by TK Hoshikuzu (TK 星屑)
Sunrise on the cusp of summer was a pleasant time to wake up. The winking sun was testing out its light before the onslaught of heat and humidity, and lately, Sula noticed that its sunbeams gave her sleeping girlfriend a lovely, rosy glow.
She always had to twist around to see it though, since Sophie loved being the big spoon to her little spoon. Asleep, Sophie looked docile and innocent, though Sula knew she was anything but, which gave her all the more incentive to admire her while she was quiet.
Petite Sophie was wearing an oversized flannel shirt, which made her look defenseless. Awake, she preferred to wear clothes tailored to fit, and along with her attitude, it made her seem twice as big. A dent in her eyebrows was the only hint of her high-strung nature, but it made her look bratty instead. A deep sigh brushed against Sula’s shoulder as if Sophie unconsciously knew she was — in Sophie’s words — being scrutinized.
Another reason Sula didn’t want to wake her was that today was their day off. No doubt Sophie had stuffed it chock full of romantic, thoughtful, but high-energy plans and Sula much preferred to stay in bed and laze around with her girlfriend. As soon as Sophie opened her eyes, lashes fluttering like petals in the wind, she’d usher them out of bed to get ready.
But Sula could hardly be annoyed. In the moment before Sophie was fully alert, her eyes had a lingering dreamy look. Coupled with the warm weight against her back, the sight made Sula melt.
Sula smiled as Sophie awoke per her adorable prediction. Breaking the morning silence, Sophie mumbled, “Take a picture so you can stop creeping on me.”
There was the sharp woman Sula had fallen in love with. As much as she enjoyed her sleeping face, it was just one of the facets that Sula was privileged to know. She gave her girlfriend a peck on the forehead.
“One picture wouldn’t be enough to stop me,” she said with a grin. “Good morning, cutie.”
“Morning,” Sophie replied with a growing, embarrassed blush. “Don’t get cocky because I love you,” she said, poking Sula’s side in revenge and making her laugh.
Sorry I’m not feeling well today, so I’m calling out.
Sula stared at the email from her boss, which arrived just as she was settling down for a day’s work with a hot cup of milk and tea. That slacking bastard, Sula thought. Generally, she liked Hugh but she knew she was being thrown under the bus. Today was the dreaded meeting with Accounting which Hugh had moaned about all week. Sula wasn’t paid to be more than a passive participant, but now she was the only representative for their team.
Worse, it was with Sophie from Accounts Payable. Her reputation preceded her as others in HR described her as an icy beauty. If she wasn’t sending emails to chase after invoices, she was knocking at people’s doors and demanding them in person, which was a sight that often turned heads.
If it wasn’t the perverse enjoyment of watching her scold adults, it was her walking through the cubicle rows in her immaculate outfits, tailored to fit her trim figure. She was often wearing crisp, white blouses, pencil skirts, and her hair in some kind of bun — high, low, braided, but never a hair out of place.
For her to arrange a meeting was a dire situation, which Sula was walking into with a terrible weight in her stomach. Sula wasn’t sure what Sophie needed a private room for and was worried that she was about to be handed her ass on a plate. Vowing to take a nice, long lunch afterward, she strode into the reserved room on the floor with IT. At least it was on neutral ground, Sula thought.
Sula was on time, but Sophie was already sitting with a thick folder in front of her and hands folded on the table.
“Hello, Sulakshmi, please take a seat,” she said, gesturing to the chair directly in front of her.
Sula had never felt a mix of fear and attraction before; Sophie’s gaze meant business but she took such good care of her appearance that her natural beauty shone through. Sula wondered if she knew how pretty she was.
At the same time, Sula could guess why she chose to be intimidating. Sophie was also a petite, East Asian woman. She may have had to be outspoken to stave off dumb stereotypes, but catching herself from making too many of her own assumptions, Sula conceded that Sophie could just be a difficult person. Regardless of the reason, Sula was uncomfortable around someone whose personality was almost Sula’s opposite.
“Just Sula is fine,” she replied with a small smile, which went unreturned. “Hugh’s out sick, by the way,” she added, feeling bizarrely guilty as she did as she was told.
