easy to pretend.)
At 1pm, when she'd make her way to the church. (Would they marry at a church? Lena didn't know, maybe didn't want to know.)
At 2pm, when they'd put the finishing touches on her dress. (Lena wanted desperately to see it.)
And now, at 4pm.
By now, Lena supposed, Amélie was married. By now she'd stood in front of the altar with a tall, handsome man by her side - or so Lena imagined him, everything about him somehow better than she could ever hope to be - as she promised him forever.
She shook her head and turned off the blinking numbers.
There was another silent alarm programmed, far later that day, but she wasn't sure she needed a reminder of what she'd been allowed to taste only once. She didn't need a reminder that it belonged to someone else now - and had never been hers in the first place.
She'd thought the finality of it, of knowing that it was over, might help her recognize it as more than a theoretical tidbit of information. That it would erase what years of absence and distance hadn’t been able to.
Amélie had made her decision and Lena hadn't even factored into it.
"That expression does not look good on you, chérie."
Lena's shoulders tensed. She was imagening things, she was sure of it.
"It is impolite to ignore people."
When she raised her gaze from the ground, the first thing it caught on was a pair of killer heels decidedly unfit for a wedding. She didn't know if her decision to linger on the woman's legs was a testament to her anxiety or to the amount of time she'd spent wishing she could see her again.
Amélie gave an annoyed click of her tongue. "I do not have all day."
Of course. Lena forced herself to look up, expecting to see her painted like a doll and made-up like the bride she was, but what greeted her was just...Amélie. The same face, bare except for the elegant arch of eyeliner, the same cool eyes, the same twist of impatience playing around her lips.
As if Lena had simply imagined the last four years.
"You're here," she stuttered, stumbling over the simplest of sentences. Not the most eloquent of ways to greet the woman who'd taken her virginity and broken her heart, but it would have to do. "But you're-"
"I am what?" Amélie casually leaned her back against her car. Sleek, purple and obviously expensive, Lena had the uncomfortable thought that it had been a wedding gift.
"Supposed to be getting married."
It suddenly seemed very strange to have remembered the day, and even stranger to realize that Amélie might have put far less importance on her wedding than Lena had, because she raised an incredulous eyebrow and chuckled quietly.
"Am I?" she asked, inspecting her right hand mock-critically. It was devoid of jewelery.
"You're not wearing a ring." Lena was afraid to ask, but she did it anyway. “Why didn’t you go through with it?”
What she really wanted to know was ‘did you love him?’ and, a thought that had been following her around for far too long, ‘could you love me?’. This morning, she’d thought she already had the answers.
Amélie didn’t seem inclined to respond to either question. She simply shrugged, like the answer was obvious. Or irrelevant.
“When did you leave?”
A part of Lena almost felt pity for this man she didn’t know. If he’d loved Amélie half as much as Lena did - and she couldn’t fathom a reason why he wouldn’t have wanted to worship the ground she walked on - then this would leave him in shambles.
“I am not a good person,” Amélie said instead and Lena had the sudden vision of a packed church and a lonely groom waiting for someone who wouldn’t show up.
Remorse wouldn’t quite come. But hope did.
“Why are you here?”
The most important question of all, when it came down to it. Lena had long since grown into an adult and Amélie was not about to be married and if there had ever been a chance of something between them, something solid, then this was it.
“I already told you.” Cool finger slipped underneath Lena’s chin. Nothing about the sensations it evoked had changed, her heart still beat in an unsteady staccato, her belly still warmed on contact, it still felt like her world was tilting. “I am not a good person.”
The kiss Lena expected didn’t come. Amélie’s lips pressed to her cheek before tracing a burning path up to her ear.
“You have had time to think,” she whispered, hot breath ghosting over Lena’s skin. “I gave you a chance.”
Lena protested weakly even as shivers wracked her shoulders. “You hurt me.”
“It will not be the last time.”
For once, the warning did not sound like a threat. It wasn’t malicious or cruel or designed to hurt her, just a statement of fact. Because Amélie had never been nice or kind and it was up to Lena to deal with it or not.
“Does that include leaving again?” she asked, half-afraid of the answer. She had never needed Amélie to be someone she wasn’t. She expected, almost craved, the pain she offered, but she wasn’t sure she could face the sight of her walking out the door again.
Amélie hesitated. “Not unless you ask me to.”
Closing her eyes, Lena turned her head and breathed in the hints of perfume clinging to the other woman’s skin. Vanilla and lilacs, strangely sweet for someone who proclaimed to be anything but. The answer came easy.
Amélie lifted her head and stared down at her as she searched her eyes for whatever truth they may hold. Lena couldn’t tell what she saw, but it caused the other woman’s lips to twitch into a barely-there smirk.
“Foolish girl.” Something almost like affection tinged the words. “You don’t know what is good for you.”
She didn’t resist when Lena stepped forward to loop her arms around her waist and she only gave the barest hint of a grimace when wet lips delivered a sound kiss to her cheek.
They were drawing stares, people Lena knew or had seen around, and she realized with a start that what they saw wasn’t a child with her babysitter, not two people whose lives only connected at the very edges. What they saw were two adults, a couple, if Lena had any say in the matter, and she allowed herself to feel pride in holding this woman in her arms.
What her parents would say if they heard Lena wasn’t ready to think about, but they would have to accept it all the same.
“No, I really don’t,” Lena said through the broad grin threatening to split her face in two. “Guess you’re gonna have to live with that now, love. And if you’re fancyin’ a shag in that car of yours, at least it’ll be legal this ti-”
The kiss that cut her off was accompanied by an annoyed sigh. Bruising, harsh, teeth biting at her lips and fingers clawing at the small of her back - Amélie’s affections would always be punishment and pleasure in equal measures. But when a single thumb stroked the skin above her waistband, softness amidst cruelty, Lena found that she quite liked it that way.
She was ten when she fell in love for the first-
No, Lena thought.
She was ten when she fell in love for the last time.