“Is everything ready?” Leila was standing in the doorway. Her fair hair was placed high on the top of her head in a messy yet somehow elegant bun, Nonnie wondered how she did it.
“You look nice.” She smiled. “Quite the birthday girl.”
“Want me to fix your hair?” Leila came into the kitchen and walked towards Nonnie with her hands reaching out. “You’ve done so much, I feel like I need to repay you somehow.”
Nonnie stepped out of Leila’s reach with a laugh. She looked at the hallway mirror that she could see all the way from the kitchen. She looked like she did usually, her unruly blonde hair framing her face. She hadn’t done anything other than wash and brush. But she was happy with it. Maybe it wasn’t the most dignified look, but it suited her.
“No. Thanks, but I’m happy with how I look today.” And she was.
She was out of her crutches for tonight, and even though she wasn’t ready for high heels just yet, she wore pretty black ballerinas that went very well with her dark purple dress. She felt pretty. I hope Nicole thinks so too.
“What are you smiling about?” Leila was staring at her with a teasing look in her eyes. “You’ve met someone!”
Nonnie shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. Even if she had to admit that it was hard to stop smiling.
“I can be happy without having met someone, right?” She wasn’t an idiot. She remembered how Leila had hung after Nicole on the night of the show. And she hadn’t forgotten how Ashley had practically set Nicole and Leila up. Nonnie wasn’t sure how Leila would take the news and she refused to ruin her friend’s birthday. Even though her heart was beating a little bit faster at the thought of seeing Nicole again.
They had talked on the phone twice during the week but only briefly and it hadn’t been enough. Nonnie wanted to see her.
“When are the guests arriving?”
Nonnie placed her cut up carrots in a bowl and put the bowl on a tray next to the dip she had prepared earlier.
“They can start coming any minute.” She went to the sink and washed her hands. “Should we pour some drinks and start the music?”
* * *
Nonnie was very busy during the first half hour of the party, filling up drinks, greeting people, putting away jackets and just making sure that everyone was happy.
It was slightly stressful but Nonnie didn’t mind. Unable to work, she had been bored for days. Leila was also one of her oldest friends and she was happy to help. She also kept busy as a distraction from the very distracting doctor whose gaze she felt following her around the room.
Nonnie had wanted to run to Nicole the moment she had entered the apartment, but she couldn’t because Leila had done just that. Since then Leila had stuck to Nicole’s side like a barnacle. It was clearly not in Nicole’s nature to be rude, she had smiled politely and listened to Leila’s chatter all night, all while her gaze stayed with Nonne. All they had shared was a quick smile. Neither of them seemed to want to embarrass Leila. As long as she didn’t make Nicole uncomfortable, Nonnie would keep her distance.
“If it isn’t miss Niente Nunster. Where is the red carpet?”
“Ashley!” Nonnie hugged her friend. “So good to see you.”
Ashley led her to a quiet corner in the room with an arm around her shoulders.
“I talked with Nicole a few days ago. She told me you got hurt.” She sounded worried.
“Yeah.” Nonnie rolled her eyes. “It was just a stupid accident.”
“You must hate not being able to work, but I’m sure you’ll be back before you know it.”
Nonnie nodded mindlessly as she again regarded Nicole and Leila. She wasn’t usually a jealous person, but the way that Leila had her hand casually on top of Nicole’s shoulder was driving her mildly insane. Why doesn’t she ask her to leave? Or to take her hand away? She doesn’t…
“Nonnie?” Ashley called her back to reality. “What’s going on?”
“I went on a date with Nicole last week.” The words were out before she knew it.
“Oh.” Ashley sounded amused and looked towards Nicole and Leila. “Well, this is awkward.”
Nonnie giggled nervously.
“I don’t want to embarrass Leila. Not on her birthday.” She pounded her fist jokingly into Ashley’s arm. “This is all your fault. Why did you have to set them up!”
“Hey, you should be thanking me. If I hadn’t, you never would have met her.”
Nonnie stopped and groaned.
“I want to talk with her but I don’t want to go over there. If I do, Leila will know.”
“Leila’s a big girl, you know. I’m sure she could handle it.”
“Of course, I just…” Nonnie sighed. “What if she makes a scene? Tomorrow she’ll be so embarrassed.”
“Oh Nonnie.” Ashley looked like she was about to start laughing. “I know you’re the mum of the group, but there is really no need for you to take care of all of us.”
