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There is a sense in which we are all each other's consequences.



 
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Rhiannon McKay

The spring weather was tumultuous these days, constantly teasing warmth before fading back into the blistery winds and chilling cold of winter. Despite the edge to the present forecast, Rhiannon McKay found herself prowling the streets, cautiously optimistic in regards to the temperature. Despite the evident need for a scarf and gloves, the angel’s only true defense was the thick, corded sweater she had pulled around her.

It was after dark, and the city was quiet, the natives not finding anything worthy to draw them from their homes in this weekday evening. At the still point of all the communist-era architecture is Rhiannon, soaking in the natural music of life as it progressed in its relentless machinations.

She wears a faint, earnest grin, even as unruly wind swipes and cuts as her minimal defenses, the melody of rattling trees, leaves scraping the concrete, the distant sound of cars and highways, the din of families in their homes, it all drew the angel near to the wild beating heart of life. Her mind is blank, consumed only by this present experience.

The angel is quite good at this. Blocking out everything but the moment she currently exists in is something she has taken lifetimes to hone, but the success is now evident. That is until thoughts of nature’s symphony draw her to music, and then, to a friend.

Friend.

It surprised her just how easy it had been to talk to this woman, enough so that even in these idle, carefree moments, her thoughts drifted in many ways back to their initial day together. Discussions of music, phones, Wendy’s. The younger woman is a reminder of the complexity of human existence, but also of the joy that true connections bring. And it is the angel’s firm belief a connection exists between she and Soleil.

As she had promised, Rhiannon is in the process of preparing a mixtape. While every other facet of her life is easy to discern, to decide, to dictate, music is not. Music is such a complex, holy ritual for the angel that she has subsequently spent hours sitting at her also new laptop, searching and planning, and then erasing completely all progress she had made. For whatever reason, she needed this selection to be perfectly representative of her taste, and of what she wanted to present herself as to Soleil.

Pulling up the notes on her phone, Rhiannon scans over the most recent attempt at a master list.

Soleil’s Mixtape

1.       Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon

2.       P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) – Michael Jackson

3.       Easy Lover – Phil Collins

4.       Red Red Wine – UB40

5.       Waiting For a Girl Like You – Foreigner

6.       In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel

In one way or another, she hoped the songs, their titles, the content, everything be amusing and hopefully, ironic. She begins to wonder if it correct to present this woman with a mixtape. After all, they are most certainly given to one’s intended. She blinks, closing out the application. She definitely needs to brush up on modern ‘lingo’.

The battle with her conscious is two-fold. Legally, technically, Rhiannon McKay is married to Callum. She is not certain how long her existence in this body will last, and therefore, what the angel desires and what is best for Rhiannon are two entirely different things. However, it is not as if Callum could not seek her out. If he wanted her back, he would be able to find her. But he does not, and so Rhiannon has continued to execute her own will.

Placing the wireless earbuds into her ears, Rhiannon is only a few taps away from pressing play on where she had left off. The Decemberists. She is beginning her musical education, making the attempt the folksy, indie rock style that Soleil extols. While there was no promise this band was something she was interested in, Rhiannon found the sound appealing.

She is still standing still, the melody of ‘Make You Better’ breaching the aforementioned silence.

 

But we're not so starry-eyed anymore
Like the perfect paramour you were in your letters
And won't it all just come around to make you
Let it all unbreak you to the day you met her
But it'd make you better

 

She stands almost perfectly still, weighing on the words. As silence replaces sound at the end of the song, a decision is made.

Initially, it takes several failed attempts at proper grammar and spelling before her chilled fingers manage to type a proper message out.

To: Soleil
I am broadening my musical horizons.
I know it is late, but would you like to meet for a drink?
I will use ‘Google’ to find a bar with a jukebox.

 

March 08, 2017 03:28 pm

Soleil

It's beautiful in the way we move
But what's a girl to do when you can't seem to choose?
You're beautiful but we must restrain
When your mind is split two ways
That's when the comedown plays.

Honne was making anthems, churning out songs for the heartbroken and for lovers, alike, for the confused and disheartened, for those who couldn’t find the right words to use. Their music was difficult not to identify with - Soleil was convinced of that.  The way they made synth and soul work together was surprising, but the emotion and intimacy it exuded was captivating.  That was why they were presently Soleil’s favorite band. The lyrics of 'Someone That Loves You' floated around in her head.

She deemed Honne’s album 'Warm on a Cold Night' an appropriate soundtrack for the day. She was home from work, and was glad, seeing as the tumultuous wind rattled through the almost bare trees on the pavement below her window. Without a car, she found it tortuous to walk in any kind of harsh weather. Instead, she’d spent the first hour or so wrapped up in her sheets, alternating her gaze between the ceiling and the LED numbers of her digital clock.

