See Part 1 for warnings and info...
Copyright © 2013 Geonn Cannon
The next time they saw each other was the day before their next class. Kathryn was glad to see that Eva seemed awkward as well, smiling and shuffling her feet before she decided they could greet each other with a kiss. First a quick one on the cheek, followed by one on the lips that lingered. Eva sucked her bottom lip into her mouth when they pulled apart. Her dark eyes sparkled as she looked at Kathryn.
"How are you?"
"I'm doing very well. Very, very well. You?"
Eva nodded. "Fantastic. People are even commenting on it at work. Apparently, I'm... I don't know. Smiling a lot or something."
"You're smiling right now."
The smile widened, wrinkling Eva's eyes. "Am I?"
"Yes." Kathryn leaned in to kiss her again, teasing with her tongue before she pulled back. "I adore kissing you..."
Eva blinked and then stepped back. "We should probably focus on the last few pictures we need before we have fun. Otherwise we won't get anything done."
Eva kissed her one more time, moaning to show how helpless she was, and then touched Kathryn's cheek. "Later."
They went back to the park so Eva could get her fifth shot for the assignment. Eva took a bag of bagels past their expiration date out of the fridge without explanation, swinging it against her hip as they walked. Occasionally their hands brushed together but Kathryn always moved her hand away. She gave Eva a lingering look as explanation, and Eva nodded that she understood why they couldn't walk down the street holding hands, as much as they both might want to.
When they got to the park Eva directed them toward a pond in the northeastern corner. A raft of ducks was drifting along one side of the water, and Eva explained what she wanted Kathryn to do. Kathryn agreed, and Eva tromped around the edge of the pond to get into position. The ducks were aware of her presence but only changed their group direction rather than fleeing. Eva crouched, lined up the shot, then held up her left hand with the thumb extended.
Kathryn held the top of the bagel bag with one hand and shook it. The ducks heard the sound and immediately lifted off as one entity, wings extended and bodies trailing water as they hopped from one side of the pond to the other in an impressive display of group-think. By the time Kathryn got the bag open, she was surrounded by quacking ducks waddling from side to side as if impatient for their snack.
Eva told her to break the bagels up into pieces before she tossed them, and she did the best she could with the most impatient clientele ever. Thankfully they didn't seem aggressive to her or each other, and soon the bag was empty. She held it upside down to shake out the crumbs and the ducks immediately lost interest in her, circling with their bills to the ground as they looked for any scrap they may have missed.
"Did you get it?" Kathryn asked when Eva approached.
"We'll see. I'm glad you're not scared of ducks."
"Ducks, no. Geese are a different story."
"Well, sure. Geese will chase you."
With the picture taken, Kathryn tossed the bag in the trash and they walked back to the house. Once the door closed behind her, Kathryn realized that she already felt at home there. She was more at home there than in her own home, with her own husband. Eva started toward the darkroom, but Kathryn reached out and grabbed her hand. Eva stopped, their extended arms linking them together across the hall.
"Nothing's wrong." She pulled Eva to her and Eva fell into her embrace. They kissed, Kathryn's brow furrowed as she explored Eva's mouth with her tongue. Eva held her camera out to one side as she spread the fingers of the other over Kathryn's ass. The flash startled Kathryn and she looked accusingly at the camera as if it had taken the picture without being told to, then looked at Eva.
"I can overexpose it... destroy the shot. I just--"
"Don't do that. I want to see it."
"Now. I want to see it now."
Eva smiled. "Okay. Come on."
They went into the darkroom and shut off the lights. Kathryn still wasn't comfortable with the development part of the process, which was a full fourth of their grade, so Eva used the opportunity to teach and demonstrate the procedure. She developed the assigned shot first, teasing them both because they both knew they wouldn't be able to concentrate once they had the kiss picture. Kathryn was awed by the shot, capturing a half-dozen of the ducks as they took off. The water seemed to be clinging to their feathers and webbed feet, their reflections vibrant on the rippled water of the lake underneath them.
"This shot is alive," Kathryn whispered. "Oh, my God. You're so talented."
Eva said, "I want you to have it."
"No. You... this... you need to have this for, for--"
"I want you to have it. I want you to put it somewhere you'll see it. Where it will catch your eye and you'll think of me."
