A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Chapter Seven: From Tears to Laughter—
Sheesh, It's Just like PMS!

((Um, 'kay, looks like it kind of did happen again, and we really have no excuse save preoccupation and roleplaying. But here's chapter seven, so be grateful for that and enjoy. x3))

Oh Perri, I'm so sorry, I'm so, so sorry...!

Livi's brain was simply not there during her class- her thoughts continually returned to the look on Perrine's face as she'd fled down the hall, and Livi had been forced to act casual about it when in reality she wanted to throw her arms around the artist and tell her it was okay, that she didn't really mean it and she loved her and she was sorry.

But she couldn't.

Please forgive me, you have to understand, please, I'm so sorry...

She had to sit through that horribly dragged out class until she could get free long enough to go see her. Every minute felt like hours and she didn't respond to anything anyone said, lost in guilt, eyes always down on her desk, pencil moving dully and carelessly as she failed to shake the image of Perrine's heartbroken face.

And so it was with great speed that she collected her things at the end of the class, trying hard to look unbothered and barely succeeding, rushing back to her and Perrine's dorm room and hoping the guilt wouldn't kill her on the way there.

A gentle knock on the door, and then a weak call through a constricted throat. "...Perri...?"

Perrine's breath was already coming in gasps from the power of her sobs. I thought… I thought maybe now, everything could be all right. That now that we're not in a state of limbo, that maybe… When she looked up at the door, hearing Livi, it was a tearstained, bedraggled face that had risen above her pillowcases. Perrine could hear her voice, and how weak and pathetic it sounded with the small "Yeah" she gave in reply as she continued to cling to a now damp, slightly dingy pink pillowcase that had remained with her through the years out of memory as if it were a lifeline and she was shocked to hear it, stunned to realize how much power this girl, who she had only met recently, had over her already.

Livi felt a weight drop onto her chest from the sound of Perrine's voice and she opened the door—the sight that met her olive green eyes was too much and she pushed the door closed, threw her books down carelessly on her own bed, turned around, bent down a bit and wrapped her arms firmly around Perrine, tears starting to leak from her eyes down her cheeks.

"I'm so sorry," she half-whispered, the lump in her throat straining her voice. "I'm so sorry, Perri, I didn't mean to, you know I didn't mean it..." She tried to swallow a sob but failed—the guilt and the mere sight of Perrine so miserable was unbearable.

The young artist allowed Livi to hug her, but was in too much emotional distress to return it, and she said softly, in an almost-defeated tone, looking down, "If you didn't mean it, why did you say it?"

Another fifty pounds added to the weight on Livi's chest. "Perri, I..." she swallowed, trying to slow the flow of her tears while tentatively reaching a hand up to wipe Perrine's tears away. "Please understand... I'm not ready to let my secret out yet... I don't think I can handle it, not yet. So I have to say things to keep up this image I've built..." My stupid, selfish image that shields me while she takes all the hits... I'm so weak. "But that doesn't mean I don't love you, Perri, I do, please understand...."

Perrine's back straightened for a moment when the other words faded away in her memory at the last statement. She…she's never said that before… Her voice was quiet and soft and she was still clinging to her pillow when she asked, "You… you love me?"

"Yes," came Livi's equally soft reply, not moving from her position of the unreturned hug, which was only making her feel worse and pulling up more tears. "...I love you."

Perrine looked up, her eyes searching Livi's, one hand lifting to stroke the other girl's jaw as she replied gently, not even realizing until she had said it that it was true, "I love you, too… but Livi… why aren't you ready to let it out? I mean, we're young and in love, just like so many others in our school…" She swallowed. "Why can't we just show it the same way they do, fuck anyone who disapproves?"

Livi's eyes flickered down, still leaking tears. "Because I..." she sighed softly and bit her lip. "Call me a coward, but I'm scared, Perri. I'm just... not ready for it yet... just give me some time... I'm sorry..." Livi had never felt so open and vulnerable before, and it showed in her face. She knew it would be many times worse if she let it out, and she didn't think she could handle it yet.

Perrine let out a sigh, and nodded. "I… guess I understand," she sighed. "I mean… when people first found out about me, I didn't want them to. It scared me to think of them knowing about me. But once they did… I moved on with my life. Things really do stay pretty much the same." She shook her head slightly, and bit her lip. "I'm not trying to convince you, though, Livi. I'll admit I don't like it, and that it'll hurt me every time you say something like that, but if you're not ready, I can respect that… just promise me that someday we can be together in public?"

"Of course," Livi answered with a weak smile. "I promise I'll make it up to you with whatever I can do, for as long as it takes me to work up the courage to let it out." She didn't want to hurt Perrine, but she was too scared to go public just yet. Soon, though, soon she would, for Perrine's sake. Because Perrine wanted it.

Perrine managed to pull herself together for the rest of her classes, though she was an odd mixture at stunned and blissful at Livi's two confessions of the day. By the end of her day, though, she was bursting for someone to talk to, and Jordan was nowhere to be found—which she didn't mind overmuch, seeing as he could occasionally be a pain in the ass (the 'you gave birth to a pterodactyl' remark from this morning seemed to have proved this remarkably well). This led to one option: time for a visit to Ms. DeMarsh.

