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



 
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Soleil Whitaker

Run.

Soleil’s feet pound against the concrete in rhythm with Odesza’s “A Moment Apart.” She pushes a hot breath out from between her parted lips, then inhales deeply, cooler air rushing in through her nostrils. She can feel her heart thumping against her ribcage, straining to circulate blood throughout her slim frame. She has no direction, but wherever she is headed, there is a strange sense of urgency to get there.

And fast.

Her pace quickens; the bass of the music pulses in her ears, reverberating within her skull as she rounds a corner. Her body begins to beg for oxygen as her breath becomes sporadic, muscles and lungs alike burning and aching. Yet, in this tunnel vision, she shows no sign of stopping. She just needs to run.

Far.

But, her Apple watch chimes suddenly, notifying her that she has a new text from her wife. She comes to a halt at an intersection, hands lifting to rest on her hips, chest heaving, as she doubles over to catch her breath.

Rhiannon
iMessage
Slide to reply

She squints up at the street sign. She’s in a new part of the city, blocks away from home. She hadn’t even realized that she’d strayed from her usual route, and getting home now requires conscious thought as opposed to muscle memory. She’s tempted to take an Uber, but figures it’d defeat the initial purpose of the run. Instead, she sets off to retrace her steps.

Running. A symbolic act of her avoidant tendencies.  

It’s been about 6 weeks since the affair. Her relationship with Rhiannon seems to have repaired itself; especially with the latest addition to the Whitaker family, the two women are even more inseparable than before. Yet, she still wakes in the middle of the night, haunted by the sounds and sensations unique to Elouise Orlav. Her heart still bears the scars, her pride still fragmented. There is little escape from the reminders of her transgressions.

And yet, when the brownstone appears before her – matte black Indian motorcycle parked behind a polished red Mustang convertible – all her inhibitions and anxieties dissipate. She takes the front steps two at a time, now eager to be back in the company of her family.

“Babe?” Soleil calls out, kicking off her shoes, “Wilson?”

The pattering of feet against the wooden floor grows louder as a little boy trots into the front hall. Giggling, he throws himself into Soleil’s open arms.

“Hey, dude.”

Rhiannon emerges from the kitchen just as Wilson begins mumbling. Her nose wrinkles at the sight of her sweaty wife, clearly not as enthused by her homecoming as their son.

“Soleil. We just finished bath time. He’s in clean clothes.”

There’s a playful tone to the remark, and Soleil grins crookedly as Rhiannon pulls Wilson from her grasp. The younger woman catches her by the waist before she’s out of arm’s reach.

“Sweat never bothered you before,” Soleil murmurs, leaning in close. Wilson, now perched on Rhiannon’s hip, lets out another giggle and clumsily claps his hands together.

Soleil.

The blonde ignores the warning, pressing a firm kiss to Rhiannon’s lips thereafter. She’s met with momentary hesitation, but revels in the way her wife smiles anyways. Small hands reach out, reminding the couple that there’s a third party present. Simultaneously, the two women press kisses to each of Wilson’s cheeks, causing the toddler to erupt into a riotous fit of laughter.

“Mama,” Wilson chirps once he catches his breath.

Soleil and Rhiannon respond at the same time, which sparks an exchange of muddled, unfinished sentences regarding who’s who.

“I thought…”

“Aren’t I…”

“Who’s…”

“I don’t…”

Soleil squints at her wife. Rhiannon shrugs before turning her head to peer at their son. She presses a gentle kiss to his hair as he babbles on.

“Zoo? I wanna see the a-aminals.”

“Zoo it is, little man.”

The go-bag is packed with snacks and juice boxes; Soleil is sure to bring her camera, too. She spends the afternoon attempting to steer the toddler toward the wolf enclosure. She kneels beside him, one arm wrapped around his tiny frame, the other beckoning the animals closer. The animals approach the perimeter, heads low and eyes scanning with caution. She urges him to let out a howl, his blue eyes growing wide, thereafter. But, the fascination is short-lived.

Before she can entertain him with some fun facts about the Gray wolf, Wilson is toddling toward the next enclosure.

Rhiannon offers a sympathetic smile, holding out her hand for the blonde to take. They follow Wilson around, clasped hands swinging back and forth, until a ranger notifies them that the zoo is closing. Soleil collects Wilson up in her arms, delighted with the way he squeals and laughs.

And it’s in that moment she realizes life cannot get much better. She’d struggled for years – endured loss and heartbreak, experienced loneliness and abandonment. Rhiannon had been her savior; their marriage had given her purpose and a new fervor for life. But, Wilson – having a family of her own – ignites a fire in her heart unparalleled to anything she’s ever felt before.

October 06, 2017 11:52 pm

Rhiannon Whitaker


-

December 14, 2017 01:17 am

Rhiannon Whitaker

Life feels like a waking dream, surreal. The pain makes it impossible to let the passing days stay understated in their importance. Soleil hasn’t come home in a day or so, and the absence of her wife leaves Rhiannon doubting her own usefulness. Soleil has fled from her problems (as she often does), and the angel wonders if she’d pushed her wife to the edge. Her feelings, however justified, forced Soleil out.

The morning-time is slow moving without the extra set of hands, and Wilson’s barrage of questions in regards to his other parent leave Rhiannon at a loss. She can only offer that waning half-smile, a shrug, and keep supplying him with food until he forgets his initial thoughts. Rhiannon, however, has nowhere to escape from Logan, whose needs are constant and unwavering. She begrudges that she’s been left alone to handle him, angered that Soleil’s so childish as to abandon her wife in such a pivotal moment in their marriage.

It leaves Rhiannon bitter, yet the pining for her counterpart only grows more unbearable as the hours pass. Normally, time melts together in a sort of infinite wave, but this is so much different. The angel feels the pressure of every minute passing, waiting for it to breach her breaking point. So she tends to Wilson’s need for attention, taking the two boys out into the blistery city to find amusement outside of the prison their house has become in Soleil’s absence.

While she normally feels so close to Soleil that she can sense any change in her mood and demeanor, she cannot get a read for her charge at all. It turns the angel lethargic, held together only because it’s necessitated for the two children in her care.

However, after day three this practice can no longer sustain itself, and Rhiannon is driven to bringing Soleil back home. After leaving the boys in the capable hands of a sitter, she’s tracking Soleil’s iPhone, a nifty little app that her wife has forgotten to disable - not that Rhiannon truly understood its purpose until this very moment.

The Uber takes her deep, deep into Brooklyn, until Rhiannon has no recognition for her surroundings. Soleil’s phone has stayed put in the same location for the last nearly 72 hours. The nagging sensation deep within Rhiannon’s gut vies for her attention, and the overwhelming sense of dread soon consumes her.

She’s sure Soleil has taken up with one of her former New York friends, the good for nothing crowd she’d vowed to giving up in order to leave a better life. It only infuriates Rhiannon more that Soleil would come running to these people than talk to her own wife. It seemed perfectly natural to fight, to argue - for the Whitaker’s always repaired their wounds. But Soleil has made that impossible by hiding from her issues - only driving a larger wedge between the two women. Despite this, Rhiannon has the driver idle on the curb as she quick-steps up to the door of the standalone house, in a short of shanty disrepair.

 

She gives two rounds of knocks on the door, but no answer. She can hear commotion inside of the house, loud music, laughter. Soleil’s laughter. She gives the door handle a try, and it gives freely. Not locked. Boots carry her without stealth into the living room, to a most abhorring sight.

