Chapter 13:


Phantom Adagio

Inge’s POV

After calling Christina, I put down the phone and put my hand on my forehead. I had actually gone and done it now. Asking to talk with her over dinner. Sly move Inge! This was the first time I had ever done something as outrageous as this. Christina caught my attention the second we met. I remember being surprised by how a beautiful career woman was doing her utmost best for a severely troubled girl. Most guardians would have long since given up, in a troublesome case like this, but not her. She had changed her life to accommodate Fleure. Her caring nature had sparked something in me and before I knew it, I found myself looking forward to my next talk with her. I was pretty sure she was a lesbian too. At least I’ve noticed several signs. And just now… I had taken it that step further. I asked her to have dinner together. I could come up with a lot of excuses for myself why I did it, but I was honest with myself, I just wanted to ask her out on a date. I had been wanting to do that for a while but never managed to muster up the courage.

Christina was a smart woman and she immediately called me out on my unprofessional proposal, but in the end, she had accepted. However, I was not able to tell her I wanted it to be a date, so I’d better keep up the professional act. Well, at least for a while. Maybe I would be able to turn the mood at some point.

After work, I had gone home and had taken a quick shower, and dressed back into one of my better office suits. It was the one that I used when I needed to give lectures and impress people. That way I looked professional and dressed up for a date at the same time. This suit always gave me that little confidence boost that I really needed right now. I had applied a few extra touches of make-up. I looked in the mirror at my dressed-up self and cringed. What the hell had I done? Well, there was no taking it back now.

“Talk about Fleure.” I preached to myself. “Don’t go on the offense from the start, or she will shut down and the outcome will be bad for Fleure too. You mostly meet for Fleure. The talk about her should come first.”

When I had hammered that mantra thoroughly in my mind, I took my purse and my car keys and drove to Christina’s house. When I arrived, I sent a message to Christina’s phone. I got out of my car, so Christina would be able to see where I was parked.

When Christina nervously walked out of the door my jaw literally dropped. She looked gorgeous. She had clearly put a lot of effort into her appearance. I felt really flattered that she wanted to look nice for me. Well, that was what I hoped her reasoning was in any case. She was wearing a classic blue-green cocktail dress with white stockings and had cute heels with frills at the ankle.

She must have noticed my staring and said “Oh no, this is too much, isn’t it? I should have changed after what Fleure said… Just wait for a couple of minutes, I’ll be back in a minute.” And she turned back around.

“Stop!” I was surprised by how loud I had shouted myself. She froze and turned back around shyly to see what I wanted to say. I took a deep breath “No, need on my account. I think you look fantastic. You look like a fantastic date.”

What the hell was I saying. Where did that mantra I practiced so hard earlier go? The first thing I did was call tonight a date…

“So, I wasn’t imagining things. This is a date, right?”

“If you want it to be,” I answered. Leaving her the choice. I didn’t want to force this on her. I was prepared for the rejection. After all, I wasn’t even 100% sure she was into women. I had been way too direct. I had not intended for things to go like this. I had meant to do the work-related things first and had hoped to let it evolve into a date, but instead, I went all in. All the chips were on the table, and everything would depend on how she would react. Would she call, or would she fold?

“Then you’ll better show me a good time because I haven’t gone out in years.” She suddenly said a bit cheeky. She went for the third option. She raised. It seemed that seeing me nervous and shaky too had helped her overcome her initial shyness.

Because I had been successful at the first obstacle, I felt relief come over me. “Where are my manners?” I hurried to the passenger side of the car and opened the door for her. She smiled at me as she sat down in the passenger seat.

When I sat next to her, Christina said: “Sorry, I am a bit excited. Where are you taking me?”

The sparkle in her eyes showed that she had high expectations for tonight. Luckily, I had made reservations in a quiet little restaurant. So, I was able to say, “There is a restaurant in Hoxem that I am fond of,” confidently. I could see by the look in her eyes that she did not know there even was a restaurant in that hamlet. Although it wasn’t really a fancy restaurant, it was pretty famous in the area, so I was a bit surprised she did not know of it.

“I’ll trust you on your choice.” She answered.