Not bothering to comment on Hugh’s absence, Sophie handed her a sheet of paper and tapped the highlighted rows with a manicured finger. “Are you aware that we haven’t received invoices from the temp agency for the past quarter?” she asked. “I believe they are one of the vendors you and Hugh manage.”
Sula cringed as she accepted the sheet. She had asked Hugh to follow up with the vendor multiple times since it seemed Sula’s badgering seemed to do nothing. She wasn’t aware that they were so late as it was Hugh who usually dealt with Sophie.
“Are you aware,” Sophie repeated, “that this has been a constant problem with them?”
Sula didn’t appreciate what she perceived as a snotty tone and spoke up before she could be another victim to the ice queen’s rebuke. “Yes, and we’re working on it,” she said, a tightness in her voice.
“Then what I’m about to tell you won’t surprise you,” Sophie replied. “If they don’t start submitting on time, they’ll lose the contract.”
Sula widened her eyes in surprise. “But it’s not ending for another two years.”
“It’s been affecting the cash flow enough that it’s been noticed by the higher-ups, and they’ll want to find a more responsible, punctual vendor,” Sophie replied.
A chilly reputation meant that no one, including Sula, could tell what Sophie was thinking. To Sophie, this may as well have been another normal day, but Sula was growing frustrated.
“It’s not that they’re irresponsible,” Sula said, trying to keep her tone even. “Sure, they’re not the most organized, but they’re employing people who need the chance.”
Their current temp agency worked with local social services to help unlucky people get back on their feet, and their huge, faceless corporation was one of their biggest contracts. In another lifetime Sula would have been working with them or another non-profit, but instead, she was here, largely to appease her parents.
“I’m sorry,” Sophie said, not looking apologetic, “but if they can’t send their invoices on time, the company will find someone who will.”
Sula sighed, knowing that their company had the money to back out of a contract early. “I’ll work on it,” she said, determined to wrench those damned invoices from them, her useless boss be damned.
“See that you do,” Sophie said, handing her the folder. “Here’s everything they’re missing and the schedule by which they should be submitting, since it seems they don’t know it. Please have them email the invoices to Patricia — address on the post-it note — for immediate processing. Feel free to cc me as well.”
“Thanks,” Sula said, not meaning it. With an armful of papers, she left the meeting, griping about corporate greed and wondering what lunch would cheer her up the most.
But even a meal of fries loaded with cheese and vegetarian chili couldn’t relax her. The encounter left her feeling a little shell-shocked. Even if Sophie meant to warn her, her approach was unfeeling and harsh. A lot of people’s livelihoods depended on their contract, and Sophie could at least act with more sympathy. Most of all, Sula was disappointed by their first meeting, which made her curiosity and tiny crush shrivel into nothing.
Hot tea was a must, no matter the season, and sipping it right after waking up was a comfort. Sula lounged on the sofa, her long legs stretched across, and half-listened to her girlfriend chatter about their plans for the day. In their relationship, Sula was the early bird who had a quiet ritual that gradually prepared her for the day. Sophie slept in as much as she could, but when she was up, she was energetic and ready.
Not that Sula minded today, but the disruption to her ritual made her listless and distracted. Head leaned back against the couch arm, she followed Sophie with her eyes as she bustled around the kitchen to fix herself coffee.
“Then after ‘Taste of Brazil’, we’ll walk it off at the park. They have a new outdoor installation and I’ll bring a picnic blanket so we can nap in the shade if you like.” Brimming with excitement, she turned to beam at Sula with pride. “Finally I got us dinner reservations, but the place is secret.”
“Oh?” Sula said with a drowsy smile. Sophie was a dogged hard worker in all aspects, and as Sula discovered, her love life was no different. She must have spent hours planning their day to the last detail. Sophie liked to take care of everything like that.
“But wait a minute,” Sula began after a slow pause. “You said we’re not leaving until eleven?”
“Right,” Sophie said, joining her on the couch. She slid under Sula’s legs so that they laid over her lap, but was careful not to touch her with the hot cup of coffee.
Checking her phone, Sula said, “But it’s only eight.” Calculating backward, she figured it would take an hour to get ready, leaving a two-hour gap. “What are we going to do for two hours?”
In her groggy state, she watched Sophie study the cup in her hands. She was still in her oversized shirt and Sula couldn’t help but stare at the curves that her slim legs made. Noticing that she was watching, Sophie folded her legs into her so that those curves beckoned her gaze lower.
