Invitation

II INVITATION

“Why aren’t we on the same shift?” Luna asked, stocking shelves with Galla in the peace of the early hour solitude, suspecting she knew the truth behind it.

Galla, intentionally asked for the shift change, shrugged, “You need more recovery time then me.”

“True,” Luna laughed, “you deserve to be punished.”

“Yeah, well, the weekend was exhausting enough. Maybe we should feign ignorance of classical music,” Galla grumbled

“Luna,” came the clipped voice through her earpiece.

“Send,” as an unfocused, concentrated look came into her eyes.

“Visitor. L one, A2 two,” Ivie’s directions precise.

“Okay,” Luna shrugged, saying to Galla, “I’ve a visitor. Waiting near the café downstairs.”

Galla, knowing Chloe waited, looked at her watch, “Its three. You knock off anyway.”

“I guess I’ll see who it is first,” frowning, “Kai wouldn’t be off work yet,” her face cleared as she looked at Galla and smiled, “How about we form a band to keep us out of classical. Country music week is coming up. I should totally do it with the flute.”

“I could use the sitar?”

They walked together to the elevators, and as they passed Calais coming out of the lifts, Galla said “I’m going for fifteen.”

He nodded as they entered the lift before Galla continued, “Sounds like a duo to me. All we need is a name and to tell Ivie.”

“Flusi?” Luna suggested, laughing, “country music week needs a sitar – flute duo called Flusi.”

Still laughing, they exited onto level one, heading past the back racks. Several people wandered around, the bitter cold outside pushing them into Pacer’s central heating. Coming to the customised stage area, a raised platform adjacent to the band area located in the left hand corner, though staff dance performances rarely stayed on this stage, often co-opting rows of stock and counter space, as if some retail Parkour. Standing in the recess between the stage and the multi-tiered café section is Chloe.

Luna and Galla paused before Luna moved forward, a confounded smile on her face, “Chloe?”

Chloe, like the last time, is wearing a suit, this time a tailored charcoal grey pant suit, the hint of glossy blue shirt collar complimenting the deepness of her skin. Her heavy wool jacket is unbuttoned to the warmth and a bag sat on the floor between her feet.

Indicating the bag, her voice evocative, depths of whiskey and rust shuddering through Luna as she said, “I thought you may like a knock off snack.”

“Excuse me. I’ve just been called,” Galla discreetly slipped away, smiling at her friends incredulous expression.

“Thanks,” Luna stumbled at Chloe, her palms starting to sweat, heartbeat flickering into a faster beat, mind fluttered, racing thoughts crashing into each other with startling fury. Luna hadn’t seen her over the weekend she spent volunteering with Galla for Jamere, and after the week of soft attention, she missed her presence.

“Would you like me to wait here?”

“Ahh…Yes,” Luna attempting, unsuccessfully, to keep the tremor out of her voice.

After five days of showing up with a gift and a coffee, and with the three day break, here she is standing their, waiting, looking beautiful, offering more time. Luna gives herself permission to feel the relentless triggered emotions unwinding within her of hope.

“Okay,” Chloe smiled.

Luna took the staff elevator to the basement levels and edged into the staff locker room. Galla, waiting and smiling, “Well, Beethoven?”

Luna felt both exhilarated and terrified, “I don’t know. What should I do?”

“Luna. Please. I see you watching. Waiting for her.”

“I do not,” Luna feigning exasperation, lied, ignoring the sense of longing she held for Chloe, a lingering memory of sparked lust her attention initiated.

“Luna,” sighed Galla as only a best friend could.

“Okay, okay,” Luna whisper laughed, “She does leave quite an impression.”

“What did Kai say?”

“Nothing,” Luna frowned, “not mentioned since Harper’s when you said…” she shrugged, justifying to herself fantasies of Chloe spiralling her away from Kai.

“You didn’t tell Kai about three am?” Galla asked, “what did you tell Beethoven?”

“Um…I asked her to wait. No. Actually, she told me she’d would wait,” Luna smiled at the certainty in Chloe’s voice, “and why would I? He’s always disinterested in here.”

Galla leaned in, “remember that skanky bar…”

“Yes…” Luna nodded, “Galla…”

“Then go…”

Luna smiled and stood from the bench, “I guess I could. Call me?”

