Connetions

IV CONNECTIONS

“So where exactly are we going?”

“Ash’s Smash Repair’s,” Luna said, “it’s a café in Mechanic’s Ally.”

“You’re smiling mysteriously,” Chloe said, a smile dancing devilishly at the corners of her own lips, “why?”

“Am not,” Luna chuckled, quickly stealing a kiss form Chloe, a well practised and proved diversion technique.

“Luna, can I please get anything from you? Anything at all?”

“Ash’s is one of those places that collects all manner of people. It is open twenty-four hours a day and anyone can find a space to be accepted. Jamere fed us in our early days while we were homeless. She gave us very sage advice in the ways of this city. Galla and I volunteer for her charity.”

Chloe realised how enraptured with this woman she was, how obscenely fabulous and obsessive this lust felt. Luna gifted small pieces of history, entrancing her, as she replied, “This place means a lot then. Jamere? Abraxas’ partner? Does Kai volunteer as well?”

“Yes, that Jamere. It is simply a building, beaten and old like this city. Jamere stopped us from starving and gave us a place to be safe. Jamere and Abraxas are…important. Kai volunteers for Rainbeaux Homeless Youth Charity. They run a couple of shelters and an annual event, Esther Ball.”

“I’ve heard of Esther Ball. Does he volunteer for them because his foster mother is a community liaison for RYC? Are you sure this is the right place for me to meet everyone? It sounds like home ground for Kai and you…” Chloe jumped in with questions while Luna was answering.

“He liked volunteering for them,” Luna said simply before catching the smile covering Chloe’s face, “oh, stop it. You’re being wilfully obnoxious.”

“Maybe,” Chloe laughing as Luna twisted confidently through alleyways where light is filtered and opaque, “where is this place?”

“Exactly where it is.”

“Luna…”

“It is…” Luna smiled, “…and I’m leading you to it…”

“There are so many places I don’t know.”

“Only by experience…and choice,” Luna said turning the last corner and half way up the lane towards the glow highlighting the pavement. Walking in, Luna scanned the booths and tables until she saw the intimately familiar face sitting in a booth.

“Come on, he’s over here,” Luna laced their fingers together to walked through the crowd of people either coming or going to work. Just as they came weaving through the tables, a spike haired round faced boy wondered up wiping his still damp hands on his skinny leg jeans. Kai stood up to smile at Luna.

“Kthia,” Kai said, hugging Luna and turned to the others, as Kai pointed to both of them, saying, “Luna, Gerome, Gerome, Luna.”

“Hi,” Gerome fluttered his fingers, indicating they were still damp.

“Hi, and this is Chloe,” Luna shifted to include Chloe in the group and while the moment lulled, slipped into the booth.

The three followed. Chloe looked over the menu while Luna and Kai chatted in a shorthand lost on both herself and Gerome. Their voices were light in a language only the pair understood, bouncing inside their space along side the green oddity of their eyes. Kai’s flint green mingled with Luna’s dragon flame green, two halves stitching themselves together.

“The Falling Bubble is good,” Gerome said to Chloe.

“Really? How is the Shallow River?”

“Depends on whether you like your soup thin or chunky. Too thin for me.”

“What about Bundle of Hail?”

“Oh, now that is perfect.”

“Okay, I’m going to order,” Luna broke in, “you know what you want?”

“What would you recommend?” Chloe asked

“Table starter is Base Jumper. I think you’ll like Oak Flame.”

“Okay,” Chloe shifted out of the booth so Luna could go over to the counter and as she slid back in asked, “what are you two having?”

“I’m having Trillion Acres,” Kai smiled

“Bundle of Hail.”

Chloe nodded, “Luna said you both work at Marlene’s? I don’t think I’ve heard of it.”

“Yes. It’s under Raptor Bridge, overlooking Raptor Rage,” Kai laughed before explaining, “it’s a male review, a stripper palace with dirty old men and us hot dancers.”

Chloe joined in the laughter, “I guess it’s not a place I would go. Raptor Rage?”

“In the water under the bridge are a whole mess of cars, I think even a rail carriage, and it’s created this weird kind of tidal rapids. Cheap thrills.”

“Cars?”

“Yes. Even worse are why the cars are dumped. Some stolen to be driven into the river, sometimes for insurance or cops hiding corruption and criminals hiding the truth. Legacy suicides,” Kai shrugged, “now there are hundreds of vehicles layering the river bed. The city can’t pull them out fast enough.”

Luna returned to a table full of laughing, macabre faces and sat back down next to Chloe, “What’s so funny?”

Once they calmed down enough, Kai said “Rapids,” before asking, “when are we going to check out Arantxa?”

“Arantxa?” Chloe repeated, before looking at Luna, “is this another one of your places?”

“My places?” Luna gasped, feigning offence, “What ever do you mean?”

Kai snorted some of his drink out of his nose, “Where on earth have you taken her?”

Luna waved off the comment as she stared at Chloe, still feigning insult, “Actually, Arantxa is a just opened tequila bar. Kai asked us to go.”

“Oh…well…” Chloe began as the table collapsed in laughter.

The conversation between the four over the course of the meal swayed with the soul of Ash’s, the knitted texture of tentatively becoming friends swayed deeper into the night until Kai and Gerome stood.

“It’s lovely to finally meet you,” Kai leaning in, kissing Chloe on the cheek.

“And You,” as the couples separated and Luna led her to a long table set on the other side of the room which had been gradually filing over the course of their mean and now was crowded.

“This is a meet and greet for Smash Punch Woman,” Luna said as they sat down next to Galla. Bree waved from across the table. She had been on every shift of theirs since she started, becoming a shadow of Luna and Galla’s.

Luna turned to Galla, “Do you think she’s one of them?”

“No. Ivie would’ve done a security check.”

“I know. Still. She is practically stalking us. Why?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care.”

“Hi. Everyone. Calm down.” Jamere called out. The table calmed down enough for Jamere to continue, “I’m delighted to see we’ve a lot of new faces. You’ll catch up. This meeting is for newer members and for potential ideas for SPW annual gala. As usual, we’re looking for extra hands in the kitchen, at the hostels and for the gala.”

A jumble of noises commenced, as everyone when to speak at once. Jamere held up her hands, “STOP. I realise there are new faces here, but let us continue. Galla, can you give an example?”

“For the theme, I have Queens and Corsets. Witching Hour have offered catering services.”

“Okay. Thank You. Archer will be donating the usual entertainment packages for the silent auction. If anyone has any other contacts, please utilise them.”

“Possibly,” Chloe looked up the table to Jamere, “Westwood Manor Garden Atelier and Couture Preserves will donate.”

