"What do you think?"
Okay, there was no point in denying it any longer. She was nervous. Who wouldn't be if they were in Lisa's position? It was the first time she'd ever really shown Dani her more... intimate writings. There was a certain amount of privacy it needed, a shield, not just for the work but for Lisa's feelings in writing it, at least up until now so Lisa's being anxious wasn't difficult to explain. It was only by accident that anyone else she knew (outside of the internet) had ever seen her compositions. Then of course in snowballed with Mrs. Gilbertson's Creating Writing class. Since then the blonde-haired novice felt a bit more comfortable submitting her most intimate of stories for Dani's scrutiny.
Lisa wondered what Dani was thinking. She couldn't see her face from where she was, tucked up snug and warm in her girlfriend's embrace, back pressed up against Dani's tight stomach, delicate hips between Dani's thighs, their long legs intertwined. The Italian girl had one of her protective arms wound around Lisa's waist. She unconsciously stroked the smaller girl's side with her thumb. Up and down. It sent tiny trembles of pleasure up Lisa's ribcage, but somehow she resisted the urge to kiss the lips off of Dani. It was more important (right now at least) to hear what she thought.
Dani shifted her weight a bit, rankling the bed springs. "I don't get it."
"...Baby, it's not that I didn't like it, I just... I'm not really sure what you're trying to say. I mean this bit about the blooming bud of blue? What does that mean?"
Tch. Lisa knew for a fact that Dani was at least a B-grade English student so her opinion wasn't exactly uninformed. She thought that it made sense though. Blooming bud of blue? Eyes as a reflection of the self, "bud", in conjunction with blue which was the colour of water, "depth" thus depth of character. Add to that the word "blooming" to manipulate images of spring and temporal growth: the precise line was about Lisa herself, finally coming into her own, finding herself anew, being happy for once. Who couldn't get that?
Lisa sighed. "You don't get it."
"But you like it?"
"How can you like it if you don't get it?"
Dani smirked. "...'Cause I like you."
Oh that trick was so old even straight-laced Lisa knew it when she saw it coming. So the year younger teen took the print out from the older and scrunched it up into a ball. She hurled it into the waste basket in the corner of her room.
"Not a bad shot. You ever thought about basketball?" Joked Dani.
Ugh. Like she ever wanted to remember that. The last time she tried playing basketball (well, it was more of a Gym requirement than a trial run on her) was in high school and clumsy as hell Lisa fell flat on her face. Everybody got a laugh out of that one. Well, all except for one person.
Lisa softly pressed her head to Dani's shoulder. They were so close together she could hear her girlfriend's heartbeat which was slightly faster than usual. It did Lisa's ego no small favour to know that she still excited Danielle this badly, just by letting herself be held. "Everybody laughed at me the last time I tried. Besides, I'm too short."
"It isn't all about height, just like writing isn't all about prose. You need skill and deftness too, right? And I've got a mean jump-shot. Want me to teach you?"
Lisa pulled a warming, elfin smile. "Sweetie, sports aren't really my thing. Plus the whole being gay thing sets up to many stereotypical jokes."
"That'd only apply if you were like, trying out for the Lacrosse team," For no reason at all Dani planted a little butterfly kiss upon Lisa's forehead. Both of her arms drew the younger girl even tighter into her secure embrace. "Besides this is Freshman year for you. You'll never stand out if you don't a club or two."
"Is that really the point of college?"
"No, the point of college is to do anything but study then cram your ass off before the end of the semester. Look at me. I'm booked for the next week practically. Three dates with you, a kegger with Michael, Pilates with my Mom and then, you know, my dinner with Dad."
Lisa's smile faded a little. It wasn't like she wasn't pleased for Dani. She was. She was happy that her girl was happy. That being said... she would never see Vino in a positive way. She just couldn't. When Lisa thought of him all she could remember was that eventful night two years ago. The night she took Dani home from the hospital and finally saw the squalor in which she lived. The night she figured out how Vino had been violently abusing her.
Every bruise Lisa ever saw on Dani's face and body had been his knuckles' handiwork. She'd never forget that no matter who's father he was. Never.
