Copyright © 2009 A.Matheson. All Rights Reserved.
Feedback: good/bad/ugly, all welcome if constructive. Though flattery is sought.
by Antonia Matheson
Part six: Fans and flames
Accidents will happen
Kirstin waited for the terrible screeching to end.
Not again, please, not again.
When the bus finally came to rest, unexpectedly still upright, she heard a collected gasp of breath that echoed out into what was almost deathly silence.
Kirstin’s ears then began tuning back into the world, beginning with the distinct sound of ragged breathing, but no voices. Then other noises began slowly filtering through; a hissing, and a couple of more distant thuds. But still no voices.
The sun shone defiantly.
Instinctively she pushed herself up to survey the scene, aware of pain somewhere in her right shoulder.
That sounded like Josh, Kirstin thought while observing a lack of smoke, which could only be a good thing.
Did we hit something?
“Is everyone, ok?” Kirstin shouted hoarsely, heading down the gangway towards the front of the bus, her heart pounding.
She saw through the windshield ahead of her what was essentially the tail end of a pile-up.
There was muttered agreement as her crew reeled from the shock and responded to her question. Reaching the front two tables where everyone else had been stationed, she was satisfied that no-one looked hurt. Unlike her they had all been sensible enough to strap themselves in. Bags however had been thrown everywhere, their contents emptied.
“Shit…” breathed Sal, causing them all to look at her in concern, “I had a great hand!” she shook her head mournfully.
Kirstin frowned briefly before noting the playing cards that had also been scattered around. She smiled quickly at the attempted jest, merely relieved that everyone seemed okay.
The driver however, though apparently unharmed, was shaking his head as he stared out at the scene ahead of him.
“The other bus is up there…” he muttered by way of explanation.
Kirstin’s gut turned over with a ferocity she could only just contain.
She looked at Josh who was already unbuckling his safety belt.
“I’ll come with you,” he told her.
“I think we should all stay here…” the driver stated calmly, aware of their concern.
Kirstin turned to him, appreciating what he was saying, but needing to quench the fear that had so rapidly gripped her.
“Are you still in radio contact?” she asked quickly.
Without speaking he reached for the handset.
“Ray? Come in Ray…” Gone was the formality of radio handles and code names.
A crackle came back, half obscured and filled with fuzz.
“…Evan… w… you okay?… crash… sma… b…”
It was barley intelligible. Kirstin didn’t wait, and Evan didn’t stop her, he nodded and hit the button to let her and Josh exit.
“Will someone check on the live truck?” she shouted as they jumped down.
Josh suddenly found himself running to catch up with Kirstin as she made her way down the carriageway, past numerous cars, none of which seemed to have collided with anything.
He had no idea what they would come across, but the strange silence that hung ominously over a fresh accident scene like this was perturbing to say the least. Above the traffic ahead he could see smoke rising and gathering. He hoped the other bus was nowhere near it.
But not quite as much as Kirstin hoped.
Her prayers were met when she caught site of a group of people gathered by the side of a vehicle she had come to know so well. It was in the middle lane, and didn’t seem to have sustained much damage from what she could tell. Though it’s skid-mark trail was hard to miss.
Picking up her pace she did a quick head count. Ben and Jess were easy to spot, even from a distance. Pete, Sally, Adie… check. George, Laura… come on Meg… Sam… No, Meg… definitely no Meg.
As she drew closer Kirstin swallowed hard. She tried not to blurt it out, but to no avail.
“Where’s Meg?” though she recovered quickly. “Are you missing anyone else?”
Adie turned to greet them both. She looked the least shook up, her arm slung around Laura who was clutching an inhaler.
“Meg’s gone to check on you guys… are you okay?”
“Yeh… yeh. So she’s okay, and no-one’s hurt?”
Laura released herself from Adie’s grip as she answered for her.
“Yeh… no-one’s hurt… though typically…” she pointed towards Jess who was standing there looking less shocked and more displeased than anything.
Jess raised an eyebrow as Kirstin took in the fact she was drenched.
“I am seriously NOT happy.”
That much was clear to see.
“You’re alive,” said Kirstin, “and that’ll do for me right now…”
“I was in the toilet, Kaye…” she cocked her head, “For once this ain’t OJ…” she lifted her skirt for inspection.
Kirstin didn’t know what to say to that. She shut her mouth before it hung open too long, however she couldn’t help but let a small laugh out. Jess smiled back at her, aware she ought to be grateful considering the imagined situation ahead of them.
The moment was broken by a shrill sound of sirens and Kirstin suddenly remembered why she had been running.
“Okay. Josh, check out the situation here, okay?” she observed the burst front tyre their tour bus had seemingly acquired and pointing to it she added, “It might be better to bring everyone back to our bus…”
Fuck it Megan, where are you?
Kirstin had headed back down the carriageway to her own bus realising that people were beginning to get out of their vehicles and make their way to the grass verge. It was hot, and the build up of car fumes had only made it worse.
As she was scanning the queue of traffic for a tall dark drummer she came across a vision that worried her. Heading in her direction was a guy she didn’t recognise, looking nervous and carrying an easily identifiable piece of equipment.
Kirstin shook her head in disbelief.
No… no he must be with a news crew…
But as he came closer she realised her gut instinct was something she needed to trust more often.
“Hey!” she shouted at the guy.
He wasn’t expecting anyone to be in his way and he was unprepared for what happened next.
Kirstin charged toward him, “That’s mine you piece of shit!”
The guy looked a little shocked but he decided not to be too intimidated by Kirstin’s seemingly slight form heading his way.
It was a decision he learned to regret.
When he didn’t immediately give up the camera she grabbed it and he was rewarded with a swift uppercut to the jaw. It sent him careering to the ground and left the camera neatly in the hand that Kirstin had clutched it with.
God that felt good.
She stood there looking down at him. A couple of hippy bystanders cheered, not entirely sure who was the thief, but clearly pleased the girl had won out. They were barely noticed in the moment that was to pass.
“Ho-ly fuck! I was just gonna wrestle him to the ground maybe…”
Kirstin looked up to meet the eyes she’d been seeking. She would later swear that she had seen those eyes sparkle.
“You okay?” Meg asked.
It was suddenly clear to Kirstin that Meg had been the person chasing down the scamp right into her path.
Kirstin flexed her right hand a little, “Yeh…”
Meg’s brow crinkled, “I meant after the accident? Suze said you’d been at the back? She said she didn’t get a good look at you…”
Meg eyes roamed over Kirstin’s figure looking for injuries.
“I’m fine,” Kirstin nodded. “You?”
“Yeh. Yeh. Jess…”
Kirstin was smiling as she interrupted, “I know… I saw, she looks pissed…”
They both started laughing.
“Here, let me get that…”
Meg moved closer and gently took the camera from Kirstin’s clenched hand, the soft contact of her fingers willing Kirstin to release it, which she did without complaint.
“Remind me not to get on the wrong side of you…” Meg smirked.
They had both completely forgotten the guy Kirstin had just punched out. He moaned on the floor next to them.
“Oh, fuck…” Kirstin breathed, looking at him irritably.
“C’mon,” Meg said lightly, kicking his foot as a reminder. “We won’t press charges if he doesn’t…” she smiled, putting her hand on Kirstin’s shoulder and pulling her in the right direction.
Kirstin let Meg take the lead as they headed back toward her bus. They walked in silence, the sound of a chopper overhead drowning out any response the man may have attempted to make.
Kirstin spared Meg a sideways glance.
“This is clearly contact herding…” Kirstin said, referring to the hand that still graced her shoulder. It was increasingly being joined by its owner’s arm, not to mention her weight.
Meg looked at her for a few steps in calm consideration before simply shrugging, “You’re just the right height.”
“Don’t start with that shorty shit again…”
“After what I just saw you do… I wouldn’t dare.”
Old wounds/new wounds
The interstate pile up meant that there was no way of getting to Montreal in time. Kirstin and Al had talked at great length of the possibilities but in the end they both decided it was more important to get everyone checked out, and let them rest.
Al cancelled the Montreal show and had instructed Evan to drop his now combined human cargo of band and joint crews off at the nearest airport before heading direct to Toronto.
Toronto was the band’s hometown, and most of their crew had a base there too. Al had arranged for them all to arrive at the film crew’s hotel for which he had booked them in an extra day, and where a doctor would be waiting to see them all before allowing them to ‘wander off’, as he put it.
Despite Kirstin’s general dislike of flying she had agreed with Al that they should get everyone home in the quickest possible time, and that meant hitching an hour and a half plane ride from Albany airport.
As the bus stood in the traffic queue after the wake of the accident, Kirstin took her mind off yet another impending flight by double-checking all the equipment in the live truck that sat couple of vehicles behind them.
