“They’re gonna be upset, you know?”
“Oh, you don’t need to make it sound so dramatic!”
“It’s not me who’s being dramatic right now though. You can’t keep moping around, Kia. I’ve never seen you so hung up on someone like this before.”
“Hey. I’m not hung up on her okay? It’s difficult to explain. I just-”
“No let me simplify it then – you are in love with her and you don’t want to accept it because you’re afraid she doesn’t like you like that.”
Kia felt a strong urge to lie and deflect his logic with the shitty reasons she repeats to herself every night when she can’t fall asleep. But, she knew he wasn’t entirely wrong. And she hated that.
“I don’t think we both know enough to qualify what I feel as love. That’s the only comment I’ll be making.”
“You are incorrigible! Ugh! Anyway, if you’ve decided to mope around then so be it. I’ll let Dhruvika know you won’t be joining us.”
“Thank you, Kuuush.” She extended his name and her friend on the other side muttered a small goodbye in return. Kia knew she was being dramatic, but she did not have the mental energy to meet new people right now, especially if new people included her friend’s new boyfriend. Being around couples was the last thing she needed.
She felt a movement to her left and looked up; it’s the stranger she saw almost every other day on this train route. They had gotten up and stood near the door. They both had travelled probably a hundred kilometres together in the last year yet she still did not know their name. There’s a comfort in their presence, though; they had exchanged several smiles and knowing looks when someone said something funny very loudly, even though they had never said a word to each other.
“I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. It’s absolutely none of my business, but,” they paused, and Kia peered up at them quizzically. It startled her a little to feel their voice directed at her. “Someone once told me that it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”
They stifled a laugh at her cluelessness. “I mean I know it sounds like a load of shit, but hey! If one’s already hurting over unspoken rejection, might as well just go all the way and get a confirmation, you know? What’s the worst that could happen? You’d be in pain? As if that’s already not a thing. Equation remains balanced nonetheless, you know what I mean?” they finished with a shrug.
By the time Kia could fashion a coherent response, the train reached their station and they gave her a smile before stepping off to the platform, only for her to be left to stare blankly at their retreating figure. A loud crack of thunder roared in the background as the train rolled on.
Well, that was weird.
Rain had never been Kia’s favourite. Even as a child, she associated rains with every negative emotion in her limited repertoire. Growing up, the feelings associated with this gloomy weather only got worse. And today of all days, Kia thought the weather perfectly reflected the turmoil she felt inside; the loud crackling thunder voiced her own soundless screams of helplessness, the bountiful raindrops, pelting down as hard as rocks, too closely resembled the tears she couldn’t bring herself to shed and the cloudy, sunless void shadowed the numbness she felt within her bones. So, to her, the weather seemed perfectly befitting to be absolutely pissed to the highest points of piss-tivity.
Vandana opening the door, wearing a bunny t-shirt and fuzzy socks, did manage to soften her from within, but Kia wasn’t ready to drop her dramatic act yet.
“You look like an angry cat that fell in a bucket full of water.” An amused smile played on her lips.
“I am really not in the mood right now, V.” She muttered as she started moving inside the gate. But before Kia could step in, Vandana stopped her right as she lifted her foot, as she retrieved a soft towel that sat on the stool near the door and proceeded to bring that towel near Kia’s face. Kia stood there silently, while Vandana tussled her hair and soaked the excess water dripping from her hands and face into the towel. Kia’s heart pained with this display of affection and she almost let out a few tears of frustration.
“Okay step in now, soldier. Take your shoes off just here, I’ll pick ‘em up when they’ve dried. Go change, I’ll put the kettle on for you.” As she stepped aside, Kia walked in with her heart heavier than before, vision blurred by the tears she was still not willing to shed. Kia wanted to scream at Vandana, tell her to stop being so kind and helpful and cute and lovely and…
She threw her wet bag on the chair when she stepped in her room, but before she could start taking off her drenched clothes, Vandana barged in casually.