Soleil and Mark, crouched around a glass-topped coffee table. In classic fashion, bottles of cheap vodka litter the room, food waste and trash abound. But nothing concerns Rhiannon more than the finite powdered substance currently being snorted up Soleil’s nose. It feels like a betrayal, more than Elouise, more than Logan, more than anything else. Because this time, it’s an infraction against the family, endangering her life, risking Wilson, risking it all.

But rather than anger… Rhiannon quite palpably feels her heart shatter, and it’s only then she clears her throat, indicating her presence. But she can’t stay; can’t bear to face Soleil. Not like this. Not drunk or high. But she can’t bring her feet to drag her back, to carry her from the situation at hand and back to the brownstone they call home.

Rhiannon feels failure rise in her throat like bile, the aura of nausea floating in her stomach. Because the angel has absolutely failed in keeping her wife safe, and this is a perfect example of her shortcomings.

And after this all; the fight, Logan - this - the angel is at a complete loss.

She’s fairly certain she’d rather die.

December 14, 2017 01:20 am

Soleil Whitaker

Hours. Days. Weeks, maybe.

Soleil Whitaker has lost track of time. 

She’s lost feeling in her face, too.

Lost herself in the empty bottles of Amsterdam vodka, and the neatly cut lines of blow.

Everything blurs into a mass of sound and sensation around her. 

But, then...

Someone clears their throat.

Soleil blinks once, at a complete loss for words. Rhiannon is standing in the doorframe, the sheer magnitude of her sadness palpable. It hangs in the air like a wet blanket, suffocating the couple as they stare at one another. The look of disappointment and remorse is undeniable on the angel’s face, and Soleil is almost compelled to apologize. But, really, what would it matter? She’d made the decision by her own volition. 

Soleil stands slowly. Sans pants and wearing one of Mark’s Van Halen tank tops, it’s apparent that she’s an absolute mess. The haze of intoxication quickly evaporates, but her body is still buzzing from the cocaine. She stumbles over to the stereo, the heavy bass of Brockhampton’s ‘Sweet’ now too loud for her liking.

“Rhiannon…”

Her thoughts are in painful disarray.

“Let me just…”

What, explain? Apologize? Get dressed? Show her the door? Invite her to stay?

Mark remains motionless on the couch, gaze anxiously bouncing between the two women. Soleil had asked for a place to crash, with no intention whatsoever to throw herself into an altered state of consciousness. But, in knowing her avoidant tendencies, Mark had been the worst kind of enabler. He’s single-handedly responsible for her relapse, and he knows it.

“So,” he says, turning his attention to the woman in the doorway, “You must be the wife.”

The wife.

Rhiannon responds with a curt ‘yeah,’ distaste obvious in the tone of her voice. She barely glances in Mark’s direction; her primary focus is so evidently her own counterpart – the woman she’d been made to love, the woman who’d betrayed her time and time again. Soleil takes a wary step closer, but when the expression on the angel’s face hardens, she knows better than to proceed.

“How could you?”

There’s no hint of anger in her voice, and it puts Soleil slightly on edge.

“Baby, can you take me home? Please.”

It’s a strange request. And not, by any means, an answer to Rhiannon’s question. But, in the instantaneous sobriety she’d been granted, Soleil craves the comfort of the brownstone. Mark’s apartment embodies everything she hates about herself – the booze, the drugs, the waste of space she’d become in her years of desperate escape.

Home?

Rhiannon’s voice is shrill as she moves swiftly toward her wife. Suddenly, Soleil is up against the living room wall with a hand clasped around her neck. The angel has regained her composure when she leans in to respond.

“You f*cking left. Without a word of warning. And now you’re… you’re just…”

She doesn’t bother wipe away the tear that tumbles down her cheek, and in that moment, Soleil’s heart stutters and breaks in her chest. Her eyes slide shut in shame and regret, hands reaching up to take ahold of Rhiannon’s forearm.

“This was a mistake. I didn’t mean to, baby,” she whispers, head dropping forward. Then, Mark’s voice takes both women by surprise.

“Why don’t we just relax?” he suggests, putting a hand on Rhiannon’s shoulder, “Have a seat – Rhiannon, is it?”

Unbeknownst to him, Rhiannon is no longer susceptible to male charm. The angel slaps him hard enough to wipe the lopsided smile from his expression. The action is not motivated by anger, but rather, utter shock. The audacity, the brazen disregard for the gravity of the situation. Soleil knows that Rhiannon would normally exhibit more self-control, but this – the betrayal, the grief – warrants such a reaction.

“What kind of friend are you?”

“Excuse me? I’m the one Soleil comes to when your b*tch ass pushes her out onto the street.”

Soleil’s eyes widen. “Mark, that - that’s not true. I needed space, but I…”

“Sol, c’mon. I know you. Apparently better than Asian Invasion does.”

Mark’s lanky frame is catapulted over the back of the couch before the younger Whitaker can respond. “You don’t know a thing about her,” Rhiannon shrieks, lunging after him, “You don’t know a goddamn thing.”

The young man struggles, writhing on the floor in attempt to escape the barrage of heavy-fisted blows. Soleil knows just how strong the angel is, and for a moment, she fears for Mark’s life. But, Rhiannon stops, blood dripping from her knuckles as she stands. The outburst leaves Soleil speechless, and yet, oddly satisfied with what has transpired before her. A few moments pass before Rhiannon speaks.

“Let’s go home.”

Soleil steps around the couch to catch a glimpse of Mark’s unconscious form. “He’s alive, right?”

Rhiannon only nods before holding a hand out to her wife. “Home, Soleil,” she says, steadily, “And then we’ll talk.”

December 15, 2017 03:59 pm

Rhiannon Whitaker

The Uber back is silent, Soleil curled up in Rhiannon’s protective hold – her wife’s jacket draped over her pale form. Rhiannon’s face is pressed into Soleil’s hair, lungs inhaling and exhaling the familiar scent of her wife, as if to constantly assure herself that the younger woman is safely in her arms. She ignores the dull throbbing in her knuckles from having retaliated against Mark, knowing full well the tender flesh will bruise and ache for days to come.

Instead, all that matters is Soleil. They carry on silently to Soleil’s old apartment, currently Margot-free. “My assistant is going to watch the boys overnight.” Rhiannon murmurs as the car pulls to a halt outside of the complex, and with seemingly zero effort, the angel pulls Soleil from the car, holding her close to her chest. That anyone might lay witness to them is inconsequential to her. She ignores Soleil’s faint protest that she can, in fact, walk. The angel is above all negotiations.

The keys turn in the lock, and Rhiannon finally lets Soleil back onto her feet after an arduous hike to the third floor. “I’ll go draw you a bath. Okay?” She pauses, fingers weaving their way through Soleil’s hair as she leans in, pressing a kiss against her forehead. She then proceeds to simply hold her wife, and the length of time that passes is unknown.

Rhiannon hopes the reason why they can’t go ‘home’ is obvious to her wife. Never in her life will she ever let their son witness either of them in such a state. She knows she is not in the right headspace as well, and the solitude of the apartment grants them the time and space they need to reconnect. The apartment is silent against until she draws the bath water, and the angel reemerges to collect her wife. “Soak for a little while, I’ll make some tea… And, … And then…” She clears her throat, not allowing her emotions to invade the space between them.