“Okay. Thank you. Luna, as you are this years CDL, please take the details,” Jamere made a note, “anything further? Okay, next week I want consensus. Teams will be emailed. Ask Questions. If you haven’t already, write your details here,” Jamere finished, indicating the food covered table, “enjoy.”

The table drifted into the temporary chaos of movement, as Bree quickly appeared next to Luna, who indicated for Chloe to wait. Luna took Bree over to where Jamere was standing, “Jamere, this is Bree. I told you about her.”

“Hi. Thanks Luna.”

“Hi,” Bree smiled at Jamere, “Thanks Luna.”

Luna turned quickly to retreat and searched faces until she found Chloe, leaning against the bar, propped up on a stool. As Luna walked up, Chloe said, “That was a surprise.”

“Not what you were expecting?”

“I’m not sure. At least at this time,” Chloe pulled Luna in-between her legs, wrapping her arms around her waist.

“This is primarily a mixer for new volunteers. Most regular volunteers are shift workers, as are most future volunteers are. There’s no such thing as normal times,” Luna rested her hip against Chloe’s inner thigh, enjoying the comfort of being within her arms.

“Makes sense. I don’t have regular hours. I should put my name down.”

“You? Volunteering here? With all that time you’ve lying about the place?”

“But…” Chloe smirked.

“You’re already a member on all of those boards…”

“However…”

“Chloe. I’m keeping you all to myself,” Luna leaned in for a kiss, “You’re far too valuable to me now I’m this year’s corporate donation liaison. Which means you could be a very viable contact to develop my portfolio.”

Jamere finally freed herself from the throng of people, and walked over to Luna and Chloe.

“Chloe, this is Jamere.”

“Nice to meet you, finally,” Jamere reached out as Chloe released her arm from Luna’s waist and offered her hand, before snaking her arm back around Luna.

“Luna,” Galla came up, a wild look in her eye and tugged at her arm, “come…”

Luna withdrew from Chloe, kissing her briefly, “be back in a sec…” as she disappeared into the crowd. Chloe watched her momentarily as she laughed with Galla at something she said. Even from across the room, her laughter resonated beautifully, sharp yet gentle.

“Why does she think Bree is ‘one of them’?” Chloe asked Jamere.

“Hmmm?”

“Luna is very concerned about her behaviour. Galla less so.”

“She shouldn’t be. Bree is second generation, raised with it’s own complications, between the culture of her grandparents and the expectations of this world. Bree’s father, Akio weighed under generations of second born sons, joined the family in banking. His older brother, Daichi, took over the families primary business in industrial chemicals. Her mother, Mitsuko is a civil rights attorney. Her every movement had been accounted for, designated and approved. She was never a child, only an experiment to be moulded and grown, a Petri dish.”

“You seem to understand a lot about her.”

“Yes, Galla remembers her. Luna does not,” Jamere looked to the group, “I’ve known Bree for a while.”

“Known her like Luna?” Chloe observed Jamere closely, attempting to gain information out of any of them was frustrating.

“No. Very unlike Luna,” Jamere quietened, contemplative.

“Luna said you used to feed Kai and her,” Chloe asked, changing tactics, Luna always a soft, warm topic.

“Yes. They were disconcerting, direct, polite, always looked me in the eye. Luna always spoke for both of them, weaving her dragon green eyes around me,” Jamere laughed gently, recalling Luna lacing tendrils of connection between them from the very beginning, “for twelve months, these two turned up and volunteered, distinguishing themselves by the subtle deportment of attitude, observing the flow of this community, hidden in the dark corners of the city. They were our insiders. I told my wife, Abraxas, about them, Luna stole my heart pretty quickly.”

Jamere loved the changes within Luna, how distinct they were from her development over the past six years, remembering the two tall, thin children speaking in accented, broken voices, hesitant and frustrated, noticeable in the crowd of itinerants coming to Ash’s for food.

Chloe heard the hesitation flirting around Jamere’s tone and stated, “This place is beautiful.”

“I converted Ash’s from the my mother’s smash repairs. I left the oil stains embedded with the original cement floors. I’m sure some of them are from my own awkward clumsiness as a child. It is finished as it is, stylised to my taste. Those are bespoke, handmade rough oak bench seats and I vanished those oak tables until they were glossy myself. We are purposefully hidden within the creases of the city, enfolded within its layers,” Jamere smile sighed, looking towards the kitchen, silver and dull metal gleaming under fluorescents hanging from cords twisted to the roof, replacing tools and broken cars.

Chloe saw Jamere lost within her memory, “Thank you.”

“Why?”

“For loving her.”

“I am sure you are discovering that I couldn’t not,” Jamere said, shuddering before continuing, “I noticed when the twins disappeared, taken by family services and when they returned, better dressed yet steel streaked within them. They were fostered separately and came here to reconnect. When they disappeared only to return for the third time, they came with Galla, blind in one eye and as haphazardly flawed within her soul, an open wound to the world. I introduced Galla and Luna to my niece, Archer before her mother died. The three formed a circle, a hybrid of catastrophe more complete together. These are my daughters, my family.”

“Same for Abraxas?”

“When Abraxas lost her twin sister, Archers mother, she felt her heart torn to blackness, remnants of half of her soul ripped beyond the light. There was nothing. Days nor time distinguished themselves, light and dark the same. Abra had four people who loved her enough not to go away. Archer, along with that stick-waif of a girl with a lilted accent and that heavily scared, half-blind child and myself. Those two became Archers connection to a life she needed to be able to see. They are solid and graspable, those three coiled inside Archer’s room together, providing the warmth and comfort of connection. They gave us hope, drawing us out of darkness. So, I couldn’t not…”

Luna bound back up and snuggled into Chloe before she could respond, “Couldn’t not what?”

“Hello,” Abraxas smiled walking up, leaned in and placed a delicate, protective kiss above Luna’s brow before retreating from their space and turning to Chloe, said “Westwood Manor donations?”

“Abra!” Luna giggled, “this is Chloe, Chloe, Abraxas.”

“Hi,” Chloe smiled back, remembering a connection somewhere she couldn’t quite place, “What’s wrong with Westwood Manor?”

“Nothing at all,” Abraxas smiled, her bemused expression predatory as she, scrambled to place where she knew Chloe from, “fancy connections, Luna…”

“It is for charity after all…” Chloe smiled at the infamous CEO of Pacer Enterprises, “…Quin said she’s a new range ready to come out. I could probably swing an advance tester range for this silent auction.”

“Now, how can you do that?” Jamere asked, intrigued by the gentle power exuded by Luna’s new love.

“They’re my friends.”

“Fabulous…Can it be ready by…”

Abraxas cut in, finally making the connection to Chloe, “You’re on the Opera Committee?”

“I’m a legacy,” Chloe said, gathering herself at the abrupt question.

