A Little Piece of Paradise
Tori returned alone to Summer Cottage. She`d thought the day before, and even that morning, that she would probably have Eden with her when she got back. But her one sided conversation with herself on the journey back had put paid to that.
She`d unloaded the Shogun, but didn`t unpack. The boxes and bags were still on the lounge floor where she`d dumped them.
The cottage was warm, thanks to Eden who`d set up the timer on the heating system before they`d left the day before.
She turned the tv on and watched half heartedly for an hour or so before falling into an uncomfortable sleep.
It was after 10.30pm when she woke, feeling stiff and achey.
She replayed the day she`d just gone through. She`d enjoyed being with the blonde woman.
Tori stood and began to pace. Thoughts of Eden filled her mind. But the thoughts involved the young woman writhing beneath her, her skin glistening with sweat and her eyes filled with hunger. And that was the problem. Eden was so unlike any of the other women she`d known. The others had wanted Tori`s particular brand of love, she loved how she lived, hard and fast. No guarantee of tomorrow. But Eden. Tori closed her eyes.
She did want Eden. She did. And she`d always taken whatever she`d wanted. But she`d have to give as well. And she wanted to. That was a first. She wanted to give this lovely young woman a part of her. But there was nothing good to give, her heart had died, so had her soul. And with nothing to give back she wouldn`t take the girl`s love. And she knew Eden would give that, unconditionally.
So she`d stay away. Definitely. Not go anywhere near her. Ever.
It was 11.15pm when Tori glanced at her watch. She was sitting in her Shogun outside the building that included Eden`s shared apartment.
She took a deep breath and left the security of her vehicle and made her way up the short steps to the front door.
She realised there were three doorbells, peering in the insufficient street lighting she managed to make out the small writing that said Gallagher and Jones. Sounded like a folk band she thought.
She rang the bell and waited.
The door opened and a man peered around it. His shoulders covered in something pink. "Yeah?" He said.
"Sorry to disturb you. I`m looking for Eden." Tori shifted from foot to foot.
"Who is it?" A disembodied voice from inside asked.
"Someone looking for Eddie." He shouted over his shoulder.
Cathy`s face appeared behind him. "Victoria." She said rather cooly. "What`s up?"
"Is Eden here?" Tori asked, unable to meet the somewhat hostile glare of Eden`s friend.
"No she isn`t, come on in." Cathy said pulling Darren away from the door so that the tall woman could enter. He pulled the pink dressing gown more securely around his body and blushed at the raised eyebrow he got from Tori.
"Darren, go make some tea would you?" Cathy said as she and Tori entered the lounge.
Darren nodded and left the two women alone. Cathy was also dressed in a robe, this one a white towelling affair.
"Sit down." She instructed Tori who claimed the armchair. Cathy curled up in a corner of the sofa.
"What did she tell you?" Asked Tori, her eyes firmly on her own shoes.
"Not a thing. She came in, crashed around for a while then went out. Haven`t seen her since." Cathy fiddled with the belt of her robe. "Eden`s a very good friend Tori, I don`t like to see her hurt."
"I..........." Tori tried.
"No, hear me out." She said, raising a hand. "She`s very special to me, I love her very much." She waited a beat, "And she loves you very much."
"Cathy," Tori said, a lopsided grin on her face, "I`ve know her a couple of days, how could she possibly know me well enough to love me?"
"This is Eden we`re talking about. It`s all or nothing with her. She`s fallen for you. Hard." Cathy`s eyes never left the tall woman, she saw the battle going on behind those blue eyes, knew the tumult of emotions that were rumbling beneath the calm surface. "So what happened?"
"I decided that she`d be better off away from me. I`m no good for her." Tori shrugged, hoping she`d given enough information.
"I think you should have given Eden a chance to make that decision herself." Cathy took a deep breath. "What do you think of her?"
Tori smiled, again she was being asked questions that no-one that knew her would dare ask. And she surprised herself by answering. "I haven`t been able to think of anything else since the first time I saw her. It`s very easy to like her, to love her."
Cathy nodded. "I know what you mean, she`s one of those people who sees the best in people first. Not like me. I`m wary of folks when I first meet them. But not Eden. She sees good in everyone, and when she finds the right person to love, really love, that person will be very, very lucky." She watched Tori carefully. "I think that could be you Tori."
"I don`t know if I`m that lucky Cathy. I don`t think I deserve to be."
