Cyrano is cocooned in a blanket at the kitchen table nursing tea and an essay when a blast of cold air wallops her in the face.
"Close the door, close the door! I don't want my nose to snap off and slice up my toes," she says. Roxane grins and executes an elegant pirouette to shut the door behind her. The bags of groceries hanging from her arm swing in lazy circles. She drops a handful of envelopes on the table by Cyrano. Cyrano flicks through the envelopes and sighs when she discovers they're all bills.
"Brrr," Roxane says, flipping on the electric kettle. She runs her hands over her cheeks, pinkened by the wind. "Can we skip the winter and go straight for spring?"
Cyrano points towards the clean laundry stacked on their tumbledown couch. "I quite like cold weather." She twirls her pen between her fingers and flips through one of the books in her stack.
Roxane wiggles into her favorite ratty sweater and pulls the frayed cuffs down over her knuckles. She pulls her hair out of its bun and shakes it loose around her face. "Perfect." She joins Cyrano at the table and pulls the bills towards her. "I swear, Cyrano, if you don't learn how to do bills soon..."
"You'll kill me? Who would pay for Hulu then?" Cyrano says, not looking up from her notebook.
"Touché," Roxane says. She gets up to pour herself hot water and stretches on tip toes to get a tea bag from her cupboard. Cyrano looks up in time to see Roxane's sweater riding up over her soft brown stomach. Before she can decide whether to look away, Roxane drops back onto flat feet. She settles herself into the chair opposite Cyrano. Roxane looks down into her mug and lets the steam envelop her face.
Cyrano wrenches her gaze back to her books. She stares blankly at the words in front of her. The energy she'd used to start her essay has evaporated. When she looks up at Roxane again, Roxane flushes and flicks her eyes away from Cyrano. "What's up?" Cyrano asks.
Roxane drags both hands across her face. She wraps her hands around her tea mug and chuckles self-consciously. "Um, so, I have something to ask you." She runs a hand through her hair. "That's not very elegant, is it?"
Cyrano's eyebrows shot up. "Well, that's one way to start the conversation, yeah." She reaches out and rubs Roxane's upper arm. "Everything okay?" Roxane jumps at her touch and buries her face in her hands.
"I—I don't..." she begins, voice muffled by her hands. She looks up, accidentally catching Cyrano's eye, and cracks a smile. "When I was little, one of the neighbor boys tried to kiss me. I didn't let him, of course." She laughs and takes a sip of tea. "Did they ever do that to you?"
Cyrano taps her pen on her notebook. "When I was that age, the neighbor boys thought I was a neighbor boy."
"Oh, right," Roxane says, her smile slipping. Cyrano waves her off. "Um, anyway, I was just thinking...maybe I should have let him kiss me." She smiles ruefully at the table. "I, um...I've never kissed anyone." She looks up at Cyrano from under her lashes.
Cyrano shrugs. "So?" Now that she knows Roxane isn't in any trouble, she gets up to refill her mug. She measures out two teaspoons of sugar, back turned so Roxane won't see and tell her off. She watches the tea whirlpool made by her spoon.
"So, I'm really curious. I want to know what the hype's about," Roxane says.
Cyrano makes a face. "You shouldn't listen to popular opinion so much."
"Well, I also think people will expect me to kiss them goodnight on dates." Roxane props her chin in her hand and gazes off into the distance. "I want it to be really romantic, but how could it be romantic if I have no idea what I'm doing?"
"Are you going on dates?" Cyrano asks, ignoring the little icicle now stuck in her heart. "No one should make you kiss them! I'll run them through!" She shifts her tea to her right hand and settles into fencing position, imaginary foil held in her left hand. She lunges ferociously at one of the kitchen chairs.
Roxane laughs. "I can take care of them myself, thank you." She drops her gaze back to her mug and rubs her thumb across the handle. "The point is, I wondered if...would it be too crazy...could you maybe..."
Cyrano returned to the table and wrapped her arms around Roxane from behind. "What is it?" Roxane smiled against Cyrano's cheek.
"If I haven't kissed anyone in six months, could you kiss me? Just to show me what to expect."
Cyrano's head jerks away from Roxane's shoulder. "Really? Why...why would you want to do that? Why me?" Cyrano grabs her mug. She chokes on the scalding tea, and Roxane gets up to get her a glass of water.
After Cyrano takes a gulp of water, Roxane sits again and pins Cyrano under her gaze. "It makes sense, you know?" She puts up a finger with each of her points. "Friends sometimes kiss—I know my friend Claire kisses some of hers. I know you the best of anyone at Bourgogne, and I trust you. Also"-she looks down at her mug and giggles self-consciously-"you have nice lips."