Soleil needed strength, and the angel will always be exactly what her better half requires, regardless of the price. “It’s all going to be okay, baby. I promise. You and I, right?” The question, this time, isn’t as rhetorical as it always seems. The angel is dying for the reassurance that Soleil still needs her, still loves her.

“Yeah, babe. You and I.” Soleil confirms in a broken whisper, arms encircling Rhiannon once more as she lets out a choked sob – high, confused, heartbroken all in the same breath. Despite it all, Soleil hasn’t found Rhiannon’s limit. “I love you so much, Rhiannon. I’m so-“

Rhiannon hushes her with a kiss, knowing deep down, the apology isn’t necessary. No apology ever is. In the end, the angel has always forgiven Soleil of her trespasses, often before they’ve even come to pass. However, the magnitude of the issue at hand leaves Rhiannon with limited options. Once Soleil is dressed in clean pajamas and tucked into bed, Rhiannon’s bare feet tip-toe out into the hallway outside of their apartment. She makes a few calls, her voice lacking the usual warmth and energy it usually conveys. She’s exhausted, truly, and after the final phone call Rhiannon crawls into bed beside Soleil and falls asleep with her in her arms.

The next morning Soleil would be greeted with the smell of Rhiannon at work in the kitchen, plate stacked high with her signature pancakes. There’s a quiet remorse in the angel’s caramel eyes as she watches Soleil voraciously attack the food before her. Even more so as she loads up the Uber with a bag of mixed necessities – clothes, toiletries, an old iPod she’d since loaded with new music, and a picture of Rhiannon and Wilson tucked in the front pocket. There’s a great turmoil and grief within Rhiannon as she helps Soleil into the taxi, a feigned smile conveying that every was alright, but the destination is far different than Soleil might possibly imagine.

It helps that Soleil falls back asleep not long after they take off, brunette hair tucked under Rhiannon’s chin as she slumbers. The brownstone isn’t the destination. Instead, a rehabilitation clinic not far into Connecticut. When the taxi pulls up outside of the facility, Rhiannon doesn’t move at first. Her arms slip around Soleil’s sleight figure, reluctant to release her. However, she knows in the end, she cannot be the solution to all of the troubled young woman’s problems. As much as she wants to take Soleil home and fix what is broken, she understands that fundamentally she cannot.

Then, she gently prods her wife, stirring her from her exhausted rest. “Baby,” Rhiannon whispers against her ear, emotions getting the better of her. “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. But I need you to do this, for yourself. Not for me or Wilson… But for you.”

And she hopes, beyond all hope, that Soleil doesn’t feel as betrayed as Rhiannon thinks she might.

December 15, 2017 06:07 pm

Soleil Whitaker

Soleil is just the shell of a person as Rhiannon coaxes her along – into the bathtub and out, into an oversized Red Sox t-shirt, and then finally, into bed. She attempts to convince her wife to come to bed also, craving some kind of reassurance that all will end well. But, Rhiannon only allows for a small smile and a gentle shake of her head.

“I’ll be in soon, babe,” she whispers before pressing another firm kiss to Soleil’s hair, “I just have to make sure everything’s okay at home.” When Rhiannon returns, she slips quietly under the sheets, arm instinctively reaching around the other woman’s slim frame. Normally, the steadiness of her heartbeat is enough to lull Soleil into slumber. But, it’s a long while until the younger Whitaker’s eyes slide shut.

In the morning, she practically inhales her food. Between bites, she asks about Wilson (and conveniently forgets about Logan), about the dogs, about work. As if she’d been gone for more than 3 days. Conversation between the two women is sparse. The silence isn’t particularly uncomfortable, but it’s certainly not the same feeling of ease they’re used to. Soleil steals glances at her wife as Rhiannon mills around the kitchen, taking note of how uncharacteristically lethargic the movements are. She’s tempted to initiate the dreaded, yet necessary dialogue about what had transpired the evening prior. But, she’s selfish – too enamored with the illusion of a truce to speak up.

“Why do you think God put us together?” she asks, coming to an abrupt stop as they make their way downstairs, “Why didn’t he put you with someone who deserves you?”

In her mind, it’s a fair question. She doesn’t deserve the angel. She’d known that since the beginning. But, the extent to which she had been lacking in their relationship hadn’t been made apparent to her until this moment. Soleil had, once again, betrayed her wife. And yet, she remains the object of the angel’s affection.

Rhiannon doesn’t respond at first. Instead, she slips into the backseat of the cab, tugging Soleil in after her.  Finally, the angel says, “You make every day worthwhile, Soleil.”

They fall into silence once more, hands clasped tightly on the seat between them. Soon, the sleepless nights finally catch up, and she dozes to the low hum of the taxi’s engine. Rhiannon pulls her close, then. Arms encircling her shoulders, lips pressed to her dark hair. The clinic is a short drive from where they cross the state border into Connecticut.

When they pull up, Soleil stirs at the sound of Rhiannon’s voice. “Are we home?” she inquires. This was most certainly not home. Far from it, in fact. Soleil’s heart clenches at the at the sight of the words ‘Rehabilitation Center.’

 “I didn’t mean it,” she whispers, recoiling, “I never meant… I didn’t ask to.”

“I know, baby.” Rhiannon’s voice cracks, the sight of her panicking wife is almost unbearable. She reaches out, but Soleil unconsciously steps away. They stop just outside the sliding glass doors of the clinic – the gateway to change, to newfound strength, to repair and recovery.

“Please don’t make me.”

“Please don’t be mad.”

The whispered pleas are made simultaneously, each exuding an equivalent amount of desperation and anguish. Rhiannon persists in her quest for physical contact, hands reaching out to pull Soleil into a tight embrace.

“I love you, Soleil Whitaker. No matter what.”

The sliding doors part, and a blonde woman in floral patterned scrubs greets the couple with a wide smile. Her name tag says ‘Bridget,’ and she insists on taking Soleil’s duffel. Suddenly, she’s being directed down a hallway, away from her wife’s comforting proximity. Rhiannon gives a small, dejected wave when Soleil glances over her shoulder.

“You and I, right?”

Always.

December 16, 2017 12:47 am

Rhiannon Whitaker

It’s a restless few days at home without Soleil. The lack of contact drives Rhiannon mad, coupled with self-doubt makes her poor company. Of course, for Wilson and Logan, she keeps herself together. There’s no room for her to fall apart, but it doesn’t stop the wheels in her mind from turning. She wonders constantly if the decision she made was the correct one – but the hardest decisions often are. Still, it was in a pure display of humanity that Rhiannon recognized she couldn’t fix what was broken with Soleil. All of the prayers in the world cannot possibly repair it.

On the third day, Rhiannon drops the boys off with her sister and takes the Mustang, Connecticut bound. The top is up for perhaps the first time, giving the car an entirely different feeling. Rhiannon remembers when Soleil first gifted her the majestic car, perhaps without realizing that the angel is one of the most reckless, inconsiderate drivers on the road. While it shaves off a few minutes of the drive, it’s miraculous both car and driver arrive without injury.

She’s dressed in bum-ish clothes, having gone from the gym, to quickly ushering the children into Margot’s apartment, and now to this. She’s only just realized she’s wearing clothes all belonging to her wife – the old Red Sox sweatshirt, shorts, only the sneakers are the angel’s. In the backseat, Rhiannon’s somehow managed to remember a Tupperware full of Soleil’s favorite cookies and a thermos of coffee. She’s filled with remorse as she scurries from the warmth of the still running car to the confines of the rehabilitation center to check Soleil out.

