A/N: I wanted to post this Valentine's Day story before canon messes up my concept. This story is canon compatible through 4x12, "Naked," and I have no idea what's coming in the next few episodes, so I wrote this without consideration for spoilers. I find Glee to be 100 times more enjoyable when I don't know what's coming.
You might want to cue up a few music tracks I have posted on my Tumblr as you read.
Unbeta'd. Not too angsty. Enjoy!
The whole night at Sugar's annual Valentine's Day party, you cling to Sam's hand. It's not so much about clinging to him, per say. He's a sweet boy, and his masculinity has an anchoring quality. You need to feel anchored right now, because everything else feels afloat.
Sam is sweet to you, getting you drinks that taste like jello, and refilling your plate of fruit and cookies and chocolate so you don't have to get out of the booth. He's trying to include you in his conversation about graphic novels with Blaine, saying you'd make a great Catwoman or maybe even Poison Ivy. You say that sounds itchy and try not to make it so obvious that you're bored.
Then the music shifts and the lights dim as a slow song comes on. Sam looks at you, unsure what to do. You don't smile, but tip your head towards the dancefloor in invitation. He smiles back in relief and leads you to the center of the restaurant, putting his strong arms around your waist, hand on the center of your back. It's comforting. Warm. Solid.
You're supposed to be in a festive mood, but it's a little hard. It's not that you're sad. Sad isn't the right word. Wistful, maybe. It's just that you can't help but remember last year, when things were very different.
He can sense your tension, because he puts his hand in yours, squeezing as he pulls back to look at you with a playful smile. "What's eatin you?" he asks.
You shake yourself. You didn't realize it was so obvious you were so preoccupied. "Just thinking," you say, trying to stuff some cheer into your voice because it's Valentine's Day and he's your date.
You smile back at him and let him turn you around at the bridge of the song, ending up gracefully back in his arms.
The song ends, and you pull back, giving Sam a tired smile.
And then her hand is tapping Sam on the shoulder as two songs fade together, the tempo picking up.
"Mind if I cut in, Trouty?" she asks.
You startle, turning towards her, meeting her smile. It has a wicked confidence to it, as though she knows there's no way he would ever say no, even if he wanted to.
"Santana!" you gasp, breaking away from Sam, covering your mouth with your hands. You're so happy to see her, you throw your arms around her neck. "What are you doing here?" you ask, pulling back and looking her up and down, making sure she's really there.
"I came home to do laundry," she says, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "So whataya say, Sammy?"
"Dance floor's all yours," he says.
He shifts away from you and stiffens a bit. It's as if he knows the odds aren't in his favor, even though you're with him and not her and oh god standing here with the two of them is so confusing you can hardly stand it.
Sam goes back to the table with Blaine and Santana rolls her eyes a little. "The dance floor is always ours," she grumbles with a smile, taking your hand and lifting it as she leads you towards the speakers Sugar rented for the occasion. "Everyone knows that."
The slow, heavy tempo to "Suit and Tie" reverberates around you and you see her hips start to rock. And as you start to dance together, smile spreading across your face like light, you realize you've been dancing together since before anything else mattered. Nothing and no one could take away dancing together. It doesn't matter if you're wearing prom dresses or underwear or Cheerio uniforms, you've always had dancing and each other. Not everything has to change.
As the tempo stops and then picks up and Justin Timberlake's vocals come in, you can tell she's making sure not to pull you too close. And even though she's trying not to be raunchy, every movement her body makes is sexy. That's just how she is: effusive and warm and glowing and gosh you miss her so, so much.
The rhythm rises through your legs, your fingers and hands tangling together as your feet start to play hide and seek on the floor between you. Her face and smile grows playful too, and her curls move as beautifully as her curves, framing her face. She's mouthing the words, face animated as she performs with you. Because that's what it feels like. A private, joyous performance you two have been doing together forever.