Cyrano brings a hand to her lips, automatically coming in from the side so she won't bump her nose. "Do I?" she asks, in a daze. She doesn't trust herself to say that Roxane has nice lips. That would lead to saying that Roxane has nice hazel eyes, and nice dark hair, and a much better nose than Cyrano's, and a nice pillowy stomach, and-
"Yeah, you do," Roxane says, laughing now. "Anyway, what do you say?" Cyrano can see Roxane's crossed fingers half-hidden behind her mug of tea.
What does she say? Well, what on earth can she say but yes? She doesn't even need to look at Roxane's doe eyes to be convinced. Roxane jumps up and throws her arms around Cyrano.
They take turns to remind each other of their deal for the next six months. Roxane says things like "I'm saving my first kiss for you," with a wink. On other days Cyrano says things like "Are you sure you want your first kiss to be with Pinocchio?" Cyrano is in two minds about this. She wants to kiss Roxane as much as she's wanted anything. She's equally as terrified. And she knows it's a bad idea to kiss Roxane when she feels like this.
But time marches on.
For the first time in the past six months, Cyrano has forgotten about her promise. She and Roxane walk home from class in the tentative sunshine of an April afternoon. A gentle breeze whisks across their shoulders and plays with their hair. They howl with laughter and enjoy the silence by turns. Cyrano can't believe how comfortable it feels to be with Roxane. They've known each other for less than a year.
"Want to get an ice cream?" Cyrano asks as they pass Ragueneau's. "To celebrate the first warm day of the year."
"You call this a warm day?" Roxane says, feigning shivers. "No thanks! How about a coffee?"
"How about that new pie place?" Cyrano counters. "The one Bret won't shut up about."
"You only want to go there because you can get ice cream with pie," Roxane says, nudging Cyrano with her elbow. She still agrees, so they head for the pie place. It's a tiny room with only one table, currently full, so they order their pie to go. Heat from the fresh-baked pie soaks from the cardboard box to Roxane's hands. When they get home, Cyrano's in such a pleasant mood that she insists on having a nice dinner. She breaks out Grandma's china and a bottle of bubbly. Roxane doesn't protest as much as she might have, once upon a time.
In no time at all they're hovering on the edge of tipsy, giggling over something their tutor said that day. Roxane's phone vibrates. She gets up to check it. When she sits back down by Cyrano, she has a funny look on her face.
"What's up, Roxane?" Cyrano asks, taking another sip of champagne.
"Guess what today is," Roxane says, fiddling with the last bite of her pie. She mashes the fruit into the edge of the plate.
It isn't midterm season yet. Cyrano doesn't know anyone with a birthday in April, and there aren't any holidays. "Is it National Confound Your Roommate Day?" She reaches out and presses her hand into Roxane's, meaning to stop the maceration of the pie.
Roxane jumps at her touch. Cyrano frowns and takes her hand back.
Roxane shakes her head. "Sorry. It's just, um-"
"Oh," Cyrano says, remembering. "Oh." Her mouth is a desert and her heart is a jackhammer and she doesn't know if she should run or stay-
Roxane sets down her fork and gazes at Cyrano. Cyrano focuses on the heart-shaped face across from her. Roxane's eyes, wide open, are rimmed with magenta mascara she'd gotten for a laugh. Her beautiful soft lips are slightly open. Cyrano has to break eye contact.
"Are we-" they say at the same time, and laugh.
"I'm game if you are," Roxane says, sitting up straight in her chair. It looks as though she has her hands clasped in front of her, though Cyrano can't see for sure.
"Do you want to...move to the couch...or something?" Cyrano stumbles. Roxane nods. They face each other, legs miles apart, on opposite ends of the couch.
Cyrano runs a hand through her hair. "So...what are you comfortable with? Closed mouth? Is it okay if I touch your hair or...whatever?" She can hardly believe that she's speaking at all, but now that she is, she can't stop herself.
Roxane tugs on her lower lip with one finger, bobbing her head up and down. "Let's start with closed mouth and see where it goes? And you can touch my hair and...whatever. That's normal, right?"
"Is there anything normal about having your first kiss like this?" Cyrano asks. Roxane bursts into laughter, and Cyrano can't help but join her. There's a balloon in her chest growing ever larger. Cyrano shifts toward Roxane, still laughing, and puts her left arm around Roxane's shoulder. They take a moment to study each other's faces before bursting into giggles again.
Then Cyrano moves closer. She looks down at Roxane's lips, then up to Roxane's eyes, and Roxane stops giggling. Roxane leans into the charged space between them, and Cyrano feels the sparks all over her skin. This close, she can see that freckles form constellations over Roxane's face. There are tiny stars dotted over the paler skin where her slightly-parted lips meet. How many people have been close enough to Roxane to see that? Cyrano's internal monologue cuts off when she feels Roxane's lips on hers.
