Chapter 1: Assaemblé
Kelsey let out a relieved sigh as she leaned back against the front door of her apartment. Her lithe body was carrying so much tension, but the simple act of finally resting against that door was draining it away. Shrugging her backpack from her shoulders helped, and the thud as it landed on the floor filled with heavy college textbooks was immensely satisfying. It was hard to downplay the weight she’d been carrying with such a solid thunk.
“I am so glad that today is finally over…” The young woman closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath and holding it to make the exhale that much more satisfying.
“That bad of a day, Kels?”
Instead of a luxuriously slow breath out, Kelsey screamed and nearly collapsed down onto the floor. She recognized the voice, and it was one that she expected to hear before the night was through, but her mind had been elsewhere. Kelsey was unable to speak for several long moments, gasping for breath as she scrambled to regain her footing.
Once she finally succeeded, her cheeks were burning red. “No, not that bad…! Just a work day and classes, right? One of those things would be stressful enough, but both of them? I feel like I’ve earned a vacation after each week. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through four years of this! Vivian… You’re out of your fucking mind. How could you want to get a graduate degree?” Kelsey shook her head, laughing quietly. She still sounded vaguely out of breath, but she’d largely recovered from her embarrassing moment of surprise. “I can’t imagine being ready to do this for at least six years…”
“It’s the only way to open up some opportunities, sis.” Vivian leaned against the doorway that led from their foyer to their kitchen. “You’ve got this. I didn’t think I could do four years, either… and look at me! You already got through your freshman year. That’s a big step.”
Kelsey smiled as she basked in the warmth of her sister’s encouragement. Anyone catching sight of the two together always instantly knew they were sisters. They had the same bright blonde hair, with the older sister’s pulling itself into tighter curls she wore short, and the younger’s looser, wavier hair resting just above her shoulders. Both had blue eyes, though Vivian’s were bright where Kelsey’s were deep and dark.
In addition to both being blonde haired and blue eyed, both sisters were also tall with the sort of lithe, graceful build that gave them a majestic look befitting dancers. This meant they towered over most of their peers, and when Kelsey was younger Vivian had been mistaken as her mother more than once.
That stopped promptly once Kelsey stopped looking like a girl and began to look like a young woman. While their lithe figures lacked dramatic curves, they were unmistakably mature and feminine.
“Thanks, Viv! I really appreciate your support!” Kelsey made her way over to Vivian, and the sisters shared a brief, tight hug. “So you’re probably heading out for the night shift in a bit, right? Anything I can do for you to make things easier? I have a lot of homework, like fucking always, but if there’s anything like… simple that I can do…”
Vivian laughed, slowly shaking her head as she ruffled her sister’s wavy hair. “I’m fine, sis. You just focus on that homework, alright? You gotta keep your grades up!”
“H-hey…! I’ve gotten, like… one ‘C’, and it was in math. Considering my dyscalculia, that’s pretty good!” Kelsey grumbled as she moved over to grab back up her heavy backpack. As satisfying as it was to drop it down by the door, if she left it there, she’d never get anything done. “And then the next semester it was back up to a ‘B’. My aid isn’t at risk because of that. You just worry about your own grades! That master’s program is really competitive, right?”
Instead of whining like her sister, or smirking in defiance, Vivian retained her soft, warm smile. “Very, but that’s why I spent all afternoon studying so I don’t need to worry.”
“When you act reasonable anything sounds good.” Kelsey quietly grumbled under her breath as Vivian again ruffled at her hair. “But we’ve both totally got this, so… I’m going to get a bit of this homework done before I put something together for dinner. Will I catch you later tonight, or do you have a longer shift today?”
This time, Vivian frowned. “Longer shift, so don’t wait up. When we moved in together, I bet you were expecting me to say that when I was going out for fun, right?”
“No, I always knew my sister was boring.”
Kelsey snorted for emphasis, but she could only hold her composure for a moment. All too soon she was snickering and breaking into open laughter. Vivian’s warm smile finally shifted into a smirk as she rolled her eyes and gestured one hand up into the air as the other rested at her hip in a fist.
“That’s not what you said when my roommate moved out and you didn’t want to worry about living in the dorm or needing to find somewhere else to crash.” Her tone was serious and flat, but Vivian was already beginning to crack another smile.
“Yup, but who are you going to find who always pays her half of the rent on time and stays out of your hair? I’m unobtrusive, geeeenerally quiet, and I’m cute! We both know you’d never be bringing anyone home when you’re this busy, so you don’t even need to worry about your younger sister embarrassing you.” Kelsey winked as she opened the door to her room before tossing her backpack onto her bed. “You’ve got it good, sis.”
“We.” Vivian quietly tsked, shaking her head slowly. “We’ve got it good.”
Kelsey nodded, not hesitating on her reply for a moment. “Right. We. Like I said. Right? I totally said ‘we’.”
Vivian rolled her eyes, waving away Kelsey’s bratty behavior with both of her hands. “Go! Homework! I should probably get ready for work… Oh, and before I forget? I’m going to be pretty busy this week. I’ll be home late tomorrow, but probably not so late you’ll already be asleep. For the rest of the week…” Vivian laughed with a shrug. “I can’t make any promises! Things are going to be pretty busy. I need to meet with my advisor, and then I’ll be pretty busy if she says half of what I expect, so… For most of the week? I might only catch you in the mornings. It sucks, but you know how it is. Sometimes responsibilities can make a gal pretty busy.”
“Sure do! Take it easy where you can, sis! You need to have more fun…! You’re always working, or studying!” Kelsey didn’t wait for her sister’s reply before she closed her door, and moved to boot up her laptop. She didn’t need to wait to hear Vivian remind her just how busy they both were, and that fun was a luxury neither of them could afford to indulge much for now.
She could hear the mental rerun clearly enough without an actual, audible repeat.
It wasn’t long before the reluctantly studious young woman was typing away on her laptop while reading through a textbook. She had plenty to do, but as much as she bemoaned her schedule, she did have plenty of time to get it all done, and it wasn’t as if her social life was anymore exciting than that of her big sister who spent more time with textbooks than texts. They had more in common that way than not, though Kelsey would be the last person to admit it. Working and going to school was a drain, and the longer she worked into the night the more her earlier tension slowly returned to her shoulders.
By the end of the night when she was done with dinner, another session of studying, and finally collapsed into her bed, her moments of relaxation felt long forgotten.
“Here’s to tomorrow…” Kelsey mumbled to herself as she pulled her blankets tight.