It was only when her needy, three-legged pitbull Fish became restless that she got up. She often felt bad for the poor b*stard - being cooped up in the shoebox she called an apartment must be frustrating. At least when he was at the Compound with Elouise Orlav, his other ‘mother’, he had space to dispense all his energy. Once Fish had been taken out and fed, Soleil plopped onto her dilapidated couch, dressed in nothing but an oversized Boston College t-shirt. She considered watching TV, considered reading one of the many books that had begun to accumulate on her coffee table. But, she didn’t quite have the attention span for either.

She got up and stood at the window for a while, watching as cars rolled by on the street. People battled the frigid wind by pulling their coats tighter around their bodies, and Soleil laughed – perhaps irreverently – when small dogs and children struggled to stay upright. As the day passed before her, she became increasingly more grateful that she was inside.  Eventually, she returned to the couch, remembering that she’d been given the task of creating a playlist for her new friend, Rhiannon.

Rhiannon.

Soleil didn't even know the woman's last name. But, she was the very first person she'd felt a connection to since leaving Boston. This connection, this bond, whatever it was she felt for or shared with this woman, was like nothing else.  Initially drawn in by Rhiannon’s striking caramel-colored eyes, Soleil approached the woman with no expectations – had in mind only a simple hello, and a ‘welcome to the neighborhood.’ But as time passed, she found herself staying in touch for the simple fact that Rhiannon was intriguing. Her mannerisms, her enthusiasm, her easily discernible fervor for life and the world was intoxicating. Her heart and eyes were opened to new emotions and possibilities. And Rhiannon had quickly proven herself as the kind of company Soleil wanted to keep.

She knew it was going to be a project. An ordeal, even. Soleil needed this playlist to be perfect. She had so much music to pick from, so much music she wanted to share. The more she scrolled through her music library, the harder it became to choose. Ten or so songs, a reasonable number, to exemplify her taste? That was some kind of bullsh*t limitation.

Soleil almost regretted agreeing to it; it’d been years since the last time she made a playlist, and the act wasn’t just about throwing random songs together.  There was an art to creating playlists.  A good playlist needed an overarching theme or message, the progression of songs required flow and continuity.  Soleil wasn’t sure she possessed enough skill and finesse to compile the right songs, much less create a playlist good enough to share.

Rhiannon

1.     White Lies – Max Frost

2.     Tighten Up – The Black Keys

3.     R U Mine? – Arctic Monkeys

4.     Dancing on Quicksand – Bad Suns

5.     Breakin’ Up – Rilo Kiley

6.     Smile Like You Mean It – the Killers

7.     Somebody Else – the 1975

8.     If I Could Change Your Mind – HAIM

9.     Drinkee – Sofi Tukker

10.  Fais Rien – Moi Je

Her phone gave out a startling ring. Other than Fish’s sporadic snorts, it was the first new sound in an embarrassingly long stretch of time. She hadn't realized how long she'd been sedentary until her muscles let out a silent whine as she reached for her phone. She smiled, though, realizing it was a text from Rhiannon. She replied quickly and eagerly after giving the playlist one last glance. A semi-satisfactory list of songs to share with, it was a start, at least.  She had a lot more music she wanted to expose Rhiannon to, afterall.

To: Rhiannon
Absolutely. Just let me know where, I’ll be there asap.

March 12, 2017 03:30 pm

Rhiannon McKay

Rhiannon’s mind continues to wander long after she receives Soleil’s response. She is a hopeless wanderer, every thought leading down a winding path that only ends in a question. Her feet carry her without conscious effort, continuing on down the quiet streets without a care. The angel removes her earbuds, stuffing them haphazardly back into one of her pockets. Best not to lose those, right?

No matter the starting point – her thoughts navigate her to the same end point: Callum.

Sharing a life with Callum McKay has crossed her mind on several occasions. They are married. He loves her. Technically. He loves a Rhiannon that no longer exists. But the body is still here, and should Rhiannon leave these mortal bonds, will her conscience return? Is it not within her duties to ensure that her stay in this vessel is as true to the life its owner lived?

Yet, the angel is feeling selfish. She is drawn not to the man she should learn to love, but to the possibility of a new life, with a woman who intrigues her. She is rarely left guessing with any human, but her fascination with her new friend has left the angel second-guessing every rule she had ever established for herself. How is she to know, after all, what her purpose is?

Was this placement, in this scenario, all a part of ‘His’ plan?

Rhiannon isn’t sure. She and the Big Guy don’t share a very verbal relationship.

And the many times she laid unconscious in her hospital bed, listening to Callum weep against her, his calloused hands holding hers – they never once felt the way Soleil’s had.

So the angel steps into the bar, finally cognizant of her surroundings as she takes in all of the lifted stares of patrons that are focused directly on her. She is not used to being the spectacle of attention. When she walks down the street, enters a building, by simply living and breathing, the angel attracts others too her. She has looked in a mirror, she has seen pictures. The angel understands Rhiannon is a good-looking woman. The sort of human that others stop on the pavement to stare at. And, in this instance, the kind of good-looking that cuts off conversation mid-sentence.

It makes flying under the radar increasingly more difficult.

With an awkward smile, Rhiannon shuffles around tables and stools, making her way to a rugged, torn booth far from curious eyes. And then, she pulls out her phone, analyzing her text before responding.