The confines of the building are white-washed and smell of bleach. Rhiannon has never liked hospitals, and this is no different. It only causes her anxiety over the experience Soleil may have had on the other side of the doors. She paces the length of the waiting room, impatient to assess the well-being of her better half. When the double doors swing open, Rhiannon freezes.

Looking rested, and with a smile on her face stands Soleil.

Hey.”

“I love you.”

The three words are all the affirmation Rhiannon requires to simply rush her wife, taking her into a crushing hug. “Are you okay? Did they feed you in there? I made snickerdoodles, and I brought real coffee.” There’s cluttered panic to the angel’s words as she steps back to quickly assess her wife’s well-being. “I’ve been going crazy without you.” She lets out a soft sigh, calming enough to grasp Soleil in a tender kiss.

“Let’s go home, baby.” Soleil slips her hand into Rhiannon’s, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. “I just want to get back to normal.”

Rhiannon is happily dragged out to the car, where they’re decidedly less PG than when in eye-shot of the orderlies.

“The shorts, Rhi? Really? It’s 30 degrees outside…” Soleil, however, isn’t particularly complaining as her hands drift.

“I had a busy morning. It wasn’t on purpose.” She grins into another needy kiss, oblivious to the steely winter winds. And then they’re both laughing until the moment grows more sober and silent.

“I’m sorry, Soleil. I’m so, so sorry.” Rhiannon confesses, head bowed.

“Why are you apologizing, baby? It had to happen.” The younger Whitaker lifts a hand to cup her wife’s chin, effectively lifting the angel’s caramel gaze back to hers.

“I’m supposed to be your support. I can’t help but feel like…”

“You saved my life, Rhiannon Whitaker.”

It gives the angel great pause to hear such pivotal words spill so easily from Soleil’s lips. Her eyes are captivated on the other woman, brimming with tears. It is, after all, her duty to protect Soleil. To love her. She’d made a vow before God she would do so – yet giving her over to a clinic felt like the easy way out. Surely, the angel must have been able to give Soleil what she needed to begin repairing herself. But, she clearly understood not all matters are so simply cured with love and patience. And that is precisely why they’re standing together against the façade of the Mustang, breath mingling in the cold air.

“Let’s go home, yeah?”

“Yeah... But I'm driving."

December 17, 2017 12:52 am

Soleil Whitaker

Soleil is inspected, head to toe, for the physical evaluation. Bridget, her nurse, is gentle when drawing blood. “It’s normal to be nervous,” she says, pressing a cotton swab to Soleil’s skin. 

“That obvious?”

“A lot of people come through here, Soleil.”

Soleil nods, lips pressing into a thin, firm line. Her relapse had been unintentional; she’d trusted Mark to provide a temporary escape. But, he had severely misinterpreted. 

 “Like old times,” he’d said after pulling a vial from his coat pocket. She had refused, at first. But, Mark, for as long as Soleil had known him, was an incorrigible influence; he was aware of the type of bond they shared, and he’d taken advantage of it. He’d known that his wide grin and boyish charm had a strong hold over the young woman, and just the right amount of coaxing would do. In retrospect, Soleil, however weak-willed, had been betrayed. 

After the physical, Bridget shows Soleil to her room. It’s small, and not particularly impressive, by any means. But, the nurse is sure to point out that it’s one with good natural lighting. Soleil sets her bag down at the foot of the bed, drawn immediately to the windows. She’d put herself here, in the end. Mark may have been a catalyst, but ultimately, she’d been the one to say ‘yes.’

“Someone will be in shortly for the psych eval.”

“Thanks.”

“If it’s any consolation to you, Soleil, I don’t think you’ll be here long.”

Bridget’s encouragement resonates with the young Whitaker. The psychiatrist doesn’t show too much concern for Soleil’s mental health, but does make a note of mild PTSD. He’s cordial, and Soleil finds comfort in the way a warm smile tugs at his lips. “Honestly, Mrs. Whitaker,” the doctor says, “We’re going to get you out of here in a few days.”

Soleil watches as his eyes scan her file, looking for any minute change in his expression. She all but breathes a sigh of relief when he looks up, closes the folder, and offers another smile. “I just want to make sure you’re stable,” he adds, “We’ll get you in to see a therapist tomorrow, and that way, you can make a game plan moving forward. I’ll call your wife to let her know.”

Therapy goes well, and Soleil agrees to try out-patient treatment, just as an added precaution. One stupid mistake had interrupted 2 years of sobriety, and Soleil promises the therapist that she has no intention of ever returning to the clinic. The woman smiles, nods, and says, “I, too, hope to never see you again, Mrs. Whitaker.”

Bridget waits in the doorway of the room as Soleil packs at the end of day three. The young Whitaker is in good spirits after some rest, and some much-needed time to reflect. It had been Rhiannon’s humanity that had allowed for this to happen – her acceptance that she wasn’t, and couldn’t be the solution to all of Soleil’s problems. It’d been the ultimate sacrifice for the angel, and Soleil, now aware of how deep their love runs, vows to be a better wife.

Three days isn’t particularly a long time, but it feels like a lifetime. So, when Soleil pushes through the double doors to be greeted by her wife, the first words from her mouth are a proclamation of love. In the car, Soleil pulls Rhiannon into a desperate kiss, hoping to pour adoration and appreciation into her counterpart.

On the way home, Soleil has to remind her wife to keep her eyes on the road a multitude of times – the angel is undeniably distracted by her presence and proximity. “I just love you, that’s all,” Rhiannon whines, reaching over the center console for Soleil’s hand.

“I know, baby.”

“You’re not mad, are you?”

“Rhiannon.”

“Are you?”

“Of course not.”

The angel smiles, and to Soleil, it’s a glorious vision she could never growing tired of having. The couple is still due for a conversation, but there’s no point in ruining the mood at this juncture. The younger woman is just grateful to be close to her wife once more.

Even more grateful when she’s tackled into a hug as soon as she steps through the brownstone’s front door. Wilson, without giving his mother a moment to breathe, begins babbling about gingerbread houses and Christmas cookie decorating.

“Where did you go, Mommy?” he inquires, finally taking a moment to consider her whereabouts.

“I had some stuff to do, little man. But, I promise to never leave like that again, okay?”

The toddler nods before throwing his arms back around Soleil’s neck. Tears pool in her eyes as she stands, scooping Wilson up along the way. She peppers him with gentle kisses, unable to express just how elated she is to be back in the comfort of her own home. “I love you, dude,” she murmurs, placing a kiss to his chubby cheek thereafter.

“Love you too, Mommy.”

The Whitakers fall back into an easy routine in the following days. Soleil wakes to make coffee and two plates of avocado toast; the couple sits at the kitchen island, discussing current events in hushed voices and reveling in the stillness of the house. Rhiannon gets ready for work as Soleil balances making scrambled eggs for Wilson, and tending to Logan’s own needs.

“You and I,” she says, as the angel takes her by the waist. She makes note of how Rhiannon looks good in just about everything she wears.

“Always.”

“Already can’t wait for you to come home. Text me.”

“I will. I love you more than anything, Soleil Whitaker.”

