When I run into Cat the following morning, I feel like my heart is on fire. It shocks me to no end that people don't stare at her for hours like I want to. She attracts looks, no doubt, but everyone else gazes at her like she's an object to be manipulated. They see her long legs disappearing under a denim skirt and the delicate curve of her collarbones arching across her chest and the full lips and the swell of her chest - and that's all beautiful, trust me, but it's not all I see. I see her laughter and her happy chocolate eyes and her kindness, her patience, her honesty and loyalty and love. She's bursting with it. And that makes her more than the attractive thing that other people see. It makes her a person.
"You're staring at me."
Cat laughs. She touches my elbow very carefully, as platonic as she can make the gesture seem, before quickly pulling it away. It's a practiced movement, one we have done a dozen times before. It's her not being able to refrain from touching me altogether, but keeping it friendly. I open my mouth to protest before zipping my lips shut. My parents know - I told her about the confrontation this morning. She had been so surprised she couldn't stop herself from crushing me in a hug. It was a step, sure, but it had taken over a month to get to that point. I smile back at her, reaching up and tucking a strand of rogue red hair behind her ear. It's an intimate gesture, something we don't do here at school very often. Cat is noticeably wary of reacting; I can see in the way her hands twitch and her eyes grow heavy that she wants to hold me closer, kiss me, but we're in the middle of the hallway. My fingertips ski down her jawline.
Cat's cheeks burn. She ducks her head slightly before looking up at me through the gaps in her thick lashes. "Thank you."
I want to kiss her. I want to hold her cheeks and kiss her in front of all the mumbling students passing through. But I hold back, bite my tongue, swallow the urge away. I can't plunge into this without knowing how to swim. It's going to take time and I have to allow myself that to adjust or everything will fall apart.
I've accepted that I might not be straight. As far as being a lesbian - I don't think so. I'm attracted to guys. I'm attracted to Cat. Maybe I'm attracted to all kinds of people. Who knows. What matters is where my feelings lie and who manifests them and in this case, it's Cat. That's important. Not the rest of it. Not the labels or the identification or what other people might say when they see Cat and I together. We're Cat and Tori. Simply.
After school, I drive the two of us to Cat's house. Like usual, it's empty, but there's evidence that someone other than Cat has been here. An empty pan with cookie crumbs on it is balancing on the kitchen counter, empty coffee cups, a box of brunette hair dye in the trash. It's weird that I even notice, even weirder that Cat tells me her and her mom spent the day together the day before without me having to ask.
"I told her about you," Cat says, words carefully constructed like she had considered them for a long time. She throws in some pizza rolls into the microwave before turning to face me, back against the counter. "That we're, uhm, secret dating."
"Secret dating," I repeat, smiling at her. I sit at her kitchen table. "We sound like spies."
Cat beams, hands folding in front of her. "She said she can't wait to meet you. And I can't wait for you to meet her. It'll be so special. Maybe you can have dinner with us one night, maybe even with my brother, and, oh! On Christmas my Gran comes up and you'll get to meet her, too! And my cousins and aunts and uncles, they'll be so delighted because they love singing and Hollywood and we could show them around and sing for them and -" Cat chops her words off at the sound of the microwave blaring. She whirls around, tentatively withdrawing the hot plate and standing there for a moment, facing the appliance.
I study the back of her yellow tank-top. "You all right?"
Cat turns. Her eyes are worried. "Was that too much?"
I'm confused. "Was what too much?"
"Me talking about you meeting my family." She drops the plate between us and stands at my side. Her hand grips mine. "I don't want to scare you away."
"Cat." I put my other hand over hers. "You're not going to scare me away. I can't wait to meet your family."
"As my girlfriend?" She bites her lips. The words were squeaked more than spoken. There's a jittyness to her knees that suggests she's resisting the urge to bounce. I squeeze her hand.
"Yes. As your girlfriend."
Cat takes a deep breath, almost a gasp, like she can't believe it. Her arms swing around my neck, drawing me straight to her chest and furiously kissing the top of my head. I laugh into her shirt. The fact that this makes her so happy makes me happy, too. It makes all of my insecurities seem so stupid, so far away. What do I care if other people look down their noses at me? At us? I make Cat happy. Cat makes me happy. She makes me want to be a better, more confident person. And if people don't like it, don't like us, then those aren't people I want liking me anyway.
She bends down and kisses me. I tangle my hand into the back of her hair. The room smells like pizza rolls. Her tongue teases my lips, the breath of a suppressed giggle fanning over my mouth. Cat's leg swings over my lap and she nestles on top of me and - oh - heat licks across my waist, up my chest, into my neck. Her tongue meets mine, battles, wins, and a soft moan ripples through me as her hands glide over my breasts.
We've been so slow, so careful, but holding back too much for too long. I wrap my fingers around her wrist and pull back, meeting her eyes.
She blinks at me. Her face is flushed. I swallow before nodding.
"Really?" Cat licks her lips. She bounces slightly, her hips pushing into mine, and I bite back another moan as I nod once more.
She twists her hand to take mine. We leave the pizza rolls steaming on the table. She's bounding up the stairs with me behind her like I'll change my mind. Cat has been imagining this for a lot longer than I have and I can't bring myself to force her to wait any longer.
Besides, I want this as much as her.
I don't even think it's a desire at this point. It's a necessity. I need her like I need music, thrumming inside of me, keeping time, stealing my breath.
