“How does this look?” Yang said aloud, modeling her choice of clothing in front of a mounted mirror; her unamused sister sat on the corner of the bed. “Oh wait, you think it’s too strange to wear shorts and then a jacket?” She patted down the sides of her black shorts, surveying the length, and then looked to the mirror again. “Does it look weird? I see some people do it, and it looks cute.”
Not that it’ll be cold tonight, but, it’ll be weird if I’m not wearing one and she is.
“Unless you’re in winter from the waist up, sure, go for it.” Ruby replied in an almost monotone voice. “Yang, I think you’re over thinking this. Just wear what you’d usually wear.” The taller woman took a slow intake of breath, allowing for the air to hiss from her lungs as she silently agreed.
“I probably am…okay then, one more.” Yang said, quickly undressing again as she stepped back into the walk-in closet. She peeled off her shorts and replaced them with a normal pair of dark denim jeans that had a small yellow patch stitched on the front of the left leg that looked like a heart on fire. Yanking off the jacket and tossing it up along the hangers, too busy to bother with putting it back on the hanger, she grabbed for a casual orange button-down shirt and threw on a tan vest, fastening the buttons as she walked out again to show her sister.
I can’t make it look like I’m trying too hard.
“Great, casual.” Ruby said, mocking her further with a golfer’s clap. “Now shouldn’t you be going?” She looked over her shoulder and pointed to the digital clock in the bedroom. “I know it’s not far, but with them closing down the main street, you maaaaay want to get a head start on—“ By the time Ruby had circled back around on Yang, her older sister was already at the door and pulling on some chocolate-colored boots, keys dangling from a keychain she held in her mouth. “…getting there.” Yang pulled on her other boot, snatched a brown jacket off of a coat hanger, and then swung the door open.
“I’ll be back!” She called, and then slammed the door. Ruby shook her head at the frantic sounds of her sister’s footsteps circling and skidding to the front of their single-car garage. With a sigh, she crosses her arms and makes her way to the front window; now chuckling at the low roar of Yang’s motorcycle.
“Dummy…” She says under her breath. Yang revs her motorcycle enough to wake it up, and then kicks the ground as she pushes it forward and onto the asphalt.
I can still make it.
Where the hell am I?
Blake looked around at the fairgrounds, eyeing the people as if they were specimens from a foreign planet. The smell of fresh popcorn, baked goods, and funnel cake wafted around her as she readjusted her purple scarf. She adorned a practical look, with black jeggings tucked into knee-high boots and tucked her hands into the front pockets of her sweater coat. She took note of a vacant table by a caramel apple vendor that had not opened yet, and went to have a seat as to text Yang of her whereabouts. She pressed the proper contact name and sent a brief message, adjusting her purple slouch beanie to cover her ears from the cool air of the fairgrounds. She began texting Yang that she was by the caramel apple vendor, in hopes of maybe she was already on the fair grounds.
As Blake watched the text bubble pop up on her phone, she stared at the screen, holding her breath. She began wondering if what she had agreed to do was even worth trying for. Memories of past outings began to resurface in her mind slowly, like waves lapping at a shore; revealing the empty shells that were her past trials. In her heart, Blake knew she wasn’t ready. She knew that the ghosts of her past were still lingering about her, every waking day. A child raised in almost complete isolation, surrounded by riots and police brutality. She grew to never trust anyone outside of her chosen family, to never leave.
What a joke.
Her ties to the family business still weighed on her mind. She furrowed her brow as the sour memories started to become more potent, as if having happened recently. What was her world, all that she knew, was only shrouded in greed. Blake had lived much of her life believing that her life was stable, only to find later on a new year’s eve that it was built off of blood, drugs, and gunfire. Her anger stirred in her stomach as she cursed herself for not having made the connection sooner in her teen years, how naïve she was.
Will I ever find peace?
She dug her hands deeper into her front pockets.
