A Little Piece of Paradise
It was after five in the evening by the time Tori and Eden had changed, packed most of Eden`s clothes and travelled to the cottage in Summer Lane.
"What would you like to do this evening?" Asked Tori.
"You know, I`d really like a night out on the town. Finishing up at the Tap." Said Eden, emptying the large plastic bag filled with her clothes onto the bed.
"Yeah, call me egotistical, but I want to show you off." She said, sorting underwear from socks and putting them in drawers.
"Um, last time I was there I didn`t make much of an impression." Said Tori, sitting on the bed and reaching for a silky pair of briefs.
Eden snatched them out of her hand. "Well, I don`t remember much about it. And anyway, I need to talk to Karen." She looked at her lover. "Don`t you think?"
"Yes, I think. You gave her some pretty strong signals last time."
"I did didn`t I." She said staring at the underwear in her hands. "I still can`t believe I did that."
"You were drunk. And mad." Tori stood and walked over to the window.
"That`s no excuse, you don`t use people like that." She looked up to see Tori`s tense back. "Tori, I`m sorry, I didn`t mean....."
Tori turned when she felt a gentle hand on her back. "I know." She said, dipping her head and capturing the soft lips of her lover.
After the kiss the taller woman held her love close. "C`mon, let`s get ready and go out."
Eden nodded and untangled herself from her lover`s arms. "Ok, are we going smart or casual?"
"Casual, I think." Said Tori and pulled out a pair of jeans and a sweater.
"Well, I only got dressed an hour or so ago, so I`m going as I am." Said Eden as she tucked the last of her clothes away into a drawer. She moved towards the door and turned to watch Tori removing the clothes she`d worn that day, the one`s she`d left in when she`d gone to London.
"Oh, and Tori?" Came the voice from the landing.
"What?" Asked Tori, naked.
"Wear something I won`t have any trouble removing later."
Tori went out onto the landing, but Eden had disappeared downstairs. "Where are you?" Tori called down.
"I`m watching telly." Eden appeared at the bottom of the stairs. "Why?"
"Nothing. Just wondered. Won`t be long." Tori said, and disappeared into the bathroom.
The night was windy, cold and wet. They didn`t have any trouble finding a parking space a short distance from the entrance to the Bath Tap. As it was shortly after nine in the evening, they didn`t have to pay the entrance fee and Eden took Tori`s hand she she preceeded her lover into the pub.
As usual the female population was outnumbered by the male, and the small amount of women were seated around a table in the corner.
"Hi." Said Eden as she seated herself in a vacant chair. She looked over at the bar where Tori was ordering them drinks. "Is Karen here?" She asked Annie who was sitting, seperated slightly from the other two women at the table.
"Upstairs I think. I heard about last week."
Eden cringed. "Really?"
Annie nodded, then beckoned Eden closer. "Is this it?" She asked and immediately knew the answer when she saw the smile that lit her friend`s face.
"Yes it is." Said Eden quietly. "Thanks."
"For telling me to wait. Thanks for the adivice."
Annie shrugged. "I think you would have worked it out for yourself anyway." She looked towards the bar. "She`s lovely."
Eden turned and regarded the woman who was now moving towards them with drinks in both hands.
Tori looked at the admiring looks she was getting from two sets of eyes.
"What?" The tall woman said as she set the glasses on the table.
"Tori, this is Annie." Eden said changing the subject.
Tori reached out her hand. "Pleased to meet you. You`re the bus driver aren`t you?"
"I am, though I wish I wasn`t." Said Annie with a sigh.
"No, I don`t think I`d have the patience. All that stopping and starting." Tori managed to ease into the vacant seat beside Eden.
But as soon as she`d settled Eden sprang to her feet. "I have to go upstairs." She said seeing Tori`s puzzled look.
"You do?" Said her lover.
Eden nodded ."Karen." She said, explaining everything, and bent and kissed Tori on the cheek before making her way towards the stairs.
Tori watched her until she disappeared, smiling as one or two of the men stopped her as she squeezed past them, some of them planting a kiss on her cheek.
