Yang quietly pressed the door shut behind her with a gentle click and turn of the dead bolt, breathing shallowly as to not make a sound. Carefully, she heel-toed her way across the linoleum floor and kept her ears straining for any sort of sound that Ruby might be awake. She was nearly at her bedroom door when inside, her touch-lamp turned on; revealing a very impish looking young sister. Yang’s eyebrows peaked in surprise, as she looked over her shoulder and down the hallway, and then turning back on Ruby. “Wh-were you in here all night?”
“ Of course not, but it was getting late! And you didn’t reply to my text.” Ruby giggled, to which Yang smiled back crookedly; one corner almost twitching, remembering faintly of her cellphone vibrating in her back pocket towards the end of the evening. “So?”
“How’d it go with Blake?” She almost demanded. “I mean I know it’s not late-late, but you were out all day! Did she enjoy the festival? Or did you guys end up going somewhere else?” the red and black haired girl asked, and then leaned forward mischievous smirk and innocent eyebrow wiggle. “Did you go somewhere else…?” She guffawed in spite of herself “Never mind! Don’t tell me any of that—but seriously, how’d it go?” Ruby asked, sparing no time in between for her older sister to answer. Finally Yang put up her hands to sate her sister and took off her shoes to kick them into her closet. She bit her lip, choosing her words carefully and rubbing the side of her neck. In her silence, Ruby’s eyes went from curious, to confused, and then concerned. “…Yang?” She asked, lowering her shoulders. “What happened?”
“Um…How do I say this…” Yang said, lying on her back across her full sized bed. She took a deep breath, filling and stretching her lungs; and letting it out with a hiss. “Alright.”
“I couldn’t imagine riding that thing to and from work all the time.” Blake said as both women came up to the stoop of the apartment complex. She fixed her black hair the best she could, repairing the windblown strands of hair that feel loosely around her face; completely out of place. Yang gave an amused laugh as Blake pulled her purple slouch beanie from her front pocket and pulled it back onto her head, making a vain attempt to keep presentable.
“It’s not for everyone, don’t worry.” She smiled, and then looked up at the apartment complex. “So, this is you, huh?”
“Only for now.” Blake clarified. “It really isn’t the greatest, but…at least it keeps the rain out.” She said, and then quickly took off Yang’s jacket she was still wearing; a small blush on her cheeks. “S-sorry, I forgot I had this.” Yang took it and put it back on without any hesitation.
“No harm done.” She said. Her grin turned into a curious frown at the sound of a kicked metal garbage can struck the side of the brick building, followed by the undeniable sound of a scuffle just beyond the corner of the apartment; the angry shouts of men and fist hitting flesh punctured the night time air. Yang cast a weary look unto Blake, who was digging for her apartment keys, pretending not to have heard the skirmish. The blonde woman’s eyes hovered over the other woman’s frame, her concern rising with every shout and clang of either a garbage can or human body being thrown against a dumpster. Upon finding her key, she took another step up the stoop and turned to Yang, who remained two steps below her with her hands deep in her jacket’s front pockets.
B Of course they’re at it again.
“Well, thank you for introducing me to the festival.” Blake said with a slight nod. “I really enjoyed myself.” Yang swallowed and kept a stern look on the cement step Blake was standing on.
Y There’s no way she tuned that out.
“Yeah…” she said, clenching her fists in her pockets.
Y And there’s no way I’m letting her walk up to her place alone after that.
“Blake, um…” Yang took a step further onto the stoop, looking up and Blake with just her lavender eyes; peering at her through her golden bangs with nothing but sincerity in her gaze. “Let me follow you to your apartment.”
Y “Creeper Status” be damned!
B Oh God, why…
“What?” Blake asked, knowing well what Yang meant but not wanting to show her any further into the building. She had already embarrassed herself enough by showing Yang where she lived, and what part of town she was in. “Oh, no, that’s—“ But Yang only narrowed the corners of her eyes and shook her head, making up her mind.
“No way. I need to make sure you get into your place.”
“Well, what about you? You’ll be by yourself coming out.”
“That doesn’t matter.” Yang replied, not caring about her own outcome upon her exiting the building. She felt secure in herself that should anything happen, she could put a stop to it if need be. But for Blake’s safety, she wanted to ensure that the dark haired woman reached the safety of her apartment. “I’m going with you, and coming back out.” Blake stared wide-eyed at the determined blonde before her, trying to access another way to protest but fell short as Yang took her by the forearm and escorted her inside the apartment complex.
Y I shouldn’t be so judgmental, but…wow. This place is a fucking dump.
