Disclaimers: None. All of the characters are mine.
Warning: This story involves romance between women. For those of you not offended by lesbian love, happy reading!
Dedication: This story is dedicated to everyone who has fought for marriage equality – by marching in a parade, by writing a letter to a congressperson, by having a conversation at a dinner table.
Copyright Blythe Rippon, June 2013. All rights reserved . This story, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any format without the prior express permission of the author. This story is a work of fiction, and is not intended to represent any particular individual, alive or dead.
Barring Complications will be posted in five parts. Feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com .
– PART V –
The following Monday morning, Victoria's voice rang out strong and clear in the Supreme Court. She felt the weight of her words as she said them. “Equal citizens deserve equal treatment under the law. The federal government has no rational basis on which to deny marriage rights to this historically marginalized class of citizens.”
She adjusted her glasses and glanced up at the courtroom, filled with the lawyers who argued before her and the eight other Justices six months earlier, the two gay couples who initiated the case, and the spectators lucky enough to secure a seat in the gallery.
“While it is true that the appellants have failed to make their case for continued marriage discrimination on the most basic level of judicial review, this Court recognizes the mistreatment of this class of citizens under the law on many fronts, not limited to marriage. This Court itself has in its history issued decisions based on fear, which have separated a minority class of people and denied them equal protection. In order to prevent the Court, and other legal bodies, from sliding backwards on this issue, this Court herby establishes gays and lesbians as a suspect class, requiring a heightened level of judicial scrutiny.
“This majority of this court would like to take a moment to address the question, belabored by appellants in both their briefs and oral arguments, of procreation as it relates to marriage. Short of creating an Orwellian scenario whereby the government interferes with the reproductive postures of all couples, requiring them to at a minimum sign papers at marriage ceremonies pledging to procreate, and perhaps even going so far as to invite elected officials and their surrogates into doctors' offices during fertility-related appointments, the majority finds no rational reason to agree that marriage's primary function is reproduction.
“Instead, we state affirmatively, drawing from precedent in the Loving case, that marriage is a rational choice between two consenting adults, and that the government's interest in these unions can be found in the most basic and fundamental of our legal documents, the Preamble of the Constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“We invite our gay and lesbian citizens who have found that happiness in a life partner to participate fully in the institution whose sole function is a word our legal system tends to shy away from: love.”
She removed her glasses and heard Kellen clear his throat. Although she knew it wasn't personal, his vote in this case felt like a huge victory for her. His melodic baritone continued where she had left off.
“Additionally, the federal government's overreach in DOMA marks an unconstitutional infringement on states' rights. The question of governmental recognition of marriage has in this country been the purview of the states. If a state in this union chooses to recognize a marriage -- any marriage -- the federal government has historically also acknowledged that marriage, with all attendant benefits, tax effects, and symbolic acceptance. We find no rational reason why DOMA should have changed this precedent.”
Victoria watched the four plaintiffs while Kellen read. The two women were holding hands, one's head resting on the other's shoulder, relief on their faces. The men were staring into each other's eyes, wet with tears, as though they were saying their vows right there.
Victoria had set up her DVR to record some coverage of the crowd gathered outside the courthouse. She wanted to watch and, just maybe, rewatch a few hundred times, as people -- gay, lesbian, and ally -- rejoiced.
She had put off her own celebration thus far. Some part of her honestly thought that Jamison and O'Neil would change their minds at the last minute.
And now, although there were no cameras and only a few dozen people allowed in the courtroom, she allowed herself only the faintest of smiles. Michelle Lin and Alistair Douglas were both beaming. Matthew Smith was sulking.
She refocused on Kellen's voice. He was to read only a brief portion of the decision. As a show of support for a community so maligned, every Justice in the majority had made the unusual request to read a portion of their opinion aloud from the bench. Jamison took over.
“The government has a historic interest in protecting the autonomy and dignity of its people. When this country undid the horrific and immoral institution of slavery, one of the rights newly recognized for black Americans was marriage. Part of becoming a full citizen, part of having the government publicly acknowledge the full dignity of its people, is the right to marry the person you love. The Court moved in its Loving decision that the ability to decide whom to love was a fundamental right that could not be restricted by the race of the two individuals. The Court moves here that this right shall not be restricted by the gender of the two people.”
Victoria wished with all her heart that Jamison would say next, “we therefore require every state in the union to issue marriage licenses to all couples, gay or straight.” But despite her best efforts, those words appeared nowhere in the majority opinion.
Victoria's eyes drifted back to the plaintiff's table, and she stole a glance at Genevieve. Other than a slight crinkle at the very edges of her eyes, it was impossible to tell she was happy. Tori thought they both should have considered acting in the Harvard Law School Parody all those years ago, considering how stoic they both appeared now. Genevieve glanced her way and they watched each other as the reading from the bench continued.
Jamison passed the talking stick to Douglas. Everyone in the courtroom could hear the smile in his voice as he read, and Tori felt a surge if affection for the old jurist who had mentored her.
“In most religions, marriage is a sacrament. Recognizing the separation of church and state, the majority nonetheless finds something sacred in the institution of marriage, and we name it love. The choice to publicly bind oneself to another, to seek the support of the community and the state, is an act of profound freedom. This court contends that the freedom to make this choice is fundamental to the fabric of our society. We hereby overturn Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and require the United States government to extend this freedom to all pairs of consenting adults, regardless of gender.”
There was a pause, a stillness in the room that made Tori wonder for just a moment if she had dreamed the whole thing. It was like the end of a deeply moving play; the audience needed a moment to appreciate the gravity of the words just proclaimed from the federal bench.
And then the room burst into applause. Tori joined in without thinking. She quickly stilled her hands, until she noticed all majority Justices clapping as well.
And for the first time in the history of the esteemed Supreme Court, two gay couples kissed in the chamber.
* * *
Alone in her office later that day, Victoria was organizing her desk. During the last push to get decisions completed, drafts and binders had piled up. She slept little, and she was getting too old for insomnia. What rest she got was fitful, interrupted by dreams of snakes in the courtroom, or her chambers flooding awhile she struggled against the undertow to grab the final draft of the marriage decision before it was devoured by a shark.
She was sorting papers into piles to he shredded or filed when Alistair entered, holding something behind his back.
“Close your eyes and hold out your hand.”
“Really? Are we twelve? The last time I did this my brother put peeled grapes in my hand. It was disgusting.”
“This is a significantly more mature surprise, my dear. Just pretend you trust me.”
Victoria complied, bracing for the worst. Her fingers close around something long and thin and cold. And top heavy. She was about to ask if this gift was appropriate for the workplace when she heard the unmistakable pop of a champagne cork and the glass in her hand was filled.
“I told you this was a surprise for grown-ups!”
“Much better than peeled grapes,” Tori agreed.
Alistair reached into the bag he was carrying and extracted a Saran-wrapped plate of chocolate-covered strawberries. “Go big or go home, my daughter always says.”
“Can I go big AND go home?” Tori asked.
“Sweetheart, in three days we'll be on recess. You can go wherever your pretty heart desires.”
“Well, we pretty much did it. We got most of the way there.”
“Can't focus on what we weren't able to accomplish, Victoria. You'll drive yourself crazy. So,” he raised his glass, “to Justice Victoria Jane Willoughby, author of a 6-3 decision overturning DOMA!” They clinked glasses.
“To all the couples already married, who now have federal recognition and rights!” Tori said and they drank again.
“To the adorable plaintiffs in this case, and their cute little hand-holding in the courtroom!” Alistair offered. More toasting and drinking.
“To Jamison and O'Neil, being on the right side of history!” At this rate, Tori thought, she would need a refill soon.
“To Genevieve Fornier, with those legs and those eyes and those arguments about states' rights, bringing O'Neil on board.”
Tori coughed as champagne slid down the wrong pipe. Her eyes watering, she raised her glass and repeated, “to Genevieve Fornier!”
She coughed again and he led them to her armchairs. “You think she's cute, don't you?” He winked at her.
“A blind man would think she's cute Alistair. I bet Jamison thinks she's cute, and I'm not entirely sure he isn't carved from wood.”
“Oh, to be young and infatuated with beauty,” Alistair said.
“Oh, to be old and happily in love with your wife.”
“And now, Victoria, you can be.”
“I'll suppose so.”
“What are your plans for the recess?”
“I'm giving a couple of talks, both here and in England. I'd like to finish the book before next session. And my father wants me to join him in Spain on the El Camino. He's got it in his head to walk the whole thing. I might spend a week or so with him.”
“Walking the El Camino, huh? There's something I've never wanted to do. I prefer a nice cocktail, a good book, and a bed at night.”
“I think there are beds, of a sort, along the way. Truth be told, walking the El Camino's not really my thing either. It's way more up Genevieve's alley.”
She froze. She certainly hadn't meant to reveal her personal knowledge of Genevieve's taste in outdoor activities. Equally as disturbing, she was surprised her mind even went there, even thought about Genevieve in this context. It was talking about her father. She had always thought the two of them would be thick as thieves if they ever met.
“Mm hm.” Alistair said, knowingly. He patted his knees with his hands and stood. “I'll be going now.”
Victoria was about to protest. She opened her mouth to explain. But she didn't have to explain. It suddenly occurred to her that she had done nothing improper, and that maybe she could speak freely. To Alistair, at the very least.
“Sit back down, old man. What are your plans for the recess?”
Alistair tilted his head and studied her for a moment before sitting. “Okay. I'll play ball. The wife and I are taking the summer off. We haven't done that in ages, but we're getting older and she wants to travel. She's been planning a South American tour. I lost the energy to even keep track of which countries and which hotels. She's very good at this -- thinks of everything. I think the kids are going to join us in Peru.”
“Sounds positively lovely, Alistair. Relaxing and refreshing.”
“Frankly, I'd be fine staying at home all summer, just the two of us. Watching movies and gardening and going for evening strolls. That's marriage for ya.”
“So I've heard.”
“Well. Are we really talking? About personal things? Can I ask -- do you even want to get married?”
“Alistair, I've been single forever. I'm a person of habit. It would probably take a force of nature to actually get me down the aisle.”
“That's funny -- did you know that Salon just did a profile of Genevieve Fornier, calling her a force of nature?”
Tori could feel her cheeks grow red, but she held his curious gaze. “Did you know she and I went to law school together?”
“Well now, I suppose if I had done the math, I could have put two and two together.”
“We haven't spoken since then.”
“I see. And why is that?”
“She came out. And I chose my career.”
Alistair nodded. “I'm grateful I was never faced with that choice.”
“It would appear it was a false choice. Look at her now.”
“Indeed. When she's in the room, it's hard not to look at her.”
Victoria laughed. It came from her stomach and vibrated through her throat and it felt so good she did it again. “I can't argue with that.”
“So, what's next for you? Will there be some big interview on Katie Couric where you bear your soul to the world?”
“That's hardly my style. I'm not sure what's next, really. Maybe I'll stop being so reclusive.”
“And running to England every chance you get?”
“Well, if you decide to write a tell-all book, I'd better feature prominently. You are welcome to describe me as affable, handsome, and utterly brilliant.”
“Of course – and I'll be sure to describe your prowess with mixed drinks. I'm sure that's why people would want to read my book -- to learn all about Alistair Douglas and his strawberry mojitos.”
“You could write the history of your love life.”
“We're talking about a book here, not a short story. I think I'll just stop hiding who I am. I'm not going to come out -- I simply want to BE out.”
“Good luck with that. And the next time you give an interview and someone asks you if you're gay...?”
“I guess I'll say yes.”
Alistair smiled at her and took her hand. “You're something else, Victoria. Good for you, kiddo.”
She exhaled, feeling as though she were breathing out her fears.
Alistair stood again. “I'll say goodbye for real this time. You should give that Genevieve Fornier a call. I bet she could show you a good time. And I, well, I'm going to go home and celebrate my now non-procreative union!”
“Oh for crying out loud, Alistair, I didn't need that visual.”
“Psst, Victoria, I have a secret for you.” He leaned in and whispered, “I sleep with my wife.”
Tori giggled like a little schoolgirl, and then burst out laughing, at herself, and Alistair, and the whole world. She hadn't laughed in so long, and now she couldn't seem to stop.
Alistair kissed her on the cheek and moved toward the door.
“Can't wait to hear your report at the end of the summer about who you've slept with!”
He said the last four words with the door open, and from her arm chair, Tori could see her secretary's head whip around, eyes wide. Alistair pointed at him and said, “gotcha!”
“Please ignore Alistair,” Tori said to her secretary. “They've been messing with his medication and he's unbalanced.”
“Give my love to England when you go!” Alistair called over his shoulder as he shut the door.
Tori finished the last sip of her champagne and poured herself another glass from the bottle Alistair had thoughtfully left for her. She turned on the flatscreen TV mounted on the wall in between her bookcases and leaned back to watch the coverage. She thought about calling Wallace to join her, but decided she wanted this moment to herself. She would send him flowers and a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant to show her appreciation for all the work he had done on the case.
Her DVR at home was set to NBC and CNN, so she started with MSNBC. The first face she saw was, naturally, Rachel Maddow. Maddow was telling a story from her days as one of only two openly gay students at Stanford. “So, I'm surrounded by these other activists who are all protesting a conference at the Hoover Institute. It was a pretty lame protest, and the signs we held were terrible. But just as these men in their business suits exit Hoover Tower, I had this moment of brilliance. I don't usually brag about myself, but this moment was uniquely great. I grabbed a sign and turned it over and wrote, ‘thank you for wearing a tie in support of gay rights.' And those guys were falling over themselves to get their ties off! We've come a long way America.”
