Alexis and Robyn are the first two characters who've ever been entirely my own. I was unsure about writing more concerning them, but Alexis also needed to be heard.
As in the first installment, this is a long one.
Special thanks to my editor LizHaze for her help and suggestions.
Sunlight wakes me.
I lie, eyes closed, watching the flashes of light and shadow on the inside of my eyelids; enjoying the peace, the quiet. It's still early, I think - dappling like this through the leaves of my birch tree means the sun is still low in the sky, which in turn implies that I don't have to wake up just yet. There's still time for me to be here, in my favourite place.
I can feel her next to me - hear the soft sound of her breathing, smell the scent of her on the pillows and sheets. Were I to just roll over, I could feel all of her against me. But that would wake her. Not yet, not yet. This is my time, my perfect, quiet time. No cares, no fears, just her and me and our space, our sanctuary.
She's lying on her side as usual, facing away from me. It's adorable. Robyn always falls asleep holding me, and always wakes up curled into a ball on her side, with her back to me as if she's a cat in a sunbeam. I can see the light dusting of freckles on her neck, and the scar from her fall in the shower those brief few weeks ago. I still feel guilty about that; she'll always have it there, just behind her right ear - two jagged inches to continually remind me of my stupidity.
She's joked that it's my mark on her to show she's mine... but I still sometimes wake in cold sweats from nightmares in which her fall was far, far worse and I was bereft of the only person I had left.
I lie and watch her gently breathing, content to let time pass as it will, without my interference.
It's been three glorious weeks since I got my Robyn. Three long, sensual, gorgeous weeks in which my life has had a near-permanent rosy glow. I find myself humming all the time; I have more energy, I feel alive again for the first time since I caught Andrew cheating on me. She's given herself to me utterly, and I've in turn surrendered everything of myself to her. I've never felt this close to any other person, ever, and having her to myself feels like the greatest gift I've ever been given.
She's a shade over twenty-one, my Robs. A hard-bodied hottie with a grizzled soul and the dogged desire to never see the best in herself. I'm chipping slowly away at that. I view her as a long-term project... my magnum opus, if you will. I've always looked after her, see. Ever since Mum and Dad... well, we're the only family we have, and we've guarded one another fiercely since then.
A moment of bitter-sweetness. Honestly, Robyn's never needed much guarding. She's always been driven and has never given tuppence about anyone's feelings but mine. She's always been vocal (and physically demonstrative) about this. It's cost her friends.
But... there've been times when the knowledge that she loved me has been all that's kept me going.
My poor, cynical sister. Hard as diamond until something knocks her in the wrong place and she goes to pieces.
Me? More like ice, I think. I melt, and run down into deep, dark caverns far, far away.
Robyn is the only one who can find me and bring me back from them.
I've always liked boys. They're gorgeous creatures, truly... and there're few things as delicious as the feeling of a man deep in me. But sometime around the age of seventeen I realised that I liked girls too. Kind of embarrassing to work out that you're a degenerate when you're surrounded by other lycra-clad women at a dance class, but there you have it. Broken little Lexi the letcher, that's me.
I guess knowing yourself is the first step towards healing or some such rubbish.
I can't remember when it was I first realised that I wanted her. I guess I just gradually came to understand that I wasn't only interested in her as my younger sibling. I'd catch myself watching her when she wasn't looking; taking chances to spend more time doing the things I knew she enjoyed. I've felt supremely guilty at times, worried that I was taking hideous advantage of someone who depended so utterly on me.
Then, I started to notice things about Robs as well. She'd spend time with me she didn't have free to spend. She was always watching, always there. Somewhere, sometime, I realised that she was my shadow-self; anticipating and knowing my needs sometimes even before I realised they were there. She'd become as much my guardian as I was hers. And I needed her, needed her as close to me as my skin, as close to me as my heart.
But I could never take that step. Never break that boundary. I was too scared of losing her.
Until then. Until now.
God, her neck is exquisite. I don't really know how long I've been staring at it; at the line her muscles make as they run from vertebrae to clavicle. Yes, at the freckles too. And the slightly tattered lobes of her ears that she insisted on piercing herself. And at the slight auburn undertone that shines through her thick brown hair when stray sunlight strikes it. At the gentle curve of her spine, disappearing under the sheets. At the faint white scar where she had a mole removed from her right shoulder. At the pale line of hairs just visible along the nape of her neck...
