A few days later, Carine received a terrible little letter. From one of his old colleagues in Rochester, with whom he stayed in contact to better keep up to date with Rosalie's hometown.
Rosalie's mother had passed on. Rosalie was confused and shocked – her mother had been in the prime of health the last Rosalie was able to see her. But Carine gently explained that her mother had suffered greatly from Rosalie's disappearance and had been bedridden for some months.
"I'm sorry, darling," Carine said softly, and Esme sat clutching one of Rosalie's hands. They had all converged in Carine's office, ready to support Rosalie through this devastating news. Edyth and Eli sit on a couch right next to the door, as unobtrusive as possible.
Rosalie said nothing for a little while as Esme strokes her fingers, but eventually she stands and walks towards the door.
"I think I need to be alone," Rosalie explains to them softly and takes Eli's shirt collar, tugging once. Eli scrambles up, being pulled by her along to her own room.
Rosalie closes the door after them with a sigh, and looks at Eli's concerned and worried face. "I'm sorry, Rosie."
Rosalie only pets her collar to smooth it back out, moving past her vanity table to sit at her work bench. "So am I – it's my fault," she stated calmly. Eli isn't able to do more than gasp and begins to shake her head before Rosalie holds up a palm for her peace. "She always knew I wasn't dead, I just … wish she could have known that I was safe."
Eli comes to her side, kneeling next to her and pet her arms in a clumsy way. "There, there," she coos.
Rosalie felt the little bubble of grief well up from her belly and into her throat; prompting her to say; "She only wanted the best things for me … a rich husband, an expensive house and sweet little babies …." she pulls it a breath and quietly admits, "I wanted that too."
Eli's face remains sorry, though her voice takes on a faraway quality as she says, "Oh, I see."
Rosalie remembers when she had proclaimed her disgust with the idea of Edyth as a partner.
Rosalie gasps, looking between Carine and Esme after Carine reveals that he had much the same business between his legs as the women did. Further horrified as she thought of the mopey, judgemental little Mid-Westerner as a prospect . "A woman!? I don't know what den of sin this is-"
"I can hear you, Rosalie!" Edyth storms down the stairs in their Rochester home, looking dark and angry, "I can hear everything and I won't have you turn up your nose at what we are because you've always thought you were all wrong!" she declares, shaking her head as Esme tried to stand between them and smooth them.
"You wanted to get yourself a husband to prove you could want him," Edyth pointed at her, sneering openly, "well I've never been so delusional!"
"I am not delusional!" Rosalie snaps, a foreign hiss coming from her mouth that she'd never heard before. Carine is at her shoulder, putting a gentle hand on her arm, "I could have gotten a husband they're not very hard to get!" She shrugs off Carine and steps closer to Edyth.
"Speak to me like that again and I'll snatch your tongue from your mouth," Rosalie growls, before Esme and Carine physically pick both of the girls up and move them to different parts of the house.
Rosalie thinks back on the shocks of her newborn year and glances down at where Eli kneels patiently, leaning into her lap. "But I can't have any of that anymore. I …" Rosalie shake her head – I never really wanted it, sounded too flippant, because she had planned for it. Rosalie knew that marriage was about safety, not love. So it made no difference to Rosalie if she actually wanted her husband. If she wanted safety, security and stability – than she wanted a husband. There wasn't anything else to it. She looks down at Eli curiously, "what did you want?"
Eli begins to smile, flashing her teeth. "A pretty girl. Well, as many pretty girls as I could get my hands on." Miffed, Rosalie reaches up and squeezes Eli's ear in her fingers, making the other woman laugh lightly, turn her cheek to lean into her hand. Her terra-cotta eyes took on a more serious quality. "… My little sisters in new dresses, with bright white lace. A pretty girl, cooking with my mama. A pretty girl, sitting with me on the porch. I could never really picture her face until now." Eli reaches up and cups Rosalie's cheek. She melted, slipping off the chair and sitting in Eli's lap, letting the other woman scoop her up and hold her.
"I never had proper plans, Rosie," Eli explains gently, "I was a bull-dagger in a small town. Women never stayed with me – they got themselves a husband, they went to the big city, they went away. They never stayed with me." Eli looks at her in the most gentlest way and if Rosalie were anymore boneless in her embrace she'd drip onto the floor. "They never said they were going to keep me."
Rosalie giggles, feeling giddy at the words, "Well, I'm selfish."
"None else said keepin' me is selfish," Eli whispers back, "and no sacrifice."
"You sacrificed, not me."
Eli shakes her head, as though trying to cast off this descent into sweet-talk. "I know what I want now," Eli grins, "I want all the time in the world, with you."
Rose opens her mouth to the press of Em's tongue, and whimpers again, this time slightly pained, as the foreign venom sends a sharp sting through her entire jaw, the burning pain seeping into the gum between her teeth.
Eli rips herself away, covering her mouth with one large hand. "I'm sorry!" She shouts, but she looks so confused Rosalie hums out a dry chuckle as she rubs her fingers over her own tingling lips. It was like biting into fresh pineapple.
"It's alright." Rosalie murmurs, and sighs a little. "It just takes some getting used to." She explains.
Eli looked, for a moment, like a forlorn and scolded puppy. "But I wanted to taste your pearl, Rosie." She says with a little frown.
Her frank words startle Rosalie completely out of any lingering melancholy, that she only stares, wide-eyed, until Eli begins to laugh, though uncertainty begins to grow on her face. "You want me to?" She asks, scratching the back of her head.
Flustered, and embarrassed that she was flustered, Rosalie narrows her eyes, mouth puckered into a bratty pout. "Well, you'll have to wait until we become … acclimated." She says, attempting to keep her voice level and even as Eli beams in her face.
"How long will that take?" Her eagerness made Rosalie's stomach tighten – not with nerves, but her own excitement.
But she hesitated, frowning a little. "I'm not … sure," she admits quietly, she felt very exposed sitting in Eli's lap and thinking about how they could embrace. It certainly wasn't any proper type of conversation and Rosalie was a lady. "I've never asked."
Eli inhales slowly, her face looking pinched, "I can be a patient woman, Rosie," she explains in a steady voice, "But between these slow lessons and this pretty girl in my lap …." Eli pouts, and Rosalie huffs out a little laugh.
"What did you want again?" Rosalie asks, tapping her chin and squinting at Eli, who begins to grin.
"All the time in the world."