The screen changed from a close up on Maddow to the crowd dancing outside the Supreme Court. Tori leaned back and savored the moment.
After the decision had been read, and they had left the Courtroom, Genevieve invited Nic and her NCLR staff, Jamie and his HRC people, and all the employees at HER to a monster celebration. Her office rented out the back half of some hot new restaurant she'd never heard of (apparently she “really needed to get to know her new city,” according to her secretary). On her way to the restaurant, Genevieve called Bethany to invite her along. After she'd relayed the address, Bethany excitedly asked if Jamie was going to be there and Genevieve hung up.
They ate and drank and moved around tables to create a dance floor. Nic and Jamie had even danced in relative proximity to each other without trading insults, which Geneveive considered the second-most monumental victory of the week. A few weeks earlier, NCLR had turned out in droves for the Race for Equality. At the finish line, Jamie had personally thanked Nicolette Ford in his speech, and he invited her to introduce the headliners: their four clients in the gay marriage case. He and Nic had shaken hands, and they seemed to have found a way past their differences.
Two hours into the celebration, Genevieve was at the bar, nursing her second martini when Bethany approached her. “Get on your dancing shoes, G-spot -- let's boogie!”
“Hey, Shorty, I think it's more like, ‘take off your heels and let's boogie!'“
“No, I like my dancing partner to be much, much taller than me. And since Jamie Chance is actually pretty short, you'll have to do. Put your drink down, you tall drink of water you, and sweep me off my feet!”
Genevieve took her hand and led them through the crowd to the dance floor. As Shakira's “Hips Don't Lie” blasted from the speakers, Genevieve startled Bethany by twirling her quickly, then pulling her close so the length of their bodies were touching. “Can you follow, Bethie?” she teased, using her most sultry voice. She started salsa steps while keeping a strong hand on Bethany's lower back, holding her close.
Bethany looked at her with surprise, but managed to follow well enough. Their hips gyrated together to the Shakira's rhythm. Bethany's dancing improved even more when Genevieve slid two fingers underneath her chin and said, “look at me, Baby.” Their eyes locked, and for a moment their bodies moved in complete unison.
Then, Bethany burst out laughing. “I think the temperature of every woman in the room just rose. Even I'm feeling hot! Jesus, Genevieve, no wonder you were able to seduce Victoria Willoughby!”
Genevieve's blinked. She stared at Bethany, wondering if she had heard right.
“G-String, Sweetie, you've stopped dancing.”
Move, she told her feet, and after a moment they complied. She tried to regain the grace she had when they started. “You knew?”
“Well of course I did. I lived with you, for Pete's sake. Did you think I was an idiot?”
“I thought we were discreet.”
“Not from where I slept. Anyway, I figured if you wanted to talk about it, you knew where I lived.”
The song faded and the strains of Madonna's “Vogue” filled the room.
“Can we return to my drink now?” Genevieve asked. “I desperately need it.” Bethany nodded her agreement.
They settled in at the bar, Genevieve relieved to have her martini back in her hand, half of it already on its way to her stomach.
“So?” Bethany asked.
“So, do you want to talk about it?”
Genevieve debated. Years of not talking about it had turned secrecy into a habit she wasn't sure she could break.
“Yes, actually, let's talk about it.” Before she could begin, however, Nic Ford appeared at her side.
“Congratulations, again, Genevieve.”
“And to you, too, Nic. We couldn't have done it without you.”
“Well, I'm not sure about that. But thanks for saying it nonetheless.”
Before Genevieve could get out an introduction between Nic and Bethany, Nic had cleared her throat twice and blurted out, “Genevieve, do you want to dance?”
She caught the smirk on Bethany's lips and knew she'd get a lecture later about bringing it on herself with her salsa dancing display.
“Sure, Nic, let's dance.”
The speakers were pumping out “Single Ladies,” and Genevieve was surprised to find that Nic was a good dancer. She expressed a creativity and an ease with her body that was masked by her usual stoic demeanor and butch gait. They made each other laugh with antics and melodrama and, for one verse, a hilarious literal enactment of the lyrics. By the end, Jamie had joined them and the entire room was trying to recreate the moves from the video. Building on that momentum, Genevieve's secretary, who had taken on the role of DJ, spun up “Cupid Shuffle” next, and everyone not already dancing joined those on the parquet floor for a big group dance. It felt like the best wedding receptions Genevieve had ever been to, which, she supposed, was appropriate given the occasion.
Two hours alter, the party had wound down, and Bethany and Jamie were the only ones left. Genevieve was almost as physically exhausted as she was emotionally. They were loitering by the bar when the waiter approached them with the inevitable black leather envelope.
“I'll get this, Genevieve,” Jamie offered.
“Why, because HRC has more money? I think we drank more.”
“Why don't you just send the tab to Nic?” Bethany suggested. Her drawl slowed down more than usual. “She doesn't seem to appreciate you.”
Jamie looked startled. “Um. What?”
Genevieve cut in. “So, Jamie, big plans to get married now? Gay married?”
“Well, we live in Virginia. It's still not legal there.”
Genevieve shrugged a little. “We tried. Sorry we didn't win the jackpot.”
“What will HRC do next, Jamie?” Bethany asked. She moved closer to him and Genevieve had to choke back a laugh when he stepped away, looking concerned.
“Um. We'll continue our state by state strategy.”
Bethany slid next to him again. He watched her out of the corner of his eye, while he directed his answer to Genevieve. “We've got campaigns going to legalize gay marriage in four states this summer, before elections in November.” He took another step away from Bethany, only to find himself backed against the bar. A little of his drink sloshed onto his shirt.
“Which states?” Genevieve asked.
Now completely unable to move his body away from Bethany's advances, he leaned his head as far back as he could. It gave him a couple extra chins, and Genevieve burst out laughing.
“Hey, Bethie, give him a break.”
She turned around and asked innocently, “What'd I do?”
Genevieve just rolled her eyes.
Jamie scooted out of harm's way, and reached for a napkin. He patted his shirt dry.
Genevieve took the opportunity to smack Bethany on the arm. “You said you were going to behave.”
“Did I? I don't remember that.”
Jamie had regained his composure, mostly. “Um, Genevieve, does HER want to partner with us on any of these campaigns?”
“Thanks for the invite, Jamie, but our next priority, now that the DOMA case is wrapped up, is trans rights. We're working on anti-discrimination measures in three states right now, and that's going to demand all of our labor and resources.”
“G-Spot, do you have to do any fancy footwork about devoting an organization called Her Equal Rights to trans issues?” Bethany asked.
“Not at all. One of HER's fundamental principles is that gender matters culturally and in terms of personal identity, but doesn't matter legally. Working to protect trans rights is a logical extension of that notion,” Genevieve said.
“Indeed. I'd be interested in hearing about your strategies and progress,” Jamie mentioned.
“Maybe we can set up a monthly meeting,” Genevieve said. “Our organizations should coordinate more than we do.”
“Great! I'll have my office coordinate with yours. And Nic's too.” She smiled and Bethany continued leering at him.
When Genevieve opened the envelope she discovered it was a receipt, and not a bill.
“Let's split it,” Jamie offered.
“There's no need. It's all taken care of.”
Jamie turned curious eyes to Genevieve, shook her head. “It wasn't me. Bethie?”
“Why would I buy drinks for your employees?”
“Must have been Nic then,” Genevieve said.
“I always knew she was a good egg,” Jamie said with no irony whatsoever. He gave Genevieve a hug and hurried away before Bethany wrapped her arms, and perhaps her legs, around him.
“And another one gets away,” Genevieve joked, leaning against the bar.
“Who cares? Look at that fine piece of ass,” Bethany answered as she watched his departure and licked her lips.
“Still gay, Bethie. He's still gay.”
She shrugged. “I'm just a woman who appreciated beauty when I see it. C'mon, G, let's go to your place and watch movies for the rest of the night. I got Steel Magnolias from Netflix.”
Genevieve linked arms with her as they exited the restaurant. “A tear jerker? I thought we could watch something a bit more celebratory.”
“ Steel Magnolias is a profound celebration of life in all its complexities.”
“Please tell me you're joking. Please tell me this is some bizarre Southern form of torture that you would never inflict on such a dear friend.”
In response, Bethany tossed her trench coat over Genevieve's head. As Genevieve struggled to get the jacket off, she could hear Bethany chuckle and say, “it's like two pigs, fighting under a blanket.”
Genevieve groaned. “Can't we just watch Mean Girls instead?”
* * *
“Lovely to see you again, Ms. Fornier,” said the young woman seated at the reception desk of the Harbour Club. She returned Genevieve's key card, having swiped it for entry. “Just so you know, we'll be renovating the upstairs café soon. It will be closed starting on Monday.”
“Oh, well, thanks for the update.”
This, then, would be the last Friday Genevieve had access to the café for a while. She headed toward the locker room feeling something akin to disappointment, even though the café's food was mediocre and its aesthetic a bit dated. She walked past the personal locker room assigned to Nicolette Ford, and once again gave mental thanks to her for the fitness center recommendation. She had never seen Nic at the Harbour Club apart from that first day when she had made the necessary introductions for Genevieve to be admitted to the exclusive facility. Genevieve walked to the door bearing her name, thinking not for the first time that it was a stroke of astounding luck that the room next to Victoria Willoughby's would be vacant right when Genevieve joined the club.
Genevieve tossed her clothes onto the vanity counter as she removed them. Before she exited her room, she gave herself a once-over in the mirror. The suit looked good on her, she knew. Her eyes looked more relaxed than she'd ever seen them in this particular mirror. She thought perhaps the lack of tension in her shoulders might mean she would swim faster.
Although she had no complaints about a slow, steady pace with a willing partner.
She rifled though her bag for her goggles and cap, and by the time she found them she thought perhaps she heard sounds from the room next door. She suddenly decided she had to brush her teeth before opening the door. Her breath minty fresh, she again prepared to leave. An irresistible urge to floss overtook her and she reached for her Glide. Once she was satisfied with her oral hygiene, she reached for the door handle. She hesitated, inhaled deeply, and pushed open the door. She could hear the sounds of the handle and hinges repeated on the door next to hers, and she and Victoria emerged at the same moment.
They looked at each other. Genevieve took a moment to get over the usual shock of how good Tori looked, her broad shoulders and narrow waist perfectly accented by her suit. Her red hair was pulled back into her swimming bun, drawing attention to her high cheekbones and emphasizing the green in her eyes.
Those eyes were peaceful and she had an unguarded look of happiness that Genevieve wasn't sure she'd ever seen, even in their most intimate moments all those years ago.
Genevieve smiled. It felt so good, so much like comfort and contentment to share a long look with the woman in front of her. Tori blinked and returned the gentle grin.
Genevieve lost track of time, standing there, looking. Remembering. Relishing being able to openly look with no fear or hesitation or shame.
Finally, Tori nodded, and they turned together and walked toward the pool.
They had gone swimming together once in law school. It seemed to Genevieve that, twenty years later, they took a little longer to warm up, and maybe they swam a little slower. But apart from those subtle difference, in some ways it felt as though time hadn't passed.
They swam their usual Friday routine. Twenty laps, water break, twenty laps, more water, ten more laps. Their strokes were steady, although maybe a little faster than usual. There seemed to be a current of electricity in the water.
When they finished, Genevieve climbed out of the pool first, toweling off and drinking some more water. She watched with clear admiration as Tori stretched her shoulders, back, and legs in the pool. When Tori completed her cool down, Genevieve extended her hand and pulled her out of the pool.
It was the first time they had touched – really touched – in over twenty years. They didn't let go right away.
As she followed Tori from the pool to their individual locker rooms, Genevieve struggled to keep her eyes from wandering downward. Maybe it was Pavlovian -- maybe Tori triggered her twenty-something hormones out of habit.
They entered their rooms and Genevieve went straight into the shower. She had picked out her clothes carefully when she packed her gym bag. After a long debate between professional and casual, and she landed on casually sophisticated. She tucked her jeans into brown riding boots and buttoned up a loose white shirt. She threw on a scarf for good measure. After drying her hair, she pulled it into a low ponytail.
When she emerged into the locker room hallway, Tori was leaning against her dressing room door, waiting for her.
The café was, as per usual on Friday evenings, deserted. Genevieve could feel Tori's hesitation as soon as they walked through the doors. She strode over to the table Victoria typically chose and sat down across from her usual seat. She opened a menu, partly as a bit of a power play and partly so she had something to look at while a Tori vacillated.
The menu let her down, at least on the second front. She had the damn thing memorized at this point. She was rereading the description of her favorite salad when Tori slid into a chair opposite her. Genevieve tried to keep her exhale of relief below an audible level, and was fairly certain she failed.
The service was swift, and before awkward silence descended on them, the waiter arrived to take their orders.
“Vegetarian omelet and a glass of Chardonnay,” Tori said. She was as much a creature of habit as ever, Genevieve mused as the waiter turned his attention toward her.
“I'll have the kale salad and the Zinfandel.”
He departed and they were left with no distractions, no shields. The legal barrier between them had been lifted, but they had spent the last hour with each other in complete silence. Suddenly Genevieve was terrified that they didn't actually have anything to say to each other. Completely unbidden, she heard in her head the last cruel words that Victoria had spoken to her at Harvard Law School, and she was paralyzed.
This will not be awkward, Tori vowed. So what if her body still wanted Genevieve's? Did it matter if they couldn't find a way to talk to one another? She swallowed, and took control of the situation, steering them to a safe topic that was sure to occupy their conversation for a while.