Nonnie ignored her and saw that some of the plates with snack were starting to empty. She excused herself and went to work.
* * *
The night had really not gone the way Nicole had anticipated. Despite stolen glances and shy smiles, Nonnie had basically ignored her. And Nicole was tired now. She was ready to go home but not before she had talked to Nonnie.
At least Leila had left her alone now. Leila was probably a nice person but standing next to her and listening to her talk for over three hours had been more than tedious. It maybe wasn’t a nice to think, but Nicole was just happy to be rid of her.
She looked up just in time to see Nonnie sneak into the bathroom. This is my chance. She went up to the bathroom and waited. When the door opened and Nonnie exited, Nicole gave her a gentle push and locked the door behind them.
She didn’t let Nonnie talk, instead she answered the question in Nonnie’s eyes by pulling her into her arms and covering Nonnie’s lips with her own.
Even if the look in Nonnie’s eyes had been one of surprise until they started kissing, and there was no resistance in her movements. She clung to Nicole just as eagerly and pressed their bodies together. They opened and their kisses deepened.
Nicole couldn’t get enough. Nonnie’s smell, how soft she was and how absolutely delicious it was to kiss her. This made the whole tedious night worth it. If this was her reward, she would have gladly gone through ten of these nights.
They pulled apart after a little while, gasping for air. Nonnie nipped at her bottomlip, her eyes sparkling with happiness. That Nicole had been the one to place that joy in there made her feel happier and more all right than she had in a long time.
“We should go back.” Nonnie’s eyes still sparkled and there was something in her tone of voice that gave Nicole an impression of an up-to-no-good child. “I don’t want to.”
They laughed and their hands intertwined naturally.
“I’m going to tell Leila that we’re dating.” It wasn’t phrased like a question but nevertheless Nonnie waited until Nicole nodded.
“That would probably be wise.” At her words, Nonnie’s smile grew.
“Want to get out of here after? I can make some coffee for us or something.”
It wasn’t far to Nonnie’s home and Nicole was about to agree when something occured to her. “What about Anthony?”
“He should be asleep by now. I’ll just need to send the babysitter home.”
“Okay.” Nicole nodded. Eager. Her gaze fell on Nonnie’s slightly swollen lips.
“Stop looking at me like that or we’ll never leave this bathroom.” Nonnie playfully punched her arm. She straightened up. “Okay, I’m going to go and talk with Leila. Meet you by the door in a few?”
“It sounds good. I’ll go and say goodnight to Ashley.”
* * *
Nonnie found Leila standing by an empty plate and looking at it wistfully.
“I can’t believe my party is over.”
“It’s been great.” Nonnie’s words were quick and she inwardly cringed. In the corner of her eye she was Nicole talking with Ashley. She wondered if she had ever met Nicole before, and if they had, how it was possible that she didn’t remember…
“Earth to Nonnie.”
“Huh?” Nonnie turned to Leila again. Leila laughed.
“Gosh, you really must be tired. Go to bed then.”
Now or never.
“Leila, I need to tell you something.”
“Oh?” Leila looked happy and relaxed but Nonnie still feared her wrath.
“I’m dating Nicole.” There, it was out.
In a single moment Leila’s face turned from normal to slightly red.
“Oh”. She smiled but it looked more like a growl, the sides of her mouth tense. “How long has this been going on then?”
“Just two weeks but…” Nonnie swallowed. “We’re quite serious.” Her heart thudded a bit faster and she fought against the smile that wanted to come to her lips.
“Serious? After just two weeks. Oh my.” Leila’s voice was devoid of any emotion. She was pissed off, that much was clear. But hell if Nonnie was going to apologize.
“I just wanted to let you know…” Since it’s clear you like her.
Lelia rolled her eyes. “Thanks or whatever.”
“Well, I’m going to go,” Nonnie said slowly. “I’ll come by and help you clean tomorrow.”
“Don’t bother, I’ll manage.”
Nonnie didn’t know what to answer to that. She hated fights and even though this was hardly an argument she felt a trickle of discomfort travel up her spine.
She caught the look of Nicole standing by the door, and all of a sudden Nonnie couldn’t be bothered with Leila’s bad mood any more.
“Call me if you need something. Good night” The words Happy Birthday were on her lips but it didn’t feel right to say.
Leila said nothing as Nonnie turned away from her and headed toward Nicole and the door. She nodded at Ashley on the way out.
“Come on.” She took hold of Nicole’s hand and they were out of there.