Opportunist thieves. The worst kind. Hard to prepare for. Catch you off guard. Make you run. Make you do silly, stupid things.
She declined help from Josh and Suze, instead content to huff and puff until she was satisfied nothing else had been taken. Then she thanked Meg, who had popped her head in briefly through sheer boredom, for attempting to chase down the thief. She had also asked her not to mention her little altercation to anyone; it was highly unusual, and not very clever.
When the road was eventually cleared everyone piled back on board the film bus. The band’s bus was to be repaired en-route and would join them the next day.
They never did find out what exactly had happened on the road, it would be just another crash, on another carriageway. Maybe they’d see it on the news later. Maybe not.
It wasn’t until Kirstin sat back down again, a good four hours after the accident, that she remembered the pain in her shoulder.
“Fuck,” she winced, as she quietly eased into the seat opposite Meg who had found her way to the last two rows of kick-back comfy seats in the bus.
Meg sighed heavily, “You are definitely not ok Kirstin…” Meg was genuinely concerned.
“Sure I am. I mean it aches a little, but it can wait.”
The truth was that her shoulder felt pretty hot, but there wasn’t a lot she could do about it right now. She had meant to ask a paramedic on the scene to take a look at it, but there had been too much to do, and it hadn’t seemed all that urgent. They had to relocate all the baggage from the other coach, and Kirstin had spent the rest of the time on the phone to various people organising hotels, and flights, and transfers.
Punching that bloke probably didn’t help either.
Strangely it was a thought that occurred to each of them simultaneously, though they were both oblivious to it.
Meg put down the magazine she’d been flicking through idly, and leaned forward, “Have you looked at it? I think you should look at it.”
Kirstin sighed. “It’s probably just bruised.” The other woman looked unconvinced, spurring a need for further explanation, “Look, I don’t really fancy stripping off right now, you know?” Kirstin half nodded towards the rest of the bus residents behind her.
There was a half-drawn curtain separating them from the rest of the bus, but Meg rejected the idea of pulling it completely shut, reasoning that it would only serve to draw more attention.
“Okay, okay…” Meg held up her hands, “I’m just expressing concern.”
Kirstin hid a blush behind contrived flippancy.
It came out rather more sharply that she had intended.
Meg shook her head slowly.
Still can’t let me take care of you, huh?
The movement caught Kirstin’s eye.
“Really… I am.”
Meg suppressed the giggle that threatened to make part of its way out via a smile she couldn’t hide.
“It’s not funny.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at your shoulder…”
“I know that…” she narrowed her eyes.
A slightly awkward silence followed during which Kirstin attempted to find a more comfortable angle to sit in.
“Do you want me to look at it?” Meg asked gently.
The answer this time was low and reluctant, through half gritted teeth.
“Maybe, or yes?”
Meg snorted softly and shook her head again as she got up to sit next Kirstin.
“What?” Kirstin asked, nervously moving up to allow Meg room.
“You never ask for help, you know that?”
“I don’t…” Kirstin began, frowning hard, but the deeper implication was something she could neither ignore, nor deny. She looked away from Meg, “…whatever…” she breathed.
Meg bit her lip, suddenly finding herself in a much colder place of her own creation.
“I’m sorry,” she uttered.
Kirstin blinked and looked back at her letting out the breath she had been holding, her body relaxing a little.
“Can we talk about that notion another time maybe?” she asked.
A nerve had definitely been tripped over.
Meg hadn’t meant for it to be a specifically related comment.
“We don’t have to talk about it at all…”
And she had no way of knowing just how the morning’s events had affected Kirstin, in ways she would perhaps never fully understand.
“Great. Not at all sounds good to me.”
Kirstin was focussing on the patch of soft black leather that lay between them.
Meg swallowed hard as she watched her, “Okay,” and small wave of regret passed over her.
Funny how something that felt like a lifetime away could still leave you sore; so devastating was the way that a single misplaced sentence could dredge up events long gone, and so seemingly forgotten. And now all she wanted to do was take a hold of Kirstin and hug her, like she should have done years before, if only she’d known how.
“So you gonna show me your shoulder?”
It was what she said, but not what she was thinking; she’d just been told in no uncertain terms to stem those thoughts.
Kirstin looked back at her and nodded loosely, suddenly less concerned with stripping off, the notion now rendered minor in the face of their unspoken past.
She absentmindedly undid the top buttons of her shirt, encouraging Meg to help her pull the cotton down, off her aching shoulder, and allowing her to look.
Kirstin heard a sharp intake of breath and twisted to see Meg grimacing.
“Fuck… that looks pretty awful Kaye…”
Even in the half-light of the shaded bus she could see the damage, and she couldn’t help but let her fingertips gently brush over the large and flourishing bruise that was covering most of Kirstin’s shoulder.
Kirstin gave in trying to see, it hurt too much, “Did the skin break?” she asked a little worried.
“No…” Meg breathed in contemplation, “That must hurt a whole lot more than you’ve been letting on…” she accused lightly.
Kirstin pursed her lips by way of admission, letting herself revel a little in the attention she was being paid.
“Will you at least let me get you some Advil for it?”
Kirstin hated taking painkillers, she was always afraid she’d do more damage if she couldn’t feel the injury, but grumpiness caused by pain was something she didn’t want to subject Meg to. Or anyone else for that matter.
Meg pulled Kirstin’s shirt back up over the tender area, and almost automatically brushed a lock of wavy, dirty-golden hair out of Kirstin’s face as she began buttoning her shirt back up.
It was a moment of affection that was marked by Kirstin subconsciously leaning into the action, almost wanting to cup Meg’s hand with her own. When she turned to look at the drummer she was rewarded with what she was quickly becoming to recognise as a beautifully tender smile.
“You won’t be swinging from hoops for a bit…” she joked. “Maybe you’ll let me get some deep heat too?”
“Now you’re pushing it…”
Meg laughed and got up to go in search of the medi-kit.
ALB to the YYZ
Having been administered painkillers by her unlikely nurse, Kirstin had eased into a light sleep. During this doze Kirstin’s body had managed to travel the short distance toward Meg who had taken the majority of her weight. Though she hadn’t really had a choice in the matter, Meg was pleased to be of some use.
When Suze had later plodded over to visit her wounded boss she had raised a silent brow at the sight. The expression was equally mirrored by Meg who hadn’t known what else to do. When Kirstin had woken in Meg’s lap a little later still, to the sound of Suze and Meg chatting amiably, she had seemed less than thankful. Even a little irritated.
It was something that had shocked Suze, and had stung Meg, though she laughed it off.
“Are we here?” Kirstin frowned, seeing Suze and pushing herself up to pull away from Meg, leaving her arms bereft.
Suze watched Meg’s reaction carefully. Kirstin was acting weird, even for Kirstin. She had woken up apparently angry, and Meg didn’t seem to understand why either.
“Yeh… we’re about to pull up I think,” she answered.
Kirstin tugged on the curtain that had been drawn across the window next to her, and sighed at the view of the airport terminal.
Here we go. Again.
“I can manage it Meg, ok?” Kirstin shot her a glare.
I don’t need you.
Meg put Kirstin’s bag back down on the tarmac.
“If you don’t want people to know what you did, you should probably hide that,” Meg gently remarked, gesturing to the bruised knuckle that was coming up nicely on Kirstin’s right hook of a hand.
She looked down at it.
Trying to prove a point were you? You idiot Kaye.
Kirstin cursed herself again as she quickly pulled down the sleeve of her newly donned sweater. Then she thought better of it, her thought being that she could always say she’d done it when the bus had swerved. Couldn’t she?
Meg was being surprisingly tolerant considering Kirstin’s sudden mood change. It had unnerved her, yet she wasn’t angry. She just accepted it, and let her get on with it. There were a hundred different reasons why Kirstin had so suddenly pushed her away she thought, not least the brief nod that had been given to a rather old grievance.
But though Meg was close to the truth, she was looking at it from the wrong angle.
Megan had always thought the truth to be something that existed but was futile to seek. No one individual could ever be in possession of the actual truth. Any emotion, or event could be clouded by another event or emotion. No matter how long you studied something, all you could ever be sure of was what you thought had happened, or what you thought was going on. Sometimes you just had to accept that. Even when you listened to other people’s accounts they could be just as clouded as your own.
So even when Meg was close to the truth, she never sought it out. Even if that truth had been laid in her lap.
They checked in and went their separate ways. Meg took the opportunity to catch up with Sal, and didn’t see Kirstin again until their flight was called.
Meanwhile Kirstin sat with Josh watching the planes and telling him about all the varieties there were. If Josh thought it odd that he was sat in the departure lounge with a known flying-phobic while she waxed lyrical with her knowledge of aircraft, he didn’t let on.