And in that moment, the younger woman smiles, knowing, deep in her heart, that Rhiannon means it.

December 18, 2017 03:58 am

Rhiannon Whitaker

Having Soleil home makes Rhiannon all the more grateful for the younger woman, conscious of the way Soleil dotes on her unnecessarily. The pair have always spoken the same love language – the need for verbal confirmations of affection, physical contact, small, seemingly insignificant acts of kindness. The angel could live without all of it, so long as she still had Soleil. But in the days following her in-patient care, Rhiannon is stuck to Soleil like glue. Every morning, out the door at the last possible second to be to work on time, and every day out of the office by four o’clock.

Rhiannon is conscious now, more than ever, of her wife’s needs. She is entirely more present than she had been weeks ago, not allowing a moment with her family to be monopolized by work. Some nights, however, can’t be helped.

With the holiday recess closing in, and deadlines looming, it’s going to be a late-night haul to submit the blueprints for an impending project. It’s nearing 11pm when her phone pings.

Soleil
iMessage
Slide to Reply

Caramel eyes goes wide with the contents of the message; subsequently packing up her things and leaving the office with the project half finished.

It’s midnight by the time Rhiannon tip-toes into the house, desperate to be as quiet as possible so not to wake up Wilson or Logan as she slides out of her heels and sets her briefcase down. The world inside of the Whitaker’s brownstone is quiet and peaceful as her bare feet pad into the kitchen to inspect what Soleil had made for dinner. Just as she’s about to very shamelessly eat rice straight from the pot, a pair of hands close around her waist and she’s now pulled flush against Soleil.

“Hey, baby.” The younger woman breathes, lips then pressing a kiss against her neck. “I’m loving this pantsuit, by the way…”

Soleil,” Rhiannon squeaks, turning then to in-turn wrap her arms around Soleil. “You like anything I wear.”

“On the contrary, love of mine, I like watching you take the clothes off.”

It is nights like this one that remind Rhiannon of the strength of their love, despite any obstacles that have come their way. The magnetism that the woman have felt, and still feel for each other hasn’t faded despite the missteps and mistakes they’ve both made.

It’s so early the next morning that the sun isn’t even fully set in the sky that Rhiannon crawls onto Soleil, gently nudging her awake with her nose. “Babe,” She chirps, peppering incessant little kisses all over her face until Soleil groans and swats her away.

“Too early.” She grumbles, hands still taking their place at Rhiannon’s lower-back, as if by instinct.

“I’m taking a sabbatical from work.” Rhiannon declares, all smiles as she announces the decision. “You can’t take care of Wilson and Logan all by yourself, and I don’t expect you to. And, with everything… I just want to be here to support you.”

“Does this mean I can go back to bed?” She glowers, a knuckle wiping the sleep from her eyes. “Because unlike you, I have to wake up when the kids do.”

Despite the mock ire in her tone, Rhiannon catches the true emotion behind it. Relief, appreciation, love.

And it’s enough for Rhiannon to doze off again in her wife’s arms – if only for 45 minutes before there’s a cheeky toddler requiring their full attention. 

December 18, 2017 12:10 pm

Soleil Whitaker

“Rhiannon.”

The angel hums.

Rhiannon.

“What?”

“Logan.”

The angel protests by rolling over, and yanking the duvet cover over her head. “Let him cry,” she grumbles, voice muffled. Soleil lets out a heavy sigh before swinging her legs over the side of the bed. She shuffles to the nursery, shushing and cooing at the cranky infant. The clock on the wall reads 4:35 am. In just a few days, Logan Orlav has become the bane of Soleil’s existence – in more ways than she’d initially imagined.

“Alright, little one,” she murmurs, cradling the child in her arms, “What is it this time?”

Soleil makes her way downstairs, still cooing at Logan as he wriggles and fusses. Soon after being fed, he dozes off. And so does Soleil, drained from the frequently interrupted night of sleep. Rhiannon steps into the living room some time later to find the pair snoring quietly on the couch, Logan clutched to the younger woman’s chest. As much resentment as she harbors for the child and for Elouise, Rhiannon can’t help but marvel at the overwhelmingly adorable sight before her.

The couple hadn’t anticipated having a second child in the house. At least, not so soon after welcoming Wilson. They’d spoken about the prospect of a daughter, but that was for some time in the future – for after they’d gotten the hang of parenting. Logan, not that it was his fault, had come as a surprise, and indubitably interfered with the plan they’d agreed upon. Nevertheless, the couple managed, and Wilson seemed thrilled with the idea of having a brother.

Sometimes, however, Soleil catches the bitter inflection in her wife’s voice. She’s surprised, albeit pleasantly so, that Rhiannon hasn’t been more obvious in her displays of disenchantment with the situation. Innately compassionate, Rhiannon can’t help but care for the infant. But, Soleil sees the way in which she struggles, and knows, without a shred of doubt in her mind, that the angel is torn.

And honestly, she can’t blame her.

Even though he isn’t a product of the affair, Logan is still a constant, heart-wrenching reminder of Soleil’s betrayal. Rhiannon had been tightlipped when it came to her wife’s ‘friendship’ with Elouise, but trusted the younger woman, nonetheless. For that trust to be broken, however, was almost enough to split the couple indefinitely. However, their love for one another, in time, would overcome and repair the damage done to both hearts. There is no longer any question of loyalty – with all the trials and tribulations they’ve endured so early in their marriage, the Whitakers know that they were created for one another.

And perhaps, Logan’s presence is just another test.

On a particularly cold Tuesday evening, Rhiannon volunteers to put the infant to bed.

“Are you sure? I can…”

“I’ve got it, Soleil.”

Rhiannon retreats upstairs with Logan in her arms and Wilson in tow, leaving Soleil to finish her glass of wine in the tranquility of the kitchen. Like a pathetic puppy, she begins to miss the proximity of her wife, making her way up to the nursery thereafter. The door has been left slightly ajar – just enough for Soleil to peer in and be witness to the tenderness held in Rhiannon’s heart.

“Rock-a-bye, baby, in the tree tops,” the angel sings, rocking the infant gently, “When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.” Wilson sits at her feet, staring in awe as Rhiannon continues to sing. When the lullaby is over, she lowers the slumbering child just enough for Wilson to press a gentle peck to his forehead.

“Kiss your brother goodnight.”

Soleil’s eyes widen, heart jumping in her chest. Brother. A glorious smile takes command of her lips, and she scurries to the master bedroom before Rhiannon is aware of her presence. The angel had acknowledged the infant as her own, and this sends a wave of emotion crashing over the young woman. “I didn’t know you had such a good voice,” she teases as Rhiannon curls up at her side.

“I’m an angel, Soleil. I was born with pipes.”

Soleil chuckles. “Fair.”

“Now, shut up. This Is Us is on.”

The younger Whitaker doesn’t take the moment of pause to admit to eavesdropping. Instead, she pulls her wife closer, and presses a firm kiss to her hair. “Love you, too.”

December 19, 2017 12:54 pm

Rhiannon Whitaker

Christmas Eve.

 

Babe, do we have to? It’s Christmas Eve.” Soleil whines, mostly due to exhaustion from having wrapped presents like an indentured servant the last couple of days. Her wife, however, is unfazed.

“Midnight Mass is non-negotiable. You promised.” The angel replies, slipping into her coat with ease. “We made a deal.”

