A Little Piece of Paradise.
Tori opened the door to the cottage and stepped back so that Eden could enter. They had made a stop on the way to get some groceries and Eden had her arms full of shopping bags.
"It`s cold." Said Tori as she entered the cottage.
"You`re right." Said Eden and opened a small door under the stairs. Inside were the master switches for the electric and gas. She threw the switch for the electic and pulled on a long red handle which had `gas` written on it. "Try the light switch." She said to Tori.
Tori did so and was rewarded by the bulb flickering to life.
"Looks good." Said Eden who then made her way to the kitchen. "The boiler is in here. I`ll have to light the pilot light."
Tori watched her go and went into the lounge to stand by the window.
Eden put some of the groceries in the fridge which had juddered to life, and then rooted in a cupboard and found a kettle which she filled, put on the cooker and lit the burner below it.
Tori had been very quiet on the trip up to the cottage and Eden was wondering if the tall woman was regretting her sudden and detailed story. It was the first time that things had been strained between them and Eden found it uncomfortable. Things were moving very quickly between them, and though Eden had never had trouble making friends, she guessed this was not the case for Tori. Perhaps she was regretting everything. The `date`, the admissions of her attraction towards her, and now bringing her here, to the place that was going to be her sanctuary.
Eden walked the small distance to the lounge. "You ok?" she asked.
Tori turned from the view and faced the shorter woman. "Sit down." Was all she said.
"Just a minute." Said Eden and returned to the kitchen to turn down the burner under the kettle, all the time a twist of fear tightening unbearably in her stomach.
Eden returned to the lounge and took a seat on the couch, Tori remained standing.
It was still chilly and both women had kept their coats on. "On the drive up here I suddenly realised what I could offer you." Tori began.
"I don`t want anything from you. Well, nothing material anyway." Eden smiled trying to lighten the tall womans obviously dark mood. It didn`t work.
"I`m a mess Eden. My life is a mess. I`ve been sent away by my father to sort it out. I`ve made a mess of every relationship I`ve ever had. I never cared who I hurt, or the consequences of my actions. I`m rich, and that means I can have what and who I like. Until Rory died my father turned a blind eye to it. He didn`t need me then. But when I became the heir to the business he decided that I should toe the family line. I had to become, in his words, respectable. I met Damien at a cocktail party. To father he was perfect. Yes, I grew to like him. Maybe even love him."
"Were you in love with him?" Eden asked.
"No, I`ve never been in love with anyone, don`t know if I can." Tori sighed. "There`s the problem Eden. I don`t want you to expect something I can`t deliver. I use people like you. I devour them and then spit them out." She turned her back on the girl, unable to face her any longer.
"What are you doing Tori?" Eden watched the tense back, confused.
"I`m trying to show you what I am." Tori said, refusing to turn around.
"Why don`t you just let me find out for myself?" Eden stood and walked up behind her.
Tori turned and found herself pinned by green eyes. "You won`t like what you find."
"I`ll be the judge of that." Said Eden, but Tori couldn`t meet the trusting gaze. "Look." She said, a little desperation showing in her voice. "Why don`t we have another evening in the grand metropolis?"
Tori smiled at the description of Bath.
"Hey, that`s better." Said Eden, relieved that she could produce that smile. "We could do some different pubs."
"Actually I can`t." Tori saw the instant disappointment in the green eyes. "I`d like to, but I want to go home and pick some stuff up. I was going up tonight and coming back tomorrow morning."
"Oh well, never mind." Said Eden. "You`ll still be back for your tour though?"
"Yeah, I`ll be back." Said Tori. "I`m sorry."
"Sorry for what?"
"I don`t know, sorry for going all morose on you." She reached a hand out and cupped the blond woman`s cheek. "I like you Eden. I like you a lot. Someone like you deserves something I don`t think I can give you. Do you understand that? I want you to be happy."
"Don`t you deserve a little happiness too?"
Tori removed her hand from Eden`s face. "I wonder sometimes. It`s like I`m on the outside when it comes to happiness. I know it`s there, but it`s always happening to someone else. I don`t go looking for it anymore."
"When are you leaving?" Said Eden her eyes never leaving the taller woman`s.