Galla nodded, pushing for any break in Luna’s shell of isolation, “You know it. I need the gossip. Will call after eight.”

Galla stood and went to walk out, pausing to half turned back towards Luna, “We still on for dinner before shift tomorrow?”

Luna shoved her locker closed, crossing the gap between them, still flustered, replying, “Yes, of course. I remember.”

As Galla returned to level two, Luna walked out on level one. Chloe was waiting exactly where Luna left her, “I’m ready.”

“Okay,” smiled Chloe, picking up her bag to walk towards the door, exiting Pacer into the frigid air, iciness enveloping them.

As Luna pulled her thinning jacket around her, Chloe reached her gloved hand out and lightly touched Luna’s arm, “I’ve this idea. Are you game?”

Luna nodded. She already committed to this, looking towards a black town car Chloe indicated. A driver stood at the door, opening it with an imperceptible nod from Chloe. They slipped in to the warmth of the interior and eased into traffic, constant yet muted. A shimmer of transparency drifted between them, a sense of serene tranquillity. Alignments within them shifting, changing towards a jigsaw fitting together. The heat of the interior loosened the conversation.

“So, are you going to tell me this idea?”

“No. Not at all. I want it to be a surprise,” a knowing smile lulled on her lips.

“What, last week wasn’t enough? And now to bringing me food at three am?”

“You have to start somewhere. May as well be memorable,” Chloe’s deep smile was infectious.

Luna laughed with genuine delight, relaxing into the chocolate pool of Chloe’s eyes, “How’d you know I was working?”

“You don’t need to know. Honestly.”

“Really….” Luna raised her eyebrow, a whispered arch of a smile edging at the corners of her lips, already knowing Galla sold her out.

An enigmatic smile crossed Chloe’s face, “I’ve had you on my mind since we met. I called Pacer and Ivie said they could not release personal information pertaining to staff. So I was forced to reconsider my approach.”

“Reconsider? I guess this new approach worked. Impressive,” Luna said, “Yet its been days since you or I was in. Who was your contact? This insider?”

“I’m a determined person,” Chloe indiffidently shrugged before an outrageous smile shone across her face, “I just know how to get what I want. Scheduling difficulties meant I could not get in earlier. Who said I’d an insider?”

“Scheduling difficulties? What do you do?” Luna asked incredulously, diverting from the flush creeping across her face, as the car glided against the curb elegantly to a stop, “Where three am is a date time?”

Chloe’s warm smile distracted Luna long enough for the driver to open the door to the footpath Chloe indicated, “Go on.”

Luna stepped out of the car and onto the footpath, noticing immediately the concierge, suited and gloved, and perfectly straight trees recessed into the brick paved footpath. She exhaled swiftly, uncomfortable, her awkward stance betraying her, recognising the obvious signs of the wealthiest enclave of the city, Clovia Hill. Chloe, basket in one arm, stood from the car and presumptuously slipped her hand through Luna’s elbow efficiently wrapping them together, “Come.”

Luna tensed at the close contact, having spent years curating a very select group of people who could touch her, with whom she could be intimate with. Everyone else she wore a very secure mask, protectively shielding herself.

Chloe ignored this tensing to led the pair into a lobby, softened by recessed yellow gold lighting, past the desk clerk where she directed Luna to the elevator, and upon swiping a security pass, pressed the silver penthouse button. The elevator made no sound and shifted skyward with limited carriage movement. In an all too unnoticeable time, the door slid open to an ante-room. Chloe, carefully observing Luna, unlocked the main double heavy oak doors and up a heavy black iron spiral stair case to the roof.

“Wow,” Luna exhaled softly, “This is amazing. Beautiful. What is this place?”

“This is my home,” Chloe answered, leading Luna through the maze pathway of the glasshouse, teaming with vibrant plant life.

The cool black sky glittered above, kept out of the garden by delicate and intricately tailored glass walls and a crystalline liquid glass roof, bound by cohesive black twisted metal patterned spider webs. Luna could hear water tumbling over stones and splashing into a pool next a small grass recess.

