The characters below are all mine, mine, mine and yes mine. The locations mentioned are also mine in some cases, whereas I cannot claim the discovery of others. Mostly they come from my warped imagination and I control their strings. If you'd like them to resemble a certain bard and warrior who am I to deny you your fantasies. The characters below were first created in my story '' Choices.'' And it may help to understand the tale a little better if you read that first.
Danger Danger Will Robinson! A.k.a. das warning...
I must now warn you that this story contains relationships between women. There are a few kisses and hugs and references to the loving act and you might get lucky in this one where there is more, who knows. Also I may revert to being a potty mouth and use the F word, please forgive I have an Irish mother... So if you are under age or find the above distasteful, please move on to something more suitable.
The muse of creativity I again bow down to and offer my first born or a cookie, as for the muse of spelling and grammar I am still learning and beg her patience. This is for the fans that sent feedback and asked me not to leave Kathleen out in the cold. Normally I avoid continuing a story as I usually say what is needed in the first one, but this one felt a little unfinished.
I would like to give this a special dedication to Kim, someone who showed me that there is always chances out there. I can never repay her friendship, at times I didn't deserve it. Thank you Miss Kimmy. J
With that said, grab the popcorn, dip the lights and '' ACTION! ''
A year in a moment of the world doesn't seem very long considering this globe has been around for millions of them. Well this past year has seemed longer than millennia to me. More often than not days would merge into a weeks before I knew it, mainly because I kept myself busy trotting around the world for various assignments. If anything in these last twelve months I have probably accomplished the best work I have ever done in the field. It gave me something to lose time and exhaust myself to the point when I did give in to my body's need to sleep, I simply would flop onto whatever bed I had at the time and fall into one too tired for dreams. I began to hate dreams. If my mind wasn't tormenting me with happy ones from my life with Carrie to the point I would wake up crying, they would be plagued with nightmares of when I lost her. So it was easier to push my body until it would give up and just lay down for a while. As I said about my work it was the best of my life.
I'm now on a flight back to D.C. to pick up an award for '' Best in the Field.'' A story of the massacre in the village of Kenopi in South Africa. It was one of those lucky breaks on my part that I was in the right place at the right time and was within a range rover ride to the awful atrocity, and my lens became the first eyes of the world to see it. Time magazine immediately wanted the shots and paid a good price for them, so did 60 minutes. It got me suddenly noticed by the world. I was no longer Kathleen the face behind the lens, they wanted to know more.
The award was really being given because I hung around for the two weeks afterwards in hiding to get the interviews from the survivors of the now ghost town. The price for staying was a nice bullet hole that laid me flat on my back in a hospital for four weeks and now leaves a scar on my shoulder. At first I thought about turning it down. Awards are not my thing, I don't see a need to be rewarded for reporting something the world should know about. To me it's a payment of blood and quite frankly I don't need any more blood on my hands. But I got to thinking as I was packing up to come home, that it was about time the world understands what is going on in the remote parts of this sphere we all live on. People that are mostly hidden behind closed doors, governments and bureaucracy, who simply disappear in the night never to be heard of again.
With that set in my mind I was going to use the publicity machine to open up some of the hell and poverty. If the world didn't want to listen that was up to it, but I was going to make damn sure for a brief moment it was in their face. It kind of gave me a reason to keep going in my life for a while, I was beginning to bore of the loneliness and the ache that now resided in my heart and soul.
After I had broken with Carrie I made the decision to completely move away from New York, there really wasn't anything for me there now except bad memories and friends who thought I was worse than something they had trodden on. As for Alice, well she still hadn't gotten the message that I would rather be dead than become her lover, so I left.
Carrie had left instructions that she didn't want to return to the house, taking what she wanted from it and I did the same, the house was put up for sale. So after a few months a letter was forwarded to me in Istanbul, telling me that the house had been sold and half the money had been deposited in my account. I didn't really care, but part of me hurt just knowing that someone else now lived there, it was just another cut to the many wounds my heart now wore. She never did reply to any of the letters, all communication was severed. Maybe I should have just gotten on a plane and gone to her and begged, but by that point I really didn't have any energy left to fight and to go over again about my innocence, and quite frankly I couldn't face her. I knew I had hurt her and I was a coward to see that in her eyes again.
I had spent the year traveling. I'd never gotten around to buying anything, so I leased an apartment on the outskirts of D.C. So here I am back in civilization, looking around an aircraft that has more wealth in the overhanging luggage compartment than the whole of that small village that was wiped off the face of the earth because of another man's wish for land. Sometimes it makes me sick to come back home and see what we take for granted.
Turning my head to the small window I watched the rain like tears fall onto the glass, half seeing my ghost-like reflection staring back at me. The beeping of the seat belt sign drew me back to the present and I clipped the belt into place, feeling the aircraft start its downward tilt. Inside, the coldness and recurring ache started again, knowing once again I was going home to no one and a place that was on the same landmass as the woman who still owned my heart and soul.
When I cleared customs I went straight to the apartment. Even opening the door and stepping into the hallway showed I really didn't care about the place. A chair, a table, TV, video and bed, the kitchen was just as sparse. The only place that showed any part of it being mine was the small darkroom I had set up, this was now my home. Slumping into a chair I stared out the window, and finally once again my body won on the need for sleep.
The following week became a mass of interviews, I went to them with my mind set about what I wanted to get across. But by the third interview I realized they were more interested in my being gay and working alone around the world, than the evil that was now burnt onto the photographs that flashed across the front page of every newspaper on the street. I was getting nowhere.
My last hope was a tv interview with Jane Reynolds a hard hitting reporter who had worked in the field and had been there first hand in Bosnia. I knew she wouldn't pull any punches in her interview but I also knew she was at least honest. I took the courtesy car to the TV station WK21D.C. When I walked into the studio I immediately felt my hackles rise, out of the corner of my eye I saw Senator Burns, an arsehole politician that believed that journalists were there to make money and that a photographer could fix any picture they took. I also knew his personal views were high on the anti-gay laws. He was up for re-election and part of his campaign promise was to keep the trade negotiations open to South Africa. What made it worse, no one had told me that he was going to be there.
''Kathleen Freeman? Hi...''
I turned my gaze away from Burns and managed a smile as I recognized Reynolds' soft yet strong voice from behind me. Turning, I gave an answering smile while I took her held out hand, returning the shake.
''Hi......Miss Reynolds.'' I dropped her hand faster than I should have.
''Call me Jane.''
She smiled again and I felt my tension ease a little. I noticed her eyes go over to the buffet and then she turned back to me, her smile a knowing one.
'' Sorry about the surprise guest my network thought it would add zest to the interview, I didn't know about it until I came in this morning.''
I just nodded.
'' Look if he gets out of hand I'll make sure to stop him dead. How's that?''
I looked up at her, seeing in her gray eyes she really did mean it. '' Thanks.''
She smiled again then turned her head talking to the crew. ''Ok then, let's get set up....''
I was led to the make up room and touched up where needed, I was feeling more and more uneasy, as I looked at the mirror in front of me I was beginning to wonder who this woman was looking back at me. Once the mic was placed I was seated to the right of Reynolds, while Burns was off to her left. He still hadn't acknowledged me, that was fine. I saw the camera light turn to red and I swallowed, knowing we were now live on air.
'' Good evening and welcome to Close Up.... Tonight we have another in depth interview, I'm Jane Reynolds and my guests are award nominee Kathleen Freeman.''
She looked over to me smiling. '' Who is hitting the headlines at the moment, in fact all the newspapers are carrying her work..... Tonight she is here to tell the real truth behind the lens. Welcome.''
'' Thank you and hello...'' I nodded to the camera forcing a nervous smile.
She turned her attention back to the camera again. ''Also tonight we have Senator Burns joining us. He is at the moment up for re-election and has a hard hitting policy on drugs. Welcome Senator.''
She looked over at him and I noticed her smile was a little more forced.
He gave a huge grin in return. ''Why thank you Jane and thank you for allowing me here tonight.''
I really was beginning to dislike him more and more as he oozed his false charm.