“Opera?” Luna asked, confused with the rapid change in conversation. Her mind went directly to her former foster mother, Gretchen, with whom she shared a complicated relationship. Gretchen always wanted to take Luna to the opera while she was under her care, except Luna remained reticent.

“The biggest charity event in the city?” Jamere said.

“I know,” Chloe said.

“Legacy membership? Charity event?” Luna frowned.

“Yes. I may have failed to mention we’re going to a gala,” Chloe laughed softly.

Luna flushed and smiled as she leaned in, kissing Chloe, following the laughter bubbling from her lips, “It sounds amazing. When?”

“Two weeks.”

“You allowed my membership to pass…” Abraxas smiled, more as than anything else she could see Luna is herself, uniquely so. Abraxas never before seen her in the fresh wash of love. Luna always behaved as if her destruction was inevitable, an icon of her own despair. This, though, this was boarding on obscenely peaceful, wanton, brazen, relaxed, “…thank you. We will be attending.”

“Jamere…” a voice called from across the room before their conversation could continue, “Abra…”

“Excuse us,” Jamere nodded at both of them while she reached without looking to take Abraxas’ hand and lead them both in the direction of the voice.

“I’m going to get the inquisition from those two later,” Luna turned back to Chloe, “ready to go?”

“Hmmm. Really,” Chloe said as she tucked Luna’s arm in the crook of her elbow, and walked out to Mechanic’s alley. She had so many questions, seeing how close Luna obviously is with both women, yet started with the first one falling from her mouth, “was that Tranqi that you were speaking with Kai?”

“Yup.”

“Do you miss it?”

“Miss what?”

“Speaking it.”

“I do speak it.”

“I mean all the time.”

Luna looked to the sky, contemplative, “You see those stars?”

“Yes. No. Kind of,” the lights of the city obscuring the soft focus of the stars. She knew what she is meant to see.

“They look different here, more filtered and distant. Not attainable. At Tempenka they look crystalline in beauty, like hope. We knew all their names, were taught the reality and mysticism of the sky. All we had was each other. Out here, we have the world. Speaking only Tranqi is not worth exchanging the world for.”

“I think I understand.”

“You cannot trade life or barter with time. You have to gamble, throw the dice.”

“They both love you,” Chloe lifted Luna’s hand to her mouth and kissed it, wanting to know about Abraxas and Jamere, “they’re very protective of you.”

“Yes. I love them, too,” Luna relaxed with the gentle gesture, “they both mean a lot.”

“Okay,” Chloe sighed. Luna could introduce her but not elaborate on what they mean to her.

“What else do you want me to say?” Luna shrugged, “Your friends are protective of you?”

“Yes. We grew up together in boarding school.”

Luna finally understood what Chloe was reaching for, “You’re asking why they’re so protective?”

“Yes.”

“Same reason, mostly, we grew up together. They’re…” Luna opened her hands, “…Kai and I’ve been here since we were fourteen. I told you how we met Jamere, because she feed us when we’d nothing, cared about us and met Abraxas and Archer through her. We met Galla in a group home, and Archer hired us to work at Pacer, but the three of us are genuinely close now. Abraxas and Jamere are her Aunts and, truly are to Galla and me as well.”

“Archer, Abraxas, Jamere, Galla.” Chloe repeated the names, cementing the connections, “more complicated history?”

“Less so then Kai and I,” Luna sighed.

“They are less complicated?” Chloe attempting to coax more revealing answers.

“Hmm. Archer, Galla and I became friends. Abraxas and Jamere have been together for as long as Archer can remember, kind of a circle of coincidence in connections,” Luna half shrugged as she squeezed Chloe’s hand slightly, “Kai and I’ve never not known each other.”

Chloe smiled, “You’re intriguing, enchanting.”

“I’m as much as you are,” shrugged Luna.

“When someone gives you a compliment, you could at least be gracious enough to accept it.”

“Thank you,” Luna quietly whispered as they wound their way through the alleys to Chloe’s apartment and the subtle comfort of each other.

***

It is still very new, the quiet of Chloe’s disconcerting. Luna woke early in the unfamiliarity and wandered to the kitchen, thirsty. Luna padded softly through the apartment, full of ghostly pink light from the sun cresting the earth’s curve, however had not yet warmed anything. She shivered slightly, wishing she had found Chloe’s dressing gown, or her own shirt at least. What she wanted was coffee, but the machine one she was unfamiliar with. She tugged gently at the fridge door and the light clicked on.

As her eyes adjusted to the harsh light she saw her favourite chilled honey coffee, Bumblebee Love, a special blend only Jamere made, only available from Ash’s. Luna felt warmed Chloe intentionally made the effort to please her. She extracted the bottle. The kitchen still confused her, large and full of many unnecessary excesses of wealth, so she took the bottle to the windows to watch the pink sky turn to peach, then aquaish and drank, tasting the thick, sweet liquid over the cold glass rim.

She was thinking of Chloe’s questions about Archer, Abraxas and Jamere. She had been fifteen when she met Archer at Ash’s while Galla and herself were helping Jamere with the food service to the homeless. Archer was born blind and lucky her father, a medical technician and her aunt, a robotic engineer, built her eyes with which to see. By six, she was upgrading the software herself. By eight, she created the foundation of the program that would become Ivie and integrally linked her eyes into this programming.

Archer was intrigued by the scars dominating Galla’s face and the empty eye dreaming beyond sight. She had wanted to replace Galla’s eye with one she could make, wanted a test subject beyond herself. The sky burnt into sienna as she heard a muted shuffle behind her. She turned to see Chloe walking towards her, dropping her hands from rubbing her eyes.

As Chloe looked up, she saw Luna glowing incandescent in the shimmering rising light, opaque under the transforming sky, hair dishevelled. She wore nothing else as she looked out the window, breathtakingly, achingly beautiful.

Luna paused at the look Chloe was giving her, one of abject wonder before she said, “Morning.”

“Morning,” Chloe reached out her hand, “come back to bed.”

“Okay,” Luna put the glass on the table, taking Chloe’s hand, “thank you for the honey coffee. Why’d you wake up?”

“The bed was suspiciously empty,” she smiled sleepily, “Jamere said it was your favourite…the silence bothering you?”

“A little,” Luna answered honestly, but not completely, “and it is.”

“You look….” Chloe searched Luna’s face, “…disconcerted.”

“Just thinking,” Luna mumbled feeling Chloe wrapping her arms around, drawing her in.

“Hmmmm,” Chloe’s voice quiet, muffled by her face being buried in Luna’s hair, “about what?”

“Archer. I was thinking of the questions you were asking.”

“Okay…” Chloe encouraged, hyper aware now of Luna’s unfiltered truth.