The two women walked in silence, side by side up the smoke stained stairwell. Yang ignored the sound of the hallway light above buzzing slightly, one side of the panel flickering. She thought to maybe keep her eyes on the stained and scuffed carpet floor, blotches of different colors stained in patterns upon the fabric like malformed rings of a topographic map; either resorting from spilled drink or some form of body fluid. Yang raised her head and shot Blake a silent side glance, and saw that she kept was looking at only what was ahead of her.
B She didn’t need to see this. Any of this.
If it were at all possible, Blake would have wished she were thinking more level headedly before taking Yang up on the offer to give her a ride home instead of taking the trolley or the bus back. The last thing, if not at all, was allowing for Yang to see the conditions of which she lived. They passed by the same open doors as Blake typically would on her own, of the family and the pianist playing the blues. Yang noted the difference of the second floor, yet could not accept that even over the sound of static buzzing on an old television was barely enough to muffle the sound of either a lover’s quarrel or tasteless love making coming in and out of earshot as they passed another door. They stopped at a door that had both a pink slip and a white slip beneath it. The pink one Blake immediately took and tucked away, but not before Yang could read the bold cautionary letters of the white slip:
BED BUG ADDENDUM
“Well,” Blake said, sucking in her bottom lip for a moment. “This is me.” She added, blinking her golden eyes at Yang; but this time as if looking through her and not into her as she had done so earlier at the festival.
B Yes. This is me. All of this is my life. From one shit hole to another, barely making it out with my own pathetic life.
Y I can’t leave her here…
Yang crossed her arms and gave a slight tilt of her head, unsure of leaving her to her apartment. “Alright.” She answered, and found herself looking at the door itself. At the side of the scuffed doorknob, there were dents and abrasions going towards the inside of the door; alarming her greatly. Yang felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as she looked at Blake with eyes opened wide, looking at the door and to Blake once more. The raven-haired woman fidgeted with the key in her hands, unable to meet Yang’s demanding eyes.
B What happened to me having a good day? Why has it come to this?
“That was there when I moved in.” She said, not needing nor wanting Yang to ask. “Nothing’s happened.” Yang held her tongue, wanting to ask but felt that she would be over stepping her boundaries more so than she was already from following her up to her apartment. “Um,” Blake pressed they key gently into the awaiting doorknob and unlocked it. “Well I guess I’ll see you later th—“ a raucous laughter erupted from the stairwell as four of five men hollered to one another, clearly intoxicated as one stumbled closer to the top of the stairs; yelling and slurring obscenities at his other friends. Yang leaned and peered in the direction of the noise, but was brought out of curiosity by a feeling of a tight grip on her upper arm as she was dragged into Blake’s apartment.
“I’m sorry.” Blake replied as she shut the door and turned the deadbolt and slid the chain back into place. “It’s just…they’re good guys when they’re not drinking. But I avoid them when they get like that.” She said, still facing the door and pressing a hand to it. “It’s just better that way.” She said, not wanting to turn around.
“…did they hurt you?” Yang asked quietly. Blake bit her lip, and then released it as she turned to find Yang standing in the dark, in the middle of what was her bedroom and living room. The only source of light was from the city lights, glowing against the beige window blinds, crumpled on one side, and hanging crookedly; the corner of the window revealing the city street below. Yang stood with her arms limply to their sides, her face and parts of her body darkened from standing with her back against the window glowing behind her. For a moment, Yang glanced down at the mattress propped up on bricks that supported Blake’s bed, and the crates stacked on one another to form a make-shift shelf for what battered books she kept that weren’t library books. The ceiling fan just over Yang’s head on the low ceiling was missing half of one blade, the bulbs in them missing.
Y …and you’re by yourself?
Blake’s face burned with embarrassment.
B She wasn’t supposed to know about this.
“Blake,” Yang said again, her voice stronger. “Did they hurt you?” Blake stepped further into her apartment, hugging her arms about herself but kept her neutral expression all the same. In the other woman’s eyes, Blake thought she saw the glowing embers of a fighter masked behind the frantic searching of concern.
“No.” she answered honestly. “No, they haven’t. I just avoid trouble when I can.”
Y This place isn’t exactly a sanctuary.
Yang tore her lavender eyes from Blake and looked to the door, hearing the sounds of the men walking past, howling with drunken laughter, followed by a door slam. The noise faded slightly, replaced by the wailing of an awoken infant next door. Blake looked to the floor and shook her head. “It’s um…it’s not home, by any means. But…that’s why it’s temporary.”
“You’re not safe here, Blake.” Yang said, unable to keep her opinion in anymore. “Just because there’s families here too, doesn’t make up for the fact that drunkards and gangs fly around here like it’s an outhouse.”
B You don’t get to be the one to tell me that. To talk to me like I don’t know the difference.