For Kirstin thinking about the planes right now was merely trading one demon for another. But at least she felt she had gained a bit of a hold on this one.
Well, that was until a voice told her she had to get on one of the damn things again.
Then her eyes scoured the crowd with urgency.
“Looking for me?”
Until her body relaxed.
She nodded bitterly with the knowledge.
Once safely on board the plane Meg sat watching Kirstin silently, aware that she was tense but trying not to show it. Almost automatically she leant over and took a hold of Kirstin’s hand. As she did so Kirstin turned slightly to look at her.
The anger Meg had been faced with earlier was suddenly gone and had been replaced with what Meg knew to be gratitude.
"I'm sorry,” she mouthed carefully.
Meg smiled at her.
"It's okay,” she answered with equal care.
And she suddenly realised something; it actually was okay.
It shocked her a little. Meg was used to apologies. So many people in her life seemed to do things that she thought weren't acceptable. She found herself having to accept apologies even when she didn't want to. There was something in the way that Kirstin was looking at her right now that made Meg see how traumatic this really was, yet she still had the presence of mind to apologise for snapping at her earlier.
She didn't think that she had disbelieved Kirstin’s fear, she was just used to people using fear and trauma as excuses for bad behaviour. Meg had never really learnt to accept that. She had always been subject to people who hid their rude unkindness behind their so-called ‘issues’, dealing out what she termed as ‘excuse cards’.
In turn she had developed a deep hatred towards anyone who cited something that may have once happened in any apology they made to her. In her book that wasn't an apology. Any apology that included an attempt at justification wasn't an apology. You were either sorry or you weren’t.
And here was someone who hadn't even tried to justify herself. Meg didn't know what Kirstin’s supposed trauma was, but the fact that she didn't even try to use it as an excuse meant more to Meg than she would ever realise.
Just as she was mentally commending her, Kirstin managed to add a little icing.
“You know what?” she asked Meg.
“No, what?” she smiled lightly.
“For not thinking that my bad mood has anything to do with getting on this plane, and for still being willing to hold my hand despite it.”
Megs face burst into a wide smile followed by a low chuckle that seemed to catch in her throat.
Meg shook her head trying to find the words and failing, but succeeding in coughing instead.
“Well I’m glad I amuse you!” Kirstin scoffed.
Meg nodded eagerly to the stewardess who happened to be passing with the drinks trolley and ordered a glass of fresh orange. Kirstin declined a drink, instead more intent on finding out what was so damned amusing. She patiently waited for Meg to take a gulp, and then twisted in her seat to face her full on, cocking her head to one side questioningly.
“Okay, okay,” Meg held her hand up in surrender. “So. Well… you just reminded me of something from school…”
Kirstin nodded her encouragement.
“That time in ninth grade with Lesley Pritchard after the baseball final.”
Kirstin didn’t understand how anything that had just happened might relate to that, and her puzzlement obviously showed.
“You remember Lesley…” Meg began slowly.
“Yeh I remember,” Kirstin butted in. She sat back a little and lowered her voice with venom, “God I hated her.”
“I’m not surprised,” Meg laughed again, “she spent most of her time trying to be a bigger bully than me!”
Kirstin snorted and raised an eyebrow.
“Yeh. And she beat you up after school because you stuck up for me on the pitch…”
“Well, if you call that sticking up for someone then yeh…”
“You stopped her laying into me didn’t you?”
“I believe what I actually did was tell her to leave you alone because if anyone was gonna cause you grief it was going to be me.”
“Yeh, well it worked, and I remember thanking you afterwards,” Kirstin justified.
Meg brushed the remark aside and continued.
“Well… anyway, after school she and her buddies found me and bruised me up a little, like you said.” Kirstin flinched at the guilty memory of Megs cut up face. “When dad found out he made me tell him who had done it. The next day he demanded that Lesley make a formal apology to me and had the principal bring her to his office.”
Kirstin raised an eyebrow, “I didn’t know that! That’s all a little bit ironic isn’t it?”
Meg took offence.
“Hey, I never, ever laid a hand on anyone,” she said.
“Except Toby Dankin…” Kirstin was quick to point out.
“Except Toby Dankin,” Meg admitted, grudgingly with a grimace.
The conversation was suddenly steering its way closer and closer to the very subject Kirstin had wanted to avoid only a few hours ago. But it was Kirstin that was driving it that way. Regardless of this fact, Meg was careful not to push the matter.
“Which I completely condone by the way…” Kirstin added.
“Yeh, well,” Meg bit her tongue.
Kirstin knew that once a sore subject had been brought up, if it was not fully discussed, it had a tendency to linger in the air; a strange subtext, flavouring moments it had no place existing in. And it would continue to do so until it was either given due attention, or promptly forgotten.
Knowing it was rare for anything to be completely forgotten, unless it had been truly rendered insignificant, she realised something had to be said.
Something had to be said about Toby-fucking-Dankin.
Meg had found Toby Dankin trying to force himself onto one of the cheerleaders at their High School Prom. She had duly thrown him against the toilet wall and punched him. A number of times. He had later told people he must’ve tripped over something when he was drunk. Kirstin knew better; Kirstin smiled at the thought of the villain turned hero. Or heroine, she supposed retrospectively.
But both Kirstin and Meg knew why Meg had been so forthcoming with the punching. And the cheerleader incident was merely an excuse. Something Meg wasn’t proud of.
Toby Fucking Dankin.
“Fists and words Meg…” Kirstin muttered. “They can both do as much damage.”
She regretted saying it before she’d even finished. It wasn’t even what she had wanted to say. And it hadn’t come out right either.
Though Meg had wrestled her to the ground a lot when they were younger she had stuck to verbal insults as they had grown older; words that might’ve hurt a lot at the time but she didn’t think they’d had a major impact on her life. And she hadn’t meant to imply that.
What she had wanted to say was ‘Thank you.’ Or ‘I’m sorry.’
Meg looked upset and shuffled in her chair.
“That was a long time ago, I’m not that person anymore.”
“I know,” Kirstin said gently, “and I don’t think you ever were.”
She meant what she said.
Meg turned back to her.
“Oh, I was,” she replied darkly, “for a while.”
There was a short silence that passed between them. They had generally both avoided talking about the past and they were both beginning to remember why.
The rest of the passengers were engrossed in the episodes of Friends that were being shown.
God, will they EVER stop showing that frikkin show? Even when it’s over it’s not frikkin over!
Meg abruptly continued with her story.
“Anyway, Lesley apologised and when she left they told me I had to be easy on her because she was having a hard time at home. My dad backed down and said we wouldn’t press charges.”
“What? But the bitch beat you up?! And pretty damn well too!” Kirstin blurted out, then blushed a little when she realised that people she knew might be able to hear her outburst.
Meg laughed, she wasn’t used to hearing her preppy friend swear.
“I know, and I was supposed to feel sorry for her.”
Meg went on, “I mean I have no idea what might’ve been going on in her life, and I’m sorry if she was having a hard time, but my take on it was that no matter how bad things were it didn’t justify what she did to me.”
“No way! I remember you looking terrible for weeks…”
“Sorry, but you did. And I felt like it was my fault.”
Here they were getting to the kernal of some understanding. But Meg hadn’t realised it yet.
“Well it was…” Meg slurred, smiling and sliding back a little into her chair.
Kirstin frowned. Releasing Meg’s hand she hit her on the shoulder.
“Hey!” Meg rubbed her shoulder. “Anyway, I deserved it, maybe not from her but it taught me to be responsible for my own moods… to try harder not to take them out on other people, or at least if I did, not to make excuses for it.”
“How very grown up of you.”
Is that a slur on me?
“Don’t take the piss.”
No. No, I don’t think it is…
“Sorry. I guess it wasn’t a nice way to learn that lesson.”
Meg looked at her thoughtfully, remembering something suddenly.
“You were really sweet to me that day.”
“What me?!” Kirstin looked at her briefly. “Nooo. No, never…”
Meg grinned at her slightly.
“Lets never talk of it,” she added adamantly.
“Ok.” Meg promised, quickly storing the memory of a teenage Kirstin dragging her into her mother’s bathroom after she’d found her on the way home, crumpled up in the summer dirt. She sat her down on the edge of the bathtub and began to clean her face up. They hadn’t spoken a word to one another, Kirstin had simply seen her, pulled her up and taken her home, and Meg had let her.
She sat on the edge of that tub a little in shock and a little in wonder, looking at Kirstin, flinching every now then when her face stung. She seemed to think now, in retrospect, that they had always had these little acts of kindness every now and again, but they had never talked of them. It seemed perhaps they never would. Hadn’t they shared one such moment just today?
Meg fingered the area near her left eye where she knew there lingered a more physical memory of that day. Kirstin caught her doing so and turned to look, already aware somehow that the two things were related.