For Luna, it is breathtaking, her sense of wonder twisting away towards the day. Chloe led Luna through to a small timber bench sitting at the edge of the stone waterfall and began to unpack roasted walnuts, honey-plumb cherries and warm mulled wine. She had hedged her bets by taking it with her, in case Luna was unwilling to come out with her, let alone accompany her home.

“This is a garden,” Luna breathed, “but how,” whispering as she reached out to caress a fern, before standing to look into the pool, refracting the distorted night sky beauty.

“Contractors, money and influence are very useful,” Chloe, taking unfettered pleasure in Luna’s visceral response to the rooftop glasshouse, replied.

“Immeasurably beautiful. Really.”

“Thank you. Here,” placing a plate and wine on the edge of the timber bench.

Luna returned to pick them up and sit down, still gazing around, taking in the splendour and details. She made sure to avoided places of natural beauty in this city, escaping any chance for reminders of her youth. It is the attraction this city, full of cement and glass towers, banishing darkness from her so she could ignore he heart. Glossy lights helped Luna keep the wild away, allowing her to leave her history coiled in the dark. Yet, this, now was enchanting to Luna, spiralling her into memories unopened for a long while. She drifted across this memory plateau before the smell of rubies beneath the vine and salt upon the lips woke her up.

The heaviness of her mind deepened her voice as she said, “Thank you for showing me this. I would never have thought this could possibly exist in a city such as this.”

Chloe drifted with the hazards dancing across Luna’s dragon fire green eyes and waits suspended, timeless before she returns to fold back into herself. Chloe smiles, both grateful and in awe of Luna, a gift of presence in the garden sanctuary.

Chloe collected herself replying with a gentle laugh, “Well. They are rare. Unless you follow strangers with them home often.”

Luna shrugged defensively, instantly wrapped inwards around herself, shutting Chloe out, “Eh. You were allowed to do this?”

“What kind of answer is that?” said Chloe, in an attempt to lift the air between them, “It helps when you own the building.”

“I was taught all about strangers and the dangers they represent. All manner of strangers,” Luna’s face became troubled, drifting towards darkness before quickly forcing herself to smiling, and asking, “you own this building?”

The warmth on Chloe’s face fell, wavered for a moment, hesitating at the strange seriousness in Luna’s voice and within her reply. Chloe watched the delicate features bleed together, busy and traumatised, pulling troubling memories back together in a circular paradigm. Concern filtered heavily as she asked, “What did I say?”

Luna, overwhelmed, shook herself before settling into a more radiant smile, answering, “Sorry. Nothing. This looks perfect, smells divine. This building is huge, you own it?”

Chloe waved off Luna’s comment, shrugging, drifting into indifference, “It is as it is.”

“Apathy in privilege is scandalous,” Luna teased.

“No. Never apathetic. Complicated,” Chloe, half joking, said, hands up in submission.

“Okay,” Luna understood complicated. It dominated her life, structured her past, dictated her future.

Chloe looked sharply at Luna for such unequivocal acceptance of the explanation, before allowing it to pass. Chloe in observing this intense young lady is fascinated by her unreadability, easily seeing why she left such an impression at Pacer and had since remained indelibly etched inside Chloe.

The pair nibbled on the food, sipping the wine, relaxing towards each other in intricate spirals of warmth and pleasure, Luna inescapably enthralled. Chloe leaned to kiss Luna, opening that which she could never get back: hope. She had spent her whole life anticipating herself, keeping her darkness hidden, the fractured parts of herself unfixed and in an instant within this kiss, gentle and soft mixed with wine and cinnamon, tore her apart. Time suspended, stretched inside two souls emerging, awakening each other. Luna and Chloe cocooned intimately, preciously devouring tastes of each other.

***

“Breakfast?” Chloe’s coffee machine hummed, splattering dark liquid into the mug.

“Yes,” Luna, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, asked, “what time is it?”

“Three,” the machine quietened to a spitting stop, “Coffee?”

“Please. Do you have juice? Lunch would be more appropriate at this point.”

“Yes. Have any idea of where we should breakfast? Or, in fact, Lunch?” Chloe smiled at her, handing her a glass of juice, turning to push the machine to life.

“Why are you smiling like that?”

“Because you’re finally here.”