“Why aren’t you screaming about how much you hate monsoons today now that you’ve finally been soaked?” Kia turned to look at Vandana’s face to call out her faux-genuine concern. But she only found knitted eyebrows and a creased forehead staring back at her. She didn’t understand how Vandana was capable of seeing through Kia’s façade without any difficulty. How did Vandana learn about her so thoroughly, to know every silence’s meaning without Kia ever spelling it out for her?
“Maybe getting my clothes and hair wet were all the signs I needed to finally stop crying about it. Go out, let me change now.”
“Ha-ha, funny. I know that isn’t it. Also, I don’t mind seeing you change. So out with it, pun intended.” Vandana winked. Kia could only sigh.
“V, you shouldn’t say things like that! Please, just believe me you don’t wanna know.” Kia felt bile rise in her throat at the thought of confessing the things that have kept her awake. How she craved V’s warmth on her skin, how she yearned to touch her lips and kiss and bite and let Vandana take over everything she had to offer. It immobilised Kia on a regular basis – the strength of her desires – but the fear of losing Vandana over something like this awakened her fears simultaneously.
“K, need I remind you that I once heard your two-hour long rant, fuelled by weed and pizza, about how Shrek and Fiona’s relationship represents the most culturally important depiction of love for our generation? I did not want to know that, but I did like it. So, try me, please?” Vandana pouted for a good five seconds before Kia softened over her puppy eyes, defeated.
“I’ll-uh-ugh…okay just turn around and I’ll-I’ll speak.” Kia stuttered and Vandana, smiling triumphantly, turned around in a second. Ah shit, here goes nothing, Kia prepared herself mentally. “Well, um. I have been struggling with uh, trying to un-understand what we both are. As in where we both stand, you know?” Kia huffed her way through, while pushing her wet jeans off.
“Okay…not sure if I follow you, but keep going.” She heard Vandana think out loud and braced herself. While putting on a fresh pair of pyjamas, she continued, “I mean, I don’t know who we both are for each other. V, I…I’ve had many female friendships in my life. And I’ve been close with many of them, I know what female friendships look like. But with you…with you, I don’t know. It’s different? I don’t understand it, but it just feels unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You-you do things for me that no other friend has ever done,” she emphasised. “You take care of me, you learn to cook new things for me because you know I’ll like them, you bring me things I mention in passing and surprise me with them, you kept these dry clothes and a towel ready for me at the gate because you knew I’d be angry and wet! Even my mother hasn’t done that last bit for me, V.”
“And I don’t know! Shit, I might as well be overthinking or reading too much into things or just being stupid, but god! I don’t know if friends act like that! I have seen you with your friends, and I see how you act with them and I can’t help but feel a difference, or maybe its just me fucking wishing for a difference.” Kia laughed humourlessly. Her thoughts whirred in her mind rapidly and Vandana’s silence only made her more nervous. So, she continued blabbing.
“I don’t want to cross any lines but fuck, I don’t even know where they start! I want so many things but I’m so scared, V. I’m so scared of doing something or saying something. Scared of losing you because of it. I don’t want to lose what we have…but fuck, I also want so much more. I want…I want you. But I don’t know where you stand! Because what if it’s all just me? What if all that I’m noticing is what I want to happen when in reality, none of that exists? What if I’m just your good friend?” Kia felt tears running down her cheeks as she threw her top on the ground. Her hands trembled as she picked up a dry shirt and started putting it on. Her nervous fingers struggled to button it up and she sobbed out of frustration.
Suddenly, she felt arms on her waist, turning her around. She turned to see Vandana’s placid eyes shift with an emotion she couldn’t put a finger on. Vandana tucked her hair behind her ear, grazing her cheek with her knuckles ever so slightly. Kia shivered under that slightest of touch and closed her eyes. Vandana cradled her cheek with one hand as she moved her face close to Kia’s neck. Her lips sent jolts of electricity down Kia’s spine and she unconsciously tilted her head to allow Vandana more places to explore.
