The technical bit: thank you for reading. Don't be afraid to notify me of mistakes. If anyone wants to save the story as an e-book, I recommend heading over to this story on archiveofourown (link on my profile) and hitting the download button. Mobi for Kindle/Kindle app and ePub for iBooks, etc.
The personal bit: You all got me through a few tough years, so thank you again for that. It's been a great learning experience and I appreciate all your feedback greatly.
Don't worry about leaving comments; I just wanted to post the work. My best to you all. Much love and see you around. Claire xxx
Song of the day: David Bowie and Massive Attack - 'Nature Boy' - "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return."
I jolt and blink awake. Again already? It's still so dark and clearly nowhere near morning yet. No point checking the time; it'll only be ten minutes later than when I last looked at my phone. I need sleep and I need it now! Should I go close the balcony doors? Fuck it. The slight breeze is nice and I've always liked the sounds of cities at night; a calming white noise like welcome tinnitus. Any old city and any old bed would do, but no other girl in the world would. Sliding my exposed leg under the covers, I curl up close beside Dianna, one knee resting lightly against her warm thigh. She's lying peacefully on her front, sheets gathered at her lower back, face turned toward me with her hand nudged up to her chin. I don't want to disturb her sleep, but the urge to stroke her smooth shoulder is way too tempting. Okay, once, then I'll close my eyes again. My fingertips come into contact with her skin and a hot, exquisite pain wells in my stomach. My teeth roll over my lower lip as tears threaten to rise. So fucking beautiful. Jesus I... incredible.
I'm completely drained of physical and mental energy; heavy-limbed and weighed down with this amazing love, but that doesn't stop me feeling so damn restless. My wired mind is constantly waking my tired body. Short, weird and vivid dreams about empty airport lounges keep fooling me into thinking that none of this happened. Stupid brain. I wonder how long it will be before I sleep soundly beside her. Days? Months? Years? Maybe it shouldn't, but the thought of that makes me smile self-satisfactorily and a lump forms in my throat. She really does love me. Oh God, I'm just so happy! Way too happy to sleep when I could lie here and... one more touch. It's not like anything would wake her anyhow: I know what she's like; it would take an earthquake. Reaching out, I comb my fingers through her hair and skate my hand over her bare skin. It comforts, warms and calms me so much.
Near the base of her spine, I try to find a particular tattoo. Nope. Can't find it without sight; her skin is too cool. Oh well. Flattening my palm against the small of her back, I squeeze shut my eyes and visualize that New York parlor where I held her hand and watched some guy work ink into her pale skin. Prior to that, like, an hour or so, I had found the courage to tell her I was in love with her; not a night I'd ever forget. The tattoo, as I recall it, was a silhouette of Peter Pan, Wendy and her brothers, all flying off to Neverland. Small but perfect. Whimsical like Dianna. I want to see it again. I want to ask her what made her choose that particular one when I refused to decide on her behalf. I want to ask her how she really wanted to reply when I told her how I felt, and whether the tear that slipped from her eye as she lay prone on the artist's table, suffering under his needle, was for the discomfort or for those words she couldn't say to me.
I sit up and lean over her. It's still too dark to see anything except the faint, highlighted contours of her body. Christ, I wanna bite that butt cheek. Flopping back against the mattress, I try to relax. It's hard. I'm kind of in the same frame of mind as that one time Dianna passed out after mixing a few too many beers with raspberry sambuca liquor. God, I was fucking frantic when that happened. No one else had mattered. I don't even remember how Theo got back to my apartment after I abandoned him. It wasn't right or good, but I didn't care. I was awful to everyone because I was 100% focused on my girl. I made Dianna my responsibility, ultimately prioritizing her over everyone else. Tucking her up in the spare bedroom, I'd gotten her settled, but I couldn't go. How could I possibly leave an angel with broken wings? To do that would've been like abandoning a baby bird that had fallen from its nest.
So, apparently for the second time, I invited myself into bed with Dianna. Practically fully-clothed, I sneaked in and huddled up next to her, barely sleeping because I was worried that she would get sick. Even now, tonight, I feel like I should be periodically giving her sips of water and checking her heart rate. It's gonna be a while before I can completely quit that paranoid, neurotic impulse. I hadn't thought about that particular incident in, gosh, like, forever, having stuffed it down in some dark corner of my mind, but, near the end of the tour, it all came flooding back and caused the cracks in my strong exterior to let a little light in. You see, in a strange way, it gave me hope. Recalling those memories of Dianna drunk made me re-assess my chances. Even back then on that cool fall night of last year, I totally had the inkling that she had a cute crush on me.
Outwardly, I had been guarded but, secretly and guiltily, I'd been over the fucking moon. Then she'd cried and it was like being skewered through the chest, creating and sealing a wound in my heart simultaneously. Piercing. Thrilling. Devastating. My precious girl. For those short moments when tears fell from her eyes, I remember allowing myself to selfishly dream that it was more than a minor infatuation, and that I was the reason she broke down. Naturally, that little self-absorbed ego boost lasted only until I stupidly chose to seek out fault in her emotive words. 'Even if that were the case, it won't last or grow,' I had dismissed. 'It'll just eat her up and make her feel weird,' I confidently told myself. 'It's a rebound thing,' I... yadda yadda yadda.
But, shit, it really was so much more than a crush. I see it all now. She was absolutely, positively in love with me. Rebound shmebound. I still can't take it in. And, even though it might have seemed strange to anyone else, for me, that night has always been special. It wasn't until today, though, that I saw how much of an honest insight into Dianna's state of mind it really was. Not only that, but the events that took place were, in all probability, a huge indicator of my own. After all, I happily endured the force she used to prevent me from smoking one of her cigarettes, and I'll tell it straight: I got quite a fucking kick out of it. Her passionate outbursts had made my heart thump like crazy and, yeah, I had pushed for more. Did I really imply to her that she was hot for Rachel in the vain hope that it would provoke her into proclaiming that she'd like me better? Shit, I did. Subtle, Lea. Subtle like a freight train. Super smooth. But, truly, I wanted to make a difference in her life. And, naturally, I wanted her close. Make my mark. Or maybe, selfishly and simply, I wanted her to want me.