To: Soleil
There does not appear to be a jukebox here.
Nevertheless, I am here. Waiting for you.
[Location Sent]

April 02, 2017 08:35 pm

Soleil

Nick’s.

The bar Rhiannon had picked was one Soleil frequented. It was quaint; she’d grown fond of the long, mahogany bar, and how faint the patterns of the booth upholstery had become over the years. The oil painting that hung crookedly above the back bar was her favorite thing in the entire establishment. By traditional standards, it was poorly done – sloppy brushstrokes of strange, incompatible colors formed the disproportionate figure of a naked woman in slumber. And yet, it was somehow a glorious combination of grace, promiscuity, boldness and strength. Soleil had always thought of it as a metaphor. For what? She wasn’t sure, but she had a feeling she’d find out soon enough.  

To: Rhiannon
Good choice. Give me 15, I'm within walking distance.

Giddy excitement bubbled up in her chest as she slipped into a pair of jeans and a sweater. She’d spent some time reflecting on Rhiannon’s enigmatic allure. There was something natural, something familiar in the way their fingers had laced together on the day they’d gone to Wendy’s, and from then, Soleil knew that the woman with caramel colored eyes would be some kind of presence in her life.

Soleil worried, though; what of her social skills? She supposed that working as a waitress provided a constant outlet for human interaction, but she wasn’t sure if that’d hold true for actually getting to know someone. It’d been a long time since she’d put in a concerted effort to establish a relationship. In the years following the accident, Soleil had, for the most part, withdrawn into herself; she only interacted with others when she needed something, namely a place to crash or some dough to support her destructive habits.  

The thought of her last meaningful relationship floated into her consciousness. Jacy. Her brother was the last person she’d truly known, the last she’d ever loved. Granted, they were siblings, so they were obligated. But, Jacy had a twin, and he very well could’ve chosen Jacob.

She couldn’t let herself get too lost in thought, however. She had somewhere to be.

Popping in earbuds, she snatched up a coat and headed off toward the bar. Nick’s was only 2 blocks away, and Soleil knew that her naturally hastened gait would get her to her destination in no time.

Well, you see these angels?
These angels see the light.
Yeah, I had my troubles,
Troubles, all right.
I’ve been seeing angels.

The first verse of Khalid’s 'Angels' came to an end as she pushed through the bar’s front door. Her eyes sought out one familiar face, in particular. Over the din of the bar, Soleil greeted the woman before her with a simple 'hello' and a warm smile.

"Something to drink?"

April 05, 2017 11:42 am

Rhiannon McKay

A lurid, enigmatic happiness is plastered to Rhiannon’s expression as she read Soleil’s response. An acceptance to her invitation, and an estimated time of arrival she could handle. She had truly meant ‘ASAP’. While the angel had no fantastic sense of direction, she banked on the fact that Soleil was far more competent than she.

In the wait between the text and her arrival, the angel sticks her earbuds back into place, tapping away on her phone until a new song has the opportunity to fill the void. ‘Night Like This’ by LP.

 

‘You are the one, you are the only one I was born to know.

Beyond the crush of any summer lust and we dared to go,

To chain our hearts and tear apart and come together again,

A lover’s bane forever will remain’

 

She finds herself caught by the lyrics, and even as the song transitions ‘One Last Mistake’ to ‘Tokyo Sunrise’, she cannot help but trace parallels she hopes can exist between she and Soleil. But, the angel is the most intense of realists, most often to her detriment. Yet, the prospect of seeing Soleil Whitaker again fills the woman with so much hope she can hear it with each thundering thrum of her heart. It is not difficult for her to form bonds, especially with the souls she feels drawn towards. In all possibilities, in one of Soleil’s past lifetimes, they had communed. It was as if a trace of the angel was marked upon the other woman, leaving her unique from all others she had encountered.

Soleil is special in a sacred manner in which Rhiannon had yet to discover. But, she sorely intended to.

Just as ‘Tokyo Sunrise’ transitions into ‘Salvation’, someone is speaking to her.

No, not just someone.

Soleil.

It is laughable the excitement that teemed within the angel the minute expectations transitioned into reality. “Whatever you are having!” She blurts, standing with such haste her knee slams against the table’s edge. She ignored the pain, her expression consumed by an unadulterated smile. She is unsure whether to offer a hug or a handshake, so in her whirlwind of action she… Does both? The hold is tragic for Rhiannon, who had hoped that she could be more smooth after their initial encounter and Wendy’s, where she had quite possibly run into every single object within the fine dining establishment.

She wants to be quantifiably more impressing in this encounter, but she is already off to a miserable start. “I am so glad you came. Was this difficult for you to find?” She inquires with genuine interest. There is no such thing as ‘small talk’ to the angel. Interaction of any kind with mortals intrigues her.

This mortal, more than anyone else.

“I was just listening to… ‘LP’. Are you familiar with her work?” Eagerness drips from every pore of Rhiannon McKay, enthusiastic at the prospect of engaging with the other woman in any scenario. “She has a beautiful voice. Here,” She beckons, before sliding right back into booth, offering a spare earbud to Soleil, leaving the seat beside her empty to accommodate the length of the cord. 

