This is a little something that I started working on a while ago. Then I lost interest, but I’ve been thinking about it again lately. It’s supposed to be a full length novel though. Where it will end up both literally and rhetorically I can’t say but feedback is very much appreciated. Thanks guys.
Read, enjoy, comment!
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay here?”
Riesa Randall smiled down at a face much like her own. “Yes, mom, I’ll be fine. I’m twenty years old. And let’s not forget that I’m only forty five minutes away.”
Mrs. Randall smiled at her only child. “I know, I’m sorry. I just worry. New York is much different from New Jersey.”
They both looked up at the squat four-story apartment building. Clearly it had seen better days.
“Well that much is clear, but The International Culinary Center is one of the best culinary schools in the country. What if I went to a school in France or Italy, what then?
Her mother placed a hand over her chest. “Lord, don’t speak it!”
They shared a laugh.
“So you’re sure your have everything?”
“Money, warm clothes?”
Riesa placed a hand on each of her mother’s shoulders. “Please stop worrying, this is just like a dorm room. I’m fine.” She pulled her mother into a tight hug. “Besides I’ll be calling you for cash in no time, don’t rush it.”
Mrs. Randall looked up at her daughter with tears in her eyes. Riesa knew what she was on her mother’s mind. She was thinking about how much Riesa looked like her father and that he would be proud. Riesa had heard it a million times before.
“Okay, well go on and get settled.”
Riesa was pleased to be spared the lecture. “I love you mom.”
“I love you too,” her mother replied with barely restrained tears in her eyes.
Riesa watched as her mother climb into the family minivan. As much as she hated the thing in high school she knew she’d miss it now.
“Text me when you get home,” she called through the window.
Mrs. Randall laughed. “Yes, mom.”
With one last wave she was gone. Riesa took a deep breath and grabbed her backpack to begin the four-flight hike. The stairs would take some getting used to, but each trip thus far had been an adventure if nothing else.
Riesa’s new lower east side apartment really was nothing more than a dorm room. Though it was a little ways away from the many of the bigger colleges and institutes in New York City, the price was perfect for monetarily challenged college students. The subway would do just fine. The building didn’t have a single tenant on any of its four floors over thirty. It was like some force kept maturity away.
Being an only child, Riesa welcomed the constant noise and activity. People left their doors open and loitered in the halls doing…various things. Needless to say Riesa had intentionally chosen to move in very early in the morning.
Finally reaching the top landing, she took a deep breath and hoisted her pack more firmly onto her shoulder. The summer heat still hadn’t broken even as August made way to September. It hung in the corridors and only intensified the heavy plume of smoke that always lingered.
On the way passed she dared a peek into the apartment across the hall from hers.
“Hey, thanks again for helping before.” Riesa said to the young man she found heavily engrossed in a video game.
“Hey, no sweat. Well, lots of sweat, but you know…” he laughed around the cigarette hanging precariously from his lips. It had been there since she’d last seen him two hours ago.
Seeing Riesa and her mother struggling with the boxes earlier, he had offered a hand. Riesa was wary of the unwarranted assistance, but Mrs. Randall had been eager for the help. He’d cut their work in half.
“Well, I’ll buy you a beer or something. You know…as soon as I’m twenty one.”
He smiled even as he never looked away from the fifteen-inch television screen.
“Alright, well…” Riesa lingered for a moment more before making her way toward her cozy studio apartment.
“Oh, dude, come see this, its sick!” he called from across the hall.
Dropping her things, Riesa sat in the place he made for by sweeping everything onto the floor.
He tossed her a controller and they played in relative silence for a few moments.
“Lee,” he finally muttered distractedly.
She smiled. “Riesa.”
One year later
Riesa searched frantically for her colander. She’d had a serious hankering for some pasta ever since she’d prepared black squid ink pasta with a Gorgonzola sauce in class that day.
Cabinet doors slammed open and shut as she searched even in places she knew it couldn’t be. Looking so thoroughly seemed supercilious as she kept her apartment spotless and her kitchen doubly so. In her frenetic search she was suddenly struck.
Making her way across the hall she knocked simply because the door was closed, the door was never closed. Riesa knew with Lee a closed door meant he either had a girl over or wasn’t there. While she respected his privacy she respected her belongings even more.
She used the key he’d given her not for emergencies, but because he was prone to lose his keys in odd places. Riesa took a quick look around his kitchen afraid she’d find something crawling. When she didn’t find it there she decided to check his bedroom. Why anyone would leave a colander in a bedroom was beyond Riesa’s understanding, but anything was possible with Lee.
Placing an ear to his door she held her breath and listened. She couldn’t hear anything so she took a chance and peered inside.
“Oh, thank God.”
Riesa remembered the last time she walked into his bedroom unannounced and she was still trying to get those images out of her mind.
She did a visual sweep of the closet sized bedroom. It looked very similar to the kitchen. In true college undergrad fashion the walls were covered in band posters and calendars of women in various stages of undress. It amazed her that he got any girl to spend time in his room much less kept a girlfriend.
As she tried not to step on a pair of boxers she stumbled upon her prized colander. The stainless steel one that she bought from Williams Sonoma that set her back almost a weeks pay.
As she held it up to the light the tiny beams cast sporadic light across her face while dried pasta sauce blocked out all other light. She could only shake her head and navigate her way back to the safe haven of her apartment. The pasta would have to wait as she put the colander aside to soak.