Then... oh gee. Then later there was that self-indulgent peck on her sweet mouth, which I gave to her while she fitfully slept. Heck, we'd gotten so used to kissing on the show and it was... I dunno... I just loved her so much even then. How many times did I crave her kisses and still call it friendship? How many times did I want to know what a real kiss from her, and not her character, would feel like? I doubt she remembers much from that crazy night but, in the wee small hours of the morning, I - like I did a moment ago - moved to lie by her side in the darkness and... home, yeah, that's exactly what it felt (and feels) like. Of course, when at last the sun inevitably rose in the sky, I called myself a weirdo and left before she woke. But I still felt lucky. The luckiest girl.
Unable to keep away from her soft skin, I lazily write my name on her side with my middle finger and let my mind wander to more recent memories. Already, I miss the sensation of her body pressed hard up against mine and can't wait to feel that building, blazing pleasure again and again. The heat. The softness. The secure weight of her on me as I pull at the backs of her thighs and ass. My hand, now moving to draw firm lines back and forth over my rib cage, reminds me of how extraordinary it felt to surrender control and let her hold and caress me. To kiss me. Kiss me. For real. At last, we were ourselves; all masks and shields abandoned along with the clothes that were scattered across the room. Nothing seemed as important as what we could do for each other: I was her priority and she was mine. I never knew sex could ultimately feel so... so spiritually, mentally and physically fulfilling. God, I almost wept with happiness when she came, shuddering beautifully beneath me and sighing wantonly: I did that for her. No one else. Me. And as we lay together afterward, it felt so fucking good to rest my head on her chest, ear to her sternum, and listen to her pounding heartbeat as she kissed my head. That's how it should be. That is what I want.
It took so long, weeks and weeks, for it to dawn on me that it could actually work between us. And it does. It works. I once genuinely thought she had embellished her platonic feelings to save me from one-sided affection, but when I saw those roses, I knew what a dolt I'd been in rejecting her advances left, right and center, and not believing she could let me into her heart. It happened. She wants me. Yeah, we both fucked it up a lot along the way, but we're here. And it is amazing.
Not quite so deeply asleep as I thought, Dianna sighs and reaches over drowsily. Her arm now lying across my waist, she turns onto her side and pulls me into a cuddle and a slow, sleepy, offset kiss that smudges against my lips. My heart soars and I grin as she stretches and snuggles into me. The sooner I close my eyes, the sooner morning will come, then maybe I'll get the chance to repay a very old favor and wake her with a quake. "Sweet dreams," I whisper as we drift off in each other's arms.
Wait. Was that my phone? I switch off the hairdryer for a moment, the whine fading to silence. Looking around, I accidentally step on Dianna's discarded watch. Ouch! My wince turns to a smile as I retrieve it from the floor and think back to popping the clasp and watching it slide off her wrist. Our room looks like a small laundry storm hit it. Lucky it isn't wintertime, I guess, or we'd be wading through sweaters. Except that just makes me wanna come back here in December or January; I love the idea of helping Dianna out of anything Fair Isle. For now, I've decided that I'll only tidy what I trip over, mostly because each heap of clothing is a memory that twists tantalizingly in my stomach. Through the day, I'll collect them up one by one. Dianna is not allowed: she's been told outright, and... ha. My bra is hanging off a small bronze statue of a naked man; that is definitely not being moved until I've sent a picture to Jon.
As I step into Dianna's laceless, brilliant-white sneakers, warmth at my bare back suddenly refocuses my attention. I'm now wishing I wasn't already half dressed. "Hey, baby," I murmur contentedly as she nuzzles my neck. I'm never gonna stop calling her that now I've got her. You just watch me.
"Hey," she breathes into my ear after an extended pause. I literally have happy chills coursing throughout my body. Only she could make a one-syllable word sound like pure sex. I'll be dead within a year from her voice alone. Masterfully, she pulls me back a couple steps, picks up the hairdryer, and flicks the switch. The blasting air resumes, this time combined with the tender raunchiness of her hand pushing and pulling at my hair. Holy shit, that feels awesome. My eyes practically roll back into my head. Even these simple things slay me. How come she can turn something so commonplace into a semi - or maybe not so semi given enough time - orgasmic experience? She does things to me that no other person has ever...
A sudden quiet. Damn, it's over; my hair is dry. That sucks. Dianna leaves to close up the drawer, but comes back to slink her arm around my middle, sweep my hair to one side, kiss the back of my neck. Flip, flip, flip goes my stomach as her other hand joins the first in slipping over my rib cage and squeezing nice and tight. Then over my tits, palming firmly at my nipples. Jumping Jesus Christ on a pogo stick. I will never get bored with that move.
Earlier, when dawn arrived, it brought out a moderate shyness in the both of us that we needed to wash away, but we're getting better now. No, more than that: we're truly being us, and it's working. Comfortable. Good. Great. Secure. Relaxing my body and tilting my head back, I rub my cheek against hers, grateful murmurs slipping from my throat. I swear I could sleep like this: standing with her holding me up, swaying gently and letting her cradle most of my weight. After a drawn-out, invigorating embrace, we manage to separate: it's a struggle not to cling indefinitely. Dianna floats off quietly singing a song about hitting forty, getting horny, and having no sex, which I sure as hell hope isn't a prediction for our future. Wearing nothing but a white toweling robe - emphasis on the nothing - and hair still slightly damp from our rejuvenating shower, she steps gracefully out onto the secluded, sunlit balcony. Last night I managed to keep my cool because I was so fucking nervous, but this morning I'm excitable and likely to do and say dumb things that spoil the moment. Running out there to leap into her arms right now would be one of the bad things, yeah? We're really high up and, yeah, no.
Okay, it's no good, I'm tidying up; we'll make more mess later anyway. Shoes. Shoes. Panties times two. A little different from liaisons I've had in the past. Shirt. Skirt. That looks better already. What else? Her belt makes me smile when at last I find it, snaking out from under a table. Almost done. I scoop up Dianna's dress and walk around with the collar pressed to my lips, breathing in the divine smell before reluctantly folding it up and placing it on the bed. Hello! One of the hotel's elegant booklets has caught my attention. "Whoa," I mutter, browsing through the pages. "Have you seen the breakfast menu?" I call out giddily, dropping it briefly to throw on Dianna's 'Likes Girls' t-shirt from the tour (a good fit on me) and tie my hair up in a high ponytail. "It's as long as my arm." She seems to think my question is rhetorical because I'm not getting a reply. From her seated position, she looks at me over the top of her sunglasses, smirking as I stride out to take the seat beside her. "Did you know?" I begin. She looks at me expectantly. "In this sunshine, your eyes look like amaretto; I want to drink them." They do, and I really do: amaretto with a twist of vibrant lime.