"How do you feel about it?" Dani asked, cautiously.
Her lover mused. "...I don't want to lie to you."
"Then don't. How do you really feel about it?"
Lisa turned around. Dani's grip around her loosened enough for the studious girl to fold her legs beneath her butt, between Dani's thighs, so they could look at each other properly. There truly was desperation in Dani's eyes. Lisa's opinion mattered so much to her that they quaked waiting for the answer. Just another one of those little things that endeared the blonde to this brunette even further.
So Lisa cupped both of her lover's cheeks and whispered, "Danielle. I know you love your father, and... I'll admit it. I still hate him for what he did. You can't blame me, can you?"
"He's doing the AA thing now," Reasoned Dani, with a sigh. "The `Twelve Step program' or something. He says he hasn't had a drink in months and I believe him because I know when my Dad lies to me. I just need you to be cool with this."
That was the thing about relationships. You spend so much time thinking about how the girl you're with can fuck you up that you forget it's a two-way street. Relationships require equal amounts of give and take to make them work. Without that balance they sink like bricks in water and Lisa refused to let her and Dani's love to go off into that shaky path from which it'd emerged. She was too fucking in love with this girl to let that happen.
"I'm here, Dani, okay?" They kissed briefly, passionately. "I'm here."
Dani grinned at her. "Thank you."
Then suddenly the door clicked. Both women froze when someone swung it open with a terrific grunt, only to breathe mutual sighs of relief seeing a friend step inside. Lisa's roommate, a girl called Piper McCullough, carried a sizeable (and clearly very heavy) guitar case into their room.
She took one look at Lisa and Dani, all cuddled up and kissy-faced, and rolled her eyes. "You think one of you two lovebirds could disengage each other long enough to actually help me here? I'm too young for a hernia."
Being the gentile woman that she was, Dani climbed off the bed (and reluctantly out of Lisa's arms) to help Piper lug the guitar case toward the freshman`s bedside. "How are these hands for help?"
"Adequate." Grunted Piper.
The two together carried it over and set it down. Piper exhaled a huge sigh of relief and gave herself thanks by collapsing into her bedding and spreading herself with a luxurious sigh. "Oh! That feels SO much better. Thanks, Dani. My arms are gonna be sore all day."
By then Lisa had already suck up behind Dani and affectionately cuddled her again. Her focus was on Piper though, as she settled her chin upon her sophomore girlfriend's shoulder. "Why did you bring that thing all the way here? Wouldn't it have been easier to just leave it by the music department until tonight?"
"I wanted to get some practice in before tomorrow," admitted Piper. "Plus, there's this prick on the committee who keep badgering me about taking over for Megan. I keep telling the guy I don't sing anymore but he won't damn well listen."
"What's wrong with Megan?" Wondered Dani.
Lisa frowned. "Tonsillitis."
"Or mono," snickered Piper.
"...Oh that is so not funny, Piper. Don't you remember what break-ups are like when you have them? It can really be emotional."
At that Piper softened a little. Her eyes wondered off to a distant place that neither Lisa nor Dani knew, and thoughts of it seemed to dampen her somewhat. She rolled onto left her side and faked a snore, saying only, "She'll get over it".
Lisa wasn't so sure. Even if Megan was the one to end things it didn't mean she was less likely to be hurt by it all. You couldn't blame Jenny for the way things turned out either. She was a natural athlete and schoolwork wasn't her strongest suit by any means, nor was she particularly rich. Jenny's only chance for college was a scholarship and unlike most young Americans angling for one, she scored it. What could she really do if not accept that scholarship? The problem was that the particular college she scored this scholarship from was in San Francisco.
That didn't go down so well with Megan.
You couldn't blame either one of them. Jenny's future depended on getting into a good school and Megan had lost the love of her life. What surprised everyone was that far from retreating into her shell, Megan had been "throwing herself away" so to speak. She'd even made out with Piper once or twice -- but it didn't get any further than that. Lisa pleaded with Piper not to go that far. She was sure this phase Megan was going through would eventually pass, so until it did someone had to run damage control. For a few weeks Lisa tried getting Jenny to come back from San-Fran and visit to maybe just cheer Megan up, but Jenny refused to, saying that she "already got the message". Apparently Jenny already sent Megan a flurry of phone calls, texts and e-mails, none of which were replied to. Even Michael couldn't get through that stubborn skull of hers.