Before she had chance to ask, Meg had answered her.
“I still have a scar,” she said waving the comment aside with a vague waggle of her finger, and shuffling in her seat.
“Huh.” Kirstin breathed quietly trying hard to suppress the urge to study it. “Can I see?” she asked despite herself.
Meg nodded silently, a little amused at their day of trading injuries, and leaned closer to Kirstin, offering her eye for inspection while focusing sternly on the seat ahead of her.
To her surprise Kirstin reached up to gently run her finger over the spot, causing Meg to flinch slightly.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Kirstin pulling her hand away.
“It’s okay…” Meg said quickly.
“I guess I didn’t do such a good job, huh?” she asked with a touch of sorrow definitely evident.
Meg looked at her suddenly, “You did a great job,” she said with no uncertainty.
Kirstin blinked at her, and Meg became acutely aware of the need do diffuse herself. She smiled goofily, “It’s the only one!”
Kirstin smiled kindly back at her. “Good,” she said.
“How’s the shoulder?” Meg wanted to deflect, nervous of the intensity that Kirstin had gained during the course of their conversation.
“It’s okay.” Kirstin took a breath. “You know it’s because of that day that I didn’t tell you.”
It came out rushed, but she decided having come so close to talking about it, she needed to tell Meg something.
Meg frowned softly in question.
“About Toby,” she clarified. “Every time you stood up for me you came home all bruised up. That’s why I didn’t ask for help.”
Meg didn’t know what to say. Kirstin not asking for help had always felt like rejection, but here she was telling her different.
“Because you thought I’d get hurt?”
“Because I knew you’d do something stupid, yes.”
Megan had never quite discovered what had occurred between Toby fucking Dankin and Kirstin; she had only gleaned information from clues that Kirstin couldn’t hide. But she knew his reputation, and had a first hand account of his physicality.
Toby fucking Dankin had been responsible for Meg’s fall from grace. Toby fucking Dankin had been Meg’s almost boyfriend in school; he was head of the popular boy crowd, and she was queen of the hard-faced popular girls. But Megan didn’t belong there, Megan wasn’t really like them, and one day Toby fucking Dankin had discovered that. And he hadn’t liked it. He had forced himself on her, and when he realised he couldn’t win, he had beaten her up. Further more he had subsequently spread the rumours that had led to her exclusion from the cool crowd.
Meg had strongly suspected he had done the same with Kirstin, and when she caught him with the cheerleader doing the same again she’d simply snapped.
“I don’t regret hitting him.” Meg said quietly. “And I didn’t just do it for you.”
“I know. And I don’t regret you hitting him either. I just wish it’d been me.”
And there it was. The comment peeked out into the small space between them revealing a little insight into the tone that had pervaded since the accident.
But this was merely the start of the revelations that would begin to mould their understanding of one-another; understanding that was preceded by the inevitable confusion that would lead them there.
The doctor that had been waiting for them was a handsome man by the name of Mack. He was about the same age as Kirstin’s father and conversing with him made her want to call him dad. Thankfully she never made that mistake.
“That’s a nasty bang you’ve taken there, Miss Hart,” he told her when he had finished her examination.
“I’d really like to get a shot of it… and I’m guessing you’re going to object to me hauling you in for an x-ray…”
All Kirstin had to do was look at him.
“Yes. I thought as much. However I don’t really intend giving you a choice.”
“Agh, what? You’re serious?”
He nodded gravely. “There’s a lot of bruising which strongly suggests it may just be superficial, but I can’t let you go without making sure.”
Kirstin heaved a sigh out.
“Fine. Fine. Okay. When?”
“It can wait til tomorrow.”
“No, it can’t.”
“Well I’ll have to book you in and though I’m getting paid a lot, money doesn’t bypass the queue when you’re not in need of emergency treatment.”
“That’s not what I meant,” countered Kirstin, a little offended that he might think she expected preferential treatment. “I meant I have a lot to do tomorrow.”
“We all have a lot to do, Miss Hart.”
Agh. For fuck’s sake, I could go right off you.
How quickly your opinion of someone could change as they began to let slip their misguided opinion of you.
Being misunderstood was seriously irritating but Kirstin just shook her head, the dull pain rendering her too fatigued to fight her corner.
“Fine. Just give me a time and a place and I’ll be there. Is there anyone else on the crew needing to visit the non-emergency type hospital?”
He laughed at her kindly as he handed her some painkillers to last the evening.
A rough night was followed by a slightly more interesting day. By the time she had prepared herself for it she had to admit she was glad she would be having her shoulder looked at.
God I hate hospitals.
Kirstin didn’t speak the notion out loud for she knew what a plainly obvious statement it was. Just because you think something doesn’t mean you have to say it. Just because you had a thought doesn’t mean you’re the only person with it. Just because you said it doesn’t mean you own it or thought of it first. Kirstin sometimes had too many thoughts.
Who actually liked hospitals anyway? No-one wanted to be there apart from the people that worked in them. And even they questioned it sometimes, didn’t they? The only possible contender for a happy part of any hospital could be the baby wing. And Kirstin hated that too.
She shuddered at the thought.
“You know where you’re going?”
“Not really,” she answered Laura, pulling up in front of the door that read ‘X-Ray unit’.
Laura stopped beside her and blinked.
“How do you do that?”
“I’m not entirely sure. I try not to question it. I figure if I was an X-Ray unit, I’d be here…”
Kirstin was obviously joking, and though Laura smiled there was a small part of her that was beginning to believe Kirstin had superior powers.
She narrowed her eyes briefly. Kirstin just seemed to have an uncanny knack for the strangest things considering her general demeanor. She was one of those irritating people who was… just good, Laura thought, good at ‘stuff’.
Her natural trail of thought was cut off as a doctor with a bound in her step passed by. She let out a low guttural moan that caught Kirstin by surprise.
“Excuse me?” Kirstin asked quizzically as she dinged the bell on the desk in front of them.
“I like a girl in scrubs…” Laura whispered.
Kirstin swung round to catch the rear end of the subject passing by.
She cocked her head with a smile.
“Me too…” Kirstin breathed, forgetting herself.
It only took a moment for Laura to register what she’d said.
Sometimes when you weren’t looking for something you had a tendency to see it more quickly.
Kirstin held off looking back at Laura for a moment, realising what she’d just implied and deciding to go with it.
Well now that was easy to do, wasn’t it?
And sometimes things were easier to let slip when you didn’t have something riding on the outcome.
When she turned back she greeted Laura’s raised brow with a twisted, unashamed grin.
Laura opened her mouth to speak, but the air got caught in her throat and she just coughed it out.
“Can I help?”
Their ringing had been answered.
The fluidity of correction
The small moments we experience in life all slot together to form the picture we refer to whenever we think of a person, or a memory, or a situation we are either in or have been party to.
The moments that we remember most clearly are often the ones to which we have had the strongest reaction; be it anger or love, laughter or despair. Unremarkable days usually pass through our lives as if they weren’t necessary. Even though these days are essential.
The seemingly unexceptional days are the ones we ought to pay more heed to. These are the days that forecast the unforgettable ones and define how memorable they may be. These are the days that build, and grow, and mount to each moment that will stay with us forever.
These are the days that contain tell-tales signs of love and betrayal, spite and wit. A small comment, long forgotten, can spark a deep routed emotion, unrecognised, subconsciously waiting, gaining strength of conviction.
These are the days that form our true opinions, for which we cannot recall any reason for actually having. We form ‘feelings’ about situations and people. They are not based on anything we can pin-point, yet we cannot deny their existence, the pull or the push.
A look here or there. A gesture. These days are the ones which coach our intuition; body language read and absorbed; nothing immediately understood, but over time these small instances form the foundation of some hunch or other.
Kirstin was good with hunches. Meg was comparatively oblivious.
Kirstin had always thought of herself as frank. No, not in a trans-gendered way - though she was open minded - but honest. Honest on occasion to the point of being blunt. No, not a James Blunt (rhyming slang).
She liked to think if she had a problem she would talk to the people involved and they would hear what she had to say. If they understood her properly then they would decide if they thought she were right or not. She would then listen in turn, and they would take it all from there. Reasonable and rational, it was just common sense.
The reality was that it was rare for her to even be considered wrong. And, being the competitive type, she often found herself arbitrarily giving her opposition ammunition just to feel like she had played a role in a real debate. She would plant the seed of a half decent counter-argument and wait for them to bite. Sometimes she would be impatient and argue their defence for them before submitting her own winning line of attack.
The reason that Kirstin was rarely considered wrong, a reason she was totally unaware of, was that her natural charm would glow so brightly that most people didn’t even notice the points she made were highly thought out and very intelligent. Her comments made logical sense and were hard to argue against, but her charm and candour always hid any potentially well-conceived plan. It wasn’t intentional, but it was used to great effect. It had something to do with her conviction.