"Little early for that, charmer." She laughs as I lean in to plant one on her luscious lips. I don't wanna be a glutton for kisses, but damn, it's so fucking hard to pull away, especially when I see her eyes flicker shut behind her shades and she pushes for more. It drives me wild.
"Never too early for that," I reply, deadly serious, sitting back to browse the fancy menu for the second time and wondering if I should bend a few personal rules for croissants and pastries. The answer is clearly gonna be yes, so ticks for those. "I'm having champagne with my amaretto, how about you?" Silence. "We'll get fruit and other stuff you like, right?" Tick. Tick. "Coffee? Tea?" She's too busy looking at the sky. "Me?" I knock my knee to hers to get her attention. "Dianna?" She turns to me, vacant but happy. "What're you looking at?" I ask with an inquisitive shake of my head.
She smiles at me coyly. "Nothing."
My heart is thudding from that look alone. "Nothing?"
Small shrug. "Keeping watch for falling anvils."
Whatever that means. "I love you," I find myself saying through a contemplative sigh. Just thinking about the fact brings me to tears, so I look skyward and take a few cleansing breaths until the need to cry recedes. Her sunglasses come off, clattering onto the table haphazardly, and she leans in to kiss me again. Sweetly, then hungrily. I could float. Her left hand lands on my thigh, thumb pushing under the fabric of these short shorts, causing my breath to hitch. I missed out on passionate Dianna for so long. I hope my life to come will have plenty of days like this. "You do realize that I'm gonna be exactly like Jane Fonda at the beginning of Barefoot in the Park?" I say, breaking for air and nudging my nose against her cheek. "We're never leaving his hotel room."
"Is that right?" she responds with a raised eyebrow, her voice nasal and tight-throated from her own barely-concealed, emotionally-wrought and (call me confident) sexually-aroused reaction. "Sounds like a plan." I instantly remember her comment from last night, made with the same sentiment as mine, and get a little choked up again. But, hell, who cares? I actually live in a world where she wants me as much as I want her. I must have done something right to deserve all this, so I'm allowed to cry about it. "What are you thinking about?" she asks curiously, which I think is quite refreshing coming from Dianna, given that a few weeks ago she'd probably have been nervous of my reply and not asked at all. I'm mesmerized by the sight of her sitting back to take a sip of ice water, her throat taunting and begging me for a taste.
"Aside from how stunning you are?" It's the truth; I'm always thinking that. Morning. Noon. Night. Morning after. "Well, there was something I wanted to mention." May as well take the opportunity. Quick and clean. Get it over and done with so she can get it sorted and we can get back to gazing moon-eyed at each other. Sometimes you have to derail a conversation down a bumpy street to avoid a bad route later on. "Is everything okay between you and Naya?" I ask, smashing the words into a quick, garbled sentence. "On the flight to LA she was pissed at you."
Dianna is taken aback. "Oh! She's not, well, she won't be. I think. Well, she might." She shakes her pretty head, then takes a deep breath, like she's preparing for a punch to the gut. "She knew... knows how I feel about you," she admits, nervously pressing at her portrait-worthy lower lip with two dextrous fingers.
"No way!" Well, I'll be damned. "I always wondered why you girls would turn quiet when I got in on your cosy chats. I was starting to get a complex!" Actually, I was convinced Dianna had developed a huge crush on Naya. Jeez. I'm starting to realize exactly how much of my jealousy was completely unwarranted and baseless. Though I still wish she'd never had to go off with other people to distract her from the pain of loving me. I still feel responsible for anything she did while trying to forget my name. If only I'd been wiser sooner. Sure, the thought stings like a bitch, but I have to get over it because I've got her now. The guys she did, the girls she didn't; they're in the past. Let's forget about it once and for all. Deal, Lea. I grab her glass and take a gulp of refreshing water. "Personally, I let slip to Jon, but I'm guessing that you'd assume that was the case." While we're on the subject. "Chris has known for a few weeks too."
She stares at me agape, completely bowled over. "Shut up!" she exclaims loudly, reminding me of the cutely excitable Dianna I met years ago. "Chris as in our Chris?"
"You shut up!" I tease. "Of course our Chris! Long haul flights tend to make me talk."
Her hand flattens against her chest, pushing apart the sides of her robe and exposing more of her chest. "But he knew even before Naya did. I felt so guilty burdening him with the secret for so long."
"That explains why he went pale when I told him! Well, paler than normal, which is impressive for him." I shake my head in disbelief. "He gave nothing away," I add, sucking on a slim shard of ice. "Definitely wins the award for best secret keeper."
"He certainly does." She smirks and seems to recall something. "They both despaired of me. In fact, since my arrival, Naya's been on me constantly, trying to get me to go home... to knock at your door and sweep you off your feet."
"Oh yeah?" Sounds nice.
"Can't say I wasn't tempted," she murmurs sultrily, pulling at her ear lobe and licking her lips suggestively. "Sorely tempted," she breathes. Flirt.
"I'll have that when we get back please. Every day," I request cockily. She laughs. Hold on. I frown. "Holy moly, if you'd flown home, I could have missed you! I'd have turned up, found out you'd left France, checked into your empty room and sobbed my aching heart out."
Blinking, Dianna shakes her head soberly and waves a finger at me. "Aha. Except you didn't know which hotel I was staying at," she responds, proud of her logic, tightening her robe as she sits up primly; well, more primly than before. She has the perfect posture of a Disney heroine... or villainess, whichever.
Okay. Problem. Did I mislead her? Damage control. I'll try to make light of it. Don't want an argument so soon into our new relationship, even if that might have its own weird thrill since Dianna is, frankly, über hot when kind of mad. "Sure I did. I'm not that much of a moron." Maybe 50%. "Chris was all eager'n'happy to give me your trip details before I left, and he was all: 'Go now', so I did. When I got in, I used a pay phone to call the hotel, and they put me through to your room number, but you weren't here, so I went adventurer on your ass because, as well you know, I don't like waiting around."