There's something about her that seems older, freer, and more confident than you've ever seen her. Maybe she's using new hair extensions or something. But you know it's more than that. She looks like she went away to college and came back years older, and totally in a good way. Her smile is bright and her lipstick looks fancier than the stuff she used to steal from the drugstore with you, and she carries her shoulders back.
It slips out before you can stop it. "What are we doing later?" The words are like a dance move that you don't have to think about sequencing together or timing to the beat.
Her eyes flicker to yours as she calculates a response. "I'm going home to my parents'."
You nod, although the nod is lost in your dancing, and spin out wider, wanting to forget you asked. You don't need to be reminded that she'll sleep alone in her bed that smells like her hair and skin and sweat and sleep. You no longer have an open invitation there. And for a fleeting, horrifying second, you wonder if you ever will again. You wonder if maybe this wasn't just temporary like you've been telling yourself. Maybe it's over and you'll never sleep there again. You can't remember the last time you slept there, because it was as natural and normal as sleeping in your own. Maybe if you had known it was the last time...
No. You're not going to get worked up tonight. You're finally at a place where you feel okay most of the time and it's not physically painful to talk to her. So you keep moving and smiling and taking in the older, warmer, somehow taller Santana moving with you. Others join you on the dance floor, wanting to feed off your energy and the beat. You're glad for their company; it keeps your mind from wandering into the corners where the last haunts of the pain still linger.
You dance until she presses a hand to her chest, then dramatically wipes her forehead, a signal you know means she's going to get a drink. You smile and keep dancing, knowing you'll dance with her again before the night ends.
But she doesn't come right back to the dance floor after she finishes her drink. She's talking to people she normally wouldn't talk to, and she's being friendly and laughing. She looks like she's having a good time. You're having a better time than you expected to. The music is good and the food is past even Lord Tubbington's standards, which is saying something. And you're with people you love.
You watch her doing a silly dance with Blaine and Sugar and Tina and think that finally everyone else is getting to see the best part of her: the caring, affectionate side that used to be secret. You're glad they're getting to know her candy-sweet side, but part of you is sad too. That side used to be only for you. Now she's not yours and other people know her sweet side. That hurts like a toothache, but in your chest.
The lights dim again and she ducks away from Sugar, who has perched herself on Artie's lap, and refills her drink. Even with her back to you, curls cascading down, you can't stop looking at her. She looks warmer than usual, a flush that goes beyond the makeup in her cheeks. Is it possible she got more beautiful since you last saw her? It seems impossible, but it's not. You watch as she fills a second cup and takes it over to Tina.
Sam finds you again and takes you in his arms, relieved he can lay claim to you for this song, at least. And you figure you probably owe him another dance, since he's your boyfriend and all. As you settle against his shoulder, you find your eyes are locked with hers and even though she's standing across the room, holding her drink with her elbow perched on the arm resting across her stomach, you feel her as though she were the one holding you. She's warm and she's wearing the same perfume she's worn since freshman year. You let it fill your nostrils as you give her wistful smile, silently asking her to pretend she doesn't know about you and Sam. But it's too much to ask, so you look away.
It used to be common occurrence to see each other with other people. It hurt then, but in a more comfortable way. You guess once things rise to the surface, they can't go underwater again without a struggle.
The song seems to last forever, and you're glad when the tempo picks up and you can pull away a few inches. Still, you dance with him some more, now surrounded by the rest of your friends, and to your surprise, when you dare to look up at Santana, she actually smiles at you. It's not a joyous smile, but one of resigned blessing. You wonder how on earth she could smile. Maybe she's found some magic combination you haven't.
You inch away from Sam and dance with the rest of your friends. The sunshine of others has been a welcome companion since she left. Sam's light is striking and fills a room immediately. Everyone feels it. But after too long, you start to sweat in the brightness of it, like laying on a beach towel for too long, covering your eyes for relief. Sam's sunshine isn't seasoned like Santana's.
Santana's light is calmer and darker, like a dimmed bedside lamp or a candle. Its flicker makes itself known immediately, but doesn't scream or beat down. She is steadfast and sure and warm, but not too hot.