I have to restrain myself from reaching out and waking her. She deserves the rest, given how hard she's been working these past few days. I've tried to help where I could. I smirk to myself. She's had lots of frustration that needed working out. Baths. Backrubs. Lots of kissing. Lots of touching. I flush, amused at the way my body reacts to the memories.
I can't restrain myself anymore, and I reach out to gently touch her back.
She makes a small noise, and uncurls. She rolls over onto her back, letting out a toussle-haired yawn. I grin a small, wicked grin and trail my fingers down over her exposed right breast, watching her nipple harden for me. I cup her breast, loving the heat of it and the shape it forms in my hand.
"Addict," Robyn mutters sleepily.
"You would be too if you had this view," I reply.
She turns her head and, smiling, waits for her good morning kiss - something she's demanded from me every morning since our first night together. I oblige, teasingly, enjoying the little happy sound she makes as I kiss her. Then I bury my face in her neck and briefly lose myself in her scent, before pulling back and meeting her pale blue eyes.
"Morning, sleepyhead," I tease.
"Lies. All lies." she responds, yawning again. "I've been dozing, not sleeping. Been awake since forever."
"I believe you, millions wouldn't. You pretend to snore really well. We should record it and sell it. We'd make our fortune."
Robs' laugh has always cheered me up; her mellow alto voice would make her a fantastic blues singer if she weren't so self-conscious. When she's sleepy it sounds like honey poured over smoke, and it makes me hot just listening to it. I've occasionally fantasised about taping her for my own personal enjoyment, but I know it would embarrass her too much. Pity.
"Plan for today?" she asks me, voice going slightly breathy as she stretches the kinks out of her back.
"Mm," I return. "Dunno. It's weekend. Apart from my dress-rehearsal tomorrow night, I have no plans."
"Oh, yeah," Robs says, quietly. "I'd almost forgotten that. What time does it start?"
"Six-ish. Wanna come?"
"Won't I disturb you?" she asks.
"Not if you're quiet and well-behaved."
"Have I ever been anything but?"
"Last night. At least twice," I tease.
"Lexi!" she protests, laughing. "That doesn't count, and you know it."
I snuggle into her, enjoying the last little bit of quiet time prior to the day. She rewards me by rolling over towards me and wrapping one of her strong arms around me, holding me close. I close my eyes in bliss.
"You want anything in particular for breakfast, Lexi?"
I think. "Nah, not fussed Robs. Anything's good. Muesli. Toast. You," I grin. "Toast and you."
"Alexis!" she groans, rolling her eyes at me. I'm gratified to see her flush in response to my teasing. Robs has always been such a serious girl; and after we lost Mum and Dad it sometimes seemed like she'd never smile again. But we both grew scabs over that wound, and slowly her brighter side emerged once more.
But it's only these past three weeks where it has really shone through - since she came out to me and, I guess, since we acted on our mutual attraction for each other. I guess she'd been holding an enormous amount of stress and fear inside, because since that evening she's a changed girl.
Oh, don't get me wrong, she's still a firecracker. Cross her and she'll bite your legs off. She distrusts people, thinks they'll let her down. God only knows how I've managed to avoid doing so, but somehow I've muddled through.
I grab us some bowls while she retrieves the cereals and milk. I set a place for her alongside me at the table so that I, slut that I am, can amuse myself by brushing various bits of me against her while we're eating.
I can't help it. She makes me playful. Having her makes me want to laugh, and dance, and sing. I want to touch her, to feel her, and being anywhere in public is a very real struggle not to be inappropriate with her.
And so we sit, squashed up next to each other at our table that could seat the clientele of a medium-sized restaurant. The image amuses me, and I'm certain Robs is having similar thoughts judging by the small smile she's wearing as she tucks into breakfast. I sneak the odd look at her, and am glad to catch her doing the same. Neither of us have bothered to dress properly yet; she pulled on a tatty old tee-shirt and I've dragged on a rather threadbare nightie; the end result of course being that I have a lovely view of her bare hips while mine are coquettishly obscured by sheer fabric.