Kathryn couldn't take her eyes off the picture. "Thank you. You have to turn it in first."
"But then you'll take it?"
"Yes. If you want me to have it."
"I need you to have it."
"Then okay. Thank you so much."
Eva hung the picture so it could dry. "I love photography, but my skill was textbook. I didn't have heart. I just took pictures of what was in front of me. That's why I started taking this class. I wanted to take pictures of beautiful things and have them be beautiful. Our teacher has been very enthusiastic, and helpful, but you're the first person who ever said I was talented. Thank you, Kathryn."
"I meant it."
"I know." She smiled. "That's why I want you to have the picture. I guess I found my heart."
Kathryn looked at her. "I hope I had something to do with it."
Eva met her gaze and slowly nodded.
"I want to see the kiss picture now."
Eva agreed. She went through the process again, and their profiles slowly faded into visibility under the fluid.
Two faces caught in such an extreme close-up that immediate identification is almost impossible. The profile on the left side of the shot is tilted to the left, while the other woman - the focus of the shot, is straight and steady. Their lips are parted and joined, no hint of space between them. Strands of dark hair fall across the face of the woman on the left. The woman on the right has small lines between her eyebrows, as if concentrating on the moment with an intensity few people grant to a simple kiss.
Kathryn kissed the back of Eva's neck, and Eva pressed her hips against the table to keep from swaying. She moved her hands around in front of her and undid the buttons of her blouse, starting from the bottom and working her way up. She sucked Eva's earlobe and put her hands under the veil of her shirt to stroke her stomach.
"I'm sorry. I can't help myself."
"Who asked you to?" Eva turned her head and their lips met again.
Kathryn was more confident this time, taking control as she removed Eva's clothes. She let the blouse and bra fall to the floor and then bent to take one nipple into her mouth. She played over it with her tongue as she undid the button of Eva's slacks, pushing them down to mid-thigh and then pressing her hand to the crotch of Eva's panties. She rubbed as she switched to the other breast, moaning hungrily, kissing her way up the swell to rest her cheek on Eva's collarbone. She pushed her fingers under the cotton and touched Eva's smooth skin.
"I love the way you feel," Kathryn said, her eyes half-open to watch Eva as she stroked.
"I love the way you make me feel." Eva covered Kathryn's hand with her own, guiding it. Her other hand rested on Kathryn's chest, feeling her breast through the blouse. The material was gray and just thin enough to see the outline of her bra. Eva couldn't believe how beautiful the blouse was; she didn't think anyone could make a long-sleeved gray blouse look sexy, but Kathryn had done the impossible.
As much as she liked the shirt, she pulled it up and off when Kathryn stopped kissing her breasts. They grappled with each other for a moment, clothes dropping to the floor of the darkroom like leaves in winter. Eva knelt and brought Kathryn down with her, laying her on the floor and then lying on top of her. Kathryn spread her legs and hooked her ankles behind Eva's body, pinning her in place.
"I have toys in the bedroom..."
"Not yet. I just want you. Tongue, fingers--"
"Yeah." Eva cupped Kathryn's head with both hands and thrust against her. Kathryn rolled her head back and dug her fingers into Eva's ass, pulling her forward as she lifted her hips. Kathryn came with a cry that Eva muffled with a kiss, and then Kathryn used her fingers to finish Eva off, watching her face with wide-eyed awe as Eva rocked against her hand. She hunched forward twice, stiffened, and then settled comfortably against Kathryn's hip.
"I love you."
The words slipped out on a loose breath, and Kathryn was grateful she didn't have a chance to stop them. She brought her head up and kissed Eva's slick, salty skin.
"Is that okay?"
"Yes. I love you, too."
Kathryn closed her eyes to hold back the tears, lips pressed so tightly together they would have been white in another room. She tightened her grip on Eva's body and stroked the length of her spine. After a long moment of cuddling on the floor they both sat up. Eva stood to dress, and Kathryn remained on the floor to watch as her nudity was covered up. She stroked the outside of Eva's thigh through her jeans, and Eva brushed the back of her hand over Kathryn's hair.
"I have food today, if you want to eat dinner here."
