A [Vampire] had led Tessa off to secluded, secondary location. The house she was standing in was lit only by moonlight, and in the nearby forest unknown monsters lurked. As Lost Alice turned towards her, Tessa saw a gleam of red in the [Vampire’s] eyes and a glint of white off a pair of deadly fangs. That Tessa was mesmerized had nothing to do with any supernatural qualities the woman near her possessed though.
“Looks like this should be as good a spot as Rip thought it would be,” Lisa said, speaking with normal words rather than their telepathic link.
“I’m surprised it was a tea shop originally,” Tessa said. “I guess it must have been good for business though?”
She paced around the room to look out the windows towards the forest as various nameless voices tried to strange each other inside her.
The view to the west was by equal parts lovely and creepy. The slope of the hill was steep enough that she could see over the next nearest building, which looked to a low built horse stable which has survived the years of neglect reasonably well. The trees of the forest beyond that shone in deep purples and hints of violet in the moonlight, their branches and trunks twisted in a manner that suggested they hungered for something other than sunlight.
“It looks like a perfect spot for an adventurer,” Pillowcase said, her voice rising above the internal scuffle, though as always the communication between them was limited to within their head. Tessa was eternally grateful for that. If she’d had to talk aloud to speak to herself, things would have gotten very uncomfortable, very quickly.
“We’ll probably be heading in there in a day or two,” Tessa replied, casting a glance over to Lost Alice who was dutifully inspecting the view back towards the town.
Hesitating was stupid. Tessa knew that. She knew she was being an idiot. They finally had more than thirty seconds where they weren’t in imminent peril. They should talk. No. She, Tessa, should say something. She owed it to Lisa.
After all they’d been through. After all the support Lisa had given her.
No. Not even that. Lisa deserved to know what Tessa’s feelings were because she deserved honesty. Tessa still didn’t know if there could be anything between them, but Lisa deserved better than to have someone following her around like a cowardly, lovesick puppy.
“But you’re worried she’s going to reject your feelings?” Pillowcase asked.
“Yeah, I’m always worried about that,” Tessa said. “I think that’s an everyone thing though. Here, I’m also worried about being a burden on her. Or of the situation making it really awkward for her to say what she feels, since we’re kind of stuck together.”
“I hear a lot of arguments against that idea,” Pillowcase said, nodding towards the swirl of thoughts in her head.
“I know,” Tessa said. “I’m really just scared. And scared of being scared. I’ve messed this kind of thing up before.”
“Those memories seem to be wrapped in balls of pain,” Pillowcase said. “They are not pleasant to approach.”
“Sorry,” Tessa said. “I don’t like remembering them either.”
Embarrassment. Shame. Regrets. If she could weaponize those, Tessa felt like she’d be invincible. Sadly the only person they could hurt was herself.
Like, for example, by making her too tongue tied to speak when she really needed to.
It was stupid.
She was stupid.
Better to be stupid, and embarassed, and dance with the razor blades of rejection than to miss the chance that stood right across the empty room from her.
“Lisa, I have something…” she began to say, right as Lisa stumbled into, “Tessa, I thought I should tell you…”
They both stopped, stared at each other, and then shared a giggle at the absurdity of the moment.
“Would you like me to go first, or would you like the floor, my dear?” Lisa said adding an overly formal half bow and sweep of her hand to brush away the cloud of seriousness which threatened to stifle them both.
“I have to admit, it is tempting to let you go, but if you’d like to hear what I’ve got to say, I’d be happy to tell you what I’ve been thinking first.” Tessa felt her heart swell as she tip toed up to the confession she’d been holding in, her clumsy words barely able to manage the surge of emotions that were crashing through her veins..
The knowledge that once she spoke, there’d be no taking back her words left Tessa feeling like she was surrounded by a hedge of knives on all sides.
“I…I’d like that,” Lisa said, glancing away as she spoke, but her gaze return to Tessa’s face the instant she was finished, as though trying to assess even the most minute impact of her words.
And there it was. The cliff Tessa had been inventing reasons for herself to stay so far away from.
She opened her mouth and a moment passed. Somehow the tidal wave of thoughts within her didn’t come flooding out.
She shook her head and felt a silent laugh ripple through her.
Of course, it wouldn’t be simple or easy.
She felt like she was fourteen again, confessing to a girl she’d had a crush on for two years, where each word was the end of the world and the most important thing she’d ever said or would say again.
Except she wasn’t fourteen.
She’d done that dance already. She’d been that awkward. She’d been clumsy, and stupid, and been hurt, and had survived all of it.
Courage was never easy to find. Not for her at least. Not for this kind of thing. But she’d found it before so she knew she could again.
