Read Winter Jacket: New Beginnings Online
Authors: Eliza Lentzski
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Lesbian, #Romantic, #Lesbian Romance, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction, #Lesbian Fiction, #@lgbt, #Contemporary, #@unread, #Romance
Hunter shook her head. “I
’ve got this. You just relax.”
Her grin was mischievous, sly, because she knew too well I had a problem just sitting and being taken care of.
“You’re concentrating awfully hard,” I noted, perking up on the kitchen stool upon which I sat.
“I don’t want to lose a finger,” she said, not looking up from the giant butcher knife as she sliced it through a red pepper. “
I don’t know if I trust you to sew it back on.”
And I’d hate for you to lose a single finger,” I said without pretense.
expected her to blush at the comment, but she stared at me, practically challenging me. I took that moment to push a small, lidded box across the kitchen counter.
Her eyebrow arched. “What’s that?”
I smiled serenely. “Happy Graduation, Hunter.”
But you already gave me what I wanted.” She set the knife down and wiped her hands on the front of her apron. It was one of mine – a gift from a former student – that had a nerdy statement about the Oxford Comma screen-printed on the front.
I made a noise. “
More like you
it,” I stated coyly. “I thought you needed something else to commemorate the day.” I turned my hands over, palms to the sky. There were still faint marks on my inner wrists from the tight, tidy knots. “Something more than these fading bruises.”
She still hesitated. “
You know I don’t like you spending money on me.”
“I promise it wasn’t expensive.”
I raised my right hand as if taking an oath. “Just humor me, okay?”
bit her bottom lip and picked up the box. Removing the lid, she revealed the vintage locket and long silver chain inside. She carefully removed the necklace from the box. It was delicate, but she handled it like it might disintegrate in her hands.
I stood and walked around the counter to stand behind her.
I took the chain from her hands and unfastened the latch. Her hand laid against the top of her chest as she waited for me to put it on her.
“It’s beautiful, Elle,”
she nearly whispered.
It had taken me some time to se
ttle on the locket and chain. I’d had the letter H engraved on one side and the letter E on the other.
She touched her fingers to the locket and fiddled with it against her
breastplate. “Are there pictures inside?”
“No. I thought I’
d leave that to you. But there is something else inside.”
She slid a shortened nail between the front and back of the locket. It
popped open with little effort. Inside was a thin piece of paper. She carefully plucked it from the hidden compartment.
How we need another soul to cling to, another body to keep us warm. To rest and trust; to give your soul in confidence,” she read aloud. “I need this, I need someone to pour myself into.”
“It’s from one of Sylvia Plath’
s journals,” I explained when she’d finished reading. “You’d be surprised how long it took to find a romantic line of text by her.”
She smiled. “If you don’
t expect anything from anyone, you’re never disappointed.”
I returned her smile, recognizing the line from
The Bell Jar.
Hunter carefully refolded the
tiny slip of paper and returned it to the locket. “This is really lovely, Ellio. Thank you. You really shouldn’t have,” she said crossly before the smile returned, “but thank you.”
“I wanted to do something.” I shook my head. “I
to do something.”
Dinner was forgotten for the moment. Her arms slipped around my waist and she stood up on her toes to press her lips against mine. She was so warm and so soft. My arms went around her and I pulled her closer.
“I wish you didn’t have to go tomorrow,” she breathed against my mouth.
“I’ll cancel,” I murmured back. “Troi and Nik can wait.”
“I don’t want to be that girl,” she said, pulling back just enough that we no longer shared air. “The smothering girlfriend who needs to be tethered to you.”
“You’re not,” I insisted. “We don’t even live together,” I pragmatically pointed out.
With some difficulty, she pulled away completely to return to preparing dinner. “My lease is up soon.”
“I…is this a conversation you want to have right now?” It seemed to me the air had been sucked out of the room. I tried not to suffocate.
“Not tonight.” She shook her head, hair falling around her shoulders. “But when you get back?” Her voice lilted with the question.
I settled back onto a kitchen stool. “When I get back,” I echoed.
“How old is your neighbor?” Dinner had been eaten and now Hunter and I sat at the dining room table, finishing off a bottle of pinot noir.