Blake sucked at her teeth and flipped her choppy bangs out of her searing gold eyes, narrowing them. “You think I find this a safe haven? Please. Don’t patronize me.” She spat. Yang was taken aback by Blake’s response, but not surprised that she would take offense to her words. “I’m only here until the lease runs out.”
“Which is when?”
“The end of the month.”
“And then?” Yang questioned further, causing Blake to drop her arms and roll her eyes in frustration.
“And then I find a new little squalor to crochet a ‘Home Sweet Home’ pillow in.” She hissed. “I don’t need your pity. I do well on my own.” She said, trying to gain her composure. “…I always have.”
Y But you don’t always have to be alone.
“Come live with me.”
“I’m not trying to say you need saving, it’s just that…it’s just, I…”
Yang took a breath and stepped forward, coming just next to Blake, resting both her hands on the other woman’s shoulders. Blake looked into the blonde’s eyes, seeing the different shades of purple in them as the lighting from the glow of the window blinds and what little light escaped the slats between them highlighted every tint and shade; as if staring into a galaxy in deep space. As Yang readied her response, she took note of how the shadows of the streetlights painted grey organic shapes across Blake’s soft features. She marveled at the way the light graced only one side of her face, but managed to creep across long enough to show the honey-golden gaze that penetrated deep into her soul, searching for an explanation, if not a possible way out of her urban dungeon. Yang blinked, and began to form the words again; this time with a genuine smile.
“I want you to come live with me. Get out of here, and come stay with us.”
B We only just…how can you be so…so sure? How do you know you can trust me?
Blake searched Yang’s eyes a moment longer before following down the rest of her face. She cascaded down the bridge of her nose, where her golden and curled bangs fell gently upon. Further still, Blake’s eyes traveled; lingering along her cupid’s bow until resting them on her playful lips that spread into an honest smile. “What do you say?” Blake blinked, mashing her lips together as she looked back up into Yang’s questioning and comforting gaze. “Move in with my sister and I. Really, it’s okay, we’ll take you. Anywhere is better than here.” Her cell phone buzzed lightly in her back pocket once, indicating a text; to which she opted to ignore—not wanting to take her eyes from the dark haired angel in front of her.
B I could kiss you right now.
Blake licked her lips as her eyes fell back upon Yang’s grinning mouth. Steadily placing her own hands atop the blonde woman’s shoulders, she looked slowly up into Yang’s face.
Y …is she? Th-that look she’s giving…
Yang’s heart fluttered awake and began to beat a steady rhythm of anticipation; the silence around them was at full volume with the blood swirling and pounding in Yang’s eardrums. She was shrouded in a blurry haze where all she could see, all she could feel, was Blake.
Y Is she…getting closer?
B Oh God, I…I think I’m falling.
Blake’s gaze shifted downward, her long lashes casting small shadows on the tops of her cheeks, bending over and downward in the lighting of the window blinds. Yang felt her own eyelids grow heavy with every waiting blink, finding it gradually harder to breathe.
“You’re such a good friend.” Blake replied, looking into Yang’s eyes. The blonde woman blinked, being brought back down from her high and feeling as if she’d plummeted into the Earth’s crust from the stratosphere; enveloped in flames and smoke.
Blake pulled the befuddled woman into a tight hug, realizing that she could not even recall the last time she had physically and voluntarily reached out to embrace another human being. She wrapped her arms around Yang, who in return eventually gave in to holding the dark-haired woman. The same scent that filled Blake’s sense from wearing Yang’s jacket at the festival returned, as she could smell the subtleness of hair product, perfume, and a natural musk.
B You’re a saint…a beautiful, gorgeous, charming saint.
“Just let me have tonight.” Blake almost whispered, still holding onto Yang. “There are things I must do before then.” Yang kept her hugging hold onto the other woman. She took in the feeling of Blake’s arms around her torso, her cushion of her breasts pressing onto hers, and the warmth emitting from the contact that was bare neck-on-neck. Yang found no air to exhale in her otherwise hollow body as she kept one arms held across Blake’s lower back, and her other hand resting horizontally on the woman’s shoulder blade.
“Of course.” Yang said, trying to smile through the pain. “Yeah.” Blake released her and took a breath as she stepped backward. “No problem.”
Y It hurts...it hurts, and I’m not even sure why, because...
Blake walked with Yang to the door, sliding the locks as the blonde woman stared with hollow eyes at the light coming out from the gap in the door at the floor. Another hug farewell and the two women parted ways at her door. Yang thought she saw a small smile on Blake’s lips as she closed the door, but felt little to no spark in even thinking of looking back long enough to return that smile. Everything she heard, smelled, or even saw coming into the building was drowned out and dismissed with every step Yang took in getting out of the apartment building.
