Disclaimer: If Loving Annabelle were mine... well, I don't think I would have changed a thing. (see profile for a REAL disclaimer)
A/N: Found this while searching through my hard drive and decided to finish it up for The International Day of Femslash 2012. Happy reading everyone!
It had always been Annabelle's favorite school vacation.
When she was younger, her parents would take her on exotic trips- to the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, South America, anywhere they pleased- and as she got older she'd stay home, spending the entire week having never ending slumber parties at her friends houses or on whirlwind tours of California on her mother's campaign bus. It wasn't until more recently though, that spring break had begun to take on a different meaning for her. Last year she'd fallen in love with her best friend and they'd spent the entire week rolling around in the sand, getting sunburned in inappropriate places as they kissed and made love on a private beach in Thailand. Her parents had been off at a UN conference hundreds of miles away, completely oblivious to their blossoming relationship and it had been absolutely perfect.
So, it almost seemed right that she was spending her vacation at Saint Theresa's this year. Alone.
The first few days hadn't been so bad. She kept to herself and used the time to get caught up on homework, wanting to get it out of the way so that she could spend the remainder of the week lounging around campus smoking or playing her guitar. It hadn't been what she'd expected though. Annabelle figured that she would eventually run into some of the other girls who, for one reason or another, had stayed at school instead of going home as well, but they mostly chose to steer clear of her which was more than alright with her. She preferred it that way anyway. But it was the prospect of being able to spend extra time alone with Miss Bradley had been far too exciting to pass up. The woman intrigued her, far more than she probably should, and for the first time in her life she'd been grateful that her mother didn't seem to have the time of day for her.
So, when Monday and then Tuesday and Wednesday passed by and the only time that they saw each other was at meals, Annabelle was a little disappointed. Miss Bradley seemed to be avoiding her. She was a little bit hurt by it, but shrugged it off, and it was on Thursday evening that she saw her opening. Just as she was about to turn onto the path down to her favorite patch of trees in the garden she saw a flash of blonde hair disappear behind the chapel doors. Her interest piqued and Annabelle gave into curiosity, sneaking around to the side entrance not wanting to draw attention to herself should there be anyone else inside.
When she finally located the the ancient wooden door, she opened it as quietly as she could and slipped inside, skirting her way along the side wall until she found a spot hidden in the shadows. Annabelle's breath hitched as she she finally caught sight of Miss Bradley. She was sitting quietly in one of the front pews, her eyes fluttering shut in prayer, candlelight from hundreds of tea lights flickering a pale yellow glow across her skin. The sight alone made Annabelle sigh softly and lean her temple against the stone pillar she was hiding behind, a hint of a smile curving her lips.
Cat was right. She did have a thing for Miss Bradley.
She continued observing with bated breath. With each crease of Miss Bradley's brow, or the quirk of her lower lip as she bit it, Annabelle felt her stomach flip and her body warm.
Okay, so maybe it was more than a thing.
She wasn't sure what to call it. A crush? No, that sounded too immature. Being sweet on her? That didn't sound right either, too old fashioned. Well, whatever it was, with every passing day Annabelle found herself more interested, and more amazed by her. She was a woman hiding behind what society and religion told her she should be, and it was getting harder to ignore the awkwardness between them every time they spoke. They both knew what it was, it was tension- sexual tension if all of the heated looks and the kiss that they'd almost shared were any indication- but Annabelle needed to know more before she pushed any harder. The last thing she wanted to do was to get Miss Bradley fired or thrown into jail, and if they got caught that's most definitely where the situation would be heading.
Then her prayers were answered, if she actually did such a thing as pray or believe in God that is, when Father Harris walked in. Annabelle always had a certain respect for the old man. He was kind and kept a level head when everyone else was quick to judge, and no matter how archaic his preaching or advice seemed sometimes he always included a moral of some kind. Stories with morals were a rare thing these days, and she admired him for that.
Annabelle shrank even deeper against the wall as Father Harris passed, holding her breath when he stopped just a few paces past her and looked back in her direction, not quite meet her eyes. He knew that she was there. Her heart stuttered, jaw clenching as her fingernails dug into her palms. For a moment, no more than a few seconds, she was almost certain that he was going to shoo her away or give her a detention for being out of her dorm past curfew. He didn't though, with an inclination of his head he simply turned and continued on, sliding into the pew beside Miss Bradley with the confidence and familiarity that she longed to have.
"I love teaching," Miss Bradley started, looking unsure of herself, "and I love feeling like I have a purpose here with the girls. But, everything else in my life is just-"
"I don't know. I guess I thought I'd have more figured out by now."
Father Harris seemed to take pity on her and Annabelle completely understood why. Not knowing who you are, or finding out that you're not who you thought you were your whole life, could be a scary thing.
"Well, maybe the best thing to do is not to try and figure it all out," the Father's brow furrowed, deep in thought, and he reached inside of his jacket for a pencil and a small pad of paper.
"A note for a sermon," he explained, scribbling a few notes down before putting everything back in his coat, "You've always been my favorite, you know that?"
Miss Bradley grinned widely and chuckled, looking down at her lap for a moment, "You said that to all of us."
"Not true," he denied, "No, you- you've always stood out from the rest. Particularly the time that you and Amanda ran off with all of that wine from the rectory."
"You knew that was us?" she smirked shyly, and Annabelle saw a hint of nostalgia wash over her face.
"My problem is that I know everything."
Her eyes twinkled in amusement for moment, right up until he turned and looked her straight in the eye. Annabelle's brow furrowed as she watched the smile abruptly fall off of Miss Bradley's face, a shimmer of light glinting off of her eyes. Something else was being said between them, something big, and in that simple exchange Annabelle was almost positive that her suspicions had been proven right.
Father Harris reached over and covered Miss Bradley's hand with his own and they seemed comfortable sitting there together in the silence. After a minute or so had passed, just as Annabelle was about to slip outside and leave them to their privacy, his gaze wandered over to her corner of the church.
Taking a deep breath, Annabelle quietly snuck out of the shadows, showing herself just long enough to meet the Father's gaze and acknowledge what had happened. She understood the gravity of what of what he'd let her bear witness to and she had no doubt that he'd done it on purpose, that he'd brought up Amanda and hadn't kicked her out for the very same reason. For that she was grateful. It was exactly what she'd needed, the tiny sliver of information that made everything else suddenly make sense. It was the last piece of the puzzle.
Annabelle bowed her head in thanks and tiptoed back toward the door before her luck ran out, slipping silently into the damp evening air. Without thinking she sat down on the cold stone steps and reclined back against the building. After everything that she'd just witnessed one would expect her mind to be racing, but she was surprised to find herself oddly centered. So she tilted her head skyward and studied the stars, the beginning of a smile curving her mouth.
She sat there for the next hour, thinking about everything and nothing at all, and for the first time since arriving at Saint Theresa's she felt like she finally had a purpose. She understood why she was there, not just because of her bad behavior, public scandals, or getting tossed out of her previous schools, but because of Miss Bradley. Initially, Annabelle hadn't been quite sure why she was drawn to her, but now she knew. It wasn't because of her looks or even her mind for that matter. She knew now, with absolute certainty, that what she was feeling was so much more than a simple schoolgirl crush. And, this- today- proved that.
They were both broken, looking for a way to let go of the past, a way to heal. And, she was the one who was going to get them there.