I'm not completely sure I like Kate...until I'm cleaning and she brings another woman over. They're both laughing as they walk through the door, and I've never seen Kate blush, but her cheeks are actually red and she's touching her hair like you see girls in romantic movies do around guys they like.
"Zoe, this is Victoria," she smiles as she introduces us. "Victoria, this is my friend, Zoe." She explicitly called me her friend. But she didn't say exactly what she is to her.
Victoria is tall and slim, with long, shiny, blonde hair and luminous blue eyes. Her skin is pale and she's wearing skin-tight jeans and a floral top that shows off the top of her lacey, dark blue bra. To sum it up, she's a total knockout.
"'Ello, Zoe. It is very nice to meet you," she smiles sweetly, shaking my hand and leaning in to kiss both my cheeks. Oh, to make it even worse, she's French. I can't possibly compete with her!
"I'm gonna be writing about Victoria on my blog, so I wanted to take some pictures and get all of the information straight from the source! And why wouldn't I wanna get some pictures of this gorgeous work of art?" she teases, tickling Victoria under her chin and making her giggle.
"Oh, Katherine, you are such a tease!" she squeals, her porcelain cheeks turning red under Kate's flirting.
"The very best, mademoiselle! This way to the kitchen. I'll make you some tea." And as if she's rubbing it in my face, she offers her arm to her like she's a gentleman and escorts her to the kitchen.
I just stand in the living room, trying to ignore the twisting ache in my chest. How could she? How could she bring another woman home? How could she flirt with her right in front of me like I didn't matter? She doesn't expect to let her stay the night, does she? I mean, I'm not living here anymore because break is over, but...
I try to distract myself with the rest of my cleaning; dusting all of Kate's geeky knick-knacks and making sure her books are standing upright. I do my best not to eavesdrop on her and Victoria's conversation. What's so interesting about her that Kate wants to write about her on her blog? (And not me.) I shake my head at the jealous thought. I've never gone onto her blog; mostly out of worry that I'll be delving too deep into a side of her that I'm not sure she wants me to see. She writes stories, interviews people, writes reviews about movies and TV shows, normal things that people do on blogs and stuff, right? But it's her blog; what if she doesn't want me to know that side of her just yet? Or ever?
I can't help but go to the kitchen when I have to clean it. Victoria and Kate are sitting at the tiny table that Kate and I sometimes sit at if we're too tired to make it to the couch. Kate has her laptop open, and it looks like it's recording their conversation, but at the same time, she has a notebook and pencil and she's scribbling down notes.
"So, how did your parents react when you told them about your lifestyle?" she asks Victoria.
"Zey were surprised," Victoria laughs shakily. "Zey thought I was joking. 'Who WANTS to be dominated?' zey shouted. Espeically my mother. She wanted me to be strong. And I felt...weak, when she yelled at me. I don't think it's weak, to want to be taken care of."
"I don't think you're weak," Kate tells her softly. "Knowing when you need to be taken care of should be taken as a sign of courage. Accepting that should be a badge of bravery."
My heart skips a beat at her words. Is that how she saw me when she "took me in"? That I was strong when I accepted her help?
"Zat is why I like you so much, Katherine," Victoria sighs. "You make me feel like I am worth somezing."
"My goal in life is to make every woman feel that she's worth everything," Kate replies. "Satisifed customer?"
Victoria whimpers, and I've heard that kind of whimper before, in a million different pornos. "Afraid not, mon cherie."
"Sorry, my little porcelain doll. I'm off the market right now," Kate tells her.
"Aww, really? But I'll be so good for you. I promise!"
My blood is beginning to burn beneath my skin. My heart is thudding in my chest. Why can't she take a damn hint?
"As much as I'm sure you'd be my good little girl, I can't take you in, love," Kate tells her firmly.
"But, mon cher-"
"She said 'no', dammit!" I shout, unable to take it anymore. "Stop acting like a goddamn baby and move on!"
Victoria stares at me with wide eyes, but Kate immediately stands, and my stomach drops at the unnaturally calm look on her face. She takes the cleaning rag and spray from my hands and sets them on the counter before firmly grasping my arm. Too scared to resist, I let her take me to the living room, expecting her to make me sit on the couch like my past punishments, but I'm shocked when she pulls me over to the corner by the TV instead.
"Hands behind your back," she orders in that firm voice. I have no choice but to do as she says and place my hands behind my back. "Nose in," she adds.
