Debut story - feedback is most welcome.
Ch 2 of 4 (Complete)
Ellie spent most of the morning with her nose in her computer, hardly pausing to look away unless Grace asked her a question.
Grace picked up on Ellie’s conversational distance and tried to keep her questions to a minimum. She wished the girl would talk more, but there was little she could do other than wait for her to open up. Still, at least she was willing to answer her questions, though she refused to make eye contact when doing so.
Ellie’s stomach began to rumble silently, but she didn’t want to be the first one to leave. Her plan was to wait until Grace left for lunch and then she’d be able to eat by herself without being rude. Twenty more minutes of silence had passed when Ellie’s stomach broke the silence. Asshole, she silently cursed at her stomach as she locked her computer and tried to leave without drawing Grace’s attention.
“Oh, is it lunch time already?” Grace asked stretching her arms above her head.
Ellie noticed her eyes trailing over Grace’s figure and she snapped them to her computer screen. “Hehe, forgot to lock this thing.” She randomly clicked her mouse to “lock” it. “Yeah, the first few days on the job are always like that.” She was surprised at how normal she just was. For her, the morning had dragged on, though that has less to do with work and more to do with her new coworker.
“Are you going out for lunch?” Grace asked, tucking her hair nervously behind one ear.
“Oh, no. I pack my lunch mostly. A lot of people around here do, though there are lots of restaurants within a few blocks. Problem is, they always get bombarded with a lunch rush from all the office buildings. It’s hard to get out of there in an hour.” Wow, Ellie thought. This isn’t so bad.
“Oh great! I was worried I’d be the only one and end up looking like a dork.” She laughed as she tucked her hair behind the other ear. “I guess we get to be cubicle buddies and lunch buddies.”
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Ellie was back to panic mode, and before she could respond, Grace got up and started toward the break room. “Shit,” she murmured under her breath.
There were a few other people in the break room and Ellie introduced them to Grace. They grabbed their lunches out of the refrigerator and headed for a table. Grace’s lunchbox was decorated in a light blue geometric pattern with gray trim. She pulled out three Tupperware containers and neatly placed their contents onto a glass plate she brought from home. She waited by the microwave while her lunch heated. Ellie removed the haphazardly wrapped leftover pizza from the used ACME plastic bag. She looked down at her meager lunch and frowned. Why does her lunch have to be so fancy? She probably thinks I’m such a loser. Ellie waited until Grace sat down to start eating her cold pizza. It didn’t taste nearly as good as usual with the scent of Grace’s food enticing Ellie’s nostrils.
“What’s that you’re eating?” Grace asked between bites of food.
“Some old pizza.”
“You’re not going to heat it up?”
“No, that’s a waste of time,” Ellie scoffed, rolling her eyes. She was genuinely perturbed at the hot new girl judging her for her lunch choice.
“I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just. I have some extras. Would you like some?” Grace held out one of the containers.
Ellie eyed it suspiciously. “I don’t want to eat your food.”
Grace laughed, “It’s no worries! I love cooking so you eating the rest of this is actually a good thing.”
Ellie was incredulous. “You actually like cooking?”
“I do. And I’m pretty good at it too. Why don’t you try some?” Grace held her fork out to Ellie with a bite full of food.
There was something mischievous in her expression that Ellie couldn’t quite place her finger on, but she decided to try it anyway. She reached her hand out to grab the fork from Grace’s hands, but Grace pulled it back, wrinkling her nose cutely. Ellie was as confused as she looked.
“You have to come over here and eat it.”
Ellie blushed and looked over at the table with her other coworkers. They were deeply enthralled in some Facebook video. She looked back at Grace who was moving the fork tauntingly in small circles. “Ugh, fine. But only because it smells better than my cold pizza.”
Grace smiled knowingly as Ellie leaned across the table to eat the food. She was just close enough that her lips touched the food when Grace pulled the fork back. Ellie looked up at her frustrated and huffed. She had to move even further forward to reach the fork, lifting her ass off the seat for further reach. Grace slowly moved it back a fraction of an inch until Ellie was practically face-to-face with Grace’s chest. Ellie’s eyes hungrily absorbed the line of cleavage, quickly beginning to wonder what her breasts looked like underneath the white lace bra she saw earlier. But before she got her answer, she heard chairs scooting and her head snapped towards the sound.
Her coworkers were staring, uncomfortable, as they all left the break room. Her face turned beet red. She had never blushed so much in her life as she did that day, and all because of that woman! Her mind was reeling with excuses to tell her coworkers, but she didn’t even know what it was she was doing. Why does this feel so embarrassing? Why does this feel wrong? She couldn’t begin to excuse her actions to her coworkers because she had no excuse for herself. Sitting perfectly erect, she looked back at Grace, her bottom lip trembling.