Could I ever hope to wash away so much blood…
“Hey!” Yang called, walking briskly up to Blake, pulling her from her train of thought. “I’m sorry, I got caught in a little traffic back there.” She smiled, embarrassed. “You um…you look pretty nice.” She complimented, zipping up her own jacket a little.
“Thanks.” Blake answered, and stood up; her hands still in her pockets. “I could say the same for you.” She added with a neutral expression. Yang gave a broad smile, as to coax a grin out of her companion, but did not succeed.
“Thanks!” she exclaimed, putting her hands on her hips. “Alright, so, how do you feel about those pumpkin pancakes?” Yang asked, jabbing a thumb over her shoulder.
Wait, SHIT. They’re probably not free anymore.
“If you still wanted to get some, sure.” Blake replied, and together they walked to the long line of people waiting for pancakes. Ten awkward minutes had passed by, and Yang found herself out of things to talk about; panicking slightly at seeing Blake taking an interesting in just staring at the head of her person in front of her.
Damn it, damn it, damn it! C’mon! What else is there, the weather? Sports? Maybe basketball?
“So uh,” Yang cleared her throat. “How ‘bout them bees?”
What the hell am I doing?! They’re called HORNETS.
Blake blinked and shifted her questioning gaze over to the blonde woman next to her and craned her eyebrow questioningly. Yang nervously chewed at the side of her lip. “You know,” she began, making her mind up to not correct herself. “The bees. Everyone needs bees.”
“I suppose we do.” Blake said, unsure of where the conversation was going. Inwardly, Yang cursed herself, but kept a smooth exterior.
“They’re really quite interesting creatures. I think a lot of people take them for granted.” Blake nodded, and crossed her arms, keeping warm.
This is going to go down in flames worse than the fucking Hindenburg.
I knew I should have worn a heavier jacket.
She’s so done with me right now.
It’s only going to get colder by the evening.
She looks so let down.
I don’t believe I’ve had pumpkin flavored anything before…
She’s frowning. Is she thinking? She’s probably thinking--
Ugh, well, it can’t be worse than putting blueberries in them.
--about how much this day is going to SUCK.
Blueberries aren’t even blue, they’re purple...
Look at the face she’s making!
What idiot named them that?
I’m sorry I’m so incompetent!
Well maybe they’re a little blue in pigment…
She must think I’m so boring!!
…she’s been quiet, I should probably say something.
Blake made a side glance at Yang, observing her twitching in the corner of her eye. “You’re not cold?” she asked, as the line started moving more smoothly.
“Huh?” Yang answered. “Oh, nope! I’m what you call a space heater.” She said almost proudly. Blake nodded quietly and looked at her own hands, wishing she had gloves. “Do you get cold?”
“Yes, but, it’s not unusual for me.” Blake answered, and put her hands back into her pockets. “It’s probably for the best, though.” As they neared the front of the line, a young girl was working the small ordering window, her bright pink hair tied in pigtails.
“Hellooooo!” she called as they stepped up. “Good morning! How many pancakes do we want?” she said in an almost sing-song voice, causing Blake to cringe a little at her peppiness. Yang held up two fingers with a smile.
“Just two plates of short stacks.” She said. “Or, however many it is you guys give.” The girl in the window nodded and gave a wink.
“You got it!” she answered. “We need two orders of the usual!” she called over to her coworker. Inside, a somber looking boy with dark hair and sharp features made no reply, but simply poured more of the pale orange batter onto a griddle. “They’ll be out in a bit. Until then, what else can I get ya?” Yang pulled her wallet out of her back pocket and flipped it open, looking at Blake.
“You want some hot chocolate with that?” she said with a smirk. Blake’s eyes widened by a fraction and put a hand on Yang’s wrist.
“Oh, no, I can pay for that.” Blake looked up at the beaming young woman in the window, waiting for a response. “I’ll have a hot chocolate, please.”
Her hands are cold.
“Sure thing!” She responded. “Are we paying separate? We’ve got a two-for-one deal if you’d like to try that.”