“I wonder what we should do?” Sophie asked, lightly placing her cup on their coffee table.
A dumb grin on her face, Sula realized that she had planned this too. With open arms, she welcomed the press of her girlfriend’s kiss.
With great reluctance, Sula stepped through the open subway doors. With her bike in the shop, all she could do was wistfully imagine that she was zooming through traffic and not lurching through public transit.
It would have been silly changing into her gear when she wasn’t going to ride, but it felt strange to go home in her work clothes, or more like a risk. She always stood on the train to avoid stains from the dubious-looking seats and to dodge stray liquids that came her way. Though when she arrived home, she’d still spot-check her clothes to make sure that they stayed clean.
She loved floral prints and invested accordingly; her wardrobe was full of expensive pieces which argued that she didn’t need to look completely masculine to charm women. Today she was wearing a subtle black jacquard blazer over her form-fitting pantsuit and a simple, but work-appropriate camisole. Topped with her pixie cut and coiffed bangs, she knew she looked good, so good that she stood out, so good she often threatened men with low self-esteem.
Unfortunately, it seemed the subway, a microcosm of society, was rotten with them. At first, she didn’t pay attention to the sound of a man yelling across the car, but as his shouting became more pointed, she realized that she was his target. The slurs he used confirmed it once and for all.
She tried to ignore him, even as he approached and stood no more than two feet away from her, taunting her to hit him if she thought she was so tough. Looking anywhere but at him, Sula planned to get off at the next stop. She was furious that she had to be inconvenienced instead of the harasser, but it wasn’t worth it. Worst of all was the fear for her safety, but as she moved her gaze, fellow passengers avoided it. Of course, no one would want to be involved.
At last, her gaze landed on Sophie from Accounting, who was — to Sula’s surprise — watching the man. Holding her place in her book, she looked like she was gauging the situation. Risk-averse, corporate cog as she was, she blended in easily with the background and could probably ignore Sula like the rest of the train car.
Sula, on the other hand, was running out of time. The next stop seemed to be miles away and the man was growing more belligerent as if Sula was goading him to fight. She saw that he was about to lunge toward her, but this wasn’t her first aggressive man, and she was prepared to sidestep it when he suddenly doubled over.
The other passengers groaned in unison — proof that they’d been paying attention — then groaned again when he had been slammed onto the floor, his considerable weight used against him. Sula couldn’t believe what had happened or rather couldn’t believe her eyes. She was positive that tiny Sophie had given him a swift knee to the crotch, then as he lost his balance, grabbed him by the front of his shirt and threw him down.
Scrambling on the floor, the man tried to grab Sophie’s ankle, but she moved in a flash and stomped on it without mercy. His howling nearly drowned the sound of the conductor announcing their arrival, but Sula heard it and without thinking ducked down, threw an arm around her waist, and hoisted her off the train. Once on the platform, she grabbed Sophie by the wrist and fled the scene with her, leaving the station altogether.
But the physical struggle of running upstairs sucked the adrenaline out of her, and after catching her breath, Sula straightened to find Sophia doing the same beside her. Their eyes met and Sula felt like an idiot. Now they both had to re-pay the fare when they could have just waited on the platform for the next train.
She glanced at her watch. “Wanna grab dinner?” she asked. “It’s on me.”
Sophie nodded. “Sure,” she replied. Her expression was neutral but her eyes seemed bright.
Two hours meant slow and heavy, Sula thought to her delight. She could savor the little things, like the feel of Sophie’s thighs on her bare lap and their warm, clothed chests against each other. The lingering smell of clean laundry and the taste of coffee made Sula relax and think of nothing but the sweet moment between them.
She moaned into Sophie’s mouth when she felt her shirt being pulled up, her tits spilling out. Her legs splayed a little as she felt Sophie’s hands play with her and gently rub her nipples to hardness between her index finger and thumb.
They parted a few more times before pausing to catch their breaths, but Sophie kept massaging her with hungry eyes. It sent a wave of pleasure down to Sula’s clit, which was familiar with her girlfriend’s fervor. Sula’s fingers clung to the sides of Sophie’s shirt as she anticipated what would happen next. Sophie hungrily watched Sula come undone under her, watched as every buck of her hips and clench of her pussy was because of her.