“Congratulations on winning the case, Genevieve.”
“Why thank you, Madam Justice.”
“You did very well.”
She shrugged. “We got most of the what we wanted. We were never able to figure out a key for Jamison – a pattern in his voting record.”
“I've spent two years working with the man, and all I can tell you about him is that he likes argyle socks.”
“Damn. If only I had found a way to work socks into my argument about the fourteenth amendment.”
“Equal protection for all footwear – the next legal frontier,” Tori said. When Genevieve smiled, she felt weak.
“So, how did you convince Jamison to sign onto your opinion?” Genevieve asked.
“Me? What makes you think I had anything to do with it?”
Genevieve hesitated. “I didn't mean to be presumptuous.”
Tori sighed. She hadn't meant to be evasive. But she wasn't sure how close she could let Genevieve without opening the floodgates. She tried to answer honestly, but without revealing too much. “There was no silver bullet with Jamison. If his body language was any indication, he seemed to respond to the arguments about precedent. But who knows, really. He might have just had an itch.”
“So he was on board from the start?”
“Not exactly,” Tori hedged.
Genevieve leaned back in her chair. “Is that all I get, Madam Justice?” This time when she used Tori's formal title, there was a bit of an edge to her voice.
Twice so far, Tori had managed to stall the conversation. She resolved to do better. “At the initial Conference, they both voted no. Jamison and O'Neil. Alistair assigned the minority opinion to me, and I found a way to make into the majority opinion.”
“Congratulations to you. It was well-written.” Tori could tell she was holding back, too.
“It wasn't the opinion I had hoped for, Genevieve. We – Michelle, Jason, Alistair and I – wanted a broad decision that would require all states to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. O'Neil and Jamison wouldn't budge.”
“So. The unbending Victoria Willoughby finally learned the meaning of compromise.”
This wasn't going how Tori had planned.
“I authored a 6-3 decision that forces the federal government to recognize gay marriages. You think you could have done better?”
“I just think it's ironic, that's all.”
“You haven't touched your food,” Tori said. She hadn't touched hers either – hadn't even noticed when it was put in front of her.
“Is being a Justice everything you wanted it to be?”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“Was my question unclear? Would you like me to rephrase it, Your Honor?”
“You know what?” Tori started. She didn't finish.
They ate in silence, until Genevieve excused herself and went to the ladies' room.
Tori contemplating leaving. She could drop a twenty on the table and just go. Hell, she could even pay the whole bill. Maybe that would ease her guilt.
One thing was clear: they certainly still knew how to push each other's buttons. Too bad it was the wrong buttons now.
She drank her wine and shifted in her chair.
A brief look of surprise crossed Genevieve's features when she returned. Considering she had thought about abandoning ship, Tori supposed she deserved it.
“How are things at HER?” she asked once Genevieve had resettled. She hoped this would be a more successful conversation topic.
“That place is a hot mess. We've got some exciting cases coming up, but the staffing assignments I inherited make no sense, and restructuring hasn't gone over well. Everyone is so resistant to change.”
“Are you regretting taking on the position?”
“No, I just have my work cut out for me,” Genevieve answered.
“Well, you've always liked a challenge.”
“Mighty high opinion of yourself, huh, Madam Justice?”
“What? I hadn't meant … please don't call me that.”
“Why not? Isn't that all you've ever wanted?”
Tori stared at her. Between her evasiveness and Genevieve's anger, they were getting nowhere. “Are you done, or should I just leave?” She wasn't sure which answer she wanted.
Genevieve drank some of her wine, and they sat in silence for a long moment. “Let's try this again. We're obviously rusty at talking to each other. How's your family?”
She appreciated Genevieve's change of subject. Discussing family seemed pretty innocuous. “Good. My dad lives outside Leeds. My brother, his wife, and their children live here.”
“Here?” Genevieve looked around the room. “In this café?”
Tori rolled her eyes. “The greater D.C. area. Alexandria. I see them pretty often. How are your parents?”
“Still in Avignon. I see them once a year.”
They both drank their wine.
If exchanging the most surface facts of their lives had been the goal, they accomplished it beautifully.
“Are you happy in D.C.?” Victoria asked.
Genevieve shrugged. “Sure. At the very least, it put some distance between me and the long trail of my ex-girlfriends in Chicago.”
Tori started. She cursed herself for showing a reaction. “Okay. I'll bite. Ex-girlfriends?”
“On second thought, let's not.”
They reached for their wine again, and then both started laughing.
“Well, this is going well,” Tori remarked.
“We used to be a lot better at this.”
“God, Genevieve. We really did.”
Genevieve raised her wine glass. “Well, we've got no where to go but up!” For the briefest moment Tori's mind went the other direction, before she redirected it and clinked glasses with Genevieve.
“So you're a really good swimmer,” Genevieve said.
“Thanks.” Tori felt oddly shy about accepting compliments from Genevieve. “You're not so bad yourself.”
“I want you to know, I didn't know you were a member here when Nic recommended me.”
“Nic?” Tori tried to push down the sea of jealousy rising in her chest.
Genevieve offered her a sly grin. “Yeah, Nic. Does that bother you?”
Tori did her best to look nonchalant. She was pretty sure she failed. “Why would it?”
“Well, who recommended you?”
They both laughed. “Nothing threatening there,” Genevieve said. “What's the old man like?”
“He keeps you guessing, that's for sure. And he mixes a mean martini.”
“No kidding? I wouldn't have guessed that.”
“Yeah, he really helped me with the transition. The Court is … not what I expected,” she admitted.
Genevieve finished her wine and waved at the waiter. When he approached, she ordered them a second round. “Not what you expected. How so?”
Tori pondered that for a moment. “Well, personalities matter more than I anticipated. It's not an institution purely devoted to the law – politics seems inescapable. Perhaps in my younger days I idealized it too much. But, I like my conservative colleagues more than I hoped to. We may have significant differences when it comes to constitutional interpretation, but, you know. We all like Chinese food. We generally agree on the best methods of collaborating with and teaching our clerks. We all wear the same thing underneath our robes.” She winked at Genevieve, who erupted into laughter.
“Fascinating,” Genevieve managed, between giggles.
Tori sipped her wine. “So, you and Bethany are still close, huh?”
“What would life be without a best friend who turns every situation into an innuendo about your sex life?”
Tori shook her head and grinned, ignoring her fear that Bethany's comments might involve her. “I hope you return the favor.”
“Oh, I always give as good as I get,” Genevieve said.
It occurred to Tori that she was quite literally flirting with disaster. She took the plunge anyway and said, “I remember.”
Genevieve choked on her wine, but Tori knew the red creeping across her cheeks had nothing to do with coughing. It amazed her that after all these years, she still knew how to make Genevieve Fornier blush.
She was on the verge of asking Genevieve where in D.C. she lived when her cell phone rang. After fishing it out of her purse, she looked at the display. Had it been anyone other than William, she would have turned it off instantly. “I'm sorry, I should take this,” she said to Genevieve before answering.
“Tor, Tommy's had a fall and he broke his arm.”
“Jesus, is he okay?”
“He's totally fine – just tumbled off of a trampoline – but he's asking for you. Can you come?”
“Where are you?”
“We're on our way home from the hospital. Maybe you can pick up some colored Sharpies on your way and we can decorate his cast?”
“Done. I'll be right there.”
“You know I'm older than you, right?”
“Whatever. See you soon.”
The fact that he hadn't traded jabs with her told Tori how tired he was. She returned her phone to her purse and sighed. “Genevieve, I'm so sorry to cut this short. My nephew just broke his arm, and I have to go.”
Genevieve nodded. Tori thought she could see disappointment underneath her impassive veneer.
Tori threw forty bucks on the table, and they both stood. She crossed to Genevieve's side of the table and they both stood there awkwardly for a moment. Opting for a farewell that could be taken as friendly or flirtatious, she kissed Genevieve's cheek and whispered “see you soon” into her ear.
Twenty minutes later, a bag of multi-colored Sharpies on the passenger seat of her car, Tori licked her lips. She could still taste the chlorine and face lotion that clung to the skin of Genevieve's cheek.
It wasn't like they had a standing date or anything. They had certainly never discussed it. They had just met at the Harbour Club every Friday at 7pm for the past six months. Even when things hadn't ended well the week before, they had still convened outside their changing rooms and walked to the pool together.
Genevieve stretched while she waited outside Tori's dressing room of the Harbour Club. She didn't have a watch on but it didn't matter. She knew it was close to 7:20. All day long she'd had a bad feeling about tonight. After thirty seconds each on her quads, hamstrings, shoulders, and calves, she started getting angry. And worrying. And feeling angry about worrying. She'd forgotten her water bottle. She retrieved it from her personal room and gave up stalling. She marched straight to the pool without looking back.
She jumped right in and started swimming. Her strokes were hard and angry and before she'd completed her first lap she was gasping for air. Of course, Tori was running. That's what she did – bolted when things got hard or real or complicated. Fool me twice, shame on me.
True, she hadn't exactly been pleasant to be around last week. She regretted her defensive posture and her snide remarks. But surely Tori understood that they were just working out the kinks. And things had ended well.
She hated that she was worried – it's not like she had any claim to Tori or her wellbeing. Some water went up her nose and now she was angry and coughing. She'd swallowed her pride to reconnect with Tori. She had been the wronged party, and yet she was reaching out again despite having received no apology.
She was just finishing her tenth lap when, instead of hitting the wall and turning around, she launched herself out of the pool. She snatched up her towel and ran to her private room.
Swimming was out of the question now, whatever was going on. Either she'd just been stood up, or something had happened. They might not have verbally agreed on their Friday night swims, but Tori was punctual and considerate, and it was unlike her to fail to show up without making an effort to communicate her change of plans. When she walked out on Genevieve, she had confronted her face-to-face first, not simply avoided her. The fear that something was very, very wrong overcame Genevieve.
She didn't bother showering. Her swimsuit was going to stink tomorrow, but she stuffed it into a plastic bag and threw it into her duffel. She yanked on jeans and a sweater and slid into loafers. She was slinging her bag over her shoulder and climbing the stairs two at a time when a young man on his way down the stairs toward the locker rooms stopped her.
“You're – you're Genevieve Fornier! You were – I just wanted to say that you were fantastic back in December during oral arguments at the Supreme Court. You were really – I'm really glad to meet you.”
Genevieve mumbled “thanks” and tried to walk around him.
“My name's Wallace. I was Victoria Willoughby's clerk this past session.”
She stopped. “You were?” She studied him. He had kind brown eyes, closely-cropped hair, and wire-rimmed glasses. He seemed the type Tori would trust. “Do you know her phone number?”
He knit his brows, suddenly suspicious. “Why?”
She was going about this all wrong. “I'm sorry. Wallace, you said? It's lovely to meet you.” She held out her hand and smiled, but she couldn't suppress her nervous energy. He shook her hand warily. “It's a little complicated, Wallace, but Tori and I usually swim together on Fridays.”
“Tori?” he asked, blankly.
“Victoria. Victoria and I usually swim together on Fridays. But she didn't show tonight, and I'm suddenly worried. So, do you know her number?” she asked again.
He was, understandably enough, thrown. “If you two are friends, shouldn't you know her number?”
“Right. Well, since we weren't supposed to talk until after the decision came down …” She could tell she was really losing him. Losing it.
Wallace took control of the situation. “How about I call her. She did tell me she was swimming tonight, so it's weird that she's not here.” He pulled his cell out of his pants pocket and punched a couple of buttons. Their eyes met while he waited, and then they both awkwardly looked away. Genevieve thought about what a psycho she must seem to Wallace, and then how embarrassed she would feel if Tori answered and was just fine. Or out on a date.
Wallace hung up. “No answer,” he said. Genevieve's throat tightened.
Her nervousness must have been contagious, because Wallace seemed concerned, too.
“It's probably nothing. But, um. Do you know where she lives?” Genevieve asked, fidgeting with the strap of her duffle.
He nodded. “I'll drive.”
Genevieve's hands were shaking, and she was positive she shouldn't be operating a motor vehicle in this state. Wallace set off at a brisk pace in front of her, and she hurried after him.
She was winded when she got to the car, but long after they had pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway she still hadn't caught her breath. Her hands were sweaty.
“So, you think it's the stalker?” Wallace asked.
“Stalker? She has a stalker?”
“She didn't tell you?”
Genevieve's left leg, crossed over her right, started swinging back and forth, erratically. “No, we never talked.” She paused. “About it. We never talked about it.”
Wallace executed a particularly deft lane change and Genevieve grabbed for the handle above the door.
“How do you know about this stalker?”
Wallace's eyes narrowed a bit. “There was an incident with my former roommate, and I had a few meetings with the Supreme Court Police. This past year, she's been harassed by a reporter and followed around town by someone else. I guess they can't seem to get his face on a camera. But he was in her backyard once.”
“He knows where she lives?”
“They think so. But they assigned a detective to tail her and the stalker disappeared. Or at least, started keeping a pretty low profile.”
“Oh.” Genevieve pondered the implications of the Supreme Court getting involved. She knew Tori wouldn't invite such an invasion of her privacy unless she was seriously concerned. “Well, I don't suppose you or I could do anything to protect her that the Supreme Court police couldn't do.” Genevieve wondered if they were just being silly.
“Well, there's been no contact from the stalker since before oral arguments in the Iowa case. Everyone assumed he was going to try to prevent Tori from voting in some way, and clearly he didn't. Once the decision came down, the SC police stopped their surveillance.”