Jane looked back at the camera smiling for a moment then turned her attention to me. '' A little bit of history first I think for those who have had their head in the sand.''
A small laugh rippled through the studio.
As she talked various photos of my past work flashed onto the screen behind and the monitor in front of us.
'' You have been a photographer now for over twenty years, working in the likes of Afghanistan to the uprising in Russia. Your talent ranges from being a well-known wildlife photographer and more human subjects. This is the focus of attention at the moment.'
The monitor again filled with clips this time with the photographs of Kenopi. I didn't look, I didn't need to. I was there to see the horror.
Jane's voice sobered. '' Tell me Kathleen, the award you are nominated for has only been won by four other American photographers, what do you think puts you ahead of the numerous multitalented journalists out there?''
'' Honestly? Well I don't know why they chose me, I'm only doing what I love to do.''
She gave a small laugh. ''So modest too... But the photographs, which have given you this chance, are very talented images and what is more they were taken in a very dangerous situation. Do you think that adds to the fact that you are a nominee for the award?''
I shifted in my chair. '' All I did was take the pictures, when you want to catch an image like that sometimes you have to take a chance. But the real story is the images themselves, they are not just art, or something created by computer, those are real people. They died, they had lives, children, and dreams. What you see is their end, the end of their history. In less time than it took me to take the photographs, a family ..... a village was wiped out. That village had a name, Kenopi. That seems to have been forgotten already.' ''
I knew my voice was filled with the frustration I felt.
Reynolds smile faltered for a moment, then she nodded. '' Yes.... sometimes it is hard to look at something and know it is for real, the movies of today have declimatized us to such horrors.''
I shifted again in the chair well aware that everyone was looking at me including the thousands of viewers I couldn't see, the overhead lights felt hotter than the Sahara right then. Jane's voice pulled my mind back from the panic that was beginning to build.
'' Kenopi had how many inhabitants?''
I blinked at her, I wasn't expecting that question, normally the ones I had gotten were far removed from the actually history of the place, most tried to sweep the fact people had been slaughtered. It wasn't politically correct to bring in names and faces to my pictures.
'' Three hundred give or take a child.''
'' How many survived?'' I watched her swallow.
For a moment I had a flash like my mind was replaying one of my photographs, one of flies, bodies and blood and my senses filled with the stench of the dying. I reached over using the water to moisten my dry throat.
I heard her inhale sharply. '' Tell me Kathleen who is responsible?''
Out of the corner of my eye I saw her producer doing the cut across his neck sign to her. I shifted my attention back to her, now fully aware she was acting on her own and her network had warned her off making it political.
'' The man responsible is General Aléck Mandágia, he is a top officer who has been given the task of clearing the Kenopi area so that they can open it up for a railway which has been planned. A railway, which will lead to the diamond mines at Zaira.......... One of the largest incomes of the region.''
I met her eyes as I spoke and wasn't really surprised to see the stubbornness there as she ignored her producer and the voice that was now yelling into her ear piece, she was giving me a chance finally to tell the story of the people of Kenopi.
'' So what you are saying is that these people were simply in the way? And it was about money?''
'' Yes... A development company put in a bid for the land, six months ago the land was sold. None of the Kenopi people had any say in the matter. Later the government issued eviction notices to the inhabitants of Kenopi three months before the military action was taken against them. None of the survivors I talked to were aware of any involvement with so-called rebels, and none of them knew of the reason why the attack happened.''
Our gaze locked for a moment, I hoped she could see in my eyes the thank you aimed at her. The senator's voice broke the stare, both of us turned our focus to him.
'' Well that is utter bullshit if ever I heard it, excuse me for cussing ladies but the official report I believe is that the village was a haven for Utreo Rebels and the general you have mentioned was sent in to clear them?''
'' Yes that is the official statement.'' I tried to keep my frustration under control.
He raised his hands then folded them in front of himself, flashing his best vote-winning smile at the lens. '' And you are now wanting us to believe that a statement by an official from the government of South Africa is nothing, and we are meant to believe you? What evidence do you have?''
'' None. Only interviews from different witnesses and inside officials.'' I bit my lip to stop myself from letting the temper out that was inside knowing what he was going to ask next.
He gave a short laugh. '' Where are they now? Why haven't they come forward to back this outrageous claim?''
I lowered my head. '' The three officials I talked to disappeared two days before a meeting I had arranged to bring them out of the country. The other thirty villagers who I spoke to are now dead.''
For a moment he actually blinked in shock then it was hidden as he resumed.
''So all we do have is your word. Oh and the photographs I suppose.''
I felt my jaws tighten, but before I could reply Jane cut in.
'' Are you saying the photographs are false Senator?'' She clicked a button on her desk and behind us two of the milder photographs showing two dead men and burning huts flashed onto the screen behind.
Senator Burns swallowed and paled a little as he looked back at them. ''No...... what I am saying is that the official statement is the one that explains why this happened. I'm not denying the deaths, or the fact that Miss Freeman was there to capture it.''
'' Oh I see.'' Jane smiled at him and I could see it was beginning to make him a little nervous. '' If indeed the rebel camp was in this village, does that justify the killing of over one hundred and twenty children Senator? Or the way that more than fifty of them were burnt alive using flame throwers, oh and not missing the point at all that not one weapon was found in the debris?''
He took a sip of water, then smoothed back his hair before turning back to her. '' Well Jane I wasn't there. I don't know what made the military unit take such action.''
''But she was...'' I noticed her eyes flash ice, then a smile come to her face that was pure ''GOTCHA!''
His smile froze on his face for a moment, realizing what had just happened. He cleared his throat then he turned his attention back to me. ''So we are to believe her word then Jane?''
'' I'd say personally Senator, we should believe her photographs and open our eyes here in America that things like this are going on around the world. And we should stop making excuses.''
He forced a smile at her. '' I wouldn't believe her, and I don't..... From what I've heard about her neither should you or anyone in this country. ''
I felt the swallow I made hit home deep in my stomach, knowing as I looked up at his glare at me that his aids had done their homework on my back ground.
Jane looked over to me slightly curious; I just lowered my gaze closing my eyes, as she turned her attention back to the Senator. '' Meaning?''
He laughed. '' Oh I'm sure Miss Freeman doesn't want me to wash her dirty laundry live on air.''
Jane's eyes narrowed. '' Is this relevant to her work Senator? Or just plain gossip?''
'' No, gossip not at all..... I'd just like to say that I think she is a very good photographer and the images are very horrific. No, this is what you brought up Jane.... Your reference to the fact we should trust her word over those in an official role in Africa. Making these images into something they are not. This was a result of a military action taken against rebels.''
'' Oh I see, so what you are saying is that because this happened, because of so called rebels being in the village that the end result is justified. Besides, even if she was the biggest liar on this earth Senator, it doesn't take away the fact of the evidence in these photographs... So I personally would like to know your point of accusing her of fabricating her information?''
He sipped almost half a glass of his water before meeting her eyes again.
'' This program is about evidence, I am well aware of the fact the evidence that Miss Freeman has given us is photographs. Photographs I will admit, yes, show horrific scenes of death. What I am saying is the official report on those deaths is that rebels were hiding there..... She has shown me nothing to prove otherwise.''
He smiled over at me locking eyes, his voice now condescending. '' Now unfortunately we don't have an intrepid photographer like Miss Freeman on the scene of any of the rebel's victims...... Rebels I may add who were terrorizing the whole area for over six months. I'm sure if someone had caught those attacks, the images would have been just as horrific as the ones brought back by Freeman........ No, what we have here is a camera's view of justice. One that was dealt swift, and with force.''
That was it, I felt the last straw hit my temper right on the red button. Before I realized, I was up. '' You have got to be kidding me, you're calling rape, decapitation, machine gunning and fire bombing of children and women......... JUSTICE?''
He sat back looking nervously over to his aid. '' It is not my ........ my idea of justice, no. But it is the internal policy of Africa to treat rebels in this way. We do not have the right to interfere in their laws.''
I felt Jane's hand go to my arm as I moved to go around her. '' THE RIGHT......'' I calmed my voice a little as I felt Jane's hand dig into my arm.