Sula reached a hand around Sophie’s neck for another kiss, but Sophie pushed it away. “We’re taking our time this morning,” she said, her lips curved into a coy smile.
“Yes, ma’am,” Sula replied, knowing that she was about to be spoiled.
Sophie slid a little further down to catch a nipple in her mouth, sucking and mouthing as much skin as she could. She did this over and over on both breasts, knowing that Sula loved it when she played with them. Sula in turn unbuttoned Sophie’s shirt, revealing her pale, naked body. It drove her wild to see a shoulder free itself, highlighting the careless lust of it all.
She twitched when she felt a hand push her thigh to spread wider, then a knuckle brush over the wet spot between her legs that had soaked through her boxers. Sula wrapped her arms around Sophie’s shoulders as the finger kept pressing into her clothed folds, and she knew that Sophie was watching the wet spot grow bigger and darker.
“Please,” she begged into Sophie’s ear and whimpered when Sophie sat backward and out of her reach. Her hands gripped the fabric of the couch as she spread her legs shamelessly wide. She knew this was what Sophie wanted to see; her breasts heaving and straining against her shirt, still lifted, her hips grinding against the cushions, being a wanton slut for her.
“Mm,” Sophie hummed with approval. Grinning, she slid a hand down Sula’s boxers and slipped her fingers between the folds of her sopping labia. She lapped the sweat between Sula’s tits and asked, “Is this what you wanted?”
“Please,” Sula repeated, grinding her clit against Sophie’s fingers.
Sophie giggled. “It’s pretty swollen,” she said, exploring the sensitive hood with the softest strokes. “You want to be finger-fucked too?”
“God, please, yes,” Sula cried out, her trembling arms reaching out again to hug Sophie close.
“How many fingers today, my love?” Sophie purred. Sula bit her lips upon hearing her pet name, which only came out when the climax was near. “One?” she asked, inserting a finger. “Two? Three?”
“Whatever works, just please fuck me,” Sula hissed, clenching around the three fingers in her cunt.
“You need to be patient,” Sophie said in a low voice. “Deep breaths, now.”
Her whole body shook with pleasure as time seemed to stop. Face nestled in Sula’s cleavage, Sophie stretched her with four fingers and fucked her slowly, the wet suction making a filthy noise. Her thumb massaged against the better side of Sula’s clit, rubbing with feather-light touches. Her rhythm was relentless and she’d fuck her for hours if she knew it would make her come. The thought was enough to push Sula to the edge.
“I’m c-com–” Sula gasped, fingernails dug into Sophie’s shoulders, head thrown back at a sharp angle. “I’m–!” Her lower abs shuddered as a wild climax ripped through her, her lips pulsing helplessly against Sophie’s fingers.
It took several ragged breaths to come back to sanity. She could feel Sophie’s fingers still inside her, relishing the lingering spasms post-orgasm. When she finally withdrew, Sophie whispered praises, something Sula still wasn’t used to hearing from her.
“Gorgeous,” Sophie said before kissing her. “I’m lucky that I get to do this to you.”
Sula looked at her, feeling like she was the lucky one. She glanced down between Sophie’s legs and saw that her pussy was glistening with slick. She smirked at her with her chin tilted up.
“My turn,” she said.
Technically Sula repaid Sophie for her troubles, but she often found herself around Accounting come lunchtime. They had parted ways after their impromptu dinner without promises for future meet-ups, but there was no way Sula could drop something that had potential. Anyway, it wasn’t so strange, Sula reasoned, since Sophie did need those invoices.
Her usual tactic was to wander toward Sophie’s cubicle as if passing through on other business. Thankfully her height allowed her to peek over the walls to check if she was there without it being obvious that she was looking for her. Whenever Sophie was present, Sula always stopped by as though it were a happy happenstance, though Sophie never looked surprised. By this point, their exchanges seemed to follow a script.
“Hey,” she would ask with a casual smile, “Did you eat lunch yet?”
“I haven’t. Do you have those invoices yet?” Sophie would shoot back, looking up from her keyboard. Sula knew she meant to be dead-pan, but her round glasses made her look bookishly cute.
“Nope, but I’m working on it,” she would say sincerely. “When do you wanna leave?”