April 16, 2017 11:29 pm

Soleil

Rhiannon’s excitement was palpable, and Soleil took pleasure in the way the woman smiled at her. She countered her enthusiasm with a wide, genuine smile of her own. It’d only been a short period of time since their first encounter, and she was beyond thrilled to know that Rhiannon had been listening to the music she’d suggested. Soleil had spent the last few days awaiting, perhaps overzealously, word from her new friend.

“I live 2 blocks away,” she said in response to the woman’s initial question, her hands now stuffed into her jacket pockets, “I come here often, actually. I’m sorry about the jukebox.”

She offered a small grin before tilting her head in the direction of the bar, indicating that she was off to order the drinks. She promised to be quick – the bartender knew her usual, and had two pints of Blue Moon topped with orange slices ready even before Soleil was halfway to the mahogany bar. Gratefully, she bobbed her head before shuffling back to the booth in which Rhiannon sat.

As if to fill the space between them, Soleil began to ramble, forgetting entirely about Rhiannon’s inquiry about LP.  Seemingly random words and thoughts regarding the newly acquired beverages spilled out from between her lips.  “I hope you don’t mind citrus,” she began, “This is one of my favorites. Some people like to say that it’s a summer beer because of the orange, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with a Belgian white, regardless of the weather.”

Her mouth snapped shut upon realizing that Rhiannon was, more than likely, not concerned about whether or not Blue Moon was seasonal. She smiled sheepishly as she slid the tall glass across the table.

Nerves. That’s what it must’ve been since Soleil was not known to be talkative, at least not so much in the last few years. She’d been social once. But, social interaction that spanned beyond small talk and trivial conversation had been cut to the minimum after she moved from one large city to another, even larger, even more intimidating place. She was just another face in the urban abyss, so meaningful connections were a rarity.

“I’ll get you something else if you’re not a fan. I swear I won’t be offended.”

Rhiannon was still patiently holding out an earbud when Soleil found the decency to stop talking. Realization dawned over her oblivious skull, and she blushed before moving from her own seat. Her fingertips brushed lightly against Rhiannon’s as she gladly took the offered earbud. She’d only heard a few of LP’s songs – ‘Lost on You’, ‘Wasted’, ‘All I Have’ – but, was very much intrigued by the rhythm and musicality of the singer/songwriter. There was something pure and raw about the woman’s voice; the honesty and emotion in the lyrics often left Soleil rattled. Shoulder to shoulder, they listened to ‘Salvation.’

When you arrived at my door, I didn’t recognize

My salvation.

And the light on the shore, it was in your eyes.

My salvation.

Soleil was struck by how intensely the lyrics resonated in her chest. As she handed back the earbud, she became fully aware of the significance of the song's third line:

‘And the light on the shore, it was in your eyes.’

She'd spent some time fixated on the color of Rhiannon’s eyes, and up until this moment, she'd been unable to peg exactly what it was she found so intriguing. Eyes were windows into the soul, that she was convinced of. So, in hearing ‘Salvation,’ Soleil realized that the light in Rhiannon’s eyes was nothing she’d ever seen before. It was one that seemed to have lasted, without dimming, through centuries, through many, many lifetimes. That was what had drawn Soleil in - the gripping possibility that Rhiannon had a secret to tell. Afterall, she, too, had some of her own.

“My turn,” Soleil stated abruptly, reaching into her back pocket for her own phone. She scrolled through her music library for a few moments before letting out a triumphant ‘ah!’ She'd had grown very fond of downtempo music in the last few days, so, in that moment, she deemed Majid Jordan – with his sultry R&B voice, and clever, emotional lyrics – as an artist she had to share.

Her Dr. Dre Bluetooth earbuds, however, would force the two women to sit in closer proximity to one another. And it shouldn’t have been a big deal. There was an exceedingly simple solution, afterall. But, Soleil’s common sense and logic had both been scrambled upon the realization that ‘Salvation’ bore a significant relevance to her current situation.

“We can always just plug yours in,” she offered with a shrug, not knowing if her seemingly out-of-context statement would make sense to the woman beside her.

April 21, 2017 12:39 am

Rhiannon Whitaker

The angel was complacent as she looked back towards Soleil, caramel eyes offering an innocent blink in response to her question. Truthfully stated, Rhiannon McKay was thrown by this mortal being. It was easy to be in her company, yet so excruciatingly difficult to find the right words. “Here.” She offers over the end of the cord, a grin touching the corners of her mouth as their fingers graze upon the exchange.

The evening carried on in similar fashion, both women able to share their music, and subsequently, a piece of their soul. Perhaps it was the mixture of several formats of liquor and beer, sub-par nachos, or bar peanuts, but something was brewing within Rhiannon as the pair departed the into the early morning air. There was not a hint of hesitation as she pressed the younger woman back against the facade of the ‘Nick’s’, both women wearing goofy, half-drunken grins before their lips were preoccupied by other means.