“We’ve only just met…” Luna felt odd and out of place, yet already not alone. She did know how to process this. That missing puzzle piece oddly shaped shifted into Chloe, who had broken so far into her safe zone that she caused the tide to rush in again, coursing through the infinite space between her thighs, “Oh…I’ve an idea for lunch.”

Chloe felt the charge spark, the shift in air flow, the scent upon her tongue. She came around the bench and drifted into the abyss, enjoying her tasting faintly of tangerine and honey, her taste intoxicating. In that moment, she let go, finally, against Chloe’s tongue, splashing out against her, arching into her mouth. This, now, is inescapable, this irredeemable hope unravelling between them. How could she forgive herself for wanting this beyond herself, wanting this floating ecstasy so far beyond everything her conciseness swept her beneath as she lost it.

***

Lying over the sofa, softly sweaty, tangled in each other, “This is an interesting first date.”

“Yes. Unexpected.” Luna felt the salt deep in her voice, an undercurrent of Chloe’s husky tone, continued, “I actually need to go…”

“Working?”

“Yes, and I’m pretty sure Galla will just have to know what happened.”

“Your number?”

“Is written on your fridge,” Luna stood and began to find and pull on her scattered clothes, suddenly unsure and shy, thinking her impulse control is completely shattered. Luna stuttered her goodbye as she fled, panic fizzing inside of her.

Chloe lay on the sofa after Luna slipped out, smiling, feeling exhilarated. She pushed herself up and walked over to the counter, picking up her mobile, to find sixteen missed text messages, four missed calls and sole voice mail and was grateful she turned it on silent. They were all from Caro, Arlo and Quin.

Before checking on any, she walked over to her fridge, and saw the number scrawled across a scrap of paper. Typing in the number, she sent off a text to Luna, “Coffee after shift?”

Her reply was swift and succinct, “Shft all over plc this wk.”

“Dinner?”

“Mday get off at 8.”

“My Place?”

“kk.”

Smiling, Chloe worked her way through the text messages and voice mail and then made her way to call them back. Caro picked up, “How was it?”

“Better than expected. She just left.”

“Oh. That is exceptionally good.” Caro said, “When are you seeing her?”

“Monday night,” Chloe dropped her voice, concern filtering through, “but she kind of left strangely.”

“It was unexpectedly quick,” Caro said simply.

“Yes. I suppose, but it feels excruciatingly slow,” Chloe sighed, “I need to shower and sleep.”

“Probably,” Caro laughed, “Bye.”

***

Luna walked into their favourite diner closest to home, Sahntyna and swept her eyes around. The noisy chatter jarring after the silence of Chloe’s. Galla is slouched in a booth, her hands greasy with salted cheesy bread, while Kai ate his thick shake with a spoon. Luna shuffled out of her jacket and slid into the opposite side of the booth to Galla, shoving Kai over.

Sahntyna is in a converted old building that once had been a grand cinema before fading in the void of television and home entertainment, before becoming a roller disco slash bar. Owner Sahntyna made no effort to renovate and instead left the original pastel pallet, neon vinyl booths with perspex plastic tables rimmed in high-vis silver. This neon disco light sign still bolted to the red brick back wall. The wait staff suited the decor, hired from their faded lives left dimmed by the shifting reality around them.

“Hello Lover girl…”

“Shut up,” Luna rolled her eyes as she grinned, ripping a mouthful of bread off and shoving it past her teeth, “I’m starving. Have you ordered?”

“Of course, the usual,” Galla laughingly responded, “So, stories to tell…”

“Stop smirking like that, G. There’s nothing to tell.”

“Liar, don’t even pretend,” Galla shaking her finger at Luna in mock anger, “I know there’s something.”

“Galla,” Luna smiled as her mind drifted to all the infinite moments she shared with Chloe, the singularity incited something inside of her. That small ache of loneliness lifting toward a feeling that she herself could not define.

“Pleeeeeeassssse.”

“So you want more than the car service, penthouse and the rooftop garden?”

“That’s so news twelve hours ago, I was barely awake still. It does sound special. How do you get a rooftop garden onto an apartment…but you know this isn’t what I meant.”

“Galla, I mean it, STOP,” Luna laughed as her face burned red.

“I knew it!” Galla exclaimed in delight, “She’s good. Come on, tell me.”