When Kirstin said something out loud it was rarely an ill-conceived comment. Even if it was not based on knowledge or fact, she spoke with a kind of authority that people gave in to voluntarily, without even being aware of it. This was the case even if she were saying something she didn’t entirely believe, though she avoided that at all costs.
This was why she had found herself in such a powerful position at such a young age.
Yet it was when Kirstin wasn’t sure what her plan was, when she was undecided as to what her take on a situation might actually be, that she tripped up and her true brilliance shone. That is to say, with no definite target in sight, and no real aim, the shots she took were wild, only ever justified in retrospect; she was instinctive, and rewarded most. In short: When she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad, she was brilliant.
In the strangest way even Kirstin’s mistakes were awe-inspiring.
On these rare occasions the runs she made were so far off base it seemed to her she might never make it home. Yet she always did. And even when she was aware she had made a miscalculation, she could rarely decipher its origin.
Interpreting her errors had never really been a concern for her, so long as she managed to pull everything back into shape. But sometimes the coming home took longer than she anticipated. Even when she thought she’d turned something around. And that DID bother her.
She would dismiss it for a time, but every now and then it would dig at her, until she felt an impulse to do something about it.
Tonight she had that impulse. Tonight she had a hunch as to why she felt so out of kilter. Tonight Kirstin had watched all the fun everyone else was having, and realised that she wanted to have some of her own. Tonight she would tell Meg she gay, and anyone else that didn’t know and cared. This was why she was feeling uncomfortable; she needed to open up to the people that were rapidly becoming important to her.
And now that Laura knew, she had little choice.
Every kiss should be a discovery
Laura had promised not to tell anyone about Kirstin’s little revelation earlier that day, excited though she was. She understood Kirstin wanting to deal with it in her own way. However she had to be allowed to tell Adie. That was only fair, surely?
Adie’s response was extravagant and vocal, her South American passion flourishing. She spat out her beer.
“No fucking shit! Really?”
Coming back from the bar with drinks in hand Kirstin frowned and then rolled her eyes.
Adie tried to act nonchalant. Kirstin smiled knowingly as she passed Laura her beer.
“So you told her I assume?”
Kirstin took a breath.
Adie produced an almost inane grin as she shook her head.
“It’s not that much of ridiculous concept…” Kirstin frowned gently.
“Sorry, no. No, in fact I can’t believe I didn’t clock on…” Adie said.
Laura continued, “So anyway, as I was saying, it’s Kirstin’s bag to, um… like offer…”
“What? What are you talking about? Do you mean claim?”
“Shut up…” Laura hit her lightly, aware of her terrible attempt to mix metaphors she didn’t really understand.
Adie smiled and pushed one of Laura’s dreads out of her face affectionately, obviously intent on teasing her further.
Kirstin saved her, “What she means is… I want people to know, but I don’t wanna make a big deal of it… y’know?”
“Just go pull a chick…” Adie breezed. “That’s how I used to do it, you can explain later. In fact, you won’t have to, look at us all… gay, gay, gay…”
Kirstin took a quick glance around the Toronto club they were in. She and Laura had missed most of the day being stuck at the hospital. Relinquishing the helm for a night was hard, but Kirstin had enjoyed watching the show instead.
Meg had smiled at her from the stage and winked. Jess had sung a song for her. Al had made sure she was well looked after. But when Kirstin wasn’t busy her head began to take over. And there was a lot for it to think about.
She nodded slowly, noting there was indeed a high percentage of gay-dom in the vicinity.
“Hey, I’m glad to hear your shoulders okay, by the way…” Adie added.
“Yeh,” piped up Laura, “should you be drinking?”
Both Kirstin and Laura had gained the all clear. Laura’s wrist was merely sprained, and Kirstin’s shoulder just very badly bruised, as the Doc had expected. But she had been warned to take it easy and had been given more painkillers.
“Probably not…” shrugged Kirstin, who hadn’t actually taken the painkillers and had opted for an alcoholic method of relief instead. She knew better, but sometimes even the most sensible of people needed respite.
“So,” pushed Adie again, “are you single?”
Kirstin nodded, smiling at Adie’s respect for monotony, I mean, monogamy…
“Then g’wan, go find yourself a chick!”
She made it sound easy.
As it happened it was.
Meg knew she was staring but she couldn’t help herself. She knew people could tell she was staring, but she didn’t care. It was rare that Meg truly saw red and was incapable of rational thought, but sometimes there were moments in a person’s life that rendered them incapable of rationality. Even if she had no right to care, no reason to be wounded, even if it made her a selfish person, she was consumed with rage, and it was a rage that only she and a few other people would understand.
Not her, anyone but her.
She downed the drink in her hand and slammed the glass back down on the bar. The lights above the dance floor kept illuminating the figures before her with pulsating effect. She could see Jesse heading her way through the corner of an eye to her left. Jess was one of the few people who would have the insight to work out what might be going through Meg’s head right now. She wasn’t in the mood for a lecture, or a shoulder for that matter, whichever one was offered. And knowing Jess it could easily be either of the two.
It was hard enough to see Eva again, seeing her was one thing, being subject to this was quite another.
Meg pushed off from the bar before Jess could get to her.
“Shit,” Jess cursed knowing she’d missed her opportunity. “Great,” she sighed heavily.
“Is she okay?” asked Kate who happened to be at the bar and had just noticed Jess’s apparent concern.
“I doubt it,” replied Jess. Realising the futility of the situation she resigned herself to ordering another drink, or two.
Kirstin had been dancing with Eva. Eva was a good dancer. In fact, Eva was a great dancer. She had met Eva in the toilet a few hours ago when Eva had started chatting to her. Eva had then proceeded to drag Kirstin off to the dance floor. Eva had a wandering eye, and wandering hands. Kirstin was a little bit drunk, which wasn’t helped by the shots Eva kept buying her. Kirstin was sick of everyone else having all the fun, so she kept drinking, and smiling, and smoking Eva’s cigarettes. Eva told Kirstin she was hot. Kirstin thanked her. Kirstin thought Eva was sexy. She told her so. Eva pulled Kirstin closer and kissed her. They had been kissing now for approximately twelve and a half minutes non-stop. Meg had been counting. That was more than she could handle.
Meg strode right up to the entwined couple and waited. She took a few long breaths to calm herself and waited for them to notice her presence. This took rather longer than she had hoped.
Finally the pair came up for air. It still took a couple of seconds for them to realise someone was standing so close, so ominously.
Kirstin sensed someone to her left and turned in question.
“Oh, hi!” she said nonchalantly, drunkenly recognising Meg.
Well here goes…
Meg was less than impressed.
“Finally,” she said in a deep, but dry tone.
Eva was still hanging around Kirstin’s shoulders. Meg shot her a disgusted look.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Meg said.
Kirstin thought she was talking to her.
“Um, I wudda thought that was fairly obvious,” she said sarcastically, a little non-plussed.
Eva was also a little confused.
“Do you two know each other?” she asked looking from one to the other.
Meg nodded slowly and purposefully.
“Maybe I should go?” Eva said to Kirstin.
Meg and Kirstin both answered her simultaneously.
“Yes,” said Meg sternly.
“Noooo…” said Kirstin drunkenly.
Kirstin darted a glare directly at Meg who merely shrugged indicating that she wasn’t going anywhere.
Eva realised she had picked the wrong girl, or the wrong night, and either way she began extracting herself from Kirstin who was less than willing.
“Ok. Look,” she said, “I’m going to get a beer,” she pointed to the bar, “so you guys do, whatever, you know,” she gestured into the air, “and I’ll be around if you want me, okay?”
And with that she back-tracked towards the bar leaving Kirstin looking pretty angry with Meg.
Meg watched Eva walk away and when she was satisfied that she had gone she turned back the Kirstin.
“So?” she said sharply.
Kirstin was shocked.
She repeated her initial question. “Why were you doing that?!” Meg knew she was being unreasonable but she couldn’t help it.
“Because I wanted to!” Kirstin half shouted back at her.
“You wanted to?” Meg mocked her.
Kirstin was aggrieved.
“Oh please! Are you telling me that you didn’t think she was hot?”
Meg had to laugh at the irony.
“That’s not the point…” she said quietly, shaking her head, trying to work out what she was trying to say and suddenly failing miserably.
Unfortunately that fuelled Kirstin further.
“Really? Strange, I rather thought it was the point. Entirely the point in fact! So what IS the point then Meg?”
Meg didn’t respond. She couldn’t. She suddenly realised that she was probably directing her anger at the wrong person altogether. If indeed anger was the right word for it.