Lee came clamoring to the fourth floor moments later.
“Yo, birthday girl!” He yelled as she opened his door and dropped off his books.
Riesa was standing with hands on hips as he came to greet her.
“Oh man, I know that face. What I do now?” He followed her eyes to the colander soaking in a clear glass bowl filled with soap and water.
“Don’t, ‘dude,’ me! You went with me to pick that up. It was special order!”
He visibly winced. Riesa wasn’t much for confrontation. She only ever raised her voice when she was really upset.
“I know,” he reached for her. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” he begged as he pulled her into a hug.
She sighed heavily. Riesa could never stay mad at Lee. He’d flash his best pout and bring his almond shaped eyes into tiny slits. The entire thing made him look like a contrite puppy.
“Whatever. You don’t have to even wash it, just bring it back.”
He swayed with her still in his arms not willing to release his hold. “I know, I’m sorry. I just forgot. Say you’ll forgive me, birthday girl. I’m begging you.”
“Fine, just let me go.”
He smiled. “Never. When are we going to hook up?”
She pushed him away now. He’d asked her that question a million times, usually when he’d done something wrong.
“As soon as you stop smoking, for real this time.”
“I’m trying, it’s hard.” He plopped down on her couch.
“Yeah, yeah,” she muttered as she started in on the colander.
“I don’t know how you stay here with no bedroom. I keep looking for it. Fucks with my head.”
She smiled. Lee said the same exact thing almost every time he came over.
“Oh, by the way, be ready by eleven. Not your usual eleven thirty either. Eleven,” he stressed.
She finished cleaning and put pasta on to boil. It was hard to be annoyed by him with her mouth watering.
“What are we doing tonight?” She eyed him warily over the kitchen island.
Riesa was too familiar with his idea of a surprise. Last year he’d taken her and a few of their friend’s paintballing. She still had bruises from that little outing.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you.” His eyes shined with mischief.
“If I have to wear something I can get dirty in then I’m going to Jersey early.”
It was her twenty first birthday. She’d been waiting for this day her entire life. Even though with Lee being a year older she’d drank plenty, now she could purchase alcohol herself.
“Don’t worry,” he snapped off her television. “Wear something nice actually.”
She looked surprised. “My nice or your nice.” Riesa knew the two to be two different things.
“Well, my nice,” he admitted. “But nice just the same. Okay? Eleven sharp,” he reminded.
His excitement was catching. “Yes, sir, midnight sharp.”
“Whatever dude. Eleven!” He slammed the door as he left.
Riesa couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. Lee had become her first friend when she moved to the city and remained her best friend ever since.
When she thought about him she couldn’t help think about his on going offer to hook up. Even though he’d offered in jest she knew there was a note of truth to it. Frankly there was no reason for her not to be with Lee, at least at the beginning. Now she’d never risk their friendship. He was attractive by many classifications of the word.
His half Nordic, half Korean heritage had given him a strapping build and exotic good looks. His dark hair and eyes gave him a brooding attractiveness while his bright smile and preaches and cream skin gave him a boyish charm.
For all intents and purposes he was everything Riesa would want. On top of his good looks, he was sweet and kind with women in a way uncommon to most men. Not to mention the fact that he was the most intelligent person she’d ever met. He’d won over her mother form the very first meeting.
There was absolutely no reason for Riesa not to want Lee, at least not one she ever wanted to take the time to think about.
True to his word, Lee came barging into her apartment at eleven P.M. on the dot.
“Sweet baby Jesus,” he gasped. “Is it my birthday or yours?”
Riesa fought a blush.
“Not only are you ready on time but you look hot!”
She could never figure why someone so smart chose to talk like a frat boy.
“Okay, take it easy,” she warned.
Lee’s attention wasn’t making her uncomfortable, not at all. Riesa knew she looked hot. She was never big on skirts or dresses but she did enjoy looking overtly feminine from time to time.
With some help from Lee, Riesa had taken to the gym like a fish to water. She enjoyed weight lifting far more than she ever imagined. In her time at school she’d shed the layer of “baby fat” she carried through high school to reveal a femininely chiseled physic below.
For a night out with Lee she opted for a pair of dark skinny jeans, black silk blouse with several buttons undone and knee high wedge heel boots. Late October in New York City could sometimes feel like full on winter.
As she stood in the mirror earlier that evening she surveyed her new look. One year away from home had revealed an entirely different look for Riesa. Her previously shoulder length locks were gone with a short boy style cut in its place. Stylishly choppy bangs hung across her hazel eyes offering a look of mystery to her expressive features. She’d inherited her mothers round eyes that did a poor job of filtering emotion. Applying a hint of tinted gloss to her full lips she was happy to have inherited her father’s deep chocolate skin that eliminated the need for any other make-up.
“Where are we going anyway?”
Lee slipped on his coat before helping Riesa into hers. “Not telling. You’ll see when we get there.”
Riesa rolled her eyes and locked the door.
A subway ride and a short walk later, they arrived at Katwalk, a trendy midtown bar and lounge. A soon as they walked in Riesa was taken aback. She’d grown accustomed to their usual neighborhood 169 Bar. A dive that offered three dollar beer and shots and played nineteen sixties soft-core porn on antique televisions. To say this was a big leap would be an understatement.
Fifteen of their closest friends all cheered as they approached the tables in the back. She and Lee shared many of the same friends yet there were even a few people from her culinary school that Lee didn’t know in attendance.