“It better be worth it…” Soleil grumbles, feet reluctantly slipping into pilgrim-styled shoes.

“Am I ever not worth it?” Rhiannon suggests with a wry grin, herringbone hat now tucked over her ears. Soleil pads over, quick to pull the angel into a needy embrace.

“You’re always worth it.” The younger Whitaker promises, stealing a chaste kiss before drawing back to search the galaxies behind Rhiannon’s caramel eyes. “I guess we’ll sleep after the New Year, huh?”

“On the contrary, love of mine.” Rhiannon smirks, hands unabashedly wandering. “My impending New Year’s Resolution is to get much, much less rest.”

“If that’s the case, shouldn’t we start practicing?” Soleil suggests, grin just as wide – only to be squashed as Rhiannon gives her a peck on the nose and breaks away.

“Nope! Church first.”

“I swear, you’d rather sleep with God than with me…”

“Do you really want me to answer that question for you, sweetheart?”

Soleil sighs dejectedly. “No…”

Good. Then get that cute tush out the door. We only have a sitter for so long.”   

 

 

Christmas Day.

 

The scent of seasoned wood burning in the hearth fills the living room as Rhiannon and Soleil watch Wilson tear into his plethora of gifts. Logan is situated in Rhiannon’s arms, totally oblivious to the magnitude of the day. It was hardly past six o’clock that Logan was jumping into their bed, his excitement electric in the air. Rhiannon’s eagerness for this holiday season are just as palpable, the angel feeling blessed to have her wife and child happy and healthy.

So what if Jesus was a bit of a tool and rather insignificant to the Kingdom of Heaven?

“Ready for your presents, babe?”

Soleil perks up, watching as Rhiannon sets Logan in his bassinet and disappears behind the tree – only to reappear with an arm-full of festooned bags and wrapped boxes. “Rhiannon,” Soleil chastises, although her ageless, enigmatic smile is hard to mask. “You said we’d focus on Wilson this year.”

“I lied. So what?” The angel grins, piling the presents at Soleil’s feet. “I just love you, and I wanted to spoil you. You are all the present I need.” Rhiannon leans over to press a kiss to Soleil’s forehead, only to find herself being pulled down onto her lap and lavished with incessant kisses.

“Here I thought I’d one-up you with a small army of presents. I should have known better, being married to you.” Soleil retorts, arms still holding her wife by the waist. “You’re all the gift I need, too. Love you.”

“I love you too..” Rhiannon murmurs, stealing a more tender kiss before scrambling off of Soleil. “Now open your damn presents, woman. I want wonderment! I want joy!”

 

Boxing Day.

 

No.” Soleil sinks further into the reserves of pillows and blankets, swatting away as Rhiannon tries to rouse her from bed. “Sleep. I need sleep.” The younger woman urges. She feels the weight of Rhiannon’s body leave the bed, and she emits a sigh of relief.

Albeit a bit prematurely.

There are suddenly two hands on her ankles, and with little time to react, Soleil is pulled quite effectively from the mattress and onto the floor with Rhiannon in one big heap of limbs. She has to stop underestimated her wife’s strength.

“Sleep is overrated. I need attention.” Rhiannon replies, already snaking her way around Soleil’s torso. Her face tucks neatly into the crook of her neck, voice muffled. “And the boys need food.”

With one big groan, Soleil gives in to the inevitable adorableness of the angel, arms wrapping around her in turn. “You truly are the most ridiculous woman. You know that, don’t you?”

Rhiannon grins against her skin, so widely that Soleil can sense it even without seeing it. It warms her heart. “Does that mean we can go get breakfast? Clinton Street? I want –“

Pancakes. Yeah, babe. I know.” Soleil chuckles, silencing Rhiannon’s impending indignation with a kiss. “Get off of me and let me get dressed, and we can go.”

Rhiannon hums. “I don’t know… I like you half naked and on the floor. Can I think about it for a minute?” The angel’s fingers trail down her wife’s body, catching at hem of the Red Sox sweatshirt she adorns. “Maybe a few minutes?”

“I’m not that easy.” Soleil grumbles, though doesn’t complain as the sweatshirt is rather unceremoniously tugged over her head and tossed aside. “… Ten minutes.”

“That’s what I thought.”

Shut up.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.”

December 29, 2017 02:34 pm

Soleil Whitaker

The holiday hype doesn’t end after Boxing Day. Not for the Whitakers, at least. On New Year’s Eve, just after dinner, the sitter comes to pick the boys up – Rhiannon and Soleil pepper them with kisses before they’re whisked away.

“Did you know the Outback was named one of this year’s twelve best family cars?” Rhiannon comments as the sitter’s Subaru departs down Moore Street.

“Of course you would know that.”

“I’m just saying, it’s a safe car.”

“Let’s trade the Mustang in, then.”

Never,” Rhiannon gasps, taking a half-hearted swat at her wife’s shoulder. Soleil lets out a laugh before stepping back into the brownstone. The kitchen is tidied hastily, as Colin and his entourage are due at any moment for pre-show drinks. Rhiannon scurries upstairs to get ready; Soleil paces the living room floor, wringing her hands. She’s muttering about nerves when the doorbell chimes.

Colin’s dirty blonde hair is a perfect frame for his stubbled, square jaw. He smiles when Soleil answers the door, stepping over the threshold with a grateful nod, thereafter. A small wave of people flood the house, and the young Whitaker can’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed.

“People I work with, mainly,” he explains, adjusting his round turtle shell patterned glasses, “Who you’ll be working with, too.”

“I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity, Colin.”

The man shakes his head, polite hand raised to stop the ensuing proclamations of gratitude. “I look for talent, and I think you have it.”

Soleil knows that she owes this, in part, to Mark. Even though he had been a catalyst in her relapse, he had only the best intentions in helping her network. She’s still unclear as to how the two men are acquainted, but, at this point, she won’t be the one to inquire. Colin takes the time to make introductions, and when Rhiannon reappears, wearing a simple, sexy backless dress, Soleil motions her over.

“This is my wife.”

Colin gives Rhiannon’s hand a firm shake. They converse until he graciously excuses himself. “It’s been a pleasure,” he says, a genuine smile taking command of his lips, “But, it’s just about that time. Thank you so much for hosting.”

“He looks like a hipster version of Jesus,” Rhiannon whispers before taking a long sip of Chardonnay. The younger Whitaker snorts, but cannot, by any means, deny the accuracy behind the observation. The time has come to relocate to Output. The couple is ushered into the back of an Escalade, where Colin runs through last minute show details. He winks, and extends a hand as a token of congratulations.

“Everything’s already set up, Soleil. But, I don’t think the crowd is ready for you.”

Soleil eases into the set rather quickly, capitalizing on the raw energy that already courses through the club. Just before midnight, she pauses to begin the countdown. The patrons roar; it’s almost deafening.

Ten… nine… eight…

The younger Whitaker pulls her wife on stage.

Seven… six… five…

“I love you.”

Four… three…two…

“Always.”

One…

Soleil dips Rhiannon into a long, needy kiss. ‘Happy New Year!’ in neon explodes on the screen behind them, confetti floods from the ceiling. The heavy bass of club music resumes, and Output cheers to welcome 2018. 