“Archer is…I barely met her mother before she died. Archer worshipped both her mother, Cressida and Aunt Abraxas. They’re so different from each other. Cressida ran an early version of Pacer, when it was this speciality store hidden in a basement of the Noxon District, as an extension of her living room. She ran the record store like her life, with love and compassion. As she wilfully ignored the music industry and the rapidly changing customer base moving beyond what she provided. Abraxas was studious and definitive, as direct and structured as Cressida was free, Abraxas encouraged Archer to create what Cressida would not: computerised systems and online presence. Archer and Abraxas wove an online empire around Cressida,” the story tumbled from Luna, telling another’s story easier than telling her own.

She felt Chloe’s warm breath tickling her hair as her palm rubbed circular patterns over her back, “Cressida gave Archer inspiration, purpose, Abraxas gave her direction, control and consequence. Cressida taught her the drums and the guitar, Archer how to read and negotiate contracts.”

“Abraxas, Archer, Cressida…” Chloe repeated the names languidly to show she was listening.

“Archer wanted to replace Galla’s broken eye. She refused, keeping her scars to reflect the contamination of her soul, telling Archer she couldn’t bare seeing a world with what she lost. Music connected us, Archer hired us, sisters three ever since. When Archer lost Cressida, Galla, raised in the ashes of lost parents, and I, raised with to many abstracted ideals, took her from the dark trance she fell into. The three of us found each other when all others passed us off. We all stood inside this darkness but refused to relinquish her too it. I was fifteen, Galla was sixteen and we stood where others would not and supported Archer through the building of the apartment in the Pacer basement, shuffling Ivie’s mainframe to accommodate them both. We did not leave her side, especially when she could not leave the basement,” Luna shuddered, at the memory of Archer and Abraxas both falling apart and rebuilding their lives.

“Jamere looked into fostering Galla, Kai and I after she heard we’d been taken in, but she was rapidly turned down. Abraxas was told unequivocally we’d already been placed with appropriate families,” Luna’s voice brittle as she hardened slightly at this unexpected revelation.

It abruptly made her feel uncomfortable Chloe so ruthlessly pursued her, demanded her attention. She didn’t know how to feel worthy of the look she was receiving. There is so much mistrust burning within for Luna to trust herself, and Chloe made her feel unhinged in unfamiliar emotions; safe and beautiful. She pulled back to look at the woman whose arms she is in. All she saw was compassion and calm.

Chloe squeezed her hand, “Come back to bed.”

“Okay,” no longer able to handle her own inside silence.

These shared moments joined them together, irrevocably intertwined. Luna luxuriated in Chloe’s touch, elated with the fresh wash of unfathomable beauty.

***

Chloe planned this intimate night since she starting pursuing Luna. The opera gala the perfect event to structure a date around. Chloe discovered an intriguing combination of a salsa themed harbour cruise under recommendation of a work colleague, with the late night time fitting perfectly against the end of the opera. Chloe felt their love unravelling, savouring the experience. Their intimacy both immediate and gradual, enveloped them more slowly than their love, which is both loud and immediate, demanding and precious, their physicality hauntingly tender. They were still growing into the desirable pleasure they wanted, foundling roots in the sunshine.

The past few days had been interesting for Chloe. She informed her mother, who not reacted as well as assumed she would, unable to understand how Chloe could date someone so much younger. Her mother lost her perfect life partner and could not understand Chloe’s sudden middle life attachment to youth. Chloe felt discontented pressure, of loss and a life mostly lived when too young to understand that pleasure was swimming just beneath her surface. Her mother highlighted this age difference pointlessly. Chloe never bothered thinking of this, and was not going to start now, how she felt for Luna eliminating everything else. Chloe was connecting the subtle hints Luna offered about her history in a community and her homelessness, this both explaining her strangeness and otherness as well as her seductive charming allure. Chloe left all of this unsaid to her mother.

The five years for Luna since leaving Tempenka may have been long enough to start healing, yet she could never forget, that it was no longer the world she inhabited. This one, for all of its dirt and filth, is the one of her future life. Love did not change her resolve, however it softened her sharp edged hardness. This time she spent with Chloe adjusted her understanding of herself, of advocating for beauty even within the ugly.

Her worlds were merging after dinner with Chloe, Kai and Gerome, and tonight they were meeting with Jamere and Abraxas. Luna understood her history left her open, exposed Chloe to danger. However, this Thursday night, her mind is on her dress and on Chloe, the unrelenting liquidity of her eyes, and on their date, tonight, opera and salsa.

Chloe, wearing a storm blue strapless dress to highlight her dusk hued skin, silently willed the date would at be a reflection of the relationship so far. Luna initially laughed at Chloe for her insistence they have a “date” after all they had been doing together. Chloe countered that it was time to debut as a couple. Luna, in retaliation, insisted on returning to her apartment so she could be picked up. Abraxas gifted her a deep aubergine dress, all at once clingy and flowing to the floor, and she twitched, waiting anxiously for Chloe and the car service. As the car sidled up to the curb, Luna’s phone beeped. She exited her apartment, her shoes echoing against the stairs on the way down, nodded at the driver as she swung past him into the leather interior.

“You look exquisite,” breathed Chloe.

Luna smiled, nerves tickling slightly over her racing heart. Luna spoke softly, overwhelmed momentarily as she swallowed shallowly, looking at Chloe as if she was destined to be her undoing, “Thank you. You’re quite stunning yourself.”

The car quietly hummed through traffic. Chloe took Luna’s hand as she leaned in tempting a kiss. Silence enveloped them comfortably until the car sleeked up to the theatre. Luna, although musically and theatrically trained, had never came to see a performance. The busy social conventions, conversations and greetings swept them both in with the opera community, a mixture of lifetime members and season ticket holders alike with the charity ticket holders, glasses of champagne clinked together. Chloe introduced Luna with unconcealed delight to operatic friends and family until the bell sounded accompanied by lights flicked with impatience and the audience drifted towards their seating.

They, to Luna’s relief, did not encounter Gretchen. When Luna mentioned Gretchen at CLS after the panic attack, Chloe has been slightly surprised. Chloe’s relationship with Gretchen was strictly professional and her fostering had never mentioned between them yet this revelation seemed odd, and out of place. They sat on the charity board for the opera, consulted with each other for years on paediatric neuromedicine and were socially graceful enough to seek each other out at functions. This schism in her life with Luna was nowhere in her life. It worried her until she saw Luna’s face, as the opera unfolded before them.

Luna became quite intoxicated with the Opera, the varying hues of the voices, the particular strains of the music, twisting emotions vibrating intensely through her soul. At intermission, Luna moved slow, interlacing her fingers against Chloe’s to ground herself, to reorientate herself back to this plain. A glass was gently placed in her free hand as a voice whispered in her ear, “We haven’t seen her.”