It takes a second for them to figure out how to fit their lips together, and Roxane giggles against Cyrano's lips, but then it works. Roxane's lips are slightly chapped and taste like her strawberry chapstick. Cyrano forgets all about her nose brushing Roxane's cheek. She cups one hand around the back of Roxane's head, silky hair sliding through her fingers, and moves the other down Roxane's back to hold her close. Roxane doesn't pull away, so Cyrano gently opens her mouth. She hears Roxane's breath hitch.
Cyrano thinks about a million things at once until Roxane sucks on her bottom lip. The thoughts fly away, leaving only the butterflies in Cyrano's stomach. She feels as though she's uncoiling from the little box she lives in most of the time. Roxane's hands slide around Cyrano's torso to cup her shoulder blades. One of her fingers traces a slow circle just above the neckline of Cyrano's shirt. Roxane sucks Cyrano's bottom lip again and Cyrano deepens their kiss as best she can.
Roxane's phone vibrates, and they jump apart.
They stare at each other, wide-eyed, unable to move.
"I-" Cyrano begins, not even sure what she'd say. She'd apologize, but despite her instincts she was 99% sure Roxane was kissing back, and-
"Kiss me, Cyrano," Roxane says, low, and Cyrano dives for her. She can't get enough of Roxane's soft lips and the intoxicating scent of her skin. Cyrano breaks away, drops a peck onto Roxane's protesting lips, and moves to her neck. "Okay?" she breathes, lips a hair away from Roxane's neck, and drops kisses up to her jawline. Roxane's cool hands up the back of Cyrano's shirt make her shiver. Cyrano kisses Roxane's earlobe before returning to her mouth.
They kiss for five minutes or an hour or forever before Cyrano slips Roxane's hands out from under her shirt. She sits up. "Should we talk about this?" she whispers, afraid that her voice will break their magical bubble.
Roxane leans over and kisses her again, one hand on her cheek, and pulls back. She entwines her fingers with Cyrano's. "How long have you…?"
Cyrano kisses Roxane's hand where it twines around her own to avoid answering. Eventually she looks up at Roxane and murmurs, "Since the first day." She breaks their eye contact. She'd be a little embarrassed, but this beautiful creature in front of her wants her too! She laughs and smiles at once.
Roxane's eyes widen at the admission. She laughs her huge laugh of surprise, the one that fills Cyrano to the brim with sunshine. Cyrano hides her face in her arms, and Roxane drops a kiss on the top of her head.
"Before you ask, it's been creeping up on me, but I've only really realised these past few weeks." Roxane grins and hides her own face. Cyrano can hardly believe it. Roxane likes her!
Cyrano pushes herself upright and tucks Roxane into the curve of her free arm. "I have a confession," she says, reaching up to trace lines between Roxane's freckles, but drawing back. It's hard to believe she's allowed to touch Roxane like this now.
Roxane raises her eyebrows. "Another one?"
Cyrano rubs Roxane's hand with her thumb. "This was my first kiss," she blurts, before she loses her nerve.
Roxane jerks away from her, and Cyrano fears the worst. Roxane puts both arms around her and squeezes. "I have so many things to say! One: I'm so sorry. I thought you were a Casanova, that's why I asked you in the first place! Two: how can you be that good at kissing if you've never done it before? And three-" She cuts herself off with her own laugh. "Three-" Her whole body shakes with laughter.
Cyrano says above the laughter, "I'd ask you how you're so good at kissing if you haven't done it before!" Roxane only laughs harder, her arms slipping off Cyrano's shoulders. She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand.
"That's my confession," she says, leaning forward and settling her hands in Cyrano's hair. "This wasn't my first kiss."
Cyrano's mouth drops open. "What!"
Roxane's eyes sparkle like diamonds. "I kissed someone at a party a while ago, but I kind of wanted to kiss you anyway. Just to see. And then I realised I had feelings for you, and it was the perfect excuse!"
Cyrano's still speechless, so Roxane leans forward. She closes Cyrano's mouth with a finger under her chin. She kisses Cyrano, one hand still running through Cyrano's red waves of hair.
"I can't believe it," says Cyrano, breaking away. A grin splits over her face. "You rascal!"
"That's why you love me," Roxane says, and Cyrano's breath catches in her throat at the L-word.
"I do love you, so much," she says, looking straight into Roxane's eyes. When Roxane throws her arms around Cyrano and squeezes, Cyrano can't think of any other place she'd want to be.