Eva held out her hand and Kathryn took it. She let herself be hauled up, then bent down to retrieve and put on her own clothes. Once she was dressed she took Eva's hand in her left, took the picture of their kiss in her right, and led the way out of the room. Eva indicated for her to sit in the breakfast nook while she prepared the food. Kathryn was so accustomed to cooking and serving that she didn't know what to do with herself. So she sat and stared at the picture of their kiss, evidence that what they were doing was actually real and not just a fantasy or delusion. Who was the beautiful woman in the shot with Eva? Who was that carefree, wanton, sexual woman with her mouth open wide for another woman's tongue?
She smiled and chewed on her thumbnail, one bare foot resting on top of the other. She felt young. At least half her age. She looked into the kitchen at Eva with her mussed hair and wrong-buttoned shirt. Her life had been fast-forwarded past the adventurous twenties, forcing her to be responsible and grown-up while her friends were experimenting and figuring out who they were. Would she have experimented? Would she have kissed a girl in college and discovered how wonderful it was? God, could her eyes have been opened all those years ago?
But if they were, would she still be single in her late-forties? Would she have been adrift enough to join a photography class and meet Eva Alvarez? Maybe her life had just been put on pause just long enough to get her where she needed to be.
Eva interrupted her train of thought by bringing over a meal of leftovers, placing one bowl in front of Kathryn before taking a seat across from her.
"Thank you," she said, "it looks delicious."
"I can reheat with the best of them." She winked.
"No, it's just... what I always want to hear when I deliver dinner. I never do."
Eva watched her for a moment. "May I ask you something if I promise you don't have to answer?" Kathryn nodded carefully. "Have you ever cheated before?"
"So why am I different?"
Kathryn rubbed her finger over the handle of her knife. "I don't know. Maybe if I knew I would have been able to stop it." She quickly brought up her hand. "Not that I want to stop it. I was never tempted before you. There were moments, I suppose, but never anything strong enough or real enough to risk my whole life to pursue."
"Same question. Why am I different?"
"Because I..." She rubbed her fingertips over her thumb. "Because it was..." She looked out the window. The sun was already starting to set and she was startled. Her days with Eva always seemed to be ending, while her days with Joseph seemed to last for weeks. Why was the sun always racing for the horizon when she was actually happy? "Because I've never met anyone who makes me feel the way you do. All you have to do is look at me and it's like... taking medicine. I feel better just because you're near. Because I know that if I need something, like a kind word or a smile, I know I can count on you to provide it without being asked. Because you can tell when I need something. Because you accept that I might need something and you're willing to give it without reciprocity. Because my heart couldn't stand saying goodbye to you without knowing you'll be coming back."
Eva smiled. "Wow. I didn't know I was doing all that."
"Because it's not an effort. You do it without thinking. That's what makes it special."
Eva smiled. "Now I'm all self-conscious."
"Oh. Then I'm going to take full advantage of it. Tell me about yourself. I know the grown-up you pretty well, but I want to know about the teenager."
Eva smiled. "Teenager. Oh, you don't want to know about that."
"I do. Even more now."
"There's not much to tell. I was a good little girl, no rebellion... I think I stored it up until I was an adult so the things I did weren't just written off as typical teenage shit. I started dating women just because it wasn't the expected thing to do, but when I tried to go back to men I realized I'd never really felt anything for them. It was like comparing a photograph of Rome to actually visiting there."
"So I'm assuming that romance didn't work out?"
Eva chuckled. "No. Although the romance may have had a better chance of success if I'd actually told her how I felt, instead of just pining away, weeping in my dorm room, pounding my pillow every night. She was straight and married."
"Aha. So this is a habit with you."
Kathryn smiled nervously. "I'm sorry. I was only teasing."
Eva looked down at her food with guilt. "I know. But it needs to be said. I don't pursue married women, or straight women. I don't know why I couldn't stop flirting with you. I knew I should, and I knew I was setting myself up for heartbreak, but I just couldn't stop myself. You kept drawing me in."
"I'm glad you didn't fight it. And you shouldn't consider your streak broken. After the past week, I'm not entirely sure I'm straight anyway. I got with Joseph when we were so young. And I was never really happy with him. I just thought it was what people did. The dirty secret of grown-ups was that no one really enjoyed each other's company. God, I wish I'd met you when I was twenty."