“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve got about a thousand thoughts whirling around in here. Let me pick the most important one to start with; I think I’m kind of falling for you. I know this whole situation is terrible and there’s a ton of problems with starting anything, but you’re…you feel like someone I’ve been waiting for for a long time. When we talk, you get me, even when I’m weird or not making sense. Every time we’ve been in danger, being with you has made me feel safer. You’re kind, and caring, and you’ve been strong for me even when it was completely unreasonable for me to ask you to be. I feel like we fit together, like there’s so much more that we could be together than apart. And maybe that’s just a crush, or wishful thinking, but I want to find out. I love the ‘you’ I’ve seen so far, and I can’t imagine anything better than getting to know the rest of you. And letting you see the rest of me. Even the strange, messed up bits. Because I feel like I can trust you. Like you already know me. Or at least the parts that matter. And I know you’ve already got someone, and I don’t want to mess that up. All you’ve got to do is say the word, and I’ll dial everything back. We can be friends if that’s what you need and, for real, I will be happy that you’re in my life at all. I’ve lost friends before because we couldn’t be romantic and that really sucks and I don’t want that to happen with you.”
Lost Alice blinked and wasn’t breathing.
Which wasn’t strange for a [Vampire], but usually she at least faked breathing for Lisa’s comfort.
“Is that okay?” Tessa asked, her nerves drawn so taut they were ringing at a tone too high for even supernatural creatures to perceive.
“No…” Lisa said and sat down on the floor so quickly that it looked like she collapsed. Before she fully came to rest though, she shot back to her feet. “I mean, no, it’s not okay, it’s great. It’s….”
She paused and shook herself like a cat and it was the most adorable and terrifying thing that Tessa had ever seen.
“Wow,” Lisa said. “Okay. My heart is actually beating. You made a [Vampire’s] heart beat. Wow.”
“If you need a minute, I could…”
“Nope! Nope, nope, nope. Stay right there! Sorry, I…I….that was more than I’d let myself hope for is all,” Lisa said. “Okay. First. Yes. Please. I want you too. I fell for you like a dozen times already. I’ve been trying not to think about it. Trying not to bother you with it. Trying to…be an idiot? I don’t know. And, god, I started with a ‘no’? I’m so sorry. So sorry. That was….wow, I am just babbling.”
“It’s okay.” Tessa couldn’t help but laugh. It was that or burst into tears of joy and she didn’t need those. Except for the part where her face seemed to be wet. So apparently joy tears were on the agenda whether she wanted them or not. That was fine. More than fine. Why shouldn’t she show what she was feeling. Why would she want to hide when she didn’t have to.
“Let me do this right,” Lisa said, as Lost Alice visibly centered herself. “We’ve known each other for, what two days now? Less? So I know this is could be stress and trauma speaking, but whatever, the truth is I have been so impressed with everything you’ve done and said since we first met. You’ve been kind, and brave, and so loving, and I can’t imagine anything better than having that in my life. I’ve been so afraid, without even letting myself realize it, that once we got to this point, you’d go off with someone else. Someone nicer, or stronger, or smarter, and that I’d be left alone again. And I know that’s silly. I know I’m not alone. And I’m rambling again. I guess what I want to say is I’m really glad you don’t want to leave, and I definitely want to see where things can go with us. You’re…I’m lucky to have you. In my life. And interested in me. God, I can’t believe…”
They were both smiling at each other, but neither had reached out to cross the space between them yet, as though they were each afraid to touch what was so good it had to be an illusion. Before Tessa could take a chance on changing that though, Lost Alice jerked up with her eyes flashing open.
“Oh! And there’s something you should know,” she said, her words rushed out as though trying to hold the spell between them together before it could fray. “I’m not with anyone. Not anymore. We broke up. My old girlfriend and I. It was months ago. But we’ve broken up a lot. And I usually…we usually get back together. Ok, not usually. It’s just been a few times. And, this time was it. I’ve…I’ve known that for a while, but I’m…it’s good that it ended. I just wish I’d seen that sooner. God, I wish I’d said something sooner. I know I mentioned her when we met in [Sky’s Edge] but with everything that happened, I kind of forgot I had.”
“Oh…oh, that’s okay,” Tessa said. Lisa wasn’t with anyone. Lisa wanted to be with her. Lisa…Tessa’s thoughts were sort of short circuiting. They kept running into the wall of feelings that had fallen over on her. “Better than okay,” she added with a mischievous smile when she caught the glimpse of concern on Lost Alice’s face. “We didn’t really have time to talk like this before. It’s probably better that I didn’t know up till now. It helped me keep my hopes in check.”
“And now?” Lisa asked.
“Now I feel terrible. I shouldn’t be this happy that you had a miserable time, but on the other hand I can’t believe how lucky I am that I met you now and not like a year ago,” Tessa said.
She stepped across the invisible line between them, her heart thudding so loudly that she was sure it was audible the up to the [High Beyond].
“I’d like to kiss you,” Lisa said.
“If you start that you have to promise me one thing,” Tessa said.
“What?” Lisa asked.
“That you won’t ever stop.”