“Is this what you want?” Vandana sighed into the crook of her neck as Kia nodded numbly. “Say it,” Vandana whispered in her ear, trailing her lips along Kia’s jaw.
“Yes,” Kia whispered back and that jolted Vandana into action as she kissed fervently along the side of her face, kissing her jaw, the pulse on her throat that beat loudly, biting her ear, nosing her cheek. With every new kiss, she asked Kia, “And this?” Kia replied “yes”. Vandana’s warm hands found their way under Kia’s shirt, holding her tightly by her waist, digging her short-clipped nails into her skin. Kia wanted to scream, every inch of her body felt like a minefield that Vandana’s lips tiptoed around, bursting waves of sensations into her nerves, making her knees weak with anticipation, pleasure – a pool of want swarming in her stomach.
Vandana’s hands snaked their way up the front of Kia’s stomach, her nimble fingers trailing the outline of her breasts. Vandana pulled her face out of her collarbones and looked directly at Kia’s red and swollen lips that she had bit onto, to stop the rampant noises that dared to escape her mouth, catching them in her throat. Kia opened her eyes to see Vandana staring back at her with a question floating in her eyes. Kia felt herself lean in, as if her lips hid a magnet that can’t help but be attracted to whatever promise Vandana’s mouth held. It was natural – how easily they fit into each other’s mouths. Their hot breaths mingled in a steamy embrace as lips clashed softly aagainst lips. Kia felt V’s hands pulling her even closer, no space dared exist between them in that moment, as Kia tangled her hand in her hair.
They kissed for who knows how long. Kia lost her grip on reality and drowned in the pleasure she derived from Vandana’s lips. Their hands roamed through each other’s bodies, stopping to caress at places, to hold on tighter. Their lips melted together in perfect sync and the noises of their wet kiss filled the echoey room they stood in. Vandana parted their lips as they both kept their eyes closed, breathing in each other’s breaths, faces still close. Kia realised that the rain had stopped. She opened her eyes and saw Vandana staring back at her, eyes glinting, lips bitten red, hair tousled around her forehead. The setting sun threw shards of bright golden light in the room, filling up the atmosphere with the warmth Kia felt in the pit of her stomach.
Vandana finally broke the silence, “So…how long have you been assuming I’m straight?” Kia blushed furiously.
“In my defence, assuming you were straight was the less painful option. I didn’t want to think you were queer because I guess that would’ve meant that you do like girls, but you just… don’t like me. I didn’t want to deal with those thoughts, so I just chose an option that helped me stay in denial?” Kia confessed, eyes hung down in shame. She thought Vandana might pity her stupidity, but she tipped Kia’s chin up and kissed her softly on the lips. The kiss wasn’t heated like the one before, but there was a firmness in it that grounded Kia’s wavering thoughts.
“I can’t believe how you manage to make your high Shrek feelings sound so coherent and confident, while your own damn sober feelings are all over the place.” Vandana giggled and poked Kia’s stomach with her finger. Kia whined loudly. Even when she daydreamed about telling Vandana about her feelings, Kia never thought that that ogre would play such a huge role in that scenario. It all felt like a dream to her; she feared she was going to wake up any second and realise that she was still on the train and all of this was just her mind playing tricks on her.
But as she stared into Vandana’s eyes, sparkling in the golden light that spilled into the room, and felt her heart beating rapidly against her throat, she knew. This was happening, this was real, Vandana would not disappear if Kia tried to touch her. The reality felt as bizarre as any dream Kia had ever had. All her fears melted away in the mellowness of Vandana’s touch; she was awash in an amber glow.
And as Vandana whispered to her: “We’ll figure this out together, K,” Kia felt like a blue sky after stormy clouds cleared; she sensed within herself a clarity she hasn’t experienced in ages. She believed without a doubt.