Then, Sophie’s expression would soften, and she’d say, “Let me finish this email and we can go.”
It was that glimpse behind her stiff exterior that intrigued Sula. It seemed that every time she visited Accounting, there were more reasons to return. For one, Sophie always accepted her invitation to lunch.
The things that Sula used to find annoying about Sophie were endearing once she understood her better. She learned that Sophie felt as responsible for delivering invoices, and Sula did note that Sophie never threw anyone under the bus, even if they were late. Sophie worked hard and that was how she showed her dedication, even if it seemed like she was badgering others.
She also showed surprising knowledge of the company’s vendors, and it was then that Sula learned that Sophie didn’t want Sula’s vendors to lose their contract either. Sophie had said this with a faint blush but didn’t want to elaborate. (“They are regularly late though,” Sophie had said quickly after.)
It was her earnestness that Sula liked most of all. Sula’s coworkers found her intimidating and somewhat annoying, but they couldn’t hold a grudge against someone who just wanted to do her job properly. Plus, Sophie’s doggedness kept them out of trouble too.
But aside from work-related topics, Sophie didn’t speak much, preferring to listen. She demurred when Sula asked questions about her, like her hobbies and favorite foods, and called herself boring. Sula did manage to drag out the fact that Sophie was a blackbelt in judo, which explained the self-defense. Sula found this extremely hot, but she’d never tell her this, much less admit that she was attracted to her.
Sophie instead seemed more interested in learning about Sula’s bike. When she did talk, Sophie asked about how Sula started, how she picked her bike and a multitude of other questions. Her eyes were wide and sparkling with curiosity, and it was so cute that on a whim Sula invited her for a ride that weekend.
It was, by all accounts, a date but they didn’t call it that, even though Sophie blushed when Sula pulled up to the curb to pick her up. Maybe the blush was less obvious on Sula, but she certainly felt lightheaded. She pulled off her helmet and gave her an appreciative once-over.
“You look really cute today,” she said, unable to control her grin.
Sophie’s long, dark hair was pulled into a high ponytail and she was wearing black sheer tights under denim shorts, topped with a light beige spring jacket and soft gray sweater. With her pastel pink backpack, she looked sporty in a feminine way.
“Thanks,” she replied, fiddling with her straps and staring at the ground. “You look good too.”
She wasn’t sure that Sophie had properly met her eyes, much less looked at Sula, because she was wearing an unflattering, but sensible biking jacket. Nevertheless, she said, “Thanks! Here’s a passenger’s helmet. Wear it, then we can get going.”
When Sophie hesitated, helmet in her hands, Sula blurted out, “Do you trust me?”
“What?” Sophie exclaimed. The way she flustered meant she recognized the cheesy Aladdin line, said right before he whisks the princess on a magic carpet ride, but Sula couldn’t resist the tease.
“Just kidding,” she said with a laugh, patting the seat behind her. “I’ll drive carefully.”
Sophie still seemed nervous by the way she clung to Sula, who didn’t mind at all. The feel of her body pressed against her back reminded her to be gentle, though it made her uncomfortably warm. They took the scenic route, driving underneath the trees that were beginning to blossom pinks and whites. After they had parked, the walk up the hill was also pleasant and breezy, the light smell of flowers in the air.
Sophie still had many questions about Sula’s experience with riding and Sula was determined to know more about Sophie, so they spent the rest of the afternoon talking and lounging on the picnic blanket that Sophie thoughtfully prepared.
Sula recounted how the movie The Matrix 2 inspired her to start biking, though her parents hated that she had such a risky hobby. She thought that was lame of her to admit, but it was better than saying she had only watched the movies for Trinity, her fictional childhood crush.
Before she let herself get too embarrassed, Sula pressed Sophie about her judo skills and was surprised to see her get flustered by the question.
“I usually don’t assault people like that,” Sophie said, looking away with a blush. “You looked like you were in trouble.” When she turned back, Sula smiled at her. This time, Sophie returned it. “I don’t like using it because it reminds me of my grandfather,” she continued, her smile fading. “He was, in a word, demanding.”
“No need to explain,” Sula said, holding a hand up. “He must have been for you to be so tough.”
“I don’t want to be,” Sophie said, “but it’s the only way I know.”