Genevieve clutched the handle tighter. “Can you drive faster, please?”
Wallace nodded and Genevieve closed her eyes, hoping to avoid carsickness.
“So, what, we think this stalker is a homophobe?”
“That was the working theory.”
“But this doesn't make sense.” Genevieve tried to get her rational mind to master her fear. “Why would he suddenly reappear now?”
When no answer was forthcoming, Genevieve pried open her eyes and turned to find Wallace chewing on the inside of his cheek. “You weren't online today?” he asked.
It took Genevieve a minute to realize what had changed -- her pounding heartbeat seemed to have stopped altogether. “I buried myself in work today. Why?”
“Victoria was giving a talk at Georgetown Law's graduation ceremony. Afterwards, some women came up to her and said she was a role model to them, because she was the first lesbian Justice. She thanked them for the compliment and said she wished she had a role model when she was in their position. Someone got it on their iPhone and uploaded it. Everyone is taking this as her big coming out moment.”
Genevieve felt sick. She thought about blaming Wallace's hotrod driving, but found she lacked the energy to lie to herself.
Wallace was careening down residential streets now, and Genevieve was so turned around she had no idea where they were. The houses were beautiful and the street was tree-lined and Genevieve knew she would find the neighborhood charming under other circumstances. She closed her eyes again.
The radio was off and the silence in the car felt oppressive.
“So you and Victoria know each other from law school, right?”
“Yes,” Genevieve replied, hoping this line of questioning didn't get too far advanced before they arrived at Tori's house.
“Yeah, she mentioned that. She said if anyone could win that case, you could. Your arguments were brilliant. And you're so much more personable than Nic or Jamie – I doubt either of them could have swayed Kellen.”
Wallace continued talking about the case, but Genevieve tuned him out. If she hadn't been crazy with worry, she would have been fascinated to hear his side of things. As it was, all she could concentrate on were the sirens in the background.
Wait, sirens ?
She opened her eyes and craned her neck as Wallace turned a corner.
The block ahead was closed off, filled with squad cars and ambulances and a fire truck. She was out of the car before Wallace threw it into park. She raced to the barricades the agents had established and squeezed between them. A gruff man in a police uniform stopped her immediately. He was trying to talk to her, she knew, and she knew she should answer. But all she could do was try to see over his shoulder.
“Is she okay? What happened? Can I – please, can I just –”
He grabbed her shoulders and pointed her so she was squarely facing him. “Slow down. You can't get through right now. You'll have to wait. If you give me your name, I'll see if someone can come speak with you.”
“Genevieve Fornier,” she mumbled. The officer took a step back and released her shoulders. She continued to peer around him, hoping to see something informative, while he spoke into his walkie-talkie.
“Where is she? What's going on?” Wallace asked, panting behind her.
“I don't know anything, and this guy won't let me through!” Genevieve threw her hands up.
“Well, let's just see him stop the two of us!” Wallace blew past her and started weaving between police cars. She took off after him as the police officer her started yelling for them to stop.
They only got about four squad cars closer before five federal agents descended on them.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?” barked a gruff voice behind them. He shoved the agents aside and stood in front of Genevieve and Wallace with his arms crossed. He stared at Wallace a moment. “You? Haven't you caused enough trouble lately?”
“Is she okay?”
“I'm not a doctor.”
Genevieve felt like she was watching a tennis match.
“We're loading her into an ambulance now. She's fine enough to protest that she doesn't need a stretcher. She's losing that argument.”
“Can I ride with her please? Sir?” Genevieve asked, hoping her polite choice of words would trump the frantic vibrations in her voice.
He stared at her. “And you are?”
Genevieve paused. She could tell he recognized her.
“They're friends,” Wallace said. “I think Victoria would appreciate seeing Genevieve. And if she doesn't want company, she'll say so and you can escort us back beyond the barricades.”
Pollard rolled his eyes. “You're killing me kid, you know that? ID. Both of you.”
Wallace reached into his back pocket, but Genevieve felt so frustrated she wanted to grab Pollard and shake him. She bit her lip and tried to take deep breaths. “My purse is in your car,” she said to Wallace.
He tossed her the keys, and she started running. Every step filled her with a feeling of helplessness – she was sprinting in the wrong direction, dammit! She pressed the “unlock” button on Wallace's keys about twenty times before she finally reached the vehicle. She pulled the purse up from the floor in front of the passenger seat and eyed her gym bag. Bring it? Leave it? She couldn't believe these were the decisions she was making right now. She chose the wallet and cell phone and left everything else.
She silently thanked Bethany for the gym membership and the half-marathon registration as she sprinted back to Tori's block and snaked through the cars. She thrust her license into Pollard's hand, put her hands on her hips, and tried to keep her panting quiet while he scrutinized her ID. He handed it back to her, but before she and Wallace could run past him he held up one hand, stopping them from moving, while the other clicked the button on his walkie talkie. “If she's stopped ranting about driving herself, ask her if she wants to see Wallace and –” he squinted at Genevieve and butchered the pronunciation of her last name. They all listened to static, then a woman's voice on the other end simply said, “Yes.”
Pollard grunted and started walking away from them. Genevieve found his communication skills lacking. He turned over his shoulder and called out, “coming?”
She and Wallace shared a look of annoyance before falling in behind him.
They passed half a dozen more black cars before they approached an ambulance. The rear doors were open and Genevieve could see two figures hunched over a gurney inside. As they got closer, she could hear them listing her vitals. She had never really bothered to learn what those numbers meant so she wasn't sure how panicked to be.
As she got closer, she could hear Tori's exasperation. “Oh, for crying out loud, I have a black eye, not a heart arrhythmia. Is this really necessary?”
“Madam Justice,” one of the EMTs said, “this is standard protocol for everyone. We'll let you know before we give you any special treatment.”
Genevieve could see Tori propped up on the stretcher, a blood pressure cuff on her right arm, and an ice pack on her left cheek. Without waiting for an invitation, Genevieve jumped into the ambulance, knelt next to the gurney, and took the ice pack away from Tori's face. Her cheek and temple were dark red, and, in some places, already turning purple. Genevieve shuddered and returned the ice pack to the bruised skin, swatting Tori's hand away. “I've got this.”
“Are we ready?” came a voice from the front of the ambulance.
Genevieve turned to look at Wallace, still standing on the ground next to the back doors, looking competent and authoritative and all those things Genevieve was merely feigning in that moment.
“I'll drive and meet you there,” he said.
She nodded and turned her attention back to Tori.
She looked like hell. Her disheveled hair, her rumpled suit, her exhausted eyes. She was trembling slightly, and Genevieve couldn't tell if the ice was making her cold, or if she was scared. Genevieve was vaguely aware that the EMT, the driver, and Wallace were discussing logistics, but all she could do was look at Tori. She brushed her fingers against Tori's jaw and said just about the lamest thing she could have said in that moment. “Hi.”
Tori closed her eyes, and leaned into Genevieve's touch, and murmured, “glad you're here.”
Genevieve studied her face. Worry lines creased the soft skin between her eyebrows. There were a couple of scratches on the cheek not covered with ice. Genevieve wanted so badly to kiss them, to take away the pain with her lips. She studied the slope of Tori's hairline, and the porcelain skin of her forehead. It would be so natural to rest her cheek there. She longed for her face to touch Tori's.
If anything, the lump in Genevieve's throat was bigger now than when Wallace had told her about the stalker. But her heartbeat had found its normal rhythm again, and her fear was being replaced by a fierce urge to protect Tori. “You're going to be okay,” she said, as much to comfort herself as the injured woman lying in front of her.
“I know,” Tori said softly.
Genevieve slid her hand down Tori's arm and entwined their fingers. It was the only way she could stop stroking Tori's face, stop her own fingers from shaking. Somehow the contact between their hands grounded both of them, and their breathing leveled out. Tori's eyes remained closed, and Genevieve just watched her for the rest of the ride, memorizing every detail of her face.
* * *
Genevieve thought the questions could have waited. The doctor had only just stopped prodding Victoria and pronounced her fine. But Pollard seemed adamant, and she knew she was going to lose this argument. She stood by the window of Tori's hospital room, watching the headlights flicker on the streets below George Washington Hospital. She didn't want Tori to see the tears in her eyes while she listened.
“He was already in the house when I got home. I dropped my purse, phone, and keys by the door, like I always do. I went to the kitchen, got a glass of water, and headed upstairs to my bedroom. He must have been hiding someplace downstairs. I was in my closet, pulling out my exercise clothes, when I heard a crash downstairs. I think he broke my cell phone. By the time I got out of the closet and across my room, he was there. He punched me, and I sort of spun around into my nightstand. I think I broke the lamp that was on the table. He grabbed me and started to spin me back around, and I was able to pick up the phone on the nightstand while he did it. He was about to punch me again, and I managed to hit his head with the phone. He staggered and fell, and I dialed 911. I just dropped the phone and kept the line open, and ran downstairs. I honestly had no idea what to do. I sort of looked around for some kind of weapon for a minute, and then decided that the best thing to do would be to get out of the house. So, I ran into the garage and got in my car. But of course, my keys were in my purse, which was inside. I guess I sat there cursing myself for a minute, trying to figure out if I should go back inside, or what. I got out of the car and stood right by the door to the house, so that if he came out of it, I might be able to sneak back inside behind him and lock him out. But then I decided that was a horribly stupid plan, since I was wearing noisy heels and I'm not Buffy. Then, sirens. It didn't take you all very long.”
Genevieve could hear Pollard writing in the silence that ensued. Still studying the traffic outside the window, she selected a single car, driving from her right to her left, and followed it with her eyes. She made a bet about whether it would go straight or turn at the upcoming stoplight. Anything, anything to think about other than Tori being hit, Tori frantically searching for some way to defend herself, Tori flattened against the wall of the garage.
Pollard took a minute to finish writing before he responded. “When the 911 operator picked up the phone, she heard you yell ‘fuck,' and she heard some faint male groaning. Considering the address of the call, that was all she needed to hear. She called the US Marshals, and they contacted my office. Colorful language, by the way. And that was some hit with the telephone. He was still on your bedroom floor when the federal agents got there.”
In the reflection in the window, Genevieve could see Tori smile wanly. “It's a big, heavy phone. Vintage. Red. I always thought the damn thing would prove useful.”
“That's funny,” Pollard said in his typical monotone. Genevieve no idea if he meant it.
“We're questioning him right now. We'll keep you posted as our investigation proceeds.”
Genevieve wiped a tear away, squared her shoulders, and turned around. She watched as Pollard put the notebook in his chest pocket, and then cleared his throat. “Feel better, Madam Justice. We're leaving a car and driver outside for you, whenever you're ready to leave. We'll be at your house for a while, investigating.” His tone was gentle, and for the first time since Genevieve met him, he gave something away. He cared.
He exited as Wallace entered. The young man pulled a chair next to Tori's bed and took her hand. “Do you need anything?” he asked.
Genevieve watched the exchange between them with interest and a little sadness. There was so much about Tori's life that she didn't know, that she had missed. There were many people in this world who cared about Tori – she was not special or unique in wanting to protect her. Wallace was holding Tori's hand, just like Genevieve had in the ambulance. He was the one who knew Tori's phone number. Where she lived. That she'd been stalked and harassed.
Genevieve was working on swallowing her self-pity when Dr. Sonya Lukin breezed into the room.
“Victoria! What the hell happened? I saw you on the board.” She moved a chair next to Wallace's and placed a hand on Tori's leg.
“Sonya. We have to stop meeting like this,” Tori said, and they laughed together.
Genevieve felt exhausted, and she hadn't really done anything. Or endured anything. Or fixed anything.
She sat down in a chair by the window and daydreamed a bit while Tori recounted her story to a new audience. Wallace was mostly silent, but Sonya interjected outraged comments from time to time. Mostly, Genevieve imagined how different the dynamics of the room would be if she were with Tori. If she could take charge of the situation and be the one holding Tori's hand. If she could tell everyone thank you, please leave now, Tori needs her rest. And then be alone with her.
Maybe she should go. Tori didn't need anything that the other people in the room couldn't provide. She was realizing she would need to take a cab to the Harbour Club to get her car when the doctor returned. He handed Tori a pill bottle of Vicodin for the pain and pronounced her okay to go home.
After he left, Sonya turned to Tori. “Do you really want to be in that house right now?”
Genevieve kicked herself for not thinking of that. So she was completely startled when Tori turned expectant eyes to her.
She stood. “She's staying with me tonight.”
Everyone seemed to accept this as natural. Small victories, she thought.
Wallace returned his chair to its spot by the door and exchanged business cards with Sonya and the other doctor. He handed Genevieve her gym bag and purse. “I put a card with my phone number in there. Please call if she needs anything.”
“Thanks, Wallace. You've been really great.” She was about to shake his hand when he gave her a hug. She thought she saw him wink at her as he left.
Sonya and Tori were saying something about badminton when she turned her attention toward them. Sonya kissed Tori on the forehead, kissed Genevieve on the cheek, and instructed, “check in with us tomorrow, please.”
Tori eased into a sitting position and was about to stand when Genevieve stopped her. “Take my loafers. You can't possibly want to wear those heels right now.” She knelt down and slid off the stilettos.
Tori put her hand on Genevieve's shoulder to steady herself. “I always did like wearing your shoes,” Tori said. It was the first time either of them had explicitly referenced their past together. They stood and Genevieve wrapped her arm around Tori, who leaned into her. Genevieve led them out of the hospital.