"Everyone loves Eden." Annie said, regaining Tori`s attention.
"It`s understandable." Said Tori, regarding the liquid in her glass.
"I`m happy for you both, though a few hearts will be broken in here." Annie chuckled. "I remember the first night she came in here. We thought she`d walked into the wrong place."
"She told me she`d spoken to you. About her feelings. I`m glad she had someone to talk to."
Annie nodded. "She was pretty messed up for a while. She thought that once she`d accepted what she was feeling, she`d be able to go out find herself a good woman and settle down to a life of bliss. But it didn`t happen." Annie sighed. "She looks happy."
"She does, doesn`t she."
Annie sensed something going on within the dark woman. "What are you afraid of?"
"I`m not afraid." Said Tori, sitting straighter in her chair.
"I`m sorry." Said Annie. "I`m prying."
Tori rubbed her eyes, and looked at the two women who were sitting nearby. Neither seemed interested in the conversation taking place.
"No, Eden is your friend, she`s come to you with her problems. You`re not prying." Tori took a deep breath. "You would hate to see her hurt, wouldn`t you?"
"Yes, I would hate it, very much."
"That`s what I`m afraid of. She`s giving herself, so wholeheartedly. I`m afraid of not living up to what she wants."
"Eden wants someone to love. That much is obvious. Do you want someone to love you?"
Tori thought for a while. "Of course I do. Doesn`t everyone?" For now, that was enough, Tori didn`t want to go into everything, all her problems.
"Then let her love you. Let her give something she`s desperate to give. Is that so hard?"
"What if I can`t give back in equal measure?" Tori asked.
"I don`t think Eden is the kind who gives to recieve. Just give her what you can. She`s obviously happy with what she has now, so you must be doing something right." Annie reached over and squeezed Tori`s hand. "I`m happy for you."
"You love her too, don`t you?" Said Tori, an almost apologetic look on her face.
Annie smiled. "Like I said, everyone loves Eden."
Suddenly the subject of their conversation was back, she sat beside Tori and put a hand on her arm. "Whatcha talking about?" She asked, reaching across her lover to place her drink on the table.
Annie stood. "I need to get a refill." She said, and headed for the bar.
"So?" Said Eden, giving Tori a quizzical look.
"Ok, we were talking about you." Tori took the smaller hand in her own.
Tori nodded. "She wants you to be happy. That`s what I want too."
"I am." She lifted the long fingers to her lips and kissed them gently.
"So how did it go with Karen?" Tori said.
"Ok I think. She`s not happy, but I don`t think she`ll bother me anymore. I apologised, and told her to come over here and join us, but she refused."
Tori chuckled. "I don`t think I`d be too happy if I lost you either. I know how she feels." But the smile faded when Tori`s eyes found Eden`s. "I mean that."
Eden squeezed the hand she was holding. "Dance with me?" She said, standing.
"Lead on." Said Tori, and followed her to the stairs that led to the basement.
They enjoyed the remainder of the evening, and were about to leave just after 1.30 in the morning.
Tori had put her jacket on and was waiting for Eden who was talking to her friends. She managed to catch the blonde`s eye. Pointing at the door she indicated that she was going on without her.
Annie held her arms wide and Eden walked into them, returning the hug. "I`m so pleased for you." She said, holding her friend at arms length. "What are you doing tomorrow? Are you coming here? I think they`re having a special evening."
"Why? What`s so special about tomorrow?" Said Eden, pulling on her jacket.
"Eddie! It`s St. Valentine`s Day!" Said Annie, her hands on her hips.
"Oh my God, I forgot. So did Tori. Completely slipped my mind."
"There are reminders all over town. Don`t tell me, you didn`t see anything." She smiled at the blush that crept up her friend`s face.
"I`ve been a little preoccupied the last week." Eden nodded. "We may well come down then. We have nothing else planned.
Annie smiled and led Eden to the notice board which held the plans for the St. Valentine`s Day activities.
Tori decided she`d go on ahead and get the engine started so that the car would be a little warm by the time her lover got there.