Grace smiled and gestured at the fork with a nod of her head. Ellie had no words. She shook her head side-to-side almost imperceptibly. Admitting defeat, Grace merely shrugged and ate the food on her fork instead. She made a show of savoring the flavor with “Mmmms” and “Ahhhs.” Ellie rolled her eyes and huffed loudly. She had had enough. She wasn’t a child! Grace smiled and put another bite of food on the fork. She offered it to Grace in the same way as before, though this time she held it next to her chair instead of over the table. Ellie didn’t know why this made her feel so uncomfortable and yet, there was a part of her that was excited at the uncertainty.
Slowly, she got up from the table and stood next to Grace. Ellie was so entranced by her peculiar behavior that she awaited Grace’s instruction. Grace sensed this and smirked, pointing a finger to the floor. Ellie knelt on the floor and moved towards the fork. Yet again, Grace moved it away, and Ellie whimpered audibly, pouting out her bottom lip. She looked pleadingly at Grace. How much more torment could this woman inflict?
Grace lifted the fork slowly, beckoning Ellie with her finger to follow. Ellie pushed her glasses up her nose as, slowly, Grace raised her hand and slowly Ellie lifted herself to it. Finally, Grace paused with the fork in front of her mouth. Ellie was half-standing, awkwardly positioned with her height versus the height of Grace in the chair. Grace’s golden-brown eyes held Ellie in place. Ellie’s breathing got heavier, and she began to feel warm. Not like the hot flashes from earlier, but a comforting warmth radiating from her... Her eyes began to widen as she fully registered what exactly was wrong with this situation. But before she could fully snap out of her daze, Grace nodded her head towards the fork, instructing Ellie to eat. Ellie did, and the flavors were phenomenal.
She’d forgotten that the whole purpose of this little exercise was for her to sample Grace’s cooking. She swallowed the food and offered a weak smile. She was too overwhelmed for much else, though she thoroughly enjoyed the food. Even though she finished the food, she couldn’t bring herself to move, their eyes locked in an intense gaze. Ellie’s heart palpitated, her breathing shallow. They were so close. She had never been this close with another woman. Ellie blinked once, twice, as she saw Grace leaning in closer.
Their lips lightly brushed, hovering, unsure. Ellie closed her eyes and focused on the softness of the other woman’s lips, how their slight wetness sent shivers down her spine. It was a moment of bliss.
Grace abruptly pulled away, causing Ellie to start. “Well,” Grace said, looking at her watch. “Lunch break’s almost over and I have to pee.” With that, she stood up and walked out of the room.
Ellie was bewildered. What in the hell was that all about? Did I just kiss Grace? She felt the color drain from her face, and she brought her fingers to touch her lips. What the hell?
“Hey, you okay?”
Pulled from her thoughts, Ellie raised her head to see John leaning in the frame of the open doorway. A little bit of redness came to her cheeks as she said, “Yeah, just stressed.”
“Oh yeah, you’re training the new girl, right?”
Her cheeks turned a deeper shade of red. “Yeah, but, uh, she’s great! Totally cool. Nothing weird at all about her. Yup. Just your standard coworker.”
“Okaaaay,” he said, eyeing her cautiously. “Well, if you need a break, feel free to send her my way. Hey, how much do you know about her?”
“Not much. She seems nice, though.” As confused as Ellie was, she really meant it.
“Hmm. She’s really pretty. Do you think she’d go on a date with me?”
Ellie felt her stomach tighten and she rolled her eyes defensively. “C’mon man, it’s her first day of work. Don’t you have anyone else to torment?” she chided laughing. Internally, though, she was hurt by his words. He didn’t know it, but she had been nursing a crush on him since he first started working there a year ago, even while she was dating Chad. She liked to imagine them as Jim and Pam from The Office, but never quite got the courage to make the first move. Besides, he obviously didn’t like her if he was asking about another woman.
“Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask,” John said shrugging his shoulders. “Well, I’ve gotta get back to work.” He turned his head slightly only to stop and add, “See if you can find out if she’s single!” he whispered, grinning.
The rest of the day passed by much faster than the first and Ellie didn’t find working with Grace after – the incident – nearly as awkward as she’d expected. In fact, she begun to wonder if she’d imagined the kiss. She’d been anxious all morning, she mused. Maybe her nerves stimulated an overactive imagination. But then... Even if I imagined the kiss, the whole thing was still weird. It felt strangely sexual. She shuddered as the thought crossed her mind. There’s no way I was into that. She shuddered again, shaking her head. I’m definitely not into Grace and I’m definitely not into women. Not that I have a problem with lesbians or anything, I’m just not into women. Though maybe I should be with the luck I’ve had with men lately, she added as she painfully recalled John asking about Grace in the break room earlier. With a sigh she plugged away at her assignments for the rest of the day. Aside from Grace’s minimal work-related questions, they spoke minimally for the remainder of their shift.
When 5 o’ clock came around, Grace turned in her chair to look at Ellie, still dutifully hunched over her desk. She saw Ellie push up her glasses and had to suppress a laugh. It was a very cute nervous tick. Ellie noticed her staring and turned to meet her gaze. “Aren’t you leaving?” Grace asked.
“Oh, it’s already five? I still have a lot of work to get done and I don’t have much going on tonight, so I think I’m gonna stay for another hour or two and try to stay caught up.”