January 01, 2018 11:06 pm

Rhiannon Whitaker

It’s past midnight when Rhiannon feels a weight lift from the bed, and the padding of bare feet creaking across the wood floor of the bedroom. The steps are too careful and tread too lightly for it to be Wilson, causing the Angel to stir. “Baby?” She lets out a sleepy grunt, crawling her way across the bed to reach out for the shadowy outline of her wife. “Everything okay?”

“I’m fine.” Soleil replies, shrugging on a sweatshirt as she navigates through the darkness of the room. “Can’t sleep.” She momentarily disappears into the closet, emerging then in sneakers. “I’m going to go for a walk.”

Rhiannon’s brows knit together. “It’s almost one a.m., Soleil.” Her tone is wary, and now she pulls herself fully from the reserves of their blanket kingdom to stand before her wife. “What’s going on?” Knowing her wife better than anyone, there’s an almost physical manifestation of Soleil’s restlessness and guilt floating between them.

“Nothing, babe. Go back to sleep.” She gives a half-hearted smile before exiting the room, leaving her Rhiannon to watch her departing figure helplessly. Instead the angel sits in bed, phone-screen illuminating her face as she watches Soleil’s iPhone location drift around the many surrounding blocks through her glasses.

Soleil doesn’t return to the house until the sun is nearly in the sky, but Rhiannon had fallen asleep long before then. In the same way, she senses when her wife’s slight frame is beside her, Rhiannon naturally gravitating to nestle into her side. Soleil doesn’t wrap around Rhiannon the way she normally does and lies awake for some time.

The next morning, Rhiannon watches as Soleil drags herself around the house, despondent for hours. When Wilson asks her to help build his Lego set, she gently rejects him. And when Logan cries out for attention or hunger, she ignores him. It’s enough to not only set Rhiannon on edge, but force her into action.

After dinner, Soleil stands alone washing the dishes, as if finding the work cathartic in some fashion. Rhiannon steps over, her hip bumping purposefully into Soleil’s. “I want the truth, please.” Still, Soleil furiously wipes at the nonexistent food stains, mouth set into a firm line. “Soleil.” Rhiannon chastises gently, reaching out to still her wife’s movements. “I’m serious, baby. I want to know what’s going on. Now.”

Soleil lets out a soft sigh, meeting her wife’s caramel eyes with tears springing in her own. “Today is…” She shakes her head. “I shouldn’t even know what today is. But I can’t let it go, for some reason. Babe, I want you to know…”

Rhiannon holds up a hand. Just 30 days before had they endured the long conversation regarding the death of Soleil’s family in that car crash. She had sat beside her wife as she relived the horror, if only to better explain her sadness and continued trauma. Whatever this is, it can’t be as bad, in Rhiannon’s mind. “It’s okay, Soleil. I love you.”

“That’s what makes it so hard, Rhiannon. This day, last year…”

“You met Elouise.” Rhiannon finishes the sentence with ease. She’d taken note of all of Soleil’s habits, and, like aforementioned, knew her better than anyone.

“I don’t want you to think that I care about her, baby, because I don’t have feelings for her. I promise. I feel so guilty…”

Rhiannon lets out a huff of a laugh, pleased, at least, it wasn’t as dramatic as she thought it might be. “There’s no one I care less about than Elouise Orlav, Soleil. But I understand that the connection you two shared… It’s not so black and white. But I also don’t want to waste another minute giving a sh*t about her, when we could be spending time with the boys, or each other.” Her arms fold around Soleil’s waist, drawing her as close as she can be.

After a brief note of hesitation, Soleil places a tender kiss against Rhiannon’s lips. “I’m sorry I was a d*ck today.” At that, they both chuckle quietly. “It’s sh*t to miss someone you hate… But I don’t think I ever knew her at all. I don’t think anyone ever knew her.”

“It was all a part of God’s plan, gorgeous girl. The trials of your life that brought you to me, however unfair, however cruel and heartbreaking, we still ended up with each other.”

“I’d call that a win.”

“Oh, yeah?” Rhiannon smirks.

“I mean, yeah. You’ve got a great ass…” Soleil teases.

“You’re the ass.”

“And you’re the angel.”

“Don’t ever forget it.”
January 31, 2018 10:52 pm

Soleil Whitaker

“Hey! You!”

Soleil looks up from the mahogany bar, fingers curled around the neck of a beer bottle.

“Yeah, you.”

The intoxicated stranger encroaches on Soleil’s personal space, causing the young woman to shift on her barstool.

“You remind me of Mary J. Blige.”

Despite the dim lighting, Soleil notices the scattering of freckles across the woman’s flushed cheeks. Piercing blue eyes catch her gaze, and she’s frozen.  

“It’s the haircut, isn’t it?”

There’s a pause as the stranger reaches out to steady herself.

“What was I saying?”

Soleil snorts, and takes a swig of her beer. She’s amused, now. She’s new to the city – well, sort of – and her first social interaction in quite some time is with a babbling Amazonian-type woman who smells of Tequila and… Cheetos?

“I’m Soleil.”

“Elouise.”

“Pleasure.”

*    *   *

“Hey baby?”

Rhiannon’s voice stirs the younger Whitaker from her daze.

“Weren’t you going to shower?”

“Huh?” Soleil stutters, looking down at the towel clutched in her hand, “Oh. Yeah. Sorry.”

Swiftly, she makes her way into the bathroom. Hot water runs down the length of her back as she stands, head hung, under the showerhead. The brief interruption in her daily routine had been enough to leave her rattled, but the warmth is soothing.

At breakfast, she sits across from her son, watching as he devours 2 large pancakes drenched in maple syrup. If anything, she’s proud of his voracious appetite for the simple fact that it bears some semblance of her own. “Hungry boy,” Rhiannon laughs, sweeping the toddler out of his seat. Soleil grants the pair with a small, faltering smile before taking the dishes to the sink.

She’s just drying her hands when Rhiannon reappears in the doorframe. The angel eyes her wife, corners of her mouth pulled down into a slight frown.

“What?”

“You tell me, Soleil.”

The younger woman only shrugs. “I’m fine.”

Rhiannon can tell when Soleil is lying. Not just because she’s an agent of God, but also because she knows her – perhaps even more than she’d like to admit. Instead of pry, she pulls her into a tight hug, arms snaking around Soleil’s slight frame. She hopes it’s enough to remind the younger woman of her unwavering love, patience, and support. In realizing her own humanity, Rhiannon came to understand that she could not be the solution to all of Soleil’s troubles. She could not fix the things out of her control; instead, she fostered trust and faith in her wife’s own abilities.

“Whatever it is, baby, I’m here for you.”

*   *   *

“You can’t be serious,” Soleil snorts, crossing her arms over her chest.

“We’re watching it.”

“Agents of Shield is literal sh*t.”

“Take that back!” she shrieks, hurling a pillow at Soleil’s head, “Take it back right now.”

Perks of being a werewolf? Quick reflexes. The younger woman deflects the incoming assault, and wags her finger. “I won’t because you know it’s true,” she responds, settling back against the headboard, “But, for you, I’ll watch.”

Soleil’s definition of ‘watch,’ unbeknownst to her best friend, is ‘drift off to sleep asap.’ The sounds characteristic of sci-fi fight scenes aren’t enough to keep the young woman awake, leaving Elouise to finish a bag of Cheetos on her own. Every so often, she prods Soleil in attempt to rouse her from her slumber. But, the young blonde just mumbles and shifts positions.

“Pregnant lady needs to pee,” she announces.