Sam keeps his hands to himself for most of the night, and you can't keep your eyes anywhere but on her. You try to be discreet about it, but you know you're not. You just hope it doesn't hurt Sam's feelings too bad.
When the party winds down and everyone is hugging and splitting off into different cars, you watch to see what Santana does.
She takes her phone out of her clutch and studies the messages on the screen. The messages are from people you don't know in places you've never been. How strange, that something as familiar as her phone, something your voice has floated through, millions of words and texts and pictures exchanged between you, now ties her back to the place that holds none of you. She grins at something and types a response, waiting for the person on the other end to reply.
Who is that person? Is it someone you'd want her to know, a good person who sees all the light that's streaming out now? Someone who makes her light shine warmer?
You watch to see her reaction when she receives a response, and her quiet, personal giggle makes you nervous in a way you don't understand.
Sam is at your side, shifting as if he's uncertain of his next move. You shake yourself from staring at her for the hundredth time tonight, and drag your eyes to meet him. You force a smile.
"Where next?" you say.
His eyes flicker to Santana and he swallows. He opens his mouth as though it physically pains him to do so, and says, "You should go with her."
Does he know how little you've thought of him all night, while your mind danced circles around the newness that envelopes Santana?
Poor, poor Sam.
He sighs. "She's your best friend, Brittany."
"Yeah, but..." You trail off, not needing to say more.
He bites his lips. "I trust you," he says. The words have a rough edge, as though he really, really wants them to be true. He wants to be the man who doesn't get jealous. You don't want to let him down.
He gives a nod and defeated smile. "Go get frozen yogurt or something. I'll see you at school tomorrow." He gives you a peck on the cheek and you thank whatever spirits told him not to kiss you on the lips. You like his kisses, but you don't want her to see you kiss him.
You're still flabbergasted, searching for words as he walks backwards towards his truck. The only thing you can find to say is, "I'll text you before then."
He gives a nod and lifts his hand next to his hip in farewell as he turns around, heading towards his car with long, quick strides.
You can't believe it. Your boyfriend just told you to go spend time with Santana.
You approach her where she's still standing texting someone, and she looks up and seems startled. But her smile widens.
"Hey," she says, her voice louder than usual warm murmur for you.
"Hey," you say, holding your hands together in front of you like you have a good secret you can't wait to share with her. There's a moment too long of a pause as she looks at you expectantly, so you say, "I was wondering... if you wanted to get ice cream with me."
Her eyes flicker to both sides. "Um... yeah!" She's surprised, but cheerful. "Is that okay?"
It's an unspoken rule you don't talk about dating other people unless you're not.
She nods, relieved, and tucks her phone back into her clutch. "Ice cream it is."
And you're on your way to her car, tucked into the comfortable leather of her passenger's seat, feet happy to be crammed into all the junk she keeps stored on the floor. Once you asked her why all her shoes were in the passenger side of her car, and she told you she once found a cockroach in her closet, and it seems less likely cockroaches could get into her car, so it makes putting her shoes on in the morning less stressful. Plus, she can always switch them out for an unexpected party or role playing opportunity.
You drive to the ice cream shop without talking, and your stomach tightens. You want to make it feel normal. You used to comfortably go hours without talking to each other, words unnecessary in the solid bond between you two. You wonder if that's still there now, or if she's humming to seem as though she can slip back into that comfortable shoe of silence you always had. You hope it's not forced.
She doesn't need to ask you which ice cream shop to go to. She pulls up in front of the old fashioned ice cream shop and turns to you with a smile that looks a little forced. You're glad Lima still has an ice cream shop like this one. Even though Baskin Robbins is universally dependable, the lights are too bright and the stickiness of the ice cream seems synthetic next to the richness of this family-owned shop. You like it, even if it's more expensive.
Her wrist is graceful as she shuts off the engine and opens her door, stepping out into the freezing air that somehow doesn't make ice cream less appealing. And although she knows it walks a dangerous line between friendship and more, she holds the shop door open for you as you enter the relief of the warmth of the shop, bells clanging behind you.