"Oh, I thought about 7, then I`d miss all the rush hour. I`d be there by 10." She gave Eden a puzzled look. "Why?"
"D`you fancy some company?" Eden smiled at her.
"Well, I hadn`t thought of that. It`s just a flying visit really, I want to pick up my computer and some clothes." Tori shrugged her shoulders. "Hey, why not?"
"That`s great!" Said Eden a wide grin on her face. I haven`t been out of Bath for months. "Then an idea occured to her. "Why don`t we go now?"
"I thought you had to go back to work." Tori said.
"I can fix that, Mark owes me some favours."
Tori nodded. "Ok, I`ll drive you home so you can change. Then we`ll shoot off. But first," she said making for the kitchen, "let`s have that cup of tea."
Eden nodded and reached into her pocket for her mobile. She sat on the couch again and rang her office number. "Jason?" She said when it was answered, "put me through to Mark."
"Eden, how did I know you`d call me?" Mark said, but there was an amused tone to his voice.
"Ok Mark. Listen I`m not going to be back today."
"I guessed that." Said Mark and Eden heard the sound of computer keys rattling in the background.
"Um Mark, I need another favour." The rattling stopped. "You know you owe me those five days holiday. Remember, you called me in off my holiday when Rich went sick?"
"Yeah?" Her boss was suspicious.
"Well, I know it`s short notice, but can I take them next week? No-one else is off and the market`s pretty slow at the moment." She waited, hoping Tori wouldn`t come back in for a moment.
"Eden, you sure like to spring surprises. Ok, but on one condition."
"What?" Eden never liked Mark`s conditions, in the past one was going on a date with his brother. She smiled remembering the disaster that had been.
"You introduce me to your new friend."
Eden clapped a hand over her mouth,she took eight seconds to compose herself, then said. "Of course, I`ll think of something. Thanks Mark."
"Ok Eddie, have a good week then."
"I will, bye."
"Oh Eden?" Mark said before she could disconnect them.
"Be good, and if you can`t be good, be careful."
"I`m always good Mark, bye." She disconnected before he could reply.
Tori returned to the lounge with a tray with a tea pot, milk, sugar and biscuits on it.
"The kitchen`s well equipped. I had to wash some stuff out before I could use it though. I guess this place has been empty a while." She poured two cups of tea and offered one to Eden.
"Yeah, the rent is a little high for a two bedroomed place. That`s more the rent you`d pay for a larger family home." She added milk and sugar to her tea. "I have the rest of the afternoon off, so we can go whenever you like."
"Ok, we`ll finish our tea then I`ll take you home to get changed."
Eden directed Tori to the flat in Larkhall. She insisted the woman accompany her into the old Georgian building.
"Wait in there while I change." She said pointing towards the lounge.
Tori walked into the lounge, finding it in comfortable disarray. It wasn`t untidy as such, just lived in.
"Turn the telly on if you like." Called Eden from her bedroom.
Tori did so and sat back in the couch to await her friend.
She looked up when she heard someone coming and was surprised to see someone she didn`t know.
"Oh, um, hi. " Said Cathy, totally stunned. "Are you Victoria?"
"I am." Tori stood, holding out her hand. "But call me Tori."
Cathy took the offered hand, shaking it briefly. "Tori it is then, Eddie told me about you."
"She did?" Said Tori, growing interested. "What did she tell you?"
"Nothing that would interest you." Said Eden entering the lounge carrying a small bag. She looked at Cathy. "You`re home early."
"I`m out tonight with Darren, I wanted to have some extra time to myself. Anyway, what are you doing here?"
"I`m going to London with Tori, we`re going to collect some of her stuff. I`ll be back tomorrow." She handed her bag to Tori who left to put it in the car.
Eden went to the music centre and selected some cd`s to take, having seen the cd player in Tori`s car.
"Things are moving fast aren`t they?" Said Cathy.
"A little. I just want to be with her. Does that make sense?" Eden looked out of the window at the tall woman who was waiting by the car.
"Yeah it makes sense. You`re falling hard Eddie, don`t get hurt. OK?" Said Cathy, who then added. "You`re right, she`s gorgeous."
"She is isn`t she? And I won`t." Eden gave her friend a hug and left. "Have a good time tonight." She called back before shutting the front door.