"I know my best friend, she sees something there that maybe I wouldn`t. She`s a pretty good judge, she`s not often wrong." Cathy smiled, seeing in the tall woman what her friend must have seen. A sad soul.
She leaned forward and said quietly. "Go find her."
"Where would she be?" Tori was on her feet giving Darren, who was standing in the doorway juggling three mugs in his hands, an apologetic look, his tea in vain.
"The Tap probably, she usually goes there on a Saturday night."
"Sorry, The Bath Tap, it`s Bath`s only gay bar. No, that`s not strictly true, but it`s the newest and most popular." She looked at Darren who was giving her a quizzical look. "So I`ve been told anyway."
"Where is it?" She asked, making her way towards the door.
"Have you seen McDonald`s yet?" Cathy reached past her and opened the door.
Tori shook her head. "No. I`m not into burgers."
"Ok, you`re just gonna have to go into Bath and ask for Saint James Parade, that`s the street the Tap`s in." Cathy pulled her robe tighter against the cold night air.
"Won`t it be shut by now?" Tori stood at the bottom of the steps looking at her watch.
"It stays open late on a Saturday, you`ll have to pay a couple of quid to get in after closing time though."
Tori nodded and made her way `round the Shogun to the driver`s side. "Thanks Cathy," she called over the roof, and then was gone.
Bath isn`t big, which was a good thing. It took a couple of circuits around the centre before she found St. James Parade and then The Bath Tap. She managed to park just a few yards from the entrance. The doors were closed and a gentle push didn`t open them so she gave a couple of taps to the black surface. It opened to reveal a seated man with short peroxide blond hair a black net vest and black leather trousers.
"We`re full up sweetheart." He said and started to shut the door. Tori put her hand out stopping it from closing.
"I`m looking for a friend, I really need to see her."
"She got a name?" He said, trying to ignore a similarly dressed man who was nibbling his neck.
"Eden, Eden Gallagher."
"Eddie? Ok, you`d better come in." He batted away his friend. "That`ll be two pounds." He said.
She handed him a fiver and he fished in a tin for the change. "D`you know where she is?" Said Tori looking over his head at the sea of bodies, mostly male.
"No, but she`s here somewhere, came in early and I`d know if she left."
"Thanks." She said to the man who turned his full attention back to his companion.
Tori eased through the throng. There were a couple of women sitting in a corner, she made her way through the crowd towards them. They both looked up as she arrived, surprised to see a new face.
"Hi," she shouted over the sound of the music. "I`m looking for Eden Gallagher, d`you know where she is?"
"Maybe downstairs." One said, "on the dancefloor."
Tori thanked them and made her way rowards the arrow which pointed down. She descended into a smokey even noisier basement. Once again the inhabitants were mostly male. the dance floor wasn`t big and the bodies were crushed together in one heaving mass. There was a slightly raised area off to the side and Tori made for that.
There, right in the middle of the floor Tori spotted her.
Eden was leaning heavily against a tall woman with extremely short and very blond hair. The shorter woman`s eyes were closed and she wasn`t really moving to the music, just letting herself be manipulated by the taller woman.
The song stopped and the tall blonde ducked her head and was obviously trying to kiss Eden. Eden suddenly seemed to become aware of what was happening. She looked around groggily and bleary eyes fell on Tori. A strange sort of smile crossed her face and she turned back to her human leaning post. Closing her eyes she kissed the woman long and slow. Then, pulling away, she said something to her and they turned and walked towards the stairs.
Tori stood rooted to the spot for a while, then followed them up the stairs. She found them sitting in the corner with the two women she`d talked to earlier.
Eden was slumped in a chair, one elbow on the table beside her, the blond woman was nowhere to be seen.
"Well, what have we here?" Eden said, her voice slurred.
"Eden, I need to talk to you." Said Tori, pulling a chair up and sitting beside the swaying woman.
"Now you want to talk? Fuck off!" Edens face contorted with anger
Tori was stunned. But immediately realised she`d brought about the change in the young woman, and decided she probably deserved the abuse.
"Eden......." She began.
"No! Don`t give me that, I`ve had enough of your love you, love you not crap. One minute your talking about me sharing your future, the next it`s `nice knowing you Eden, don`t call me, I`ll call you.`" Eden grabbed the table when she swayed precariously in her seat. "No, I`ve had it. Go back to your sad little life Tori, go back to your wierdo friends in London, they deserve you."