She drops her hand to my thigh at one point to squeeze it, and I press my right leg against her left, rewarding her with a smile. I love how tactile she is. I love that she wants to feel me, to let me know she's there. Robs prior to us would never have dreamed of hugging me by surprise. Robs after us thinks nothing of it. It's one of the many things that has changed between us. I love it.
She finishes her breakfast way before I have even made inroads into mine; she's always had a healthy appetite, but Robs being Robs she'll be off for a run now, as like as not. I envy her sometimes. I never caught the exercise bug; piano and, later, cello consumed my free time, bar the small amount I had free for dancing.
I can lose myself for hours in music. It's always been my primary escape from the harsh, jagged edges of the world.
She's my other escape. Now, more so than ever, I can take strength from her loyalty and love.
She pushes her chair away slightly, and then turns so that she can watch me while she finishes her coffee. I feel a little self-conscious, but I shove it aside. I need to eat properly this weekend, the rehearsal is likely to be long and I'll need my 'A' game. But the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to ignore.
"Penny for your thoughts?" I finally ask, after she's watched me for a while.
"They're not worth a penny," she replies, with a lazy smile.
"To me they are," I answer, waving a spoon at her. "Spill it."
"Just amused is all."
"At how in love with you I am."
I flush slightly. "Robs, you're going to make me mess on myself if you keep talking like that."
She laughs. "Really?"
"Pinkie-swear it," I say, quietly. I sip the peppermint tea she made for me, and smile at her over the rim of the teacup. She's slouched back, and I enjoy the way her breasts press against the fabric of her shirt. Her hair's mussed; she hasn't bothered to pull it into her usual ponytail yet so it falls in waves on either side of her face, framing and accentuating her cheek-bones.
I wish she'd wear her hair down more often, but she hates having it in the way.
She shifts suddenly, then knocks back her coffee and stands. I get a tantalising glimpse of her inner thighs as she leans forward to plant a kiss on my head, then she's gone with a brisk "See you in a bit."
I sigh and quietly force down the remains of my own breakfast. I finish my tea while staring out at our small, straggly kitchen garden.
It's a mostly clear morning; with just a few fluffy cumulus clouds scattered like cushions on the sky. I think I'll spend at least some of it in the garden.
At that I stand, abandoning my cup on the counter for later. I stretch, enjoying the feeling as my back unkinks. It's time for me to start my day.
I drag my fingers through my dishevelled hair, then tie it back so it will stay out of my eyes. I pull the nightie off, and pause. On a whim, I walk over to my full length mirror, and stand there taking stock.
I guess I'm attractive. Robyn is pretty adamant about her opinion on the matter. But I think that I pale in comparison to her. All I am is slender. She's got the hips and the musculature. I suppose I lucked out with my brown eyes; at least I'm not the stereotypical thin blue-eyed blonde. I purse my lips, and gently run my hands over my small breasts and their delicate nipples. At least Robyn is appreciative of them. Andrew wasn't.
I still feel too hurt about his cheating to really summon the hate I should feel about that.
I sigh, and turn away. I dig out a pair of panties from my underwear drawer and drag them on. A pair of long cream linen pants and a cotton vest follow. I glance outside and consider, then pull a thin navy polo neck jersey on as well.
My cello case stands in the corner, safely out of the way of anyone who visits us. I lift it by the handle set into its side, then hump the case and its precious contents downstairs to the lounge where I lay it down on the sofa.
I open the French doors to the garden, pulling back the curtains to let the fresh air in, take a long breath of the cool morning breeze, and then drag a stool nearer to the doorway so that I can have some natural light while I play.
I flip the clasps and open the case, gently folding the lid back against the backrest of the sofa. Out comes my practice bow, and I set it aside. I gently lift my cello free of her restraints, and then lift her from the case by the neck, resting her on the floor. Steadying her with my left hand, I quickly ease out her endpin to the stop that I've marked with a thin ring of black electrical tape.
Finally, I pick up the bow again and make my way to my stool, careful not to bump my baby on anything along the way.
I settle myself in the sunlight, and sit still for a short while with my cello cradled between my legs. Ever since I started to learn, this has been one of my favourite parts - the anticipation, the possibilities that exist before horsehair and rosin meet steel.
