When Imogen wakes up, there's a light in her eyes.
And she's not exactly happy about it.
"Imogen? Get up. You're going to be tardy."
It's her father's voice she hears, and her father's knock: controlled but consistent from the other side of the door.
Imogen accepts the pair of glasses Fiona passes and sits up. She reads aloud from the clock: "It's 3:30 in the morning."
Fiona shrugs and yawns and stretches her pajama top over her head.
"Imogen, why is this door locked?"
"I'll be right there, Dad!" Imogen crabs.
Fiona puts on part two of her sleep set. "Someone's up bright and surly," she teases.
Imogen sulks. She didn't mean to sound so aggrieved. In fact, she should be relieved that her father didn't have an episode last night.
Fiona crouches in front of the dresser and opens the bottom drawer. The first thing she finds is a black T-shirt. The pink text traveling across the front of it says: I'm not a lesbian, but my girlfriend is.
"Gag gift from Eli," Imogen explains, in response to Fiona's raised eyebrows.
Mr. Moreno knocks once more and Fiona selects a different garment from the drawer. She tosses the nightshirt to Imogen, who shimmies into it and shuffles toward the door.
Louis looks at his daughter, who looks right back. The expression in his eyes reminds Imogen of a rundown motel, the kind with the neon No Vacancy sign out front, the No blinking erratically because it's on the fritz (again) and nobody can fix it because it's beyond repair.
"Why aren't you ready for school?"
Dad, it's Sunday and it's dark out,Imogen wants to say, but she knows better than to contradict him. It would only make him more irritable. "Sorry, Dad. I must've overslept. I'll get ready right now."
"Speed it up a little."
She starts to laugh, but the look on her dad's face tells her this is no laughing matter, and she swallows the sound like a bitter pill.
That sound is replaced by another: the clunk of metal against wood. Imogen turns to find Fiona fumbling for her phone.
"Is there someone in there?" Louis demands.
"Do you have a male in your room?"
"No, Dad, definitely not. It's just Fiona. Well, not just Fiona. I mean—"
"This is not a flophouse, Imogen. Nor is it a bed and breakfast. I expect you to—"
"Louis?" A figure appears behind him. The caretaker.
Take care to be a little more vigilant, would you? Imogen gripes in her head. She might tell her mother about this. The fact that her father needs more help than she's equipped to provide still makes Imogen feel inadequate. Although sometimes, when she isn't feeling spiteful, she feels grateful. Now is not one of those times.
"Let's give Imogen some privacy so she can get ready for school," the caretaker suggests, calm and conciliatory, because it's futile to argue with a person who has dementia. They will always win and they are always right. "We don't want her to be late, do we?"
"Not late," Mr. Moreno says, permitting the caretaker to lead him down the hall and back to his bedroom.
Imogen shuts her door slowly, waiting for his to shut first. She ticks the lock and exhales, low and long. She's not tired now, but she wants to go back to bed.
Imogen pads across the floor, shucking her shirt en route. "You, too," she says.
Fiona nods, her smile slender but tender.
Imogen watches as Fiona undresses. She doesn't want to make love just now, but she does want to be intimate. Imogen kisses her cheek and Fiona glides Imogen's glasses away from her face.
Imogen extinguishes the light and they nuzzle next to each other. This is Imogen's favorite place to be. By Fiona's side, the bright side, the other side of the Coyne.
"What if that happens to me someday?" Imogen whispers, because she feels comfortable talking to Fiona about anything.
Fiona's little finger finds hers, crooks it, hooks it. "I'd take care of you," she says, like it's a no-brainer.
Imogen's breath zigzags in her throat.
"I will always be in love with you," she says.
It's not so much a promise as it is a realization, because when you realize something, you make it real. And once it's real, it stays real.
Fiona doesn't reply, but Imogen sees her eyes fend off tears as her body bends toward Imogen's and her arms wend their way around Imogen's torso.
Imogen's heart hammers happily inside their hardcore hug, until she is no longer able to distinguish Fiona's heartbeat from her own.
When Imogen wakes up for the second time that morning, she comes to her senses: the smell of sex-scented serenity and the sight of the sweetest face Imogen has ever seen: a face that's genuinely beautiful and beautifully genuine.
"Good morning, my little afterglow-worm," Imogen greets her.
Her girlfriend grins. There's barely any wiggle room between them and yet Fiona's fingers have overcome all manner of obstacles in their pursuit of sappiness.