Laying in Soleil’s bed that night, wrapped in cotton sheets and pressed against her side, the lyrics of Cherry Hill by Russ filled the silence. Her eyes were settled upon the other woman, fingers tracing the contours of her face, committing them to memory. There was a calmness that filled her chest, a happiness that she had recognized in others, but never before felt within herself. It caused her to hold the woman closer, to steal intimate glances, her lips never straying far from the other pair that seemed to fit so perfectly with hers.

Desire was a simple way to describe what had driven her to Soleil Whitaker’s apartment, but it was far more intense an emotion that kept her long after that lazy morning in bed. Dozing in her arms, sharing idle tales of insignificant past events, listening to her easy laugh, Rhiannon felt herself falling deeper and deeper for her. It seemed that simple invitation to a drink had developed into so much more, as it seemed that after that night, the two would no longer part. As enamored as she was with Soleil, the other woman seemed to reciprocate ten-fold.

They had found a home in one another.

It had made perfect sense to the angel to accept Soleil’s proposal, and become a solidified fixture in her life. In her selfish wanting, she had wanted to be everything to the other woman. As her first honest, true love, Rhiannon’s appetite for affection was voracious, constantly seeking affirmation and validation from her partner, while simultaneously offering herself as someone who could be everything Soleil needed and more.

After returning from a long walk with Fish, it isn’t long after Rhiannon has ventured into the apartment before familiar arms are snaking around her waist, her back being pulled flush against Soleil’s chest. “Hi, babe…” The other woman breathes, and the angel could hear the smile in her tone. “I missed you rather riotously.”

Her eyes slide shut, always relishing in Soleil’s flair for dramatics when expressing her abhorrence of any distance had between the two. The angel, for what it was worth, could find no fault in her statement. She had absolutely no desire to be apart from her newly minted bride. So when she was gone during the day, at work, or spending time with her friends at The Order’s compound, she found herself forlorn. It was almost sickening, the way she mooned for Soleil. She simply couldn’t help it.

On a particularly long day without her woman, Rhiannon was trolling for something to quell the pit in her stomach that came with her absence. The dog had already been walked to the four corners of Moscow, the apartment cleaned from top to bottom - all that was left was laundry. It was the first time she’d taken it upon herself to do Soleil’s, knowing how much it amused the younger woman that she was quite so domestic.

Among the mass of clothes stood out one single t-shirt, aged but still totally intact - Soleil’s beloved Bruins t-shirt. Despite her better judgement as a New York girl, Rhiannon is sticking her arms and head through the designated holes, immediately relieved by the familiar scent of her beloved.

Pathetic? Absolutely. But she didn’t care -- as long as Soleil never found out. Digging out her phone, she’s texting her for the 100th time that day.

Soleil
Come home soon.
I miss you.
May 24, 2017 06:49 pm

Soleil Whitaker

In the days following their adventure at ‘Nick’s,’ Soleil and Rhiannon began spending copious amounts of time together. Of course, it would’ve been more convenient for the woman’s psyche to have just shown Rhiannon the door the next morning, but, in the tenderness of early morning stolen kisses, Soleil found herself falling. Deeply and irrevocably.

The temperature had dipped below 10 degrees on March 21st, which was of typical nature for the end of a Russian winter. Soleil and Rhiannon had spent the day touring Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, meandering, hand in hand, through the maze of wildly ornate galleries. In the Sanctuary, Rhiannon knelt on the tiled floor, palms facing the heavens, to mutter a few prayers.  The younger woman watched with a small smile of fascination.

“I didn’t know you were religious,” she noted. Rhiannon offered only a shrug in response.

At the end of the day, the pair shuffled back to Soleil’s apartment in the Arbat district.  For the young Whitaker, ‘home’ had become anywhere in Rhiannon’s company – the apartment always felt cold and empty in her absence. So, sprawled across the couch with Rhiannon’s head in her lap, Soleil found herself saying two words that had been in the back of her mind for a few days.

“Marry me.”

A few weeks later, the newlyweds were flying out of Sheremetyevo International for an impromptu trip to New York. They had planned to honeymoon in la ville lumière, but, seeing as a month had passed without a particular effort to return to Moscow, the couple decided that Cancun would have to suffice.

They’d just have to get to Paris eventually.

Eleven days of sun, sand, and margaritas – three of which were spent tangled up in eachother amidst a sea of white sheets and down pillows. On the fourth day, they ventured out to the beach.

“Oh my god!” Soleil cried as she barreled toward the ocean, flip flops kicked off in the process. She didn’t bother glance back at her wife, knowing full well that she was, instead, settling herself into the sand. Soleil proceeded no further than knee-deep for the time being, savoring the sensation of the salt and sand around her ankles and toes.

She turned, stared in fascination at the birds circling above and watched as they dove, so streamlined, into the water for fish. The sky was clear, save for a few whimsical clouds that drift along with the ocean breeze. The sights and sounds were glorious to the young woman as she turned again to face the shore. She couldn’t help but smile broadly at the warmth the enveloped her.