"I would have been seven years old."
"Good Lord ," Kathryn moaned. "Don't tell me that."
Eva laughed. "It's fine. I like older women. Even though you don't seem like an older woman." She raised an eyebrow and put her foot on Kathryn's under the table. Kathryn dipped her chin and smiled.
"So... ahem. Why did you go into crime scene photography? It seems so gruesome."
"It can be, I admit. But it can also be like a puzzle. You take pictures of something horrible, and then you try to piece together how it happened. It makes it seem possible to make some sense out of this world. It can be cathartic."
"Hm. I like that."
They ate in silence for a while before Eva looked out the window. The sky was painted in purples, blues, and pinks. She shifted in her seat as if she was suddenly uncomfortable and looked at the food left in her bowl. "I'm not trying to get rid of you, I just want to be warned in regard to how much time we have left. I don't want you to get in trouble."
Kathryn looked at the clock and smiled ruefully. "I'm already in trouble. Dinner will be late, so I'm bound to get a lecture about my wifely duties."
Eva worked her jaw and looked out the window, but it was Kathryn who came up with the solution.
"How about sundown? When the sun goes down, I'll head for home. No later than that."
"I guess that... would be okay. Do you need a ride?"
"No, Joe took the day off so I borrowed his truck."
"Oh. Right. I watched you pull up." She smiled at her memory slip. "I wish I could spend the night with you, but it's probably not feasible again."
"No," Kathryn agreed reluctantly. She reached across the table and took Eva's hand. "But I want to spend the night with you, too."
Eva rubbed her thumb over Kathryn's knuckles and smiled at her.
Kathryn was already going to get home fifteen minutes after dinner was usually served, so she stopped at KFC and picked up a bucket of chicken with the sides Joseph liked. At a stop light she brought her hand up to her nose, sniffing deeply to see if she could smell Eva on the fingers. How long ago had they been inside her? Would Joseph even notice? She decided it was better not to chance it and opened a small bottle of lotion. She rubbed it into her skin, prompting the car behind her to honk when the light turned green. She waved an apology, the scent of green apples wafting through the car and mixing with the chicken, and proceeded through the intersection.
The lights were on when she got home, and she carried the food in through the kitchen. "Hi, sweetheart." She said the words by routine, barely even noticing as they left her lips. Joseph came in from the living room as she was getting the plates out of the cupboard. She would pick at a piece of chicken, maybe have some potato wedges, just to give the impression she was eating with him.
"Where the hell have you been?"
"You said that was just an hour and a half on Tuesdays and Thursdays."
She shrugged. "It's photography class, Joe. It's not just sitting in a room reading textbooks and learning technique. I have to go out and take pictures to fulfill the assignment specifications." She considered stopping there, but something made her go on. "I met this really neat woman there. She's a crime-scene photographer. She took a lot of amazing pictures in the park the other day. If I could have half her talent--"
"Is this dinner?"
She was startled by his sudden question and had to switch gears. "Uh. Yes. I knew I'd be late so I stopped by--"
"I could have picked this up myself."
"Then why didn't you?" she said.
"Maybe if you'd called to let me know you would be late..."
She shook her head. "You would just have used the time to script this lecture instead of doing it off the cuff. Although God knows you must have the son of a bitch memorized by now. You have to wait for me to get home to make you dinner, you have to be served like a child... are you a fucking invalid? Can't you even feed yourself without mommy coming in to do it for you?"
She realized she had gone too far as soon as she stopped speaking, but she knew she couldn't take it back. She was relieved she couldn't take it back.
Joseph's eyes were narrow, his face red, and he was taking great pains to control his breathing as he stared at her.
Kathryn turned away and placed three pieces of chicken on his plate. She served the green beans and potato wedges, then took one of the plastic forks from the wrapper and dropped it on top of the plate. She shoved it across the counter to him and flicked her fingers with a flourish. " Bon appetit ." She stepped around him and stormed out of the room.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm not hungry."
She went into their bedroom and walked to her side of the bed. She dropped onto the mattress and put her elbows on her knees, leaning forward to cover her face in case the tears started to come. When her eyes remained dry, she fished her phone out of her pocket and dialed Eva's number. She let it ring once and then disconnected with a quiet curse. She stood up and walked to the window, hugging herself as she looked outside.