She sat through her day with some impatience, although remarkably more than she could have thought she'd possess after such a day. At the end of English, when it had finally arrived, she said softly to Livi, "You can go on ahead or wait for me, whatever you want. I'm going to talk to Ms. DeMarsh briefly, if you don't mind."

Livi nodded and gave a soft 'mkay' before deciding to wait for her just outside the classroom- she wanted to wait for her but she also didn't want to be intrusive by listening in or anything.

She flashed a quick smile at Livi and perched herself on one of the desks. "Do you mind if I unload a little bit off my shoulders, Ms. D.?"

"Have I ever?" asked the instructor, brushing back a short white strand of hair. "Go ahead."

Perrine set her books down. "Thanks," she said, pushing her hair back. "Well, see, the thing's this… you remember that essay? In a roundabout way, it brought me and Livi together, like, romantically… but she's… eurgh, I don't know how to describe it. She's afraid to let it leave closed doors. It kinda hurts, a lot, you know what I mean? I mean… I love her too much to push her to do something she's not ready to do, but at the same time, it hurts me…" She looked up at the teacher, whose whitening hair and smile gave her an image of kindness that suited her well, wondering what the older woman would think.

The aforementioned instructor shrugged. "Congratulations and you're welcome, as to your getting together," she said with a smile. "But honestly, if you've expressed how you feel to her, then you've done all you can for now. Just watch her, give her the occasional affirmation, show her that your life isn't too antagonized, and remind her that you love her—it's obvious you do, by the way, at least to me."

Perrine grinned. "Of course it is—you've been my trusted advisor for the past three years." She stood up, gathering her books. "Thanks for the advice, and for listening."

"Anytime."

Perrine exited, looking somewhat reassured. "Hey, Liv," she said, smiling. "Thanks for waiting for me—you could have started your homework without me, you know."

"Nah, I'd rather start it together," she said with a cheery smile, and would have kissed her cheek if not for being in a public place. Not to mention the feeling of eyes burning into the back of her head- she knew it was that guy from her jazz band who had confronted her earlier, and she could imagine the suspicious look on his face without even looking. If it weren't for people like that, she might have a little more courage than she did.

Perrine smiled. "Ah, so that's it. It's because you know I'm likely to propose a game of Scrabble or a picture or some other form of procrastination, isn't it?" she teased with a grin, unaware of the trumpet player.

"Yeah, something like that," Livi said while returning the grin. "C'mon, let's head back to the dorm."

The trumpet player stared at them a moment longer, then turned to walk away. There was something very odd here and he couldn't place what it was, and it was bothering him.

Once Perrine had finally finished her homework, she looked up at Livi and grinned. "Almost done, I hope?" she asked, tossing a crumpled Post-It note at her girlfriend with the words 'I love Livi' written on it in a looping script.

"Yeah, yeah," came Livi's reply through a chuckle and a smile as she read the note, turned it over, wrote 'I Love Perri' in her messy scrawl and tossed it back in a crumpled ball across the gap between the beds. "I'm on my last sentence."

"You'd better be," Perrine replied, smiling at the reply on the note. "'Cause I can think of no other way to occupy my time." Glancing beyond Livi to the window, she brightened. "Livi! Look!" she said, voice communicating awe.

"Huh?" Livi looked up from her just-finished work, closing her book, and a delighted expression spread over her face as she stood up, watching the soft white flakes drifting down from the sky, melting on the window. "It's snowing!" she exclaimed happily, going closer to the window to watch it.

Perrine smiled and stood up as well, walking toward Livi. "Yeah, it is. The first snow of the year, in fact," she said, pressing her lips lightly to Livi's jaw. "Wanna go outside into it? We'd have to remember our jackets this time," she said with a teasing grin. "Being sick is too miserable to repeat frequently, even if I do have a good nurse."

"Heheh..." Livi gave an agreeing nod and a smile. "Yeah, let's head outside, better than being pent up in here for the rest of the day." She slid an arm loosely around her girlfriend's waist and kissed her cheek before going to the closet near the door to pull out their jackets. A little fresh air would be nice, and hopefully it wouldn't be too populated outside so Livi wouldn't have to hide too much.

Perrine held the door open for Livi (exhibiting common lesbian chivalry, used only for the cute ones), smiling gleefully at the snow spiraling down. It melted the instant it hit the ground, but the snow almost entirely obscured their vision and very well might begin to stick if it continued at this speed for much longer. "Soon they'll have to put up the Christmas decorations," Perrine said, grinning. She didn't believe in the whole 'Jesus Christ' concoction, but she did like the idea of Christmas and celebrated it as regularly as possible.

"Yeah," Livi replied with a grin of her own, letting the snow land in her long brown hair and cling there. "I love it when they string up the trees, it looks awesome at night." She stepped forward, looking up slightly- but not enough to let any snow hit her in the eyes. Sticking her tongue out she caught a snowflake with a slight laugh, grinning back at Perrine.