'' One hundred and twenty children Senator, fifty of them were placed in a hole in the ground and shot. Those who were still alive died suffocating under the dirt that was piled on them, and you're saying that is the correct way of dealing with rebels? Four year olds, pregnant women, what were their crimes?''
I knew I was crying I knew I was raving, but I couldn't stop myself. I hadn't really faced that day, I had pushed into my camera lens and distanced myself. But now it was coming out like a wash of blood, I swallowed hard trying to calm my breathing, knowing everyone was staring at me like I was a mad woman, out of the corner of my eye I saw security enter behind the cameras.
'' How can you condone that? Tell me, go on tell me? How can the action justify that kind of result... Innocents, Senator, pure innocents were killed.''
Jane stood up in front of the Senator, her hand now on my chest to stop me lunging forward, her eyes going nervously to the security that were about to step onto the set, she shook her head at them, then pulled my face around so that our eyes met.
''Kathleen......... Kathleen please this isn't helping.''
Finally my vision cleared enough to see her and the rushing in my ears ebbed enough to hear her. She moved her face to my ear and whispered.
''Please if you don't sit down they will take us off the air. You won't ever get a chance like this again. Please.''
I took a long breath, pulling back from her, nodding. I sat, regaining control over my emotions. Jane looked to the producer sending a signal that everything was ok, finally I watched the security step back. The set calmed again, the electricity of tension in the air began to vanish.
Senator Burns took a long glass of water, smoothing his tie into place, a fixed smile on his lips as he looked over to me. '' I can understand your frustration, but it isn't this governments or countries job to interfere with other's policies and laws.....No matter how harsh they seem to be. ''
Jane turned her gaze to the senator, I nearly jumped when I felt her hand go to my knee under the desk, she was patting it as if trying to calm me. '' Thank you for understanding her feelings Senator, and I'm sure you know that her outburst wasn't directed at you personally.''
His fake smile returned again and nodded. '' Fully.''
'' Good... I can also understand your stance in this matter Senator, it is true that our government keeps its nose pretty much out of other countries politics, unless of course that outside government becomes a threat in some way...''
She squeezed my leg under the table as she finished and I nearly laughed out loud as she got in her kill shot and watched the Senator flinch slightly at the last remark, but he quickly replaced his smile.
'' Thank you Jane... I would just like to say one more thing, as I stated at the beginning of all this, before we all got a little heated.''
He paused for the laughter at his little joke but when none came he carried on. '' Who are we to believe in this matter? A photographer who has, lets just say, wavering scruples when he comes to trust and truth..... or a government who would have more to lose by a cover up at this time when they are in negotiations with various countries around the world to lift embargoes?''
He sat back smirking as he saw my face flush again.
I bit back the retort I was going to say, then saw the producer throw Jane a steeled look for her to do the same.
She gave a slight sigh then turned to the camera.
'' Well whatever the reason for such killings there is no denying the talent and focus involved in the photographs themselves...''
She turned to face me again. '' Is it true while on this assignment you were shot?''
I knew as she changed the subject back to me that I was now expected to behave and leave the politics out of the story. I inhaled, as I looked up to answer I saw a shade of sadness in her eyes.
'' Yes I was interviewing in another village outside of Kenopi, soldiers came in to arrest a rebel sympathizer, while I was taking the pictures of the man being take away for questioning, one of the armed guards turned and shot into the crowd that was following the truck. I was hit trying to get to cover...''
'' Oh so you did come across rebels in the area then?'' the Senator motioned with his hands to the camera as if I had just proved his point.
'' If you call a seventy year old man who spoke out against General Mandágia in a meeting with the elders a rebel, yea I guess you could say I saw a rebel...''
I heard Jane's almost silent snort as the Senator coughed away his embarrassment.
''One last thing before we go to a commercial, what do you want your photographs to say?''
I thought for a moment, well aware that the producer was giving me the signal to speed it up. '' That the people of Kenopi will never be forgotten. I hope that in some way that it will stop something like this happening again.''
She smiled. '' I hope so too and good luck on the award. ''
Then she turned her full gaze to the camera. '' After the break we will be talking to Dr Edwards and Dr Mathias on the difference between therapy and drugs being used on today's children to cure asthma, and asking them why the increase of cases in children under three has doubled in the last year? I would like to thank Miss Freeman for joining us and also Senator Burns.''
She nodded to both of us. '' We will be right back .... Stay tuned.''
I sat until I heard the ''clear'' from the floor, and I got up storming off to get the mic off and get the hell out of there, ignoring Jane's call from behind me.
It hadn't taken me long and within an hour I was back in my apartment with a bottle of Jack Daniels on the go, trying to erase the bad taste that was beginning in the back of my throat. When the phone began to ring my first thought was to ignore it, but I knew my publisher was due a call.
Lifting the receiver I let whoever it was know I wasn't amused. '' What?''
The phone was silent against my ear for a moment, but I could hear someone breathing.
'' Kathleen? It's Jane Reynolds from the interview.''
'' Sorry hi... You caught me burying my sorrows. What can I do for you?''
I took another drink, waiting.
'' Well......... look I just wanted to apologize, I really didn't know he was going to be on the show.''
'' You already told me that.'' I knew I wasn't being fair as I heard the edge tint my voice.
'' Yea I did..... I'm not really sure why I'm calling except that I wanted you to know I believe what you said about the cause of the killings, I'm just sorry that the station wouldn't back me when I tried to bring it to light.''
I sighed. '' Look I'm the one who's sorry ok, I know you must have gotten it in the neck for even trying to bring it out...''
She laughed nervously. '' Oh yes they were quite frank about the warning, if I ever pull shit like that again I'm out. On the other hand the viewing figures we got on that show outdid anything this year.''
I felt my anger ebb a little. '' Yea........ sorry you shouldn't have been put in the situation where you could have lost your job.''
For a moment there was silence. '' Jane?''
'' Yes I'm here... I don't normally do this but I was wondering if you would like to have a drink or something?''
My glass paused at my mouth. '' Excuse me?''
'' I have been following your work for a very long time and I was wondering if we could just talk and well I'd really like to get to know the real you?''
I sat down, unsure if what I was hearing was a come on or a journalist curiosity? '' For what reason?''
She laughed. '' Because I'd like to get to know you as a friend and share a drink? Is it so hard to understand someone would find you an interesting friend?''
'' Usually in my experience Jane if someone wants to get to know me it's for other reasons.......''
'' Well then it's about time someone showed you that a friendship doesn't have to mean that.'' Her tone turned serious. '' Look it's no pressure honestly..... All I'm saying is I'd like to meet for a drink and even hang out. Most of the time the people who want me have ulterior motives too, it would be great to simply just enjoy a good meal and conversation that doesn't involve me trying to get their daughter into the studio.''
I laughed. '' Ok, then yes I'd like to. When?''
I could tell she was smiling when she answered. '' Good... How about tomorrow for lunch? Do you know Geribladi's?''
'' Yes it's on the West Side.''
'' About one ok?''
'' One is fine...''
'' Ok , and I am sorry about Burns.''
'' You are gonna have to stop apologizing because that really annoys the hell out of me.''
She laughed again. '' Ok on that too, so until lunch... Night Kathy.''
She hung up before I could tell her not to call me that. Placing the receiver down I sat again slightly dazed by the whole situation. I looked at my drink and suddenly didn't want it anymore. I had no idea what Jane wanted, but I found myself already beginning to feel nervous, part of me wanted to call her back and cancel. I didn't need complications and I wasn't ready for any type of relationship.
I rose stretching the kinks from my back, placing the glass in the sink pouring the remains away, I took a shower then by 3am was in bed. As always as I fell into the unwelcome oblivion of sleep my last conscious thoughts were of Carrie.
I was early at the restaurant and the maitre de showed me to the table Jane had already booked. I chose a white wine to keep me company, smoothing down the white blouse I had chosen. Wondering if it was the right choice? I hadn't noticed until I passed myself in a mirror on the way to a table, that it was almost transparent in the glare of the lights.