A tall figure appeared next to Tori and a glass was placed in front of Eden. The blonde mad a grab for it but it was taken out of her reach by Tori.
"Give me the drink Tori." Eden said, her eyes on the glass in Tori`s hand.
"You`ve had enough." She stood and gave the glass to Eden`s drinking partner. "Eden won`t be needing this. " She said, pressing the drink into the slightly shorter woman`s hand. Then she turned and reached down for Eden`s hand. "Come on, I`m taking you home."
Eden snatched her hand away from Tori`s. "Who the fuck d`you think you are? I`m not going anywhere with you."
Behind her the tall blonde put a hand on Tori`s shoulder. The heiress tensed and the blonde must have felt it because she withdrew the hand quickly. "Look," said the woman. "She wants to stay here."
"With you Karen?" Said Tori enjoying the surprise on the woman`s face.
"How do you know my name?" She asked moving herself between the tall woman and Eden.
"Oh, Eden`s told me all about you. How you lied about your relationship with her, how she had to get rude to get rid of you."
"And now look who she`s being rude to." Said Karen smiling.
Behind Karen, Eden was struggling to her feet. "Tori, get the fuck out of here." She said.
"Not until I`ve spoken to you." Tori held Eden`s eyes, though the younger woman`s eyes were having trouble focussing.
"Please." The tall woman pleaded
The fair head slumped, Eden`s resistance failed her and she nodded.
"Ok." She lurched towards Tori, who caught her and guided her back towards the seat. The other two women moved to give them a little privacy, pulling Karen with them.
"Go on." Said Eden, struggling valiantly to keep her head up.
"How much have you had to drink?" Said Tori reaching over and taking a small hand in her own.
Eden stared at their joined hands. "Don`t know."
"I`m sorry." Said Tori, ducking her head so that she could see into Eden`s face.
"Why?" Said Eden, finally looking up, her eyes bright with the beginnings of tears. "Why did you come back?"
"I was worried about you. I don`t want to hurt you." Tori took the small hand and brought it to her lips. "I couldn`t stay away though." She closed her eyes. "Forgive me?"
"You pissed me off, I don`t like being pissed off." Eden slurred causing Tori to smile.
"You laughing at me?" Eden`s pout looked comical, causing Tori to cup a flushed cheek with one hand.
"No, I`m not laughing at you. I just don`t like the thought of you angry, it doesn`t suit you." Tori dropped her eyes from the tearful green ones, unable to look into the pain she`d caused. "Would you.......would you give me another chance. Let me try to make things right?"
Eden threw herself into the arms of the taller woman and Tori caught her and held on.
"I`ll take that as a yes then." She said into the soft golden hair.
"Come on," Tori said, "let`s get you home."
"With you?" Said Eden as she wobbled dangerously on rubber legs.
"Yeah, with me." Said Tori and wound a strong arm around her waist.
Karen moved to intercept them as they made their way to the door.
"What`s going on Eden?" She asked, she`d spent a lot of money getting Eden into a state in which she could get the blonde where she wanted her.
"Karen." Eden swayed dangerously. "Sorry, I....." The sentence wasn`t completed before Eden lost her balance and fell taking a table, and the glasses on it, to the floor with her. Tori`s attention had been on Karen and the livid look on her face.
The doorman came over thinking it was trouble and helped Tori get Eden to her feet.
"You ok?" Said Tori holding Eden by her shoulders. Eden was looking at her left hand which was home to three thick shards of glass.
"Dammit!" Tori cursed and sat Eden on the nearest available seat. The doorman got a clean towel from behind the bar and handed it to Tori.
Eden was staring at her hand as Tori gently pulled the glass from the cuts, causing the blonde to suck in a breath through her teeth. Then she wrapped the hand in the towel and hauled Eden to her feet. She pushed her way through the crowd towards the bathroom where she placed the girl`s hand under the cold tap.
After washing away the blood she saw that the cuts were deep. One in the fleshy part of the palm at the base of the thumb, another had sliced the webbing between thumb and forefinger. The third was smaller, just across the top of the first cut.
"These need stitches." She said wrapping the towel tightly around the now wet hand.
"Ok." Said Eden agreeably.
She helped Eden down the few steps and out of the bathroom. Karen had gone to sit in the corner with the two women and Tori was glad that there wouldn`t be another confrontation.
