Elliot sighed into the cradle of her arms, stirring from her doze to shift lazily from her stomach to her side. Laura was just settling onto the lawn chair beside her, built like a teapot and with a temperament to match, holding the offered drink at arm’s length as though it might bite her. Elliot huffed an amused laugh, sitting up and reaching for the offering with quirk of her lips.
“Something must be wrong for you to be buttering me up with alcohol.”
It was a mocking remark, but Laura blushed and ducked away from Elliot’s gaze. The red tinged her pale skin from ear to shoulder, as much an admittance as her having stated it outright.
“Can’t your girlfriend buy you a drink every once in a while? And besides, it’s a virgin.”
Interest peaked, Elliot accepted the glass, the icy condensation sliding beneath her fingers. She rolled her eyes at the first sip because yes, it was a virgin sangria, but she returned her gaze to her flushed partner promptly. Laura was glaring restlessly at her hands, fingertips twisting and untwisting in her skirt absently. Though Elliot would have enjoyed to continue napping in the warm afternoon sun, her fiancée deserved her full attention.
“Well, come on then. Spill the beans already so we can sort this out like the adults we’re always claiming to be.”
Laura flinched, drawn from her contemplation to glare unhappily at Elliot’s tone. Her gaze shifted to the other pool-goers, enjoying the resort facilities as well as the beautiful weather. At the other end of the pool sat a middle-aged man overlooking a brood of children playing a rather heated game of Marco Polo; an older woman was engaging in a rather inappropriate match of tonsil tennis with the gentleman she had arrived with, ignored by most patrons and avoided by young families; a recently married couple had made their displeasure well-known to both Elliot and Laura, condemning them for their sinful ways, glaring at the women every few minutes from their perch on the settee three lawn chairs to their right; and there was, of course, the handful of tourists that were more interested in taking pictures of their meals rather than enjoying the spectacular views.
“Elli… can we get out of here for a while? Please?”
This concerned Elliot. Laura never begged. Not ever. Not even when Elliot was- well, anyway. The shift from strong, self-assured and confident to cautiously sensitive had Elliot tripping over herself to be free of the beach towel draped over her legs. This vacation, as well as their engagement, hadn’t exactly been a walk in the park of lesbianism, and she could feel her heart leaping into her throat at the implications.
“Of course, babe. Lead the way.”
They rose, their drinks growing warm and forgotten as Elliot followed her lover from the bustling pool to the glittering waves the resort was so popular for. Their feet sinking into the sand with each step, the women walked steadily further from the prying eyes and blatant disapproval of their fellow vacationers. The late afternoon light shone from the horizon as the sun made to meet the sea, and Laura proceeded to wade purposefully into the clear saltiness, sitting harshly as the shallow water shook around her.
“Sit with me?”
Elliot did so, bemusement clear on her solid features. Laura’s sundress floated around her like a thick cloud, or ink spilled on water, catching against Elliot’s limbs softly as she sat beside her fiancée.
Laura sighed deeply, swaying her hands through the water in time with the incoming waves. The water was cooler than Elliot had expected, untouched by the brilliant warmth of the bright day star or simply chilled by its eager disappearance. Elliot waited, shifting anxiously at her partner’s side.
“Elli, he’s not coming.”
It was barely a whisper, hoarse and strained as though she hoped she could take it back. Laura’s eyes were red and her face a mess of blotchy pink and stained with black specks of mascara, though she wouldn’t have cared an ounce about it, staring apologetically through her clumped eyelashes.
“I know, Laura.”
Her words are just as soft, acknowledgement and resignation layering the words in a deep shadow of sadness neither woman quite dares to address. They had expected it, if nothing else, but it didn’t make the disappointment hurt any less.
“He said,” Laura hissed, jaw clenched and finger curling into fists as the clear waves broke against her body. “He would have come to the wedding of his son, were his son not pretending to be a woman.”
Heart lurching, Elliot turned to face Laura fully, the waves rippling away from the sharp movements of her body.
“Honestly, Laura, we knew this would happen. Since when did his opinions matter to us anyway?”
Her voice had risen in her agitation, her own emotions impossible to conceal; the hurt, the resigned pain of being held in so little regard by ones family. They had both known what the answer would be, and they had thought themselves prepared for the refusal. Laura hunched down in the water, the gentle waves lapping just under her breasts as she hugged her knees to her chest.
“He accepted the marriage then, I wish he’d just get over himself and accept it now.”
There was an air of petulance about the words, though they were said softly, errantly, as though they were a mere stray thought spoken without intent.
“I know, Laura. I’m sorry.”