"Caught you wet-handed," Imogen chirps, snapping her legs shut like a Venus flytrap.
Fiona gasps, naughty masquerading as haughty.
Imogen kisses Fiona's shoulder, and when she looks over it, she sees their mobile phones on the nightstand, stacked one on top of the other. "Look, Fiones. We're cellmates."
Fiona's head swivels. "Do you think they had phone sex?"
"Maybe. But I don't think they had hot sex. That's our thing."
"Hot sex is our thing, huh?"
Imogen nods and nips at Fiona's mouth, then slowly slips her tongue through Fiona's lips.
"Immy, I can't feel my fingers," Fiona mumbles into her mouth.
"I can," Imogen mumbles back. But she likes Fiona too much to keep her trap shut, so she eases her legs open and gives Fiona a taste of freedom.
Imogen grins as she watches Fiona lick the slick sap from her fingers.
Fiona nudges Imogen onto her back, and Imogen purrs as the sweet swirls of Fiona's sex press against hers.
Imogen glares at her bedroom door, on the other side of which stands the interrupter of their intercourse.
"Imogen, I'm leaving in five minutes." It's the caretaker. "Your father's in the kitchen."
"Okay," Imogen calls out in response. "We'll be down in a jiffy."
Fiona's expression is neutral, pleasant actually, as she sits up, putting some space between them.
Imogen gasps. In the spotlight of the sun, she can see marks all over Fiona's body: hickey-hued clouds stamped on her skin like a logo.
Imogen recoils. Fiona told her about him, about Bastard Bobby Beckonridge, the boy who mistook Fiona for a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot. The last thing she wants to do is remind her of him.
"They're not bruises, Immy," Fiona says, stroking Imogen's cheek. "They're souvenirs."
Imogen's frown flips like a pancake. And then a thought occurs to her, and her head flips forward. There on her body—everywhere on her body—is her own personal collection of these tokens of affection.
"I look like a short pink giraffe."
"I'd stick my neck out for you," Fiona says, and demonstrates, lips landing on Imogen's nose.
Bzzzt! the spark buzzes. Imogen giggles.
"I'm gonna go wash up," Fiona reports, donning her pajamas. "Then I'm going downstairs to make breakfast with your dad."
Imogen puts on her glasses and watches Fiona fix her hair so her souvenirs don't show.
"See you in a jiffy," Fiona teases, prancing out the door.
Imogen approaches her full-length mirror and scans her sans-clothes reflection.
Fiona Coyne, your marks are definitely not mediocre.
The aroma of spinach omelets wafting from the kitchen is overpowered by the sound of raucous laughter, also wafting from the kitchen.
"Don't make me come down there," Imogen threatens, even as she descends the stairs.
Fiona flies out of the kitchen, wearing a little apron and a big grin, and lands at the landing in front of Imogen. "Where else am I supposed to make you come?"
"You cut that out this instant, Miss Behave Yourself," Imogen demands, hands on hips. The hips are hers, but the hands are Fiona's. Imogen nods toward the kitchen. "What's going on in there?"
"Your dad's reenacting the Vitameatavegamin commercial and I'm making the fruit salad," Fiona announces, and bounces.
Imogen eyes her suspiciously. "And you're using forbidden fruit?"
"Imogen, you are the bad apple of my eye," Fiona retorts.
Then she collects Imogen's hand and together they travel to the kitchen.
"Morning, Dad," Imogen chirps.
Her father beams at her. "There's my Imogenius," he cheers, looking tickled to death to see her. "Did you sleep well?"
Imogen nods and smiles and pecks him on the cheek, and she doesn't mention what happened at 3:30 in the morning, because why remind him of something he can't remember? And even if he could, why would he want to?
She follows Fiona around to the other side of the counter, where there's an unattended cluster of grapes sitting beside Fiona's forbidden fruit salad. Imogen abducts the whole bunch, its branches in her clutches. "Dad?"
Mr. Moreno glances up from the stove. "Hmm?" he says, turning the knob until the flame disappears.
"Love you bunches."
Her dad chuckles and her girlfriend giggles.
"You love me bunches, too?" Fiona asks.
"No," Imogen answers, plucking a piece of pulpy fruit off a stem. "I was just wondering if you were familiar with The Grapes of Wrath."
"Yeah…" Fiona replies cautiously, as if she doesn't like where this is going.
"What about… the wrath of grapes?" Imogen inquires.