“Dude!” Riesa beamed at Lee. “You did all this for me?”
“It’s your twenty first and you’re my best bro. I had to go all out, especially after what you did for my last birthday.”
“Thank you.” Riesa pulled him into a big bear hug.
Lee truly was like a brother to her and in true brother fashion he had a tendency to drive her crazy like it was his job. Despite that, she loved him just the same.
After the obligatory thanks and greetings were distributed Riesa was waste deep in alcohol. She took great pleasure in flashing her identification to anyone who asked, or didn’t ask.
“Are you having fun?” Lee swung his large arm over her shoulder. That alone was akin to weight training.
Riesa shrugged. “Lloyd, really?” She looked over in the young man’s direction.
Lee rolled his eyes. “Yes, I invited Lloyd. He’s a cool guy. Everyone we know is here, I couldn’t exclude him.”
“You certainly could have. He’s a creeper and I hate the way he looks at me.”
“He’s not so bad. I like him.”
“I realized that, but last I checked this was my birthday not yours.”
Lee looked crestfallen. “I’m sorry.”
Riesa softened. “It’s fine, just keep him away from me. I’m serious, he gives me the serious creeps.”
“Okay, you win.”
Changing tact a bit Riesa leaned into her friends side. “I really am having a blast though. Well on my way to plastered, but having fun.”
“Mission accomplished,” he bellowed. A few people looked in their direction. It seems he was on his way too.
“Take these to the table, Tarzan. I’ll bring the rest.”
Lee dutifully grabbed the glasses and muscled his way back through the throng while Riesa waited for more drinks. She said a silent thank you to any one listening that she wasn’t going to have to foot this bill.
“Hey there, birthday girl.”
Riesa felt a warm hand on her back and looked to see who was invading her personal space. She had to look down to make eye contact.
“Cindy!” Riesa smiled and bumped the smaller woman’s shoulder with her own.
Cindy lived in the apartment building with Riesa and Lee on a lower more convenient floor. They’d met at one of the many parties Lee had thrown.
“You enjoying yourself?” Cindy still hadn’t removed her hand from Riesa’s back.
“I am, thank you for coming.” Riesa turned slightly to face Cindy more fully. She tried not to notice her beautiful olive complexion, especially around the abundant cleavage she had showing.
Riesa’s eyes lingered too long; even in her intoxicated state she was sure of it. When she was finally able to pull her eyes away she was surprised to find a smile firmly planted to Cindy’s face.
“No problem. I really want you to have a good time.“ The hand on Riesa’s back moved to her bicep and there was a gentle squeeze.
“Well I am having a great time.”
“Tab?” the bartender shouted over the thumping music.
Cindy finally extricated herself from Riesa’s personal space to help her carry the rest of the drinks. Riesa let her lead the way and took a deep cleansing breath.
“You look terrible,” Lee laughed.
Riesa felt like she was under water. She could hear everything around her, but it was all muffled and very far away.
“Too many shots,” she slurred.
Riesa had been drunk before but nothing compared to how she was feeling now. There was seldom a moment when a drink wasn’t being thrust into her hand. Through her haze she could still hear Lee’s taunting laughter.
“Man, this is worse than the first time I got you drunk isn’t it?”
Riesa’s liquor addled brain thought back. It settled on one of the first of Lee’s infamous parties she’d been to. She drank a little in high school, but she enjoyed driving too much to jeopardize that privilege. Her experiences with imbibing had been limited to an occasional beer. Lee had gotten a hold of that information and took it upon himself to help her get some experience.
Looking back Riesa had taken a big risk and ignored her mother’s constant reminders to not take drinks from anyone, especially men. Lee had insisted she drink as much as possible and she had become thoroughly drunk. To her relief Lee had taken her home and poured her into bed.
In true brotherly fashion the next day he simply stated, “Now you know your limit.” That had been it. He hadn’t forced her to drink since, until tonight.
“Much, much worse. So…drunk.”
Lee slouched down in his seat and leaned his head back mirroring her pose. “Are you really having a good time dude?”
Even drunk she could hear the insecurity in his voice. Lee appeared to care about few things but partying, his education and women but Riesa knew better. Being raised by a single mother and having two little sisters had given him a consideration about women’s feelings that few people knew about.
“Oh, man,” she rushed to reassure him. “So much fun.” Her words were drawn out far longer than necessary, but she knew she had accomplished her goal when he smiled.
Riesa wanted to say more. She needed him to know that she was having the time of her life at a place she liked with people she loved.
“It’s so nice, Lee.” She placed her head heavily on his shoulder. “I like it here. And the people, I like you. Oh, I really like you man, you know?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Well not like, like you.” Riesa laughed at her own joke. “Of course I don’t like, like you. I couldn’t ‘cause I think I like girls.” Riesa laughed again. “Don’t tell though. I was looking at Cindy’s boobs. That means I like them, right? You’d tell me if you thought I liked girl wouldn’t you?”
Before Lee could respond to the rapid litany of questions and realizations, Riesa sat forward placed her head in her hands. She could feel Lee’s hand on her back.
“Lee?” She did wait for a response this time. “Can we go home now?”
“Anything you want dude.”
Well into the afternoon the following day Riesa became aware of her door opening. She wasn’t afraid, she expected the visitor. A few short moments later she felt a dip on the other side of her pull out bed.