Sula hated that she looked sad. She wanted to tell her that she was sweet and kind too. She wanted to hold her hand or cup her cheek or put her arms around her until they were near enough to kiss, but she didn’t think a lesbian’s obvious advances would cheer her up.
Still, Sula could feel that they were growing closer. She had played this game of chicken before. They would get closer until one of them — never Sula — got uncomfortable and put distance between them. Sula closed her eyes and sighed. At least she had the return trip to look forward to, where Sophie would again wrap her arms around her waist.
Sula was more of a snogger than Sophie was and all she wanted to do was lay Sophie down and kiss her everywhere. She loved hearing and feeling her giggles as she kissed her neck. Her skin was so soft and smooth that nuzzling her was satisfying. She often marveled at her girlfriend’s elaborate skincare rituals, which were doing wonders for her. Before she met Sophie, Sula would haven’t bothered with more than lotion but Sophie was generous to share her expensive stash. Plus, it was fun to do them together, like sharing a foot bath and making out at the same time.
Relaxed after coming, Sula was in a more loving mood, but it only took a few minutes of tonguing for her to feel lust again. Clinging to each other, they explored without breath and space. Sophie’s panting after they separated made it worth stopping though. She gave Sula her beckoning smile and called attention to her hips by shifting them on the couch cushions.
Sula had to have her fully naked first. As she pulled her arms out of the sleeves of her oversized shirt, she kissed the exposed bare skin. She couldn’t help but chuckle at the impatient huffs, then stilted gasps when she ran her tongue over her pert nipple. At last, Sula discarded the shirt with a hurried toss but paused to admire her beautiful girlfriend.
Her dainty hands were folded over her perky breasts, and she wore a shy smile as she slightly opened her knees to reveal her soaking lips. Her long, glossy hair framed her blushing cheeks, and she looked like a maiden that was about to be deflowered. That thought nearly made Sula snort, given that Sophie had just proved she was no innocent girl.
She gave Sophie’s knees each a quick peck, then began kissing a wet trail down a thigh, wondering if she could get away with a few hickies. She could smell Sophie’s damp musk as she traveled closer and couldn’t resist diving in. Sula pushed her thighs wider, just as Sophie had done to her earlier, and gave her pussy a kiss before burying her face in it.
She felt Sophie arch her back and heard a long, delicious moan, but it was as much for Sula’s enjoyment as it was for her. It was Sula’s turn to take her time, licking every crevice and lapping up her natural lubricant. She listened to vocal cues as she wrapped her lips around her clit and gently sucked.
Knowing how flexible Sophie was, for a few minutes Sula pushed her knees backward until they almost met Sophie’s ears, then gave her a show. She tongue fucked her as deep as she could, her nose brushing against Sophie’s dark and puffy clit. Sula loved all of it, the clench of Sophie’s cunt on the tip of her tongue, the thread of wetness from nose to clit when she pulled back, the stretched thighs shaking in her grip. Lost in the moment, all she could focus on was her pleasure.
When Sophie was close, her moans grew higher in pitch. Releasing her legs but pinning one against the couch, she worked over the spots that made Sophie’s hips buck the most, making a sticky mess of her. When Sophie came, her whole body arched, and for a few seconds, her thighs squeezed Sula’s face deeper into her pussy. Certainly, one way to die of suffocation, Sula thought, thoroughly enjoying the sensation of being smothered by quivering thighs and her girlfriend’s folds.
Both of them were left catching their breath at the end, but the ensuing silence was content and comfortable. Resting her head on Sophie’s stomach, Sula checked the time on her phone.
“What time is it?” Sophie asked.
“8:45,” Sula replied with slow blinks, enjoying Sophie’s fingers playing with her hair. Any longer and she would doze off.
Her voice sounding clear and alert meant she was wide-awake. “Hey,” she began. “In twenty minutes, wanna get out the double-sided — ”
“Yes,” Sula replied, eyes wide open.
To Sula’s pleasant surprise, Sophie seemed more comfortable with her after their unspoken date. Though Sophie maintained her cold, professional exterior, she began to take the initiative to invite Sula out to lunches and happy hours — all through email, of course. They saw each other almost every day and every weekend.