“Because I’ve quite obviously missed it? The point that is?”
Meg just stood there looking at her like a frustrated school kid.
“Oh wait… I think I get it. The point is that I was kissing a GIRL right? And, wait, how would you put it? Kissing girls is ‘your job’. Shit. I’m sorry, I forgot you like to have a monopoly on that particular activity…”
But that was a step too far, Meg thought that was unfair.
“That’s not fucking true!” she shouted.
“Oh no?” Kirstin asked. “Then what the fuck is your problem?! It’s okay for you but it’s not for me?!”
“Fuck this!” Meg had no idea what she was doing. She turned and pushed past people as she headed for the door.
“No fuck you!” Kirstin shouted after her.
“Whatever,” Meg muttered throwing her hands in the air as she made her way out.
Kirstin stood for a second watching her go.
“SHIT!” she hissed to herself. “Shhhiiit…”
Jess, who had been quietly watching, noted their discussion hadn’t ended very well and moved over to Kirstin.
“Is she okay?” she asked Kirstin.
Kirstin was dumb-founded, shouldn’t Jess be asking if SHE was okay?
“What?! No! She ISN’T! She’s well out of line. What IS her fucking problem?”
Jess twisted her mouth awkwardly.
“She didn’t tell you?” she winced.
Kirstin turned to look a Jess.
“Tell me what?” she asked confused.
Jess realised that even though it was none of her business she really had better explain a few things, for Meg’s sake if nothing else.
“Ah. Okay.” She took a breath. “Well, seeing you kiss a girl was a bit of a shock for us all,” she remarked honestly, “I mean it’s cool…” she assured her, “however, thing is you managed to choose Meg’s ex-girlfriend to get jiggy with…”
Kirstin was stunned. It took her a second to put the situation together in her rapidly sobering head.
Jess helped her out.
“Yup. I’m afraid so.”
“Oh fuck,” Kirstin said plainly feeling a little sick at the thought. “That’s not good,” she shook her head, “Fuck!”
Kirstin half started after Meg but stopped herself, unsure.
“Should I?” she asked Jess gesturing after Meg.
Jess held her hands up.
“Oh, hey, I’m sure she’ll be fine, but I don’t really wanna get involved. I just thought you should know. Meg doesn’t usually behave like that.”
“No, right. Sure.”
Kirstin suddenly felt very stupid, and a little angry with herself. What was she trying to prove anyway? Sure Eva was cute but she hadn’t any intention of going home with her. Not even for a second. And now she felt very selfish indeed to be so flippant about wanting to have fun since it had apparently been at huge emotional cost to Meg. What had seemed like a great coming out plan earlier now felt like a stupid childish thing to do. Should she go after her?
“Look, will you tell Eva I’m sorry, but I have to go?” she asked Jess.
Jess smiled slightly to herself. “It’ll be my pleasure, trust me.”
“When you see a person pandering to another’s will, remember; it is to satisfy themselves, no matter how selfless it may appear. Spare as much anger for the supplier, as for the demand itself.”
Meg’s head was spinning. A few girls were hanging outside the club as she left. They were all fairly young looking and Meg imagined they hadn’t been allowed into the club. They started whispering her name, apparently having recognised her.
Oh not now, please, Meg thought to herself. This is NOT the time.
At least since she was on home-territory and had an idea of where escape to. Quickly turning on her heels she headed down a side street and retreated with speed downtown to the Lower Eastside, hoping they wouldn’t follow.
Meantime Kirstin had grabbed her jacket from the coat check and headed out of the busy club. The cool air hit her quickly and she felt a little heady. Standing on the sidewalk she looked from right to left to see if she could see a Meg lurking anyway nearby. No such luck. She reasoned it wasn’t very clever to wandering the streets of a city she didn’t know too well, when she was very slightly drunk, looking for someone who was probably blocks away by now, and running.
She also had no idea how to get back to the hotel from here. If this were a movie Meg would be standing just around the corner, sulking.
But no, no such luck, she thought. Hollywood rules ought to apply, dammnit!
Getting a cab seemed to be less of a mission at this point. The streets were void of Meg. If there was no Meg to track down then she may as well go back and wait for her at the hotel. Kirstin held her hand up to the first available cab. It stopped immediately.
Well, at least THAT would happen in a movie, she laughed to herself.
As she opened the cab door she heard Suze’s voice shouting through the doorway of the club.
“Hang on a moment,” Kirstin half slurred to the driver.
Suze skipped over to the cab.
“Are you leaving?”
“Yep! You coming?”
Suze was flustered.
“Um, yeh, yeh,” she said, hanging back a bit wondering if she should go and get Josh.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!” badgered Kirstin, waving at her, “I’m in rush!”
Suze was confused but allowed herself to be pulled into the cab.
Kirstin told the driver where to go.
“Hey, where’s your coat?” she asked Suze.
Suze arched an eyebrow as she dialled Josh’s phone number.
“Yeh, I’m in a cab with Kirstin, we’re headed back to the hotel.” There was a short pause. “If you wouldn’t mind yes please… thanks, see you in a bit, or - whenever… bye.” She closed her mobile and turned to Kirstin who had just been musing about the fact that in movies people rarely said goodbye on the phone.
Why is that? Weird. It only takes like a second, and even if they are paying like a thousand dollars a second, they still leave that second in the cut, they just don’t let the actor say ‘bye’. It’s stupid. Who are these impolite people that hang up that way? Unless of course you’re slamming the phone down… that’s justi…
“So what happened?”
Kirstin turned to her, suddenly remembering she was in a cab.
“One minute you’d bagged yourself a hot chick, and next second you’re running out of the door?! Alone I might add.”
Kirstin hiccupped softly.
“It’s complicated,” she answered. Suze just looked at her waiting for her to explain. “Okay,” Kirstin said, “it’s not that complicated.” She took a deep breath befor divulging her faux pas. “Apparently that ‘hot chick’ was Meg’s ex…”
“Oooh, nasty. Bad luck babe.”
“Yeh, I know. Jess just told me now. Meg left. I feel bad. I tried to catch up with her but, well I’m drunk and incapable, so I figured I’d wait for her to get back to the hotel and then I’d apologise profusely.”
“Well that sounds like a drunken plan indeed. Though, you know, maybe you should just let her sleep on it and see how it is in the morning.”
Kirstin regarded her very seriously.
“That sounds like something I should do…” the burst of fresh air had reminded her head of the evenings liquor consumption.
“Especially since she’s not staying at our hotel, remember?”
“Oh, fuck-a-duck. Ha!”
Kirstin shook her head silently and then heaved a huge sigh.
Suze patted her leg and smiled.
“Don’t worry honey, it’s not your fault, you didn’t do it intentionally, she’ll see that.”
Didn’t I? Wondered Kirstin.
Home, sweet home?
Meg paced a few blocks or so trying to clear her head a little. It was odd being home. She was glad of it, and yet it was so fleeting it was almost unnecessary. It was a fairly long walk home and she had decided to use the time to scold herself for wearing her heart on her sleeve.
It had been a while since she had seen Eva, and it grated on her that she still seemed capable of affecting her like this. It angered her even more that she had somehow managed to muscle in on a part of her life that she had never come in contact with before. It was like she had oozed all over her new set of friends and stained them.
“She’s a fucking bitch babe!”
Jess had made her way to Meg’s house in the hope that Meg would have had kicked off some steam somewhere and done the same. She was glad to see she had been right.
Meg had thought better of wondering the streets for too long and settled for sitting on her porch with a bottle of Amaretto. It was now only a quarter full. She was glad to see that Jess was on her own as she made her way up the driveway and onto the path up to the porch. Meg noted Jess was carrying her own bottle of choice.
“Is that a dooby I spy?” she asked Meg.
“Yep. Want some?”
“Nah,” she waved it away, “you keep sucking, you need it more than me.”
She sat down next to Meg on the neat wooden bench swing and allowed herself to be carried by its motion.
Meg was fairly stony faced. Jess was glad she’d come to find her, but stony faced was never good. It meant Meg was doing her best to hold something in.
Jess took a couple of swigs and turned to her.
“I thought maybe you’d need hug, or something?” she ventured in as brash a manner as she could muster.
Meg gulped, trying to force herself to keep it together, but it was no use, she had this burning in her stomach that the drink didn’t want to quench, it just seemed to fuel it.
That’s because it’s alcohol, you twit.
Without speaking she turned to face Jess and nodded slowly causing Jess to take the Amaretto off her, put down both bottles and envelop her in a big, warm hug.
Meg closed her eyes and breathed hard, grateful for the sudden warmth and support she felt.
“Baby it’s okay,” whispered Jess softly, stoking Meg’s hair. “We’ll get Ben to go burst her tyres or something, yeh?”