The Vicodin was making everything fuzzy, as though she was looking through a soft screen camera. But at least the throbbing in her cheek was lessening. The red L-shaped couch in Genevieve's living room incredibly comfortable, and she thought she could fall asleep any minute, if it weren't for her stomachache. She knew she was very hungry, but the thought of food made her queasy. She was too hungry to eat, somehow.
And that wasn't her only difficulty. Genevieve was making her completely dizzy with her inability to sit still. It was clear to Tori that her anxiety from earlier in the evening had turned into indignant anger.
She made another pass across the living room carpet.
“It's so easy for them to get to you!”
“Genevieve,” Tori said gently. “It's not as if I'm a big celebrity. Congressmen have higher profiles than I do. I don't have the kind of job that requires extreme security measures.”
“You do! That's the point!”
“Hey. He didn't hurt me – not really, anyway. And they've got him now. It's okay.” Tori was surprised to find she meant it. She'd lived with so much fear for so long, she wasn't about to start being afraid of her own home and her independence. She put out her hand and managed to grab onto Genevieve's arm, halting her pacing. “It's actually one of the reasons we refuse to allow cameras into the Court. We pretty much stay under the radar. I could walk down the street of any city in America and I guarantee less than one percent of the population would recognize me.”
Genevieve brushed her aside and marched to the fireplace. “I'm starting a petition. We're going to demand Secret Service protection for Justices.”
Tori watched bemused as Genevieve resumed pacing. “I wouldn't want it, even if they offered it. The Court remains one of the few safe places in this country where people can make a difference and not sacrifice their anonymity. Protection only increases surveillance. You know that. Plus, I start walking around with Secret Service, and suddenly I'm a target in a way I would never be without them. I don't want that kind of attention – for one, it undercuts my power. Genevieve? Genevieve, sit down. You're making me dizzy.”
Genevieve threw up her hands. “But it's so easy for someone to get to you!”
“Yes, Vee, you've already said that. It's easy for them to get to you, too, you know,” she said softly. “You've been on the news a lot lately, doing press conferences and interviews. You're probably more recognizable than I am.”
“But no one wants … I'm not …” Tori smiled as recognition spread across Genevieve's face. “Did you just call me ‘Vee?'”
“Noticed that, did you? Sit down. Please?” The headache lurking behind Tori's eyes was starting to pulse. She couldn't stop the faint moan that escaped her. Genevieve was at her side instantly, kneeling in front of the couch.
“Do you want more water? Another blanket? What can I do?”
“Slow down. Please just slow down.” She guessed that part of Genevieve's agitation stemmed from the fear of being alone with her. She reached out and placed her hand gently on Vee's cheek. “Just be here. With me. Please.”
It took a moment, but her words sunk in. She watched the transformation in Vee with fascination: her shoulders dropped, her jaw relaxed, and she found stillness. They stayed like that, just gazing at one another, for a long moment.
“Genevieve, I'm so sorry,” Tori said. After all the times she had said it in her head to an imaginary Genevieve, it felt so good to be able to say it to a real one, one kneeling in front of her, gazing at her with a look of unguarded affection.
“We don't need to do this now,” she said.
“I need to,” Tori said. “I was young and scared, but that's no excuse for the way I walked out on you. I've missed you every day since then. I don't want to miss you anymore, Vee.”
“I don't want to be angry with you anymore. Or doubt you. When you didn't show up tonight …”
“You thought I was standing you up.”
Genevieve looked uncomfortable.
Thinking how ironic it was that she was apologizing from a reclining position on a couch, while Genevieve was on her knees in front of her, Tori swept aside a piece of dark hair that had fallen into Genevieve's eyes. “Not used to that, are you?”
“Being stood up? No, not really.”
“I'll never stand you up again.”
“I think it would be more than a little unfair to call tonight standing me up.”
Victoria could feel the air between them, as if it had mass. As if it were a physical barrier to their growing closeness. She wanted to chip away at it. “I don't want you to doubt me.”
“I don't. Not really. It was just a reflex.”
“Do you just want me because I was the one that got away?” Tori asked, half joking. But only half.
Now it was Genevieve's turn to smile. “Who says I want you?”
But Tori was completely serious when she responded, “you do. Every time you look at me. You always have, from the first moment you saw me. You want me to the point of distraction. I know, because that's how I feel about you. We're not kids anymore, Vee, and I don't want to play around.”
“And what if I only want you because you're the one that got away?”
Tori shifted on the couch so that she was sitting up. She wanted her feet on the floor when she asked her next question. “I'm here now. I'm yours for the taking. Still want me?”
Genevieve didn't answer right away, and the world around Tori stopped for that moment. She might have been in a vortex, with every dimension of the universe flowing toward the woman in front of her. “More than anything,” Genevieve breathed.
The impact of those words, combined with the Vicodin, caused Tori to sway a little. “I'm on drugs right now, and a little hazy. Could you say that again, please?”
Genevieve shifted so that she was between Tori's legs. She put her hands on Tori's thighs and said, “I want you. Do you only want me because you haven't had anyone else?”
Tori raised her eyebrows. “Who says I haven't had anyone else?”
The alarm that spread across Genevieve's face was precious. “I want you because no one else makes me feel this way.”
“Still?” Genevieve asked.
“That settles that.”
“Than put your lips on mine,” Victoria commanded.
Genevieve responded immediately. Jesus, her lips were so soft, and the taste of her breath was intoxicating. Her tongue was warm and Tori could not stop caressing it with her own. She moved her hands to the side of Genevieve's face, in part for stability. Her grasp on the world around her was so unsteady she feared she might fall. The skin on beneath Genevieve's ear felt so soft she could hardly believe she was really touching it. It was almost too much to handle, and she clung to Genevieve, nestling her nose against Genevieve's neck.
“Let's go upstairs. You must be exhausted,” Vee said, lightly massaging her back.
“I'm wide awake. If you think I could sleep right now...”
She felt rather than heard Genevieve's laughter.
“Let's go upstairs anyway.”
“Why Genevieve Fornier, are you going to take advantage if me in my weakened state?”
Genevieve stood, and held out her hand. Tori took it, and she eased up against Vee's body. They held each other for a long time, and Tori tried to memorize everything she could about Vee's body. The muscles in her shoulders. The slope of her waist. The feel of her thighs against Tori's. She breathed deeply and smelled chlorine and mint. It was a different smell than the one she was used to, and she supposed that somewhere along the way Genevieve had switched products. But underneath all that she could smell raw Genevieve – the slight smell of sweat that clung to her skin, probably from the anxiety of the night.
“Tonight must have been very hard for you. How did you find me?” Tori asked.
“Let's talk upstairs. I'm done with standing for a while.”
They broke apart and Vee looked at her with those bedroom eyes that Tori had fantasized about for so long. She followed Vee up the stairs and into a bedroom with a fireplace, sliding glass doors that led to a balcony overlooking the city, and a large painting of the streets of Avignon on the far wall. “Who painted that?” she asked.
“One of my first clients. He was a graphic designer for a large firm in Chicago, and they fired him when they discovered he was gay. He came to me, we sued, and they settled. He painted this for me when I told him that my family had roots there.”
“So, I was dead wrong when I said that coming out would ruin your career.”
“Well, it easily could have gone the other way.”
“I'm glad I was wrong.”
Genevieve turned so they were facing each other, and she slid her hand underneath Tori's chin. “I'm just glad you're here right now.” She kissed her lightly and led her to the bed.
They lay facing each other under the covers and Genevieve retold the evening's events from her point of view. Tori stroked her cheek, and her hands, and her sides, and soothed her.
When she had finished, Genevieve admitted, “I felt a little out of place at the hospital. Like you had all these other people in your life, and I was sort of superfluous. I didn't like it.”
“I have a confession, too. When the announcement came down that you were taking over the Samuals case, I almost passed out.”
“Did you now?”
“The thought of seeing you again…”
“I was nervous too.”
“Nervous and angry,” Tori corrected.
“Okay, true. It's amazing how much swimming next to you helped me work through my anger.”
“You look really good in a suit.”
Genevieve laughed. “I look really good out of a suit. Hey, Nic and Jamie were wondering: what do you people wear under your robes?”
“Oh, Nic and Jamie were wondering.”
“Well, yeah. They're very curious. That's what makes them good lawyers.” She was tracing little patterns on Tori's shoulder.
“And that's what you all were whispering about when we entered, isn't it?”
Genevieve opened her mouth and shut it. Tori laughed. “I promise every lawyer who has ever argued in front of us asks that at one time or another. We get a kick out of it, really.”
“You still haven't answered,” Genevieve pointed out.
“Well, you'll have to come by my chambers some time and find out.”
Genevieve stared at her and Tori could see she was uncertain about how to respond.
“Yes, Vee, I mean it. Well, not the part about fooling around in my office. But you coming by some time. To see where I work. If you want to.” Tori had been thinking that the power in this situation was all hers, as it had been the first time when she insisted on the utmost discretion at all times – when her career aspirations seemed to shape so much of their interactions, and the trajectory of their relationship. It suddenly occurred to her that she didn't – shouldn't hold all the cards this time. Maybe Genevieve wouldn't want to be that public with their relationship.
She could see Genevieve thinking through the same thing.
“You know, Vee, we should talk about what being together might mean for your career. You wouldn't be able to argue in front of the Court again.”
“Unless you recuse yourself,” Genevieve corrected.
Tori tried not to make a face. “Right. I could recuse myself.”
Genevieve laughed. “Relax, Justice Willoughby. There aren't any cases on my plate right now that would even potentially put me back there. We can just take this one step at a time.” Genevieve kissed her forehead. “We don't have to plan everything out right now, you know.”
“Hmm, I did have some plans for right now, actually.” She kissed Genevieve's lips, then her neck, and when Genevieve moaned, she slid her hands underneath Genevieve's shirt and eased it over her head.
“Are you sure you feel well enough for this?” Genevieve breathed.
“Stop talking,” Tori said, pushing Genevieve onto her back and sliding on top of her.
Genevieve woke with a start. She turned her head slightly to find Tori sleeping soundly on her shoulder. The sheets were tangled around their legs, and they had passed out uncovered. She wondered if the cold had woken her. In the early morning light, the bruise on Tori's face was more pronounced and looked terrible. But even so, she was beautiful in sleep. Relaxed, almost smiling. Peaceful, which was rarely something Genevieve associated with her.
Banging downstairs caught her attention, and she realized it must have been what woke her up. She eased out of bed, careful not to disturb her slumbering guest. She tried to cover Victoria with the sheet, but couldn't fathom a way to do so without waking her. She wasn't sure how anyone could sleep though the incessant banging on her front door, but she suspected Vicodin and lovemaking had something to do with it.
She drew on a knee-length silk robe and tied it while she descended the stairs. A quick finger-comb of her hair would have to do for whoever was at her door at – she glanced at the grandfather clock in the living room – 6:15am. She peered through the peephole and saw a handsome man with ginger hair. He looked vaguely familiar.
She opened the door slightly. “Can I help --”
He pushed past her, entering her house unbidden. Only then could she see the woman and two children lurking behind him. As she stood there a little dumbfounded -- and, she realized, a little slow from sleep -- they too barged into her living room.
“Is she here? She's here, right? I have to see her.” The man was a little frantic. The woman – his wife, presumably – put her hand on his arm. “Honey, slow down. You're probably scaring Genevieve.”
“How do you know my --”
“I'm Diane,” she said, extending her hand, “and the tornado over there is William. Her brother.”
“Who's brother?” This was altogether too much activity for this early in the morning.
“Mama, I'm hungry. When's breakfast?” The little boy was tugging on his mother's sleeve. “And my cast itches.”
Genevieve noticed that his right arm was in a bright green cast and someone had drawn little guitars and drum sets all over it. Focus, Genevieve . She checked the belt on her robe to make sure it was secure before turning to William. “Excuse me, what the hell --”
William started climbing the stairs just as the little boy gasped. “You said a bad word. You don't get to watch SpongeBob today.”
Genevieve shot him a dirty look before she realized one shouldn't give dirty looks to four-year-olds. Or seven-year-olds. She was bad with kids' ages. She started to follow William up the stairs.
“I'm gonna kill her. How could she not have called,” he was muttering, before he turned on Genevieve half-way up the stairs. “You addle her brain!”
“Okay, just stop right there --”
“Genevieve Fornier, if you don't let me see my sister this very minute, I'm going to let my kids run wild around your expensively decorated house!” He turned and stomped up the remaining stairs.
“Um, William?” Genevieve trailed after him. “Right, you're Victoria's brother. Got it. Listen, you can't go in there –”
“Just try to stop me!” His hand was on the doorknob.
“Hey!” Genevieve commanded. “She's not wearing --”
The door opened, and Tori stood there wearing a spare robe Genevieve kept in her master bathroom. She looked sexy in it, Genevieve thought. Or maybe she looked like she'd had sex all night. Or both.
“Will, I'm fine.”
Her pulled her into a tight hug, the released her quickly, alarmed. “Wait, your ribs and stuff are okay, right?”
She smiled. “Yes, you can hug me.”
He held her again and said softly, “your face looks terrible.”
“I know. First time in your life your face is better looking then mine.”
He tried to laugh, but it came out as a half-sob. “We were so worried.”
“Hey, it's okay. I'm okay. Is Diane here?”
“She's downstairs with the kids.”
Tori pulled out of the hug. “Well, let's go see them.”
He nodded, and walked past Genevieve and down the stairs. She thought he might have stuck his tongue out at her.
“Sorry my family just barged in here,” Tori said. She crossed to Vee and started toying with the tie of her robe.
“Well, this isn't exactly how I pictured our first morning together again.”