She briefly opened her eyes and the light lanced through her cornea like lightening. Riesa welcomed the darkness behind her lids and gratefully succumbed to the sleep that reached out to her once more.
It was five in the evening when her cell phone broke the sound of two co-eds snoring loudly. Riesa slapped at the side of the bed in an effort to silence the noise.
“Sorry.” She sat up. “Phone”
Lee found it on the windowsill and passed it over.
“Shit.” Riesa tried to sound more alert than she felt when she answered. “Hi mom.” She had to yank the phone from her ear to stave off the pounding working its way from the back to the front of her skull.
“I know, I’m sorry.” A beat. “I sound sick? Um…yeah I think I caught a bug.” Several seconds passed as Riesa listened to her mother’s tone go from angry to sympathetic in a flash. “I’m sorry I worried you. I was sleeping.” Riesa hated to lie to her mother but she certainly couldn’t tell her she hadn’t come home because she was passed out drunk last night and thus hung over today.
“Fluids, got it. I’ll be home next weekend, I promise. Okay, love you too.” Riesa rang off with a sigh.
“Finally,” Lee complained.
She slapped him on his back. “Shut up ass. You got me so drunk I forgot I was supposed to go home today.”
Lee finally sat up. “Crap, sorry dude. I forgot too.”
Riesa rolled her eyes. “Forget it. Clearly we both had other more boozier things on our minds last night.” She collapsed onto her back. After several seconds of being stared at she turned to Lee as he leaned on an elbow looking down at her. “What?”
Her brow furrowed. “What about them?”
“You and them?” Lee smiled.
“Lee,” Riesa barked. “Full sentences please. I’m struggling here.”
“You don’t remember last night?”
Riesa looked incredulous. “You do?”
He scratched his head. “Enough.” Lee paused and looked at Riesa in that way that told her he was about to delve into his more serious side. She wasn’t sure she was in the mood. Riesa would listen none-the-less.
“You um…you totally came out last night dude.”
Riesa shot out of bed. “I what?” Her burgeoning headache was now a full cranial pounding.
Lee looked startled. “You said you like girls and that you were looking at Cindy’s boobs. Who wouldn’t really? She has a great—”
“Lee! Please tell me I didn’t say that to her or anyone else.” She knelt on the bed placing her hands on his shoulders. “You’ve got to tell me every single detail.”
“Dude, relax. That’s all that happened. It was just you and I.”
Riesa sat heavily on the bed putting her head in her hands mirroring her pose from last night.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, I can’t believe I told you that.” Riesa felt exposed. She couldn’t believe she’d gotten drunk and revealed something she hadn’t even admitted to herself.
“So, its not true?”
“No!” She shook her head. Lee came around and sat next to her. Riesa looked up into his soft brown eyes. “Yes.”
Lee smiled that big bright smile of his. It was almost like he liked the idea of her being gay better than straight. “You asked me last night if I thought you were gay. I don’t or didn’t, but its cool with me that you are. Seriously dude.”
She smiled wanly. “Thanks.”
They sat in silence for long moments. Riesa had no clue what to say or do now. People talk of coming out, but what about the after story?
“Oh my God, my mother!” Her insides clinched as she thought about telling her mother of this new development in her life.
“My super religious mother!” She looked to Lee for sympathy. He too wore the distinct look of dread.
“Hey, okay, chill don’t panic.” He paused. “Maybe hold off on telling her for a while. For all you know this could be a phase.”
Riesa stood quickly and began to pace, but the room took a steep dive to one side and she found her seat again.
“I’ve been looking at breasts since I was seven. It’s not a phase, Lee. I’ve felt like this forever I just couldn’t bring myself to face it.” She turned desperate eyes to her best friend. “But I can’t hide anymore.”
“So what are you going to do?”
Riesa rubbed her eye in sheer frustration. Some birthday present to herself this was. “I have no clue, but I should probably hold off on a family announcement for a little while.” She was having a hard time admitting to herself that she was gay, now that she had it would take some time to start distributing that information. She had no problem admitting she was a coward.
“Well I’ve got your back, but lets focus on Cindy,” he demanded.
She looked at him quizzically.
“Dude, she was so pushing her tits in your face all night. I’ve been trying to date her for like ever.”
Riesa smiled at him. He was too sweet to just sleep with a girl. He’d date her for a few weeks just to be gentleman like.
“Was she really? I was starting to think it was wishful thinking. Then a black veil was pulled over my consciousness. The rest is just a blur.” She swept her hands in front of her face in a downward motion.
“You were definitely not imaging it. I thought she was going to climb in your lap at one point. You should have seen Lloyd he was jealous as hell.”
Riesa thought about the implications of that statement, she was interrupted from her own ruminations by Lee’s.
“It’s weird, she barley knows you and could tell you’re a total les, but we’re best friends and I had no clue. Makes you think.”
“Yeah, and I’d rather not.”
“Ah, Ms. Randall, pleasure of you to join us.”
“Sorry,” Riesa murmured as she rushed to the back of the classroom.
Coming out wasn’t the best way to start a semester, but she was finding it was sorting itself nicely. Lee had taken it upon himself to tell most of their mutual friends. Everyone was supportive if not a bit disinterested. Her culinary school friends all had unique proclivities of their own and were unfazed. Lee’s business school buddies were a bit more rigid but navigating the NYC landscape called for a certain amount of open mindedness so they became more malleable with time. Riesa suspected their biggest issue had been their attraction to her.