I started the car, and while driving. Christina was making some casual talk about how she never came to this side of town. Hoxem was part of Hoegaarden, the next town over, and we had to drive through an agricultural area to get there. On the road, we were treated to some of the more beautiful sights in this area. They called Hoegaarden the Toscane of Flanders for a reason. I could hear in Christina’s voice that she was still a little nervous and doing her best to avoid long gaps in the conversation so I did my best to talk as much as I could. To be honest, I was nervous as hell too. Christina wasn’t the only one out of practice. It had been quite a while since I dated too. I had not really gone on dates after my marriage utterly failed. But here I was, acting like a Casanova who knew what she was doing.

After a 15-minute drive, we arrived at the restaurant.

We entered the restaurant and were immediately led to a quiet place in the back just like I asked for when making reservations.

We were immediately offered a menu and ordered an aperitif. Even though I could use a drink to calm my nerves, I just ordered an alcohol-free one, since I was the designated driver tonight. Christina on the other hand ordered a red martini with a slice of orange.

Doing first things first, we talked a bit about the menu. It was funny how it screamed, “Eat meat!” since 80% of the menu consisted of meat dishes. When the waitress came to take our orders, we both ordered the soup of the day as a starter and then both went for a steak. I ordered one with Blackwell sauce and Christina ordered one with Bearnaise sauce.

We had been having a good time so far talking casually, but now it was time to change the record for a while, so I said, “Do you mind if we talk a bit about Fleure first?” That way we could get the job-talk out of the way.

Christina nodded and she got a smile on her face. “I have a lot to tell you. As a matter of fact, today has been a rather eventful day…”

The story she told me was extraordinary. Today Fleure seemed to have made more progress than she had in ages. Apparently, Fleure had started to accept luxuries, however, I could discern a pattern from the story. Fleure still only accepted changes and luxuries if Fleure could rationalize it as a good cause or to help someone else. She still did nothing of these things for herself.

“She really changed the way she looks for that teacher?”

“Yes, she even went shopping with me. I used the occasion to fill her wardrobe with something else than all that gloomy black stuff.”

I was amazed. That teacher seemed to have found a way to make her listen, but when Christina told me about the discussion, she overheard I became worried again. To me, it sounded like this could turn out very dangerous if it backfired. Maybe I should focus my sessions with Fleure again on preventing self-harm. I thought this would be everything but then Christina told me about how Fleure had run away after pushing her to talk about her feelings. It was really classic that a patient like Fleure took flight in such a case. It seemed that we would have a lot to talk about in our next session.

“Oh, and before I forget… Fleure made a friend. She was texting her earlier. I immediately checked to know if it wasn’t a boy, but it is a girl named Sara.”

I almost spilled my drink. She could not be talking about the same Sara I was thinking of, right? If that were true, two of my most troublesome patients just teamed up. Sara was an extremely shy girl. After moving she had not been able to make any friends at all, and in her loneliness had been going down a mentally dangerous road. Her only solace had been playing her cello. I had been working with her to teach her how to muster up the courage to talk with people. But for her to approach the most anti-social target probably in at least a 25km radius… and of all things being successful. That was a bit crazy. I mean I knew they had known each other long before and they did share that passion for music. But I would have expected Fleure to bluntly refuse Sara, or to go into one of her panic attacks if she would be faced with her past so brusquely.

Fleure had not even told me about what exactly happened during the accident, because she completely shut down if I even broached the subject. But if she had progressed enough so she could make a link to someone from the period before her accident, maybe it was time to try and talk about the accident once more.

“After that, she even did her best to boost my confidence for this date. It was like I had the old her back with me for a second.”

These were all considerable breakthroughs. But what was sparking them? Just the teacher? What did he do? Did he promise her something? This was all good news, but at the same time, it was also very troublesome. I felt like this progress might be built on a loose foundation and that we should watch out for a possible backlash. I really hoped to find out more in my next talks with Sara and Fleure.

The waitress interrupted our talk by bringing us our soup. I had found out all I needed to know really. I didn’t express my worries to Christina because I could see she was happy to finally see those changes and she could use a positive outlook on things for once.

So, I smiled and changed the subject away from Fleure and the job, back to my beautiful date. “And you, how are you holding out in all of this. It mustn’t be easy?”

Christina seemed to be taken aback a little by my question. Did I say something wrong?

“It’s been such a long time since someone asked me that question. Even if you asked it because of your job, it touched me.”

Did self-deprecation run in this family?

“I am not asking you for my job. I am only paid to help high school students. I am asking because I want to know more about you.”

