Chapter 69: Pretending
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(Zoe P.O.V)

Sophia snuggles up against my right side, exhausted. An action that is never unwelcome even despite the scorching heat still under our skin, slick with sweat. I forfeit my arm to her embrace and wrap my left around her to hold her tight. Looking down, I find myself subconsciously running a finger to her mouth and across her wounded lip.

"It doesn't hurt, if that's what you're wondering," she says, opening her mouth to nibble on my finger.

"That doesn't hurt either, if that's what you're wondering," I smile, causing her to stop.

For a moment I think I have won, but then I feel her move under the sheets, rolling over on top of me and resting her head on my collarbone. It is unfair. Sophia cannot even be considered fair, she is beyond unfair. Puberty did not hit her like a truck, puberty hit Sophia like a meteor shower and it still has not stopped. Every day I see her she is glowing a little more, her skin feels smoother and her presence grows stronger. If she would just look up at me from where she is below, I know I would be helpless to do anything she asked. It is unfair.

Hearing the door open we both turn our heads to see my Mother standing in the doorway triumphant.

"You locked the door, right?" Sophia asks.

"Of course I locked the door," I reply, while wondering if I remembered to lock the door.

"Then why isn't the door locked?" she hisses.

To her credit, Sophia has not freaked out and instead maintains her position on top of me, which is good because her weight makes it impossible for me to freak out.

"I don't know, she must have unlocked it," I say.

"She can pick locks? Why didn't you mention that earlier, I could have got her to teach me!"

"Sorry to ruin your fun, but I used the spare key. Hurry up and get out of bed, I need to wash the sheets," mom explains.

"So... basically... you cheated," Sophia decides.

"I thought you would have been used to that by now," mom says, walking away and leaving the door ajar.

"Cheater!" I yell after her.

"Mother!" she shoots back from down the hall.

"Well, that was interesting," Sophia smiles, making me laugh.

"Only you would call that interesting," I sigh.

"Well, you have an interesting mother. Why do you think she did that?"

"Probably trying to catch us in the act."

"See, interesting," she grins, before screaming as I push her off the side of the bed.

We vacate my bed and move into the bathroom to continue our cuddling in the bath. Despite my mother's meddling neither of us are bothered. Myself, because I know if she was trying to embarrass us then she had years before to do that. In Sophia's case I know she never registered any emotion like embarrassment, her brain is on a different wavelength entirely. So, alas, it falls to me to be embarrassed for the both of us. We finish cleaning up and return to my room to see the bed stripped bare; I wonder if Mom honestly did just want to wash the sheets.

Relocating to the lounge room Sophia pulls out a flyer from her backpack and shoves it in my face, her eyes full of stars.

"Anime... convention?" I read. I purse my lips in confusion, tilting my head.

"Right! Isn't it awesome, it's only one town over! I've been waiting for ages for Mom to let me go to one!" Sophia chirps, bouncing up and down in front of me.

"Can you translate that for me?"

"Sophia is not a language!" she pouts.

"But still, I don't think I caught any of that. You want to go to this convention?"

"Un," she nods, eye still sparkling.

"And you want me to go with you?" I ask.

Another nod.

"Sure, it's a date," I smile, causing her to launch herself at me and knock me over, luckily not off the couch. With Sophia still giggling and cuddling me indiscriminately, I sigh and wait for her fervour to burn out.

"I don't know where you found the time to get interested in this stuff," I sigh, petting her head.

"There's always time for anime," she says, settling down. "Besides, it helps me get to sleep."

"I still don't know where that reliance on your computer came from, unless it really was from the machines in the hospital when you were sick."

"It isn't, I can't stand all the beeping," Sophia shudders.

"But you're fine sleeping over here," I note.

"You're here."

Without saying anything more I smile when her grip tightens around me. Sophia has been subdued recently, her presence shrinking back into an obedient and adoring little girl. In truth, the picture of Sophia clinging to me is not a bad one, but it is also not the right one. It's a wonder how much has changed in two years. How close two people can become in just two years. Two years, I wonder if that is enough?