“Neither have I,” Luna blinked at Abraxas, leaning into the middle where there is no space between Abraxas, Jamere and herself, the three of them touching foreheads momentarily in an arm less hug before drawing back.

“Abraxas, Jamere,” Chloe said in greeting, bewildered slightly at the at the intimate greeting until Luna stepped back into her body encouraging an embrace. Chloe disengaged her hand to slip her arm around Luna’s waist.

“Hi, Chloe,” Jamere answered while Abraxas smiled.

“Abra, where are you both?” Luna asked, centring herself along Chloe’s body.

“Balcony, where the reds are,” Abraxas shrugged, “we can see you. Nice box.”

“Abra,” Luna sighed as Jamere elbowed her gently in warning.

“Yes,” Abraxas looked innocent, before she conceded, “You both look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” Luna smiled, finishing her drink.

“What are you doing after?” Jamere asked.

“Witching Hour is hosting a Salsa-T harbour cruise,” Chloe replied, “It’s just after this.”

“Disappointing for us, lucky for you. We’re going to Eloise. Karaleigh’s has a private function.”

“Have you been to Karaleigh’s?” Chloe asked.

“Not yet. I know the Chef,” Jamere said, “we were apprenticed together.”

“You trained at Eloise?” surprise filtered into Chloe’s voice, more at Luna’s genuine show of indifference at the comment.

“A long time ago, yes,” Jamere waved it off, “a lifetime ago. How’d you know she was apprenticed there? She said new mixes from Westwood Manor are in next week. How about you join us for dinner?”

“That would be lovely,” Chloe smiled, shrugging, “I can never keep up with release dates. The trilogy have been friends with her for years. Quin told me Zola was opening Karaleigh’s.”

“How do you know the Westwood Manor Ladies?”

“I own Westwood Manor. They own the company,” Chloe murmured as the lights dimmed in summons of the crowd.

“Bye,” Jamere slid back into Abraxas, fluidly turning away together, as she took the information Chloe provided with interest.

“Later,” Luna wriggled her fingers at them, following Chloe to her private box.

***

After the show finished, Chloe waited moments for Luna’s breathing and heartbeat to spin back to a more regulated rhythm, before strolling with her, still in silence, hands intertwined, out of the theatre and into the waiting car. Silence wrapped around them until Luna turned and kissed Chloe with such passion it rendered her immobile. With her soul dancing, Luna relaxed back into the chair, thinking how many perfect dates could they have?

The car, swift in the dark traffic, swung them down to the Pier, where a brightly lit boat swayed gently against its moorings, the crowd walking on board. Chloe, with Luna entwined next to her, led them over the wooden and cement boards, and onto the outdoor deck. They were followed by other shuffling feet, couples giggling, twisting within their own circles. Salsa music played loudly from the six piece band. A quiet moment unshuffled the boat as the engines revved, pushing away from the dock.

Chloe looked around as the boat moved over the dark violet water and noticed how all the darkness looked alive, hidden as it liked by shades of light and in this dark a strangely swift kiss drew her back. How did she dare feel this, how could she dare disturb the universe with this love Luna invoked within her. Luna smiled, shone bright as a torchlight as if for Chloe herself, her beacon in the darkness as she playfully led them to the dance floor.

Sweaty and exhausted, yet still swinging from the salsa, the car service deposited them outside of Chloe’s apartment. Standing for a moment, wistful, in the two am moon still issuing a silver glimmer behind a half cut cloud, before walking past the doorman and into the elevator, warmth twinkling against emotion.

Entering past the heavy oak doors, Luna pushed Chloe against them, softly brushing her lips against Chloe’s pulse point, beating rapidly against the thin skin of her neck. Chloe moaned desperately, quickly changing their positions, pulling at the zipper running along Luna’s left ribcage, tugging the dress until it pooled at her feet. Chloe’s mouth covered the lace over Luna’s nipple, straining against the fabric and pulling it into her. Luna arched off the door while Chloe’s lips burned down her body with opened mouthed kisses running over the lace panties she wore.

Clawing them off, Chloe braced herself against the heady, intoxicating scent of Luna, writhing above her. Chloe buried her nose within, eliciting a gasp and full body roll over her face. Chloe held tighter and lapped at her fettered moisture, sucking harshly, swaying with the motion of Luna’s rapidly unspooling body, twitching over the top of her. Luna unfurled over Chloe as her orgasm shattered through her body, causing her to jerk back, smashing her head straight back into the door as she flooded Chloe’s face.

“Luna…” Chloe, still on her knees over a pile of Luna’s discarded clothing, braced the pale, naked body as she slid down the oak, boneless, into her lap, as she leaned forward to kiss the back of her head, “your head okay?”

“Oww. Kind of dampened the pleasure…” Luna snorted, her eyes hooded and swimming, “…just barely inside the door and you’ve me naked.”

“Yes. Well. You do things to me…” smirking, holding Luna lightly.

“Mmmmm. You still seem to be very dressed at the moment…” Luna’s voice darkened.

“What are you gonna do?” Chloe shrugged, sultriness murmuring within her voice.

“This…” Luna crackled with energy, hearing the silk in Chloe’s voice, how it fetishised spoken word, cascading out of her mouth and flowed over Luna’s body, creating flushes of heat to tumble through her body, ticking up tension as she drew herself up to pursue Chloe.

***

Chloe sat in the curved booth, watching Luna slowly turn her glass around on the table. The afternoon is late and comfortable silence settled over them. Chloe yearned for Luna to look at her, desired the glaze of her fingers over the curve of her spine. Luna fascinated her, her reticence to display anything yet her willingness to expose herself through her body, how her body threw music out of itself, her freedom with Galla. Luna shifted as she flicked her eyes up, dragon green flaming tearing through Chloe, shivering as her spine tingled, “I’ve an idea.”

“Okay…” Luna maintained eye contact, “Which would be?”

“Would you come away with me for a weekend?”

“To where?”

“My cottage in Lake St. Clair.”

Falling into silence, Chloe waited. Luna’s face flushed as she thought about what Chloe asked and more importantly, what she offered.

“The lakes district?”

“That’d be it. Westwood Manor, outside of village called Miller’s Inn. There is no reason not to.”

“This is where your friends live?”

“Yes.”

“They run that company at you manor?” Luna’s anxiety fluttered.

“Yes, and its our home. They used to live here, but,” Chloe shrugged, “preferred village life.”

“And…” Luna felt her chest constrict.

“And what?” Chloe still observing Luna closely, reached across to still her hands, pulling both of them into her own.

“Tell me about them? You all share a house?”