Fiona's eyes expand. "Immy, no."
Right between the "Immy" and the "no," Imogen gets her right between the eyes.
Imogen shrieks, too, but with laughter instead of terror.
Mr. Moreno grabs a grape and pitches it across the counter, clubbing his daughter on the arm.
Pretty soon, Louis and Imogen are throwing grapes faster than Fiona can pick them up.
"Isn't this a blast, Fiones?"
"Blast off!" Mr. Moreno whoops, and sends a grape soaring.
"It's a bird, it's a plane—"
"It's Super Grape!" Fiona bellows, hurling a handful of them at her girlfriend.
Imogen isn't expecting the onslaught. Grapes bounce off her head, clobber her chest, and whack her in the back. "Whoa, when did you get fun?"
"I am, and always have been, more fun than a barrel of monkeys," Fiona proclaims.
Mr. Moreno chuckles and chucks two grapes, one in each hand, one at each girl. "You know this family has more issues than Burlington Comics?"
"That's right," Imogen crows. "And don't you forget it."
Imogen's pen patters across the page. Her journal's sitting in her lap, and she's sitting in the lap of luxury.
I can honestly say that I now know Fiona inside and out.
Near her shoulder, there's a snicker. Imogen turns her head. "Having a gay old time reading my innermost thoughts, Fiones?" she queries. Her girlfriend's eyes are dark, like the sharps and flats of a piano, and Imogen is tempted to tickle the ivories. "Remember: dirty mind over matter."
On the other hand… they do have some time alone. The Sunday caretaker has taken Mr. Moreno grocery shopping, after Louis said he needed "less tempestuous grapes." This alarmed the caretaker, who assured the professor that sour grapes are not the norm—most of them are mild-mannered.
Fiona kisses the back of Imogen's neck, tugging her top across her shoulder until she's bare there. Imogen winds streamers of Fiona's hair around her finger like bubblegum, while her girlfriend's lips amble along her skin in an imperfect pattern of perfect puckers.
Imogen inhales, drawing Fiona down deep. "You smell sexy," she says, palms rubbing restlessly against Fiona's thighs. "Would you, um, would you be interested in… checking out that sex fabric?"
"I think we'll have better sex without fabric, don't you?"
"I do," she replies, like a blushing bride.
Imogen's imagination pounces, captures, and bolts. But instead of running scared, her mind runs wild. Pretty soon, she stops fantasizing about going down on Fiona, and starts fantasizing about going down on bended knee.
She'll propose on Fiona Coyne Day, and Fiona will accept, of course, because they're lucky the universe brought them together and the very least they could do is stay that way.
Imogen flashes forward to their wedding day: she and Fiona dressed in white, because their love is pure even if their minds are dirty, and Fiona's look will be classic while Imogen's is slightly irregular.
They'll stand at the altar and falter with their vows because they're so deliriously happy, they can't think straight, which is good, because on a queer day, you can see forever.
She's not sure where they'll go on their honeymoon. She'll probably just flip a Coyne and follow Fiona anywhere.
"Would you mind if I spend the rest of my life with you?" Imogen asks. It's not a proposal, but it's not a rhetorical question, either, and it's definitely not a stupid question, because nothing about it feels immature or premature.
"If you must," Fiona says, at once casual and cautious, as if she's afraid of reading too much and too little into the question.
Imogen takes note, inscribing their commitment in her journal with the pink-inked proclamation Immy + Fiones Forever. She starts on a heart, then stops and reaches over to her nightstand for the purple and green pens beside the picture frame. She hands the purple pen to Fiona, and they restart their heart, Imogen designing the right half and Fiona designing the left half, until the two halves form a whole.
This is how Imogen loves Fiona—with her whole heart.
Imogen twists her head and sees Fiona's gaze gravitate to their Forever, and Imogen knows that Fiona has her heart set on it, too.
Imogen smiles, diving into Fiona's mermaid-blue eyes until she's swimming inside her soul.
She puts pen to paper, but can't remember what she wants to say.
It's not cause for concern—Fiona will handle it.
Fiona knows what she's thinking.
(That sort of thing happens when you're soul mates.)
Fiona collects the green pen and leans forward until her heart bumps Imogen's back and Imogen is wearing Fiona like a coat of paint.
Well, it's official, she writes, as the whisper of her breath and the hug of her body make Imogen ache and quake and crumple.
This girl totes Fi-owns me.
(Or should I say Fim?)