I gulped the wine hoping it would stop me being so nervous, over the rim I saw her enter the doorway and I almost choked on the mouthful. The sunlight decided to hit her in its halo, I hadn't noticed before that her hair was two shades of blonde and the casual wear she had on suited her athletic figure perfectly. When she flashed me a smile as she approached, I realized I was looking at her in a sexual way and I felt myself blush, I stood as she reached the table.
'' Hi... Have you been waiting long? Traffic was a bitch.'' She sat, glancing to the wine waiter. ''I'll have the house white thanks.''
Her attention went to me again. '' Have you ordered?'
'' Um no I wasn't sure how long you were going to be.''
'' Then let's.'' She looked back motioning to the waiter before flashing me another dazzling smile.
After ordering we both fell into a comfortable conversation and I found myself relaxing to the point I was actually enjoying her company.
She was easy to talk to, and she filled me in on her life long before dessert arrived. I had kept my information to my early life, my parents and work, avoiding any question about the last year or the one before.
She had tactfully let it go until my defenses were down, she broached the subject over a strawberry cheesecake.
'' So I'm guessing the comment by Burns was aimed at you for a reason?''
I felt my walls come back up again. '' Comment?''
She smiled at me, biting into her dessert. '' I'm not stupid Kath, I also did a background check on you..... look I know you have avoided talking about that part of your life.''
''So? Your point?'' I crossed my arms.
She sighed sitting back. '' All I'm saying is that the past doesn't matter to me, it's the now that does. What ever did happen is your business.''
'' Yes it is.''
She looked at me, tilting her head, then placed her spoon down. '' Ok then can I speak truthfully here?''
I shifted in my chair. '' Go ahead.''
'' I'm attracted to you.''
I felt my breath catch in my throat along with the sudden need to find an exit. '' Wh......... What?''
'' I think you heard me.'' Her voice dropped an octave as she spoke.
'' So this is a pick up.'' I laughed bitterly as I rose. '' As I said on the phone last night Miss Reynolds someone always wants something from me, and quite frankly if you had done your background check you would have known I have nothing to give. Thank you for lunch.''
She stood quickly grabbing my arm. ''No, wait... Please I didn't want. I mean this isn't what this is about, I thought you could use a friend and I just wanted it out in the open that I found you attractive, I'm not going to just jump you, you know. I just wanted to be honest with you.''
I looked down at her hand then glared at her until she removed it, I saw the emotion in her eyes. '' Well Jane if I ever need a friend I know who to call, but right now I don't need any complications.''
I began to walk away.
'' Is it nice living life through a camera lens?''
I stopped turning to her. '' What is that supposed to mean?''
'' Life isn't that simple, you of all people should know that, you can't hide away in your camera forever. That isn't fair to you.''
I snorted a laugh feeling the anger creep into my voice. '' How dare you presume to know me.''
She pushed her chair back as she walked towards me.
'' Why shouldn't I presume, isn't that what your work is about to show the world how miserable you are. Do you even know you have been doing that? Have you really looked at yourself or your work lately. Two years ago I saw your work, it would come up often on the news reports I read. The photographs breathed, they were alive... god they were so beautiful Kath, and now. ''
She moved a step closer, her eyes locking with mine, her voice softening in sadness. '' Now they are nothing but death, there is nothing in them anymore except blood and death Kathleen, are you that unhappy in life?''
I blinked at her, was what she was saying true? I shook my head to her and to myself. '' Again thank you for the lunch.'' I turned and left needing a drink.
No matter how hard I tried to erase what she had said that day I couldn't get it out of the back of my mind. Through the following week I finished the interviews that were booked and told my tale again, sometimes to deaf ears. On a few occasions part of what I said about the killings made it into the edited press. By the end of the week I was exhausted both in body and mind. I hadn't answered any of the messages Jane had left on my answer phone, I didn't want to talk to her.
My first free weekend I knew I had to go over my pictures and pick what I thought were the best for a book that was being compiled in aid of breast cancer. Late Saturday night I had over a thousand images spread over the floor, and I was sat cross-legged in the middle for three hours going over them. As I neared the fourth hour I realized something. Jane had been right. There was no life in any of my new work at all, they had captured horror, maiming, famine, poverty, and war. They were nothing but the moment of death frozen in the lens. Even the ones aimed away from that topic didn't hold the essence of what I had taken before, she was right there was no beauty. Anyone could have pointed a camera and taken them, all I had done was to be there and catch the moment and keep them in focus.
I looked at each one as if for the first time, I had lost the passion but most of all I had lost the heart and soul of each image. I didn't know I was crying until I heard the 'plink plink' as the tears hit the photograph I was holding. I was weeping as I realized I had lost more than Carrie when she left me, I had lost myself. I was kidding that my work could replace her, there wasn't anything in my talent anymore, how could there be when there was nothing inside. I couldn't stop the tears that moment, they came like a torrent, I felt like I was losing her all over again. If I didn't have my work I didn't know who I was. Finally the tears dried and my sobs drained to nothing but pain filled inhales. I lay down amongst my work and curled into a ball and I closed my eyes. I felt so alone.
I laid there for the whole following day, even when I did get up I simply moved to the bed. By the second day I hadn't eaten or slept, I was turning inwardly on myself willing the world to go away. By the third day thirst had driven me to move and only when I drank my fill did I move back to bed. By the fourth my body didn't want to sleep anymore and I began on the alcohol until I was drunk enough to fall into a stupor, after that I lost track of days.
When the door started hammering non-stop it became annoying enough for me to get up, I threw the door open. '' WHO THE FUCK?''
Jane jumped back, then her eyes traveled up and down across my appearance, her mouth falling open in shock. '' Holy shit what the hell have you done to yourself?''
Before I could close the door on her, her foot was in the door.
'' Kathleen please...... ''
I sighed, feeling the strength leave me to fight. '' Fine!'' I moved back to my bed and got under the covers.
I heard her come in and move towards the window, pushing it open. '' Jesus it stinks in here.''
Then the blanket was pulled from my face. '' What are you doing? Do you even know you won the award?''
I opened my eyes staring, trying to focus my lagging brain on what she was saying. ''Award?''
She moved away from me, picking up the photos from the floor, leaving me for a moment to click on the kettle, she picked up the fallen clothes and threw them into the bathroom. Finally she stopped, placing her hand on her hips staring down at me. '' Yes the ceremony was two days ago, you won it........Do you even care Kathleen?''
I sat up, rubbing my face, trying to figure out if I was pleased or not.
She ran her hand back through her short hair, then exhaled.
'' Is this where you have been Kath? Hiding away from the world, have you any idea how bad you look right now?''
I pulled the t shirt away from my skin feeling it itch, as I inhaled I could smell myself. I looked over to her through bloodshot eyes. She lifted the two empty bottles of Jack Daniels from the floor depositing them into the already full trash, throwing me a disapproving look as she picked up the glasses placing them into the over brimming sink, letting out the foul water in it, running fresh water into it.
''If this is about what I said? I'm sorry.''
I ran my hand through my hair feeling the greasiness. '' Why are you here Jane?''
She exhaled again, realizing I wasn't going to offer her a seat she cleared a space on the chair and sat anyway. '' I was worried, I expected to see you at the award ceremony. when you didn't show I talked to your editor, he was worried too, he hadn't heard from you in days either..... you missed your deadline you know, he is pretty pissed at you.... ''
'' He'll get over it. I'm fine so you can pass on the message.'' All I wanted to do was get her out and go back under the blanket.
She stared at me for a moment. '' Are you?'' Her tone was very soft.
I rubbed my eyes feeling suddenly tired. '' Not really.'' I tried to smile but even that seemed a chore.
'' Kath can I ask you something?''
'' You're going to anyway Jane.''
She smiled at that.
'' Why don't you fight for her? I don't know the whole story but from what I can gather you still love her very much. I'm sure if you explained your affair with Alice, Carrie would understand........ especially if she could see what you are without her in your life, she will see the love Kath.''
I winced, '' YOU HAVE NO FUCKIN IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT....... GET OUT!''
Getting up I moved quickly to the bathroom slamming the door.