"You led me to believe you would have been lost if you hadn't found me!" she blurts sweetly, looking puzzled.
Phew. She's not mad, more relieved. "To be honest, I don't remember much of what I dramatically rambled on about last night. I was apprehensive. It was a completely nonsensical stream of consciousness. Did I talk about mice or some shit? What the fuck was that?" I tighten my ponytail and look at my shoes for a moment. "But I really would have been lost, y'know. Lost without you. I didn't fly out for the sights or the culture or the bread and wine. I flew out for you, to find you because I was done with not having you close, and tired of not knowing what was truly happening between us. I'm an impatient asshole, you know that." Dianna's teeth graze across her lower lip and her eyes glaze over, evidently affected by my poorly-expressed words. "And, in my defense, any weirdness was due to the fact that I was trying to find you to see if you wanted to be with me. All the while knowing that if you shot me down, which you could have done, I was gonna need to rely on your sympathies in helping me find a room for the night. Y'know?" In other words, I kinda wanted her to feel sorry for me. Was that mean? Maybe I should have gone for charm offensive instead.
She tucks her hair behind her ears, leans in, and begins gently running her hand over my forearm. "You didn't even book a room before you left?"
50% moron and 50% sure she'd let me in her bed, if only to sleep. It's not like I couldn't have talked the hotel manager into helping me get my credit card working anyway. "I didn't want it to sound like I'd planned an itinerary for stalking you, complete with telescope poking out of a high window. Equally, you'd have probably thrown me in the Seine if I'd knocked at your hotel room door and just said: 'Hey baby, I'm pretty damn sure you're into me, so how about a quick fuck?'" Dianna's eyes widen. Okay, crap, huge mistake. See? Excitable. Bad! Take back. Take back. "N-not that that's what this was about," I stutter. Damn it! "That's so not what you are to me." Hand on heart. "I don't wanna be casual with you. Anything but. I -"
"I know." Music to my ears. She smiles knowingly, squeezing my elbow tightly. Yeah, she knows that I make regrettable, glib remarks at inappropriate moments; I've done it a thousand times. She sits back comfortably, picks up her camera from the table and begins toying with the settings. "How is it that you combine sexy and adorable so easily?" she asks, shooting me a furtive glance, her eyes sparkling.
Oh, come on. She's playing me now. "All natural. Self-taught," I reply self-mockingly.
"No, I really mean it." She looks at me, gravely serious, camera dropping to her lap. It's not just a compliment, it's her way of reminding me that everything she says is truthful and she wants those feelings out in the open. The tip of her tongue dances against her front teeth as my name drops several times from her lips. "To me, you are the most splendid, beautiful, wonderful creature I have ever known, and I can't believe I was such a fool for letting you slip through my fingers for so long." She inhales deeply, then exhales slowly. "And to finally have you close is the most extraordinary thing I have ever experienced. My universe has completely expanded. I'm richer for it. Better for it. And now that this love is physical, the thought of your hips, your thighs, your stomach, your breasts, shoulders, back, oh God, yes, your back and waist, absolutely every bit of you," she near shouts, hands waving, "is... is... gonna keep me so warm at night." Her eyelashes bat ferociously at me. "And I trust it won't just be the thought of you that will keep me warm."
Wow. I am blown away. Empowered and enlivened. Not only that, but this out-and-out coquettish behavior is gonna take some getting used to. Bashfully, I push down on the seat of my chair, look away and smile, my chest swelling with a tingling, hot joy. Click. She snaps a picture of moi. "Hey!" I object. "I wasn't ready. No fair."
"For posterity!" she exclaims innocently.
"I'll take a picture of your posterity if you keep on being naughty," I kid, ripping the camera out of her grasp.
"C'mere," she beckons with both hands, but she doesn't mean for me to give it back; it's me she wants. I get up and go to sit sideways on her lap. She doesn't try to stop me from looking at her photographs, and instead hugs my waist and bites playfully at my sleeve. Peering at the viewfinder, I scroll through the pictures from the very beginning. Cloud. Street. Boulangerie. Wine bar. Eiffel Tower. Bicyclist. Selfie. Selfie with strangers. Strangers. Strangers and Eiffel Tower. Café. Salad. French pastries. A beautiful art nouveau building. Amazing street artist and his art. Riverside. Bridge with padlocks secured to it. Padlock close-up. And another. "Hey... did you?" I tilt the screen her way.
She shakes her head and her sunlit hair tickles at her angelic cheeks. "No. No. I came across it purely by chance."
"Oh." I look again at the photograph, hitting zoom. Oh yeah. The lock is rusted. The initials D and L are faded and scratched.
"I seriously considered it as, well... as a pledge of my feeling for you, but then I overheard two women from a tour group quietly discussing how many Parisians are mystified by the notion of a lock being used to represent love," she explains, looking up at me with soft eyes of concern, "and how the greatest loves are about freedom and loving someone enough to let them go." Hello. Someone needs to re-watch the end of Beauty and the Beast: the best loves are the ones where they come back.
"Well, I'll tell you a secret," I say softly as her thumb digs and massages my hip tantalizingly. I'm pretty sure that she knows what I'm going to say, but that doesn't stop me. "I don't want you to let me go." I can see it in her eyes: she can't let herself tie me down, but she sure as anything wants to. I want her to want to. Heck, I'd be more than happy for her to tie me down in all sorts of ways. Enjoying the stimulation of her reassuring touches, I look up and take in the landscape, listening to the low grumble, screech and beep of busy traffic, as accompanied by distant restaurant clatter, and coupled disharmonically with a woman on a balcony far below arguing in German with a meek-voiced man. Even from this distance the Eiffel Tower is awe-inspiring. To think, half a day ago I was wandering around under that grand piece of architecture, softly singing Barbra's Clopin-Clopant to myself, kicking the air and making silly wishes on twinkling stars.