"All set then?" Said Tori as she buckled up her seat belt.
"Yep." Said Eden. "I brought some cd`s, is that alright?"
"Absolutely, what do you have?" Tori put the car in gear and wound her way around the narrow street of Larkhall before joining the main road that lead towards the M4, which was the motorway which linked London to the west.
"Um." Eden looked at her selection. "Tears for Fears, Adiemus and M People. Is there anything you have that you`d rather listen to?"
"No, put Tears for Fears on, I haven`t got any of their stuff." Tori handed Eden the case for the George Michael cd which was still in the player.
"I originally bought this cd out of loyalty, but I really like their stuff now. I saw them live once, they`re class." Eden pushed the cd in and returned George Michael to the glove compartment.
"Loyalty?" Tori gave her a puzzled look.
"They`re from Bath originally. I once passed Roland in Milsom Street."
"Ah, I didn`t know that." Tori pulled on the handbreak and waited for a red light to change. "I`m glad you`re coming with me." The dark woman said.
"I`m glad you`re letting me come."
The first song on the cd started to play. It was called Woman in Chains.
It was 5.30 when Tori found herself in a traffic jam on the London Embankment. Beside her the blond woman slept. She regarded her companion with affection, gently taking the small hand which had fallen between the seats and placing it on the girl`s lap.
The movement woke her.
"Oh." She said rubbing her face and peering through the rain soaked windscreen at the traffic banked up in front of her. "How long have I been asleep?"
"Really? Tori I`m sorry. Some company I`ve been huh?" She shifted in her seat, trying to get rid of the ache in her back.
"That`s ok, I`m used to driving alone." Said Tori, as she moved the car forwards another few yards. "Tired?" She asked.
"A little, I didn`t get much sleep last night." Eden gave Tori a knowing smile.
"Nor me. Overactive brain."
"Same here." Eden sighed. "But I had Cathy, she`s a good friend."
"At last!" Said Tori, startling Eden as the traffic began to move.
By 6.15 they were pulling into the carpark of Tori`s apartment block. She manouvered the Shogun into the bay marked 72.
Eden pulled her bag from the back seat and followed Tori into a small lift. She pushed the button with four on it.
The doors opened to a hallway carpeted in plush burgundy. Tori opened the door with 407 on it by keying numbers into a key pad.
After entering the apartment Eden lost the gift of speech.
"What`s up?" Asked Tori.
Regaining her voice she said, "I`ve never seen anything like this, it`s beautiful." She walked around the lounge, noting the tasteful furnishings. She turned back to Tori. "What drove you away from this?"
"Life mostly. It was closing in on me, I needed some space." Tori took Eden`s bag from her and threw it on the sofa. "Listen, you up to a night out? There`s a club I know, if you`re not too tired that is."
"Yeah, why not? I`ve never been to a London club." Her face suddenly dropped." I only brought jeans though."
"That`s ok, there`s no dress code in this club, you`ll see." She pointed down the short hall. "You can change in my bedroom if you like, there`s a bathroom off of it."
Eden picked up her bag and made her way to Tori`s room.
Tori watched her go and sat on the sofa, reaching for the remote, she turned on the tv. This was the first time she`d brought someone to her apartment. She`s always thought of it as her own personal hideaway, the fact that she didn`t give a second thought to allowing Eden into her space, told her volumes.
`This is the start.` She said to herself. `Don`t blow it.`
Tori had called a cab for 9pm. She herself had changed, earning an appreciative whistle from her companion. She`d decided on white jeans and a black vest. She spent an hour downloading and replying to e-mail and checking a few sites in the internet.
"I`m addicted to this stuff." She told the smaller woman who sat on the spare bed in the room which doubled as a computer room. "All my e-mail chums will think I`ve abandoned them."
She shut down the computer and held her hand out to the blond woman. "Ready?" Remembering the first time she`d done that, Eden hesitated before taking the hand and allowing herself to be pulled up.
"You smell nice." Said Tori, bending and sniffing around Eden`s shoulder.
"White musk." Said Eden, "I pinched it from Cathy, she has about four bottles of it."
The phone rang. "Yes?" Said Tori after picking it up. "Right, thanks Jeff." She turned to Eden. "The taxi`s here, that was the doorman."
