Wandering about the almost empty house, Cosima found herself in front of the large French doors to a garden. She tested the handle of the door; it was not locked. With a glance over her shoulder at Delphine nodding at something the man guiding them around the house had just said, Cosima stepped outside.
She stood on a small art-nouveau balcony. The cast-iron floral patterns of the floor underneath her fit the rest of the building from the early 1920s. To her left weas a wooden table and a two mismatching chairs. On her right side were a couple of steps leading down to the garden. Ivy was wrapped all around the railing and covering part of the stairs as if they had not been used for quite a while.
Shielding her eyes against the late afternoon sun, Cosima looked at the rest of the garden. There were a couple of trees and a few small patches of flowers. Large pots filled with all kinds of scrubs and flowers were placed seemingly random around the square. It smelled divine; the sweet aroma of the flowers overpowered the stench of the crowded city on the other side of the houses.
The garden appeared to be a shared sanctuary between the ten or so houses, which all had a door leading to it. Some looked similar to the one Cosima had just exited through, and some others were on ground level. Most of the buildings seemed to have an apartment on each floor, like the one Cosima had just exited.
In the distance she could still hear the sounds of the street. A little louder was Delphine, conversing in French with the realtor. His heavy accented English was particularly hard to understand. Even though he tried his very best to include Cosima, he kept relapsing into French. So Cosima had decided to take another walk around the house while Delphine talked to him about some boring details; she trusted that her girlfriend knew what questions to ask him better than Cosima did.
Cosima had no idea what she was doing. She was just following Delphine and the realtor around Paris; they both seemed to know where they were going. In the foreign environment, and not having the first clue about real estate, Cosima had been clinging onto Delphine’s hand for the past three days as they went from one expensive apartment to the next. She was exhausted, and for some reason she could not recall, she had put heels on this morning.
Tired, Cosima sat down on the stairs leading down to the garden. She stretched her legs, and took a deep breath of fresh air. She took her phone from her pocket and scrolled through the pictures of the many diverse houses and apartments they had visited in the past three days.
A large number of them were very boring, ordinary homes which they definitely could live in, but they houses did not make Cosima and Delphine particularly excited. Many more were not what they had been looking for; they were too small, too expensive, in strange locations, or plain ridiculous. Cosima had taken pictures of a few of those places, or the strange artwork some people hung on their walls.
One of the apartments they had visited this morning had a thick carpet, not only on the floor, but also on the walls. Cosima had laughed out loud as soon as she had entered through the door, unable to stop until they had been far from the strange home. Delphine had said that it was not that uncommon, carpet on the walls was an old custom for it was great insulation. Seeing the photo of that plush, purple living room made Cosima giggle again.
“There you are.”
Cosima turned around at Delphine’s voice behind her.
Delphine was standing just outside the door, glowing in the afternoon sun. She joined Cosima on the stairs, sitting down close to her. “Hey,” she said with a sweet smile.
“Hey,” Cosima repeated. She leaned against Delphine a little, so that their shoulders touched. Delphine’s blouse tickled Cosima’s bare arm. “Where is the realtor dude?”
“He received a phone call,” Delphine answered. She looked around the garden for a while before she spoke again. “I figured we might want to talk without him first.”
Cosima nodded. They had seen so many different places where they could potentially live in together; it was about time they made a decision. In less than two weeks Delphine would start her new job at L’Institut Pasteur, and Cosima had to get back to studying only a week later. Before then, they wanted to be settled in a home of their own.
Delphine finally looked at Cosima. She bit her lip, thinking for a moment before she asked, “Are you sure you’d not rather finish your studies in America? Or even Canada? Somewhere they speak English?”
“No,” Cosima said forcefully, she did not want Delphine to doubt that Cosima wanted to move to another continent with her. The idea of moving somewhere with just Delphine seemed not only oddly romantic, but it was also a way to move on from all the nasty and complex things the start of their relationship had suffered from. “I want to have, like, a fresh start with you. Here. In the city of lovers,” she said enthusiastically.
With a frown, Delphine said, “I think they call it city of lights.”
Shaking her head slightly, Delphine smiled at Cosima. It did not matter, as long as it was home. “Do you like this apartment?” Delphine asked, changing the topic.
It was perfect. The old house was located in the quinzième arrondissement, almost exactly between Delphine’s future workplace and the university where Cosima intended to finally finish her dissertation. The spacious apartment was situated on the ground floor, three similar apartments above them. It had large windows, a kitchen next to the front door, a separate dining room, and a living room looking out into the garden. It was much better than any of the other places they had seen. And, most importantly, Cosima had noticed Delphine’s eyes light up when they had first opened the door. “This one has two bedrooms,” Cosima said, it was the only thing wrong with the lovely apartment.