Lisa wondered what more she might be able to do for Megan, maybe tell her adoptive parents what she was going through, but that would've meant outing her to her family (thus far only Michael knew she was gay).
Then all of a sudden Piper asked, "I wasn't interrupting anything, was I?"
Dani and Lisa shared smiles and giggles.
"I guess that answers that."
"We weren't horizontal, if that's what you mean," explained Dani.
Piper yawned again, more realistically this time. "Of course. It's the middle of the day. Speaking of which, you guys have any classes now? I keep forgetting your timetable."
"We both have the rest of the day off so Dani and I are going to go see our friend from high school. I mentioned her, right? Nicole?"
"I remember. Your best friend, right?"
"Right," Lisa smiled at her roomie's recollection. "Would you like to join us? There's always room for one more at Mama Giancarlo's."
The dark-haired musician spread herself flat over the bed again. "Thanks for the offer, Lisa. I could murder the hell out of a slice of deep-dish Chicago-style right about now but I've got class in a quarter of an hour. After that it's just band practice, band practice and more band practice. I`d probably just step on your toes anyway. Personal history and all that crap."
"We'll write you some cheat sheets next time," quipped Dani, relinquishing Lisa's warmth just long enough to pick up her coat and car keys.
Piper smiled back. "I'll hold you to that."
"You bet," Lisa took the jacket Dani handed to her from the coat-rack she shared with Piper in the corner. "Don't practice too hard, okay?
Piper tiredly waved off the pair as they headed for the door. "I'll catch you two later."
They stepped out into the corridor and shut the door behind them. On the way out of the dorms Lisa reflected on how lucky she was to have Piper as a roommate. She wasn't from Los Angeles but rather D.C. According to her she'd gone out-of-state for her schooling to get some "perspective about things and shit".
Lisa loved Piper. She was funny, charming, intelligent and considerate. She didn't seem to mind Lisa's clean-freak attitude nor did she begrudge how often she had Dani over. That was the best thing about Piper McCullough. Not only was she totally cool with the couple thing but she had no qualms making herself scarce when she and Dani needed time alone. Unfortunately, Piper hadn't dated nor shown interest in anyone since she'd stepped off the plane (aside from that one saliva exchange with Megan) so Lisa couldn`t return the favour.
She was utterly thankful to be sharing a dorm with someone like Piper. There were so many horror stories stomping through Lisa's mind during her first week. What if they stuck her with a homophobe? Or someone unashamedly messy? What if she didn't like Lisa? Fortunately those stories turned out to be so much wasted thought. Piper was nothing like that. You might even call her `unrealistically perfect' except for that whole smoking thing, which Lisa was determined to wean Piper off as they eventually got to know each other better.
Lisa and Dani left the UCLA campus in a hurry. Mama Giancarlo's was way across town and they were supposed to be meeting Nicole and Michael there within in the hour. As soon as they climbed into Dani's car they buckled up and zoomed off down until they were once more driving through the palm tree laden streets of L.A.
They passed Alderson High on the way.
It looked different from the outside in. The grim grey walls, the imposing reinforced glass, the iron fencing and the flat hillocks enfolding the breath of the five separate department buildings that made up the complex; they'd all seemed confining and intimidating at one point in Lisa's life. Now the kids passing in and out of it seemed like... kids, more than anything else. Not kids Lisa had to consider as potential antagonists in the grand teen drama that was her life, but ordinary kids heading off to school. It was liberating to finally be divorced from that noxious high school culture, but that divorcement also brought with it a kind of soothing nostalgia. It felt good to look back and not be sad.
Dani took her eyes off the road for just a sec. "Are you okay? You seem quiet."
"Hm? Oh no, sweetie, I'm fine. I'm just thinking about stuff. Silly things."