It was a longer journey than Eden thought it would be. Travelling from one end of Bath to the other probably only took ten minutes, London was a whole different ball game. After 45 minutes they were getting out of the taxi outside a club called Firefly`s.
"Is this a regular haunt of yours?" Said Eden as Tori paid the entrance fee for both of them.
"I`ve been here once or twice." Said Tori. As she walked into the club she reached back and took Eden`s hand.
Eden followed behind, looking down at their linked hands, noticing how hers disappeared in the larger one.
The club was very crowded, and it didn`t take long for Eden to realise it was occupied by women and only women. In Bath there were a couple of gay pubs and a club, but both were mixed, she`d never been into an all women bar.
Every seat was occupied, the occupants obviously reluctant to leave incase their seat was taken in their absence. Tori wound her way through the heaving throng until she found a space near a wall.
"Stay here, I`ll get some drinks." She shouted over the pulsating music. Without asking Eden what she wanted, she disappeared into the crowd.
Eden stood and watched. One or two women were eyeing her appreciatively, others were more occupied with each other. She smiled at one woman who smiled back and started to make her way towards her. `Ooops.`
"Haven`t seen you here before." The woman said, placing one hand on the wall beside Eden`s head. The woman had very short hair and a hard face, a stud pierced one eyebrow.
"Haven`t been here before," Shouted Eden, "I`m not from `round here."
"Not many are." She looked down and saw the Eden didn`t have a drink. "Can I get you a drink?"
Eden didn`t like the fact that the loud music meant she had to lean forward to make the woman hear her. "No thanks, my friend is getting me one."
"Oh yeah, and who`s that?"
"Her." Said Eden, gesturing with a nod of her head over the woman`s shoulder. The woman turned and found her vision filled with the black leather of Tori`s jacket.
"Oh.......right." She said, and was gone.
Eden chuckled as Tori handed her the vodka and lime. "Thanks." She said as she took the drink.
"That`s ok. Was she hitting on you?" Said Tori, lurching forward as she was bumped from behind.
Eden steadied her own drink. "Yep, thanks for rescuing me."
"Let`s see if we can find somewhere less crowded." Tori shouted, and once again took the smaller woman`s hand, easing them both through the crowd.
They found a quiet corner with a small shelf where they could put their drinks. "So, what d`you think?" Tori shouted to Eden.
"It`s great, we have nothing like this at home." Eden took her drink from the small shelf and took a sip.
They both stood in silence for a while, then spoke at the same time.
"You go ahead." Said Eden.
"Well, I was just wondering where you went with girlfriends in Bath."
"I haven`t had a girlfriend. Well, not a long term one." Eden cursed the blush that coloured her face again.
"But I thought............"
"No, I`ve met some wonderful women in the past few years. But never found `the one`." Eden said.
"I wouldn`t have thought you`d have trouble finding `the one`. "Tori said. "You`re getting plenty of attention in here." Tori looked around at the glances being shot their way.
"I just never found someone who makes me feel................. like I belong with them. I had one friend, Karen. She was very possessive. She never wanted me to go anywhere without her. I was never actually going out with her, but she told everyone I was." Eden frowned at the memory. "In the end I had to be a little rude. Had to tell her where to get off."
Tori realised Eden was waiting for her to come up with a tale from her past. "I don`t get serious." She immediately regretted her words when she saw the hurt look in the green eyes. "I mean, I`ve never got serious. Not yet. I suppose I haven`t found `the one`."
Tori`s head shot up as she heard the strains to a very loved song. She reached down and took Eden`s hand. "Put your drink down." She said and after Eden had done so she lead her towards the dance floor.
"I`m not very good at this." Said Eden as they stood facing each other in the middle of the crowded floor.
Tori took the girl`s hands and placed them around her own waist, underneath the leather jacket that she still wore. Then she wound her long arms around Eden`s shoulders and pulled the girl close.
Never, never had Eden felt such a feeling of belonging. This was it, she decided. Here in the middle of a crowded dancefloor, she had found her place in the universe. As far as she was concerned, there was no-one else for miles. Just her and Tori. Just her and the love of her life. `Wow, that was profound!` she said to herself. `Where did that come from?`
She was brought out of her musings by a finger beneath her chin, lifting her face.