"What?" I snap.
"Nose. In." Her sharp voice makes my stomach flip. So I immediately push my nose into the corner, feeling the awkwardness of the position and the heat of her gaze on me, but I can't see her now. "Fifteen minutes. Absolute silence. You will not speak, you will not move, until I call for you."
I hear her walk away, and I desperately want to turn my head and look at her. But I know that if I do, I'll only get in trouble longer. I shouldn't have shouted. I shouldn't have snapped at Victoria. Kate can handle herself. It wasn't my place. And Victoria probably would've backed off eventually. I can't believe I was such an idiot. What if Kate hates me now? What if when she took the cleaning supplies away from me, that was her telling me that she doesn't want me over anymore? What if she doesn't want anything to do with me anymore?
Tears roll down my cheeks before I can stop them. I bite my lip to hold back sobs; she said "absolute silence". I don't want her to hate me! Without her, I'll have no one! Mike and Nicole gave up on me and Mom and Dad barely talk to me! She's the only person in the whole world who gives a damn about me! I don't want to ruin that! I love her!
"...you're sure you don't wanna stay at my friend, Alicia's?" I hear Kate ask as she and Victoria enter the living room.
"Don't worry, mon cher. I am perfectly happy to stay at a hotel," Victoria replies. I hear the door being opened. "Thank you for the tea."
"Thanks for the interview. It'll take me about a week to sort it out and post it on my blog."
"I look forward to it! Au revoir!"
"Take care, darling." The door shuts, and my heart pounds as I hear Kate's footsteps as she moves about and settles on the couch. My fifteen minutes must not be up yet.
I swallow and continue to bite my lip to hold back the flood of tears that threaten to crush me. A few keep managing to escape and fall onto the floor because of the way my face is tilted into the wall. My stomach is twisting and churning with anxiety. What will she say? Will she kick me out and tell me to never come back? Will she finally be angry with me? This isn't like me knocking over books or forgetting to mow the lawn.
After what feels like hours of agonizing waiting, I hear Kate say, "Zoe, come here." She sounds calm, but my stomach is so knotted that I feel like I might throw up. I turn around and keep my hands behind my back and my eyes on the floor as I walk over to stand in front of her. "Look at me."
Still having tears rolling down my cheeks, I look up at her. Even with what I did, she looks like the one that's upset. "Oh, honey, don't cry," she coos, reaching up to wipe my cheeks. "I'm not mad at you. I promise."
The flood bursts, and I suddenly just can't control myself. She's not mad at me. She doesn't hate me. She called me "honey". She's not mad at me. I cry and gasp and feel myself being moved, and then warm arms are wrapped around me and I blush when I realize I'm straddling her lap, but she's rubbing my back and hushing me and I can't find myself wanting to be anywhere else. And the crying starts all over again.
I don't know how long I sit here in her lap, choking out sobs into her shoulder. At one point, she starts to rock me, running her fingers through my hair. By the time I'm hiccuping and sniffling, I'm so exhausted and tired that I can't even lift my head.
"Now, stay awake and listen," Kate starts in a gentle voice. "I'm not mad at you. Victoria was making you very jealous, wasn't she?" I nod my head lazily. "And I wasn't helping, calling her all those pet names and flirting with her in front of you. I should've known better, and I'm sorry."
I find the strength to grip her shirt and bury my runny nose and teary face in her shoulder. "Y'were mean."
She huffs at that. "Yes, I was. I said I was sorry!" She reaches around and manages to rub a bit of my stomach, easing the twists and making me feel even better. "I just...Remember when I told you I would be your friend and I wasn't trying to woo you? Fuck, I was being serious back then, but you're just..." She sighs, ruffling my hair. "You're so cute and smart and I love listening to you rant about school and your professors. I love watching you run around the house and cook and work on homework because it's just so you. It was only a matter of time before I fell in love with you, honey."
I feel my chest warm immensely at her words, my stomach twisting a little again. Is she really serious? Does she really love me? She's never lied to me before. My hands grip her shirt even tighter.
"Hey, hey, it's all right, sweetheart," she murmurs, holding me closer. She feels so warm and soft and I want to fall asleep right here in her lap. "Go ahead and sleep. I'll still be here when you wake up." She kisses the top of my head and continues to rub my back, one of her hands searching untl she finds the remote for the TV. She turns it on low and leans back, pulling a blanket over my shoulders. I've never felt more taken care of.
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