She shuts her door but doesn't bother to lock it. I hold her hand until I move to the edge of the bed, sitting gingerly on the edge. Cat remains standing. She's smiling at me, blushing, nervous, maybe scared? I swallow as she plucks at the hem of her shirt before slowly, achingly so, she pulls it over her head. Red hair bleeds down her shoulders. My fingers twitch at the sight of her purple bra. Her hands slowly shift to her skirt, already revealing so much but safeguarding parts I've never seen. The button pops. The zipper clicks down. Her hips wiggle once, and they drop to her ankles. She steps out of it, panties the same purple as her bra, and I'm ripping off my shirt before I even realize it and standing up, crashing our bodies together. A small squeak proceeds the kiss, my hands flattening over her bare hips and pushing them into mine. I can feel her breasts against my own, the hot pads of her palms gliding down my back, over the clasp of my bra. She travels down to the dip of my lower back, making her way back toward my front, snapping the button of my jeans. I gasp against her mouth, my hands momentarily abandoning her to tear at the zipper of my pants. I push them down before kicking them off altogether.
Cat's wide brown eyes swallow me. I stand there for a long time, just allowing her to look, taking the time to study the intricate make-up of her body. She's so white she glows, stomach soft, breasts rising and falling with her rapid breathing. I meet her gaze, smiling nervously. She steps forward, hands shaking on my waist as her lips move to my ear. "It's okay."
We sink to the bed, her on top of me, hand behind my back. My bra gives way without a sound, the material tugged away. I thought I'd be self conscious at this point but all worries are wiped clean when I see the way she's looking at me, completely mesmerized. Her thumb slides over one of my nipples, drawing a sound out of me I didn't know I could make. I arch toward her touch as she tests the other nipple with a fingernail.
"You're so beautiful," she whispers, leaning down to kiss my sternum, hot breath searing across my flesh. She tickles each breast with her tongue and I'm on fire, I'm going to burn to death, I convince myself, as she kisses along my stomach, hands on my thighs. She does this for some time, touching parts of me, kissing every inch she can reach. It makes me squirm, and pant, and die, over and over again, until finally her hand cups between my legs and I nearly scream.
Cat stops wasting time. She guides my panties down my legs and throws them to the floor. This, too, causes her to pause in awe, softly, barely touching me. I lift my hips, desperate, feeling like I'm about to cave in. Her fingers slip between my lips and sink into a pool of wetness. She gasps. I gasp, and twist, and cry out again as her finger curls deep inside of me.
It doesn't take long at all. Her thumb massages my clit as the lone finger works within. I don't try to stop the string of cries coming out of me - I don't really hear them, I just feel Cat pumping and see stars hovering on the edges of my vision. This is nothing like doing this by myself in my bed in the dark; the sun is slanting in through Cat's windows, warm and inviting, and I come with her name flooding out of me, thighs squeezing around her wrist.
She lays beside me. I breathe, or try to, but it doesn't work very well for a few minutes. Her arm drapes over my stomach, lips on my shoulder, as I slowly come down. The ceiling swims back into view, and then Cat's face as I turn to look at her. She's beaming, tongue on her upper lip.
I kiss her. Fueled by my fire, I roll on top of her, kissing, touching, roaming. I pluck her bra off from beneath her back. She throws it off. I only stare down at her supple softness for a few moments before I'm down on top of them, flicking my tongue across the tip of her taut nipple. She moans, the sound better than any song I've ever heard, and I make her play it again and again as I map across her body, discovering soft spots (on her sides) and ticklish ones (behind her knees) and ones that make her sing (her neck and thighs and the space just above her panties). Those are the last to go, leaving her naked and bare. She's soft and wet with a tuft of dark hair that blends between my fingers. She's shifting beneath me wildly, begging, and Jesus, I can't. The tip of my middle finger glides between her lips before finding her clit, stroking it with terrible slowness. Cat is gripping one breast, back lifting off the bed as I flick across the sensitive nub.
And then I'm inside of her and she's hot and wet and tensing around me like she's a bowline about to snap. I pump my hand like she did, thumb on her clit, turning my eyes up to watch as her face squeezes into expressions I didn't know humans could create. Her ribcage expands and deflates with alarming speed. I'm half thinking she might hyperventilate when suddenly there's a rush of "Tori" gushing out of her, and she's shaking beneath my hand. She rides out her orgasm with my finger still stroking within her, not stopping until I think she'll simply fall apart if I don't. I pull back, panting, exhausted just watching her as she blinks blearily up at the ceiling.
I crawl beside her. She looks dazed and deliriously happy, so much so that all I can do is kiss her temple and draw her naked body to mine.
I think she tells me she loves me, but the words are so quiet I can't hear them well. And that should scare me to death, hearing her say that, but it doesn't. I dip my nose into her hair and mumble, "I love you, too."
Because I do. My heart says it too loud for me to pretend I don't hear it.
Cat smiles against my chest before leaning back and kissing me.
And it's easy, this. Cat. Us. I made it hard, but it doesn't have to be. Not everything has to be questions. It can all be answers.
A/N: Jeez, sorry this took so long. I was doing a hundred other things.
But yeah, this is the final installment of Question Marks. Everything needs to go out with a bang, eh?
I'm thinking of writing a sequel calling Exclamation Marks (oh ho!) but I'm not sure yet.
Hope you all enjoyed the story!