"We can go out, if you like," Dianna says, quietly catching my attention by stroking my right leg from thigh to ankle. A cloud passes over and I blink as the light repeatedly dulls then brightens again, casting wavering shadows across our knees. "Say so if you want to. I can control myself in public. For a while." She indicates a small amount with her hand. "Very short while." Cheeky, magical, sexy-ass perfect girl. My jaw tightens and my throat constricts with a wave of emotion that rises up from my chest. I twist at the waist and pull round to face her more fully. We look each other in the eyes. No hesitation. Open. Inviting. Curious. Full of adoration. "Truly," she adds. Her voice is pure comfort and safety to me. "I'm braver now, Lea. I'll do anything and everything your heart desires."
"I just want to stare at you all day," I confess, eager for her to feel the same, and I think she does because her face now carries a look of pure serenity. Click. "For posterity, right?" I whisper mischievously, holding the camera up at arm's length, lens directed at the both of us. Dianna nods and chuckles cutely, taking me by the cheeks and catching me off guard with a slow, enticing kiss. Click. Click. Oh, forget it. I don't want to be holding a camera when I could be tackling my way into her robe. I try to place it down without opening my eyes. Where's the damn table? It was there a minute ago. Ah, there we are.
Biting her way down my neck, she pulls this t-shirt's neckline wider so she can nip at my shoulder. "Breakfast in bed?" she asks against my collar bone. Jesus. Those are the three sexiest words she could ever possibly say to me. "Room service came when you were drying your hair." Fuck me, it gets better. I like Dianna taking control a whole lot more than I ever thought I would. "I made a few presumptions about what you'd want," she advises sweetly. "I got quite a lot so I hope you've got a good appetite." Do I ever not? "Nothing hot, though. I'll call down for some fresh coffee for you. I should have thought about that."
"No," I object through a moan as her hand confidently escapes under the front of my shirt. A thrill of sudden shudders shakes my abdomen. "It'd only get cold while I'm feeding you grapes or whatever. Besides, you are more than enough of a stimulant on your own." Through the fabric, I grab her hand and move it to lie over my heart, which is pumping so hard I feel like her palm might get bruised from the steady, rhythmic punch of it. I hope she can feel its strength. Everything around me seems to get that bit brighter as background noises fade. All I can really concentrate on is my breathing and the journey her hand makes as it follows the movement of my increasingly-heaving chest. "See?" I prompt.
Her enchanted expression becomes contemplative. "I've never seen anything more clearly." The statement seems to echo in my mind as I am distracted by her wandering fingertips that begin to descend over my stomach, landing to push lightly and suggestively at the stiff button on these shorts.
I lean in to stroke my fingers through her soft, now-dry hair and run my lips over the shell of her ear. "We'd better get inside," I mutter as her eyes flutter shut, "so you can get some clothes on."
"Oh! I thought -"
I silence her with a kiss that fills me with shivering tingles; they travel from the tip of my nose to my air-tapping toes. "It's okay. We're not going out," I say with conviction, causing Dianna to frown at me with confusion. "It's just that, as much as I love you naked -" gradually and gently, I pull aside her robe "- I really love the process of getting you that way." Getting up, I take her by the hand, dragging her laughing into the bedroom. "Any objections?"
Taking me into her arms, she shakes her head, her blonde hair swaying gloriously. "Never."
Last night's movie: Dancer in the Dark - "They say it's the last song. They don't know us, you see. It's only the last song if we let it be."
Just when you think the rollercoaster is ending, you get thrown screaming into another loop-de-loop. I look up just as Dianna's eyes grow wide with shock. "Did you not - for even one second - consider what this would do to us?" she bellows at me, stealing my breath and freezing my heart. I'm supposed to be the bull-headed one here, but it's hard to be strong when she stands there with stiff-shouldered, matador-like confidence, cloaking every one of my words with her own.
"You've always known that's what I wanted," I reply, pacing around and rubbing a tight muscle in my upper arm. "I thought you wanted it for me too."
"Oh, and that's just it, is it?" She is on the verge of tears, but still every word sounds scathing and vitriolic. "New York. Well, congratulations on finally moving on. I'll be sure to step out of your shadow when you enter that limelight."
My teeth gritted, I prepare myself before shouting back: "It's not like that, and you know it!"
"Yes. It is!" she shouts bitterly, almost shaking the walls of her trailer and driving a semi-thrilling chill up my spine. "Everyone knew about the audition but me; how is that right? You can't keep doing this to us."
"I'm not pushing you away," I say. My chest tightens and my quick pulse slams blood through my veins as I watch Dianna push her hands roughly through her hair. "Far from it. I want you there with me." I lick my dry lips and stab at the air between us with a pointed finger. "I'll talk to people. I'll make it happen for the both of us." More than anything, I have the intense desire for her to hold me and never let go.
"Don't pretend you owe me anything." Her strong exterior continues to crumble rapidly as she bites down on the side of her glossy lower lip. That sad face absolutely breaks my fucking heart.
I take her hand but she shakes it away, so I try an uneasy smile instead. This is hard. So hard. "It will be fine because we love each other," I suggest. Dianna throws me a shifty, uncertain glance. "Y-you do still love me, don't you?" I ask hesitantly.
She rolls her eyes and shrugs sharply. "Kind of."
It's a flagrant lie, its sole purpose to cause pain. Nevertheless, I feel smothered and small, completely eclipsed by the darkness that she projects. "Is that all I've become to you?" I ask, my throat beginning to constrict painfully. This horrible feeling cuts and tears at fears kept deep inside. I can't avoid the unwanted feelings that rise up. My hand shakes as I try to make a fist to help keep ahold of my fading inner strength, but it's no good. Biting at the inside of my cheeks, I attempt to hide the tears that burgeon. What... what am I supposed to say next? I'm completely lost. All gone. I cant focus. All forgotten. I try to read the words, but they seem to swim off the paper like raindrops down a pane of glass. What does that say? We? No, it's we're. We're what?"
Dianna's script quietly flops to the floor. With hazy vision, I make out her figure advancing just as her hands skip straight under my sweater and slide firmly up my bare back. I'm bumped firmly up against her. Real hard. The best sort of fierce embrace. We both gasp as, swiftly and sweetly, her cool mouth captures my hot lips, instantly curing the hurt and concentration that must have shown on my face. My lungs strain for air because I don't want to pull away; I only want her nearer, deeper. She takes a sharp nasal breath and my stomach clenches pleasurably. "I love you so much," she whispers with determination and warmth, laying further kisses of reassurance across my face and swiping away the tear streaks from my cheeks with her soft lips. "You know that, don't you?" she sighs against my forehead.