Rhiannon was propped up on her elbows when Soleil returned, caramel eyes shaded by large, thick rimmed sunglasses, hair tumbling across and down her shoulders. The younger woman plopped down, toes digging into sand at the end of her towel. “Hey you,” she chimed before leaning over to give her wife an affectionate peck on the cheek. Rhiannon asked about the water as she reclined back. The lyrics of Jon Bellion's 'Overwhelming' floated through the salty air, the indie pop melody carried along by crashing waves.

There is a potion in your lips, so sweet, I'd die.

There is an ocean in your hips, so deep, I'd dive.

I hear an opus when we kiss that completes my life, 

Yeah, I think I got one.

They spent the next few days on the beach, basking in the Mexican heat, stealing lazy kisses while sitting at water’s edge, and knocking back boozy beach drinks, until Soleil realized she needed to abruptly and urgently return to New York. Rhiannon accompanied her, despite Soleil’s insistence that she’d be back the next morning. Rhiannon inquired out of curiosity a handful of times, but her wife was reluctant to admit just what she’d forgotten. So, in the morning, they flew back to Cancun with Soleil’s so-called ‘vacation essential’ concealed at the bottom of their overnight bag.

As the sun was setting on their last day in Cancun, Soleil took Rhiannon’s hand and led her out to the balcony. They stood silently for a moment, shoulders just barely touching; slowly, Soleil turned. The view of the ocean was almost as breathtaking as the view she had of her wife.

“Rhiannon…”

She stopped, and swallowed hard. The words were caught in the back of her throat, nerves besting her motor skills and ability to sufficiently cognize. She’d run through this speech a million times in her head, even snuck away a few times over the course of their vacation to rehearse it out loud. But, with Rhiannon standing in front of her, the words were long forgotten.

Her heart clenched with nervous pride as she pulled a small, velvet box - the thing they'd flown back to New York for - out from behind her back. She held it timidly in her palm, eyes trained on the space between their feet. “The first time I asked you to marry me, I had a ring but no romantic gesture,” she began, shaking her head with a soft chuckle, “The second time I had the gesture, but no ring. So, this time, the third time – “

With a deep, stabilizing breath, she dropped to one knee, tears already threatening to spill. God, she was soft for the woman.

You and I. We were meant for eachother. You are the reason I get out of bed, regardless of how difficult it is for me every single morning. You’re the reason I have direction and focus. I’ve been given not two” – she paused to clear her throat – “but three shots at life, and they’ve all led me to you.  Us, here, in this moment is my paradise. I don’t want or need anything else.”

Soleil was so overwhelmed with love and adoration that there was no feasible way of stopping the flood of tears that streamed down her cheeks.

“Rhiannon Mckay, will you do be the honor of taking my last name as your own?”

May 29, 2017 12:49 am

Rhiannon Whitaker

Overwhelmed is an understatement of Rhiannon’s emotions when time is spent with her wife. The woman that serves as her moral, emotional and social counterpart. The angel feeds off of Soleil’s mannerisms and emotions, sustained in the happy and mellow moments shared, devastated at the hint of a frown. Having the opportunity to travel to Cancun, to remove herself from the tertiary distractions of Margot, Gypsy and her job, Rhiannon pounces. The way that Rhiannon moons over Soleil is borderline absurd, but she is beyond shame. That is why, standing on the balcony, Soleil bent on one knee, Rhiannon’s ears begin to ring.

She’s barely breathing, eyes widened in astonishment as she stares down at her, feeling compelled to pull her wife to her feet. Yet, she cannot deny the rush of warm emotions to see the woman she loves extending the most romantic of emotions, in the perfect of settings. Private, beautiful, sentimental. Regaining her composure, Rhiannon wipes the tears that fallen with involuntary fervor as the woman who owned her heart spoke. It was a simple answer for Rhiannon. Take Soleil’s last name? It had been something she had been considering since their nuptials, but to have Soleil ask in such a grand gesture, she knew it was the correct choice.

Yes.” Emphatic, clear, without a hint of doubt. Without allowing Soleil to stand, Rhiannon is diving into her arms, toppling the emotional woman to the floor of the balcony.

It had been a seamless transition from their glorious stay in Cancun back to life in New York City. The brownstone was their fortress of solitude and love. And in their happiness, the pair hoped that in time, their fortress would grow to house a family.

Knowing the process was long, Rhiannon had chosen to seclude such hopes to the back of her mind as they continued on with their day-to-day lives, no necessarily aching for a child, but it was certainly something the pair looked forward to, whenever the opportunity would arise. After a morning spent at work dutifully designing the sketches for a new development project, her email pings. Her boss, as well as other project leaders are constantly bouncing dimensions and frames off of her, so the angel is quick to check the source.

New York Department of Child Protective Services.

She hadn’t been expecting anything for months. Intrigued, and quite honestly, nervous, she opens the email.

Their caseworker goes on to describe the situation of a two and-a-half year old boy, malnourished, neglected, previously addicted to methamphetamines after his parents basement kitchen had exploded. It was an urgent placement situation.