The phone rang and she knew it was Eva before she looked at the screen. It was programmed to show a picture of Eva whenever she called, and though she was fully-dressed in the picture, Kathryn couldn't help but picturing her in some of the sensual shots they'd taken that first night. Finally, she answered the call.
"Hi. Sorry... butt-dial."
"Oh. I wanted to be sure. I was worried something might be wrong. But if you're okay..."
Kathryn chewed her bottom lip. I'm not okay. Not at all. Come over here. Come get me. Take me away. She rested her head against the glass.
"No, I... was just saying your name."
She smiled and looked out at the neighbor's fence. "I wish I lived in an apartment so I could look out over the city and imagine you out there looking at me."
"Hold on." A pause and the sound of movement. "I'm at the window. Which way are you from my house?"
"Oh. Hold on." More movement. "Okay. I'm at the window looking out toward you."
Kathryn didn't tell Eva she was facing west. To face Eva's house she would have to stand at the kitchen window, and she didn't want to face Joseph just yet.
"I decided I like sunset as our leaving time."
"Yeah. Because it's dark when you're not here."
Kathryn's eyes burned with tears. "I love you, Eva."
"I love you, too."
"No, say my name."
"I love you, Kathryn."
She smiled. "Thank you. I should go."
"Okay. Will I see you in class tomorrow night?"
She didn't want to risk Joseph's ire at another unexpected absence, so she said, "Yeah. I'll try to get there early so we can sit together and talk for a bit."
"I'd like that. I'll see you there."
Kathryn said, "Not sweetie. Or sweetheart." She thought for a moment. "Could you... could you call me..."
Kathryn's heart leapt in her chest and she took a deep breath. "Yes. That."
"Have a good night, my heart."
"You too, darling."
She ended the call and put the phone down on the nightstand. She stared at it and put her hand to her lips, considering if she should just go to bed (making the next day come that much quicker) or go play penitent for Joseph to have peace in the household. She eventually decided on the latter. If she waited until later to make nice, she had a feeling that her apology would come with sex. And the more time she spent with Eva, the more of a liar she felt when she went to bed with Joseph.
She picked up her camera and realized she needed one more picture outside of her comfort zone. She turned the camera around and aimed the lens at herself. She turned her head just as she snapped the picture.
A dark room with a single lamp lit. A woman standing before the camera, arms extended to either side of the lens. An obvious self-portrait. She's dressed in a sweater over a white blouse. Her hair is down and resting on her shoulders in equal lengths like curtains. Her head is in the process of turning (captured motion), her features a blur. But several things are clear to see. Eyes cast downward. Lips set into a hard line. It's the face of a tremendously sad person, a woman who lives in the shadows by avoiding the light.
Kathryn put the camera down before she went into the living room. Joseph was back in place before the television, plate on his lap, ignoring her as she stopped next to his chair. He waited until a commercial break before he finally looked at her.
"What the hell was that about?"
"Sorry. It was a long day."
"You don't talk to me like that."
"I understand. It won't happen again." She went into the kitchen and saw the counter was clear. It took her a moment to track the smell of chicken to the trash can, the bucket lying upside down in the spilled contents of the side items. Anger boiled in her chest, threatening to burst out through her mouth. She wasn't hungry, but he didn't know she'd eaten. She felt her ears burning at the stupid, passive-aggressive gesture.
She went back to the living room. "That was perfectly good food."
"You said you weren't hungry."
"It could have been your lunch tomorrow."
He shrugged. "I don't think I'll feel like chicken."
She rubbed her forehead. "It was food, Joe. I paid for it, I--"
" I paid for it. I can do what I want with it. If you're hungry, go ahead and pluck it out of the trash and make yourself a plate. I don't give a shit."
"No, you don't." She swallowed the lump in her throat and shook her head as she walked past him to the front door. "I'm going for a walk."
She didn't have her phone with her. It was a decent neighborhood, but he still could have expressed some kind of interest in her safety. But the door shut behind her on silence. She stood on the porch for a long time trying to think of where the hell she could go. Finally she just went to the driveway and leaned against the truck, sliding down until she was sitting on the driveway where she couldn't be seen from the front door.
To Be Continued...
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