I felt myself shaking as I bent over the bowl, when I looked up and caught my reflection I actually stepped back, my hair was matted, my eyes were so bloodshot I was amazed I could see through them, my skin was pale and clammy. I looked like a wild woman. I heard the light tap on the door.
''Then tell me? Maybe I can help..... Kathleen let me be a friend please.''
I inhaled, then I smelt myself again and wished I hadn't, I looked at the pitiful sight in the reflection. A part of me suddenly had enough of pity, I made a choice right then and there, one I hoped I wasn't going to regret. Reaching over I turned on the shower. '' Alright. but I need food and coffee first.''
I heard her footsteps leave the door and I went about the long task of cleaning myself up.
Thirty minutes later I emerged from the bathroom feeling somewhat human again. The smell of coffee made my stomach growl in protest of being neglected. I was surprised to find that Jane had gone through the room and cleaned it, she steered me to the table and deposited a plate filled with scrambled eggs and toast. She didn't ask questions, she just sat on the chair waiting. Lifting the coffee I moved to the bed, tucking my legs under as I got comfortable, then I met her waiting eyes.
'' Thank you.''
She tilted her head again. '' For?''
I inhaled, she wasn't going to make it easy to grovel. '' For cleaning up and kicking my arse...''
This time she smiled, scratching just above her eye as she finally relaxed.
'' You're welcome... Besides the cleaning I did for my benefit. It really did stink in here...''
I smiled sheepishly, then sipped the coffee again welcoming its warmness in my stomach. '' Why did you really come here?'' I played with the handle of the cup not looking up at her.
'' Because I really do believe you could use a friend, and I was worried about you. The other reason is I have something that belongs to you.''
I felt a smile start. '' I really did win?''
She laughed as she reached into her bag taking out a box, which she opened.
'' Yep.'' She handed it over, her face beaming.
I looked down at her hands then finally I willed my own forward, taking the silver orb as if at any moment it would bite me, or vanish. I was surprised by the weight, it was heavy and cool to my touch. I could feel the tears threatening to brim but I blinked them away.
'' Thanks...'' my voice was hoarse with emotion.
'' I also have a copy of the program if you want to see it?'' She placed the videotape on the edge of the bed.
I nodded unable to trust my voice. I traced my finger over my name embossed onto the silver plate below the etched eye in the center. I hadn't realized how much the award would mean to me, but right then holding it I felt part of me beam with pride and a sense of accomplishment I'd never felt before. The other part was sadly wishing that Carrie could have been there to share in it.
'' Kath do you want me to go?''
I'd forgotten she was there for a moment, I wiped the tears back. '' Actually no I'd kinda like you to stay, I don't think I want to be alone right now.''
'' Well normally I'd say let's have a drink to celebrate, but no offence, I don't think that would be wise..... so how about I call out for pizza, my treat?''
I noticed for the first time that she was nervous.
'' I'd like that Jane. I'll take half veg half pepperoni, press four on the phone the number is already logged.''
Laughing she reached over and began to phone through the order. '' Sounds like you are as bad as me on the home cooking front...... what do you want to drink?''
'' Get a six of coke.''
She nodded saying something else I didn't really register, I wasn't really listening to her now, the award mesmerized me. I'd never really won anything that said I was the best at something. I felt saddened I couldn't just pick up the phone and call my parents and know they would understand what I felt or beam with pride. I knew they would just accept it as something as normal in my profession and nothing special. They would change the subject, questioning as always the when was I going to get a proper job and settle down. Carrie would have understood, knowing without me saying how I felt. She always did, it was another part of me that loved her for it, one that never used words, the sense of her that knew me better than I knew myself.
I looked up not realizing she was talking to me. ''Sorry what did you say?''
'' Just that it will be here in about ten, do you want to eat out of the box or shall we dress for dinner?'' She grinned at me and I answered it, once again she had lifted me out of the pit I was beginning to fall into.
I looked at her I think for the first time, her gray eyes that had shown ice to Senator Burns were soft and gentle as she looked at me. Our eyes locked again and no words were spoken, and as she smiled I felt a part of me open to her from beyond the barriers that had been erected over the year. It became one of those times where neither of us knew what was happening, only conscious of the growing silence around us. Looking directly at each other the only movement were our eyes as they searched for something, whether it was details in each other's face or questions unasked.
The moment turned into minutes and the silence stretched to one that was becoming uncomfortable, which of course meant we both spoke to break it at once.
'' Ok you first Jane.''
She inhaled deeply, a slight blush coming to her cheeks. '' I wanted to explain about the attraction comment. it's been bothering me, I mean the way I just blurted it out.''
I nodded, settling back onto the bed, placing the orb pride of place near the lamp. '' Ok....''
'' I didn't handle it like I should have, the thing is I knew the Senator's comment was aimed at you because he knew it would hit home, and yes I knew why.''
She waited, looking at me to see if she had gone too far again, when I remained silent she continued.
'' I just wanted you to know that I wasn't going to play games, I seriously am a fan of your work...... the thing is I also knew you were gay, it's not like you keep it secret in your life, well I'm in a different position that my network know I'm gay but they would rather I didn't go throwing it into the face of the viewers.. I find it hard to be friends with people Kath, very hard. I wasn't kidding when I said people are usually after me for their own advancement into television. Most of the time I can't just be myself around anyone.''
Her eyes dropped to her hands, which were folded in her lap. '' I have always been an honest person and yes I will admit I have the tact of gnat.''
I let out a slight chuckle. '' Yea I can back that one up..''
She looked up grinning. '' I'd say sorry but I'm afraid that's who I am, I have had to be........ I can't control it sometimes, my brain thinks it and before I know it my mouth has engaged...... but I was wrong. I only realized after I said it that to you it would look like I had taken you to lunch to try it on. But I promise the lunch wasn't about that... I do want to be your friend and I mean a genuine friend.''
She lowered her gaze. '' More to the point I could use a friend too, one who takes me for who I am not where I work. One I can trust.''
''And you think you can trust me, even after what you have heard about my past?''
'' I told you that the past doesn't matter Kath.''
She lightened her tone and I watched a slight mischief creep into her eyes. '' Hell I'm not too proud of some of the things I have done. I don't know you well enough to give you full info yet.'' She laughed and wiggled her eyebrows.
I let out a full laugh. The door speaker interrupted, she was up in a minute before I could argue about paying.
Twenty minutes later I was sat back on the sofa with a stomach that was purring like a kitten and one final slice of pizza calling me like a siren to eat it.
Jane was sat relaxed, a second coke poised on her knee, her head tilted back as she patted her stomach. '' God I'll have to work out twice tomorrow to get rid of those calories.''
I smiled over at her. '' You don't look like the type that has to do one damn thing to keep your body perfect.''
Her head slowly leveled, her eyes traveling over my body. '' Neither do you.....''
I felt the blush creep over my body before I could stop it, suddenly feeling very undressed in my shorts and T-shirt. I broke eye contact taking a long drink.
I heard her chuckle.
'' What?'' I asked.
'' You're cute when you blush.''
I scowled at her. '' I am not cute!''
That just caused her to laugh harder. '' Sorry but you are. haven't you been told that before.''
My smiled vanished. '' Yea.''
She saw the change and sat straight. '' Sorry......''
I looked up at her. '' For what?''
She shrugged. '' For whatever it was I said that brought a scowl to your face and the walls to shoot up again.''
I inhaled deeply, I had a choice again to either shrug her off or actually talk to her. '' Carrie called me that, but that isn't the reason for the scowl.''
I stiffened. '' Yea Alice.'' I looked up at her. '' What it is you think you know Jane?''
She stood up, moving to take the pizza box from me, after placing it she came back in and sat. '' The grapevine as it were is saying that you cheated with Alice while you were on an assignment...... Carrie found out and the rest they say is history.''
I felt it like a blow again across the cheek, the same feeling I felt when Carrie confronted me and struck out.
'' And what do you think Jane?'' I looked up staring directly at her suddenly needing to know her opinion of me.
She returned the stare, looking at my eyes, then at my face. '' Even in the short time I have known you Kath I don't think you're capable of doing that to someone, let alone someone you loved.''
I drew in a long breath, swallowing. '' I didn't.''