Their laughter interrupted by the food being delivered. After the waiter left, Luna though a mouthful eyed off Galla, “I know it was you. You told her I was dancing that first day. You gave her my shift details. You sneaky little…”

“No, not at all…..you two obviously had something. I just….simply….facilitated it. A little,” Galla said, still laughing. The friends ate, laughed, comforting each other as only old friends can.

“So. When are you seeing her again?” Kai asked.

“I’m not exactly sure…” Luna blushed at the immediate heckling from her friends, “I gave her my number. She texted after I left, and, ah dinner on Monday.”

“Yes. Well.”

“You seem flustered,” Kai said, waiting. He knew there is still something needing to be said.

“Its not like I do this often. She’s…intriguing. It felt weird, though. Leaving this afternoon. It’s like I had nothing to say, you know, after what happened,” Luna shrugged, “when we couldn’t shut up earlier.”

“If she calls?”

“I guess. I want to.”

“The seduction of the sea, all types of broken are beautiful, we are all bandits on land and pirates at sea, seeking the impossible with magic,” Kai smiled.

“Why didn’t you get her number?” Kai pushed against her, mocking her.

“Because…” Luna thumped him, “…I gave her mine. I’ve it now she texted.”

The friends ate, gently continuing to tease Luna before Galla said, “Come on, we’ve to get to work.”

Kai stayed sitting in the booth, waving at Galla and Luna as pulling their coats on, “I’m meeting a newbie here…taking him to work.”

“Bye,” Luna said as they slipped out.

“What’s wrong?” Galla asked, walking out of Sahntyna and moving toward the monorail.

“It feels sudden. Too fast, like I can’t catch my breath,” Luna’s frown turned into a smile, hinting at the edge of her face, “but then it feels like I want her beyond measure, like I’ve known her before. I don’t know how else to put it.”

“Look at this in context, Luna, isn’t this how most things start, attraction? And a date? It went far beyond kissing from your reaction and you’ll be seeing her again?”

“Of course. I’m exceptionally interested in kissing her in any, every conceivable context. I want to consume her…” Luna smiled, “even as I want to run away from her…”

“Seriously, in context? That’s fabulous…” Galla couldn’t contain her laughter as Luna’s face flushed, “…But, also, tell her you want to go slower if you need to.”

“Her lips are unfathomably delicious,” Luna sighed, “…she tastes of coffee, cinnamon and lipstick, no matter the time. It’s intoxicating, and of course you would say it’s fabulous, traitor who set this up…”

“…says the friend who wants it to continue.”

“Where is she taking you?” Galla asked, “Next date?”

“She is cooking me dinner,” Luna twisted in her jacket.

“At the penthouse?”

“Yes. Where else would she cook for me?”

“So, you’re braving another adventure at her apartment? Don’t look so terrified,” Galla pulled her backpack off.

“She confuses me,” Luna, characteristically, scrunched up her nose, “I’m scared, G. Really, I don’t understand why one small, quiet, simple meeting has led to this.”

“It’s not unheard of, you know, of people having an immediate connection. Rare, but it happens,” Galla snorted, “And no, she doesn’t. You do that all by yourself. Truth? Don’t avoid this, even if your scared.”

“I…” Luna couldn’t reply. She didn’t really need to. Galla always knew, so she changed her tactic, “my life is too full.”

“No. Its not,” Galla sighed, “You made it full.”

“Kai…” she couldn’t give up against Galla aggressively calling her out.

“Who disregards you entirely. He only wants you when its convenience. You know he uses everything he can to get his own damn way. You let him. You hide behind him as much as he uses you,” brutality is the only route left for Galla, continues in spite of Luna wincing, “You’re scared, but its not okay to acquiesce to it.”

“Maybe.” Luna hesitates, “possibly.”

“You need to get the fuck over it,” Galla hugged her, “do not under any circumstances cancel your date.”

“I know, I know,” Luna raised her hands in submission, Galla would always call her out.

“Good. Unique is what you are. Right after shift?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent.”

“Don’t look so smug…” Luna slapped Galla across her shoulder.

“I can’t help it.”

“Thanks,” Luna shifted into her jacket and shifting her backpack.