She felt Meg smile against her shoulder and stomach muscles tighten in a half laugh.
When Meg pulled back her face was red and blotchy. Jess tenderly wiped away a tear that was rapidly making it’s way down her cheek.
“Who would have known though, hey?” she said, trying to lighten the mood again.
“What?” Meg asked shakily.
Meg’s stomach reeled again. It took a moment for her to understand that it was actually trying to regurgitate the entire evening.
The look in her eyes gave it away.
“Oh god, lets get you inside,” Jess frowned, lifting her up by an arm.
The dining car was practically empty. Meg supposed that it was because it was a Sunday morning and most of the weekday regulars were sleeping in. She also noted it was raining, which probably added to the lack of custom, yet seemed to fit her mood. She was thankful for the quiet. Or at least she would have been if Jess hadn’t kept interrupting it. The windows were a little steamed, and in Meg’s head that was Jess’s fault too.
Jess and Sally had dragged her out of bed that morning to get some food into her. They told her she looked unwell. She told them she felt fine. Jess gave her an unconvinced tilt of the head and Meg had to admit to herself that she wasn’t fine and that if she stayed in her room for another minute she’d drive herself crazy with all the stupid questions she’d spent all night trying to answer.
She had barely slept. No wonder she looked ill. She reluctantly allowed herself to be dressed and dragged off round the corner to the 50’s-style dining cart that had once been their bunking-off lunchtime hangout.
The name had changed, but the food was just as good. It would have tasted better if Meg could find the stomach for it, however. And Jess and Sally would be succeeding in making her feel better too, if they’d only leave last night’s events alone.
Sally took up the topic, yet again, after sipping on her iced tea.
“I couldn’t believe it though, she seems so…”
“Straight?” Jess offered fiddling with a bright red napkin.
Sally laughed but nudged her for being rude.
“No. I mean proper. Like it was outta character or something,” she pushed another spoonful of pancake into her mouth. “She’s so focussed, y’know? On the filming? Not even Clayton Morris could put her off course…”
“And now we all know why…” Jess smirked.
Though she was being purposely included Meg was doing her best to ignore the conversation. She slowly pushed beans from one side of her plate to the other.
“I know what you’re saying though,” Jess continued, “but she’s pretty cool.” She threw a look at Meg in the hope of seeing some kind of reaction. “I bet she’s pretty feisty when it comes to it…”
Meg looked up, knowing that particular comment was for her benefit.
“Shut up Jess,” she said reproachfully.
Jess was pleased with the reaction nonetheless.
“It’s always the quiet ones…” she added quickly, not wanting to rock her friend too much. “She’s cute. I like her…” she added sharply.
It was more an advert for Meg’s benefit then anything else, a note of approval almost.
Sally seemed a little oblivious to the underlying repartee passing between Jess and Meg.
“Yeh well she got her head bitten off for letting her hair down, bet she wants to jump right back into her shell now…” she commented with vigour.
Jess hadn’t thought about that consequence.
“Yeh, thanks Meg, and after all my hard work…”
Sally was quick to correct her.
“Our hard work…”
Jess and Sally had been trying to make it their mission to get Kirstin out more on the tour.
Well I guess we did get her OUT, thought Jess with a wry grin.
Meg sat up from the slump she had allowed herself to fall into.
“Stop it guys. I know okay?” She looked specifically at Jess. “I really don’t need this right now. I…” her voice wondered off as she noticed both Meg and Jess staring over her right shoulder.
Sally smiled suddenly, “Hey Kirstin!” she exclaimed a little overenthusiastically.
Kirstin had her suspicions that she might have been the topic of debate, judging by her welcome.
“Heeey,” she answered a little less enthused.
There was an uncomfortable silence. Meg sat there with her eyes closed for a moment wishing she were elsewhere.
Jess quickly took a hold of the situation and, despite the fact she hadn’t finished her breakfast, she announced her imminent departure.
“Hey, well ah… I’ve gotta go… change my G-string, again…”
That wasn’t obvious at all, thought Meg.
And though she knew her friend was full of the best intent, she also thought she was a little misguided. She didn’t really want to have to deal with this so soon. She needed a little more time to get her head straightened out. There was no hope of that it seemed, as Sally followed Jess’s cue.
“What is it with that string?” she commented, “It’s always the G, huh?”
“I know!” Jess said genuinely, turning to Sally, “Weird isn’t it?”
“You know, um, I should probably help you do that?”
Sally nodded at Jess slowly. It was her job afterall.
“Oh yes, absolutely,” Jess agreed.
Thoroughly aware of how ill concealed their intentions were, Sally decided to make a joke of it.
“And actually,” she said putting a hand on Jess’s shoulder momentarily, “come to think of it I’ve got some nasal hair needs clipping?”
Jess exhaled a short gutteral laugh, “Oh, that’s a good one…” she commended.
“Thanks,” Sally smiled.
“But I shan’t be helping you out with that…” Jess thought she’d better clarify.
Sally nodded. “That’s okay…”
The pair of jokers gathered their stuff together and moved out from the booth they’d been occupying with Meg, Jess taking a huge slurp of coke along the way.
Kirstin had to smile. They’d made light of what was at best a tremendously awkward situation.
“You guys are getting ‘real good’ at this whole subtlety thing…” she smiled, mocking Jess’s southern lilt.
Jess looked at her kindly, “Yeh we know.”
She winked at Kirstin before continuing her path.
As Jess and Sally shut the door behind them Meg turned around finally to face Kirstin.
“I could really learn to hate those two,” she said apologetically.
“Well they certainly made their point,” Kirstin said taking a seat opposite her.
She took a deep breath in the brief pause that followed.
“Listen, Meg, I’m really sorry about last night… I had no idea.” She spoke with a genuine regret that really touched Meg.
It wasn’t quite what Meg was expecting however, and it almost caught her off-guard.
“I know, forget it, I was out of order,” Meg replied with equal candour.
Kirstin shook her head.
“No, you had every right to be angry at me.”
“No I didn’t,” she answered adamantly. “You just made an unfortunate choice is all. I spat my dummy out. I should’ve handled it better. You’ve got a right to kiss whoever the fuck you want to…”
Kirstin took on board what Meg was saying, but she didn’t entirely agree.
“Well not exactly. Anyway I was the one being childish, I thought that…” she started, but thought better of it and continued in another vein, “I really shouldn’t have shouted at you like that.”
“You thought what?” asked Meg mildly.
Kirstin was suddenly anxious through fear of endangering the apology she was trying to make.
She hesitated. Meg merely waited. Kirstin decided she ought to be a truthful as she could, she just wasn’t sure how to word it.
“Okay, it’s stupid,” she excused herself, “but, well, I thought you were angry at me because of what I was doing, not who I was doing it with.”
Meg laughed nervously at her, “Jeez Kirstin, I’m not your mother!”
“And let us thank the lord for that!” Kirstin joked.
Megs face lost its grey for a moment as she conjured up memories of Kirstin’s mother. Most of which seemed to involve her being shouted at, she quickly realised.
“Oh god, I was a horrible kid,” Meg said suddenly, breaking the tension.
Kirstin nodded at her with a wry, knowing grin.
“You want a shake?” Meg asked her. “They’re pretty good here.”
“Sure,” came the warm response.
They sat in companionable silence while Meg tried to catch the eye of the waitress. She came trotting over and they ordered their respective shakes, Meg a Vanilla Special and Kirstin a Double Choc King. As the waitress left, Kirstin looked Meg seriously in the eye.
“So, are we okay?”
“Yeh. If you can forgive me being an ass?” Meg joked.
Kirstin smiled at her reassuringly and nodded.
“Don’t I always?”
Meg kicked her under the table.
“How did you find me?”
Kirstin skirted over the area.
“Oh, well Ben and Josh hang out a bit, he gave me some likely leads…”
Meg seemed to accept that. The truth was he’d also given her Jess’s number and when Kirstin was at loss Jess had responded to her query with an exact address and time. So much for not wanting to get involved, she had thought gratefully.
Another short silence followed, interrupted only by the arrival of their shakes. As they accepted them, indicated who’s was who’s Kirstin took a moment to appreciated the wonderful retro fine-cut coloured glasses they had come in. Then her mind trailed back to the reason she had come.
“Are you okay?” Kirstin asked her pulling a couple of straws from the container beside her and handing one to Meg.
Meg took a moment to consider the question as she stripped the straw of its striped paper covering.
“I don’t know, in all honesty.”
Kirstin saw a vulnerability peeking through from behind the thick mess of black hair.
“It bothered me more than I thought it would,” Meg admitted despite herself.
Kirstin was a little bemused by the comment but let it go.
“Well if it’s any consolation I told her where to go,” she said before taking a huge slurp of chocolate goo.