She pulled her collar up against the cold night and cupped her hands, breathing on them to ward off the chill.
The voice broke the silence just as she got to the Shogun.
She stopped dead, her hands still clasped infront of her face. Then she turned, taking in the sight infront of her.
Three men, probably in their mid twenties, walked slowly towards her. Two of them held small beer bottles, the third pulled a thin knife from a pocket.
`Do something!` Her mind screamed.
So she turned, and ran. Away from the Shogun. Away from the pub. Away from Eden, wanting to put as much distance between her lover and the threat as possible.
But they were too fast. They caught her after about twenty yards, pushing her over a low wall and on to a small grassed area. One of them managed to get an arm around her throat, while another knelt on her shins, immobilising her. They ended up with one man sitting, his back against the wall of the end building, Tori between his legs, his arm across her throat. They were out of sight now, behind a low bush.
While his companion increased the pressure on Tori`s throat, the man who`d originally spoken held the knife in the tall woman`s face.
"I hate queers." He said, following the line of her jaw with the cold blade. "I`ve cut up a few fags. But I`ve never had me a dyke. Always wondered what it`d be like." The blade was now following the high cheek bone across to an ear. "Ooops." He said, as the blade produced a scarlet line.
The third man was sitting on the wall, looking down the road, drinking from the half filled bottle.
Tori was sitting on the cold grass, her hands on the forearm that was cutting off her breathing. "Please." She croaked, the sound barely audible.
"Please what dyke? You want me to show you what you`re missing?" He said, lifting her chin with the blade.
"We got company." Said the man, who hopped down off the wall and hid behind the bush.
Tori started to struggle, knowing exactly who it was that made the quick footsteps that they could all hear.
The man behind her pulled tighter, and she felt her throat close and the edges of her vision grow dark.
Eden couldn`t see Tori in the car and found it to be still locked when she tried the door. She`d taken a moment to say goodbye to her friend`s, but hadn`t thought she`d been that long.
She heard a noise. "Tori?" She called gently, and started walking towards the end of the street.
As she reached the end of St. James Parade she heard the low voice of a man, which made her stop dead. She looked round the corner, just as an arm reached out and a strong hand clamped over her mouth.
She was dragged over the low wall, the stone hitting her shins hard. She struggled against the hands that held her, until she was spun round and faced the sight that caused her heart to leap from her chest.
Her lover was held fast in the hands of a man who sitting with his back against the last building in the street.
Tori`s eyes held fear and panic, her hands clawed at the arm across her throat.
"Let her go." Said the man with the knife.
Eden gazed at Tori with wide eyes, but didn`t move once the man released her.
The knife man knelt next to the seated woman. "This your girlfriend?" He asked the blonde.
Eden nodded, her eyes never leaving Tori`s face. Watching as her lover tried to focus on her surroundings.
Suddenly the third man pushed Eden further into the bushes and held his hand over her mouth again as a few pub goers made their way home.
Once they`d passed the conversation resumed.
"So what can she do for you that I can`t?" The knife wielder said, advancing on Eden.
The blonde took a step back, but found her way blocked by the large form of the third man.
The knife found its between the fastenings of Eden`s jacket and she felt the sharp point on her skin.
The knifeman looked over Eden`s shoulder at his companion and nodded. The man stepped away.
"I`ll make you a deal." He said. "Let me show you what you`re missing, and I`ll let you girlfriend here go." He moved the knife up, cutting through Eden`s clothes, then removing it. Then his hand replaced the knife, finding warm, soft flesh.
Eden flinched when his cold hand made contact with her skin, but stood her ground.
On the floor, Tori knew what was going on and started to struggle again. The knifeman took a step towards her and kicked her in the hip.
Eden made a move towards him, but was held by the third man.
The other man tightened his grip around Tori`s neck and Eden watched in alarm as the tall woman`s hands fell limply from his arm.
"You`re killing her!" She said, certain she could see Tori`s lips turning blue in the limited moonlight.
The knifeman advanced on Eden, enjoying her struggles against the solid grip of his friend. He reached a hand out and caressed her face. "Such a waste." He said. "So what d`you say. Do we have a deal?"