“I don’t remember life without them improving it. We met in boarding school, I was the youngest by many years. The four of us were the ones who stood out and melted into obscurity together. Arlo was a scholarship kid. Caro old money, but her father was disgraced. Quentin’s family new money and earned from the obscure and unattractive,” Chloe’s voice is slow and regular, quelling Luna’s anxiety, dulling her fear.

Her voice a lullaby, she continued, “Arlo travelled with me for six month after we graduated uni. Caro and I had a summer fling just after we came back that dissolved into friendship not long after, as Quin is an architect, and had taken an internship out in Lake St. Clair and we travelled out to see her. While out there, we were all talking about what we really wanted in life and how it conflicted with expectations of us, and Quin found this cottage, empty and forlorn, a deceased estate on the outskirts of this tiny village.”

Chloe’s voice dropped as her fingers caressed Luna’s, smiling, “Quin stayed and did most of the repair work before she moved in. Caro moved out a few years later, Arlo a few after that. They pursued their dream….Caro is the Master Horticulturist, Quin is the Master Preserver and Arlo does all of the marketing and sales for the Garden Atelier company. I go out when I can,” information fell from Chloe, but she felt it still wasn’t enough to describe the relationship and history between the four.

“So you all live out there? Westwood’s stuffs a bit swanky for us to afford, but we’ve seen it,” Luna smiled, remembering the treats from Chloe the week they met shared with Galla and Kai, the shaking of her hands subsiding, “and been gifted some. How are we going to get out there?”

“I do have a car, you know. The car service is easier and less dangerous in the city when I have worked a forty-eight hour shift.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Luna,” a voice broke over her headset.

“Go ahead Ivie.”

“Please attend the Hive.”

Luna walked into the dedicated elevator, swiping her card over the access point to press the lowest level, through the outer receptacle to the coded door at the back and into to the apartment. Archers is a haven of silence and power, the static hum of electricity, causing the rustle of fine hair swift against her body. With Archers completely robotic eyes, she could project information from her eyes to the wall. Abraxas taught her though to show discretion around non-family members. The vague, unfocused look Archer got while she communicated with Ivie led to an expressionless face disconcerting to anyone unfamiliar with their situation.

“Archer?”

“Kitchen,” Archer called back, standing at the centre column, dominating the apartment with pulsating blue light, connecting the ceiling to the floor.

Archer’s eyes automatically took information from the data stream. She upgraded her spatial abilities by adding micro speakers into her ears and had integrated her eyes to contain network access. Her eyes could wirelessly record everything to hard-drive. Ivie’s voice always a constant presence that Archer programmed as a balance between Mahalia Jackson and Greta Garbo. She had only the single owl tattoo, exposed on her neck, for already her body modifications were infinitely more intrusive and subversive. Luna walked out into the open space to find. Coffee steaming on the counter.

“Thanks,” Luna sat on the stool, “Who’s the other cup for?”

“Galla. Once she finishes what she is doing. Tell me about Chloe,” Archer smiled, as she left the column and joined her at the counter, “And does her name fit?”

Their bond one forged after Archers mothers death, where she found herself drifting delirious for months in fog which, once faded, she found Luna and Galla, patient and waiting. Archer could not have thanked them enough, seeing all the subtle things they had done. Luna shrugged and brushed off the thanks, her voice always voice soft and centred, pitched even across her words, Galla steady and balanced. Archer remembered Ivie had told her Luna’s name meant moon, and for lack of anything else to say, in the half grey, asked her as if it were true.

“Yes,” the slight then 15 year old with no hesitations in talking about whatever Archer could manage.

Archer took the diversion from her pain, and said, “My middle name is Selene.”

“Your name is Archer Selene?” her voice a gentle accented lilt, one she carried far less so now.

“Yes.”

“Your name means Bowman of the moon,” a thread connected between them, a spark of hope glimmered within Archer, the first glow out of the darkness, “names are important where I come from. Mine means Moon of the Celestial sphere. I’m the sky. You’re the protector.”

“I don’t feel like one.”

“The sky shelters you and illuminates your path as much as you protect it.”

“Are all people connected by names? Where are you from?”

“All people are connected, names are simply a representation of this. Like ours.”

“My mother’s name Cressida.”

“She’s not the only connection. A tree has many roots and leaves. Connects above and below.”

“You met Abraxas and Jamere. My father was Saber,” Archer’s voice relaxing deeper, mirroring the innate tranquillity in Luna’s.

Luna smiled, food broken apart on her plate, “Saber. The sword, strength. Cressida is gold, shines in the darkness. Abraxas is a powerful charm, and represents the mythical and the real, our seven classical planets — the star that glows at the centre, our moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Jamere is peaceful warrior.”

Archer smiled at her in love friend as she remembered all of their shared history.

“Um…” Luna blushed as she sighed, “What do you want to know?”

“Everything,” Archer snorted, “Galla is in love, already, with her. Jamere and Abraxas are as impressed as I’ve ever seen them.”

“That is allot to ask of someone still on shift…”

“Oh, please! Totally am pulling the boss angle…” Archer had, at 18, became a board member of Pacer along with Abraxas and Jamere, Cressida and Saber.

Luna sighed, “her name is Chloe Karmin Imani…”

“Luna! Really….this I know,” as laughter bubbled between them, “What does it mean…”

“Green life grown in an orchard of faith. She is kind. The first week — and I’m sure you’ve seen Ivie’s CCTV — she came at three am to have coffee, and give me a gift. She cooks lovely food….she smells like…” Luna shook her head as she drifted into sense memory, “…apples and cinnamon.”

“Awesome,” Archer said as Galla fell through the door and bounced up to the counter. She pulled at the coffee before greeting her friends, “So, Chloe?”

“Yup,” Archer laughed, “What else?”

“Hmmm. She makes me feel sweaty and nauseous, but in the most spectacular way. She’s the power to destroy me, but I trust her not too, feeling like this…I don’t know, it’s like I’m addicted to the, well everything, her taste, her smell…” Luna said, realising as she spoke that two words flashed across her mind — heart invasion — and it floods through her mind, as if an aftermath of a storm, leaving her utterly defenceless. Chloe had unequivocally invaded her heart, “She asked me to go to Lake St. Clair for a weekend.”

“When are you going?” Galla said, smugness rolling off of her.

“You’ve the weekend after next off. I’ll schedule you for your trip then,” Ivie broke in, “Unless you want me to switch your days off to this weekend?”

“Yes, Ivie, do it,” Archer said.

“NO!” Luna flushed, “Calm down, all of you! I wasn’t sure…”

“Don’t care…” Galla sniggered at Luna’s reaction, “totally have to go.”

“Stop forcing me…”Luna pulled Galla’s coffee cup away from her.

“But you want to go?” Archer asked, quelling the argument.

“I wish I hadn’t told you. Yes…” Luna gritted her teeth in resignation, “Ivie, put it in for next weekend.”