Tori leaned in, almost kissing her, and Genevieve could smell toothpaste and soap and the faintest hint of pure Tori. “You pictured our first morning together again?”
Grinning, Vee decided not to deny it. “Maybe one or two hundred times.”
“Well, I never want to be predictable.” She closed the distance between them and their tongues met and Genevieve felt the kiss all the way down to her toes.
“Ew, they're kissing, Mama!”
They broke apart and from her position at the top of the stairs Genevieve wondered how far up her robe the little boy could see. “I'm going to get freshened up while you assure your family that you're okay.”
Tori nodded, her eyes heavy with desire. When she spoke, her voice was husky. “Okay. But don't take too long. I told you last night I don't want to miss you anymore.”
Vee leaned forward and kissed her briefly, marveling as she did so that Tori was hers to kiss. They had just turned to go their separate ways when the doorbell rang.
Genevieve spun around. “How many more siblings do you have?”
“None,” Tori answered, surprised.
“It better not be the press,” Genevieve grumbled as she passed Tori and hurried down the stairs. She was halfway to the door when she was startled to hear the sound of a key in the lock. The door opened before she could reach it, and in walked Bethany.
“Hey, G-Spot!” she sang. “You look refreshingly post-coital. I brought breakfast for everyone.”
Genevieve stood there paralyzed as Bethie breezed past her toward the kitchen, laden with overflowing reusable grocery bags. She was about to close the front door when Sonya and Tara entered.
“Coffee, anyone?” Sonya asked. They both carried trays loaded with to-go coffee containers.
Genevieve approached her front door cautiously and peered outside, looking in all directions. Satisfied that there wasn't a clown-car filled with Supreme Court Justices parked in front of her townhouse, she closed the door and slid the deadbolt into place. She then turned to the household full of uninvited guests that she had just locked inside her home.
In the living room, William was holding the younger of his two children, while the boy rifled with one arm through Genevieve's DVD collection. Through the open floor plan, she could see Diane and Tori seated at the breakfast table in the kitchen, Diane inspecting the bruise on Tori's face. Sonya, Tara, and Bethany were unloading ingredients for … actually, Genevieve couldn't quite figure out what those ingredients could possibly combine to make.
“Genevieve, I know you're abysmal at cooking, but do you at least have a frying pan?” Tara called out.
She decided against asking how Tara knew anything about her cooking skills. “Second cabinet to the right,” Genevieve called out, still loitering in her entryway.
There was so much life in her house all of a sudden. Sonya had left Bethany and Tara to manage breakfast, and she was monkeying around Genevieve's sound system. Soon Billie Holiday's “The Very Thought of You” was piped through the surround sound speakers in the living room and kitchen. The boy was asking Bethany why her hair was so big, and William was dancing with his little daughter.
“Will, how on earth did you find me?” she heard Tori ask her brother.
He kissed his little daughter. “Well, Rebecca, should we tell Aunt Tori a little story?” He kept dancing as he spoke. “Around 4 A.M. my friend Ravi, who wakes up ass-early to run twenty miles every other morning, called me. I guess while he was stretching he turned on the TV, and it's all over the news that you were attacked. All he could see were news vans and cop cars parked in front of your house. So, he called to ask me if you were okay. Naturally, I totally panicked, considering I knew nothing about what happened. We'll get to your punishment for that little oversight later.” He repositioned Rebecca and started dancing in a little circle, moving her little arm up and down with his steps. “Your cell phone went straight to voicemail, and your landline was busy. I drove to your house, and there were some agents roaming around investigating. They wouldn't let me in, but they did tell me you weren't there and that your cell phone was broken. Then this guy Pollard said I could call your clerk, Wallace. He said Wallace deserved an unsolicited phone call from a stranger.” He moved Rebecca so that she was sitting on his shoulders and she squealed with delight. “So then I called Wallace. Are you enjoying this story yet? Riveted? Because living through it was way worse, let me tell you. So, then Wallace told me that you went home with the famous Genevieve.” He turned to her. “Nice to meet you finally, by the way.” Without missing a beat, he resumed his tale. “Obviously, I didn't know where Genevieve lived. Wallace said that there was a doctor in your hospital room who seemed to know Genevieve, and he had gotten her card. So he gave me Sonya's number. I called and woke Sonya up, and she gave me Bethany's number, and she gave me Genevieve's address. By this time, it was about 6 A.M. Bethany said you two would definitely be delighted if I showed up right away.”
Genevieve cocked her head at Bethany and raised her eyebrows.
“Hey, at least I had the decency to bring breakfast and coffee!”
“There's coffee?” William quickly passed Rebecca off to his wife and started sorting through the lined-up cups of coffee, reading the letters drawn on the lids.
An entire room full of people between them, Genevieve's eyes met Tori's and they shared a small, private smile.
Bethany noticed and laughed. “Genevieve, why don't you go upstairs and, you know, wash off last night. We'll have breakfast ready when you get down.”
All the action in the house ceased as everyone turned to look at her. Genevieve shot Bethany a withering look, more than little concerned that Tori would feel uncomfortable with such unveiled references to their recent bedroom activities. To her surprise, Tori just laughed and said, “I could use some real clothes, too. I'll join you.” She kissed her brother on the check and ruffled her nephew's hair as she crossed to the stairs.
“Who are you and what have you done with Victoria Willoughby?” Genevieve asked.
Tori winked at her and, grabbing her hand, dragged her upstairs.
Three hours later, they were all seated in a big circle in Genevieve's living room and Diane was making no attempt to hide her laughter at her husband. “I'm sorry, but that is not the ‘Single Ladies' dance. You would have had better luck holding up one finger, and then outlining the shape of a woman's silhouette.'“ From her position in the easy chair, Diane shook her head. “Will, you are epically bad at Charades.”
“Actually,” Tori cut in, “I think it's just that he's epically bad at dancing. You dance like Dad, Will. And you get the same look of concentration on your face when you play Charades.”
“Really?” Bethany asked. “Because it looks like he swallowed a bug.”
Everyone laughed, and Tori replied, “the men in my family are pretty stoic. When they choose to show emotion, their faces get confused.”
“Look, I thought we were playing ‘Song Title Charades,' not ‘Dance Like Beyonce Charades.'” Will put the salad bowl filled with strips of paper back down on the coffee table.
“When Tara is around, it's always ‘Dance Like Beyonce' something,” Sonya informed them. “Obsessed, I tell you. Obsessed.”
Will rolled his eyes. “If you're all done with this piss-poor attempt to delay your own embarrassing display, it's Genevieve's turn.” He sat on the floor next to Diane and as Genevieve walked to the middle of the room and picked up the salad bowl, Tori could hear Diane whisper, “it's okay, Honey. You'll do better next time.”
“Hey, I don't need comfort from the enemy!” he huffed.
“Alright.” Genevieve was poised to begin. “Tori, Bethany, and Diane. You ready? Who's timing me?”
“On it,” Sonya announced. “Ready, and go!”
Genevieve silently read the song title on the first paper she drew, and Tori could see her blush. She pointed at herself and Diane and Tori both yelled “I.” “Bethany shouted “syphilis!” Genevieve stopped her charades long enough to glare at her before moving on.
She managed to get team to say “want” and “your.” Tori lost it and started cracking up when Genevieve started blushing again and stood there at a loss.
Bethany was particularly helpful. “Okay, so we have ‘syphilis wants your...' Wants your what? Genevieve, you have to do something. Standing there like a dolt isn't working. Oh, wait, is it ‘syphilis wants your paralyzed lawyers?'“
“Oh my god, Bethany, how dumb are you?” Genevieve threw up her hands in exasperation.
“Hey, there's no talking in Charades!” Bethany yelled.
“Bethany, Dear, you're on her team. Do try to be helpful,” Tori suggested.
“Excuse me, has everyone forgotten that I'm up here?” Genevieve asked.
“Sorry, Honey, please continue. So far we have ‘I want your …'“
Tori was pretty sure she know how the song title that Vee was trying to get them to guess was supposed to end, but she was more interested in watching what came next than winning the game.
Genevieve still stood, stuck.
“G-Spot, are you embarrassed to act out ‘sex' in front of your girlfriend and her family?” Bethany asked. “Because if you can't act it out in front of complete strangers, you're not mature enough to do it with the woman you've been in love with for forever.”
Everyone burst out laughing. Genevieve turned even redder, and Tori grinned at her. “Forever, huh, Vee?”
Genevieve met her eyes and smiled sheepishly.
“Oh! It's ‘I want your sex!'“ Diane shouted. “Next one -- Genevieve move on to the next one.”
Tori watched Vee remember that they were playing a game and she was on the clock. Jesus, she was precious. Tori loved having an excuse to look at her -- to study the way she thought and moved and laughed and blushed. Tori had never allowed herself the chance to openly stare at Vee, with her heart on her sleeve, in front of other people. She knew Diane and Will were whispering about her, and she didn't care in the slightest.
Vee reached into the bowl and pulled out another paper. After a moment of contemplation, she dropped to the ground and started to log roll. She then did some convoluted gestures that looked like diving into a pool, indicating shallow water on one end and deeper water on the other. Then she put the two parts together, rolling and pointing to the deep end.
Tori was having a hard time keeping it together. The poised and statuesque Genevieve becoming a complete fool for Charades was a sight she never expected to see. Bethany was dropping popcorn into her mouth and making no effort whatsoever to guess. Tori knew Diane didn't listen to a lot of music, so she pulled it together and shouted ‘Rolling in the Deep' just as Sonya called “time!”
“What happens if they guess right at the buzzer?” Tara asked.
“Oh, let's give it to them so we can end this interminable game,” Will said.
“William, wasn't it your suggestion that we play Charades?” Sonya asked.
“Yeah, well, I usually win. I don't know what happened.”
“Honey,” Diane cut in, “you usually play with a six-year-old.”
“So? Tommy's very good!”
“Is that why you had him take a nap before we started playing? So he didn't outshine you?” Tara asked.
“G-string, got any more popcorn?” Bethany asked.
“Sure, in the pantry.” Genevieve sat down on the couch next to Tori and put her hand on Tori's knee. “Actually, are people hungry? We could do something for lunch.”
Five people rushed into the kitchen and started rifling through the fridge and pantry, mumbling things like, “great, I'm famished,” and “does she have any kale?” Evidently during their Charades they had burned through their breakfast of migas and fruit.
Tori angled herself so she was facing Vee. “I can't believe you just invited them all to stay longer.”
“I can't either,” she admitted. “It was out of my mouth before I even thought. But they're all so…”
“I know.” Tori smiled. “But they'll have to leave eventually. I guess I will too,” she said.
“About that.” Vee said. “I'll go with you, when you decide to go home.” Her intuition had always been spot on.
“You know, I've pictured you in my home so many times, Vee. But, in my mind, my house wasn't a crime scene. I don't want you to see it all ransacked.”
Vee stroked her hair, and Victoria melted a little. “Tori, I don't want to be with you because of your perfect career. Or your unblemished house. Or your ordered approach to the world.” She grinned mischievously. “I actually want to turn your predictable life plan on its head. I want to see what's under your hood.”
“I thought you saw that last night,” Tori teased, deflecting a little.
“That was just a prologue. I want the full-length, feature film.”
“I think you're mixing your metaphors, darling,” Tori pointed out.
“That's the point. I'm messy. Relationships are messy. And I want you to wallow in it. In me.”
“Will I get dirty?” Victoria asked, innocently.
“Count on it.”
“Your lips are doing too much talking and not enough kissing.”
“And you think you've changed the subject. You can stay here as long as you like. Hell, if you never wanted to leave, that would be okay by me. But I'd like to go with you when you go home for the first time.”
Tori's heart swelled. “Okay, tough guy. But we go at my pace.”
“For our we relationship? That hardly seems fair.” Genevieve pouted a little. Tori had to stop herself from nibbling on her lower lip.
“No, nimrod, for our trip to my house. Tomorrow. We'll go tomorrow.”
“Deal,” Genevieve said. “Kiss on it?”
The fact that Genevieve Fornier was asking to kiss her – Genevieve, the sexiest human rights lawyer in the country, the person in the world who had the most reason to be angry with her, was asking to kiss her ... Well, Tori was just glad that she didn't swoon or do an embarrassing dance, or both. Wild horses couldn't have dragged her away from those beautiful, delicious lips.
“Ew, Mama, they're kissing again. Can we put them in timeout!” Tommy asked.
They smiled through their kisses.
“Diane,” Tori called out, never moving her mouth more than an inch from Genevieve's. “Your son's awake.”
* * *
From their place on Vee's front stoop, arms around each other's waist, Tori and Vee watched as Diane finished fussing with the straps on Rebecca's car seat and closed the car door. She stood in the driveway a moment and called out, “You two are coming for dinner next week, right?”
Tori called out, “we'll be there!”
Diane blew them a kiss, hopped into the passenger seat, and buckled up while Will backed the car out.
Tori followed Vee back inside. “So, we've got dinner with Will and Diane on Friday, brunch with Bethany on Saturday, and the wine bar down the street with Tara, Sonya, and Bethany on Saturday night. That's a lot if Bethany in one day.”
Genevieve was walking up the stairs, and Tori trailed behind her. “You can handle it. Just mention Jamie Chance's name, and she'll stop talking and start fantasizing.”
“Jamie Chance? She knows he likes guys, right?”
“Bethany refuses to let such things limit her imagination.”
“So she's into gay boys? No wonder she's still single.”