"Yes, baby, I know." This time I taste salt on her tongue as she kisses me again, this time even more assertively as she roughly squeezes my body tighter in that way she knows I love. In that way she knows I need. "I know," I quietly repeat, before moaning as she breathes me in and I struggle against the urge not to pin her to the floor and make love to her right here to prove that it's true. We both know that taking things further is a no go, but that doesn't stop our kisses remaining heated. Clutching at her shoulders, back, hips, ass, everywhere, I feel my head become fuzzy as pins and needles start to prickle sensation down my sides and legs. Jesus. She makes me feel so fucking good. Just a few seconds more. And more. Please.
But time is short and there's work to be done. So, like the lovestruck couple that we are - still in that honeymoon period and with no intention of leaving any time soon - we kiss more and more softly until only air meets our mouths and we part, her hands sliding down my back to rest at my sides where they tug and tease suggestively at my waistband. With a squint, I smear the heel of my palm across my cheek and clear my throat. "You didn't have to come to my rescue; I was only doing the crying bit, silly," I titter dismissively through a shaky exhalation, picking up and flapping the page with that particular stage direction on it.
A little wary, she runs off to grab a box of Kleenex. "I thought you were having a moment."
Frankly, I probably was. It took us ages to lay down a good recording of our duet of Winter Song because I kept having mini breakdowns. "Okay, I guess I kind of did," I try to joke through a sniff as she stuffs a bunch of tissues into my hand. I foresee having a gazillion 'moments' when we get around to filming the scenes where Quinn gets a taste of her own Season One medicine and gets bullied, taking an already fragile mind right over the edge. It's gonna be fucking hard to see her laid up in hospital. Majorly hard. Agonizing. But something tells me it will all be worth it in the end. After all, pain makes us appreciate what we have, doesn't it? "You're too convincing!" I tell her.
"No, I'm not," the lady protests. Lovingly, she strokes my cheekbones and gives me a peck on the nose.
"Do I have to hit you over the head with your Emmy?" I reply. She laughs loudly. "God, Dianna, can't we just be a contented couple on the show all the time?" I request vehemently. You'd think that working together all the time might be bad for our own relationship, but it's never felt like that with her. No time is time enough. "It would be so much easier and way less stressful. This is torture!" I know we're playing teenagers, but surely we don't have to have relationship troubles every other fucking week. Who breaks up at Christmas time? Yeah, Rachel and Quinn, that's who.
"Did you hear? I'm going to have that little rebellion soon." She purses her lips, turns on her heel, sits down and begins flipping through her iPad calendar, a smirk pinned to her mouth. "It's not absolutely set in stone, but I'm in on Friday for hair and make-up tests, then - if all goes well - I'm due to be arrested next week," she hints with a wink.
"Yeah? You didn't tell me they'd gone in that direction! That's hot!" Suddenly I feel a whole lot better. Rough with the smooth.
"Hey!" she chides, reaching out to grab my hips and sway me closer.
"I'm your girlfriend. I have super special rights. I'm allowed to call you hot and you're not allowed to deny it!" I stick out my tongue at her and flop down by her side, my cheek falling to rest against the arm of her thick, loose cardigan. "I had better be the one bailing your ass out, or there'll be hell to pay," I say, pulling at the cuff of her sleeve, wondering if Ryan will borrow our own story and have Rachel stop Quinn smoking. "Gotta keep the sexual tension at its limit so that the writers feel obliged to get us back together."
"Oh, have we?" Dianna says as I sit up straighter. "And how do we do that?"
Like she doesn't know already. "Well..." Demonstratively, I move to run my hands slowly over her arms, then thighs, barely touching any part of her. Getting closer, and blinking extra slow, I let my nose drift past her jaw. Then, just as she goes to lock lips with mine, I inhale with a shudder and pull back, smiling bashfully. "Like that." That was actually really difficult since my body is still buzzing from our earlier embrace.
"Ah, of course." Oh, come on, she so knew that already. How could she not? We're consummate professionals when it comes to not kissing when that's all you ever really want to do. "The almosts," she adds, staring at me darkly like she wants to take me back to bed and do very, very naughty things to me. Fuck.
"That too: the hungry looks," I agree without prompting, getting lost in her eyes more than a little, but no more than usual.
Bemused, she ruffles her hair and I have to kindly remind myself for the twentieth time today that our trailers are not sex-friendly zones. Not great soundproofing for a start. "I wasn't doing a look," she claims.
Oh. So that lusty glance was incidental and not for play. Now I really wish we were at home. Her home. My home. Any-fucking-where we could be alone and resolve some of this built-up fighting tension. But we're here, and no matter how tough work can be, at least I get to be with her. I look down at her script on the floor. Strangely, I'm fond of this one particular scene we're rehearsing. It reminds me of when we were new to our roles and every day seemed to bring fights by the lockers, then cupcakes and apologies by night. We console each other in a very different way nowadays, making up for these made-up arguments in an all-new positive way. Okay, there are cupcakes too. Cupcakes and sex. Plus plain old love, security and understanding. "Are you coming to my place tonight?" I ask, giving her knee a brief encouraging squeeze.
"Project with the girls, sweetheart. Remember?" she replies with a wince, sorry for having made plans.
Right. "Oh yeah. I'll miss you," I say grumpily. Holding my chin, she gives me a kiss that lingers sweetly. "Hey! I've told you before. No kissing the pout," I pretend to scold. Honestly, I really don't mean it.
"But I love kissing the pout," she replies, putting on a sulking face equally pitiful as my own and I can't help but smile. "You know that you're more than welcome to come along."
We're very much our own people and, personally, I believe diverse interests are healthy in a strong relationship. I love seeing her get out there, embracing life, and being happy. Then, for me, the best happens when she comes back at the end of all it and relates her discoveries with those magical eyes sparkling. "No. No. I'm good. I'll spend my evening curled up in front of the TV with the other great love of my life," I bait. "Sheila and I will send you lots of sleepy selfies."
"Stop taunting me with your kitty cuddle pictures!" she requests with amused exasperation. Yeah, well, she's always doing the same to me with puppy snuggles pictures. "It's mean," she whines, tackle hugging me and suckling wickedly on my neck. I'll get a mark; I know it.