"What?" She said breathlessly.
Tori`s answer was to dip her head and nip at Eden`s bottom lip. "Do you want this?" She asked her breath warm against Eden`s face.
"More than anything." Was Eden`s reply.
Eden had never seen anything like the smile that split the tall woman`s face, then her mouth was possessed by Tori`s, the lips hot and tasting faintly of the rum she`d drunk earlier. She opened her mouth at the insistance of the questing tongue and allowed herself to sink into the sensation of being totally overwhelmed. Her hands bunched up the material of Tori`s vest as she felt a weakness in her knees and she felt the hold around her tightening as the kiss continued.
She gasped as Tori broke away from her and rested her cheek on the warm skin of Tori`s chest.
They stayed like that, swaying gently to the music, and beyond. Even when the tempo picked up and women gyrated wildly around them, they stayed, locked together, savouring the beginnings of something they both knew was growing.
`I can do this.` Thought Tori, squeezing the woman in her arms. `Please help me.` She didn`t know to whom she was pleading for help, but she hoped her plea would be answered.
"Hey there," she called down to the smaller woman who seemed to be dozing. "Are you falling asleep on me?"
"No." Came the muffled response, "I`m just comfy."
"D`you want to go?"
Eden gazed up into the blue eyes, which looked violet in the dim light of the nightclub. "Not really, do you?"
Tori shook her head. "I`m fine if you are." She took a step back and took Eden`s hand in hers."Let`s go find our drinks."
When they got back to their corner they discovered their drinks had gone. So Tori battled her way through the dense crowd to the bar.
As soon as she had left another woman sidled up to Eden. This was becoming tedious, hadn`t the woman seen her with Tori?
"Hope you like it rough." The woman said, an unfathomable smile on her face.
"Pardon?" said Eden. She felt uncomfortable and looked past the women, there was no sign of Tori.
"All you`ll get is heartache. She plays rough, she likes pain. Get out now while you can." The woman wasn`t unattractive. Probably in her late twenties. Her eyes were almost as blue as Tori`s but her hair was lighter, and cut short around her neck.
"Look I don`t know who you are, but I`m just fine. Ok?" Eden fidgeted on the spot.
"I`m someone who knows her. Someone who loved her. I was like you once, but she used me. Took what she wanted and left. Don`t let her do it to you."
"Debbie." Both women looked towards the low voice.
"Tori." Said the woman. "Long time."
Tori handed Eden her glass. "Didn`t know you came here." She said to her old acquaintance.
"Well, The Gym isn`t half as much fun since you stopped going there. This your new hunting ground?" She looked at Eden. "Your tastes seem to have changed a little, didn`t know you went after kids."
"I`ll have you know................" Eden`s tirade was halted by a large raised hand. She looked up to Tori who shook her head at her.
"Debbie, I`m only in London tonight. I`m just showing Eden around. Now, if you`ll excuse us?" She put a hand on Eden`s back and started to usher her away.
"Yeah sure. Don`t forget what I said sweetie." She shouted after them.
They managed to find a couple of seats not taken and sank onto them.
"Who was that?" Asked Eden, though she already knew the answer.
Tori rubbed her forehead and then took a long swig of her drink. "Old girlfriend."
"I thought you said you didn`t have girlfriends." Eden said, the woman had shaken her.
"I didn`t, she`s a girl and an old friend. Satisfied?" Tori really didn`t need this.
"Ok, I`m sorry." Eden reached over and put her arm around tense shoulders. "She shook me up a little."
Tori stared at the floor, resting her elbows on her knees. "What did she say?" She asked in a whisper.
"She said you like to hurt people, she said you liked pain."
Tori turned to Eden and smiled. "She was right."
Drinking her drink in one mouthful she suddenly stood. "Drink up, we`re leaving." Tori said abruptly.
Eden did her best to finish her drink quickly then she stood, swaying a little as she did so. Tori caught her elbow and steadied her. "You ok?" The tall woman asked.
"The vodka`s gone straight to me knees." Said Eden, "I should have had something to eat."
"I`m sorry, I`m not looking after you very well am I?"
Eden saw the elegant face tensing.
"I can look after myself." Said the smaller woman.
"Maybe." Said Tori, "come on, let`s go."