***

“That idea…the question you asked me?” Luna said over dinner the next night.

“Yes? About Lake St. Clair?”

“Yes. When were you suggesting?” Luna shrugged uncomfortably, “Because I’ve next weekend off.”

“After this one?”

“Yup.”

“Then absolutely.”

“You said the three live there…tell me more about them?” Luna asked.

“What more would you like to know?”

“Whatever you’d like to tell me,” Luna wanted to hear her voice.

“I told you Quin is an architect and renovated the cottage we will be staying in,” Chloe fell silent, unable to fully explain how Quin had created perfection in each of their individual suites, “We each have our own mini-apartment. Arlo’s is muted colours, soft and sleek. Quin gifted Caro with green, the earth and the sun, her rooms bright and warm and comforting, mine in hues of blue, full of the sea and the sky, the galaxy painted across my ceiling. Quin’s own rooms are of studious reflection, relaxed with bookshelves filling the space. She honoured the history of its heavy three shade grey quarry stone foundations, and modernised the interior so it’s full of bespoke touches and furniture. It feels like home. Quin built her reputation on this very tender restoration.”

Chloe contently sighed before continuing, “Caro worked here at a pharmaceutical company as a consultant. She’s a horticulturist, and was disgusted in herself for working for such a company. She spent ever increasing amounts of time escaping the banality of her job, to run off to the manor. It took three years before she quit and moved out permanently.”

Chloe tumbled into past years to when Caro moved beyond the trauma of her job and began to utilise her skills in a more holistic way and began to speak of the three in her soft, lyrical voice full of memories sifted through a lifetime of love, “The property edges onto the smaller of the great lakes in the chain, Lake Solstice, and a tributary offshoot snakes nimbly against the edge of our land. The soil is rich, heavy and thick. Caro flowed around the land, building a repertoire, creating patterns to work within the curvature of the ground, the structure confines of trees weaving their roots as if veins across the earth. She regrew herself as she seeded life to the ground.”

Luna watched Chloe saviour the history she shared with her friends. Chloe’s smile faulted as she said, “Arlo loved marketing. She stayed in the city the longest, completed her MBA, while I was at medical school and became very successful, building business and projecting trends. Arlo worked so much she did not notice life edged her into the corner. I was doing an intense neurosurgery internship. It became our only respite, the occasional trip we took to the Lakes.”

Shards of the past and future fractured against each other inside of Chloe’s voice, “Arlo was in a horrific traffic collision with multiple deaths and she moved out to Westwood to recover. Arlo set up Westwood Manor Garden Atelier for the creation’s Caro and Quin were already producing. Part of Arlo’s healing came with this renewed interest and dedication, designing the labels, logos and packages for the market stall. Arlo worked with local resources, collecting students for work experience and built connections between the all-year residents, summer residences and locally owned restaurants and hotels to capture the tourist market.”

“Why do you stay here?” Luna asked, drawn in by the perfection.

Chloe ruminated, knowing her career consumed her time as she went to the manor less and less. She still clinged to something in herself she needed to complete — still needing to hear the scream of the city.

“Because I’m not quite finished. Quin designed and renovated my apartment. I received the building my apartment is in, along with trusts and portfolio’s when I was twenty-five. It is the largest privately owned apartment building in the city. Caro was fundamental in the construction and growth of the penthouse garden. The city apartment, really, is an extension of the Manor.”

“So, this would be home ground. You’re actually taking me to home ground?” Luna echoed Chloe’s comments about Ash’s.

Chloe flushed, “Yes.”

Chloe’s waited in her car for Luna to finish work. Luna threw her backpack over, in-between the seats, kissing Chloe before she pulled out into traffic. The drive towards Lake St. Clair is intimidating for Luna, yet she is fascinated, watching the city fade and bigger satellite cities become smaller villages the further they drove. Chloe’s car is, of course, luxurious, and pristine. She drove like anything else in she did in her life, with assured sanguine confidence. Luna quietly observed Chloe.

“Luna?” Chloe reached over to tug Luna’s hand into her own.

“I’m okay,” Luna whispered in her nervousness.

“You can change your mind. We can just go back to the Ellysion?”

“No,” Luna said quickly, “I want to go. Really. I want to meet your friends.”

“It’s still okay to go back.”

“I would rather feel uncomfortable with you then be anywhere else,” Luna squeezed tightly and leaned back into the chair exhaling, wishing not to feel so inadequate.

“I would rather you feel comfortable.”

“I would possibly never leave the apartment. I’ll fell better when I know what to expect and that’ll only happen when we get their and I meet them,” knowing she would be judged against a relationship she could never have with Chloe, one of history interwoven within all their lives. The trilogy lived together longer than Luna had been alive and knew each other as intimately as Kai and herself. Like she wanted to know Chloe.

“Okay. Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For coming with me,” Chloe said, as she lifted their co-joined hands and kissed Luna’s.

This, their first trip together and Luna didn’t know how to balance herself on this rapidly shifting ground. Her mind wove against the lessons learned in her youth, her education balanced everyone against their inter-connectivity to everyone else. She knew Chloe Karmin Imani means blooming orchid faith — she is kissed by the moon and flourished. To sooth her nerves, she asked, “What is Caro’s name? Her full name…”

“Caroline Celestia Xanthe,” Chloe answered, the curve of her mouth adjusting into a smile, understanding Luna was asking because she believed names forecast the future while weaving the past together.

“And Arlo?” Luna continued after a moment.

“Arlo Kasumi Ryder,” Chloe waited for the inevitable question, wanting to hear her soft voice, provoking her in devastatingly beautiful ways.

“Quin?” Luna finally asked, sparking growing warmth radiating through Chloe.

“Quentin Zisa Weaver.”

Luna fell silent, the only noise the car engine and rush of wind hustling past the car. Chloe waited, wishing Luna would tell her if they were all as perfect as they seemed, if she could explain everything.

“Caro means strong golden one of heaven. Arlo knight of the mist hill. Quin is chrysalis weaver.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“Quin is transformation and protection. She provides safety, acceptance and habitat. Arlo is the protector, the warrior. She stands, physically, as the barrier, in front of anyone else. Caro is the visionary, the one with initiative and flight and she lights the path.”

Chloe smiled. She pretty much described the three to perfection. She thinks she knows the answer to the question she is about to ask, “I know you told me what my name means. How do they all fit in together?”

“You are sustenance, the healer. There are four directions, four parts of the compass, centring each other. Quin is home, which Arlo protects. Caro calls the direction. The four of you are the four corners. Together, you complete the circle.”

“And you control tides and water, gift the night with light,” Chloe said.