I adjust the tension of my bow, then limber up with some arpeggios and some chromatic scales. My baby's out of tune; and I need to ease D slightly. Scales again. Better, but not perfect. Tighten G in a bit, tease the bow gently across all four strings, and smile, satisfied. Perfect fifths. A loud, strident, happy sound.
Time for Bach's Cello Suite number one, then. A warm-up piece... playful but also full of emotion should the musician choose.
I touch bow to strings, and start to play.
I once tried to explain to Robyn what music was like when one experiences it the way I do. It's as if I fade into the background and the music takes over. Crescendo, descendo are as natural to me as the tides. I always have an orchestra going in my mind; pieces I've read or heard or written, chasing themselves around like leaves in a whirlpool. It's at once awesome and aggravating - I can never truly be still.
I have to let the music out, all of it, or it pecks away at me and makes it impossible to relax.
Then there're the emotions. Sadness is in the minor key, happiness in the major. Sadness can also be major when one knows one will overcome it. Most of my life is major-key stuff, thank God. Or minor key that's modulated via some cunning to major. I'd have cut my wrists long ago if this weren't the case...
I came close once, one very dark time shortly after Mum and Dad...
All that stopped me was the knowledge that she'd be the one to find me. I couldn't do that to her.
So I endured. And I overcame. Minor became major, as it always does eventually.
I've never told Robyn that, obviously. I'm a drama queen at heart, but at least the dramatics are confined somewhere where only I can see them. And at least I have this outlet for it. And now that I have her... maybe I'm finally safe from the darkness.
I hope so.
I always lose track of time while I'm playing. Bach has transitioned into Schubert, Schubert to Brahms, and from Brahms I've segued into Dvorak's concerto in B minor. I don't even remember doing it; I've been lost in my own dream-state.
Something moves in my peripheral vision and I lift my chin, turning slightly. Robyn's sitting on the end of the sofa nearest me, legs tucked under her, blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She must have snuck in while I was playing. She's always loved listening to me.
Her eyes are closed, so she doesn't know I've seen her. The movement itself was just a fold of her blanket shifting in the breeze. I smile, and turn my head away again. She looks so peaceful, I can't bear to stop and disturb her. So Dvorak winds slowly on to his conclusion, and then, I transition into her song.
She doesn't know it's hers, or that I wrote it. It amuses me to hum it sometimes and watch the gears turn as she tries to place it. She never will. I'll put her out of her misery someday... but not today.
It's slow to start. Soft, gentle, like Robyn is with me. Minor which slowly becomes major, building gradually to a grand, rich harmony. It borrows somewhat from Elgar, I admit. Maybe someday I'll find a composer who can set it for an orchestra.
But for now... it's mine, and hers, and I alone know it.
I turn to watch her as the final chord dies away. I see her sigh as the last echoes fade. Then she opens her eyes. I meet her gaze with a smile.
"My, what a sneaky little Robs you are."
She blushes. "Sorry, Lexi. I couldn't bear to interrupt you."
"I know, Robs. I'm just teasing. I love having you as my audience."
"I love being your audience," she says, quietly.
"Good run?" I ask, as I ease the tension out of my bow.
"It was ok. Didn't go as far or as hard as I should have, though."
"Sometimes you just need a break, you know?"
"I know, Lexi."
She stretches; the blanket slips off her shoulders and I see she hasn't changed yet. I laugh.
"That desperate for culture, Robs?"
She snorts, and waves her hands. "You know me, Lexi. If it's comfortable and not too smelly it'll do for now."
I wrinkle my nose at her and she shakes her head with a wry grin. "Smelly clothes are hardly a hardship when the trade is to hear you play like that," she says quietly.
"So I guess you're saying I'm an ok cellist?" I tease.
"You're better than Jacqueline du Pre," she answers, levelly.
"Oh Robs," I say, amused and flattered. "I think you may be seeing me through adoring-younger-sister glasses. I'm good, but not that good."
"You are!" she insists. "God, Lexi, don't you understand? You... you take that instrument and you make it sound like... fuck, I don't know how to describe it. It's like it's your soul, in your hands, and you're telling and showing your story with no filters at all and every little hurt, every little ache, everything you've ever seen or done or felt is there, singing..."
I eye her speculatively. "Robs, have you been drinking?"
"What? No!" she says, flustered.