Genevieve had walked into her bedroom, and Tori saw her crawl onto the bed and drop, face-first, onto the mattress. Tori crawled over and gently lowered herself on top of her.
“Tired? Today was …”
“Not what I expected,” Vee finished.
“Me neither. I think after last night, I expected some big coming out to our friends and family.”
“They seemed dead-set on denying us the opportunity. Is that okay?” Vee turned a little, easing out from under Tori and lying next to her.
“That they think we're a couple? As long as you don't dump me tomorrow.”
Instead of a verbal answer, Vee kissed her, and Tori got that lightheaded feeling she associated with Genevieve's lips. She pulled Vee closer, until the lengths of their bodies were touching. Vee's mouth fit so well with her own, their bodies molded to each other's, and Tori marveled at how perfectly happy she felt -- how relaxed yet charged, completely at home and yet in totally foreign waters. The conflicting emotions made it impossible to focus on anything but the feel of Vee's skin and the mint smell of her hair, and the pressure if her lips. “I can't believe you're here,” she whispered, between kisses.
“I live here,” Vee responded.
“Smart ass,” Tori said, and she nibbled on those full lips that sometimes haunted her dreams. Everything felt so good in that moment -- forgiveness, and her body, and the silencing of her always racing mind. “I've been in love with you forever too, you know,” she breathed into Genevieve's ear before nibbling on it.
Vee pulled back and looked at her. “About that...”
For the briefest of moments, all of Tori's fears came rushing back and the world stopped and all the air left her body.
“Thank god,” Genevieve said. And she took all of Tori's doubt away.
* * *
“French Press coffee is good. Really good Do you drink this every morning?” Tori asked, leaning her elbows on Genevieve's breakfast table.
“I want you,” Tori returned.
“You want to avoid your house.”
Tori got up and walked to the window that offered her a view from the kitchen out to Vee's small backyard. It was late morning, and the sunshine glinted off of the windows on neighboring townhouses. “It's such a beautiful day. Let's go to the zoo!”
“You're impossible. I'll be right there with you.”
“Fine. Steal my sunshine.
“Oh please. I don't remember you being so dramatic.”
“Oh, well, you know. I've changed in so very many ways. We should sit here, at your breakfast table, and catalog all the ways we've each changed over the years. We could even make a chart. Then we can make sure these changes are things we can live with.”
Vee stared at her. “Get in the damn cab.”
Tori pouted a little, but grabbed her travel mug of French press and walked out the door.
The cab dropped them at the Harbour Club and Genevieve retrieved her car from the garage underneath. As she was pulling out of her parking space, she turned to Tori. “You're going to give me directions, right?”
Tori thought about lying and directing them to the zoo instead.
“Never mind, I remember the cross streets.” Genevieve circumvented her by programming them into her GPS. Before long, they pulled in front of Tori's house.
She expected vans from media outlets camped in front of her yard, but the whole block was empty. They parked in her driveway.
The front door was locked, and Tori was glad the federal agents had grabbed her purse for her before the ambulance departed for the hospital. She pulled out her keys, and they entered her house.
She had spent the entire car ride mulling over Tori's comment that they had both changed over the years. Of course they had. She pondered the wisdom of acting like no time had passed. In many ways, they fell back into the same patterns, the same rhythms. She worried that there might be some inevitable reckoning.
And she wasn't exactly sure how much space to give Tori while she examined the house.
Tori dropped her purse and keys on a table by the front door.
Genevieve started to feel awkward as she contemplated what to say, how to interact with Tori and the house. Tori moved aside, and Genevieve could see more of the space. Evidence of fingerprinting and the agents' investigation dominated her view. Books and binders had been pulled from the built-in shelves that lined the living room. A vase of flowers was sitting on the floor beside the dining room table, and the placemats were askew. She looked past the disorder to the living space underneath. Tori's tastes were more understated than hers, and generally ran in neutral colors, as opposed to Genevieve's bold color palate.
“Well, do you want to clean up down here first, or survey all the damage and head upstairs?” Genevieve asked.
“Let's get this in order first,” Tori said. She started picking up books from the floor, and returning them to the built-in shelves in her living room.
Genevieve walked through the dining room and kitchen, surveying the damage. Certainly, the rooms had seen a lot of activity, but nothing was broken. She guessed from the heavy amount of fingerprint dust and disarray near the sliding glass door that led from the kitchen to the backyard that the assailant had gained access to the house there. The door was still slightly ajar, and the locking mechanism was disassembled.
She pulled out her phone and did a quick internet search for a locksmith. Then it occurred to her that maybe Supreme Court Justices couldn't just call any old locksmith and she put her phone away. Add this to the list of things I'll need to learn to navigate if this thing between us works out . She righted the stools around the kitchen island and started wiping off the black powder from the glass door. It could close, she discovered, it just couldn't lock. It certainly didn't leave her with a sense of security. A thorough search of the closets near the kitchen yielded a broom, and she unscrewed the head. She shoved the poll in the slider so that the door could only open about six inches. At least a person couldn't squeeze through there.
She turned next to the dining room, where she positioned the placemats so that they were squarely in front of each chair around the table. After returning the flowers to the center of the table, she took a moment to appreciate that Tori was the kind of person who kept fresh flowers. Always keeps me guessing.
Fifteen minutes later, she was satisfied that the kitchen and dining room were cleaned and straightened. She headed back to the living room to check on Tori's progress and discovered Tori staring intently at her living room bookcase. All the volumes had been returned to the shelves. “Oh great. All done?”
Tori held up a hand. “Not yet.”
“Oh? What's left?”
Tori pulled a book out and swapped it with another. She repeated the process again with another book.
Genevieve read the spines and ascertained that each of the three column of books had a theme: left was philosophy, the middle was history, and the right was law. Within each column, the books were in alphabetical order, mostly. Tori was fixing the books that the agents had returned to the wrong place.
“Tor? Is it really important to do this now?”
“Hmm? Do you see where they put Henry V ? It goes right here, with Shakespeare's other history plays.”
Genevieve rolled her eyes. “And what if I told you I going to take off all my clothes and ravish you right here on the couch?”
Tori grabbed the play and repositioned it. “Aristotle's Republic next to The Michigan Affirmative Action Cases ? So wrong.”
Genevieve gave up and walked back into the kitchen. Hopefully Tori would feel better -- more in control -- if she meticulously re-alphabetized her bookcases. Genevieve nosed though the wine rack, the cabinet with the vodka and gin, and the chardonnay in the fridge. The occasion seemed to call for a martini. The door of the fridge contained premium olives, and the cheese drawer held some gorgonzola. She stuffed six olives, poured vermouth into the glasses, and located the shaker.
The drinks had been poured, and she was reclining on the sofa watching Tori, still hard at work.
“Tori,” she said gently. “Victoria, are you about done?”
“What?” Tori glanced over her shoulder, startled. “Oh, Genevieve, I'm sorry. Yes,” she moved one more volume, “done.”
“Then get your OCD ass over here and drink this martini,” Genevieve commanded.
Tori exhaled, and crossed to the couch. She leaned down and kissed Genevieve, long and slow. When she pulled back, Genevieve had a hard time catching her breath.
“God, how do you do that?” Genevieve asked.
“Alphabetize your books one moment, and make me completely weak the next?”
“I'm very high-functioning,” Tori answered. She kissed Genevieve's neck and sighed.
“So I've noticed. Here, drink your martini.” She pulled Tori down to the couch and they relaxed a moment with their drinks.
They drank in silence for a long moment, just unwinding. Genevieve peered at bookshelves. “Your collection seems heavily skewed toward ethics and history.”
“Well, your collection seems to still be in boxes, Genevieve Fornier. Haven't you lived here for almost a year?”
“Were you snooping around my home?”
“When would I have had time to snoop?”
“Good point,” Genevieve acknowledged.
“Are you not committed to staying in D.C.?” Genevieve could hear the concern in Tori's voice.
Genevieve took a sip of her martini and put the glass down. She turned so she was facing Tori. “I'm not going anywhere.”
Tori sighed with relief. Then she smiled slightly. “Moving in already? Doesn't that seem a bit soon?”
Genevieve opened her mouth to reply, and closed it. Bested , she thought.
Tori finished her martini and stood. “Let's go upstairs.”
“I've been waiting for you to invite me to your bedroom.”
“You've been waiting, huh?”
“Ever since our pool dates started.” She stood and took Tori's hands in hers. “Ready to find out what's upstairs?”
“I guess.” Tori looked at her with such open vulnerability that Genevieve's heart broke for her. She squared her shoulders and asked, “want me to go first?” Tori nodded, so Genevieve ascended the steps.
The upstairs had similarly been gone over – the comforter and sheets were on the floor, books littered the carpet, and broken glass sparkled from atop the bedside table. A phone cable snaked over the nightstand and to the floor, but the phone that had been attached to it was no longer there. The easy chair across from the bed was on its side.
She glanced at Tori, who was standing in the doorway, her arms hugging her sides. Moving in front of her, Genevieve wrapped her in a hug. Tori started shaking, and Genevieve left her long enough to right the chair. She sat down on it and pulled Tori into her lap. Tori's shaking turned into hard sobs, and tears dripped off her check and onto Genevieve's neck.
Genevieve kissed her hair and rubbed her back and murmured, “it's going to be all right. They got him. I'll never let anyone hurt you again.” Holding Tori -- holding her in the throes of passion and in the heartache of sobs -- was addicting. Feeling the woman who had shattered her heart so long ago surrender to her so completely, well, Genevieve knew there was no greater gift.
The afternoon sun was casting shadows around the room when Tori took her head out of Genevieve's neck. Her eyes were red, and her lips swollen. Genevieve remembered that Tori always bit her lips when she cried.
“I must look like a disaster,” Tori said, rubbing the moisture from her cheeks.
“You're a liar.”
“I'm a lawyer.” Genevieve reached out and kissed the wet tracks on her cheeks. “I love you.”
Tears formed in Tori's eyes again, but she wiped them away. “Thank god,” she said, and Genevieve laughed.
Tori extracted herself and stood, a little unsteadily. “Let's get this over with,” she said, and she started gathering up the sheets.
Genevieve turned on the lights and opened the shades. She snooped around and found an iPod dock. She scrolled through the Nano until she found George Michael's “Faith” album. She sang and danced and helped clean up the mess, hoping that she was helping Victoria cope. She made her laugh a few times, which she considered little victories.
They threw the sheets and duvet cover in the laundry, disposed of the broken glass, and vacuumed up the fingerprint dust. When they had finished with the bedroom, Genevieve went to Tori's home office and used her laptop to order a new vintage phone. She clicked “confirm order,” satisfied that she had found an excellent replacement. She exited the office to find Tori had made a second round of martinis. She reached out to take hers, but Tori held it away.
“Don't I get some kind of thank you, first?” Tori asked. “I did just mix a knock-your-socks off martini.”
“I thought it was customary to tip afterward?” Genevieve said.
“Fine. Since you've helped me all afternoon, I'll thank you.” Her lips found Genevieve's neck. “Mmm, salty.”
“Your tears, my dear,” Genevieve said.
Tori pulled back. “Sorry.”
“Don't be. Here.” She took one of the martinis. “Let's take these to the backyard. We can watch the sunset.”
They scooted two ice cream chairs so that they were sitting shoulder to shoulder. Genevieve held Tori's hand and basked in the setting rays of the sun and thought about how lucky she was.
A week later, Victoria sat in a hard chair in a conference room situated in the bowels of the Hoover building. FBI, US Marshalls, and Supreme Court Police officers surrounded her. She took a sip from her tea and told herself for perhaps the thousandth time that day not to bite her fingernails. Part of her wished she'd taken Vee up on her offer to come. But she needed to do this alone. And she didn't want to have to answer questions about Vee's presence.
The conference room had no windows and florescent lighting. Agents bustled to and fro, dropping off files, whispering to each other, or taking phone calls. It was five minutes after ten, and the meeting still hadn't started.
Her tea was warm, and she took comfort in knowing that Genevieve had made it for her before they left Genevieve's townhouse that morning. Genevieve had offered to drive her, but the FBI insisted on sending a car.
Finally, Pollard entered and closed the door. The room fell silent as he took a seat next to another SC police officer. A woman Tori didn't recognize but assumed was FBI stood and walked to the front of the room.
“We've been aware of the organization known as Marriage's Sacred Protector for about seven years now. They're mostly a bunch of skinheads. Young. High School dropouts. They've issued blanket warnings against anyone supporting same-sex marriage, but since they've never actually engaged in physical violence, we had no actionable intelligence that they were a real threat. It would appear that Damien Fitzpatrick, Byron Turner, and this man, Franklin Cooper, were all members of the organization.” The woman clicked the remote control in her hand, and a slide appeared behind her with an image of Cooper. Tori's heart started pounding at the sight of him.
He looked small in the photo. Skinny. She recognized the skull and crossbones tattoo on his neck. His eyes were tiny and watery blue and she remembered the way they rolled back in his head when she hit him with the phone. She shuddered.
“Madam Justice, this was your assailant. He gained access through your sliding glass door, and he waited in your first-floor hallway closet for you to come home. He doesn't appear to have gone through any of your things. We believe he was singularly focused on you, personally.”
Tori took a healthy swig of her tea, hoping it would sooth her frayed nerves. She strove for some kind of detachment, for the ability to listen intellectually to the facts, as though they happened to someone else. She failed.
“Where is he now?” she asked, because she had to know.