“Refracted light. Archer’s name means bowman of the moon. She is the protector. Galla is the Goddess’ gift, a healer princess,” Luna smiles, her voice stiffening and dropped to being barley audible, “Kai is the roots that keep us knitted to the ground, connected to earth and each other.”

Nothing further is said until Chloe added, “It’s just up here.”

“Cottage? I think you may have misunderstood what that means,” Luna replied as Chloe pulled past gates opened by the recessed button and into the driveway of the multi-storied stone building. Chloe grabbed Luna’s bag off the back seat, wavering her off to walk to the double wide wood doors.

“You’ve no luggage?”

“No, I keep stuff here.”

“Oh. Right. I forgot you kind of live here, too.”

Chloe twisted the handle, to push with her body against the giant curved wood door, as an overwhelming whine eliciting form the hinges. Chloe reached back beyond Luna’s bag for her hand and lead her into the foyer, pushing the door closed behind them. Mumbled voices hushed as the squeal of the door quietened.

“Chloe?’ a voice called from somewhere inside.

“Yes. You need to fix that door. We’ll be back in a minute,” Chloe called back as she lead Luna up the stairs to the third floor and down to the left wing, to her suite of rooms.

Light filtered through bay windows lining the walls looking out to the lake. The bed is huge and dominated the back wall, royal blue curtains tied against posts with ribbons to match the canopy. Chloe put her backpack on an overstuffed sofa, part of a mismatched set around a coffee table. Luna turned and released herself from Chloe to walk over to the spectacular view.

Chloe followed her, seeing the distant view on her face. This room alone was twice three size of Luna’s apartment. The window overlooking the Lake ran the length of the wall.

Breaching the gap, Chloe laid her hand over Luna’s chest, “Breath, Luna, out to my hand.”

“I’m okay,” Luna whispered, absorbing the lake in the sunlight while trying to balance her breathing, “I’m okay.”

“Luna,” Chloe wraps her hand around Luna and places it on the one already there, “please.”

“The conflict is always within myself. Always. It doesn’t matter what the struggle is, what the external pressure is. It’s mine, my struggle, motivating my unbalance. It is mine, how I survive. Its yours how you do,” Luna is integrating this place they had arrived at, clasping her hands over Chloe’s, balanced on her chest, accepting them in this precious space, “and every now and then, its ours.”

“Every time I think…” Chloe cupped Luna’s face and pulled her in, desperate to quell the humming within her, wild, free bees, vibrating out of her and interrupting her train of thought, her mind on fire as Luna leaned in haphazardly for a kiss, knowing these kisses are a completion within themselves.

It is disturbing how much Luna wanted to this, here, at this moment, living within the taste of Chloe on her lips, the ghost of her fingers against her skin, the deeply deadly impression she leaves against Luna’s soul. Chloe’s lips never falter, never relent in their pursuit of grounding them both within this moment all the same, this moment that nothing else exists, except their presences to one another perfect. Luna’s brain luminous, her body volcanic as she exists simply for loving the body wrapped in hers. There is no where else she could be at this point.

Moaning, Chloe whispered against Luna’s lips, “How?”

“Hmmm?” Luna whispered back, plucking kisses as she wished along the edge of forever, holding promises of the future.

“Make me feel…” their lips ghosted against each others again, making her fumble over her worlds, “…like there is no where else you would rather be.”

“Their isn’t,” Luna leaned in, caressing around Chloe’s mouth with her own thinking that she didn’t believe in perfection, she believed in beauty and love and kisses, “Really, kissing you is exactly where I should be. Want to be.”

“That simple, huh?”

“Absolutely. It is not within my brain or eyes, nor hands that I want to be creative, but in my heart and the blood it pumps around my body,” Luna drew her in again, kissing her breathless, taking away her voice again, centering her exactly where she was, perpetual motion love, “for this is what beats for you.”

Luna focused on reeling herself back in, focusing on first the lake, the jetty, the tree line to feel Chloe, warm and comforting. She shuddered her breath first, waiting before she took another, relaxing into Chloe’s presence, surrounding her own hands over the one extended with love. Minutes expanded around them until Luna untensed her body.

“Why is everything you have overwhelmingly stunning?”

“Why thank you. You’re stunning,” Chloe smirked, reaching out and offering her hand, “and thank Quin. Would you like the tour?”

“Absolutely,” Luna turned into Chloe, realising she is carrying around the weight of her love, as light as a feather, as heavy as the universe, vibrating within her, shaking out of her.

“That door is the bathroom, that’s the study, where the fridge and kettle are.”

“You have a kitchen? In your room?”

“Technically, it’s in the study. You’ll get familiar with what’s in here. Let’s go,” Chloe led her back towards the stairs, pointing to the two guest rooms on the other wing of the house and taking her down a level to the suites for Quin, Caro and Arlo, as well as one last guest suite before finally they hit the ground floor, filled with kitchen, dining and living areas. Luna watched her eagerly, observing Chloe’s supple manipulation of the space around her, even with her economy of movement, her particular particularities that are completely endearing.

The living room is where they found the three residents, circled within each other beyond the bounds of time, chatting, dulling Luna’s nerves as they quietly got to know each other, wound stories around questions, love folded within love. The three are intricately laced together, evoking a naturalness unseen by Luna before, so close their communication seemed telepathic, an unworldly trilogy of perfection.

“How was the weekend?” Galla asked.“Unbelievable. It’s not a cottage, it’s a mansion.”

“Really. How much of a mansion are we talking?”

“Chloe’s en-suite is bigger than out flat. I mean, so is the one in the penthouse, but still. It’s three stories and a basement. A cottage it definitely is not.”

“Oh…” Galla murmured, “don’t her friends live there?”

“Yes. Caro, Arlo and Quin. They’re all together,” Luna fluttered her fingers as she shrugged, “they run Westwood Manor Garden Atelier.”

“The preserve company? That explains those divine truffles she gave you that first week.”

“Mmm, did you try the chilli beetroot jam stuff that was more a jelly?”

“Oh, yeah,” Galla moaned, “actually, I think I still have it…”

Luna reached out and slapped Galla across the shoulder, “I totally blamed Kai for that!”

“Well…it was good, and you can get more now…so how else was it? How were her friends?”

“Indescribably peaceful,” Luna smiled, “they are delightful…calm, relaxed, harmonious. It was…” Luna opened her hands in front of her, “…they just were accepting and inclusive. I don’t know how else to say it. You know how we first met, and understood each other? Kind of that.”

“And they are all…” Galla repeated Luna’s action, fluttering her fingers.

“Yes. But it is another one of those things, I guess…” Luna smiled, “they simply are. You don’t really notice, because it all seems part of everything else.”

“I’m glad” Galla said, “we are all savages worshipping the ideals of love. Love makes you want to purse, to crawl out of darkness and into the light.”

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