She hovers a few feet back from you as you study the ice cream flavors, bluish light from the cases washing over your face, drowning out the warmer light from the sconces above the booths. She always said that watching you try to pick a flavor of ice cream was more delicious than the dessert herself. She keeps her hands in her pockets and looks around, noting the single couple in the back booth sharing a milkshake. It's late.
You pick your flavor, vanilla with caramel and graham cracker pieces and chocolate syrup, and you don't look at Santana as you take the twenty out of your bra to pay for your cone. It's an unspoken boundary you need to leave up, because you want to be someone Sam can trust. You want to be someone she can trust. You want to be a trustworthy person to everyone you care about.
When you step away, taking the first and always most satisfying taste of your ice cream, she steps forward, ordering a plain scoop of chocolate ice cream in a cup with no toppings. She would probably skip dessert completely, but it will give her something to do while you eat.
You slide into a booth and sit eating for a few moments before you make eye contact.
"How's Kentucky?" you ask.
She shrugs. "Southern."
You nod. "How's cheer?"
She sighs. "Demanding."
"And your team mates?"
"Good. Hard workers."
There's a moment of silence and your legs start to itch with the rigidity of her answers. Why is she being so weird? You're supposed to be able to talk about stuff. That wasn't supposed to change at all. It's not like you're asking her if she's getting laid.
She seems to realize she's being guarded and her shoulders drop a little bit as she licks her spoon and sets it down. "I mean, they're okay. But I expected all the drama and cattiness from high school to be done. Turns out it's just a cheer thing."
You nod, wondering what social tensions she's experienced that have already made her so frustrated and annoyed. "Maybe it's a girl thing."
She nods. "Girls suck."
One side of your mouth lifts in a smile. "Totally."
She smiles back, tension broken at your inauthentic condemning of the female species. For a long time, you two shared a deeper appreciation for girls than anyone you knew.
"How's glee?" she asks.
Your eyebrows lift with your smile as you think about all the good things that have happened lately. "It's great. Finn hasn't embarrassed himself more than twice this week, and we're working on some cool numbers. He's letting me choreograph just about everything, since his eyes glaze over and his neck gets all short and stocky when someone mentions choreography. So that's nice."
She smiles wider at you around a bite of ice cream. "I can't wait to see."
"You're coming to Regionals?" you ask, hope lifting your whole torso towards her.
She looks down with a hint of embarrassment. "Well, I mean, if I can work out the details..."
You study how she's trying to mute her excitement. You say nothing, but grin as you lick your ice cream. She can't stay away, can she?
She seems to drop all pretense as she lowers her voice. "Britt, I want to tell you something."
She sounds guilty.
Your stomach tightens. Here it is. She's going to tell you that she's dating someone new and that's why her light is streaming out as brightly as it is. She's found someone who makes her feel better than anyone has ever made her feel, and she didn't know how to tell you until now.
She takes a deep breath and you squeeze your stomach to keep from feeling sick.
"I'm leaving Louisville."
You're thrown for a loop, but relieved. You weren't expecting that at all. "What?" you gasp.
"You can't tell anyone yet," she says, her voice dropping even lower as she leans toward you. "I haven't even told my parents. I don't want them trying to change my mind, you know? I need this to be my decision."
You shake your head to help you focus on what she's saying. You shift gears, trying to understand rather than preparing to reign in your reaction. "Totally. It goes in the vault," you say, patting over your heart, signalling you won't tell a soul.
She eyes you for a second before she remembers you've never told anyone her secrets, except for those two awful times when you told people about the two of you before she was ready.
"So what's your plan?"
She looks at the table for a second, a smile wavering before her eyes rise to meet yours. When she speaks, her words are hushed and excited and full of her light. "I'm going to New York."
Her light breaks across your face as you beam, face tight and strained with your joy for her. This was what she wanted all along, and she's finally found the courage to do it.