“Which one?” I asked.
“The high school boy next door.”
Why? You want an introduction?” I tilted my wine glass to the side and swirled the liquid around inside. “I bet he needs a date for Prom still.”
she said, not really sounding amused.
I think he’s a Junior in high school, so 16 or 17. Why?”
“He’s smoking in his room.
I can see him crouched by the window,” she said, nodding toward the picture window in the dining room. “He’s got the window and the screen propped open.”
“What a rebel.” I didn’
t know much about my neighbors on either side of me except that one was a chatty older woman with two small dogs and the other was a couple with two kids. The boy, Tyler, was the elder of the two siblings. I didn’t see much of them except when I was shoveling snow in the winter or mowing grass in the summer.
“I wonder if Brian does that,”
I had only met
Hunter’s younger brother once – the dinner at Hunter’s family home that had gone horribly wrong – but he had seemed like a good kid. He and Hunter had the same yellow hair and intense blue eyes. He was quick to tease Hunter, which told me they’d been close growing up.
I really needed to make more of an effort to get to know her family.
It was clear that her family had been tight before I had come into Hunter’s world. I needed them to be close again for my girlfriend. She put on a brave front that it didn’t affect her, but I could tell she wasn’t being honest with herself or me about this. She missed her family and she wanted me to be a part of that. She needed that more than a sentence locked away in a necklace.
“How about a do-over?” I proposed.
She looked at me questioningly.
We could do-over dinner with your family.” I felt a sheepish grin form on my lips. “I know things didn’t go as well as either of us wanted last Fall and then I chickened out at your graduation. I want to make it up to you.”
e looked skeptical and I couldn’t blame her. When it came to family, both of ours, I tended to run the other way.
t want to get my hopes up,” she said carefully.
“And I don’
t want to disappoint you again,” I returned.
Those cornflower blue eyes watched
me. Her eye contact never failed. “So don’t.”
I’ve always thought that airport terminals felt like an imagined space. Once you’re beyond the security checkpoints, you could be anywhere in the world. I hated flying, but I found a lot of writing inspiration in airports – so many people coming and going to all corners of the earth. I often wished I possessed the spontaneity to show up at an airport with a small carry-on, and on a whim, travel to some place I’d never been.
Troian was holding a piece of white printer paper as a sign when I got off the plane. “Go Home, Bookworm” it read. The smirk on her face told me she was happy to see me though.
I dropped my wheeled bag and wrapped up my friend in a giant hug. I squeezed her tight and even lifted her off the ground a little.
I dropped her back to the ground and she readjusted her sunglasses, which my enthusiasm had nearly knocked off her face.
“Nice to see you, too,” she snarked.
I should have felt embarrassed by the
public display of emotion. I was usually far more tempered, especially in public, but this was the first time seeing my friend since she and Nikole had driven away for California months ago. It had been too long.
“How was your flight?”
Troian asked routinely.
I slid my own sunglasses into place
and picked up my discarded suitcase. “We didn’t crash and my luggage made it here, so I’ve got no complaints.”
m proud of you for flying by yourself, Bookie. Did your seatmate mind you holding their hand for take-off? I hope she was hot.”
She laughed, but I scowled.
It wasn’t far from the truth. I was a terrible flyer; I had a hard time relinquishing control. Very rarely did I fly on my own. Even when I traveled to academic conferences I found ways to have someone come with or I’d go to meetings close enough to drive to. I was the same way about driving, too. If I wasn’t behind the wheel, I was convinced we were going to crash.
I asked as we made our way from baggage claim to the covered parking lot. I dragged my wheeled suitcase behind me. I’d probably over-packed for the one-week visit. Thankfully Troian didn’t comment on the size of my luggage.
She has a meeting with a client.”
“That didn’t take long.”
“That’s because my girl isn’t satisfied sitting home, being one of the Housewives.”
Dude, sign me up for that life,” I chuckled. “I’ll be someone’s trophy wife. I could sit at home all day and just write with no pressure to actually publish it if I don’t want to.”
ve got a few execs I could introduce you to while you’re out here. But they’re all dudes,” she noted. “How badly do you wanna be a trophy wife?”