“That's classified, Madam Justice. He's in our custody,” said an FBI agent seated in the corner. He seemed to think that was all there was to say about the matter. She thought about the black hole that swallowed people who had become national security threats. After Damien Fitzpatrick called one of her decoy cell phones and Pollard had called her into his office, she never heard from Fitzpatrick again. His name disappeared from the masthead of the Star Reporter . One night when she couldn't sleep she had spent some time Googling him and came up empty. The next day she asked Wallace whatever became of his roommate. He shrugged and said that he and all his stuff were gone from the apartment the day after their meeting with Pollard.
The FBI agent leading the meeting resumed her presentation. “We are in the process of dismantling the organization. We're currently shifting through personnel to determine which individuals masterminded this attack and which ones are misguided teenagers with nothing better to do.” She took a drink of water. “FBI will continue to manage the investigation, and the Supreme Court Police will turn over to our special task force all surveillance material gained while tailing Justice Willoughby. Until we determine that the organization is no longer a threat, the U.S. Marshalls will establish protection details for the six Justices who voted to overturn DOMA.”
“What?” Victoria cut in. All eyes in the room turned to her. Damn . “Is that really necessary? I'm quite certain that none of us want a protection detail.”
“Standard operating procedure, Madam Justice,” the agent continued. “Besides, we don't anticipate you'll need it for very long.”
Tori shook her head. “Could you be more specific about your time frame?”
“And none of us has a choice in the matter?”
She drank her tea and waited for the meeting to continue. It appeared to be over, however, and the agents and officers in the room started gathering their things. She took her cue from them and stood.
A very tall man with broad shoulders and black eyes approached her. “Justice Willoughby, I'm Agent Hernandez. I'll be your escort for the afternoon.” He was older than she was, and strands of gray peaked through his dark hair.
Victoria shook his hand and smiled. Oh, Rosie will love this one .
Genevieve parked her car in Georgetown and double-checked the address Tori had texted her. Yep, this was it.
Twenty minutes ago she had sent Tori a text that read, “How did it go?”
The reply simply said, “meet me at 355 Patomic St. in Georgetown.”
Not exactly an informative response. Genevieve had spent the morning at HER completely distracted, unable to get any work done, worried about Tori. It wasn't hard to drop everything and drive to Georgetown, considering she hadn't been able to hold anything in her mind for longer than thirty seconds.
She crossed the street and stared at the storefront. It was charming. Ivy crawled up the red brick, and covered the edges of a wooden sign that read “Boomsday.” As she walked through the entrance, a bell above the door tinkled back and forth, heralding her presence.
“Just a moment!” someone with a raspy voice announced from the back of the store. She started browsing, looking at the various flowers in buckets. She was sniffing a lily when Tori entered.
When she saw the smile on Tori's face, relief filled Genevieve. Thank god – I thought she'd be a mess after the debriefing. She crossed flower shop and took her hand. “Isn't it customary to buy someone flowers without asking them to trek all the way to the flower shop to meet you?”
“Who says I'm buying you flowers?”
“Hmm. Did you invite me here so I could buy you flowers? Because that's awfully presumptuous.”
Tori smiled at her. “You're ridiculous, you know that. And I love you.”
Genevieve was about to kiss her when a voice behind her said, “well, what have we here.”
She turned around, a little guiltily, and put her hands in her suit pockets.
“Rosie, I want to introduce you to someone,” Tori said.
Rosie put her scissors down on a countertop and her hands went to her hips. She studied Genevieve. “So you said on the phone. You said you were going to have a federal Marshall tailing you. You said he was tall and dark and strapping. She is not my type, mija .”
Tori laughed. “He's outside, in his car. Rosie, this is –”
“Oh, I know who this is.” Genevieve raised her eyebrows and Rosie continued. “And what, pray tell, is she doing in my shop?” Her voice sounded stern, but Genevieve thought she could make out a grin hiding behind her eyes.
“Well, I – ”
“You woke up?” Rosie asked.
To Genevieve's surprise, Tori laughed. “Something like that.”
“Good, mija , I was hoping you would.” She marched right up to Genevieve and took both her hands. Her hands were scratchy, and Genevieve immediately liked her. “Well. It is nice to finally put a face to the name.” She turned to Tori. “Good for you, mijai. She is very pretty.”
Rosie dropped her hands. “Well. You have your eye candy now. Where is mine, please?”
“Outside. Vee, you might as well meet him too. He's going to be following me around for a while, and since I plan on following you around for a while, I ought to at least introduce you.”
They walked out of the shop and part way down the block, where an unmarked black car was parked on the street. Tori tapped on the driver's window, which lowered.
“Agent Hernandez, this is my friend Rosie and my …” she stopped and stared at Genevieve.
Genevieve shrugged and extended her hand into the car. “I'm hers.”
“I like that,” Tori whispered in her ear.
After Genevieve shook the agent's hand, she moved aside to give Rosie better access.
“Aren't you a handsome one,” she said, shaking his hand. “You will take good care of my little Victoria, yes?”
“Yes, ma'am,” he said.
Rosie held onto his hand.
“If you ever need to buy flowers for someone – a special lady perhaps – I own this shop. You may stop by any time.”
He grinned. “And what if I don't have a special lady?”
“Stop by anyway!” Rosie laughed.
“You know, my sister owns a flower shop in Chicago,” he said.
“Does she now? Well, we would have much to talk about, you and me. If you ever wanted to come visit.” She winked at him.
Tori and Genevieve laughed. Genevieve was pretty sure that Rosie continued to hold Agent Hernandez's hand while they chatted, but she had stopped paying attention to them. Tori was smiling at her, and she was a little weak in the knees.
When Tori asked, “want to take the rest of the day off of work?” Genevieve nodded enthusiastically. “Good,” Tori said. “Because I've been wanting to go to the zoo.”
Genevieve stared at her, and she just laughed.
The Rhône River sparkled before them as the first rays of the sun caressed the surface. The ruins of the Pont St. Benezet were as beautiful and as haunting as Genevieve always remembered. Victoria held her hand as they walked along the tree-lined riverbank.
At 6:10 a.m. on a Tuesday in August, the only people also following the path were joggers, and Genevieve was grateful for the quiet. It felt good to stretch her legs after their long flight into Avignon. When they arrived at her parent's house on the outskirts of town, it was 4:45 a.m. Victoria hadn't wanted to wake Genevieve's parents, and Genevieve hadn't wanted to go to sleep for fear of prolonging their jetlag. They dropped off their bags around back and asked their cab driver to drive them to the historic center of the city.
“So, Genevieve Fornier.” Victoria swung their arms a little as they walked. “Tell me. When you were here on summer breaks in college, did you used to bring innocent young French girls here and kiss them?”
Genevieve feigned shock. “Me? Never. I was the innocent young girl who got kissed!”
Tori chuckled. “I'm so sure.” They strolled underneath a particularly picturesque poplar tree. “Who did you kiss under this tree?”
“You really want to know?”
Victoria hesitated for only a moment. “Yes. I want to know. Who was she?”
Genevieve pulled her underneath the tree and pressed her against the trunk. Their lips met, and, like the tree surrounding them, they swayed a bit. Then the birds stopped chirping and the breeze stilled and the water froze, and all there was in the world was each other. When Genevieve lips left Tori's, her eyes were glassy. “You. You're the one I kissed.”
“I bet you do that to all your girlfriends,” Victoria murmured. It took a moment to regain her equilibrium. “I bet you bring them all here to watch the sunrise. And,” she took in their surroundings, “and dance on that bridge.”
“The Pont St. Benezet? I've never danced on it. Actually, I've never even been on it.”
Tori looked skeptical. “Why ever not? It's beautiful.”
Genevieve followed her eyes. The remains of the nine-hundred-year-old bridge spanned only half of the Rhône , parts if having washed away in floods over the centuries. “It's … dead. It's like a bridge carcass.”
“But you still find it beautiful. I can tell. Why?”
Genevieve took a couple of steps closer to the bridge, searching for new perspective. The low rays of the sun caused it to cast long shadows on the water. “I don't know, really.”
Tori stepped behind her and rested her chin on Vee's shoulder. “I like it because now it's not about a goal or function anymore. It just gets to be. You know?”
“You want to dance on it?”
Tori turned her head and gently brushed her lips against Tori's cheek. “Absolutely.”
They paid their five euros each and strolled down the bridge, hand in hand. When they reached the end of the span, in the middle of the river, they stopped. Tori pulled Vee to her, and wrapped her arms around her waist, and started to hum. Genevieve felt the tension of their cross-Atlantic flight leave her muscles as she relaxed into Tori and followed her lead.
Tori spun them, slowly, and Genevieve recognized the lilting melody of “La Vie en Rose.” She joined in, and the vibrations from their humming seemed to massage the core of her, the parts of her that had so long ago been injured. She had thought the damage had been beyond repair, even after reconciling and reuniting with Victoria. Had thought that there would always be a part of her that didn't work, couldn't trust, wouldn't surrender. In that moment, on the ruins of a bridge, where anyone could see them, she realized she was whole again. When Victoria stopped dancing to kissed her, she felt it in her knees and her fingertips, and she held nothing back. As the sun continued to rise over Avignon, their lips expressed their hopes for the future, with no traces of past wounds.
“Well, Darling, now you've danced on the Pont St. Benezet,” Tori murmured against her check.
“Mmm,” was all Genevieve could reply.
Victoria twirled her, and drew her back in close. “Let's come here every summer, and dance with each other right here, and watch the sunrise.” She ran her hands up Genevieve's back, to the base of her neck, and into her hair.
“You're very persuasive.” Genevieve's eyes fluttered a little as Tori caressed the soft skin underneath her hair. Victoria kissed her cheek, and then her neck, and then her ear, softly. It made the roof of Genevieve's mouth tingle.
“Ready to introduce me to your parents?” Tori whispered, nibbling lightly.
“I can't really talk about my parents when you're kissing me like that, Tor,” Genevieve breathed.
Tori stopped. Genevieve whimpered. “Why'd you stop?”
“Because we're in the middle of a river, my Love. And I want to meet your parents.” Tori kissed her nose and stood back.
Right. Middle of a river. Bridge. Parents . She stared at the green and brown and gold flecks that formed Victoria's eyes. “You make me forget where I am.”
Tori blinked, and Genevieve could see mist form in her eyes. “If I'm with you, it doesn't matter where I am.”
It was Genevieve's turn to mist over.
At the same moment, with the same, simple inflection, they both said, “I love you.” Genevieve kissed her forehead, and wrapped her arm around Tori's shoulders, and they walked back to the riverbank.
* * *
Three mornings later, Genevieve was seated on the balcony of their room at her parents' restored eighteenth century country home. Victoria, she'd been surprised to learn, had grown adept at sleeping in, a skill Genevieve had lost in law school and never regained. She had stayed in bed for a while, just watching the rise and fall of Tori's chest, the way her lips seemed redder in sleep, the shape of her fingers on the pillow. When Genevieve grew restless, she grabbed her laptop, parted the diaphanous curtains, and quietly opened the door to the balcony.
She had gone three days without touching a computer – hadn't even read a newspaper – which had felt glorious and relaxing. As she booted up the machine, she wondered what was happening in the world. First, she went to the homepage for the New York Time . Nothing exceptionally newsworthy, really. Pre-season football had started. The seven line on the subway was going to be closed for repairs for the next two days.
She navigated to the Washington Post , which was exceptionally dull in August. Two of the three branches of government were on recess, and the President was vacationing in Hawaii. Nothing noteworthy in the Wall Street Journal either.
Just because nothing else seemed interesting, Genevieve typed “I Fought the Law” into the search engine. The first blog post there was about the bar exam, which most recent law school graduates had just completed. She scrolled down to the second post and froze. There, in a big color photograph, was an image of her and Victoria. Their foreheads were touching and they were smiling, their lips inches apart. Their arms were wrapped around each other, and just visible in the background was the end of the Pont St. Benezet.
“Mmm. Good picture. We look very happy,” Tori said, looking over her shoulder. She kissed Genevieve's cheek.
Genevieve whipped around. “Tori? Are you okay?”
Tori pulled up a chair. “Sure. Why wouldn't I be?” She stretched. “Another beautiful day in Avignon. The weather here is perfect.”
Genevieve tried to wrap her mind around Tori's casual attitude. She kept staring at the image in her computer.
“What's the caption say?” Tori asked.
Genevieve scrolled down. The headline read, “Sweet Justice.”
Tori read the blog out loud.
“Saturday, in the historic district of Avignon, Supreme Court Justice Victoria Willoughby and President of Her Equal Rights Genevieve Fornier danced together in the sunrise. For years, rumors have flown that Willoughby is a lesbian. It would appear that these rumors were correct after all.
We at ‘I Fought the Law' congratulate these two women, who have had quite the year. Willoughby authored two landmark decisions this year, one unanimously proclaiming the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo illegal, and one overturning Section 2 of DOMA. Fornier argued the DOMA case in front of Willoughby.
So, the question remains: now that gay marriage is legal, who will propose to whom? And will Alistair Douglas perform the ceremony?”
The blog ended there and Tori leaned back in her seat. “Well?”
Genevieve knit her eyebrows. “Well what?”
“Well, are you proposing to me, or am I proposing to you?”
For a moment Genevieve's eyes got big and then she shrugged. “I thought my oral arguments in front of the court were one big proposal to you. I've just been waiting for you to say yes.”
It was Tori's turn to look surprised, and Genevieve laughed. “Got ya, Madam Justice.”
Tori climbed onto her lap and wrapped her arms around her neck. “You sure do, Genevieve Fornier. You sure do.” She kissed Genevieve's neck and whispered, “but, for the record, I do want a ring.”
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