"Damn that girl. She looked so good on that black and chrome bike, I'll never get the image out of my mind," Zoe thought to herself. In fact she was doing her best not to obsess now that Nina had so abruptly cut things off. But everytime she heard the roar of motorcycle exhaust on the street outside her house her ears perked up and a tiny flame of hope would kindle in her heart that Nina was pulling into the driveway to apologize and ask for her back. Hope can be truly depressing sometimes.
Three weeks had passed since they last spoke, and Nina was probably back playing house with her ex. Or her ex-ex. What do you call the woman you go back to time and again at the cost of other people's emotions? Zoe was feeling better with a little distance between then and now, but having her roommate and her girlfriend hanging around all the time could be annoying. Abby and Tonya were at the house tonight, they were all going to cook dinner together. Zoe could hear them making noise in the kitchen being their disgustingly cute selves. Zoe was in her room changing out of her work clothes when Tonya yelled from the hallway, "Hey Z, I think your girl is here."
"Who?" Zoe yelled back, wondering if Tonya meant her best friend Renee.
Tonya knocked then stuck her head in the door without waiting for an answer, "Your girl. Some chick on a motorcycle just pulled up outside and is unloading shitloads of food."
"Shit!" Zoe said letting her breath out. "What does she want?" she asked rhetorically.
"Don't know, maybe trying to feed her way back into your heart from the looks of those bags," said Tonya over her shoulder as she headed back to the kitchen. "Should I let her in?"
"I'll be there in a second," said Zoe as she hastily changed her shirt to something more confidence boosting. She hurried barefoot to the kitchen, slowing down just before she turned the corner. Sure enough she could see Nina standing outside the kitchen hoping to be acknowledged by Tonya who had intentionally buried her head in the fridge. When she saw Zoe she smiled sheepishly and held up her bags. Zoe unlocked the side door which was just off the kitchen and stepped outside to greet Zoe on the driveway. She wasn't sure about letting her in the house quite yet.
"Hi," she said guardedly. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to try and win you back," Nina said being her usual direct self.
"And how do you plan on doing that? Assuming that I want to be won," asked Zoe.
"I'm armed with the makings of a fresh caprese salad, your favorite rosemary foccacia, and a variety of chocolate," she said indicating her heavy bags.
"That's quite an arsenal," Zoe said noncomittally.
Nina dropped her joking demeanor and said seriously, "I really want a chance to talk to you Zoe. Can I please come in?"
Zoe's heart was tight in her chest. This is what she had hoped for, but she was really nervous about trusting Nina again. She knew if she turned Nina away she would always regret it so she nodded and held open the door as Nina carried her ingredients inside. Nina made herself at home in the kitchen as she did everywhere she went, and Zoe said, "I'll be back in a second," and went to find Abby. Abby was waiting for her in the living room.
"Tonya and I will go cook at her house," Abby said.
"No stay, I don't think I want to be left alone with her." Zoe pleaded.
"Be strong girl. She's here to win you back, and that's what you really want. Just don't make it too easy on her," and with a wink Abby and Tonya left.
Tonya managed to mutter, "Fuck with her heart again and you'll be hearing from me" to Nina on her way through the kitchen.
Nina gave her a nod, "That's not my intent."
Tonya stopped and turned, "Fuck intent Nina, just don't do it," and left without waiting for a response.
"I don't even know that girl," Nina said to Zoe who was now leaning on the counter by the stove.
"Tonya knows me, and she knows what happened. She's got a big heart behind her big mouth," Zoe said fondly. Nina stopped chopping the basil and looked at Zoe.
"I'm really sorry that I wasn't upfront with you. You really took me by surprise and I thought I was ready for it, but I wasn't. I got scared and went back to what I was comfortable with, but I'm done with that now, and I would really like to give this a try. Come on baby, give me a second chance."
"I'm scared. I mean, you're leaving soon. Why would I choose to set my heart up for certain heartache in a few months time," Zoe admitted.
"I asked myself the same thing," said Nina. "I don't know what to say except remind you of what you told me the first night we went out. Nothing is certain, do we really want to miss out on a taste of something good because of the future? It could end next week for a number of reasons, or I could get a cavity and my contract would be delayed or cancelled. Should we not start because we don't know how it will finish? Even under the best circumstances we would never know that."
Zoe heard all her own thoughts echoed in Nina's ramblings. It did ease her mind slightly as she felt they might be on the same page finally. She really didn't want fear to rule her life, and fear was the only thing holding her back.
"I need to get some good answers from you before I say anything," Zoe said.
"Ask away," said Nina. "And grab me your stash of good balsamic."
"I felt like an idiot for not asking you if you were truly single last time, but then I reminded myself that you told me you were. I'm never going to let a girl get away with not answering questions about her 'ex' like I did with you." Zoe said somewhat bitterly. "I don't want to know what happened with Jen, but I need to hear from you that it is definitively over."
"It is over," said Nina emphatically.
"That has been said between the two of you, and you both agree?" Zoe clarified.
"We talked, in fact it was me who told her it was over because she was acting the same as always and now that I know what its like to be with someone who acts like an adult and gives what she takes I wasn't going to put up with it anymore. She tried to persuade me, but finally realized I could see through her words and that her actions had damned her." Nina explained.
"Are you communicating at all?" Zoe asked.
"No. Just like I agreed not to see you when we were working things out, I told her I couldn't have any communication with her right now. And I doubt I will want to in the future." Nina replied.
"OK," said Zoe. "That's right answer number one."
"Keep em coming, and taste this," said Nina passing a plate of foccaccia, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil along with a bowl of olive oil. Zoe wished she didn't find Nina's cooking so sexy.
"This one is tough to ask," Zoe said. "But I'm no one's second choice, so I need to know if you feel at all like you're coming back to me because you can't have the person you really want. It was important that it not be me versus her, and that you finished things with her before coming to me. But you haven't really had time on your own."
Nina looked at Zoe with so much compassion, Zoe had to look away briefly. "You are no one's second choice, especially not mine. I ended things with Jen a week ago, and while I know a week isn't much time, I did take the time to finish things with her, see how it felt to be on my own and make sure I wouldn't go running back before coming here. And I am not here to take you as my backup prize, I am here to ask your forgiveness and see if I'll be lucky enough that you will choose me. I want to be with you, I wanted it before but I was really scared at the sudden intensity of what we had. When I told you I was single and looking, I really thought I would find someone fun to hang out with and have something casual before I left. I never thought I would fall in love."
Zoe's head snapped up at the words "fall in love".
"That ties in with my last question. How do you feel when we kiss? On a scale from 1 being total dud, to 10 being major pyrotechnics, how much of a spark is there? I need to know how attracted you are to me. I know a kiss isn't everything, but if its nothing there's not much hope for the rest of it you know?" Zoe asked.
"It's been a while, let me see," said Nina and crossed over to Zoe, took her face in both hands and kissed her before Zoe knew what was happening. Zoe melted into that kiss as she was reminded how soft Nina's lips were. When Nina pulled back an inch, Zoe had to catch her breath, she knew her spark was off the charts. She worried that Nina was reading her mind when she heard her say, "I'm going to give that a 20. That's the number for my heart skipping beats, my stomach dancing, and my heart stretching itself farther than it ever has."
"Did you really fall in love with me?" Zoe asked.
"Hard and fast," Nina said as she wrapped Zoe in her arms. Zoe melted into Nina's embrace, "Fucking terrifying," she said but smiled as she closed her eyes and sighed.
Causes Micki McNie Supports
Eco-Cycle, Boulder Homeless Shelter, Emergency Family Assistance Association,