***

Chloe stood at her bedroom windows, looking out on the bright artificial lights of the city, dulling the clarity of the stars. It is closer to one than midnight. Chloe felt absence, her apartment empty without Luna already, far too silent and her bed too cold. Chloe never slept well, yet now held the absence of Luna far to close to let it go. The city always the shield she could hide behind, now it reflected her loneliness.

Her life had been overtaken by her neurosurgical career. She consulted on many unique, and high profile cases by which she built a formidable reputation. Caro, Quin and Arlo are her respite from this world refusing to sleep, the cottage at Lake St. Clair her enclave of quiet. Lake St. Clair is where she kept her sacred self, how she sustained herself, yet now that shimmered to encompass this unexpected delight.

She remained at once disconnected and connected, surrounded and isolated. She fondled the phone in her hand, unsure of her wanting to call the three out at the cottage. It jittered in her hand, causing her to jump, “Hello?”

“What is wrong? We can hear you from here…” Caro’s warm voice dripped down the phone, history from the summer her mother brought her back from travelling the country after graduation bouncing between them.

Caro had convinced Chloe to visit Quin away from the cities distractions before returning to university. Quin was already working in an internship with one of the cities largest architectural firms in the lakes district satellite office, and in her spare time, travelled around the villages until she stumbled across the abandoned tragedy that transformed their lives. She showed Chloe and Caro that summer visit, the teaming life in the marshlands, the sleepy villages and blue-green water flowing between the lakes and subsidiaries.

“Thinking of her.”

“I thought you said it went well?” Arlo hummed. All four melting together, supplying each other courage, teaching her family did not mean blood, but choice, “And that you’ll be seeing her very soon?”

“I did, and I will,” Chloe answered, not having to say that Luna held for her a future she could not name yet desired. Chloe considered her options to combat the flurry of emotions she was currently feeling, and the overwhelming fantasy one was that involved her wanting. Luna here all of the time, wanted to fill her life with the future they could have.

Chloe remembered herself, rebellious and still only nineteen, in the in-between of her life and under the spell of her affair with Caro, testing her new recklessness by purchasing the Manor House that Quin may have discovered yet they all fell in love with. They felt the brokenness of it, the desiccation of the Attic open to the sky, the cracked and broken plaster crumbling from the internal stone, the wet, damp, flooded basement. Even the land bullied, overgrown and abandoned, a drifted sense of neglect. They felt of themselves all of these things, and this is where they belonged.

“So what’s the problem?” Quin sighed into the conversation. Quin felt beyond anything else she was right where she should be as she finally found a place where the trilogy of heartbeats united in bliss. She desired for Chloe to feel the same perfection, to hear the honey of her own voice.

Quin began design renovations back when she moved to the closest village with a B&B, Kaxis Wood, a half hour from the infant row of houses on the way to the manor, Millers Inn, which serviced the silent and peaceful hiking paths. They visited every day, feeling more themselves there than at any other time. The quiet rush of passion between Caro and Luna waned back to friendship over the summer at the lakes, but always, the Manor remained.

“The waiting and the not knowing,” Chloe quiet, “if she has fallen as quickly as me.”

“What makes you think she hasn’t?”

“I texted her to confirm when we could see each other again and she seemed reticent…I don’t know.”

“She was reticent over text?” Caro asked.

“Yes…” Chloe shrugged to herself, “I sound insane, I know I don’t know her.”

“Chloe, calm down. You’ve had one week of being delightfully sweet and one ultra intense date and you will make something spectacular for dinner,” Quin said.

“Chloe,” Caro’s voice gentle, “Seriously, relax. Take it one date at a time. Or, you know, continue to date…”

“Relax? What does that mean?” Chloe appreciated the non-judgement in their voices at the lunacy of her behaviour.

“It means she is coming to dinner.”

“True,” Chloe sighed, “thanks.”

***

Luna finished her shift with Galla and walking out at just past eight, her nerves sparking.

Galla paused as they walked out just past eight, “How are you getting there?”

“Ferry across Violet,” knowing the river would be dark under the night sky.

“Okay. See you tomorrow?”

“I switched my shift with Estelle…I’ve two days off…”

“And you didn’t tell me?” Galla smiling wirely.