The Whitakers had wanted a baby boy. Newborn. Not named. A permanent arrangement. Not… Whatever heartache this might cause. And then, Rhiannon scrolls to his picture. It strikes her throat her heart, shattering it into a million pieces. She knows she needs to consult Soleil, but it’s a time sensitive issue, naturally. Looking up at the clock, it’s just turning 12. Lunch-time.

Grabbing her purse, Rhiannon rushes out of the Manhattan skyscraper, and after a 30 minute commute that gargles her lunch hour, she arrives back at the brownstone shared with her beloved wife. She’s already crying, silent, involuntary tears. The connection to this child, the sadness for his suffering, it’s too much for her to process. Until, of course, she’s stumbling into the living room, shoving her phone, and the email, into Soleil’s face.

It’s a long discussion, of details, of potential risks.

“What if his parents want custody, one day? Rhiannon. I don’t know… I couldn’t handle that. Giving him back after all we’d have already been through with him?” Soleil’s voice is soft, heavy laden with emotion. The Whitaker women are holding hands, sitting and facing one another on their couch. Rhiannon’s head is bowed, considering Soleil’s words carefully.

“We can’t dwell on what-ifs we cannot answer. But this little boy needs us. He needs security, affection and love. Who is better at that than you and I?” Rhiannon replies, hands slipping up to cup her cheeks. “It isn’t what we discussed. This isn’t what we planned for. But God has a way of pushing us towards what we truly need… And this is his first subtle gesture.”

After a quiet sigh, Soleil relents. “Okay. Give Susanne a call.”

June 10, 2017 11:23 pm

Soleil Whitaker

Rhiannon makes the call to Susanne, and the process begins.  Given the dire condition of the young boy, the couple pushes for an expedited adoption. But, despite their caseworker’s efforts, the process continues to move at an excruciatingly slow pace. Weeks pass, and the Whitakers are still stuck in the preliminary stages of a Home Study. Susanne has visited a handful of times to conduct interviews and ensure that their home is a safe environment. But beyond that, the adoption seems to be at a standstill.

And it takes an unhealthy toll on their patience.

“Rhiannon..

“I don’t understand why this is taking so long. It’s simple, really. The boy needs…”

Rhiannon.

What?

Soleil cringes inwardly, taken aback by the harshness of Rhiannon’s response. She watches as her wife fidgets, and for a moment, she feels helpless. Rhiannon mutters an apology. One thing she loves most about Rhiannon, however, is her propensity for honesty – always brutally honest, never shying away from explicit expression of emotions.  Because of this, she understands why the angel has been anxious and quick-tempered as of late. Of course, the young Whitaker has also been on edge. She’s as eager as her wife is; she’s just more used to concealing her emotions than she is at expressing them.

The pause in conversation allows for Soleil to realize that Stevie Wonder’s soulful voice is pouring through her laptop speakers, and suddenly, there’s a goofy grin tugging at her lips. In a flash, she’s on her feet, trotting out of the living room. She knows Rhiannon is confused, sitting on the couch with her mouth slightly agape and staring after her.

But, she’s back at the start of a new verse, donning a pair of sunglasses and an invisible microphone.

Oo-wee, babe, you set my soul on fire.

That's why I know you are my only desire.

Ooh baby, here I am.

Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours.

She mouths the words while making wild, exaggerated gestures to fit the lyrics. A smile begins to crack on her wife’s lips, but Soleil isn’t close to wrapping up the act.

I've done a lot of foolish things

That I really didn't mean.

I could be a broken man but here I am

With your future, got your future babe (here I am baby).

By the end of the song, Rhiannon is laughing. And Soleil feels gratified in her efforts. Especially in their current situation, she has been feeling particularly insecure. Caught up in drugs and alcohol, and in the act of wallowing, she hadn’t the chance to think of having a family, and at only 23 years old, she worries that she lacks the appropriate experience to be a mother. Rhiannon reassures her constantly, but she cannot help the incessant nagging at the back of her conscience.  

Before she can begin to question her own parenting abilities, Rhiannon is pulling her back onto the couch and into her lap. “I’m sorry I snapped at you,” she whispers as she wraps her arms around her wife.

Soleil only shakes her head, still smiling. Rhiannon, then, asks about what they’re going to name their son.

“Wilson.”

“Rhyland.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“What the f*ck kind of name is ‘Rhyland?’”

“A good one.”

To that, Soleil arches a brow.

“Wilson Rhyland, then.”

They compromise, and when the time comes, they sign the papers to officiate the young boy’s new name. They even decide that he looks like a ‘Wilson’ when they meet him for the first time. An oversized striped t-shirt makes the toddler look smaller than he is, and the Whitakers can’t help but let out a simultaneous ‘aw’ of endearment.

He’s perfect.

Rhiannon is the first to drop to her knees. With arms open wide, she beckons him over. The child’s hesitation is apparent, blue eyes searching, scanning, evaluating. For a toddler, he’s cautious. And rightfully so. But, all uncertainty is displaced when Soleil produces a stuffed animal from behind her back. He takes one step forward, and then another; Rhiannon’s eyes are filled with exuberant tears, and Soleil cannot stop grinning.