Seeing Sophie’s vulnerable side made Sula feel special, made her want more. When they were alone together, Sula touched her more: hand on the small of her back, bumping shoulders, taking her hand to lead her through a crowd. Once, while they were waiting for coffee, Sula let Sophie’s long ponytail slip through a ring she made with her thumb and index finger. Generally, women were allowed to be more touchy-feely with each other, but Sula knew she was pushing boundaries. Too scared to confess her feelings, she wanted Sophie to draw the line.
If asked by a bystander, Sula would say that they were friendly colleagues, and indeed, they learned to work well with each other. Because of Sophie, Sula became more firm with her vendor, which meant she made significant headway getting the invoices without having to rely on her boss. Sophie thought that Sula was still too nice, a common topic during happy hour when Sophie’s mouth was looser.
“Ignoring a request isn’t the same as refusing,” she said sternly, to which Sula laughed. Sophie’s scarlet flush, which came out when she was tipsy, made it hard for Sula to take offense.
They were out for drinks after work, sitting in a cozy booth for two, and as usual, Sophie listened to Sula gripe about her job. She occasionally offered advice, but she knew that Sula was just venting. Sometimes she stared for too long as she listened, but Sula figured she had a lot on her mind.
“It’s diplomatic,” Sula said, shrugging her shoulders. To save Sophie the embarrassment, she wouldn’t mention that Sophie herself had become less of a workaholic. She wasn’t exactly nicer, but after Sula told her that the HR department used Sophie as a last-minute reminder, instead of relying on themselves to submit on time, she learned not to shoulder so much of the work.
“You’ll be proud to hear this though,” Sula added. “My coworkers keep asking me to speak to you on their behalf. They’re like, ‘You’re friends, right? It’ll be easier for you anyway. Just do this favor for us.’ And I’m like, ‘All you guys need to do is your job and you’ll be fine.’”
“You didn’t really say that,” Sophie said with a smile.
Sula laughed loudly. “Of course not! Then they ask me what my secret is. They want to know what I did to get you to be nice to me.” She smiled at Sophie. “I mean…” She drifted off.
She could pretend that they had a one-sided relationship, but Sophie seemed to have fun when they were together. She never turned down an invitation and it was hard not to hope.
Sula’s cheeks warmed up and she beamed harder at Sophie, whose face was flushed, but Sula knew that that was just a reaction from the alcohol in her wine. Still, there was a softness in her gaze that made their moment tender.
Then a shadow appeared at the corner of her eye and Sula turned to find a man hovering at their table. He was close enough for his legs to lean against the edge, meaning he was way too close. She glared at him, outraged that their moment was interrupted.
“Excuse–” she began before he interrupted her again.
“You’re really ugly,” he said, looking directly at her. “But you’d be a lot prettier if you grew your hair out like her. Look how good she looks.” He pointed his hateful finger at Sophie, who looked as though she was ready to break it. At a glance she realized that Sophie had tightened her grip around her glass, making it more likely that she’d throw it in his face.
It echoed the time when Sophie had kneed that harasser on the subway, and Sula couldn’t help biting back a laugh. Not because it was funny, but because she joyfully realized that she loved this fierce, practical woman.
“She doesn’t just look good,” Sula shot back with a raised voice, waving her hand around. “She’s radiant. She’s sweet, kind, intelligent, sexy, and we’re all so lucky to be in her company.” Instead of facing Sophie, she took a bashful gulp of her cocktail and gave the unwelcome stranger a disdainful look.
Despite her best efforts to seem bold, her skin was crawling and she wanted to flee the scene. What calmed her down was the gentle touch on her clenched fist, resting on the table. Sula’s gaze first traveled to the dainty hand that slipped fingers into hers, and then to Sophie’s face, which was even redder than before.
But she was smiling, which made Sula smile. At that moment nothing else mattered. The sounds and sights of the scenery around them melted into a dull, muffled drone. They hadn’t noticed that the man had shuffled off after his pitiful negging backfired. They only saw each other.
With their fingers entwined, Sula felt the beginning of something worthwhile, filled with days off, romantic plans, sex, and Sophie. In the weeks Sula had spent getting to know her, she found herself quickly taken by the woman who could hold her own but still cling tightly, shyly as they rode on Sula’s bike. She was eager to learn more about her opposite and knowing that Sophie and she were on the same page made it all the better.