“…’friend’…” She repeated to herself as she finally got back to her motorcycle. The street lights reflecting off its black and yellow paint job, bending around the many sharp angles of its sporty exterior. Yang zipped up her jacket more and mounted her bike, sitting there with her hips angled lazily outward as she stared up at the windows of the building. Some of them lit with yellow lighting, a few of them switching from blue to grey as the television burned its light across the room it was in, while the rest were black and empty. She stared down at the handlebars, wondering if perhaps what she heard wasn’t real.
Y She…she stood there, like she was going to kiss me.
Yang revved up her motorcycle enough to pull out of the parking lot, and then sped down the street with a determined frown. Yang began the rest of her way home with the red tail lights of her motorcycle wickedly trailing behind her in the dark of the night. Blake’s words echoed in her mind, from one side to the other like a tormenting metronome she couldn’t halt.
“….wow.” Ruby said, rubbing her older sister’s back comfortingly. Yang was rolled over onto her side, with her legs curled up. “Yang, I’m sorry.”
“It was too good to be true anyway.” Yang said almost bitterly. “It was too perfect for it to have been real.” She rolled onto her back once again, staring at the ceiling, and then to her sister. “But…yeah…aside from that. I really do want to help her, though. She’s a wonderful person, and I know she’s gotta be looking for better…Ruby, if you’d have seen how she lives—where she lives—you’d say the same thing.” Ruby nodded understandingly and patted Yang on the leg.
“It sucks, sis.” She said, trying to comfort her. “And y’know, you’re a good person for wanting to help her out.” Ruby smiled, getting Yang’s attention. With a small groan, Yang rubbed her face and forehead.
“I just wanted it to work…they say women are like calculus problems that you have to steady well if you want to get involved…but the thing is, with her…” Yang rolled up into a slouched seated position. “Well I mean, okay,” She chuckled. “It’s sounds more misogynistic than anything, because even if you do it ‘right’, doesn’t mean it’ll work.”
“Right.” Ruby nodded. Yang lowered her shoulders a bit and ruffled her own bangs. “But…you were still hopeful, weren’t you?”
“Of course I was,” Yang responded. “But it’s like those people you just find in your life that make you feel ‘yes, I need you to be in my life!’ and you just go for it. Y’know?” Ruby sucked in one of her cheeks, thinking about it.
“Well…I’m not sure if I’ve run into anyone like that, Yang.” She replied. “I mean if it happens, it happens, right?” Yang drew her knees up to rest the sides of her elbows on them.
Y I’m not going to force it…if she’s not interested, I can’t help that.
Yang took a deep breath and looked at her younger sister, sitting next to her in red and white sleep pants with a grey tank top. With a tired and wry smile, she gave a small shrug. “Yeah…no, yeah. I know.” She rolled off the side of the bed and stood up, peeling off her jacket. “And I do want to help her. Regardless of what was going to happen, I did want that. Just, her maybe taking interest…would have made it that much sweeter, y’know?” She didn’t wait for her sister’s response, but just shook her head and shrugged off her jeans. “It’s whatever.”
Y Friend or not, I still feel that my life would be all the more rich with her in it.
“Well for what it’s worth, Yang.” Ruby began, as Yang pulled on some sleep shorts and began unbuttoning her top. “You’re a good person to help her out. And you were right in telling her she’s welcome here.” She added, and then gave a small laugh. “Especially since we both have a way of picking up strays.” Yang smiled as she put on a loose-fitting t-shirt.
“Aint that the truth.” She replied. “How’s Zwei doing, anyhow? Have you spoken to Weiss about him?” Ruby picked up her cellphone from her pant pocket and began sifting through her text messages. With some feeble thumb tapping on her phone’s touch screen, she cleared her throat.
“She saiiiiid….’Took Zwei over to the park and tried teaching him how to fetch, but he only seems to know ‘run away with the stick and chase me’.” She giggled. Yang laughed at picturing a frantic Weiss chasing after a corgi.“Oh, but, about Blake. Where are we going to keep her if she’s coming over?” Yang tossed her clothes into the hamper and sat back down on the bed, sticking her bottom lip out as she thought about it. “…you have no idea, do you…”
“Mmm….I thought of clearing out that space where the office should be. We can put sheets over the windows of the doors.” Ruby stared at her sister with a bemused grin. “We never got it fixed up the way it was supposed to be anyway. There’s not even furniture in it, just a few boxes.”
“You’re gonna put Blake in the box room…” Ruby said slowly, making sure her sister heard the absurdity in her logic. Yang nodded as Ruby rolled her eyes.
“What? It’ll work. It could be either an office or a guest room anyway. I’ll take Weiss’s offer up on borrowing that double sized bed she’s wanted to get rid of and we can set it up in there, no problem.” The blonde woman stretched her arms up above her head with a yawn. “It’ll work, you hush.”