“What’s that?” Yang asked, perplexed. Blake squinted to the side of the vendor where a menu was displayed and then pointed at it.
“It’s the sale they’re doing.” She answered for her, taking out her own wallet from her front pocket. “Two for the price of one.”
“Oh!” Yang said, surprised. “Well that’s new…okay, yeah.” She smiled. “They’re on me.” She said, and slid a few bills under the window. Blake placed a bill under the window as well, their hands brushing slightly. Yang felt a small blush creep up her neck at seeing and feeling Blake’s cold and delicate hands alongside hers.
“This is for the hot chocolate.” She said, and then took her hand back as she looked at Yang. “We can split it, Yang.” The raven-haired woman informed. “It’s okay. Cider is later, right?”
“….right.” Yang said, taking her eyes away from her hands. “Yeah, that’s right. Okay then. Thanks, Blake.” The girl in the window looked from one woman to the other with a small knowing smile and calculated the cost.
“Alrighty, then! Here’s your change!” she announced cheerfully. She turned around for a moment to retrieve the two cups of hot chocolate. “Anything else for these?”
“No thanks, I’m good.” Yang said earnestly as she took both the cups of hot chocolate. “Er, I mean—I’m sorry, unless you wanted something?” Blake took her cup from Yang and peered into it for a moment.
“If I could, may I have some cream? Or milk will do.” She asked. The girl in the window took the cup back and added a good amount of whole milk to the hot beverage, the cream swirling like a soft smoke and pluming upward from hitting the bottom of the cup. “Thank you.”
“No problem at all!” She responded, and then pushed two plates along the counter, each having three pumpkin pancakes stacked on top of each other. “Enjoy!” Blake took Yang’s cup of hot chocolate while she in return carried the two plates of pancakes. The raven-haired woman found a vacant corner of a long table and escorted Yang to have a seat.
“Oh man, hold on—I forgot the forks.” Yang said, and hurried to grab some plastic utensils at the vendor.
So she likes milk in hers. Okay, I’m learning things.
She returned to the table, where Blake was sipping her hot beverage with both of her hands curled around the cup. “Do you like it?” Yang asked, handing Blake a fork. “It’s not one of your amazing coffees, but it warms the soul just the same.” She said with a bashful smile. Blake placed the cup down and gently sucked the remnants of the hot chocolate from her palate behind slightly pursed lips.
Alright, time to play the coffee card.
“You do make a pretty mean cup of coffee. What’s your favorite that you make?” Yang asked, wishing she had thought of the topic while they were standing in line. Blake paused before giving her answer, weighing in all of what she had already known and what Cecil had taught her.
“…I’m not sure, actually.” She said, taking up her fork and small container of syrup. A glimmer ran through Yang’s eyes as Blake looked back upon her awaiting pancakes.
“Let me guess, you like your coffee like you like your men?” she smirked. Blake cocked an eyebrow at her for the second time within an hour, curious. “Dark and strong?”
So she’s into men after all? I was so sure she was…hm.
Blake gave a shrug of indifference.
Well wait, that doesn’t make sense. She puts milk in her hot chocolate. Why would she drink her coffee black? Damn I can be so stupid…
“I’m more of a tea kind of person, really.” Blake said as she slowly began to pour the syrup on her pancakes, lifting them up slightly with her plastic fork. “Earl Grey is one of my favorites, as it’s more of an aromatic tea than most. Jasmine and rose are also nice.” She added, and then took her first bite of pumpkin pancakes.
What the hell answer is that?!
Yang also prepared her pancakes, feeling unsure of how to process Blake’s answer. “Ah, okay, well that’s cool too.” She said, almost defeated. The smell of warm cinnamon-laced pumpkin wafted its way up to Yang’s nose as she took in her first initial bite. She pulled the fork out with a grin as she took to cutting another piece off with the side of her utensil; pushing the pancake in her mouth into her cheek.