The words don’t seem to break through the fog of ire clouding Laura’s sharp mind. Elliot could do nothing but wait for the storm to pass, though she wished it were a storm less intent on harm. They fight, sometimes, as all couples do, but never enough to smother the spark of friendship and desire. The business with Elliot’s father was always a sore spot for the both of them.
“He told me once that we were both naïve for thinking this would work out. He was convinced you’d either go crawling back to your family, or leave me without a thought for somebody else.”
It hurt, hearing those words pass her lover’s lips, as cold as the waters they were swayed by as the sun started to sink below the horizon. Elliot shifted, focusing on her knees sinking in the sand below them, avoiding the heavy gaze of her fiancée.
“You know that’s not true, though, right?”
She couldn’t help the tremor her voice held, making to pull away from the woman sitting before her. Laura was never one to sugar coat her truths, and on most occasions Elliot adored this trait; as far as entertainment value went, watching her lover raise a sceptical brow and calmly school all who opposed her was nearly unparalleled.
“Of course I know that’s not true, Elliot. If I’d thought it was I wouldn’t have proposed to you, dumbass.”
The call of gulls as they cry for food echoed the joyous cries of admiration for whatever act the resort staff had paid for that night. Elliot’s eyes had closed, her forehead resting against Laura’s and a bright giggle breaking past her sun-chapped lips.
“I’m sorry he doesn’t understand.”
And she is. Her father was once her confidant; he knew her as his son, and as soon as Elliot started questioning that fact, her father started pushing her away. He didn’t appreciate his son demeaning himself in such a way, soiling the family name with his wicked intent to be a woman. Think of Laura, he would insist. She wouldn’t accept you like that. But Laura had, and Laura always would.
“No, I’m sorry you have to put up with their ignorance.”
The soft press of lips against her nose convinced Elliot to raise her eyelids, lift her own lips to press against her fiancée’s, still set to scowl at an injustice meant for one, but felt by both. Neither woman moves to escalate the kiss; just the slight brush of sea-salt lips would render them both equally unwound.
“I never do, since I’ve got you.”
She smiled, coy and light despite the pain she still felt deep in her chest, pulling her aching heart for a loss long felt. Laura huffed an indignant laugh but shared the smile of her lover, the gentle waves swaying their bodies closer, though their knees had sunk in the wet sand long ago.
“That’s so cheesy, Elli, I’m serious. It’s not your fault those arseholes can’t deal with your transition.”
The gleaming conviction in Laura’s eyes moved Elliot, as it always had, to a degree that her heartache was soothed into silence. Her cheeks warmed at the words, ruddy by the dim light of a sun almost completely set.
“I know. Laura. And thank you.”
She grasped the hand of her lover, pulling the cold limb to her lips to kiss Laura’s fingertips one by one, tasting the lingering salt of the ocean. Far off a cruise ship tugged away into the ever-darkening horizon, the backlash of the waves pushing the lovers askance as the sea made room for its passage.
“Why are you thanking me, I haven’t done anything?”
A cheer erupted from the distant resort, blending in with the soft crashing of waves upon the shore. Fire dancers, Elliot thought blandly. She ducked her head, glancing through her lashes at Laura and raising a manicured brow in bemused consideration.
A laugh pulled itself from Laura’s confused features, eyes crinkling in satisfaction. She pulled Elliot into a hard embrace, arms wrapping around the woman tight enough they ached with it, both laughing now. The heaviness of their conversation gets swept away with the darkened waters the women sit within.
“Yeah, well, you didn’t think you could get rid of me that easily, did you?”
They stayed there like that, as the waves tug around them, steadily growing deeper as the sun finally lets go of the horizon and the stars begin to dot the darkening sky. The chill of the air began to set into the chill of the ocean, though both women had ignored their matching gooseflesh and slight tremors for long enough to be startled by it.
“Do you want to go back to the hotel and order enough food to feed a small village?”
The women rose, water slipping over their bodies and rippling into the waves rushing to shore. Laura’s dress dripped steadily, leaving a trail of droplets through the sand as they made their way up the long abandoned beach. The cool air caressed their damp skin, teeth clicking as the shivers settle into their bones.
“You know me so well.”
Laura chuffs, rolling her eyes. Her arms were hugged against her in the hopes of warding off the chill, even a little, and Elliot ducked in close to press a soft kiss to Laura’s temple. Hip check, arm swing, and now Laura was huddled against the body of her love, swaying together along the torch lit path back to their hotel room.
“I love you, you know?”
Whispered into Laura’s ear, the words curled tight and sat low in her chest, a ball of warmth not even the prickling cold of night could touch. She sighed, content with her lot no matter the hurdles they’ve both had to jump. She knows that Elliot feels much the same, and so the refrain was familiar as it slipped past her salt-chapped lips.
“I know. I love you too.”