“Hi there, buddy,” she coos, kneeling beside her wife. They both stare in awe as their new son wraps his arms tightly around the plush toy.

“You picked a wolf? Fitting,” Rhiannon mutters. Soleil grunts, unable to take her focus away from the small human in front of her.

The visit is short lived, however. To the couple, a mere 2 minutes have passed when Susanne announces that she’s to take the boy home. Rhiannon requests a little more time, struck by how easily they’ve adjusted to being in eachothers’ company, and Soleil nods in agreement. She can’t yet bring herself to let go of the toddler’s tiny hand.

“I want him home with us already.”

At that, Soleil takes her wife’s hand, and gives it a reassuring squeeze. This is the right decision – Wilson was made for them, just as Rhiannon was made for her. It is already painful to part ways, but the love and pride swelling in her heart is undeniable as she glances back at the boy’s retreating form.

“Soon, darling,” she says, “Soon.”

June 15, 2017 06:59 am

Rhiannon Whitaker

Soonwas not on a timeline Rhiannon, nor Soleil were patient enough for. However, the process was what it was, and with Wilson’s added health issues, his home environment needed to be perfect. Which of course sent Rhiannon into an absolute frenzy. Knives locked in the highest shelves, every possible edge and corner padded. Rhiannon spent days checking and rechecking, much to Soleil’s chagrin that everything was, in fact, perfect.

“Come sit down.” Soleil urges, fingers catching the belt loops of Rhiannon’s jeans. Her wife, however, is having none of this as she fastens a secondary child proof lock to every cabinet.

“Not yet. I’m not –“ And just as Rhiannon is prepared to snap on the lock, Soleil is dragging her into the living room, the angel not having much say in the matter. “When our son maims himself on a cabinet door, you’ll be the one who’s sorry!”

“Rhiannon, I love how excited you are, but you really need to relax.” Soleil reaches to wrap her arms around her wife, but Rhiannon chooses to be obstinate, swatting away at her wife’s advances. She then folds her arms across her chest, choosing to brood at Soleil continues to prod her wife.

Fine,” she relented, huffing. “I might have a slight problem.”

“There you go, babe. The first step is always the hardest.” Soleil joked, though the raised-brow stare she received in response shows the intended audience was not amused. “Tomorrow’s a big day. I’m nervous too. He gets to see his home for the first time –“

“Yeah, and then they take him back after thirty minutes.” Rhiannon interjects bitterly. That Wilson was not ‘officially’ theirs was a thorn in the side of the Whitakers, though Soleil certainly processed her angst much better than the angel. Their arguments were gentle enough, all based in good intentions, but Rhiannon knew her moods were making her wife nervous. “I’m sorry.” She adds in a softer tone, sprawling out so that her head rests in Soleil’s lap. “I just don’t know how we’re supposed to build any trust with him if we’re constantly being separated.”

The two would continue to air their insecurities, the angel recognizing relief in Soleil’s demeanor as her wife deflates.

The next day, however, she is back on high-alert.

“Do you think he likes pancakes? I’ll make waffles too. And eggs, and bacon. Sh*t, Soleil. We don’t have apple juice. We only have –“

“Orange, cranberry, grape and pineapple.” Soleil finished, a small grin on her face as she stilled Rhiannon’s hands. Rhiannon, for her part, has no idea how her wife could be so outwardly calm. “He won’t have much time to eat. It’s really to just familiarize him with the house, and to interact with him personally, Rhi.”

However, the angel is far from reassured. All doubt flies out the window, however, as Susanne knocks on their door, Wilson in tow. The angel is certain to feed him a bite of what seemed to be every item in the house, while Soleil carried him around the house, touring him through rooms, and tickling him until they were both giggling messes.

The most paramount meeting, of course, was that of Wilson and the dogs. Fish, always a lover, approaches cautiously. After a few good sniffs, he is overzealous in his assault, licking Wilson all over his face. The boy, of course, can only cackle in between licks. While Soleil wrangles the dog in, Whisky had jumped up, joining in the festivities. Both women are mortified, naturally, as the caseworker is watching, but the look they shared as they moved to curb the dogs is nothing short of amazement.

As always, when Susanne moves to collect Wilson, both women object wholeheartedly.

“Another half hour wouldn’t hurt anybody.” Rhiannon states adamantly, her body fixed between that of their son and his caseworker. Susanne, however, is having none of her sh*t, and Soleil can tell.

“Babe… Come on. We’ll see him soon.”

And there was that word, which promised so much, yet meant so little. Every goodbye is increasingly difficult, leaving both women somewhat despondent after Wilson is gone.

“Let’s go watch HGTV.” Rhiannon offered a vague smile, her hand extended towards Soleil. When in such a funk, there was only one way out. A marathon of sh*tty people buying sh*tty, tiny homes.

June 17, 2017 12:46 am
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