“So, what do you think?” She asked, and then looked up to see that Blake was just a little further along in eating that she was. Blake pulled her fork slowly over her bottom lip as she took it out, savoring the mouthful of flavor. With a silent swallow and discreet licking of her bottom lip, she looked up at Yang with a ghost of a smile.
“They’re actually really good.” She replied.
She takes a bite of heaven and then smiles like the freaking Mona Lisa? Tough crowd.
“Well I’m glad you like them!” Yang smiled back, feeling happy to have at least gotten some trace of a smile out of her. “Just wait until we hit the cider van later. It’s gonna the best thing you’ll probably ever have.” Blake wiped at her mouth as she took another drink of her hot chocolate. “I’d bet my boots on it, it’ll be your favorite thing.”
“You’re really excited for this cider, aren’t you?”
“Of course! It’s the cat’s pajamas!” Yang exclaimed. Blake stared back at her for a moment before taking another rewarding bite of her food. “Haha, okay, well you’ll see for yourself when we get to that point.”
Yang led Blake passed the hay ride and over to the market place portion of the festival. Toffee-coated candies in the shapes of leaves and acorns adorned most of the stands, while others offered chocolate covered treats and homemade pretzels. On every table, Blake noted there was a variety of fall themed jewelry or some sort of arrangement that paid tribute to the flora and fauna of the season. Wildlife carved from wood occupied one tent, while another offered candles and soap molded in the shapes of pine cones and trees. They stopped and tried some of the samples the vendors offered: homemade jams, fruits preserves, toffee roasted nuts, cookies, and even different seasoned jerky. The entire festival scene was filled with so many faces, all of them so close and so foreign to Blake. After a while, she felt her hands tremble in her pockets, atop the front of her thighs; a small wave of anxiety crept up her spine. Yang paused long enough this time as she pointed out another tent. Her eager happiness melted into concern, as she saw Blake’s slightly bewildered eyes surveying the people around them.
Should I take her hand? Or is that being too forward?
Yang tugged on Blake’s sleeve to try and break the spell of mild panic. “Hey, are…you alright?” she asked, peering into the other woman’s eyes. Blake’s golden gaze held onto Yang for a moment, coming back to her.
“I…yeah, I’m fine.” She answered, and then nervously adjusted her beanie.
There’s so many of them…so many people…
Yang put a hand on her elbow, and indicated that she follow her somewhere new. Blake followed behind the blonde woman quickly, as she found the direction to be less congested. Yang led the weary woman through the crowd with ease, always checking behind her to make sure she hadn’t lost her in the hustle and bustle of the festival. The two women came upon a vendor whose walls were created from tapestries, advertising their many decorative scarves and blankets. The smell of cinnamon and pine needles began to dwindle as the scent of Nag Champa and Myrrh filled the small fabric-enclosed vicinity. The vendor saw the women approach and smiled at them with a small wave, and continued reading his novel in his lap as he sat cross-legged on a prayer mat.
“This is my favorite vendor to run to, if the toffee candy smells get to my head, haha.” Yang explained. Blake felt her nerves calm considerably in the new surroundings. The sandalwood enveloped her in a sense of serenity as she began to take in the various wooden trinkets and pottery around her. “You see, there’s this oriental place in downtown. And every little business in the city comes here to help advertise…”
“Yeah…I remember you saying that.” Blake said absentmindedly as she examined a hanging tapestry of Sanskrit. “I had no idea there was a store here that catered to south east Asian and middle eastern culture. They even have an Om tapestry.” Yang gave a bemused grin.
“You’re familiar with meditation?”
“I’ve read books about the culture…” Blake trailed, her fingertips grazing the fabric. “It’s a sacred syllable representing Brahman,” she began.
That’s right…God, brains are just so sexy.
“The impersonal Absolute of Hinduism — omnipotent, omnipresent, and the source of all manifest existence…” Blake trailed a finger across the tapestry. “Not that I’m religious, I…I just admire spirituality. It’s beautiful.”