Perrine smiled. "I love Christmas decorations altogether, and that warm cozy feeling that you get when entering the school after playing outside in the snow. Bing Crosby said it—'it's the most wonderful time of the year.'" Looking forward, she furrowed her brow. "Hey, isn't that the head cheerleader over there, with someone else?" she asked, pointing and taking a quick step away in care of Livi's reputation.

Livi smiled at he musical reference- then glanced in the direction Perrine pointed, brows furrowing. "Oh crud, not him..." her smile faded. It was that damned trumpet player who kept confronting Livi about Perrine.... him and the head cheerleader? ... go figure.

"Who is he?" Perrine asked. "I don't really remember seeing him around… wait, wasn't he that guy that you were…" she paused a little, remembering the conversation and what had been said in it, "… talking to outside of French?"

"Yeah..." Livi's voice had a clear bitter tone to it- she hated that guy more and more every time she saw him. "Looks like they had the same idea as us..."

"Isn't it pretty out here, Ashley?" he grinned at her, holding her hand. He'd finally gotten a date with possibly the most popular girl around. He, who was supposedly just a 'band geek', was here holding Ashley's hand, snow clinging to her blonde waves and his short red strands. He felt like he was on a roll. Things couldn't have been better for him.

Ashley, for her part, couldn't help but feel somewhat dismayed that she had been stuck with Peter the band geek, but she had to do something to prove… well… certain things to herself. "Yeah," she said distantly. "Yeah, it is."

Perrine looked irritated. "Trust him, to ruin our evening as well as our morning… I could throw something at that kid sometimes, you know." She glanced at Livi and a smile was brought to her face as she spoke softly so the irritating trumpet player wouldn't hear her. "You know, the snow suits you. You look like an ice goddess with the snow in your hair and that glare on your face."

Livi blinked, realizing she'd been glaring at them, then looked to Perrine, laughing at the comment. "If I were an ice goddess they'd be frozen in blocks by now," she chuckled. "C'mon, let's get away from them, there's plenty of room out here after all..."

Perrine smiled. "Yeah, okay. Wanna go to the gazebo in the garden?"

"Sounds great," Livi replied with a smile, a hint of affection in her voice.

Resisting the urge to take Livi's hand in hers in consideration of Livi's consciousness, but inwardly sighing a little, she walked to the gazebo, shivering a little as she'd forgotten to put on a jacket and the snow was chilling (naturally).

"Livi! Perrine!" came a hushed voice. Their freshman accomplice, Erik, ran up to them, careful not to attract the attention of the newfound couple. "I'm guessing you two saw our new couple?"

"Huh?" Livi turned her head slightly, having been about to take Perrine's hand, but stopped, letting it drop back to her side. "Oh, hey Erik." she blinked and nodded slightly. "Yeah..."

Erik grinned. "I saw that. You two finally together, eh? I figured as much when I saw Ashley agree to go out with Peter just to get information about you two."

Perrine looked confused. "Wait, what? The head cheerleader wants information about us? Why?"

He shrugged. "Beats me. But if I were you two, I'd be careful, and remember to regularly lock my door."

"Blah..." Livi frowned- she hated having to be so cautious. The thought of Ashley trying to get info about her and Perrine was... disturbing, to say the least. A slight pang of fear went through her as she wondered if somehow Ashley knew... but no, that was impossible... "That's.... odd." she half-concluded, not really sure what to think.

Perrine nodded. "Yeah, it is… this is one of those moments where I wish I was a telepath, you know what I mean? Who knows what a cheerleader thinks?"

"Or if they think," Erik contributed, trying to hide his grin.

Livi, however, didn't bother. A snicker escaped her and she looked down, quite amused, grinning.

Perrine rolled her eyes, grinning herself. "Impressive, Erik."

"Why, thank you, good madam," he said, taking a bow. "Just call me the matchmaker."

"Now why would I call you that?" Perrine asked, rolling her eyes. "If I remember correctly, no one was involved besides Livi and myself in that aspect of our lives."

Livi chuckled. "Well, it was because of Erik that you ended up dancing with me, Perri."

"Yeah, true," she said, grinning. Perrine loved hearing her nickname from Livi's lips. "Fine, maybe you are the matchmaker, in a roundabout sort of way."

Erik took an imaginary top hat from his head and swept it off, bowing again. "Thank you for your kind admittances, Mesdames."

"Stop rubbing it in, Erik," Perrine said, shooting a rueful grin at him. "Note to self: never admit defeat in Erik's presence, or he'll rub salt in the wound."

"Damn right," Erik said with a grin, looking to Livi. "You owe me twenty bucks, by the way."

Perrine turned to Livi, looking confused. "Wait, wha… ?"

Livi cracked up laughing. "He's kidding, Perri," she managed through it, half-covering her mouth.

The young artist shook her head, utterly bewildered. "It… doesn't… I don't… what's funny?"

"He who laughs last thinks slowest," Erik quoted solemnly, ducking a hit on the head from Perrine.

"Smartass."