Eden closed her eyes and nodded.
The man smiled and put his hands on either side of the rip in her clothes and tearing them open. Eden`s knees buckled slightly when the cold winter air hit her skin, but she was held fast.
She didn`t move as he inserted the blade between her breasts and cut the lace of her brassiere, releasing her breasts into the cold air.
"Such a waste." He said again, tracing a line with his blade from her bellybutton, to the nipple of her left breast.
For a moment Eden didn`t realise it was Tori`s voice, so restricted was her throat.
All eyes turned to the fallen woman.
The knifeman smiled as his hand cupped a firm breast. "She`s not going to." He lifted his eyes from dark haired woman, to the eyes of the smaller woman standing infront of him. "Are you dyke?"
Eden felt the vice-like hands of the third man tighten around her upper arms and shook her head at the man`s question.
"See dyke?" He said to Tori. "She`s doing this for you." His eyes caught the attention of the man holding Tori, he wanted her concious for this. The arm about her throat relaxed slightly, and the man pulled her head up using a handful of dark hair.
Eden was pulled back against the third man, they turned sideways so that Tori could see what was happening.
The knifeman reached down for the fastening of Eden`s jeans, looking into her face as he undid the buttons, one by one.
But Eden`s eyes were on her lover`s. Trying to convey to the stricken woman that she could handle this, that it meant nothing, but failing.
And suddenly she was falling, reaching her hands out to break her fall, but still feeling the cold damp grass on her skin.
The sound of running footsteps brought her back to her situation and she looked around for her lover, finding her lying on her side, her back against the wall.
"Tori?" She said, feeling the damp seep through her jeans as she crawled towards the woman.
She reached her and pulled the taller woman into her arms, feeling Tori`s hands clutching at her clothing as she did so.
"Did they........?" Tori croaked, weakly trying to lift her head and see her lover.
"No, nothing............... No. I don`t know.................."
Eden turned her head to see a police woman appear between the bushes.
"Are you both alright?" She said shining the torch on them and crouching to assess their injuries.
"My friend`s hurt." Said Eden, forgetting her own state of undress.
The police woman stood and went back to the van that Eden could see between the branches of the bush, only now seeing the blue flashing light reflecting off the nearby windows.
She returned with a couple of large blankets which she handed to Eden. "There`s an ambulance coming, and my colleagues are trying to catch the men."
Eden`s attention was on Tori as she wrapped the stunned woman in the blanket, then wrapping the other around her own shoulders before sitting on the ground next to her lover and holding her.
Two more police officers came to join their colleague, one of them kneeling next to Eden. "Will you be able to answer some questions?" One of them asked.
"Not right now, maybe later." He said putting his hand on her shoulder.
Then the ambulance was there, the paramedics fussing over the two women and leading them back to the ambulance.
Once inside Eden watched as her lovers cut face was cleaned and assessed. It seems the small cut wouldn`t need stitches.
In all this time Tori hadn`t said a word, and Eden was wondering if her friend was in shock.
Suddenly Tori pushed the hands away from her. "I`m fine." She growled and jumped down from the back of the ambulance.
She strode over to the police van. "Did you get them?" She asked, her voice barely a whisper, but still venomous.
"Not yet." Said the officer looking up from his notes.
"You won`t." She husked. "They`re just queer bashers. They`re long gone."
Eden came up behind her lover, placing a gentle hand on her back. "Tori?" She asked.
"D`you need us?" Said Tori.
"Yes, we`d like a description and your details."
Tori gave a brief description of the three men and her address and Eden`s home address. She gave her phone number, putting a hand to her throat as she finished.
"I really want to go home now, is that ok with you?" She said to the officer.
He nodded. "You`re sure you don`t want to get checked out at the hospital?"
"No, I just want to go home."
The police officer shrugged. "Someone may be round to see you tomorrow....... If we apprehend................"
But Tori had gone, the blanket covered form of her lover following the limping taller woman.
Eden eased into the passenger seat and regarded the tense profile of her partner. "You ok?" She whispered.