All in all she was downright lucky in that lesbianism seemed to be in “fashion.” Lesbians were everywhere in media and, to Riesa’s surprise, her apartment building and neighborhood. Yes, here and now was the perfect time to come out. She hadn’t told her mother or anyone else in her family, but that could wait. She was away at school after all.
The door slammed open again in the midst of the hotel management class. Riesa was absently happy to see she wasn’t the only one running late.
“More late comers I see,” the professor droned.
“Sorry, late transfer.”
A student Riesa had never seen before handed him a slip of paper.
He scribbled his signature then handed back the yellow slip. “Find a seat and welcome.”
“Thank you,” she smiled.
Riesa had an opportunity to examine the young woman as she too made her way to the back. She was petite, no more than five foot-three with shoulder length auburn hair, almost red. She wore the typical NYC fall college attire of leggings, suede and woolen boots with a heavy sweater that covered anything that would make the leggings inappropriate. The look was topped off with a draping scarf and large shoulder bag. She accomplished boho chic quite elegantly. Riesa knew she herself could never pull off that look. She mentally rolled her eyes at the “hipster” moniker that Lee liked to tag on her fashion sense. Like he himself wasn’t a classic lower east side hipster.
With all the seats taken not only was Riesa treated to a look at her fashion sense, but her wonderful selection of perfume. The two-seat table gave her a great opportunity to further examine no matter how hard she tried not to stare.
“Um, excuse me?”
Riesa happily gave the new student her attention.
“Do you have a pen I could borrow?”
She smiled. “Big bag to not have a pen in.”
“That’s…embarrassingly true,” she woman smiled.
Riesa handed over a pen.
“Thanks, I’ll get this back to you.”
“Keep it. Wouldn’t want you to have to go through this exchange again.”
The woman laughed. “How benevolent of you. Thank you.”
The class passed without further incident. Riesa tried her level best to focus on the lesson, but boredom made that next to impossible. The academic components to culinary school were not her favorite by a long shot. That was coupled with the fact that she had a beautiful, sweet smelling woman sitting closely beside her.
It had only been a few weeks but the mental noose she’d taken off her sexuality had spawned quite a change in her personality. Riesa had always been relatively confident, but she always exercised a level of restraint in hopes of hiding what she was coming to find was a big part of herself.
With the release of her secret came the sweet release of a sparkling personality. She found she obtained an effervescence that made her more personable than she already was. Riesa wasn’t just coming out to the world, but to herself as well.
“These management classes are the worst, huh?”
Riesa hadn’t even realized the class had ended though the rows of rising students should have been some type of clue.
“Oh, yeah terrible. Get me back into the kitchen ASAP.”
The woman laughed as she packed her bag. Riesa tried to ignore the tiny pinch of pride.
“Thanks again for the pen. I’m Samantha by the way. My friends call me Sam.”
Riesa followed Sam out of the class. “Riesa. Everyone calls me Reese.”
“Pleased to meet you Reese. Well I’ll see you—”
“You want to grab some coffee?” Riesa interrupted. She couldn’t quite place why but she didn’t want Sam to leave her company just yet. “If you’re free,” she added.
Sam looked at her watch. “Sure.” She followed Riesa to a coffee shop close to campus.
“This place is cute.”
Riesa beamed. “Isn’t it? Their beans are fair trade and organic so it’s good for both the body and the soul.”
Sam shot Riesa a curious look and she suddenly felt self-conscious.
“I’m glad you brought me here then.”
“So what’s your specialty?” Riesa eagerly changed the subject. If Sam was talking then she wasn’t putting her foot in her mouth.
“Pastry,” Sam answered after placing her order.
“Oh, cool, a pastry chef. I never had the patience for baking. I envy you that.”
Sam smiled and Riesa noted a tiny dimple in her chin.
“Thanks. I guess you’re culinary arts then? You seemed bored to tears in class.”
Riesa rolled her eyes. “I take those management classes for practical reasons only. Put me in a kitchen any day.”
Sam’s laugh was feminine yet strong and confidant. It amazed Riesa just how many things about women she hadn’t noticed until very recently. No longer did she turn away or change her focus when she saw something intriguing in a woman. Now she looked, listened and felt all that she could in an effort to make up for lost time.
“I envy your culinary arts skills. I never could get the hang of mixing and matching flavors beyond basic dishes. For me sugar is sugar. Add a little four, vanilla maybe some fruit and done.”
“I think it’s more complicated than that.”
Their drinks arrived and Riesa was sure to note how Sam took her coffee.
“So you’re a transfer?”
“Yes, from Sacramento. I had some…personal issues so I decided to switch campuses. I was ready for a change to here I am.”
Riesa could almost see a dark cloud that cast ominous shadows under Sam’s eyes she was eager to lift it away.
“Well you are in the right place. Where you staying? Am I asking too many questions?”
Sam smiled. “Absolutely not. Um, I got a room on Broom.”
“Oh, the village. That’s downtown. I’m in the L-E-S.”
Sam’s expression was blank.
“Not too far from you.” Riesa laughed. “You don’t know anything about the city do you.”
I have no clue where I am at any given moment.” Sam joined in with Riesa’s laughter. “I literally just packed and left.”
“Well I can help show you around since we’re…”
Riesa looked up and was nearly faced to face with Cindy’s generous breasts. They seemed to always be precariously unfettered.