Almost as beautiful as this work. I can’t believe someone made this…by hand.
“This is beautiful.” She breathed, taking in the entire work. Yang crossed her arms with a half grin, her lavender eyes smiling at the woman in awe.
Blake looked around the small vendor tent some more, excitedly educating Yang on whatever she found that she could explain from her vast knowledge of world religions. In her explanations, Blake unknowingly began to smile as she spoke; however subtle. Yang found that the more they went around the tent, the more she was actually starting to drown out Blake’s voice and just admired the excitement in her face as she began to talk about her interest in the various items she found. At which point, Blake noticed she had taken over conversation and timidly placed a small jade Buddha replica back onto one of the tables. “S…sorry.”
“Hm? For what?” Yang asked. Blake took a quiet sigh and placed her hands back into her front pockets, regressing back to her neutral aura. “You didn’t do anything.”
“No, but…” Blake began. “I just…sometimes I get carried away.” Yang narrowed her eyes at the sullen woman, and then shook her head apologetically.
“Never apologize for the things you love.” Yang said with an assuring smile. Blake looked up at her through her choppy black bangs, as if hiding her face and shame. “C’mon, the best part of the festival is going to happen at sunset.” She said. Once more, Yang led Blake across the festival. This time, away from the crowd and into a gazebo filled with hay bales to sit on and in view of a lake. Blake stepped up into the gazebo after Yang; the alfalfa permeated the air as she took a seat on the surprisingly non-prickly surface of the hay bale. She fixed the front of her scarf as a breeze blew through her.
Ah, there’s the cold.
“I’ll be right back, stay here.” Yang instructed. Blake watched the blonde take off in the crowd again, and before she could call out to her, she had already escaped her sight. She brought her knees much closer together, trying to preserve warmth as another breeze came; causing her to grit her teeth. She mashed her pale pink lips together, reflecting on her day with Yang. How they had spent the entire day at the festival sampling treats from different local businesses to watching local bands play. Blake looked down at the toes of her boots.
“What am I doing…” she said aloud. “I can’t get wrapped up with someone’s perfect life…and mess it up for them.”
I always find a way to ruin someone’s happiness. I’m such bad luck…and she’s so sweet. I almost want to try, if ….if only she wasn’t straight…
Blake recalled earlier that morning when Yang asked about her coffee. She shook her head and gave a sigh, cursing her luck once again. She closed her eyes and tried to ignore the on-coming chill of remaining stationary, but found her thoughts drifting back to Yang’s words from earlier in being a ‘space heater’. Blake smiled at the idea of having her close enough to borrow heat off of.
She’s such a warm personality. It only makes sense she’s warm to the touch.
Blake could hear the sound of the band still playing in the distance. The sound of a piano and flute duet found its way to the gazebo, followed by footsteps on the wooden planks.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to take so long.” Yang said apologetically. She held out two cups with lids on them and offered one to Blake, to which she took. “The festival is still going pretty strong on the merchant side.”
“Thank you…and rightfully so, I’d say.” Blake agreed, and held the cup in her hands to warm them as Yang sat down next to her. Inwardly, Blake heaved a sigh of contentment as she felt the warmth of Yang’s thigh rub ever so innocently and subtly against hers. “Wait. Is this the cider?” She asked. Yang gave a devilish smile and took a sip of the cider for herself. “I told you I’d pay for mine.”
“Well, think of it this way…” Yang began. “It’s free.”
“Then, what am I going to do with the tip you gave me?”
“Buy another bandana?” Yang suggested. “Or try it, and if you like it enough, you can get another.” Blake looked at her cup, almost able to smell the apple cinnamon. “Go ahead, tell me if you like it.”