“Gross.” I wrinkled my nose. “
Troian walked up to a hot little sports car and unlocked it with her key fob.
“Not this again,” I laughed. When I’d first met Troian, years ago, she’d been driving an impractical and flashy coupe that she’d bought with her first publishing paycheck. But after her first Midwestern winter of owning the car, she’d exchanged it for something more reasonable and with 4-wheeled drive.
“Hey, at least I have the weathe
r for it now,” she defended.
I rubbed briskly at my bare arms. The hot mid-afternoon sun felt good on my skin. The woman who’d sat beside me on the plane must have been menopausal because she’d twisted the overhead air vents so that frigid air blasted down on her, but also on me, for the duration of the flight.
We climbed into Troian’s toy car. The vehicle had no discernible backseat and the trunk was filled with subwoofers, so my luggage perched on my lap.
“How’s life?” I asked as she pulled the vehicle out of hourly parking. We talked practically every day, but I felt like we had so much catching up to do.
“Just living the dream,” she smiled.
“And the work? Still like it?”
Troian made an affirm
ing noise and adjusted the rearview mirror. “It took me a while to figure out what kind of boss I wanted to be, but things are starting to feel routine – like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
“That’s really great, Troi.”
I stared out the window and admired the city streetscape. Palm trees lined the median and we passed house after house with carefully manicured lawns.
Are we doing any actual wedding planning while I’m here?” Troian and Nikole hadn’t yet set a date because the engagement was barely a month old, so my being here was more for my own good than a practical wedding-planning trip. Still, I intended on being useful and throwing in my opinion where Troian didn’t want it.
Maybe just dresses. I got an appointment at some exclusive place, so we should probably check it out.”
“Exclusive bridal gown shop? Oooh, you’re so Hollywood,”
Troian growled as we turned a particularly sharp corner. I grabbed the rollover bar to keep from falling out of the car. I was surprised my luggage stayed on my lap.
ow have you two divvied up the wedding day planning?” I asked, sticking to topics that wouldn’t get me tossed from the vehicle.
We have to get our own dress and pick out what we want our bridesmaids and grooms to wear. She’s going to take care of the more technical stuff like wedding license and renting the space and the band and things like that since her work schedule is more flexible than mine,” Troian listed. “And she’s in charge of flowers, obviously.”
m hiring the photographer since I have those connections. And we’re both doing the cake and meal picking together.”
“Jesus,” I muttered when we whipped around a corner, narrowly missing falling off a cliff on one side and being flattened by a semi-truck on the other.
Troian snorted. “You’re such a backseat driver,” she complained when the vehicle returned to all four tires.
I clutched my suitcase tighter to my chest like it was a life preserver. “Maybe if my life didn’t flash before my eyes every time you drove.”
Troian slapped her palm against the steering wheel. “Come on!” she yelled at the slow-moving vehicle in front of us. “Move over!”
“How does someone so small harbor so much road rage?” I openly wondered.
Troian hazarded a quick glance in my direction. “It’s LA living,” she explained.
“You’re a natural,” I said, gritting my teeth as we accelerated up a steep hill
that would have been suicide if it had been located in the Midwest. “Where are you taking me?”
“My house. Unless you were planning on staying in a motel in the Valley and getting an STD?”
“Charming,” I deadpanned.
“You think I’m exaggerating,” she said, shaking her head, “but I’m not.”
“Stop scaring the tourist.” I refused to let go of the rollover bar.
fun!” she smiled manically. The posted speed limits were merely suggestions at this point. We kept climbing. It was like a roller coaster incline; I didn’t want to be around when we got to the top and had to come down.
“You haven’t had many visitors, have you?” I focused on the horizon to swallow down my motion sickness.
“It is that obvious?”
I’d aged a few years from fright, we finally made it to Troian’s house.
“You asshole.” I dropped my luggage in the doorway. “Why didn’
t you tell me you were such a big deal?”
I walked through the open-
plan first floor to the back of the house. There was a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that could slide away completely to expose the dining area to the outside. Beyond the glass wall was a gorgeous patio with a sizeable infinity pool and an amazing view of the city below.