She nodded, sitting back crossing her legs as she cupped the can in her hands. '' Can I ask what happened? I'll understand if you say mind my own business.''
'' I made a decision that cost me more than I ever thought it could........ I tried to handle Alice and her attraction to me without telling Carrie. Simply put, Alice used me and our friendship to put me into a situation where the evidence meant I looked guilty about having an affair with her. I can't really blame Carrie for thinking what she did, or friends that assumed...''
Jane's brow creased. '' Carrie believed Alice over you?''
I shook my head. '' No, she over heard someone else talking about the affair and she confronted me about it, I thought she meant that I had withheld telling her so when she asked me if it was true, I said yes. What I didn't know was she was asking me if the affair was true....... by that time it spiraled out of control... I went to Alice to confront her and she virtually.''
I felt the old frustration start to build again at having to explain.
I stopped, rising to my feet as I felt my skin crawl as I remembered that night.
'' She attacked me, I ended up under her while she was naked on top of me, and as always fate is a bitch... Carrie turned up to confront Alice to find out the truth and that is what she saw...''
'' Oh god.''
I looked over to her. '' Yea... Something like that. Anyway Carrie wouldn't listen and she disappeared on me... friends closed ranks to protect her, while Alice was playing the perfect victim of seduction. Hardly surprising I was labeled a bitch and Carrie wanted to get as far away as possible from me.''
'' She wouldn't listen at all?''
I sat as I shook my head. '' No. She left, went somewhere I couldn't get to her.'' I looked over at her. '' Besides in that situation would you believe me when your eyes had shown you otherwise?''
Slowly her gaize dropped.
'' I guess not. Don't worry about it Jane, I think even if I was in that situation I would have reacted the same way..... as I said Alice was very good.''
Her eyes flashed as she looked up. '' What a bitch!''
'' And then some..... but I shouldn't have held back from Carrie I know that now, in hindsight it's always easier.'' I added a bittersweet smile.
She nodded smiling in understanding. '' Yea, been there done that.''
I felt the emotional tiredness creep over me again as it always did when I went back in time to that moment.
'' So that's why you threw yourself into work?''
I shrugged as I moved back into the comfort of the sofa. '' Yes. Well kind of... I couldn't handle being around where she was, it was the easiest way to get away I guess......... When I'm in a situation where my mind has to be completely on something other then her, it didn't hurt as much.''
'' And the more dangerous the situation the easier it got. Right?''
I looked at her, trying to figure out how she had gotten to know me so well in such a short time.
'' At the time I didn't realize I was doing that, but yes everything you said is right Jane, including the comment you made about my work.''
She shifted uncomfortable as my gaze fixed on her.
'' Don't worry about it, you're blunt, yes, but I'm guessing you are usually right when you are. I looked at my work, I mean really looked at it and in part the way you found me was down to what you said.. But not because you said it, it just made me face it. My work has no heart. When I saw that I guess the sphere I put around me to protect just shattered.''
Her hand fell onto the back of mine. '' I'm sorry.''
I smiled at her weakly. '' No worries... if it makes you feel better I think the kick up the arse helped me in a strange way''
Her head tilted, as she looked at me in question. '' How?''
I laughed at the expression. '' Sorry but you just struck me as the cute one with that look, a cross between a beagle and a child.''
She snorted sitting back. '' God. Thanks, I think.''
I watched her blush for a moment then let my own chuckle fade as I continued.
'' My work has always been important to me Jane. When I realized I'd lost that will in me and was simply putting myself in harms way in hope that I wouldn't ever have to come back home, I felt lost. I honestly don't know how to fix it. ''
Her fingers moved under my chin forcing my downcast face up to look at her. '' Kath... You're being way too hard on yourself. You seem to forget you just won an award.....''
She smiled over at the orb. '' That was given for work that was done in the last six months remember. I really was too harsh when I said all your work had changed.......... you have something now that is raw and wild, yes, and at times very brutal.. But you have never lost your eye. That talent has just changed from what it was.. And honestly I can understand how and why.''
I inhaled the hitch in my throat away.
'' You don't look for beauty anymore, that's why it isn't there but don't ever doubt your gift. What you see now is truth...... It's a different kind of beauty believe me.''
When I looked into her eyes I could see she truly believed what she was saying, all I could manage as a reply was, '' Thanks.''
She laughed again, this time drawing her head back. '' Is it always this hard to deal you a compliment?''
We locked eyes again then she broke it looking at her watch. '' Christ it's after two. I have to go, I got to be in the studio at eight.''
She got up, lifting her coat from the back of the chair then dipping to pick up her bag. I walked her to the door opening it for her, as she passed I touched her arm making her turn.
'' Thank you Jane, I mean for being a friend and coming over tonight.''
The smile she gave me would have melted any ice with its warmth.
'' You're very welcome, so will you call me?''
I nodded again.
'' Have you actually got my number?'' A slight mischief came into her eyes.
My smile vanished as I realized I hadn't. '' God, no. Sorry I erased all your messages.''
Chuckling she pulled a card from her jacket and gave it to me, then before I could say anything else she reached up and placed a chaste kiss on my cheek and walked out the door.
That night wasn't the last of the groveling I did, I had to make it up to my publisher, and although he gave me half hour of verbal chastisement he excepted my apology on the understanding I would have the negatives ready for the end of the week. I met the new deadline with very little problems, and the prints I sent him were of my earlier work. I had placed the Kenopi and the past year's work into a folder, and I had no intention of looking at them for a very long time. They now were nothing more than reminders of the past year.
I started at the beginning again, I went to parks and took pictures of people, trees, lakes, anything to keen my eye again. With slow steps I began to see the beauty around. Jane became a constant friend and also a truthful critic, when she didn't like something, boy did she let me know. But through the following month we formed a bond of trust. Most often than not when she finished at the studio she would come straight over to my place. Which of course meant every time she turned up at the door she had some form of furniture to now litter my apartment. Slowly that too started to take on a look of a place you could call home.
One thing I noticed about her was that she had a very good eye and at the start of June I began to teach her to use the camera. Her work held a touch of innocence to it, but at the same time her reporter skills would pick something out of a scene and capture it perfectly. Our weekends were soon spent together and whenever we could get a long weekend off we would leave the city for the country and escape away from the hustles of the world.
I felt comfortable around her, she had a sense of humor that could one minute leave me gasping in between laughing so hard, or look at her wondering if she was kidding or pulling my leg again. I saw a lot of Carrie in Jane. At first I thought that was why I liked Jane so much, but after a few months I realized that they were two different people.
I didn't have a sexual attraction to Jane. I couldn't figure out why, she was sexy as hell in an evening dress, but my heart wouldn't respond. One thing I knew was I was never going to be the sort of person that could have casual sex with friends, and most of all that was what Jane was. Friends that would just talk, for hours sometimes, and if you asked me what about I wouldn't be able to tell you, mindless things that friends share.
I tried to move on from Carrie while I was around her, I knew that she would have liked to take our friendship further into a sexual one, but she never pushed it and thankfully just accepted what we had as enough. But I worried that the time would come where it wouldn't be, one day and she wouldn't be able to handle it as it was.
She is a very beautiful woman, inside and out, and has a strength that would make most men weak at the knees if they pissed her off. Yet I saw a side of her that very few saw, she had a very good heart and sometimes that made her a doormat in relationships. We balanced each other perfectly I think, well I hoped.
By late August I had an offer to go to Cypress. I didn't know how to broach the subject with Jane, I knew that she wouldn't be working and I wanted her to come with me. So I set up a dinner invite in one of her favorite restaurants. I was more nervous than I thought I ever could be as I waited at the table. But I felt it ebb as she came into the room, her eyes searching. When they found their target her smile engulfed her whole face as she weaved her way through.
'' Hey.... Wow is it my birthday?'' She asked as she sat.
'' No... Just wanted to do something special other than pizza on a Friday night.'' I managed to stop myself shrugging but the sheepish grin still got out.
The wine waiter came and left, leaving us alone. At first our conversation was the usual banter about work and our week.
After my third glass of wine I summoned my courage. '' Jane.''
She looked up from her plate. '' Yes.''
