November 14, 2018 is the day Jessie’s life began. She didn’t really know where she was going, but behind the wheel of her Jeep Patriot, she was most at home with her music playing at top volume. The only thing louder was the wind rushing through the windows as she took off down the highway unable to look back. She couldn’t look back.
This is okay, she told herself. I’m okay. She had to repeat these words at least once every hour, like a spell the words helped realign her and steel her resolve. In the corner of her eye her phone lights up in the center console. The light pulls at her sight, asking for her turn around. Please give me a chance is what it’s saying. Instead she looks at the steering wheel where her tan gives away the ghost of a wedding band.
In her twenty-fourth hour of driving she had finally crossed the Florida state line. Home, she thought. Unlike the rocky Colorado terrain, home was green and lush. She had taken her favorite color for granted. She would always miss the mountains, but they were not made for her.
Hour twenty-seven, she had made it to Orlando, her parents were expecting her, they were ready to take her in temporarily, but she wasn’t ready to return to her childhood home after all these years. Instead, she found herself parked outside of the last place she had been before deciding to fit all that she could into her car and setting out on a new adventure.
The coffee shop was one of the city’s first that wasn’t a Starbucks. It was a hole in the wall at first and then expanded into a bigger location, but here, tucked away in the back of a market, this stand was the only “welcome home” she needed. Behind the bar was someone new, which she could only expect after being away as long as she had. She had dark shoulder length curls, wore glasses with a thick frame and greeted her like an old friend. As the barista took her order, she couldn’t help but notice the tattoo on her left forearm.
Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.
“You’re a Ravenclaw too?” Her voice sounded foreign to her, she only now noticed she had not said a word in over a day. Not since departing Denver.
The barista smiled in acknowledgement. “Yeah. Oh, can I get a name for the order?”
“Jessie. What’s yours?”
March 20th, 2019 is the day their story started. They stood next to each other in front of the exhibit’s largest piece.
“This one is my favorite.” Katie said, eyes wide, trying to take in the canvas that towered over them.
“Why?” Jessie asked, looking down had her with her sideways smile, casually brushing against her arm, unable to give in to the desire to know what her hand would feel like in her own.
“Everyone loves a dramatic black and white piece, but there is so much life in such vibrant colors.”
“Yeah.” Jessie hadn’t really looked at the painting. She only wanted to study the way Katie took in every color of the spectrum in those wide curious eyes. At that moment she turned to meet Jessie’s eyes, and for a beat they both wanted the same thing.
“The museum will be closing in 4 minutes.” The security guard had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Obliging his warning they unlocked eyes and shyly headed for the exit.
At dinner they shared stories and convictions. For brief moments they’d speak only with their eyes.
“Tell me.” Jessie would urge, longing to know the words she was too afraid to say aloud.
“Nope.” Katie would respond coyly.
After dinner they decided to take a walk around the nearby lake, but as they got closer Katie suddenly spoke up.
“Okay. I know this is going to sound really forward...but can we go back to my place?”
“Okay.” Jessie said, with poorly masked surprise. “You just have to tell me how to get there.”
They drove back in easy silence. Once at Katie’s apartment they were greeted by her roommates who had happened to be having a dinner party that night. After introductions, they quietly slipped away into Katie’s bedroom. Both women tried to make conversation, trying to avoid the immediate thought that came to mind when two people attracted to each other found themselves alone in a bedroom. Katie took a seat at her writing desk and Jessie sat on the corner of the bed. They looked at each other in silence.
Finally, having worked up the courage Jessie, turned to another thought that had slipped into her mind that night.
“Can I ask you something?” Jessie took Katie’s hands in hers, no longer afraid. She nodded in response.
“Does it— Does it bother you that I’ve been married? I know—”
“No.” Katie cut her off. “It doesn’t bother me. I know that it was a hard time for you and I know one day you’ll tell me more about it, but I only care that you’re here now.”
Again, they only looked at each other.
“Can I kiss you?” Jessie finally said.
Katie took a quick breath and said, “Yes”.
This felt like coming home. As Jessie pulled away she could see in Katie’s eyes what she already knew but she wouldn’t push her. She would wait. Katie was worth the wait.