The clouds were closer now. Evie lay where she was on Natalie’s bed, watching them, thinking. Her mind was wandering a little.
“Why didn’t you think you had a chance with me back at the start?” she said. “Unless you paid me, I mean.”
Natalie looked up.
“I’m curious,” Evie said. “That’s all.”
“I really don’t know.”
“But you offered me money.”
“I was drunk.”
“So you don’t do that normally?” Evie said, mostly teasing.
Natalie seemed surprised, and took her seriously. “No, she said. Then, after a moment, “God no, of course not.”
“You had a chance with me,” Evie said. “Just so you know. You only had to ask.”
Natalie smiled. “Well yes, I know that now.”
“Yeah you do.” Evie smiled. “You listened to me. To what I think and say. That means a lot.”
“Of course I listen.”
“It’s almost scary. I don’t think anyone else does. Not really.”
“I’m sure they do.”
“No,” Evie said. “I mean, no-one listens to anyone. Not oh poor me no-one cares.”
“Oh. Yes, I see.”
“I just keep thinking it means something. That you listen to me.”
“I hope it does.”
“Me too. And if it does, what then?”
“I don’t understand,” Natalie said.
“What if this is that serious? Really serious? Enough you listen to absolutely everything I say?”
“Wouldn’t that be good?” Natalie said, sounding confused.
“No,” Evie said. “I mean, what if this is serious.”
“I’m sorry,” Natalie said. “I don’t understand…”
“I know,” Evie said, and then stopped and thought. She wasn’t explaining what she meant properly. “What if this is the start of something,” she said. “Us, sitting around right now? What if this is the beginning of everything, this big important thing in both our lives that we remember years from now. What then?”
Natalie didn’t answer for a moment, and Evie was suddenly worried. She might have gone too far, and said more than she should. She looked at Natalie, worrying, but Natalie didn’t seem alarmed. Natalie sat there, thinking, and seemed to be trying to understand. She was trying, Evie thought, and was suddenly very glad. Natalie trying meant a lot.
“What if it is?” Natalie said after a moment. “Would that be so bad?”
“This being the start?”
“Yes. Would that be so bad?”
Evie was relieved. “Not at all,” she said. “Of course it wouldn’t.”
“So what’s concerning you…?”
“Shouldn’t we know? Shouldn’t it all feel terribly significant.”
“More than just us talking and you lying around on the bed?”
“Yeah,” Evie said. “That. Like we both ought to know, and feel it, and be all aware of this happening.”
“And breathlessness and excitement and our hearts skipping beats?”
Evie shrugged. “I suppose.”
“I don’t think it happens like that,” Natalie said. “Does it?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t either.”
“Oh,” Evie said. They looked at each other for a moment.
“Do you want it to be like that?” Natalie said. “So utterly certain from the very start?”
“I think it would scare me. To be honest.”
“Me too,” Natalie said.
“So we’re both scared?” Evie said.
“I think we are. For now.”
Evie thought about that. “Okay.”
“So in that case,” Natalie said. “We should probably say this isn’t terribly serious. If the idea’s bothering you, I mean. At least for now we should say it’s just us, being us, and having fun.”
“Perhaps,” Evie said. “Just for now?”
“For now, yes. Until it’s something else.”
Evie considered. “Something more serious?”
“Something else. Whatever that happens to be.”
“Yeah, okay,” Evie said.
“But that’s a completely different thing,” Natalie said. “Not something to worry about right now.”
“Yep,” Evie said. “I think I understand.”
“So this, it isn’t serious, at all?”
Natalie smiled. “Not yet.”
Evie nodded. “Thank you,” she said, and assumed they were done. She assumed, then thought some more. She wondered if she was being fair. She wondered if she’d just disappointed Natalie, or taken away some hope.
“But do you want serious?” Evie said, suddenly.
“I told you. No, not yet.”
Evie wasn’t sure. Natalie might be saying what she thought Evie wanted to hear. “Honestly?” Evie said.
Natalie nodded. “Absolutely not yet. But maybe later on.”
“You don’t mind waiting for whatever? I mean, you’re okay with what this is now?”
“More than okay. This is good.”
“You don’t want…”
“Evie, I’m sure.”
Evie nodded, and looked out the window again. The clouds had almost reached them, had started to fill the harbour with mist.
“Could I ask something though?” Natalie said. “Something completely different.”
“Yep, of course.”
“I just wondered, while we’re talking,” Natalie said, then, “No, never mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Natalie shook her head.
“You started,” Evie said. “So just ask. It’s not like I haven’t been being weird all morning.”
Natalie hesitated. “Me being older…” she said. “It doesn’t matter to you?”
“Not at all.”
“Do you prefer it?”
“Is it something you’ve done before?”
Evie shook her head. “Not usually.”
“Not ever until you.”
Natalie nodded, and Evie shrugged, and then Natalie smiled, and went back to her reading.
Evie lay where she was a little longer. The rain began to arrive. Slowly, a thick cloud settling over the city, an oozing dripping rather than a sudden storm. Evie got up, and stood in front the window, but she couldn’t really see when the rain started, or when it hit the ground far below. Rain splattered into the glass in front of her, and the road beneath got darker, changing colour. The sky got darker too.
Natalie looked up, and noticed the window. “Rain,” she said. “Happy?”
Evie nodded, and watched the rain a little longer. Then she went back to the bed. She sat, rather than lying back down. She sat for a moment, until Natalie looked up again.
“Maybe we should go,” Evie said. “If that’s okay? Just I’ve got a bit to do…”
“Of course,” Natalie said, and stood up.
“I should get dressed,” Evie said.
Natalie grinned. “Probably.”
“I should,” Evie said, as if it was in doubt, then wondered if that was a completely odd thing to say. She’d only been naked in the first place because she was showing off for Natalie. She looked around for her clothes, feeling slightly silly, then dressed as quickly as she could. She felt silly until she realized Natalie was watching her get dressed, and until she saw Natalie’s face as Natalie helped with her zip. Natalie wanted her, and that made her feel better. Natalie wanted her, and everything would be fine. Evie tidied up her hair, and Natalie got shoes and keys, and they both seemed to be ready.
“Thank you for this,” Evie said, as they left the apartment. “For somewhere to study.”
“It’s fine,” Natalie said. “I want you to stick around.”
Evie smiled, and they went downstairs.
It was still raining when they got outside, and the roads were shiny and wet. Evie watched the wipers as Natalie drove her home.