Tori gripped the steering wheel, and turned to face the blonde. "Why the fuck didn`t you run?" She growled, her abused larynx making her sound even more frightening.
"I thought.............. I wanted them to let you go." Eden pulled the blanket she`d kept tighter around her shoulders.
"And you think after he`d raped you he would have just let you go? Let us both go?"
Eden`s face creased as tears filled her eyes. "I didn`t know what else to do! I thought they were going to kill you!" She covered her face with shaking hands.
But Tori couldn`t comfort her. Her anger was all consuming and threatened to overtake her. Never before has someone put their own soul on the line for her, and she was failing miserably in dealing with it. She started the engine and sped away, wanting to put as much distance between her and that damn street as she could.
Eden was still crying when they reached the cottage.
Tori got out of the Shogun in silence, slamming the door as she went, and entering the cottage.
Eden walked on shaky legs to the cottage and closed the door quietly. She stood in the hall, her back against the door, still clutching the blanket.
Tori had mixed herself a drink, and was standing at the window, watching the clouds racing across the moon. The liquid burned her abused throat, but felt good. With a sigh she turned and went to look for her lover.
Eden was still standing with her back against the door.
"Come in here." Said Tori, "it`s warmer."
Eden didn`t move, and Tori saw the white knuckles on the small hands that clasped the blanket around shaking shoulders.
"Eden?" She said, advancing on the girl.
She tried to pull her lover`s hands from their place, holding the blanket tight against her chest. "Eden, come on, come into the lounge." Her voice was still husky.
Then Eden started shaking. "I.I`m sssorry." She said. "I was scared."
"I know." Said Tori. "Come here."
She pulled the shaking woman into her arms and led her into the lounge, just making it to the couch as the blonde collapsed.
Tori managed to pry the rigid fingers open and remove the blanket but the sight she revealed only brought back her anger.
She took a step back, her eyes fastened on the shredded clothing that Eden wore.
"No." Groaned Eden and fell sideways on the couch, sobbing uncontrollably.
Tori knelt by her lovers side and took her shoulders in her hands, easing her back to a sitting position. "I`m sorry." She pushed the golden hair back from the face she loved and pulled Eden into her arms.
"Sshhh. It`s over." She said, knowing her own temper had added to Eden`s fear. "Come with me." She said pulling the blonde to her feet.
"So tired." Said Eden, leaning heavily against the taller woman.
"Yeah, me too."
Tori led her up the stairs and sat her on the bed, while she went into the bathroom and turned on the shower above the bath. Then going back into the bedroom, she started to pull the ruined clothes off of Eden.
Once she`d completed that, she removed the mud stained bandage from Eden`s hand. Quickly removing her own clothes she led the blonde to the bathroom, helping her to step over the edge of the bath and into the warm spray of the shower.
Eden rested her head on Tori`s chest and let the water wash away the feel of the man`s hands on her. She felt her lovers hands begin to soap away the dirt and self loathing that had returned after so long. She looked up into the eyes that held her heart. "Tori?" she said.
"Mmm?" Said the taller woman, her hands soaping a smooth back.
"I couldn`t have let them hurt you."
"Eden, I want you to promise me something." Tori began.
"No, whatever it is, no. I know what you`re going to say."
The hands stilled. "It`s hard. Knowing what could have happened."
"I know." Said Eden. "But it`s alright now. We`re home."
"Yes we are." Said Tori, and wrapped her arms tighter around her lover. "Let`s go to bed."
Eden stood beside the bed, allowing Tori to dry her and examine her hand. "I don`t think it needs to be rebandaged for now. I`ll do it in the morning."
Eden slipped into bed watching her lover walk around turning off lights, noticing the black and blue bruise on her hip. "Tori! Is that painful?"
"Only a little." Said Tori, turning off the last light.
She got in next to the blonde and gathered her in her arms.
"Thankyou." Said Tori, burying her face in the damp hair.
"I love you." Said Eden.
There was no reply from Tori and Eden knew that any further conversation would have to wait `til the morning.