A grin. "Care to let me in on them?"
"...Just high school."
At that Dani chuckled. "Really? High school?"
"Yes," Her pondering blue eyes gazed through her window at the amorphous blur that was world around them, coming in and zipping by, "do you ever miss it sometimes?"
"...Me? No. Not really. Do you?"
Dani shrugged. "Why? I thought you hated Alderson."
"I did too, at least for a while. But then I thought about it. If I never went to there, if I'd been like, home schooled or something, then... I never would've met Nicole or Jenny or Megan or Michael. You and I, we... if it weren't for Alderson High, you and I never would've met. I feel like I should be grateful to it for that."
"Hm. I never thought of it that way," So Dani snuck a quick kiss from Lisa. "...Thank You Very Much, Alderson-Fucking-High."
The drive lasted only a few more minutes. Sooner than they thought it would Dani's car veered up by one of the parking spots just a block shy of the shopping piazza where Mama Giancarlo's was stashed away. Dani turned off the engine and locked the door after Lisa climbed out the other side. The old place looked much the same as it used to. Lisa vividly recalled the nights when she and Alderson High Blue Angels came out for slices of victory pizza after a successful soccer game. Good memories don't fade easily.
Lisa and Dani were at Mama Giancarlo within minutes and sure enough, the ever-doting couple, Nicole and Michael sat outside in wait for them, but on this occasion they were joined by a little someone extra.
Nicole getting pregnant in her senior year was a huge shock to everyone. She and Michael obviously didn't intend for it to happen and according to them they did use protection, but whatever went wrong did so in the frankest possible way. It hurt Lisa's brain just pondering all of the fallout. It happened roughly around the time Dani and Michael were taking their finals and everyone was worried as hell about what Nicole would do. At the very least she was smart enough not to keep it to herself. As soon as she was `late' the soccer player went out and bought herself a pregnancy test. When it came up positive Nicole spilled the beans to Lisa in a tear-soaked evening of ice cream and hugs in bed.
Back then it seemed like the end of the world. First she had to tell Michael, who was shocked at first but completely supportive throughout (not that he should`ve done anything less, but for a teenage guy, he was improbably mature about the pregnancy), then she and Michael together told each of their parents. Everybody was furious. Even Megan was pissed off about the whole thing. In the end, after Nicole and Michael sat down with all four of their parents, they came to a consensus -- that Nicole would have the baby. It was all hard work and tears shed (and from then on school was REALLY rough on Nicole) but nine months later she gave birth to a beautiful little girl they eventually named Michelle. Michelle Erin Milligan-Quinn.
Since there were no complications or post-natal depression or anything of the kind, Nicole went back to school in time for the finals when she recovered. Her daughter, parents, and boyfriend all got to see her graduate alongside Lisa, Jenny and Megan. Nicole ended up going to a different college from Lisa and the others. It was the same one Michael went to. During the week Michelle stayed with her folks (who received almost daily visits from Michael's parents) but over weekends Nicole and Michael came home to spend time with their daughter.
Since today was one of those rare Fridays where she and Michael had no classes between them, they came home a day early and Nicole arranged this little afternoon out with Lisa and Dani. It had been literally months since they'd all seen each other in one place.
It was all hugs and kisses when Lisa embraced her closest friend again.
"God, I've missed you so much, you cute blonde nerd."
Lisa watched Dani and Michael share a pound behind her. "Me too. I sent you an e-mail last week but I didn't get a reply. What happened?"
A frowning Nicole pointed her thumb at Michael. "That asshat over there happened. `Shell's temperature got a little high and he got all worried and crazy. Scared the hell out of my Mom and Dad, talking about how she had this `terrible fever`. Anyway we took her to the hospital and they told she was just hot, that all we needed to do was give her a bit more fresh air. I was so damn embarrassed!"
They all sat down under the shade of the parasol when Lisa pulled Danielle's buggy closer to her and carefully unbuckled the little cutie inside. The Whitfield girl died over how cute and adorable that kid was, especially in her tiny pink jacket. Michelle's pale honey skin was a soft mix of Nicole's milky white and Michael's chocolate brown. She boasted features from both her parents by having her father's nose and her mother's eyes. A tiny streak of drool rolled down her chin as Michelle suckled at a pacifier. With her tiny little fist she gripped one of Lisa's fingers whole.