“Yeah, cause I didn’t want that look…or to have to put up with your shit…”

“You’re just delaying the inevitable…” Galla smiled wickedly, walking off towards the monorail, leaving Luna walked in the opposite direction, making her way to the ferry and across the river. She walked quickly through the streets of Briar District and before loosing her courage, past the doors of the Ellysion, overlooking the river.

The desk clerk smiled as she walked up, breath ragged and uneven, “Go on up, Miss Sky.”

“Thank you.”

Luna walked to the elevator bank as the desk clerk picked up the phone. Her mind spiralled into everything she hated about herself — she lived in a minuscule apartment in a slum-adjacent suburb because she is not worthy of anything better. What did Chloe want with her? Charity case?

Luna, overwhelmed, attempted to calm herself down, yet her heartbeat rapidly continued, making it worse. She hit the penthouse button and the elevator smoothly hushed upwards. As the elevator door opened into Chloe’s ante-room, her chest is constricted against her rapid heartbeat. Chloe opened her door, with her smile quickly falling to growing concern at the sight of Luna’s face stumbling out of the elevator, reflecting her spiral out of control.

“Can…Can…I use your…bathroom,” Luna stammered.

Chloe stood still about a meter in front of her, opening her arms, respecting her personal space, while inviting her saying softly, “Unless you would rather come here?”

Luna stood, swaying on her feet, her breath jagged, wary.

Chloe simply waited, softly smiling, adding, “for as long or as little as you decide.”

Luna, feeling dizzy and confused, sensed Chloe recognised and understood the panicky fear creeping indescribably through her body. Luna took one step and felt her knees wobble. She paused, wanting desperately for her heartbeat to come back inside her body. She took another step, willing her eyes to focus. One more step and she would be in Chloe’s grasp. She took another step before stumbling the rest of the way into Chloe, who wrapped Luna inside of her arms. Luna’s breath still ragged, her heart beating out against her rib-cage, bruising her soul from the inside.

Chloe strengthened the hug and whispered, “I have you.”

Luna lost time, standing there forever waiting for her heartbeat to receded to a normal rhythm. Chloe made no indication she had anything but patience, allowed her the time she needed. Luna calmed enough to risk unassisted standing and withdrew slightly, mortified she had worked herself into such a state as to panic the moment she walked in.

Chloe offered her hand to Luna and waited patiently while she hesitated, smiled and took it. Gently, Chloe led Luna out of the ante-room and into the living room, encouraging her to sit on the lounge. Walking to the kitchen, she brought back a glass of water and placed it before Luna before she sat down next to her.

“I’m sorry,” Luna’s said, looking at the floor.

“There’s no need to be.”

“Really. I am.” Luna lifted her eyes to Chloe’s, holding her gaze.

“Apologies are unnecessary. Our last date was rather intense and quick,” Chloe smiled, “and I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

Luna leaned over and drank half of her water. Unsure of what to say or how to explain the unexplainable, she is surprised when she hears herself say, “I want to be here. Even if I am uncomfortable.”

Chloe broke into a smile making Luna flush, “I’m glad you want to be here. I want you to be here. When you are ready, we can talk about what makes you uncomfortable. Would you like to eat?”

“It smells divine.”

“I take that as a yes,” Chloe stood to served dinner, plating it expertly and delivering it to mahogany polished wood table. Luna stood to help her, however Chloe turned and said, “No, no. Sit down.”

Luna picked a chair at the square table, two places set perfectly next to each other. It is intimate, and she smiled at the considerate gesture. Their second date becoming as unique as their first, in spite of her panicked behaviour. Chloe poured wine into their glasses and sat beside Luna, “I hope you like it.”

Luna tenderly replied, “Thank you.”

“You haven’t even tried it yet.”

“That’s not really the point. I’m thanking for you for the consideration and effort.”

They ate dinner, chatting about general loves — music, authors, movies. Eventually, sated by desert, Chloe refilled their glasses, held her free hand out to Luna, who graciously reached for the warm touch. Chloe led them up to the rooftop to lay on the grass and stare at the sky. Their voices, low, intertwined around each others, engaged in enticing conversations until they fell asleep in the deep, quiet hours of the morning, curled into each other until the sun crystallised over the sky causing them to shiver against the cold light.

“Its still early,” Chloe pushed herself up after disentangling, still mostly asleep, “Come. Lets go to bed.”