Christina blushed a little at my remark before she started telling me how she did her best to be bright and positive the entire time. Like I already knew, her entire life was focused on Fleure’s well-being and taking care of her. She was a little sad she had to let Fleure go to a boarding school, but the changes that happened ever since she made that decision seemed to be worth it. Somehow talking about herself and Fleure was something that was hard to separate for her, because Fleure had become such a big part of her life.

After the delicious main course, Christina said in a cheeky voice “And now we will switch roles madame counselor. You managed to make me talk about myself the entire evening. So, let’s talk a bit about you.” Had I let my professional habits take over and let her talk? This was so embarrassing.

“What do you want to know.”

“Well, except for the fact that you are a counselor and divorced, I know almost nothing about you. So, let’s start there, shall we?”

We decided to skip dessert and just keep talking for a bit over a cup of coffee.

While I was talking merrily about my past Christina was following my story and all her reactions showed she was really listening to what I had to say. Each time she smiled or laughed I felt a bit shy. Her smile felt really comforting. She made me feel so relaxed that I told her all the wrong stories. I even told her about all my relationship failures and the end of my marriage. I was probably ruining all my chances with every word coming out of my mouth. While talking like this I realized that even though I talked with people the entire day, it had been a long time for me too since anyone confiding in Christina actually felt really nice.

When we finished our coffee, we decided to call it a night. When I picked up the check, I noticed Christina wanted to protest but then decided against it and just let me treat her. Well, this was a date and I invited her after all, so it was only logical that I would pick up the check. But after the waiter left. I noticed Christina gathering her courage, and she said, “You just provided me with the perfect excuse to invite you for a next date,” with that cheeky smile of hers.

She was a dangerous one. But who was I to refuse another date with such a beautiful lady? I thought I had ruined my chances with my big mouth earlier, but now I was getting my hopes back up.

Because of that little interaction, when we were back in the car, the nervousness came back, so we drove back in relative silence.

When we were in front of Christina’s house again, Christina said “Promise you’ll call me?”

“Isn’t it you who needs to call me? You already invited me for a second date?”

Realizing her mistake Christina let out a short hysteric giggle. “Then don’t ignore my calls. I want to see you again.”

Then she moved toward me and gave me a soft kiss on my cheek, touching the corner of my lips. It was an invitation that could be easily passed off as just a goodbye kiss if I rejected her.

For a second, I looked into her eyes that were asking me a question that would not be spoken out loud. I knew that with someone like Christina that if I kissed her now, it would be a serious commitment for both sides. She wasn’t one to play around. Not with a responsibility like Fleure in her life. In those instants that I was making up my mind, I recognized the nervousness she felt, the risk I knew she had taken. I felt I wanted to reassure her, be there for her, so I instinctively moved my lips closer to her lips and closed my eyes. The second our lips touched my mind went blank. Our kisses intensified, and as I pushed my tongue into her mouth, I felt a heat rush go through my body. I started to lose myself to bask in this blissful feeling. But after a few of these kisses, Christina pulled herself away and said happily “Goodnight. I hope you’ll have sweet dreams. I’ll let you know soon what I planned for our next date,” before getting out of the car.

What a tease... I touched my lips remembering that blissful kiss. I knew already I wasn’t going to be able to close an eye tonight as I saw her walk to her front door, turning around and waving back every couple of steps until she vanished behind her door. She was acting so cute. I wasn’t going to be able to think of anything but her until she called me.

I happily touched my lips to remember the sensation I just felt. Right now, asking her on that date felt like the best decision I ever made.


Christina’s POV.

After I closed the door, I could hear the familiar sound of Fleure playing the cello. On the table was a dirty plate and some destroyed gift wraps. The books were nowhere to be found. “Mission completed.” I congratulated myself while I put Fleure’s plate in the dishwasher.

Tonight had been one of those nights where everything seems to have gone perfectly right. I remembered the sensation of Inge’s lips on mine. It had been so long since I felt anything close to that sensation. I happily laid myself on the sofa and basked a little in the afterglow while listening to the cello music coming from Fleure’s room. She was playing that song Hilde used to sing all the time. I let out a little giggle when I heard that Fleur had changed the notes a little bit, matching Hilde’s song. Hilde could never reach those highest notes. I bet she would be blushing heavily if she heard this adaptation. it was played so lively that it almost felt like Hilde was here with us. Even though it was a sad song, it felt really comfortable to hear it again after all that time.