I swallowed. '' Jane.....''
Her eyebrows dipped. '' um...... present and correct.''
I smiled at her, taking a long breath. '' Jane.''
She chuckled. '' Kath?''
'' I have to go on a shoot in Cypress......... I was wondering, I mean, as you're not working that week. I mean if you are busy it isn't a problem, but I thought, I mean I wanted to ask........... '' I inhaled knowing I was babbling.
She laid down her fork and took my hand, I could see the laughter in her eyes. '' Yes.''
'' Yes I'd like to go.'' When I didn't say anything she suddenly sat back a worried look on her face. '' That was what you were going to ask me right?''
I nodded and watched the worry leave her eyes and she let out a short laugh. '' So, what now?''
I blinked at her. '' Now?''
''God, don't start that again.''
We both laughed and I felt the tension leave us.
'' As you are my guest as it were, I ....um brought a ticket.'' I took it out laying it on the table.
She picked it up flashing me another smile. '' Well I won't say thank you cos I know that embarrasses the shit out of ya.''
I rolled my eyes, but I was grateful, I hated that part of giving gifts I just didn't know how to handle it so I moved on.
'' It's a shoot so we won't be staying in one place all the time so pack for backpacking.''
She bounced with contained excitement and I saw that deep look come into her eyes, the one she got when she was free of the restrictions of the desk in front of her when returning to being the journalist on the move.
The dinner couldn't have gone any better, I had felt the tension leave and the apprehension at the possibility of her turning me down fade away.
So when dessert arrived I threw the calories out the window and aimed high on the cholesterol list. Enjoying our time together as always, just letting myself relax into her company.
'' Well I never........'' The voice came from behind me and I froze, my body shivered as I heard the source of it walk into view. '' Kathleen? Oh my god I don't believe it, it is?''
I put my spoon down, the strawberry Pavlova suddenly turning sour on my tongue. Jane was flicking her questioning gaze from me to the woman now standing beside us.
'' Hello Alice.''
Jane's eyebrows jumped, her eyes narrowing as she came face to face with the cause of my nightmares.
Alice smiled then turned to face Jane, I watched as she looked her up and down, her smile changing to one of a leer, she held out her hand. '' Well I know Kathy isn't going to introduce us? I'm Alice and you are?''
Jane put on a best smile of her own, one I knew was nowhere near one offered to friends. '' Jane Reynolds, I have heard so much about you Alice.''
Alice's smile twitched for a moment. '' Oh am sure Kathy filled you in. I assure you it's all lies.''
When she added a forced laugh, I felt my skin crawl.
Alice made sure to caress the back of Jane's hand before releasing it. I was sure Jane was going to grab her fork and stab her right then and there, instead she made sure to wipe the back of her hand in full view with the napkin.
'' Oh I doubt if Kath lied.''
They locked eyes for a moment, but it was Jane's stare that won and Alice turned her attention back to me.
'' So how are you? I did try and contact you but you just disappeared off the planet for a while... Such a shame on you for leaving me like that, after everything we meant to each other Kathy...''
My jaw was so tense I could feel my teeth grinding under the assault of my mouth clamping shut. '' Don't Alice..'' She ignored my warning and continued.
'' Now babe, how have you been? I mean after Carrie dropped you like that after just one little slip... God did you know she was a mess when she came back? Everyone was talking about her at the Uni.''
She relaxed back, crossing her arms, knowing she had my attention and it shone on her like a cat that had trapped the mouse again. '' Oh and I have got to tell you this one she defended you... Can you believe it? She threw you out on your arse yet whenever anyone brought it up she would kill um dead.......Hypocritical don't you think? '' She laughed hard at her own joke.
I felt myself look up at her. '' Defended?''
She grinned.' Oh yes, told old Doctor Felps to get a life.''
I looked at her confused.
Then that leer came to her lips as her eyes went to Jane and then back to me. '' But I can see both Carrie and I were easily replaced...'' She smirked over at Jane.
Hearing Carrie's name mentioned by the creature in front of me was the last hold on my temper, I stood almost in one movement, causing her to suddenly step back. I kept my voice as low as I could. '' You listen to me..... Go away right now....... Leave! ''
''Now now Kathy, remember that temper of yours, I let it go last time, but I can assure you my dear, no matter what I think of you in my heart I won't be a victim to your abuse again.''
I clenched my fist tightly.
She looked over to Jane, her voice sincerity itself. '' Have you encountered her temper yet? I think I should warn you I had the bruises for weeks last time she hit out, I wouldn't want it to happen to you.''
Jane smiled as she rose, her hand going around my waist pulling me close, leaning her head on my shoulder. I felt my tense muscle relax a little at her touch. '' Well the thing is Alice. That is your name right? Well the thing is I believe Kath and I know how you came by the bruises you wore for a week wasn't it?''
Alice's smug smile dimmed a little.
Jane rubbed my back gently before dropping her hand and moving right in front of Alice, placing her hand on her hip, this time Jane looked her up and down. '' Quite frankly I think she went easy on you, I would have broken something...'' She paused then stepped closer again making sure to look Alice up and down before continuing.
'' A lot more permanent...''
After flashing Alice her best man eating snarl, Jane reached back and took my hand then led me past my open mouthed red-faced nemesis. As we reached the maitre de to sign for dinner I heard Alice's voice filled with surprised anger echo through the restaurant.
'' Oh by the way Kathy I will be sure to tell Carrie that I saw you, I'm sure she will want to know you have moved on as well as she has in life..... Did you know she is seeing Shannon again?''
I felt her words hit me like a sledgehammer in my chest. Jane gave me a worried look as I slumped and held onto the desk, she moved to go back after Alice but I grabbed her arm shaking my head.
'' Please can we get out of here?''
She nodded; as we turned to leave she threw a look that would have felled a titan back at Alice. All I heard as we exited the building was Alice's triumphant laugher, one I remembered from that terrible night. All I could think as Jane placed me in the passenger seat of her car, was I wanted to throw up.
Once back at the apartment that was just what I did, and tears I didn't know existed sprang forth with a vengeance. Jane stayed with me the whole time, doing what friends do when you're hurling your soul up, holding back my hair and pressing a damp cloth to my neck. After everything had calmed we moved back into the living room and sat in silence. I knew she wanted to know more and I was grateful for the first hour that she didn't.
I finally looked up at her and I saw the sadness in her eyes as she realized by my actions tonight that I was still very much in love with Carrie.
She smiled weakly at me. '' How you feeling?''
I sipped the seltzer gently, feel the nectar on my parched throat. '' I've been better...'' I managed a light smile.
She nodded, then she took a long inhale. '' So that's the infamous Alice? Can't say I like her much.''
I snorted a laugh. '' Couldn't have guessed.''
She stared at me for a moment, then lowered her gaze as if changing her mind on asking something.
'' You want to know who Shannon is right?''
She was about to deny it then she bit her lip, slowly she nodded.
'' I guess it's the journalist in me.. Mostly it's the friend who cares... So who is she?''
I took another sip. '' Carrie dated her for about two years...... They had split up about two months before I came onto the scene.''
'' Yea.. Oh''
'' Why did they split up?''
I shifted self-consciously. '' Shannon screwed around.''
I watched as Jane's jaw tensed, I knew she was biting back her response.
'' Go ahead and say it Jane because I'm already thinking it.''
'' How the fuck could she go back to someone like that, when she wouldn't even give you the time to sit and fucking listen...'' She was up and pacing in anger.
I couldn't really blame her, I had already exploded inside when I had gotten over the punch to my heart. What made Shannon so different to me?
Jane stopped for a moment in her rant. '' How many times did Shannon fuck around on her?''
I swallowed, my mind turning back to the time Carrie had wept in my arms when she finally admitted to me everything Shannon had done to her.
'' Four or five, Carrie walked in on the last one.''
Jane threw up her hands. '' God I hope I never meet this Carrie, Kath, because right now I want to hit her more than I wanted to hit Alice... For Christ sake she believed others over you.''
Part of me wanted to jump up and slap Jane in the face to defend my Carrie, but another part was slowly turning inwardly on the love I had for her, one to bitterness. '' Jane...... Hun. It's ok......''