“Cindy, hey, what’s up?”
“Just grabbing a little pick-me-up before my next class.” She placed her hand on Riesa’s shoulder. “Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, right sorry. Cindy this is Sam, a new transfer to the institute. Sam this is my neighbor Cindy she is a budding thespian attending acting institute not far from here.”
Sam’s smile was genuine as she greeted Cindy. “An actress wow. Nice to meet you.”
“You too.” Cindy’s smile didn’t reach her eyes when she turned back to Riesa. “Will I see you tonight?”
She blanched at Cindy’s overtly suggestive tone. “Um…” Riesa’s gaze shifted from Cindy’s breasts to Sam whose gaze was firmly affixed to her beverage. “How ‘bout I call you later.”
“Make sure you do.” Cindy left them with a wave.
Silence hung between them for a few awkward moments. Riesa cleared her throat and extended her hand across the tiny coffee shop table. “Hi, I’m Riesa Randall and I just came out of the closet. Pleased to meet you.”
Sam’s hand was small and warm in her own.
“Samantha Stavros, um straight, I guess. It’s a pleasure to meet you as well.”
Sam smiled and Riesa did too.
“Took you long enough to get here.” Cindy admonished.
Riesa walked into Cindy’s tiny apartment. “Errands.”
She was unapologetic. It would seem Cindy’s little outburst helped dissipate any introductory awkwardness between Riesa and Sam. They had spent the rest of that afternoon together. Riesa found they had a lot in common and Sam’s wry sense of humor matched her own.
“I’m sure.” Cindy sat next to her on the small futon. “Were you chatting up your little friend this entire time?”
Riesa looked Cindy straight in the eyes. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”
Cindy smiled darkly. “Don’t I know it.”
She climbed over and straddled Riesa’s lap and she wasted no time running her hands along Cindy’s exposed thighs. She had to wonder at how comfortable she was with touching Cindy like this—or any woman for that matter. Her few attempts with the opposite sex had been no more than useless fumbling. Cindy had given her a few directives about what she liked sexually and Riesa had ran with it never looking back.
Cindy grabbed her oversized t-shirt—that happened to belong to Riesa—revealing bare skin underneath. “She’s terribly wholesome don’t you think? I doubt you’ll ever get into her pants.”
“We going to talk about other women all night?”
She smiled. “I don’t care who you do, darling, so long as you keep me on the roster.”
Riesa answered by flipped Cindy on her back and covering her naked form with her own.
Riesa and Sam made it a weekly ritual to grab coffee together after their Wednesday afternoon class. Their conversations ranged from music, to school, to politics and religion, but nothing personal beyond that.
Riesa found Sam spoke of Sacramento with duplicitous emotion that bounced between nostalgia and loathing like a veteran. It was as memorable as it was dreadful. Even those rare discussions didn’t include the mention of family and Riesa wasn’t inclined to push. She knew all about secrets and couldn’t imagine anyone trying to force them out of her.
“So Lee’s party is Saturday. No joke if you don’t come not another pen for you.”
“I said I’m coming,” Sam laughed. “Threats are not necessary.”
“You want me to come and get you? You know how lost you get.”
Sam gave Riesa’s shoulder a light push across the café table. “Google maps, smart ass. How do you think I’ve been getting around?”
“I don’t know, asking men in vans?”
Riesa held up her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay. It starts at eleven which means people will start arriving at twelve.”
“Its at your place or his?”
Riesa frowned. “His, definitely. I mean his place is a little bigger than mine with the bedroom. But mostly I’m too anal retentive about my space to have one of Lee’s events.”
“Ah, neat freak. I know the feeling. Can I see your place though?”
“Yeah, definitely. It is right across the hall. I’d tell you to come by early and hang but I’m usually running around because of Lee and his procrastination.”
Sam shrugged. “I can help.”
“Sure, what the hell else do I have to do?”
“Okay cool, just call when you’re on the way.” Riesa looked at the clock on her cell phone. “Crap, I have to run to my externship, literally.”
“Oh no, go.”
Riesa worked at a restaurant a couple days a week as part of her training. It was mostly just prep work, but she actually got to the see the inside of a kitchen and experience its inner workings so she didn’t complain…much.
“You’re cool to get home alone?”
Sam tilted her head to the side. “You’d be wise to leave now.”
Riesa didn’t lose her smile for the rest of the day even through the onion-induced tears she endured through most of her shift.
“So is your new girlfriend coming to the party?”
Riesa rolled her eyes as she and Lee cleared his apartment in preparation for the party. She didn’t see the point when it would only look worse soon after.
“Et tu, Brute?”
Lee laughed. “I think Cindy’s a little jealous.”
“I don’t know why, its not like we’re serious. Besides, Sam is not my girl.”
Lee pulled a face.
“I’m serious. For one, she’s straight and secondly, we just met.”
“Neither has stopped you these days.”
Riesa looked up at his tone. “Is that judgment I hear?”
Lee had been her biggest cheerleader during her coming out process. She couldn’t handle it if he wasn’t on her side.
“No,” he defended quickly, almost too quickly. “It’s envy. You see what you like and you take it. I wish I could just sleep with women without wasting time and money on useless dating.”
“Well I don’t have two sisters and a single mother weighing on my conscious. But you make me sound like a whore.”