"You love it," I smirk, not really wanting her to stop, but pulling her off me anyway to avoid a state of desire that's impossible to escape. We interlock fingers and I tug her hands down. Out of the blue, I say: "Do you remember that day we were in here and I told you that Rachel loved Quinn, and you looked like you were gonna hurl?" I like ribbing her about those days that feel like forever ago.
"How could I forget?" She quirks an eyebrow at me.
"Yeah. And then I told you it had all been my idea and you looked like you were trying to disappear through the wall?" I chuckle, remembering the conversation all too well.
She cringes visibly, her nose wrinkling. "You must have thought me very rude."
"Well it wasn't the shot in the arm I was looking for!" I laugh, but - regardless of knowledge to the contrary - I immediately feel an unnerving sense of unease when I think about how she looked at me that day. The looks of sallow-cheeked fear had kicked my self-confidence right out the door and sent it clattering down the metal steps. It seemed to me at the time that the thought of playing my lover made her physically ill. "You totally put me off asking for a practice first kiss." Dianna narrows her eyes cautiously and presses her lips together, peering at me intently. My heart drops like an anchor in heavy waters. Splosh. I am so utterly sunk for her.
"You're kidding," she suggests uncertainly, clutching my hand securely.
So today we break up on camera, but I believe it will only make me cherish what we have more than I thought possible. It's so hard to remember ever not loving Dianna. I couldn't possibly imagine it gone, and I'm sad to think there was a me who didn't know what this breathless sensation is like. In the beginning, I didn't know what I needed because I was only looking for what I expected to find, messily coloring between the lines of a generic life template and calling it a plan, a route, a path. Loving by numbers, if you like.
Sometimes I wish I'd figured out sooner that everyone has the right to start afresh with a blank canvas and create a whole new exciting picture for themselves. If I had, Dianna and I might not have spent so long dancing around each other (often literally). Did this love and attraction always lie under the surface, waiting for me to accept what I wanted? Maybe the entire course of our friendship was a gorgeous, drawn-out courtship, with every touch and kiss along the road building years of subtle foreplay. Yeah, that's what I tell myself. I like it that way. It's the only thing that somehow makes sense. We were always in love, right?
The overriding burn I feel... I can't control it. I didn't light it. We've all had those people we liked and wanted more of, so we doused our insides with alcohol and tossed in a few matches to make our bodies feel like they're in love, but those fires died fast. It wasn't like that with her. She set me alight when I didn't even ask for it. She's given me butterflies from the day we met. Only now do I completely understand the warmth that grows every time we're together. Maybe that's why it'll last. I hope so. I hope to God this lasts.
I don't get a reply because she knows my mind. Instead, she grasps my cheeks and looks at me like nothing else in this world matters. The conversation ends there, sealed with a loving kiss.
Song of the day: Wonderwall - 'Oasis' - "And all the roads we have to walk are winding. And all the lights that lead us there are blinding. There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don't know how. Because, maybe, you're gonna be the one that saves me."
"I don't know how I'm gonna deal with these fights we gotta keep having," I say, knocking the indicator, tugging the steering wheel round and glimpsing to my right; not at the wing mirror, but at the very pleasant company I'm keeping. I straighten up the car, pulling my eyes back to the road just in time to brake a little late for a red light that is suddenly emblazoned high on the dark sky. While stopped, I turn my head again. This girl, she's... she's so pretty, like oh-my-gosh-what-the-actual-fuck pretty. Long blonde hair that she's been talking about getting cut, sublime legs that for some reason she rarely shows off higher than the knee, a spectacular body which she thinks is nothing special, style and grace effortlessly coming out of her textbook perfect ears, and those eyes... those eyes that just say: 'come on in; mi casa es su casa'. "It's fun, but you are way too nice to get bitchy at, Dianna." Everyone on set seems to have started calling her Di, but I'm gonna stick to my guns. Her name is too pretty not to be said in full. And I guess I kinda like being set apart. I want to stand out in her world. Why? Just, well... because! The lights change. I ease the gas and we move off again.
I hear infectious laughter from the passenger side as we turn another corner and the headlights of an oncoming vehicle blind me for a second. "I'm the one who has to call you names!" she replies, defiantly. "So I'm the one who should feel bad, and I do. Awful!"
I shrug and relax back into my seat, checking the dash. No wonder her roommate gave me the most pissed look ever when I knocked on their door: it's 4.20am. Not usually my favorite time of day, but with her it feels like magic hour. She is, like, the most genuine and loving person ever, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to call her my friend. "Anyone who knows you, knows you're not that mean person," I insist, tapping the wheel in time with the beat of the Queen song currently playing. "You're a wonderful actress with an amazing soul."
"Oh, I'm in love with you already!" she giggles.
My chest swells with pride and I smile shyly. She says that to absolutely everyone: friends; co-workers, make-up artists; repair guys; crazy people in the street; a wild coyote we saw eating garbage the other night, but, hey, I'm the one giving her a ride today and there's no one else here, so I'm gonna feel great regardless. I wonder how the public is gonna react to my character. "I'm pretty sure there are a lot of people who won't see the difference between me and Rachel."
"I can." She seems so sure.
"Really?" I ask, sincerely interested; after all, Rachel and I, naturally, share quite a few traits and not all of them virtuous. All I get is a firm nod. Uh, okay, then. I guess I've no reason not to believe her. I sure as hell need people around me who know me well so, sure, let her be one of them. She's already such a positive presence on set: a delight to have around. Each day we're together I find myself honing in on her to see if I can get close enough for those good vibes to rub off. "You'll have to give me lessons on that edge-of-uncontainable-emotion thing you do with your eyes."
"I do a thing?" she asks sweetly.
Oh, Dianna. "Yeah, you do a thing." We pass another billboard and I daydream about a time when we'll be featured. All the Glee kids together. "I still don't know how they expect to realistically have Rachel steal Finn from you."
"What do you mean?" she asks.
Hello? Duh. She really is blind to her own assets. I wave my hand roughly in her direction. "Because you're, y'know." I lose my words as out of the corner of my eye, I see her scoop her hair up and tie it back messily. "You're spectacularly gorgeous and no one in their right mind would ever give you up." There, I said it.
"No, no," Dianna dismisses, then shakes her head to indicate I didn't understand her question. "What do you mean by 'realistically'?"