"Oh, she's so pretty, you guys!"
Dani sighed. "Oh God, here comes the baby speak..."
"A-goochie-goochie-goo!" Cooed Lisa. "I don't think there's a baby out there cuter than you! Oh no there's not! Oh no there's not!"
Michael smiled at the pair of them. "I know how you feel. I was like that with her for so damn long I almost pissed myself off. Don't change the fact she's sweeter than sugar. It's weird, you know? It's damned scary, being a parent, but I just can't wait to see what kind of person she's gonna grow up to be. I'm hoping either neurosurgeon or senator."
"She isn't even in preschool, Michael," sobered Nicole. "Unless you want her passing bills in diapers Michelle isn't gonna be a Representative anytime soon."
"I think Mommy made a boo-boo...!" Lisa continued to gush with Michelle. "Oh yes she did! Mommy confused the Senate with the House of Representatives! Oh yes she did! `Cause this is a bicameral system, isn't it? Oh yes it is!"
Nicole sighed. "Okay. That was annoying when my boyfriend was doing it and it's even more annoying when my best friend does it."
"All right, I'll stop," she bit her lip so as to stifle her coos.
Dani smirked Michael's way. "So you've got big plans for her, huh?"
"Yup. Surgery or politics or bust."
"Well if she chooses politics you make sure the future Hillary Rodham Clinton here does something about Prop-8."
Michael's eyebrows arched. "Whoa. I didn't know you and Lisa were that serious."
Lisa`s head bobbed up. "...What?"
"I'm not proposing, alright? Everybody keep their bras on," corrected Dani. "I just think it's cool the way you guys are dealing with this. I know if I were in your position, I'd probably be overwhelmed by it all."
Nicole shrugged at the thought. "Having Michelle was a big deal but our parents do most of the work. It kills me that I can't see her until the weekend, but... it's better for everybody. Once Michael graduates we're gonna find a place to rent so we can raise her ourselves. I just need to get my studies together first. Anyway, we didn't come here to talk politics and baby speak, we came to eat. Pass me that menu, baby?"
Michael handed Nicole one of the laminated menus on a neighbouring table since theirs' was devoid of one. He regarded Dani and Lisa. "How are things with you guys up at UCLA?"
"Classes are okay but all the reading is a chore. The parties are kick-ass but you wouldn't think so the way I have to drag Lisa along to come with me."
Lisa set Michelle back into her buggy when Michael brought more menus to their table. "Dani, you know I'm not into that scene. I'm sick of watching frat boys slap each other's asses and throw up."
"So I'm guessing you won't be pledging for any sororities, yeah?"
"I don't see how letting girls torture you for a week promotes `sisterhood'." Explained Lisa.
Despite his smile Michael's mood dampened a bit. "...And Megan...?"
An uncomfortable silence passed over the table. Michael always asked after her, Lisa and Dani always strained to keep the truth from him, and always Nicole suppressed the urge to scream "who the hell cares?". She had every reason to be angry with Megan though.
Though she was often quick to dismiss him, no one was more defensive over Michael than his little sister was and once the big secret that was Michelle's conception came out, Megan freaked. Jenny tried to appeal to her, to make her see that her brother's life wouldn't be ruined by having a child, but no one could get Megan to see it that way. She blamed Nicole for everything and her negative reaction created a rift between Michael and Megan during his freshman year. By the time she broke up with Jenny, Michael hardly ever saw her.
Neither Lisa nor Dani wanted to tell him about the way she'd been acting recently, getting drunk and sleeping around and all that. They could only sponge it over.
"She's still pretty upset about Jenny," Lisa told him. "But she's... I'm sure she'll pull through it."
"Oh. Okay. Thanks so much, you guys... for looking out for her."
Dani nodded. "She's a friend. We wouldn't do anything else."
"Maybe we should start ordering," interjected Nicole. "Does everybody know what they want?"