“Dude, that’s not what I’m saying. You’re my bro. I think of you like a brother, like a guy.” He took a breath. “Your out there and your seeing what you like. Like I said I envy you. Seriously.”
Riesa shrugged. “Thanks man…I think.”
“Really, you’ve been sleeping with some real hotties. I’m proud of you in like a guy way. You’re my booty hero.”
She laughed heartily. “That’s gross, but I’m happy I can be someone you can look up to.”
Her phone rang interrupting their bizarre heart to heart.
Lee looked at her quizzically and she turned her back to him.
“Yes. No, it’s right. Just go to the corner and go left. I’m the second building on the right side of the street…okay.” She laughed then ended the call.
“Tell that smile she’s not your girlfriend,” Lee teased.”
Riesa threw an empty can at his head. “Screw you.” She got serious for a moment. “Hey, could you do me a favor?”
He gave her his attention.
“I think she’s been through a lot before she got here, some personal stuff.”
“Just don’t like push up on her too much. She’s just here to hang out and have fun.”
Lee smiled. “Don’t want me hitting on your girlfriend, dude? Can’t handle the competition?”
“Is that what I just said?” She cocked her head to the side.
Riesa looked toward the hall then back to Lee. “I’m serious. Okay?”
“In here, Sam,” she called out with pleading eyes firmly affixed on Lee. “Dude?”
“Okay, hands off.”
“Sam,” Riesa smiled. “Come in.”
Lee sauntered over and Riesa introduced them feeling a little less anxiety.
“Nice to meet you, Lee. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“You too. Reese tells me you’re here to help out.”
“Yeah. Riesa likes to use me for free labor.” Sam smiled and touched Riesa’s arm.
“Damn straight. I like my women to be useful.” She paused. “I’ll grab my stuff then we can head to the liquor store.”
“You want the five cent tour before we head out?
Sam smiled bright. “Sure.”
The pair made the short trip across the hall and Riesa let Sam precede her into the apartment. Sam meandered slowly around the space as Riesa grabbed her wallet and jacket.
For some odd reason Riesa couldn’t remember her place seeming so small. Though it wasn’t the swankiest place in New York City, she was proud of it. She and her mother had splurged a bit on the décor since they didn’t have to spend the usual exorbitant amount of money on culinary school as they would have at a traditional university. In front of the single bank of windows was a moderately sized sectional that folded out into a bed far larger than any college student was accustomed to. There was a flat screen on the wall nearby. The small kitchen area was outfitted with the latest cooking equipment and Riesa had a pot rack mounted to accommodate the copper bottom cookware she owned. The walls were painted a bright terracotta that looked warm in the winter and cool in the light of summer. Beyond that Riesa had a good amount of family photos and knickknacks sprinkled about. The walls also housed vintage rock and Motown albums that had belonged to her father.
“Who knew someone could do so much with a studio.” Sam finally said with obvious sincerity.
Riesa released a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
“This place is really nice. You want to come decorate my shabby establishment?”
“Sure, if you pay me.”
Sam laughed. The sound tickled Riesa’s senses.
Riesa moved to get her jacket and wallet. She could have sworn she’d done that already.
“You look just like your father,” Sam commented.
“Yeah people used to say that a lot.”
Riesa shrugged into her coat. “He passed a when I was in high school.”
Riesa frowned. “No, ‘I’m sorry?’”
“I’m sure your tired of that. I know I am.”
Thinking of it, Riesa was tired of hearing it. If you didn’t know him how could you be sorry? It was just one of those stupid things people said out of habit. It like, “how are you,” or asking after someone’s weekend. It was an obligatory American custom and though Riesa was sick to death of it, she still participated.
“I didn’t realize I was until you just told me.”
They shared a look.
Sam nodded and followed her out.
“You were right, these parties are crazy,” Sam conceded hours later. She had to raise her voice to be heard over the pounding base.
“I tried to warn you. This place is a total sardine can.”
“Who knew so many people could fit into such a small space.”
“There’s always more space for partying.”
When Sam had to stand closely to be heard and Riesa could smell her scent and feel her warmth she was glad for the divergence to the usual guest list.
“There you are,” Cindy smiled. She immediately pressed herself into Riesa’s side.
“Oh…hey.” Any other time Riesa would be thrilled to see Cindy. One of Lee’s parties is how they began to hook up on the first place. Now with Sam pretending not to watch it was just annoying.
“You having a good time?” Cindy cut her eyes at Sam. “She’s here so you must be.”
Riesa felt her ire rise. “You know the deal Cindy. Don’t pull this shit now.”
“Indeed I do.” Cindy took a step back. “Come find me if your not…busy later.”
Riesa rubbed her eyes.
“Does she always greet you tits first?”
Riesa laughed outright. “From the moment I met her. Even before I was out to anyone, myself included.”
“Perceptive little thing,” Sam commented offhandedly then looked directly at Riesa. “All that attention must take a lot out of you.”
Riesa frowned. “I’m only noticing now. But…she’s wasn’t always been like that. She sees other people…its just when you’re around.”
Sam shook her head. “Not just her. A quarter of the women here have eyes on you. Couple guys too.”
“I think they’re attracted to my androgynous sense of style.” Riesa laughed. “Women see it as a sign, men see it as a challenge.”
Sam didn’t seem quite convinced and the smile melted from Riesa’s face.
“Dance with me.” Sam brightened suddenly and Riesa was happy to follow.