Once outside the cool night air seemed to take all the life out of Eden. She slumped heavily against Tori and the taller woman just managed to get her into the Shogun before she passed out. She secured the seatbelt around the girl and propped her bleeding hand in her lap.
Slamming the door she turned to see two men walking towards her.
"Excuse me," she said. "Could you tell me where the nearest hospital with a casualty department is?"
"The R.U.H." Said one of them. "You`re headed in the right direction." He pointed up the road. "Go to the end, turn right, then left and follow the road. You should come across signs pretty quick."
"Thanks." She said and jumped into the car. Giving the blonde a
quick glance she made her way in the direction she`d been shown.
It was well after 3am by the time they left the hopital. She`d managed to rouse Eden when they got there, but the casualty department was full with the usual Saturday night crowd. They`d seen her pretty quickly though, because of the amount of bleeding she`d been doing.
Tori sat with the drunks and fight victims while Eden was stitched up. She`d asked to go along, but had been told to wait by the overworked sister.
But after a while the sister came and got her and allowed her into the cubicle where Eden was resting on a bed.
"She`s going with you?" The sister asked as she pulled back the curtain.
"Yes, I`ll take her home."
"Do you know how much she`s had to drink?" The sister pulled the curtains closed again.
"Not exactly, quite a lot I think." Tori took in the sight of a very pale and still Eden on the bed.
"Well, I don`t want her to take any pain killers for a while. The local anaesthetic will wear off in time, by then she should be able to take these." The sister handed her a small bottle. " She needs to get it checked in ten days, her local GP should be able to remove the stitches. We got all the glass out, it shouldn`t scar too much. Make sure she keeps the dressing dry and doesn`t use the hand too much."
Tori nodded and put the bottle in her pocket.
"I`ll find a porter." Said the sister and was gone.
Tori leaned over Eden and took a slim shoulder in her hand. "Hey there." She said quietly. She watched as the pale face scrunched up and the green eyes fluttered open.
"Hurts huh?" Said Eden sympathetically.
"Not my hand, can`t feel that. It`s my head."
"My fault, I`m sorry." Tori took Eden`s good hand and squeezed it.
"No, me being stupid. I don`t drink much, so it didn`t take long to get like this."
They were interrupted by the porter arriving with a wheelchair. Eden looked at it with horrified eyes.
"I don`t have to get in that, do I?"
"`Fraid so luv, hospital policy. Be a good girl and jump in." Said the annoyingly chipper porter.
Tori helped her down from the bed, holding her as she wobbled. She went an amazing shade of green once on her feet and Tori waited. "Ok?" She asked.
"Oh wow. I feel like shit." Said Eden as she slumped into the chair.
"I`m not surprised, you look like it." Before Eden could reply Tori had told the porter she was going to bring the car to the hospital entrance and had gone.
It was 4.26 according to the clock on the cd player in Tori`s car when they arrived back at Summer Cottage. Eden was, once again, asleep.
Tori jumped out of the car and opened the door. Warm air wafted out, without realising it she`d left the heating on. She was glad of her forgetfulness.
She went back to the Shogun and tried to rouse Eden. This time there was no waking the blonde. She looked back at the door and the short distance, then considered her options.
Taking a deep breath she snaked an arm under Eden`s knees and another behind her shoulder`s. She was glad that the Shogun was higher off the ground than a normal saloon. Taking the weight of the girl in her arms she straightened, surprising herself how easy it was to lift her.
She bumped the car door closed with her hip and quickly made her way into the cottage, kicking the front door closed with her heel. She started to go into the lounge, but veered off and went up the stairs toward the bedroom.
She lay Eden carefully on the bed, and stood back. `Now what?`
Again she tried to wake her. Nothing doing.
`Ok.` She said to heself, and bent to undo the laces of the black ankle boots Eden was wearing, discarding each one as she took it off. Then she sat her up and removed the black jacket. She had a silk burgundy shirt on under that, she`d leave that on for now. She undid the jeans and pulled them off carefully. She rolled Eden onto her side, pulled the covers back and then covered her with them, tucking them around the sleeping form.
She stood for a long moment, a feeling of guilt washing over her. This girl was offering her something she thought she`d never have. Why was she was resisting it?
And could she return it?
It was too late for that particular debate. She made her way downstairs and into the lounge. Tori slumped onto the sofa, wanting nothing more than to curl up in the bed upstairs next to a warm and soft body.
But she decided she didn`t deserve that.