She stood to pull Luna up, linking their fingers and stumbled delicately down the stairs and into Chloe’s bedroom, falling into bed and curling around each other again to sink back into a deep sleep. Hours later, still nestled in Luna’s embrace, Chloe woke slowly, to see her angelic face, eyes fluttering with slowly dawning consciousness.

“Good morning.”

“Hi,” Luna leaned the few inches and grazed her lips over Chloe’s. As she leaned back, Chloe followed, smoothing her lips against Luna’s. Both smiled, infamous shyness sticking them both.

“Shower?”

“Yes, I think so,” Luna sat up, realising they are still wearing the clothes from yesterday.

“You can borrow something,” Chloe pushed off the covers, stood and led Luna her en-suite, which is bigger than Luna’s entire flat, the shower along one side big enough for six.

Chloe pushed temperature buttons on a panel next to the shower until water began to fall from the ceiling within. Luna, tugging out of her clothing, gasped. Chloe flushed as she quickly undressed. Her bathroom is ostentatious, a luxury she is luckily able to customise. Moving silently into the shower together, their bodies easily warming together under the hot water.

“I’m sorry about last night.”

“Why? There is no need to be. Stop apologising.”

“People often panic your home?”

“You’re not people,” Chloe moved up to Luna, looking her directly in the eye to hold her there, “You’re definitively not people.”

Luna trembled as Chloe pulled her into a hug. Standing still for several minutes, Luna relaxing against Chloe’s naked body before shifting ever so slightly and whispering into Chloe’s ear, “You’re definitively not people, either. You’re unexpected.”

“Is that what happened last night?”

“Yes. I wasn’t expecting…any of this.”

“Neither was I, but this week’s been…I like you.”

“I. Like. You.” Luna’s lips whispered against Chloe’s ear, inciting a familiar warming throb.

Still, she waited for Luna, understood the hesitation and unfamiliarity. Luna ran her tongue down Chloe’s jawline before flicking her eyes to meet Chloe’s briefly before pushing their lips together.

Water dripping down their faces, Chloe moved to deepen their kiss, inadvertently snorting water up her nose. Giggling softly, she drew back from Luna, who took the invitation to continue down to the pulse point in her neck, drifting down to crest of her breasts, sucking the nipple lightly, releasing it under her teeth. Chloe groaned slightly as Luna whispered her lips down her stomach and along the ridge of her pubic bone before releasing herself against Chloe’s clit, bracing her with a leg over her shoulder. The hard matting was tickling her knees as she reached under the leg secured over her shoulder and thrust three fingers in just as she popped Chloe’s clit out of her mouth.

Chloe convulsed over the top of her, as Luna devoured her thick fluid while moving her fingers faster, her teeth brushing against the swollen nub, Chloe’s chest hitching as she moaned, “don’t stop…please…”

She felt Chloe’s fingers grip her head as suddenly her body tightened for the second time and Luna stilled her fingers movement, removing them to brace the body above her, her other hand relaxing the leg draped over her shoulder down and entangling hands within Chloe’s as she came fabulously above her. Luna moved to encircle Chloe’s body still cresting from her release. The water flowed over them as Chloe gradually started breathing regularly again.

Luna released her supportive hold and turned Chloe around, grabbing the body wash, “Let’s finish this shower, yes?”

Chloe numbly nodded, relaxing under Luna’s hands extending around her, slippery bubbles lathering her body, responding to her sweet affections. This is her new favourite activity, and she wanted to revisit it as often as possible. As they stood from the shower, Chloe reached over to hand her a towel. Luna giggled when Chloe handed her a fluffy dressing gown, as she finished drying herself.

“Is this what you meant by clothes?”

“Yes,” Chloe leaned in, tugging Luna’s lips in with her own, “its perfectly adequate.”

“For what?” Luna hummed, leaning into Chloe.

“Taking off later,” kiss, “would you like,” kiss, “something to eat?”

“Hmmmm,” Luna pulled the fluffiness around her, “I’m hungry.”

Walking to the kitchen, Chloe moved to the cavernous fridge, pulling eggs and cream out, “Scrambled?”

“Please.”

They spent the rest of the day between the bed and the shower.

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