It wasn’t exactly the truth, but she would have done if she hadn’t been so busy looking for Meg. She could tell Meg was finding it hard to talk to her about it.
Meg laughed lightly.
“She didn’t know either. And I can hardly blame her for trying.”
Meg looked up briefly to look at Kirstin, but quickly found she couldn’t hold her eye contact and went back to studying her glass.
Kirstin was even more confused, “Didn’t know what?” she asked.
Meg’s heart lurched. The anxiety and pain that had manifested over the last twelve hours suddenly began to make sense. She had to think quickly.
“Sh- she didn’t know I was there,” Meg stuttered, congratulating herself on what was undoubtedly an unbelievable recovery.
Kirstin was surprised. She had assumed Eva must’ve been at the gig.
Meg could see Kirstin thinking about it and decided not to give her too much opportunity.
“But I’m still glad you told her where to go!” she smiled eagerly.
Her tactic worked it seemed as Kirstin picked up the cue.
“Yeh, well, you know, I mean I was flattered, and she was cute, but she wasn’t really my type,” breathed Kirstin casually.
And what is your type Kirstin? Meg found herself thinking, as if she were in some trashy novel.
Still involved in that thought she lingered loosely on the topic.
“The guys were all pretty shocked to find out you were into girls,” she said.
Kirstin shook her head mockingly.
“You mean the ‘guys’ or the guys?” Meg smiled somehow knowing it was a rhetorical question. “Well no-one ever asked. It isn’t exactly a secret. I just don’t flaunt it.”
“Ouch. Was that a dig?”
Kirstin was mortified at the thought.
“NO! Noooo. Not at you anyways! I don’t think you flaunt it at all.”
Meg wasn’t completely appeased however.
“But I don’t exactly push the girls away, huh?” she suggested.
Though Kirstin wanted to deny that was what she thought, she couldn’t. In truth it was part of the reason she had gotten drunk and ended up with Eva in the first place.
“Well, no,” she answered grudgingly. “Not from what I’ve noticed. But you do get a lot of attention Meg, unsurprisingly, and that’s gotta be hard to fight!” she added hurriedly.
Meg could tell she was trying to save them from an otherwise bumpy track. She sighed heavily and bit her lip, her silvery blue eyes stinging slightly at the truth of it.
“I’m not proud,” she admitted softly.
Kirstin found herself staring uncontrollably at the raw beauty staring back at her. She hadn’t really looked at Meg properly without the aid of a lens recently. She had certainly never studied that face before for such a long and uninterrupted length of time. For once the ever-active eyes were still, fixed, concentrated, full of meaning, full of pain.
Kirstin began to feel faint and she realised she’d been holding her breath. She gasped quickly. She wanted to do something. She wanted to say something that would have the power to take that look away.
“But you have so much to be proud of,” she whispered across the table in earnest.
Meg held her gaze for a little while longer. She wanted to reach out across the table. She wanted to speak, but the lump in her throat prevented her.
It seemed to Kirstin that she hadn’t succeeded in her objective as Meg screwed up her face frowning and rubbed at her eyes.
“I’m still not half the person I ought to be Kirstin,” she said calmly, having managed to regain some composure.
Kirstin didn’t know what to say, she shook her head gently, at a loss.
“Don’t worry, I’m not looking for your help,” Meg said in answer to Kirstin’s non-verbalised question, “I’m just trying to explain.”
“Well I think you’re wrong,” replied Kirstin, “I think your twice the person you want to be, and that’s why you have such a hard time handling it.”
Meg shook her head in pure admiration.
“Where do you come up with all this crap?” she laughed.
“Well, I read a lot of really bad magazine’s while trying to avoid getting on airplanes,” she replied.
“Ah ha…” Meg mentally thanked Kirstin for realising she hadn’t meant to expose herself quite so much.
Kirstin thought this was probably a good time to excuse herself. She felt that Meg probably needed time alone to get out of whatever head space she had just entered, and in all honesty she realised she needed to do something similar.
She looked at her watch to spur an excuse, “Shit. Look, I need to prep for this afternoon’s flight. Are you headed back now, or…?”
“No, no, you go ahead I’m fine. We’re all packed,” answered Meg, subtly letting her know she appreciated what she was doing.
“Okay.” Kirstin smiled as she stood up, relieved. “Will you be around to hold my hand later?” she asked sweetly.
“Sure. Of course,” Meg told her. “I’ll see you there.”
And with a brief nod of understanding passing between them Kirstin left throwing some bills down on the table.
Meg shook her head in amusement listening to the sound of traffic that momentarily filtered through the opened door just before it swung shut with a clunk.
She put her head in her hands.
She shook her head trying to rid herself of the stupid notion that had consumed her in the last ten minutes.
I have crush on Kirstin.
I have a frikkin’ crush on goofy!
She tried to mock herself, but the reality was, she soon realised, it wasn’t all that funny. It was totally understandable. She was cute and funny, and candid and clever and hot, she’s hot, did I mention that?
“Great,” she murmured from beneath her hands. “Just fucking g-reat.”
“Are you okau sweetie,” came a voice to her left.
The waitress was crouching next to her looking concerned.
Meg peeked up, now thoroughly embarrassed as well. She sighed.
“No. No I’m not,” she frowned “But thanks anyway.”
She was oddly touched by what was essentially a stranger’s kindness.
“How bout coffee on the house?” the waitress smiled, “and an impartial ear to bend?”
Before Meg could respond she sat down with a big pot of steaming coffee and poured herself and Meg some.
“She’s cute,” the girl commented, clearly referring to Kirstin.
Meg was shocked. Was she that obvious?
“You noticed, huh?” She noted the girl’s name was Lola. Lola looked like she was in her early twenties, but Meg was always bad at guessing people’s age.
“Yeh,” she said sympathetically. “I wasn’t prying, but the place is dead today, you guy’s were just about my only entertainment!” she confessed.
Meg smiled, a little amused and a little sorry for herself.
“I wasn’t listening to you,” she added quickly, “I’m majoring in psychology, I was checking out the body language…”
“Oh, great, a psych student, just what I need!” Meg laughed good-naturedly.
“Yeh, I get that a lot,” she nodded.
“So, Lola… is that your real name?” Meg asked.
The girl laughed at her, a soft, open laugh.
“No,” she answered. “And thank you for being the first person to consider it might not be!”
“It’s trashy!” Meg laughed with her, “It doesn’t suit you at all.”
“It’s my work name, comes with the job and a reputation I can’t and don’t want to live up to,” she yawned.
“But I just assumed Lola’s was the name of the diner, and so maybe the owner?” Meg supposed suggestively.
“Oh yeh, it is. And every other girl who works here… it’s a plural thing though, not a owner thing.”
“I see. Nice.”
“Hm. Yeh. Thanks.”
“So what’s your real name, Lola?”
“Billie,” she said plainly. “And ‘Billie’s’ wouldn’t quite cut it.”
Meg mentally slapped herself for being presumptuous.
“Well, this place used to be ‘Betty’s’… But you’re right, I guess ‘Billie’s’ doesn’t quite carry the same connotations…” she had to laugh. Billie grinned, clearly un-offended, “So, Billie, what did you conclude from your secret study just now?” Meg asked, adding spoon after spoon of sugar to her coffee.
“Whoa lady, you want some coffee with your sugar?!” she joked.
Meg frowned, “Coffee sucks without sugar, I’m bitter enough.”
“Okay, fine, look, you can drink coffee like that anywhere else, but in my diner, the coffee’s good, so humour me, alright?”
She put her hand on Meg’s to cease the sugar mountain, pulled the cup away from her and grabbed another cup to pour her some afresh. Meg watched as she added one small spoon of sugar and stirred it.
“That’s not enough,” she shook her head.
Billie pushed it over to her, “Just try it, ok?” she asked sternly. Meg narrowed her eyes. “Are you always this stubborn?” she asked Meg.
“Maybe…” she drawled at her, reluctantly taking the cup and even more reluctantly tasting it and admitting it was actually quite nice and probably sweet enough.
“So,” Meg got back on track after briefly nodding her approval, “what were your conclusions?”
Billie settled back again, her mission accomplished.
“Oh. Well,” she said, “I think she likes you too.”
In a strange way that was both what Meg wanted to hear, and what she had most feared. No matter whether that were true or not, or indeed if it were, how true it was, Meg was certain that this stupid notion was one that she was going to have to banish. Being attracted to Kirstin was one thing. Attempting to act on it was quite another. At least now she could concede that her reaction last night was born from a jealousy that Eva has kissed Kirstin, rather than the other way around. That was something wasn’t it? At least it told her she was over Eva, even it if did throw up a whole load of other questions in the process.
Continued in Part 7
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