Elouise hauls herself out of bed, and slips quietly into the bathroom. She stands at the sink, staring at her own reflection as cold water runs over her hands. She knows she shouldn’t keep doing this to herself. Or to Soleil, for that matter. These late nights together provokethe most selfish parts of her – the parts that make her question her own loyalty, her own moral compass. Soleil has taken command of her heart in ways she can’t explain. In ways she could never openly admit. And yet, she finds the words slipping from between her lips as she settles back underneath the covers. Her breath hitches. Not from the shock of the statement, or the truth it holds. But, from how easy of an admission it had proved to be.

“I love you.”

*   *   *

“Mommy, will you help me with my Legos?”

“Maybe some other time, bud. I’m…”

Soleil pushes herself to her feet, muttering an apology. The little boy’s disappointment is palpable, and it breaks Soleil’s heart. She wants nothing more than to play with her son, but today… there are things not quite right. She watches as Wilson begins to put the pieces of his Lego set together; for a toddler, he’s quick and efficient, tiny fingers surprisingly nimble. 

“Soleil.”

“Yeah?”

Rhiannon beckons her wife over. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, ‘course.”

It’s uncharacteristic of her wife to zone out once, even. Multiple reoccurrences have the angel’s suspicion building throughout the course of the day. She squints slightly before reaching out to tuck a strand of dark hair behind Soleil’s ear, her fingertips lingering momentarily at the curve of her jaw. The younger woman leans into her touch some, a quiet sigh escapes from between her lips. Silently, she thanks her wife for showing restraint – she knows how difficult it must be for the angel to be a spectator to the way she grapples with her memories of Elouise. And it’s even more clear, then, just how much Rhiannon loves her.

“I love you, you know.”

Soleil nods, and leans in to press a gentle kiss to the corner of Rhiannon’s mouth. “I love you, too.”

*   *   *

“You were supposed to love me!”

The plea is desperate; Soleil can tell by the way Elouise’s voice cracks.

“I do love you.”

It’s the truth. Somehow, Elouise has tattooed her name on Soleil’s heart. She has an unexplainable hold over the younger woman, and selfishly, she’ll always use that to her advantage.

“You’re supposed to be mine.”

“You can’t have me and Jameson, El. You know that.”

“I’ll….”

“We both know you’d never leave him.”

“I don’t want anyone else to have you, then.”

“El…”

There’s a loud crack. Blood pours from the newly gaping wound on Soleil’s brow. Pleading, she stumbles backwards, hand reaching up in attempt to dam the injury. She’s staring down the barrel of a gun; Elouise’s face is contorted with agony and regret.

“We could’ve been something great, you know.”

A gunshot rings out. Soleil screams.

*   *   *

Soleil screams, jolting upright. Her chest heaves as she takes in her surroundings. She’s home, and safe. This had been a mere manifestation of her most severe insecurities. Elouise had never offered to leave Jameson; Soleil had never expected her to, either. In fact, the two women never openly spoke of their true feelings for one another until the very end of their friendship – until there was nothing left but the truth. Soleil swings her legs over the edge of the couch, head dropping into her hands in defeat.

Rhiannon sprints into the living room, and quickly gathers the panicked woman into her arms. “It’s okay, baby,” she whispers, peppering her wife with gentle kisses, “I’m here.”

Soleil leans against Rhiannon’s slight frame, reveling in the security she finds. Without Rhiannon, she’d have nothing – she would be nothing. The angel gave her purpose; this family gave her a will to live. She’d found her independence in the Order’s demise. It had been the advent of her new life.

Her better life.

February 01, 2018 07:45 pm

Rhiannon Whitaker

Rhiannon…”

“Babe.”

Sleep.”

“But it’s Valentine’s Day.”

The clear emphasis on the word carries all the weight and importance Rhiannon places on the holiday. On every holiday.

“Okay, fine. What’s so important?”

“I made heart-shaped pancakes!”

Soleil groans, unable to mask a sleepy grin. “Okay. I’m getting up.”

“Oh, and there’s red-velvet cupcakes, and chocolate-dipped strawberries, and…” Rhiannon rambles on and on, content to drag Soleil downstairs and into the kitchen. It’s mid-morning, and the boys are already off with their aunt for the day.

Rhiannon had promised a day just to themselves, and she is hellbent on making the day completely worthwhile.

The angel knows Soleil doesn’t place the same emphasis on Valentine’s Day as she does. ‘It’s just another bullsh*t Hallmark holiday, baby. I don’t need a specified day to show you how much I love you,’ She’d claimed a hundred and one times. But the angel wanted romance. The dozen red roses, the conversational hearts, the box of decadent chocolates.

It just so happens, regardless of what Soleil provides, Rhiannon has already one-upped her a thousand times over. Hand-cut crepe hearts hanging from the doorframes, scattered rose petals on every damn inch of the floor, vanilla-scented candles filling every room with a savory aroma.

Rhiannon is, and always has been, beyond extra. Especially for her wife.

* * *

“Baby?” Soleil’s voice carries to Rhiannon as she just begins to doze off in the bubble bath they shared.


“Mm?”

“Why do you love me?”

The question catches the angel by surprise, caramel eyes shooting open to look over at the younger brunette who holds a flute of champagne in her hand. Rhiannon leans forward, soapy water restless with the sudden movement. The angel lifts a sudsy hand, fingers catching under Soleil’s chin and tugging her forward into a sudden kiss.

“Are you asking because you really don’t know, or because it’s Valentine’s Day?”

“The latter…?”

“Do you want me to tell you, or would you like me to show you?”

“That’s not fair.” Soleil pouts.

“Why not?”

“Because.”

“Because?”

Shut up.”

Rhiannon lets out a huff of a laugh, leaning back again against the other end of the tub as her frustrated wife broods. Rhiannon enjoys nothing more than teasing her wife, and Valentine’s Day couldn’t possibly change that.

* * *

With the day spent re-centering and relaxing, and with Soleil complaining that she didn’t want to get out of her pajamas to out, Rhiannon cooks. Lemon chicken and risotto, because Soleil would have ordered the same at Becco, and the angel knows her wife backwards and forwards.

“Champagne?” Soleil chimes, shuffling into the kitchen into the silky plaid pajamas she’d complained at Christmas-time were ‘absurd’. The younger Whitaker comes behind Rhiannon at the stove, arms wrapping loosely around her waist as she watches the angel at work.

“Done being a Valentine’s Scrooge?” Rhiannon grins, leaning back ever-so slightly against Soleil.

“I wasn’t being a Scrooge!” She gasps, swatting at her side. “I just wanted to spend the day with you. Nobody else.” Her grip tightens, holding Rhiannon as near as she can. “Is that so wrong?”

“No…” The angel lets out a slight huff of a scoff, ignoring her wife’s indignance and wandering hands as she channels her focus to finishing their meal. “Soleil.”

“What?”

“Patience is a virtue, you know.”

“I thought we already went over this. You are the virtuous one. You’re the angel. And I’m the low-down, no-good sinner…”

“Can we enjoy our meal, at least?”

“It’ll taste good warmed up, too.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“He’s not invited.”

Soleil!”

But then the angel can't help but laugh, knowing there's no dissuading her wife from what she wants. And, it's not as if Rhiannon is reluctant to agree. "Fine." She aquiesces, caramel eyes rolling.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Whitaker.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.”

February 14, 2018 06:38 pm
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