CHAPTER FIVE

[5 years later]

Kate looked up from her desk. Another red leaf clacked against the window. It was brisk outside. Winter was coming fast. The seasons were changing too quickly. Kate had changed too quickly. She'd gotten a job right out of college. She was a working girl now. She worked at a downtown office in Elwood City. It was her dream job. She'd never been happier.

Leaving college was hard. She and Molly had become close. They still talked online but it wasn't the same. They still read books in tandem. They'd both started blogs about their reading. They commented on each other's entries. No one else even passed by. Those blogs was their own private universe, something special. Molly was something special. Kate's crush had never died. She never liked anyone else. She went on a few dates but no one ever clicked. Molly was all she wanted. Molly was all she could have.

Kate's phone rang. She recognized the number. It was Molly. She answered on the third right. Molly laughed, "I thought you weren't going to pick up there for a second. Look, I'm heading out for lunch with the book club. Care to meet us at that pizza place on 12th Street?" Molly asked. Kate shrugged, "Sure, let me just get my coat and tell my boss."

Kate got permission to go. She practically ran to the restaurant. Molly was driving up as she got there. No one else was with her. Kate was confused. She waited by the door while Molly parked. They met up at the door. Both rushed inside. The warmth made them sigh with relief. Molly approached the hostess. She asked for a table for 2. Kate kept quiet. She followed them to their seats. They got a table in the back. No one else was around.

They didn't say anything until the drinks arrived. Molly took a sip of her Sprite. She exhaled slowly, "So, I kind of told a little lie back there, but I think you already figured that out," she grinned. Kate nodded. Molly sighed, "Yeah, well, you remember what I told you a few years ago when you admitted your feelings. I hated rejecting you. I knew it was coming. I called Arthur about a week after I told you to tell him. It was the day after you'd come out, and he told me you had feelings for me. I…I was so happy. You meant a lot to me, and I thought 'Hey, I could make this work', at least until I remembered my policy. Lakewood University is so strict about those things. Just the other week, a music teacher got canned just for going out drinking with his students after a concert. They're just as strict as the rest of this town.

"But you're not a current student anymore. You're an adult, and I'm an adult, and I might have some years on you, but those feelings I had for you never went away. I hated having to wait, but you graduated last spring. You've been out in the working world for a while, and no one at that school has to know anything. I'm willing to take a chance even if they do find out. I'm willing to take that chance for you, that is, if you still like me," Molly blushed.

Kate smiled, "I never stopped being in love with you. I tried to follow Arthur's advice and treat you like a typical celebrity crush, but you were different. We'd gotten to know each other, and we were just within each other's reach. How could a crush like that slip away? I'm willing to try too, but what happens if you lose your job because of me? I'd feel terrible."

"Until you moved away with me," Molly whispered. "Look, I had to think of a contingency plan. I want you to keep a little nest egg tucked away. If I lose my job, we'll just move somewhere else. I've already found some awesome places all over the country that we could go to. I have an escape plan. I hope I never have to use it, but if I do, I want to know that you'll be there with me."

"I will," Kate nodded. She slid her hand across the table. Molly took it. Both women felt fireworks. They knew this was the right choice.

Everything changed after that. They spent nights together hanging out. They talked for hours, sometimes in Kate's apartment, sometimes in Molly's small house. They went on weekend getaways. They shopped vintage stores. They were an item.

A month in, they worried. They wondered about other people. Had they noticed them? Were they saying bad things? Neither had anyone to ask. Asking would give them away. They just had to make their public excursions somewhere else. They didn't hide their relationship. They just took it other places. Metropolis was a favorite place for a while, then its suburb Hilldale. They openly dated there. No one judged them. No one so much as looked.

They settled into their life with each other. Their love grew deep. Their time grew more meaningful. Their guard was let down.