Delphine nodded, understanding what Cosima meant. “We don’t need that,” she said. She tried to hide her disappointment, but it was painfully obvious to Cosima.
“A guest room for when one of my many siblings visits,” the clone suggested.
“Or a study,” Delphine said. “You’re going to need a quiet place to write your dissertation.”
“Hmmm,” Cosima nodded excited. She could see that Delphine liked this place, so what if it was a bit too big for just the two of them? With an excited grin, Cosima tilted her head a little considering another possibility for the spare room. “Perhaps… a nursery, sometime way in the future?”
Delphine smiled. Almost shy, she whispered, “Oui, I’d like that.”
Cosima tucked a curl behind Delphine’s ear. She wanted nothing more than to give all that and so much more to Delphine. There was one last obstacle they had to consider before they could agree to a place to make their home. “Isn’t this place way too expensive?” Cosima asked. She had not seen the price tag, but a huge home like this in the middle of one of the fanciest neighbourhoods of Paris had to be pricey.
“No, we can afford it,” Delphine said. “Thanks to your sister. She knows her way around money.”
After they had finally been able to get rid of Neolution and it’s various factions, after the clones had been cured, and once the sisters had finally been able to get some well-deserved rest, Mika had divided Ferdinand’s money amongst the clones. She had somehow managed to triple it during the short time she had invested it, and she had insisted that she did not need that much money. After politely declining several times, Sarah, Cosima, and some of the others figured that they might as well make good use of bad money.
“Yeah, I wonder where she learned that,” Cosima said, referring not just to her sister’s mysterious investing techniques. “We should totally invite her over when that guest room-slash-study is finished. I’d like to get to know her a bit better.”
“I’m sure she’d love that.”
For a moment they sat in complete silence on the steps. Neither of them doubted that they wanted the same thing. Cosima toyed with Delphine’s fingers, her tongue poking between her teeth as she smiled at the prospect. The French woman looked at their joined hands, savouring the certainty of what had to be a wonderful future together with the bright scientist next to her.
“Delphine, do you want to live here?” Cosima asked Delphine, shaking Delphine out of her fantasy of their future. She knew that the answer would be yes, but the student wanted to make absolutely sure that it was what her girlfriend wanted.
Without hesitating for a moment, Delphine answered exactly as Cosima had expected. “Yes, I really do.” She thought for a second, staring at Cosima. “Are you sure you like this place?”
“It’s awesome.” Cosima nodded enthusiastically. “Besides, I totally dig the French doors,” Cosima said. She glanced over Delphine’s shoulder, indicating the open doors, which led from the small balcony to the living room.
Delphine looked at Cosima with twinkling eyes. “Ma chérie, we’re in France, all doors are French doors here.”
Cosima chuckled softly. She shook her head in disbelief. Delphine had become so much more relaxed. Cosima still had to get used to this soft side of Delphine, making jokes and being impulsive. The stakes had always been so high in their relationship, Delphine had always been so full of worry, it was blissful to finally see Delphine laugh so carefree.
Leaning closer to Delphine, Cosima whispered, “Does that mean that all kisses are French here too?”
“Hmmm,” Delphine nodded solemnly. “Oui, it is in our constitution; all kisses must be French. There is a pretty hefty fine involved if you do not follow this law.”
The expression on Delphine’s face was so earnest that Cosima was unsure for a moment whether she was joking. With a giggle, Cosima leaned in to press a kiss on Delphine’s lips. Just to be on the safe side, she decided to follow the law, imaginary or not.
After she drew back from their kiss, Delphine leaned her forehead against Cosima’s. She sighed, smiling with her eyes closed as she enjoyed the intimacy of the moment. Running her hand over Cosima’s loose and wildly patterned pants, she finally opened her eyes to look at Cosima. “So, is that a yes?”
Cosima exposed her teeth in a wide grin. “Yeah,” she said. “If you want it, I do too.”
Delphine’s face lit up even more; Cosima had not thought it was possible for Delphine to smile this brightly. “Wonderful.” Delphine glanced at the building to her right. Frankly, she would have been willing to live anywhere with Cosima. Squeezing the American’s knee, Delphine gave her a quick peck on her cheek. “Okay,” she whispered in her ear. I’m going to tell le courtier.” She stood up. Rising two steps, she stood on top of the small stairs next to the tiny table. “Are you coming with me?” she asked, extending her hand towards Cosima.
“Yes, I am.” Cosima took Delphine’s strong hand, and pulled herself up.
Hand in hand, they left the secluded garden. Through the French doors they walked back into what would very soon be their own home.