“Well, if you don’t have anything to do other than work why don’t help me get home? I’m new to the city so I don’t know the subway very well yet.”
Ellie cringed at her candidness. She knew she didn’t have the most exciting life, but it still sucked to hear someone point it out to her. She stared at her monitor contemplating her decision.
After an uncomfortable few moments passed Grace said, “You know what, don’t worry about it. If I made it here just fine this morning, I’m sure I can make it home okay,” and stood up to leave, grabbing her purse.
Seeing her preparing to leave made up Ellie’s mind. “No wait!” She reached out and grabbed Grace’s wrist. “I’ve been putting in so much overtime, I doubt anyone’s going to care if I take tonight off. Besides,” she removed her hand from Grace’s wrist to rub the back of her neck, drawing in a sharp breath, “I really haven’t done much socializing in the past few months. Sooo I think this is much needed.” She nervously looked at Grace to see her reaction to what she had just said. I made myself sound like a total loser!
Grace’s warm eyes looked back. “I can definitely relate! Even before moving away from my life back in Indiana I struggled with making friends and keeping up with the relationships I had.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “Thanks for being vulnerable about that.”
Ellie felt her heart begin to melt at the sheepish grin on Grace’s face. She nodded her head and stood up. “Let’s go then.”
On their way home, they discovered they got off at the same subway stop. “I’m surprised we didn’t see each other this morning,” Ellie said as they emerged from underground.
“Actually, I saw you on the train. I guess I must have walked faster than you since I got to the elevator first.”
“I don’t know how I didn’t notice you. You’re so gorgeous. And your outfit is on point!” Ellie hoped the additional comment about Grace’s outfit would detract from the fact that she called her gorgeous. Her mind was operating entirely on its own, it seemed. More to the point, it seemed hell bent on making her say weird and embarrassing things to a coworker she’d only just met.
Grace chose to simply say “Thank you,” which perturbed Ellie a little bit, though she couldn’t really say why. She was weirded out by the fact that she called Grace gorgeous, and at the same time wished that she would’ve taken more notice of her compliment. It wasn’t every day that Ellie openly complimented other women on their beauty.
They continued to walk the same path, reaching Ellie’s building first. “This is me here. You said you’re on 29th and Hamilton? That’s just a few blocks away from here, but I’m happy to walk you the rest of the way. The city’s confusing, even once you’ve been here for a while.”
Grace hesitated before responding. “Actually, I’m pretty hungry and I don’t have much food in my apartment since I just moved in last week. Would it be alright if I came up for dinner?”
Ellie was petrified. This was her worst nightmare. Her apartment looked like a bomb went off and she had little food to speak of. But seeing Grace’s hopeful glimmering eyes made it difficult to turn her away.
Sensing her hesitance, Grace said, “I hope I’m not being too forward. Ugh, this is embarrassing! It’s okay, I’ll fend for myself tonight. It might motivate me to get to the grocery store, anyway. Do you have any good takeout restaurants you’d recommend around here?”
Once again, the thought of separating from Grace determined Ellie’s decision. “No! I mean, no, it’s okay. I’m just, uhh...” Grace’s earlier words ran through her mind: “Thanks for being vulnerable.” She breathed deeply and blurted out in one breath, “Honestly, my apartment is trashed, and I have some old pizza and milk in the fridge, I think. Like, I don’t even know what food I have in my house, and you’re so pretty and put together so I’m scared for you to see it and think I’m dirty or lazy or whatever.” Immediately Grace pulled her into an embrace. Ellie’s eyes grew wide and she deeply inhaled Grace’s aroma. She didn’t remember smelling any perfume on her earlier, so she assumed she had put some on before they left the office. It filled her nostrils, clouding her mind with its intoxicating scent.
“I would never think less of you because your apartment’s messy. Or because you can’t cook,” she added with a laugh. She pulled away from the embrace but left her hands loosely gripping Ellie’s arms. “What do you say we grab some takeout – not pizza – and eat it at your place anyway. I’m starving.”
Ellie simply nodded. There was something about feeling the warmth of Grace’s hands on her skin that sent chills down her spine. “The Chinese place across the street is pretty good.”
“It’s settled then,” Grace nodded. She grabbed Ellie’s hand and pulled her towards the restaurant.
For some reason that Ellie couldn’t identify, she didn’t pull her hand away. Sure, she had occasionally held hands with her female friends, but only if they were in the “best friend” stage of drunkenness where holding hands signified nothing more than friendly fondness. Was Grace just more comfortable with such signs of affection for her friends? Were they already that close? Yet the handhold felt different from those of her friends. It made her think of how she felt on the first nice day after winter or upon seeing spring daffodils poke out of the ground when it was still cold outside. It reminded her of how she felt when she saw John smile at her at the office. Am I falling for her?
Grace let go of her hand as they entered the restaurant, and Ellie focused on the warmth she still felt on her palm, savoring the sensation. She craved to be close to Grace and couldn’t wait to get inside her apartment. She didn’t understand what she was feeling, but she was determined to lean into it, regardless of the unknown.