By now everyone had a menu in their hands (except of course Michelle) so they decided on what they wanted and called for a waiter to serve them. Once he scribbled their orders down on his tiny notepad he sauntered off and left the young adults to the discussions of their young adult lives. Over dinner Michelle spat out her pacifier and started crying so Nicole and Michael quickly whipped out a bottle of formula for her (Nicole didn't breastfeed since she only saw Michelle over the weekends -- it just wasn't ideal).
They had a lovely meal despite everything though. Even while she ate `Aunt Lisa' kept playing with her cute little niece Michelle; Dani and Nicole (who had long since buried the hatchet) conversed and joked with each other about their respective spouses, while Michael took a call from his Mom and Dad who asked after `Shell. When their plates were empty, the group shared a few last coffees before saying goodbye. It was getting dark and Michelle was getting restless so it was best to do so. Lisa and Nicole shared the kind of best friend's hug that said without words how much they missed each other before she and Dani waved the teenage couple and their bouncing baby off. Then they too left Mama Giancarlo's and the piazza.
On their way back to the car the sun was falling into the horizon which showered LA in rich orange light. Lisa noted how romantic Californian sunsets were in her own private little way. The thought would've occupied her mind for some time, until Dani suddenly asked, "Hey. About what Michael said back there?"
"About Megan?" Wondered Lisa.
"No, not her. About you and me. Marriage."
Dani winced. "...It's not... that weird, is it?"
"I never said it was weird."
"But the way you-"
"Hey, listen to me," Lisa cut Dani off by pressing a fingertip to her lips. There was an alleyway nearby forged between a Dairy Queen and a second-hand video games store. She compelled her older lover to join her in its cloaking security. Once they were free of prying eyes Lisa spoke on. "The way I feel about you right now, there's only one reason why I wouldn't propose to you."
Dani swallowed a lump in a throat she hardly knew about. "...Which is?"
"I can't afford an engagement ring."
That made Dani smile. Gleefully. "So you think that... if things are like this six years from now, you and I might-"
"I think we have our whole lives to decide what we want to do. We don't need to label anything. Dani, all I care about is that you make me happy, and I make you happy. As long as I have you... I've got everything I need."
For someone who had such a history of shyness Lisa Whitfield knew how to express herself in a way that captured you. If her heart didn't melt yours then her prose certainly could. Dani knew it for a long time. Even when they had rough patches all it took were a few words and a smile to make Danielle Cooper feel better. But you know what meant the most? The fact that that cute smile, that elegant prose, that blonde hair, those blue eyes and that amazing brain; they all belonged to someone who truly loved her. Someone Dani truly loved. At a more cynical stage in her life Dani might've scoffed at the concept of soul mates. She would've sneered at the idea of someone meaning so much to her that it almost hurt when that person wasn't around. Now she believed in those things with all her heart.
Dani lovingly wrapped her arms around Lisa. "...I always feel like I'm dreaming when I'm with you."
"Well, if you are," Her love whispered, "I don't plan on waking you up."
END OF MY GIRL IS MY POISON
* Yup. This is it. The last chapter. It might seem like I've jumped the shark somehow by leaping two years into the future but I think this was a good place to end this story. I originally planned to keep it ongoing, to write about all the things I mentioned in this epilogue (Nicole getting pregnant, Megan going off the rails, Dani finding the money to go to college, Lisa and Dani's future rough patches) but then I realized I'd be dragging out a story that had already reached it's reconciliation. This story was never a "ups and downs of a relationship" kind of romance story but rather a "will they, won't they" one. We've established that they will so there's no real need to go any further. It's a shame though. I would've liked to have written about Nicole's pregnancy in more detail (especially because there've been two new additions to my family in the past three months) but basically I just want to move on.
* Thanks to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who ever sent me an e-mail or gave me feedback on this story, I can't thank you enough. Feedback is the easiest way to keep people updating, guys!
* If you liked this story and wish to read more, or if you're just looking to talk, visit my bloghttp://ksn-kaiser.blogspot.com/. All commentary and feedback is deeply encouraged and greatly appreciated.