She was in no mood to discuss her amorous lifestyle. Riesa was more than happy to place the hand not holding a red plastic cup on Sam’s waist. The jolt she felt was a reminder that this was the closest she’d been to Sam ever. She was smaller than the fall attire she sported indicated. Riesa was drawn closer by Sam’s free hand around her neck. She could smell Sam’s hair and decided she liked it very much.
“You’re an okay dancer,” Riesa teased.
“That some kind of white joke?”
Riesa looked scandalized. “Never.”
“You wish I was just okay. I know I can move.”
Riesa laughed and inadvertently pulled Sam’s small frame closer to her own.
“Reese!” Lee bellowed as he stumbled into the pair and passed her a joint.
Usually she would be happy to see him and his recreational party favor, but tonight he was just interrupting.
Taking a quick drag she offered it next to Sam who shook her head and quickly looked away.
“This party is sick! You guys enjoying yourself?”
“Yeah,” Sam answered. “Thanks for inviting me.”
“Thank your girl, Reese.”
Someone called his name and Lee went ambling away.
Riesa rolled her eyes. “Every girl I meet is my girlfriend with that guy.”
“But you don’t have one?’
“Hardly. I just literally came out last month. I’m just putting feelers out—”
“You know what I mean.”
Sam touched her arm as was becoming her habit. “I do. You’re young and newly out, you want to experience it. I understand.”
Riesa was glad Sam understood and accepted her. She was enjoying her homosexuality and didn’t fancy being apologetic for it.
“You want another drink?”
“Please. I’ll find us a spot on the couch.
Riesa shoved her way to the kitchen and began fixing drinks. Beer was usually her drink of choice, but she opted to join Sam in a cranberry and vodka. Suddenly her weight was at the front of her mind.
“I thought I’d never get you alone.”
Riesa had to look up to see who was crowding her into the counter. The blond had to be over six feet to be taller than Riesa’s five-eleven.
“Do I know you?”
The woman smiled. “No, not yet but I certainly know you.”
Riesa stopped mixing and made contact with the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. “And just how do you know me?”
“I’m a very close…friend of Cindy’s,” she revealed.
It all became clear to Riesa now. Being new to the lesbian scene she figured it went without saying that you don’t kiss and tell. She had been taught the very valuable lesson that her traditional ideals of propriety were not shared as stories of her sexual exploits with Cindy were making their way back to her via Lee and others. Riesa couldn’t be too angry because often Cindy would also tell her friends, her extremely attractive and curious friends.
“Alex.” She stuck her hand out and Riesa shook it.
“You clearly already know my name.”
“I’m more than familiar.”
“Cindy give you my number too?”
“She did,” Alex confirmed.
Riesa finished her drinks and scooped them up. “Good, use it.”
Making her way back through the crowd she pulled up short when she saw Lee and Sam talking animatedly. She couldn’t place why but it grated on her nerves. Riesa had to remind herself that not only had she asked Lee to lay off, she had no claims over Sam. To be jealous was superfluous and a needless use of emotion.
Riesa took a healthy slug of her drink and jointed the pair.
“There she is,” Lee said far too loudly. “Keeping it warm for you.”
He left so swiftly that Riesa felt foolish.
Riesa sat in the space he’d left. “He is. He’s the best actually.”
The party raged well into the next morning. As usual Riesa stayed until the crowd began to thin.
“Please tell me I can crash at yours,” Sam slurred.
“Yeah, lets go.” She pulled Sam to her feet. “Lee!”
“Dude! You…you leaving me?”
Riesa would have laughed at Lee’s disheveled and drunken state, but she herself was sporting a very similar look.
“Yeah, kick these free loaders out man.”
“I am, soon. Thanks for the help, you too Sammy.”
Riesa raised an eyebrow at the familiarity.
“No problem,” Sam stammered.
“You guys go. I’ll beg for help cleaning up tomorrow.” He looked at his watched. “Or later today rather.”
Riesa and Sam took a significant amount of time getting across the hall and the door unlocked.
Sam lay heavily across the couch. “No thanks.”
“No, we got to,” Riesa insisted. “It’s how you’re not hung over.”
She filled up two large glasses handing one to Sam who took a few tepid sips before setting it down.
“It’s making me nauseous.”
Sam began pulling her clothes off and Riesa almost chocked.
“Where am I sleeping?”
“Do you work out?” Riesa couldn’t focus.”
“I used to do pal…palates.” She answered then stomped her foot. “Riesa!”
She wrenched her eyes from Sam’s ass. “Huh?”
“Oh, with me.”
Sam giggled. “You want me to sleep with you?”
“No! Well you have to, but no.”
Sam looked confused.
“Only one bed.”
“I don’t see it.”
Riesa laughed and shooed Sam away from the couch with her hands. Moving a few pieces around, the couch quickly transformed into a bed. She didn’t have time to make it before Sam climbed aboard.
“Awesome,” she sighed with relief.
Riesa looked down at Sam in a tank top and tiny boy shorts.
“You’re spacey when you’re drunk,” Sam deduced.
Riesa frowned. “No I’m not. Just hold on a second.”
She pulled a blanket from the closet before stripping down to her undergarments as well. Covering them both, she was sure to leave ample space between them.
“Thanks Reese,” Sam said as the light went out.
Riesa listened as Sam’s breathing evened out and began to drift shortly after.
“My dad is dead too.”
It’s the last thing Riesa remembered before succumbing to sleep.