I cluck my tongue impatiently. "I'm no competition for a girl like you."
She chuckles at me. "You're funny."
"I don't get it. Why are you laughing?" I'm not telling her off, only curious.
"Because you're joking." She frowns cutely.
"I'm serious." Yeah, I play the clown a lot, but not right this minute. "You know that I got turned down for a whole bunch of jobs because of this face and figure. If it weren't for my family - and I'm not saying I'm not confident about and proud of my looks, but when you've been kicked down... I... I... " This time I'm distracted by her now completely bemused expression; the car swerves a fraction and I drift into a different lane. Oops. Lucky traffic is quiet before sunrise. I'll pretend I did it on purpose.
"Never think about those people, Lea." Her voice becomes stern and powerful. "Don't give them one millisecond of your precious time or consideration," she expresses with clench-fisted certainty. "They're wrong. Utterly wrong. They missed out and, to be frank, I'm glad, because it means that destiny brought you here. Kismet playing you into our hands; right where you needed to be."
I beam unashamedly. Compliments from Dianna, no matter how indirect, feel like they come sealed in their own gold envelopes marked 'Winner'. I need to keep this woman in my life, and I mean physically and mentally need. If we don't get renewed, I'm keeping her number in my contacts forever. She is an exceptional human being. "You remind me of my grandfather. He used to say, uh..." Shit. What was it? "Oh! 'Bei mir bistu shein', which, uh, it's, like, shamefully, one of the very few Yiddish things I know, and I think it means -"
"'To me, you're beautiful'." Those golden words seem to hang in the air, blending in with the soft drone of the engine. I start to wonder if I actually woke up this morning or whether I'm still dreaming. Yeah, I know, she's just translating, but can I help if it makes my heart skip? "Or 'beside me, you're beautiful'," Dianna suggests, "but I'd opt for the former, otherwise it sounds as though the speaker makes you more lovely thanks to their presence, which clearly isn't the case, and I'm sure that your grandfather would have agreed." Yeah, she's blessed with brains too, but I knew that from day one. "Beauty like yours doesn't need company in order to shine, Lea."
Beauty like mine. Wow. Say that again and again, for the rest of my life. There aren't many people who can say things like that and have me believe it, but for some reason Dianna is one of them. Right now she's making me nervous; it's like pre-stage nerves: adrenaline from the sheer flattery of her kind words. I feel full up and warm inside, like there's corn in my tummy that's on the verge of popping. Before I can thank her, she's back on the subject and looking all kinds of excited.
"I adore the Andrew Sisters' fun and lively cover, but the original holds a special place in my heart," Dianna says with expressive hands. We cruise toward the studios, street lights casting an intermittent, flashing glow across her eyes and cheeks. I can't seem to fully concentrate any longer, catching only every other word. Somehow I manage to catch the gist of her explanation of how she came to learn the lyrics from a teacher at Hebrew school.
Wait, lyrics? "Hold on. Skip back. Bei Mir Bistu Shein is a song?" I must sound so dumb.
"From a 1930s comedy musical, yes," she confirms like a walking, talking Wikipedia. Well that explains why Grandpa would usually walk away humming a tune after he said it. How did I not know this? Dianna perks up and starts asking me questions about work, oblivious to the fact that she just screwed with my head by altering a dozen childhood memories. "So do you? Do you think we'll ever sing a duet on the show?" she queries again.
Dianna's got game when it comes to singing; there's a real sexy edge to her voice. "If I had any sway over the plots -" now there's a pipe dream "- we definitely would." Gently, she touches my elbow as a gesture of thanks. My stomach twists and tightens strangely. Pow. Popcorn everywhere. A shock of palpitations makes my heart and eyelashes flutter.
"Mm?" she prompts, even though I never said anything aloud.
"I was thinking how weird I am sometimes," I reply, reeling from the odd, lingering sensation that is still thrumming through my arm and making my head feel like it's stuffed with cotton balls. It's not like we've never hugged and stuff - we do that all the time - so why one touch would startle me, I've no idea. I don't think it's because she's super attractive. No, it's something different. All I know is that, when she pays me even the slightest bit of attention, I feel so overcome but comfortable too. Like falling knowing you'll be caught. This girl is one of those books you just can't seem to put down.
"I'm weird too," she reassures under her breath. "We can merge your weird and mine and fall, as the quote goes, into a mutually satisfying weirdness." I see her draw shapes in the fine mist of condensation across the car door window as she muses on something more serious. "So come on. How do you think Rachel's heart should be won? What would you write given the opportunity?"
"Uhm. Let's see." I like this game. "It'd have to be personal. Y'know, like personally important. Rachel would appreciate it if someone really paid attention and listened. So, yeah, it's gotta be yellow roses."
She shoots me a curious look as we turn into the parking lot. "That was a quick decision." Pondering this for a moment, she licks her lips. "Yellow?"
"Come on. Think about it. Funny Girl!" I exclaim. "You know as well as I do that the roses are kind of iconic in it, and it's so Rachel's favorite movie since it represents - and encourages - her desire for success against the odds. And so, yeah, yellow roses to mean: 'I love you'; yellow roses to imply: 'I respect who you are and what you want out of life'; and yellow roses to say: 'I know what your favorite movie is so we should, like, be together forever'." Right? I'm right, aren't I? It's not about the flowers themselves; it's about the thought behind them.
"That makes perfect sense." Dianna grins widely. "And this is only Rachel you're talking about?"
Oh, I know what she's getting at here; I'm not falling for that. "Hey, you were the one who said you knew the differences and similarities between me and my character, so I'm not telling." Keeping quiet, she looks down at her lap, all smug and self-assured. Well, let's face it, she's gonna be right, isn't she? We stop in my usual parking spot and I turn off the engine. "So... big day today. Ready to learn this new dance?" I poke her in she shoulder as she releases her seatbelt.
I'm greeted by warm, inviting eyes. "Absolutely. Promise you'll hold my hand if I get stuck with the moves?"
"Help you?" She's a dancer! "You won't need me to do that," I dismiss.
"Oh, I need you. Definitely." She tilts her head and, as she catches my eye, I feel as though she's reading my mind. At last the silence breaks. "How could I ever be without my funny lady?"
God, I just know that I'm gonna love this girl.