The dark haired woman readied it in her hands, and raised it to her mouth, pressing the lip of the cup to the cushion of her bottom lip; gently tilting it to retrieve the hot spiced contents. As she took a sip, she closed her eyes as the warmth took her to new places as it warmed her soul with the flavors of fall. She tasted the season, felt the turning of the leaves, smelled the mahogany woods of autumn, and heard the sound of leaves and branches rattling gently in the on-coming breeze of change. Blake swallowed and exhaled a warm cloud of apple-scented satisfaction. Yang need not ask her opinion having seen the contentment upon Blake’s face as she pulled away the cup like letting go of a kiss.
My God, I’m in trouble with this one.
“Blake.” She whispered. “Look out that way.” Blake’s eyes fluttered open as Yang gave a warm smile and motioned out towards the lake.
“Oh…” she breathed.
The sun hung just above the lake, like a glowing red and orange peach. It reflected off of the rippling water of the lake, and enhanced the color of the nature surrounding the little body of water. The yellow leaves were made golden by the sunset, the orange becoming copper; as red and brown were turned to scarlet and bronze. Blake stared unblinkingly at the scenery, the same scenic view they’ve been among all day; changing at just a moment’s notice by the setting sun. Even the shimmering oaks in the distance sparkled against the vast array of oranges, yellows, and traces of magenta.
When was the last time…I truly looked at nature…?
“Yang, it’s so beautiful.” Blake said, moving just an increment closer to the blonde woman, subconsciously looking for warmth. Yang noticed the attempt of getting closer, as her heartbeat fluttered a moment in her chest while a dry knot formed in her throat.
I think I can see the reflection of the sun in her eyes.
“That’s why every year I come out here, I make it a point to at least see this,” Yang motioned with one hand to the entire picture before them. “This…is my favorite part.” She whispered.
“…every year?” Blake asked, not taking her eyes off the lake. The blonde woman moved an inch closer, holding her cup of cider a little more firmly as she beamed at the dark haired beauty next to her; the sunset casting light upon her golden eyes, dancing off of her lacquered eyelashes, on the partial hallows of her cheeks. Yang followed Blake’s features slowly down to where her lips parted slightly, wondering if they tasted just as warm and sweet as their cider had.
“…every year.” Yang said with a smile. The two sat in silence and admired the scenery for a good while longer before Blake visibly shivered. “Are you getting cold?” She asked. Blake took her eyes away from the view and looked to the lid of her drink.
“Erm, I um…” Blake was unaware of her shivering, and embarrassed that Yang had noticed. Yang bent forward to place her drink on the wooden floor of the gazebo as she began removing her brown jacket she had worn all day. “Oh, no, please, you don’t have to—“
“It’s okay,” Yang said. “I’m a space heater, remember?”
Yes, I do remember.
“Here,” She said, opening up the jacket to Blake. “Just slip it on for now, okay? I’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.” Yang placed it around her shivering shoulders before she could refuse it again. Upon contact, Blake let an audible sound of comfort barely escape her lips. “Better?”
“…y-yes.” She began. “Thank you.” The jacket, as simple as it was, absorbed Blake as if she were slipping into warm bath water. With her free hand, she smoothed the front of it. “You’re very kind.” Yang had picked up her cup of cider and took a drink from it.
If I had an actual chance with you…I…I may just risk it…
“It’s no problem.” She smiled. “…C’mon. I’ll take you home as soon as we’re done with our drinks.”
“On your bike?” Blake asked, holding the cup of cider between her knees as she pushed her arms through the sleeves of the jacket. Yang gave a tender and crooked smile, taking in the sight of Blake wearing her jacket that proved to go just a tad past her wrist.
God help me…
“I’ll drive slow.” She replied with an honest grin, and looked back out onto the lake. Blake felt the corners of her mouth curl into a small and private smile as she too took in the scenery once again. Blake listened to the band playing in the background, the melody of the flute carried on the wind with the piano; like leaves swirling and bending along the earth. Blake took in a soft breath, the faint smell of hair product and lavender incense graced her senses as she sat content in Yang’s jacket and shrouded in traces of her scent.