She holds your gaze, smile still tentative as she studies your face, unsure what you're thinking. You think it should be obvious.
"Say something," she says.
You bite your lip and try not to laugh. She's still the same scared little girl she's always been, even if her strides are bigger and more confident now.
"'Bout time," is all you have to say.
Her shoulders relax and her smile blooms across her cheeks. She needed you to be excited for her. Knowing she needed that from you gives you hope that someday things will be back to normal.
She nods, biting her lips and looking down at the table, still trying to contain her excitement.
"Do you have a job or anything once you get there?" you ask. You want to know what emboldened her to take such a big leap, especially since her parents' money and your encouragement wasn't enough a few months ago.
She shakes her head. "My cousin has a few connections in advertizing, but I'd probably just be getting coffee and newspapers for someone who smokes cigars all day."
You try to keep bolstering her courage. "Better coffee and cigars in Manhattan than cartwheels in Kentucky."
She nods, amused by your phrasing. "I'll find something."
You nod in agreement. "I mean, who wouldn't hire you?" you say with a wink, giving her a brief up-and-down with your eyes, reminding her she's Santana Fucking Lopez and she will always have ways of getting by.
Her smile turns smug and she bobs her head. "Damn right."
Now that she's gotten your approval - that was what she wanted tonight, wasn't it? - you start asking other questions. "When do you leave?"
Her voice gets quiet again, not because she's unsure, but because this part is secret and exciting too. "The second academic trimester is over next week."
The hand holding your ice cream cone drops almost to your lap. You weren't expecting her to leave so soon.
"So - you're dropping out?"
You realize you shouldn't have used those words when she frowns at you.
"I mean, you're leaving next week? Done with Kentucky?"
She forgives your misstep and nods. "That's why I came home this weekend. To tell my parents."
Your eyes go wide as you picture her parents on their couch, Maribel's hand perched on Dr. Lopez's knee as Santana sits them down with her collected, practiced words, hands clasped in her lap. You know Maribel will be excited, but the reaction will fall to her father. "Wow."
"I know, right?" she says, eyes widening a bit, but smiling anyway. "Papa Lopez will probably have a few things to say about it."
"Do you want backup?"
She grins at your offer, but shakes her head. "This is my decision. I want them to see that."
You nod, studying her deeply, relishing whatever confidence has inhabited her. It dawns on you that this is why she's shining so brightly. She's made an adult decision that is scary and exciting and completely her own. She's becoming the woman she wants to be. That would make anyone glow.
"I'm proud of you," you say.
She beams and you think that if there were a way to hold a mirror to her right now so she could see how beautiful she is when she trusts herself, she would never doubt herself again.
You finish your ice cream quietly, comfortable now, just like it's always been. Her cup rattles against the marble table top as she sets it down, and your hands are slightly sticky from the stray drips of your cone. You signal you're ready to leave with your eyebrows and she nods. You get up and walk out into the night, dreading saying goodbye to her. Since she's leaving for New York in a week, it dawns on you that you don't know when you'll see her next.
So you take a risk. She might say no, but you have to ask, or regret it every night until you see her again. "Want to come over?"
She eyes you, and the differentness that hung between you when you entered the ice cream shop returns. "Am I allowed?"
Sam did tell you to spend time with her, right? He knows you miss her, and he wants you to be happy. So you nod, because spending more time with her will make you happy, and the location shouldn't matter. All you want is a little bit of her in your house, just enough to tide you over until you see her again.
She bites her lips, contemplating before she bobs her head. "Okay."
She drives to your house, and there's part of you that's relieved, and another part that is anxious. How will this be? She hasn't been in your room for months. You want her to soak into all your clothes and curtains and sheets and carpet and upholstery, so you're never without her. But you also know it could be a hollow reminder of everything that's changed. You hope for the best.