Jane swung round, her hand pushing back her hair. '' It is not ok... Jesus. Doesn't this piss you off?''
'' Yes...'' I knew I sounded pathetic.
She stared at me as if I had suddenly sprung a horn on my nose. '' Yes? That's it?''
''What do you want me to do Jane, fly to New York, storm up to their house and smash Shannon in the face? What would that achieve, Carrie has obviously moved on.''
I stood suddenly feeling the old feeling of frustration starting to surface.
'' She isn't going to listen, she didn't then and she won't now......''
'' And what does that tell you Kath?''
''Tell me? I don't......''
She stepped closer so that she was virtually in my face, I could see the anger in her eyes flashing. '' She didn't listen, she never gave you a real chance and that is supposed to be love?''
I stepped back. '' Jane... Don't ok just don't.''
She caught my arm as I tried to turn away. '' Don't what? Let you face the truth, for over a year you have virtually self destructed...... gone places where you knew damn well you might not come back from, you have spent it running Kath....... Running from the truth and the fact that she didn't love you enough to stand by you.''
I pulled my arm free moving swiftly to the door, feeling the anger building up. I yanked it open. '' Go ok just go, before we say something we can't go back from.''
She was at my side in seconds.
'' I'm willing to chance that... for fuck sake Kath, get a back bone for crying out loud, you have let this woman walk all over you............just because you loved her doesn't give her the right to do any of the things she did, and now Jesus Christ.''
She pushed on the door, the force knocking my hold on it free, it rattled the wood frame as it slammed shut. Then she took a long breath to calm herself before she continued her tone softened.
'' I have only just met Alice and even if I didn't know her history I wouldn't trust her further than my five year old niece could throw her.... And you're telling me that Carrie didn't know who this Alice really was..... Kath?''
I looked at the floor.
'' Kath you may have been the innocent naïve woman that didn't know women like Alice existed.... But Carrie wasn't. How can you still love someone like that? I would never hurt you like that Kath, can't you see that?''
I closed my eyes feeling the tears begin, I had long ago thought of every thing Jane was voicing. '' Please... Jane don't...''
I think the anguish in my voice suddenly got through her anger, as I watched tears come to her eyes.
'' Kath I didn't want.... I'm sorry.'' She inhaled with a shudder.
She gave me a long sorrowful look that reflected her apologies in her gray eyes. Moving she lifted her coat and purse and opened the door, as she passed the table she put the airline ticket onto it.
'' I don't think I will come with you, give me a call when you're back ok?''
I nodded unable to voice anything to stop her leaving.
When the door clicked shut, I felt like the biggest coward on the planet that I didn't go after her. What was more painful was I knew then what I felt for her would never go beyond friendship, because I saw what she really meant when she said she would never hurt me. I had seen it in her eyes laid bare, she was in love with me.
I went and sat by the window, wondering if the weather was tied into my emotions as the heavens opened and flooded the street below. I wanted to bury my pain in the bottom of a bottle, but I had been drink free for nearly six months and I didn't want to betray Jane's friendship like that.
As I sat there I could feel the anger grow inside like a spreading hard ball of lead, once again Alice had screwed up my life in some way. The hours ticked past on the clock, and the rain outside began to slow into drizzle that made patterns on the window. One thing I wanted, I needed to know if what Alice said was true. Had Carrie defended me? Was she with Shannon? Or was that just another button Alice knew how to push?
I hadn't attempted to contact Carrie in the last year, I thought I had moved on, but tonight had shown me many things, but the most important was that I was still in love with Carrie, but there was something else now, there was the why? Why had she believed others? The more I went over it in my mind the more the why began to grow. Jane had been right again, I had no back bone when it came to Carrie and when it came to Alice I always backed up like a whipped pup.
I also went over everything that Jane had said, all put in her usual delicate way, I shook my head smiling. '' Jane... Jane...'' She sure did know how to kick my arse. I reached for the phone lifting it, I punched number eight knowing it would connect to Jane's number.
'' Hi, I'm not home right now, leave your blurb after the thingy and I'll get back when I can... Beeeeeeeeep.''
'' Hey Jane you there, pick up?''
'' Look everything you said was right and if you still want to, I mean.... I'll understand if you don't but I'd really like you to come to Cypress with me? Jane?''
I heard the receiver click as she picked up. '' Didn't think you would want to even talk to me again after I ran my mouth off...''
'' Well you were right. '' I suddenly didn't know what to say to her.
'' Yea.... But wasn't my place to say now was it Kath?''
I rubbed my face. '' If my best friend in the whole world can't say then who can...''
She didn't reply straight away, and a heavy silence followed for more than a few minutes, then I heard her inhale deeply.
'' But that is all I will be. Isn't it?'' her voice was an almost tired whisper.
'' Jane I can't talk about the future and what might happen and I'm not going to ask you to wait until I could offer more.... Look this isn't what this is about... ''
She sighed. '' Yes it is Kath... Because I can't compete with Carrie.''
I inhaled. ' 'This isn't a competition.'' This wasn't going how I planned.
'' No because if it was it wouldn't be a fair one... I can't compete with a shadow.''
'' This isn't why I called Jane, I don't want to lose you as a friend.''
She laughed bitterly. '' God Kath, you have no idea how hurtful that is to say to someone do you.''
I blinked. '' I... I...I don't mean to hurt you...''
'' I know.... Look thank you for the offer to come but I think I need to do something for myself for a while, the time apart will probably help us... I wish I didn't feel these things Kath I honestly do, but the sad fact is that I am in love with you.''
I didn't know what to say back to her, but as always she was one step ahead of me.
'' You don't have to say anything ok, I just wanted to say it once...... now maybe I can move on or at least deal with it, but right now I don't think I can see you.''
I heard her voice break, then she covered it. '' Kath promise me something?''
I hesitated unsure of what she was going to ask.
'' It's ok, it's nothing to do with me, it's something I want you to do for yourself....''
'' Ok I promise, what?''
'' Find out the truth about Carrie, all of it? Don't let Alice win this one.''
I half laughed and half cried at her, even though I was breaking her heart she was still thinking of me first. '' Ok...''
'' No Kathleen, promise me?''
'' I promise.''
'' Good, because if I were Carrie I would be waiting for you to come and fight for me Kath...... And I hope she is something better than what I think of her right now.''
'' Jane?'' I swallowed the lump in my throat.
'' I know Kath, you don't have to say it ok, just be happy and when you find a free moment call me? For once in your life fight for something you want; second chances never come around twice. Make your choice Kath...''
'' If you ever need me Jane I mean it call me? God what am I going to do without you around?''
I heard her sniffle. '' Move on in your life Kath, I made it safe, it's time you stepped back into the danger you used to crave... be well...''
'' Jane I...''
She hung up before I could say anything else but not before I heard her totally break down, I swear to this day I could hear her heart break as the phone clicked its echo. I sat with the phone in my hand long after she had hung up. Then finally I replaced the receiver and it felt like I was closing a door on a part of my life. It hurt inside to know I had hurt her and I felt the guilt settle heavily on the weight of the world already on my shoulders.
I knew I couldn't lie and pretend that she was more to me than she already was. Yes I wanted to hold her close and tell her everything was going to be all right, to try and be what she wanted me to be, but I knew I couldn't. She meant more to me than a lie, she deserved more than what I could give her or pretend to. I couldn't give her what she needed.
At that moment I felt another door start to open as the need in me suddenly surfaced. Jane had given me many things in our friendship and one of them was truth, the truth was I loved Carrie and I would never be free of that love until I found answers to my questions. Whatever way it fell I needed to know. As I rose and headed to the bedroom to pack my bags I realized the biggest gift Jane had bestowed upon me, one I could never repay.
Was the strength to finally take a chance.
Ladyhawke124@hotmail.com Comments? All as always are welcome. J
Hmmm who knew this would turn into a bigger story? Will there be sequel?
Other titles exclusive to the academy.
Little ditty. Sound of rain. Shattered. Choices. Lost souls. Taste of tears.
Copyright '' Chances.'' K.Savage. 18/08/04