Emberly and Sahar only met in the confines of a bedroom; not for sex, but for more intimate affairs. They met for some time after enough nights of fooling around in a car, but the more time they spent together, the sexual tension stripped itself gave way to movie nights and hair brushing. Together, they were a cute couple, but the proximity was soon unwelcome.
The nine years between them erected a leviathan on their shoulders, until Sahar pushed to keep their affair a secret. Emberly agreed though she didn’t know why. She was a twenty-five-year-old woman capable of making her own decisions, and no amount of logic rounded out Sahar’s decision. Nights like tonight when they got too chummy, Sahar would remind her that they weren’t a couple.
“Sure we’re not.” Emberly replied, her wink getting more lackluster with repetition.
Sahar’s sigh rumbled the bed as she pulled away. “I’m serious.”
Instead of fighting back, Emberly conceded with a weak, “I know.”
She did know, too beautifully, that the evening dwindled from there because the dubiety grabbed the older girl by the shoulders and wrung her out at every corner until she was dry.
Emberly wanted more, much more than Sahar was willing to give.
Crawling across the bed, Emberly brushed the underside of Sahar’s arm before kissing her shoulder and collarbone, watching her girl caramelize into the warmth of blankets. Emberly took this as her chance to kiss and feel more until she was straddling her bare legs over flat, tired hips.
“Oh.” Sahar raised an eyebrow. “We’re doing this now?”
“Do we ever do anything else?” The quip came with more spite than she intended, an apology forming the instant the words came out.
“It’s alright,” Sahar said, cupping her hands behind her bed, elbows forming a triangle over the glittering pillow. After a moment, Sahar embraced her, rubbing erroneous patterns across her back.
Emberly couldn’t help herself. “I love you so much.”
With that, Sahar bodily pushed her away, and the last strand of her lover’s understanding wanted to concede with the blow.
The very sight of this cycle repeating woke the nervosa in her throat, making it impossible to speak. Instead, Emberly focused on what made Sahar her girl. On the onset of her down doubt, it was easy to sit back and pluck the blessings.
Sahar was at the end of the bed, lying on her stomach, ankles crossed above her backside. Brown hair fell down her neck and face, framing the picasso jasper eyes of a girl more yellow on the tongue than she was in the iris. Her speaking voice, hard and raspy and burnt, gave clipped sentences and short bursts of affection; her pulpy fingers overexerting themselves in secret devotion.
This side of Sahar was the easiest to be around, the duck soup Emberly swallowed in spite of her wicked throat that wanted to grab their unsaid words by the collar. Force them to grow up, spit in the face of conflict.
When Emberly opened her eyes, Sahar was focused on the cat, scratching his stomach and calling him a ‘turd muffin.’
When Sahar did roll back over, a pout settled on her face. “What’s the matter?”
Toying with a loose thread on her nightgown, Emberly danced with the idea of dropping the matter before stomping on its foot and embracing her rage. She was ready to be angry, but not to start crying as she said, “Why are you doing this to me?”
Sahar sat up, went back, and collected Emberly in her lap before hardening her gaze. “What do you want from me, Emberly?”
Without rest, Emberly shot off a whole list, from dinner dates, to park walks, to meeting family members; seeing each other gorged in sunlight, and moon drenched serenades being some requisite bounty.
“I want a relationship. I’m too old to be playing games.”
Sahar was reticent. “It’s not a game until we let it become one.”
Emberly let her head be held against Sahar’s chest and a shirt that read, ‘laissez les bons temps roulez,’ one of her many souvenirs of their nights at the nearby lesbian bar.
“It should be ‘rouler.’”
“Your shirt is incorrect. There is no ‘we,’ at the end of that sentence. The verb should be unconjugated.”
Shoulders shrugged around her teary cheeks. “I don’t think Bleu Pub cares about accurate French.”
“I do,” Emberly said. “I care too much.” Shaking her head, Emberly tried to get free, but Sahar didn’t move to let her go.
“We need to talk this out,” Sahar said.
“I’ve said everything I needed to—”
“You are twenty-five. I am thirty-four.”
This was the first time that fact scrabbled from the crevices of their denial. Sahar said it again, the words unsteady against both of their eardrums.
Trying to rectify their tender mood, Emberly joked, “Nine’s always been my lucky number.”
A condescending ‘tsk’ came from the older woman’s tongue. “This isn’t a joking matter. It’s a big year gap to some people, nine years.”
“Yes, thank you,” Emberly spat. “I know how to count.”
“It’s not just that. We’re getting into new territory.”
“Your ex-partner was twelve years older than you.”
The mention of that woman was a low blow, and Emberly saw that tension pass Sahar’s eyelids. That isn’t relevant here. Edrea was abusive and didn’t give me the right to choices.”
Regardless of the validity of that statement, Emberly knew Sahar sat where she did before. “Are you worried about what your friends think more than you do about me?”
Sahar was slow to deny the accusation, again stating that Emberly didn’t know what she was getting into.
Yanking herself free, Emberly stood up. “I love you. Go ahead; act like you didn’t hear me, but I know you did.” Her shaking voice rose, loud enough for to scare the cat out of the room; hell, the moon could peak in their window at this point for all she cared. Emberly was unrecognizable, fury eyed and fists balled at her sides, unafraid of letting her temper escalate so quickly. “What I doubt, at this point, is if you even care about me.”
“You know I do.”
“Then what is your problem? Am I not good enough for you? Too stupid, too naive?”
Sahar didn’t stir or give a reaction, having the audacity to play it cool. “I don’t want to put you through this Emmie-love.”
Emberly’s rancor glitched at the use of her nickname typically reserved for the emotional highs of love making. “Do you think I’m just some shelfable good time?”
It was Sahar’s turn to pause. “You know damn well that I don’t.”
Emberly stared her straight in the eye as she stripped off her nightgown, worked her hair into an up-do, stepped back into her dress and shoes. “Then prove it.”
Sahar didn’t move, absently scratching at the duvet.
“Get dressed, come down to Bleu with me. Like we used to do before that first night we were together. Have a drink, dance a bit, hold my hand like a goddamn human being. Because we are either together or we’re not, age gap or not, I don’t have the patience to wait for you to do the right thing.”
Sahar still didn’t move, looking sheepishly away and her exhale dropped a bout of panic to the ground.
Realizing why, Emberly stalked over and grabbed her chin. “You are not Edrea, and I am not you.” Quick kiss on the lips. “I can have some control in this situation too.” She walked to the door. “If we’re not together, I plan on walking out that door alone.”
Sahar was now crying, but trying to hide the complication. “We have a good thing here, Emmie-love.”
The sugar coat was easier to shed the second time. With a roll of her shoulders, Emberly was able to face the door. “Are you coming with me or not?”
Anna Keeler is a queer poet and fiction writer living in the greater Orlando area. Her work has been published or is upcoming with Poets.org, Deep South Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, After the Pause, The Indian Review, Ghost Parachute, The Flash Fiction Press, and more.