She follows you into the house, closing the door quietly behind her. You take off your coats and hang them in the hall closet, kicking off your shoes. You walk upstairs, quietly so you don't wake your sister, and when you notice the light is still on in your parents' room, you tap on the door. Your mom murmurs a response, and you tell her that Santana is visiting. As you say it, you feel like you're slipping into your favorite pajamas, so comfortable you don't notice you're wearing them. Telling your mom Santana was spending the night used to happen all the time, and it feels good to say it again.
You enter your room and set your purse on the chair. She immediately picks it up and sits down, a few dust particles shooting into the air like confetti. She smiles at you, and you know she's happy to be here again. Even if things have changed.
Lord Tubbington saunters into the room to inspect your upkeep. The instant he sees Santana, he hops up into her lap and settles down, anchoring her as he starts to purr aggressively. You feel like him in a way. Part of you wants to tie her to your chair, and not in a wanky way. You want her to be a permanent fixture in your life. But you know that's not possible. Everything changes and people grow. If you tied her to your chair, her light would dim and she would stagnate. After having to repeat your senior year, you don't want anyone to feel like they are stagnating. Now that you're growing and reaching and laughing again, you would never deprive someone else of water and light and warmth.
She looks around the room, seeming comforted by the fact that nothing has changed. All the pictures of the two of you are still up, and only that one picture of the two of you kissing has been moved. It hasn't even been put away, just laid face down so it's not awkward when Sam comes over. But it's not gone. You wouldn't put it away unless you were being tracked by the mob and had to do it for her safety. But that's probably the only scenario that would prompt you to tuck her away.
Santana starts to stroke Lord Tubbington's fur, not looking at him, as if she weren't enjoying it. But she is, you know. You adore her even more when she does that, but you know better than to call attention to it. Calling attention to her sweetness makes her snap back into being salty.
"He misses you, you know," you tell her with your fake serious voice as you sit on the edge of the bed facing her. "He's relapsed seventeen times since he saw you over fall break."
She smiles, a serene smile that doesn't latch onto your joke. She holds your eyes and says, with no pretense, "I miss you too, Britt."
You're relieved that she understood, and lay down, facing her.
She asks more about glee and cheer and if Sue is doing anything exceptionally crazy. You ask about her exams and the details of her flight. You wish you could take her to the airport or something, but she's leaving from Louisville. You'll have to say goodbye to her here.
"I don't wanna be the one to ask that question," she says, lowering her voice to a gentle hum. "But... what are you doing after graduation, Britt?"
You give her a shrug with the shoulder that isn't moulded into the bed. "I haven't decided."
She studies your face and nods, but looks nervous. She's probably still beating herself up for not making sure you graduated last year. But it wasn't her fault. It was no one's fault, really, except yours. Now you're making up for it, and you want her to see that.
"I will graduate this time," you assure her. "I promise."
She looks relieved and nods. "I know you will."
You smile at her confidence in you. When you have nothing else, you have her faith in you.
"Do you think you'll go to college?" she asks, words delicate so you know she's not judging you.
You shrug again. "I took the SATs, but I'm thinking of taking a gap year to forget all the nonsense they're teaching me at McKinley."
Her shoulders shake in a silent chuckle. "We should have known we weren't receiving a first-degree education when Mr. Schue was our Spanish teacher."
"We should have known when they signed you up for Spanish in the first place," you say, rolling your eyes at the ridiculousness of McKinley.
"Ain't nothin wrong with an easy A," she says, stilling her hand on Lord T and bracing her voice as if she needed to put on a front for you. She's always gotten straight As. No one worries about her.
It's quiet for a minute longer, except for Lord Tubbington's aggressive purring. "What will you do in your gap year?" she asks, gentle again as her hand starts to stroke Lord Tubbington again and his purrs settle down to merely stately.
You shrug again. You don't want to talk about next year yet. It feels too uncertain and far away. Without her and without McKinley, you have no idea what will surround you. So you turn the conversation back to her. "Do you think you'll go to college in New York?"
Santana nods. "That's how I'm going to get my parents on board with the move. I'm already registered at CUNY. I'm taking classes in journalism."
You picture her in a trench coat and dark glasses, scouring Manhattan for stories. Underneath her trench coat is that green dress she wore last time she was there, so happy to be out of Ohio and in a place that moves as fast as her mind. You picture her dining at cafés and making friends in the East Village and your heart swells again. She's doing the right thing. She's going somewhere that will challenge her beyond the sweat of cheerleading.
"I'm really excited for you," you say with a yawn. You don't mean to yawn, but your body is drooping with exhaustion. You've been working hard to keep your grades up and choreograph things for Regionals and stay on Sue's good side.
She gives you an adoring smile, hand still stroking over Lord Tubbington's back absentmindedly. "You should sleep, Britt. You have school tomorrow, right?"
You nod, eyes drooping shut despite your effort to keep them open.
"I shouldn't have kept you up so late," she mutters, berating herself. But you know that even if she weren't here, she would have kept you up.
"Will I get to see you tomorrow?" you murmur.
You know asking her to spend the night would be too much, and definitely not make you the person Sam wants to trust. You want to be a trustworthy person, and it's bigger than you and Sam or you and her. It's about being a worthy partner for whoever you're with. Over the past year, you learned how good it feels to stand by your commitments.
She gives you an apologetic smile. "I'm having an early breakfast with my parents before driving back to Kentucky. I have to start studying for finals."
You want to ask her to take you with her back to the place that won't be her home for much longer. It's a chapter she's closing, and the first one you didn't get to read. It makes you sad in a way, but you know there is more space for you in the next part of her saga. At least you hope there is.
You drag yourself off the bed and take a soft, worn t-shirt and fluffy pajama pants out of your drawer. You don't look at her as you step into your bathroom to put them on. It's another unspoken thing, a boundary that needs to be left up for the time being. You send Sam a quick, reassuring text, and brush your teeth and wash your face, scrubbing the last of the night off. When you come back into the room, she's pulled your covers back and she's bending over the bed fluffing your pillow, a disgruntled Lord Tubbington at her feet. She looks up at you and smiles, gesturing for you to get in.
You settle in, sad that her hips don't slide in next to yours, warming the sheets twice as quickly. But again, there's a flicker of comfort in being faithful.
"Thanks for spending time with me," you murmur, blinking slow as she hovers over you. "I'm glad I got to see you before you left."
She gives you a smile as she tucks the covers up to your chin. "Of course, Britt. I wouldn't leave without saying goodbye."
You hum and close your eyes, sleepy in her soothing glow. "Sing me to sleep?" you ask.
She pauses for a minute before you hear her settle back into the chair. You open your eyes to see her once more, surrounded by the warm glow of your lamplight.
She doesn't move or say anything, and she waits until you close your eyes again before she inhales. When she sings, it's a slow, velvety melody, one you've heard dozens of times before, but never like this. Never so sweet and mellow, custom moulded to her voice. She takes her time with each line, letting the notes drift into the corners of the room before beginning the next.
"Say that you'll stay a little... don't say goodbye tonight..."
You sink deeper into your bed, muscles loosening as she floats through John Legend's Save Room. You know she picked it intentionally. Everything she does in intentional. You think that you shouldn't even need to tell her that there will always be room for her in your life.
You slip into a sleep so sweet and deep, you don't even hear her leave.
You wake up in the morning and before you open your eyes, you know she's gone. The room seems colder. You wonder if she's already having breakfast with her parents and open your eyes to look at the clock. But the red, square numbers are obscured by something white. You blink, squeezing your eyes to banish the blurriness, and reach for what turns out to be an envelope. Your name is scratched on the front, a clear BrittBritt with hearts over the i's.
You turn the envelope over, finding the flap is unstuck. You reach inside and find more paper. Pulling it out, listening to the soft scratch of the edges as you do, you read what she wrote:
You unfold the paper to find a smattering of boxes and lines and barcodes. When your eyes focus, your heart speeds double.
It's an airline ticket, a one way flight from Columbus to JFK. For the day after graduation. With your name on it.